March 12, 2013

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Wooden Award Watch

By: Tyler Vespa

College basketball’s player of the year race is starting to heat up. In this wide open season where we’ve seen top 5 teams go down almost every week, the Wooden Award Watch has also been sent into a frenzy. We’ve seen so many teams picked to finish in the middle or the bottom of their conference rise above expectations. This parity has put names on the Wooden Award Watch that nobody saw coming.

Will Indiana's Victor Oladipo win the Wooden Award?

With that, here are my top 5 players (in order) that could take home player of the year honors:

Victor Oladipo- Indiana

His incredible quickness helps him do so many different things for the Hoosiers. Oladipo is one of the best I’ve seen at turning defense into offense. He averages 14.0 ppg, 2.1 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.3 steals and to top it off, he is shooting 63% from the floor. His play has been so consistent it’s hard to put anyone ahead of him at this point.

Otto Porter- Georgetown

The Hoyas swingman rises to the occasion in big games. Porter scored 33 points in a win at Syracuse, and scored 21 of his 22 points in the second half of a double-overtime win against Connecticut. Porter shoots 51% from the floor and averages 16.6 points. 2.5 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. The Hoyas have won 11 in a row, and Porter is averaging 19.2 ppg in the last 13 games. In other words, he single handedly took the Hoyas to the top of the Big East.

Rodney McGruder- Kansas St.

The Kansas State senior guard is averaging 14.9 ppg and 5.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.3 steals. This play by McGruder has helped the Wildcats win 5 in a row and take over 1st in the Big 12.

Deshaun Thomas- Ohio St.

In the toughest conference in the country, the junior forward has averaged 19.8 ppg, 1.3 assists, and 6.1 rebounds.  This consistency, along with Thomas’ 84.5 free throw shooting has helped the Buckeyes win 4 of their last 5, putting them 2nd in the Big Ten.

Marcus Smart- Oklahoma St.

The freshman guard is averaging 14.6 ppg, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals. Smart does it all for the Cowboys, who have now won 10 of their past 11, with their only loss coming against Kansas in double overtime. They now sit just one game behind Kansas and Kansas St. in the Big 12.

I would be in shock if one of these 5 didn’t win player of the year. Even with the conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament right around the corner, these are the top guys in the top conferences in the nation. I can’t wait to see how these guys perform down the stretch in the race for a national championship.

January 15, 2013

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What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.

January 3, 2013

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The Call That Changed Everything

By: Joe Williams

While most of the nation is looking ahead to next week’s BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Notre Dame, I’m looking back. Back to October 13. Back to one play; one call; one moment that could define the 2012 college football season.

The Fighting Irish survived close call after close call during the regular season but perhaps the closest call of them all was in overtime against Stanford. It was surely the most controversial.

Notre Dame won some close games, maybe none closer than their overtime game against Stanford.

Trailing 20-13 and facing a fourth-and-goal from the one, Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor was stopped short of the goal line on his initial effort. He then twisted his body over the top of several other players and stretched the ball forward, appearing to reach the end zone.

But the call on the field was that he came up short. After a lengthy review, the ruling stood because there was no indisputable evidence to overturn the call. Notre Dame stormed the field in celebration and carried that momentum all the way to an undefeated season.

But what if Stanford had scored on that play and then went on to beat Notre Dame?

Only Ohio State would have finished the season without a loss, increasing the chances of the AP voting the Buckeyes No. 1 and giving us a split national championship. (But it would probably take everyone finishing with at least two losses for that to happen.)

Assuming the rest of the season played out the same – Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Kansas State, Stanford and Northern Illinois – would all have just one loss. There’s some chaos for you.

Out of those seven teams, Stanford would have the best case to make about playing for the BCS Championship. They would have beaten a team ranked No. 17 or better four weeks in a row and have wins over both Oregon and Notre Dame…in overtime. Nobody else would have a resume even close to that.

Oregon and Notre Dame could both say they have the best loss but would the voters want to see a rematch against Stanford? And if so, is it Oregon or Notre Dame?

Florida and Alabama also have quality losses coming against Georgia and Texas A&M but the Crimson Tide are the SEC champs so we can then assume that Stanford would be facing off against Alabama for all the marbles. Of course, if the 4-team playoff was already in place, most of these questions would be answered on the field.

I think the country would be pretty pumped about a Stanford, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Oregon playoff. Well, everyone except Florida and Kansas State fans.

One more honor that changed hands during that final play in South Bend is the coach of the year. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly has been named as the winner but Stanford head coach David Shaw would have been the coach of the year and maybe still should be. A year after winning 11 games and narrowly missing out on a chance to play for the BCS Championship, he’s got another 11-win team. And he’s done it without the great Andrew Luck.

December 4, 2012

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Bowl Season Observations

By: Joe Williams

College football’s regular season games have been played, the bowl selections have been made and now all there is to do is wait…for 2014. In two years we will finally get the college football playoff we’ve been waiting for. Until then, we are stuck with the BCS system that, every year, is filled with controversy.

Should Oklahoma have made a BCS bowl?

This year, the BCS has delivered the most disappointing and uninteresting lineup of games since the BCS system began. The Rose Bowl has a team that has already lost five times this year in Wisconsin. The Orange Bowl has a team that was never in the BCS discussion until there was one day left in the season and has the experts complaining that they don’t deserve to be in the game in Northern Illinios. In the Sugar Bowl we have a team that benefited by not having to play in its conference championship game in Florida taking on a team that has lost two of three and has not faced a ranked opponent all season in Louisville. And of course the BCS Championship Game will feature possibly the two most hated teams in college football (Notre Dame and Alabama) so many fans won’t even know who to root for. The only bright spot is the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon against Kansas State should be a good one.

Why is everyone getting so bent out of shape about Northern Illinois reaching the BCS anyway? So Oklahoma doesn’t get in this year. So what? The Sooners have played in the BCS eight times. I’d rather see some new blood get a chance. It’s not like the Sooners are left out of a national championship shot. Has everyone forgotten what happened when Boise State (2007 and 2010) and Utah (2005 and 2009) were in the BCS and people thought they shouldn’t be? I’m not saying Northern Illinois will beat Florida State. But they qualified for the game. If Oklahoma was so worried about playing in a BCS game it should have performed better against Notre Dame or Kansas State.

What happens if Alabama beats Notre Dame, leaving Ohio State as the only undefeated team? I don’t think it will happen and I don’t think it should happen (because the Buckeyes are not bowl eligible), but what are the chances that Ohio State could end up No. 1 in the AP and we have a split national championship? Talk about college football controversy.

If we have learned anything about college football and the people who run it over the years, it is that the most important thing is money. That is why I am surprised that we are still able to find out who will be playing in what bowl game before the actual BCS selection show is on TV. Why haven’t they come up with a selection show similar to the NFL draft where we have representatives from each bowl game coming up to the podium and announcing the team they have selected to play in each game. We would have teams all around the country gathered around the phone waiting for a call. I would have loved to see a split screen of the reactions from Oklahoma and Northern Illinois when the match-ups were made official. That would get higher ratings then having somebody from ESPN telling us what we have already known for days.

There are 35 games still to play. I’ve got no interest in most of them (East Carolina vs Louisana-Lafayette and Duke vs Cincinnati for example), and only one game means anything. Fortunately, we will go through this just one more time.

November 20, 2012

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BCS Championship Possibilities

By: Joe Williams

Did anybody see that coming? I sure didn’t. And now that there is just one perfect team left, the BCS Championship picture is pretty clear……unless they lose, too. And I think they will. With just a couple weeks of chaos remaining, here is where they stand:

No. 1 Notre Dame

The Irish are the only unbeaten team remaining and only have one game to go. Just USC stands between Notre Dame and a chance to play for a national championship. When the season began, the Trojans thought this game would be something they needed to survive to get a title shot. With the tables turned, I expect to see an angry USC squad take its best shot at knocking a long-time rival out of the title picture. The Irish would join a group of one-loss teams in the discussion if they don’t win, but an SEC team and Oregon (Ducks defeated Trojans 62-51) would be more deserving.

The Fighting Irish are one game away from the BCS Championship game.

No. 2 Alabama

Nobody gets the help they need faster than Alabama. Last year when the Tide dropped to No. 3 in the BCS standings they were back in the top two in two weeks. This year it only took one week for them to go from No. 4 to No. 2. Alabama needs to beat an Auburn team that is 0-7 in the SEC and then No. 3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in order to have a chance to win back-to-back national titles.

No. 3 Georgia
Suddenly, a team that nobody has been talking about controls its own destiny to play for the national championship.

The Bulldogs need to beat Georgia Tech (6-5) and then knock off  No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. If that happens, Georgia will be on the field against someone on Jan. 7.

No. 4 Florida

The Gators aren’t even going to play for the SEC title but are still in the mix. Sound familiar? (Alabama last year) We know one team in front of them is going to win and one is going to lose. And if Notre Dame falls at USC and Florida wins its final game at No. 10 Florida State, nothing will keep Florida from moving up to No. 2 in the rankings unless voters decide they do not want to see an all-SEC championship game and move Florida down.

No. 5 Oregon

Despite last week’s loss to Stanford, the Ducks have some hope. What has to happen? They must win at No. 15 Oregon State and hope that No. 17 UCLA can knock off No. 8 Stanford. That would put Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship Game against UCLA, who would be at top-15 team. A win there coupled with a Notre Dame loss to USC and either Alabama or Georgia losing should get Oregon a title shot because it would be a conference champion and Florida would not. Although, it wouldn’t matter if the Gators lose to Florida State.

No. 6 Kansas State

The Wildcats are pretty much out of it because of the way they lost against Baylor. Getting blown out 52-24 to a 5-5 Baylor team pretty much means they won’t get to the BCS Championship no matter what happens, but it would be possible if Notre Dame, Florida and Oregon all lost. Of course, they also need to beat No. 16 Texas to keep their hopes alive.

No. 10 Florida State

Are they still in it? It’s a longshot, but isn’t that what the BCS is all about? Notre Dame has to lose. The Seminoles need to blow Florida out of the water and beat Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. Oregon and maybe Kansas State would have to lose again and the voters would need to decide they want a conference champion to play the SEC champ.

Did I miss anything? Probably. Anything can happen in the BCS. Did I mention that Kent State has just one loss? Maybe it still has a shot.