Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Be Like Mike Tiger

On March 18, 1995, two words were leaked to media sources everywhere: "I'm Back."

Michael Jordan had announced his comeback and in his first game back lit up the New York Knicks for 55 points. The Bulls went on to lose to the Orlando Magic in the playoffs that year, before reeling off another three-peat.

Tiger Woods went out on top... just like MJ. Forced to quit the 2008 season early due to his "Joe Theisman" leg, Tiger still finished the season strong with perhaps his greatest victory of his career. No one will soon forget the marathon that was the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Now, almost 10 months later, Tiger is back. He did not come back as flashy as Michael, as it took two tournaments to warm up, but he made a valiant comeback at Bay Hill to capture his 66th victory on tour. Clutch as usual, he stroked the 20-footer on the final hole to clinch the victory and snapped his leg and fist up in celebration as Stevie lifted him off his feet. I watched the leg intently pleading to the golf Gods that Tiger didn't pull a Bill Gramatica.

Mr. Woods hopes that he can not only follow MJ's lead, in dominating after his absence from the sport, but also recover faster. I don't doubt Tiger for a second and would venture in guessing that he wins two majors this year. He continues to knock off the rust and is rested and healthier than ever.

With all of the craze surrounding Tiger's absence, rehabilitation, comeback, and first victory... I started thinking about Tiger vs. MJ. Who is/was more important to his sport? Who is/was more popular at the peak of their respective careers?

I answer both of those questions with the same response: TIGER.

Let's think about it.

Jordan was enormous for the game of basketball. However, he came in during the careers of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the NBA was already flying high. The NBA was crushed by his retirement, his great success on the diamond and then again with his second retirement. The league still survived and prospered with the emergence of the Lakers dynasty. Now you have Lebron and Kobe, and the NBA is doing just fine.

Tiger is golf. Before Tiger, purses were in the hundreds of thousands, TV ratings were low, sponsors were few. Now, Tiger brought the largest cable TV audience... EVER with the front 9 of the U.S. Open playoff. Purses for tournaments are in the millions, and sponsors rush to events that he plays. When Tiger was hurt this past summer and fall, TV ratings plummeted for the PGA Tour. Without Tiger Woods, the PGA tour will be in the same boat as the NHL... nothing. Events wouldn't even make it on the major networks and like the NHL (please call your cable provider to inquire about purchasing Versus), the PGA Tour would have to put events up on the Golf Channel.

Lets look at recognizability. MJ was God in the 90's. For the most part though, that was in America, and maybe Europe where basketball was just becoming popular at the time. Golf on the other hand, is a global sport. Tiger is perhaps the most recognizable human being on the planet. The list may go like this: The Pope, Obama, Tiger. Without question, Tiger Woods is bigger now than Michael Jordan ever was.

So believe it or not, I believe Tiger has passed MJ as the biggest sports superstar of this generation, and maybe ever. The dominance of Eldrick can be enjoyed by all generations. The elderly play golf; heck, all of my grandparents are obsessed with Tiger (except for you Grandpa Phil, who still believes Fuzzy Zoeller is the greatest to ever play the game). My parents' generation loves him, because they saw Nicklaus play and can respect the trouncings that Tiger delivers. My generation grew up watching Tiger and yes we are still amazed by his freakish abilities. The cycle will continue, as the next generation of kids watch and play golf because their parents are infatuated with the excellence that is Tiger Woods.

I almost feel like I am sensationalizing and exaggerating the phenomenon.

But I'm not.

Kids and adults alike aren't and won't be saying I want to Be Like Mike...

everyone wants to Be Like Tiger.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays

The first Tribute installment of Mile High Musings, for the final Monday of March Madness...
  • I wake up this morning, cook my usual breakfast of cereal (Lucky Charms today. For those who care, they were magically delicious.) and flip on SportsCenter before I head to Monday morning class. I figure it'll be a quality show; we just finished with the Elite Eight, with some great games (Pitt-Nova and State-L'Ville) and enjoyable storylines (Spartans get home court, Tar Heels and Huskies clicking on all cylinders, Blake Griffin coming up juuuuuust short). The NBA conference races are heating up, and Opening Day (or Christmas come early, as some like to call it) is just around the corner. Oh, and that golfer guy that used to be good did something good yesterday. Rawr.

  • But instead, I'm watching full-blown coverage of Kentucky Head Coach Watch: Day 37. Now they're saying Memphis boss John Calipari might - might! - be interested in the gig. (Since when are People Magazine gossip writers doubling as ESPN producers? Oh, wait, forever...that's right.) They've brought in three consecutive talking heads (Dickie V, Steve Lavin and a writer from the Lexington paper) to speculate: "how would Coach Cal fit in at Kentucky?"

  • I turn to my roommate Justin, and boldly predict: "The moment Calipari agrees to work at Kentucky, the coverage will shift to, 'how will Coach Cal fit in at Kentucky?', and SportsCenter will basically reuse the same scripts again because they think we're idiots." To this, Justin nodded.

  • Or maybe he was just nodding off*. All this Kentucky talk - you know, discussing the future of a program that, uh, hasn't made a Final Four in a decade - was putting this tried-and-true college basketball fan to sleep.
    *not actually my roommate, but sort of resembles him after a long night of Grand Marnier

  • Sure enough, sources say Kentucky is working on an eight-year deal for Mr. "Free Throws Don't Matter" himself. It's a good move for him; he's accomplished everything he could at Memphis, and now gets a chance to show he can do it consistently in the big boy conference.

  • I just didn't need to hear it 89 times today, ESPN. We got it. Especially with everything else going on in sports right now.

  • If you hadn't had a chance to catch B-dubs' eugoogoly on the 08-09 Sooners, it's a great read, even if you don't bleed cream and crimson.

  • Here's my personal eugoogoly of the Badgers' season: They came. They started. They did not finish. And thus, they did not conquer.

  • Anything else you needed to know?

  • First and only fantasy baseball draft of the year is Sunday. I had four football drafts last fall, and spent approximately 68 hours slaving over big boards and draft lists.

  • Which is approximately 68 hours more than I've spent on the baseball draft.

  • And it's an auction draft. Never been in one of those. We'll see how it goes, but I got a feeling I'm gonna end up being a worse GM than Chris Wallace.

  • Sounds like somebody took Jay Cutler's pacifier away from him. They also took 100,000 grand from his wallet today for missing 10 days of workouts.

  • I still think he'll be a Bronco on Opening Day in September. Not wishful thinking, just looking at it objectively.

  • Because if he does get traded, and Denver doesn't get equal value, Josh McDaniels' stay in the Mile High City will be quicker than Antonio McDyess' third tour of duty.

  • Speaking of which - and not to squeeze sour grapes on this magical Nuggets season - if Dice stays a Nugget, then LA's got some company up there on its lofty perch. Too bad.

  • Believe it or not: Birdman > Marcus Camby. Ya heard me.

  • I was close to tears the night Denver gave away Marcus for an expired grocery coupon. Wanted to throw away my Nuggets allegiance. But while the Chauncey trade officially turned things around, and rightfully got the pub for doing so, it's the addition of Chris Andersen that pushed Denver over the top. He's got the same defensive presence and a little bit more energy, for less than 10 percent of the price.

  • That all being said, I'm still scared you-know-whatless of playing Utah in the first round and getting knocked out AGAIN before the playoffs really get started.

  • Oh, wait...just saw that Utah is 1-14 on the road against winning teams this season. And they nearly blew second-half leads of more than 20 points in their last two home games, to less-than-awe-inspiring Phoenix and New York. Never mind.

  • Apparently, Andrew "Out 8-12 weeks with a knee" Bynum is back in action, scoring left and right once again. But not for the Lakers.

  • The Los Angeles big man, who was hurt on Jan. 31 and was hoping to be back before the end of March, was seen clubbing it at the Playboy Mansion over the weekend. Bynum was allegedly hoisting up models on his shoulders, jumping velvet ropes and playing the life of the party, doing everything but doing a cannonball into Hef's pool.

  • I got no problem with mackin' on Playmates any chance you get. But seriously, man, can't it wait til' the end of the season? Way to support your teammates and get back out on that court for a few garbage games before the playoffs start.

  • But hey, any friend of Nuggets Finals chances is a friend of mine. And we share initials. Attaboy, AB.

  • Obligatory "Heroes" update of the week: Sylar's been quiet this season. With the new skill he just acquired, though, I'd say he's about to become Comeback Bad Dude of the Year. The good guys are in BIG trouble...as is Danko. I give him two, maybe three, more weeks of life.

  • LATER THIS WEEK: A scintillating nomination for TNEA of the Week (Wednesday; hot babe alert!), B-dubs' Immediate Reactions (Thursday), and our Preseason MLB Power Rankinsg (TBD), final thoughts on the overall seasons of Wisconsin and Oklahoma sports (TBD) and Final Four stuff throughout the weekend.

Have a good one.


Oklahoma Sooner Men's Basketball: Eulogy for the 2008-2009 Season

There were some expectations.... some.

The Sooners only lost two seniors from the previous season in which they bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the 2nd round as a 6-seed.

The Big-12 was down. National champion Kansas lost over half-a-dozen players. Texas lost its best player and leader of the team. Kansas State lost Michael Beasley... which was their team. The Big-12 was ready for the taking.

There were questions, however. Was Blake Griffin ready to step up and be the leader and rock that the team needed? Was the guard play good enough to take the team deep into the tournament? Was freshman Willie Warren going to ruin the team chemistry with his selfish play?

The questions were answered. All points pointed to this Oklahoma Sooner team being something special. In Jeff Capel's third year in Norman... Sooner basketball was back and Oklahoma was primed for a title run. They ran through non-conference play with only one hiccup on the road at Arkansas. Then started Big-12 play 11-0. Oklahoma was #2 in the country and primed to take over number one as they headed to Austin to play an overmatched Horns team.

But then the unthinkable happened.

The, now hands down, best player in the country, Blake Griffin, got popped in the head by an sweeping elbow and was knocked out the the game. Concussions are a scary thing, and it was disturbing to see how "Out of it" Blake was during that game and the next on the bench.

Blake "The Behemoth" Griffin (nicknamed by AJ) returned after a week and the Sooners won against Texas Tech. The team chemistry, however, seemed shaky. The Sooners finished the season with 3 wins and 2 losses including a quarterfinal loss to Oklahoma State in the Big-12 tournament. All of the question marks returned. It was evident that the Oklahoma guards were not playing well enough to support Mr. Griffin for a tournament run.

Then, Jeff Capel pulled his team together. After struggling down the stretch, OU came out strong against Morgan State... but it is Morgan State.

An impressive and dominant 2nd half against Michigan sold me on the fact that this team was back on track and in mid-season form. Then came the mighty Orangemen. I thought it would be a dog fight and prayed that the Sooners would prevail. However, it seemed that the Crimson and Cream were the only players in the gym on Friday night. Syracuse couldn't hit a shot and OU couldn't miss one. Tony Crocker had the game of his life, and OU prevailed with ease. The only thing trying to stop OU and especially Blake Griffin, was the side of the backboard trying to attack Blake's forehead.

Then came the Tar Heels. Everyone in the country knew that the Sooners were overmatched at most positions. Even the great Tyler Hansbrough was going to at least contain BG23. Nay. Blake had his way with that wide-eyed school boy. Unfortunately for "The Behemoth," he was the only Sooner that remembered how to play basketball. Defensively OU played UNC quite well. The problem was the Oklahoma guards couldn't throw a marble into the Pacific Ocean. The team started 0-16 from the land of treys. That will not win you ball games. The sad thing is, if OU hit 25% from the land of treys... they are in the basketball game if not sending the game to an extra period.

In the end, before we bury this team, let's reflect on the great moments we had together and the pitfalls.

-Holding off Davidson's late charge and seeing Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry on the same court was a sight to behold.
-Beating Purdue to win the Pre-season NIT.
-Losing to Arkansas... a terrible team.
-Beating arch nemesis Texas by 15 pts in the first Big-12 home game. First win against Texas in about 5 years.
-Going to Stillwater and winning is always fun.
-Blake's 40 and 23 in only 31 minutes against Tech.
-Watching Blake go down in the Texas game.
-Watching the comeback against Kansas without Blake, and being crushed by the loss.
-Getting dismantled by Mizzou on the road.

-Holding off OSU for my last home game. Willie, I will never forget your 25-footer that sealed the game.
-Disappointed after landing in Boston and seeing we lost to OSU in the quarters of the Big-12.
-The first three rounds of the tournament were fantastic and exciting, especially the Syracuse game.
-Knowing we would lose, but hoping against UNC.

A few last words.

I will miss the Griffin brothers. Taylor Griffin was so underrated as a Sooner. He was awesome to watch and showed real heart in his final season. I will miss so much looking forward to Sportscenter's top-10 because it was guaranteed I would see at least two Blake Griffin plays. Blake... you are an animal and you will be missed.

Here is to you not playing for the Clippers next year...

and to the 2008-2009 Sooners.... may you rest in peace.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The parity (or parody) of college hockey

March Madness ain't just a reference to the NCAA men's tournament. Not after Saturday's craziness, which wasn't just limited to Nova's thrilling win over Pitt in Boston.

That was a pretty sick ending to the Iowa State-Michigan State Sweet 16 game, when the ninth-seeded Spartans, fresh off beating top seed Duke, almost ended up in the Elite Eight before the Cyclones advanced on a controversial non-call at the buzzer, leaving the Spartans coach in utter disbelief on the sidelines. Findlay completed an undefeated season in D-2 with a game-ending three by Tyler Evans to win the title 56-53 over Cal Poly-Pomona (hitting a three at the buzzer to win a championship...sweeeeeeet). And a lacrosse game between Virginia and Maryland went seven overtimes - one longer than Syracuse and Connecticut basketball at the Big East tournament - before the Cavs won 10-9.

And then, there's the annually overshadowed NCAA championship: the men's hockey tournament, leading up to the Frozen Four.

Don't like the chalk of the men's basketball tournament? Then hockey's your game this spring.

At least No. 1-ranked Boston University showed up, winning its first round 8-3. However, the 2-through-6 teams in the USCHO.com Poll - Notre Dame, Michigan, Denver, Yale, and Northeastern) went 0-5 in the first round, losing valiently by a combined score of 18-6. 18-6!

The five teams who beat them? Bemidji State (receiving votes in the poll), Air Force (ranked 18th), Miami (ranked 13th), Vermont (11th) and Cornell (9th), respectively. If you don't already know, only 16 teams make the tournament. So these dragon-slayers hardly belonged in the tournament to begin with.

And what's up with the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's members forgetting how to play hockey? The WCHA, home to teams like Denver, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota (four of the five schools with at least five national titles) and five of the last seven champs, only qualified three teams for the 2009 tournament, down from six in '08. And those three schools didn't stick around very long, as Denver and UND were one-and-done, while Minnesota-Duluth won a round in overtime before falling to Miami (Ohio). After winning five straight championships from 2002-06, the WCHA will now suffer a Yankees-like, three-year title drought. Yuck.

That's the nature of hockey, though: a bounce of the puck here, a tipped shot there, and you've got teams like Bemidji State and Cornell crashing the Elite Eight or even Frozen Four. No, seriously. Those two teams are playing each other for a spot in the national semifinals. Not exactly household names like UNC or UConn, huh?

The six teams still competing are Boston U, New Hampshire, Vermont, Miami (Ohio), Cornell and Bemidji State. HUGE props to anybody who, without consulting Google, can name all six teams' nicknames off the top of their heads.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Better Performer (team vs. writer)

This post will be sweet and to the point. AJ's Nuggets may have gotten the best of my Mavs... my Mavs who stink and I have no faith in them, but who won the prediction battle?

We both whiffed on Memphis over Mizzou. I only missed one other game in a close Kansas vs. MSU game.

AJ how did you do.... Purdue... bust. Blue Devils looked great against my final four pick Nova. You were talking some real smack earlier about the Sooners going home.... hahaha. I laugh at you.

I don't usually grab someone by the hair and rub their face in the dirt, but 95% of the country jumped all over OU, either picking them to lose to Clemson/Mich or Syracuse. Who is laughing now?

Picks for tomorrow.

Big East prevails. UCONN slips past that pesky Mizzou-Rah team. UCONN by 3.
Hot Nova jumps onto a struggling Pitt team. Nova by 7.

Stay classy,


Friday, March 27, 2009

Mavericks (-4) vs. Nuggets? C'mon


Tonight, good readers, marks the most anticipated matchup of basketball titans all year. They've been battling for months, and it all comes down to this. The spoils of winning are great; the consequences of defeat are even greater.

Oh, and while you're watching, don't forget to check your Blackberry for Sweet 16 score updates.
I am, of course, talking about the Nuggets-Mavericks game. AJ vs. B-dubs. Denver vs. Dallas. The Mile High City vs. Big D. Team who makes good trades vs. team that makes franchise-destroying trades and steadfastly defends them years after the fact.

March madness, indeed.

The Nuggets (46-26) are 3-0 against the Mavs this year, and hope to get two wins on this three-game road swing against Western Conference playoff contenders, in hopes of securing another Northwest Division crown and a top-four seed. The Mavs (43-28) are toiling in the eight-spot right now and just trying to fight off Phoenix for that final playoff position, with the great reward of getting swept by the Lakers.

Nene has been questionably suspended for tonight's game by the NBA for (apparently, despite the lack of public video evidence) head-butting Phoenix Suns whiner/forward Louis Amundson. (Not that Nene's absence helped the Hornets on Wednesday, but whatever.) Meanwhile, Josh Howard, Dallas' third-leading scorer, is still doubtful with an ankle injury, and Jason Kidd is questionable with old age.

So here's what I don't get. The Mavericks do have home court tonight, and obviously that helps. But they're favored by four points tonight. While the effect of home court, and how much the line should be pushed in terms of points, are issues you could argue all day, it's generally concluded that the NBA road team should be given two, maybe three, points on the spread. If that holds true tonight, I guess odds-makers think that Dallas sans Howard is better than Denver sans Nene. I didn't know they were legalizing pot in Vegas.

Let's say Howard does play, and hypothetically suppose Nene could play as well. How much is a player like Nene really worth in betting points? Two points? Maybe three? Let's be fairly generous and say four points, which would make this game a pick 'em. Again, Denver has beaten Dallas all three times this season, and historically has played the Mavericks very well. Would you really, really take Dallas to win the game tonight if Nene was in? Forget records; Denver is clearly a better team. I guess the odds-makers have put a ton of weight into Dallas' 9-0 record at the American Airlines Center since the All-Star break. But hey, never mind that other than San Antonio, the best opponent in that stretch was mighty Detroit (34-37), right? Why put too much emphasis on valuable details like that?

AJ and B-dubs will be good friends on this blog, but when it comes to important matters such as Nugs-Mavs, Broncos-Cowboys, Badgers-Sooners or Alba-Biel, war may ensue. The initial battle...commences this evening.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Headlines: Immediate Reactions

I want to be more involved in this new blog... as I did not update my last blog enough. So I thought: "I need an ongoing entry that is fast and easy but fairly entertaining." So I came up with this...

I am just going to copy and paste the top headlines listed on the homepage of ESPN.com, and I will give a short and to the point gut reaction. Simple... yes. Genius? Only time will tell. To add some flavor to these posts... I will add in a youtube clip of the day.

Onto the show:

Tejada gets probation for misleading Congress:
As long as you apologize to the kids... congress will just send you to time-out.
Source: NCAA starts UConn recruiting probe
Thank goodness the NCAA is investigating... can you finish the Reggie Bush case first?
Burress' lawyer in talks with DA to resolve case
I'm getting tired of investigations and court cases... especially if they involve Cheddar Bob.
Gore leads field, as Tiger surges into contention
On cue, Tiger returns to form before Augusta... and who on Earth is Gore?
UNC's Lawson prepared to play through toe pain
This is great information to know... since we didn't already see him play through the pain and dominate the game.
Officer delayed NFL player as relative died
I am so proud of my hometown's finest... now I will always know they are there to look out for me and not "Screw me over."
Owens to only attend Bills' mandatory workouts
From everyone in Dallas... we will miss your antics Mr. Owens.
NBA backs new rule for too many men violation
Captain common sense to the rescue!!!!
CC to start both Yanks openers
"Breaking news... CC Sabathia to start all 162 games..."
Man charged for stalking U.S. gymnast Johnson
No it isn't me... I am a little bit more inconspicuous in my stalking.

Hope this recurring entry doesn't push you to quit the blog... and now the youtube clip of the day....

My favorite Adrian Peterson (MAN CRUSH ALERT!!!) montage.

I'm outtie,


My Super Sweet Sixteen (Not the awful MTV show)

Well AJ and myself have joined forces to bring the world the greatest blog it has ever seen. This is not actually the greatest blog ever, it didn't look anything like this... this is just a tribute...

Ok, I'm not Jack Black and AJ is not Kyle Gass, and now its time for my sweet sixteen preview. I'll go from the Jason "Get me a wheelchair" Kidd region (weakest) to the Devin "I can make half court shots blindfolded to win games" Harris region (strongest).

Midwest AKA: Jason "Get me a wheelchair" Kidd region

1. Louisville vs. 12. Arizona

Could Arizona have gotten an easier road to this dance? An athletically over-matched Utah team that was the worst mis-seeding in the tournament... and then Cleveland State, the Cinderella with no glass slipper. The Wildcats get devoured by the Cardinals here by 12 points.

2. Michigan State vs. Kansas

AJ probably has a better point of view on MSU, and I haven't seen much of them this year, but I did see them beat Kansas early in the year fairly handily. This is a different Kansas team. They are very young but have played some PRIME TIME GAMES BABY!! I don't see MSU with an answer for Cole Aldrich who posted a triple-double in round two with 10 blocks!! Kansas by 4.

East AKA: Terrell "I moved from America's team to North America's team" Owens region

1. Pittsburgh vs. Xavier

I don't have much to say here, other than I think Pitt wakes up after a slow start to this tournament. They come alive in a big way here and overmatch an athletic Xavier team by around 10 points.

2. Duke vs. Villanova

Maybe the most intriguing sweet 16 match. I think Duke has overachieved all season (and has been overrated). Nova has hit their stride at the right time. I hate Greg Paulus and I hope they lose... and I think they will. I think Nova is too athletic and will be able to get points in the paint all night long like they did against UCLA. If Duke gets hot from three-point land then they could steal this game away. However Nova's guards will play the perimeter tight and I like them to win in a close one. Nova by 3.

West AKA: Gus "Sorentine... from the parking lot!!!" Johnson region

1. UCONN vs. Purdue

Adversity does not affect UCONN. We saw that in round one. We will see it again. Purdue is an inferior team by lightyears. UCONN knocks out Purdue and AJ's beloved Big 10 is out of the tournament. Now, a moment of silence for the Big 10...



Ok. UCONN by 13.

2. Memphis vs. 3. Mizzouri

Mizzou's pressure defense works against a lot of teams. They can force a lot of turnovers, but the athletes of Memphis are just too strong. I think this will be a good game for a half. Then Memphis pulls away. Memphis by 9.

South AKA: Devin "I can make half court shots blindfolded to win games" Harris region

1. UNC vs. Gonzaga

I think this game will be closer than a lot of people think. Vegas says UNC -7. I think this game will be within 5. However, Ty Lawson is the X factor. If he can stay healthy and effective in this game.... UNC will pull it out. UNC by 4.

2. Oklahoma vs. Syracuse

I will try to be unbiased. I HATE Devendorf. HATE. However, when he is hot... he is better than Jimmy Chitwood. Well, maybe not THAT good, but he is a fantastic guard. The athleticism of Syracuse scares me. Willie Warren is the only OU guard who matches up well against Syracuse. I just don't know who is going to stop the player of the year. Blake Griffin will get his video game-esque numbers... but who else will step up? My answer is the combination of Taylor Griffin and Austin Johnson. Austin will hit at least 3 timely treys and Taylor will have close to a double-double. OU squeezes this one out. OU by 2.

Well thats all I got folks. Hopefully I will keep up with this steroids-free blog and wont pull a post OC Mischa Barton and disappear off the face of the Earth. Damn she was hott... I miss her.

Stay classy,


Ranking the Sweet Sixteen teams still standing


B-dubs, B-dubs, please ... leave the nicknaming to the professionals. Although you're right, Kidd does need to get one of those Rascals, and that Mark Cuban continues to insist the Kidd-for-Harris deal did not set his franchise back 10 years (minimum) is one this country's greatest cases of denial today.

But anyway...B-dubs has offered up who he thinks will win each Sweet 16 game and ranked the regions from best (Harris, the Badger) to worst (Kidd, the wife-beater), so I'll take a slightly different approach. Here's a Power 16, ranking the teams based on how they're playing right now. Consider my personal pick for each game based on these rankings (i.e. since Purdue is 4 and UCheat is 5, yes, that means I think the Boilers will beat the UConMen. Er, Huskies.).

Here we go, from Kidd to Harris:

16) Arizona. Totally agree with B-Dubs: they've done nothing of substance in this tournament except send a thank-you note to Wake Forest for rolling over for Cleveland State. The Wildcats are talented individually, but are still the same team that finished 1-5.

15) Xavier. The worst 4-seed entering last weekend, and the Musketeers were shaky in both victories before pulling away.

14) Kansas. Cole Aldrich? You're coming at me with Cole Aldrich? Make no mistake, Brandon Rush ain't walking through that door. Neither is Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson or the great Sasha Kaun.

13) Gonzaga. Juuuuust made it past Western Kentucky, and I don't buy any theories about how the Adam Morrisons can get by North Carolina. Should be an easy third-rounder for the Heels.

12) Villanova. Couldn't the Wildcats have humored us and not destroyed American U. after taunting us with a potential upset of gargantuan proportions? Party poopers.

11) Michigan State. I believe you never really know a team until you sit behind its bench for an entire game, which I did at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. And weirdly, I found a weird vibe among the Spartan players, like they don't love each other the way they should. I still think they'll get by Rock Chalk, but they stand little chance against Louisville.

10) Missouri. Ladies and gentlemen (and Memphis), meet Forty Minutes of Hell. Tigers-Tigers will be the best game of the Sweet 16...and you gotta love any matchup where the two teams share a nickname.

9) Duke. Not sure what to make of Da Dukies...I mean, how do they constantly win with so little athleticism? But Coach K knows best, I suppose. If Henderson, Singler and Scheyer stay hot, Duke can win it all...but Nova could be dangerous too, and Duke is no stranger to early exits.

8) Pittsburgh. DeJuan Blair, thou art behemoth.

7) Oklahoma. Blake Griffin, you too. And not too shabby with the ladies, either.

6) Syracuse. America's Team, as far as I'm concerned. I get that people don't like Eric Devendorf, but the very cool friendship between Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris cancels out the likeability factor. And you've gotta pull for a team that wins in six OTs, any day.

5) Connecticut. OK, you got me, they're obviously playing better than this. But like I outlined above, I think Purdue will win the game, so I have to put the Huskies below the Boilers. I will say this, though: the Nate Miles thing will not be a distraction. Methinks these old, old allegations have nothing to do with Hasheem Thabeet dunking or blocking a basketball.

4) Purdue. Here's why I think Purdue will win: they haven't been healthy all year. They're peaking at the PERFECT time. It's far and away the deepest team in the Big Ten, and among the deepest in the country. And most of all, per my Michigan State theory, they LO-O-O-O-OVE each other to death. I like the Boilers to crash the Elite Eight.
3) Memphis. But Purdue will meet its match there. Memphis is playing with a massive chip on its shoulder. Hey Coach Cal, just make sure they hit their free throws when it counts, eh?

2) Louisville. I don't think the Cardinals have played like the second-best team in the field, but they will look like it after yawning past the patsies awaiting them in Indianapolis.

1) North Carolina. Take some Aleve for that toe, Ty. I love the Heels, but they're a different team without their point guard at full strength.
To save you from tallying it up based on the rankings, I've got Louisville and Michigan State, North Carolina and Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Duke, and Purdue and Memphis advancing to the Elite Eight. Enjoy the games tonight and Friday.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sportsman of the Month - retro to Jan/Feb

You know how Sports Illustrated does its "Sportsman of the Year" thing every December? They leave out so many good candidates, and, well, they can only choose one man or woman each year. So I came up with this idea to spread it out, and do a Sportsman of the Month that helps give more great athletes and sports personalities their props. I'll have my March choice at the end of the month; but in the interest of spreading it out, here's my January and February picks.

January: Larry Fitzgerald

Celebrities behaving badly seem to dominate the headlines so much more than celebrities doing positive, enlightening things. That’s why when we are blessed with a feel-good story, ESPN is so good at ramming it down our throats so much that we can eventually get sick of many “good guys.” Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Tim Tebow, Stephen Curry, even lovable Jason McElwain… hate to say it, but I grew tired of hearing about each of them. (No offense to J-Mac and his cool story...I just think it got overblown, particularly due to those annoying "G" commercials.)

Well, I hope I never, ever, ever get sick of Larry Fitzgerald, Jr.

(Now his dad, that’s another story. Larry Senior showed up at the Big Ten Tournament wearing his kid’s jersey to cover … who, exactly, I don’t know. Seems that fame got to the old man’s head. But I digress from a wonderful story.)

In lifting the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl (think how ridiculous that sounds), Fitz put up one of the greatest back-to-back-to-back-to-back efforts in the history of postseasons. Many people labeled this the greatest postseason ever, but I use the words I do because it properly illustrates that he did it consistently in four straight games, instead of having one monster game and a couple of okay efforts.

One great game against the Falcons (six catches, 101 yards, and a touchdown) and one massive game at the Carolina (eight, 166 and a score) wasn’t enough to convince the two Keystone State teams. Even when everybody in the ballpark knew that Fitz was getting the ball, the Eagles (nine, 152 and three touchdowns) and Steelers (seven, 127 and two scores, including the go-ahead 64-yarder with 2:37 to go that nearly won it for ‘Zona) couldn’t stop him. Then just for good measure, Fitzgerald went down to Hawaii and was the MVP of the 2009 Pro Bowl with five, 81 and two scores (only the AFC All-Stars could keep Fitz under the century mark for yards).

How colossally insane is that? 33 catches, 627 yards, and nine touchdowns. In five games. And unless you were living under a rock in January, you already know that Fitzgerald ranks in the top five humblest, most soft-spoken athletes in America today.

Let’s just make sure Fitzgerald, 25, doesn’t go the obnoxious ways of Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson.

January honorable mentions: Tebow, Tony Dungy, Barack Obama, Michael Phelps’ bong

February: Rafael Nadal

On the night the calendar flipped to February and America slept soundly in preparation for another Super Bowl, a remarkable accomplishment was happening on the other side of the planet, and I’m proud to say I pulled the all-nighter to witness it live.

Rafael Nadal officially grabbed the reins of the men’s tennis circuit from the potential GOAT, Roger Federer, with a gutsy, gripping, high-octane, not-as-great-as-their-Wimbledon-final-but-pretty-darn-close five-set victory down at the Australian Open. Nadal now has six Grand Slams, to his name, at age 22. The Fed Express, who sits at 13 majors (one shy of Pete Sampras’ all-time mark), had the grand total of one Grand Slam on his 22nd birthday.

Most telling that Nadal is officially inside Federer’s head was seeing Federer weep at the post-match ceremony – any sort of outward emotion from Roger has been extremely uncharacteristic throughout the past five years. Perhaps he’s starting to realize that not only will every Grand Slam title he shoots for from here on out will be a daunting task, but he’s also gotta be thinking: even if I do surpass Sampras, how long will I actually hold the record?

The world took a long time to embrace Roger as an all-time great. Let’s not make the same mistake with Rafa.

February honorable mentions: Santonio Holmes, Big East men’s basketball coaches, Nate Robinson, A-Rod’s cousin


Final thoughts on the UW basketball season

Thanks to my superiors at the Capital Times, I got to handle the Badgerbeat.com game blogs all season long for the Wisconsin men's basketball games. Even though their record was pretty despicable in games I blogged - at my count, the Badgers won just six of those 16 games, including the entire six-game losing streak - it was an unbelievable experience to cover the team in a completely different way; giving play-by-play updates and constant in-game commentary that was mostly knee-jerk based on what was going on in that moment. One of the coolest parts was seeing the comments from readers grow week by week, and they were not only very respectable but also had great insight on the team that I learned from. Throw in my responsibilities of conducting the post-game interviews with Cap Times columnist Mike Lucas - an old-school student of the game and an absolute stathead, always cool in my book - as well as my first IM basketball action (419ers, represent) and I felt like I learned so much about the game of basketball this winter.

Here's my basic take on the team this season: they missed Brian Butch and Mike Flowers more than people realize. I think it could be one hell of a debate in a newspaper or on "Sidelines" with Lucas and Tom Oates and Jeff Potrykus and those guys: which athlete caught more unnecessary flak during his playing days and was never appreciated for his truly astronomical value until after he graduated, John Stocco (UW quarterback, 2003-2006) or Butch (UW basketball center, 2003-2007)? Without Butch aka The Polar Bear, the team was way too small, and lacked a clutch-time scorer as well as an emotional spark-plug. And without his mentor Flowers, Trevon Hughes was a lone gun out there; a role player masquerading as "the" guy for the entire season. No offense to Pop, but he's not consistent enough to be the first, second and third option on the offensive end.

The scoring droughts absolutely killed this team's season, and the fact that the Badgers led late in 10 of their 13 losses speaks both to their offensive inefficiency and their obvious dropoff from the 2007-08 club that ranked tops in national defense. I think fans should be happy with the nice upset victory against Florida State that not only validated UW's place in the NCAA tournament, but also got the Badgers to 20 wins and made this a B-minus season and not something in C-ville.

Quick look-ahead to next year: look for that three-guard lineup to be a regular thing. Jordan Taylor will likely become the starting point guard, with Hughes and Jason Bohannon as the shooters. Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil will be the forwards, with Tim Jarmusz, Rob Wilson, and any mix of freshmen Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren and incomer Diamond Taylor rounding out the rotation.

Ben Voelkel of SportsBubbler.com thinks that the team I just outlined will be a top-15 squad in 2009-10. I say nay; still not enough offensive firepower, and the Big Ten is only gonna get better top to bottom. Love to hear what you guys think on this.


TNEA of the Month

This blog will be mostly reserved for just sports talk, but in the good name of many bloggers and ESPN writers before us (ahem, Matthew Berry), there's gotta be a little risque factor to Bucky and Boomer as well. So we're gonna start up a monthly feature, in which we pay our respects to some woman in the sports atmosphere that might have the goods and the gusto to one day take over Erin Andrews' current post as all-time sports goddess. Nothing against EA - we still love ya up in Wisco - but fads change more quickly than an orderly man's socks, so we must be prepared for Erin's understudy! I call it "The Next Erin Andrews of the Month", or "TNEA of the Month" for short. Well, for kind of short. TNEAOTM just looked weird.

March's nomination (how sad, it's just for a week) is a bit of an obvious one, since many people in both Colorado and Wisconsin know about her: Charissa Thompson, formerly of Fox Sports Rocky Mountain (the Rockies' sideline girl during the World Series season of 2007) and currently of the Big Ten Network and FSN's Best Damn Sports Show Period. She's an obvious choice in that, uh, she's clearly being groomed as one of the top up-and-comers to perhaps one day succeed EA as the loveliest sideline girl of them all. But nonetheless, she dons the first crown for this monthly honor. Check back on April 1st for April's nominee, and we promise you will not be disappointed.

Big Ten meets Big XII

This is the blog where B-dubs meets AJ. It's like a plethora of abbreviations and initials and all that jazz. Check it out later on for updated content on the Sooners, the Badgers, the Big Ten, the Big XII, the Broncos, the Cowboys, the Mavericks, the Nuggets, and pretty much everything else that has to do with a bouncing ball.