Sunday, January 30, 2011

1/30 Basketball Picks

My 7-3 day yesterday put my season record ATS at 18-13-1 (.581).  There is not much for good games today but I have three that are looking good to me.

Duke -8.5 @St. Johns
Providence +4.5 @Seton Hall
Duquesne -8 vs. Dayton

Saturday, January 29, 2011

1/29 Basketball Picks

Picking 7 games today for entertainment purposes.  Trying to get a feel for teams that may be playing in the NCAA tournament.

Louisville +4
Colorado +7.5
Clemson -2.5
NC State +10.5
BYU -2
Arizona State +2
Air Force +2

Hopefully its an underdog day!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Top 5 Most Disappointing Moments as a Fan

Today got me reflecting on this, mainly because I have not had many positive moments as a fan.

5.  2004-2005 ISU Football:  ISU failed to qualify for the Big XII Championship Game two years in a row because of missed fields and interceptions in the end zone.  The first time hurt, the second time was brutal.
4.  2011 Bears Football:  The Chicago Bears had a home game against their arch rival Green Bay Packers for a trip to the Super Bowl.  Needless to say their starting quarterback sucked, got hurt and a rally by their third stringer Caleb Hanie came up 20 yards short.  Nothing is worse than losing to the Packers.
3. 2001 Cyclone Basketball:  ISU inexplicably lost as a #2 seed to #15 seed Hampton in the NCAA tournament.  The television in my bedroom took a beating after this one.
2. 2000 Cyclone Basketball:  One victory away from the Final Four, Iowa State got hosed in a game that was as close to a home game that one can get in the NCAA tournament.  It was basically the title game in seeding that has since been corrected by the NCAA.
1. 2003 Cubs Baseball:  You all know where this is going so I don't feel the need to explain.  The worst part was it taking a week and a half of my life to happen.

Honorable Mention:
2007-2008 Cubs:  Two playoff appearances, zero wins
2002 Iowa State Football: Iowa State got up to #9 in the country with a 6-1 record including a near victory at Arrowhead Stadium against #2 Florida State the very first game of the year.  I still swear Seneca was in.  Anyway, the Cyclones finished at 7-7 after a loss to Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
2006 Chicago Bears: Losing in the Super Bowl was the closest I have come to seeing one of my teams winning the "big one".

Half-Time Reaction

1) The Bears have come out awfully flat.  I don't know how or why, but they have.  The Bears had a chance to respond right after the Packers touchdown, but an errant Cutler throw ended the drive.
2) The Bears are not stopping the run.  I don't get it and why they aren't but the Packers will be tough to stop if they can run and throw.
3) Cutler has missed several opportunities in crucial situations.  There have been three throws to Hester that if completed would have at least moved the chains and two of them might have been touchdowns.
4) Lovie has now passed on a 53 yard and a 49 yard field goal.  In the two situations they gained a total of 28 yards in field position.  The Bears need points any way they can get them, and now they need two touchdowns to TIE instead of two touchdowns to WIN.
5) The Bears get the ball to start and they need some points.  Obviously if they don't the game is not over, but they need some positive momentum.
6)  Here's to hoping that this is a repeat of the Ravens vs Steelers from last Saturday and this is just a setup for the best game in Packers vs Bears history....Bear Down

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Night Picks

I have dropped to 8-7-1 in college basketball this season.  Tonight should be the beginning of my comeback.

Washington State -2.5 vs Arizona
BYU -7 @ Colorado State
Iowa State +10.5 @ Missouri

NFL Conference Championships

First off, I want to put a disclaimer on this by saying that I realize my picks are subject to a bias (Go Bears).  I think tomorrow could be a wonderful day of good, competitive football.  Lets hope it is and lets hope I can be writing updates on the Bears for the next few weeks.

Game One
Green Bay (-3.5) @ Chicago
I initially thought the Bears would open as a one point favorite.  I was in awe when Green Bay opened up at -3.5.  Everything I have read supports the fact that this spread is based on the public jumping on a hot Green Bay team.  This spread in all honesty should be closer to a pick 'em.  I'm going to say that not only the Bears cover, but they also win the game straight up.  Chicago 19 Green Bay 17 which means this game will also cover the under at less than 43.5.

Game Two
NYJ (+3.5) @ Pittsburgh
I hope I still have a rooting interest in this game by the time it rolls around.  If that does happen I will be rooting for NYJ.  If I don't, Pittsburgh.  I think Pittsburgh wins this game, but I think the Jets cover.  The sharps have been taking New York and even on the moneyline.  Lets go with a final score of Pittsburgh 17 New York 16.  This means I am taking another under as well with a score of under 38.5.

In 24 years of life, not a single one of my teams in any sport has won their ultimate championship.  The closest class have been the Bears losing to the Colts in the Super Bowl, The Cubs being five outs away from the World Series and the Cyclones losing to Michigan State in what was basically the NCAA title game that occurred a couple steps from MSU"s campus in the Elite 8.  With that being said I would have to rank my ultimate rooting interests in this order...

1a)Iowa State Football BCS National Championship
1b)Iowa State Basketball National Championship
1c)Chicago Cubs World Series Championship
2) Chicago Bears Super Bowl Title
3) Iowa Hawkeye Football "0-12" Season

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Curse of No. 1 draft pick from the book, Scorecasting - The Bonus - SI.com

The Curse of No. 1 draft pick from the book, Scorecasting - The Bonus - SI.com


This is another good read. It makes so much sense. A question I wondered about was how this would change with a potential rookie salary cap. It really explains why the Patriots are good every year and some how have two picks in each of the first three rounds this draft and why the Redskins and Raiders are so bad. Hopefully the Panthers are listening, although their #1 pick is not worth nearly as much anymore now that Andrew Luck isn't available.

Home Field Advantage Update

I just read an article about home field advantage in Sports Illustrated titled "What's Really Behind Home Field Advantage?" by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim.  They have also co-authored the book titled Scorecasting, which I think I might purchase soon.  I couldn't find the article I read online anywhere otherwise I would post a link although they do have a new article outThe Curse of the #1 Draft Pick on the Sports Illustrated website.  Back to the point.  They took four of the most popular myths of home field advantage and basically disproved the myths.  It really is quite the article, just a damn that Auburn is on the front cover.  If you really want to read I may be able to scan and send via e-mail.
Myth #1: Home Teams Win Because Their Crowds Boost Players' Performance
To eliminate this myth they took a look at all situations that isolated one player and the crowd (free throws, shootouts, punts, field goals and pitch accuracy).  They proved that these statistics are nearly identical no matter home or away.  Example in NBA free throw percentage for away teams is 75.9% and for home teams.....75.9%.  Because I am trying to keep this somewhat brief I will move on.
Myth #2:  Home Teams Win Because The Rigors Of Travel Doom Visitors
This is a popular myth and one that I thought might be a factor but they analyzed a TON of games and compared the win percentages of typical away teams to "away" teams playing in their own city or stadium (Lakers vs Clippers, White Sox vs Cubs, etc.) and the numbers once again were nearly identical.  I often times think of the west coast teams losing on the east coast in the NFL as an example of this, but if you think about it east coast teams are a lot better as of late in the NFL.  Every NFL game this past weekend was played east of the Mississippi.
Myth #3:  Home Teams Win Because They Benefit From a Kinder, Gentler Schedule
Moskowitz basically said that scheduling benefits occur in certain sports like college football and basketball with powder puffs, or "little sister's of the poor" as Ohio State's President would say, but not in other sports like baseball, soccer and the NFL so it doesn't provide any explanation at all across the board.
Myth #4:  Home Teams Benefit From Unique "Home" Characteristics
They used to statistics to prove that home teams in cold-weather climates playing at home and warm-weather teams playing at home in those particular conditions are no more likely to win that the average home field advantage.  They also dispelled the myth that teams tailor their teams to meet the dimensions of their ballparks.  Teams from "hitting ballparks" batted no better than teams from "pitching ballparks".
Conclusion
It all comes down to officiating.  They started with soccer and analyzed extra time.  Across the board in every sport home teams had a significant advantage in penalties, strikeouts, walks, etc.  They also analyzed when the games weren't in doubt such as teams up by multiple touchdowns, runs, etc. and games that were crucial like tie ballgames, bases loaded and two outs.  In the blowout situations the home team advantage disappeared and in the crucial situations it improved.  They also provided statistics to prove that the larger the crowd the more advantage the home team had with referee decisions.  Example: A meaningless baseball game between Pittsburgh and San Diego isn't going to have as much home field advantage as Boston or New York.  Probably the most telling study they did came from the QuesTec cameras implemented in several ballparks.  In those ballparks, in which the umpires realized the cameras were present, the home field advantage in strikeouts and walks not only disappeared but actually slightly favored the away team.
Why?
Psychologists refer to the powerful effect popular opinion has on people as conformity.  It influences peoples behavior without them even realizing it.  Even being placed in a secluded room soccer officials proved a bias when just the crowd noise was played on a TV.  They did not provide a bias to the home team when the sound was muted.  Wow.
My Take
You need to read the article.  It is pretty unbelievable how accurate they make their hypothesis appear.  It also makes it seem like hour after hour of our lives have been wasted analyzing the effects of home field or court and how important it is for athletes to play at home because they play better.  Moral of story: That is BS.  It all comes down to officiating.  I guess I'm glad that the Bears will have the zebra's on their side, but it still doesn't explain why the foul count in the 8th grade girl's basketball "B" game I coached the other night had an 11 to 1 foul ratio in favor of the AWAY team.  Now THAT is BS.  

Monday Picks

Villanova +2
Missouri -4.5
Kansas -4

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Picks

I am going to start trying to pick some college games to get a feel before we go out to Vegas in March.  I also will pick the NFL games left as well.
Missouri +5 @Texas A&M
Colorado -5 vs Oklahoma State
Northwestern +8.5 @ Michigan State
Duke -20 vs Virginia
Iowa State PK vs Baylor

NFL
Baltimore +3.5
Green Bay +2.5

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 BCS National Championship Six-Pack

*Six ideas I gathered from watching last nights game

1.  This game needs to be played in Pasadena, California every single season.  There is no bigger stage in college football than the Rose Bowl and the scene and field they produce is second to none.  This would be huge for college football.  It was embarrassing to watch player after player slip on the indoor grass field last night.  College baseball found their home in Omaha.  It is time for college football to make Pasadena their Omaha. 
2.  Speed kills.  It was evident last night that the game was being played at a completely different speed than almost any game I have watched all season.  Both sides of the ball were equipped with really FAST athletes.  I think part of the reason it was such a low scoring affair was that for one of the first times all season these teams were matched with equal speed.  It also reminded me how slow ISU is and how far they have to go.
3.  Spread offenses struggle in the red zone.  Speed spread across the field is effective in moving the ball between the 20's.  A glaring weakness I noticed in the spread offense last night was its inability to convert short yardage situations especially near the goal line.  I agree that the idea is to spread the defense out no matter the placement on the field, but when the defense doesn't have to cover as much ground vertically it can focus more on stopping the zone read.  I think there comes a time when all spread teams, ISU included, need to line it up and go through the teeth of the defense.
4.  Oregon is very enticing to today's young athlete.  The old folks will talk about the good 'ole days but tradition doesn't mean jack **** anymore.  Those uniforms were the bomb last night.  The green socks reminded me of NBA Jam when the shoes turned green for turbo and it looked like Oregon had a turbo button pressed the entire game.  If I was an elite 18 year old high school athlete, and believe me I'm not, I would have to put Oregon at the top of my list.  Their uniforms are awesome because of their connection to Nike, they play the game like a video-game and Chip Kelly has walnuts the size of pumpkins.  Players don't care about what a school did or didn't do in the 80's and 90's.  They love the glitz and the glamor and Oregon has that swagger going.  There is also something else that helps (See #6)
I am "firmly entrenched" on Google with this face..
5.  Gene Chizik is one of the most phony individuals I know.  This NC can simply be chalked up to Guz Malazhan and Cam Newton.  To think that Gene Chizik orchestrated this wonderful season is a crock.  Two years ago he was "firmly entrenched" in Ames, Iowa.  Now he is apparently high enough on the pedostal to state less than 24 hours after one of the biggest moments in Auburn football history it is "time to stop celebrating and get back to work".  What a tool.  These are students in their late teens and early twenties.  Let them celebrate.  Isn't that what competing is all about.  I find it ironic that I have heard dozens of references to Chizik's business-like demeanor.  I can't argue now that he has the best championship money can buy.
Enough said!
6. Oregon cheerleaders are HOT!  There is an old saying that everyone in California has dark skin and white teeth.  In Oregon that saying is everyone has dark teeth and white skin.  Where did these girls come from???  I have heard a rumor that Phil Knight recruits them himself. If true, that is brilliant.  This guy knows how to support an alma-mater.  I think J-Meeks needs to follow in his footsteps when he makes his first billion.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

'First-Ballot' Hall of Famers

With the Hall of Fame elections to be released tomorrow, the faux-controversy over players being left out in their first year of eligibility should begin anew. As long as the media refers to players as 'first-ballot' hall of famers, and continues to hold those who are elected in their first year of eligibility in higher esteem, HOF voters should continue their practice. This isn't a matter of crusty old-media writers holding out retired players because they can, they are succeeding in creating a special level of HOF member.

Only 39 of the 232 players in the HOF were elected on their first ballot. If you look at this website: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/hof/hofstat.shtml, you'll notice that it's a pretty good list. No one on there is iffy. These are all First-Ballot Hall of Famers.

The baseball HOF is a topic of discussion here in Houston with Jeff Bagwell on the ballot for the first time. He would be the Astros first HOF member after 50 years as a franchise. Many here have said he would be a first-ballot electee if he weren't connected to the steroid era. I disagree. Was his career more Lou Gehrig or Tony Perez? Maybe that's a bit harsh, but his playing days didn't scream 'first-ballot'.

I doubt players care much if they make it on their first or second try. Current players have come up in this era of first-ballot selectivity. This article about Bagwell mentions that he doubts he'll make it on the first-ballot, and it doesn't sound like he cares too much.

Baseball writers will continue to weigh first-ballot status when voting on players. Media members outside the BBWAA will continue to complain, while referring to some current player as a 'first-ballot' hall of famer. Player's careers don't change in that extra year after they retire, but their places in history do.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thoughts From the 2010 Regular Season Final Week

It's rumored that NFL 12 coaches will be replaced, but Gary Kubiak isn't one of them
How is this possible?

Arian Foster is good
Free advice for next year's fantasy drafts: pick this guy up. He's fun to watch. He finished the season with 2200 total yards. And if the Texans would commit to running the football, he could be really good.

The Bears played their starters the whole game against the Packers
When he was hired, Lovie Smith said his #1 goal was to beat the Packers. I like that a team wants to beat its rival and keep it out of the playoffs, but had anyone else heard of this big goal before today?

I love channelsurfing.net
Even though it probably isn't legal.

Brett Favre was kept out of his last game
I won't believe he's done until the next season starts. As in the first week of the real season - September 11, 2011.

NBC fixed its Sunday Night Football In America broadcast team
I like the pairing of Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison. They've got everything covered with those two analysts: coach, player, offense, defense, old school, new school, good guy, bad guy. It helps too that they were last active with the Colts and Patriots, two of the teams that are on SNF and were in the conversation all year. Hopefully, they complete the replacement of Peter King with Mike Florio next year...

Seattle loves its football team
The stadium was packed, everyone was into it until the very end. The Seahawks might not, but their fans deserve a home playoff game. It won't be easy for the Saints.

2011 Predictions

Here are ten sports related predictions for 2011.  Some are bold, some are not.

1.  The Oregon Ducks will defeat the Auburn Tigers in the BCS National Championship game by a score of 52-49 in the highest scoring BCS title game yet.  On a side note, TCU will finish 2nd in the AP poll and receive at least two #1 votes. (Bold scale: 3)

2.  The New England Patriots will defeat the Chicago Bears in the 2011 Super Bowl by a score of 27-17.  Wes Welker is named the Super Bowl MVP for his 12 reception performance. (Bold scale: 5 due to the Bears prediction)

3.  The Iowa State MBB team will finish the regular season 19-12 and win their first game in the Big XII tournament.  With a home win over a ranked Kansas State team as their lone "signature" win, they fail to crack the NCAA bubble and are invited to play in the postseason NIT tournament, their first postseason appearance since 2005. (Bold scale: 4)

4.  The Philadelphia Phillies win over 100 games in the regular season along with the necessary 11 wins needed to win the World Series.  The Red Sox win 98 regular season games, but fail to make it to the World Series due to a late injury to Carl Crawford. (Bold scale: 3)

5.  The Chicago Cubs will make the playoffs and get beat in the first round by the Phillies.  Carlos Zambrano has a resurgence and gets to 17 wins.  Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood combine for 50 saves and combine with Sean Marshall for one of the toughest bullpens in the NL. (Bold Scale: 7)

6.  The 2011 ISU football team goes 6-6 and is invited to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  Paul Rhoads picks up his first victory over Iowa Redeyes, I mean Hawkeyes but will fall to UCONN on the road.  Jerome Tiller is the starting quarterback against UNI, but Steele Jantz sees significant playing time and becomes the starting quarterback by season's end.  (Bold Scale: 8)

7.  Oklahoma wins the first Big XII championship with round-robin scheduling and plays TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.  The Texas Longhorns have another mediocre season finishing 8-4 and are invited to play in the Holiday Bowl. (Bold Scale: 3)

8.  The Big Ten renames their divisions the Violators and Coke heads.  Nebraska loses to Ohio State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game.  This will be the last time anyone other than Michigan plays in the championship game for the rest of the decade as Jim Harbaugh returns home in 2012 to turn the Big Ten into Michigan vs Ohio State as all others return to mediocrity and continue the tradition of losing to the SEC on New Year's day. (Bold Scale: 9)

9. Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck both return to Stanford to go undefeated and win the first season of the Pac-12 conference.  They are invited to play in the 2012 National Championship game, but because this is a 2011 prediction post, I cannot predict the outcome of this game.  Before the championship game occurs Rich Rodriguez is fired shortly after his team loses to Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl.  Jim Harbaugh accepts an offer to come back to Michigan but still coaches in the NC game. (Bold Scale: 8)

10. Mark Cuban successfully implements and funds a plan for an 8 team playoff.  The playoff system is announced to begin in 2013.  Conference champions will NOT receive an automatic bid to the playoff.  ESPN will buy the television rights to all games and Bud Light will be the main sponsor.  The MCS (Mark Cuban System) Playoff winners will receive a $5,000 stipend and an iPad.  The Big Ten decides to boycott the playoff system because the Big Ten Network was not awarded the rights to the games and "its not fair they have a championship game and the winner doesn't receive an automatic bid", which makes them look into contraction. (Bold Scale: 10)