March 20, 2013

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Let The Madness Begin

By: Joe Williams

The best tournament of the year is under way. I’ve already filled out my NCAA Tournament bracket – thrown it away – and filled out a new one. But I don’t like this one either. Time to start over and make a final attempt. But before I do, there are a few things I’m going to keep in mind.

There are many factors to keep in mind when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

A No. 5 seed is going down. You can take that to the bank. The hard part is figuring out which one it will be. UNLV looks like the obvious choice because they have a rematch with Cal and it’s only about an hour away from the Bears’ campus. VCU could be in trouble if Akron wasn’t going to play without their star point guard. So the Oklahoma State Cowboys better be on upset alert because they have to play an Oregon team that is better than its 12 seed.

We also know that there is probably going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Some of the best candidates are Colorado, Bucknell, Oregon, Middle Tennessee St., Minnesota, and Iowa St. Look for two of these teams to make it to the second weekend. It’s Bucknell and Iowa St. in my bracket.

The Mountain West Conference will have a good showing. Five teams got in (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego St., Colorado St. and Boise St.) and all five will win at least one game..starting with the Broncos on Wednesday night. The SEC, on the other hand, will struggle to find a W. Florida should get one but that could be it.

The key to a successful bracket is to avoid picking teams to make a deep run and then they fall to an early-round upset. That’s going to be tough this year with how even the field appears to be. Here’s one team to avoid in each region…Florida, Syracuse, Ohio State and Duke.

All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. Which top team will make it to Atlanta? The last nine national champs have had blue for a school color so I will take Gonzaga and Kansas to win their regions. I’ll take St. Louis to shock the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals and win the Midwest. And if I’m sticking with blue then I guess its Marquette out of the East Region. And I better be right. I can’t afford another finish at the bottom of the office pool or I’m the one that’s going to be blue.

June 5, 2012

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10 MLB Teams That Will Miss The Playoffs

By: Joe Williams

It is hard to believe, but the MLB season is already one-third of the way over. Nobody has locked up a playoff spot yet, but several teams have dug themselves such a big hole that they probably can’t climb out of it. Therefore, its time to eliminate a third of the teams. Who are the 10 teams that aren’t going anywhere in 2012?

Will the Chicago Cubs miss the playoffs again this season?

Chicago Cubs

No surprise here. This is the only team in baseball in sixth place in its division. They just finished off a 12-game losing streak and are currently on a four-game skid. The fans have had to wait more than 100 years for a championship and you can be sure the wait will not end in 2012.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins won 94 games and the A.L. Central in 2010. The have won 84 games and held down last place in the division ever since. Much of the blame can be given to injuries to some of their best players but that doesn’t make the Twins feel any better.

Houston Astros

Houston was far and away the worst team in baseball in 2011. That isn’t the case this year. They have been awful (6-19) on the road but a good team at home (17-12). Houston looks to be on its way back to contending, but it won’t be this year.

San Diego Padres

This is currently the worst team in baseball. They too, have not been the same since the 2010 season when they blew the lead in the N.L. West and missed the playoffs by a game. There isn’t much to cheer about here.

Kansas City Royals

Is it time to bring back Bo Jackson? The Royals have just one winning season since 1994. They are said to have a lot of young talent that will turn it around but it is looking as though that wont happen until 2013 or 2014.

Oakland A’s

Their recent nine-game losing streak really hurt. They are now down to fourth in the A.L. West and eight games back of Texas. They are just six games out of a wild card spot, but there are just too many teams to leapfrog.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado is 9.5 games out in the N.L. West and 6.5 in the wild card chase. These guys have built a reputation of getting hot and making a late-season run, but can they do it again? They have the offense to get it done but the pitching staff is the worst in baseball.

Seattle Mariners

Somehow the Mariners are 10th scoring runs. But they are 27th in batting average, 28th in on base percentage and 26th in slugging. Sooner or later that is going to catch up to them and their scoring will go down, along with their post-season hopes.

Boston Red Sox

The Sox are currently in last in the A.L. East. They are under .500 at home. Their pitching staff is near the bottom of the league. They have had too many injuries. Too many off the field issues. The division is too tough.

Philadelphia Phillies

It’s the same story in Philly as it is in Boston. They are last in the N.L. East. They also have had too many injuries (Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, and Chase Utley are just a few of the players they have on the DL right now) and too many good teams in their division.

September 19, 2011

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NCAA Football Conference Realignment: Selecting the Top 64 Schools

By: Anson Whaley

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about NCAA Football Conference allignment and how superconferences could be good for college football. My point was that if six such conferences existed, the BCS would be more accessible to a greater number of teams. But with the Big 12 possibly on the verge of an epic collapse, the more likely scenario is a sport with only four of those 16-team conferences.

That got me to thinking – if it did happen, who would likely be included? Rivals/Yahoo had some writers discuss the issue with each one coming up with their list of NCAA teams. It’s safe to say there were some notable omissions – Duke, UConn, and Indiana all were left off some of the rosters.NCAA football rules college athletics, but is it really fair to leave out such NCAA basketball powerhouses?

Well, I’ll get to that in a bit. But for the record, basketball programs that don’t play FBS football were left out of consideration. So Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Marquette, Gonzaga, et al? No dice.

So here’s my list of 64 teams:

The Absolute Locks– There’s absolutely no discussion on these guys. The fact that I even have to list them is borderline insulting. Call them first-ballot Hall of Famers, if you will. If there was only one superconference, these guys would be the first ones in: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, USC

Next In Line- These schools aren’t the cream of the crop, but they’d definitely get in without any question. Any NCAA conference would be glad to have them and there’s as much of a chance of Oddibe McDowell getting into the Hall of Fame as there is of these schools being left out: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan State, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Still In With Little Question – This is the third tier…NCAA schools that no sane conference would leave out. There could be some trivial questions about a few of them, but these institutions would certainly all be in as well. Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Purdue, Oregon State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Virginia, Washington

The “Basketball” Schools– Personally, I don’t see how you have superconferences without including some of the most storied basketball programs around. Sure, we all get that despite March Madness, in terms of money, NCAA basketball takes a back seat to football. But as the second biggest college sport, these schools have got to be in. After all, are you really going to turn down these schools that not only each have won multiple basketball championships for someone like Baylor? Didn’t think so: UConn, Duke, Indiana

The “Non-BCS Football Schools”– These guys have all had incredible success without being in a BCS automatic qualifying conference. I can listen to the argument of not moving them to the front of the line for various reasons such as market size, but they’ve all been ranked in the top ten in recent years on the gridiron and are too good to leave out: Boise State, BYU, TCU, Utah

The Final Five In

Minnesota – Mediocre football and basketball programs, but has had respectable years in each.

Northwestern– Here mostly for their academics and market (Chicago). Oh yeah, and Michael Wilbon.

Rutgers – One of oldest universities and recent football success with average of nine wins from 2006 – 2009.

South Carolina – Are you gonna be the one to tell Steve Spurrier he’s not invited?

South Florida– Football program on the rise after only being in Division I for ten years and brings the Tampa market.

Left Out – Can’t find room for everybody and these would be the unlucky schools if I were putting the conferences together. Would they be on someone’s list? Absolutely. But on mine, they just miss the cut: Vanderbilt, Baylor, Iowa State, Washington State, Wake Forest

September 12, 2011

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Q&A with Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series

By: Anson Whaley

Since college football season is here, arguments about the BCS will begin before you know it. With that in mind, I went straight to the guy at the top – BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. Bill provided his thoughts on the system, why a tournament isn’t best for college football, and conference expansion.

 

Fathead: Obviously, as the season goes on and anticipation grows about who might play in the BCS, things are pretty busy for you. But are you able to get away from it all in the offseason? What type of things do you work on during college football’s ‘off’ months?

 Bill Hancock/BCS: I love my job, but yes, I’m pretty good at getting away.  My interests are my three grandchildren, history, the outdoors, classical music and exercise.  I was lucky to have indulged in all of those during the brief “off” season.  I hiked in Colorado, went to little league games and concerts, read a great book about post-World War II Europe and ran or rode my bike every day.

 

You’ve spent a large part of your life affiliated with the media as a journalism student in college and working as an SID, media relations director, and a newspaper editor for many years.  Being out in the front defending the BCS is part of your job as the Executive Director, so is it safe to say that experience helped prepare you for your current role?

 Journalism is a great teacher.  I learned to listen, to work hard, to write and to understand others’ perspectives.  I was lucky to have grown up in the newspaper business. 

 

Lots of folks think of the BCS as a faceless system, but the fact is that you’re actually extremely visible. Even while making valid points, do you get frustrated about the amount of anger of non-BCS supporters when it comes to defending the system?

 The First Amendment is alive and well.  Thank goodness.  But I must admit that, when I took this job, I did not anticipate the nasty personal attacks.  Some of our critics are bringing slash-and-burn Washington politics to college sports, and I think that may backfire.  I don’t think sports fans appreciate those antics.

 

Many fans probably don’t realize that you were previously the Director for the NCAA’s Final Four. I find it interesting that you were the head of a tournament format championship and now, the BCS. Having seen the wild success of the NCAA tournament up close, why do you feel that the same system (or a shorter modified version of it) would not work in college football?

 Every sport is different, and it’s inappropriate to expect them to be clones of each other.  Basketball is a tournament sport; teams often play three games in a week.  The physical nature of football precludes that.  One coach told me that a football playoff would not be decided on the field, but in the training room instead.  I believe that. 

 

Just as much as you’re involved with the business-side of college football, you’re a fan. What are your thoughts on conference realignment and expansion? In addition, would you rather see the current number of conferences remain the same or fewer, larger mega conferences as have been discussed?

 Yes, I’m a huge fan.  I love college sports.  It’s important for people to remember the history: schools have been changing conferences forever.  For example, people were very frustrated in 1927 when Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska abandoned the Missouri Valley to create the Big Six Conference.  That was nearly 85 years ago!  Still, I was intrigued by Grant Teaff’s comment; he said he had a hard time seeing how the current speculated realignment will be good for college football.  History will give us the best perspective. 

 

If there is conference realignment, how do you think that would affect the BCS?

 The BCS has strong support from the college presidents, athletic directors, coaches and commissioners.  I don’t envision realignment changing that.

 

Regardless of the varying opinions about the BCS, most people realize that the current system is better than the previous one, which didn’t always showcase a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Still, there have been worthy teams from non-BCS conferences on the outside looking in from time to time. While the BCS has found ways to integrate them into the bowl lineup, we haven’t yet seen one play for a championship. Do you think that can/will ever happen?

 First of all, every conference is a BCS conference.  I work for all 11 commissioners, and they all manage the BCS together.  You’re right; the BCS has provided significantly more revenue, and more access to the top-tier bowl games by the non-AQ conferences than ever before.   Those conferences definitely are on the inside!  I do think a team from a non-AQ conference will play in the championship game someday.  It nearly happened last year. 

 

I imagine that you answer this question nearly every day in some form or another, but in a nutshell, why does the BCS work?

 The BCS works because it allows the top two teams to meet in a bowl game while (1) preserving the best regular season in sports—you know, we have three months of madness and (2) preserving the bowl tradition and the bowl experience for the student-athletes.

August 16, 2011

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College Football Teams Most Likely To Go Undefeated This Season

By: Joe Williams

The first college football game is just a couple weeks away. As always, we can expect a season full of blowouts, upsets and thrilling finishes. And of course there will be the talk of why the BCS stinks and we should have a playoff. Chances are most of that talk will come in a few months time when a few college teams are still undefeated and trying to snag one of the spots in the BCS Championship game. It’s never too early to start looking at who might be in the mix. Here are a few teams that have a shot to finish the season without a loss and play for the BCS Championship.

Oklahoma

The Sooners are at the top of just about every preseason poll. Starting the season at No. 1 doesn’t mean they will have an easy road, but if they can run the table; they won’t have to worry about being left out of the title game. The toughest test could be an early season showdown with No. 5 Florida State in Tallahassee. If the Seminoles don’t knock the Sooners off the top of the poll, No. 21 Missouri, No. 24 Texas, No. 9 Texas A&M, and No. 8 Oklahoma St. will all have their shot at Oklahoma. And if the Sooners do win all those games, thanks to Nebraska and Colorado leaving the Big 12, they won’t have to win a conference championship game.

 

Oregon

LaMichael James and Darron Thomas both return for an offense that led the nation in scoring last season. There is no doubt they will put points on the board. The question is whether the defense will make enough stops. The Ducks have two giant hurdles to cross if they are going to get back to the BCS Championship game. They will take on No. 4 LSU at a neutral site in Dallas in the biggest game of the opening weekend. If they get past the Tigers and stay perfect, a Nov. 12 visit to No.6 Stanford and Andrew Luck has potential to be the biggest game of the season.

Stanford

Speaking of the Cardinal, Luck turned down millions to return to school for his senior season. The question is; will he have enough help with head coach Jim Harbaugh gone to coach the San Francisco 49ers. Stanford will need the offensive line to protect Luck and he will need a couple reliable targets to throw to. If a few players can step up and help him, the schedule is manageable. That is, if they can get past Oregon. USC and Notre Dame are the most likely to knock Stanford off if Oregon can’t.

Boise State

The Broncos were a missed kick away from finishing undefeated last season. They would have landed a BCS bowl bid but not in the national title game. If multiple BCS schools are unbeaten (as Auburn and Oregon were last season), the Broncos don’t have much chance of finishing ahead of them. Quarterback Kellen Moore is back along with several starters on both sides of the ball. The Broncos open the season at No. 22 Georgia and will host No. 15 TCU in November. The question for this team is not whether they can go undefeated. They have done that before. The question is: IF they go undefeated WILL they get enough help from other teams knocking off the BCS powerhouse teams in front of them?