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Friday, April 27, 2012

The NBA Playoffs are BIG in 2012

You've heard the slogan all season long, everything this year is BIG in the NBA.  No, they not talking about the egos, the contracts, or the rift between owners and players.  They are talking about the players, the shots, the defense, and of course, the moments.  This year has had its fair share.  From Blake Griffin's big dunk on Perkins, Durant's game winner, Derrick Rose game winner vs the Bucks, the Jeremy Lin drama, or even Commissioner Stern "Suspending World Peace".

It all leads to this, its PLAYOFF time!  Can Miami get their first of 1 and what they say are 5, 6, and 7 rings? Can the Thunder finish their breakthrough and get to the Finals?  Can the Bulls, like Oklahoma City, get to the Finals behind their injured MVP?  What does San Antonio have left in the tank?  Speaking of "whats left in the tank" do the Lakers and Celtics have another deep run left in them?  What about some up and coming teams like Indiana, LA Clippers, and Memphis.......whats the impact they will have?  Well, we all have our ideas about how this years playoffs will turn out.  How do you think it all goes down?

Ok, so my bracket may be a lil bias.  Ok possibly alot bias.  Yeah, I'm a HUGE Bulls fan and of course I'd like to see them win it all.  But the thing is, its not totally impossible and I'll tell you why.

Western Conference Breakdown
Spurs ride the hot streak and roll past the Jazz 4-1.  The Clippers led by Chris Paul beat Memphis in 7.  If he can take an average Hornets team to playoffs, he can win a 1st round series vs. Memphis, but it won't be easy.  Give me the Lakers in 5 over Denver where the Lakers are just too much inside for the Nuggets.  Then, I'll take the Thunder in 5 over an aging Dallas team that was fortunate to get their ring last season.  Next, I'll take the Spurs in 6 over the Clippers with Spurs experience and superior coaching getting them into Western Finals.  Thunder in 6 over the Lakers as they just don't matchup well but will be a very entertaining and tough series.  Last, Thunder finally break through and get by the aging Spurs to get to the Finals in 5.



Eastern Conference Breakdown
First off, I'm gonna assume Derrick Rose is healthy enough to be effective for Chicago.  So, with that said, Bulls in 6 over a 76ers team that has given them issues all season long while Rose plays a limited role.  Boston scraps out a series win over Atlanta in 6.  If Atlanta had Horford I could see them winning in 7, but, they don't.  Pacers cruise past a Dwight-less Orlando squad in 5.  Miami rolls past a NY team that still doesn't play enough defense in 5 games.  Chicago finally lets Rose get loose and defeats Boston in 6 in a tough series that is similar to the one a few years back.  Now, this series between the Heat and Pacers will be one of the most entertaining of all the playoffs to watch.  It's going to be some hard nose playoff basketball between 2 young athletic squads.  With that said, a bruised Miami squad wins in 6.  That leaves an Eastern Conference Finals rematch between Chicago and Miami.  With the rest Rose got in the first round and the bruising Miami will take from the Pacers, I'll say Bulls win in 7.  Mostly because they have home court advantage and just have a much deeper roster.  Chicago does not fear Miami.


NBA Finals:  Thunder vs. Bulls
Once again, I won't lie, I'm a bit bias.  But I see this series going to 7 games one way or another.  Bulls will again have home court advantage.  Without Rose, Bulls have no chance, and he could take a beating from Miami to get to this point.  But if healthy enough to be effective, Bulls can pull this one out.  Who knows how James Hardin's body will react after his concussion.  Things will only get rougher in the playoffs, especially if they meet up in round 2.  Durant is a matchup nightmare but Rose can keep up with Westbrook.  Key to this series will be the post play and rebounding.  How do Boozer and Noah play against Perkins and Ibaka.  I think Chicago will be too much to handle down low and will grind this series out.  Depth will play a key as well and I would argue there is no deeper team then Chicago and defense wins championships and that's especially true in the NBA and the Bulls are once again a top defensive team.  Just let me step back and kiss myself, Bulls in 7 games baby!

-Clark-




Now that you have read a biased based NBA Prediction! Let me give you a true unbiased look at the NBA Playoffs.



The West:

Yes, the Spurs take care of the Jazz (4-2) but I see it going 6 as mediocre as the Jazz are they play well at home. Memphis takes care of the Clippers in 6 as well. Memphis is a team on the rise and they will take care of the Spurs in 6 playing with confidence (they did knock them out last year). The Lakers will still handle the Nuggets in what I'm going to call a close series with a lot of tight games. I think the Lakers win in 5. The Thunder gets to take on the defending champs but they are not the same team from the year before. Thunder win in 5. That gives us a Western Conference Final of Memphis and OKC. Like I said Memphis is on the rise and I think they make this a series taking it the distance but OKC will take it in 7.

The East:

Chicago will get to ease in to the playoffs beating the 76ers in 5 games. Boston gets in to a dog fight with the pesky Hawks and ultimately the highlight factory gets to keep producing knocking out an injured Boston team in 6 games. The Pacers take care of the Magic 4-0. Orlando won't have Howard and is just a hot mess. Miami, unlike Chicago, get an early wake up call in the playoffs. The Knicks are playing well and have a different attitude on defense (finally). Miami will be challenged early by the Knicks but in the end Miami wins in 6. Without question the two best teams in the East are Miami and Chicago and they get to meet in the East Finals. Without injury concerns I think Chicago would have a better chance to pull this out, but I see too much Wade, LeBron, and Bosh (in that order). This is the series that they Heat understand they need to follow the lead of Wade and "Batman" will lead the Heat to the finals (again) and beat the Bulls in 7.

THE FINALS:

I'm going to channel my inner Jalen Rose, OKC "May be young, but they're ready" to make a statement and they will, giving the Heat all they can handle but what they don't have is a lot NBA Finals experience. Who does, the Heat. LeBron will dominate early in games and let Wade close them out. What the Heat learned last year was to never waste an opportunity and never take anything for granted. The Heat will win in 6 but LeBron will still have to answer questions about his 4th quarter performance, but those answers come easier sitting on top of NBA Championship Hill!
  

You know ours.... WHO IS YOUR CHAMPION? Let us know below!

SMITTY

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Welcome to the 2012 NFL Draft!

Tomorrow starts everyone's favorite 4 day event of the year and I'm not talking about any golf tournament, its the NFL Draft.  Tomorrow is a day in which some young man's dreams will come true, where hope is given to fans all across the country.  This is where some NFL careers will be made and where some will fall short.  Where the story begins for the steals of the draft like Tom Brady.  And, of course, were busts will be present such as Ryan Leaf.  This is where these stories start and the 2012 edition unfolds right before us on ESPN tomorrow night!

But first, lets let DJ Steve Porter get you pumped up for the draft shall we?

Clark's First 10 Mock:
1) Colts - Andrew Luck, QB: Prototypical QB in a Pro system at Stanford and more athletic then he is given credit for. Ran the same 40yd dash as Cam Newton.
2) Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB: They didn't move up to #2 for anything other than this man. Strong smart kid with Olympic caliber athleticism cures their QB sickness.
3) Vikings - Morris Claiborne, CB: The Vikings were near the bottom in pass defense last year while giving up the 2nd most points per game. They are also in a pass happy division with Rogers, Stafford, & Cutler.
4) Browns - Trent Richardson, RB: They will not give up on McCoy and what better way to take some pressure off of him then to select a dynamic runner like Richardson.
5) Buccaneers - Mark Barron, SS: Top SS in the draft fills a big need for the Bucs and will be needed to defend Newton/Olson, Ryan/Gonzalez, & Brees/Graham. He also possesses great hands and is an excellent tackler.
6) Rams - Justin Blackmon, WR: Franchise QBs like Bradford need #1 WRs to throw to, especially in today's game. Blackmon can create some match-up problems out on the edge and has the size & vertical to make big plays for his young QB. They desperately need a playmaker so they will address the offensive line later in the draft.
7) Jaguars - Melvin Ingram, DE: This kid has amazing size, athleticism and speed for the position. JAX needs help everywhere but the game is won in the trenches and the best defensive end in the draft should be a nice pick at #7.
8) Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB: I don't like the pick and I wouldn't do it if I were them but pressure from the owner makes Tannehill the pick and in my opinion, a HUGE bust and a waste of a high 1st round pick. A WR makes way more sense to me, either Blackmon or Floyd, if either is available.
9) Panthers - Luke Kuechly, ILB: Extremely smart kid with great instincts and his tackle totals from college back that up. Rivera is a defensive minded coach first and foremost and Kuechly is a coach's dream and should be very productive in year 1.
10) Bills - Matt Kalil, OT: Bills are shocked that a top 3 talent falls to them at #10. They addressed their defensive line problems with Mario Williams and now they attempt to fix the offensive line with the addition of Kalil.


Smitty's First 10 Mock:
1) Colts - Andrew Luck, QB: Do we even have to say anymore here?
2) Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB: The Redskins moved up to take who ever was left between Luck and RGIII. RGIII isn't a bad consolation prize.
3) Vikings - Morris Claiborne, CB: To me I think they should take Kalil as it makes more sense to help your young QB by giving him a little more time. But, at the same time look at the WR in this division Jennings, Johnson, and now Marshall! In a pass happy league you have to have a game changer at the Corner position.
4) Browns - Trent Richardson, RB: The Browns have a huge need at the RB position and Richardson is a BEAST. They have 2 picks in the first round and can fill their need at WR or OL later in the first.
5) Buccaneers - Luke Kuechly, LB: Very instinctive LB and fills a need. If I am Tampa I want the Vikings to take Kalil so that I get Claiborne and I can try to sell the troubled CB Talib. However I don't see that happening and Kuechly could turn out to be a leader right away on defense.
6) Rams - Justin Blackmon, WR: The Rams could just as easily take Kalil here, if he does fall, to protect their investment behind center. However with Brandon Lloyd moving on he needs help on the outside and that is where Blackmon comes in.
7) Jaguars - Melvin Ingram, DE: Ingram has size, speed and most importantly gets to the QB! These are the difference makers you draft high (still think Houston made a mistake taking Williams over Bush?).
8) Dolphins - Ryan Tannehill, QB: With the departure of Marshall from the Sunshine State a WR makes sense at this spot (Michael Floyd) but the Dolphins struck out in the QB free agent market. Tannehill here makes sense to me. With the rookie salary cap it makes him affordable to sit behind a veteran QB and learn for a year before being thrown out there. Make no mistake the dolphins won't be great next year and will be looking at a high pick (again) and can add some help for their new QB.
9) Panthers - Fletcher Cox, DT: A big athletic run stuffer who has shown the ability to get to the QB. The Panthers need help in a lot of places so it is going to be tough to find a pick that doesn't fill a need for them.
10) Bills - Matt Kalil, OT: The Bills will be pleased with this scenario and will gladly provide a landing spot for Kalil's free fall. He still needs some work but this pick will sure up a good running game and provide some much needed protection for Fitzpatrick and time for Stevie Johnson to work his magic down the field.

There is only one certain thing for every draft and that is there will be surprises! There always seems to be one team that makes everyone say "What was that?" I feel that Minnesota could be that team this year with their 3rd overall pick. Look for 4 QB's to be taken in the first round this year and at least 3 trades made on "Day #1". To me this draft screams movement and surprises!

On a personal note I really hope the Cowboys end up with Barron! That secondary has been a mess for 3 years!

How do you see the early first round working out?  Post your First 10 Picks in the comments section  below!


-Clark- & -Smitty-
 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Philip's Perfection

There are some things in life, as well as in sports, that are just very unlikely and defy the odds.

Odds of getting struck by lightening:  1 in 1 million
Odds of winning this recent MegaMillions lottery:  1 in 178 million
Odds of being in a plane crash:  1 in 25 million
Odds of being hit by a tornado:  1 in 2 million
Odds of a Baseball game being perfect:  1 in 18,000

You could say Philip Humber struck it rich yesterday afternoon as he etched his name into baseball history by being the 21st MLB player to record a perfect game.

Humber has always had the pedigree to be a very successful MLB starting pitcher.  He was drafted No. 3 overall by the Mets in 2004, a pick after the Tigers selected Justin Verlander.  And, as we know, Verlander isn't in "The Perfect Club" just yet although he continues to try and get in.  He pleads his case in the link above.

Humber's career was slowed down by an eventual Tommy John surgery and was soon traded to Minnesota as part of a package that landed the Mets an elite starting pitcher, Johan Santana.  Humber didn't even manage to win an MLB game until 2010 and yet, in his 30th start as a MLB pitcher, he was perfect.

He took advantage of a Seattle team that has struggled to hit the ball and score runs this season.  The team's youth and inexperience was on display as Humber had them guessing all afternoon with his fastball and changeup.  Humber was able to get the first batter in the 9th, Saunders, to strike out on one of those changeups.  Then, Jaso flied out to right with a lazy fly ball.  Then, with one out to go, Humber struck out Ryan on a pitch that would have been ball four.  Ryan couldn't check his swing and AJ picked up the baseball and threw it down to first to complete the historic feat.


And as unlikely as this feat was, the White Sox faithful have been apart of this before back in 2009 with Mark Buehrle.  Those of you that might not know, I am a White Sox fan.  I also happened to be sitting in the seats that day down the 3rd base side.  It was a lazy Thursday afternoon, July 23rd, 2009 to be exact.  One might ask what was I doing in Chicago that day?  Well, my buddy (who is a Cubs fan, poor guy) and myself decided to take that Thursday and Friday off.  The Sox played at home on Thursday and then we would swing over to the North Side the following day for the Cubs and Reds, my first trip to Wrigley.  But, nothing could top what we would witness on that Thursday afternoon.  We took the redline train that morning and stumbled into the ballpark after drinking a lil too much Jameson the night before.

I wasn't even aware that the game was perfect until the 7th inning when I was receiving text messages from friends that were aware I was at the game. The scoreboard showed 0 hits for Tampa Bay but did not show the number of walks by Buehrle.  But, this game had it all.  Clearly great pitching from Buehrle, a grand slam by Josh Fields, and a perfect game saving catch by Dewayne Wise in the 9th inning up against the left center field wall.

I was proud and overjoyed to be 1 of the 28,036 in attendance that day and I hope many Sox fans were in Seattle yesterday to witness Phil Humber throw the 21st perfect game in MLB history.  Lighting just struck twice in 3 years for the White Sox.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Scandals, Handles and Double Eagles

Well, it has been awhile since our last post and boy has it been busy. We've had Scandals galore, some great NBA basketball (with one team making some statements), and if you did not follow the advice of our BTBSports Bracket Challenge winner, Adam (Bob) Clark, and watch The Battle for Amen Corner boy did you miss out!

The Masters:
I want to start with the positive and touch on the Masters. What a great four days of golf! I am still amazed at what I saw over those first three days, but Sunday took it to a whole new level! Tiger did not show up in a Major (again) and to be quite frank, I have the fork about an inch away from him and am all but ready to stick it in him... BUT..... it's Tiger and if he can figure out his stroke soon (key word SOON) then he could still make a run. But, Tiger is cooking at medium well right now and is well on his way to well done (borderline burnt). Rory did not have a good performance either, but I'm willing to cut him more of a break because of his age. Rory still has a lot of time to get it figured out and make multiple runs and I am looking forward to watching him play some of his best golf in a few years. Now, to the man who just keeps getting it done, Phil! I can't say that I was surprised to see Phil with a chance to catch the leaders on Sunday (and you shouldn't have been either). The man just flat out gets the job done. Although he didn't win, he sure made it interesting and if it wasn't for a shot that went off a railing, this story could have a whole different story. The story line of the day came from the battle between Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen. Oosthuizen had arguably the best shot of the tournament with is Double Eagle from about 260 yards out. I watched that shot live and was AMAZED! but the shot that got me out of my seat was Bubba's shot on the second playoff hole from not the rough, but the woods! To me this was the shot of the day without question. Not only did he bust out of the woods but he put it on the green and was able to two putt to victory after Oosthuizen left his shot short of the green. Bubba won this tournament and there are not enough words to describe how great this tournament was and the best I can do is it to say watch this!


Bobby Petrino:
I nominate Bobby Petrino for one of the biggest idiots of the year. This guy not only had an affair with a 25 year old woman, who he had just hired to a position within the football department, but wrecked his motorcycle with her on the back and decided it would be a good idea to lie to the police, and his boss to cover up the fact that he was an IDIOT! Ozzie Guillen should send him a personal "Thank You" note (but I'll let Clark tell you about that). Bobby was not only fired from his job, but has put his chances of landing another high profile football job in jeopardy. I don't doubt that someone will give him another chance but this will be a long time down the road. I'm sure the professional embarrassment doesn't compare to the personal embarrassment he has to endure, and we all have made some choices that we regret but C'MON MAN!

SMITTY


STICKS AND STONES
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.  We're all familiar with the phrase.  Words might not be able to physically hurt but they do their fair share of damage at times.  Ask Ozzie Guillen who opened his mouth once again to say something stupid.  But this time, he finally took it too far.
"I respect Fidel Castro, you know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here."
Now, I am a White Sox fan and I love Ozzie Guillen.  He was our manager and gave White Sox nation a World Series ring and we will NEVER forget that.  I have enjoyed Ozzie's crazy antics during his White Sox days in Chicago.  Here are a few to enjoy.

"I'm the Charlie Sheen of the baseball world without the drugs and prostitute."

"I'm not a quitter.  When I want to quit, I'll do alot of stupid things and make sure they fire me and get paid."

"In the '80s and '90s, people made a lot of money and built houses. The first thing they put in their houses was a gym. In my house, the first thing I built was a bar. The second thing I built was another bar."

"I tell my kids to be careful who they have sex with. Pick the right woman, because that kid is going to be a Guillen for the rest of his life."

"Even my wife told me Minnesota is coming to town. I said, 'Good, you dating somebody from there?' Who cares?"

"My mother is a high school principal. My brother is an engineer. One of my little sisters is a doctor. Another is a teacher. When you come from that kind of family and only get to eighth grade, it's kind of weird and awkward. But I make more money."

 “[Showalter] never even smelled a jock in the big leagues.  Mr. Baseball never even got a hit in Triple-A.  I was a better player than him, I have more money than him and I’m better looking than him.” 

"A couple of days ago we were the [bleeping] best stuff in town. Now we're [bleep]. ... We won it a couple years ago, and we're horse[bleep].  The Cubs haven't won in 100 years, and they're the [bleeping] best. [Bleep] it, we're good. [Bleep] everybody."

"What attracted me to my wife is she's hot. She's also nice, she's a great mom - but that comes after she's hot."

On annoying fans: “I've got two people here that drive me crazy. They are all over me, and I'm like 'Shut up, you drunk.' It's easy to make moves when you're drunk.”

On Wrigley Field: "I puke every time I go there."

But this time, he took it too far.  He insulted an entire nation.  Not CUBs nation, but the CUBan nation.  The same Cubans that Marlins owners counted on lining up at the gate and pouring through the gates into their new ballpark which is located in their own backyard of Little Havana.

Castro is Cuba's Hitler.  You don't tell certain groups that Hitler is great and that you love and adore him.  Thats the impact that Castro has had on Cubans and after Ozzie spoke about it in a way only Ozzie can, he triggered a quick history lesson.

Ozzie clearly forgot where he is.  This isn't Chicago anymore where he actually made a smilar comment about Castro back in 2008 in the Chicago Sun-Times.

“He’s a bull---- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him.  Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.’’

Because Ozzie was in Chicago where the Cuban population is minimal, that barely created a ripple across the media landscape.  But you're not in Chicago anymore Ozzie.  You're in a part of the country where Cubans are the most present; almost 30% of South Florida, Dade County more specifically.

I will admit, his apology seemed sincere and I've never seen the man so dejected and sad, and rightfully so.  That should be exactly how he was feeling.  However, he still doesn't seem to be taking responsibility for his words 100%.  Instead, he attempts to blame it on a language barrier.

"What I meant in Spanish, I was talking in Spanish, was that I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive."

Pending on how people react when he comes back to the Marlins after his 5 game suspension is served, I'd assume his job is safe.  If the bottom line is in anyway effected (baseball is a business afterall), such as advertising and ticket sales, then we'll be talking about how Ozzie's words didnt break any bones, but it did cost him his job.

-Clark-

By the way, anyone catch my Bulls last night?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Battle for Amen Corner

The Masters is upon us with large field of Gentlemen Challengers teeing off on Thursday morning.  This Masters, in my opinion will be the most exciting than we've seen in years.  For those that don't follow Golf all that much, I'll explain why having this on the television throughout the weekend rather than some early baseball games or maybe some more pathetic NBA television match-ups might be your best bet in a search for weekend sports excitement.


There have been years past when, I'll be honest, it wasn't worth watching.  Golf has become relatively new to me as I spent little time playing and no time watching due to the excuse that it could ruin my baseball swing, which my brother will attest to, as I was younger.  However, as a retired athlete from major sports that dominated my playing days, Golf has withstood the test of time and I've become more and more interested in watching Tiger, Rory, Phil, or Graeme, as well as dedicating countless hours to playing myself and truly trying to improve at something that has always been outside my grasp as an athlete.

This blog is dedicated to laying out 5 solid reasons why the Masters should be what your eyes are glued to all weekend. 

Reason #1:  The Man, The Myth, and The Legend
Do I even need to repeat the millions of people who cover this sport for a reason? Tiger is coming off his first win since 2009 after his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weekends ago where he seemed to do the, "Tiger thing," which of course is to play competitive Golf Thursday and Friday, post a great score with much tougher pin locations on Saturday and bury the field, then play solid golf not pushing himself to hit tough shots on Sunday and maintain his lead. (One thing Rory showed the world that he learned after his collapse at last year's Masters.)


For those that loved Tiger and then found out he had a, "sickness," and quickly turned on him finding a new golfer or falling in love with a new flavor (Rory or Graeme), you should be ashamed of yourself and will quickly learn that Tiger may have been down in 2009-2011, but is certainly not out.  I'm reminded of the 25 ft. putt on 18 at the U.S. Open in 2008, with a torn ACL, Tiger sinks the put and takes home his 14th Major Championship of his career.   It had been several months since Tiger's last win, but sure enough, two weeks before the U.S. Open, Tiger won a tournament and played some of his best golf throughout the weekend of the U.S. Open only to be crowned the Champion over Rocco Mediate. 

Sure, Tiger had a rough couple of years, but what most people don't realize is that he had a rough couple of years in 2003 and 2004 where he didn't win any majors either.  As a huge Tiger fan, who will be watching throughout the weekend and whenever he can on Thursday and Friday, Tiger winning the Masters for a 5th time, more than any golfer not named Jack Nickalaus.

Reason #2:  The Young Gun
This kid is truly unbelievable.  Since falling apart at the Masters last year, Rory has taken the golf world by storm and has quickly become the #1 player in all of Golf after winning the U.S. Open and then posting 8 consecutive top 10 finishes including his win the first week of March at the Honda Classic where he held off Tiger on Sunday to take home the trophy.  He looks as though he just may be a step ahead of everyone with the way he can bomb the ball like a young Tiger and now play the conservative, "don't give away a lead," style of a seasoned veteran, he seems to be the early favorite. 

Rory has shown on two different occasions that he isn't bothered by Tiger Woods being on the course and having a majority of the gallery following Tiger rather than him, even if he is the #1 Golfer.  The fact of the matter is, is that we all want to like Rory and truly enjoy his career but in order to do so, he will have to stop valuing the European Tour over the PGA Tour and start to play in more than just the minimum tournaments that allows him to be eligible for, "OUR," majors, which is the first step to truly becoming the next greatest star of the game.

Rory has played this course very well and for 72 holes last year looked like he was going to walk away with it and take the first of many of his career majors.  However, after the first couple of holes at Augusta, you could see that there was a part of Rory missing, the part that tells you, you’re up 5 strokes, just hit it close, two putt and get out with a par and maintain your lead.  Some athletes are glad to not have that part of the brain. Tom Brady is one of them, who just wants to pile on points and TD after TD. But this is not football, this game is more technical and mental than any other sport, and truly requires you to gage your risk vs. your reward in “a major” situations.  As young as he is, that falter at the Masters has truly helped Rory become the best golfer that we've seen since late 90's-early 2000's Tiger Woods.  There really is no reason why Rory can't win this tournament and continue to build on his legacy and chase for the elusive 18 Majors, other than of course the guy standing next to him with 14 Major already in his pocket looking to prove that he isn't done.

Reason #3:  The Old Lefty
If there is one player that has truly learned the hard way on how to win Majors, it's Phil Mickelson.  To have such a phenomenal career be over looked and doubted as Tiger hoists trophy after trophy and puts on jacket after jacket, Phil has truly taught himself better than anyone else in the game how to handle Tiger Woods and use that raw emotion Tiger feeds off of against him when it matters the most.  Just as it seems as though Tiger would win another tournament, here comes Phil, just when you want to pick Tiger over the field in 2007, here comes Phil.  And I quote, "The man has Alligator Blood," (Thanks Teddy KGB). 

Sure Phil doesn't have the most majors, the ability to crush the ball of the tee, but what he does have may be the single most important part of a golf game when walking the course at Augusta, a short game that is unmatched by anyone other than potentially Rory.  The way Phil can chip, save himself from danger, and putt can give him a real chance at wearing the second Green Jacket of his career.  Those potential GIR misses, (Green in Regulation), can spell disaster for some of the best golfers, but not Phil. 

Phil has already hoisted one trophy this year at the Pebble Peach PRO/AM where his putting was incredible.  Posting putting rounds of 23-24-21-23 is just terrific putting.  Now, as we know, Phil is not a hot starter. He is a strong finisher.  So for all of you Phil fans out there, don't expect him to come out and cruise through Thursday and Friday with a lead or a share of it.  Phil is most definitely a Saturday, Sunday man, who will keep himself close enough the early days to put himself in a position to win with strong rounds and solid putting on the back half of the weekend.  Good luck Phil, but don't make out with your wife on TV after winning a Jacket this time.


Reason #4:  THE FIELD!!!!!!!
Each year, we look at majors and say, how could you pick against Tiger, Rory, Phil.  Those guys have been interchangeable as the years have gone on.  Since 2010, thanks in part from Tiger losing himself in injuries and family matters, the World #1 ranking has changed 8 times.  Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Justin Rose have all had their hands on the #1 since 2010. 


Finally, we can't walk into a Major and say, "it's his to lose."  The reality is that it is truly, "anyone's to win."  Rory faded last year.  Is Tiger truly back?  Will Phil Putt like we know he can?  Can Graeme get back to the top?  All of these statements or questions truly make this the most exciting Masters there has been in years. 

Hunter Mahan won the Shell Houston open last week against a strong field that included Mickelson, Westwood, and Donald.  Is he prime to win this week?  He sure will come into this tournament with a boat load of confidence.  Adam Scott took the last 6 weeks off as he did prior to last year's Masters and was only two strokes behind Rory before falling to Charl Schwartzel who looked like he was putting into an ocean birdie-ing the last four holes which are arguably the toughest of the entire course. Is Adam primed for the Green Jacket?

I love the field and Golf has truly grown as a sport since Tiger's absence giving confidence and careers to hundreds of players that would have been frustrated with the game if they had to sit through what Malone and Stockton did, watching MJ and Pip hoist Trophy after Trophy.

Reason #5:  IT'S THE MASTERS
I don't watch Hockey, but I'll watch a few games of the Stanley Cup if the final is close.  I don't play Soccer, but the World Cup is interesting.  I don't fully understand Rugby, but I watched the U.S. lose to a team they've beaten a record 7 consecutive times.  Countless women and men who know nothing about football will watch the Super Bowl and people who don't follow baseball all year, suddenly pick their favorite to win the World Series.  When the NBA playoffs role around, people who, "hate the NBA," watch the playoffs and root for teams. 

Why should golf be any different?  You have the opportunity to watch individuals truly do something that is truly impossible in the eyes of those that play every once in a while and win the world's most highly touted golf tournament and, "trophy," the GREEN JACKET.

-ACLARK- aka Rock Chalk JayHawk
I hope you all enjoyed my post.  Those people that told you to never bet with your heart, didn't believe enough each time they lost.


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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MLB Crystal Ball

Well MLB fans, the time has come.  The new season is upon us and one of our favorite holidays is upon us.  Yes, its OPENING DAY!  One of the best days of the year as a baseball fan and one of the worst days for managers around the world.  I gotta believe this is one of the least productive days in America.  That actually sounds like a great study.  If someone could find some facts out about the least productive days, from a business standpoint, I'd like to know.  Post those comments below!  With a new baseball season, comes seaon predictions.  Let myself and Smitty give you a hard look into our crystal balls (hmmmm weird) and give you a glance into the future that is the 2012 MLB Season.

 
AMERICAN LEAGUE
East
New York Yankees - Plenty of offense even at their age and just enough pitching.  Won't be losing many games when they lead after 7 innings.
Tampa Bay Rays - They young, they fast, they have some bats and a rotation that is solid top to bottom.  Only thing worries me is the pen.
Boston Red Sox - Youkilis coming off injury and Crawford not 100% and they have some rotation issues.  Their closer is extremely injury prone. (I wrote this yesterday and Bailey already will need surgery)
Toronto Blue Jays - Some good SP arms and good closer.  They have some pop in the lineup but alot has to go right for me to put them ahead of Boston.
Baltimore Orioles - Rotation is awful and lineup isn't much better.  This team is screwed for a long time.

Central
Detroit Tigers - Alot of pop especially if the springs from Young, Boesch, Raburn carry over to go along with Avilia, Miggy, Prince, & Peralta.  They got this Verlander guy too.
Chicago White Sox - It's feast or famine with this team.  If guys like Beckham, Rios, Dunn, Peavy play well they will be in the mix.  If not, they might be 2nd worst in division.
Kansas City Royals - Alot of youth that is playing well with Hosmer, Gordon, Butler, Francouer but do they have enough pitching?  They do in the pen but not in the rotation if you ask me.
Minnesota Twins - Can Morneau & Mauer stay healthy?  Won't matter.  There isn't enough hitting there to go with their lackluster rotation.
Cleveland Indians - A couple nice bats with Santana, Kipnis, & Cabrera but not much for arms in the rotation.  I am NOT a Ubaldo believer at all.
 
West
Los Angeles Angels - They added Pujols and Wilson this off-season and get Morales back from injury.  There are 0 holes in this lineup and that rotation is easily 4 strong.
Texas Rangers - This might be closest race in baseball.  Also a great lineup but Hamilton, Kinsler, Cruz tend to miss 20+ games each.  Rotation solid but not as good as LA's.
Oakland Athletics - McCarthy is good and I look forward to seeing Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock.
Seattle Mariners - Ichiro is just about done and King Felix will be dealt.  This team is quite the mess right now and in the Orioles/Mets territory.
NATIONAL LEAGUE
East
Philadelphia Phillies - With that rotation, it shouldn't matter how much Howard & Utley play.
Miami Marlins - Rotation is shaping up and they just brought in some speed with Reyes.  Gotta think Hanley will improve and Bell is now on the back end.  I believe in Ozzie.
Atlanta Braves - Nice rotation but still a bit young.  You could say the same about parts of their lineup.  Maybe Heyward rebounds but there isn't much to fear there.
Washington Nationals - They finally have something but Strasburg on IP limit.  Zimmerman & Gio nice pieces though to go along with strong pen.  Could struggle to score runs though but might surprise people.
New York Mets - When your staff ace is an oft-injured out of his prime Johan Santana you're in trouble. 

Central
Milwaukee Brewers - Top end of rotation is too good and so is the back end of the pen.  With no Prince, the offense still has plenty of pop.  
Cincinatti Reds - Nervous about rotation but they will put up enough runs in that park to win some games.
St. Louis Cardinals - Wainwright looks healthy but Carpenter doesn't and there are always concerns with Beltran and Berkman.  Then who scores?
Chicago Cubs - Rebuilding around Garza, Castro, and Marmol.  They'd be last in many other divisions.
Pittsburgh Pirates - Andrew McCutchen is best player between these bottom 3 teams.  PIT = ZERO SPs
Houston Astros - Nice arms in Wandy and Norries but any lineup that depends on Carlos Lee to knock in runs at his age is going to struggle.

West

San Francisco Giants - Solid young rotation and just enough hitting to win this division.  Melky and Pagan added some speed to lineup and OF.  Brian Wilson still gets it done.  Giants could run away with division.
Los Angeles Dodgers - They have a Cy Young, almost MVP, young speedster, and some pop in the lineup.  They have enough to pass the Rockies but someone else will have to step up to catch SanFran.
Arizona Diamondbacks - Some nice players on offense and in the rotation but division too tough.
Colorado Rockies - So much to like on offense with Tulo, Cargo, Cuddyer, but any team that Moyer is slotted at the #2 or #3 SP needs alot of help in the rotation.
San Diego Padres - No one really worth see noting in the rotation and young position players everywhere.  Only team worse might be the Mets.

NL MVP:  Matt Kemp                    NL Cy Young:  Zack Greinke
AL MVP:  Miguel Cabrera              AL Cy Young:  Jered Weaver

National League Playoffs                                        American League Playoffs
Phillies, Brewers, Giants                                              Yankees, Tigers, Angels
Wild Cards:  Marlins vs. Dodgers                                Wild Cards:  Rangers vs. Rays

NLCS:  Phillies vs. Brewers                                        ALCS:  Angels vs. Tigers

                                      World Series:  Brewers vs. Angels
                                CHAMPION:  LOS ANGELES ANGELS
-Clark-


Smitty's Predictions:
Clark has summed up each team but this is where I think they will land.

AL

East (Yanks hang tough with offensive friendly park and good not great pitching. Watch for the Red Sox to sneak up in to the 2 spot with a potential late run, but the Rays will hold on)
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Central (Royals make a move with youth, but Tigers just too good)
Detroit Tigers*
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Minnesota Twins

West (LA and Texas easily make this one of the tougher divisions to win)
LA Angels
Texas Rangers
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners

NL

East (Most open division in my mind. Philly got pitching but big offensive weapons out would not be surprised if Miami wins or makes playoffs. Can't count out ATL either)
Philadelphia Phillies*
Atlanta Braves
Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals
New York Mets

Central (Brewers and Reds will battle but pitching wins out for the Brew Crew)
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros

West (Tight 3 team race 4 or 5 game difference between 1 and 3)
San Fransisco Giants 
Arizona Diamondbacks
LA Dodgers
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
* Best Records

Division Winners
AL 
                                                       NL
Tigers                                                  Phillies
LA Angles                                            Brewers   
NY Yankees                                         Giants

WC AL                                                  NL
Tampa Bay                                         Reds
Texas Rangers*                                  Diamondbacks*
 *Wins the one game playoff

ALCS                                                 NLCS
Tigers v Angles                               Phillies v Giants

World Series                                   Champion
Angles v Phillies                               Angles

MVP
Matt Kemp - NL (Kemp wins without going to the playoffs, but in a close division race)
Prince Fielder - AL

Cy Young
Ian Kennedy - NL
Jered Weaver - AL

Those are our MLB Season Predictions, what are yours?  Comment below!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tournament In Review

The 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament seems to always come and go faster than it takes for you to fill out your bracket. This years tournament provided us with upsets early on and what seemed to be chalk late with a few exceptions.Still wondering who the best conference is? Well let's break down the tournament performance of the major conferences.

Big 12 

 Bids: 6   Record: 10-5*   Winning %: 66.6%





Big Ten

Bids: 6    Record: 11-6      Winning %: 64.7%



Big East

Bids: 9    Record:13-9       Winning %: 59.1%




Pac 12

Bids: 2^   Record: 1-1         Winning %: 50%






SEC

Bids: 4     Record: 9-3*      Winning %: 75%





ACC

Bids: 5     Record: 6-5       Winning %: 54.5%




* Indicates there is one game left to play since this is going to be out before Monday's Championship.
^ Although they did receive 2 Bids to the tournament I don't count Cal as being in considering they couldn't win their Play-In now so called "First Round" Game.

The numbers would suggest that the two best Conferences would be in the finals but, as always with statistics they can be twisted in anyway you want! I don't believe in this case that with only 4 bids and Kentucky doing most of the leg work here that the SEC should be considered on of the top conferences. Looking at conferences with 6 or more bids you would have to say that the Big 12 and Big 10 were among the two best conferences in this years tournament.

The best team in the tournament this year is without a doubt Kentucky! Monday's championship should challenge the young but talented squad but I stand by the statement that the only team that can beat Kentucky is...KENTUCKY! This is not a knock on Kansas at all, rather it is a statement to how good this team is. Kansas on the other hand was underrated going in to this tournament and has shown why they were the winners of 8 straight Big 12 championships. I do wonder how things would have went if Kendall Marshall had not been hurt for UNC but I have a hard time saying that we do not have the two best teams in the country playing for the championship.


While the tournament seems to always give us a "Cinderella" or two every year this years tournament outside of the early rounds was somewhat disappointing. Ohio and NC State were the only two that were really close but they couldn't even bust in to the Elite 8. I'm not even sure if I would count NC State as a so called "Cinderella" since they were from one of the "major" conferences (ACC). Louisville was the "Surprise" in the final 4 this year while I'm sure most everyone (in at least one of their brackets) had Kentucky, Kansas, or Ohio State in as well. Outside of Louisville you can't say you were surprised to see any of the other teams in New Orleans (even if you didn't pick them). It is interesting how the final 4 this year represented 4 different major conferences (Big 12, Big TEN, SEC, & Big East).

 Which brings me to my next point. There is not a lot of difference in talent levels from conference to conference. That is why you can see two #15 seeds moving on out of the first round now a day. You can see Syracuse survive a scare in the first round against a #16 and in recent years that is why you see a double digit seed knocking on the doors of the Elite 8 (See Ohio). The problem here is that all of the good players want to make the jump to the NBA right away. While I agreed with NBA's decision to not allow players to come out of high school anymore and applauded the idea of seeing high schools best playing in college for a year I just don't think it is working. It puts the idea in the heads of these young athletes that they just need to survive one more year of school then they can make the jump to being millionaires. I think two years out of high school would be the way to go. It would allow more time for player development and I'm not referring to the basketball court...I'm talking academically and mentally. I could also prevent kids from making a mistake by entering the draft too early after one good year!

Overall, I wasn't disappointed with the tournament but I wasn't all that impressed either. Don't think for a second that I won't be filling out a bracket again next year! Also, a Big Thanks to all of you who participated in this years BTBSports Bracket Challenge and it looks as if Mr. Adam Clark will be our winner this year. Jodizjokerz had a good run but ran out of gas and my mom (Shirley's Selections) just missed being our big winner.

If you are interested in Fantasy Baseball go to Yahoo and search for our league "Behind the Bench Sports" and join it is sure to be a season full of fun and excitement and as always a prize!

SMITTY