Friday, March 27, 2009

Random Sports Trivia

Great site to kill time and test your sports knowledge

Resurrecting a Powerhouse: Tom Crean After Year One

On April 1, 2008, Tom Crean inherited an Indiana University program in complete disarray. A year later, Crean and the Hoosiers hit rock bottom with a 6-25 season, the worst in history for a program with five national championships to its credit. So why do things seem so hopeful back home in Indiana?

Crean has been hailed as the savior of IU basketball. It has been a long and painful decline for the Hoosiers since 2002, when Mike Davis took an experienced squad of Bobby Knight recruits to the NCAA title game after the incredible upset of a loaded Duke team.

Since that day, Indiana hasn't advanced beyond the second round of the tournament. This is a school, let me remind you, that has historically dominated the Big Ten under Knight and Branch McCracken.

After suffering through the mediocrity of the Davis years and the disaster that Kelvin Sampson's regime became, Hoosier fans are desperate for a return to glory. There is no doubt that Indiana has some of the most devoted followers in the country. Even this year, fans showed up in droves to watch a squad full of freshmen and juco retreads (oh, and Kyle Taber!) lose game after game to such traditional powers as Northeastern, Northwestern, and everyone in between. Even Lipscomb took down the Baby Hoosiers.

Can Crean resurrect this team? Personally, I am a believer.

The new coach's first recruiting class, granted, was not amazing. Mike Davis brought in guys like D.J. White and Bracey Wright, although some of his best commitments never made it to campus (I'm thinking of Atlanta's Josh Smith in particular). Kelvin Sampson made waves around the country when he convinced Eric Gordon to ditch Illinois in favor of his home state school.

Crean, in contrast, brought in players like Tom Pritchard, Verdell Jones, and Nick Williams. These are talented guys, but nobody expects them to end up in the NBA like White and Gordon.

However, the way that this young team played last year gives cause for hope. Where Davis and Sampson's teams seemed apathetic half the time (I remember one game where Marshall Strickland was texting from the locker room while trailing at halftime at Northwestern), Crean's kids played hard all season long, and mostly showed improvement as the year passed.

Importantly, these guys will be spending four years wearing the cream and crimson. Gordon left after just one. Smith never made it to town.

Indiana fans really respond to hard work and dedication. The blue collar ethic of Crean resonates with people in the state, most of whom still openly worship Bob Knight. His honesty (and he better be honest, as IU's NCAA monitors are on alert for even the tiniest slip) is crucial for a program that cannot afford any more Sampsonesque screwups.

Next year, Crean is bringing in a top-ten recruiting class. G Jordan Hulls just led his Bloomington South team to an undefeated season and an Indiana state championship. He will join highly regarded swingmen Christian Watford and Maurice Creek in a backcourt already loaded with rising sophmores Jones and Williams, as well as the team's leading scorer in Devan Dumes (who will be a senior).

Most importantly, though, is the incoming size for Indiana. Forwards Derek Elston, Bobby Capobianco, and Bawa Muniru will allow Williams to move back to his natural position at shooting guard (he has been playing the 4 for the size-deficient Hoosiers) and should get serious minutes right away.

Crean has already proved that he can get young guys to compete hard in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten. With this year's class seasoned and ready to win, the six new players will be stepping into a young but veteran organization.

Fan support remained high throughout this season, the worst in Indiana history. The Crean era already looks golden in comparison to the train wreck that was 2007.

Crean has proved that he can stay positive throughout tough times and motivate his players to compete hard. Next year, he will have at least twice as much talent to work with, and should continue to bring in good players year after year.

The expectation next year is of a competitive season and a team around .500, which is attainable. An NIT berth would be nice. After that, I think Crean will be ready for his grace period to end, and I expect that Indiana will return to the Big Dance in 2011 with a skilled and well rounded team of sophomores and juniors.

After this difficult season, all that Indiana fans expect is steady improvement and a gradual return to the limelight of college basketball. Just as important, Hoosier nation expects a coach that will keep their program honest. Crean and his team look ready to grow into the giant shoes of Knight, McCracken, Isiah Thomas, and all the other legends that have played in Bloomington.

Weekend Watch 03/27/09

Alright some quick thoughts on the tourney last night before the weekend watch. (AP Photo)

Purdue vs UConn

I thought this game was going to be better then it was. The two things I really noticed about the game;

Purdue's shooting was off all night. I commented a few days ago that Purdue was capable of winning, but the way they were shooting last night, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

UConn’s size was a bigger factor than Purdue’s speed. Purdue did play pretty solid defense all night, but UConn’s size was throwing off their shots the entire night. I thought Purdue did play well all in all, but UConn’s size and PU's lack of shooting is why they couldn’t win. UConn has still been the best looking team in the tournament thus far.

I was very upset with CBS last night. I realize that they think the entire country loves Duke, but come on, the Memphis vs Missouri game was the game I was looking forward to more then any of the tournament. Illinois borders Missouri so I see no reason we should not have gotten this game. Luckily I had my computer so I just watched it on there.

The game itself was fantastic, with the fast paced action that I had anticipated. The “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” worked well most the night until they took their foot off the gas a little and let Memphis back in the game. I was glad to see the fight in Memphis and not giving up even though Mizzou was beating them. This game was fantastic.

Random thought about Glendale. I know the early game only kicked off about 30 minutes before the Boston early game, but why wasn’t this reversed. It was 5 o’clock local time on a work night. Compared to 7 o’clock in Boston. The extra half hour would have given people more time to get their and enjoy the game. I noticed the stadium did fill up a lot more later.


Man did Pitt look bad. If they don’t come out and go on that run in the 2nd half there is no way they win that game. They worry the heck out of me now. They can look as solid as any team out there but they seem to play down to their competition.

Nova continues to look like the best team in the region. They look so good, in fact, it almost makes you forget they were losing for a long stretch in their opening round game against American. Pitt vs Nova should be a good matchup. I think Blair should have a good game against the Nova front court.


NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: 7 EST CBS

Lots of good games tonight! The one that I am circling is Michigan St vs Kansas. Izzo vs Self. Old vs Young. Kansas has been playing fantastic all year even though they lost a lot of talent. They have played better as the year went on and they gained more experience. I think MSU’s experience will carry them through this game.

Who I want to win: Michigan State (for big ten love)
Who I think will win: Michigan State

Here’s what else is on the schedule.

Syracuse vs Okalahoma. I am really excited to see the 2-3 vs Blake Griffin.

Who I want to win: Oklahoma
Who I think will win: Syracuse

Gonzaga vs North Carolina: I have heard this is the best defensive team Few has ever had at Gonazaga. Can they stop T? How healthy is Lawson?

Who I want to win: Gonzaga (Take that Fodor)
Who I think will win: North Carolina

Louisville vs Arizona: The number 1 over seed vs the last team in. I think this game will be close.

Who I want to win: Louisville
Who I think will win: Louisville

New Jersey Devils at Chicago Blackhawks: 8:30 EST CSN

The last time these two faced, Martin Brodeur set the record for the most wins by a goaltender. The Blackhawks are limping down the stretch and need every point they can get to stay in front of Vancouver. They have been playing better since Sharp, Havlat and Khabibulin have been back. Hopefully they can keep playing better. Playing at home should help.

Who I want to win: Blackhawks
Who I think will win: Devils


NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: 4:30 – 9 EST CBS

The regional will be upon us with a ticket to the final four on the line.

UConn vs Missouri: Missouri has done nothing but win this march, but they haven’t seen a team with the size of UConn. As I said earlier in the article I think that UConn has played better then every team in the tournament. Will (screw it I’m using the cooler term) 40 minutes of hell allow Missouri to top UConn. I don’t know, but me and my bracket sure hope so.

Who I want to win: Mizzou
Who I think will win: Connecticut

Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls: 8 EST CSN

The Bulls just passed the Pistons for the 7th seed in the east. I don’t think it will matter if the Bulls play the Cavs or the Celtics they will probably lose. The Bulls looked pretty bad the last time these two played and the Pacers didn’t even have their best player in Danny Granger. This time they will be at home.

Who I want to win: Bulls
Who I think will win: Bulls

World Cup Qualifier: El Salvador vs USA 9 EST ESPN2

Yes soccer. I know not that exciting for most Americans, but I enjoy soccer, especially when nations compete. This most likely won’t be much of a game as the US has outscored El Salvador 16-0 in the teams last six meetings.

Who I want to win: USA
Who I think will win: USA


Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 1:30 EST FOX

NASCAR reappearing on the Weekend Watch! This race is at Martinsville. In case you didn’t know Martinsville is .5 mile race track. That means lots of bumping and pushing and crashed. I always enjoy the short track races for many reasons. Even if you aren’t a NASCAR fan, I think you will enjoy this race. You should watch it.

Who I want to win: Terry Labonte
Who I think will win: Jeff Gordon

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: 3-7 EST CBS

I will Update and give a full preview once the field is set.

Bull at Raptors: 3:30 EST WGN

Derrick Rose and Company head north of the border to play Chris Bosh and the Raptors. Another game they need to ensure their playoff spot.

Who I want to win: Bulls

Who I think will win: Raptors

Vancouver at Chicago 7 EST CSN

This is more then likely going to be the first round matchup in the playoffs. If either team could get a out right win that would be huge for them getting home ice advantage in the first round. I would like to see the Hawks get at least 1 point out of this game but 2 would be ideal. Again, being at home should help

Who I want to win: Blackhawks
Who I think will win: Blackhawks

Dear Digger and Dickie: Calm Down!

Wasn't going to post again before bed, but I'm watching ESPN and oh my goodness, do Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale hate each other? Digger is turning lobster red, Hubert is glistening from the spittle flying from either direction... this is getting pretty worrying, man.

Hey, old guys, settle down! Somebody's going to have a heart attack if this keeps up!

I can't really tell what this fight is about. Umm, is Pittsburgh playing well right now? Is Villanova better than East Tennessee State, Oklahoma State, and Xavier? Hold on, they're back.

Apparently, Digger has made something of a habit of this.

Dickie has veins popping out by his eyes. Okay, I give up. Seriously, guys, you need to last through this tournament. Doug Gottlieb is too busy on ESPNews to come sub for you!

By the way, congratulations to Missouri and Villanova for pulling off the minor upsets tonight. 'Nova walked all over Duke, and Mizzou pulled out to a comfy lead before realizing that they didn't know what to do with it. For the second game in a row, they slowed down and let their opponent (last game, Marquette) pull back into the game before sealing it in the closing minutes.

Between that worrying habit and some pretty average FT shooting, I'm nervous for this UConn game. Missouri and Connecticut have never played before! Thanks, SportsCenter guys. Nice to get some useful information instead of geriatrics howling at each other.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's Basketball Thursday, Baby

The best cure for the blues is coming home from work and finding that not only are the Sweet Sixteen games in full swing, but the Bulls are playing D-Wade's Miami Heat on TNT at the same time!

I was planning on doing laundry and getting my life in order, but how can you turn away from that kind of basketball love? For the record, I've got Missouri beating Memphis tonight and am super excited for this game, and the Bulls are leading the Heat with Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah playing well at the same time.

Mizzou up 5-0 a minute into the game, and Calipari is already crying to the refs about a lack of respect for his team. Is there any team in any sport in the world that 'gets no respect' more often than Memphis?

Picture from Get ready to see a lot more like it in 2010. Come on home, Dwyane. You know you want to play with Derrick Rose. Speaking of D-Rose, he's gotta be a little salty that he can't watch his Memphis Tigers right now.

By the way, I really enjoyed the New York Times' sports section today. A bunch of really awesome articles on;

DeJuan Blair and his amazing, Barkley-esque posterior.

Missouri's "Fastest 40 Minutes In College Basketball" (aka "No, we won't use Hell to describe something here in the Bible Belt!").

Bill Raftery being a great announcer.

The Times has the world's best sportswriting, ESPN (and Armchair Superstar... hah!) included.

T Kevin Shaffer: The Newest Bear

The Bears didn't wait until the draft to address their gaping hole at tackle, adding this fine-looking young fellow to the squad today. Kevin Shaffer is 29 and has played for the Atlanta Falcons (with current Bear Roberto Garza) and more recently for the Cleveland Browns.

He has 46 more career starts than the Bears' other O-line signee, Frank Omiyale.

I looked up Shaffer's Madden ratings (obviously the best way to see if he's any good or not!) and he is an 89 overall. Sweet. He's apparently a balanced pass and run blocker, scoring 90 and 91 in those categories with solid scores around the 'strength' and 'footwork' categories, and an 85 Impact Block score (how often he pancakes opponents).

Bears first-rounder Chris Williams only rated a 79 last season, and John St. Clair, who is basically job-swapping with Shaffer in Cleveland, was a 74.

Way to go, Jerry Angelo. I give this move a solid 7.5 on the one-to-ten GM Moves Scale.

(FYI: A "1" would be something like, umm, "Cade McNown," whereas a "10" would be "getting Randy Moss for a fourth-rounder.")

Welcome to Chicago, Kevin! Glad to have you here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Three Games to Watch - Upset Alert

You know, I've been debating over what exactly to write about this week. The tournament is in full swing, but it seems as though everyone and their mom is doing previews, commentary, postgame analysis, and so on and so forth. There are a lot of really good articles out there.

By the way, the NIT has been as good as advertised.

While I agonize over what exactly to do a feature piece on, here are my top three matchups for the upcoming Sweet Sixteen.

3. Duke-Villanova (Thursday)

As a North Carolina fan, it's pretty obvious where my rooting interest lies. I would love to see Coach K's Kids get smashed here. Villanova has really looked strong thus far in the tourney. In the first round, they spotted American U. a fourteen-point lead (which prompted some very inadvisable betting by me!) before storming back to win by thirteen. They went on to a wire-to-wire demolition of a pretty good UCLA team. I loved the line by the analyst during this game; 'UCLA looks like a bunch of kids getting worked over by the 30-something team down at the YMCA' [paraphrase].

Meanwhile, Duke wrecked Binghamton in a game that made me wonder why East Tennessee State got stuck with a 16 seed while Binghamton made a 15. Duke hater that I am, I had them going down in the second round to either Minnesota or Texas. As it turned out, the 'Horns almost pulled it off, losing on a shoving call in the last 15 seconds of the game.

I think Villanova's combination of board-crashing and driving ability will flummox a characteristically soft Duke team, and Dante Cunningham will have a field day.

Of course, I've been wrong about almost everything this tourney. Either way, this is a classic Big East/ACC clash that should make for entertaining basketball.

2. Syracuse-Oklahoma (Friday)

Oklahoma is another two seed that I stupidly had falling in the second round. Blake Griffin has continued to run away from the field for Player of the Year honors in the tournament, putting up huge games in both the first and second rounds. Michigan was game, but simply could not keep up with the big fella down low.

Now, Griffin runs into one of the best coaches in college basketball in Jim Boeheim. His Syracuse squad boasts a 2-3 zone that can take away interior power, good guard play with Eric Devendorf and Jonny Flynn, and a solid inside presence (albeit one that can't shoot free throws to save its life) in Arinze Onuaku.

I think Flynn will school Oklahoma's young but talented Willie Warren, and Boeheim will outcoach Jeff Capel, but Griffin is going to be hard to knock out of this tourney. He is playing awfully well.

'Cuse in a nailbiter.

1. Missouri-Memphis (Thursday)

Yeah, that's right, I'm picking every 2-3 matchup but one. Missouri is the last, best hope to rescue my drowning bracket. They meet a potent Memphis team in what I anticipated before the start of the tournament to be one of the best games for fans to watch.

It's 40 Minutes of Hell against Calipari's Drive-and-Kick. Two teams with a lot of great players but not one dominant guy. Tiger against Tiger.

I'm once again taking the 3-seed. That makes all three games. So far, this tourney has been all about chalk, and all those upset picks have landed me in the basement of more pools than I want to talk about!

If that finally changes this round, expect 'Nova, Mizzou, and/or 'Cuse to make it happen.

South Side Irish Parade Cancelled

I know we have a lot of Chicagoans out there, and we are both Sox fans so we love the South Side.

I just heard this announcement. It's a sad day for the South Side Irish

Sweet 16: Who'g going to win the Final Four?

So I was asked this the other day by my buddy Derek, “Who do you think is going to win the Final 4 now?”

Instantly I wanted to say Pitt! You know my bracket selection for champion. But as much as I wanted to say it, I knew I couldn’t. They have underperformed in their first two games. So that got me thinking, of the Final 16 teams competing for a national championship who do I think is going to win?

At first glance UConn and UNC jump out after dominating performances the first weekend. I had raised concerns about both these teams and their lack of a point guard health. Lawson came back and played decent if not pretty well in the second game against an LSU team that I really liked. Part of me wants to say these are my new Championship games, but, these were two #1 seeds. They were supposed to roll in the first weekend. That’s why everyone wants the number 1 seed.

Memphis struggled round one but played well round 2. I kind of have a feeling that the winner of the Mizzou Memphis game will be the team that makes it out of the West Regional. That should be a very fast paced and fantastic game. UConn still worries me without Dyson even though Price has played well. I think Purdue is capable of beating them, but I still am leaning towards UConn winning. I don’t think UConn can keep up with a tempo of either Mizzou or Memphis.

I still don’t trust anyone from the Midwest to win it all. Each team has too many weaknesses. Louisville has played well but they are running into Arizona who is on the eff you guys, nobody believed in us mode right now. MSU and KU should be a fun game. Louisville and MSU are both pretty close to home, I think that will help these team and have then end up facing each other where I think Louisville will win

In the East, where Pitt is, I am worried without the home court crowd ‘Nova won’t be playing as well. I like them to beat Duke, but I wonder how much of their performances dealt with sleeping in their own beds and playing in familiar territory in front of their fans.

The team I feel is playing the best over the weekend was Blake Griffin and co at Oklahoma. Saying that, I think they are too much of a one man team to go all the way. If ‘Cuse is hitting and their 2-3 zone slows Griffin down, do you really trust anyone else to score. This is how I would stop Griffin (Yes a little over the top, but he tried to let go, but Griffin wouldn’t let him. Worth of a T but not ejection) UNC will probably come out of this region but I would feel better if I know Lawson was 100% healthy.

So looking at all of this who do I think is going to win? Crap I don’t know, I guess I’m sticking with Pittsburgh, Sadly.

Who do you thinks going to win. Post Comments and let me know.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SNoffke's Best March Madness Moment

So looking at my bracket I am doing pretty well right now. 14 of my Sweet 16 are still alive. I believe this ties me for my best I have ever done. Jamie has one upped me with a 15 out of 16 and I heard on the radio, that ESPN Radio personality Mike Greenberg is 16 for 16 in his sweet 16.

This got me thinking about what my proudest moment or my best bracket prediction I ever had.

The moment I finally decided was my finest happened during the 2001 NCAA tournament. Now I am not going to lie, I did kind of luck into this situation. As I stated in my Bracket breakdown post, I love picking Ivy League schools; particularly Princeton. Princeton was a 15 seed playing a 2 seed North Carolina. Fearless in my love for picking Princeton I went ahead and predicted the 4th 15 over a 2 upset in history. Did it happen? No. UNC wiped the floor with Princeton. (Interesting to note, 2001 did have a 15 over a 2 when Hampton beat Iowa State).

Now, my love for picking Ivy League schools is only a first round thing for me. So in the second round I had Princeton losing to #7 seed Penn State. Well, Penn State lived up to their part and would be playing UNC. In an shocking up set Penn State ended up beating UNC and advancing to the Sweet 16.

Now you might be asking why is this so impressive? I was in three pools that were roughly 100 people in each of them. Of all 300 pools, I was the only individual who correctly predicted that Penn State would make it to the Sweet 16.

So what was your finest March moment? I want to hear about your greatest bracket predictions ever. Tell us your story in the comments section below.