Friday, December 28, 2012

Liberty Bowl Running Blog

12/28 Getting a two hour late start thanks to Jeremy. On our way to St.Louis to spend the night and then on to Memphis in the morning. I will remember to set the departure time early by two hours tomorrow.

**Arrived in St.Louis! Drove past Busch Stadium on the way to our sleeping quarters for the night.

**Enjoying St.Louis nightlife. Made it even better watching Mizzou lose to UCLA. S-E-C!

**We turned it into a real bowl trip by getting in a game at Flamingo Lanes. Luke and Bill owe the next round as a result


**Heading out to Memphis. Took a pit stop at Waffle House before we left. Let's see what other bad decisions we can make today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 Offers Continued Momentum

In the past few months Iowa State announced the creation of, a revamped and improved online source for Cyclone athletic events, interviews, highlights and shows.  Streaming live HD picture with Iowa State run cameras offered a better way to watch the game.  Shortly after announcing this, ISU turned around and hired John Walters, the voice of the Cyclones, to work for full-time as their lead reporter.  With the Big XII agreement, all schools are allowed to pursue their own outlets for third-tier rights, ex: Longhorn Network. provided an outlet for these rights, but not everyone was happy. is a nice product.  It is much improved over the old CloneZone and offers video synced with the radio play-by-play.  It has already grown tremendously this season.  This is great if you enjoy watching events on your computer.  Not everyone does.  Enter Mediacom.  While there isn't a single cable company out there that gets great reviews, Mediacom's approval rating is generally pretty low.  However, it is by far the leading cable company in the state of Iowa.  With all of the resources for video's, interviews and shows already in place it was an easy choice.  Iowa State needed to agree with a cable company to start getting the feed out to more people.  That is just what Jamie Pollard did.

Starting in early 2013 Iowa State will have a channel on all Mediacom packages directly related to Cyclone athletics.  Iowa State will become just the third school in the entire nation to have such an outlet.  They join BYU and Texas.  Although Iowa State's deal isn't worth over 200 million with ESPN it still provides a step forward.  More exposure for the university in the state of Iowa isn't a good thing, its a great thing.  In short, this agreement is huge.

The Cyclones had to start somewhere.  Many were calling for an agreement with Fox Sports.  Although this would have been great and allowed Cyclone fans outside of the state to purchase the channel via satellite this agreement will do for now.  Also, anyone with Internet access will be able to sign up for and access all of the same programming.  Some with Mediacom may prefer to watch on the computer to get the product in HD, but it is there if they want it.  At some point down the road the signal should switch to HD.

What this deal really represents and offers for the Cyclones is continued momentum in the state of Iowa and the midwest.  Iowa has the Big Ten Network, but starting in 2014 will only get 1/14th of the programming, and the money.  This announcement is truly a difference maker.  What outcomes will appear?  Who knows?  The one thing that we do know is that under Jamie Pollard Iowa State is not going away.  They are making moves to expand their fan-base within the state and hopefully make themselves a player on the national level.  Several years ago Iowa State was having a hard time drawing 30,000 fans for a home football game and their basketball program was in the dump.  Today we look at Iowa State as one of the most productive athletic programs in that nation.  Iowa State looks forward to earning your interest in the very near future.  As Iowa State assistant football coach Shane Burnham likes to say, "this isn't your father's Iowa State."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stern Swings and Misses

When it was announced tonight that the NBA would be fining the Spurs for sending four of the starters home to rest I was a little ticked.  Keep in mind, I don't really even follow the NBA.  I like to claim myself as an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, but I wouldn't say I watch them on a consistent basis.  Gregg Popovich has proven he is a winner.  If there is one franchise all NBA teams should follow it is the San Antonio Spurs.  Six road game in nine nights can be taxing to the youngest of teams let alone a team aging as much as the Spurs.  Stern has done a great job to promote the NBA as an entertainment sport and its interest has become global.  However, he really missed the boat on this one.  He also missed a golden opportunity for great public relations.

"I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans"-David Stern

Whaaa?!  I realize the purpose of the NBA is entertainment.  I realize fans expect to see the stars when they buy a ticket.  However, it is Popovich's job to win championships.  Not games, championships.  He did what he felt was in his teams best interests to win the championship.  Stern should look to other sports first before rushing to such judgement.

Think about baseball.  When you buy a ticket in advance you have no clue who the starting pitcher will be that day, if the starters will be given an off day or if Kirby Puckett will get hit in the eye with a baseball the night before (this happened to us).  You are paying for the experience.  People that bought the tickets are going.  I've been to one NBA game.  The game is secondary.  The circus that takes place throughout the couple of hours is primary.

Think about football.  Every season there is the debate on whether teams that have clinched playoff berths should rest their starters or play them.  You don't see Goodell pissing and moaning do you?  Fans might be pissed they can't see their favorite players but in the end they want their team to win it all, or at least they should.

Think about hockey.  Well, I guess their fans would just be happy to attend games at this point.

At the end of the day, people think Stern was trying to make a PR move.  With the brawl from a few nights ago, he wanted to shift the attention to something else they say.  Maybe, and he was somewhat successful.  However I believe David Stern missed a golden opportunity to raise his approval rating.  After all this is all about him right?  Well, at least that's the way it seem right now.

Here are a couple ways he could have spun this into a positive.

What about offering everyone in attendance a voucher for a free ticket to any regular season the rest of the year?  Fans wouldn't be able to complain with getting two tickets for the price of one.  Some would claim their voucher and others wouldn't but its the thought that counts right?

NBA is big partners with KIA right?  What about having all of the fans in attendance submit their ticket stubs into a drawing for a free car?  Is 250,000 dollars going to affect the Spurs?  Better yet, can the NBA or KIA afford to give away a free car? 

Finally, and I'm sure there are many more possibilities, but what about convincing the players sitting out to contribute their game check to Hurricane Sandy relief?  Having a chance to influence the biggest media market there is?  Priceless.

The part that really stinks about all of this gets lost in the shuffle.  That would be the actual game.  Without their superstars the Spurs went into Miami and just about took down the defending champions.  In the NFL this would have focused on the result of the game.  This could be due in part to the large amount of gambling and fantasy football that occurs, although these two usually go hand in hand.  The Spurs lost by five points.  If this were an NBA Finals game the discussions would have centered on how great of a game it was.  This is the point where you might say "But it isn't the Finals" and through the eyes of Popovich, that is the point.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday Could Be Golden For ISU

I remember getting up the day after Thanksgiving waiting for my family to get done shopping.  There was always football on television.  Much like football on New Year's Day, there is just something about playing on Black Friday.  With a limited number of games and a national television audience on ABC ISU has a chance to get some major exposure and continue the momentum.  Needless to say I am pumped about attending my first Black Friday football game.  Here is why it could be a big step for ISU.

First, a chance at seven regular season wins and four conference wins for the first time in a long time would be a significant step under Paul Rhoads.  Finishing in the middle of the pack and being 4-5 in the conference would show progress.  Is it where they want to be? No, but Rhoads has said he wants to peak and plateau never taking a step back.  A win over a team ranked in the Top 10 at one point would be icing on the cake.

Second, involves the bowl possibilities that come with that seventh win.  Many think a win over West Virginia means the Holiday Bowl.  I would have to believe that would be the best bowl in ISU history and it may even involve our uniform sister's USC.  The Holiday Bowl even with it being lowered in the pecking order still holds a very respectable name within college football. 

Third involves the little brothers in Iowa City.  When Nebraska moved to the B1G and agreed to play Iowa on Black Friday many Iowa fans took it upon themselves to call it a rivalry and put this game on the level of the old Texas-Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.  After getting beat like a drum last year and looking worse this year will the B1G really want to keep Iowa as Nebraska's opponent?  Iowa State is always looking for more fans statewide.  Having Iowa drubbed right before a victory in the 2:30 time slot would surely help.

With playing West Virginia comes the opportunity for points on the board.  West Virginia will score.  If ISU keeps up with them in an entertaining game it will keep the momentum within the fan base going strong.  It would also mean Sam Richardson, most likely, having another repeat performance of last weekend and providing hope at the QB position for years to come.

Finally, and maybe most importantly it would send the second straight group of seniors out with a win.  This group of seniors in particular have spent four years under Rhoads making three bowl games in the process.  Many were committed to a different coach and kept their commitment to ISU.  In my opinion they couldn't have made a better choice.  When you see these athletes play its clear there is a mutual respect between the coaching staff and the players.  One of my favorite Cyclones of all time will be on the field for the last time even though he won't be suited up.  Jake Knott is exactly what Rhoads wants you to picture when you think Iowa State football.  I'm sure he would give anything to play tomorrow, but a win by his team would help dull the pain. 

So tomorrow when the entire the nation is done shopping, the ladies are sleeping and the guys are eating leftovers in front of the television hopefully we will see Iowa State taking that next step forward.  Its my hope this game becomes a tradition, with more to play for in the future.  Its my hope after Friday we have a few more Cyclones whether it be fans or recruits.  For a fan base that's used to feeling like leftovers, its time we experience our team feast on a golden opportunity.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Last Three

I saw an interesting statistic today for the Rhoads era.  They have been 5-4 after 9 games in each of his first four seasons.  Most would look at this as a sign that they aren't improving.  I tend to disagree.  The truth of the matter is that each of the last two seasons ISU has competed with a 9 game conference schedule.  This means one less game against most likely a MAC opponent.  Also, the Cyclones are most likely facing the most difficult schedule Rhoads has faced yet to date.  Many predicted 3 wins, 3!  In each of the previous three seasons the Cyclones have struggled with "the last three" going 1-2, 0-3 and 1-2.  This year seems to be different.

Without the loss of Knott ISU could really be looking to make some noise in these last three games.  They will play the card that has been dealt like any college football team needs to do.  If you look at the progress that has been made you need to look no further than competing against the big boys.  The opponents ISU has lost to have a combined record of 26-8 with all but one of those losses to each other.  The Cyclone keep beating who they are supposed to beat along with staying in ball games they aren't supposed to be in.  Just a year ago ISU was a 27.5 point underdog AT HOME to the #2 team in the nation.  This year at home they were just a 6.5 point underdog to the #5 team in the nation.  In one case they won the game in a huge upset and in another they nearly pulled off the feat.  Many will look at the 5-4 record as marginal.  If you look at the losses this is a quality football team.

This time ISU is going to be a favorite in one, if not two of the "last three" and a 9.5 point underdog in the other.  ISU SHOULD win at least one ballgame going forward.  The sign of improvement is to win more than one.  They need that fourth conference win.  Rhoads has said as much in interviews.  They need to get to over .500 in the conference.  The big prize with a 7th win could be a trip to San Diego or even back to Tempe and a date with a very impressive opponent.

This is a sound football team that has performed well on defense and has struggled on offense in losses.  The defense ISU will face aren't exactly lighting the world on fire.  I think ISU goes to Austin and competes well in a loss.  I think they return to Lawerence and take care of business and beat a struggling West Virginia team on national television on Black Friday.  I will be at all three which if things go well will be an absolute blast.  Either way I look forward to watching ISU take a step forward when it comes to "the last three".

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thoughts from a NFL Sunday

I'm back for more -

Late game
The 49ers line looks HUGE.  They go 6'5" 315, 6'5" 331, 6'3" 318, 6'8" 300, 6'5" 323.  On average, that looks about right, what stands out is how big the guards are - 6'8" is unheard of - which makes the whole line look huge.

Why did the Eagles give up David Akers?  He was the 49er's MVP last year, while the Eagles missed the playoffs.  I was going to say the 49ers would give Akers more chances from 50+ after his 63yd FG last week, but they just punted from the 40.  There is NO reason the 49ers should punt from inside the 40 yd line.

I like these Toyota coach commercials.  Fun, topical concept and the coach is well played.  I appreciate there's more than one too.  This Internet Explorer commercial with the annoying song is getting real, real old. And now they're playing the song on the radio.  I hate the radio.

Speaking of commercials, is it me or does the NFL run at least one ad each commercial break?  Do they get free air time?  Or are they paying for all this.  The networks pay the NFL huge sums of money to broadcast and then the NFL uses that money to advertise for it's own properties on those same networks.  An interesting arrangement.

The NFL commercials with the guy in the suit are dumb.  Why don't they just have cheerleaders dancing around with somebody overdubbing and words on the screen?  I guess they'd probably have to actually pay the cheerleaders then...

That's all for this week.

Early game
I'm watching the Houston - Jacksonville game, and the tarps there are ridiculous.  You'd think they'd want to keep the tarps off the side the TV cameras can see but it looks like they are everywhere.  Official NFL capacity is 67,246 - "expandable" to 76,867, but can hold 84,000 for college games and special events.  How many seats will the NFL let them take away?

The Texans have a player called Mister Alexander!

"Some guys aren't playing with a full deck" - Rich Gannon while showing clips of Brian Cushing headbutting teammates before the game.

I prefer Marv Albert and Rich Gannon to last week's team of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts.  Fouts isn't the brightest color guy.  He's not real bright period.

I thought I could see a different game on Fox when the Texans were away?  I'll never understand these broadcasting rules.

Along that line, and maybe this is why, the Cowboys play at 3:30, so that's who I'll have to watch.  And Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.  Can't stand watching a game they call.  He sucks the life out of everything.  Maybe there will be a different game on the radio I can listen to.

Switched to the radio looking for a different game, all that's on is the Texans but it actually matches up with the TV!  I'm sure I tried this last year and it was off too far to listen.  I'll have to do this from now on, especially when Dan Fouts is on the call...

I miss Gus Johnson.  Still think the Texans should have made him their default announcer.  Everone would have watched the Texans!

I see why the Jags took Brian Anger in the third round.  He's played as much as anybody today - 8 punts through 3 quarters.  Gabbert only has 7 completions.

Maybe I'll have more later.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

ISU Wins 6.42 Or 4.982 Games This Season

I put the numbers together for this post quite awhile back.  It seemed like Iowa State, during Paul Rhoads tenure, didn't lose games it was supposed to win, and pulled off at least one upset per year.  Under the previous coach, the team seemed to always drop a couple in which they were favored, and seemed to rarely pull any upsets.  I tested this observation.

Over the past three years, Iowa State has only been favored 9 times out of 38 games (plenty of opportunities for upsets!) and ISU is 7-2 in games in which they are favored.  The two losses were in 2010 to Kansas State on a neutral field and Colorado the week after they fired Dan Hawkins.  So far, so good.  How about the upsets?  ISU has had 11 upsets in the last three years.  They had two in 2010, four last year and five in 2009.  Really impressive stuff.  There's a reason one web site said Rhoads was worth up to three games per season.  The tendency to win when favored and compete when not has meant it's an exciting time to be a Cyclone fan - minimal disappointment and maximum upside.

Digging deeper, I broke every game down by home or away, conference or non-conference.  Here's a summary of the results.

Quick observations from this, Rhoads and the Cyclones have won every non-conference game in which they've been favored.  This is important because every BCS school schedules non-conference games they're supposed to win.  Iowa State can't make it to six wins and a bowl game dropping these.  The other number that jumps out is that ISU has only been favored in four conference games over three years.  That's either pathetic or the Cyclones have been consistently underrated, probably some of both.

The big payoff - predicting this season's wins using prior these prior results.

The ranks are from the end of last season.  The win percentage comes from the previous years' percentages.  Based on expected wins, ISU will go 4-8.  Based on win percentages, ISU's expected number of wins is 6.42, which means a bowl trip.

Again, these were based on last year's final BCS rankings.  I'm worried that Tulsa is favored over the Cyclones at home this first week.  That probably means Iowa State will be 'dogs against Iowa and Texas Tech as well.  If that's the case, ISU's predicted win total is 4.982, short of a bowl game.

The Big XII is always underrated.  The addition of TCU and West Virginia make it an even more difficult conference.  Rhoads has to get his team to play at least three games over its talent once again this year to have hope of a bowl game.  Watching Iowa State isn't like a roller coaster.  It's more like a hill climb.  We're pretty sure of the distance they'll cover, it's the second half that gets tricky.  Will the Cyclones overcome unfavorable odds and make it to the summit (bowl game)?  Or will they fall over early and disappoint?  With Paul Rhoads at the helm, I'd bet the former.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Thoughts Day Five

These updates will probably occur less frequently as we get into next week as I will unfortunately be returning to work.  However, there was still a fifth day of competition and I watched so here it goes.

1.  Best sport to watch on this day goes to Women's Canoe.  That looked real tough.  Especially getting through the upstream gates.  I've done this event before on the XBox Kinect but I am guessing it is a little more difficult doing the real thing.

2.  Walsh and May-Treanor finally dropped a SET in Olympic play.  That is just an incredible run.  More impressive was their response, a 21-8 smashing in the second set and a victory in the third set as well to stay undefeated in Olympic matches.  I really want to see them play some more day time matches if you catch my drift.

3.  The USA had a successful night in the pool winning a few individual events, a relay and qualifying several for prime spots to medal tonight.  Last night set up another Lochte-Phelps matchup for this evening, one that will have everyone tuned in.  I will be pulling for Phelps to pull it off.  I will also be rooting for Clary to get whooped.  Who calls out the best Olympian of all time for their training regime? 

4.  I watched a little bit of the men's all-around gymnastics competition.  I was happy to see the US claim an bronze and seem so excited about it.  Men's gymnastics however is not my favorite to watch.  The dues are clearly stronger and more flexible than myself but the females clearly have more finesse and look much more impressive.

5.  I heard some Olympic talk on the radio yesterday and they were debating whether to have American football in the Olympics.  What is there to debate?  The clear answer is NO.  What is the point?  Who would play?  You are telling me the Broncos are going to be cool with Peyton Manning missing training camp and a few preseason games to play in the Olympics?  You are telling me these professional players are going to risk getting hurt right before their season?  Yes you could have a D-III team compete and probably win gold but what other countries are going to furnish a team?  How many make it?  They can't play that many games in the Olympics if they play once a week.  If they don't play that many games, WHAT IS THE POINT?  Some boneheaded people want the Olympics to add football to show the rest of the world how dominate the US is.  This just in: the already know.  There are even the logistics involving having an extra 50 some Olympians for each team in the city.  Contraction is the answer for the Olympics, not expansion.  They got rid of baseball and softball.  Next should be soccer, tennis and basketball.  Let the "Olympic sports" have their time in the sun.  I want to see people that train four years for one chance, not people that compete just for another event.  Its incredible to hear the stories of these water polo players taking a year off from professional play with the sole purpose of training as a team for the Olympics.  Lets bump some water polo, canoe and archery in prime time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Olympic Thoughts Day Four

The fourth day of competition involved more male sports including male volleyball and men's basketball.  However, the highlight of the day was the team competition in women's gymnastics.  An event I was surprisingly looking forward to.

1.  I watched most of the men's volleyball match against Germany during the day.  Although impressive I couldn't help but think that it was more exciting to watch the women's match just a day earlier.  To those of you thinking so, yes, wardrobe may have played a small part but mainly I felt the style of play was simply more entertaining a day earlier watching Destinee Hooker and company.

2.  After the volleyball match was the men's water polo team.  This may be the most difficult sport to play in the Olympics.  Anyone that says it isn't a sport, well they are naive.  It takes extreme conditioning, strength and toughness.  One burning question remains.  How does someone get started playing water polo?

3.  I watched the 4th quarter of the USA/Tunisia basketball game while many had justifiably switched the channel.  I watched with one number in mind.  55.  That was the point spread on the game.  Just a day earlier the odds makers set the women's line at 54.  It ended up 52.  Although Tunisia covered the spread by about ten points, the odds makers set the USA total for points at 110.5.  Their total?  110.  These people know what they are doing.  Almost like they get paid for it.  Yet, we still feel we know when a line is way off. 

4.  Congratulations to Phelps on setting the record for the most medals in Olympic history.  What an achievement.  I, along with everyone else, felt he had that 200 M Fly in the bag.  That was quite the finish, however it reminds me how good Phelps really is.  He struggled through every turn and mishandled the end of the race yet somehow was "upset" in an extremely close finish.  I'm glad they let Phelps anchor the relay later.  It was really smart coaching as it allowed Phelps to have a lead and not test the amount of energy left in his tank.  Look for Phelps to take down Lochte Thursday night in a race they share the 10 fastest times in history.

5.  How about that gymnastics showing by USA?  I knew the result yet, was thrilled watching it.  Really--I can say I enjoyed watching gymnastics.  Why?  They are good, real good.  I thought it was great that Wieber performed well, but its clear Douglas has the most talent on the team, all-around.  For only competing in one event for the entire Olympics McKayla Maroney may have the "Play of the Olympics".  That event was the most impressive thing I have seen thus far.  She is like the left-handed specialist out of the bullpen in baseball.  She has one task, yet her performance last night was the equivalent of striking out Pujols on three 105 mph pitches in the 9th inning of the World Series.  In case you missed it you can check it out here.  Worth watching probably even a couple of times if not hundreds more.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Thoughts Day Three

I watched a lot of day time coverage yesterday and managed to stay off Twitter, ESPN, and any source that may show results for prime time.  However, I ended up at Third Base, because well it was Monday and thus my prime time viewing was affected. 

1.   Women's volleyball was extremely fun to watch and I feel it could quickly become more popular than basketball for girl's if it hasn't already.  Some of those girls are crazy athletic.  Granted, the USA vs Brazil match was the best of the best but I still managed to watch from start to finish which is something I've never done before when it comes to volleyball.  There is a lot more strategy to the game than when I play at Volley's that is for sure.  I plan on watching their matches as much as possible going forward.  Destinee Hooker is an absolute stud.  Too bad her name sucks.

2.  While watching volleyball I couldn't help but think "why is women's basketball so boring?"  The solution to this problem dawned on me.  Lower the hoop!  Women's volleyball is played at a lower net level and makes for a more entertaining game.  Lower the hoop and let the girls dunk and attack the rim and women's basketball becomes a whole different beast.

3.  Speaking of women's basketball the USA had a close call against Angola yesterday.  I know what you are thinking.  Angola is powerhouse and you've probably been to a few of their games right?  In reality the USA won by 52 points.  Not much drama right?  The point spread just happened to be 54 points.  How do they know!?  Luckily for my friend he took Angola.  No word yet on if he is taking Tunisia tonight at +55.

4.  I like this Missy Franklin girl.  She is extremely humble and may very well be the face of USA swimming after the Olympics if she hasn't already.  She reportedly turned down endorsement deals worth as much as 150,000 dollars so she could maintain her amateur status and compete for her high school and future college team.  That is pretty cool although I wonder if her and her parent's tune will change when there is a zero or two added to that figure.  If she takes the money good for her, she will do good things with it.

5.  Lochte may have felt like it was his time now but 4th place really?  If you are going to talk a big game make it to the podium.  This proves how impressive Phelps was in 2008.  I've mentioned it before, I'm Team Phelps all the way and every medal he gets this Olympics I find to be extremely impressive.  What I like is that he is helping some of the younger swimmers such as Missy Franklin out with strategy when there are multiple races in a night.  On a side note though, who decided that swimming was prime time material?  Its been that way, I get that but when did it start?  Instead of some of the fluff they show, replay some archery or badminton.  Its not like they are waiting for the next heat in swimming, its tape-delayed for goodness sake!  With that being said NBC has done a pretty good job with its coverage across the different channels.  I'm not sure where they find these people but their on-air talent has been pretty good.

Note:  The men's gymnastics team doesn't get any coverage from me due to their lack of even showing up last night.  SMH

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Thoughts Day Two

Today I had a self-imposed Twitter ban for the day as I watched live coverage (and the Cubs game) while refusing to obtain the results that would be shown in prime-time.  That worked really well until I switched to ESPNU and all of sudden the resulted scrolled across the bottom line.  Damn you ESPN!  The coverage tonight was pure drama, yet I unfortunately knew the results going in.  Anyway, here are my 5 rings for today's events.

1) Why does the IOC seem to always mess something up when it comes to gymnastics or figure skating?  WHY, WHY, WHY is each team only allowed two competitors in the all-around?  Jordyn Wieber was the favorite coming into the Olympics to win the all-around competition and now she won't get a shot.  Yes, she had control of the situation but shouldn't the final consist of the top 24 all-around gymnasts?  Its very possible USA could have the top three but we will never know.

2) More gymnastics here.  How awkward is the gymnastics competition intrasquad?  The hugs are clearly fake and although they want to qualify as a team they can't help but root against their teammates so they can advance.  Maybe with the qualifying rounds out of the way they will be able to just go out and compete.  I could see myself becoming a big fan of Wieber if she comes out and proves her ability in the team all-around.  She gets the early award for the most impressive interview so far.  As the defending international champion and someone who has been training for four years, her dreams were crushed because of one misstep.  Many professional athletes that are idolized these days don't handle adversity in interviews the way she did.  Kudos to her.

3) In the current state of technology you find out any relevant and many times irrelevant information instantaneously.  Yet, for once many around the world are trying to avoid it.  Shouldn't it be easy to go a mere 12 hours without finding out what happened on a different continent?  Surprisingly its very difficult, and unfortunately takes the drama out of prime-time coverage.  The worst part is many of the big events are only in qualifying stages and when they get to the latter stages it will be that much more difficult.

4) Women's sand volleyball in London isn't as fun to watch.  Hint: it has nothing to do with the competition and everything to do with the wardrobe.  Can't we get them a little Iowa heat over there??

5) In my latest conspiracy theory is it possible Lochte blew the relay on purpose?  How does he blow that lead?  Is his rivalry with Phelps really intense enough that he would sacrifice a gold medal for himself just so Phelps wouldn't get one?  I am on Team Phelps and although I don't think Lochte would do such a thing I find myself pulling for Phelps who is participating in his FOURTH Olympics.

And the next viral Olympic video....funny stuff!

Olympic Thoughts Day One

The Olympics are underway and I am already hooked.  Sports that I wouldn't think to watch are now interesting.  It is a buffet of sports served all day long.  There is just enough of everything and not too much of anything.  My "5 Ring" thoughts for the first day of London 2012.

1) Archery was the first event I watched thoroughly and it just happened to be the first medal for the United States.  After their stunning upset of Korea in the semi-finals they had an intense match for the gold medal against Italy.  It was great entertainment as it literally came down to the last arrow.  So far it has been my favorite event to watch and I look forward to the individual men's tournament coming up in the next few days.

2) Handball is fun to watch and looks fun to play.  Everyone else played it in physical education class in high school I guess.  I don't remember playing it, but there is a good chance I did.  A mix of soccer, basketball and lacrosse it is rather entertaining to watch.

3) Badminton doesn't look like badminton at the Olympic level.  It looks more like tennis on a smaller court, making for better action.  Fun to watch.

4) Sand volleyball requires an incredible amount of athleticism and endurance.  Its very impressive to watch.  I'm guessing they didn't train at Volley's.

5) I'm not a big fan of soccer, tennis, or even basketball as Olympic sports.  They are already international sports.  I can't bring myself to watch any of them.  Soccer has the World Cup and other tournaments, tennis is basically Wimbledon II and all of the best basketball players already play in the NBA, however it is fun to watch the collection of talent together on one team.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Penn State Down But Not Out

There are many reactions to the sanctions dealt Penn State's way.  I feel Penn State got what it deserved, yet I still question whether it was the NCAA's role to hand out the sanctions.  It is certainly an unprecedented, extremely unfortunate situation.  I wish Penn State would have talked more with the NCAA and self-imposed their sanctions.  For most programs these sanctions would be the "death" of the program.  Many are declaring the death of Penn State football for at least 10 years, another example of sports hyperbole's going too far.  I mean, has anyone or anything been DEAD for 10 years only to come back to life?  It would be easy to look at the sanctions and immediately laugh at Bill O'Briens belief they can survive the next four years.  Here is why and how I think they can make it through.

1)  Penn State players have the ability to transfer without penalty and play right away.  Complete disadvantage right?  Think Remember the Titans.  Every player that is on the roster going forward wants to be at Penn State and is, in a popular football catch phrase, "All In".  Every player has a free pass to leave.  You want bowl gifts? Leave.  You feel your playing time is unjust?  Leave.  You don't want to be associated with Penn State?  Leave.  However, come that first practice of fall camp every single player will be able to look at their teammates knowing that they are committed to the team and restoring the image of Penn State. 

2)  Bill O'Brien.  To be honest I wasn't sure what to think of the guy when he first got hired.  After listening to him speak I have some respect for him as a coach and leader of young athletes.  He almost has a Rhoads like charisma in which he fumbles over words and doesn't appear to be a used-car salesmen.  He also has the ability to relate to the players.  He took the job when it appeared no one else wanted it.  As a player I can respect that.

3) Non-conference scheduling will be crucial.  No longer will Penn State be playing the Alabama's of the world.  Bring in the no names and get the W's.  When the Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule they should still be entering league play at 3-0.

4) No bowl games?  No problem.  This point somewhat contradicts my previous thought, but follow along.  Look at USC.  What do they do when they can't go to a bowl game?  Go to Hawaii and play the Rainbow Warriors.  Is there really a better place to travel for a meaningless bowl game?  Better yet, schedule it at the end of the season!  Treat that game as your bowl game.  A reward to the players who stuck it out.

5) Penn State football is like a cult.  Ultimately, why they got where they did.  However, going forward I think they very well could be their biggest help.  BOB kept saying 108,000 fans during his interview with Rece Davis.  He also pointed out unless you are in the NCG its a hell of a lot more fun to play in front of 108,000 fans screaming for you than some bowl game.  Will the fans continue to show up?  I think they could become even more nuts for Penn State.

6) Penn State is in a division with the likes of Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.  Sure Ohio State, also on sanctions, will be back and they will have to compete with Wisconsin as well.  However, stay better than the bottom three and get your non-conference wins and Penn State my friends is bowl eligible.

7) Project 2016.  Make a bowl game in the first year "back".  Red-shirt the incoming recruiting class. Sell them and the future classes on hard work and proving Penn State will be back on the national scene immediately.  Seems catchy, and for some reason do-able.

 I think we are going to see more players stay than anyone thinks.  I will stress I do not approve of anything Penn State did in the past and I don't like their fan base attitude throughout the whole ordeal yet I find myself pulling for the players and Bill O'Brien.  These 18-23 year olds have a free ticket out of town.  An easy way out so to speak.  Those that stay, and those that come this next year knowing they aren't competing for post-season play I will root for.  Am I rooting for Penn State?  No.  I am rooting for the young players that chose to stick to their commitment through incredible adversity.  If Bill O'Brien sells his message and parlays the "us against the world" mentality into momentum Penn State football will be back, maybe as soon as 2016. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

NBA's Straight From HS Drama

The Dwight Howard drama, and the Rockets' unfortunate feeding of it, got me thinking about something.  What do Howard, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have in common?  They're very good, sure, but they've also held the teams that drafted them hostage.  And they all came straight out of high school.

The requirement of one year of college has helped the play of the NBA, and it's also helped in another way - less drama.  Howard has been screwing with the Magic for a year, and if they can't work something out with the Rockets, it'll drag into a second season.  LeBron was constantly bemoaning the collection of talent around him and ultimately left his team in one of the most self absorbed displays in sports history.  The Lakers are constantly trying to keep Kobe happy and nothing is good enough.  Or his fault.  They had to move an in-his-prime, HOF player Shaquille O'Neal because him and Kobe didn't get along.  For these guys, it's about the ME not the TEAM.

Compare this to Kevin Durant, one of the most understated superstars sports has seen in awhile, quietly signing an extension with the small market Thunder.  Or the equally quiet 2011 MVP winner Derrick Rose.  Blake Griffin signed an extension with the perennial doormat Clippers without expressing a desire to explore other possibilities.  The display of respect and class both teams had after the Spurs-Thunder series was moving.  The Spurs are an old team - this year probably being their last, best shot at winning a title, and they could have been bitter.  The Thunder are one of the NBA's youngest teams, and showboating or gloating wouldn't have been unexpected.  When the whistle blew, both teams embraced each other in respect of a truly excellent series of basketball.  All of the Spurs either played college ball or professionally overseas.  Same with OKC, save Kendrick Perkins (who isn't always the most stable).

The college experience seems to help these young, rich, famous athletes stay grounded.  But why?  I'd argue it's a couple of things.  First, a different location takes anyone out of their comfort zone.  Second, even if a freshman shows up and is the best player for the team, they still have to compete against and ultimately with seniors who may have been there for 4 years already.  Lastly, for the first time in their lives, their incredible, individual talents don't necessarily equate to team success.

Let's take Kevin Durant for an example.  Durant is from the Washington D.C. area and then went to college at the University of Texas.  I don't know what his life was like in DC, or where he lived but I know this - Austin, Texas is unlike anywhere else in the country.  It's preppy and laid back, hippie and expensive, high tech and old.  Really an odd, odd confluence of people and attitudes.  Completely different from either the city or suburbs in which he grew up.  Different situations are uncomfortable at first, require work to truly fit in, and are ultimately character building.

Durant showed up at UT as a top 2 recruit.  Perhaps this isn't the best example, because he was immediately the #1 on a team of freshmen and sophomores... or perhaps it is.  Durant was the consensus best player in college basketball, his numbers got better during the Big XII season, and it still wasn't enough.  UT finished third in the regular season standings, didn't win the conference tournament, and got bounced in the second round of the NCAAs.  Not a spectacular season for the team, but it's exactly where he found himself with the Sonics/Thunder.  Great player on a terrible, young team.  But they are growing up together and learning to win together.  He could have left and had his pick of cities, but chose to stay in the midwest.

Maybe Kevin Durant is an anomaly.  Maybe he never wanted the bright lights.  But his best friend is Michael Beasley, who has had a rocky road through the pros.  There are contradictions to my theory, sure. Like Carmelo Anthony, similarly a one-and-done player but also a pain in the ass.  There are plenty of players that went to college and cause problems but I can't think of one straight from high school player that is the consummate professional.  Amare Stoudemire might come closest, but he still has his ups and downs.  Lamar Odom is a train wreck.  Andrew Bynum is talent unrealized, and a player I hope the Rockets do NOT get. I guess Tyson Chandler has been pretty quiet bouncing around the league, but that's my only example of the converse.

The one year of college rule is the best thing David Stern has done for the NBA.  Teams have a better way to evaluate talent and fans know the players.  It is a win-win.  It's effect on the college game isn't quite so easy, but I'd say it's been positive too.  The level of play in the pros raises every year, and so does the professionalism.  Better skill and less whining makes the NBA more appealing and more profitable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mike Leach "Swing Your Sword" - my take

I read Mike Leach's book a little differently.  There's so much talk of leadership these days, and so little demonstration of it, that I'm always looking for examples.  Usually the easiest, simplest approach to something produces the best results, and Leach exemplifies that.  Coaches make coaching look hard, perhaps as a barrier to entry, perhaps it's an ego thing.  Most seem to like the idea of beating your head into a brick wall to try to knock it down.  Leach identified early on it's much easier and simpler to go around the wall or over it.

Work smarter, not harder.  Everyone says it.  Few people actually follow their own advice.  It takes an analytical mind and a little bit of time to identify a smarter way to work.  Most people dismiss this step.  The impatient always want to DO SOMETHING.  Leach writes that problems are solved taking small, smart steps that have a likely positive result.  His offenses might have racked up large numbers, but it was the small plays that got them there.  Simple routes, simple reads, lots of options.  Leach refuses to box himself in by down and distance.  If a play is good somewhere on the field, it's good anywhere.  It doesn't have to be difficult.  Apply the same solution to as many problems as possible.

Leach promotes an atmosphere conducive to creativity and sharing.  He discourages group solutions because group-think eliminates unique and novel ideas.  Again, every corporation and college and collaboration in between say they promote this through "entrepreneurship" and other catch phrases, but the safe approach is always the one done before.  Leach lets his coaching staff (and graduate assistants) know that not every idea will be used.  Unique ideas, just like tired, used ideas, aren't all great.  As long as the collaborators don't take this  personally and continue to contribute, this is indeed the most effective way to arrive at solutions.  In this way, Leach was molded by those he coached under.  Working with Hal Mumme in an incubator of ideas allowed Mike Leach the time to develop his own style and prove it before being absorbed by big boy old-school football at Oklahoma.  If he'd tried to make the jump sooner, maybe he would have been indoctrinated with three yards and a cloud of dust like too many other coaches.

Players are obviously the most important part to a coach's success and Leach has defined ways to get the most out of them too.  He writes of giving everyone a chance.  Seems obvious, but his example is especially impressive - Wes Welker.  Welker wasn't recruited out of high school, even though his tape was great.  Welker came to Tech but no one was a believer.  Pretty soon, his peers recognized he was the best on the team.  Because he was overlooked coming out of high school, Welker was determined.  Again, Welker was disregarded going from college to the NFL.  Pretty soon, he was the best receiver on the Dolphins and then the Super Bowl winning Patriots.  If Leach doesn't give this kid a chance, it's possible he isn't in the NFL.  What's amazing is this perennial pro-bowler wasn't even drafted.  Everyone deserves a chance.  Talent will show itself pretty quickly.  Looking at measurables and stats is easy.  Auditioning people in person is hard and time consuming, but it is the true show of skill.  Leach, like all successful leaders, found talent that others had passed over.  He had to.  But that he was so successful should demonstrate its importance.

Mike Leach is ultimately a true coach.  The difference between coaching and teaching may seem trivial, but teaching implies starting from scratch - giving someone completely new information.  Coaching involves identifying talent, improving that talent and ultimately applying it to solve a problem.  This is Leach's gift.  He's taken every difficult situation and succeeded, often spectacularly.  He didn't do it through the most gifted athletes but through a system that preached simplicity and execution.  Anyone can coach - teachers, supervisors, parents - and be successful by being open to all people and ideas.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Texans 2012 Draft Recap

The Texans looked to address some needs and added some depth in the 2012 draft.  I'm still surprised they didn't look at a tackle.  They must feel strongly about Rashad Butler. He hasn't been a starter before, but has played alright as a backup.  The position is really thin right now.  I still like picking tackles, then letting them slide to guard if they don't pan out.

Now that the Texans are good, they've found themselves with players that fit their systems nicely.  Because they're up against the salary cap, they're now finding in-kind replacements for players.  It's the cliche that great organizations don't rebuild, they reload. 

The Texans have also started targeting players that have fallen because of injury or suspension.  They're looking for first or second round value in the middle rounds.  I'm glad to see they've come off their stance that players have to be squeeky clean, it opens up the available pool greatly.

1st Round - Whitney Mercilus - DE - Illinois
Mercilus will play rush linebacker in the Texans 3-4.  I haven't heard much bad about this player, except that he only produced one year.  With redshirts and most good players leaving as soon as they can, I don't think it'll be unusual for players to only have one good year of production.  Especially at positions like this, athleticism trumps experience.  

Quarterback pressure was a skill for the Texans last year, but they've added another rush specialist.  I think there are a couple things at play here.  One, more pressure on the QB takes it off the cornerbacks.  I don't think the CBs were any better last year, they just didn't have to defend as long.  (Another reason I think they should keep trying for more corners.)  Also, look at the quarterbacks in the division - Andrew Luck, Colts, Jake Locker, Titans, and Blaine Gabbart, Jags.  Their pre-snap reads and progression reads won't be very good, especially with a hand in their face.  Like this pick.  Replaces Mario Williams.

3rd Round - DeVier Posey - WR - Ohio State
Posey will replace Jacoby Jones on the depth chart, but I'd imagine they'd like to see him line up outside opposite Andre Johnson.  I like Kevin Walter as a slot receiver better than a wide-out so if this works, it'd be a great win for the Texans.  I wasn't so sure about trading out of the second round, but they made the extra 3rd and 4th round picks work.  

Obviously, the Texans don't think they need a second impact receiver on the team.  I'm worried about this because Johnson is getting old.  He missed a bunch of time last year, so it would have been nice to see them go for a 1a type guy.  They thought Posey would have gone higher without the memorabilia thing so this was a value pick for them.

3rd Round - Brandon Brooks - G - Miami
Brooks is a big, big boy.  Somewhere between 340 and three hundred and seventy pounds.  He isn't the prototypical zone-blocking guard.  Way too big.  Most are closer to 300 pounds.  But at 6'5", he could drop weight and still be a load.  My guess here is they try him at right tackle (not sure if he played any tackle in college or not).  Really no loss here.  If he works, they can start him at a pretty important position.  If he doesn't, he should still be able to compete at the guard spots.  Didn't care for it at first, because I thought they should try for a tackle, but this just might work.

4th Round - Ben Jones - C - Georgia
Another pick I didn't understand at first.  The Texans signed Chris Meyers to an extension in the off season. Jones sure looks like a specific fit at center.  Prototypical size for a center, started about 50 games at center in college.  I think they'l try to stretch this pick too, and work him at guard.  Perhaps they felt he didn't need any coaching up at center, which would free all his time to work at guard.  If this is indeed the case, the pick is very solid.  However, if Jones ends up as a single position backup, this pick would be very disappointing, considering the Texans had only taken one guaranteed starter before him.

4th Round - Keyshawn Martin - WR - Michigan St.
First off, great GREAT name for a wide receiver.  I'm inclined to endorse this pick on that alone.  The Texans cut Jacoby Jones and Martin has a lot of experience at punt returner.  That he has a chance to make the depth chart as a third receiver is icing.  A "starter," even in special teams is a good pick for the fourth round.  Consider too that the Texans may go for more four receiver sets after the loss of second tight end Joel Dreesen.  Martin could see the field right off the bat.

4th Round - Jared Crick - DT - Nebraska
Hate the Cornhuskers, love this pick.  Crick was a huge name a couple years ago.  Great drafting teams identify talent, and Crick had it.  Slowed by injuries, this pick has the possibility to be a HUGE steal.  He'll play DE in the 3-4, opposite JJ Watt.  And wow, he's got size like Watt, 6'6" and 285, these guys could anchor (pun intended) the line for years to come.  Love this pick in the 4th.  Great possibility to come in and push out Antonio Smith this year, saving the team some cash.

5th Round - Randy Bullock - K - Texas A&M
Well, there's got to be one.  Kubes (that's what I call him), loves him some Aggies.  And this portly fellow is as Aggie as they come.  Zero other kickers on the roster, so I guess he's got the job.  I don't remember him making big kicks or knocking them in from 50 yards.  TAMU fans don't either.  Best case situation, he's a perfectly invisible kicker.  Worst case, he makes it through the summer as the kicker and destroys the Texans season in a meltdown.  At least they didn't draft him in the 3rd???

6th Round - Nick Mondek - T - Purdue
Last year's seventh round pick, a tackle, is still on the roster, so who knows?  Numbers show a good size, wasn't graded to be drafted.  Texans haven't had any luck with their late round picks in general, and lineman specifically.  It was too late to try to take a right tackle to compete.  An incumbent backup will always beat a sixth round selection (cue plate of crow?) so I'm not expecting much.  Would have liked a project in the defensive secondary to come in and work in Wade's system.  I pretty much view Wade as a defensive miracle worker - if anyone could make an undersized, 4.4 type cornerback work, it would be him.

Closing Thoughts / How I Predicted
The safe way to draft, as I see it, is from the football out.  Quarterback, if you need one, then offensive line, defensive line, then running backs, linebackers, then skill players, then special teams contributors.  The lines contribute every play, and are cheaper in the long run, especially if the pick doesn't work out.  That said, there are a couple positions that can contribute, even if they are misses - offensive tackle and cornerback.  Tackles can play the left side or right side, and can drop down to guard.  It might be embarrassing to pick a tackle early and have them drop to guard, but at least they can contribute for years.  Same with cornerbacks, most safeties started as cornerback prospects that dropped to safety.  I assume, I'm not looking it up.

Well, so how did the Texans do?  Fine.  Much like they do every year.  Solid picks, nothing that rocks the Richter scale.  Unfortunately, no one that makes pro bowls either.  Every pick has a chance to make the depth chart, but no one would be surprised if none did.  I guess the great teams build on solid drafts, but the Texans don't have the benefit of the doubt.  One decent season does not make a great team.  They don't get the benefit of the doubt yet.

I missed on the first round.  I thought they'd take an offensive tackle, and also didn't think they'd address linebacker depth in the first round.  They didn't take a CB, which I thought would have been a good and safe pick.  Also, I think they're getting assumptive thinking they can pull a fullback out of free air.  Either TE or FB or both will be thin or weak this year.

What did I nail?  Two WR.  One as a returner, only it seems the Texans were more serious about filling this need.  Guard (tackle) - I hope they'll try Brooks at tackle, but he should compete for either guard spot if not.  The need I saw at linebacker was for depth so I don't completely understand the first pick.  I thought there'd be a chance they'd take a DE and they did.  I win, I guess.

Solid, unspectacular draft for the Texans.  Nothing here likely makes them better this year.  Again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Texans 2012 Draft Outlook

It's draft time again!  And with that, some predictions.  After too many Gary Kubiak drafts, a few things are certain.  He will draft safely - no skill players in the first round, no trading up, no reaches for potential until 5th at the earliest.  He will draft players I haven't heard of - of course last year J.J. Watt worked out pretty well, and Duane Brown before that.  He will draft at least one TE.  He will draft small, quick WR or CB in the late rounds that won't even compete for the return spot.

IF he strayed from this at all, Houston would be a happy place.  And with the talent base they have FINALLY built, its time for the to take some risks to get a playmaker.  But I don't think they will, and my picks below reflect that.

Traded DeMeco Ryans
Free Agency Mario Williams
Released Eric Winston
Released Lawrence Vickers
Released Matt Leinart

Free Agency Mike Brisiel
Free Agency Jason Allen
Free Agency Joel Dreesen

Pick ups
Re-signed RB Arian Foster
Re-signed Chris Myers
Signed Quintin Demps
Signed Brady James
Re-Signed Tim Dobbins

The Texans had some major losses over the off-season, but I'm not concerned about the "big" one.  Mario could have been a nice player, but the cost would have been too high.  Even with the nice start to last season, he's always been more potential than production.  Brooks Reed and Conner Barwin kept the pressure up in his absence.  With Wade Phillips ability to find defensive talent, the Texans should be able to find some depth in the draft.

I'm afraid DeMeco Ryans will be quite missed.  When he missed time in 2010, the defense fell apart.  He called the plays and was captain of the team.  What's truly sad is that even though he was hurt, he was playing the most physical football of his career.  He was playing with a swagger and HITTING people.  Now he'll be replaced with Brian Cushing who has struggled with the additional burden of play calling in the past or Tim Dobbins.  Dobbins was with Phillips for a year in San Diego, maybe Wade knows something we don't.

Losing two-fifths of your offensive line is an issue.  While none of the linemen were elite, they were obviously  a great group together.  Rashard Butler was a utility lineman, able to fill in anywhere, which is very beneficial, allowing the other lineman to continue playing their given positions.

The Texans lost their FB for a second straight year.  They're getting risky with a very important offensive position to them.  They also lost Joel Dreesen, a very solid 2nd TE who played a lot with the two TE sets, and effective backup for Owen Daniels.  They've tried finding others in the draft and haven't been effective.

Here's what I think they'll look at, in order.
Offensive tackle - you wouldn't take a guard with the first pick, so I'll assume they look for a tackle early.
Wide Receiver (again) - it seems every year this position is on the list.  The Texans inexplicably kept Jacoby Jones around, let's hope they don't feel that's enough.
Cornerback (again) - every year for this one too.  Need someone (anyone) to keep Kareem Jackson from starting.
Guard - 4th round would be appropriate here, and should still be able to compete to start.
Linebacker - The Texans can use depth at both inside and outside linebacker.
Fullback - James Casey won't cut it as a full-time fullback.
Tight End - Kubiak loves drafting tight ends so I imagine we'll see one somewhere
Wide Receiver - I figure there'll be a couple WRs drafted, with one later to compete for a return job

Other possibilities -
Defensive tackle - at some point, the Texans will look for a proper 3-4 nose tackle.
Quarterback - Kubiak likes to draft a QB every year or two, but I'm not feeling it this year with the way T.J. Yates played last year
Defensive End - I've never thought Antonio Smith was a long-term play.  They could look for another another young DE/OLB
Safety - I can't remember when the Texans have drafted a safety, so I doubt it will happen this year.  It seems the smart play would be to draft cornerbacks and linebackers and drop them to safety if it doesn't work out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

ISU Faces Brutal Draw

Well, crap.  ISU found themselves in that dreaded 8/9 matchup.  Thats tough.  Facing the defending National Champions?  Ouch.  Lets look at how Fred Hoiberg's first trip to the tournament is shaping up.

Danny Sheridan Line-- UCONN by 2
Kenpom-- ISU by 1
Tourney Challenge-- 69.5 pct have picked UCONN

How we got here...

Its been mentioned numerous times that Connecticut is the defending national champ.  A championship caliber team typically doesn't end up in the 8/9 matchup and this is no exception.  To be honest, Iowa State has the better resume.  UConn at times was on tournament life support and won games at the right time just to get into the field.  Connecticut is a team many picked to repeat as champs because of two NBA lottery picks in Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond.  However, chemistry and playing team basketball has not always been their forte.  Many have criticized this team of playing AAU basketball and the results have shown.

Iowa State struggled to find chemistry early in the year and needed a pep talk from former Cyclone Dedric Willoboughy to get things turned around.  The 3rd place team in the Big 12 typically doesn't end up in the 8/9 matchup by I guess thats where Iowa State lands.  Using the "eye-test" would show Iowa State is playing better than their seed indicates.  Iowa State has really only struggled in 3 conference games.  In those games they struggled to find their shot, yet in two of them still had a chance to win the game.  This matchup, to me, resembles more of the 4/5 second (third) round matchup.

Why Connecticut will win...

  • Connecticut has size down low.  If they are able to control the boards and get offensive rebounds ISU may be in trouble.  Iowa State's defense has never been accused of being stingy and allowing Connecticut to get 2nd chance points will dramatically decrease their chances.  
  • Chris Babb will keep one of the guards in check.  That will most likely be Jeremy Lamb.  Connecticut will win if the "other" guard goes off, most likely Shabazz Napier.  Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen are by no means lock-down defenders.  If Bubu Palo contributes significant minutes it is because their guards are going off.  Palo doesn't contribute much offensively.  Advantage UCONN.
  • Its better to be lucky than good.  At least that is what I have heard.  UCONN has been known for not defending the 3 this year.  ISU will get those shots.  If they aren't going in it could be a long day for the Cyclones.
Why the Cyclones will win...

  • They score 70 or more points.  Iowa State has only lost one game this year when scoring more than 70.  UCONN may shoot a higher percentage but not enough to compensate for Iowa State's 3 point attempts.
  • Connecticut's 3 point defense has been poor this season.  That makes ISU salivate.  If they right people are getting the right looks the Cyclones will win.  Attention Royce:  You are not a 3 point shooter.
  • Royce White will stay out of foul trouble.  Iowa State doesn't need him to score.  They need him to rebound and distribute.  In road and neutral games Royce is averaging over 12 rebounds a game.  
  • Chris Babb will disrupt Jeremy Lamb.  It has been amazing to watch his defense all year.  If Lamb can't get his share who will pick up the slack?  
Looking Ahead...

The winner is lucky enough to get Kentucky (most likely) in the "3rd round".  Goody!  Interesting enough Kentucky's only really vulnerable to teams that can shoot it and have a decent big guy.  See: Iowa State.  Do I think Iowa State can take them?  I've seen crazier things, but they have to get there first.  This regional sets up very nicely for the winner of this four-team tourney.  I am not too scared of Witchita State and Indiana.  That could set up a regional final with Duke?  I honestly think the winner of this four-team pod, no matter who, goes on to the Final Four.

The Pick...

Iowa State could get absolutely slaughtered Thursday night.  Everyone is picking UCONN.  However, the motto for all things ISU this year has been "expect the unexpected".  Whether its beating the #2 team in football or beating Kansas at home in basketball this university has experienced some of the greatest games in their history.  Why not add another one or two to that list?

Iowa State 73 Connecticut 68

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Selection Sunday is Here!

It has been seven LONG years since Selection Sunday has meant something to Cyclone fans.  The last time ISU was in POSTSEASON play was in 2005 when I was a senior in high school.  They got put in the dreaded 8/9 matchup and escaped the first round only to get drubbed by eventual national champion-North Carolina.  As Yogi Bera would say "Deja Vu all over again?" Let's hope not.

Iowa State is once again staring that 8/9 matchup square in the face.  This is not a good year to possibly face the likes of Kentucky/Syracuse or UNC in the 3rd round.  Unfortunately, the two most vulnerable one and two seeds are from the Big XII so it limits ISU's potential for a "good" matchup in Round 3.  Yes, I realize there is a very real possibility that ISU doesn't even win the 2nd round matchup.  As Scotty C says "We aren't in this for a participation award."  Are all of the bracketologists correct?  Let's look at the facts.

Iowa State:
Record: 22-10
RPI: 33
Top 50: 5-7
SOS: 42

Lets look at some of the team's in position for the #7 seed.

New Mexico:
Record: 26-6
RPI: 30
Top 50: 6-3
SOS: 103

Saint Mary's
Record: 25-5
RPI: 29
Top 50: 4-3
SOS: 113

San Diego State
Record: 24-7
RPI: 28
Top 50: 6-6
SOS: 67

Record: 25-6
RPI: 25
Top 50: 6-4
SOS: 81

IF the committee truly uses the "eye test" ISU should get a bump over one of these teams.  I just don't see them getting seeded below all of them.  Maybe these teams are competing for an 8 seed?  Honestly right now, with the exception of the Texas game, ISU is playing 5 or 6 seed basketball.  Hopefully the committee takes note and gets them in the 7/10 matchup.

My prediction:  Iowa State will be the 7 seed in the East Region and play against Purdue.  This is a hopeful prediction.  Hopefully Lunardi is wrong.  6.5 more hours!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

NCAA Tourney Seeding Process May Yield Several Mistakes

According to the BPI found on ESPN Insider here is what the S-Curve should look like by their standards.

SeedFirst rowSecondThirdFourth
2Michigan StateKansasDukeMISSOURI*
3Wichita StateMEMPHISBaylorWisconsin
8TempleCaliforniaFlorida StateIowa State
9ConnecticutMURRAY STATEBELMONTCincinnati
10San Diego StateARIZONA*SAINT MARY'SMiami (FL)
12Southern MissNorth Carolina StateBrigham YoungLa Salle
13VCUNorthwestern/XavierSeton Hall/IonaNEW MEXICO STATE*

You can see that there is some discrepancy between some of our "expert" bracketologists and these rankings.  These rankings take the entire season into account.  Unfortunately it looks like the BPI is consistent with other predictions for the Cyclones.  I am really hoping they can get off that 8/9 line.  ESPN also looked at the most overseeded and underseeded teams.

Overseeded teamProjected seedBPI seedUnderseeded teamProjected seedBPI seed
Florida State48Saint Louis84
Saint Mary's710Texas127
San Diego State710Belmont149
You will see once again that the computers are loving Texas.  I'm not sure about a "7" seed for them when Iowa State appears to have a much better resume and is projected for an 8.  I guess Texas did go 2-1 against ISU.  I can see Michigan being seeded well above their ability.  I could even see them bowing out early.  Florida State kind of puzzles me.  Maybe the computers can see through Duke and UNC and know that those wins weren't as good as they seemed.

Just a little food for thought when the brackets are revealed tomorrow afternoon.