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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Opening Morning

Baseball is starting soon.  Spring Training is nearing to an end and Opening Day is just about a week away.  Oh wait, is it?  There was a game between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics in Japan that started around 5:10AM central time.  Only those of us firmly entrenched in fantasy baseball know that probably, unless you play in one of my keeper leagues.  Even with a friendly reminder from our commish, a couple of managers forgot to put their players in for this morning's game.

Why is it that baseball is playing two games a week before every other Major League baseball team takes the field?  Well, we have seen this a lot recently in sports across the board.  Most recently, the NFL has been playing games in Europe.  If my memory serves right, Chicago and Tampa Bay played there this past season.  I didn't like it that the NFL played games in Europe this past year.  Mostly because there aren't many homes games in the NFL for respective teams.  So, the "home" team for that game had to give up a home game here in the states which I'm sure annoys some fans.  And now, MLB is following suit.

I understand why they do it.  Each league is attempting to brand their own sport to an entirely new fan base which obviously equals more revenue.  These professional sports organizations are attempting to reach to an entire new group of potential fans.  The NBA has become the first "true" global sports league.  Not only is there a great international following because many of the world's best play in the NBA, but even some NBA players have played overseas.  Shit, some team in Turkey appreciated the presence of Deron Willams so much during the NBA lockout that they retired his number after like 8 games.  LINK HERE  So yeah, I get all the benefits of playing games overseas, especially when baseball opens the season with Ichiro playing in his native country.  He isn't the only Suzuki playing in the game; Kurt Suzuki (catcher for the Athletics) will be there too.

But MLB needs to remember their "home" fans first.  These games in particular will start at a time here in the US in which no one will be watching.  Most will be sleeping while others will be on their way to work.  Even if you did want to get up and watch it, you couldn't.  This game wasn't even shown live on TV.  It is however being shown on delay on MLB Network and if you do actually find it, it's called "Spring Training" on your TV menu.  Kinda funny if you ask me.  But for me, that really isn't the issue.  Call me old fashion but I LOVE Opening Day.  There just is something sacred about it to us serious baseball fans.  There is so much excitement for that day.  A day in which we waited out the long cold winter for.

This day is a border line national holiday for some.  I know I treat it that way.  Seriously, look at the logo to the right.  It's red/white/blue and has stars in it.  Does that not SCREAM national holiday?  That's is about as patriotic as it gets.  Personally, I can't remember the last Opening Day I missed.  I have been in front of a TV on that day for many years now.  It started when I was in middle school.  My mother would call me in sick from school that day so I could get together with a buddy or two (you know who you are) and enjoy the first games of the season.  That continued into high school.  It got a little easier in college when I could just skip classes that day and was old enough to enjoy a few adult beverages.  I know I'm not the only one who loves Opening Day to the point where nothing will stop me from watching it on TV. All of those teams that play in the afternoon still manage pack the stands so I must not be the only one playing hookie.

My point is, let's keep Opening Day the sacred day that it is.  You want to play some games in Japan?  Fine, I don't have a problem with that.  Just play them on or after the TRUE Opening Day.  So, here's to Opening Day and to all those playing "those" managers in fantasy baseball this week that still hold the Opening Day tradition so true, that they don't set their lineups tomorrow either.

By the way, don't forget to join our Behind the Bench Sports Fantasy Baseball league!  It is hosted by Yahoo!Sports.  Our league ID is:  166347 and password is:  btbsports

Oh yeah, GO WHITE SOX!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2nd Chance Brackets

We are down to the sweet 16 and for some, including myself, that might just mean your bracket is busted. Duke and Missouri were sure to of done most of the bracket busting by losing to 15 seeds. NC State, Ohio, VCU, and South Florida were sure to help give March Madness its name. But, everyone deserves a 2nd chance right? In this post, we're going to post our 2nd Chance Brackets just to see if we can do a better job of predicting from here on out. Yeah, I know, it gets a bit easier now but I'm sure we were all saying that a few weeks ago too.

Smitty's 2nd Chance
I still like Kentucky to come out of the South and play Marquette out of the West. Marquette has impressed me with their play as of late and see them winning a tough game against Michigan St. Ohio St will still come out of the East. Syracuse has to miss Fab Melo at some point in this tournament and a match up against Sullinger might just be the game. UNC has enough talent to handle Ohio but in my upset special they meet up with an NC State team that knows them very well and without knowing if one of the their most important players (Kendall Marshall) will be available UNC will be in a tight match up and I would not be surprised to see a HOT NC State team come out of the Midwest, but UNC will prevail meeting with Ohio State. Ohio St will benefit from yet another injury and meet Kentucky in the finals. After watching Kentucky take their game to a different level against a good Iowa State team, I am a BELIEVER! Kentucky beats Ohio Sate 76-67.

Clark's 2nd Chance
Well, I'm sticking with my original bracket by picking Kentucky to come out of the South. I got them playing Marquette out of the West. I thought Michigan St. was the weakest of the four #1 seeds even though they won the Big Ten. I wasn't as high on the Big Ten as many others were. Big East still top conference in my eyes and that's where Marquette plays and they were 2nd in that conference behind Syracuse. They are the most dangerous #3 seed in the tourney and they've played like it. So, I like them to beat Florida and then upset the Spartans to meet Kentucky in the Final Four.

Syracuse should take care of Wisconsin (read what I thought bout Michigan St.) and Ohio St. should take care of Cincinnati. That gives us another Big Ten vs. Big East matchup. This time its a bit different. Syracuse isn't the same team that won their conference because of missing Fab Melo. I see Sullinger of OSU dominating down low and powering the Buckeyes to victory to get to the Final Four.

UNC gets a gift by facing Ohio in the Sweet 16. Their "Cinderella" story is over as they run into the buzzsaw that is the Tarheels. Kansas draws a NC State team that is playing great right now and really is impressing people. I'm impressed, but we're talkin' Kansas here who is deep, has one of the top 5 players in the nation and has a top coach. Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk.....Kansas moves on. I think Kansas knocks off UNC mostly because of the injury to Kendall Marshall. If not for that, I'd have UNC in the title game.

So, Final Four, Kentucky, Marquette, Ohio St. Kansas. This tournament is Kentucky's to lose right now. They were my original champ and I'm stickin' with them. Kansas knocks off Ohio St. to meet Kentucky. Kentucky wins 72-64.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend Recap! 3/19/12

What a weekend full of sports entertainment! BTBSports, much like most of America took some time off to enjoy what March Madness had to offer and we have breaking news as of today involving Peyton Manning, and where does that leave Tim Tebow? Matt Flynn signed with Seattle and we have it all right here on Behind The Bench Sports. 

Again, like most of America we took in everything that March Madness had to offer! How is your bracket doing by the way? Hope it is better than mine as the Madness of March beat up on my bracket. As of now JodizJokerz holds a 30 point lead over Royce White AllStars (Zach Oden) but nothing is over until the night of April 2nd. 

The opening day of the tournament was lack luster to say the least everything went to plan, but boy oh boy did Friday make up for it! Head lined by two #15 seeds (Norfolk St. & Lehigh) knocking out two #2's (Mizzou and Duke) within 3 hours of each other after 11 years (#2 Iowa State losing to #15 Hampton 2001). VCU does it again knocking off Wichita St. and #13 Ohio and #11 NC State advance as well. It was "Upset Friday" for sure and a bracket busting day for most of us. Saturday was headlined by Iowa State taking on Kentucky which turned out to be a good game until the 16 minute mark in the second half. It was at this time that Kentucky imposed their will and took the game to another level that the Cyclones have yet to reach and made a strong statement as to why they are the team to beat in this tournament. Sunday was not as much of an upset day as Friday was but still had it's share of surprises. NC State and Ohio are among those who were not supposed to be in the Sweet 16 who made it, while Purdue and Lehigh gave Kansas and Xavier as much as they could handle. The state of Ohio has got to be proud of their respective teams as they make up 25% of the Sweet 16 (Ohio State, Ohio, Cincinnati and Xavier)

Sunday also brought NFL free agency news, but not the news that everyone had been waiting for. We found out this day that Matt Flynn had signed with the Seattle Seahawks.  The deal is for 3 years $26 million ($10 million guaranteed). Most experts have found this interesting because he did not sign with the Dolphins and his former coach. While I do find it interesting that the Dolphins didn't make much of a run at him for much of that time they were waiting on Peyton Manning. Although, I didn't think Dolphins were the best choice for Manning, they for a time thought they had a chance. I believe that once they figured that out they were out of the running they decided to trade troubled WR Brandon Marshall to the bears for two 3rd round picks. Back to Flynn, he decides to sign with Seattle from my understanding because that is where he felt the most comfortable with the offense. Just because his former coach is now the head coach on a team looking for a QB doesn't mean that he doesn't have his own plans for an offensive scheme. Many coaches want to make their own mark on the league and not follow the plan that someone else developed. While they may take some things away from the coaches they worked with they will try to make a system their own. I'm in a wait and see mode on Flynn but Kolb didn't do him any favors last year. 

Now, to the BIG SHOW! Breaking news today is that Peyton Manning has decided to sign with the..... Denver Broncos! While many experts have said this is based on Elway's ability to relate to Manning's situation because Elway won when he was about Manning's age. In my opinion if that is the reason why Manning decided to go with Denver I would like to throw the "Stupid Flag" out there right now. Can we please look the weapons that Elway had on that team! Terrell Davis, Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, and Shannon Sharpe! That isn't even counting his 3 ProBowl Linemen LT Tony Jones, LG Mark Schlereth, and C Tom Nalen. Who who do the Broncos have now that is anywhere near that level? McGahee at running back I might give you but there is no way that Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, D'Andre Goodwin & Daniel Fells even come close to the level of Elway's weapons. To me Denver has to add a lot of pieces to even be considered a championship contender. Frankly, San Francisco and Tennessee made a lot more sense based on offensive weapons and both in weaker divisions as well. 

The other big story based on Manning's signing is what happens to the Golden Boy of the NFL Tim Tebow? Word is that Denver wants to trade him, but to who? Jacksonville would've made sense but they already have Gabbert and Henne. It is true that neither one of them is considered real "Good" at this time but I don't see how bringing in Tebow allows them to Develop. Miami is now left on the outside looking in on teams with QB's and they are in need but rumors have them talking to David Garrard and by all means he is more proven than Tebow. If Tebow is dead set on being a QB in the NFL then I don't see any other teams out there for him. While he did do some good things last year in the form of wins, I'm not sure what team is going to want to bring the Tebow Circus to town. I think Denver will have to either cut him or keep him.

It was a crazy weekend in sports and that's what we love about it! Let us know your thoughts on this weekend but as Herm Edwards would say "Put your name on it" 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bracket Busters

Every season there are teams that come out of no where to steal some of the lime light.  They are virtually unpredictable.  But, as we do here, we will attempt to do just that.  Below are 4 teams that could very well Bust some Brackets!

Also, we're having a little competition here on BTBSports.  Join our bracket group on ESPN.  Winner will get to post a topic of their own choosing to be featured on our site!  Click the link below to join.

East Region - (10) West Virginia (19-13, 9-9)  Vegas Line:  +1 
Key Wins:  #9 G-town 74-62
Key Losses:  @ #7Baylor 81-83 OT, @ #4Syracuse 61-63, #23 Louisville 74-77,
@ #18Notre Dame 44-71, #10 Marquette 60-61

As you can see above, this team has played some of the country’s best teams (other than the Irish) to some close finishes.  If they win half of those close games vs. ranked opponents, we're talkin bout a team seeded probably around 6.  I still like the Mountaineers since they do have one of the best players in the nation in SR. Kevin Jones, who has this last chance to really get noticed and raise his draft stock.  WV has a top 50 RPI and sported the nations 18th toughest schedule in what I think is still the best conference in college basketball, that being the Big East.  Plus, Bob Huggins knows how to get it done when it counts most.  I think this year’s Gonzaga team is a little overrated and they are always a trendy pick.  But I'm takin West Virginia in a smaller upset.

Midwest Region - (14) Belmont (27-7, 16-2)  Vegas Line:  +4 
Close Calls:  L - @ #6Duke 76-77

This team is coming into this game HOT winning their last 14 games and 18 of their last 20 and can REALLY score the ball.  They're 4th in the nation in scoring average, 5th in assists, and 17th in FG%.  They have a couple of sharp shooters from deep in Drew Hanlen & Ian Clark, both over 40% from long distance.  As a team they always shoot well from the line, which comes in handy in close NCAA tournament games.  To me, deadly backcourts are what makes for deep tournament runs and that is why Marquette seems to be a popular trendy pick this season.  Look for Belmont to "race" by G-town (who has struggled as of late by losing 3 of their last 6) and into the round of 32 and face either NC State or SDSU, another win-able game.


South Region - (5) Wichita State (27-5, 16-2) Vegas Line
Key Wins: UNLV 89-70, @Creighton 89-68
Key Losses: Alabama* 60-70, Temple* 74-78(OT), Creighton 61-68
*Neutral Court
As a #5 seed you might not see this as much of a "Bracket Buster" but I believe that the Shockers are the best that the South has to offer for a team that could really make some noise. I do think that there are other teams that could pull a 1st round (now second round) upset but that is it. The Shockers are a team lead by 6 seniors and 5 juniors and that is a lot of NCAA experience to put out there. On top of that they are a Top 10 shooting team and a Top 25 defense. This is all of the main ingredients you need to make a successful run in the tourney (see Butler, VCU, Richmond, and George Mason). Look for the Shockers to start making noise in the 2nd (now 3rd) round and if Kentucky has to exhaust some energy to make it to the 2nd/3rd round this could a chance for Wichita State to "SHOCK" some people. 
West Region - (6) Murray State (30-1, 15-1) Vegas Line: 
Key Wins: @ #21 Memphis 76-72, Southern Miss* 90-81(2OT), Saint Mary's 65-51
Key Losses: Tenn. State 68-72
*Neutral Court
Again, as a #6 you wouldn't think that this team would be all that much of a "Bracket Buster" but when looking for a team to go deep in the tourney Murray State is it. I feel they have been under seeded and that beyond their fist game everyone seems to count them out. I even remember talks of if they should even make the tournament when they lost the game. With a record of 30-1 this team is no fluke and shouldn't be taken lightly. This team has veteran leadership (13 Jr and Sr) and is deadly from behind the arc (40.6%). They have a tendency to turn the ball over (14 per game) but that is why they call the 3 point shot "The Great Equalizer". Keep an eye out for the Racers to make a run.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

New MAN-ning In Town

Well, its final.  The decision has been made.  Peyton Manning will become an unrestricted FA on Tuesday, March 13th.  Now another decision must be made and LET THE BIDDING BEGIN!  It has been reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter that 12 teams have already been in contact with the Peyton Manning camp.  But which will he choose?  Myself and my counterpart have our own ideas on where Manning should land.

Clark says - MIAMI
Yep, Welcome to Miami (bienvenido a miami) Mr. Manning.  Its the best choice for Peyton.  It makes the most sense to me football wise and for him personally.  Here are a few reasons why I think Peyton Manning will be "taking his talents to South Beach".
  • Personal Reasons

    • Why does anyone want to play for any team in Florida?  Well, the first reason is the weather that can't be beat.  It's been rumored that Manning would prefer to play in a warm climate.  And if not that, a dome up north like he had in Indy.  So warm weather..........CHECK!
    • Another reason any athlete in any sport plays in Florida, no state income tax.  I know he has made nearly $150+million in football contracts alone but to say money won't play a factor at all is just silly.  Yeah he'll take less to win now since his window is probably only about 3 years, but it wont be a drastic cut.  With Manning, there will be an associated cost not matter what.  So he gets the cash............CHECK!
    • Manning prefers the AFC...........And really, why wouldn't he?  Would you rather see week in and week out the NFC QBs? (Rogers, Brees, Stafford, Ryan, Romo, Vick, Eli, Cutler, Newton)  I'd much rather face the AFC QBs hands down.  (Brady - yes in his own division, Big Ben, Flacco, then who?)  Its not even close, AFC QBs not nearly as daunting of a task as the NFC QBs.  So, Miami is in his prefered AFC.............CHECK!
    • It has also been rumored that Peyton may want to play with Reggie Wayne again who is also a free agent.  Hmmmm, where might Wayne wanna play.  How bout Miami where he played his college ball at "The U".  I'm sure Wayne can show him why Miami is the best place for both of them.
    • So, say Peyton does choose Miami.......he's gotta buy a house right?  NOPE!  He already owns a house in Florida, and has for over a decade.  So, he's already established himself in Florida and as we know, Peyton is a creature of habit.  He likes what he is familiar with and he is VERY familiar with Florida.
  • Football Reasons
    • Even in this offensive age, defense still matters.  Miami had a top 6 scoring defense last season.  Accompany that with what Peyton can turn that offense into and you're looking at a 10+ win team that will challenge Brady for the division crown.
    • Up and coming if not solid running game.  Reggie Bush ran for 1000yds for the first time in his career with a 5.0ypc.  And with Bush, we know what kind of a dynamic player he can be as he put his first real complete season together last year with Miami.  Rookie Daniel Thomas ran for another 580yds.  Thats a nice duo you can at least be confident in and excited about as a QB.
    • This team has a clear cut #1 WR.  Brandon Marshall is a beast. With the right guy throwin to him, he could put up top 5 WR numbers.  He has done it before with guys not named Peyton Manning.  Add that to Wayne potentially coming with Peyton and Bess is considered one of the better slot WRs in the NFL.  The weapons are there for him.
    • Whats really important to a right handed QB?  His left tackle, thats who protects your back by protecting your blind spot.  Well, how bout Pro Bowl LT Jake Long.  The 26 year old Pro Bowl LT is just want Manning needs protecting his back.  Long is in his prime at his age and may even get better.
  • Outside Factors
    • Miami is a destination for athletes with BIG EGOs.  There isnt a city more equipped to handle it (other then maybe LA or NY) then Miami and they thrive off of these egos.  Here are some recent guys to land on South Beach with huge egos:  Jose Reyes, Lebron, Ozzie Guillen, Reggie Bush, Shaq, and Pat Riley.  Don't kid yourself.  Though Peyton is a humble guy as a whole, the man still has an ego.  All the great ones do.
    • This ownership right now is VERY star driven.  Stephen Ross is the majority owner (roughly 95%) but the rest of the owners are quite the star studded cast.  Gloria Estefan, Emilio Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Fergie, Marc Anthony, Jimmy Buffett, Venus Williams, & Serena Williams.  So what QB do Stars want playing for them?  Clearly a star QB and Manning fits the bill.  Plus, are the William Sisters and Manning spokespeople for Gatorade?  That seems like a good fit there as well.
Also heard that Manning flew directly to Miami after his press conference.  So, for me (Clark) Miami seems like the destination of choice.  It hits a lot of his personal and football needs and even provides some familiarity for him which he craves.  Now Florida has the "Big 3", sunny skies, a ranting Ozzie Guillen, white sand beaches, and soon to be.........................................................Peyton Manning.

Smitty thinks - Arizona

Tell me Manning wouldn't feel comfortable here!
I will follow a slightly different format than my counter part and just give you the facts. Peyton Manning is going to be a HOT commodity until he makes his decision and to quote from ESPN "If you don't have a Top Tier QB in this league, you would be fool not to call Manning's camp to see if you have a chance!" Last I checked Arizona did not have a Top Tier QB on their roster. Yes, I realize they just dealt for Kolb, but how did that work out year one? A lot sacks, bad decisions and injuries. Let's say that Manning does have another 3 good years left in him and that is what he can give to Arizona. I know Kolb has already sat behind QB's and probably doesn't want to hear this but he could learn more in 6 months sitting behind Manning than he did his entire time sitting behind McNabb and Vick.....COMBINED! Yes, McNabb is a good QB but not on Manning's level, not even close and Vick has a completely different skill set than that of Kolb and still not on Manning's level. Sorry, Mr. Kolb this may be a step backwards but you would be learning from one of the greatest, most prepared, and possibly the smartest QB of ALL TIME. Make the most of it.

The second fact is an argument that I would like to take head on and it is the O-Line. Yes, I am completely aware that Arizona gave up more sacks than any other team last year but will you please look who they had at QB. A combination of Kolb and John Skelton, neither of which is known for their "Quick Release". I argue that a majority of the sacks given up by the Arizona Cardinals O-Line last year was due to two things 1. Quarterbacks holding the ball entirely too long and 2. Quarterbacks who are not able to recognize the blitz and what defenses are trying to do. Throughout his career Manning has only had 2 Pro-Bowl line men. Center Jeff Saturday (05-07 & 09-10) and LT Tarik Glen (04-06). In 2006, the year in which the Colts won the Super Bowl the offensive line had 24 years of NFL experience. The starting O-Line for the Cardinals last year had 33 years of NFL experience. Manning is the best at figuring out a defense and what they want to do. Not only that he gets them to SHOW IT on a regular basis. Manning's elaborate system of dummy calls, line checks and protection calls makes it that much easier for the O-Line to do their job. To me you can't make the argument that adding Manning can turn no-name wideouts in to potential All-Pro players and not say that he could do the same for the O-Line.

Fitz Runs for a Score in the SUPER BOWL!
Speaking of Wideouts last time I checked Arizona had a All-Pro of their own in Larry Fitzgerald. To me it doesn't matter where Manning lands, Reggie Wayne will follow. Add Wayne with Fitz and add in that supporting cast of WR's in Andre Roberts and Early Doucet and it sounds pretty simlair to Wayne, Harrison, & Stokley. What about Tightends the Colts had Marcus Pollard and Dallas Clark? Arizona has Todd Heap and Jeff King both good pass catching TE's when they have someone to throw them the ball!

Arizona also has a running game that could be greatly improved with Manning getting the right play called with the defense that is out there. Beanie Wells had a breakout year last year rushing 245 time for 1,047 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and 10 scores. Combine that with LaRod Stephens-Howling who has the potential to be a much better pass catching back than he has shown and you are looking at a pretty potent offense with Manning conducting it.

One of the possible setbacks for Arizona is their defense, but if you compare Arizona to Miami they are similar in their ranking except for one. Total D - AZ 18 Mia 15. Passing D- AZ 17 Mia 25. Rush D- AZ 21 Mia 3. However, if you look at the points allowed per game Arizona (21.8) is not far behind Miami (19.6). Arizona also was tied for 7th in Sacks with Dallas and San Fransisco. This is all great but I have an even better final argument for Manning to join not only Arizona but the NFC.

It has been said that Manning would prefer to stay in the AFC but I ask why? Is it just to appease his brother and stay out of his way? I'm sure that's how it went when they were kids! The reasons to join the NFC are simple. Yes, you do have a whole laundry list of QB's that are at the top of their game (see the list in Clark's section) but how many of those teams have great defenses? Aaron Rogers Green Bay... did you see their D last year.... Not good! The rest of the NFC North Detroit good front but rest is lacking. Chicago defense is strong but seems to be all they got and last I checked the offense scores most of the points and they lack fire power. NFC South those teams have proven to be good teams but have 3 games a year where they don't play up to their potential (Rams over Saints last year?) and show that they can be inconsistent. NFC East I'll give you the Giants but even they have had their issues in the secondary. Dallas... we all know they choke under pressure (and I'm a Dallas fan!)! Philly... how's that Wide 9 working for you? NFC West you have two good defenses in San Fran and Seattle but Seattle is lacking weapons on O other than Lynch and who knows how San Fran will handle their "new found success". But lets get to my main point the AFC has 7 of the Top 10 defenses in the league while the NFC has 6 of the bottom 10 defenses. What that tells me... you are never out of a game. Finally, who made the Super Bowl again this year from the AFC that just keeps taking on some of the best teams the AFC has to offer and beating them with no defense and an offense that seems to set a record of some sort every year? New England! Do you really want to go to the same division as Brady and Belichick? This a duo that always seems to have Manning's number. Since Brady took over in 2001 Manning is 4-7 in games in which the two faced off (this does account for injury 2008 for Brady and 2011 for Manning) this also includes a 1-2 record in the playoffs.

Peyton head to Arizona! It's a weaker division that provides you with an opportunity to make another Super Bowl. You saw what Kurt Warner did for the Cardinals....Now....imagine what YOU could do for them!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tourney Time!

March is upon us and we all know that means....NCAA March Madness! The fun has already begun with a handful of teams (Belmont, UNC Asheville, VCU, Detroit, Harvard, Loyola, Creighton, Murray State, Davidson, South Dakota State, Western Kentucky & Saint Mary's) already punching their ticket to the BIG DANCE and let the BUBBLE BUSTING begin for those who are on the cusp of the tourney. This is always a fun time of year for sports fans and non-sports fans. Who doesn't like filling out a bracket and seeing how they do and of course everyone has their own system, but that is a whole other post entirely. Before the BIG DANCE we have the smaller yet more exciting, in my opinion, conference tournaments. This post will focus in on the Big TEN and Big 12 Conference tournaments and what the Iowa State Cyclones must do to improve it's seed and if Iowa can pull off a run to punch their ticket.

The Big 12: 

The Big 12 Tournament is going on as I speak, however, since I don't see any of the four teams playing tonight having a chance to knock off Kansas or Missouri so I am looking forward to tomorrow's games. The Big 12 has four teams in the Top 25 and really only four teams that have a shot to win this tournament. Kansas has got to be the favorite going in with a very good Mizzou team in the 1a. slot. Baylor in my mind has got to be 2 and the Iowa State Cyclones being 2a. Baylor perhaps has the toughest draw of the day tomorrow in Kansas State. K-State was ranked in the Top 25 for parts of this year as well and a team I will keep my eye on to possibly pull off some "upsets" in this tournament. I will even go so far as to say that K-State will beat Baylor tomorrow, as Baylor has been inconsistent as of late, and K-State will give KU a run for their money on Friday (never count out an in-state rivalry, even on a neutral court). The opposite side of the bracket there is a Mizzou team that will have no problem handling whatever team comes to play them tomorrow and then you have the roller coaster ride that is the Iowa State Cyclones. A team that can be as dangerous as ever at their best and mediocre at their worst. Iowa State takes on an underachieving Texas team this year and I see the Cyclones pulling this game out but by 8 points or less (as if the Cyclones weren't used to close games).

I have Kansas winning in a close one against K-State and advancing to the Finals on Saturday. This leaves Mizzou and ISU facing off on Friday night in an intriguing match up. ISU has been dangerous at home but not so much no the road, if Hilton Magic travels to Kansas City then I give the Cyclones the edge, however I feel their road woes might plague them this game and I give the slight edge to Mizzou in this game. KU and Mizzou will face off yet again, but this time Mizzou will do what they couldn't do last time they faced off.... FINISH!  Mizzou will win the Big 12 Tourney.

How does ISU improve their seed:

The Cyclones are projected to be an 8 seed heading in to the BIG DANCE. That is a bad draw for ISU because even if they win in round one they have a #1 waiting for them in the next round. It is not uncommon for a 1 to lose to an 8 or even a team from Iowa (UNI v Kansas). Iowa State has a team to make a run to the Sweet 16 given the right draw. In order to find that right fit ISU needs to make a case to improve its seed. The Cyclones need to try slide their way in to a 7 or possibly a 6 seed. ISU can make a case for a 7 if they can give Mizzou a run for their money, IF, they beat Texas and could make a case for 6 if they beat Mizzou and don't lay an egg against KU, a team they have shown they are capable of beating. If all things fall right watch for the Cyclones to make a run in the BIG DANCE.

The Big TEN: 

The Big TEN tourney tips off Thursday (tomorrow) morning at 11:30 EST. with Iowa and Illinois. This bracket is prime for some upsets with 5 very good teams (Ohio St. Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana) followed by 2 good teams (Purdue and Northwestern). The rest is pack of teams that  are not as good but can still be dangerous with the most dangerous being Iowa in my mind. This team has gotten hot at the right time and starting to play some very good ball. If I focus in on the match ups that I foresee on Friday would have Michigan St. v Iowa, Wisconsin v Indiana,  Michigan v Northwestern, and Ohio St. v Purdue. Unfortunately the only upset I see in this round is Indiana over Wisconsin (if you can call 5 over 4 an upset). I do not, however, completely count out the Hawks for reasons I will get in to later.  Michigan St. v Indiana and OSU v Michigan is what is left for in the Big TEN come Saturday. Any basketball fan, let alone a Big TEN fan, has got to agree these are the teams you want to see playing for a chance to win the Big TEN. Indiana basketball is back and there is never a dull moment when OSU and Michigan meet (especially when both teams are good). These teams are the foundation of Big TEN Basketball and it will be nice to see them all playing for the title. I said it before Indiana basketball is back and I feel an upset over a #1 if that sounds familiar this could be why .....

The ongoing battle between Ohio State and Michigan wages on and in this case I see another tally going to Michigan. This leaves Michigan and Indiana battling it out for the title and Michigan basketball will claim the title this year. The emotions of the tournament and taking down #1 wear on the Hoosiers and Michigan will take full advantage to take home the title. 

Can Iowa make a run:

The answer is "Yes" but it is the "How" that becomes the difficult part. They have a very difficult draw in this tourney and getting out of the first round leaves them with the gift of Michigan State. How can the Hawks pull the upset? They need to play as if they have nothing to lose, and come out strong out of the gates with Matt Gatens leading the way. The Hawks need to play loose and hold their composure at the end of the games. Iowa has had a HOT month of February and look to carry that over in to tournament time. Can the Hawks make a run... YES.... but that run will only go as far as the hot hand of Gatens takes them. 

This time of year is simply unpredictable! Yet, we all look to predict the winners. We celebrate over our picks that only WE saw and agonize over the upset we didn't see coming. I've found the best thing to do is to make your picks, find a good seat, and watch the MADNESS unfold! 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

He's the MANning

It’s never easy to let your stars go. That goes for any sport. I remember when Jordan & Pippen left the Bulls. And yes, if you were wondering, I can compare just about every sports situation to something relating to my Bulls. Anyways, it was rough. You knew the end of greatness was near and you didn't know what was on the other side of the Dynasty Years. That unknown can just destroy the psyche of fans. And it did mine in 1999. But I kept watching, as any diehard fan would do with the hope that someday my team would return to greatness. I suffered through the 5 years until my team could even get back to respectable. And in those 5 years the team compiled a 119-314 record and I watched experiment after experiment go by the way side. There was the Marcus Fizer pick. There was trading Elton Brand for Tyson Chandler to complete the Baby Bulls of Chandler, Curry, and Crawford. Then the Jay Williams pick that was ruined by a fateful motorcycle ride. I saw my team bring in Tim Floyd as a coach as well as Bill Cartwright. Also, my team missed out on then key free agents Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, & Tim Duncan. It was rough.

And for the Colts, those types of years could be ahead of them as life without Peyton Manning becomes a reality. They got a big taste of life without Manning this past season as the Colts lost their first 13 games and finished the season 2-14, worst in the NFL. Manning is an all-time great. His name is all over the record books and he has a Super Bowl victory under his belt. And more impressive, under the free agent era, he has done this all in one uniform. But in my mind, as rough as it will be, you have to cut ties with Peyton Manning. He has been the face of your franchise for over a decade and has become one of the great iconic QBs in NFL history.  All of this makes this year's decision that much more difficult (have you seen how many products he endorses??).  But it’s no secret that football is not just a sport that millions of people love and follow religiously, its a business.

Peyton Manning would love to remain a Colt and play next season and finish his career with the blue horseshoe on his helmet. If that is physically possible, I'm sure the Colts would love that too. But, there are a couple things that complicate this decision. First of which is Manning's health. He might not be 100% by the time the season rolls around. Second, because you didn't have Manning last year, you now own the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft which happens to boast 2 of the better QB prospects in the last 10 years. Third, he is due $28 million if you elect to pick up his option for the 2012 season. Colts management already paid him $20+ million to stand on the sidelines last year, the most expensive cheerleader in NFL history. Can the Colts really afford to do that again with so many glaring holes on their roster? Could you really justify wrapping up a ton of money in Peyton and a young QB you draft #1 overall? Not only that, but that young QB would have to sit on the bench for a few years. In my mind, the 2 guys widely recognized as the first 2 picks in this draft, are NFL ready next season. And lastly, that decision has a deadline and its fast approaching. That deadline is March 8th, next Thursday.

Big decisions are ahead for the Colts and its going to be FRANCHISE ALTERING. But as tough as a decision as it is, I think it’s a simple one. You have to cut ties with Peyton Manning. Set him free and let some other team take a chance on the Hall of Fame QB. He probably has 2 or 3 Pro-Bowl years left in him. If healthy, I don't doubt that to be true. However, from a financial standpoint, I just don't think you can justify bringing him back, even with a clean bill of health. The Colts need to use this past year to make a clean slate for the team and use this #1 overall pick to set up their franchise for the next 15years, just how they did when they drafted Manning. Decide who the best QB is for the future (Luck or Griffin) and use that $28million to not only sign that player, but fill in the many holes on the roster. It’s the only sensible decision in my eyes. You just can't bring in a young QB of Luck or Griffin's stature and have them holding a clipboard for a few years. Rookie QBs can have an impact (Cam Newton) and it will lessen the learning curve to get that guy out there immediately.

Manning will have options. There will be suitors for him. Washington seems like a great fit and beat Eli's SuperBowl winning Giants twice this past season. However, the Skins are looking to move up to #2 to get one of the next great arms. Miami has been starved of a great QB for years. Maybe Manning plays a few years there and then retires in Florida like many others. I could think of worse ideas. Or, why not Arizona? Kurt Warner did it and was one bad throw and one great catch away from winning a Superbowl with that team. Seattle and Kansas City also make a lot of sense. But whatever the case is, Manning will be able to move on and another fan base will embrace him.

So, as tough as it will be, you let Manning go. Let him walk like a gunslinger at sunset so to speak. Take what the football god's have given you, that being another 15 years of great quarterbacking with either Luck or Griffin (sounds like a future post) and be thankful your team's turnaround maybe be shorter than usual. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s the smart thing to do. The Andrew Lucks, the Robert Griffins, the Derrick Roses don't come around too often.

- Clark -