December 10, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Johnny Manziel makes history, wins Heisman Trophy: Texas A&M’s freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel made a bit of history last week by winning the Heisman Trophy. Manziel was the first freshman in the history of college football to win the prestigious award. He didn’t have stats that blew others out of the water (Manziel didn’t even finish in the top 15 in yards, touchdowns, or passer rating), but they were just good enough to put him on top. Also helping Manziel was the fact that Texas A&M had an outstanding season as a team, finishing 10-2 and defeating No. 1 Alabama on the road. He deserved the award, but the real news is that Manziel likely has opened the door for others. Many voters may have been hesitant to give the award to a freshman, but now that it’s already been done, that will make it easier for other underclassmen to win the award.

Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals had no answer for Seattle's defense on Sunday.

Manuel Marquez stuns Manny Pacquiao: For a long time, boxing fans have been clamoring for a Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. Talk of that may finally be dead, though, as Pacquiao was stunned by Manuel Marquez last week in dramatic fashion. Marquez knocked Pacquiao out cold with one second left in the sixth round, shocking the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mayweather, for one, has to be a bit happy at the turnout. Even if he felt he could beat Pacquiao, there’s always the chance he would lose. Now, Mayweather doesn’t even have to risk hurting his legacy as those calling for him to fight Pacquiao will likely move on to finding the next best opponent.

Seattle Seahawks crush Arizona Cardinals, 58-0: If you had the Seattle Seahawks’ defense on your fantasy football team, you had a good chance of winning your game this week. The Seahawks pitched a shutout against the Cardinals, prevailing 58-0 at home. The 58 points was a franchise record, but the defense was just as impressive. The unit not only stopped Arizona from scoring a single point, but forced eight turnovers. You just don’t see blowouts all that often in the NFL and this was simply a bloodbath.

Sidney Crosby talks Europe: After talks between players and owners broke down again last week, the NHL lockout may be forcing more players overseas. In particular, Sidney Crosby, who is possibly the league’s biggest star, talked about being more open to playing in Europe. That may not sound like a big deal, but you can bet that type of news isn’t what the league wants to hear. Even if the biggest stars are able to leave their temporary teams once a deal to play in the NHL is struck, there’s always the chance that someone could suffer a bad injury. The last thing the league wants in the midst of trying to rebuild a relationship with a disgruntled fanbase is to start a short season without a major star.

Jeremy Lin’s struggles continue: Jeremy Lin’s lackluster year continued with the worst stretch of the season. In three games against the Lakers, Spurs, and Mavericks last week, Lin’s offense was virtually non-existent. He scored a total of only 15 points and did it on a dismal 6-21 shooting. A fairly overlooked statistic is that Lin had only two free throw attempts in the three games. Not only is he not scoring, he’s not even being aggressive enough to get to the line. It’s really early but so far, the Jeremy Lin experiment isn’t going all that well in Houston. He isn’t completely falling off the radar as he’s averaging just over six assists and four rebounds a game, but his scoring is down significantly, despite having less talent around him. The expectation was that his numbers should improve even more as he’d be taking more shots, but Lin is actually shooting slightly less. It’s clear he has work to do to even approach the season he had last year.

Los Angeles Dodgers sign Korean star Hyun-jin Ryu: The Dodgers made an offseason splash by signing Korean pitching star Hyun-jin Ryu for six years/$36 million, according to ESPN. In seven seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, Ryu struck out nearly a batter an inning and had an ERA of 2.80. With the new star, the Dodgers have added to their deep rotation. With Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett, the team has an outstanding one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Ryu will presumably compete for the remaining three spots. If all are healthy, look for the team to make a move or two in exchange for some more offense.

November 19, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

College football’s top two teams fall: On Saturday night, No. 1 Kansas State was rolled up by Baylor, 52-24. Not to be outdone, the nation’s second-ranked team, Oregon, lost to Stanford in overtime, 17-14. But other than Baylor and Stanford, the real winner in this is the only undefeated team capable of playing for the national championship – Notre Dame. A few weeks ago, with several unbeaten squads, the Irish were left out of the conversation in many talks about the title game. But now, Notre Dame is sitting pretty and if they can win their final game against USC, they should find their way into the BCS championship.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera was named AL MVP.

Baseball award winners announced: Major League Baseball dished out their awards for the 2012 season and Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey were named the American and National League Most Valuable Players. Mike Trout garnered some consideration for the AL award due to his insane WAR of 10.7, the highest since Barry Bonds’ 11.6 a decade ago in 2002. But in the end, he couldn’t compete with Cabrera’s triple crown and the voters got this one right. Trout put up some impressive numbers, but Cabrera did something that hasn’t happened in 45 years – ‘Nuff said.

Royce White facing strange predicament: The career of Houston Rockets’ rookie Royce White could be over before it even begins. White, reportedly dealing with a fear of flying, has yet to play a game for the Rockets and he and the team are at odds. White is so adamant about his health concerns that he even broached the idea of retiring last week. The strange thing about all of this is that the Rockets drafted White even knowing about his condition, so it’s hard to understand their plight. Even though Houston hasn’t expressed an interest in trading him, dealing White to another team that might be more willing to work with him is probably the best for all involved.

Rutgers and Maryland Big Ten bound: NCAA expansion is far from over and the latest splash is that Rutgers and Maryland are headed to the Big Ten. The ACC is well-positioned in college football, but losing Rutgers is yet another blow to the Big East. The conference tried to continue its relevance by adding several more schools in the past year, but while that may work for the short term, Big East teams are still open to being poached. The bottom line is that despite more teams, the Big East is still fairly unstable.

Rory McIlroy misses cut; vows changes in ’13: The top-ranked golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, missed the cut in the Hong Kong Open. It’s the second time this year that he failed to make the weekend’s play in a tournament he won the previous year. McIlroy thinks he may have had too much going this season and says he’ll play in fewer events in 2013. That’s bad news for TV networks, golf tournaments, and fans, but is probably the right way to go. Less tournaments will hopefully result in less physical wear, but more importantly, mentally, McIlroy should be fresher as well if he’s doing less.

Andrew Bynum the bowler: All-Star center Andrew Bynum still has yet to play a game for his new team, the Philadelphia 76ers, after he was included in a multi-team swap that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum is a younger center with loads of potential, but his knee issues have kept him off the court all season so far. And this weekend, it was reported that Bynum suffered a setback from … bowling. No, seriously. If this is true, you can bet Philly fans won’t give him an easy time about it.

Hockey’s 2012 Hall of Fame class inducted: Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Pavel Bure, and Adam Oates were all inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Predictably, the ceremony was overshadowed a bit by the NHL lockout. It’s a shame, too, because those were four of the most exciting players in hockey over the past few decades.

Baylor’s 42-game winning streak snapped: When the Baylor women’s basketball team lost to Stanford last week, it snapped the longest active winning streak in the sport. Lost in all of the hysteria, though, is that the Bears lost by only two points. Even with the loss, there’s no reason to write Baylor off as a title contender. And Brittney Griner set the women’s record for dunks in a career in the following game, so there’s that.

November 7, 2012

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The NBA’s All-Underrated Team

By: Matt Bowen

The 2011-12 NBA season is quickly gaining momentum since the season recently tipped-off and Fathead is here to name the NBA’s all-underrated team.

These players may not be overnight sensations, but they’ll be fan favorites by season’s end. They do the little things, put forth 110 percent on a daily basis and simply make their team better.  These are guys that are priceless to their franchises, the reason they put spectators in seats and win games.  They may not get the recognition that some stars do, but they make those stars better.

Greg Monroe is a bright spot for the Pistons and their future.

Here is the NBA’s all-underrated team:

Omer Asik, Houston Rockets: The Houston Rockets reshaped their entire roster in the off-season and big man Omer Asik is one of the many new pieces to the puzzle. The Rockets caught plenty of flak when they signed the somewhat untested center to a robust contract in the off-season.

Just a few games into the season, the Rockets look more than wise to pay the man. He’s not paid to score, he’s paid to play defense and he’s doing just that. In just three games this season he’s tallied 44 rebounds. 44!

This is only his third year in the league and he’s only 26 years old, so the future is bright for Asik in Houston.  Basketball enthusiasts everywhere will grow an appreciation for Asik before the season concludes.

Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks have something special in 6’11” Larry Sanders. The third-year kid out of Virginia Commonwealth is still learning the NBA game, but he has the potential to be a well-rounded post player.

He’s currently listed as a center, but at only 235 lbs. the Bucks hope he develops his outside game a bit until he grows into his body. Right now playing with his back to the basket isn’t the best option, but his quickness is the upside to his lack of weight.

Through two games this season, he is 13-for-16 from the floor with 14 rebounds and six blocks. Given its just two games, but the sky is the limit for Sanders. Thanks to the play-making ability of Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, Sanders should have plenty of easy buckets this season. If you get a chance to see the Bucks, pay special attention to Sanders.

Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets were scolded by many of their fans when the seemingly gave star point guard Chris Paul away via trade last season. Now, their tough decision doesn’t look so bad because of third-year point guard Greivis Vasquez out of the University of Maryland.

There are plenty of improvements to be made from Vasquez, like good shot selection, but he’ll be a completely different player by season’s end. In just three games this season he’s averaging 13 points, 9.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds, which tells everyone that he’s on his way to success. His ability to drive and dish puts him in position to rebound.

Once he develops the knack of knowing when to pass and when to take it all the way to the hoop, he’ll be as good as gold. His quickness is taken for granted, but not for long.

Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons: The Detroit Pistons have been looking for a decent big man since the early 1990’s and Greg Monroe is their man. There’s nothing this guy can’t do, but not even he realizes just how good he’ll be yet.

He and the Pistons are off to a slow start, but there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be an All-Star this season. In the game against the Denver Nuggets on November 6, Monroe showed his true potential with 27 points and 10 rebounds. He also went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, which is an achievement for a big man.

The Pistons won’t be the best this season, but thanks to Monroe, Brandon Knight and company, they’re setting themselves up nicely for the future.

James Harden, Houston Rockets: Wait. What? How is James Harden underrated? He’s a pure scorer, an Olympic gold medalist and sports the best beard in sports.

He’s underrated because he’s never started in the NBA—until now. The Houston Rockets made a bold move just prior to the season by acquiring Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The league’s best sixth man is now the league’s best scorer. The Rockets quickly paid the man and he’s producing. In three games this season he’s averaging 35.3 points/game on a whopping 52.9 percent shooting.

Combined with the aforementioned Omer Asik, the Rockets are a can’t-miss team this season. Harden can simply stuff the stat sheet and will leave fans in awe the entire season. Don’t be surprised when he wins MVP.

October 29, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Today we’ll be debuting a new feature – ‘The Week in Sports.’ That’s hopefully a temporary name until we can come up with something a little more catchy (patience is required since that might be a while). Here’s a brief look at what happened in the world of sports in the past week.

Giants sweep Tigers in World Series – A little thing called the ‘World Series’ kicked off … and ended. The Giants soundly defeated the Tigers in a four-game sweep over the weekend and the Series seemed like it was over before it even began. It was San Francisco’s second championship in only three years and all of a sudden, Bruce Bochy has become one of the hottest managers in all of baseball.

The Giants are the 2012 World Series champions.

James Harden traded to Rockets – The Oklahoma City Thunder traded a big piece of their team, the NBA’s best sixth man, James Harden. He was sent to the Houston Rockets along with a few minor players in exchange for scoring guard Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, and three draft picks (including two first-rounders). My initial reaction when the Thunder moved Harden was that it was foolish. But when I saw how much they got in return, it was hard to argue with the move. Martin is an all-star caliber guard, Lamb was the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft, and two potentially high picks is a lot to get back. That said, the Rockets are getting maybe the best beard in the NBA in return … so there’s that.

Is London ready for the NFL?New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said this week that London is ready to have an NFL team after hosting a few games. They may have the fan-base for it, but logistically it could be a bit of a headache to get eight teams to make that trip out there every year. In addition, will the team’s players really want to play in an entirely different country and live so far from family and friends? I’m not sure a franchise in London is all that feasible.

Marcus Lattimore injurySouth Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome injury over the weekend in their game against Tennessee. If you saw it, it was ugly. If you didn’t and want a glimpse (despite my highest recommendations against it), here you go. The good news is that head coach Steve Spurrier said it’s an injury from which he can come back and the hopes are that he’ll be playing again. Lattimore’s been a big part of the team’s success this year.

Atlanta Falcons still undefeated – I’m not sure if the 1972 Miami Dolphins are getting antsy yet, but the Falcons stayed unbeaten with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. Now, Atlanta’s played well, but they don’t have that superhuman look that other recent teams have had. They’re 7-0, but four of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The verdict? Don’t expect them to finish the season without a blemish.

Frankenstorm is coming – No, it’s not sports-related, but working ‘Frankenstorm’ into this column was a must.

Astros’ new logo leaked – With the Houston Astros’ move to the American League next season, the franchise planned to release a new logo this week. Unfortunately, the MLB offices didn’t get the memo and advertised the logo on products online. #Oops

Updated BCS standings – After No. 2 Florida was upset by Georgia on Saturday, Notre Dame and Kansas State moved up in the latest BCS rankings. The Irish leapfrogged Oregon, who remained at No. 4. With top-ranked Alabama in the mix, the top four teams all play in different conferences (including Notre Dame, who’s independent, of course). That means all four could theoretically go undefeated causing a major logjam near the top. College football’s proposed playoff can’t come soon enough.