Tuesday, June 28, 2005

BlogPoll: The Big Ones

The folks at Every Day Should Be Saturday have come up with a new BlogPoll question. Well, it's actually three questions, but it's only one post. And they're really good questions.

1. What's THE critical game of the season on the national scene? We're looking for the one that will influence the most outcomes in a single span of sixty minutes. Please try to diversify your answers and think of something other than Ohio State-Texas, for example.
2.What's the most critical matchup for your team? Again, we know we'll hear OSU-Michigan from you Wolverines, but we ask you to think in terms of multiple scenarios here.
3. What's your wingnut upset prediction of year? No hedging (or common sense) wanted here; we know everyone has a paint-chip eating, lunatic pick lurking somewhere in their brain. Go ahead and fess up on the record so you can gloat with pride later. Hit the comments below, and get blogging!

I'll go in order so as to avoid confusing myself while I type.

1. It appears that I am being asked to think outside the box a little bit. The easiest answers are Florida State-Miami (Labor Day night in Tallahassee) and Ohio State-Texas (September 10 at the Horseshoe). Both games have tremendous national title implications, and the FSU-Miami game could decide the course of the race to the first-ever (note here that I didn't use the gramatically incorrect term "first annual") ACC title game. However, I'll pick a game that isn't as obvious: South Carolina at Georgia on September 10. I'm not saying that I think one of these teams will win the national title, but there are more than a few Georgia fans that think their team has a shot, and any team coached by Steve Spurrier is going to carry high expectations into the season.

Look at South Carolina's schedule. The Gamecocks get Alabama, Florida, and Clemson at home, and we all know about the success Spurrier has had in Knoxville over the years. For them, a win over Georgia could be the springboard to a season that surpasses the expectations of anyone rational (I'm talking nine or ten wins here). If that happens, it dramatically alters the SEC East race, thought to be dominated by Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. Suddenly, the other USC becomes a division title contender, and they have a good chance of ruining either Tennessee's or Florida's (or both if they're lucky) title hopes later in the season. Along the way, beating Georgia would destroy any dreams the Dawgs have of contending on the national stage. If they lose to the other USC at home, there's little chance that they'll rebound to beat Tennessee and Georgia Tech on the road, Florida at a neutral site, and Auburn at home. If they beat the other USC, they'll have disposed of an old nemesis (Spurrier has often ruined dream seasons for UGA), and they will stay in the SEC East race.

2. For Wisconsin, the answer is easy. No, it's not September 24 against Michigan in Madison. No, it's not October 15 at Minnesota for the Axe. No, it's not November 12 at home against Iowa. In fact, it's not even a conference game. It's the season opener, September 3 in Madison against Bowling Green. Falcon QB Omar Jacobs will immediately test Bret Bielema's rebuilt defense (four new line starters, seven new starters overall, only five seniors on the two-deep). The wide-open offense employed by Gregg Brandon would have been an absolute nightmare for last year's Wisconsin defense, which was one of the better units they've had under Barry Alvarez. This year's crew has little chance of holding Jacobs and the Falcons under 30 points. With the offense Wisconsin has had in recent years, that would be more than enough for Bowling Green to pull a huge season-opening upset against a Big Ten opponent.

That game sets the tone for Bucky's season. They aren't going to finish higher than sixth in the Big Ten unless Bielema can get that defense to play well; which means they'll have a real hard time qualifying for even a trip to Detroit. And while one game doesn't make a season, it could certainly go a long way to determining Wisconsin's fortunes on that side of the ball.

3. You want "wingnut"? Here it goes. September 3...Columbus, Ohio...Miami (Ohio) over THE Ohio State University. Why? Because tOSU is trying to figure out this "offense" thing. Apparently, someone informed Coach Sweatervest during the offseason that you actually have to score points to win football games. Having A.J. Hawk tackling people all over the place won't help you, and having Ted Ginn won't help you if everyone punts away from him and you don't find a quarterback who can complete a forward pass. Miami returns a ton of starters from last year, and the only reason QB Josh Betts isn't getting any love right now is because he's stuck in a conference with Omar Jacobs and Bruce Gradkowski. For those who wonder about Miami's defense, just wait until the first time Terna Nande smacks whoever tOSU decides to start at running back.

That's about as "wingnut" or "paint-chip eating" as I'll get in a public forum. Feel free to leave your comments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


--> Game 7 of the NBA Finals is set for Thursday, as the Pistons won in San Antonio on Tuesday to force the first deciding game in the NBA Finals since 1994. Hopefully, no celebrity wanted for murder will get involved in a slow-speed chase and steal the spotlight this time around. For Detroit's sake, let's hope that Richard Hamilton doesn't turn into John Starks, who missed just about every shot he took in that 1994 Game 7. By nature, a championship series that goes seven games is memorable. However, this series has been anything but. Unless Game 7 itself is a classic, this might go down as one of the worst seven-game series in NBA history. We've had two close games out of six so far, with one very good game out of six (Game 5).

--> What to watch for tomorrow night? Unfortunately, one thing to look for is the officiating crew. The Pistons are 13-0 in the playoffs when Danny Crawford isn't one of the officials working the game (2-7 when Crawford is working, including the Game 6 win). Crawford worked the last two games, making it unlikely that he'll draw the assignment again tomorrow. That has to be considered a good sign for Detroit. The officiating in the playoffs has been awful, and the officiating in this series is enough to make Eric Gregg complain. I don't know that the NBA could have more inconsistent officiating if they actually wanted it that way. Give the Pistons credit. They didn't get much of anything in the way of calls in Game 6, yet won a tough road game to force an all-bets-are-off Game 7.

--> Tim Duncan needs a big game. He was okay in Game 6 (21 points, 15 boards), but he's been bad from the free throw line in the last couple of games (9 for 21), and he hasn't stepped up as the go-to guy that he is expected to be in this offense. If the Spurs lose on Thursday, Duncan will have to answer a lot of questions about his ability to step up and perform in the truly big games for San Antonio. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are obviously important players, but the Spurs don't win without Duncan playing well.

--> For the NBA's sake, I hope it's an entertaining, well-officiated game. Unfortunately, that's not what I expect. I expect an 85-77 clunker with some bad shot selection, bad offensive execution, bad free-throw shooting, and bad officiating. I hope I'm wrong.

--> The Minnesota Twins are floudering, having lost 10 of their last 13 games as of this writing. The latest loss, a 7-2 setback to Detroit, saw the Twins fall nine games back of the White Sox in the Central. While the Sox are playing some great baseball day in and day out, the Twins are merely a .500 team since the end of April. The middle infield has been beset with injuries, and nobody who plays there has been hitting. The pitching staff has taken a step back, with Brad Radke suffering a neck injury and Kyle Lohse reverting back to Kyle Lohse form after pitching like Radke for about a month. Joe Nathan has struggled mightily (5.73 ERA in May, 7.50 ERA so far in June) after a near-perfect April (11.1 IP, 5 H, 0 ER). Juan Rincon's ERA is hovering around 4.50 since his return from a suspension for using a banned substance. The Twins need veteran help in their lineup, and the talk seems to surround Joe Randa of the Reds right now. Randa is cheap enough, can hit a little, and is a pretty good defensive player at third base. Such a move is not a certainty at this point, but I like the point Jim Souhan (who covered the Twins as a beat writer before becoming a general columnist at the Star Tribune) made this morning: The Twins need the kind of spark they got from Shannon Stewart when they were scuffling in 2003.

--> Across the border, things are significantly worse. The Milwaukee Brewers have dropped well below .500 despite having one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. The Brewers are fourth in the National League in ERA, both with the starters and bullpen. However, Milwaukee has hurt themselves with a team batting average that is 15th in the NL, and a team defense that is one of the worst in baseball. The "defense" leads the NL in errors, and may have downgraded itself by replacing Junior Spivey with rookie Rickie Weeks at second base. There is no excuse for Spivey's defensive breakdowns given his experience and past performance, but Weeks is still learning on the job. The Brewers brought him up and dealt Spivey knowing that Weeks would struggle. What they didn't figure on was a mistake-prone outfield defense to make matters even worse, and they probably didn't expect the offense to continue to flounder despite the addition of Carlos Lee and the vast improvement of Bill Hall. Congrats to Hall, by the way, who hit his career-high tenth dong of the year in Tuesday's loss to the sCrUBS at Miller Park (his first career multi-homer game, too). It's always fun when a young player starts to come into his own.

--> Speaking of the sCrUBS, it's always grating to see the most annoying fan base in sports take over your favorite team's stadium for a few days. sCrUB fans come by the thousands to Miller Park, both because they can't get into Wrigley Field and because they want to see a real baseball stadium. I don't usually mind visiting team fans, in fact I kind of enjoy being one (specifically, I enjoy mingling with Gopher and North Dakota hockey fans when their teams visit UMD). What I do mind are the stories I hear from Brewer fans of how the Brewer organization seems to cater to these fans both before and when they come to Milwaukee. As a Brewer fan, nothing could bother me more than the organization basically endorsing the transformation of their stadium from Miller Park to Wrigley Field North. I know Brewer fans don't populate that stadium enough to merit special treatment, but that doesn't mean sCrUB fans should get it in Milwaukee. The organization needs to stop encouraging their visits, and they need to make it more expensive for sCrUB fans to come to Brewer games. The way to do that is to make anyone who wants tickets to see the Brewers and the sCrUBS buy tickets to other games against teams like the Rockies, Marlins, and others that don't draw well when they're on the road. If your stadium is going to be invaded by a bunch of obnoxious fools (or, maybe you prefer to call them "sCrUB fans"), the least you can do is make some money off of them. Maybe they can help the Brewers buy a key free agent or three.

--> The Milwaukee Bucks fired Terry Porter on Wednesday, a strange move, given that the Bucks announced six weeks ago that Porter would return. ESPN.com's Mark Stein reported that the organization wants to make a run at a more experienced coach (i.e. Flip Saunders or Nate McMillan), but one has to wonder what really happened. My theory, which has no solid information backing it up, is that GM Larry Harris and Porter had a disagreement over who the Bucks would pick with the first overall pick in Tuesday's NBA Draft. Harris fired Porter as a result, and when he doesn't get Saunders or McMillan (and he won't...McMillan will end up back in Seattle, and Saunders will go to either Detroit - if Larry Brown leaves - or Portland), Harris will be stuck where he was when Porter was hired. He'll be stuck with an inexperienced coach. Or maybe he'll lure Don Nelson (worse yet, maybe his father, Del Harris) back. Ugh.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The NBA reaches a labor deal while the NHL is still closed

The NBA on Tuesday announced that they have reached a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. The announcement ends the massive speculation that the NBA would join the NHL in locking out its players, and it ends the strange dream hockey fans apparently had that the 2005-2006 NBA season would never get off the ground. The new deal in the NBA includes a minimum age of 19 (or one year out of high school) for any player who wishes to enter the league's annual draft. Nobody seems to care about the changes to contract length, the rookie contracts, how the salary cap is calculated, or how the NBA moved to toughen their drug-testing policy. So we'll just talk about the minimum age.

This issue has been debated for quite a while - pretty much ever since Commissioner David Stern announced his intent to negotiate a minimum age for the new CBA. Stern is rightfully concerned about the flux of teenagers who aren't ready for the NBA, but are jumping into the NBA draft anyway. Stern is rightfully concerned about how tough it is for those young players to get better when all they're doing is sitting on the bench listening to teammates tell jokes and fans yell at opposing players. Stern is rightfully concerned about those young players taking roster spots away from established veterans who are better players, but don't have the "long-term upside" (union head Billy Hunter should be, and apparently is, concerned about this, too).

Stern knew he needed to get a minimum age into this CBA for the sake of his own credibility. For a while now, he has been front-and-center in the argument for a minimum age. He also knew (in all likelihood) that he wasn't going to get the minimum age he originally proposed (20). The odds are that Stern proposed the minimum age of 20 with the knowledge that he would eventually have to negotiate it down to 19 to get a deal done with the union, because while the union should have been 100 percent in favor of such a rule, they didn't want to alienate their younger members by not putting up any kind of fight against Stern.

The minimum age is a good thing. In reality, it's a good thing for everyone involved, even if they all don't realize it today. It's good for the NBA's public relations machine, as most sports fans appear to be in favor of some sort of age restriction. It's good for the NBA in general, as the players who enter the draft will be more NBA-ready than those who come in straight out of high school. The fans will be happy, because they've been begging for this for a few years now. And they don't realize it now, but the young players who are affected by this rule will appreciate the extra year (or more) to develop and improve as basketball players. When they enter the NBA, they'll be more mature (both physically and mentally), and they'll be better suited to contribute immediately in the pros.

For those who want to prop up Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Rashard Lewis, and others as examples of players who came straight out of high school and made it in the NBA, I would offer this: How many players have come out of high school and made a major impact as an NBA rookie? I can count one (LeBron James). One exception does not change the rule. Most of these players, regardless of their overall talent, won't be ready to start at the NBA level until they're 20 - and they're better off honing their skills in college for at least one year. You'll get better playing 35-40 games and practicing three or four times per week than you will by sitting on the bench for 40 minutes a night and barely practicing over the course of an 82-game season.

The NBA has to feel good about this. Both sides gave up things they wanted to make this deal, and now they have not only saved their sport from what could have been a crippling lockout, but they've also made the NHL look even worse for the fact that they haven't had a CBA in place for over a year now, and we haven't seen an NHL game for over a year as a result. Rumor has it that the NHL will get their deal done before July 1, but Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow have to be kicking themselves now. Any chance they had of using an NBA lockout to their advantage (a chance that barely existed if it existed at all, by the way) is out the window. Any chance they had of having someone else's labor problems to distract their ticked-off fan base is out the window. The longer the NHL goes without a deal, the less relevant they become. And let me tell you, they probably couldn't be less relevant right now if the league folded altogether.

(On a side note, the Spurs will win tonight. And that was still a charge by Big Shot Bob on Rip Hamilton, even though the world refuses to acknowledge the possibility.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

BlogPoll: Over/Under

I have decided to involve myself in the BlogPoll, a genius idea from the good people at mgoblog, a pro-Michigan Blogger site (mgoblog.blogspot.com). Yes, I have affiliated myself with Michigan fans. If I don't disintegrate before the end of the season, I'll be posting occasional thoughts inspired by folks on that site, as well as other bloggers who have signed up for the BlogPoll.

With that in mind, it's time to post a few thoughts on the current roundtable question, which can be viewed here: http://mgoblog.blogspot.com/2005/06/football-blogpoll-bickering-starts-now.html.

"Based on this compilation of the top 25 as Internet pundits and preseason rags see it, who looks flagrantly overrated? Why? Who looks underrated? What team in the high teens or lower could end up in the Rose Bowl?"

The top 25 referenced is here: http://michigan.scout.com/2/386752.html?refid=3637. It looks like this:

1. USC (8; 13-0) 200 points
2. Texas (11-1) 185 points
3. Tennessee (10-3) 162 points
4. Ohio State (8-4) 160 points
5. Michigan (9-3) 156 points
6. Iowa (10-2) 151 points
7. Oklahoma (9-3) 150 points
8. Florida (7-5) 149 points
9. Virginia Tech (10-3) 143 points
10. LSU (9-3) 134 points
11. Miami (Fla.) (9-3) 132 points
12. Louisville (11-1) 102 points
13. Georgia (10-2) 99 points
14. Florida State (9-3) 98 points
15. Auburn (13-0) 86 points
16. Arizona State (9-3) 66 points
17. Texas A&M (7-5) 62 points
18. Fresno State (9-3) 52 points
19. Purdue (7-5) 50 points
20. Boise State (11-1) 42 points
21. Pittsburgh (8-4) 30 points
22. Texas Tech (8-4) 29 points
23. Boston College (9-3) 26 points
24. Cal (10-2) 21 points
25. Alabama (6-6) 15 points

Who looks overrated to me? Well, the obvious answer is Texas. I'm tired of media experts pronouncing this team as a true national title contender. Until they actually beat Oklahoma, how can they possibly be taken seriously? Then again, they aren't going to beat Ohio State on September 10, so any national title talk will be dead before they lose to Oklahoma again.

Since that's too obvious, I'll say that Tennessee is the overrated team here. I'm guessing that the world is in love with the Vols because of how they completely dismantled Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. I think Tennessee will be very good in 2005, but I don't see them being a serious contender for the Rose Bowl. The schedule is horrendously difficult, with back-to-back roadies to Florida and LSU, along with road games at Notre Dame and Alabama later in the season. Assuming they survive those four tests without losing, they still have to deal with home games against Georgia and South Carolina (and it says here that Steve Spurrier had a pretty good record against Phil Fulmer). The QB job belongs to Eric Ainge, who dazzled in Tennessee's first three games last year, then faded a bit (51% completions, 9-8 TD-INT ratio) when the Vols started playing real teams instead of UNLV and Louisiana Tech.

For an underrated team, I'll take the team I like to win the SEC East: Florida. The Gators are loaded with experience and talent on both sides of the ball. Chris Leak's potential in the Urban Meyer offense is limitless. He will only get better as he picks up more and more of Meyer's schemes. Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson will have huge years catching passes and making plays on the run. Ron Zook left the defense loaded, too. The best part is that potential distraction Channing Crowder turned pro. With Georgia a bit down in my view (I'm not a huge D.J. Shockley fan), I think Florida is primed for a national title run. They're certainly better than the eighth-best team in the country.

My search for a Rose Bowl darkhorse ranked near the bottom stopped with Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they're going to have to do it the hard way. They have four very tough road assignments (Nebraska, Rutgers (yes, I just labeled Rutgers a "tough road assignment"), Louisville, and West Virginia), and they have Dave Wannstedt as a head coach. That might not be fair (maybe he'll stop being a buffoon on game days and fare better in the college game), but he has to prove himself as a game coach before this team will go anywhere. As is, they have a money shot of winning a weak Big East, and they have enough non-conference muscle (Notre Dame and Nebraska) to potentially boost their BCS rating into contention for a top two slot. I do like the talent on this team, especially QB Palko and WR Lee. Having H.B. Blades and Tez Morris back in the middle of the defense is nice, and Wannstedt doesn't have to replace any front-line players on either side of the ball. If the Panthers can find a way to win on the road more consistently than they ever did for Walt Harris, they could sneak into Pasadena.

(Bear with me. The search was for darkhorses. To me, "California" doesn't qualify, no matter how many starters they lost.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

College football quick hits

I know we're a long way from the start of the 2005 college football season, but my preseason research has begun. Here are a few early thoughts on the upcoming season.

--> USC will be good again, and they might pull off the three-peat. For that to happen, the defense will need to be much better than I project it to be. I love Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush (along with receivers like Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, and the up-and-coming Whitney Lewis). But I don't think the USC offense will be as efficient without coordinator Norm Chow, who moved on to the NFL's Tennessee Titans. The offense will score points, but it won't be enough to run the table if the defense (especially the front four) doesn't recover from some heavy losses. This team is incredibly well-coached, but road games against Oregon, Notre Dame, and California won't be easy.

--> Florida will be scary good in the SEC within a couple years. If Chris Leak picks up Urban Meyer's offense half as well as Alex Smith did, the Gators will win the SEC East this year. Meyer has won immediately at every one of his coaching stops so far, and he will win at this one. He brings with him an offense that no one in the SEC has ever had to face before, and Florida has the talent to make it run on all cylinders.

--> Michigan will win the Big Ten again. Ohio State is getting a ton of preseason hype, but I don't think they have the offensive backfield to beat out Michigan. Ted Ginn is a special player, but it won't do Ohio State any good to have him at wide receiver if they can't get him the ball. Michigan has the best offensive backfield (Henne-Hart) in the conference, and they're both sophomores. That's scary. It doesn't hurt at all that Michigan gets tOSU at home this year. It'll be the 359th year in a row that tOSU-Michigan has had bearing on the conference title. Unlike last year, this year's Big Ten champion should have a chance of finishing in the top two of the BCS and going to the Rose Bowl.

--> The BCS is really stupid. But you already knew that.

--> Staying in the Big Ten, Minnesota is primed for a disappointing year. They return a boatload of starters, including RB Laurence Maroney and emerging WR Ernie Wheelwright. However, the Gophers go from having a relatively easy conference schedule in 2004 (no Purdue, Ohio State) to having one of the toughest possible conference schedules in 2005 (at Penn State, Michigan, and Iowa; home for Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State; no Illinois or Northwestern). Not mentioned among those road games is what should be an easy win at Indiana - except the Gophers haven't won at Indiana in seven straight tries. The team might be better on the field, but the reward for that might be a slip of two or three wins, which would keep the Gophers out of the bowl picture. Quick fact: The only bowl team the Gophers beat in the 2004 regular season? Toledo.

--> Wisconsin will also slip. They overachieved by winning nine games last year, and they won't get any better this year unless the seven new starters on defense can make Bucky fans forget names like Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawthorne, and Jim Leonhard. John Stocco looked good at times under center, but really struggled down the stretch, and the Badgers failed to develop their trademark running game in the final two games (only 101 combined rushing yards and less than 2.0 YPC). The schedule is somewhat friendly for the Badgers - unlike Minnesota - and Wisconsin will probably go bowling, but don't be surprised to see Wisconsin spending the holiday season in Detroit or El Paso.

--> Mid-major to watch: UTEP. The two-deep is loaded with experienced players, including underrated QB Jordan Palmer and speedy WR Johnnie Lee Hawkins. The schedule is favorable, with the toughest road games being at rebuilding Memphis and defensively-challenged Tulane. The Miners won't threaten to make a BCS bowl (weak schedule), but they have the best potential of any mid-major to finish 11-0.

--> Conference to watch: Conference USA. The West division is loaded, with the aforementioned UTEP joined by resurgent Houston, Tulane, Tulsa (2003's surprise bowl team), and a much-improved SMU team that could surprise people (18 returning starters, 45 returning letterwinners). The East isn't bad, featuring Southern Mississippi, Memphis, former MAC power Marshall, and a UAB team that returns just about every key player except WR Roddy White from its first-ever bowl team. They lost Louisville, South Florida, and Cincinnati, but CUSA has gained some rising programs, along with the right to play a conference championship game (12 members).

--> Two words: Jovon Bouknight. If you don't know who that is, pick up a college football preview magazine, look up Wyoming, and familiarize yourself. It wouldn't hurt to read more about Wyoming, who is poised to ride the momentum of their Las Vegas Bowl upset of UCLA into 2005, and could threaten to win the Mountain West if Utah falters without Meyer. Joe Glenn has done an incredible job restoring the pride in what had been an underrated mid-major program.

--> West Virginia still won't win the Big East. That honor will go to the winner of the November 3 game between Pittsburgh and host Louisville. If Rutgers can find some defense for former defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, they might be good enough to go bowling for the first time since 1978. If they don't find that defense, Schiano might be shown the door despite his best efforts to revive the program.

--> Zac Taylor will complete at least 60 percent of his passes, and he will throw at least 25 TD passes for Nebraska. If he does that, he'll be hailed as a statewide hero, and Bill Callahan will be able to breathe as he takes Nebraska to the Cotton Bowl. Iowa State was no fluke. Bret Meyer and Stevie Hicks will lead the Cyclones back near the top of the Big 12 North. Missouri will be improved, as will Kansas State. It won't matter, though, as the South Division winner will roll over the North champion in the Big 12 title game.

--> Texas might beat Oklahoma this year. Trust me...that's an upgrade over last year, when I didn't think Texas had a chance. Look out for the other Texas schools (A&M and Tech), one of which might sneak into the Big 12 title game.

--> Florida State fans are thrilled. They will play Miami, and Chris Rix won't be around to screw it up. From the sounds of it, neither will Wyatt Sexton. Xavier Lee had better be good, or FSU will have their national championship hopes dashed in the season opener for a second straight year. I really like Virginia Tech in the ACC again. The "old guard" won't be happy if they win the league for a second straight year, but with Miami missing seven offensive starters and having to play at FSU and VT, the Hokies have a great chance to win the division.

--> Omar Jacobs is better than Ben Roethlisberger, and Bowling Green has the best chance to play in a BCS bowl of any team outside the power conferences. The non-conference schedule features trips to Wisconsin and Boise State, but both of those games are winnable for the Falcons.

--> New defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville will set aside Hawai'i season tickets for Elvis. If Elvis is smart, he'll take advantage, because the Warriors' home schedule features USC, Boise State, Fresno State, and Wisconsin. I can't imagine why Glanville took this job over the head coaching gig at Northern State (Aberdeen, SD).

--> North Texas is the team to beat in the Sun Belt, but Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe might give the Mean Green a run. UNT has won 25 straight Sun Belt games, which you might not know unless you're one of the 12 people that pays attention to the league.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The return of Musings

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I was busy with a full week of shows (a rarity on KDAL) and other work-related issues. I am returning to our normal posting schedule (well, I guess it's not really a schedule) this week. I'm going to start the week with a mishmash of sports and non-sports thoughts from the last few days.

--> I'm not sure why everyone cares about Michael Jackson. There's even a (albeit small) headline on ESPN.com as I type this post on Monday afternoon. Somewhere inside the WDIO newsroom, I can see Dennis Anderson's head exploding. I acknowledge the newsy nature of a famous pop singer being tried for anything - much less child molestation. However, it's an example of the sensationalistic nature of today's media that the prelude to the verdict was two-plus hours of nonstop talk and useless speculation. None of us know what the jury is thinking, and none of us should be making predictions on what the verdict should or will be. Those who believe that Jackson will be found guilty are setting themselves up for quite a fall, by the way - because based on past high-profile cases in California (Blake, OJ), he's not going to get convicted of anything terribly substantial. And if he is convicted of anything substantial, it's going to be immediately appealed. On the bright side, at least he's walking on his own and not wearing pajamas. That's a plus.

--> The NBA Finals might be over. Unless the champs can pull off a miraculous rise off the mat, the San Antonio Spurs will unseat the Pistons, leaving Rasheed Wallace with no more reason to carry around that championship belt of his (I've speculated that he should have to present it to a member of the Spurs after the series is over if San Antonio wins). The Pistons couldn't have looked worse in the first two games. They've been exposed as a marginally-talented team on offense, and a very thin team overall. They won't survive this series if Wallace (Rasheed), Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince don't find a way to become more involved offensively. The Pistons need more than Rip Hamilton, and they probably need their bench to come up big, something that Joe Dumars hasn't built it to do. Larry Brown will do what he can, but I don't see guys like Lindsey Hunter, Antonio McDyess, and Elden Campbell doing more than telling jokes on the bench to make Darko laugh.

--> Am I the only one who doesn't think a whole lot of Eva Longoria? Sorry, but I'd prefer to stare at Angelina Jolie in the stands. Maybe that's just me. You know, she's available. There has to be an enterprising single San Antonio Spur or Detroit Piston who can make that happen.

--> The NBA is talking lockout. Commissioner David Stern says the league's "best offer" will be on the table until June 30, which is the end date of the current collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, union head Billy Hunter doesn't seem too interested in continuing talks, as he cancelled a trip to San Antonio for Game 2 of the Finals last night. Hunter is in a tough spot here. The perception is that he has been a loser to Stern in past negotiations, and he feels the pressure is on him. But you'll be hard-pressed to find a large number of NBA players complaining about the current CBA or their current work situation. Most players seem more interested in playing basketball and finding a way to get a deal done. Hunter may not have the kind of support that NHL union head Bob Goodenow had around the time that the NHL cancelled the 2005-2006 season, but he appears ready to wage a similar fight against the owners. A lockout would be catastrophic for the NBA. Unlike the NHL, pro basketball has reason for optimism in terms of its place on the national landscape. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and others form a solid core of young stars, and teams like Phoenix make the game entertaining again. The loss of all or part of a season could ruin all the positive momentum the league has generated.

--> Onterrio Smith's year-long suspension was confirmed by the NFL last week. The Vikings have only one option here. They must trade or release Smith after his suspension is completed and the league reinstates him. There's no way that the team can ever again trust Smith to lead their running game. Unless he's willing to be a bit player in the Vikes' attack for the forseeable future (until he proves long-term that he can stay clean), he can't stay. The Vikings need a player they can trust to carry the ball 25-30 times a game for 16 games. Smith isn't that guy. For what it's worth, neither is the injury-prone Michael Bennett. The closest thing the Vikes have to an every-down back on the current roster is Ciatrick Fason, and he has some work to do before he'll be ready for such a workload.

--> In closing, we go back to the top. Jackson (Michael, that is) is, as I type, being acquitted on pretty much everything. It wasn't a tough prediction to make. What's stunning (well, not really) is the reaction of those outside the courthouse. We had one moron throwing doves in the air, something I can't rationally comment on right now. Others were tearfully throwing their fists in the air and praising the American justice system. There are two possible conclusions. Either these people don't have jobs, or they took time off work to go to the courthouse and cheer the child molestation verdict of a washed-up, has-been pop singer. You gotta love California.

--> Party at Neverland tonight.