February 26, 2013

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NBA Playoff Races To Watch

By: Joe Williams

With about 25 games to go in the NBA regular season, we’ve got a pretty clear picture of the teams that will make the playoffs and the ones that will be in the lottery. What we don’t know is who will face who once the playoffs get started. And that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the NBA playoffs. Here are a few races I’ll be keeping my eye on as we inch towards the final game of the regular season.

Will the Lakers make the NBA Playoffs?

The Heat will be the top seed in the East. We know that. But the second and third seeds could go to Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago or Atlanta. These teams ought to be desperate to finish second or third. That will get them home-court advantage in the first round, but that doesn’t really matter too much. The important thing for these teams is to get on the other side of the bracket and avoid a second round meeting with the Heat. You don’t want to face the defending champs any sooner than you have to.

Speaking of avoiding the Heat…Boston and Milwaukee shouldn’t be too worried about anyone below them stealing a playoff spot. But they will be battling to get the seventh seed and avoid the Heat in the first round.

In the West, the final playoff spot is getting all the attention. Can the Lakers squeak into the playoffs? That’s what all the talk is about, but I’m not counting out Dallas or Portland yet. All three teams are tied with 30 losses at the moment and are going to have to get red-hot to catch Houston or Utah. On second thought, after looking at the Blazers schedule, I’m counting them out. Their final 16 games are against teams in the playoff race. If they find a way to get in, nobody will be able to say they didn’t earn it.

Of course, whoever does get that final spot is going to be facing the team with the best record in the NBA, San Antonio. It would be quite the series if the Lakers do end up as the eighth seed.

The Clippers and Memphis must keep winning to stay in the top four and get home-court in round one. With so many good teams in the West, home-court will be important.

One more race that is a little bit interesting will be to see which team finishes with the worst record and gets the most ping pong balls in the lottery. It looks like this will come down to Charlotte and Orlando.

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.

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

June 28, 2011

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Crowning the 2004 Champion

By: Joe Williams

In the movie Men In Black, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith work for a top-secret agency that polices, monitors, and directs alien activity on Earth. They use pocket-sized devices called “Neuralyzers” to erase the memories of witnesses to avoid leaving any evidence of their existence.

The powers that be in the BCS recently did something similar by stripping USC of its 2004 national championship. I used to think I spent the night of Jan. 4, 2005 with friends watching the USC destroy Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game. Oops. Didn’t happen. I hope I don’t get accused of any crimes that were committed on that night. I have no alibi.

For those who don’t like the BCS, the 2004 season was already full of controversy.

End of regular season BCS standings:

  1. USC                             12-0
  2. Oklahoma                 12-0
  3. Auburn                      12-0
  4. Texas                          10-1
  5. California                  10-1
  6. Utah                            11-0
  7. Georgia                        9-2
  8. Virginia Tech           10-2
  9. Boise State                 11-0
  10. Louisville                   10-1

 

Five teams finished the regular season undefeated, but according to the BCS system, only two get to compete for the championship. Auburn, Utah and Boise State did everything they could do but it wasn’t enough. Fans all over the country were outraged and the call for a playoff system increased.

Now that we know there was no winner of the BCS Championship Game, the controversy is back. Will the BCS award the championship to someone else? Oklahoma played in that championship game as the No. 2 team in the rankings so should they get it? Auburn beat Virginia Tech 16-13 in the Sugar Bowl and finished 13-0 and No. 2 in the polls. What about Utah? The Utes crushed Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. They were a perfect 12-0. Boise State’s undefeated season came to an end with a 44-40 loss to Louisville in the Liberty Bowl so the Broncos are out of the conversation.

This is where the BCS is better than a playoff system. There is no way to bring back the teams from the 2004 season and have a playoff tournament to determine the champion. But the computers basically pick the champion anyway so why can’t the people running the BCS get out their calculators and use their computer formulas to determine a new 2004 champion?

It shouldn’t be that hard to take USC’s vacated victories out of the equation and add the results from the bowl games. They might as well start now. At the rate these scandals are coming out in college football, we could have more seasons that end up with no champion.

If not, those who run the BCS are going to have to start going around with their own “Neuralyzers” erasing our memories of College Football Championships that were not won.

June 21, 2011

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Mock NBA Draft

By: Joe Williams

Cleveland

Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

Ever since the Cavs won the draft lottery, the talk has been either Irving or Derrick Williams with the first pick. It has been reported that Cleveland has decided on Irving.

Nick Gilbert won the lottery, securing the #1 NBA draft pick for the Cavaliers

Minnesota

Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona

The Timberwolves need all the help they can get. Williams and Irving are the consensus top two players in this NBA draft.

Utah
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey
With two picks in the top 12, the Jazz have options. The Irving and Williams are pretty locked in as the top two picks, so the wheeling and dealing could start here. Utah stays put and takes a 7-footer, hoping he can become one of the few legitimate big men in the NBA.

Cleveland
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
With Irving on board, the Cavs look to get some help inside. If they can hit on these two picks, it will go a long way towards moving on from the Lebron James era.
 
Toronto
Jan Vesely, SF, Czech Republic
The Raptors have a history of drafting international players. Why stop now?
 
Washington
Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas
The Wizards have plenty of young guns in the backcourt. Picking up Thompson would give them some help on the glass.
 
Sacramento
Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
The Kings go for another Wildcat to join DeMarcus Cousins. Adding Knight to run the point will allow Tyreke Evans to move to the two-guard.
 
Detroit
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
After all the trouble in Detroit with Rip Hamilton last year, nobody would expect the Pistons to draft another Hamilton. Wrong.
 
Charlotte
Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut
The Bobcats need another scorer. Michael Jordan and company hope Walker can be that guy.
 
Milwaukee
Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Milwaukee is set at point guard and center. The Bucks need more firepower.
 
Golden State
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
The Warriors need someone who will crash the boards and provide some toughness.
 
Utah
Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
If Jimmer is still on the board here, Utah has to take him. Don’t they? The fan base will go bonkers if the Jazz pass on the Jimmer.
 
Phoenix
Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
The Suns ought to be looking for a big man who can rebound.
 
Houston
Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
Yao Ming may need to be replaced. If Ming does return, the Rockets would be wise to have some insurance in case he gets hurt again.
 
Indiana
Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
The Pacers could use another big man to rebound.
 
Philadelphia
Tobias Harris, PF, Tennessee
The Sixers have plenty of young talent in the backcourt so they look to get some help for Elton Brand on the inside.
 
New York
Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
The Knicks add a shooter to help spread the floor with Anthony and Stoudemire.
 
Washington
Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia
The Wizards hope the Serbian can develop into a key contributor.
 
Charlotte
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
There is a good chance Charlotte will not pick here on NBA draft night, but if they do they will go for the best player on their board.

Minnesota
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuiana
Minnesota shocks everyone by not taking a point guard.

Portland
Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
The Blazers should let the team doctor make this pick and bring in the healthiest player on the board.

Denver
Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
Good luck finding the next Carmelo Anthony at this point. Denver has lots of free agents so they could take any position. Might as well take a guy who scored more than 24 points a game.
 
Houston
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
The Rockets add another big man.
 
Oklahoma City
JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
The Thunder could use a low post scorer to take some pressure off of Kevin Durant.

Boston
Jeremy Tyler, PF
Is Kendrick Perkins available?
 
Dallas
Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State
The NBA champions will try to find a point guard to take over when Jason Kidd retires.
 
New Jersey
Justin Harper, PF, Richmond
The Nets need to get Deron Williams another scorer.
 
Chicago Bulls
Shelvin Mack, SG, Butler
A shooting guard who can score would really help Derrick Rose.
 
San Antonio
Jon Leuer, PF, Wisconsin
Tim Duncan is not the man he once was.
 
Chicago Bulls
Travis Leslie, SG, Georgia
Why not take a pair of two guards and hope one becomes the missing piece?