February 2, 2008

More Exciting -- Super Bowl or Super Tuesday?

This is the question being posed by CNN.com. I reluctantly had to vote for Super Tuesday, because at least there I don't know what's going to happen.

Not surprisingly, Super Tuesday has a 54% to 46% lead at the moment. I say not surprisingly because the poll is on CNN.com on a Saturday, not ESPN.com.

Gene Upshaw Balks at HGH Blood Test; Claims Players Too Queasy

This week in Phoenix, NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw stated that the union would allow urine testing for HGH once it becomes available, but he balked at the idea of blood tests. Blood tests are closer to fruition than urine tests at this point.

His reasoning? "[W]hen th[e] test is developed, we really believe it should be a urine test. No one is interested in a blood test. We got a lot of big tough guys, but they don't even like to be pricked on the finger to give blood."

What percentage of NFL players routinely receive injections in their muscles and joints? I'm guessing more than 90% if you exclude punters and kickers. Now the NFLPA's leader, who has refused to protect the league's retired players with degenerative diseases, is trying to contend that the players won't accept a finger prick blood test? The same players who have to urinate for drug tests with a total stranger staring intently at their dong? (Thanks Whizzinator!) I'm not buying it.

I suspect that Gene knows a urine test is further away than a blood test. Most urine tests rely on the excretion of metabolic byproducts of the substance in question. A human hormone analogue, such as HGH, is unlikely to break down into a discrete chemical byproduct that one could reliably detect. A blood test, on the other hand, might be able to detect elevated levels of HGH in its native form in the bloodstream.

I don't want to read too much into this, but I sincerely hope Upshaw isn't trying to use mild physicaly discomfort as an excuse because he knows a urine test is unlikely and he knows HGH is far more rampant than just Rodney Harrison and Shawne Merriman.

February 1, 2008

Former Terp... Where Is He Now?

Apparently Terence Morris ('01), the pride of Thomas Johnson High School in Fredneck, is thriving with Maccabi Tel Aviv, a team that routinely challenges for Euroleague supremacy. Read this article about him in Haaretz, Israel's English newspaper, which states accurately or not that he was harmed by staying in school a year too long.

Terence Morris, a steadying force
By Jerry Mittleman

Maccabi Tel Aviv would not be in a position to make a run at another Euroleague title if it weren't for Terence Morris' efforts before Zvika Sherf took over as coach. In just one short year, the 29-year-old, 2.06-meter Morris has gone from sitting on Hapoel Jerusalem's bench to being an indispensable member of Maccabi.

Morris, who earlier in his career was known for inconsistency, was a steady presence for Maccabi in its toughest times during Nikola Vujcic's lengthy absence. Seemingly week after week, Morris always came through when it was really needed, with either the big block, rebound or basket. Morris' highlight came during the sixth week of the Euroleague campaign, when his rebound and basket with four seconds remaining gave Maccabi a 82-81 victory over Milano and its first road win of the year. Since then, Morris has been getting major minutes and has become a permanent fixture in the opening lineup. Heading into last night's matchup against Aris, Morris averaged 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the Euroleague this season.

Morris is a high-caliber, versatile performer who can fill in at any frontcourt position. He has a deft shooting touch from outside and is a skilled rebounder and defender underneath the basket. He possesses both superstar-quality talent and a quiet, unassuming on-court demeanor, which has probably hampered his career development.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Morris' career demonstrates the vagaries of college basketball. After a sensational sophomore season, the previously unknown and hyper-athletic Morris was being heralded by NBA scouts as one of the very best forwards in the country. Morris made the "mistake" of remaining in school, and spent the next two seasons in the shadows of two future NBA guards, Juan Dixon and Steve Blake. As luck would have it, Maryland captured the NCAA championship the year after Morris left, denying him national exposure that might have helped his image among pro scouts, who by that time were viewing him as a disappointment.

Eventually selected in the middle of the second round of the 2001 draft, Morris had a nondescript, abbreviated NBA career, playing two seasons with Houston and one with Orlando before moving on to international ball. Morris arrived in Jerusalem last season and was never more than a role player, although he did score nine points and pull down 16 rebounds while helping his team win the State Cup. Hapoel had seen enough to want to retain Morris, but Maccabi offered him a bigger contract last summer, an acquisition that has turned out to be among its best off-season moves.

Also check out MD Basketball: Where Are They Now?'s post from July 2007, noting that TeMo had signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv. It has some clips of Terence from their promotional video.

Parity Could Cost the ACC Multiple Berths

Everyone knows the ACC is a better conference than the Big 10, as confirmed by the ACC's dominance of the Challenge. So you might ask yourself, why will the Big 10 get more berths to the NCAA tournament this year than the ACC?

It's not hard to understand Joe Lunardi having 8 Big East teams in the tournament when the conference has 10 teams in the RPI top 51. But the Big 10 is projected to have 5 teams in right now, and the announcers last night were making noise about Minnesota having the chance to creep onto the bubble.

The Big 10 currently has 5 teams outside the RPI top 100: #110 Illinois, #147 Iowa, #154 Penn State, #172 Michigan, and #206 Northwestern. These 5 teams are a combined 8-34 in conference play, with one combined win over a team other than these 5 in conference. Only one of these 5 teams is at .500 (Penn St.), and three have a win over a RPI top 100 opponent (total of 5). Iowa's victory over Michigan State was the only victory by any of the 5 over a top 50 team. Excluding games played against each other, they are 1-27 in conference, providing 27 pretty easy wins for the top 6 teams in the Big 10.

Michigan is 5-16 in Beilein's first year, without Horton and friends.

By comparison, the ACC has one team outside the top 100: #111 Virginia. Virginia has a victory over a top 50 team and a top 100 team, and was 10-3 prior to conference play. Their 11-8 record is better than any of the bottom teams in the Big 10. Every team in the ACC is over .500, and the only team flirting with it is #61 Georgia Tech (SOS: 7).

So what does all this mean? The top 5 teams in the Big 10 have a total of 33 wins (24 over the bottom 5, 4 over Minnesota), meaning that the top 5 have only played each other FIVE times so far. Expect some attrition later in the season, as these 7-1 records will be deflated. Minnesota can go 9-9 in conference without beating one of the top five, and they should have no chance of making the tournament at 19-11. Purdue is (16-5, 7-1) with a total of 3 wins over top 100 teams, and can finish 21-10 without beating another. The committee needs to seriously consider the weakness in these schedules.

Meanwhile, the ACC is full of teams good enough to be in the RPI top 100, but not good enough to consistently beat the other ACC teams in the top 100. The resulting logjam near .500 will keep many of these teams out, even though they all would have Purdue's record (or close) if they played in the Big 10. All 9 bubble teams in the ACC are capable of finishing between 10-6 and 6-10 in conference, but only 1 or 2 will make the tournament, while teams like Purdue will receive an unquestioned spot.

You have to wonder what it would be like to have a Northwestern or a Michigan in the ACC, but then it wouldn't be the best conference in America every year.

Bloggers Make Super Bowl Picks

Over at The Hot Route, a ton of bloggers have made their Super Bowl pick with a bit of explanation. Check it out here.

January 31, 2008

Tenuta Hired by Notre Dame

ESPN is reporting that Jon Tenuta has been hired as the assistant head coach for defense under Charlie Weis. That sucks!! As a student at Georgia Tech right now, watching his defenses destroy good offenses was wonderful, and the Yellow Jackets will be a lesser program without him. What's worse is that he went to ND, a football team I root against consistently. Navy's victory over the Irish this year was very sweet. Don't expect it again any time soon with Tenuta running the defense. The athletic talent was clearly there on defense last year, and his aggressive blitzing schemes will make them quite formidable. Once Weis rebuilds the offense, 3-9 will quickly be a thing of the past.

NFL Super Bowl Against the Spread Picks

We're down to the final game to pick, and Jeremy and Brien are tied for the lead.

Brien (47-46-2 for .505)

It all comes down to this. Jeremy has made it clear that he's taking the Giants, so I could play it safe, make the same pick, and guarantee myself a share the season title. Of course, then he'd bitch and moan for the entire off-season. Plus, I happen to think he's wrong.

New England (-12) over NY Giants - The two week layoff, combined with the totally understandable hatred of the Patriots, is causing people to over think the game and talk themselves into taking the Giants. New York is a hot team right now, and they played the Patriots close just 5 weeks ago. But the Patriots are undefeated. Belichick and Brady are 3-0 in Super Bowls. I would like nothing more than to see the Patriots lose. I just don't think they will.

OVER 54 - If you're laying the points, I think you also have to take the over in this game. The under would mean that the Giants have to score less than 21 points (21 to 33 would be a push on both counts). So I expect a high scoring Super Bowl.

Jeremy & Magic 8 Ball (45-44-6 for .505, 50-39-6 for .558)

Jeremy's Picks:

So here we are... I can't even call it The Big Game apparently thanks to the folks in NFL Legal [J-Red's Note: The NFL lost their bid to trademark "The Big Game"]. I could take to referring to it in Pig Latin like DC talk radio hosts who are sponsoring a Upersay OwlBay Party. One game out from Brien, who knows if he's going to give me the chance to catch him for the tie. Here goes:

NY Giants (+12) over New England Patriots - Perfect field conditions, Brady and the Patriots going for history, Belichick with two weeks to prepare for the Giants, Eli playing well over his head for three consecutive weeks now... this game should be over by halftime. Nonetheless, I think the Giants defense is going to pressure Brady in a way that he hasn't faced in a really long time and he'll have to resort to lots of dump-off passes in the slot. I think the Giants should be successful against Moroney and Faulk's running game. I think the Patriots will win. I don't see them covering this spread. I see maybe a ten-point game. But like I said, this game very well could be out-of-hand by halftime.

OVER 54.

Magic 8 Ball Picks:
Are the Patriots technically the home team because they represent the AFC in a Super Bowl ending in an even-numbered year? My answer is that's right bitches!

NY Giants (+12) over New England Patriots - "No." [Patriots won't cover the spread.]

OVER/UNDER - Magic 8 Ball doesn't know how to pick this because there's no home team.

J-Red (43-49-3 for .468)

New England Patriots (-12) over NY Giants - Man, the Giants have said and done everything right this week. They look comfortable and confident, and Strahan is looking like he might play the game of his life. As much as I'd like to take the Giants, there's one factor that drives me crazy. These two teams just met a month ago. That means they have to change things up a little. Who do I trust to do that better, Belichick or Coughlin? Yeah.

UNDER 54 - I know taking the under and laying 12 at the same time is risky, but I think this game is on Maroney's legs. I'm thinking something in the neighborhood of 27-10.

Russell (41-51-3 for .447)

NY Giants (+12) over New England Patriots - The Pats win, but not by much. The Pats haven't won a game by 12 since Miami in Week 16, and they are 2-8 ATS in their last 10. The Giants are 8-2 ATS in their last 10. The Belichick Patriots have won each of their Super Bowls by 3, and the Super Bowl hasn't been a 2 TD blowout since 2003. The Giants only lost by 3 in their first meeting, and it's easy to make a case that the Giants will play better this time since they're not at home. GO G-MEN!!

UNDER 54 - Both teams will run the ball quite a bit. The Pats will do it to control (and exploit) Strahan and Osi, and the Giants will do it because that's what they do best and it keeps Brady off the field. Running the ball runs the clock and keeps the score down. Neither team has played a game over 54 this postseason.


Magic 8 (50-39-6 for .558)
Brien (47-46-2 for .505 -- 5 GB)
Jeremy (45-44-6 for .505 -- 5 GB)
J-Red (43-49-3 for .468 -- 7.5 GB, 3.5 GB Humans)
Russell (41-51-3 for .447 -- 11.0 GB, 5.5 GB Humans)

All of us: 226-229-20 for .497
Humans: 176-190-14 for .482

ACC Bubble Watch

In the latest version of Lunardi's Bracketology, only 4 ACC teams are in the tourney, and after Miami's loss at Wake, that's probably now 3. This is a concerning state of affairs for the conference that prides itself as one of the best (usually the best) in the nation. Here's the first edition of bubble watch.

All rankings are RPI, as given by kenpom.

IN: #3 UNC, #5 Duke
OUT: #113 Virginia (11-8, 1-5) - Singletary and their entire front line are hurt.

That leaves 9 teams on the bubble. Lunardi has Clemson in, Miami last four in, BC and FSU next four out.

#30 Clemson (14-5, 3-3) - Recently ranked, the Tigers have no bad losses, but also very few good wins. The three conference losses are UNC, Duke, and Miami.
Needs: 8-8 ACC
Projection: 9-7 ACC, IN.

#39 Miami (14-5, 2-4) - The Canes depend very heavily on Jack McClinton, and any team that's able to defend him has a good chance. Their game at BC exposed their shooting problems, as they started both halves 0-10 or worse from the field. Already 2-4 in conference, they still have 2 games with Duke and at Clemson.
Needs: 8-8 ACC
Projection: 7-9 ACC, IN with a win in the ACC tournament, OUT otherwise.

#50 NC State (13-6, 2-3) - Horrible losses to New Orleans and ECU will make their case tougher, and general inconsistency has plagued their season. They need some big wins in conference to bolster their resume.
Needs: 9-7 ACC
Projection: 7-9 ACC, OUT.

#57 Georgia Tech (10-9, 3-3) - A brutal out-of-conference schedule included losses to Indiana, Vanderbilt, and Kansas, but that should not obscure the losses to Winthrop, UNC Greensboro, and Georgia. The recent 3 game winning streak has people talking, but their best win was Notre Dame on a neutral court in November. The schedule doesn't get any easier with Clemson twice, at Duke, and at UConn.
Needs: 11-5 ACC
Projection: 7-9 ACC, OUT.

#61 Wake Forest (13-6, 3-3) - An undermanned club that's overperforming right now, BYU is the only legit out-of-conference win. They will be physically overwhelmed down the stretch.
Needs: 10-6 ACC
Projection: 6-10 ACC, OUT.

#66 Virginia Tech (13-8, 4-3) - When UNC Asheville and UNC Greensboro are by far your best non-conference wins, you know you're in trouble. Losses to ODU and Penn St. don't help either. However, they've been winning the close ones lately, and the schedule down the stretch is pretty friendly.
Needs: 11-5 ACC
Projection: 9-7 ACC, OUT.

#75 Florida State (13-9, 2-5) - Things are falling apart in Tallahassee after a decent start. Their win over Florida looks great right now, but nothing else does. A 2-5 start in conference does not bode with UNC twice and Miami twice (and three other teams to whom they've already lost) remaining on the schedule.
Needs: 9-7 ACC
Projection: 6-10 ACC, OUT.

#78 Maryland (13-8, 3-3) - A big road win over UNC offsets a bad home loss to American, but the Terps need to close strong to earn a berth. The best non-conference win was on the road at #74 Charlotte, but the Terps have looked better lately and won 3 of their last 4. The remaining teams aren't the strongest, but 6 of the last 10 are on the road.
Needs: 10-6 ACC
Projection: 10-6 ACC, IN. (Wins at GT, at UVA, and at Wake, plus all home games)

#85 Boston College (12-6, 3-2) - Not as bad as this ranking appears, the Eagles only had one bad non-conference loss (Robert Morris). Losses to Kansas, UMass, and Providence aren't embarrassing, and a victory over URI is looking decent. The last two games, though, have been bad losses to VT and UVa. With three very tough road games in the next four (at Duke, UNC and Clemson), BC will have to be very resilient.
Needs: 10-6 ACC
Projection: 8-8 ACC, OUT.

So I have 4 in, Miami squarely on the bubble, and everyone else out. A tough year for the ACC.

January 30, 2008

This is a Different Terps Team

Maryland moved to 3-3 in ACC play tonight with a win over Virginia. For those of us who have been following the team all season, it's tough to believe that this is the same group of guys who lost three straight games in December, including back-to-back home losses to Ohio U and American.

Looking back, I think the turning point for the season was the win at home against Holy Cross. The team showed that they could blow out a tournament-quality team (which up to that point had not been a certainty). They started building confidence, carried it through a tough loss at VT, and now look like one of the best teams in the ACC.

Tonight, the Terps jumped out to a huge lead early in the game behind some lights-out shooting from Hayes and Vasquez. Earlier in the season, Maryland seemed to fall behind early in every game, and then struggled to dig themselves out of a hole for the rest of the game. When they would get a lead, the team always seemed to let it slip away, only to find themselves in a dogfight at the end of the game. Virginia did manage to get the game to within 5 points towards the end, but the Terps never seemed rattled. They kept making plays and hitting foul shots and put the game away.

At 3-3 in the ACC, the Terps realistically need to get to 10-6 to guarantee themselves a spot in the tournament. They would probably have a good chance to get in at 9-7 with a win or two in the ACC tournament. The Terps' remaining schedule is:

2/02 @ GT 12:00 PM
2/06 @ BC 7:00 PM
2/09 NCST 8:00 PM
2/13 @ DUKE 7:00 PM
2/16 FSU 3:00 PM
2/20 VT 9:00 PM
2/23 @ MIA 2:00 PM
2/28 @ WFU 8:00 PM
3/02 CLEM 7:30 PM
3/09 @ UVA 7:30 PM

At Duke and at BC will be very tough games, but the remainder are very winnable. If this Maryland team keeps playing the way they have been, 10-6 and a tournament berth is a very achievable goal.

Ever Wanted to See Ryan Seacrest on American Gladiators? You Got It!

Super Bowl Prop Bet Picks

The best part about gambling on the Super Bowl is moving beyond the point spread, money line, and over/under and into exotic prop bets. Sure, you can bet on most of these things for any game all year, but the Super Bowl is the one time most bettors are willing to put in the effort to analyze the lines.

Also, there's always the opportunity for a huge payoff. Last year I had Devin Hester to score the first touchdown of the game at 20/1.

On to the picks (all lines from Bodoglife.com):

Eli Manning's Pass Attempts Over 34.5 (-120)
Manning's pass numbers have been all over the place this season, as low as 12 (against Dallas in the playoffs) and as high as 52 (against Washington). But it's also important to look at what other QBs have done against New England. In the Patriots' last 6 games, the opposing quarterback has attempted at least 30 passes. The last QB to attempt fewer than 30 was Kyle Boller in the game with the Brian Billick clenched asshole 4th quarter. If you (like me) think there's a decent chance the Patriots run away with this game, Eli will be throwing a lot of passes in the second half. Go with the over.

Eli Manning's Total Passing Yards Under 225 (-120)
That's a lot of passing yards. In the Super Bowl last year, Peyton only threw for 247 in an MVP performance. Tom Brady has thrown for 236, 354 and 145 in his Super Bowl victories. Unless you're expecting a Giants win and Eli as the MVP (and in that case, you can get better odds than this bet), take the under.

Plaxico Burress Total Pass Receptions Under 5 (-115)
After watching Plax absolutely destroy the Packers, I fully expected to take the over on this one. Then I looked at his reception numbers for the season. There have been very few games where he's had more than 5 receptions, and none of them were against teams with a secondary as good as New England's

Will a Jeff Feagles Punt Result in a Touchback? No (-260)
Brace yourself, there's some math involved with this one. Feagles has had 86 punts this season, with only 6 touchbacks. That means he gets a touchback only 7% of the time. Assuming he has 4 punts in the Super Bowl, there's a 74% chance he won't have a touchback. Even at -260, that makes it a good bet. If he has more punts than that, the odds obviously go down.

Tom Brady Total Passing Yards Under 300.5 (-125)
As we saw with Eli, Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks don't often throw for 300 yards.

Tom Brady Total Passing Yards on First TD Pass Over 9.5 (-120)
To take the under on this one, you have to assume that his first TD pass will come in a goal-to-go situation. Even the Patriots run the ball that close to the end zone.

Will a Chris Hanson Punt Result in a Touchback? No (-200)
Hanson has 6 touchbacks in 45 punts, or 13% of the time. If he has his average number of 2.6 punts in a game (yeah, I know), that means there's a 75% chance he doesn't have a touchback.

Stupid lines you shouldn't bet on:

Total number of Pass Interceptions by both teams 0 (2/1)
This is essentially the same thing as selecting "No Pass interception recorded in the game" on the "Player to record the first pass interception" line. But for some reason, that line is 6/1. So if you don't think there's going to be an interception thrown in the game, bet on the "Player to record the first pass interception" not the "Total number of pass interceptions by both teams."

Rich Rodriguez? The Governor Is on Line Four.

News broke yesterday that Rich Rodriguez's attorneys have filed a $1.5M letter of credit in the federal court in West Virginia that has jurisdiction over his buyout lawsuit. According to RichRod's attorneys, that's the most he could possibly owe in liquidated damages for breaching his contract with WVU. Since the school alleges he owes $4M, both sides seem to be treating the filing as a settlement offer.

On one hand, this is the first indication that RichRod accepts that he does owe the university part of the buyout. This is a major admission as he made vague claims early on that the contract was invalid and that he wouldn't owe anything. On the other hand, if I'm West Virginia I probably think "in for a penny, in for a pound" and redouble my efforts to collect the entire $4M.

Mark Schlabach of ESPN has an interesting article about the weird relationship between RichRod, his AD, the president of the university (who was already facing calls for his resignation on the academic front) and the Governor of West Virginia. The Governor, Joe Manchin III, apparently would call RichRod directly to discuss football and the program. That's strange, but it doesn't rise to the level of invalidating RichRod's employment contract.

Let's also remember that West Virginia University is a state-owned public university. Technically, Gov. Manchin was RichRod's boss. It would be weird for the Undersecretary of Education to get frequent calls from President Bush about his job performance, but he does sit at the very tippy top of the chain of command for all federal employees. In West Virginia, I'm sure the governor occupies the same position.

In the end it appears that RichRod was always frustrated that West Virginia was not Michigan. It didn't have the same financial resources or well-heeled boosters. They didn't overpay their assistant coaches. And, remarkably for a school whose students and alumni care about nothing more than football, football wasn't always the top priority. Throw in that humiliating loss to Pittsburgh that cost WVU a title shot and RichRod just couldn't handle it anymore. Unfortunately, that frustration is going to run him between $1.5M and $4M of his own money. As Michigan will find out, people don't often perform as well when their new job actually costs them money.

January 29, 2008

Santana to Mets: A Desperate Team Willing to Take Desperate Measures

The Mets were embarrassed down the stretch last year during their historic collapse. As they look toward the 2008 season, the future really needs to be now for the Mets. Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez have both been dominant pitchers and among the best in the league, but both are old and injury-prone. El Duque's 60 mph curveball isn't as brutal when the fastball's only mid-80's. John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Mike Pelfrey are all passable starters, but not top-notch. They really needed a great #1 to anchor their rotation, and that's what they got. Santana will be outstanding in the NL, especially this year when most NL batters haven't had very many ABs against him.

However, the pitching staff isn't what made this deal so necessary for the Mets. It's all the aging stars. To go with Pedro and El Duque at 36 and 41, Carlos Delgado is 35 and starting to pass his prime. Moises Alou is 41 and slowing down. Carlos Beltran is 30, and there's really no one else in the Mets outfield on the current roster. Carlos Gomez (22) and Lastings Milledge are gone via trades. Ryan Church, Marlon Anderson, and Endy Chavez (great catch, not much else) aren't going to carry the team. Brian Schneider, newly acquired from the Nats, is an aging mediocre catcher. As a result, the Mets will have four vacancies among the position players in the next couple years (LF, RF, 1B, and C), along with the loss of their #2 and #3 starting pitchers. Billy Wagner is 36, and don't tell me Jorge Julio will take over seamlessly. Their farm system was just raided by the Twins, and even though they protected their best prospect, losing 4 of the top 7 is pretty crippling.

The Mets are dangerously close to becoming the Yankees, overspending for free agents and emptying the farm system. If it doesn't work out shortly, they will pay for a few years. They'll never be terrible because the core will be good, but lots of holes will open up shortly.

The real question is whether they can even win the division. The Phillies beat them last year, and have a young team anchored by Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Hamels. The Braves have a better top 3 of their rotation (even after the Mets get Santana), with Smoltz, Hudson, and Glavine (all of whom are also aging, but not as bad as Pedro). Santana does not make the NL East a cakewalk for the Mets.

Can Reyes and Wright, with Santana's help, carry the Mets to the top of the NL East and beyond? They probably have two years until it's their team alone.

Missouri Tigers Lose Half Their Team to a Bar Brawl

ESPN is reporting that Mike Anderson has suspended five players indefinitely in the wake of a weekend brawl. The brawl left the Tigers' leading scorer in the hospital with a broken jaw, and their hopes for a decent season in the toilet. All five players suspended were starters or key reserves, and the Tigers are unlikely to win many games without them (they're only 12-8 with those 5).

Hannah, Missouri's top scorer, lost the ball and his cool, and had his jaw broken.

This latest incident only adds to a staggering list of previous transgressions and incidents. Yet another instance of college kids needing to stay away from nightclubs (see my previous post on this subject). Police report having more than 100 calls per year at that nightclub (Athena) for fights and other disturbances. Three other Missouri players, including the coach's son, have been arrested in the last year or so.

Tigers fans were frustrated with the Quin Snyder era, but the Mike Anderson era so far has involved nothing noteworthy except off-the-court embarrassments. And the wins are not likely to increase the way things are going...

CNNSI's Jon Heyman: Santana Traded to Mets

If there's one great way to stop a late season collapse, it's to add the best young pitcher in baseball. CNNSI's Jon Heyman is confirming that the Twins have dealt Johan Santana to the Mets.

Again in baseball, the rich get richer while the mid-market and small-market teams are forced to swap their homegrown talent for prospects in the hopes of getting an entire crop to mature all at once before they have to be paid.

January 28, 2008

#19 Florida, Billy Donovan Are For Real

I've been waiting to write this post for a couple weeks now, anticipating the fall of the other shoe. But it appears there is no punchline. After the loss of Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Chris Richard, Taurean Green, and Lee Humphrey, the top 6 players from last year's championship team, everyone wrote off this year's Gators. One of the biggest reasons NBA teams thought they could lure Donovan away from Florida was that everyone assumed it would be a multi-year rebuilding process.

Don't look now, but Billy Donovan has assembled a very credible team this year, one capable of winning the SEC. After a fairly soft non-conference schedule, the Gators are now 18-3 overall, 5-1 in the SEC. Many thought that the better opposition in the SEC would expose the young Florida team, but it's actually been the other way around. Last night, Florida thumped a ranked Vanderbilt team, 86-64. Their three losses this year are FSU, at Ohio St., and at #15 Ole Miss (by 2).

While many expect continued success every year from good programs, Donovan deserves lots of credit and serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors. It's no leap of faith to think that Florida can win 6 more games and enter the SEC tournament with a bye and an 11-5 conference record. Who would have thought that Florida would be better than Kentucky this year? How happy is Donovan that he stayed at Florida? It's nice to see a man rewarded for putting family values and his heart first, and knowing that the Magic job didn't feel right.

Rumors: Orioles' Bedard Traded for Seattle's Adam Jones

According to the Baltimore Sun, Orioles officials are denying reports that they have completed a trade sending left-handed pitching ace Erik Bedard to the Mariners for top young centerfield prospect Adam Jones and others.

Jones told the Seattle Times that he had been instructed to return from Venezuela and head to Baltimore for a physical. Unlikely other recent trade acquisitions, Jones appears more positive about the move, saying "You know, I like Seattle, but if I am in Baltimore, as I think now I am, I'm going to embrace it." That might not be the most positive endorsement, but it certainly isn't negative either.

Now a source is telling ESPN that the hold up in confirming the deal is...wait for it....Peter Angelos. Despite holding up the entire process by demanding that he confirm trades, Angelos is unavailable all day today on "personal business." Contrary to reports, I am not hoping he's off skiing somewhere and presently hurdling towards a very thick tree.

Other Members of the KG Wolves-Celtics Trade Starting to Produce

Following the announcement of the trade of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for five lesser players, many people (myself included) decided that Kevin McHale had decided to stop at nothing in his attempt to get the Celtics another championship, and he was willing to end his career as a GM to make that happen. And most of the doubters have the entire first half of the season to point to as evidence, as the Wolves started a miserable 5-34.

However, over the last week, there are signs of life in Minnesota. Their extremely young roster has started to figure things out, and they have won 3 of their last 4, including victories over the Suns and Warriors. The loss was by a mere 1 point at Boston. I'm sensing a corner has been turned...

Ryan Gomes has increased his scoring by 5 ppg this month to 15.5 for January, and the improvement is in his shooting pct (44 to 50) rather than just attempts. He had a career high with 35 against the Warriors.

Al Jefferson is turning into a star, putting up 27 a game in his last 5 along with 13 rebounds per. His season stats are now 21 and 12, bolstered by his 40 and 19 standout performance against the Nets, a career high in scoring for him as well.

Sebastian Telfair, already considered a bust by many, has improved as well and might turn into a legit PG in the NBA. In his last five games, he's scored in double figures in every game, and is averaging 6.2 assists to only 1.4 turnovers. His shooting percentage is up, and his turnovers are down.

Meanwhile, other members of the team are stepping up. For example, McCants has shot over 50% from 3 point land in the last 5 games.

While their record will probably not look very good at the end of this year, there is a lot of hope for the future. Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Rashad McCants, Chris Richard, Craig Smith, and Sebastian Telfair are all 25 or younger. That is quite a list of high draft picks, many of whom had very successful college careers. They will add another high pick after this season. Expect this team to contend in a couple years.