Reid Fischer's World of Rants

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Posts Tagged ‘college basketball’

Thoughts on the Sweet 16

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 26, 2009

So far I’ve actually done better in my NCAA tournament pool than normal.  I was actually in first place after round one with 28 of 32 first round games correct (I missed on Arizona, Dayton, UCLA and Wisconsin).  I didn’t fare near as well in the second round however, although I got 12 of 16 teams still remaining in the field (I had Utah, West Virginia, Florida State and Texas moving on past the second round).  Someone in our office pool at work got all 16 second round games right, which I have never seen before.  Needless to say that person is way out in front now.  I think this year’s tournament is still shaping up to be as wide open as ever, and while I stick to my original Final Four of Pitt, North Carolina, Memphis and Louisville, with Memphis winning it all, I offer some thoughts on the matchups to come this weekend.

East Region:

– Pittsburgh vs. Xavier: I have to admit that I am surprised to see the Musketeers still alive and kicking, since I had them losing to Florida State in the second round.  Thing is. the Seminoles didn’t make it that far, and Xavier gave a very impressive performance against Wisconsin in the second round.  Pitt struggled big time in round one against 16 seed East Tennessee State and also needed to hold off a charge from Oklahoma State in round two, so this could be interesting.  Pitt looks to be most vulnerable of the number one seeds heading into the regional semifinal, but I also think they lucked out in their matchup with Xavier.  Pitt has size inside especially with DeJuan Blair, and they are well used to physical play in the Big East.  Xavier has good guard play but does not have the size or depth inside to contain Blair and company.  I like Pitt, and I don’t necessarily expect this to be close.  

– Duke vs. Villanova: The Blue Devils nearly gave one away to Texas in the second round, benefiting from several Longhorn mistakes down the stretch.  Villanova got a big scare from American University in round one, needing to rally from a 14-point deficit to win, but then destroyed UCLA in round two.  I still think Duke has been too reliant on the three this season, and as hot as the Wildcats are coming in to this one, I don’t like the odds for the Blue Devils here.  This should be a great game, but I think Scottie Reynolds steps up big and wins this game for Villanova.  

I still like Pitt to beat Villanova in the regional final in a Big East rematch.  

South Region:

– North Carolina vs. Gonzaga: The Tar Heels showed how talented they are with two easy first round wins, although LSU kept it close for awhile in the second round.  Ty Lawson is healthy now to give North Carolina an even bigger talent edge.  Gonzaga has won two tough games against fellow mid-majors, and needed a last second shot to beat Western Kentucky in round two.  I like the Tar Heels to win this one easily.  Their athleticism will just be too much for the Zags.  

– Oklahoma vs. Syracuse: This should be a terrific game.  Blake Griffin has been phenomenal for OU in their two wins so far, while Syracuse has shown no ill effects whatsoever from all their overtimes in the Big East tournament.  Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone flabbergasted Arizona State in round two, and I expect it will do the same to the Sooners.  Oklahoma needs a monster game from Griffin inside, but they’ll also need to knock down the threes against the zone, something that is not one of their strengths.  Syracuse has one of the best penetrating guards in the country in Jonny Flynn, and he won’t be afraid to attack Griffin and company on the offensive end.  I think the defense of the Orange will be the difference, and I see them squeaking out a close one against Oklahoma.

Whether they end up playing the Sooners or the Orange, I like North Carolina in the regional final.  The Tar Heels have way too much talent not to make the Final Four.  

West Region: 

– UConn vs. Purdue: The Huskies have arguably been the most impressive team in the tournament so far, especially with the way they ran a red hot Texas A&M team out of the gym in the second round.  Purdue has been quietly solid, having won a close one against a good Washington team in the second round.  Still, as good as the Boilermakers are playing right now, it won’t be near enough.  Purdue doesn’t have anyone who can guard Hashim Thabeet.  UConn wins easily.  

– Memphis vs. Missouri: This will be entertaining.  Both teams play a fast paced style and like to play pressure defense.  Memphis easily handled Maryland in round two after struggling in their first round game against 15 seed Cal State Northridge, while Missouri nearly blew a big lead to Marquette in round two and rallied to win.  Both teams rely on forcing turnovers and creating easy buckets in transition, so I think both teams will be successful in that area.  I like Memphis in this game (even though I’m a Missouri alum) because of their ability to score in the half court, and their overall defensive ability.  This will be close, but I think Memphis prevails.  As a Missouri alum, I plea to Mike Anderson to say in Columbia and not be tempted by the Alabama job.  You’ve got a good thing going Mike, let’s keep it that way. 

I think Memphis-UConn would be a fantastic game.  I think while UConn has been dominant in this tournament, I still have a hunch that Memphis’ defense will be able to help turn the game in their favor.  That is a matchup I would definitely pay money to see.  In the event that Missouri upsets Memphis, I would take UConn against the Tigers.  

Midwest Region:

– Louisville vs. Arizona: The Wildcats easily got through Utah and Cleveland State as a 12 seed.  I honestly thought they would lose to Utah, but Arizona has shown that they have talent to win if they get the right matchup.  However, Louisville is not it.  While Louisville did struggle with a good Siena team in round two, they’re still as complete as any team in the country.  A Rick Pitino team with several days to prepare is usually bad news for opponents.  I like Louisville to win, although Arizona might keep it close early.

– Michigan State vs. Kansas: These teams met in January, with the Spartans blowing out the Jayhawks in East Lansing.  This will be on a neutral court, and Kansas is much improved since that meeting.  Both teams looked solid in their winning their first two tournament games, so I expect this to be competitive.  If Kansas can get another good game inside from Cole Aldrich, this should be very interesting indeed.  In the end though, I think the Spartans are the better defensive team and that will come through in the end.  I do however have to admit that I did pick North Dakota State to beat the Jayhawks in one of my pools simply because I can’t stand Kansas, so take that with a grain of salt.  Still, I like Michigan State to win a close game here.  

I think Louisville win the regional final regardless if the opponent is Michigan State or Kansas.  The Cardinals are too athletic at both ends of the floor for either team.  

I still like my Final Four that I picked before the tournament started.  I still like Memphis to stifle Lousiville in one national semifinal, and I like North Carolina to beat Pitt in the other.  In the end, I still pick Memphis to win it all because of their defense.  Regardless, this is a round of 16 that I am looking forward to like no other in recent years.

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My Final Four Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 19, 2009

Clearly picking the NCAA tournament is a very inexact science, but it’s one of my favorite times of the year.  This year things are wide open, but I’m also having a hard time seeing a lot of big time upsets.  Nevertheless, we’ll give it a stab.  As always, picks are to be taken with caution.

East Region:

First Round Surprises: I only see one lower seed winning in the first round here.  I’ve got 11 seed VCU upsetting UCLA.  Virginia Commonwealth upset Duke in the first round two years ago, and they hung tough with Oklahoma in non-conference play during the regular season.  The main reason I am making this pick is I am really not sold on UCLA.  I’ve watched the Bruins play several times this season, and they are maddeningly inconsistent.  Plus, they make the cross-country trip to Philadelphia.  I don’t like those odds for the Bruins.

– Second Round: I do have a big shocker here.  I have 7 seed Texas beating 2 seed Duke to move on to the sweet 16.  I think the Longhorns are way too talented to be a 7 seed.  I know they have really underachieved, but when you’ve got the Big 12’s all-time leading three point shooter in A.J. Abrams, a talented swingman in Damion James, a beast inside in Dexter Pittman, and an array of talented guys off the bench, I think the Longhorns are prized for a surprise run.  I also think Duke is way too dependent on the three, and that’s not a good recipe for tournament success.  I also like Florida State to beat Xavier in a 5-4 second round matchup.  The Seminoles have one of the country’s best players in Toney Douglas.

– Sweet 16 and regionals: While I think Texas will take down Duke, I don’t think they have quite enough for Villanova.  The Wildcats, like many Big East teams, are going to prove their worth in this tournament.  The Big East is clearly the best conference this season and it will show.  On that note, I like top seed Pitt to easily handle Florida State, setting up an all-Big East regional final.  Pitt is a dynamite team with great guard play and a tremendous force inside in DeJuan Blair.  I like Pitt to win a close one in the regional final against Villanova and make the Final Four.

The pick: Pitt

South Region: 

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got two here.  I think Western Kentucky, a 12 seed, will beat the 5 seed Illinois.  For the life of me I can’t see how a mediocre conference like the Big Ten has seven teams in.  Western Kentucky has a nice team with good tournament success in the past, and I like them against an overrated Ilini team that will be without its best player in Chester Frazier.  Frazier says he’ll be ready for round two, but that won’t be necessary.  I also like Michigan, the 10 seed, to beat 7 seed Clemson.  I know what I just said about the Big Ten, but Clemson is such an enigma, sometimes they’re awesome and sometimes they’re beyond awful.  I think their performance will be somewhere in the middle, and I like the Wolverines to handle the Tigers.  

– Second Round: I actually have the top four seeds (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Gonzaga) moving on to the Sweet 16 here.  I just think they’re the best teams in this region.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I like the top seeded Tar Heels to hold off Gonzaga.  Ty Lawson will be healthy by then, and even though the Zags are athletic, they won’t pose much trouble for the star studded Heels.  I also like Syracuse to beat Oklahoma, a mini 3 over 2 upset.  I thought Syracuse showed tremendous character in their awesome 6-OT win over UConn in the Big East tourney, and while Blake Griffin gives OU a chance to win any game, I don’t think he’ll be enough against the Orange.  Besides, Oklahoma couldn’t beat either of the top two teams in their own conference, Kansas or Missouri.  In the regional final, I think North Carolina’s athleticism will be too much for Syracuse and their zone defense.

The pick: North Carolina

Midwest Region:

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got three lower seeds winning here, including my biggest shocker of the entire tournament.  I’ve got 13-seed Cleveland State beating the 4-seed Wake Forest Demon Deacons.  I like the Vikings because they proved to be a better Horizon League team than Butler, who was ranked in the top 20 most of the year.  Cleveland State also beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome during the non-conference portion of the year.  Wake Forest has amazing talent, but the Deacons have just been too inconsistent.  I like the upset.  I also have a couple of smaller upsets here based on seeding: USC over Boston College (10 over 7), and Siena over Ohio State (9 over 8).  After Siena made the sweet 16 last year, I’m not prepared to pick against them again.  Many pundits are picking 12 seed Arizona to beat the fifth seed Utah, but I like the Utes.  I don’t think Arizona belongs in the tournament at all after going 9-9 in conference play (in a year where the Pac 10 is down too boot), and I think Utah is better than people are giving them credit for.

– Second Round: I’ve got an upset here, as i like West Virginia (the 6 seed) to take out the three seed and defending national champ Kansas.  I almost picked the Jayhawks to lose in the first round to North Dakota State, but I thought my status as a Mizzou alum may have been clouding my judgement, so I have them losing in round two instead.  In all seriousness, I really like West Virginia, and I think the Jayhawks don’t match up well with the Mountaineers.  West Virginia’s rigorous Big East schedule will pay off and they will not be afraid of Kansas.  I also like top seed Louisville to move on, as well as Utah, who I like to squeeze by Cleveland State.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I think Louisville will be able to handle Utah pretty easily, and I also like the 2 seed Michigan State to beat West Virginia.  The Spartans are a lot better now than they were early in the season, and Tom Izzo’s teams have proved over the years that they’re never an easy out.  That being said, I don’t think they have quite enough to topple Louisville, who just happened to win the rugged Big East Tournament.  Rick Pitino’s crew was under the radar most of the year, but there is a reason why they are the top overall seed in the tournament.

The pick: Louisville

West Region:

– First Round Surprises: I’ve got three of them here, including 11-seed Utah State surprising Marquette, the 6 seed.  Utah State has proven to be a tough out in the past, and while Marquette comes from the Big East, they just haven’t been the same team since Dominic James was shelved for the year to injury.  The Golden Eagles are just 1-5 without him in the lineup.  Plus, this will be a de facto home game for the Aggies in Boise.  I also like Maryland to beat Cal in a 10-7 matchup, while I like Texas A&M to beat BYU and get the mini-upset in the 9-8 matchup.  The Aggies were as hot as anyone before stumbling in the Big 12 tourney, and I think they’ll rebound here.  A&M beat BYU in a 9-8 matchup last year as well.

– Second Round: The only lower seed I have moving on here is Purdue, who I like to beat Washington in a potential 5-4 matchup.  Both teams have struggled against elite competition, so this is more of a hunch than anything else. I like the top three seeds, UConn, Memphis and Missouri to move on.  Mizzou could have a tough second round matchup against Marquette (who is only seeded as low as they are because of James’ injury), but since I have them playing Utah State, the resurgent Tigers move on without too much trouble.

– Sweet 16 and regional final: I think UConn will handle their opponent easily whether it’s Washington or Purdue.  I also like Memphis to squeak one out against Missouri.  It is interesting to note the the last loss for Memphis came to UAB when Mike Anderson was the coach.  Anderson of course now coaches Missouri, but I think Memphis has to guard play to answer Missouri’s pressure defense.  I also like the 2-seed Memphis to beat UConn in what would be a great regional final.  I believe Memphis should have gotten a number one seed because of their tremendous defense (the Tigers give up three points less per 100 possessions than anyone in the country).  UConn may have Hashim Thabeet inside, but Memphis will be able to be physical enough to defend him.  I like the Tigers in this region.

The Pick: Memphis

Final Four:

I think if these four teams make it we’re in for some great basketball.  I do like North Carolina to beat Pitt because I think the Tar Heels are more athletic and they have a coach with championship experience in Roy Williams.  I also like Memphis to surprise Louisville, again because of the Tigers’ defense.  A Memphis-North Carolina title game would definitely be interesting.  Memphis lost the title game to Kansas last year, while the Heels are trying to get titles for Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson.  In the end the Tar Heels may have more athletes, but I believe defense wins this event.

That’s why I like Memphis to win the national title.  Take it for what you will.   Enjoy the hoops!

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Random Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 12, 2009

– I am getting really sick of hearing about steroids and baseball.  We know players cheated.  We know there were more players hopped up on performance enhancers in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s than we’ll care to admit.  I actually applaud Alex Rodriguez for his honesty and coming clean, but baseball has a real problem on its hands that just won’t go away, ever.  It’s not as if Rodriguez is the only player that used.  Odds are he was hitting off home runs off of pitchers who were also using.  Obviously that doesn’t make it right, but it is impossible to know for sure which players used and which didn’t, and how much of an advantage those that used really got. 

– The fact is the steroid era encompasses much of recent baseball history.  Is it practical to wipe out records or to keep some of these players (like Mark McGwire) out of the Hall of Fame?  Be honest, how many Yankees fans are going to refrain from buying tickets at the new Yankee Stadium this season because A-Rod admits he used steroids?  None.  How many Yankee fans will cheer him if he hits 50 home runs and leads the Yankees to a title this year?  All of them.  One of baseball’s problems with this is that the fans don’t seem to be near as appalled as they are made out to be.  Ticket sales are way up, ratings are up, and MLB isn’t exactly a struggling operation.  When teams lose, that’s when fans stop going to the games.  A key player gets busted for steroids?  That doesn’t have near the economic impact as a struggling team, so MLB owners will continue to have this issue on their hands. 

– On the plus side, it’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers are already reporting this week.  If the Rockies weren’t destined to be so awful in 2009, I might be actually be excited about this.  I just don’t think they got enough in return for Matt Holliday, and if Jeff Francis actually does have shoulder surgery later this month as rumored, the rotation is already in trouble.

– It’s also hard to get excited when the Yankees have an unfair advantage that allows them to buy whatever free agents they want.  MLB needs a salary cap in the worst way, but the players union will never agree to it.

– At least we have college basketball for another month.  Other than the NFL, this is my favorite sport.  The college game is so much better than the NBA in absolutely every way it’s not even funny.  For starters, it’s not about individual players.  The college game relies on a team working together.  This is much more fun to watch than an NBA game where an individual tries to take over while three of teammates are standing around watching.  Plus, it’s hard to beat an atmosphere where the crowd is actually into the game and cares about the outcome.  Not that NBA fans don’t care, but there is a big difference between passionate student sections and corporate yuppies that stroll in around the second quarter and leave midway through the fourth.

– I’m also excited about the college game because Missouri (my alma matter) is finally good again.  After a five year absence from the NCAA tournament, the Tigers are 21-4 and 8-2 in conference play. 

– Most of all, the college games are just more intense, competitive and fun to watch.  I am already looking forward to the NCAA tournament.

– It will also be an interesting off season in the NFL.  There are several receivers who could end up moving (including T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Anquan Boldin, and possibly Terrell Owens) plus there are several other big time free agents out there such as Julius Peppers and Albert Haynesworth.  Free agency opens on the 27th after the scouting combine, so we’ll delve more into offseason movement then.  It will be interesting to see which teams try to make splashes and which don’t, keeping in mind that big ticket signings don’t always guarantee success and in some cases quickly blow up in a team’s face.  Look at the Jaguars, who spent big money on Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence last offseason, and released them both this week.

– I will not believe that Brett Favre is actually retired until I see that he is not on the field playing for some team in week one.

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It’s Tourney Time!

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 18, 2008

One of my favorite times of the year is almost here, the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.  Will this finally be the year a 16 seed upsets a 1? (Personally I’m rooting for Portland State against Kansas – that would more than make up for Missouri’s mediocrity this season.).  I am sane enough to realize that the odds of that happening are about the equivalent of me winning the Powerball jackpot.  Oh wait, I never have.  The odds should be better that all four number one seeds will make the Final Four, especially with this year’s talented quartet of North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, and aforementioned Kansas.  Thing is, that’s not very likely either that all four teams will go through the bracket unscathed.  See, there has never been a year where all four number one seeds have reached the Final Four, not one.  That’s what makes this event a truly unique one on the sports calendar.  You never know who is going to get hot.  We’ve seen four 15 seeds win games against 2 seeds since 1990.  We’ve seen upsets over the years the likes of Weber State over North Carolina, Bradley over Kansas, Vermont over Syracuse, Virginia Commonwealth over Duke and Bucknell over Kansas (can you tell who I like to see go down?).  My Missouri Tigers made the Elite Eight in 2002 as a 12 seed.   George Mason of course made their spectacular run two years ago to reach the Final Four as an 11 seed.  Villanova won the national title as an 8 seed in 1985, I could go on and on.  The point is, between all the buzzer beaters, fantastic finishes and upsets, it makes it virtually impossible to predict how the tournament will go.  This makes winning a bracket challenge or office pool extremely difficult.  Chances are, the winner won’t have seen a single hoops game all year or will win because they confused George Mason with George Washington.  Perhaps their alma matter happened to get hot out of nowhere.  It just becomes harder and harder every year to win that office pool.

Some will have success with the mascot theory, picking games based on who’s mascot would be more likely to win an actual fight.  This worked well for those that rode the Florida Gators the past two seasons.  Some people try crazy ideas like inverse graduation rate, famous alumni, coin flip or some other such crazy exercise.  While there is no theory that will guarantee success, there are some simple actual basketball points that can at least prevent you from finishing last in your pool or getting embarrassed.

– Remember a 16 seed has never defeated a 1 seed, so Mississippi Valley State is not bumping off UCLA, let alone advancing to the sweet 16

– As mentioned above, all four number one seeds have never made the Final Four.  Fill out your bracket accordingly.

– Keep an eye out for teams that will be enjoying home cooking, playing close to home and in front of partisan crowds.  Last year UCLA defeated top seed Kansas in the regional final in large part because they were playing in California.  Syracuse took advantage of regional games in Albany when they won the national title in 2003 as a three seed.  North Carolina will be helped immensely this year by playing their first two games in Raleigh (less than 30 minutes from their home court, the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill) and two potential regional games in Charlotte, where they just won the ACC Tournament.  Sure, they have a bracket with tough foes in Tennessee, Louisville and Notre Dame, but the hometown feeling is a huge advantage.  UCLA will play its first two games in nearby Anaheim before potentially heading to Phoenix, which isn’t that far from LA.   Texas, should they get through their first two rounds in Little Rock, will get regional games in Houston, giving them a huge edge against the South’s top seed, Memphis.  How about South Alabama, a 10 seed getting to play in Birmingham against 7 seed Butler?  To a lesser degree, Kansas and Kansas State will benefit from playing first and second round games in Omaha, just a short drive from Kansas City.  Also, 10 seed Davidson will be much more comfortable in Raleigh than their first round opponent Gonzaga, which must travel cross country.

– Don’t get sucked into picking too many upsets.  Not all of the top seeds are going to go down.  Pick your upsets in spots, but remember that by and large the better teams will be advancing deep into the tournament.  It is especially important to remember that the odds of the national champ being anything other than a top three seed is highly unlikely.

– If your alma matter or favorite team is in the tournament, try to pick with your brain instead of your heart.  That being said, feel free to pick them a round farther than you normally would if they weren’t your favorite team.  It sure worked for George Mason alums two years ago.

– Don’t get swayed by tradition rich programs with poor seeds, such as Arizona (10) and Kentucky (11) in this year’s bracket.   If a traditional power is seeded double digits, they probably didn’t have a good year by their standards and may not be your best choice for an upset pick.

– Pay attention to how teams finished the season.  Pitt, a 4 seed, won the Big East Tournament after being seeded seventh in that bracket.  Clemson, a five seed, beat Duke in the ACC semis and played North Carolina tough in all three meetings this year.   Memphis earned its top seed in part by breezing through the Conference USA tournament.  You can argue all you want about their league not being strong, but their strong run at the end of league play gives indication they’ll be up for the challenge in the NCAA Tournament.

Just remember, there is no perfect formula for picking these games.  Something will happen that is completely unexpected, it is just not possible to tell what it will be.  Above all, this tournament is fun.  If Portland State does beat Kansas, I will be on cloud nine, even if I have Kansas picked to go deep in the tournament.  If your bracket goes down in flames, don’t worry, chances are everyone else in your office is experiencing the same thing.  If they’re not, the tournament is still fun to watch for its unpredictability and excitement.  For the record, my Final Four picks are North Carolina, Georgetown, Texas and UCLA, with the Tar Heels winning their second title under Roy Williams.  You know what this means, for heaven’s sake stay away from those four teams!

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Random Thoughts for March

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 4, 2008

So the calendar has turned into March.  Never mind that it’s hard to fathom that we’re already two months into 2008.  This means one thing and one thing only: this is the best time of year for college basketball.  It is this time of year that reminds me why the college game is considerably better and more entertaining than the pro version.  I’m well aware that I recently wrote that I’m paying more attention to the NBA these days.  That still holds true, especially this season when the Nuggets may end up holding the distinction of the most talented team ever to miss the playoffs.  However, there is one thing the college game has that the NBA will never have, and that’s the passion involved in each game.  Have you ever once seen NBA fans charge the court to celebrate a big win?  No.  Do NBA fans arrive at a game three hours early to secure the best seats? No.  Do NBA games have raucous student sections that turn even the most mundane of matchups into an electric atmosphere? No.  

As much as I despise Kansas basketball, and the hatred is evident if you get to know me for five seconds, I had to give a tip of the cap while watching their game against Texas Tech last night.  It was senior night at Allen Fieldhouse, and as usual the place was packed.  That atmosphere is what makes college basketball so great.  Students at KU camp out for days to make sure they get seats for the next game, and regardless of the score (last night KU walloped Tech by 58 points) no one leaves the game early, ever.  I’ve been to NBA games where the score is tied with three minutes left and people are heading for the exits to beat traffic.  Seriously, how absurd is this?  People don’t leave movies early, so why do they leave games early, even when it’s competitive at the end?  That’s a rant for another time, but the point is you don’t see that kind of casual fan behavior at a college game.  Every college game has an electric atmosphere, virtually anywhere in the country, that is simply not duplicated at the professional level.  Even in a year where my Mizzou Tigers are just hovering over .500 at 15-14, I still pay much closer attention to the college season and in particular the Big 12 this time of year than I do any other sport.  The NCAA tournament is a unique event on the sports calendar partly due to its unpredictability, but it’s the passion of each game that makes the event special.  For me, the final few weeks of the regular season and the week of conference tournaments also provide the same intensity and excitement.  No matter who your team is, no matter how poor a season they’ve had, there’s always that minuscule chance they could win their conference tournament and make the big party.  That small chance alone makes the next few weeks of games worth watching.

…………………………………………………….

Have you seen some of these deals being shelled out in the early period of free agency in the NFL?  I know it’s always a time where teams want to show their fans that they’re doing something to try and improve the team, but some of these deals are insane.  How many of you out there have heard of Tommy Kelly?  He’s a defensive tackle who last year had 30 tackles and one sack for the Raiders, and didn’t play a down after suffering a season ending injury in week 8 against Tennessee.  The Raiders shelled out $50.5 million over five years to re-sign him.  That’s an awful lot of money to shell out for one sack.  Reports had some NFL GM’s saying, “Who is Tommy Kelly?”  How about Justin Smith, defensive end formerly of the Bengals, getting $45 million over six years to sign with San Francisco?  Smith had a whopping two sacks last year, and while talented, doesn’t seem like he’d be considered the so called missing piece to justify that kind of signing.  The Jacksonville Jaguars clearly thought that two interceptions was worth $6 million a year, as that’s what they’re paying former Charger cornerback Drayton Florence.  Seems as though the New England Patriots still have confidence in their more low key formula.  They elected not to re-sign WR Donte Stallworth (who went to Cleveland), CB Asante Samuel (who got a 6 year $57 million contract from Philadelphia, although he at least intercepted six passes last year) and CB Randall Gay (who signed with New Orleans).  These can be added to the list of big name players they have jettisoned in the past (David Givens, Deion Branch, Ty Law, Drew Bledsoe among them), and it’s a philosophy that seems to work for them.  As successful as they’ve been, maybe the answer isn’t to spend every dime you have on free agents every winter.  Then again, maybe the Patriots are just good at bargain hunting.  Their 3 year $27 million re-signing of star receiver Randy Moss seems like the biggest bargain of the winter. 

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Tonight Peter Forsberg returns to the Colorado Avalanche.  I really hope that this isn’t just a public relations move to bring him back.  If he is even 80 percent of the player he was before he left the club, then the Avalanche are about get a huge boost.  Right now they are on the cusp of playoff contention, but if he can contribute, then they might just make a run.  Last year felt weird without the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but if they make it back this year with Forsberg and Adam Foote having just returned to the team, it will be just like old times. 

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