Monday, January 31, 2005

Predicting the NCAA Tournament

I am going to try and predict all 64 teams that will be making it into the tournament about a month and a half from now. Conference wins played a big role in what teams I chose, and also the out of conference schedule was a big influence as well. Without further ado, here are the teams broken down by conference, that I expect to see come March Madness.

Big East (7): Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Villanova, Connecticut, Georgetown
ACC (6): Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland, Georgia Tech, N.C. State
Big Ten (5): Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa
Big 12 (5): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech
Pac 10 (4): Arizona, Washington, UCLA, Arizona State
Conference U.S.A. (4): Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, Charlotte
SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi State
West Coast Conference (2): St. Mary's, Gonzaga
Western Athletic Conference (2): UTEP, Nevada
Big West (2): Pacific, Utah State
Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, George Washington
Mountain West (2): Air Force, Utah
American East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Gardner Webb
Big Sky: Portland State
Big South: Winthrop
Colonial Athletic Association: Old Dominion
Horizon: Wisconsin Green Bay
Ivy: Penn
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference: Rider
Mid Continent Conference: University of Missouri-Kansas City
Mid American Conference: Western Michigan
Mid Eastern Athletic Conference: Coppin State
Missouri Valley Conference: Wichita State
Northeast Conference: Monmouth
Ohio Valley Conference: Tennessee Tech
Patriot: Holy Cross
Southern Conference: Davidson
Southland: SE Louisiana
Southwestern Athletic Conference: Alabama A&M
Sun Belt Conference: Arkansas State


Sunday, January 30, 2005

Viewing Guide for the week of Jan. 31-Feb. 6

These are the games that I will be watching and following this week, and I suggest you to do.

Monday


San Antonio at Seattle 10pm
Two of the top teams in the western conference hookup to battle out west.

BYU at Utah 11:59pm ESPN
If your from Utah your allegiance is either to BYU or Utah as this is a huge rivalry that many people in the east are not aware of. When these games happen, records do not matter, as either team can win this game any given year.

Tuesday


Illinois at Michigan State 7pm ESPN
Dick Vitale has said a few times that he thinks if Illinois wins this game, they will run the table and be undefeated going into the conference championship.

Detroit at Washington 7pm
Weren't the Wizards the laughingstock of the NBA just a few years ago? If the playoffs were to start today the Wizards would be a #4 seed.

Wednesday


Cincinnati at Louisville 7pm ESPN
The battle for first place in Conference USA is up for grabs.

New Jersey at Boston 7pm FSN
These two teams looked as though a rivalry was forming a few years ago. Now, with both teams under .500 the game does not take on the same meaning as it did in 2001-2003. Even still, I hate the Nets and want the Celtics to pound them.

Duke at Wake Forest 9pm ESPN
Duke lost last year at Wake Forest. Can the Demon Deacons make it two years in a row over the Blue Devils?

Thursday


N.C. State at North Carolina 7pm ESPN
Some analysts have said this game is a bigger rivalry than North Carolina at Duke. N.C. State is on the bubble right now, and needs a few big wins down the stretch to get in the tourney.

St. Mary's at Gonzaga 8:30pm
Quick: Who has more wins coming into this game? If you guessed St. Mary's, you are right. With St. Mary's playing so well and in first place in the West Coast Conference, this is a chance for the Zags to gain ground on St. Mary's.

Friday


Orlando at Boston 7:30pm FSN
Will the Celts get above .500 before the All Star Break on Feb. 20th? My guess is no.

Saturday


Wisconsin at Minnesota 12pm ESPN
Dan Monson has the Golden Gophers playing well, but needs a few big wins like N.C. State in order to be a lock for the tourney.

Georgia Tech at Duke 1pm CBS
If B.J. Elder does not play in this game, I do not see any way that the Yellow Jackets can beat the Blue Devils.

Sunday


New England vs. Philadelphia 6:30pm FOX
Can you spell "dynasty?" If the Pats wins this game, as I think they will, they will be the dynasty of the new century, just like the Cowboys of the 90's and the 49ers of the 80's.

Matt

Saturday, January 29, 2005

2005 Sox vs. Yanks Starting Pitching Comparison

What type of year is a certain pitcher going to have? Everybody wants to know the answer to that question and so people spend money buying books such as The Bill James Handbook and Baseball Forecaster in search of that answer. People not willing to spend money can get Dan Szymborsk's projections for free on Baseball Primer, and Baseball Prospectus subscribers can get Pecota. There is a very easy way to get an idea of how a player is going to perform in 2005. It is simply called the 3-2-1 formula, and is used by many statisticians, most notably Tangotiger. The 3-2-1 formula weighs the players 2004 numbers 3 times, 2003 numbers 2 times, and 2002 numbers 1 time. Tangotiger has said before that any system like Pecota is basically about 70% accurate and that the 3-2-1 formula is about 65% accurate. This means that the books that these analysts put out are basically fighting for the last 5%. Anyways, let's compare the Sox vs. Yanks 2005 starting pitching staff using the 3-2-1 formula. (Note: I am going to assume full health for all of the pitchers. I realize that Wade Miller probably will not be ready to go at the beginning of the season, but I am going to assume everyone just to compare the starting pitching staffs if everyone is in good health.)

#1 Starters: Curt Schilling vs. Randy Johnson

The matchup we have all been looking forward too. Hopefully, Schilling will be ready to pitch on Opening Day in Yankee Stadium against Johnson. The atmosphere in Yankee Stadium is going to be incredible for that game, especially if Schilling is healthy enough to pitch. Let's see what 3-2-1 projects for two of the best pitchers in baseball. (ERA is earned run average, WHIP is walks + hits/innings pitching, K/9 is the amount of strikeouts per 9 innings that pitcher averages, and BAA is the batting averages hitters have against the pitcher)

Schilling

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.15 1.04 9.32 .233

Johnson

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.11 1.07 10.5 .226
These stats are extremely similar and basically it's too close to call who is better based just on these stats. Randy Johnson is more of a strikeout pitcher than Schilling, and he will also benefit from Yankee Stadium and the spacious death valley out in left centerfield. If I had to take one of these pitchers, I would take Schilling just because of his determination and guts that he has showed. When a pitcher does what Schilling did last year in the postseason, how can you go against him?

#2 Starters Wells vs. Mussina

I am going to assume that David Wells will be the #2 starting pitcher for the Sox at the beginning of the season. Matt Clement and Wade Miller might eventually move into this position, buy I have a feeling David Wells will be pitching the second game of the year for the Sox in Yankee Stadium. Mike Mussina will be the starting #2 for the Yanks, although Carl Pavano could move into that spot.

Wells

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.87 1.19 4.75 .272

Mussina

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
4.10 1.22 7.60 .260

I expect David Wells' ERA too be a little bit higher than 3.87, as I think it will be a little bit more than 4.00. David Wells strikeout rate is amazingly low, which is not a good thing for the Red Sox or their fielders. The Sox better be ready to make plays in the field when Wells is pitching, because of the low strikeout rate. Meanwhile, Mussina's K rate is very good for someone not known as a strikeout pitcher, and batters have only hit .260 against him the past three seasons using the 3-2-1 formula. If you were to look just at last years stats, David Wells did have a lower ERA than Mussina by a almost a run. You have to remember that Wells pitched in the NL in a very spacious Petco Park and that helped him immensely. One thing to remember is that Mussina is 36 years old, while Wells is 41. Mussina is definitely a safer bet than Wells.

#3 Starters: Clement vs. Pavano

The comparison of these pitchers is very interesting because both of these pitchers were pursued by the Red Sox. The Sox went after Pavano first, stopped pursuing him when they thought they had Pedro resigned, and then went after Clement. I am excited Clement is here, as I think he will be a great fit.

Clement

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.81 1.25 8.84 .226

Pavano

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.79 1.22 5.82 .267

One thing that is not mentioned in these stats is that Matt Clement walks 3.8 batters every 9 innings that he pitches. That is absolutely horrible. Clement has known to be wild at times, and if he is going to succeed in Boston he needs to cut down on those walks. The good thing for Clement is that he strikes out so many batters. Besides Schilling and Johnson he averages the most strikeouts per 9 innings at 8.84. The rest of his stats are extremely good, but he must have his control to be effective. Pavano on the other hand is the opposite of Clement in terms of strikeouts. He averages 3 less strikeouts per 9 innings than Clement, which is a big margin. Another stat that isn't mentioned is innings pitched. Clement has only three seasons in his career where he has pitched more than 200 innings, while Pavano just has 2 seasons like that. Combine that with both of these pitchers coming to the AL for the first time, and it is very hard to predict where they will end up. Their ERA's will certainly be higher than what is listed above. I would take Clement over Pavano, because I'm hoping he pitch with control, and that strikeout rate is too high not to pick him.

#4 Pitchers: Miller vs. Wright

As I noted above, these comparisons are being done assuming full health, which certainly is somewhat of a question mark for Miller and Wright to a lesser extent. Miller had spent his whole career in Houston before signing with the Sox, while Wright has bounced around the past few years.

Miller

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.60 1.33 7.65 .236

Wright

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
6.71 1.81 7.49 .304

It is very clear from these stats that Wright's 2002 and 2003 season inflated all of his numbers to astronomical levels. There is no way that Wright is going to have an ERA, WHIP, or BAA anywhere near what the 3-2-1 formula says. Many writers have bashed the Yankees for signing Wright on what is obviously just one good year in 2004. I do not think it was a good signing because anybody can have a good year in their contract year (J.D. Drew and Javy Lopez come to mind). Miller, if healthy, can be an excellent addition to the Red Sox rotation. He was a great pitcher for the Astros, and it was a horrible mistake by them to non-tender Miller. If Wade Miller is healthy, and that's a big IF, the Red Sox have an advantage at the #4 pitcher.

#5 Pitcher Wakefield vs. Brown

Tim Wakefield is a pitcher who has been with the Red Sox longer than any player currently on the roster. It was great to see him standing on the mound after game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, after what had happened the year before. For anybody who has not seen that, I highly recommend Faith Rewarded and the 2004 World Series DVD. The DVD's have many highlights not seen before and Wakefield standing on the mound is one of them. The 5th starter spot could go to Bronson Arroyo who I think is a better pitcher and deserves it more. However, I think Terry Francona will go with the veteran to start out with, because he seems to like Bronson in the pen. Kevin Brown is a pitcher the Yankees had tried to get rid off this offseason, but no team seems willing to take on enough of his salary. I think there is still a small possibility that he gets traded before Opening Day, but for now he is the 5th starter.

Wakefield

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
4.26 1.30 6.51 .248

Brown

ERA WHIP K/9 BAA
3.64 1.25 6.83 .255

Both of these pitchers showed signs of their age last year. Wakefield is 38 and had one of his worst years last year, and Brown is 39 and heard the boo birds many times late in the season in Yankee Stadium. These stats are too low for both of these pitchers. I expect both of these pitchers had ERA's over 5.00. I would take Wakefield over Brown any day, because Wakefield is reliable and a great team player. Brown seems to get frustrated too much, as evidence by his punch in the Yankee locker room, which broke his hand. I think Brown is too unstable, and I would not be surprised if he retired after this season.

In conclusion, so much has been said about the Yankees starting pitcher with the additions of Johnson, Pavano, and Wright. Although I think they are good pitchers and will help the Yankees this season, I do not think enough credit has been given to the Red Sox for the pitchers they obtained this offseason. The Sox also obtained three starting pitchers this season, and while they do not have the appeal that Randy Johnson has, they are certainly going to help the club. The Sox also have two guys in the pen, who are more than capable starters if needed in Arroyo and John Halama. I think it all boils down to this: health and how these pitchers adapt to the AL. Curt Schilling has said before that coming to the AL and having to face the DH was a very tough transition for him. If some of these pitchers cannot make a smooth transition to the AL, expect to hear a lot of talk in July of these two teams battling for Kip Wells and Ben Sheets in order to have the best starters ready for the postseason. Because, when all is said and done, the 2005 ALCS, like the 2004 ALCS will come down to pitching between these two teams.

Matt


Friday, January 28, 2005

This Game Came Down to the Basics

Last night's showdown between #10 Washington and #11 Arizona came down to what every coach has their team practice every day: free throw shooting. Arizona hit an amazing 38 of 40 free throws, and at one point during the game made 31 consecutive to help them to a 91-82 victory. In the first half it looked as though Arizona did not belong on the same court as Washington was grabbing offensive boards almost every time down court. At halftime, Salim Stoudamire felt it was his time to speak up:

"I was cursing," Stoudamire admitted. "I was saying all kinds of thing, using some foul language. Maybe it woke us up. I might do it again."

Salim has been absolutely on fire the last month. Coach Lute Olsen suspended Salim for a week earlier in the season, which caused him to watch from the sidelines on December 18th when the Wildcats barely beat Marquette. The reason for the suspension was attributed to Salim not being a leader and having conduct detrimental to the team. Since the suspension Salim is averaging over 19 points a game, and shooting 64% from behind the arc. In his last five games he has scored 21, 32, 27, 25, and 25 and in one of those games he scored 24 of his 32 points after halftime including the game winner from 26 feet. In that game Salim scored 24 of the 29 points and after the game, Lute had this to say about him:

"He is the best shooter in the country, hands down," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "They talk about the guy at Duke (J.J. Redick), but I will put Salim up against him anytime."

In his senior year, Salim has come to realize that Arizona will go as far this year as he carries them. If he continues the pace he has been on, Arizona can contend with any team in the country. These two teams meet again in 28 days, and Tre Simmons, the leading scorer for Washington has already provided some motivation for the rematch:

"We're definitely going to get them back when we go back to Seattle," Simmons said. "There is no doubt about it in my mind."

Arizona fans hope their team can repeat what the Huskies did to them last year in beating the Wildcats three times. In order to accomplish this, the Wildcats must play as a team like they did last night, win the rebounding war, and limit Washington's three pointers. Washington last night had 14 three pointers and shot 38% behind the arc. If the Wildcats are successful in these areas, there is a good chance they will win the rematch in Seattle.

Matt

Thursday, January 27, 2005

FEAR THE TURTLE!!!

Just when I thought the Maryland's season was headed towards the gutter, Gary Williams motivates his team and pulls the biggest upset of the week and maybe even the year. The Terps came into last night's game against Duke with an 11-5 record and a 2-3 record in the ACC. With games in the next month against Georgia Tech, at North Carolina State, Duke, and UNC, I presumed that the Terps were going to fall under the pressure of playing in the ACC. But the Terps proved me wrong. They went into one of the hardest places to play in college basketball in Cameron Indoor Stadium and emerged with a 75-66 victory.

My friend Jim earlier in the day had told me that the Terps were going to win by 2. I responded back that the Blue Devils were going to kill Maryland and win by at least 15. The funny thing about this is that Jim knows basically nothing about college basketball (sorry Jim). Last night, I was watching the game in my friend George's room and I could not believe that the Terps had a lead in the first half. I totally expected a blowout in this game. The Terps held tough, and played great defense against a team that can really shoot from outside. As the game was about to end with a minute left I started IM'ing Jim like crazy telling him I could not believe what I was seeing. The convo went like this:

"This is UNBELIEVABLE"
"I cannot believe what I'm seeing."
"This is great."
"You were right."

Come to find out a few minutes later, that Jim had no idea why I was IM'ing him. He was not watching the game, and had no idea what was happening. This proves two points: anything can happen in a given college basketball game, and although I watch a TON of college basketball, I can be wrong in my predictions of college basketball games. This is why I love college basketball. Heck, an 8-9 Providence team can within a three pointer by Donnie McGrath that would have sent the game into OT against an undefeated Boston College.

The win by Maryland last night was great for two simple reasons: I like Maryland and I hate Duke. My love for Maryland started in 2000 when they had Juan Dixon, Steve Blake and Lonny Baxter among others. Steve Blake was my favorite college basketball player for the 4 years he was with the Terps. It was also during this time that I developed my hate for Duke. I respect them as a team, and I think Coach K is an excellent coach, but they have beaten Maryland several teams in the past few years in crucial games. There was the game where Maryland lead by 10 with under a minute left, until Jay Will took over the game and lead Duke to an OT victory. There was the 2001 Final Four where the Terps had a 20 point lead over Duke in the first half only to see Duke come back and win the game and the National Championship. The last few years the Terps are the team taking the important games from the Blue Devils. Last year in the ACC tournament the Terps were down by 12 with 3 and half minutes to go, only to be lead by John Gilchrist to a victory and an ACC tournament championship the next day. That string of four days in the ACC tournament prompted me to look for a Maryland tee shirt and I almost ended up buying the Fear the Turtle tee shirt. And then last night, with Duke being only one of three undefeated teams left, the Terps went into Cameron and beat Duke.

The conference season is still not even half way through, so the Terps still do have some important games that they most win to get into the tourney, but this win is by far their biggest win of the season and hopefully will lead to big wins down the road.

Matt

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bye Bye Minky

After hearing news of Carlos Delgado signing with the Marlins, rumors started to swirl on message boards that the Mets were turning their attention to Doug Mientkiewicz. Last night, when I went to bed, all I had heard was that the Sox were getting a single A prospect in return for Minky. Fans over at SOSH were drooling over the possibility of getting Yusmeiro Petit , a 20 year old right handed pitcher who although he does not have powerful stuff struck out 200 batters last year in 139 innings. When I awoke in the morning, I found out that the prospect the Sox were getting was a big first baseman named Ian Bladergroen. Ian was a 44th round pick out of junior college in Colorado in 2002, although he did not sign until 2003. In his two years in the minors his numbers are as follows:


AVG OBP OPS
.313 .376 .881

These stats can be misinterpreted because Ian has only played two years of single A ball. In his first year he struggled putting up a line of .285/.354/.416 (AVG, OBP, SLG), but last year he was a real force in the lineup until he got a wrist injury which ended his season in July. At the time of the injury he was hitting .342/.397/595. If the injury that he sustained to his wrist is fully healed by the time baseball season starts, I look forward to seeing him perform just as he did before he got injured. Baseball America which is the best minor league web site around, rated Ian the #4 prospect in the Mets system. Rotoworld rated Ian 7th among all Mets prospects.

One thing that Ian needs to learn is patience. To take a quote from Baseball America

"He was aggressive and would chase a bit like a young slugger," said Charleston (W.Va.) manager Ken Joyce, "but he had a real nice swing and legitimate big-time power. His swing path put the bat in the (strike) zone for a long time."

As Red Sox fans we all know that under the new managerial style, the Red Sox preach patience to their hitters. This was one of the main reasons the Sox traded for Mark Bellhorn last year. If Ian can learn more patience as a hitter, which I'm sure he can since he is only 21, he will have a better chance of succedding in getting to the big leagues. It will be interesting to see how he progresses in the Red Sox minor league system. All in all, I thought it was a good trade for the Sox, because I think Millar is a better fit at 1B than Minky.

Matt


Monday, January 24, 2005

Viewing Guide for the Week of Jan 24-29

I thought I would provide a viewing guide of the upcoming games that I am looking forward to this week. At the top of my list is the Illinois vs. Wisconsin game Tuesday night, but there are plenty of other games this week that I am watching and that you should too.

Monday

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma 9pm ESPN

This is a game between in state rivals and between two teams who have a combined 5 losses on the year. Oklahoma State lost 75-61 on Jan. 17 to Texas, while Oklahoma just beat Texas at home on Saturday by a score of 64-60. This game is going to be played in Oklahoma with the rematch being played again on Feb. 7 at Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma wins this game they will stay undefeated in conference as they are 4-0 right now. I did not think at the beginning of the season that Oklahoma would be this good, but Kelvin Samspon has done a great job with this team. This will be a great game.

Tuesday

Illinois vs. Wisconsin 9pm ESPN

The game of the week is the showdown in the Big Ten. Wisconsin has won 38 straight home games, while Illinois is 19-0. One of these streaks will end tonight. Illinois almost lost last week to Iowa but won in OT by 5. Wisconsin is one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball, and I can imagine that kids are camping out right now to get tickets as you read this. What an excellent game to look forward to. For previews of this game, click here and here.

Wednesday

Maryland vs. Duke 9pm ESPN

Gary Williams the coach of Maryland has said that this years team for Duke has been Coach K's best coaching job. Duke is undefeated at 15-0 and I would venture to say that is a surprise for most college basketball fans. The last time these two teams played was in the ACC Tournament last March in the semifinals. Duke was up by 12 with 3 and a half minutes to go, when John Gilchrist took the game over and lead the Terps to an OT win. These two teams have such a great rivalry and tradition and I cannot wait to watch this game. Unfortunately, the game is at Cameron Indoor Stadium and I think Duke will go to 16-0. Not to worry Duke haters, as Duke plays Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and North Carolina all between Feb. 2-9. If they win all of those games, I will be STUNNED.

Boston College vs. Providence 7:30pm

Providence has really struggled so far this season. Ryan Gomes who was a first team All American last year and is scoring 20 points and grabbing 9 boards a game this year, but a team cannot win with one player. Providence is 0-4 in conference and has an overall record of 9-8. BC, like Duke will continue their unbeaten streak and make it 17 in a row.

Thursday

Washington vs. Arizona 8:30pm FSN

Being a huge Arizona fan, this is a game I have been looking forward to since last year. Washington beat Arizona three times last year, which for Lute Olson has to be unacceptable. This is a chance for the Wildcats to get revenge. Arizona is coming off a week by beating Oregon and Oregon State on the road, while Washington only played one game last week beating Washington State. This game could not be more evenly matched. Both teams come in with a record of 6-1 in conference. Washington is 16-2 overall, with Arizona a step behind at 16-3. Salim Stoudamire has averaged 19 points, and hit 65% of his three pointers in his last ten games. Look for Salim to have another huge game if Arizona is to win.

Sacramento vs. San Antonio 9:30pm TNT

Right after my Wildcats beat the Huskies I will be flipping over to this game, which is the best game of the week in the NBA. Yesterday, San Antonio went into Sacramento and beat the Kings by 30. Arco Arena is one of the toughest places to play in the NBA, and to beat the Kings by 30 is remarkable. I hate the Spurs and I do like the Kings, but I will have to be satisfied with Arizona's win earlier in the night, because San Antonio will make it two straight vs. the Kings.

Friday

Phoenix vs. Boston 7:30 FSN

This game must be watched not because it will be a close game, but because it is one of the few chances to watch the most exciting team in the NBA. The Suns are an awesome team, and the style of basketball they play is great. Their starting lineup is arguably the best in the NBA with Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudamire, Quentin Richardson and Shawn Marion. Unfortunately, the Suns do not have much of a bench, which forces the starting 5 to play most of the game. This could catch up with them later in the year. Another thing that this team has to stay away from is injuries. Steve Nash was recently out and the Suns lost all five games in which he did not play. That just shows how valuable he is to the team. He has to be the best free agent signing last summer. Look for the Celts to lose by 20.

Saturday

Syracuse vs. Pitt 7pm ESPN

Syracuse has a record of 19-1 this year, and with the return of Billy Edelin look even more dangerous. Pitt just won their biggest game of the year on Saturday by going to Storrs and beating UConn. Pitt, like Wisconsin is almost unbeatable at home. I like Pitt in this game in another mini upset.

Also on the schedule for Saturday is Georgetown at BC. Georgetown beat Notre Dame on a buzzer beater yesterday and they are having a good year, and will be a decent test to the Eagles. I'm going to go out on a limb, and say the Hoyas will pull the huge upset.

There are plenty of more games that I am looking forward to this week, but these are the ones I am really looking forward to.


Matt







Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pitt Respond with Big Second Half

I thought this game was over. Pitt was playing horrible, and was down by 15 with 18:30 to go in the game. I was disappointed and upset. Not only am I a Pitt fan (after Arizona of course), I hate UConn. And I mean hate. I grew up in western Mass a huge UMass Minuteman fan. When you are a fan of the Minuteman, you hate the Huskies. But then, something happened. That something was Chevon Troutman. Troutman poured in 25 of his 29 points in the second half as Pitt came back and ended up beating UConn in Storrs by 10. I was surprised, stunned, and thrilled all at the same time. Pitt had been resurrected from the dead in this game, and it was all due to their big man Chevon Troutman.

In the first half, UConn dominated the game. They had a lead of 11 at halftime, and Pitt was lucky the lead was not larger. UConn lead by as many as 17 in the first half as Rashad Anderson was nailing 3's from the outside. Rashad had been in a slump, but as Digger Phelps called it on the College Gameday pregame show, when he said that Rashad would break out in this game. UConn was also controlling the inside of the paint as well. Although Josh Boone and Rudy Gay both got in early foul trouble, Hilton Armstrong and Charlie Villanueva stepped in and played huge. Dick Vitale said during the broadcast that he thinks that UConn has the best frontcourt in all of basketball. With players like Boone, Villanueva, Gay, Armstrong, and Ed Nelson I cannot disagree with that statement. Even still UConn just lead by 11 at halftime with a 43-32 lead.

A few minutes into the second half, I almost changed the channel to see if there was another college basketball game on. Instead, a guy named Chevon forced me to not touch my remote controller. I cannot emphasize enough how much of an impact Chevon had on this game. Chevon is a senior and is used to playing UConn by now. He has played and been involved in the last three Big East Championship games, two of which have been won by UConn. This game would not be won by UConn and its all because of Chevon. With Pitt down 53-47, Chevon scored 11 straight points to put Pitt up 56-54, and they would never look back. Chevon was driving, rebounding, slashing to the hoop, and even hitting his fourth three pointer of the year in the second half. I have watched a lot of Pitt's games over Chevon's 4 year career and I think this is his best game he has ever played. In the end, Chevon had scored 29 points, grabbed 12 boards (7 on the offensive side), shot 10 of 18 from the floor, and 8 of 9 from the free throw line.

This was a huge win for Pitt after suffering losses to Bucknell and St. Johns earlier in the month. Jamie Dixon's team played with the type of intensity that Pitt fans have been accustomed to since Ben Howland was coaching the team. Although this was a great win for Pitt, they still have an extremely hard road ahead. They face 19-1 Syracuse this Saturday at home, and also have games against UConn, BC, and Syracuse all in February. One thing is for sure and this is if Troutman plays like he did last night, Hakim Warrick will have his hands full come this Saturday trying to guard him.


Matt






Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Finally time to Post

I finally have a little time to post. Winter break has been busy, as I have been substitute teaching in Ludlow. Many things have happened since the last time I posted 10 days ago. My picks for the first week were pretty good at 3-1. This last week I did not get a chance to post my picks but I went 3-1 again. I really thought the Patriots were going to lose. I thought that it was Peyton's year, and no matter what the Pats defense tried, I thought that the Colts would find a way to win. I could not have been more wrong. The Pats D manhandled the Colts, and the Patriots had the ball for so long with those long drives. It was pathetic. I think the Pats had 3 drives of 14 plays or more. That is just unheard of, and that along with their D is the reason why they won the game.

The Sox have just reached agreements with Mark Bellhorn and Bronson Arroyo. I do not have a link to the story but Arroyo's contract this season is for 1.85 million, while Bellhorn is due to make 2.75 million. Arroyo at this money is still a steal. After all, he almost ended up in the top 10 in ERA in the AL. Bellhorn is getting more here than I thought he would. I thought he would get about 2 million. As long as he repeats the year he had last year, I have no problem with him getting the 2.75 million.

The Celtics are tied for first place at 17-20. That is the most pathetic thing I have ever heard of! It is almost the All Star Break, and a team should not be leading their division with 17 wins. That conference is horrible. The Celtics will make the playoffs this year just because the East is so bad, but expect another early exit from them, just like last year when they got swept in 4 games by the Pacers. I think the Eastern conference in the NBA is worse than the NFC in football. Yes, I know that the NFC had two teams make the playoffs at 8-8, and both of those teams (Rams and Vikings) proved how good they really were this weekend getting killed by the Eagles and the Falcons. The Eastern conference in the NBA only has 6 teams with winning records and besides the Heat, nobody really stands out. The Cavs, Pistons, and Wizards all have 22 wins, behind the Heat who have 28. I cannot believe I am saying this, but the Wizards lost their first game of the MONTH last night. When teams like the Wiz go undefeated for more than half a month, something is wrong.

And finally I got to give some props out to my HS. The varsity boys basketball team is holding it down right now undefeated in conference play with a record of 4-0 with a big game against Pathfinder tonight. I graduated from Pioneer Valley Christian School in 2001 with 24 students. Right now the HS has about 100 students in it. All this being said, they are blowing teams out of the water winning games by 20 to 30 points each night. Check the box scores of tonight's game at masslive.com tomorrow.

Those are my random thoughts of the day, and hopefully I will be back soon to post again. With 14 hour RA training days beginning tomorrow through Sunday, that does not seem likely.




Matt

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Links on Playoff Weekend

Just to remind you that you heard it here first, I am predicting that the Rams, Jets, Packers and Colts will win this weekend (just don't blame me if they don't). Last night I was driving to pick up my brother from his basketball game, and I was listening to JT the Brick on the radio. He happens to think that the same 4 teams will win these games. It is obvious why he thinks this. He must have checked out the blog on Monday, read my article, agreed with my picks, and then used them on his nightly show. Or at least, that's what I like to think.

WEEI had an interview yesterday with Theo Epstein. I always find his interviews very informative and interesting to listen too. You can listen to the whole interview here, as I did, because I cannot pick up WEEI at my house.

Good news. Wade Boggs is entering the Hall of Fame wearing a Red Sox hat. I am very excited by this, because he played the majority of his career with the Sox.

One last thing. There have been numerous articles written about Minky wanting to keep the ball that he caught for the last out of the World Series. If you have not read the story yet, you can read it in Shaughnessy's column. To be blunt and to the point, I think the ball deserves to be in Red Sox management's hands.

Enjoy the weekend, and remember where you heard those NFL picks.


Matt

College Football needs a New System

I know this subject has been beaten to death this year by college football analysts, but I wanted to let my opinion be known as well. Numerous coaches and analysts have all complained that while the BCS might be better than what we had before, it does not do enough to make sure the right teams face each other. This year, Auburn was left out of the National Championship game, even though they went 12-0 in the SEC and then beat VA Tech in their bowl game. Would Auburn have beat USC? Well, I don't think anybody could have beat USC on that night. They were absolutely clicking on all cylinders. Auburn is a great defensive team, so I would love to see that matchup, but unfortunately, we as fans do not get to see that. And that is not fair to us as fans, or to the teams that deserve that chance to be called a National Champion.

My friend asked me if I thought that my favorite NFL team the San Francisco 49ers would be able to beat USC. And you know what, I am not sure that they could. In fact, I think if I was a betting man (note: I am not), I would put my money on USC. The Niners had too many injuries this year, and if USC and the 49ers were to play this weekend, I strongly believe that USC would win. How sad is that? Anyways, enough about the 49ers. Who wants to hear about a team that went 2-14, and fired their head coach and GM anyway??

The reason why the BCS is really BS is because after the season, there are still questions left. The two main questions that I would love to have answered are: is Auburn better than USC and how good is Utah? Utah went 12-0 this season playing in the Mountain West Conference. Some pundits will say that who knows how good they are since they didn't play anybody. You know what, that is bull crap. Utah beat Texas A&M by 20 points, which is no small feat. They beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl by 28 points. And yes, I do realize that Texas A&M is not as good as USC, but they did play Oklahoma real hard and almost beat them. Pittsburgh might not have been the best team to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Utah, but the Utes played whoever they were scheduled against and beat them. Utah played four teams in the regular season that went onto bowl games. They played Texas A&M, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Wyoming. They beat those 4 opponents by a combined score of 160-72. That's more than double the score, for you non-math majors out there. Then they went into their BCS game, the first time a team was in a BCS game without coming from a big conference, and they embarrassed Pitt by 28. Utah won every single game this year by at least 14 points. So, I know you are now asking yourselves, What the heck is the whole point of this paragraph? The point is the BCS sucks because I really wanted to see Utah playing an undefeated team. The point is a better system might allow that. That's the fricking point. The BCS just doesn't work, because it doesn't settle these arguments. In the NFL, MLB, and NBA everybody knows who the best team at the end of the season is. Well, with college football we don't really know, do we? USC fans can claim all they want that they are the best team, but until they play Auburn, who really knows? Who is not to say that Auburn pulls an upset? What about Utah. Maybe they could even give USC a game (I know it's a stretch, but for the sake of the argument, agree with me).

Let me tell you another thing that pisses me off about the BCS. The whole thing about the six major conferences (Big East, Pac 10, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, ACC) getting an automatic bid to the conference winner is absolutely insane. Pitt, although they had a fine season, had no business playing in a BCS game. They were 8-4 this year and they were only nationally ranked team for two weeks this year. This is the first time that a team has played in the BCS, and then after losing the game is no longer ranked. When that happens, as it did this year, that means that team had no business being in that bowl game. In 2005, the Big East will have 8 teams in their league with a few additions. Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida will join the Big East, while Temple and BC leave. This only makes me more angry. The Big East not only has the lowest number of teams competing for a BCS bid (8), but most of the team are not BCS worthy. Louisville is the only team in that conference right now that might actually deserve a BCS bowl game next year, and even that is a stretch. I absolutely hate the fact that the Big East is going to get a BCS bowl bid next year, and their conference only has 8 teams, while the real conferences like the ACC, Big 10, and Big 12 each have between 10-12 teams. This system is really screwed up.

I could write a book on this subject, but I want to leave with just a few final thoughts. Not every flaw of the BCS is included in this article, because, well, I am being very conscious that you have other things to do than read my blog. The plus one system is a huge step up, and one I think that college football should soon employ. For those of you, who do not know what the plus one system is, it's a game that is played after the top 4 teams play against each other. This year USC would have played #4 in the BCS standings Texas, and and #2 and #3 Oklahoma and Auburn would play each other. The winners of those two games would play each other in a title game. Although there are some minor drawbacks to a plus one system, I certainly think it is a step in the right direction. To quote Kirk Herbstreit an analyst for ESPN in the Washington Post,

"It's such an obvious and simple solution that it's staggering it hasn't already been adopted. "There's not a single substantive argument against it. University adminisrators need to get together and work this thing out, so we don't have to go through this BCS mess season after season after season."

So, there you have it folks. The answer to a few of the problems the BCS has is the plus one system. So what do we do know? Well you can start by emailing as many Presidents of major universities at this site to let them know how we feel about the BCS. The email is already written for you and is something that we as people who are not connected with decisions concerning the BCS can do. When you think about it, its' the least we can do to help out our beloved past time of college football.


Matt































Wednesday, January 05, 2005

An interesting take on the Yanks offseason

Larry Mahnken over at The Harball Times has a very interesting look at the Yankees offseason moves. Larry is a Yankees fan, and is the author of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog. In the article over at THT, he basically vents about all the offseason moves that Cashmen and Steinbrenner have made. I hate the Yankees, and even I do not think some of these moves are that bad. Larry takes the opposite view. His article is a must read, and you can find it here.

Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were elected into the Hall of Fame yesterday. I was a huge Wade Boggs fan, and it is always sad to see him wear a Yankee hat. Nevertheless, he was an excellent hitter and a great third baseman. I never read Dan Shaughnessy, because he usually is just bashing the Red Sox or one of their players. However, over at Baseball Primer, there was a discussion about his article on Wade Boggs and I did not see any negative comments about his article. I decided to read Shaughnessy for the first time in months, and it is a very good article and can be found here.

Matt

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

VA Tech didn't play BeamerBall tonight

I was as pumped up for the Sugar Bowl matchup as any other bowl game I have watched throughout this great bowl season (including a 12 hour New Years Day). The Virginia Tech Hokies were playing the undefeated Auburn Tigers of the SEC. I was excited because nobody, and I mean NOBODY would have predicted that these two teams would be playing in this bowl game before the season started. VA Tech was in their first year as a team in the ACC and started out 2-2. The Hokies went on to win their last 8 games, their final 3 over Maryland, Virginia, and Miami at the Orange Bowl. If Miami had won that game against VA Tech, they would have represented the ACC in the Sugar Bowl. Instead, VA Tech took it to Miami on December 4th and earned the right the play against Auburn.

Auburn's coach was under fire last year after they went 7-5. The President of Auburn almost fired the coach Tommy Tuberville after the season, but decided against it when he could not convince Bobby Petrino of Louisville to come back to the place where he was an offensive coordinator a few years ago. All Auburn did this year was go undefeated in the SEC, one of the toughest conferences in America, and beat prominent SEC opponents such as LSU, Tennessee (twice), Georgia, and Alabama. To go undefeated in a major conference in the SEC is amazing and I truly hope that Auburn somehow gets a share of the National Title.

But on to the real subject matter which is the Hokies just didn't play BeamerBall tonight. Some of you may be asking what is BeamerBall? Frank Beamer is the head coach of the Hokies, and is a coach that stresses special teams, defense, and not committing many penalties, and mental mistakes. Well, the Hokies would have won the game tonight if they had played the brand of ball that they are accustomed too.

In the first half, the Hokies had a first and goal on the Tigers 3 yard line. After Auburn succeeded in holding the Hokies for the first three downs, Beamer decided to go for it on fourth down. Why he made this decision, I have no idea. I love Frank Beamer, and I love the Hokies, but I hate the decision. In a tight game, where the game is going to be dominated by the two defenses you take the 3 points. Anyways, on fourth down, Bryon Randall threw a pass that went right through the hands of the receiver. The game almost seemed to turn on this play. The Tigers took the ball down the field and scored a field goal, and went into the half leading 9-0.

The Hokies also were called for a clipping penalty that resulted in them having their ball on their own 20, instead of on the Tigers 35. The penalty was called on a punt return, which obviously did not make Frank Beamer happy. The Hokies just continually made mistakes that are uncharacteristic of their team, and that is why they lost the game.

The most disappointing thing to think about for a VA Tech fan is that early in the fourth quarter their field goal kicker Brandon Pace, a Lou Groza award finalist as college football's best kicker missed a 26 yard field goal that would have made the score 16-3. The missed field goal did not seem to matter, because at that time it looked like the game was out of reach for the Hokies. Little did I know, that VA Tech would go on to score 13 points on two touchdowns in the next 5 minutes. The second touchdown came on an 80 yard bomb from Bryon Randall. After scoring the first TD, VA Tech went for the two point conversion, but was unsuccessful in their attempt. VA Tech never got the ball back after scoring that last touchdown, as Auburn was able to run out the clock.

Auburn is a great team, and a team that I hope gains a share of the national title. When a team goes 13-0, you deserve to be No. 1. The Hokies gave the Tigers all they could handle and would have came out of the Sugar Bowl with a win, if it was not for their mistakes that they made. The Hokies are a very young team having 48 freshmen and 31 juniors on this years team. Marcus Vick, the brother of Michael who plays QB for the Falcons will be rejoining the team in the springtime after missing this year due to some run-ins with the police. Marcus will have to try to live up to the reputation and excitement that the Hokies fans will expect from him, since he is the brother of one of the most amazing college QB's ever. If he plays like his brother, the Hokies might be headed to another national championship game, just like Michael lead them a few years ago against Florida State. So even though VA Tech did not win the game, they have a bright future and only good things to look forward to in the near future.



Matt

Sunday, January 02, 2005

NFL playoffs and BK Kim heading to Colorado??

The month of January is here. NFL playoffs begin, college football comes to a close :(, and college basketball teams get into their conference schedules. What an excellent month.

A few weeks ago when Carolina was 6-8, I predicted that they would win the Super Bowl. I was so confident that they would win their last two games of the season and end up at 8-8, get into the playoffs, win 3 playoff road games and take the 2005 Super Bowl trophy home to Carolina. Unfortunately, my prediction was wrong as Carolina lost today to the Saints 21-18, and Carolina ends the season at 7-9 after starting 1-7. Carolina was down 21-10 with 5 minutes left in the game, and scored a TD and 2 point conversion with a few minutes left, but they just ran out of time. The Panthers got the ball back with a minute left at their own 2 yard line and with no timeouts. I was extremely confident that Delhomme would lead the Panthers to a FG, that would lead to OT, and to a Panthers win and into the playoffs they would go. My dream came crashing down on me when the Saints blocked a 60 yard field goal that would have tied it and sent the game to OT. It's pretty sad when 2 NFL teams with 8-8 records make the playoffs (Vikings, and Rams). I just wish the Panthers were one of those 2 teams.


I'm not as excited about the NFL playoffs this coming weekend as I usual am. I think the main reason why I'm not excited is that there is only one real conference in the NFL and it is the AFC. Of the four games that are scheduled this week, the one I am most looking forward to is the Jets vs. Chargers on Saturday night. The Chargers completely reversed from last year going 12-4 this year after going 4-12 last year. Drew Brees had a magnificent year, and has Chargers fans wondering why the front office drafted Phillip Rivers in last years draft. The Jets had a season in which their was turmoil, but they had Curtis Martin who lead the NFL in rushing to guide them to a 10-6 record and into the playoffs. The game is in San Diego and I expect the San Diego fans to be pumped up and ready to be loud. As for the game, I expect
the Jets to win. They are a more experienced team with Pennington and Martin, and I think Herm Edwards will have that team ready to play big and shutup the NY media who has been on his and Pennington's case all year.

The Rams play the Seahawks in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday. Being in the same division, the teams have already played twice this year. The Rams won both contests, coming from 17 points down early in the season in Seattle to beat the Seahawks. I think the Rams have the mental edge to this game, and they have just come off two big wins over the Jets and Eagles to get in. Rams will win this one too.

The Colts and the Broncos will play in the first game on Sunday. I expect the Colts to absolutely kill the Broncos in this game. The only reason the Colts lost to the Broncos today was that Peyton Manning only played one series and attempted 2 passes. This Sunday the game will be at the RCA Dome, and Peyton will be completing passes all around the field. The Colts should have no problem winning this game.

Vikings at Packers. Is this even a game? Should you waste 3+ hours of your life on this suppossedly called playoff game? The answer to both of those questions is NO. Minnesota looked horribly today, and lost to Chicago, and they slipped in the back door to the playoffs when some other teams lost. The Vikings lost to GB twice this year by the same score of 34-31. I do not expect this game to be that close. In fact the only close game of the weekend might be the Jets vs. Chargers game. The NFL playoffs are great, but many divisional weekends had better matchups than this one has.

As for BK Kim, there is a story in the Denver Post, that the Rockies might be interested in the submarine pitcher. According to the story, the Sox are willing to eat up to 80% of Kim's salary in return for a few mid level prospects. I think the Sox should try to get rid of him in almost any way that they can. I just do not think he will succeed in Boston, and I think a change of scenery might be best for both sides.

Check out this article on Terry Francona on boston.com. Very interesting article.

Til next time....


Matt











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