Friday, March 30, 2012

Final Four Preview

Greetings everyone... this is as simple as the title sounds... previewing the Final Four from New Orleans...
  • Louisville vs. Kentucky (-8.5) - 6:00 CBS - If you were following the media this week, you might think that the final four only had one game this year, and this is it. The hype machine is in full effect between a) the coaches, b) the in-state rivalry, and c) Kentucky being the #1 team. Kentucky is unequivocally the best team in the field this year with pure talent like Davis and MKG with depth that includes vets like Jones and Lamb. I don't fully trust a team that features freshmen as their best players, especially when that team is coached by John Calipari, who isn't exactly a great in-game coach. If Louisville defends like they usually do AND makes threes, they have a chance here, but if the best team shows up for Kentucky, they win going away.
  • Kansas vs. Ohio State (-2.5) - 8:49 CBS - This is the better game IMO. Let me say first that I believe that Ohio State is the better team. They have the better in-game coach in Matta, an elite big like Sullinger, veteran role players like Buford and Thomas, and the walking defensive x-factor that is Aaron Craft. Depth is an issue for Ohio State, and they do have trouble scoring when Buford doesn't have it going, but the consistency has been there. For Kansas, I love Robinson and think he's the best college player in the country this year. After that, Tyshawn Taylor is a veteran who's finally playing up to potential BUT he is 0-17 from three point land in the tournament, and has a pension for being terrible erratic. I think the key for Kansas (outside of Taylor) is whether Jeff Withey can stay on the court, as he brings a different look as a 7-footer to put next to Robinson. I'm going to close my eyes and pick Ohio State because I trust their vets more than Tyshawn Taylor, but nothing surprises me here.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3/28: Baseball! - Dodgers Sale & A Real, Live Game

Greetings everyone... before we get going, I want to remind you that there is a team-by-team 31-part (30 teams plus a wrap-up) MLB Preview for your consumption, so please check it out... let's go...
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers have been sold for $2 BILLION dollars. Yes, that's billion with a "B" and the new ownership group is headlined by Magic Johnson. That is an absolutely absurd amount of money that would be the new gold standard for franchise value, and although Magic isn't the controlling owner or the one making the day-to-day executives (former Braves president Stan Kasten is in the group and will be doing so), he brings the LA hype needed to push this thing. At any rate, it'll be great to have the Dodgers, one of the MLB's flagship franchises, run with some sort of competency, and nice to have them relevant again.
  • Real, live baseball! The Mariners and Athletics took to the field in Tokyo for a regular season game early this morning that saw the M's get a 2-1 win. This was a certified pitcher's duel with Felix Hernandez dealing (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 6 Ks) and Brandon McCarthy matching him (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 Ks), but it came down to the bullpens in extra inning, and the M's scratched out 2 runs in the top of 11th with a Brendan Ryan double followed by a Dustin Ackley single, and a subsequent RBI single from Ichiro after Ackley swiped second. Those runs proved to be enough after Brandon League slammed the door in the bottom half and that was that.
  • All four #1 seeds have reached the women's final four. Stop me if you've heard this before.
  • NBA Check - Monta Ellis and the new-look Bucks beat Atlanta in Milwaukee last night 108-101 with Ellis pouring in 33 points with 8 assists. Josh Smiff led the way with 30 and 18 (despite taking 10 jump shots) for Atlanta on a night where the Hawks played very effectively on offense with the exception of 21 turnovers. That was the difference. The T-Wolves continue to struggle since the Rubio injury, going down in a heap to Memphis on the road. Kevin Love had 28 and 11 but it wasn't enough to outlast all 5 starters in double-digits for the Grizz. Tim Duncan, just one game after being "DNP-Old" went off for 26 and 11 in 32 minutes for the Spurs in their win on the road in Phoenix. Doesn't seem like much, but the Suns had won 11 of 15 and to go on the road and win there without Splitter is nice. The Zombies got 32 and 8 from Russ Westbrook and 21 points on 7 field goal attempts from James Harden (absurd) to beat Portland in the Rose Garden. I won't discuss the Blazers for fear of assassination by my buddy, Ryan. And finally, the Lakers stole a win in Oakland 104-101 despite 13 of 37 from Kobe and Bynum and a second straight game with an inexplicable benching late (this time it was Bynum). The sideshows continue, but the Lakers continue to win in the Ramon Sessions era.

What to watch for on Wednesday...

  • NBA - Magic @ Knicks - ESPN 7:00 - No Amare for NY for an extended period of time but... that may actually help them with how poorly he's played.
  • NBA - Bulls @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - Derrick Rose may not go in this one, but all I can see are visions of that 40+ blow-out loss in Philips last year.
  • NBA - Spurs @ Kings - NBATV 10:00 - I can't think of a matchup more interesting than Tim Duncan and Demarcus Cousins.

Done and done...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Standings/Awards/Predictions

Greetings all... now that we've gone through all 30 teams (mercifully), here's a quick wrap of what I expect...


AL East
  1. NY Yankees 97-65
  2. Boston 90-72
  3. Tampa Bay 89-73
  4. Toronto 83-79
  5. Baltimore 67-95

AL Central

  1. Detroit 90-72
  2. Chicago White Sox 82-80
  3. Cleveland 77-85
  4. Minnesota 76-86
  5. Kansas City 74-88

AL West

  1. Texas 95-67
  2. LA Angels 93-69
  3. Seattle 69-93
  4. Oakland 66-96

NL East

  1. Philadelphia 91-71
  2. Atlanta 90-72
  3. Miami 85-77
  4. Washington 83-79
  5. NY Mets 75-87

NL Central

  1. St. Louis 87-75
  2. Cincinnati 86-76
  3. Milwaukee 82-80
  4. Pittsburgh 77-85
  5. Chicago Cubs 75-87
  6. Houston 59-103

NL West

  1. San Francisco 88-74
  2. Colorado 82-80
  3. Arizona 80-82
  4. LA Dodgers 77-85
  5. San Diego 75-87

Now that that is out of the way....

To the Awards!

  • NL MVP - Joey Votto, 1B Cincinnati
  • AL MVP - Albert Pujols, 1B LA Angels
  • NL Rookie of the Year - Zack Cozart, SS Cincinnati (There are at least 5 guys in the AL I'd rather pick FWIW)
  • AL Rookie of the Year - Matt Moore, SP Tampa Bay
  • NL Cy Young - Zack Greinke, Milwaukee
  • AL Cy Young - Dan Haren, LA Angels
  • NL Break-out Pitcher - Madison Bumgarner, SP San Francisco
  • NL Break-out Hitter - Jason Heyward, OF Atlanta (not a homer pick, I promise)
  • AL Break-out Pitcher - Derek Holland, SP Texas
  • AL Break-out Hitter - Eric Hosmer, 1B Kansas City
  • NL Fantasy Sleeper (High-end) - Hanley Ramirez (big bounce-back year)
  • NL Fantasy Sleeper (Deeper) - Mike Minor
  • AL Fantasy Sleeper (High-end) - Kevin Youkilis
  • AL Fantasy Sleeper (Deeper) - Danny Duffy (KC Pitcher)

5 Predictions sure to go wrong...

  1. Jason Heyward will hit 30 home runs, post an OBP of .400, and an OPS of .900.
  2. Matt Moore and Stephen Strasburg will lead their respective leagues in strikeouts per inning (for Starting Pitchers).
  3. The Astros won't employ a single "average"-or-better major league player by the end of 2012.
  4. Andy Pettitte will make more starts for the Yankees than Phil Hughes will.
  5. Someone from the AL West will win the World Series.

Quick playoff picks...

  • AL Wild Card Play-in - LA Angels over Boston
  • NL Wild Card Play-in - Atlanta over Cincy
  • ALDS - Angels over Yankees, Rangers over Tigers
  • NLDS - Phillies over Cardinals, Giants over Braves
  • ALCS - Angels over Rangers
  • NLCS - Phillies over Giants
  • World Series - Angels over Phillies

Enjoy it everyone... Hope springs eternal!

2012 MLB Preview #30: Philadelphia Phillies

Greetings... wrapping things up team-wise with the hated Phillies...


C - Carlos Ruiz
1B - Ryan Howard* (injured), Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome
2B - Chase Utley* (injured), Ty Wigginton, Freddy Galvis
SS - Jimmy Rollins
3B - Placido Polanco
LF - John Mayberry Jr., Juan Pierre/Laynce Nix
CF - Shane Victorino
RF - Hunter Pence

Not the best installment of this lineup at the moment (and that warms my heart). The traditional "big three" for the Phillies has been Howard/Utley/Rollins, but with Howard recovering from a torn achilles (and declining in skill anyway), and Utley out for the opener, at least, with a degenerative knee condition, Rollins is the only one standing. I think we can pencil in Ryan Howard for his typical numbers post-injury, hitting .245-.265 with nice power, and absolutely no productivity vs. lefties, and Utley always hits and is a fantastic baserunner, but that's a lot to replace. Rollins isn't the former MVP that he used to be, but still posted 16 homers with solid splits and 30 steals last year. The two actual best offensive players on this team reside in the outfield with Victorino and Pence. Victorino had the best year of his career last year, hitting 16 homers, swiping 19 bags, and posting an .847 OPS with good outfield defense, while Pence mashed to the tune of 11 homers in 54 games with Philly (.954 OPS) and 22 homers with an .871 OPS for the year combined. Mayberry is a key to this team for me as a guy who really, really hit last year in limited ABs (15 homers in under 300 ABs), but who is poised for everyday playing time for the first time at age 27. Carlos Ruiz is an above-average catcher at this point, and Polanco, while dreadful last year, still sports a lifetime average north of .300. The depth behind Utley and Howard is key early. Ty Wigginton has shown that he's got big-time major-league power in previous years, but he's a minus defensively at 1st and he's horrendous at 2B, while Thome can still mash righties, but hasn't played defense in YEARS and would be better off as a pure bench bat in a non-DH league. This lineup isn't what gets them this prediction.

Starting Rotation

1 - Roy Halladay
2 - Cliff Lee
3 - Cole Hamels
4 - Vance Worley
5 - Joe Blanton/Kyle Kendrick

The single reason why I'm picking the Phillies to win the NL East is the triumvirate of pitching. Roy Halladay is still the pitcher I'd most like to have on my staff (with apologies to Verlander and Kershaw) because of his insane consistency. He's posted a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the past 4 seasons, 220+ innings in the last 6 straight seasons, and easily has the highest pitcher WAR over that timeframe. The best in the business. After that, things don't slow down much. Cliff Lee has been ridiculous since 2008, culminating in last year's 2.40 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.2 K-rate season that was somehow overshadowed by Halladay. Lee is an elite guy in his own right, and should be treated as such. Oh, and if Cole Hamels is your #3, you're in pretty darn good shape. Hamels put up a career-best 2.79 ERA in 32 starts last year with a sub-1.00 WHIP and 216 innings. Beast-mode. After that (mercifully) it gets a little more dicey. Vance Worley had tremendous numbers as a rookie (3.01 ERA in 131 innings) but the underlying numbers suggest there's big-time regression coming, and the only question is how much. The 5th spot is a battle between older/mediocre/consistent in Joe Blanton (5.01 ERA in 11 starts last year, 4.32 career) and younger/better stuff/wildly inconsistent in Kyle Kendrick who actually had a good year last year when he posted a 3.22 ERA, but much of that was from the bullpen, and he's always capable of a blow-up (see his 4.73 ERA from the previous year). At any rate, this is an elite staff simply because the top-3 are better than everyone else's, even when you include top staffs like San Francisco or LA Anaheim.


The single most puzzling signing of the off-season to me was Jonathan Papelbon's $50 million deal with the Phillies. That's twice in 3 years that they've done the "most inexplicable" item when you remember the ludicrous Ryan Howard deal, but if we look at it purely baseball-wise, Papelbon is a nice closer. He had 31 saves with a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP while pitching in the AL East last year, and should be an above-average option, at least in year one. Antonio Bastardo was dominant last year in a set-up role and he returns to anchor that role once again. After that, it gets kind of ugly in a hurry with guys like Michael Stutes, Chad Qualls, and the ageless wonder that is Jose Contreras. If they can win a title with Brad Lidge, anything's possible.


91-71, 1st in NL East

Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #29: Atlanta Braves

Greetings... this one might be a little longer for obvious reasons...

Lineup (with bench included in italics because, well, it's the Braves)

C - Brian McCann, David Ross
1B - Freddie Freeman
2B - Dan Uggla
SS - Tyler Pastornicky (or Andrelton Simmons, somehow), Jack Wilson
3B - Chipper Jones (injured)
LF - Martin Prado, Eric Hinske, Matt Diaz
CF - Michael Bourn, Jose Constanza (or Jordan Parraz)
RF - Jason Heyward

If I had to pick any catcher in the Major Leagues for 2012, I'd choose Brian McCann. An OPS of .817 with 24 homers in 466 ABs last year and that even includes the dreadful performance post-injury. He's 100% healthy to start the year, and he's been the best catcher in the league consistency-wise since he arrived in 2006. Pencil him in for .280/.360/.490 with solid defense and run with it. If you add in the best back-up catcher in the league (undisputed) in David Ross (over .800 OPS with great defense the last 3 years), the Braves have unquestionably assembled the best combo in the league at that spot. At first, Freddie Freeman looks to duplicate (or increase) his solid production as a rookie. Freeman posted 21 homers and a .795 OPS in his debut campaign, but really came on in the second half, and showed the promise he was billed with. Pundits are widely ranged on his defensive prowess, but he's proven to be excellent in the "scoop" category, and while his range lacks a bit, he's average overall at worst IMO. With his spry legs, I'd expect 150+ starts again this year, and if he goes down, he'll likely be spelled by Eric Hinske for the most part. Dan Uggla had one of the worst half-seasons in baseball last year in the 1st half, but went nuts late. He hit .185 with a .621 OPS in the first half, and .296 with a .948 OPS in the second half, and while neither is his true self (career .258 average, .824 OPS), he's certainly not the player he was in the first half. I think we can reasonably expect 30 homers with an .800+ OPS and while the defense is below-average (at best), it's mitigated by the huge power from that power-starved position. Shortstop is a disaster area. I absolutely loved the Jack Wilson signing for a defensive-minded backup at both 3rd and shortstop, but he's already injured, and the starting spot that we all assumed was being handed to Tyler Pastornicky is in flux. Andrelton Simmons has flashed his plus-glove in the Spring Training and Fredi Gonzalez is reportedly enamored to the point where he's being considered for the opening day starter role there. Keep this in mind, Simmons hit for a .759 OPS in class A last year. Class A! He's never been known for his bat, but could be a disaster area in the pros if played right now, and Pastornicky posted a near-.800 mark in AA and AAA combined last year. While he's not the same glove, I think it's reasonable to assume Pastornicky wouldn't murder the lineup if placed in it every day, and Simmons doesn't bring that expectation. Give me Tyler. At 3rd, we have the legend that is Chipper Jones. As of this writing, he's already torn his meniscus and will be sidelined for a month or so (at least). If he's in the lineup, he still produces (18 homers, .814 OPS in 2011), but he's far below average defensively at this stage, and him being on the field is far from a guarantee. If he's out for long stretches, look for a Prado move to 3B (with some Jack Wilson sprinkled in when healthy) with a Hinske/Diaz platoon in Left Field.

Speaking of the outfield, it's in better shape than this time last year. Martin Prado had a miserable 2011 headlined by a staph infection that seemed to hamper him for months, and a dreadful .687 OPS. I think he's more of the guy who went .307/.350/.459 in 2011 than he was last year, and that should surface. His positional flexibility is huge with the aforementioned Chipper injury issues, but when Chipper plays, Prado is clearly the best left field candidate. A full season of Michael Bourn will be a God-send. His power is non-existent, but he hit .294 with a .349 OBP combined between Houston and Atlanta last year, and with his excellent defense and 50-60 steal potential, he's a real asset, posting 4+ WAR each of the last 2 years. And then there's Jason Heyward. Clearly the X-factor of the entire roster IMO, and after his breakout rookie campaign that saw him go for a .393 OBP with .849 OPS, he regressed to just over .700 OPS and his walk-rate declined. A couple points need be made. He was awful by HIS standards in 2011, but he still took 51 walks in 456 plate appearances, posted an OPS higher than Martin Prado's and played gold-glove level defense in right field while posting a 2.0 WAR which was good for 3rd-best among position players behind McCann and Jones. The guy is a very good player and even if he hits half-way between his 2010 and 2011 numbers, he'll be highly productive. That said, I think he goes for north of 20 homers with an OBP approaching .400 and an OPS over .800. Call me crazy. Backing up the forces in the outfield is the combination of Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske, and either Jose Constanza or Jordan Parraz (undecided at time of posting). Neither Diaz or Hinkse is even average defensively, but both can hit when platooned with Hinske at a .796 OPS career vs. righties and Diaz with an .874 career OPS vs. lefties. Both are uninspiring but if Fredi uses them correctly (big if), both could be useful. The Constanza/Parraz battle hopefully shouldn't matter a ton with Bourn and Heyward being healthy, but it's an interesting one. Constanza took PA's from Heyward inexplicably last year after a hot, unsustainable start, but is a guy who can't hit at all (career .720 OPS in the minors!) and isn't even a good defender despite his high-end speed. Parraz has always hit in the minors, but Fredi is a Constanza guy so I'd be surprised if he went that direction. There you have it.

Starting Rotation

1 - Tim Hudson (injured, to be replaced by Teheran and/or Delgado)
2 - Tommy Hanson
3 - Brandon Beachy
4 - Mike Minor
5 - Jair Jurrjens

Depth is the word. The best pitcher on the staff in 2011 was Tim Hudson, and I'd expect that to continue in 2012 once he is back from his surgery (probably early May). Hudson has exceeded 215 innings with great ERAs (2.83 then 3.22) the past two seasons, has a tremendous resume, and should be penciled into the #1 slot when healthy. After that, there is depth... and question marks. Tommy Hanson has an unbelievable combination of stuff, pedigree, and even major league numbers. He has a career 3.28 ERA in 77 starts (460 innings) with a K-rate of nearly 9 and great peripherals. That said, he's been quite streaky at times, and he's coming off a fairly serious shoulder injury that anyone watching his delivery had always feared. If he's healthy and right, he's an ace, but if not, there could be issues. Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy surfaced last year to different results. Beachy was fantastic in 25 starts after beating Minor out in Spring last year and he put up a 3.68 ERA with a K-rate over 10 (absurd) and a 1.21 WHIP. I think he profiles as a high-end starter and there's no reason to think he'll regress this year with increased role. The only complaint with Beachy was his inability to go deep into games, but that's partially on the manager IMO, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't addressed in year two. Minor struggled a bit at times, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a putrid 1.49 WHIP. His inability to go deep into games was more a product of bad control (3.3 walks per 9), but he did post a nice K-rate, and his peripheral numbers show some unlucky tendencies to his stats from 2011. Oh, and then there's Jair Jurrjens. In full disclosure, I think I'm the lowest on Jurrjens of any Braves "fans" I know, but I don't trust him. Yes, he was absolutely tremendous in the 1st half last year with a 1.87 ERA, but the peripherals show that was wildly lucky, and his ERA jumped to 5.88 post-break. I don't think either one of those is his profile, but his inability to miss bats (6 strikeouts per 9) contributes to his inconsistency. His FIP (fielding-independent pitching) was almost a full run higher than his ERA last year, and that shows it's likely unsustainable. With all things equal, I'd expect an ERA in the high 3's and that's perfectly fine for a mid-rotation guy. Give me that and I'll run with it. The battle for the 5-spot in Hudson's absence is between Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado and it's a fairly simple one. Teheran is the uber-prospect of the two but has struggled more in spring (including an outing where he surrended 6 homers in one start) and Delgado is likely more "ready" to pitch immediately. I'd like to see Teheran get the nod for the long-term but with no margin for error, I'd be surprised if it wasn't Delgado to be honest.


Craig Kimbrel anchors the back-end of the bullpen coming off one of the most dominant closer seasons in recent memory. His 14.8 strikeouts per 9 is legendary, but he followed it up with a 2.10 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and a 4-to-1 strikeout to walk rate after failing with his control the prior year. I'd project him as a top-3 closer in baseball if Fredi doesn't throw his arm out by July. Jonny Venters was the best set-up man in baseball last year as well, throwing an absurd 88 innings of 1.84 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10 strikeouts per nine, and when you add in Eric O'Flaherty's 73 innings of sub-1.00 ERA (sub 1!), it was the best trio in the majors. The workload concerns are real with how often Fredi puts them in low-leverage situations and/or gets them up for additional warm-up sessions, so it's difficult to pencil in similar numbers, especially in the case of O'Flaherty whose peripherals don't show that these levels are sustainable. That being said, this is an elite back-end of the bullpen barring disaster. After that, the set-up crew took a hit with the Tommy John surgery for expected 6th-7th inning guy Arodys Vizcaino, but the Cristhian Martinez/Kris Medlen duo seems ready for action (with Medlen being a lefty "specialist" as a righty due to his change-up). The Braves will also rely on Anthony Varvaro and Cory Gearrin to get outs, but with the disaster that was Proctor (and Linebrink at times) last year, anything will be an upgrade barring a complete blow-up. One of the best units in the major leagues.


90-72, 2nd in NL East, #1 Wild Card Spot

2012 MLB Preview #28: Miami Marlins

Greetings all... Ozzie-ball returns, and brings a new team name and logo with him....


C - John Buck
1B - Gaby Sanchez
2B - Omar Infante
SS - Jose Reyes
3B - Hanley Ramirez
LF - Logan Morrison
CF - Emilio Bonafacio/Chris Coghlan
RF - Giancarlo Stanton

Suddenly a really, really interesting lineup. The acquisition of Reyes is a huge one, coming off a season where he was tremendous before getting hurt down the stretch. The contract is another issue, but if you have him in the lineup, it only helps. Hanley moves to 3B coming off his worst season, but I expect a bounce-back and all reports are that he's in tremendous shape. I'd bank on a return to 30/30 type of production. The outfield is young and interesting. Stanton is a bonafide star in the making after 34 homers and a near .900 OPS, Morrison hit 23 homers in just 123 games, and Bonafacio stole 40 bases and hit nearly .300 in 500 ABs. The right side of the infield doesn't inspire great awe with Sanchez being solid (.779 OPS) but uninspiring from a 1B position that should bring power, and Infante's utility value being wasted as an everyday, soft-hitting starter.

Starting Rotation

1 - Josh Johnson
2 - Anibal Sanchez
3 - Ricky Nolasco
4 - Mark Buehrle
5 - Carlos Zambrano

Another really interesting unit. Josh Johnson is an elite-plus starter with HUGE injury risk with that recurring shoulder issue. If he's right and healthy, he's a top-10 guy, and if he's hurt, that's a huge loss. Sanchez had the best year of his career in 2011 with a 3.67 ERA in 196 innings, and when you had Buehrle's wild consistency to that, that's pretty solid. Nolasco is an enigma with tons of talent, but his K-rate plummeted last year and his ERA was near 5. Zambrano is a pure flier at this point coming off the "retirement" but if he's good, that's a far-above-average 5th starter.


Heath Bell sounds better on paper than in real life, but he's still an MLB closer and they could be worse there. Mike Dunn and Edward Mujica bring value from each side of the rubber, and this is a unit that should be mostly average if Bell can keep himself to form after leaving Petco.


85-77, 3rd in NL East

2012 MLB Preview #27: Washington Nationals

Greetings... let's hit the suddenly-trendy Nats....


C - Wilson Ramos
1B - Adam LaRoche
2B - Danny Espinosa
SS - Ian Desmond
3B - Ryan Zimmerman
LF - Michael Morse
CF - Roger Bernadina/Rick Ankiel
RF - Jayson Werth

Really interesting lineup here. The Nats are getting more and more buzz, but it's really centered around the starting rotation and Bryce Harper, neither of which reflects here. Zimmerman is the stud in this lineup but with yet another season of injuries (395 ABs, 101 games), his above-average production is certainly curbed a bit. Morse was last year's breakout guy with 31 homers and a .910 OPS, but he's currently injured and may miss the season opener, coupled with the "one year wonder" tag and that's a concern. Outside of that? Eesh. Werth is violently overpaid and was pretty awful last year (hitting .232 with barely .700 OPS), Desmond's OPS still hasn't climbed into decency, LaRoche is league average at best, and there isn't much else. If they make headway, it won't be because of this lineup most likely.

Starting Rotation

1 - Stephen Strasburg
2 - Jordan Zimmerman
3 - Gio Gonzalez
4 - Edwin Jackson
5 - John Lannan

Here's the highlight of the squad. Strasburg is a guy that everyone knows about, but his numbers are so staggering that they're worth mentioning again. 4 earned runs in 24 innings at the end of last year with a strikeout per inning, and he's still got the elite-elite-elite stuff that landed him the biggest draft contract in history. Pencil him in for ridiculous numbers. Zimmerman broke-out last year with an ERA of 3.18 and a WHIP of 1.15, and I expect that to continue even more this year now that he's off the 160 innings limit. Gonzalez throw 202 innings of 3.12 ERA ball in Oakland last year, and while he goes from the AL to the NL, the ballpark change probably doesn't help him and the advanced metrics don't say he's quite as good as his numbers state. Jackson is nothing special, but they got him for cheap, he'll eat innings, and if you keep expectations down, he'll fine. Lannan is the wild-card but he posted a sub-4.00 ERA in 33 starts last year, and if that's your 5th starter, you are just fine.


Drew Storen is a beast at closer. Tyler Clippard is a beast in the set-up role. Outside of that, I do like Sean Burnett, but the periphery guys are uninspiring. Either way, you can't screw it up with Storen and Clippard in the 7th through 9th.


83-79, 4th in NL East

2012 MLB Preview #26: New York Mets

Greetings... the lowly Mets...


C - Jose Thole
1B - Ike Davis
2B - Daniel Murphy
SS - Ruben Tejada
3B - David Wright
LF - Jason Bay
CF - Andres Torres
RF - Lucas Duda

If everything came together, this wouldn't be an awful lineup. That's about all I can say. David Wright is still a superstar but his injuries are mounting, and I'm not sure what to expect from him production-wise and in terms of games played. I like Ike Davis a lot but his .900+ OPS from last year has a pretty big asterisk of sample size with his injury history. Daniel Murphy is a career .292 with a couple years of over .300 who finally gets an everyday job at 2B, and he's going to hit. There's a reason that Bay got the massive contract, but he's failed (miserably) in the first couple of years, and they need him to at least hit 20 homers or so. The Pagan/Torres swap is pretty neutral for both teams, and Torres is average in center. Duda mashed down the stretch last year (.852 OPS, 10 homers in 300 ABS) but there's some batting average concern to go along with that power. Good luck.

Starting Rotation

1 - Johan Santana*
2 - Mike Pelfrey
3 - Jon Niese
4 - RA Dickey
5 - Dillon Gee

It's all about Santana. He didn't throw a single pitch in 2011, but he's always very good when he's actually pitching, and he's expected to start 2012 healthy. If he's right, he's an anchor and a 4 or 5-win player (at least), but if he isn't, this rotation is beyond ordinary. Pelfrey, Niese, and Gee all posted ERA's between 4.40 and 4.80 and none are impressive in any way. Dickey was the bright spot in 2011 posting a 3.28 ERA in 200+ innings, but as the only starting knuckle-baller in the majors, it's certainly far from a sure bet that he returns that type of value in 2012.


Kind of a mess here. Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Bobby Parnell are the 3 closer candidates, and none are overly impressive. Francisco is the best pitcher of the 3 but has a long injury history, Rauch is good at times and bad at times, and Parnell has 100 MPH stuff, but has never done it before, and is wildly inconsistent. After that, Manny Acosta and Ramon Ramirez! Yahoo!


75-87, 5th in NL East

3/26: Final Four Set, Tiger, etc.

Greetings all...
  • The Final Four is set. Kentucky dismantled Baylor 82-70 thanks to 18 points, 11 boards and 6 blocks from Anthony Davis and 19 points from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The biggest difference though? Kentucky shot 53% from the field while holding the Bears to just 39%. Kentucky is the best team in the country, and if they play at their optimal level, they won't lose. In the other game, Kansas outlasted undermanned UNC 80-67. Tyshawn Taylor beat up on the depleted UNC backcourt with 22 points, 6 boards, 5 dimes, and 5 steals while Thomas Robinson added 18 and 9 for the Jayhawks. For UNC, I was impressed with James Michael McAdoo (15 points in 19 minutes), but they never had a chance with their backcourt as it was and Tyshawn Taylor going. On to New Orleans...
  • Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event yesterday. That barely moved the meter in previous years because he won so much, but with his first win in about 30 months and the Masters two weeks away, this is huge news. A 5-shot victory in a pretty nice field at Bay Hill shows me that he's on the verge, and in Augusta, he's always the favorite until otherwise noted.
  • NBA Check - The Hawks and Jazz played the first 4-OT game in the league since 1997 and the Hawks won the crazy game 139-133. Joe Johnson had 37 points (in 55 minutes), while Zaza Pachulia had 15 points and 20 rebounds (career-high) to anchor the front-court. Crazy game. OKC pounded Miami in the battle of West vs. East last night, and Durant's 29/9/8 led the way for the Zombies. It's pretty scary for Miami that OKC did this on a night when Westbrook shot just 4 of 16, but let's be careful to not overreact on one regular season game. Kevin Love threw up a ho-hum 30 points and 21 boards in Minnesota's 117-100 win over Denver at home. And finally, the Lakers dropped a rare home tilt to Memphis despite Andrew Bynum's 30 points. Couple weird things here with Bynum notching just 4 boards in 41 minutes, Kobe being "benched", and Memphis with 7 guys in double-figures. Madness.

What to watch for on Monday...

  • NBA - Nuggets @ Bulls - 8:00 NBATV - Really nice matchup here as Denver always brings the entertainment value at the very least.
  • NBA - Hornets @ Clippers - 10:30 NBATV - The Chris Paul Bowl!


2012 MLB Preview #25: St. Louis Cardinals

Greetings all... let's hit the NL Central favorites and the defending champs...


C - Yadier Molina
1B - Lance Berkman
2B - Tyler Greene/Daniel Descalso
SS - Rafael Furcal
3B - David Freese
LF - Matt Holliday
CF - Jon Jay/Carlos Beltran
RF - Carlos Beltran/Allen Craig

Albert Pujols isn't walking through that door. Let's get this out of the way now because it obviously looms over everything. Is he a huge loss? Yes, of course he is, but this is still an above-average lineup.... if health is there. Molina just signed an extremely "premium" contract at $15 million a year, and while he's overpaid, he's great defensively and posted an OPS over .800 last year. Berkman was fantastic in 2011 (.959 OPS, 31 homers) and while health is far from certain and age is a factor, if he can come near that production playing 1B exclusively this year, that's nice. Matt Holliday is an elite player that you never hear about, posting a .900+ OPS yet again last year, and he's banged up a bit usually, but is good for big numbers when he's in there. The big keys? Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran. Both guys are above-average at their positions when healthy (and Beltran is far above-average), but both guys have long injury track records, and in Furcal's case, there is little behind him. Allen Craig provides Beltran insurance, but health is a big key for him as well. If all goes well? Darn good lineup, but if the injury bug hits, look out.

Starting Rotation

1 - Adam Wainwright
2 - Chris Carpenter*
3 - Jaime Garcia
4 - Kyle Lohse
5 - Jake Westbrook/Lance Lynn/Kyle McClellan

Speaking of injuries, here we are. Adam Wainwright is a top-10 pitcher when he's right, and while he's coming off Tommy John surgery, he's looked dominant in Spring, and if he's 100%, he's elite. Carpenter is definitely injured for early in the year, but the concern is that a timetable has yet to be determined for his return. He's an upper-echelon guy when he's in there, and they need him. Garcia posted a 3.56 ERA last year and was even better than that early before faltering a bit late, and he's a nice #3 option, Lohse is a solid veteran at the back-end, and the trio battling for the 5 spot won't be good, but Westbrook is solid and Lynn has upside.


Now that Tony LaRussa has moved on, the Cards will finally go with Jason Motte as their closer. He's got elite stuff, has showed what he can do in the postseason, and should be solid in the role. He's flanked by Fernando Salas, Mitchell Boggs, and either Lynn or McClellan (or both), and that's a pretty nice back-end in terms of options.


87-75, 1st in NL Central

Sunday, March 25, 2012

3/25: Half of the Final Four is Set

Greetings all... lots to get to...
  • Louisville is your first Final Four team. After trailing by 8 at the half and by double-digits in the 2nd frame, the Cardinals made a furious comeback keyed by Russ Smith's 19 points in 22 minutes and put Florida away. The final sequence saw a Freshman mistake from Bradley Beal (on the traveling violation) and back-to-back missed triples from Beal and Kenny Boynton to seal the win for Louisville. When you only commit 6 turnovers, good things happen.
  • Ohio State is joining Louisville in New Orleans. Another tight, well-played game here that saw Jared Sullinger ice the game at the line late, and the OSU starters going for 69 of their 77 points. I think the better team won this matchup from what I saw of it, and Syracuse's inability to rebound (getting hammered 37 to 22 on the glass) ultimately did them in IMO.
  • Tiger Woods has a 54-hole lead in a PGA tour event. Bay Hill is a course that he owns, and I'd be shocked if he blew this lead. Oh, and I'm openly rooting for him to throw up a 65 and run away with it.
  • Former Falcon LB Curtis Lofton has signed a 5-year deal..... with the dreaded Saints. The money must've been right to walk into that disaster area at the moment, but the Falcons clearly lowballed him (still against this move) and he's a tackling machine that is certainly an above-average player at his position. Good luck to him.
  • Baseball! Well, at least a couple injury looks. Chipper Jones is already hurt. Yes, the legend tore his meniscus while STRETCHING and will be out 4 weeks at least. They claim that he'll play in the home opener, but I'm skeptical. There are too many jokes to pick one here. And in worse news, Cincy closer Ryan Madson is set to have Tommy John. He's on a 1-year deal after Boras botched his free agency, and this is so brutal for that guy.
  • NBA Check - The Hawks came from 16 down to win in Washington. That's not a "good" win, but road wins are road wins, and it's nice to see Marvin Williams (13 points in 25 minutes) play well. The Clippers are reportedly "behind" Vinny Del Negro (which I don't believe) and they went out and beat Memphis at home last night. Blake Griffin led the way with 20 and 10 while CP3 added 13 dimes. Klay Thompson notched a career-high 31 points for Golden State, and his efforts led GWS to a win over Sacto despite Demarcus Cousins throwing up a 28/18. He's a man. And finally, Indiana hung 125 on a normally good-defending Milwaukee team... on the road! George Hill sparked the high-scoring play with 24 off the bench, but 7 guys had 8 points or more for the Pacers.
What to watch for on Sunday...
  • Elite 8 Games! - Baylor vs. Kentucky (2:20 CBS) is the appetizer, and I like Kentucky in a rout (as previewed yesterday), and Kansas vs. UNC (5:00 CBS) is the main course, pitting 2 of the top 5 historical programs in the land. Big-time stuff.
  • Golf - Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational) - 2:30 NBC - Something to flick to on commercials if Tiger has it going. Eldrick!
  • NBA - Suns @ Cavs - 3:00 NBATV - If you like the NBA that much more than college hoops.
  • NBA - Jazz @ Hawks - 6:00 SportSouth - Pretty nice match up here, and Al Jefferson's offensive game is worth the price of admission.
  • NBA - Heat @ Thunder - 8:00 ESPN - Clearly the highlight of the NBA day as this one pits (IMO) the best two teams in the league against each other in front of that ridiculous OKC crowd. Must-see.
  • NBA - Grizz @ Lakers - 10:30 ESPN - Front-court battle worth watching. Gasol vs. Bynum.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #24: Cincinnati Reds

Greetings all... we're getting closer...


C - Ryan Hanigan/Devin Mesoraco
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Brandon Phillips
SS - Zack Cozart
3B - Scott Rolen
LF - Chris Heisey/Ryan Ludwick
CF - Drew Stubbs
RF - Jay Bruce

I really like this lineup. Joey Votto is the best player that no one outside of baseball circles talks about. He hit .300+ again with 29 homers and an OPS near 1.000 with above-average defense, and without a peep. Phillips and Bruce are both highly above-average players at their positions with Phillips hitting .300 with 18 homers and 14 steals from weak-hitting 2nd base, and Bruce blasting off with 32 homers even in a down year for him. I think the lineup swings with Drew Stubbs. The former uber-prospect did hit 15 homers and stole 40 bases last year, but did so with just a .243 average and sub -.700 OPS, and he'll need to at least hit for more power if he continues to have his average in that range. Heisey's 18 homers in 120 games were enough to guarantee him the everyday job in left field for a while, so the only true "battle" is at catcher between Hanigan (proven but mediocre) and Mesoraco (uber-prospect). Oh, and Scott Rolen is Scott Rolen.

Starting Rotation

1 - Johnny Cueto
2 - Mat Latos
3 - Bronson Arroyo
4 - Homer Bailey
5 - Mike Leake/Aroldis Chapman

It gets more interesting here. Cueto is coming off of his best season as a pro with a 2.31 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 24 starts last year, but there is always injury risk with him, and he needs to be there to anchor things. They spent a lot to get Mat Latos via trade (ridding themselves of Yander Alonso) from San Diego, and they'll expect him to transition from pitcher-friendly Petco to hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark without totally falling apart. Arroyo allowed a literally-impossible FORTY-SIX home runs last year in posting an ERA around 5, but that can't possibly repeat itself (can it?) and he's usually a fine middle-of-the-rotation guy. Bailey used to be a huge prospect, but has settled in as a league-average type guy who eats some innings, and they have a potential battle between the proven but unimpressive Mike Leake, and the absolutely electric Aroldis Chapman for the #5 spot. Worth keeping an eye on.


Ryan Madson was inked to replace Francisco Cordero, and I like that move. Madson was tremendous last year in Philly, and they stole him thanks to an over-pricing from Scott Boras. He'll save 35+ this year. After that, Sean Marshall was brought in to set-up and he's coming off an elite year in Chicago. Add in a potential Aroldis Chapman set-up role and guys like Nick Masset with high upside, and this could be an elite bullpen.


86-76, 2nd in NL Central, #2 Wild Card Spot

2012 MLB Preview #23: Milwaukee Brewers

Greetings all... this is a different Brewers team...


C - Jonathan Lucroy
1B - Mat Gamel
2B - Rickie Weeks
SS - Alex Gonzalez
3B - Aramis Ramirez
LF - Ryan Braun
CF - Nyjer Morgan/Carlos Gomez
RF - Corey Hart

Gone is Prince Fielder, but don't write off this offense just yet. Ryan Braun had the massive steroid controversy in the off-season, but let's not forget that a) he's not suspended, and b) he was the MVP of the National League for a reason. He had a ridiculous .332/.397/.597 slash line with 33 homers and 33 steals in 2011. That's obscene, and there's no reason to suspect much regression. Fielder's bat will certainly be missed, but the signing of Aramis Ramirez should help make up a bit of the difference. Aramis has been a much better player in Wrigley Field than on the road in the past few seasons, but he's still posted a career .842 OPS, and hit 26 homers in 149 games in 2011. There are certainly some question marks, too, however. Corey Hart is an above-average player, but always has injury risk, Nyjer Morgan is a complete psychopath in center field (I'm not overstating that), and they have no idea what they're getting from Mat Gamel at 1st. Rickie Weeks can be penciled in for elite 2nd-base production when he's in the lineup, but he only played 118 games last year, and sadly, that's not far off his normal output in games played.

Starting Rotation

1 - Zack Greinke
2 - Yovani Gallardo
3 - Shaun Marcum
4 - Randy Wolf
5 - Chris Narveson

This is one of the better top trios in the Major Leagues. Greinke had a "down" year in 2011 with an ERA of 3.71, but he posted ridiculous strikeout numbers (10.7 per 9), and his peripherals show that he was egregiously unlucky. I expect an ERA around 3 with 220 K's and #1 starter output. Gallardo struck out a batter per inning and posted an ERA of 3.5 to establish himself fully over an entire season, and I absolutely love Marcum. Wolf is league-average at worst and a decent 4th option, and while Narveson is kind of bad (4.45 ERA), I'm not sure he's anything but average as a 5th guy, and you'll take that.


John Axford and K-Rod form a really nice back-end of the bullpen, and that can't be ignored. I'm not sure I fully believe in Axford, but there's no denying his numbers and he's penciled in. After those two however? Kameron Loe is the closest thing to a guy I trust, and that's scary.


82-80, 3rd in NL Central

2012 MLB Preview #22: Pittsburgh Pirates

Greetings... remember when the Pirates were a complete joke?... Not so anymore...


C - Rod Barajas
1B - Garrett Jones/Casey McGehee
2B - Neil Walker
SS - Clint Barmes
3B - Pedro Alvarez/Casey McGehee
LF - Alex Presley/Nate McLouth
CF - Andrew McCutchen
RF - Jose Tabata

There are holes, and there is upside. Andrew McCutchen is already an elite player with an .820 OPS, 23 homers, 23 steals and world-class D out in center field. He's a monster. After that, it gets a little more dicey. Guys like Tabata, Presley and Garrett Jones have shown flashes, but none has produced at a big-time level in the majors. Neil Walker is a nice bat at second base, but nothing special, and the veterans (Barajas and Barmes) are major-league options, but nothing to write home about. The big key? Pedro Alvarez. The former 1st-round pick hit just .191 in 235 major league AB's last year in his first real campaign, and after rumors of 40-homer potential, that was a tough pill to swallow. If they are going to remotely challenge for a spot in the September races, he needs to mash.

Starting Rotation

1 - Erik Bedard
2 - James McDonald
3 - Jeff Karstens
4 - Kevin Correia
5 - Charlie Morton

One of the weirder staffs in the entire major leagues. Bedard is always good when he actually pitches. Career 3.70 ERA with nearly as many K's as innings, and elite stuff when he has it going. The problem? The last time he wasn't hurt for a large part of the season was 2007 in Baltimore, and he's only made 30 starts once in his career (2006). If he's healthy, he's really good, if he's not, he doesn't help you. McDonald has the best stuff of the rest, and after a brutal start to 2011, he rebounded nicely with a sub-4.00 ERA in the 2nd half. Karstens, Correia, and Morton all overachieved with respect to their career marks last year, but at least one case (Morton) can be explained by wholesale changes to his repertoire. Nobody scares you here outside of Bedard when he's right, but no one is downright awful.


Joel Hanrahan had a tremendous year in 2011 (1.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8 Ks per 9, 40 saves) and looks to recapture that magic again. They have a very good set-up man in Evan Meek and Chris Resop heads up the rest. The long guys get pretty ugly, but if they can get production from Hanrahan and Meek like in 2011, they'll be semi-decent.


77-85, 4th in NL Central

Elite 8 Quick Picks

Greetings! My apologies everyone.. traveling this weekend with little access, but here's who I like in the Elite 8 games...
  • Florida over Louisville - I'm not a fan of either team to be honest, but Florida has more consistent offense, and while I think Louisville is the better defensive team, I don't think they can hold all of their guards down for 40 minutes. The key? Patric Young.
  • Ohio State over Syracuse - Jared Sullinger may have 17 rebounds in this game, and while Syracuse is deeper, Ohio State is better.
  • Kentucky over Baylor - I don't trust Baylor at all, but if there's one thing they have, it's athletes and this is Kentucky toughest physical matchup. That said, I like Kentucky to cruise, but if for some reason everyone decides to show up at once for Baylor, it could be interesting.
  • Kansas over North Carolina - I would've liked Kansas anyway, but with the Marshall injury it's not close for me. Too much for a team like UNC with no floor leader.
Enjoy it!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #21: Chicago Cubs

Greetings... the oft-discussed, always-underachieving Cubs...


C - Geovany Soto
1B - Bryan Lahair/Anthony Rizzo
2B - Darwin Barney
SS - Starlin Castro
3B - Ian Stewart
LF - Alfonso Soriano
CF - Marlon Byrd
RF - David DeJesus

Eesh. There is one bright spot here for me and it is as follows. Starlin Castro is the best under-23 shortstop in the world coming off of a year where he hit .307 with 10 homers, 22 steals, and plus-defense at the #1 defensive position. He's a really nice player and at 22 years old, he's only getting better. After that, questions abound. Geovany Soto has shown the ability to be a budding star at catcher (career .803 OPS) but had a brutal year last year hitting .228 and at age 29, we still don't know what he is. First base is a giant question mark with Lahair as an elderly 28-year-old prospect and Rizzo having bottomed out so badly when he was called up to San Diego last year. Soriano and Byrd are nice outfield bats, but neither is a good defender and/or getting any younger. I liked the DeJesus move as a consistent guy who's always out there, but there's little pop. Where is the power?

Starting Rotation

1 - Ryan Dempster
2 - Matt Garza
3 - Travis Wood
4 - Paul Maholm
5 - Randy Wells

Garza is probably the best pitcher on this team. He posted 197 K's in 198 innings with a 3.32 ERA and would be "the guy" had Dempster not been a proven commodity for the Cubs previously. Dempster had a rough year ERA wise (4.80) in 2011, but at age 34, his career numbers are much better than that, and they're going to need better. Travis Wood is just 25 years old and after a heist from the Reds, they have to pencil him in for a bit of a rebound after being a big-time prospect. I've always liked Maholm in Pittsburgh and he posted a 3.66 ERA in 2011. If he can repeat that, that would be huge for them. This is the last chance for Randy Wells and.... good luck to you.


Carlos Marmol's stuff is unbelievable. He strikes out guys at a ridiculous clip (12 per 9) but has no control whatsoever and it shows in his WHIP (1.38) and ERA (4.01) because he just puts guys on at a crazy rate. After that, it's ugly in a hurry, and with Marmol already banged up with a hand issue, Kerry Wood and James Russell are on call. Thank God for the Astros.


75-87, 5th in NL Central

2012 MLB Preview #20: Houston Astros

Greetings... The worst team in all of the land...


C - Jason Castro/Chris Snyder
1B - Carlos Lee
2B - Jose Altuve
SS - Jed Lowrie
3B - Jimmy Paredes/Brett Wallace
LF - JD Martinez/Jack Cust
CF - Jordan Schafer
RF - Brian Bogusevic

Worst lineup in the entire major leagues I think. The only guy I would consider to be above-average is Carlos Lee, and at his age, he's coming off an 18-homer, sub-.800 OPS season that shows he's on the downside, and he's a terrible defensive player. I actually like Altuve and Lowrie up the middle a bit, as Altuve has a proven pedigree of hitting for average, with good defense, and nice speed, while Lowrie has high upside if he can ever stay on the field, but that's the list. The outfield is an unmitigated disaster. Let's move on.

Starting Rotation

1 - Wandy Rodriguez
2 - Bud Norris
3 - JA Happ
4 - Jordan Lyles
5 - Kyle Weiland

Wandy is an above-average Major League pitcher. Sub-3.50 ERA with about 8 Ks per 9 in a "down" season last year, and he's the best player on the roster. Bud Norris is a guy with huge strikeout potential (9 Ks per 9) but bad control, and he can't be counted on for better than a 4.00 ERA. Happ had a fluky good year in Philly pre-trade, but was a disaster in 2011 (5.35 ERA, 83 walks in 156 innings). Lyles is the one bright spot outside of Wandy because he's a young guy who projects to be a #2-3 starter in the Majors for a long time, but he's still a rookie that posted a 5+ ERA in 2011. Better than the lineup, but not much better.


Brett Myers is the closer for Houston. I have no idea why they'd make him the closer because a) he's their 2nd best starter, b) he'd be great trade bait as a starter, and c) teams that lose 100 games don't need veteran closers, but hey, he'll be pretty good here. The rest? Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Juan Abreu.... Average at best, and that's being kind.


59-103, 6th in NL Central

Previewing the Sweet 16 - Thursday

Greetings everyone! It's about time for the madness to crank back up, so here are my thoughts on 4 games from Thursday night.
  • 7:15 pm CBS - #1 Syracuse (-4) vs. #4 Wisconsin - This is a really intriguing game. I picked Wisconsin in my bracket even pre-Fab Melo suspension, but this is a photo finish type of game. Syracuse's athleticism is their main advantage here, and they have the possibility of overwhelming Wisconsin with it, but with 'Cuse playing that zone, and Wisconsin's propensity for the 3-ball, that could be a factor. Also, Wisconsin's defense is ridiculously stingy, and they'll no doubt control the glass here. All the makings of a close game either way.
  • 7:45 pm TBS - #1 Michigan State (-5) vs. #4 Louisville - Different styles here. I don't trust Louisville to be able to generate offense in this game, especially against an Izzo-led team, but if they make threes, it'll be interesting. Draymond Green is one of the most valuable pieces in the entire country, and Louisville has no answer. Give me Sparty, but if Louisville makes threes, they'll hang around.
  • 9:45 pm CBS - #2 Ohio State (-7.5) vs. #6 Cincinnati - The battle of Ohio, and you know that makes me cringe. I think Ohio State is one of the 2 or 3 b1est teams left in the field, so I'm definitely leaning their way. That said, depth is an issue, and OSU hasn't gotten that elite-type game out of Sullinger yet, so keep an eye there.
  • 10:15 pm TBS - #3 Marquette (-1.5) vs. #7 Florida - Definitely the biggest toss-up of the four games. Florida is the more talented team, and wayyyy more talented than their #7 seed would indicate, but they are SO jumpshot-dependent that they could drop a game at any moment, and Marquette is infinitely more physical. If Florida makes jumpers and threes, they'll win this game, but if Marquette and Jae Crowder and DJO grind this game down, they'll be in good shape.

There you have it...

3/22: NFL Madness, Shaka Smart

Greetings all.. kind of a crazy day in the NFL...
  • Bounty-gate has been resolved with stiff penalties. The Saints have been hit with a full year suspension for Sean Payton, 8 games for GM Mickey Loomis, and two separate 2nd-round picks (one in 2012, one in 2013. Does this seem insane to me? Yes, it does, but I'm kind of relishing the thought, as a Falcons fan, of Drew Brees without Sean Payton all year. Oh, and Greg Williams is suspended INDEFINITELY, and may never coach again. Hello Roger Goodell!
  • Tim Tebow... is a New York Jet. He's on his way to NY with a 2012 7th rounder for a 4th and 6th round pick in April's draft. This is curious for me on a number of levels. There was one report that said Tebow could "pick" his destination between NYJ and Jacksonville, and I have no idea if that's true, but if it is and he picked NYJ, I'm at a loss. At any rate, I hate the move for the Jets because a) it undermines Sanchez immediately, b) it's going to be a bigger story than anything else (and that's saying something), and c) they just extended Sanchez. I'm furious that he isn't in Jacksonville.
  • VCU's Shaka Smart has reportedly rebuffed the advances of the University of Illinois. This one kind of surprises me because Illinois is a sleeping giant (think of all that Chicago recruiting) and surely they could've paid Smart somewhere in the stratosphere, but it seems like this is happening more and more with guys like Brad Stevens and Mark Few setting the path of staying at the mid-major.
  • Derek Fisher to the Thunder. I could write 200 words on this, or I could tell you that I like it for OKC because they don't need him to play more than 10 minutes a night, and their backup PG was Reggie Jackson. Done.
  • NBA Check - Ben Gordon went nuts last night. He had 40 points with 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, and although he "only" finished with 45 points, he matched his own record for most threes made (nine) without a miss. When he goes off, he goes off. The Hawks edged the Cavs at home last night by 1 in overtime. I could tell you that Josh Smith had 32 points and 17 rebounds, or I could tell you that he shot 10 of 29 from the field, and that includes 1 of 8 on jump shots. This quote from Hoopinion's Bret LeGree on Thursday morning sums it up, "Once he can no longer rely on his athleticism to bail out his purposelessness, he'll have nothing." Anyway. Tim Duncan put up a game-high 21 points and 15 boards in San Antonio's 16-point win over Minnesota. I really, really liked what I saw from the Lakers with Ramon Sessions in the lineup last night. They dismantled Dallas on the road, and although it was clear to me that Pau Gasol was the best guy on the court (27 points on 13 of 16), Sessions seemed only semi-comfortable but still had 17 points and 9 dimes in 28 minutes. The Knicks got their most impressive yet under Mike Woodson when they edged the Sixers 82-79 last night. Amare had 21 and 9 to lead the way, but the defensive effort won that game. And finally, the Zombies absolutely decimated the Clippers 114-91 amidst rumors of Vinny Del Negro on the hot seat. Kevin Durant had 32 points (on 10 of 18) and 9 rebounds while Russ added 19. Basically, the Clips can't win when Blake Griffin has 7 points and CP3 shoots 3 of 12.

What to watch for on Thursday...

  • March Madness Returns! - I've put this in a post to come later in the day where I'll break down all four games. Come on, you know me.
  • NBA - Celtics @ Bucks - NBA-TV 8:00 - If you hate college hoops, this is an option, and I'm still riveted by the Ellis-Jennings pairing for comedy purposes.


2012 MLB Preview #19: San Francisco Giants

Greetings... to the class of the NL West...


C - Buster Posey
1B - Aubrey Huff/Brandon Belt
2B - Freddy Sanchez
SS - Brandon Crawford/Ryan Theriot
3B - Pablo Sandoval
LF - Melky Cabrera
CF - Angel Pagan
RF - Nate Schierholtz/Brandon Belt

Not exactly the strength of this roster. Posey is an elite talent, but there are questions surrounding him off of the injury last year. I still believe that he will absolutely hit when healthy, and he's their best player. Pablo Sandoval hit .315 with an OPS over .900 with 23 homers in 117 games, and if he hits like that, he's a top-5 third baseman. Elsewhere, I don't like anything. Brandon Belt is an uber-prospect but they refuse to play him enough to get him the ABs he needs, Melky Cabrera hit a good year in KC last year, but visions of 2010 in Atlanta will never go away when considering him for being even an average player, and the combo of Pagan/Schierholtz/Sanchez/Crawford isn't going to hit.

Starting Rotation

1 - Tim Lincecum
2 - Matt Cain
3 - Madison Bumgarner
4 - Ryan Vogelsong
5 - Barry Zito

All four of the top 4 starters here had ERA's under 3.25 in 2011. That's utterly ridiculous. Lincecum is the clear #1 and even in a "down" year for him record-wise (13-14), he struck out 220 guys in 217 innings with a 2.74 ERA. Cain is unheralded but posted yet another great year with 221 innings of 2.88 ERA baseball, and Bumgarner is a budding superstar following his breakout year (3.21, 191 Ks and even better than that after April). Vogelsong is a guy that no one "believes" in relatively when you consider that his peripherals showed he was hilariously lucky last year, but even if he regressed to them, he'd be a 3.70-3.90 ERA guy in that ballpark, and that is perfectly fine for the #4 spot. Zito is an overpaid enigma and I'm curious to see what comes of the move to get rid of Jonathan Sanchez and force Zito to make 30 starts. This is an elite rotation, especially 1 through 3, and the reason I can't pick against them in the NL West.


Crazy Brian Wilson returns in the closer role, and if he's healthy, he's a pretty nice option. The set-up tandem of Romo/Casilla/Lopez/Affeldt is still in place, and although you won't be wowed by any of them, they form a pretty solid support crew around Wilson to the point where they won't die if he misses time again. A nice unit.


88-74, 1st in NL West

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #18: Colorado Rockies

Greetings... Let's hit the Rockies...


C - Ramon Hernandez
1B - Todd Helton/Jason Giambi
2B - Marco Scutaro
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
3B - Casey Blake/Chris Nelson
LF - Carlos Gonzalez
CF - Dexter Fowler
RF - Michael Cuddyer

Really an interesting mash-up of players. Tulo is one of the elite players in the game, and if you can get 30 homers, a near-1.000 OPS with some speed and good D from shortstop, it's like stealing. Carlos Gonzalez took a "step back" with a .900 OPS, 26 homers, and 20 steals last year after his batting average corrected itself from a ridiculous 2010, but he's a big-time guy who should be treated as such. After that? A little dicey. They brought in Michael Cuddyer with a pretty outlandish contract. He could hit 30 homers in that ballpark, but the defense could be an adventure as the everyday guy in RF. Fowler is a "tools" guy who put it together a bit last year, but he was caught stealing on 9 of 21 attempts, and that's gotta improve. The Scutaro move was a sneaky-good one, as he'll provide average-at-worst production from 2nd, and that'll help to make up for the black-hole at 3rd base with Blake. Helton and Giambi will hit if one of them can stay on the field at a time. Nice lineup.

Starting Rotation

1 - Jhoulys Chacin
2 - Jeremy Guthrie
3 - Guillermo Moscoso
4 - Tyler Chatwood
5 - Drew Pomeranz/Juan Nicasio

Yikes. Chacin has high-end stuff and battled injuries last year, but if he's right, they're in good shape with him. I'm curious as to the move that brought in Chatwood and Pomeranz because they are both fly-ball guys in a ballpark that doesn't exactly lend itself to those pitchers. Guthrie is the consummate vet and he'll be okay in the move to the NL West from the dreaded AL East, and Moscoso could be a steal from Oakland.


Rafael Betancourt gets the ball in the 9th. His 11 k's per 9 and sub-1.00 WHIP tell you that he'll be good there, but he's never done it full-time so that's a concern. Rex Brothers is a big-time arm in the set-up role that could challenge Betancourt if he struggles, and I like Matt Belisle and Matt Reynolds too. Not an elite unit because of the lack of experience, but not terrible, either.


82-80, 2nd in NL West

2012 MLB Preview #17: Arizona Diamondbacks

Greetings... we're getting better here...


C - Miguel Montero
1B - Paul Goldschmidt
2B - Aaron Hill
SS - Stephen Drew
3B - Ryan Roberts
LF - Gerardo Parra/Jason Kubel
CF - Chris Young
RF - Justin Upton

This is an underrated lineup. Justin Upton is a legitimate superstar after posting a .900 OPS with 30 homers, 21 steals, and elite defense in right field, anchoring this lineup at just 24 years old. Miguel Montero is a big-time bat from the catcher spot capable of .800+ OPS and 20 or so homers, which is huge from that position. You know what you're getting from Chris Young in good defense, .250 average, some power, some speed, and he'll play every day. One curious move from the off-season was the acquisition of Jason Kubel. He's certainly a better bat than Gerardo Parra, but Parra may be the best defensive left fielder in the major leagues and he actually hit pretty well (.789 OPS) in 2011 while Kubel is a trainwreck out there, and with no DH spot, I didn't get it. I think this lineup probably swings on the production of Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt. Both guys are batting average risks with big-time power, and while Hill has been wildly inconsistent from year to year, I think it's safe to think he'll 20 homers, while Goldschmidt is getting full-time playing time for the first time.

Starting Rotation

1 - Ian Kennedy
2 - Daniel Hudson
3 - Trevor Cahill
4 - Joe Saunders
5 - Josh Collmenter

Ian Kennedy is one of the most divisive guys in the majors from "expert" to "expert". He had a fantastic year in 2011 with 21 wins, a 2.88 ERA, 198 Ks and a 1.09 WHIP. His FIP and xFIP show that he was pretty lucky last year, but there's no denying he's taken a big step forward and is an above-average option. Daniel Hudson is the best pitcher on this roster IMO for 2012. He's on the upswing after a big-time rookie year, and with the expected Kennedy regression, and his improvement, I think they switch places. I thought they violently overpaid for Trevor Cahill, who's never impressed me, and Joe Saunders is due for a big-time downgrade as well. Collmenter was dominant early in the year last year with that really weird armslot, but I think he comes back to earth.


JJ Putz and David Hernandez battle it out for the closer spot. Putz has always been a good pitcher who can't stay on the field, and Hernandez had a nice year in 2011. Ziegler and Breslow anchor the rest of the pen, and even Takashi Saito is on this roster at 41 years old. Boom.


80-82, 3rd in NL West

2012 MLB Preview #16: Los Angeles Dodgers

Greetings all... back with the debacle that is the Dodgers...


C - AJ Ellis/Matt Treanor
1B - James Loney
2B - Mark Ellis
SS - Dee Gordon
3B - Juan Uribe
LF - Juan Rivera/Jerry Sands
CF - Matt Kemp
RF - Andre Ethier

Yikes. The Dodgers went out and spent money in explicable ways this off-season like acquiring old guys with no up-side and overpaying to do so. Matt Kemp is still around, and he's a top-5 player in baseball if last year was any indication. He put up a .324/.399/.586 with 39 homers and 40 steals. That's utterly ridiculous, it's just a shame that he's the only above-average player in the entire lineup. Andre Ethier has the name recognition of a high-end player but he had 11 homers and a sub .800 OPS last year with bad defense. As for the negative? The catcher spot is a trainwreck, James Loney is what he is at this point (.750-ish OPS, low teens power from a power position, blah blah blah), Juan Uribe as the starting 3B is a joke in 2012, and Juan Rivera is ancient in left field. On the bright side? Dee Gordon could steal 60 bases. I'm trying here.

Starting Rotation

1 - Clayton Kershaw
2 - Ted Lilly
3 - Chad Billingsley
4 - Aaron Harang
5 - Chris Capuano

Kershaw is one of the best pitchers on the planet. His 2011 that featured 233 innings with a 2.28 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP and 248 K's is just ridiculous, and there's no reason to think that'll regress too much. Pencil it in. I've always liked Lilly, and while he had a rough 1st half last year, he still finished with a sub-4.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a solid 7.4 Ks per 9. The key to the staff is Billingsley, who hasn't been able to put it together for a full year since 2008, but still has a lifetime ERA under 4.00 with powerful stuff. Harang is coming off a Petco-aided bounce back year, but Dodger Stadium is a pitcher's park too, and he's still in the NL West. Capuano is a 5th starter, nothing more.


There's some controversy in the Dodgers bullpen. Javy Guerra had a stellar rookie year when he saved 21 games, posted an ERA of 2.31 and was generally good. He's the closer, right? Well, enter Kenley Jansen. His strikeout rate in 2011 was 16.1. SIXTEEN strikeouts per nine innings! That's impossible! His peripherals weren't as good as that, but he's a guy with ridiculous stuff (think Craig Kimbrel) and people want him in the closer role. Matt Guerrier is the #3 guy down there and it goes down hill from there.


77-85, 4th in NL West

2012 MLB Preview #15: San Diego Padres

Greetings! My apologies for the long break between these, but the madness hit, and here we are... let's get to the NL with the bottom of the NL West...


C - Nick Hundley/John Baker
1B - Jesus Guzman/Yander Alonso
2B - Orlando Hudson
SS - Jason Bartlett
3B - Chase Headley
LF - Carlos Quentin (injured)/Kyle Blanks/Yander Alonso
CF - Cameron Maybin
RF - Will Venable

This... isn't a good lineup. The best player on the roster offensively in 2011 was Cameron Maybin and I have no reason to think that won't be repeated. The former Tiger/Marlin prospect posted 40 steals to go along with a solid OPS and plus-defense in centerfield. That said, if he's your best player, it's not a great sign. Jesus Guzman hit a little bit in his call-up last year, but there are worries there, and Yander Alonso (the key piece of the Mat Latos trade) could be a year away. The middle infield is good defensively and won't absolutely murder you at the dish, but there's no pop there. They acquired Carlos Quentin for "pop" but he's already hurt, and they'll be relying on some combo of Blanks/Venable/Denorfia at the corner outfield spots. It gets ugly quick.

Starting Rotation

1 - Cory Luebke
2 - Tim Stauffer
3 - Clayton Richard
4 - Edinson Volquez
5 - Dustin Moseley

Petco! When you see the names on this list, you're not impressed, but the numbers are pretty reasonable for the guys who have pitched with the Padres before. Luebke emerged last year with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 17 starts with a K-rate of nearly 10 per 9 innings, and has the profile of an upper-tier starter, especially in that ballpark. Stauffer had 31 starts of sub-4.00 ERA and while he doesn't have elite stuff, he's figured out that pitching to contact in Petco is a good thing. After that? Question marks. Richard and Moseley were both decent despite bad win-loss record last year (bad offense) but neither has high-end stuff, and that's before you get to the enigma that is Volquez. The former uber-prospect of the Reds has officially fallen from grace after a 5.71 ERA last year and a near 5.00 mark for his career, but that said, in 2008 he won 17 games with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts. The stuff is there.


Huston Street takes the reins from Heath Bell, and while Street is actually the better pitcher if you look at it statistically, he's historically had a very rough time staying on the field. If he's healthy? Above-average closer. After that, Luke Gregerson is an elite set-up guy who took a small step back last year, but is still high-end. They have some other elite "stuff" guys like Andrew Cashner and Frieri, but they're also relying on Micah Owings. I have no idea.


75-87, 5th in NL West

3/21: QB Carousel, etc.

Greetings... not a ton to get to on this off-tourney day, but still stuff happening...
  • Leave it to the national media to make Tim Tebow's next team a gigantic story on the day of the Peyton Manning presser in Denver. The interest I've seen is from the Jets, Jaguars, and Packers, and only one of those teams has a starting QB job that could be presumably taken by Tebow. Just get him to Jacksonville and fill some seats already.
  • Speaking of QB's, Alex Smith is reportedly staying in San Francisco. This was the move all along for Smith once Manning passed on the Niners, and with the chemistry that he and Harbaugh seemed to build last year, I don't think the courting of Manning will ruin that. Still not the biggest fan and he single-handledly lost them that Giants game (forget the punt return madness, he was terrible), but he was much, much better last year, and they could do worse.
  • NBA Check - Lebron went down in a heap last night after colliding with Grant Hill, but is reportedly okay, and the Heat got a 99-95 win over a suddenly-respectable Suns team. Chris Bosh led the way with 29 for Miami. Indiana got 44 combined points from Leandro Barbosa, George Hill, and Tyler Hansborough off the bench to key a 102-89 win over the Clips last night. For LAC, I'm not a fan of Nick Young playing 36 minutes on that team and the Blake Griffin 2 for 7 free throw line is becoming all too familiar. Break up the Knicks! The Mike Woodson-led crew won their 4th straight with a win over Toronto, but let's remember (as most didn't with Linsanity) that they haven't really beaten anyone in this stretch. I love the Houston Rockets. The undermanned squad (playing without Lowry and Martin) beat LAL last night behind 16 points and 13 dimes from Goran Dragic and 23 points from Courtney Lee. I don't know how they do it. Kevin Durant was horrendous last night, shooting 6 of 22 with 6 turnovers, in OKC's road loss in Utah. The Jazz had 6 in double-figures including Jamaal Tinsley (yes, that Jamaal Tinsley) off the bench with 11 points in 18 minutes. I don't even want to talk about Portland's 116-87 debacle loss against Milwaukee. And finally, don't look now, but the Kings are a respectable home team with a 13-9 record after their win over Memphis last night. Boogie Cousins had 23 and Marcus Thornton led the way with 31/7/6, but I've really liked what I've seen from Jason Thompson since the Hickson fall from grace. Three straight double-doubles.

What to watch for on Wednesday...

  • NBA - Knicks @ Sixers - ESPN 7:00 - Here's a test for the "new-look" Knicks in a tough road spot against a team that defends.
  • NBA - Cavs @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - The Kyrie Irving road show comes to town.
  • NBA - Lakers @ Mavericks - ESPN 9:30 - LA is still really struggling on the road, and Dallas probably isn't the place to right that ship.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3/20: Peyton to Denver, etc.

  • Peyton Manning is a Denver Bronco. There are so many sides to this story, but I'll hit a couple of them. First of all, I believe the pure choice of Peyton to go to Denver is a curious one. It's an outdoor team with below-average receivers (currently) and a situation that may even alienate some Tebow diehards, and I think it's clear that there were better football situations out there (San Fran assuredly). On Denver's end, you're getting rid of the financial golden goose in Tebow, and while I understand Peyton will bring in revenue as well, you've inked him to an enormous 5-year deal with no assurances that he can play, and if you ship Tebow out, there's no plan B. Thirdly, the media coverage of this is outlandish, and if you've been near a TV in the last 48 hours, you understand.
  • UNC's Kendall Marshall underwent surgery for his wrist Monday... and may play this weekend? That's the buzz, and while I don't believe it, the bigger question is, how can he possibly be effective?
  • The Golden State Warriors retired Chris Mullin's jersey Monday night. Big deal, huh? Big-time honor for a deserving guy, except that this story isn't about Mullin. Dubs owner Joe Lacob took the microphone (in an ill-advised move) and was unceremoniously booed by the Warriors fans, effectively marring the honoring of Mullin, and scarring Lacob further. Great start!
  • The Dolphins have signed David Garrard. It went from Manning, to Flynn, to the Matt Moore-David Garrard duo. Good luck with that, Miami.
  • NBA Check - The Orlando Magic scored 59 points last night at home against the Bulls. Remember when Dwight was so loyal and pleased to stick around? This is the "Hyde" to the "Jekyll" of the Magic. Carlos Boozer led the way with 24 and 13 for Chicago. The Hawks and Celtics played an utter slugfest that saw multiple near-brawls, a spectacular Jeff Teague dunk, some hideous basketball, and a furious late comeback by the Hawks to make it a game. That said, is there anything more fitting than perfect ball movement on the final possession while trailing by 3 points, and it leading to a wide-open AIRBALL by Jeff Teague? I have nothing here. Kevin Love is a monster, and he reminded us all with 36 points and 17 rebounds in leading a road win in Oakland. And finally, Dirk posted 33 points and 11 boards in disposing of the Nuggets 112-95 in Denver. Shout-out to Wilson Chandler, who got 16 shots up in 28 minutes in his debut. Sounds about right.
You may notice that I didn't do a "what to watch for" for Tuesday... and that's because there's nothing I feel good recommending. If you like the NIT, it's on. There you go.


Monday, March 19, 2012

3/19: Wrapping Madness Sunday, etc.

Greetings everyone... a lot to get to... let's hit the Tourney first...
  • NC State snuck by Georgetown by a score of 66-63 after the Hoyas' offense characteristically stalled late in the game. NC State shot just 37% on the day, but made 7 of 15 threes (including a huge 4 for 5 from Scott Wood) and won the rebounding battle. The second half was a clinic on why John Thompson III is not to be trusted. He went offense/defense with his best player (Henry Sims) for 6 straight minutes, couldn't get him any touches (he attempted 3 shots in 21 minutes), and they couldn't get a good look down the stretch. There you have it.
  • Michigan State and St. Louis played a slugfest that saw Sparty advance 65-61. Draymond Green and Keith Appling led the way for MSU with 16 and 19 points respectively, but the key was holding SLU to just 35% shooting. Izzo-ball!
  • UNC cruised past Creighton 87-73, but the lead story from this one was the news that Kendall Marshall has a broken wrist. If it's truly broken, he's gone for the rest of the tourney, and that's the one position on this roster where there is no replacement. He routinely plays 35+ minutes a night because of that lack of depth, and I think this will prohibit them from making as deep of a run as they should.
  • Florida beat Norfolk State by 34, which begs the question, what in the world happened on Friday afternoon?
  • Ohio is your resident #13 seed in the Sweet 16 after they dispensed of the Big East's own South Florida 62-56. The Bobcats hit 9 of 18 threes and that was the difference when USF shot just 2 of 15 from that same distance. Live by the three.
  • Xavier sends Lehigh home with a 70-58 win. I don't love the Musketeers this year, but doesn't it seem like Xavier is in the Sweet 16 every year? Kenny Frease was huge with 25 and 12 and Tu Holloway (my preseason all-american pre-fight) had 21 for Xavier.
  • Kansas squeezes past Purdue 63-60. This was probably the best game of the day IMO as the Boilers led throughout and really had KU on the ropes before some ugly offensive trips late opened the door for Thomas Robinson and the Jayhawks. Robbie Hummel was tremendous on this night with 26 and 9 on just 13 shot attempts, but it wasn't enough even with T-Rob shooting 2 of 12 for Kansas. It may or may not have gotten a little misty in my house when the camera cut to Hummel, who famously has had multiple major knee surgeries, post-game and it seemed as though that reality hit him after shaking hands for the final time on a college floor. That's what it's all about.
  • And the nightcap featured historically ugly basketball between Cincy and FSU in Cincy's tough win. It wasn't "ugly" in the sense that it was poorly played, but these two teams got after each other defensively all night, and in typical FSU-style, things ground to a halt. That said, Cincy made plays late, and I thought Sean Kilpatrick's back-to-back threes were the turning point in this one.

On we march... until Thursday... Let's go elsewhere...

  • Derek Fisher and the Rockets have reached a buy-out. No one is surprised by this because a) The Rockets don't need Fisher, and b) they never wanted him in the first place. Is Fisher an attractive free agent option? Eh... It would have to be the right spot. I wouldn't hate him back on LA, but the intriguing options for me are OKC and San Antonio, who both have needs at back-up point guard, and could provide him with another shot at a title run.
  • Matt Flynn is headed to Seattle. The Seahawks have inked a 3-year deal with the former Green Bay QB to presumably take-over over T-Jax in the starting role. I like the move because the money isn't outlandish, and there's upside there.
  • The Nuggets have rescued Wilson Chandler from China with a 5-year, $37 million deal. This seems about the right price for him provided that he's the same guy we saw in 2011, and I like it for both sides.
  • Kobe shot 3 of 20 last night. 3 of 20! His worst shooting night of his career, and that's not a small feat.

What to watch for on Monday...

  • NBA - Celtics @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - Interested to see the Celtics here now that all the trade winds have passed and they can concentrate on being the most dangerous East team not named "Heat" or "Bulls".
  • NBA - Bulls @ Magic - TNT 8:00 - Speaking of trade winds, Dwight is on the court in Orlando on Monday, and Chicago comes to town. Rose is banged up and if he's not at full strength, I like Orlando in this spot.
  • NBA - Mavs @ Nuggets - TNT 10:30 - Wilson Chandler!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Madness - Reviewing Saturday and Previewing Sunday

Greetings all! Another big day of hoops on Saturday... let's recap...
  • Will Sheehey's 15-footer proved to be the clinching bucket in the best game of the day. Indiana outlasted VCU by 2 on the basis of said jump shot, and heads to the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade. At any rate, an impressive run for VCU just a year after that historical Final Four march. Shaka Smart ftw.
  • Wisconsin marches to the Sweet 16 behind another impressive defense effort. Vandy's John Jenkins had seemingly his first open look of the night on the final trip, but the triple went begging and Wisconsin held on for a 3-point win. I absolutely love Bo Ryan and the Badgers as always, and even though the public hates their ugly style, it wins.
  • Ohio State got a stiff challenge from Gonzaga before pulling away late with a 7-point win. The Zags couldn't survive a 3 of 13 from Kevin Pangos and under 40% shooting as a team, while OSU got a big-time 18 and 7 from Deshaun Thomas to flank Sullinger who also had 18.
  • Louisville eeked past New Mexico in a game that saw the Lobos post a late push that fell short. Russ Smith's 17 points off the bench pulsed the scoring for Louisville, but the difference was their defense holding New Mexico under 40% for the game with just 5 of 23 from three.
  • A couple of favorites cruised. Kentucky rode 49 second-half points to a pull-away win over Iowa State that featured Marquis Teague's best game of the season with 24 points and 7 assists and Anthony Davis (playing all 40 minutes) had 15 and 12. Baylor got 9 ridiculous triples from Brady Heslip and put Colorado away late to the tune of an 80-63 win. I still can't stand them, but if they make shots like this (11 of 20 on threes), then good luck. And Syracuse righted the ship on Saturday with a 75-59 win over K-State. The zone defense was in full effect, holding the Wildcats to 31% FG and 4 of 17 from three in dismantling them. I continue to believe that Dion Waiters is Syracuse's best player despite coming off the bench, and he didn't disappoint with 18 points in just 24 minutes.
  • Big-ups to Murray State on a really impressive season that ends on Saturday. Marquette was just too much and the Racers shot just 31% from the field, but 30+ wins can't be hated on in any league and that's a legitimate squad and program.
On to Sunday (in chronological order)...
  • 12:15 pm CBS - #3 Georgetown vs. #11 NC State - I almost pulled the trigger on Belmont over GT, and I can't get past my dislike for how they run offense. NC State is playing at a high level, especially inside, and I like them here.
  • 2:45 pm CBS - #1 Michigan State vs. #9 St. Louis - Michigan State is a much better team than St. Louis. That said, I can't remember a #1 seed with less firepower than MSU has, and because of that, an upset isn't crazy. I like Izzo and company still, however.
  • 5:15 pm CBS - #1 North Carolina vs. #8 Creighton - UNC should absolutely blow out Creighton, but if Henson is out and UNC's guards play like UNC's guards sometimes play? Creighton hangs around wayyyy too long for anyone from Chapel Hill's liking.
  • 6:10 pm TNT - #7 Florida vs. #15 Norfolk State - Did anyone else think Norfolk State didn't look like a normal 15-seed? Anyway, Florida has a much better roster than their seeding indicates, and if they make shots, they'll cruise.
  • 7:10 pm TBS - #12 South Florida vs. #13 Ohio - I'm not ready to discuss Ohio yet, but South Florida is playing at a high level and should win.
  • 7:45 pm TRU - #10 Xavier vs. #15 Lehigh - Remember when we all loved Lehigh's win over Duke? The downside is that we get this game in Round 2. Tu Holloway!
  • 8:40 pm TNT - #2 Kansas vs. #10 Purdue - Worth the watch just for Robbie Hummel vs. Thomas Robinson. Two of my favorite guys in the country. The rest of Kansas roster is just better, and they should win in this spot.
  • 9:40 pm TBS - #3 Florida State vs. #6 Cincinnati - Probably the best game of the day. FSU's defense is at a crazy-high level, but with that, it makes them upset-prone because their offense lacks.
Enjoy a big-time Sunday!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reviewing Friday and Previewing Saturday

Greetings everyone... what an absolutely wild day of hoops madness on Friday... let's break it down...
  • There were TWO #15 over #2 upsets on Friday. That's right. Two in the same day. Early in the day, Missouri went down down in a heap with an 86-84 shoot-out loss to Norfolk State. Norfolk shot 54% from field, 52% on threes and won the rebounding battle 35-23 including a huge and-1 off of an offensive rebound late in the game. Kyle O'Quinn had 26 points and 14 boards to lead the Spartans, and despite the best efforts of the Missouri guards, they couldn't get any stops in this one and couldn't get over Kim English's no-show (1 of 7 FG, 2 points). And later, Duke fell at the hands of Lehigh by a score of 75-70. This one was a little less shocking to me (and most that I've seen comment on both) because of Duke's track record as a team that is so heavily reliant on the jump shot, making them upset-prone. The Blue Devils shot just 6 of 26 from three and Lehigh shot 37 free throws in this one to seal it. Craziness.
  • The "lesser" upsets were out there as well. Michigan took a dive against Ohio in a game that saw the Bobcats shoot 51% from the field and lead throughout, while Temple got decimated in the second half in their 58-44 loss to South Florida. You won't see a less entertaining/worse half of basketball than you did between Temple and USF in the first half, but USF made plays in the final 20 minutes.
  • There was a selection of more closely-seeded games that went to the wire headlined by Xavier outlasting Notre Dame 67-63. In one of the craziest calls you'll ever see, the Irish were whistled for a lane violation on a late free throw, and sadly that's what will be remembered in this one despite an entertaining 40 minutes. Purdue fended off a huge late charge by St. Mary's to win 72-69. STM saw a game-winning three point attempt go begging with 12 seconds to go, and a game-tying triple bounce off the rim at the gun. Saint Louis "upset" 8-seeded Memphis in a slugfest, Cincinnati survived a late run by Texas, and Creighton inched by Alabama after a crazy timeout sequence late in the 2nd half by Bama coach Anthony Grant.
  • Oh, and there was even a near-upset miss. Florida State escaped St. Bonaventure by 3 points and needed a 16-2 second half run to hold on for the victory. The Bonnies have an NBA forward in Andrew Nicholson, and he made plays all night, but FSU made all their free throws, and played their notorious stingy defense on the final possession that curiously saw the Bonnies attempt two separate 2-point jumpshots despite the 3-point deficit.
  • The Rest? Chalk city! (lol)
On to Saturday... in chronological order...
  • 12:15 pm CBS - #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Kansas State - I really think K-State has a chance here. Those that read me consistently would know that I'm not a Frank Martin fan and generally don't love the Wildcats, but they are really scrappy on the glass and they could really expose 'Cuse here in that aspect. I'd still pick Syracuse with a gun to my head, but this isn't a typical 1 vs 8.
  • 2:45 pm CBS - #2 Ohio State vs. #7 Gonzaga - The Zags were really impressive on Thursday in their dominating win against WV, but can we expect to see that again? They are certainly deeper than OSU, but I think Aaron Craft will bother Pangos and Sullinger could go off here.
  • 5:15 pm CBS - #3 Marquette vs. #6 Murray State - Was really, really impressed with what I saw from Marquette, especially in the frontcourt, and I think the Murray State cinderella run ends with their 2nd loss here.
  • 6:10 pm TNT - #4 Wisconsin vs. #5 Vanderbilt - I'm all-in on Wisconsin. Vandy is certainly capable of winning this game, but I trust Bo Ryan and I trust Jordan Taylor.
  • 7:10 pm TBS - #4 Indiana vs. #12 VCU - I have no idea what to make of this one. Indiana looked terrible at times in their opener, and VCU isn't the same team as they were in 2011. If Indiana pounds the ball to Zeller, they should win.
  • 7:45 pm CBS - #1 Kentucky vs. #8 Iowa State - The Cyclones played pretty well in dismantling UConn, but this is another stratosphere. Kentucky has the best team in this field, and this shouldn't be the stumbling block.
  • 8:40 pm TNT - #3 Baylor vs. #11 Colorado - You won't find anyone lower on Baylor than I am, and Colorado is playing well. Upset alert.
  • 9:40 pm TBS - #4 Louisville vs. #5 New Mexico - Maybe my favorite game of the day for the style matchup. Louisville's pressure can disrupt anyone, but I like New Mexico's offense a lot. Toss-up game.

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Madness - Opening Friday Preview

Greetings all... back again with a full breakdown before Friday's action...
  • 12:15 pm CBS - #6 Cincy (-2) vs. #11 Texas - Texas has better players than Cincinnati. Texas is coached by Rick Barnes. I like Cincy.
  • 12:40 pm TruTV - #6 San Diego State (+2.5) vs. #11 NC State - Yes, NC State is favored by 2.5 points against a #6 seed. I like the Aztecs. NC State is being overvalued based on their ACC tourney run.
  • 1:40 pm TBS - #8 Creighton (+1.5) vs. #9 Alabama - Two teams I wish weren't playing each other. I absolutely love Creighton and Doug McDermott.
  • 2:10 pm TNT - #7 Florida (-3.5) vs. #10 Virginia - Florida is a trendy Final four sleeper, and I don't see it. Yes, they have talent, but they never beat anyone. Oh, and I'm in love with Mike Scott and Virginia. Give me the wahoos.
  • 2:45 pm CBS - #3 Florida State (-6.5) vs. #14 St. Bonaventure - The Bonnies can play, but Florida State's defense should swallow them up a bit. That said, with the way FSU struggles to score at times, the Bonnies should be in this until the end.
  • 3:10 pm TruTV - #3 Georgetown (-3.5) vs. #14 Belmont - Ever seen a 14 seed as a sub-4 point underdog? John Thompson III is one of my least favorite coaches, and this is a bad matchup for them because Belmont can speed them up. Best candidate on the board for a "major" upset.
  • 4:10 pm TBS - #1 North Carolina (-16.5) vs. #16 Vermont - You know the deal with 1-seed vs. 16-seed. John Henson is questionable for UNC though, and that hurts them.
  • 4:40 pm TNT - #2 Missouri (-21) vs. #15 Norfolk State - There's a reason Missou is a 21-point favorite.
  • 6:50 pm TBS - #8 Memphis (-3.5) vs. #9 Saint Louis - Another game featuring two teams I really like. Memphis doesn't have the "guy" that they normally have, but tons of talent, and St. Louis is an underrated Mid-Major.
  • 7:15 pm CBS - #2 Duke (-12.5) vs. #15 Lehigh - This isn't a game Duke loses.
  • 7:20 pm TNT - #4 Michigan (-6) vs. #13 Ohio - Make no mistake, Michigan can lose this game. With the style they play (re: 3-pointers), they're an upset candidate and Ohio is decent. That said, too much Trey Burke.
  • 7:27 pm TruTV - #7 St. Mary's (-1.5) vs. #10 Purdue - The Gaels have tons of experience and great guards. Purdue has Robbie Hummel. I'm torn.
  • 9:20 pm TBS - #1 Michigan State (-20) vs. #16 LIU-Brooklyn - Tom Izzo, everybody.
  • 9:45 pm CBS - #7 Notre Dame (-2.5) vs. #10 Xavier - I don't like either one of these teams.
  • 9:50 pm TNT - #5 Temple (-2) vs. #12 South Florida - I openly picked Cal in the play-in game, so you can berate me for my feel on this one. I think Temple is over-seeded as a #5 and I had Cal beating them, but they are probably better than South Florida.
  • 9:57 pm TruTV - #2 Kansas (-14) vs. #15 Detroit - Detroit is the best #15 seed I can ever remember, but Kansas is still decisively better.