October 29, 2013

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NBA Season Preview

By: Joe Williams

The 2013-14 NBA season begins tonight when the Pacers host the Magic, the Bulls visit the Heat and the Lakers and Clippers battle for bragging rights in LA. Will Miami win a third straight title? Can Derrick Rose return to being Derrick Rose? How many teams will be tanking for a better spot in next summer’s draft? I’m going with NO, YES, and 7. What else might happen?

Will this be the year Durant and the Thunder win the NBA Championship?

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will get the most attention…but not for their play on the court. We won’t get to celebrate Christmas without first hearing a constant barrage of trade rumors and free agency speculation surrounding them both.

Dwight Howard will feel left out and mention to reporters that he’s not sure he should have picked Houston. He goes on to say that James Harden’s beard is a distraction for the team and tells Jeremy Lin to feed him the ball more often.

Despite all of the rumors, Rajon Rondo will not be traded. Neither will Pau Gasol.

Jason Collins will eventually be picked up. A Tebow style circus will follow that team for the rest of the year.

On more than one occasion, Michael Jordan will say that he’s still good enough to start for the Bobcats. After checking the standings in the Southeast division, nobody will argue with him.

Jimmer Fredette will be traded to the Utah Jazz.

Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson switches shooting hands and has success with the change.

With their eye on the first pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff asks everyone on the roster to do the same saying that they will be unguardable by 2015 if they make the change now.

Kobe Bryant makes his season debut on Christmas when the Lakers host LeBron James and the Miami Heat. He will help the Lakers win games, but won’t be the superstar we are used to seeing until the regular season is nearly over.

David Stern will once again fine Mark Cuban. But this time it will be for flopping after Cuban drops to the ground (on the sidelines) in disbelief of a foul call that costs his Mavericks a win.

The NBA will announce drastic changes to the All-Star Weekend. This will be the final season of the slam dunk contest.

The media will tell us that Kevin Durant and Dwayne Wade have an intense rivalry over Durant’s comments that James Harden is better than Dwayne Wade. It will never play out on the court. The same can’t be said for Miami and Brooklyn. Those games will be heated and lead to the suspensions of multiple players.

New Orleans and Detroit will return to the playoffs. The Lakers and Celtics will not.

Divison winners: Atlantic-Brooklyn Nets, Central-Chicago Bulls, Southeast-Miami Heat, Pacific-Golden State Warriors, Southwest-Houston Rockets, Northwest-Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant wins his first MVP award.

Oklahoma City wins the NBA title.

October 28, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Brett Favre stays retired: An interesting story this week came out of St. Louis where it was reported that the Rams offered a job to retired quarterback Brett Favre. With starter Sam Bradford suffering a season-ending ACL injury, the Rams checked to see if Favre would be interested in making yet another comeback. The future Hall of Famer declined, though, deciding to stay out of football. While it might have been fun for us to see if Favre could still play, the move was the right one. Favre has already been the numerous butt of jokes for his on again off again relationship with the NFL. But more importantly, the quarterback hasn’t played since 2010 and can’t possibly be ready to step in for a team right now. Favre likely would have turned down any gig, but the icing on the cake for his decision was probably the Rams’ last-place standing in the NFC West. St. Louis doesn’t look like a playoff team and you can bet that Favre wanted no part of the grueling NFL season without a chance to win another title.

Could Larry Fitzgerald be playing for someone other than the Cardinals this season?

The World Series: The World Series is all tied up as the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have each won two games. The big story has been all of the talk surrounding Game 3 where the Cardinals won on an obstruction call when it was ruled the Sox’ Will Middlebrooks prevented the Cardinals’ Allen Craig from trying to score from third. The rule is a complicated one and it’s still being hotly debated if it was the right call since the source of the obstruction was when Middlebrooks was diving for a ball and really had nowhere else to go. One thing’s clear, though – if the call was indeed the right one, Boston fans upset that the rule shouldn’t be enforced there are off base. The rule is the rule and it shouldn’t be changed simply because it affected a World Series game.

Kansas City Chiefs still undefeated: We’re now halfway through the NFL season and after a 23-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns this week, the Kansas City Chiefs are still unbeaten at 8-0. Kansas City has had a remarkable season, but it’s still hard to believe that they would be the favorite to reach the Super Bowl. At 7-1, the Denver Broncos have a blemish on their record and are technically behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Despite that, though, it’s hard to imagine folks lining up to bet against Peyton Manning and that offense if the two teams squared off in a game.

Alabama plays hardball with football fans: The Alabama Crimson Tide are building a small dynasty in college football and their tickets are understandably a hot item. So when some students left blowout games early, the administration was none too pleased. Head coach Nick Saban started things off by openly criticizing those that left, but the real hammer dropped when the school revoked the seats of the student organizations in a certain block of the stadium. That may sound harsh, but the school’s guidelines for having tickets actually state that early departures from games is unacceptable behavior.

Greg Oden returns: Big man Greg Oden returned to action in the NBA after missing the past several seasons with injuries. Oden made his return with the Miami Heat and suited up for the team on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. He only played four minutes since the team is trying to work him into the rotation at a reasonable rate after missing so much time, but he scored a bucket and hauled in two rebounds. Oden also had two turnovers and two quick fouls, but to see him back on the court was a welcome sight.

Larry Fitzgerald trade in the works?: ESPN reported this week that Larry Fitzgerald could be traded this offseason if not by this week’s NFL trade deadline as the move would save the Arizona Cardinals approximately $8 million. Fitz has been one of the league’s best wide receivers and this past weekend, he became the youngest receiver in NFL history to record 800 catches. Fitzgerald has been something to watch since he burst onto the scene. And the thing to remember is that his numbers would be even more astonishing if he had played with better quarterbacks over the course of his career.

Tim Lincecum signs new deal with Giants: Tim Lincecum hasn’t quite been himself over the past couple of seasons, but the Giants showed tremendous faith in their former ace by signing him to a two-year $35 million deal last week. That kind of money is substantial for a pitcher that was only 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA last year – particularly when you consider it was on the heels of a 2012 season when he was even worse, going 10-15 with an ERA of 5.18. At only 29, there’s still plenty of time for Lincecum to return to his Cy Young form. But San Francisco is still taking a sizeable gamble that he will be able to turn it around with that kind of money, though.

Basketball legend Bill Sharman dies: Former Boston Celtics star Bill Sharman passed away last week at the age of 87. Sharman was a Hall of Famer and also named as one of the NBA’s top 50 players of all time during the league’s 50th anniversary. You hear the term ‘lifer’ thrown around quite a bit, but Sharman was one of those guys where it was truly applicable. Sharman was a player from 1950 – 1961 and then went into coaching from 1966 – 1976. After coaching, he wrote two books on the sport and also was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers front office.

October 25, 2013

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Tiger Woods Vs. Rory McIlroy: The Sequel

By: Tyler Vespa

In the inaugural event last year, “The Duel at Jinsha Lake”, Rory McIlroy shot a 67 to edge Tiger Woods by one stroke in Zhengzhou, China.

Last year, Rory was number 1 in the world well Woods was number 2. This year, Tiger Woods is world number 1 again by a large margin. McIlroy has dropped all the way down to world number 6 after a rough 2013.

Neither player won a major in 2013. Tiger Woods has now gone 5 years without winning a major. In 16 events on tour in 2013, McIlroy had 1 runner-up and 5 top 10’s. Woods had 5 wins in 2013 and probably should have won at Augusta if not for an unlucky break.

The sequel to this world-class showdown, “The Match at Mission Hills” should be just as riveting, as both players haven’t seen the competitive landscape in a while. The golf will take place on October 28th at the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills in Haikou, China.

McIlroy hasn’t played since the BMW Championship and Woods not since the Tour Championship.

For me, this is a case of “what have you done for me lately?” Rory has really struggled ever since he signed with Nike. Personally, I hope he figures things out. But in the mean time, I’m taking Tiger by 4 strokes at Mission Hills.

Tiger will shoot 4 under par, and Rory will shoot even par.

October 23, 2013

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Bold World Series Predictions

By: Matt Bowen

With the 2013 World Series getting underway between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox a bittersweet sensation fills the mind, body and baseball spirit. On one hand, the season will finally have a champion. Eight months after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, the final champion in this season’s history book will conclude. The anticipation will be over. On the other hand a different level of anxiety sets in—what’s one to do without baseball for the winter months?

Fenway Park will play host to Game 1 of the 2013 World Series

While we may not have an answer for that question, let’s enjoy baseball while we can. In the end, the two best teams made it to the game’s ultimate stage—this hasn’t happened since 1995. Neither was upset in the earlier rounds and fans are in for a treat. Here are some bold predictions for the Fall Classic.

Jonny Gomes Will Be the Game 1 Hero in the 10th Inning

Every World Series has an unsung hero that forever etches his name in stone. Jonny Gomes will waste little time this year when he wins the game for the Bo Sox in the 10th inning of Game 1. Whether you want to admit it or not, this game will be slow out of the gates. Nerves, a three/four day layoff, quality pitching and cold October temperatures will have the bats quiet through much of the game.

With Xander Bogaerts pinch running for Jared Saltalamacchia, Gomes will shoot a single to the right field corner. Bogaerts will barely beat out the throw from Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran. Pandemonium will then ensue in Bean Town. Final score, 2-1.

Rookie Michael Wacha Will Go 8 Strong Innings in Game 2

The Cardinals starting rotation is wise beyond their years. Rookie Michael Wacha is no different. All he’s done this post season is go 3-0 with a .43 ERA over 21 innings. During that time he’s fanned 22 batters, with four walks and only eight hits.

Wacha has proved to be cold blooded and he’ll frustrate Red Sox all night long. He’ll be aided by the return of first baseman Allen Craig, who’s been sidelined with injury since September 4. Despite the absence, he still led the team with 97 RBI this season.  Craig will have three RBI in Game 2 and the Cards will win easily, 6-2. Wacha will only thicken is legacy.

The Series is Destined for 7 Games

These two teams were the best at the plate in 2013, have strong starting staffs and have shut down bullpens. Face it, something has to give, but not until Game 7. Both have rookie managers in St. Louis’ Mike Matheny and Boston’s John Farrell. It’ll be a seesaw battle that will have the ebbs and flows of a classic Halloween thriller. Fans will be glued to their seat from beginning to end and will be reminded of why baseball is engrained in our souls as something pure and comforting. No one will want this one to end.

In the End, the Cardinals Take It

With Adam Wainwright on the mound in Game 7 in Boston the Cardinals will win it all. Not very often does a sports franchise have the amount of success St. Louis has indulged the past decade. Look, the Red Sox are a great team and have certainly pulled a 180 from their 2012 campaign, but there’s something magical about the Cardinals.

No matter who dons the two birds and a bat uniform they seem to perform at the highest of levels.  They seemingly can do no wrong. This series will be one of the all-time greats and in the end St. Louis will own the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Carlos Beltran Will Win World Series MVP

It’s almost easy to forget how good Carlos Beltran is. Even at 36 years old he batted .296 this season. In 11 postseason games this season he has 12 RBI and eight walks.

Beltran knows this may be his only shot at winning it all. Despite 45 career postseason games, he’s never played in the showcase. Now is his time and he will rise to the occasion. A crucial game-winning hit in Game 5 will propel his team closer to the prize.

Expect three homers, eight RBI and one MVP trophy at the end.

October 22, 2013

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Biggest College Football Games Left

By: Joe Williams

College football’s first BCS standings of 2013 are finally out. The teams that still have realistic BCS championship aspirations now have a much clearer path that must be followed. And we, as fans, now know what we should be rooting for. But there’s still a long way to go and a ton of football left to be played. Which games are going to have the biggest impact in the title  chase? Here’s my list. (Excluding the major conference championship games)

Oct. 26
UCLA at Oregon
UCLA could climb back into the race with a win. Oregon can make its claim that it deserves the No. 2 spot in the BCS.

South Carolina at Missouri
It’s no surprise that this game will help decide the SEC West champion. But everyone thought that it would possibly be South Carolina heading to Atlanta in December. Missouri is the surprise of 2013 and with a win here, would all but clinch a spot in the SEC title game.

Miami at Florida State could have a huge impact on both teams' season.

Nov. 2
Miami at Florida State
Miami should be 7-0. Florida State should 7-0. Both could be ranked in the top five. A win for Miami would launch it into the national title conversation. A win for Florida State would keep the Seminoles in one of those all-important top two spots in the BCS.

Nov. 7
Oregon at Stanford
These teams have a way of ruining each other’s national title hopes. Will it happen again in 2013? With wins over ranked opponents this weekend, both teams would enter this game in the national title mix.

Nov. 9
LSU at Alabama
This game looked a lot bigger a few days ago. Now that LSU has suffered a second loss, the Tigers will just be playing spoiler here. The Crimson Tide will be 8-0, No. 1 in the BCS and a couple of wins away from the SEC title game in Atlanta.

Nov. 16
Texas Tech at Baylor
It’s a long shot but both of these teams could take the field undefeated and ranked in the top five in the BCS. Both will have to get past Oklahoma between now and then, but if that happens, circle this one on your calendar.

Nov. 23
Ohio State at Michigan
The Buckeyes are 19-0 under coach Urban Meyer. They should be 23-0 and 11-0 in 2013 when they take on the Wolverines. The Buckeyes desperately need Michigan to be highly-ranked coming into this one.

Nov. 30
Alabama at Auburn
Auburn is a surprise at No. 11 and has plenty of time to move up before the regular season finale. It’s looking like the winner here will be headed to Atlanta for the SEC title game. And the winner in Atlanta always plays for and wins the BCS title. So this is basically a BCS quarterfinal. And it gets no bigger than that in November.

Florida State at Florida
This in-state rivalry could be returning to its glory days with national championship implications in this one. Closing out the regular season with a win over Florida (who should be back in the top 25 by then) would put FSU one game away from the BCS title game.

Other games that could impact the BCS:
Dec. 6: MAC Championship Game (Northern Illinois could be undefeated.)
Dec. 7: Fresno State vs Boise State (possible matchup in the MWC title game.)