Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Random Thoughts for the start of June

Posted by mizzou1028 on June 1, 2011

It’s June 1, and hopefully a new month means more success for the Rockies.  They were an MLB worst 8-20 in May, including a 2-10 stretch to end the month.

– On Monday the Rockies managed to lose 7-1 despite collecting 14 hits against the Dodgers.  That’s tough to do.  The optimistic side of me says at least they got 14 hits.  The pessimistic side points out the 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

– The bottom line: more offensive consistency is needed.  On Saturday the Rockies shelled Jaime Garcia for 12 runs (he had a 1.93 ERA coming in).  They scored a combined nine runs in the four contests prior to that.

– To add insult to injury, Felipe Paulino is pitching lights out for Kansas City since the Rockies gave him away for cash.  Paulino was 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in 18 appearances for the Rockies this season.  He gave up at least one run in five of his last seven appearances with the club, capped off with a 14th inning home run by Prince Fielder in a loss at Milwaukee.  In two appearances with the Royals, Paulino has tossed nine scoreless innings in two appearances.  Kansas City is so happy with him they’ve placed him in the rotation. Not sure if Paulino wasn’t happy in Colorado or if something is afoot, but it has to be frustrating for the Rockies.

– The good news tonight for the Rockies?  A complete game shutout from Ubaldo Jimenez tonight in LA.  Jimenez gave up just four hits and struck out seven against the Dodgers.   His ERA is now under 5.00 for the first time this season (which says a lot about how much he’s been struggling), and he has now been close to his old self in three of his last four starts.  He is throwing harder and I thought for the first time tonight looked like the pitcher we saw during the first half of last season.  If this is a trend and not an aberration, it will a major key for a Rockies turnaround.

– The other good news for the Rockies is we’re only a third of the way through the season.  They still have time to turn it around, but they have to start hitting and they also need better production from the bullpen.

– Thank you ESPN for showing Giants-Cardinals tonight instead of your usual east coast fare.  Then again, perhaps a major penalty should be issued for showing the Mets on Sunday night baseball this weekend.

– I never thought I wouldn’t want to watch Sportscenter but it is rapidly getting to that point during the NBA Finals.  Way too many Miami Heat  press conferences I don’t care about, and today there was very little mention of hockey ahead of game one of the Stanley Cup Finals.  I know most sports fans prefer the NBA to the NHL, but I think the coverage of the two leagues should be equal.  Certainly not lopsided the way ESPN does it, where the ratio is 30 minutes of NBA to three for the NHL (probably not exaggerating).

– Speaking of the hockey, game one was absolutely fantastic.  Great goaltender battle between Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas.  Both goalies played huge roles in helping their teams kill penalties.  The only disappointing thing is that it didn’t go into overtime, because that would have been unbelievable with the 0-0 score and the play of the two goalies.  .  Still, Raffi Torres’ goal with 18 seconds remaining has to be one of the all-time clutch goals in Stanley Cup Finals history.

– This has to be a tough pill to swallow for Boston, which shut down the league’s top rated power play and got great play against Vancouver’s offensive stars, and they still saw the game stolen from under them in the closing seconds.  It will be very interesting to see how the Bruins respond in game two being that they are still on the road.

– If I’m of the Ohio State Buckeyes, I’m not sure if I would be more embarrassed to hear about the cars for Terrelle Pryor, the loads of benefits being given to other players, or the cover up orchestrated not only by Jim Tressel but also by the rest of the athletic department.  The 5-game suspensions for the players at the start of the season seemed like a real joke at the time given that they were still allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl last year.  Given what we know now, those actions seem downright laughable.

– It is not exactly a secret that this kind of thing goes on at numerous college campuses around the country.  It’s generally a question of who gets caught.  It begs  questions that are way too numerous to list here, but chief among them: how much is a head coach responsible for knowing and enforcing.  I think while it is not practical for a coach to know where every player is at every moment of the day, Tressel had a huge staff at OSU plus a whole department responsible for compliance.  I think if Tressel wanted to put a stop to that culture at Ohio State he could have.  He just chose to look the other way.

– and of course, no one is happier about Ohio State’s fall than Michigan fans.  Party in Ann Arbor!


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No De La Rosa = More problems for Rockies

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 25, 2011

The bad news continues to roll in for the Colorado Rockies.  Not only did they suffer their fifth loss in six games tonight, and fall behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West standings, but they have learned that Jorge De La Rosa will out until at least next June thanks  to a torn elbow ligament that will require Tommy John surgery.  You read that right, De La Rosa will be out until at least next June because Tommy John surgery requires a minimum 12 month recovery period.  Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg had the surgery last August and is not scheduled to be back on a mound throwing until after this season is completed.  It is entirely possible that the Rockies may not see De La Rosa on the mound until after next season’s all-star break.

The injury to De La Rosa comes at a bad time for both him and the club.  For one, he was the only left handed starter in the rotation.  For another, De La Rosa was on his way to career best season.  His ERA before the injury this season was under 4.00 for the first time in his career (his previous career best was 4.22 last season).  His strikeout to walk ratio of 2.36 this season is also a career best.  Simply put, De La Rosa has been the Rockies’ most consistent starter in 2011, much more so than ace Ubaldo Jimenez.  Starting pitching overall has been a strength this season for the Rockies, but it remains to be seen if it will continue to be so without De La Rosa.  The good news is that Aaron Cook is due to return to the club next week following a spring injury, so that will help, but it remains to be seen if he can be productive right away while he adjusts to a return to the majors.  Perhaps one of the young pitchers, like Clayton Mortenson or Greg Reynolds, can take advantage of the opportunity to prove themselves and entrench a spot in the rotation.

Of course the Rockies can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves.  The Cardinals lost ace pitcher Adam Wainwright for the year during spring training, and they have managed to overcome that, holding down the lead in the NL Central.  The Rockies still have enough talent to compete in the division and perhaps even win the thing, but the injury to De La Rosa is another hurdle the Rockies have to overcome.  To do so, the offense needs to be a lot more consistent (tonight’s 2-1 loss being a perfect case in point for that), Jimenez needs to start showing the form from early last year (his last two starts have been very encouraging, including a complete game effort in Milwaukee in Sunday), and the rest of the rotation needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing (it’s not Jason Hammel’s fault he only had one run of support tonight).

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Sunday Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 22, 2011

It’s May 22nd and we’re all still here, even those who were complete morons and spent their life savings on billboards.  The real apocalypse will come when the NFL and its players don’t grow brains and week one is not played on Sept. 11.

– I am officially predicting that the NFL season will not start on time.  I have no inside information nor do I have any evidence to support this, only knowledge that it will not be a fast process for this thing to wind through the courts.  The next hearing is on June 3, but it’s a given that the losing side will once again appeal.  Both sides have already gotten “wins” in the court system so far, but in reality everyone has already lost.  The bottom line is unless this thing gets expedited or the league and its players magically come to an agreement, there is no way we will see football on time this year.

– Ultimately we will not see football until the two sides actually get together and hash this out.  If games are missed, there will be numerous unhappy people, and I’m not just necessarily talking about the fans themselves.  Think about the hotels, restaurants and other businesses that depend on NFL related income during the fall.  Sports bars will sit empty on Sundays, hotel rooms will be left vacant, flights will have empty seats and numerous people will lose their jobs (think parking attendants, concession workers and other team employees).  The economic impact in all 32 NFL cities will be staggering.  It’s a broken record but it bears worth repeating: every single owner and every single player is putting their selfishness on full display, particularly when many season ticket holders can’t afford to renew their tickets in this rough economy.

– The sport that might benefit the most from an NFL lockout is baseball, which could have the spotlight during the playoffs in October.  I am still holding out hope that the MLB postseason will not include either the Yankees or Red Sox.  Of course ESPN might actually cease to exist if this were to happen.

– The Rockies find themselves still sliding downhill after getting swept in Milwaukee this weekend.  Friday’s loss was especially painful, when they scored runs in the 13th and 14th innings and still lost.  Today, Ubaldo Jimenez finally looked like the Ubaldo of old, allowing just two hits in eight innings, but the Rockies still lost 3-1.  The offense has been there at times but has not been consistent.  The bullpen has been awful, but at at least the Rockies are aware of this, giving Franklin Morales away and sending Felipe Paulino on a much needed trip to Colorado Springs.  Even the closer, Huston Street, has blown three saves this month.   The starting pitching has been very good, and the offense is getting better, but now the bullpen is the biggest problem.

– That said, the offense does need to be more consistent.  They rocked Tim Lincecum on Monday night, and Jason Giambi drove in all seven runs on Thursday, but this week the Rockies had losses of 2-1 (to Philadelphia) as well as 3-2 and 3-1 losses to the Brewers.  The game in Philly you can tip your hat to Cole Hamels, a true ace, but the lack of offense against Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf is disconcerting.  I have dropped both Marcum and Wolf from fantasy teams in recent years because of poor performance.

– The Rockies have gone from having MLB’s best record to being in grave danger of slipping to third in the NL West.  Thanks to San Francisco’s sweep of Oakland this weekend, the Rockies now sit 3.5 games behind the Giants.  On May 1 the Rockies had a 5.5 game lead.  The Rockies are now just half a game ahead of surging Arizona (winners of 8 of their last 10) for second place.  The Rockies host the Diamondbacks in a critical four game series this week, and if they aren’t careful the Rockies could find themselves in third place by the end of the week, especially with a weekend tilt against mighty St. Louis coming up.

– The Rockies have not won a three game series since April 15-17 against the Cubs.  They have a couple of sweeps in two game sets since then (against Chicago and San Francisco), but the other series?  Lost 2 of 3 to the Giants, Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Mets and Padres, a split of two games against the Phillies, and three straight losses each to San Francisco and Milwaukee.  Since April 16, the Rockies are 11-20.  Ouch.   I have advocated for the Rockies to get more national attention, but frankly those numbers don’t warrant it right now.

– Even so, I challenge ESPN to show a game that doesn’t involve an east coast team.  Tonight they have Cubs-Red Sox.  Tomorrow night they have Red Sox-Indians (although Cleveland is well deserving of some love with MLB’s best record).  Just once, can’t they show Giants-Dodgers or Angels-Rangers or something along those lines?

– I am fine with any of the remaining NBA teams winning the title except for the Miami Heat.  They just don’t deserve it given the way LeBron stabbed Cleveland in the back to go there.

– It is partially because of this that I will watch the NHL over the NBA 100 percent of the time during the playoffs.  I know no one cares about the four NHL teams left and probably can’t name a player still on the ice, but the action really is much more exciting than the loads of uncalled traveling violations and no defense of the NBA.  You just don’t know it because ESPN shows you 20 minutes of boring NBA press conferences instead of showing you hockey highlights.

– I do think the NHL doesn’t do itself any favors by putting most of its games on a channel no one can find.  Even when they’re on NBC, they’re usually too early on the west coast.  I guarantee commissioner Gary Bettman is rooting for an NFL lockout (and an NBA one as well).  If he plays his cards right for once, the NHL could really benefit from the selfishness of the other leagues.

– But really ESPN, 30 minutes of press conferences after the Bulls-Heat game is way too excessive.

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Where’s the offense?

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 9, 2011

I of course am as big a Rockies supporter as anyone.  I openly campaign for them to get more support nationally.  (The number of ESPN/Fox/TBS appearances is still zero this season, despite the Rockies leading the NL West).  However, if this team wants to maintain their position and get the national respect they deserve, they must start playing to their true capability.  The Rockies have lost seven of their past 10 games largely because their offense has hit a brick wall.  The starting pitching has been outstanding (the starters’ ERA is under 2.00 over the past eight games), yet the Rockies past five games have all featured two runs or less from the Rockies’ bats.  The Rockies are hitting just .216 as a team over the past seven games (.233 on the season).  With runners in scoring position and less than two out, they’re hitting .215.  You get the idea.  The offense needs to wake up, and it needs to do so in a hurry.

The two big stars, the ones who I would think would be more highly regarded nationally if they played on the east coast, are a large part of the problem.  Carlos Gonzalez had another 0-for-4 tonight against the Mets, dropping his average to .233.  So far this season he has just two home runs and 16 RBI, which is not really the production you look for from the number three spot in the order.  As for Troy Tulowitzki, he started off red hot with seven home runs in April, but he his hitting a horrific .074 in May (yes that is correct) after a solid .298 in April.  Of course every hitter hits a slump from time to time, and I am convinced both players will rebound, but they do need to start hitting like the players the Rockies know they are.  The rest of the lineup has had his ups and downs (Ian Stewart really needs a return trip to Colorado Springs – again), but without Cargo and Tulo leading the way, the Rockies have no hope hitting elite pitching.

It’s not as if they’ve gotten mowed down by Halladay, Lincecum, or Josh Johnson in recent weeks either.  It’s been Ian Kennedy, Ryan Vogelsong (who took a perfect game into the sixth), and Chris Capuano.  Tonight against Capuano the Rockies squeaked out a 2-1 win, but in early April they shelled him for nine runs.  I’m not saying it’s time to hit the panic button, but this is starting to become more than just a pothole as Jim Tracy called it.  The starting pitching has been great, and the bullpen has been good most of the year (although it has had its struggles in recent games as well).  Only four teams have scored fewer than the 20 runs the Rockies have plated in May.  The bottom line is the Rockies offense needs to return the form it showed in early April if they want to achieve their goal of winning their first ever NL West title.

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Twins did the right thing

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 26, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I outlined a wasted trip to the ballpark due to the Rockies waiting until the last minute to postpone a game due to rain.   Since then, numerous teams have been guilty of exactly the same thing: gouging their customers for beer and parking for an hour or two before deciding to call the game.  Today however, I applaud the Minnesota Twins for doing the right thing.  A few minutes ago, the Twins postponed tonight’s game against Tampa Bay even though it is not scheduled to start for another five hours.  This will give fans plenty of notice before they waste gas driving to Target Field, and it also means they won’t be out a parking fee for no reason.  I hope that other MLB teams follow suit when it is obvious that inclement weather is going to get in the way.   Minnesota Twins organization, you receive a tip of the cap for your sound decision making.

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Does Miami know they have a baseball team?

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 22, 2011

Tonight the Rockies are playing at the Florida Marlins.  When I turned on the television before first pitch I thought they were showing a stadium shot from earlier only to realize it was live shot of all the empty seats.  I’ve seen sparse crowds at games before but Marlins baseball games seem to take the cake.  This photo is not from tonight’s game but very closely resembles the “crowd” for the game in Miami tonight:

Luckily for the Marlins they are opening a new retractable roof stadium in 2012.  Maybe that will inject some enthusiasm into South Florida.  If it doesn’t, it’s fair to wonder whether Miami even deserves the Marlins franchise.

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East coast bias

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 20, 2011

So far in the early going of the baseball season, I have noticed a not so subtle theme to the ESPN baseball broadcast schedule.  As usual, it is heavy on Yankees and Red Sox and no one else.  Sure, the defending champion Giants got some love in the first Sunday night broadcast of the year, but by and large ESPN is once again operating under the assumption that the Yankees and Red Sox are the only two teams in the league.  In doing so they continue to ignore many other teams that are worthy of attention.  While there are several teams that deserve more national attention this year (Cleveland and Kansas City have two of MLB’s top five records and even die hard fans can’t name their players), I’m going to put on my hometown hat and bat for the Rockies.

In five years the Rockies have appeared on ESPN exactly one time, and that was when they were in town to play one of the network’s beloved east coast teams, the Mets.  Their playoff appearances in the past five years are double the number of times they’ve been on ESPN.  The Rockies have the best record in Major League Baseball as of this writing, and yet are not scheduled for a single appearance on the mother ship this season.  In Colorado’s case it’s not limited to ESPN.  When the Rockies made the World Series in 2007, TBS announcers butchered the pronunciation of Troy Tulowitzki’s name more than once.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Rox had not been on any national network during the 2007 season.  Thus, the announcers were completely unfamiliar with the team when they made the playoffs.  While it was comical to watch them fall over themselves and laugh at their clear lack of preparation, it illustrated just how much the national networks don’t care about smaller market teams like the Rockies.

Speaking of Tulowitzki, I am convinced he would be of America’s most popular players if he played in New York or Boston.  Because he plays in Colorado, many national pundits don’t appreciate how good he is.  When the Rockies re-signed him this offseason to the tune of seven years and $134 million, many national “experts” scoffed at it.  They claimed the Rockies wasted money foolishly on a player who is not among the elite.  Well, so far this season Tulo is hitting .343 with seven home runs.  Albert Pujols has five.  Tulo also makes a highlight reel play seemingly every night and is the consummate team leader.  I think had Tulowitzki signed that same contract with the Red Sox, it would have been lauded as a great signing by the ESPN folk, but because it’s Colorado they don’t care.

This also has an effect on national fans.  An poll asked fans whether the Rockies were smart or foolish in their decisions to re-sign Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.  While this seemed like a clear no brainer to me to keep two of MLB’s ten most talented players, more than 60 percent of fans nationally thought the Rockies were making bad decisions to give these young players so much money.  I think if these players were on the east coast, national fans would have a much better idea of who Tulo and Cargo are because they would be on ESPN much more often.  Because the Rockies are never on, even big baseball fans in other markets aren’t familiar with what these players can do.

I think the national attitude toward the Rockies can best be summed up by an article in a New York newspaper that suggested the Mets could get well against the “weak Rockies” during a four game series last week at Citi Field.  The article suggested that the Mets would have easy pickings against Colorado.  While this may have true for many years when the Rockies were struggling, times have certainly changed for this franchise in the past five years.  The Rockies ended up sweeping the four game series against the Mets in rather emphatic fashion, so perhaps if the Rockies can continue their high level of play they might finally get the respect they deserve.  Than again, I’m sure ESPN will treat us to 15 more Yankees games before they decide to grace the Rockies with an appearance.

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Rainout? Doesn’t matter to the team!

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 3, 2011

So my dad and I had tickets for today’s game at Coors Field between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.  It was 84 degrees yesterday, so tickets to a Sunday afternoon game seemed like a no brainer right?  Wrong.  The bad weather moved in faster than an Albert Pujols batting practice shot.  When we went to breakfast it was 60 degrees and sunny.  By the time we got to the ballpark four hours later it was in the 40s and dropping rapidly, not to mention it started snowing.  We were pretty sure there wasn’t going to be a ballgame but here we were driving down to the stadium anyway. Despite the clear bad weather, the parking attendants were happily taking money from people.  When we got inside the stadium, the restaurants and concession lines were all packed, not to mention the team store, which was so crowded you couldn’t move without elbowing someone.

Meanwhile, while the money was flowing courtesy of all the unfortunate fans who were packed to the gilds on the concourses because they did want to sit in their seats in the pouring rain.  After all, we all know how exciting a baseball field is when it’s covered up by a tarp.  The snow was falling harder by the minute.  There was nothing on the scoreboard except the logos of the two teams.  No announcements, no mentions of when or if the game might start.  The other scores around the league were still being updated out in right field, which seemed very bizarre because no one was in the seats to see that.  We broke down and decided to get hot dogs ourselves.  I checked my phone to see if I could get a weather update that way, and when I popped up my scoreboard app, all it said for our game is “delay – top 1st” which was a bad sign considering first pitch was still 20 minutes away.  1:10 came and went, and still no update.

Pretty soon we started to hear cheers from the few that were paying attention to the field.  The grounds crew was coming out, they began to pull off the bags that were holding the tarp in place.  This did seem strange given that it was still snowing hard, but for all we knew, the weather was about to move out and they knew it.  Nope, the first announcement we heard all day came next: “Fans your attention please.  Today’s game has been postponed.  No makeup date has been announced.  Tickets for today’s game will be good for the rescheduled game.”

Now, we were fortunate to have tickets and a parking pass that we didn’t have to pay for, but for most of the other fans today was money down the drain without any real return on it, save for a buzz or maybe a sweatshirt.  Most of the fans in attendance had plopped down $13 for parking.  Many had spent more money on beer, soda, hot dogs and other food.  Worst yet perhaps was that most fans had paid pretty good money for seats.  Let’s say a family of four bought upper deck seats.  That’s $100 right there.  Plus you add in the drive down to the stadium at inflated gas prices and you get the idea.  Sure, fans can use their tickets for the rescheduled game, but that means another parking fee, more concessions and more gas.  Plus another program perhaps.  Not to mention, the rescheduled game will not be on a Sunday afternoon.  It will be during the week because the two remaining visits to Denver by the Diamondbacks are during the week.  If fans are lucky, it will be on May 23rd, which is a Monday and a common off day for both teams.  Otherwise, it could well be part of a midweek day night doubleheader, which means an afternoon game during the week.  Either way, fans will not be getting what they thought they were buying, and in many cases will not be able to make the rescheduled game and will thus eat the money for their tickets anyway.

I do not mean to imply that rainouts shouldn’t happen.  They will always be a part of baseball and are inevitable. I certainly do not think it would have been wise to play game in those conditions.  However, anyone with half a brain could have looked at the weather forecast, which was guaranteed to be lousy, and postponed the game well in advance.  Everyone knew precipitation was coming in at some point during the day.  It would have made sense to postpone the game early in the morning, get the word out through radio and social media, and save everyone the trouble and hassle of driving downtown for nothing.  It would have been fair to the fans to postpone the game with enough notice once it became clear it was not going to be played (it was clear to me two hours before first pitch, and I’m not the one with access to all the weather data they have).

It is obvious to me that the reason they waited until after the game’s scheduled start to make any kind of announcement was money.  Remember there was no in stadium announcement whatsoever until the postponement.  By waiting several hours to reveal any information, the Rockies pocketed who knows how much money in parking fees, concessions and merchandise.  I even saw several poor souls buying tickets at the window outside the stadium as we walked in (a good hour before the announcement of the postponement).  To be fair, fans at this point could have used their head and not bought tickets.  On the other hand, they probably headed to the ballpark much earlier, maybe even had called the team to find out if the game would be played.  In any case, by waiting mere hours to postpone the game, the Rockies made a ton of money for themselves at the expense of their fans, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet in this poor economy.   To me, being able to use the ticket for the rescheduled game is a nice and very fair gesture, but many fans will not be able to take advantage of that.  Besides, they will once again have to pay for parking and many will likely buy concessions again.  For us, this was a trip to the ballpark for an expensive hot dog.  For many others, it was a planned family outing that certainly didn’t live up to the billing, and caused a hit to the wallet without any benefit in return.  Next time the weather is very clearly ugly, I hope the Rockies and other MLB teams keep their fans in mind and give them the courtesy they deserve.  Make an effort to decide one way or the other whether a game will be played in a timely manner.  If you’re more than 50 percent sure it won’t be played, call it.  Don’t wait until you’ve gouged your customers.  Going to a game these days is expensive as it is.  Don’t force your fans into paying added expenses for no reason.

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NCAA Tournament picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 17, 2011

I don’t usually do well in these things.  I’ll say that right up front, but then again no one does well in these things.  There is a reason why the secretary who doesn’t know the basketball is round usually wins.  The NCAA tournament is the most unpredictable event in sports, and that’s what makes it must see theater every year.

Before we get started, I think the committee did their worst job in years this go around.  In my opinion Clemson, Georgia (as a 10 seed!), UAB and VCU all were at best questionable inclusions and at worst horrible crimes.  I think Colorado, Virginia Tech, Alabama, Saint Mary’s and Boston College ALL had better resumes than the above mentioned four teams, in particular UAB and VCU.  UAB proved Tuesday night why they don’t belong after getting run off the floor by Clemson, and VCU finished fourth in the Colonial.  I know VCU beat USC tonight, but I am still at a loss for why they are in.  I think for Colorado to not get in with six top-50 wins is ridiculous.  To be fair their non-conference schedule was probably the reason, but even with that they are clearly a better team than UAB or VCU.  You think UAB goes 9-7 in the Big 12?  I don’t either.

Now, on to the picks, just don’t trust them.  (Click here for my full bracket)

East Region:

I’ve got pretty much chalk here, with no first round upsets in this region.  I actually think this is the deepest region, which is somewhat unfair to Ohio State, the top overall seed in the tournament.  The only real upset potential here is Marquette as an 11-seed, but I really like Xavier in that matchup.  I think Clemson has no chance against West Virginia in the 12-5 game after the quick turnaround from the Dayton trip.  I also really don’t like Villanova coming off five straight losses going against a hot George Mason team.  In the second round, I have the higher seeds winning with one exception: I have Washington upsetting North Carolina in the second round.  I just don’t like the way the Tar Heels played in the ACC tournament, falling behind big in every game.  I also think Washington has momentum after winning the Pac-10 tournament, and I think their guards, especially Isiah Thomas, can run with North Carolina.  I think they’ll trip up after that tough, as I don’t like the way they match up with a more physical Syracuse team.  In the sweet 16, I have Ohio State and Syracuse advancing, with the Buckeyes advancing to the Final Four.  Tough region or not, Ohio State is very good and they are built to not give games away.

West Region:

I have three lower seeds winning in the first round here.  First, I have Tennessee beating Michigan in the 8-9 game, which of course doesn’t qualify as much of an upset.  I also have Penn State winning as a 10 seed against Temple.  I have really liked the Nittany Lions all year and I think they’ll win one game in Tucson.  I also have Missouri winning as an 11-seed against Cincinnati.  I know the Tigers have stunk on the road this season, but I think this is a really good matchup for them.  I think Marcus Denmon will be the difference.  I also think Cincinnati should be seeded much lower than six and would be if they weren’t in the Big East.  I thought about picking Memphis to upset Arizona, but I think the Wildcats are too talented for the young Tigers.  In the second round, I have the top four seeds advancing to the sweet 16.  I think Arizona-Texas will be the best second round matchup, but I am choosing to think we’ll see the Texas from a month ago and not the one that lost at Nebraska.  In fact I like the Longhorns to upset Duke in the sweet 16 in Anaheim.  I think Duke was at the top of a very mediocre ACC this season, and while Kyrie Irving is coming back there is no way he’ll be 100 percent.  I think the Longhorns are more than talented enough to take them out.  I also have UConn beating San Diego State in a mini-upset.  The Aztecs are a very good team, but after UConn ran through the Big East tournament, they’ve shown they can beat anyone.  Besides, Kemba Walker is a game changer.  I also like the Huskies to get past Texas and make it to the Final Four because of Walker.

Southeast Region:

This is the weakest of the four regions in my opinion.  Hence why I have four upsets in round one.  I have Old Dominion winning the 8-9 game against Butler in what actually shapes up to be one of the best games in the first round.  Old Dominion is actually a deserving at large from the Colonial, hence the pick.  I also have Gonzaga beating St. John’s in the 6-11 matchup.   Steve Lavin’s club has only been good at Madison Square Garden, and this game is in Denver at altitude.  My two biggest shockers though are Kansas State losing to Utah State in the 5-12 game (I think the Aggies are the best non-BCS team in the field and the Wildcats have been too streaky) and Belmont taking out Wisconsin in the 4-13 game.  I think the Badgers play a slower style that has the potential to allow an athletic team to run on them.  Belmont is a team that no one knows about but they have some players.  I think the get Wisconsin.  In the second round, I like the trend of upsets to continue, with Gonzaga stunning BYU.  I know Jimmer Fredette is really good, but he’s one player.  I like the Bulldogs to keep going on a hunch.  I also like Utah State to get past Belmont in a 12-13 game.  After that I go chalk, with Pitt and Florida meeting in the Elite Eight.  Florida mainly gets there mainly because the other teams they will play are favorable matchups for them.  I think the Panthers have some flaws, but I think they are the best team in this region mainly because they’re battle tested from the Big East.  I think they get past the Gators and move to the Final Four.

West Region:

Only one first round upset here, but it’s a doozy.  I have Richmond beating Vanderbilt in the 5-12 game.  I think the Commodores are talented, but Richmond has some great 3-point shooters and I think they will be able to run in this game.  A hunch says the Spiders win.  I believe the upset potential with Richmond doesn’t end there.  I also think they’ll stun Louisville in the second round.  I really like Rick Pitino’s team, and I know the made the final of the Big East tournament, but they have a tendency to fall behind big in games and they have many times been able to come back.  I think that will burn them in this tournament and it could be early.  I do have the top three seeds advancing to the sweet 16, with the top two, Kansas and Notre Dame, meeting in the Elite Eight.  I think the Jayhawks are very talented and deep, especially with the Morris twins, but I think the Irish run their offense better than any team in the country, and if they are hot from three as they often are, I think they’ll get enough treys to upset KU and move to the Final Four.

Final Four:

I have three Big East teams here, and I think that makes sense since it was far and away the best conference this season.  For many Big East teams, the competition here is not as good as what they just saw in the Big East tournament.  I think a Notre Dame-Pitt national semifinal has the potential to be very physical, but again I think the Irish will get free for threes thanks to Pitt’s tendency to slack on perimeter defense.  I like Notre Dame to win that matchup.  In the other game, while UConn’s run has been amazing, I think it will come to an end against Ohio State.  I think the Buckeyes are the best team in the country, and they will play like it when it matters most.  They have the inside game with Jared Sullinger and they also have the guard play.  In the title game, I think Ohio State will be too much for any opponent that they end up seeing.  I like the Buckeyes to win the national championship because they don’t crack under pressure, and they will not panic in a tournament setting.  Besides, they are the best team, it makes sense.

Just don’t be surprised if these picks are all wrong.  They almost always are.

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Random Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 10, 2011

Obviously I’ve been a delinquent when it comes to posting new content lately.  Here goes with an attempt to catch up quickly:

– I really think the NFL and the players union don’t realize the bomb that they are sitting on.  The NFL is unquestionably the best sports league in America by a country mile, yet the owners and players are dangerously close to killing the golden goose.  In an economy where people can’t afford to pay season tickets, the two sides are fighting over a $9 billion pie.  Not exactly a good way to engender goodwill with the fans.

– The NHL has still not recovered from its lockout that erased the 2004-05 season.  It took Major League Baseball three years to erase the damage done by the 1994 players strike, and at that it was only the McGwire-Sosa home run chase that did that.  The NFL and the players are assuming that the fans will come back as soon as a deal is struck, even if games or an entire season are lost.  That may be, but there is no law that says the NFL must remain uber-popular.  If the two sides aren’t careful they may see themselves looking up at some of the other professional sports leagues.

– It is doubly disappointing that the Broncos finally seem to be headed in a very positive direction under John Elway and John Fox, but it may be long time before we see any of these efforts on the field.  Ultimately my money is on football being played in September, but if this thing gets dragged through the courts that is no guarantee and it will get really ugly to boot.

– Congratulations are in order for the Northern Colorado Bears on the first ever NCAA tournament appearance.  Two years ago this team won four games.  That’s a turnaround that’s certainly worthy of a mention.

– It’s awesome to see that there is some good college basketball being played in this state.  The CU Buffs are showing that they might be very dangerous in the NCAA tournament thanks to the play of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.  This team should easily be in the top half of the new Pac-12 next season, especially if Burks returns for another season.

– Of course I will always watch as much college basketball as I can in March, but my hopes aren’t as high for my alma matter.  Missouri has enough talent to be a contender, but for whatever reason they haven’t been able to get it together and have fallen from top 10 team to a club that is very likely to get bounced out of the NCAA tournament in the first round.  At least they’re going to get in, so I shouldn’t complain too much.  Plus this team only has one senior so next year could be very bright.

– While I will always watch college over the NBA, I have found myself to be more interested in the Nuggets now than at any other time this season.  I have found this team to be very refreshing after they chucked out the player who shall not be named.  There is actual effort on defense and much more team play.  The Nuggets are 6-2 since the trade, and might have enough in them to win a playoff series.  The Knicks have lost twice to the Cavaliers.  Just saying.

– As for the Avalanche, it’s hard to find anything positive to say.  The team has won once in the past month.  They traded their best goalie, Craig Anderson, who is now playing much better in Ottawa than he did here.  They also inexplicably traded young star Chris Stewart to St. Louis.  They have been clobbered twice by Edmonton, the worst team in the league, during the past two weeks.  I am one who doesn’t think the NHL doesn’t get enough coverage, but with the Avs there isn’t much to say except the negative right now.

– I am very excited about the Rockies’ prospects this season, provided they can avoid the slow starts that have plagued them in recent seasons.  If they can come out of the gates fast I think winning the NL West is very doable thanks to a solid rotation (yes it is possible in Colorado), and in my opinion the best lineup top to bottom in the division.  Of course nationally no one will give them any credit and ESPN won’t show any of their games.  If Carlos Gonzalez played in New York he would be front and center nationally.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say he could be a legitimate triple crown threat one of these years.

Coming next week: My NCAA tournament picks.  Use with peril when it comes to your office pool.

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