Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Freshman Phenoms Teams Struggling As Dance Is Upon Us

O.J Mayo and Michael Beasley are two of the best freshman playing college basketball this season. Both players are averaging over 20 points per contest, and both decided not to go to the elite basketball programs like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas or Indiana. Despite how much game these future NBA All-Stars have, both Mayo and Beasley are having a hard time getting to the big dance next month. They both are seeing that basketball is a team game, and neither of these guys have the supporting cast to carry them into the field of 65. So they have to carry their teams themselves. Beasley looked like his Wildcats had all but wrapped up an at large bid. However they are back on the bubble again after losing four out of the last five games including losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech. USC has won two straight since losing at home to arch rival UCLA, but still is looking for another good win to put on their resume. They beat UCLA at UCLA earlier in January, but that is their only good win. Losses to Mercer and California are the only real blemishes on their resume. Both teams are safely in ESPN's Bracketology, but as March creeps closer both teams could be bumped out in the coming weeks.

Kansas States Road To The Dance
Looks like the Wildcats are gonna push their losing streak to four straight and five out of their last six when they face arch rival KU this Saturday in Lawrence. If they can win against Colorado and at Iowa State the Wildcats should have the third seed going into the Big 12 tournament. They would get a bye in the first round of the tournament, and with win in the second round would give them 21 wins on the season which should be good enough to get an at large bid. However beating ISU in Ames is not a going to be a piece of cake as Hilton magic has helped ISU win some big games over ranked opponents the past couple of years. As bad as they are struggling, I think Kansas State is going to ultimately be in the NCAA tournament.

USC's Road To The Dance
Four tough games lie ahead for the Trojans as they finish up the season with Arizona, Arizona State, California, and Stanford. Winning three out of the four games would put them at 20 wins on the season, which seems to be the magical number every year for teams to get into the tournament. Realistically this team could lose the last four games, and wind up having a high seed in the Pac 10 tournament and if they lost first round Mayo and the Trojans would be playing NIT basketball. However I think the Trojans spilt the next two games and win one in the Pac 10 tournament to get them in the NCAA tournament.

Possible Matchup?
I could see an 8 vs 9 first round match up between these two. In fact I think it would be entertaining and is something the committee should look into. It would be inside presence verse a tandem of guards. Mayo and Beasley will battle it out on the hardwood a couple times a year, why not get started early by matching them up in the NCAA tournament?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rex Grossman Isn't The Answer For The Bears

Lovie Smith must see something I don't see. How the Bears can give Rex Grossman a one year contract extension is beyond me because ever since he has been the starter for the Chicago Bears, Grossman has been extremely inconsistent. He will have days that he looks like an elite quarterback in the league throwing for 3 or 4 touchdowns with over a 100 point quarterback rating. Then there are other games that he only completes 3 or 4 passes while throwing a couple interceptions and has a quarterback rating under 10. Two years ago he somehow lead the Bears to Super Bowl, excuse me the Bears defense lead the Bears to the Super Bowl while it seemed like Grossman did everything he could to screw it up for the Bears. If the Bears have a reliable quarterback I almost would be willing to say the Bears would of won Super Bowl 41 over the Indianapolis Colts. This season he only started a handful of games before being benched by coach Smith. The move just doesn't make sense to me. Chicago should be trying to fix the problems from last years disappointing team that failed to make the playoffs. Quarterback is and always has been an issue for Chicago.

The Bears History of Bad Quarterbacks
Since the Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985, Chicago has started 17 different quarterbacks trying to find the right fit. In the 90's the beloved Bears tried Jim Harbaugh, Shane Matthews, Erik Kramer, Rick Mirer, Steve Walsh, and Cade McNown. In the new milenium the Bears put the football in the hands of Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Brain Greise, Kyle Orton, Chad Hutchinson, Johnathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel, Henry Burris, and Grossman. Don't feel bad if you don't know half the guys I just mention because many only had one or two starts. Basically the Bears haven't had a decent quarterback in 20 years. I know historically the Bears have always been a defensive team but give me a break you would think they would find a quarterback they could use for more than 5 years, and can have them realistically fighting for the playoffs year in and year out right?

What's Next?

I still think you get a quarterback in this years draft. You don't have to get them in the first round, but you have to think about replacing Grossman in the near future. A couple good quarterbacks that should be on the board past the first round of the draft include: Joe Flacco, Colt Brennan, Andre Woodson, and Chad Henne. Bottom line, Grossman is not the answer and the sooner the Bears figure that out the sooner than can return to playoff form.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Memphis and Tennessee Playing For Critics Respect On Saturday

In what could be the best game of this season to date, there is more on the line than just in state bragging rights for the Tigers and Vols. Memphis and Tennessee are the top two teams in both polls this week, but they are still looking for the respect that comes with being that high in the polls. Many people I have talked to see Memphis as the default #1 team because they are undefeated but others think they are overrated because they play in a "mid major" conference. As for Tennessee no on is complaining about the Vols at all. In fact, no one is talking about the Vols. Maybe its better to not to be talked about I really don't know but this team deserves some love and I don't feel they are getting any. I do know is this, the teams are a combine 50-2 this season, and tickets for this game are almost as popular, if not more popular, the Super Bowl tickets. Do you need any other reason to watch? Now lets see how both of these teams got to this point in the season.

The Tigers come into the game 26-0, the last undefeated team in the Division I basketball. While they do play one of the weaker conferences in college basketball, they also have played one of the toughest non conference schedules in the land. They have non conference wins over Oklahoma, UConn, USC, Arizona, Georgetown, and Gonzaga. One of the reasons why Memphis has had so much success this season is because of their depth. Memphis has eight players that are averaging 5 points or more this season. If Memphis are to get passed Tennessee this weekend, there is a very good chance the Tigers can go undefeated before the NCAA Tournament starts in mid March. Something also to note is that Memphis has made it to the Elite Eight the past two years.

Man has Bruce Pearl done a great job at the University of Tennessee. The Vols have played just as hard of a non conference schedule as Memphis has, picking up wins against Temple, West Virgina, Xavier, Ohio State, and Gonzaga. Add that with a 11-1 SEC record and you can see why Tennessee is ranked as high as they are. With a handful of Smiths and Chris Lofton running things for the Vols as they are ready to take down the Tigers. Things don't get easier for the Vols after Saturday as they have a trip to Vanderbuilt looming just three days after the battle with Memphis.

Who Wins?
I am gonna go with the home team in this game because I think Memphis is ready to scilence some critcs about being a default #1 in the polls and show everyone they deserve that #1 spot. It is going to be a great matchup and I am excited for Saturday night.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Time To Pop Some Teams Bubbles

Wow I can't believe it is already February 18. This college basketball season is just flying by. With that being said there are a lot of teams with their post season fate in question. Its time for teams to show what they are really made of. So I thought it would be fun to cause a little bit of controversy and pick five teams from major conferences that will not be participating in this years March Madness. It is time to pop some teams bubbles.

Oregon 15-10 (6-7 Pac 10)

Great job in the non conference season by the Ducks as they have a very valuable win at Kansas State on their resume but a loss at Nebraska coupled with a poor conference resume is gonna keep the Ducks out. They really need to beat Washington State on Saturday and they couldn't get it done. They play three straight games on the road before coming home to play Arizona and Arizona State to end the season. They need to win four of the five to bring their conference record to 10-8 for them to have a chance but I see the Ducks settling for the NIT.

Villanova 15-9 (5-7 Big East)
Have a non conference schedule that is not bad but not great. Good wins include Temple and at George Mason but losing 6 out of 8 really is hurting the Wildcats at this point. Four important games against teams in or fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament will determine Villanova's fate. Even if they win 3 out of the four I think they still need a semifinal appearance in the Big East tournament to be safely in.

Oklahoma 15-8 (5-5 Big 12)
Decent non conference schedule with wins over West Virginia and Gonzaga but they also have two bad losses in Colorado on the road and Steven F. Austin at home. The problem is that they don't have a signature win to propel them officially into the tournament and they are running out of games to do it in. They have basically two opportunities this Saturday against Texas and March 1st against Texas A&M at home. Oh and they have to make sure not to Nebraska or Missouri cause that would hurt their chances. I don't see them beating either Texas or A&M so they have to go to the semi's of the Big 12 tournament and I don't see that happening either.

Florida 19-7 (6-5 SEC)

They lost a lot of talent from that back to back championship team, but that is not a reason to schedule a weak non conference schedule. The Gators strength of schedule is ranked 117 and their best non conference win is against Temple. There bad loss was a double digit home loss to LSU and with Tennessee at home, and Kentucky on the road the Gators need to win their next three games, split the last two games and go deep into the SEC tournament to get in. I just don't see that happening with a young team that is a lot to ask for. Expect the Gators to be back next year.

Ohio State 17-8 (8-4 Big Ten)

Just like the Gators, the Buckeyes have lost a good portion of the team that made it to the National Championship game last season. They have a good wins over Syracuse and Florida. The problem is that they don't have that one big win to push them over the top. They played a great schedule which included: Texas A&M, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan State, and Purdue. The problem is the Buckeyes didn't win any of those games and with four out of their last five games against ranked teams I think Ohio State needs to at least split them and may even need to win three to get a good seed in the Big Ten tourney because they need a good showing in the Big Ten tourney to make it in. Loss to Michigan this weekend doesn't help the Buckeyes cause.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Franchise Tag: Should Football Get Rid Of It?

The franchise tag has been a burden for NFL players for many years, and this year is no different. February 21st is the deadline for teams to choose which player they will use the tag on. The franchise tag, which automatically makes it so unrestricted free agents can't talk to other teams, most of the time pisses players off. Some players just want to test the free agent waters to see what their worth while others just want a long term contract. The franchise tag ultimately ends all hope of testing the waters and makes it so you can only get a long term contract with your current team unless you wait until the next offseason. So why do NFL teams continue to do it? Asante Samuel got the franchise tag from New England Patriots last year because they didn't want to pay him a long term contract and they thought he could help lead them to a Super Bowl title. As we all know by now that didn't happen. Now Samuel, who surprisingly wants to come back to New England after getting slapped with the tag, is looking for a big pay day. The question is will New England give it to him? Why I say it is surprising that Samuel wants to go back is that in the past and even this year players have said they will never go back to their teams if they were ever tagged. This year already there are a handful of players already upset at being talked about the possibility of getting the franchise tag. Take Jared Allen of the Kansas City Chiefs. He has been a force at getting to the quarterback the past couple years, and wants a long term contract. He loves Kansas City and the Chief fans but he said in an ESPN article that if he was tagged this offseason that it would be his last in red and gold. The Franchise Tag: to get rid of it or to not get rid of it, that is the question.

The History of the Franchise Tag.
The franchise tag was put in place as a part of the collective bargining agreement between the NFL Players Assosiation and the league in 1993. It was mainly established to try and make it so players could stay with their organizations their entire careers. Now it is more of trying to keep a player from going wherever he wants to go. There are two types of franchise tags: Exclusive and Non-exclusive. Non-exclusive tags are more lenient and make it so players can still go out and look for money on the free agent market but they must sign an offer sheet and if a team matches it the player must stick with their former team. Franchise players are given a base one year salary every year. Quarterbacks are given the most at nearly 11 million dollars, while kickers are give the lowest at 2.6 million dollars. Players that are rumored of possibly getting the franchise tag are: Allen of the Chiefs, Randy Moss of the Patriots, Marcus Turfant of Seattle, and Albert Haynesworth of the Titans.

Should It Stay In Place?
Personally I don't think so. It honestly isn't used like it use to be. It is just a way to delay players from testing the free agent waters. It makes players mad and honestly I don't think players should be forced to play for a team if they can't get a contract done. You have the entire season to negotiate a new contract with a player and if you can't get it done then how do you know they will actually get a contract done a year from now? Just get rid of the Franchise tag and if the player is meant to be on your team you will get the contract done. End of story.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hey Congress, Stay out of Sports Problems

Now before I get started on this little rant I just want to say I really could care less about politics and the whole big brother concept it has with other countries. But when it comes to problems in sports and sports figures, Congress needs to keep their big nose out of sport's business. I really am sick and tired of turning on ESPN and now that football is done and over with it seems like the only two things on ESPN anymore are steroids in baseball and the spygate and how congress is "interested in getting to the bottom of this". On Wednesday Roger Clemens and a handful of baseball players, trainers, and representatives are heading to Capital hill to discuss the findings of steroids in baseball. It is a day I am simply going to call "Black Wednesday". This is something that is baseballs problem not the governments. So there is controversy in sports, there are more pressing issues in my mind then worrying about who did and who didn't take steroids in the last 90's and early 2000's. I know Bud Selig hired good old Senator George Mitchell to figure out who was taking what in baseball, but this is taking things a bit far if you ask me. Congress worry about getting us out of Iraq or stopping George Bush from making anymore idiotic decisions with our tax money. In the mean time let me tell you how I would go about fixing the steroids problem in baseball and the problem with spygate.

Steroids in Baseball
It a problem that Bud Selig should of dealt with many years ago. Instead he had Senator Mitchell do the investigation he should have been doing and now thanks to the Mitchell report baseball is now seen under a bad light. Look Selig made a big mistake and we know a bunch of players had at least tried steroids during the past 10 to 15 years, but do we really need to recover what happened in the past? You can't fully prove who took steroids or performance enhancing drugs from 5 to 10 years ago. How can prove it is credible? Instead of worrying about the past just let it go and focus on cleaning up the game for this season and seasons to come. Instead of random testing test everyone in the league for steroids. Because honestly how can you really make a test like steroids random? Now label the past 15 years as "The Steroid Era" and move on. Baseball is already a mess you don't need to make it worse by bringing congress into it.

Now since this has come out and I have heard more rumors about the Patriots using it in the Super Bowl and other games I think it is time to really crack down on this. I think the fine and the forfeit their first round pick was a good punishment but now there needs to be more of a punishment. Now I think you should forfeit games and maybe even more than that for being caught video taping now. Who knows if the footage they got of the Rams running their plays helped them in the Super Bowl against the Rams. Roger Goodell needs to enforce some type of punishment system for this. Maybe something like this. First offense: Forfeit of the game and a fine. Second Offense: Forfeit game plus some additional games on top of that. Third Offense: Forfeit entire season. It is at least something the league has to look into.

Congress is there to help punish people for doing real crimes like murders and other serious offenses. They should be more worried about terrorists attacks, how to fix this economic recession, and stop George Bush from cutting taxes on health care. They shouldn't be worried about Baseballs problems, they shouldn't be worried about the NFL's problems, they should be worried about any sports related problems period.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rivalries Make The Sports World Go Round

Last nights North Carolina vs Duke match up on ESPN as a part of rivalry week got me to think. What would sports really be like if there wasn't any rivalries? Thats right just think about it for a second. No hatred between teams, no classic history, no historic match ups that have been dated back to the late 1800's. Sports just wouldn't be sports. Rivalries gives sports its sex appeal, without that sports are really just an ordinary hobby. Whether it has been going on forever or it just developed sports rivalries are the reason we watch. We love seeing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Soxs go at each others throats because you know at any minute there could be an all out brawl between them. We love watching Duke and North Carolina because it seems like no matter how good or bad the teams are the game always ends up coming down to the last shot. And who can forget every year Ohio State and Michigan going at it in the Woody vs Bo game. Rivalries divide states, towns, friendships, even families are divided because of these rivalries. They just keep us intrigued.

My Top Five Favorite Rivalries.
Everyone has their own list of favorites so I thought since this is Gonners view, I thought I would share my favorite rivalries.

#5 Boston Red Soxs vs New York Yankees-Just love seeing them go at each other 365 days a year (thats right they fight in the off season too) just is great to me.

#4 New England Patriots vs Indianapolis Colts-the rivalry between Tom Brady and Petyon Manning every year is just great to watch

#3 North Carolina vs Duke-Schools separated by less than 100 miles and the rich history behind this rivalry makes it the best college basketball rivalry without a doubt.

#2 Michigan vs Ohio State-Living in Ann Arbor Michigan for a couple of years got me to see the hatred between these two teams. If you have read my columns before you might remember me saying that I am a Michigan Wolverine fan and it is hard not to when you actually live there and see first hand what the rivalry does to the state. I know every rivalry has hate but in my opinion the definition of hate in a rivalry is hate shown by both Michigan and Ohio State fans.

#1 Kansas vs Missouri-Yes my favorite rivalry is the Border Showdown between the Tigers of Missouri and the Jayhawks of Kansas. Growing up in the state of Missouri, I was taught for a very young age to hate the Jayhawks and everything about them. They school mascot, there players, and just the state itself. The rivalry is very entertaining even though Kansas wins a majority of the time. But its that one win every once in a while that Missouri gets to put in the win column that is worth it because it seems like it comes at the right time. Take this football season for example. Missouri was the only team to beat Kansas this football season, if they would of lost Kansas could of played for a National Championship. Nothing made me feel better than to see Kansas fans cry as their team lost.
What is the Greatest Rivalry?
You know my vote favorite, but as far as greatest goes there really isn't a clear cut decision. What I want to know is what you think? What is the greatest rivalry in sports. Is it Ohio State/Michigan in College football, Duke/UNC in basketball, Yankees/Red Soxs in baseball, the Avalanche/Red Wings in hockey, Is it the Redskins/Cowboys in football, is it the Celtics/Lakers in the NBA, or is it one I didn't even mention. Cast your vote on my poll and feel free to leave you comments here. Everyone has an opinion and I want to hear yours. For me its got to be the Duke Blue Devils vs the North Carolina Tar Heels. Every time they get together it doesn't matter how good or how bad they are, the game always comes down to the last shot. I have seen bad games in other rivalries but never once have I seen a bad Tar Heels Blue Devils match up. To me that is something you can't beat.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Santana Is Worth The Big Bucks

As of Friday Night, the Mets are now the official winners of the Johan Santana Trade. Now the power in the NL East has shifted once again. After a crazy season that saw the Mets have a historic collapse, the Mets needed to assure their fans they were ready to take the NL East title in 2008. All of a sudden one player has propelled the Mets from a contender for the East title to a contender for the NL pennant, and maybe even the World Series. When Santana was rumored to be on the market I knew the Mets would be interested, I just thought they would get outbid by the Yankees or Red Soxs. Regardless Johan Santana has been on the most dominate pitcher in Major League Baseball and he has done it playing against David Ortiz, Valdimir Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez and the power hitting American League. In eight years in the American League, Santana has won two Cy Young Awards, has made an appearance in the All-Star game 3 years, and has made 4 postseason appearances. Now he moves to the National League where the competition isn't as fierce and where he can continue his dominate ways.

Did The Twins Actually Get The Short End Of The Stick?
I think they did. Now I know we won't know until a couple years down the road whether or not this trade was good for the Twins, but right now I am saying it wasn't a good trade. They got four prospects, none of which have major league experience. I really thought that the Yankees package of Melky Caberera and Phil Hughes was a really good deal for them because they would of gotten a proven starting pitcher and a good center fielder to replace Tori Hunter for Santana. Now I know the Twins have made great trades in the past, but if you are going to trade the most prized pitcher in the league you should be getting more than just four unproven prospects. They let the trade talks run too long that they lost leverage. When it was all said and done the Yankees and Red Soxs pulled out leaving the Mets as the only team the Twins could negotiate with. Time will tell, but I do think the Twins screwed the pooch on this trade. But who knows one of those four prospects could be the next Francisco Liriano (Twins got in a trade with the Giants for A.J Prezynski).

How Will Santana Respond With The New York Media Breathing Down His Neck.
One of the biggest concerns I have with this trade is how well Sanata will adjust to playing in New York. It has taken many stars a couple of months to adjust to the pressure of the New York media, and some players never overcome it. He got paid big money to win the Mets games, and if he doesn't you can bet that the Met faithful and the New York media will chew him up and spit him out. In his eight seasons in the league Santana has only had one losing season and that was his first season where he only had five decisions. I think he wont let it get to him, I honestly don't. He is 93-44 all-time and should have no problem winning 200 games if keeps playing at the level he is playing at right now. Great trade by the Mets and they should be the team to beat in the NL in 2008.