Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 5 Reasons why Alabama won't go undefeated in 2010


We are only 5 weeks away from the official kick off of college football for the 2010 season and its time to start offering up a prediction on the upcoming year. That simple prediction is that the 2009 National Champion, the preseason # 1 team in the land, the program that has not lost a regular season game in the past two seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide, will lose atleast one, if not more regular season games in 2010.

Here are my reasons why I've come to this stunning prediction...

1. THEY'RE DUE TO LOSE. That was the headline of a pre season magazine cover in 1992, when it predicted Alabama to win it all and hence forth they did with a 34-13 smackdown of Miami in the Sugar Bowl that essentially ended the Canes dynasty (funny, no mention of this game in ESPN's 30 for 30 movie so eloquently titled, "The U"). It applies this year to the Tide, simply put, they're due to falter. Its hard enough to go 12-0 once, let alone twice and to accomplish it in the SEC is even more difficult. Convential wisodom says the Tide will slip up.

2. SCHEDULE. Its difficult to say the least. Penn State comes to T-Town early in the season and the Tide goes on the road to Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU, with 3 of those 4 teams expected to be ranked in the pre season Top 25. Add in a road game at Duke, which Alabama should win, but combine the fact its the 3rd of a 5 week span where the Tide plays PSU at home, at Ark, at Duke and Florida at home and then at South Carolina, its work is cut out for them.

3. SCHEDULE, PART II. For years, Alabama fans complained that many of their opponents had a week off before they faced the Tide, many dismissed this a pure conincidence, but Tennessee, Ole Miss and others routinely played BYE the week before the encountered the Tide. Nick Saban said when he took over that he wanted to become a team that its opponents hated to play. Well missioned accomplished as 6 SEC teams have a Bye week before they play 'Bama in 2010. This constant fate the SEC has bestowed on UA is sure to catch up with them at some point.

4. INJURY FREE IS THE WAY TO BE. In the years that Alabama struggled under Mike Shula, a lack of depth or injuries constatnly plagued 'Bama. Seasons turned completely on injuries to Brodie Croyle in '04 and Tyrone Protho in '05 among others. Outside of Donta Hightower's season ending injury last year, Alabama has had very few starters miss time due to injuries. With a depleted defensive secondary, the Tide will need more of the same to avoid losing.

5. NEW STARTERS ON SPECIAL TEAMS. A new kicker, holder, snapper and punter must be found for Nick Saban in 2010. This cannot be overlooked because Alabama's kicking game has been excellent in the punting and field goal areas for the most part the past two seasons. Saban has rode the legs of PJ Fitzgerald and Leiigh Tiffin to play field position and grind out 3 point kicks in numerous contests the past two season on the way to wins over Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky and others the past two years. The kicking game was horrible in the Spring and we haven't even mentioned the graduated return man great in Javier Arenas, who was a threat to house it every time he touched the ball and could flip the field in a moments notice.

Its not all doom and gloom for the Tide. On paper, Alabama should be favored on a game by game basis heading into the season. But, when you throw in the scheduling quirks, 5 road trips, a non conference game vs a top 15 team, youth in the secondary and the uncertainty of the kicking game, they are sure to slip up at some point. Add in the fact that Alabama will get everyone's best shot, you have a recipe for some losses. Nobody knows at which point it will happen, many will point to Arkansas, maybe Florida or LSU, but it will probably be when you least expect it, like when 25 point underdog LSU ended Alabama 28 game unbeaten streak in Tuscaloosa in 1993 or Miss. State's improbable 6-3 win over the Tide in 1980 ended their quest for a third straight national title.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Game 7, nothing else matters....


This is it. 1 game, 48 minutes, legacies and careers will be defined by midnight.

The rejuvinated, underdog Celtics have done the improbable, with their run through the Eastern Conference to a Game 7 Finals appearance against the Lakers. On the otherhand, the Lakers, the defending champs, have been pushed to the brink and responded like champs do in a Game 6 rout. (side note: its best to lose big games, like game 6 in blow out fashion as a player or fan. If its too close, you lament over the loss for years. Blowouts don't sting as much!)

At this point, the pressure is on the Lakers. The Celtics are playing with house money. Nobody expected them to be here and they will be a decided underdog tonight without the services of Kendrick Perkins. LA is the better team, they have the two best players on the court, but in a 1 game scenario, anything can happen.

The keys for this evening are rebounding and getting off to a good start. The team that has won the rebounding category and that has led at the end of the 1st quarter has won every game. Don't expect the Celtics to get a call because the free throw disparity in this series has been horrific. Even in the Boston victories, they can't get to the foul line. This is usually a key component to the road formula victory.

Everything points against Boston winning tonight. Home court, series trends, 2-3-2 format, free throw disparity, injuries, etc. I'd give the Celtics about a 20% chance to win this evening. But I like those odds considering what they were a few weeks ago. I originally picked the Celtics in 7, no reason to change now.

Monday, June 7, 2010

what we learned after two games...


Celtics vs Lakers is tied at 1-1. Several questions have been answered to this point, but many still remain unanswered. This is what we learned so far.

1. Officiating has been terrible. Now, the national media is all over Kobe Bryant and his 5 fouls, but yet their is no mention that Ray Allen played less then 20 minutes in Game 1 due to fould trouble. Add into this equation that every Celtic big man had 3 fouls last night in the first half, Doc Rivers was using patch work line ups to keep it close. LA shot an astounding 37 free throws to Boston's 14 through 3 quarters last night, and yet the C's still won.

2. Ray Allen is a bad man. He's 34 and jump shooters aren't supposed to have this long of a shelf life, but considering in how great of shape Allen is in, he could be a legit threat for another 3 years in this league.

3. Gasol and Bynum are dominating Garnett. Gasol is having his way, but if you're a C's fan, the silver lining is Garnett has not played well yet. Of course, when you get 2 fouls in 2 minutes, its hard to establish yourself. In the 4 possessions KG was in to start the game, he had 2 points and 2 assists.

4. I still have no idea who wins this series. I picked Boston in 7 and don't really believe they can win 3 straight vs LA at home (Pistons turned the trick in '04). LA has looked like the better team at times, but the Celtics haven't hit on all cylanders yet. If Boston wins game 3, I could see them getting momentum and taking this thing at home, but its doubful that will happen. 30 NBA Finals series have been tied at 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has won the series 28/30.

5. Laker fans have to beleive it took a record setting peroformance by Ray Allen and a Rondo triple double just for the C's to win. In that equation, LA should be favored to win this thing.

Prediction: Boston wins 2 of 3 at home, LA wins game 6 creating a toss up in Game 7.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Who has on their Poker Face?



With all due respects to Lady GaGa, major conference commissioners, university presidents and athletic directors are wearing their poker faces and some are doing it better then others.

There are major and minor players in this game, with some bringing more chips to the table then others. Its looking more and more that we are heading to 4-5 super conferences comprised of 14-16 team each. Let's examine what some of these groups bring to the table.

1. Texas- The Longhorns seem to be holding all the cards right now, as their name has been mentioned with the Pac-10, SEC and even Big-10. The Longhorns bring major media markets to any conference they join, and thanks to politics and the Morril Act of the 1860's that created Land Grant colleges or agricultural schools for each state, they will also bring Texas A & M and possibly Texas Tech and Baylor with them too. The same issues that are holding back Texas now are the same ones that plagued them and prevented them from joing the SEC in the late 80's, they have to bring A & M with them.

2. Notre Dame- A Big East member in every sport except football, the Irish have remained an independent despite the fact that independents died off in the early 90's like the VCR and Walkman. Of course, they get huge TV money from NBC for their home games, so this has caused them to remain in their current status. The Irish have struggled in this age of conference expansion, and have been non-players in big boy football since the early '90's. The Big 10/11 would love to pull them in with 4 other schools, but it remains to be seen if that will happen.

3. Texas A & M, Texas Tech, Baylor- all 3 are little brothers in this equation and where ever Texas goes, the Aggies will follow. Remains to be seen if Tech and Baylor tag along or be left scrambling to remain in the Big 12 or join C-USA/MountainWest

4. Colorado- looks to be headed to the Pac 10 with no other options sitting out there at the moment

5. Okalahoma- The Sooners are an attractive fit for the Pac 10 or SEC, as they bring football power with excellence in many other non revenue sports. But like Texas, they will be forced by there state legislatures to bring little brother Oklahoma State with them.

6. Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers- any of these 3 could join the Big 10, with Pitt brining a natural rivalry with Penn State to the table. Syracuse might be reluctant to leave the Big East due to basetball, but both them and Rutgers bring the NYC metro market to the equation and lots of tv sets to the Big 10

7. Nebraska and Missouri- Each would add a western presence to the Big 10, with Missouri already having a natural rivalry with Illiois. Nebraska brings a rabid fan base for football, but not much else.

8. The SEC- Mike Slive obviously has the best football conference, but would probably like to upgrade basketball even though that is not driving conference expansion. Should he not be able to add a Texas and Texas A & M, Louisville, Clemson, Ga. Tech a and Florida State could be added.

9. The ACC-The conference is really restricted in what it can do. It was proactive in adding Boston College, Va. Tech and Miami. But being a basketball conference, the ACC is hoping not too lose members to the SEC. Possible additions could be anyone from the leftover Big East, maybe even a South Carolina cause they haven't done anything in the SEC except take up space

10. Temple- If the ACC loses members or is forced to expand to 16 teams, they could be an addition now that the football Owls are respectable and they bring the 6th winningest basketball team in NCAA history to the table, along with the Philly TV market.

11. Kansas-The Jayhawks look like the odd man out, not much is said abouth them in terms to any conference, but again, they must bring K-State with them. The Jayhawks just went to the Orange Bowl a few years ago, but they don't have the population, fan base, tradition or geographical location to really add anything to a super conference, except for a real good college hoops team.

12. Mississippi State, Washinton State, Vanderbilt, Northwestern-All of these teams should thank their lucky stars they're already in a Big Boy Conference, otherwise they would be completely left out of the picture.

Make no mistake, some teams bring more chips to the table then others, but these decisions will be based on football, population and potential tv money. Basketball and the non revenue sports don't matter in this equation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Finals: Hot Tub Time Machine Celtics vs Lakers



A surprise, but much anticipated NBA Finals match up between the rejuvinated Celtics and the favored Lakers. The Celtics have caught lightning in a bottle and are trying to reclaim the past. The Lakers are trying to go back to back with Kobe putting himself in the conversation for all time greatest player. This has the makings of an all time series as both teams come in evenly matched. Let's break down the matchups so I can go back and relive my youth.

Last Time They Met: In the Finals, it was 2008. The Celtics won the series 4-2 by overcoming a 24 point deficit in Game 4 in LA to sieze control of the series and they humiliated LA in an epic Game 6 beat down of 131-92 that wasn't as close as the score indicates. Don't think for a second that this isn't in the back of the minds of Phil, Kobe and company.

2009-10 Match Ups: Both teams won in each others buidlings. The Lakers came back from 10 down in the 4th to win on a late Kobe jumper by a point. The C's returned the favor in LA with a one point win at Staples, a game in which Kobe did not play. Both teams are much different then when those games were played.

Road to the Finals: The Celtics limped into the post season finishing 27-27, battling injuries. They took out D-Wade and Miami 4-1, overcame a 2-1 deficit to the favored Cavaliers and won 3 straight over LeBron and maybe changed the future of the NBA for the next decade. In the East Finals, Boston dismantled Orlando for a 3-0lead and closed out Superman and the Magic 4-2.

The Lakers struggled against upstart OKC Thunder and needed a Pau Gasol tip in to win in 6 games. The Lakers drop kicked an undermanned Utah squad 4-0 and closed out Phoenix in 6 games after Ron Artest saved the day in Game 5.

Position Break Down:

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs Derrick Fisher. The Lakers don't really have a true 1, with Kobe running the point. Rondo has played out of his mind, becoming a bona fide superstar. Derrick Fisher, when he plays well, the Lakers win. He has a knack for hitting big shots and brings veteran leadership Have to wonder how much Rondo is injured.

Advantage: Celtics

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant vs Ray Allen. Hands down, Kobe in this slot, but will he chase Ray Allen around the court or will this fall to Artest or Fisher. Problem for LA is Kobe has sagged of Rondo in the past, but that should not be an option. Allen can go for 20+ any time to help negate the Lakers advantage. He hit 22 3's in 6 games back in 2008.

Advantage: Lakers

Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs Ron Artest. Pierce is playing well again now that he doesn't face the taller LeBron, but only averaged 13 a game vs Artest this year. Artest will hold his own, but I think the Lakers will miss Trvor Ariza who was in this spot last year.

Advantage: Celtics

Power Forward: Andrew Bynum vs Kevin Garnett. Garnett will need double-doubles against Bynum, although the Lakers size presents a problem. Bynum has been the invisible man lately due to injuries.

Advantage: Celtics

Center: Pau Gasol vs Kendrick Perkins. Perk will bang and play hard, his physical play bothered Gasol in '08. But now Gasol is easily the second best player in this series.

Advantage: Lakers

Bench: The Celtics have a huge advantage here. Big Baby Davis, Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen have defined roles. The emergence of Nate Robinson and possibly Michael Finley provide a huge boost for the C's. The Lakers have the Candy man Lamar Odom, but then its Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmer. Kobe makes these guys better then they are, but the Lakers have struggled in the 2nd line against OKC, Utah and PHX. Expect the same here.

Advantage: Celtics

Coaches: Phil Jackson vs Doc Rivers. The Zen master has 10 titles and already is working the refs, complaining about how physical the C's are. Doc has one title but his teams are mentally tough enough to deal with PhilJax head games. Doc is masterful designing plays for end of game situations, he has no tendencies. But despite all this, the advantage goes to the Lakers.

Advantage: Lakers

Intangibles: 1. Home Court Advantage helps the Lakers. They were blown out of every game in Boston last time around. 2. 2-3-2 format could benefit C's. If LA is down 3-2 headed back to Staples, it will be hard to come back and close the Celts out because 3. Road Records. Celtics have not only won on the road, they have embarrassed their opponents in some of these contests. 4. Last rodeo of the C's, this is it then its 10 years of being irrelevant again 5. Celtics starting 5 is 7-0 in playoff series. 6. KG has never lost a playoff series with the Celtics. Alot of people argue that Boston wins the title last year if KG doesn't get hurt.

Prediction: I can see this series going alot of different ways. If Boston gets a split in the first two games, I believe they win this series. It may take 7 games, but they are fully capable of winning two games in LA, just as the Lakers are capable of winning two in Boston. LA has had a huge size advantage in the last two series, but yet needed putback baskets at the buzzer to take control of the OKC and PHX series. Boston has gone on the road and taken its series from Cleveland and Orlando. They're gonna have to do the same thing again in LA. Boston has been playing well and at this point, I can't go against the Green even though LA has been lights out in the West. I think this series will go 7, with Boston pulling it in LA. But I won't be shocked if LA wins in 6.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Always listen to your Doctor


Time after time, it kept happening.

Inexplicably, the collapses happened against the horrible teams. Houston, New York and worst of all New Jersey, all at HOME, in the TD Garden.

The defense was lacking, their was no set substitution patterns, poor rebounding nights plagued the Celtics. Oh their were flashes of brillance followed by the unexplained, from game to game, sometimes quarter to quarter, as on Easter Sunday when Boston blew a 20+ point lead to Cleveland, only to rally and win the game.

But through it all, Celtics Coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers had a plan and stuck too it. Injuries plagued the Celtics through the regular season, and Doc would tell anyone who would listen that players were resting, not logging heavy minutes, which explained the lack of a defined playing rotation.

But because people are impatient and live in the now, Doc was looking to the future, knowing the only way to reclaim the Larry O'Brien Trophy was to have a completely healthy C's. In employing this strategy, Doc knew he was trading home court for health and better playoff match ups.

Remarkably, its worked. The healthy Celtics have disposed of three of the Top 5 superstars in the game in D-Wade, LeBron and Clark Kent. Now they have an opportunity to take care of Kobe. The team is a sum of all its parts and the C's are proving this.

It was just a few weeks ago in Game 1 against Miami, the Celtics were staring down the barrel of a 14 point 3rd quarter deficit, only to rally and win by double figures. Now they are on the verge of Banner 18 and could be the favorite against a Laker team that suddenly only has 4 players who can do anything and absolutely has no bench.

And much of the credit belongs to the good Doctor, who had a plan and stuck to it. The C's are playing their best ball of the season, they have a bench with defined roles and even picked up a sparkplug in Nate Robinson last night. The last stand for the C's and the Big Four has already taken a turn towards being a history making run.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Will to Win....



As a coach, the most beautiful thing I can witness is seeing my team play with a passion and desire to compete and win. And if in that process, my players can brake our opponents will to win and force them to "check out" at somepoint, then I can't ask for anything else.

I've had both football and basketball teams achieve this point, forcing your opponent to give in mentally, but be there physically just get the clock to triple zeros.

I've seen Nick Saban's Alabama teams complete this task numerous times over the course of the last two years.

And last night, I witnessed the Boston Celtics complete this task for the second concescutive playoff series against the Orlando Magic. It happened to Cleveland also.

The Celtics took away Orlando and Cleveland will to win in each of these series. The happy go lucky Cavs and Magic, all smiles, full of team unity, having a good time when all is well, took some serious standing 8 counts from the C's in Game 5 in Cleveland and Game 3 against Orlando. When push came to shove, nither team could handle the situtation.

In each contest, the C's built a 30+ point lead and forced a chain reaction that caused a meltdown and making the King and Superman to check out and their fraud of teammates that make up the supporting cast to wilt away. (atleast Dawyne Wade always kept fighting, he just did not have anyone to help him)

True stars in NBA history never let their teams go down without swinging for back, even if they don't have their A game. Bird, Magic, Jordan, even Stockton/Malone, Tim Duncan, Reggie Miller always came out swinging against superior competition.

Last night, we witnessed a complete annihilation to the point that depending on NBA free agency, the entire balance of the Eastern Conference could shift for Cleveland and Orlando to the point that Boston could be back in this position next year and those teams could be non-playoff teams if the cards brake right.

As for the C's, they're clicking on all cylinders and now will have sufficient rest before facing the Lakers. Although they'll be an underdog to LA, I'm not betting against them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Celtics replace the King, now on to Superman


While the talking heads on ESPN continue their man crush on where the former king LeBron James will end up in 45 days, what seems to be lost on the Worldwide Leader is the fact that Prince Rondo and his old men outplayed, outcoached and outhsutled Cleveland on their way to basically dominating the Cavs. If not for Mo Williams hot streak late in Game 1, that series would have been over in 5.

But now that the King is dead until next year, its time for Gang Green to find their Kryptonite to take on Superman Dwight Howard and the Magic.

This series is a repeat of last years Eastern Confernece Semi-Finals in which the Magic outlasted a very limited Celtics team in 7 games. Boston was without Kevin Garnett and Leon Powe due to injuries and pressed into juggling a frontline of Brian Scalabrini, Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins. The teams traded victories in the first 4 games, culminating with Glen Davis hitting a 20 footer at the buzzer to even the series in the Magic Kingdom. Boston rallied from behind in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead only to see Orlando win the last two games to advance.

This year, a rejuvinated KG returns and evens this match up for the Celtics. Orlando is deadly from downtown, but to this point they've been feasting on disfunctional teams in Charlotte and Atlanta en route to an impressive 8-0 playoff record.

Match Ups for this series.

PG-Rajon Rondo vs Jameer Nelson. Nelson missed this series last year but Rondo is a far better player then he showed the previous 3 years. Sag off him and he's hitting his jumper, crowd him and he's by you. A bigger Magic squad pose a problem for Rondo.

Advantage: Celtics

SG-Ray Allen vs Vince Carter. Allen will go down as the league's greatest 3 point shooter ever, but other aspects of his game are often overlooked. He never gets rattled, his defense in patches on Lebron last series was excellent. Carter is the wildcard since he played elsewhere last year, but if Vince plays to his capablities, he's a superb player. Problem is, he's inconsistent.

Advantage: slight lean to the Celtics

SF- Paul Pierce vs Barnes/Pietrus. Even though he's showing some where and tear, a smaller match up for Pierce is an advantage. he answered the call in Game 5 and 6 vs Cleveland and carried Boston in this series last year.

Advantage: Celtics

PF- Kevin Garnett vs Rashard Lewis. Lewis killed Boston last year by stretching the floor from downtown. This is where Garnett has to punish Lewis in the low blocks like he did Jamison last series. If Lewis is left to wonder on offense, he could swing this series. If KG goes for 18 and 10 again, the Celtics will win.

Advantage: slight lean to Celtics

C-Dwight Howard vs Kendrick Perkins. Perk plays hard, but he's no match for Howard. But if he can force Howard out of his comfort zone, he will have done his job.

Advantage: Magic

Bench: We never know who is going to show up for Boston, Allen, Wallace and Big Baby have been inconsistent. Michael Finley could be a wild caard. Orlando has consistent play out of their bench and JJ Redick is deadly from beyond the arc.

Advantage: Magic

Coaches: Doc Rivers has a ring and is unpredictable in late game situation. The Celtics have no tendencies as Allen, Pierce and KG have all his big shots in critical situation out of time out. Stan Van Gundy almost blew this series last year against a depleted Celtic squad.

Advantage: Celtics

If it was me, I'd let Dwight Howard score 60 (shhh, guess what, he can't do it. He can't hit anything but a lay up or dunk). If the Celtics double down, Orlando will shred them. Dwight Howard can't beat you by himself, so make him do it. We saw what happened when Dwayne Wade and LeBron were forced too and they couldn't get it done. Niether can Howard if this strategy is employed.

I never thought Boston could get out of the first round, let alone beat Cleveland with the way the regular season ended. But each team is playing superior basketball at this point so this should be a classic series. We live in the now, not in the past. National consensus is the Magic will steamroll the Celtics due to their easy wins to this point. I have to disagree. Celtics in 6.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May 10,1992...please meet May 9, 2010

I had hoped to be writing this column after a Celtic victory on Friday night against the Cavs. But the Fighting LeBrons played to their capablities and did what they should be doing the Celtics all along.

But nevertheless, this is still a relevant issue. The similarities between the 1992 Celtics-Cavs Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and this years edition are stikingly similar. The only difference is who is currently winning this series.

Little did we know, or maybe I was to dumb and young to recognize that the end of the the original Big 3 of Larry Bird, Kevin Mchale and Robert Parrish was coming to an end. The same scenario is playing out now for the Celtics with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This is the last stand for the 2nd edition of the Big 3.

The '92 Celtics limped through the regular season with numerous injuries to Bird and company, but they finished the season strong and wiped out the Pacers without Larry Legend in a 3-0 sweep. The 2010 Celtics limped through the regular season, but wiped Miami off the floor in impressive fashion to advance and face Cleveland.

The '92 Cavs were suppose to be on the verge becoming a great team to challenge the Bulls, with the likes of Mark Price, Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty. They won a first round series over the Nets 3-1 and had home court advantage agianst the Celtics. The 2010 Cavs are suppose to be on the verge of greatness, defeated the Bulls 4-1 and now have the older, slower former champion Celtics on the ropes.

Each of these series went to a 2-1 stage with a pivotal game 4 looming. The Celtics of '92 snuck to a 2-1 lead and faced Cleveland with Game 4 looming at home, on a Sunday May 9, 1992. This became the big 3's last stand. Boston never could take control of the game or series. Larry Bird, who had not played to this point, returned to a hero's welcome at a raucus Boston Garden, but the Celtics never siezed on that frenzy and lost a 114-112 decsion. Cleveland responded by winning Game 5 at home, Boston returned the favor in Game 6 setting up a Game 7 back in Cleveland that the Cavs won handidly.

So here we are 18 years later, I'm still Young and dumb, much older and heavier, but the Big 3 is making its final stand almost exactly to the day Bird and company did. At some point in every series, one team realizes its better then the other. That moment happened in the first quarter of game 3. Now can Boston somehow muster up another performance to extend this thing or will they wilt under the pressure. I picked Cleveland to win this in 5 and unfortunately, I see no reason to change that prediction, hope I'm wrong but here is hoping Pierce, Garnett and Allen bring it tomorow and give me another week of meaningful basketball.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Celtics-Cavs Preview

The Eastern Conference Semi-Finals open up this evening as the Celtics invade Cleveland and the LeBron Express. Could this be the last run for the second Big 3 and is its LeBron's farewell tour in Cleveland before this summer's much anticipated free agency circus begins?

The Celtics, who had the best record in the NBA through Christmas, limped into the post season on a .500 pace and left many (including myself) with serious reservations about whether they could even beat Dwayne Wade and the Heat in the 1st Round. But after handling Miami with relative ease, the C's seem poised to use give Cleveland a battle. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were hitting on all cylanders, Kevin Garnett, although not as explosive since last seasons injury, seemed to be returning to double-double form, Rondo continued playing well, effectively nuetralizing Wade and Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis returned to their effective low post play that allowed the Garnettless Celtics to make a nice playoff run last season. Doc Rivers finally settled on an 8 man rotation instead acting like a church league coach and giving everyone playing time. The result, a dominant 4-1 series win.

For Cleveland, the big news seems to be the possible injury to LBJ's elbow. I have no doubt that he will be healthy and ready to go. The additions of Shaq and Antwan Jamison have Cleveland poised to return to the Finals for the first time since 2007. Mo Williams, Delonte West as well as Cleveland's reserves are complimenting LBJ and have propelled the Cavs to another great season. Winning time is now for the Cavs or it may be never.

For this series, I see Cleveland having a decided advantage. The Cavs have changed their entire starting line up, except for LeBron, since they lost to Boston in 7 games in 2008. The Cavs seem to be a better team when Shaq is not on the floor because they can stretch the court more with Jamison, Williams, West and my former neighbor Jemario Moon, thus giving LeBron more room to operate. Their is no stopping LeBron so Boston has to hope the other shooters are off their game like Miami was.

As for Boston, they need bench production from someone other then Big Baby Davis. The loss of Eddie House in the Nate Robinson trade has been a disaster, as has the acquisition of Rasheed Wallace. Doc Rivers cannot rely on Tony Allen to play as well as he did in the last series. Garnett will need atleast three 20 point/15 rebound games to make this a series because as much as I like him, Paul Pierce struggles against Cleveland because of the size difference against LeBron.

When the dust settles, I see Cleveland winning this series in 5 games. The Celtics definently have the ability to win this series, but they still play too sloppy at times and Rasheed Wallace will no doubt rear his ugly head with a lack of defense during in 12-18 minutes a game he sees in playing time. You will also be asking a Marquis Daniels or Nate Robinsion to contribute signficantly from the bench and I just don't see that happening. Of course, I was wrong about the last series so we'll see what happens.

Other series:

Lakers-Jazz: Hate if for Utah that MehMet Okur and Andrei Kirelienko have been injured because they would have a legit shot to win this series. But the frontline of Bynum and & Gasol are too tall compared to Utah's Boozer and Millsaps. Lakers get a cakewalk now that they escaped the Fighting Durants, 4-1.

Sun-Spurs: The old men Spurs keep getting it done, even though Tim Duncan has been off his game. The addition of Antonio McDyess has paid huge dividends for the Spurs, who likly will out physical the Suns like they always seem to do when these two teams meet, similar to the Spurs-Mavs series, San Antonio 4-2.

Magic-TBD: Does it matter who wins the Hawks-Bucks series? I'm still disappointed the Hawks didn't offer me $10 playoff tickets today like they did for Game 5. Atlanta plays up or down to its competition so if its Atlanta, Magic win in 7. If its Milwaukee, Magic in 4.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

For Pete's Sake.....


Its time, its long been beyond time, but Peter Angelos needs to sell the Baltimore Orioles. He has single handidly killed the sport in Charm City, to the point now that he's irked generations of fans so that the sport may never recover in Balmer.

To get to this low, low point, one must revist the past. The once proud Brids of Baltimore were the most consistent team in baseball from the mid 1960's to the mid 1990's. They had the winningest overall record during that span, even better then the dreaded Yankees & Red Sox. Very rarely did the have a losing season during that span. The O's were routinely in contention for division titles, claiming 6 AL Championships in a 17 year span to go with the franchises only 3 World Titles. If you grew up in the 80's, the old 7 team AL East Division format was ultra competitve with 6 different teams wiining the division in a 10 year period ('81 Yanks, '82 Brewers, '83 Orioles, '84 Tigers, '85 Blue Jays, '86 Red Sox). Only Cleveland never came close to winning and thus they made a movie called Major League to even give Cleveland its Division Title!

If the Orioles of 1966-1996 had played in today's current wild card format, the team would have been in the playoffs on 7 other occassions in just the 80's & early '90's (1980, 81, 82, 89, 90, 92 and 93)!

After the death of Edward Bennet Williams in the late 80's, by the middle of the 1993season, the Orioles were sold to native Baltimorean Peter Angelos, a trial lawyer who made his money in Asbestos cases in the '80's and '90's. At the time, the franchise sold for a record $160-170 million, which seemed outlandish, but really was just the beginning of over inflation for sports franchises. The O's had just become the trend setters in the retro ballpark craze by opening Camden Yars in 1992 and were playing to sell out crowds every night. They had the Iron Man and local hero Cal Ripken, up and coming pitchers like Ben McDonald & Mike Mussina, and the ability to sign any free agent they wanted, like Rafeal Palmeiro and others. They were poised to win and Angelos seemed like a new breed of owner who could push the O's over the top, to compete with the Steinbrenners of the worlds. Beside, when Angelo's bought the O's, the Yankees were in the middle of a 15 year drought of not winning the dividion or making the playoffs (let that sink in for a second. If you grew up in the '80s, you were use to the Yankees sucking every year!)

As Angelos purchased the team and the club just moved from midtown Baltimore and 33rd street to downtown by the Inner Harbor. This move made it much easier for people south of town, specfically Washington D.C., to ride into the stadium off of I-95 and easy access to get out. Prior to this, a trip through downtown during rush hour could take up to an extra hour to make it to the north side of town and Memorial Stadium. Thus Angelos started catering to the new breed of fan from D.C., for lack of a better term, the Yuppie craze of back in the day, the D.C. lobbyists, lawyers and politicians who had no loyalty to Baltimore and the O's, but instead came to the games to be seen and because it was the "in" thing to do.

By catering to the transient D.C. crowd, Angelos turned his back on the loyalists who routinely put 2 million+ fans into Memorial Stadium from Baltimore, Western Maryland, Deleware, the Eastern Shore and South Central Pennsylvania. As a result as time moved on, fewer groups from this area were squeezed out in a ticket crunch due to the increase in demand from the D.C. area. Angelos' shunning of his core group of fans led to a slow dissolve of the O's fan who would come out to watch baseball and the O's, with or whithout the bells and whistles of Camden Yards. By the time that Ripken had retired in 2001, there was no reason for the D.C. elite to keep coming up I-95 to see the Birds as the team was becoming far removed from the 96-97 playoff runs. He ran off the great Davey Johnson and probably cost Baltimore a World Title in the process. No player development from the farm system coupled with bad free agent signing led to a quick demise, coupled with an incompetent front office that had a revolving door at the managerial and GM position. Despite the fact that Angelos always claimed territorial rights on D.C., its two seperate markets (see Ravens and Redskins) and Washington was pushing for its own team which eventually the Expos became the Nationals.

Thus a younger of generation of fans was lost and now the second generation is on the verge of being lost. With the consistent demise of Baltimore as a city (they make TV shows about this stuff, Homicide & The Wire) and a loss of population, coupled in the Nationals taking away millions of potential fans that Angelos catered too for a decade and throw in a horrible product on the field, the end of baseball in Balmer could be in the rearview mirror and be closer then it appears. In all seriousness, I could see the team moving if they keep getting crowds of 9-10,000 at Oriole Park, there is no way they can stay there and Angelos will be forced to sell or move.

Its a sad time to be an O's fans, with unthinkable 12 consecutive losing seasons staring down the barrel of a 13th with a 1-9 start. 1983 has become for the Orioles what 1918 was for the Red Sox. Angelos just turned down an offer from Cal Ripken to come in and work with the younger players pro bono, because the Birds are doing so well without him. The only chance of turning this around is for Angelos to sell the team and then Baltimore must rebuild like the Rays, invest in the scouting and player development. Thats a 10 year fix when you start the process, but on the bright side atleast we don't waste our time getting our hopes up because the O's suck so bad!

Please Peter Angelos, sell the team (preferably to Cal Ripken) and leave!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playoff Time is finally here!

The NBA's second season has finally arrived, otherwise known as the time of the year that Coach Young drags into work because I'm till midnight watching games from the left coast!

My excitement is a little subdued because of the Celtics plunge from being an elite team at Christmas to a .500 club once the calander switched to 2K10. So I'm not looking for much out of the C's, I just don't believe you can flip a switch a get the job done. But time will tell.

The West should be very competitive even though the Lakers secured the top seed, they've been dealing with injuries lately and have struggled down the stretch. I think they will miss Trvor Ariza once the playoffs begin. He was a huge difference maker last year.

Time for predictions and as always, no wagering unless you want a visit from John Tyson.

East Round 1:
Cavs over Bulls in 6. Cleveland could have put Chicago out of the playoffs last week but instead rested LBJ and now have to deal with Derrick Rose. Of course, this is a match up of incompetent coaches between Brown & Del Negro. Expect this to be more competitive because the Bulls have some decent players & playoff experience.

Magic over Bobcats in 4. Too many weapons for O-Town.

Hawks over Bucks in 5. Atlanta is for real, Jamal Crawford great addition off the bench.

Heat over Celtics in 7. The Celts don't have it and Dwayne Wade is the best player on the floor. Could be enough to end this second era of the Big 3. Rondo could change this series though to a W for the C's.

2nd Round
Cavs over Heat in 5. No contest for the Cavs. They take care of business

Magic over Hawks in 7. Tough series but I wonder if the Hawks are mentally tough enough to win these types of series. They have the talent but still give too many games away against lesser competition for me to pick them over Orlando.

East Finals
Cavs over Magic in 7. I was shocked that Orlando handled Cleveland with such ease last year, especially with how fortunate they were to beat an undermanned Boston in 7games. Shaq's presence on the inside could be the difference because they have extra fouls and bodies to bang with Dwight Howard. That should be the difference.

West Round 1
Lakers over OKC in 4. No contest for Kobe and company.

Mavs over Spurs in 7. I wish the Spurs were the 8 seed and playing the Lakers. Its a better match up for SA then Dallas is. Dirk & company get the job done.

Phoenix over Portland in 5. Easy win for the Suns. PHX is playing well and the Blazers are too young.

Denver over Utah in 7. Great series. Feel that Utah shot themselves in the foot by losing the 2/3 seed late in the season. Now they go on the road to face the emotional Nuggets who are dealing with George Karl's cancer issues.

2nd Round
Nuggets over Lakers in 6. The Lakers have issues and Denver knows they had LA beat and let them off the mat last season. If they get them in the same position, this time the Nuggets will finish them off.

Dallas over Phoenix in 6. Should be a high scoring affair with Dallas squeaking it out in 6.

West Finals
Denver over Dallas in 6. Nuggets make it all the way and the Birdman Spiked hair becomes a national fad. Probably more of a hope George Karl gets to win it all pick, but I liked what Denver was doing last year and maybe they can get it done this time around.

NBA Finals. Easy to pick Kobe vs Lebron, just like Nike, but Denver vs Cleveland would be interesting. Mello vs Lebron and LBJ gets done. Cavs in 6. Lebron stays instead of heading to NYC over the summer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Gathering Storm...


Besides being the name of an excellent HBO movie about Winston Churchill and England's movement into World War II, The Gathering Storm can also be used to describe the circumstances revolving around an upcoming weekend that happened three years ago.

That event was Nick Saban's first A-Day game as the Alabama Head Coach when over 92,000 people swarmed into Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch a glorified scrimmage. It was at that precise moment that Saban has recollected that he could accomplish special things at The Capstone culminating with another perfect season in 2009 and earning Alabama's 13th National Championship.

While the rest of the country bashed Alabama and their fan base for such a large turnout, recycling the tired stories about the fanaticism of Alabama Football, one thing that was overlooked was the sheer beauty of the moment.

It was a perfect storm of loyal fans who love a university, coupled with the excitement of a new, proven head coach about to take the thrones of the program and add in a dose of absolutely super weather, you had the making of a Perfect Storm (insert George Clooney line here) of over 100,000 showing up at a stadium that seats 92,138.

The large crowd caught Alabama officials off guard. 50-60,000 seemed reasonable, but the place just kept filling. Having driven over from Atlanta for the game, we were caught in a traffic jam over 60 miles from the stadium, lined with cars with license plates from Tennessee to Indiana to Virginia adorned with Alabama flags hanging from windows descending on Tuscaloosa. The city fire marshalls had to turn people away by the middle of the 2nd quarter. My own estimates were that there had to 100,000-110,000 in the stadium or just turned away at the gates. Eating establishments were caught off guard, short staffed for a typical gameday crowd in April. I've never seen as many people in the streets upon conclusion of a contest as I did on that day.

The other thing to examine is this was not a planned event like other schools have staged since that fateful day in April 2007, a university sponsored event like Ohio State or Nebraska have pulled actively seeking to sell out the stadium. Instead this was just a sheer lovefest for a program that had seen low times during the previous 10 years and that many felt could now turn the corner towards being the elite program it should be.

And now that Alabama is currently recognized as the premiere program in college football again, ESPN is seeing fit to televise the event for a second consecutive year. Funny how a ground swell support for event has led to The Worldwide Leader to picking up several spring football telecasts to show to the entire nation. Even little brother Auburn gets a look on ESPNU.

So this weekend, while the rest of the world is salivating or recounting Tiger and The Masters, the beginning of the NBA playoffs or a day 12 of a 162 day baseball season that never ends, the majority of people in the state of Alabama will either be in Tuscaloosa or Auburn or hunkering down in front of the tube to watch Sping Football in stunning HD television.

Laugh if you must America, but the road to # 14 (maybe # 1 1/2 for Auburn) was starting to be paved well before this coming weekend. Roll Tide!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

No COTY love for Jerry


Don Chaney, Sam Mitchell and ahem, Mike Dunleavy.

What do they have in common? They've all been run out of NBA coaching jobs, never made The Finals but they've also been NBA Coach of the Year. Amazingly the most consistent, longest tenured coach in the four major professional sports leagues has never received the NBA's top coaching Honor. Sad considering the shelf life of an NBA job is only 3 years

That man is Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz!

The winner of 6 Division Titles, who has been to 6 Western Conference Finals (a very underated achievement) and unfortunately for him he ran into Jordan's Bulls during his two NBA Finals Appearances, has never won Coach of the Year honors in the league.

Yet the hard nosed former Chicago bulls star continues to pluck away in Salt Lake City, consistently producing quality teams for one of the NBA's wildest fan bases. Head Coach of the Jazz since 1988 (think about that, 22 years!), he has compiled 1136career wins, winning over 50 games on 12 occassions. Yet he largely goes unnoticed as a coaching great, which is ashame.

Sloan has bridged the gap from the Stockton/Malone era to winning big again in the last few years while developing star guard Deron Williams and putting the Jazz in position to win in the ultra competitve Western Conference. It was just 3 years ago that Utah came from no where to make the conference finals and prove once again that he can get the job done. They are currently tied with Denver for first in their division and have even inched up to the 2 seed in the West early last week.

If Sloan can somehow get Andrei Kirelinko healthy in the next week, he then has a shut down defender to go up against the likes of Carmello & Kobe late in games to make another playoff run in the west.

Of course, Sloan is deserving of the award again this year, but probably won't get it and that will be fine with him. Someone will more then likely win it and be fired within three years while Sloan continues to work in SLC. Besides, any coach wearing a John Deere hat to a press conference could probably care less about such chivalry anyway.

Friday, April 2, 2010

96 teams...eh???


At yesterday's state of the game address, the NCAA commented on the fact that this organization is looking into expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams. Thats not a misprint, 96!

There are a ton of angles to look at this impending decision, but the bottom line is $$$$. The NCAA is looking to milk as much money out of the TV folks, whether that ends up continuing to be CBS or should ESPN, NBC or FOX get in on the upcoming bidding war. But who can blame the NCAA, I guess. Bluebloods like UNC, UConn & UCLA could of made the field this year and boosted ratings instead og being relegated to the NIT!

Nevermind that when I tune in Thursday afternoon to watch NCAA basketball, I see tons of empty seats. The arenas don't sell out. That Old Dominion-Notre Dame game looked like 500 people were there. Even old Big Blue, the Kentucky fan base could not come close to filling up the New Orleans Arena. Why pay $75 for a ticket when I can get them on the street for $5? Even the Sweet 16 in Utah had a ton of empty seats.

This trend will continue with the proposal of extending the the first weekend into a second week. Talk about a water downed product. Who could take off a week to follow their university for 6 days? Most people I know are working and trying to just to make ends meat, only the extreme wealthy would go to follow a team for 6 days over the first 3 rounds, still not even reaching the Sweet 16.

Add into this mix, are you really gonna watch CBS primetime NCAA Tournament basketball when the first round match up is 20-12 #20 seed Cleveland State against 22-8 # 13 seed Texas Christian, battling for the right to take on first bye recipient & # 5 seed Washington??? Let's get real people, I have better things to do, like watch paint dry.

The regular season in college hoops is even more meaningless. Why schedule a tough out of conference game. Why not just build up 13-14 wins on cupcakes, go 8-8 in conference plays and finish 22-8, make the tournament. Who cares about strengh of schedule or RPI, eveybody gets a trophy!

Alot of talking heads say this will provide more job security. I disagree. If I'm an athletic director at a power 6 conference (SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, Big East) and we don't make that Field of 96 two years straight, in the words of Donald Trump, "You're Fired." No excuse. I wouldn't even let you in the building to clean your office out. Again, if I hire you and you don't make the tournament in 2 years, you're done. On to the next candidate. Its inexcusable for Power 6 schools not too make it. Atleast now, if you took over a horrible situation (see Anthony Grant & Tony Barbee), your more likely to get 3-5 years to get if turned around. Not now, get in or get out of my arena!

Finally, the hypocrisy of the NCAA is always fun. They promote STUDENT-Athletes, ahem, yet a team that would play on that first Thursday and advance to a Sweet 16/Elite 8 would be gone from campus for 2 straight weeks of class! Yet they are students. Come on people, these kids miss class all the time with mid week games. Football is the one sport that hardly ever misses class, since their is only 4-6 road games and you leave on a Friday & are back the next day. Yet its academic integrity at its finest, this almighty great NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Thank goodness College Football doesn't have a playoff!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bruce Pearl can flat out coach


Yeah, I said it. The truth hurts sometimes. I don't necessary like the man, but it has more to do with him coaching at Tennessee then any other factor.

Bruce Pearl has done the impossible. He made Tennessee MEN'S Basketball matter! Now he's on the verge of punching a ticket to the Final 4 if his team can beat the equally talented mastermind Tom Izzo and Michigan State this afternoon.

This is no small task what Pearl is accomplishing (no, I'm not talking about creepy moments with Lane kiffin's wife). He took over a program in disarray from the imcompetent Buzz Peterson and Jerry Green's lack of discipline earlier in the decade. Add in the troubled regime of Kevin O'Niel and the lack of success of the Wade Houston era, Tennessee hadn't seen much success let alone winning records since Don Devoe in the 1980's.

But now its 2K10, and Pearl routinely has the Vols in the Sweet 16. Making the NCAA tournament has become an afterthought since he's made it 5 consecutive times since taking over in Knoxville in 2006. Pearl cut his teeth as head coach at D-2 Southern Indiana, winning a national title. Then at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he routed higher seeded Alabama and Boston College on the way to the Sweet 16, paving the way for his run to Knoxville.

The fact that Pearl is winning in Knoxville is remarkable. Tennessee was the worst men's job in America at one of the Power 6 conferences(that title recently belonged to Auburn, but with a new arena & coach, current contenders include Penn St, Northwestern & Rutgers). Look at what your up against. First, its a football school, not shocking for the SEC, but UT routinely has drawn 100,000 on Fall Saturdays for years. Secondly, Pat Summitt & the Lady Vols. UT fans love their Lady Vols and why not. They have the winningest coach and the national titles to go with the wins. It was routine for the Lady Vols to outdraw the men in crowd size. I remember Alabama playing a game there in the early 90's and 10,000 showed up for the men's game. They cleared the gym out and the Lady Vols drew 20,000 later in the evening!
Another reason UT was a terrible job was the arena, Thompson-Boling Arena. Its 23,000+ seats was designed to rival Rupp Arena. Problem is you get 15,000 at a game and it still looked empty compared to a smaller venue that seated 10,000 and was sold out. Add in that Tennessee is not a hotbed for high school basketball and you had a recipe for disaster.

But Pearl has taken a place so many have failed at and is getting the job done. First, instead of fighting football or the Lady Vols for attention, he embraced the traditions and probably has garnered more support in the process. He's a shameless promoter/marketer, stopping throughout the southeast talking to Vol Club groups, attempting to get fans to support his team at road venues throughout the SEC. Its routine now to see 2-3,000 Vol fans at places like Athens & Auburn when they hit the road. He makes appearances across campus to get students to come out and support his team. Thompson-Boling Arena has been renovated to include sky boxes, new scoreboards and is now a state of the art facility.

Add into this mix that Pearl is a very good game day coach, he's passionate and his team's play hard for him. As a result, he gets the most out of his talent. UT suspeneded 4 players hours before taking on Kansas in January, but never fear, Pearl turned to some lighly played walk ons to provide rest minutes for his remaining players and pulled off the upset of the year. By using his bench, he's kept team morale up and now is marching towards Indianapolis by putting the Vols into their first Elite 8.

Still a long way to go for Pearl to reach the Lady Vols, but its a work in process. You can bet Pat Summitt will be home watching the UT Men this afternoon and if they get to Indy, she'll be their supporting them too. Hopefully she won't be wearing that cheerleader outfit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Random NCAA tourament thoughts...



Welcome to the NCAA tournament, where half the fans at the arena are dressed as empty seats! Some of these arenas are half full at best.

Just remember sports fans, first round upsets, while exciting, lead to crappy 2nd round and Sweet 16 games.

Did not watch the afternoon games, but apperantly Villanova lucked out for the 2nd straight year. Otherwise the Big East would have been winless on day 1.

Good to see Eddie Munster, I mean Billy Donovan, cashed in on his 2 NCAA titles with two straight NIT appearances and a 1st round NCAA exit. Its looking like Anthony Grant was a bigger key to his success day after day, since he recruited all those kids to Gainesville for the national title runs before leaving for VCU. I bet Billy wishes he had kept the Orlando Magic job.

Bruce Pearl must be livin right. Draws the incompetent Steve Fisher & SDSU in round 1 and now get a 14 seed Ohio in round 2. He's headed to his 5th Sweet 16 in 6 years between UT and UWM.


As for today, I'll be watching the Temple game and thats it. Taking the kids to the Alabama Gymnastics (#1) meet this evening vs Michigan (#10).

Temple-Cornell Preview: This shoould be a great game between two underseeded teams. Temple should be atleast a 4, probably a 3 and Cornell is atleast a 10 or better.

I was thinking about this last night, but outside of the SEC and Temple, I really can't name any players on any of these teams, except for Cornell, mainly because I watched them come into Coleman and beat Alabama 71-67.

Louis Dale is an excellent point guard from Alabama (again, Jeff Lebo, Mark Gottfried, why did you not recruit this kid) and matches up well with Temple's Juan Fernandez. Ryan Brooks should cancel out Whitman (kid shoots like Jimmy Chitwood) for Cornell on the outside which takes us to the post players. Temple's inside game is much improved compared to the past two years, they can actually score and run plays for the inside men. They did a good job running sets in the A-10 Tournament. Problem is Cornell has a 7 foot center, who doesn't score much but he bothers alot of shots in the middle. Considering Temple is very deliberate on offense, he could disrupt the Owls.

Other concerns, Fran Dunphy is 1-8 in NCAA games, granted 6 of those losses came at Penn. His lone win is over Nebraska, but does that really count?

60= number of point Temple has been holding their opponents under during this win streak. See no reason for this to change today. Tough game, but hopfully the cherry and white will pull it out against the trendy 5/12 upset pick, Temple 62-57.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Is the Dook Fix in????


Welcome to the NCAA tournament, the only sporting event in the country where people become less interested as we move closer to the finals!

Conspiracy theorists are aligning themselves and taking shots at Dook, the NCAA and CBS. One look at the bracket on Sunday evening and it became evident that Coach K has a cakewalk to the Final 4. All I know is that if I was dealt this kind of hand at the Blackjack table, the pit boss would have come over and changed dealers.

The first argument for the Dookies preferential treatment comes in the fact that they received a #1 seed, and not just the last #1 seed (4th overall) but the third #1 seed ahead of Syracuse. Add to the fact that that Syracuse won the Big East and West Virginia won the Big East tournament, playing in a deeper, better conference, pundits will use this as the basis that Duke is not deserving of the 1 seed. The NCAA argues that Duke won its confernce and conference tournament to justify the 1 seed, but yet doesn't use the same criteria when underseeding a team like Temple?

Secondly, look at the bracket the Devils are in. They easily have the worst #2 seed in slumping Villanova, a team that can't play defense without fouling, #3 Baylor, which hasn't won an NCAA tournament game since 1950. #4 and injury plagued, overseeded Purdue is garbage and #5 Texas A & M is just not that good. This a joke.

But who can blame CBS and the NCAA for this set up. Ratings for college basketball have declined greatly over the years and nobody really discusses the sport till late February. The players and teams are not as good as in the past, so ratings decline and the sport has been dieing a slow death or becoming the indoor version of college baseball for the last 20 years with the early entries into the NBA draft.

Add into this mix that college hoop bluebloods like UCLA, North Carolina and UConn are absent, you have a set up for a rating disaster. Not good with negotiations for tournament broadcast rights coming up in the near future, the NCAA needs Duke to advance to get higher TV ratings to rake more $$$ out of CBS, ESPN, FOX or whoever gets the next round of NCAA Tournament broadcast rights. They still command a television audience, they are polarizing so it seems like a perfect storm set up for a conspircay.

Only problem is Dook has not been the old Dook for several years, constatnly getting bounced before the Sweet 16 (see Anthony Grant and VCU or Bob Huggins and West Virginia) and missing out on the Final 4 all together since 2004. So CBS needs Dook and well, it looks like maybe Coach K needs the help too based on his results in recent years.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Selection Sunday is really Mediocre Sunday


Bubbles Bubbles, looks like Florida is in trouble.

Its selection sunday for college hoops and the pundits at CBS, ESPN and others will talk about how great this day is. Reality sets in for teams as their quote un quote "bubbles" burst and teams either get it or stay at home for March Madness.

But if you really think about, aren't we celebrating how mediocre some teams are? Who necessary cares if who is the last "at large" team to "get in." This would be like the NFL celebrating the last wild card team in or the 8th seed in the NBA or NHL playoffs.

Personally, I'd like the see tournmanet go back to 48 yeams instead of 64. Reduce the field so only the elite make it. I don't need to see the 5th and 6th best teams from major conferences make it to the post season. There is a reason why they finished 6th in their respective conference. I'm not watching the bowl game between the 5th place ACC team vs the 6th place Big 10 team so don't expect me to watch a similar contest in basketball either.

Of course, the recent talk is to expand to 96 teams, which would be a huge mistake. Its not necessary. Unlike a famous Sienfeld episode, shrinkage is not always a bad thing. It would make for better competition, higher intensity and only the best against the best. Not the best against the average.

Friday, March 12, 2010

College Basketball Musings...

What does Joe Lunardi do the other 51 weeks during the year?

The Big East is easily playing the best basketball. Tons of quality players, teams and coaches make for entertaining action, all centered at the World's Most Famous Arena.

Who is more relieved that Kentucky rallied to beat Alabama today? John Calipari, the old blue haired fans of the scalpers outside of Bridgestone Arena?

Chris Stewart said it best this afternoon, "I'll take Sela Ward over Ashley Judd anyday of the week."

Auburn fired Jeff Lebo today, not that anyone on the Plains noticed. Lebo will be an assistant with someone in the Carolina coaching fraternity next year.

Bill Rafftery, Jay Bilas, Steve Lavin and Joe Dean are the best color analysts in college basketball.

Duke has a cakewalk in the ACC.

Hate it for Purdue that they lost their best player for the year, they were a legit threat to make it to the Final Four.

Finally, watch out for Temple, if they get in the right bracket, they could make a run past the Sweet 16.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rutgers to the Big 10/11... Was it a mistake by Penn State???

The Big 10/11's annual courtship of someone (usually Notre Dame) expanding into the conference is in full swing. Today's flavor seems to be The Sate University of New Jersey, otherwise known as the Rutgers. Other past flirtations have included Pittsburgh, Missouri and even Syracuse.

Many may ask, why Rutgers? Is it because they've dominated the Big East in Football winning several championships? Ahh, no. Is it because of award winning basketball? Nope. Academics? Puh-lease. College presidents may talk about academics, but its all about the benjamins. It has everything to do with being in metro New York and the 8 million TV households included in the market and the tv money that is sure to follow.

The goal simply stated is to make the Big 10/11 relevant in college football again. Add a 12th member, get in two divisions and have a championship game like the SEC has been staging for almost 20 years now. The SEC Championship has been a financial windfall for the conference since the first one was staged in 1992 at Legion Field in Birmingham. Its served as a defacto national semi-final game between Florida and Alabama the past two seasons and has produced 8 of the last 18 national champions, including the last four.

That my friends is power that Big 10/11 does not have anymore. The conference quits playing football the weekend before Thanksgiving and watches other conferences garner attention over the next two weeks while sitting home roasting marshmellows. Of course should we be surpsrised its taken the Big 10/11 this long to join the rest of the college football world, it only took them 500 years to add a conference basketball tournament.

So with the romancing of Rutgers in full swing, the better question to ask may be what has Penn State's addition done for the Big 10/11 since full membership began in 1993 and vice versa.

When the move was made, it seemed only natural that the Big 10/11 would add an additional team to go with PSU. But it never happened, despite the fact the SEC was adding Arkansas/South Carolina and the Big 12 was raiding the old Southwest Conference for its Texas members.

So what has happened to benefit Penn State. Personally, I see very little benefit for the Lions. The argument could be made they lost out on atleast one national championship in 1994 by being forced to go to the Rose Bowl to face a so-so Oregon team, instead of taking on Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Being an independent or even moving to the Big East, the Lions would have had that opportunity to play the Cornhuskers for all the marbles.

Atleast two other times this decade, the Lions stumbled on the road in late season conference games against so-so Iowa and Michigan teams derailing their chance at another national title appearance. Had they stayed as an independent or moved to the Big East, the Lions may have a couple of cyrstal footballs instead of an empty trophy case.

The numbers don't lie for Penn State. Between 1979-1986, the Lions played for the national championship on four occassions (Alabama/1979, Georgia/1982, Oklahoma/1985, Miami 1986), winning twice. Since full membership in 1993, the Lions haven't even sniffed the NC game despite having some great teams.

The other thing thats happened is that college football on the east coast is basically non-existent today since the Lions moved west. They were the dominant program in the east. Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh have all lost something in their programs since the yearly contest with the Lions have dispapeared. No big rivalries in the east seem to draw national interset. Their were times in the past the PSU vs take your pick attracted national attention. Not anymore. College football is almost non-existent in the east.

IF PSU moved to the Big East in the early 1980's, the argument could be made that not only could the Lions own the east coast but might own the nation. Instead, they've become a perenial 3rd-4th place team in the Big 10/11 and opened up the keystone state to Ohio St, Michigan and others to recruit against the Lions. OSU, Michigan and Mich. State have all had success with Pennsylvania players, kids they could not get other wise had the Lions not moved west.

The other unforseen consequence, the basketball program is in shambles. Many believed PSU would become as basketball power, they were headed for the Big 10/11, leaving Wreck Hall for the Bryce Jordan Center and headed for greener pastures then the Atlantic 10. Instead, the Lions have only made 2 NCAA tournaments since joining the conference have never been a factor in the Big 10/11 race.

In the meantime, Pittsburgh has become a basketball powerhouse by remaining in the Big East and Temple, Villanova and even St. Joe's have accomplished way more on the hardwood then the Lions. To me, its always been inexcusable for PSU to be so poor in hoops. There is talent in the state, they have a great facility, but I guess kids aren't going to go to a school that plays no games in the major metro areas of the east coast (NIT games in NYC don't count).

Although the Lions move to the Big 10 was greeted with great fanfare, I believe its really been a negative to PSU in terms of winning and even national exposure. The basketball team is still pitiful and the football team hasn't played for the big prize in almost 25 years. If Rutgers goes to the Big 10/11, it will be greeted with great fanfare, but just watch. They won't win championships, they will be an also ran in football and continue to be horrible in hoops, and New Jersey will be opened up for the rest of the conference to raid the states talent, just like Pennsylvania.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bingo Battle is ridiculous

To gamble or not to gamble, that is the question?

To the outsider, this whole issue has to look completely ridiculous. As I understand it, only 2 states don't have legalized gambling (meaning lottery, casinos, etc.), Utah and Alabama. Of course, fans of Big Love know that Bill Henrickson is teaming with Native American interests to create a Mormon themed casino to support his polygamist family in HBO's hit series.

Here in Alabama, we have Governor Bob Riley shutting down electornic Bingo Halls throughout the state, most notably Victoryland's successful business owner Milton McGregor. Of course, this is all in retaliation for McGregor investingating Riley's staff to find out they've been taking money from Mississippi Casino lobbyists.

Although its looks as if this story is still flying under the national radar, its squarely the number one topic in the news in Montgomery for the past month. Political rallies for and against gambling have led shoutdowns between patrons for both, including our own governor shouting over thousands of protestors. What an embarrassment this has become.

It was this writer's opinion that Bob Riley was going to go down as maybe the best governor in the history of Alabama prior to all this flare up. Riley has done alot of good things for the state, he's been progressive in luring more industry, creating jobs and better funding education. But this Bingo Battle has become his Waterloo.

I think the problem most people have with the situation is these electronic bingo/slot machines at Victoryland and other areas haven't sprung up over night. They've been in place since Riley took office in 2003 and have been attracting thousands of customers. Living in Atlanta, we would routinely see Victoryland commercials on television and bus loads of daytrippers headed to Macon County just like people on the East Coast would flock to Atlantic City. So why shut them down in 2K10 and not 5 years ago?

Now we have police raids, thousands of people out of work and tons of money going to lotteries in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee and casinos in Mississippi. My senior students that I teach can't believe that a lottery in Georgia pays for college tuition for state schools for students who have a B average in high school. What a difference in attitude and discipline in a school system this could provide with such incentive out there.

Bottom line is people are gonna gamble. Its here in Alabama and its here to stay. I can place a bet illegally with an acquantance right now for any college hoops or NBA game tonight or I can bet on an off shore account. Is the task force going to raid me? Highly doubtful.

So its time for the all involved to let the people of Alabama vote on a legitimate bill. If it passes, tax it just like alcohol, tobacco etc. Heaven knows we need the revenue in this state. If it doesn't pass, the state line mini marts to the north and east of us will continue to sell tons of lottery tickets and Biloxi will still have more Alabama car tags in its parking lots then any other state.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Olympics....Just not for me

The ratings may be good for NBC, but its not because I'm watching.

Ever since Rocky Balboa planted the seeds to end the Cold War between the Soviet Bloc nations and the United States with his famous speech after defeating Ivan Drago in a battle for the ages, the Olympics, specifically the Winter Olympics, have lost their luster. No more Russia vs U.S. in any event is must see TV because of the difference in the Communist vs Capitalist ideologies. Those days are long gone and not coming back in the near future. China vs U.S. is a possibility, but China needs another consistent summer Olympic medal count like it did in Bejing in 2008 to make this happen.

Let's face it, NBC is not appealing its coverage to the male demographic, basically middle aged men which I now classify myself in. The focus on figure skating night in and night out is just not something I'm gonna sit and watch. Maybe if Vern Lundquist was still covering the action like he did for CBS back in the day, I'd watch just to hear some classic Lundquistisms or butchered names.

The reality is NBC is appealing to the housewife demographic and they are getting good numbers for their programming. Its a smart move on their behalf because they are getting that fringe viewer to watch by appealing to storylines surrounding skating. Odds are the husband is already interested because its the olympics, its sports on network television during the week, and he grew up watching it, so like yeah honey let's watch the Olympics. But a closer look at the actual primetime coverage should leave the male viewer disappointed.

The other events you could take or leave. Snowboarding, Luge, the numerous types of skiing, etc. just aren't cutting it. The Lebron James-Carmello Anthony duel the other night or weeknight SEC Basketball is more appealing to me.

Of course the summer olympics are different. You have your basketball games which are intruging in watching the NBA players representing their different countries, track and field is always interesting and even the swimming it too. More events, better storylines, broader appeal I guess, but as for Vancouver 2K10, I'll continue to take a pass.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Doesn't she deserve one too?


(This was written over a year ago and I still stand by it)

The she I am refering to is Alabama Gymnastics Coach Sarah Patterson.

The item in reference is a statue of Patterson outside of Coleman Coliseum.

All four coaches who have won national football championships at Alabama prior to 2009 had statues erected of them in the Walk of Champions pathway that leads to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Because he was such a forward thinker, athletic director Mal Moore created a fifth area for a future statue that will now belong to Nick Saban.

Works are already in the way for the Saban statue to be finished prior to the kick off of the 2010 season. But my question is what about Sarah Patterson? Doesn't she deserve one in front of Coleman Coliseum?

The numbers don't lie about Patterson's success over her 32 years as Alabama's only gymnastics coach. She started the program from scratch arriving from Slippery Rock in Pennsylvania and has built the Tide into one of the top 3 programs in the country her entire career.

4-national championships (make that 5!)
7-national runner-up
6-SEC Championships (make that 7)
24-NCAA Regional Championships (now 26)
25-top six finishes (now 27)
27-consecutive years that Alabama has qualified for the national championship competition (now 29)
238 All Americans
21 individual National Champions
3 time SEC Coach of the Year and 4 time National Coach of the Year

Impressive eh? Notice we haven't even mentioned the academic and All-SEC recognitions yet! Nor have we said anything about beating Auburn 99 (now its like 102, but who's counting?)times in a row!

But what is more remarkable is that Patterson started with nothing. Coach Paul Bryant hired her to begin women's gymnastics in the late 1970's, which was a result of the Title IX movement. She's built the model program in the nation, one which others pattern themselves after (no pun intended). More SEC schools are adding gymnastics and they are trying to follow Alabama's lead.

It is routine for Alabama gymanstics to draw over 12-13,000 fans for their home meets on Friday nights. Patterson has marketed her program just as well as she coaches it. The vast majority of the ticket buyers are not the same people you see at football and basketball games. Darkened arenas, disco ball, firework introductions followed by ticket deals marketing to families are part of the key to her success. She's created future generations of fans that will sustain the program as long as their is continued success. She gets out and markets her program. She's media savvy, as she has always been willing to let anyone come and shoot practice, no matter if its ESPN or some student journalist working on a story for the campus station.

(Side note: How fan friendly is UA gymnastics? Several girls from my daughter's gym team went to the SEC championships in Birmingham a few weeks ago. One of the parents had emailed Coach Patterson about possibly meeting the team at the meet. Unfrortunately, the email was not read until after the event, but all of the girls that attended the SEC meet received personalized autographed posters from the entire team this week, which of course is now a National Championship poster!)

While local meterologists were warning people to stay home Friday night because of some unpercedented snow throughout Alabama, Patterson was on the Paul Finebaum Radio Show ensuring everyone that the meet between the #2 Tide and # 6 Florida Gators would take place that evening. Despite warnings to stay home, over 12,000 fans filled Coleman despite the fact that ESPN was also broadcasting the meet. You can bet their will be another 12,000 or more this Friday too.

As sad as it is to say, one can make the argument that gymanstics is really the #2 sport at Alabama, ahead of basketball and baseball. Name another school that could make that argument for gymnastics?

The sport has grown so much (thanks to Patterson) that the SEC has moved the Gymnastics Championships away from campus locations for the last decade, letting places like Nashville, Birmingham and Duluth, GA host the event. This year it moves to Jacksonville.

Alabama had football tradition before Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban arrived at the Capstone. It didn't even have a balance beam before Patterson arrived. Now it has a state of the art practice facility, a $35 million dollar renovation to Coleman Coliseum and the top program in the country.

Now all we need is that statue outside of Coleman...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2009...The greatest season in Alabama Football History



Hard to believe but its been a month since the Alabama Crimson Tide rolled to their 13th National Championship in sunny California. What an amazing season 2009 was, with in this writers opinion culminating in the greatest season in the 118 year history of 'Bama football. Notice I did not say greatest team, thats open for debate, although this years squad would easily be in that discussion too.

Their are numerous reasons why this was the greatest season ever, including the many firsts that the program established in 2009. Among the things Alabama accomplished for the first time was Mark Ingram bringing the Heisman to Tuscaloosa. Ingram made one of the greatest speeches in Heisman history, straight from the heart. It was a once in a lifetime event watching Ingram make his speech on the jumbotron of Coleman Colesium with close to 15,000 other fans.

From a team standpoint, the Tide became the first program to ever defeat 10 teams with a winning record in one season. They were the first to ever place 6 players on the All-American team. It was the first time 'Bama won 14 games in a season. Nick Saban became the first coach in the modern era to lead two teams to the national championship (LSU 2003 & 'Bama 2009). It was also the programs first win over Texas.

On the way to the National Title, Alabama defeated the previous four national champions (Texas-2005, Florida-2006 and 2008, and LSU-2007).

The 14 wins included games against traditional rivals Tennessee and Auburn, but the way Alabama won those games was unbelievable. In both games, their were tense moments where I'm sure the Vol and Tiger fans were about to feel the joys of victory only to have their hearts ripped out in the final seconds, like when Harrison Ford ripped the heart out of that guy in one those Indiana Jones movies. Trust me, Vol and Barn fans are still steaming about the one that got away.

I think the final reason that this season will be considered the greatest ever by an Alabama football team is because it came full circle and brought closure to the dark ages. Winning the BCS title in the Rose Bowl stadium became that final link for generations of fans from the early 'Bama titles that were won in the Rose Bowl, before the Big 10 and Pac 10 blocked other schools from going to Pasadena. It was more significant because of where the game took place.

Finally, the last decade began with such promise but was filled with such disappointment. The 2000 campaign began with 'Bama entering the decade at #3, opening the season in the Rose Bowl against UCLA. While I was their getting sun drenched and watching Freddie Milons go untouched for a punt return touchdown 3 minutes into the game, the rest of the game like the decade was downhill from there. What a long trip back from La La land that was, so much so that I did not venture to another road game until the 2008 season.

Through the disappontments of the decade (3-8 in 2000, 4-9 in 2003, 6-7 in 2006), the numerous coaching changes (Dubose, Fran, Price, Shula and Saban) the near misses (4th and 19, excruciating OT losses to Ark, LSU amd UGA, OU losses) and numerous embarrassing losses (UCF, La. Monroe, Hawaii and UNI) it looked for a time like we were destined to become a mediocre program like Ole Miss has been since the 1960's.

But that all began to change when Nick Saban came to T-Town on January 3rd, 2007. The Process began to take back the State and then the Nation. Unlike George Bush, we are not premature when we say Mission Accomplished!

No other team in the history of Alabama Football can match the accomplishments of the 2009 squad. In due time, people will grow to appreciate this team more and more in the coming years.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gameday Superstitions and Rituals




You know its true. Admit it. The success or failure of your teams ability to win a game is dependent upon your supertition or ritual that you complete before every game. You single handidly can affect the game and the mood of millions of others by partaking or forgetting to wear that lucky jersey, hat, jacket or eat or drink the same thing before, during or after a game. Some people will say you're crazy but you know your doing your part to help pull the team through to victory.

I'm sure their are a ton of Colts and Saints fans that have been wearing or doing the same thing for every sunday for this year or years past because its what they've always done. Tomorrow will be no different. Trust me, I should know.

I've been known to wear the same outfit whether I am coaching a game or watching one of my favorite teams time and time again based upon the success that we've had in previous games or years.

For instance, for the past two years I have always worn a # 28 Javier Arenas jersey, houndstooth baseball cap, khaki shorts/pants and a pair of nike coaches sneakers that were given too me for every Alabama game. I purchased the Javy jersey three days before heading to Atlanta to watch the Tide dismantle Clemson at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The rest they say is history because whether watching at home or being at a game in person, I was attired in the same outfit, except on two occasions!

The first was the 2008 SEC Championship game. I had a basketball game that evening and had to leave in the middle of the first half to get my team ready to play in the Elmore County Torunament Championship. Of course, the Tide ended up losing while I was watching us hoist a championship trophy in the air (this was not a total loss because the red dress shirt and tie I wore that night ended up going 10-1 on the way to a 20 win hoops season, with the lone loss being our last game during that run! check my profile pic). The second was the night of the Sugar Bowl as Utah dismantled Alabama in New Orleans. Agian, I had a basketball game that night and won (yes, I was wearing the red dress shirt and tie).

No gameday outfit = 2 losses.

Gameday outfit = Alabama 26-0. No outfit = 0-2. For the record, I've retied the Javy outfit after 'Bama's 2009 National Championship.

Of course, these rules apply to coaching also, as I mentioned with the red dress shirt during basketball season. That year we went a combined 7-1 in area games winning the area championship. The one game we lost, you guessed it, I was attired in something else.

I have numerous other traditions for other teams and sports. I always wear the opposite color the Celtics are wearing during playoff games. Green for the home games and white for the road games. Its customary for me to shave my head on gamedays when I'm coaching. For years coaching junior high football, I've worn a pair of black converse sneakers that after 5 years, were on their last leg of staying together. Over in Georgia, we ended up going 27-5 winning a couple of championships in those bad boys. I broke them out again in 2008 after I found them in my storage unit when we moved back to Alabama and we went 8-0 in 2008. The Black Cons have since been retired due to tears in the lining.

Of course, there are somethings I don't wear anymore. I have an Alabama pull over that I literally never saw them win in person in football or basketball wearing that thing. Their were some games that UA was a heavy favorite and they still lost. I'd tempt fate trying to get that jacket in the win column (because it was so comfortable to wear) only to have the improbable happen time and time again. Same in coaching, I have some dress shirts that were sent to the back of the closet due to losses.

So when Super Sunday gets here tomorrow, rest assured many Colts and Saints fans will be involved in these shenanigans. Its a time tested ritual for many and tomorrow may become that defining moment for some of these traditions, win or lose. And like analyzing a game, some might analyze what they did or forgot to do correctly to help their team win.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Signing Day is here.....

For some people in early February, they get excited for Punxatawney Phil. Goundhog Day is such a great event for some that they actually made a movie surrounding it.

For others, that Christmas in February feeling revolves around National Signing Day, where grown men will live and die with the decision that some 18 year old is making to attend college. For the Recruiniks who follow this stuff year round, they live for this.

For the uninformed, some signing day rituals usually include grown men sitting at their computer all day constantly hitting the refesh button to get updates of the young men who have agreed to play football at their school. I bet the Gross Demestic Product for some states, especially in the South, drops by several points. Another tradition is hearing how great all of Georgia's recruits are, but yet no one can understand why they can only beat Florida once a decade or so with said recruits. Last and certainly not least, we'll be sure to hear how great the Notre Dame recruiting class is, a top 10 class for sure, but yet we'll see them stuck in mediocrity, losing to football powers Connecticut and Navy over the next four years and ask, what happened?

Much like the NFL Darft, this is an inexact schience. The reality is that the majority of these kids, usually 50% at each school, never pan out due to injuries, grades, lack of playing time or maybe they just aren't as good as advertised. But we never really hear about the ones who don't make it, just the success stories. Alabama's national championship team only had 13 seniors, the majority of which were not highly recruited. Star cornerback Javier Arenas only had offers from Florida International and Alabama. I guess he chose wisely.

Other parts of the country will pay this signing day fiasco little or no attention, and thats fine too. You never know who is going to pan out into a future star.

On a side note, congrats to my SEHS basketball players Rodney Davis and Terry Fuller who are planning on signing letters of intent tomorrow to play college football with the schools of their choice. Good luck men!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Can an Iron Bowl win on the hardwood save Jeff Lebo?

The first hardwood edition of the Iron Bowl takes place for the last time in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum when Anthony Grant's upstart Crimson Tide take on Jeff Lebo's Tigers.

There are many questions surrounding this game, such as will their actually be a sell out? (probably not). Will half the crowd be Tide fans? (possibly). Will Anthony Grant's undermanned "Rocket 8" sustain the momentum of the last two games? (possibly) Is this Jeff Lebo's last home game vs Alabama? (very possible if they lose) And last but cetaintly not least, will the troughs in the men's restroom move into the new arena? (N0)

The growing question surrounding Jeff Lebo seems to be will he come back for the 2010-11 season. I've always been a big fan of Lebo. I remember my dad and grandfather taking me to see him play at the old HersheyPark and Farm Show Arena's when he was an All-American at Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania, playing for his father. The kid could flat out shoot which led him to Chapel Hill.

Lebo really seemed to be buidling some momentum with the Tigers NIT run last year. His teams were undersized, but they played hard, his x and o's always were superb. But now we're in year six of his era and the Tigers seem to be regressing. Their also seems to be dissension in the ranks. Former R.C. Hatch star Frankie Sullivan says the Tigers problem is a lack of "effort" on the defensive end. Trust me, the kid would know because he won 3 state titles. Lebo is quoted in today's Montgomery Advertiser as saying its a "lack of size" thats hurting his team on the defensive end.

Lebo's lack of talent, size or depth was acceptable in the past, but now these are his players and the team he has or has not constructed. The lack of size is his fault. A poor recuiting effort of local talent in the Brimingham and Montgomery areas has hurt. Their is plenty of local talent that heads elsewhere without getting a sniff of Lebo and his staff. Lebo said today that the lack of size at the guard position is hurting. Both Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee high schools in Montgomery have sent hard playing, bigger guards who Auburn seemed disinterested in. One of those, Chavez Davis is playing for Alabama today. The others, like Fortson at Arkansas or Brandon Crawford at Jacksonville State have achieved success elswhere. Even Eric Bledsoe, the star Kentucky freshman from Parker in Birmingham received little interest from Auburn.

So Lebo really has no one to blame for his problems except for himslef at this point. Even as an Alabama fan, I like for Auburn to be doing well in hoops, because its a boost for basketball as a sport in a football crazed state. Usually wins over Alabama can boost a coaches standing at Auburn, but I doubt that beating an undermanned Tide team at home will earn many brownie points for Lebo like it did in the past with the 500 fans who attend games. Time will tell his fate, but a loss today may begin the pink slip process for Lebo.

As for the game, I expect Auburn to come out strong, but one thing about Anthony Grant's team is they are gonna get after you on the defensive end. Auburn has never faced a Tide team that plays with this intensity on defense. If your gonna beat 'Bama, you better do it now because Grant will win and I believe win big when he gets a full compliment of players in the coming years. I think the one day to prepare for the Tide will hurt Auburn today, 'Bama 67-62.