Thursday, April 26, 2012

NFL Round 1 Mock Draft

Everyone and their mother throws their hat into the mock draft ring this time of year. So I figured, why shouldn't I throw mine in as well? Below is my best guess as to how it will all go down tonight:
  1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
    This pick has been confirmed multiple times this week. Luck has been the presumptive #1 pick for 2 years now, and now he gets to officially be the guy the Colts cut ties with Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning for. Good luck, Andrew, the expectations for you are sky-high.
  2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
    All but a sure thing, in that it's only been confirmed once this week. The Redskins paid a bounty to secure this pick so as to take the Heisman trophy winner. The expectations aren't quite as high as Luck's (Washington is pushing Rex Grossman aside for RG3, not quite the same thing), but the Redskins traded away their next 2 years' 1st round picks, so they also aren't going to be able to get him high quality help either if he struggles early.
  3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
    Kalil is looked at as the elite OT prospect in this draft. For a bad team with a young quarterback, this is called protecting your investment.
  4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
    Cleveland (wisely) tried to beat Washington out for RG3, but failed to do so. While Cleveland would love to upgrade their quarterback position, no one left is worthy of such a high pick. Instead, Cleveland will use this pick to upgrade their offense, as it's not just Colt McCoy holding them back on that side of the ball. Cleveland needs skill position players, and Richardson is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson, which makes him the pick.
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
    Claiborne is seen by most as the top CB prospect in the draft, despite the reports that he scored a 4 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic test. I could explain to you what the Wonderlic is, or I could just confirm your suspicions that a 4 is really really bad. That being said, all a corner needs to do is see receiver, stay with receiver, and keep ball away from receiver, so this test result isn't a killer.
  6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
    Blackmon is considered by most to be the top receiver on the board, and QB (and #1 overall pick 2 years ago) Sam Bradford needs help. His receivers look like a cow's lunch the third time he eats it. Value meets need here and the Rams take Blackmon.
  7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
    Here's where it gets interesting. Sure the top 6 could go slightly differently, but odds are those are the top 6 players taken in the draft. After that, though, it could go one of several different directions, and it all starts with this pick and what the Jaguars decide to do. Jacksonville could use help along their defensive line and in their secondary, and many are now projecting them to take a cornerback here. But information is notoriously unreliable in the week leading up to the draft, so I'm giving them Ingram, who is probably the best pure pass rusher in the draft.
  8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
    This is still higher than the next QB should go, but Miami needs someone to get excited about. They tried for coach Jim Harbaugh last offseason and were rebuffed. They went hard after Jeff Fisher this offseason, and lost out. They tried for Peyton Manning, and got the "thanks, but no thanks" answer. Then they went after Matt Flynn, and despite having his Green Bay offensive coordinator as their head coach, missed out again. Miami needs someone they can build around, so they reach for the third quarterback in this draft. It helps that their current offensive coordinator (Mike Sherman) was Tannehill's coach at A&M.
  9. Carolina Panthers: Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi
    Carolina needs defensive help, and Cox is the best player available on that side of the ball, and maybe overall.
  10. Buffalo Bills: Reilly Reiff, OT, Iowa
    This is probably higher than Reiff should go, but no one left is such good value that Buffalo passes up a chance to upgrade their OLine.
  11. Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Kuechly, MLB, Boston College
    Scott Pioli likes safe, steady picks, considering that the best use of the valuable resource of a first round draft pick. Kuechly, partly because of who he is and partly because of the position he plays, won't be the difference maker to push a team over the top to a championship, but he should be able to lock down an interior linebacker position for years, allowing Pioli to focus on upgrading other pieces as Kuechly goes about his business week in and week out.
  12. Seattle Seahawks: Courtney Upshaw OLB/DE, Alabama
    Seattle has been pretty up front about needing to improve its pass rush this offseason. They've made a couple of minor free agency moves to help out in that area, but the difference makers who hit free agency are ridiculously expensive. With a top-15 pick, this is where Seattle should look for their difference maker. I believe Upshaw is their guy, as he is versatile and plays the run well (important to this team) while also possessing the skills necessary to pressure the quarterback.
  13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
    The Cardinals need help along their offensive line, and DeCastro is a better value than the available tackles at this spot.
  14. Dallas Cowboys: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
    The Cowboys need help in their secondary, and this is one of those picks that was almost a given until about a week ago, and changes in the week leading up to the draft usually end up turning out to be completely false.
  15. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
    The Eagles grab the best available defensive line talent.
  16. New York Jets: Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia
    Glenn will help the Jets get back to their ground and pound identity, the only way they have a shot at winning with Sanchez or Tebow under center.
  17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
    There's talk Gilmore could go as high as pick 7 to Jacksonville. The Bengals a thrilled when he falls to them at 17 instead. The Bengals need secondary help, and Kirkpatrick is the top CB left
  18. San Diego Chargers: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
    San Diego takes the best available pass-rishing talent, shrugging off questions about his desire.
  19. Chicago Bears: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
    The Bears take a raw pass-rushing prospect, confident defensive coach Rod Marinelli can coach him up.
  20. Tennessee Titans: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
    Tennessee needs some playmakers at WR for whoever wins the Matt Hasselbeck/Jake Locker competition at QB. Kenny Britt will be coming off of an ACL injury and no one else puts much fear into opposing defenses. Need meets value for the Titans.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals: Peter Konz, C/G, Wisconsin
    Konz upgrades the Bengals' OLine, important with young QB Andy Dalton under center.
  22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta): Rueben Randle, WR, LSU
    Cleveland continues to upgrade the skill positions around Colt McCoy, this time addressing the wide receiver position.
  23. Detroit Lions: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
    As Matt Flynn can tell you, Detroit's secondary is awful. Kirkpatrick is the best addition at this point.
  24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis
    Pittsburgh gets to draft the successor to Casey Hampton, the guy to eat up blockers so their linebackers can flock unencumbered to the ball.
  25. Denver Broncos: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
    John Elway must have promised Peyton Manning he'd upgrade the talent around him. Current running back Willis McGahee is a gamer, but he's on the wrong side of 30 for a running back. Martin can run, catch, and pass block (very important to Peyton).
  26. Houston Texans: Colby Fleener, TE, Stanford
    Rather than reach for a wide receiver here, Houston gets a top-flight TE to give Matt Schaub options to throw to that aren't Andre Johnson.
  27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans): Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
    Versatile DE/OLB type who can play the run, play the pass, and rush the passer. Bill Bellichick likes guys who can fill multiple roles.
  28. Green Bay Packers: Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
    Green Bay doesn't need much, but they desperately need pass rush help so Clay Matthews III isn't a one-man show.
  29. Baltimore Ravens: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
    If he lasts this long there's no way Baltimore passes on him. He injects some youth into that defense, and, given the ability to learn from Ray Lewis, could give Baltimore 15 more years of elite linebacker play.
  30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
    Upgrading the offensive line takes even more pressure off of Alex Smith, both by protecting him from the pass rush and improving the running game, allowing the 49ers to not put the game in Alex Smith's hands.
  31. New England Patriots: Josh Robinson, CB, UCF
    I fully expect the Patriots to trade out of this pick, as it's simply what they do. (This leads to the philosophical question of, is it really an advantage to have multiple first round draft picks if you never use the second one, but instead continually trade it for later and/or future picks?) However, if the draft falls this way, I'm not sure there's someone worth moving up for. If the Patriots stay here I see a secondary pick, and I think the value of the corner here is better than safety.
  32. New York Giants: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
    The Giants could use some youth infused in their offensive line. If Fleener falls to them they'll take him instead.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Schedule - Prime-time Opportunities

Last Tuesday unveiled the full schedule for the 2012-13 NFL season. And with it, we get to see what the NFL thinks of its 32 teams, based on how many opportunities everyone in the country will have to see a particular team play. Before we discuss the teams, a couple of notes about the rules for prime-time opportunities:

The available prime-time slots are as follows:
Sunday Night Football - These games are played on Sunday Nights at 8:20 PM on NBC, and occur in weeks 1-16 of the season. This also includes the opening night of the season on Wednesday this year, because alleged football fan Barack Obama scheduled his speech at the Democratic National Convention for the Thursday the NFL normally opens its season on. It does NOT include the week 17 Sunday Night game, as that game is not settled until after week 16's games conclude.
Total: 17 games

Monday Night Football - These games are played on Monday Nights at 8:30 PM on ESPN. Well, during week 1 there are 2 Monday Night games, so those games are played at 7 PM and 10:30 PM for that week, but in weeks 2-16, the games are played at the regular time. There is no MNF game for week 17.
Total: 17 games

Thursday Night Football - These games are played on Thursday Nights at 8:30 PM on the NFL Network. I also included the Thanksgiving games here, which are played one each on FOX, CBS, and NBC (new this year, NBC has the Thanksgiving night game, not the NFL Network). These games occur in weeks 2-16, with three occuring on Thanksgiving Day, during week 12.
Total: 16 games

This means there are a total of 50 games that will reach a national TV audience and a total of 100 prime time slots. The NFL determined that teams could have no more than 5 of these prime time slots and each team had to have at least 1 prime-time opportunity.

We also know that Sunday Night Football is the marquee event of each NFL week, and the NFL tries to make that game as good as possible (hence the flexible scheduling for Sunday night games in the latter stages of the season), so these games have extra cachet than their Monday and Thursday Night counterparts.

So, who are the NFL darlings? I have separated the teams into tiers, based on their prime-time spots:

Tier 1: The Darlings (5 prime-time spots, 3 SNF appearances)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: playoff team, perennial powerhouse, star quarterback
  • New York Giants: they did okay for themselves last season, with that Super Bowl win, and all
  • Dallas Cowboys: 8-8 record, no playoff spot, but they're a team most people will watch, even if it's just hoping they screw up on an epic level
  • Green Bay Packers: Regular season champions with their 15-1 record, if there were such a thing (but there isn't)
No arguments here. I mean, the Cowboys don't deserve the spot, sure, but reality dictates the Cowboys get too much national exposure. It's right up there with Death and Taxes. Admit it, you read that as Texas, didn't you?

Tier 2: The Draws (5 prime-time spots, 2 SNF appearances)
  • Houston Texans: Coming off the first playoff season in team history
  • Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning Peyton Manning, playoff team last year, Peyton Manning Peyton Manning
  • San Diego Chargers: The oversold team of 2012.
  • Philadelphia Eagles: The "Dream Team", part II, and sequels are always better than the originals.
  • Detroit Lions: First playoff season in forever, plus a dynamic offense as long as Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson don't get hurt.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Lost in OT in the NFC Championship game.
The Chargers and Eagles are the only teams in this tier who missed the playoffs last season. The Eagles still have most of the cast that had everyone predicting last year's Super Bowl was in the bag at the start of the season, and people remain fascinated by Michael Vick. The Chargers were the Eagles before the Eagles, but they haven't been the sexy pick that always falls short for a couple of seasons now. Yes Philip Rivers is a big name player but he's never won anything. Really, you're giving the country more chances to watch Norv Turner "lead" his charges to underachieville.

Tier 3: What do we do with you? (5 prime time spots, 1 SNF appearance)
  • Chicago Bears: What I'm guessing the thought process was, "Well, if Jay Cutler stays healthy, this is a good team. If he goes down, they're a train wreck. I tell you what, we'll split the difference and give them 3 Monday Night games instead of multiple Sunday Night ones. That way, if the games stink, it's only Monday Night on ESPN."
Tier 4: The Tried-and-Trues (4 prime time spots, 2 SNF appearances)
  • New England Patriots: As close to a sure-thing playoff team as there is in the league, would have won the Super Bowl last year except those damn Giants had to be there too.
  • Baltimore Ravens: It's weird, they're basically a guaranteed playoff team in the Flacco era, but you still have no idea what kind of team is going to show up during any given week.
  • New Orleans Saints: Terrific offense, big stories surrounding this team thanks to the Bounty scandals.
If anything, these teams are being undersold.

Tier 5: All teams are equal, some are just less equal than others (4 prime-time spots, 1 SNF appearance)
  • New York Jets: Do you want to watch good football? Well, the Jets may not be able to help you, with their Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow options under center. But do you want to watch an entertaining show? This is your team.
  • Atlanta Falcons: Clearly good. Clearly NOT great. Especially at 4th and 1 from their own side of the field.
Tier 6: We really, really don't trust you (3 prime-time spots, 1 SNF appearance)
  • Cincinnati Bengals: This was a playoff team last year! But it's the Bengals! Good point!
Tier 7: Mildly Interesting (2 prime-time spots)
  • Tennessee Titans: Peyton Manning almost came here! What?
  • Oakland Raiders: No Al Davis and no draft picks (almost none, at least) make Carson Palmer and Co. dull boys.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: This team was decimated by injuries last year, and they'd be a much more exciting team if Matt Cassel weren't under center.
  • Washington Redskins: The second game is thanks to the soon-to-be-addition of Robert Griffin III.
  • Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton had a pretty amazing season last year, this year the country will get to see him in action.
  • Arizona Cardinals: 8-8 team despite a steaming pile of nothing at quarterback. Of course, they have the same two guys coming back, so...
  • Seattle Seahawks: Haven't had a real quarterback under center since January of 2011, will be interesting to see what they can do with one.
You can make the case that a few of these teams could be very interesting this coming season. But you can also easily make the case that none of these teams will be any good.

Tier 8: Thanks to Roger Goodell, we didn't have a choice (1 prime-time spot)
  • Miami Dolphins: It would be more interesting to watch the Dolphins' offseason, as player after player comes up with a novel way to say, "Thanks for the interest, but I'm going to sign with (insert team name that doesn't rhyme with Smolfin here) instead. No, no, it's not you...well, yeah, it's you. Sorry."
  • Buffalo Bills:
  • Cleveland Browns: No one wants to watch Colt McCoy try and throw the ball. Unless the Browns draft Trent Richardson, no fantasy owner is going to touch anyone on this team either.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: If you have Maurice Jones-Drew as your fantasy running back, you're interested in a game with the Jaguars. That's it. Even people who live in Jacksonville aren't interested in games featuring the Jaguars.
  • Indianapolis Colts: Everyone will want to see Andrew Luck once, and then they'll be thrilled never to see this team again as they completely rebuild.
  • Minnesota Vikings: With their most marketable star coming off of an ACL injury late last season, this will be a painful season to watch.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If this team can simply go 16 games without quitting on itself, it will be a vast improvement over 2011.
  • St. Louis Rams: Check back in 1-2 more years.
Yeesh. At least all of the games featuring these teams are Thursday Night contests on the NFL Network, which means you don't have to feel bad about not watching the Thursday Night game for at least 4-5 weeks.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Moronic League Baseball

So today is opening day for the 2012 Major League Baseball season. 29 teams are excited to start fresh and try to recover from the disappointing end to last season. The Cardinals, on the other hand, no doubt would prefer to bask in the glow of their 2011 championship for a little longer, but dems the breaks.

Naturally, fans of the 30 teams are all excited to watch their team play its first game of the season today. That's long as you root for one of these teams:
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Atlanta Braves
  • New York Mets
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Washington Nationals
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Toronto Blue Jays
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • San Diego Padres
You may notice a couple of interesting things about that list. One, it contains 13 teams. The last time I checked, 13 isn't equivalent to 30. In fact, it isn't even half of 30. Two, 13 is an odd number, which should be impossible. How did we get here? I'm glad you asked:
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Oakland Athletics
These two teams have played two games already. These games occurred March 28 and 29, and despite being home games for Oakland, were played in Tokyo. Yes, that Tokyo. Is there even a Tokyo, California? Google says no, and I'm inclined to trust Google given that it could ruin my life with all the information its been saving up on me. Anyway, these two teams played 2 regular season games in Tokyo while everyone else was stateside playing meaningless spring training games , then came back to the US and continued to play more spring training games.

As ridiculous as this does sound, I don't have a problem with how it played out. No, it's not fair to make 2 teams go through the rigors of playing games in Japan while 28 don't, but stopping teams and leagues from putting marketing over fairness isn't going to get us anywhere. And if you're going to send two teams to Japan, this is the only way to do it and not be horribly unfair about it (it's not like you can give teams consecutive off days during the season). And since no one in Oakland cares about baseball anyway, not a huge loss. Normally I'd complain about how the games weren't shown live outside of Seattle, Oakland, and Japan, but it's the Mariners and the Athletics, so that's a defensible decision.
  • Miami Marlins
  • St. Louis Cardinals
Miami (no, it's not the Florida Marlins anymore) is the reason the topmost list of teams playing their first game today is odd instead of even. See, Miami played the Cardinals last night, on Opening Night (which means Opening Day should really be called something different, but whatever).

So if Miami is playing today, why isn't St. Louis playing today. Aren't baseball games usually played in series of 2-4 games? Why yes, yes they are. But apparently it made more sense to have St. Louis and Miami play a 1 game series in Miami, then have Miami travel to Cincinnati for the next day and have St. Louis travel to Milwaukee for the following day.

Now Miami is breaking in a new ballpark and the Cardinals are the defending World Series champions. So why exactly are both going on the road? Did baseball forget that the Marlins have a new park, and a new name, and new uniforms? Because that's what this feels like. The schedules were made and then someone piped up "Hey, the Marlins built a new park, shouldn't we feature that on Opening err...something?" And rather than rearrange the schedule, they simply stole a Marlins-Cardinals game from the middle of the season and plopped it in front of the non-Japan games.

As for the remaining 13 teams, they simply don't start play until Friday. In fact, no one who plays on Thursday aslo plays on Friday (except for the Dodgers and Padres), which I guess makes sense, as it allows two entirely different sets of fanbases to enjoy an "Opening Day" for their team, except for the fact that, well, there's a Dodgers/Padres game that day. And the Cardinals already played. And the Mariners and Athletics. At this point, trying to figure out the logic behind what MLB is doing will only make my head explode, so I'll stop.

So why? Why wait on these 13 teams? Well, these are my best guesses.
  • Chicago White Sox - So Cubs fans can have happiness for one day, where their team doesn't lose and their cross-town rivals do.
  • Texas Rangers - Not enough recent success to justify Thursday inclusion.
  • Minnesota Twins - MLB's attempt to delay the first Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau injuries of the season.
  • Baltimore Orioles - Give Baltimore fans one extra day before they have to remember they're doomed in the AL East for another season.
  • New York Yankees - MLB probably figured there aren't enough people eager to watch the Yankees to have them play on Thursday.
  • Tampa Bay Rays - Making the fan base of 3500 people wait an extra day doesn't result in much of a PR hit.
  • Kansas City Royals - These fans are well-conditioned to abuse.
  • Anaheim Angels - No marketable stars to justify Thursday inclusion.
  • Milwaukee Brewers - MLB is hoping if they wait as long as possible to thrust Ryan Braun in front of the cameras, the media will forget about his whole ridiculous successful positive drug-test defense.
  • San Francisco Giants - Getting San Francisco back for the Barry Bonds era.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks - See Rays, Tampa Bay
  • Colorado Rockies - Peyton Manning doesn't want to share the spotlight any sooner than he has to.
  • Houston Astros - No one is going to want to watch this team play. Except masochists.
What? Given the actual decisions MLB has made surrounding Opening Days, what makes my reasons any more ridiculous?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March Madness Day 10 - The Recap

Congratulations Julie S! And so the 12th Annual pool comes to a close. It doesn't go out with a whimper this year, though I wonder how many other east coasters stayed awake for the whole game.

In the end, the chalk won out as #1 overall seed Kentucky won the whole thing. That may seem boring, but consider the following:
- Seeding between the various 1 seeds has mattered since 2004, the year the NCAA stopped randomly pitting regional winners against each other in the national semifinals, and instead did so according to the seeding of each region's 1 seeds. In other words, starting in 2004, the #1 overall team's region in the tournament would face the #4 overall team's regions and the #2 overall team's region would face the #3 overall's region.
- Since 2004, here is how the #1 overall seed has fared:
  • 2004: Overall #1 - Kentucky (lost in Round of 32), #2 seed Connecticut wins title
  • 2005: Overall #1 - Illinois (lost in Final), #1 seed North Carolina wins title
  • 2006: Overall #1 - Duke (lost in Sweet 16), #3 seed Florida wins title
  • 2007: Overall #1 - Florida (won title)
  • 2008: Overall #1 - North Carolina (lost in Final Four), #1 seed Kansas wins title
  • 2009: Overall #1 - Louisville (lost in Elite 8), #1 seed North Carolina wins title
  • 2010: Overall #1 - Kansas (lost in Round of 32), #1 seed Duke wins title
  • 2011: Overall #1 - Ohio State (lost in Sweet 16), #3 seed Connecticut wins title
  • 2012: Overall #1 - Kentucky (won title)

So the #1 overall seed has failed to get out of the first weekend of the tournament as often as it has won the tile in the last 9 years. So while on paper it seems boring, it's about as "boring" as 4 #1 seeds making the Final Four, which has only happened once in the tournament's history (2008). Shoutouts:

To Ed K, Mo M, and Joanne T, you three had a shot at the top 3 spots in the pool, but needed Kansas to avoid digging themselves a chasm before starting to climb. Congratulations on staying alive through the final day, even if your final point total doesn't reflect how close you actually came.

To the 26 of you who correctly picked Kentucky to win the tournament, including: Lindesy U, Angela S, Anna C, Daniel B, Suzie W, Moose S, Bernie Q, Molly C, Elliot B, Arthur S, Don B, William S, Joe P, Malcolm OC, Peter G, Chuck M, Noah K, Josiah K, Ben F, James P, and Andy M.

To Corey H (OSU) and Manuel J (Louisville): the only two entrants to finish in the top 28 despite not correctly picking the correct overall winner. Bonus (repeat) shoutout to Manuel for correctly picking all of the Final 4 teams.

To Ryan W, for correctly predicting the exact final score of the final game: 67-59. Honorable mention to Susan G, for coming within one point of the exact final score (67-58).

To Jamie L, who finished the highest of everyone in the pool who missed out on all 4 Final Four teams, beating 12 others, 5 of whom got at least 1 team right.

To Chuck M, who got quite a bit of grief from Sam OC and myself while watching Georgetown-NC State on Day 4 for at that time, being behind little Miles in the pool. Chuck rebounded to pick the correct title game match-up and the correct winner to leave both of us far behind in the dust.

To Ed K, for outpacing the K family field. Also to Celinda K and Denise K, for outpacing me. And finally, to little Miles, for keeping me out of the family cellar.

Baseball has the Mendoza line, and now the Pool has the Baby line. To Zahra H, Sue G, and Rachel G, for coming in below the baby line.

To David K, the defending champion of the pool, who followed up his 2011 win with a 5th place finish in 2012, with 134 points.

To Tammy F, who finished 4th in this year's pool, with 137 points.

To Nathan G, who came in 3rd with 141 points.

To Paula B, who ended up 2nd with 144 points.

And to Julie S, who vaulted into the lead after Day 9 and held on when Kentucky won, for winning the 12th Annual Pool, with 147 points. Congratulations, Julie!


To repeat myself, to the NCAA. The game ended after 11:30 last night. If I hadn't been running this pool I would have shut the game off at halftime. Think about starting an hour earlier next year, or continue worrying about how giving a player a bagel with cream cheese is a violation instead. Your call.

To Nike, I am underwhelmed by the new uniforms. Well, specifically, I am underwhelmed by the new Seahawks uniforms, especially the alternate grays, which look suspiciously like unwashed whites. I am a veritable expert on unwashed whites, having gone 2.5 years through college before meeting my wife.

To Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who has a "thumb situation" and needs to see a specialist. I am dubious of Beckett's "injury" since he goes on the 15-day DL for hangnails and blisters, and due to his central involvement to the Beer and Fried Chicken ridiculousness of September 2011.

To Morris Claiborne, former LSU cornerback and projected top-10 (maybe even top-5 pick), who reportedly scored a 4 (out of 50) on the annual Wonderlic test. If you're interested in what kinds of questions are on the test, go here. Note that you're supposed to answer the 12 sample questions in 5 minutes if you decide to try and take the sample test.

Back to the NCAA again, the Women's Basketball Final is tonight, and guess what time it starts? 8:30. Not 9:23. 8:30. I realize the audience won't be as big for this game (I usually don't watch, thanks to college basketball burnout, but I'm considering it this year to see if anyone can solve Brittney Griner), but you're trying to raise the audience for this game, why not the men's one???

Finally, I'd just like to say another thank you to everyone who participated in this year's pool. It was by far the largest of the 12 pools I've run, and I hope you had as much fun following along as I did organizing and updating things.

March Madness Day 10 - The Game

Kentucky 67 - Kansas 59

In the end, Kentucky was simply too good, for anyone. And last night, at least, that anyone included Kansas. Kansas had lived on the edge for much of the tournament with their tried and true formula:
1. Fall behind early
2. Re-dedicate themselves to their strengths: defense and their inside offensive game
3. Continue chipping away at their deficit and out-execute the opponent down the stretch

This formula worked well for Kansas in 3 of their 5 games: against 11 seed Purdue, against 1 seed North Carolina (though the deficit wasn't as high against UNC), and against Final Four opponent Ohio State. However, against Kentucky their strategy failed for two reasons:
1. They dig themselves too deep of a hole in the first half (Kansas trailed by 18 with 1:04 to play in the first half)
2. Kentucky was a defensive juggernaut in their own right.

Purdue jumped out to their lead because Robbie Hummel was on fire for a half. UNC was ahead because they were hitting their shots and using their big men to outscore Kansas, and Ohio State hit some tough shots in the first half. Kentucky scored 41 points in the first half as much because of their defense (frustrating Kansas and generating looks off of turnovers and blocked shots) as their offense. When Kansas made their runs in the second half, Kentucky's combination of defense and speed ensured the runs never got too long, allowing Kentucky to bleed clock and keep Kansas at bay as Kansas desperately tried to claw their way back into the game.

And Kansas did get back into the game, again by clamping down defensively, but they weren't able to get solid looks thanks to Kentucky's length, athleticism, and commitment to team defense. By the time Kansas' post game materialized, the game was more than 35 minutes old, and Kansas ran out of time.

Kentucky won because their team of highly touted freshmen and sophomores played like juniors and seniors who had been playing and building together for years. And for that, coach John Calipari deserves tremendous credit. Yes, he had the most talent (by far) in college basketball, but he got that young talent to play championship basketball, something no one else had dared even try in the one-and-done era.

Speaking of coaches, Bill Self also deserves credit for getting the most out of his team. You can ask why Kansas kept falling behind early in their games (and it's a legitimate question), but in the end he got his kids to play hard and keep fighting to the bitter end, also a difficult feat with college kids.

Unlike last year's debacle of a championship game, this one featured good play, especially defensive play, and the team that played better (as opposed to the team who just played less poorly) won.

Monday, April 2, 2012

March Madness Day 9 Recap

The possibility I was worried about came to pass Saturday evening, as the wedding was too much fun to try and duck away for multiple bursts of a few minutes here and there to catch any live game action. I monitored the proceedings steadily on my phone (I love smartphones), but saw no game action.

Incidentally, this is exactly the reason I wanted a smartphone, even as I determined there wasn't a good reason to justify the increase in plan price. I wasn't looking to stay connected for work purposes, I wasn't hoping to check facebook incessantly, I wasn't even hoping to finally kick some Words With Friends butt. I simply wanted to be able to press a few buttons and get the sports scores I cared about anywhere I could get a phone signal. Now, I can safely say that I'm enjoying beating my wife in Words With Friends (okay, she wins some games too), snapping pictures of little Miles and uploading them immediately to the web, and reading internet columns on the train, but I really love being able to check scores wherever I am.

So I don't have much for you in game commentary, but to substitute, I will submit the Miles highlights from our vacation:

3) On our second night there (and the night before the morning wedding ceremony), Miles woke up around 10:30 and was unhappy and inconsolable. The poor guy was exhausted, but he got upset and we could not calm him down at all. We tried most everything, but nothing could calm him. Finally, after midnight, we went to the car, strapped him in his car seat, and drove for 10-15 minutes. When we got back to the hotel, we briefly considered sleeping in the car, but resolved to take Miles back to the room and hope he'd go back to sleep again. Luckily, it worked. Wait, this wasn't a highlight, in fact, this wasn't fun at all. Clearly the lack of sleep is affecting my brain function. But, to his credit, Miles rallied and was terrific at the wedding, cocktail hour, and the part of the reception he was awake for.

2) On the drive home, we stopped at Friendly's. We got a kids meal for Miles, and said kids meal came with an ice cream sundae. The meal went as usual, and then our server brought out the ice cream, complete with whipped cream on top. At first, Miles simply stared at it, then we fed him a couple scoops of the whipped cream, and he decided he liked it. Then he got that glint in his eye. And before we knew what was happening, he grabbed a big hunk of whipped cream in his hand. Then he started giggling, and kept giggling as we quickly wiped the whipped cream off of his hand.

1) On Thursday afternoon we tried to put Miles down for his afternoon nap. He wasn't very interested, which probably wasn't helped by the fact that we were still in the room and available for playing. So we decided to pull the crib next to our bed and pretend to sleep on the bed. I was by the foot of the bed. This didn't convince Miles to sleep. Instead he stood at the edge of the crib and reached for me. When that didn't work he sat down in his crib. I figured this was progress and laid back down and closed my eyes. Soon I felt something soft on my face, but I figured it was one of the toys in the crib, so I kept my eyes closed and hoped Miles would fall asleep. About 10 minutes later we realized Miles would not yield, so we got up. It was at this point when I noticed Miles was barefoot (he had been wearing socks when we laid him down) and I realized that one of his socks was now sitting on my face. I should probably add that Miles has fairly stinky feet for a baby. Celinda thought this was hilarious.


To the 43 of you who correctly picked one of the two teams that will be meeting for the National Championship.

To the 8 of you who nailed both of the finalists: Julie S, Paula B, Nate G, Tammy F, Ed K (nice job Dad!), Andy M, Mo M, and Chuck M. Well done guys!

To our current leaderboard:
1) Julie S (--)
2) Manuel J (-1 pts)
3) Paula B (-3 pts)
4) Nate G (-6 pts)
5) Corey H (-7 pts)

To the six of you who have a chance to finish Top-3 this year, depending on tonight's outcome. Yes, no one will finish top-3 without picking the correct national champion. And only 3 of those 6 names are on the current leaderboard.

To David K, the pool's defending champion. He put forth a very solid effort in defending his title, but the pool will be crowning a new champion this year.

To Roshni and Mike (and their families), for putting on a tremendous and fun wedding weekend.

To Sue and Pete G, for being such a great help with little Miles over the weekend.

To whoever is responsible for greenlighting Anchorman 2. Unlike milk, that was a good choice.


To the NCAA, starting your championship on after 9PM? Seriously? The West Coast doesn't matter! The East Coast has more people, and we're more important than the left-coasters. It's going to be really hard to watch the end of the game tonight just so Oregon, California, and Washington can see the opening tip without having to leave work a touch early. There's a reason NO OTHER SPORTING EVENT starts its championship games that late!!!!!

To the hostess at the Original Pancake House in NJ, for being a real witch to us. And then she walked off with the crayons she had brought to the table for Miles. And no, I don't mean witch.

Enjoy Day 10 and the end to March Madness!