Sunday, March 29, 2009

American League Predictions

To recap previous posts, here is how the American Leaue will shape up
AL East- Red Sox
AL Central- Twins
Al West- Angels
AL Wild Card- Rays

AL Champions- Red Sox

AL MVP- Grady Sizemore
AL Cy Young- Francisco Liriano
AL Rookie of the Year- Matt Wieters
AL Manger of the Year- Ron Gardenhire

AL WEST Preview

Time to wrap up my thoughts on the upcoming American League season by getting to the AL West. This I believe will be the most improved division in baseball, as the Angels have owned it as of late.

Predicted order of Finish

1. Los Angeles Angels- I think the division will be better, but I still like the Angels. They lose K-Rod and Texiera, but gain adequate replacements in Fuentes and Abreu. The Angeles still have a solid line up with a good mix between vets and youngsters. What's bad for the rest of the division is that they till have a ton of depth throughout their system.

The Angels have the best manager in the game in Mike Scoscia and he wins with pitching and defense. Some early injuries in the rotation to start the season, but once all 5 are healthy, they have one of the best staffs in the game. Ervin Santana joined staff ace John Lackey as a big time pitcher last season. Expect Jered Weaver same this season. Brian Fuentes will not have a record setting season like his predecessor, but will do a good enough job closing games.

The Angels won't score a ton of runs, but they won't have to. Scoscia likes to run alot, but only Chone Figgens is a true base stealing threat. Vlad will be Vlad and that is good news for Angels fans. adding a Bobby Abreu to hit infront of him will help alot. Abreu sees more pitches than anyone in the game and still hits for average and will drive in 100 plus runs. What the Angels need is for some of their youngsters to become all-stars. Kendry Morales and Howie Kendrick are the likely candidates. Top prospect Brandon Wood is still trying to find a place on this team, but if he does he has the tools to possibly succeed.

2. Oakland A's- Billy Beane was at it again in the off-season, improving this club. He added vets Matt Hollday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrerra and Nomar Garciapara. They will be good, but not great. A sure bet is that Beane flips Holliday at the deadline for pieces to next years team.

For a change, the A's don't have a great young rotation. Most of the can't misses lately have. That's not to say that the cupboard is bare, the A's do have solid youngsters in the minors, it's just a matter of which one's will finish the year in the rotation. One guy I like alot is former Phillies prospect Gio Gonzalez.

The A's bullpen is very effective with Brad Ziegler and Joey Divine closing out games. The million dollar question for Billy Beane is what will he do with Matt Holliday if the A's are close at the deadline.

3. Texas Rangers- This is a true sleeper team to keep your eyes on. Top to bottom they can hit (the ballpark helps as well). Expect SS Elvis Andrus to stay in the Rookie of the Year talks all season. The Rangers are also starting to lock up it's young talent including:Kinsler, Cruz, Davis, Saltamacchia and soon Hamilton.

They have one player who nobody talks about that will be a household name by the end of the season- Nelson Cruz. the knock on him is that he's already 28, but he hit 6 homers on a September callup and is pencilled in as the Rangers cleanup hitter. There will be plenty of guys on to drive in.

The problem with the Rangers is that the pitching is awful. There is a few arms in AA and AAA, but nothing that offers an immediate impact. This franchise hasn't called up a quality arm in a real long time. Until they develop some pitching, it won't matter how many runs they can score.

4. Seattle Mariners- Things got real ugly last season in Seattle. Many people had predicted a World Series trip for the M's. They are just the opposite of the Rangers. They can get people out, but the offense will be very below average. Expect them to keep dealing to sure up that farm system.

Pitt Panthers bow out of NCAA Tournament- What went wrong?

Saturday night, the Pitt Panthers season came to an abrupt halt at the hands of the Villanova Wildcats. It doesn't matter that the Panthers bowed out on a buzzer beater that will be seen forever now. Scottie Reynolds heroics will be seen every time they show great tournament moments.

It doesn't matter that the Panthers lost a classic tournament game. One that will be shown on ESPN Classic every time they show tournament games. This Panthers team was supposed to be in Detroit next week, leaving Panthers fans everywhere asking just one question- What went wrong?

Plenty of things went wrong for this team. One is that they were clearly a different team from the beat down WVU gave them in the Big East Tournament until last night's buzzer beater loss. You don't believe me, well here is a list.

1. The two guard spot was worthless. The Brad Wannamaker/Jermaine Dixon combo gave the Panthers next to nothing the entire NCAA tourney. The duo which averaged nearly 15 points combined through the regular season gave the Panthers no production in the tourney. It got to the point that Wannamaker looked terrified to touch the ball, much less shoot it in the Nova loss.

2. Tyrell Biggs also disappeared. The senior four man went scoreless in his final two collegiate games. Being such a well balanced team all season, the Panthers were essentially playing with 3 offensive players vs 5 in the Nova game.

3. Ashton Gibbs and the bench went ice cold. Gibbs missed wide open jumpers he usually knocked down. No one off the bench provided anything, other than a little Gilbert Brown here and there.

4. Defense. the once awesome Panthers defense only showed up when they wanted to, when they needed to play every possession. Dejuan Blair is so scared of fouling that he hasn't played defense in a month. He never rotated from the weak side and had plenty of chances to challenge shots which he didn't.

All the struggles aside, Did Nova take the game away from the Panthers or did the Panthers throw it away? Just like we have seen from time to time in the NCAA's. Not taking anything away from the Wildcats, but the Panthers had plenty of opportunities to win this game.

If anything, this game showed that first half execution is just as important as executing down the stretch. The Panthers didn't play well the first ten minutes, BUT came back. The Panthers went up as much as five, with an opportunity to extend the lead, but an awful Jermaine Dixon turnover and subsequent foul, followed by a Sam Young travel really hurt the Panthers. In a span of 45 seconds, the Panthers went from up 5 with a chance to extend to down 1. BUT the Panthers still hung tough and when all seemed lost, they made a play and hit free throws to tie the game.

Give Jay Wright credit for drawing up the game winning play and give the Wildcats players the credit for executing it to perfection. BUT the Panthers shouldn't have been in that situation.

Two things cost the Panthers. The first being free throw shooting. I said it all year that it would cost them and it sure did. While the kids from Nova knocked down 22 of 23 from the charity stripe, the Panthers converted on only 21 of 29 free throws. Now 72% isn't a bad day for the Panthers, but it's not the 96% that Nova shot. Every point matters in tight tourney games. Weather it was Brown and Wannamaker constantly knocking down only 1 of every 2 in the first half, or Blair's 2 for 6 performance, it cost them a trip to Detroit.

One instance occurred when the Panthers were down 1 and Blair going to the line. Instead of being up 1 or tied, Blair bricked the front end of a 1 and 1 and naturally the Wildcats hit a transition 3 to up the lead to 4. Little things win you games and Nova did more of them.

The other thing the Panthers did to cost them a Final Four trip was not get Blair enough touches. Nova had no answer for him. Blair was a perfect 9 for 9 from the floor. No one on that team can guard him and when they double him, Blair is good enough passer to kick the ball out for an open look from the perimeter. The Panthers made no effort to get Blair enough touches and that also cost them in the end.

It's a tough way to watch Blair, Fields and Young go out. Knowing they will never play another game together. It's nobody's fault, sometime you just get beat. Years from now, these Panthers will look back and realize they accomplished alot as a team. Being ranked #1 for the first time in the program's history, defeating the #1 team in the nation for the first time (twice), getting the school's first #1 seed, finally advancing past the Sweet 16 are all things that this group can look back on and be proud of.

That won't be for a long time though. This loss stings, and will continue to sting for a long time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


It's time to continue to breakdown this years divisions and that brings me to the AL Central. This is the one division in baseball that can be won by anyone.

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Minnesota Twins- The Twins will win this division, because as usual, they have the most talent. They never rebuild, they just reload. They have great young talent at every position, but what will separate them from the rest is pitching.

A healthy Francisco Liriano will lead a rotation of great young arms. Expect Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn to get even better as well. The Twins have a solid bullpen as well and have one of the most reliable closers in the game in Joe Nathan. If anyone should stumble, there are arms in the minors that are ready as well.

The M&M boys in Mauer and Morneau will lead the offense again, but they have a good young outfield that will produce. They are weak on the left side of the infield, but Ron Gardenhire always gets the most from his teams. this year will be no different

2. Cleveland Indians- I really planned on picking them to win it, but what separates the Twins from the Tribe is pitching. I just don't like the Indians rotation. Assuming Cliff Lee has the same kind of season and Fausto Carmona bounces back, the rest of the rotation isn't that good. Anthony Reyes? Carl Pavano? You just don't know what to expect. The Tribe's bullpen cost them last year, but should be better this season with the addition of Kerry Wood, assuming he can stay healthy.

Offensively, I believe they will be real good. Grady Sizemore will win the MVP and they have a good mix of young players. mark Derosa will help out. The C.C. Sabathia trade netted them Matt Laporta who will get the call this year and have an impact.

One thing that may help the tribe is a supply of bats. Ryan Garko is the kind of player that the Tribe might be able to package for another starter.

3. Kansas City Royals- I expect these guys to be better, possibly over .500. They have some good young arms and if they can figure it out this year, then they could surprise. Zack Grienke has ace stuff and they have good young players at many positions. Don't sleep on these guys, but next year is more realistic.

4. Detroit Tigers- Jim Leyland's lineup is once again loaded, but they are aging fast. I just think the pitching will kill them again. Justin Verlander needs a bounce back season and if Rick Porcello gets the call this year then Detroit has two power arms to work with. The rest of the rotation just isn't that good. Expect the Tigers to score a ton of runs, but give up just as much.

5. Chicago White Sox- I love Ozzie Guillen as a manager, but expect last seasons division champs to take a turn the wrong way. They are aging at certain positions and expect them to shop Jermaine Dye and maybe Paul Konerko. The White Sox are starting to really accumulate great young players. Alexi Ramirez is a stud. As with the rest of the division though, I don't like their rotation. Mark Buehrle could also get dealt this season. John Danks is solid but it's shaky after that.

This could very well be just the opposite, it really can be had by anyone. I still like the Twins though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Curt Schilling calls it a career............ Thank God

Last weekend, a monumental occasion happened for me. Curt Schilling decided to call it a career. With his announcement, there was only one natural response from me. Thank God.

Now before I go on a rant, I will give Schilling his due. He was a fantastic power pitcher in his prime and had a great career. He was one of the best big game pitchers I've seen in recent times. He retired with a career record of 216-146 not great numbers by any means. His ERA of 3.16 is very good, but what separated Schilling was his career 11-2 post-season mark. That is second best in MLB history behind Christy Matthewson. Schilling who was a member of five different team won four World Series titles in his career.

He was gutsy and turned in heroic performances, but is he a Hall of Famer? I have to say no. If you judge by the post season and his stints in Arizona and Boston, then the answer is yes. However, he struggled with Houston, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The 216 wins just isn't that big of a number to me. However in the steroid era, it doesn't hurt to give a gutsy warrior such as Schilling a pass.

I just can't stand the guy though. People that know me know hat there aren't many athletes I have despised, but Schilling tops the list. Where do I begin. Could it be the two performances against my yanks in the post-season that just crippled us. Well that has something to do with it. Could it be the ketchup filled sock performance. Yeah, we are getting a little warmer.

First that game. It wasn't that he beat the Yanks. The way he pitched, he would have beaten every team. It was the response from him and the media following. In his mind, you would have thought he was the only person in the history of the game that played hurt. Yes it was a gutsy performance, but other athletes have gutted it out before.

Next, it was Schilling's constant need for attention. I worked in Arizona when he and the Big Unit were together. If you weren't writing or talking about Schilling, he had to give you a reason to. It wasn't a story if it wasn't about Schilling.

That continues today. Every time there is a topic, Curt Schilling has to lend his opinion. It doesn't matter if it were steroids, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Manny Ramirez, Schilling had to let you know his opinion. NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. Just pitch. That's it.

Hopefully, he will just go away like McGwire and we won't have to hear from him again. That, as we know will never happen.

I have been wanting to get that off my chest for a while now. Basically, everyone has that one athlete that just killed your team no matter what. Michael Jordan did it to my Knicks year after year. It's the same hate I have for Schilling. He just lived for the big moments. Everyone loves people like that. I hated when the Yankees had to face him. Now that he is retired I can give him the credit and respect he deserved. He was a bulldog, a leader and a winner. I just hated him. The ultimate compliment I can give Curt Schilling is that if he were a member of my team, I would have loved him.

The best part about Curt Schilling is that he was very knowledgeable about the game. That is very rare in today's game. Schilling knew and cared about the history of the game. He respected the guys who paved the way for him to play the game he loved. Ninety percent of today's players only respect the name on the back of the jersey, not the name on the front. The only real problem with Schilling to me was that he just wore the wrong colored uniform.

Looking back at the last quarter century, how many guys would you truly give the ball to in a game seven and know you were going to get an outstanding performance. Not many. Jack Morris, Dave Stewert and Orel Hershisher were all big game pitchers. Add Curt Schilling to that list.

AL EAST Preview

Now that the WBC is over, we are under two weeks until opening day. It's time to preview each team and what we can expect in 2009. I will start with the best division in all of sports, the AL East.

Projected order of finish

1. Boston Red Sox- That was very painful to type, since I'm a Yanks fan, but I have to consider the Sox the overall best team in the game on paper. The lineup is solid all the way around. Young stars such as Jason Bay, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkalis mixed in with a veteran power bats David Ortiz and J.D. Drew, the Sox will not have a problem scoring runs. Add in an emerging star in Jed Lorie and a healthy Mike Lowell and the lineup is solid. The only concern with the Red Sox is health. The do have aging vets in Ortiz, Drew, Lowell and Varitek and not much depth if they get banged up.

When it comes to pitching, that is the Red Sox real strength. A top of the rotation consisting Dice-K, Josh Beckett, John Lester is as good as it gets. Lester may be the best of the 3. The bullpen is the real strength of this team. The back end is solid with Jonathen Papplebon. In front of him is a surplus of solid arms including: Justin Masterson, Hideki Okijima, Takashi Saito and once he gets healthy John Smoltz. The Sox look to be the first team since the late 90's Yankees to really be able to shorten the game effectively. All the starters need to do is give them 6 innings and the game could be over.

Down on the farm, the Sox have a surplus of great young arms that Theo Epstein has refused to deal. The best being Michael Bowden. Expect him to get the call this year and help the Red Sox already solid staff win this division.

2. Tampa Rays- No surprising anyone this season, but the Rays won't have to. This was supposed to be the year that they started to compete, but they arrived a year early. The rays won't win the division, but they will return to the post-season, holding off the Yankees to win the wild card. Offensively, they have speed and power and will score some runs, even though that's not really the blueprint of this team winning games. It's defense and pitching.

The Rays have added a couple nice pieces to last years AL Pennant winning team. Right hand power in Pat Burrell who will DH and OF Matt Joyce who is another nice young player who can hit for average and power. Add that to the great young core with Crawford, Upton, Longoria and Pena and the Rays won't be a one hit wonder. This team should be around for a while.

On the hill, this team has a surplus of young arms. the rotation featuring: Kazmir, Shields, Garza, Sonnanstine and possibly phenom David Price. All 5 will continue to get even better and expect Garza to take the largest step forward this season. The only weakness may be at the back end of the bullpen. They have good, solid arms in the pen but may be able to make a pitch for a back end kind of guy around the trading deadline. I don't think Troy Percival will hold up health-wise for a whole season, as has been the trend.

Tampa still has the best farm systems in the majors. So expect some of the young guys to keep coming up and producing for the Rays.

3. New York Yankees- After missing the playoffs last season, the Yanks went on another huge off-season spending spree, adding Mark Texiera, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. They will be in it til the very end, but when it is all said and done, the Yanks will fall a game short of the Rays for the Wild Card. They never get off to good starts in April, and having to play without A-Rod will ultimately cost them.

Offensively, the plan was to have A-Rod hitting in front of Texiera, but now Tex will have to shoulder a huge portion of the production, which has never been his strong suit. There are other problems the Yanks face offensively. At second base, which Robinson Cano will they have? The one who looks like a future batting champ or last years version? Secondly, Xavier Nady had his best season as a pro last year. Can he match or increase the production, since he will bat clean up until A-Rod returns. Who will be the center fielder, Gardner or Cabrerra? Can Posada and Damon stay healthy and produce? As you can see, there are way too many questions for a team with a 200 million dollar payroll.

One place the yanks don't have questions is the starting rotation. The additions of Sabathia and Burnett, the re-signing of Pettite added to holdovers Wang and Chamberlain and you have the best starting rotation in the game. The Yanks had a need and they filled it big time. The big question is... Who is going to get the ball to Mariano Rivera? That to me separates the Red Sox and Rays from the Yankees. The bullpen is very weak and it could cost the starters to get overworked by August.

The notion has always been that the Yankees never have a farm system, but that is simply not the case. They usually just deal them instead of bringing them up. They have spent so much money that great prospects such as Austin Jackson is buried. Despite the stellar look of the rotation, the guy with possibly the best stuff, Phil Hughes, is also buried at AAA. Don't look from any help from the Yanks farm team this season, quite frankly because there is no where to play them. If anything, expect the Yanks to try and fill a hole at the trading deadline again, by taking on a big contract for a bit of youth.

4. Baltimore Orioles- After the top 3, the final 2 teams in the division have a huge hill to climb, but if Tampa can do it, it is possible. I got the O's 4th, because the do have a ton of young talent and we should get to see some this year.

The O's committed to the future by signing Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to long term deals. They still have Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora who both put up solid numbers every season. They added Ryan Freel and Felix Pie via trade to add some depth and Adam Jones in his second year in the bigs should be better. Expect Matt Wieters to be up by May and win the Rookie of the Year.

The staff is a train wreck after Jeremy Guthrie for the time being. The O's have a ton of good arms progressing their way to the big club. Expect two or three to get the call this season. The O's will close games with George Sherril and Chris Ray, but there just isn't much behind that.

5. Toronto Blue Jays- The Blue Jays tried to take a run at the division the last couple of seasons, but they just didn't have the resources to compete. I pick them last this season, because I feel they will deal the work horse Roy Halladay this season, leaving them with some unproven arms in the rotation.

Offensively they still have some talent. Vets Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Scott Rolen could all have decent seasons. Toronto still has some youth with Alexis Rios and expect Travis Snyder to come along and make an impact. After that though, there isn't much.

The staff after Halladay has some good arms, just not top end guys. One who could make the jump is Jessie Litsch. His stuff is good, but every Blue Jay pitcher spends significant time on the DL. These guys must stay healthy. The Blue Jays rotation is that bad at the moment, that Brian Bullington has a chance to make the opening day roster.

That's how the AL East should shape up. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the AL Central.

The Time is Now for the Pitt Panthers

It has been another fun and exciting first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament so far and the power schools and conferences have risen to the challenge again as the Sweet 16 is filled with them. Kudos to the Big East Conference who has a record 5 teams in the Sweet 16. ACC fans can drop that debate finally of who exactly the best conference- there is no debate. It was and is the Big East.

Panther fans, Are you excited or nervous? The Panthers have been here plenty of times before, and couldn't advance. I know they made you nervous in the first two rounds, they sure had me sweating it out as well. The match ups could potentially favor the Panthers. First Xavier and then maybe Duke? I think Villanova will beat Duke, but for the case of this argument let's just assume the Blue Devils advance. Who on these teams will be able to handle Dejuan Blair and the Panthers toughness? Answer is nobody. Yes, the match ups favor the Panthers, they should have no problem advancing. Wait a minute......... we have been down this road before as well. Kent State...anyone?

The fact is, Panther fans have to be on the edge of their seats, hoping for the best, expecting the worse. This team will have let us down again without a trip to Detroit, but I still think it will happen, Nova does strike fear , but that is a payback game and I think the Panthers will be fine.

My problem comes when and if they win the title. How do Panther fans react? What becomes of the expectations of the team every year. What happens when their top 3 players are suddenly gone and the Panthers get young real quick?

All the credit in the world goes to Jamie Dixon and his staff. Dixon knows the goal is simple, win the national championship, but be very careful what you ask for. Let's assume the Panthers cut down the nets in Detroit. What happens when Field, Young and Blair leave (I feel Blair stays around for one more). You don't replace guys like that. Finally the Panthers have guys to build around. What happens if next season the Panthers only reach the Sweet 16? Then the year after, the same results. Are Panther fans gonna suddenly call for Jamie Dixon's head? I hope not, but it will happen.

Take a look at the University of Florida. Billy Donavon has delivered Gator Fans not one, but two titles this decade. Back to back titles, yet Gator fans can't run him out of town fast enough. It doesn't matter that his entire team declared early for the NBA Draft, what matters is he hasn't won a title in a couple of years. What have you don for me lately? how quickly fans forget. Let's not allow Jamie Dixon to come under similar circumstances.

Fact is the Panthers window may be closing for a year or two, so they need to get it done. No matter weather they win the title or lose in the Sweet 16 this week, give Jamie Dixon his just due. Coaches like him don't come around to often. It would be a shame to run him out of town.

Monday, March 16, 2009

NCAA Tournament facts

It's March Madness time. As much basketball as I watched last week, I still have it in me to see every game of the tourney. I will provide some list of facts to help you win your bracket.

The number one seeds pretty much went as figured with Louisville getting the overall #1 seed, followed by Pitt, UNC and U Conn.

Which #1 faces the toughest challenge to get to Detroit
1. Pitt- The Panthers struggle with real athletic teams and I think the East Region is full of them. After the first round game, Pitt faces a tough test every step along the way.
2.Louisville- Potential games against Wake Forest, Kansas, Michigan St and WVU
3. U Conn- Jerome Dyson's injury may finally catch up to the Huskies. A hot Purdue team and athletic teams in Missouri and Memphis in this region.
4. UNC- Assuming Lawson is 100% healthy, the Tar Heels could see Gonzaga, a potentially out of gas Syracuse team and an Oklahoma team that hasn't played it's best ball lately.

Which teams seeded 5 or lower can make a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond.
1. WVU #6 Midwest- I like this team. They can shoot they ball extremely well and Devin Ebanks provides a whole different dimension to Huggins team.
2. Purdue #5 West- Robbie Hummel is healthy so I like the Big 10 champs to win two or 3 games.
3. UCLA #6 East- I actually like the Bruins to get upset right in the first round, but if they survive, Howland's bunch can make a run. Still a good defensive team, great point guard play and one of the best shooting teams in the nation.
4. Arizona St. #6 South- James Harden maybe the best player in the nation that nobody talks about. We have seen it before that one star can carry a team on a run.

Talking upset? Here are your double digit winners in round 1
Arizona #12 over #5 Utah - I like the Wildcats here. Jordan Hill and Chase Buddinger are studs and Nic Wise is an excellent guard. They only go 7 deep, but that last team in that everyone always complains about always wins a game.
#11VCU over #6UCLA- VCU's Eric Maynor is now a senior. The styles of play are total opposite and VCU could force UCLA into alot of turnovers. Maynor can put a team on his shoulders as we saw in 2007 when they upset Duke and nearly beat Pitt
#12Western Kentucky over #5 Illinois- The Illini may be without floor leader Chester Frazier and Western Kentucky is no stranger to tournament success. The Hilltoppers also have beaten Louisville this year.
Nothing sticks out here, maybe #13 Miss St. over #4Washington or #10 Maryland over #7 Cal if I had to pick one.
Other Lower seeds I like to win include Sienna and USC.

Let's face it, guard play usually dominates tournament play. If deciding between 2 teams isn't clear cut, then I usually go with the better guard play. With that in mind, here are the best point guards in the tourney.
1. Darren Collison Sr. UCLA- the best all around guard in the nation 15pts 5.5 ast
2. Ty Lawson Jr. UNC- Moved him up one spot after seeing the Heels struggle without him. No guard in the country is a game changer like Lawson. 16pts 6.5ast
3. Levance Fields Sr. Pitt- best assist to turnover ratio in the nation. I love senior guards this time of the year. 11pts 8 ast
4. Jonnie Fylnn So. Syracuse- What guts he showed in the Big East Tourney. Big time play maker for the Orange. 17.3pts
5. A.J. Price Sr. U Conn- Same desciption as Flynn. I really like Price in late game situations. 13pts
6. Jeff Teague So. Wake Forest- Amazingly quick guard that can flat out do it all. 19.4pts
7. Tyreek Evans Fr. Memphis- Since Callapari moved him into the starting lineup, the Tigers have been 20-0. A stat sheet filler. 17 pts
8. Eric Maynor Sr. VCU- Maynor put on a show in tournaments past and can do so again in VCU's high octane offense. 22.5pts 6.5ast
9. Toney Douglas Sr. Florida St.- Runner up to Lawson for ACC player of the year. 21pts
10. Jeremy Pargo Sr. Gonzaga- Doesn't man the point all the time but is a good decision maker on the run as the Zags are the best transition team in the nation.

Players you may not know that are worth watching (in no particular order)
1. Isaiah Thomas Fr. Washington- No, not that Isaiah Thomas. The Huskies freshman guard is electric. 15.4ppg
2. Matt Bouldin Jr. Gonzaga- He plays both the 1 and 2 for the Zags and averages 14 ppg
3. Marcus Thorton Sr. LSU- SEC Player of the Year averages 21pts to go with nearly 7 reb
4. Luke Nevill Sr. Utah- The 7"2 nevill was the MWC Player of the Year. He can do it at both ends of the floor.
5. Tyreese Rice Sr. Boston College- The Eagles point guard can take the game over as he did in an upset over North Carolina. 17.5ppg
6. Kenny Hansbrouck Sr. Sienna- Hansbrouck is the best player on a well coached, well balanced Sienna team.
7. Demar DeRozen Fr. USC- I've included 3 Trojans on this list as they are an under the radar team with good players. DeRozan is the best of the bunch. The freshman is a human highlight reel. He s compared to Vince Carter in the open floor.
8. Daniel Hackett Jr. USC- The Trojans point guard produces at both ends of the floor. He can shoot the ball and is a great on ball defender.
9. Taj Gibson Jr. USC- Tim Flyod's Trojans are one of the better defensive teams in the field and Gibson is the best. The PAC 10 Defensive Player of the Year can be a difference maker.
10. Jordan Hill Jr. Arizona- Hill is recovering from an ankle injury, but if healthy he is as good as any bigman in the nation. Expect him to be a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft if he leaves.
11. Ben Woodside Sr. North Dakota St. - This guy can flat out score. 23ppg
12. DeMarre Carroll Sr. Missourri- Carroll is just one of a very athletic Tigers team. 17ppg
13. Justin Dentmon Sr. Washington- He can shoot the ball. 15ppg
14. Jerome Randle Jr. California- Cal has good guards and Randle is the best of them. 18ppg
15. Jarvis Varando Jr. Mississippi St- This guy can do it all. He can score, rebound and block shots. His 184 blocks on the season set and SEC record and are mnore than 325 other Division I teams.
16. Byron Eaton Sr. Oklahoma St.- Eaton is a stat sheet filler. 15ppg
17. Toney Douglas Sr. Florida St.- Douglas is the leader of the Seminoles and he can score. 21ppg
18. Eric Maynor Sr. VCU- This guy is fun to watch. 22.4ppg 6.5reb, 6.5 as
19. Josh Heytvelt Sr. Gonzaga- Once outplayed Tyler Hansbrough, Heytvelt has had his share of off the court issues, but has shed that to have a very good season. I'm looking forward to a Sweet 16 UNC-Gonzaga game. 15ppg, 7 reb
20.MattHoward So. Butler- Howard is a good all around player and like all Bulldogs, he can shoot the ball. 15ppg
21. Dionte Christmas Sr. Temple- I like watching this guy play. He is exciting offensively, averaging 20ppg.
21. A.J. Slaughter Jr. Western Kentucky- He has won games here before and can do it again. 16ppg.

So I have won a bracket almost every year and expect to do so this year, but it looks tough. The 1 and 2 seeds are head and shoulders above the rest of the class this year and the rest are real good teams but with flaws. When I did my bracket I have 6 of the 8 Elite 8 teams coming from the Big East which probably wont happen so I may go back and make changes, but here it is for now.

First Round lower seeds to win
Sienna, Arizona, USC, Maryland, VCU and Western Kentucky

Sweet 16
Louisville, Wake Forest, WVU(over Kansas), Mich St., U Conn, Purdue, Missou, Memphis, Pitt, FSU, Nova, Duke, UNC, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Oklahoma

Elite 8
Louisville, WVU (over Mich St.), U Conn, Memphis, Pitt, Nova, UNC (I may take Gonzaga still) and Syracuse (I probably will wind up taking Oklahoma)

Final 4
Louisville, Memphis, Pitt (they scare me) and UNC

Louisville and UNC

Louisville Cardinals

Penguins Making a run

Well it's about time. The Penguins, over the last month have started playing like the way most fans expected all year long. Who gets all the credit here and what was the problem? He took his shots early on after the Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko signings and after losing Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa in the off-season, but give Ray Shero some credit here.

First the Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin acquistions have been great. Sidney Crosby finally has some wingers to play with this year and the results have been positive. Both guys are averaging over a point a game since they came aboard and Crosby's play has been even better because of it.

Next is the coaching change. Replacing Terrien with Bylsma has worked. The team has responded to the up tempo style of play and is playing their way into the playoffs. The team under Bylsma is 10-1-3. That is fantastic hockey. Not only has Bylsma gotten this team on the verge of the playoffs, but he may get that interim label removed soon.

Third is goaltending. Marc-Andre Fluery is healthy and playing like the elite net minder that he is. He has carried this team and will continue to do so. Fluery probably won't get a day off the rest of the season, nor should he. Good move by Bylsma by riding your horse til he drops. After watching Garon on Sunday, here is to hoping that Fluery plays every game the rest of the year.

Finally is health. The team has been ravaged by injuries, dating all the way back to the first preseason game when they lost Gonchar for most of the regular season. The Pens have had a line of guys coming up from Wilkes-Barre and none of them were capable of doing the job.

One thing that needs to get better for the Pens to make a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the power play. It has not been good, even with the new additions and a healthy Gonchar. Yes, I do realize they scored 3 pp goals yesterday, but this unit is nowhere near where it needs to be.

The Rangers have improved as well so I look at the Rangers and Pens flip-flopping between the 5 and 6 seeds for the rest of the year. A good powerplay can keep the Pens away from the Devils or Caps in the first round.

Patrick Roy vs Martin Broduer Who is the best of all-time?

This weekend, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Broduer reached a milestone when he tied Patrick Roy as the NHL's all time leader in victories with 551. The moment was even more special, because he tied it in Montreal, with Roy in attendance. So know I spark the debate of who really is the NHL's best ever. If you had one game to win, one game 7, who would you pick?

Looking first at Broduer, he won his 551 in 986 career games. He has spent his entire career as a member of the Devils. He has a career mark of 551-293-105-22. He also sports a career goals against of 2.20 and a career save percentage of .914. He has recorded 100 shutouts in his career. Broduer has won 4 Vezina trophies and 3 Stanley Cups.

On the other hand, Roy has a career record of 551-315-131. He has played for two franchises, the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche. His career goals against average is 2.54. He has won 3 Vezina trophies as well as 3 Conn Smythe trophies. He hoisted the Stanley Cup 4 times, twice with each franchise. He holds the career records for games played (1029), playoff games played by a goaltender (247), Conn Smythe trophies (3) playoff wins (151) and playoff shutouts (23).

Who is the pick? I has always been a Roy guy but I've finally been swayed to Broduer in this argument. Both guys could steal the show anytime they were on the ice. Broduer has done it in less games and all of his numbers are better than Roy's. You can't go wrong with either guy, but some of the things Broduer has done in his career have been unreal. Game 7 I take Broduer and I win 9 out of 10 times.

Will Broduer's record ever be touched? Probably not. If I had to pick one guy that could take a run at it, I would choose Marc-Andre Fluery. He is young and has 104 wins to date. The Penguins should be good for a while and if he stays aboard and stays healthy, there is a small chance he can get close.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Trent Edwards next?

Congrats to you Trent Edwards. No, I really mean it. Congrats. It's only March and you are all smiles. Your Buffalo Bills have added a Hall of Fame wide receiver for you to throw to this season. You should be excited. Oh wait, did I forget to mention that it was Terrell Owens who you have signed.

Everyone is happy, for now. Like I said it's March. Everyone is saying the right thing. Everyone is visualizing the possibilities of an explosive Bills offense. I'm all for it. Go ahead and be happy. Do me a favor though, let us all know how happy you are, let's say late October-mid November. I'm betting the mood will change.

Let's see we all know about T.O. and all the baggage that comes with him. I will give him his credit, on the fact that he is one of the greatest pure athletes I have ever seen, but the antics and baggage just aren't worth a young team taking on. That's exactly what the Bills did. Why?

One positive has come out of this for Bills fans. They are being talked about nationally. There hasn't been a good Bills story to talk about since Jim Kelly was calling the signals in the early 90's. It's not worth it though. Buffalo has a good young team and within the next two seasons should be knocking on the door of the playoffs. Why bring in a cancer to these young guys.

Oh, I know. They want to win now. Well if that's the case, what has T.O. ever won. The answer is nothing. You already have a big time play maker in Lee Evans and remember that there is only one ball to go around. Owens has a few decent seasons left in him but no longer is the best wide out in the game. Quite frankly, he is nothing more than a 37 year old WR with declining skills. He may have a good season, but it won't be about helping the Bills win, it will be all about T.O. It has always been all about T.O. and nothing else matters. Giving him a one year deal may motivate him to play well and then go sign somewhere else though. Do you thing T.O. cares one bit about winning a Super Bowl?

Ask Tony Romo, Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia what T.O. cares about and they will all answer the same. Himself. Lucky you Trent Edwards, you're next.

Here are some givens for 2009-10
1. T.O. and his glory hound agent Drew Rosenhaus will complain about the cold and will only play in warm weather or dome games.
2. If Edwards is rooming with Evans, save yourself the trouble and just move out now before camp starts.
3. No matter how open Evans or the rest of the team is, Trent will have to learn to force the ball into triple teams just to keep T.O happy.
4. After 6 games when the team may be 3-3 at the best. It's on. T.O. isn't getting the ball enough........ I think we have heard all this before.

Again, Congrats to you Trent. You have alot to look forward to. Just remember (Insert Crying sound here) "You are his quarterback"

Big East Player of the Year

I've been waiting to bitch about something and now I have the opportunity. It angers me that Dejuan Blair had to share the Big East Player of the Year award with U Conn's Hasheem Thabeet. I knew this would happen but I still think it is a bogus vote. I mean do coaches watch the games or do they just vote just to vote?

I do feel Blair should have been Player of the Year and this isn't me being a homer. I have no problem with him having to share the award, but not with Thabeet. There are so many other deserving great players in the conference. Thabeet is the most overrated player in college basketball right now. He's not even the best player on his own team. AJ Price and Jeff Adrien get that distinction.

Just because he's big doesn't mean he's great. I will give him credit, he can block some shots and changes even more, but only when he has his feet on the floor and doesn't have to move. If Thabeet is forced to play defense, he is a stiff. If he is forced to actually compete, he is soft. he has has some good games, but anytime he gets tested, then he folds.

Blair's performance against the best competition warrants his half of the vote, but Thabeet's doesn't. He got handled by Blair in their two previous meetings. His 13.6pts, 10.6 reb, and 4.5 blocks are good numbers, but not great. Blair on the other hand had 15.6pts, and 12.4 reb per game. Both numbers better than Thabeet. the difference is that Blair was a true difference maker on the floor.

Again, I have no problem with Blair sharing the award, but just not with Thabeet. there are plenty other player worthy: Louisville's Terrence Williams is a stat sheet filler, Marquette's Jerel McNeal is probably the best scorer in the conference (20.1ppg), and despite the teams struggles, Notre Dame's Luke Harrangody is worthy (23.1ppg, 12.1 reb).

I just don't see why people love Thabeet. he is big and has the potential to be a difference maker for a very talented U Conn team. He just doesn't have the skill set of a dominant big man yet. He is a good player, just not worthy of being called Big East Player of the Year.

NCAA Tournament New Projected Seeds

A crazy week of basketball. Nobody seemed to want to win, so not that much change in my projected seeds, but here is what they look like heading into the conference tournaments. (As of 3-11-09 Note- East plays West in Final Four)

1. Pitt- They get the overall #1 seed after finishing with wins vs Marquette and U Conn
2. Kansas- They lost this week after I moved them up, but no one else is really worthy of this spot at the moment.
3. Washington- The Huskies have moved up week after week. Pretty solid team.
4. Purdue- They have been consistently in this spot.

1. Louisville- Oklahoma hasn't looked good the last 5 games, so I give this to the Cardinals and that makes 3 Big East #1 seeds.
2. Memphis- Could sneak in and get a #1 if U Conn, Louisville and Oklahoma lose early in conference tourneys
3. Wake forest- Same spot as last week
4. UCLA- If they win the PAC 10 then Howland's bunch may get a 3

1. UNC- Could move to the East if they win the ACC and Pitt doesn't reach the Big East finals
2. Oklahoma- Need to win the Big 12 tourney to get back to a number 1
3. Villanova- No change in their seed from the last 2 weeks
4. Missouri- Had them as a 2 seed 3 weeks ago, but a couple of bad losses drop them here

Mid West
1. U Conn- Still a lock for a number 1 unless they lose early in the Big East
2. Michigan St.- Been safely in this spot for the last 3 weeks
3. Duke- Same as Mich St. , they haven't moved from this spot
4. Gonzaga- Maybe the best transition team in the nation, they have been playing well lately.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Who is this years Tampa Rays?

It's getting real close to my favorite time of the year- baseball season. Watching the WBC has gotten me very excited for opening day and got me thinking of some stuff to write. The first topic that came to mind is- Who is the 2009 version of the Tampa Rays?

Everyone knows the story of the 2008 Rays by now. The same Tampa franchise that was the perennial last place team in the toughest division in all sports, the AL East. The same Tampa team that often picked in the top 3 of the MLB draft for the last decade. That's right, the same Tampa team that stockpiled so much young talent that it was able to overtake the Yankees and Red Sox to win the division. The same Tampa Rays that made an improbable run to the World Series. What team can duplicate that feat in 2009?

The answer is simple. No one will do it. No one will sneak up on anyone and win their division. There are some good young teams that can compete and probably win their division; most notably: Tampa, Arizona, Cleveland and maybe Florida. If either of these teams made it to the playoffs, I wouldn't be shocked. Though I don't feel there will be another team like Tampa this year, I do have two in mind that can make great strides and possibly contend.

First of all i really like the Cincinnati Reds in the NL. They were my sleeper last season and really disappointed. I love the young talent on this team and they continue to draft well. They have some pitching. If Edison Volquez and Jonnie Cueto continue to progress and Aaron Harang has a bounce back year, then the Reds suddenly can have a decent staff. Harang is they key for this team. He has to be the innings eater he was two seasons ago. He can still be a 15 game winner and will need to be for the Reds to contend.

Offensively, I like this team alot. They can be explosive. A combination of young studs and a few veterans. The Reds have as much good young talent as anyone. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are future all stars. If Edwin Encarnacion and Brandon Phillips have good season, then Cincinatti will score some runs. They are a young and very athletic team. They added Ramon Hernandez, a good hitting catcher, but the key to this years Reds might be Willy Taveres. Taveres will be at the top of the order and could swipe over 60 bags, but he needs to get on base more often then he did in Colorado.

With more young talent coming up through the Reds system, they could potentially hang in the Wild Card race for a while this season. Ultimately I think their bullpen is weak and could use a right hand power bat, but I like the direction the Reds are headed.

In the AL, I actually like the Royals. Ok, I will wait for you to stop laughing, but this is a team that has some talent as well. I don't see them winning anything, but I think they can be in the hunt for a while this season. The AL Central can be had by anyone and while ultimately I think it will come down to Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit; I look at Kansas City and think why can't these guys win that division. The other teams aren't that much better than them.

Kansas City has some good young pitching. Zack Grienke is a future all -star and has the stuff of a staff ace. Luke Hocheaver and Brian Bannister also have great stuff, they just have to learn to win more consistently. In the back end of the bullpen, Joakim Soria converts almost every save opportunity, so they have a strength there as well. Filling the spots in between the third starter and the closer is a challenge however.

The Royals also have some good young hitters, including Alex Gordan. They have added some good pieces as well. While they don't have the household names, guys like Mike Aviles, Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp make the Royals a better team. They will need holdovers Billy Butler, Davis DeJesus and Jose Guillen to have solid years though and I don't know if it's possible.

Much of the Royals talent lies in it's minor league system. They need to find a way to get guys like Kila Ka'aihue, Carlos Rosa and Daniel Cortes into the mix. Again, while I don't think it's going to happen, if everything goes right, then they could surprise.

Look it's easy to go out and predict the obvious teams will contend, I'm trying to find a struggling team here and these guys fit the bill. I guess we will find out in October

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pitt Panthers surprise Brandin Knight

As we head into the Big East clash of the year when U Conn comes to The Pete to take on the Pitt Panthers, I want to take a look into the past. As we get ready to see Blair vs. Thabeet Round 2, I wanna talk about how the Panthers made it to this stage in the first place.

If you were in attendance at the Pitt-Marquette game on Wednesday, then you got an added surprise of watching the Panthers retire the jersey of former point guard and current assistant coach Brandin Knight.

If you were surprised, then you weren't nearly as surprised as Knight, who had no clue it was coming. It was only two weeks ago I had suggested that the Panthers raise Knight's #20 to the rafters and I'm glad they did. A very classy move by the University of Pittsburgh.

Knight wasn't the best, but he is the guy to me that got the turnaround started. He was the first to buy in to the Howland (now Dixon) system. He was the first to buy into defense first, buy into team basketball over individual success. He left a legacy of great point guards at Pitt. he passed the torch to Carl Krauser (who I couldn't stand) and Krauser passed it to Levance Fields. Fields has Ashton Gibbs ready to carry the torch next season.

Knight was the first to make the Big East title game an annual date for the Panthers, as he got the team there 3 times (2001-2003). He won 2 Big East regular season titles in 2002 and 2003. Under Knight, Pitt reached the Sweet Sixteen both seasons. Knight capped it off by leading Pitt to their first Big East Tournament Championship in 2002-03. With Knight at the helm, Pitt nearly played .700 ball during his 4 years, compiling an 89-40 record.

A two-time All-American, Knight was also named Big East Co-Player of the year in 2001-02. That season he led the Panthers to a 29-6 record. Knight holds Panther school record for assists (785), career assist per game (6.2), steals (298), assists in a season (251 in 2001-02), and season minutes played (1,284 in 2001-02).

Knight's #20 is the fourth jersey to be retired by the Panthers. He joins Don Hennon, who played at Pitt from 1956-59, Billy Knight (1971-74), and Charles Smith (1984-88).

Knight was the first true leader, Pitt fans got to watch probably since the Sean Miller days. Knight had guts and heart and was a joy to watch play. Much of the success the Panthers are enjoying on the court these days is due to Brandin Knight, who really helped put Pitt back on the basketball map.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

NCAA Basketball Player of the Year

I have been hearing alot of talk about who is the player of the year in men's basketball this year and quite frankly, I can't even believe that there is a discussion. We have heard names thrown around all year, but there is truly only one guy that should be talked about here.

Right now, I think U Conn's AJ Price is playing as well as anyone in the nation, but he isn't even in the running here. I have limited it down to the top 5 candidates and here they are in reverse order.

5. Jodie Meeks- Kentucky This kid is very exciting and can flat out score. he averages 25.1 ppg, good for 5th in the nation. Out of the 6 games of 45 point or more this season, Meeks has 3 of them.
4. Tyler Hansbrough- North Carolina Last years player of the year is averaging 21.2 per game and 7.8 rebounds. Maybe we have just gotten used to his consistent production, but he has done nothing that jumps off the page to give him the award. He has a chance to go down as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer, but the award is for this year.
3. Stephen Curry- Davidson The switch to point guard hasn't slowed Curry down one bit. He leads the nation in scoring at 28.4 per game and also averages 6 assists and nearly 5 rebounds per.
2. Dejuan Blair- Pitt maybe I'm a little too high on him, but i feel he is one of the two most dominant players I have seen all season. Blair averages over 16pts per game to go along with 12.8 rebounds. His 6.0 offense boards per game leads the nation.

Out of that list, I would give the award to Blair, but not even Dejuan should be talked about when it comes to player of the year. That distinction goes to Oklahoma's Blake Griffen and it should be unanimous.

Both Blair and Griffen are truly men among boys on the court, but Griffen's performance has truly been the most dominant of the season. He averages 21.9 ppg and 14 reb per game and has kept the Sooners in the top 5 in the nation all season. Blair maybe the front runner next season if he stays, but this year, Blake Griffen is hands down your player of the year.

That's not to say he is the better player, he has though had the best season. I for one would love to see the Pitt-Oklahoma game and the Blair-Griffen duel. Hopefully we will see it in Detroit.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Early NFL Free Agency Winners and Losers

A quick recap to what happened this weekend as NFL Free Agency began.

Washington inked Albert Haynesworth to a 100mil dol deal with 41 mil guaranteed. I wonder if Daniel Snyder will ever "get it". Snyder also gave DeAngelo Hall ridiculous money as well.

Matt Cassell was traded to Kansas City along with Mike Vrabel for the Chiefs 2nd round pick in this years draft. A great deal for the Chiefs as every team in the league would have pulled the trigger on that deal.

The Browns trade Kellen Winslow to The Bucs for a second and a fifth round pick. It's about time the Browns and Winslow parted ways, but I thought they would get more in return.

Jay Cutler is very upset about the Broncos shopping him. This could turn very ugly and I wouldn't be surprised if Cutler isn't a Bronco at the start of the season. New coach in Denver in Josh McDaniels who wants his own QB and wants to go in a different direction. Tampa and Detroit could be in the mix, but I offer up two good fits for Cutler, the Jets and the Eagles. Jets should jump on a chance to get involved in Cutler talks and the Eagles are a real longshot but it would make sense, because McNabb isn't happy and now might be the best time for both sides to just part ways. On a side note to that, it was confirmed through Andy Reid that if Kevin Kolb would have played well after the McNabb benching in week 12, that Donovan would not have seen the field the rest of the season. It's time for both sides to go in a different direction.

The Jets had a good weekend inking Bart Scott and Brandon Moore and trading for Lito Sheppard.

The Cowboys signed Keith Brooking and trading for Jon Kitna

The Giants signed Micheal Boley, Chris Canty and Brandon Jacobs

The Titans ink Kerry Collins, maybe finally admitting that Vince young is a bust

Other signings: Hou- Antionio Smith, NE-Fred Taylor, Chris Baker, Den signed a ton of players but most noteably Brian Dawkins and Correl Buckhalter

1. Chiefs- What a steal getting Cassell and Vrabel for a second. Many teams had offered a first and the Broncos were shopping Cutler. Did Bellicheck offer his good friend Pioli a house warming gift in this deal. Expect the Chiefs to return the favor at a later date. On a side note, don't think that Cassell was just a product of the system, look at the people that were after him. Most of them were in New England last year and know what this guy can do.
2. Jets- Scott, Sheppard and Moore is enough to call Rex Ryan a winner in all of this.
3. Giants- able to lock Jacobs up long term and add depth to the defense with Canty and Boley.

1. Eagles.- First of all T.J. said over a month ago that he wanted to play in Philly. He should have been signed at 12:01 on Friday. Then they lose Dawkins, Buckhalter, Considine and trade Sheppeard. The Eagles have alot of cap space and haven't use any. Now they have to deal with the McNabb situation. Eagle fans are angry and quite frankly they have a right to be. Every team in the NFC East added parts while the Eagles continue to lose people.
2. Broncos- Now you almost have to deal Cutler. A new head coach has to have his qb on board and clearly they are miles apart.
3. Redskins- When will Snyder learn? 100 mil for a guy who hasn't played 16 games in a year yet. Granted Haynesworth is a force and probably the best d-lineman in the league, but he better turn into Reggie White for that deal. Also am I the only one that thinks Deangelo Hall isn't that good? With a below average offense, these signings aren't what the skins needed.

Remaining free Agents
T.J Houshmanzada- I expect this to be between three teams: Seahawks, Bucs and Vikings, with the Seahawks and Vikings to have the best shot. I look for the Vikings to land him
Ray Lewis- 3 suitors: Ravens, Cowboys and Jets. It's down to finishing a career with the Ravens or going to join Bart Scott and Rex Ryan in New York. I can't see Lewis playing for another team so I say the Ravens get him.(then again I couldn't see Dawkins leaving Philly)
Kurt Warner- Visiting the 49ers, but in the end its Cardinals or retirement. Arizona gets him.

Updated Brackets- NCAA Tournament

Ok, pull your brackets out. After this week of action, some changes have been made

NCAA Seeds (As of 3-2-09) (Read the NCAA post from last week for comments on the teams)

1. U Conn- Still #1 overall seed.
2. Mich St.
3. Wake Forest
4. Washington- makes the jump into the top 4, after being left out last week.

1. Pitt
2. Memphis
3. Duke
4. LSU- Another new addition. Grabbed share of SEC regular season title on Sat.

1. Oklahoma- Moved them closer to home now that Griffen is back.
2. Louisville
3. Missouri- Spanking by Kansas drops them out of a 2
4. UCLA- another new addition, but I like the way Howland's team is playing going into March.

1. UNC- They get bumped to the West
2. Kansas- maybe a stretch at a 2, but they are very hot and get the spot
3. Villanova
4. Purdue

all 4 #1 seeds remain the same. UNC and Oklahoma did switch regions though
Newly in: UCLA, LSU, Washington
dropped out: Arizona St., Clemson, Gonzaga
Biggest Gainer: Kansas jumped from a 4 to a 2
Biggest drop: Missouri slides from a 2 to a 3

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Week in Review- Pitt Panthers

I'm not that thrilled by what i saw from the Pitt Panthers this week. To recap
mon: Pitt rises to number 1 in the nation for the second time this year
tues: Pitt gets destroyed by Providence 81-73. Don't let the score fool you, they got thumped. Pitt was down 20 on more than 1 occasion.
sat Pitt beats Seton hall 89-78.

Going 1-1 in the Big east with both games on the road is acceptable, but many things bothered me this week from this team. First of all, the soundbites. Several Panthers, including Blair, Gibbs and Fields had something like this to say, "The ranking is nice, but we already know we are the best team in the nation."

Excuse Me? Who have you ever beaten when it counts to say that. Newsflash, the best team in the nation is the one who will cut the nets down in Detroit this year. That may be the Panthers, but so far they have accomplished nothing to be able to go out and proclaim it.

Tuesday's game was tough to watch, but every team has games like that: on the road, Providence fighting for their tournament lives, Senior night, etc. Hey it happens. What bothered me was the lack of emotion that the Panthers always have. It appeared as if they took it for granted and just went through the motions.

Saturday at the Hall, the first half was more of the same, until the Panthers got their act together in the second half and cruised to a win. Sam Young scored 29 in the win.

1. What happened to the guard play? Pitt entered the week averaging less than 10 turnovers per game. Pitt turned the ball over 41 times in the two games. That will send you home early in March.
2. Pressure- Providence applied some, but Seton Hall pressed the entire game. Louisville plays the same way and beat Pitt. Pitt simply is not doing a good job against the press. Other teams will start pressuring the Panthers in the backcourt and they are going to have to prove they can handle it.
3.Defense- Look I like the up-tempo game as much as the next guy, but I just don't think the Panthers should rely on running all the time. Let's refocus on the in your face defense that creates bad shots and turnovers to get buckets. They have the offensive talent to score in a half-court game. Teams are shooting a better percentage against the Panthers and are getting to the basket way to easy.

With all that being said, Pitt is still a number 1 seed unless they totally collapse this week, and it doesn't get easier with Marquette and U Conn (both at home though). Dejuan Blair appeared to hurt his knee and I've gotten no reports on it, but he finished Saturday's game fine.

Week in Review- Pittsburgh Penguins

Finally the Pens seem to be clicking. I guess you can say better late than never, but that's what it looks like after the Pens went 3-0 this week. Coach Terrien and Ray Sherro have taken alot of heat during the year, but it looks as if Sherro made the right call with the decision to axe Terrien and name Bylsma interim coach.

After this solid week, the Pens are 5-1-1 under Bylsma, capturing 11 out of a possible 14 points and catapulting themselves back into the playoff mix. Not only the record is impressive, but the Pens seem to have taken to the more aggressive up and down style under Bylsma, and it definitely fits their current personnel better.

Notes for the week
wed: Pens beat the Islanders 1-0 behind a solid performance for Marc-Andre Fluery
thurs: Pens acquire Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangardi from Anaheim for Ryan Whitney
fri: Pens beat Blackhawks 5-4 in a thrilling game. Young talent everywhere for both teams. It was great to see the Pens get to play against Toews and Kane. Kunitz shines in his Pens debut with a goal and an assist and Malken nets the OT winner
sun: Pens dominate Dallas 4-1 Fluery plays well again and Malken has another big game

Fluery goes 3-0 in the week stopping 82 of 87 shots. In two of the games, the Pens limited the opposition to 21 shots. The Pens will win alot of games if they can do that consistently. In the Chicago game they allowed 45.
Stall and Satan have scored in back to back games. This is crucial, if both guys can get hot and provide consistent scoring, it can only help the Pens.
Powerplay still not great 2-13 during the 3 game stretch.
Malken led the team with 5 points during the week
Crosby didn't play during the week, nursing a sore groin.

I like what I saw this week, but I'm not sold on if it's enough to make a long run in the playoffs. I like how the team has responded under Bylsma and think they will just get better. I still think another move is needed, but if management doesn't feel like they can get back to the finals, then I wouldn't pull the trigger on a rental player. Any move must help for at least next year as well. Milan Hejduk?

On a side note, the Devils got back Martin Broduer this week and he looked great. 3 games, 2 shutouts and only 2 goals allowed in the 3. Talk about a major acquisition at the the deadline.