Archives for December 2008

2009 Mock NBA Draft

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By David K.

To justify that I am not some hack throwing out a random mock draft, consider that I got as many right in my final mock of 2008 as ESPN “expert” Chad Ford, and less than a handful of other mocks on the web had more correct than I did.  Considering I don’t have the “connections” that Ford or some other sites have, that is pretty impressive.  Team needs have not been taken into account with this mock.

1. Oklahoma City- Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma, 6-10, So.
-physical, can put the ball on the floor, owns the boards
Think: Amare Stoudemire

2. *Minnesota- Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain, 6-4, 1990
-great court vision, incredibly unselfish, very mature for a young point guard
Think: a mix of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd

3. Washington- â–² James Harden, SG, Arizona State, 6-5, So.
-great at attacking the hoop, solid outside shooter, can take over a game
Think: Joe Johnson

4. Sacramento- Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn, 7-3, Jr.
-athletic for his size, tremendous shot blocker, improving as a post scorer
Think: Ben Wallace, but six inches taller

5. L.A. Clippers- ▼ Stephen Curry, G, Davidson, 6-2, Jr.     
-unbelievable three-point range and scorer, impressive in first year as point guard
Think: a sharp-shooting Tony Parker

6. Golden State- Damion James, SF, Texas, 6-8, Jr.
-very versatile, averaged 10.3 boards and shot 41% from three last season
Think: Danny Granger

7. Memphis- â–² Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona, 6-10, So.
-lives around the rim, great on the glass, must work on outside game
Think: LaMarcus Aldridge

8. Indiana- Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, Wake Forest, 6-9, Fr.
-all-around skill set from handling the ball to creating his own shot, runs floor well
Think: Travis Outlaw

9. Toronto- Earl Clark, SF, Louisville, 6-8, Jr.
-a point forward type, excels as a penetrater, good rebounder
Think: Lamar Odom

10. Charlotte- Chase Budinger, G/F, Arizona, 6-7, Jr.
-ridiculous athleticism, can stroke it from deep but is sometimes too streaky a shooter
Think: Stephen Jackson

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11. ?New York- Ty Lawson, PG, UNC, 5-11, Jr.
-very quick with the ball, suffocating perimeter defender, leader on the floor
Think: Jameer Nelson

12. =Philadelphia- -Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky, 6-9, So.
-great skill set in the post, very physical, good ball-handler for a big
Think: Kenyon Martin

13. Chicago- Tyreke Evans, SG, Memphis, 6-6, Fr.
-slasher, handles the ball well in transition, needs more consistency with jumper
Think: DeShawn Stevenson

14. Utah- Patty Mills, PG, St. Mary’s, 5-11, So.
-made a name for himself in Olympics playing for Australia, this year’s Stephen Curry
Think: Ramon Sessions

15. Milwaukee- Darren Collison, PG, UCLA, 6-0, Sr.
-great on-the-ball defender, smart decision-maker, can hit three ball
Think: Bobby Jackson

16. New Jersey- â–¼Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy, 6-0, 1989
-tremendous court vision, unselfish, not afraid to take it to the hoop
Think: Kenny Anderson

17. #Minnesota- â–¼Gani Lawal, F, Georgia Tech, 6-8, So.
-low-post threat, solid on the boards, not a great shooter
Think: Brandon Bass

18. Phoenix-  Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee, 6-7, Jr.
-fearless when attacking the hoop, great in transition, must improve outside shooting
Think: Gerald Wallace

19. Dallas- â–² Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse, 6-0, So.
-can take over a game, great range and driver, lock-down perimeter defender
Think: Raymond Felton

20. Detroit- Victor Claver, SF, Spain, 6-10, 1988
-smooth, polished offensive game like most Euro players, not very physical
Think: Adam Morrison

21. &Sacramento- Derrick Brown, F, Xavier, 6-9, Jr.
-amazing athlete, solid on the defensive end, not a big-time scorer
Think: Shawne Williams

22. Portland- Manny Harris, SG, Michigan, 6-5, So.
-a pure scorer from the outside or with his dribble-drive game, can play the point
Think: Sasha Vujacic

23. Denver- Tyler Hansbrough, PF, UNC, 6-9, Sr.
-high basketball IQ, plays with an incredible intensity, nice touch on jump shot
Think: Eduardo Najera

24. +Oklahoma City- James Johnson, F, Wake Forest, 6-9, So.
-can put the ball on the deck and attack the rim, NBA-ready body, inconsistent shooter
Think: Wilson Chandler

25. Atlanta- Eric Maynor, PG, VCU, 6-3, Sr.
-playmaker on the offensive end, a floor general, must become more consistent shooter
Think: Antonio Daniels

26. New Orleans- Sam Young, G/F, Pitt, 6-6, Sr.
-can score from outside or inside, doesn’t take a lot of bad shots, not a great creator
Think: Michael Finley

27. Orlando- â–² Terrence Williams, SF, Louisville, 6-6, Sr.
-very versatile, great passer, solid defender, needs to work on outside shot
Think: Matt Barnes

28. Cleveland- Danny Green, SF, UNC, 6-7, Sr.
-does a little bit of everything, will be a great role player in the NBA
Think: James Posey

29. L.A. Lakers- A.J. Ogilvy, F/C, Vanderbilt, 6-11, So.
-good fundamental low post game on offense, good touch around rim, not very physical
Think: Rasho Nesterovic

30. ^Minnesota- Jerome Jordan, C, Tulsa, 7-0, Jr.
-big time shot blocker, still raw on the offensive end, average at best athleticism
Think: Theo Ratliff

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Second Round
31. Josh Heytvelt, PF, Gonzaga, 6-11, Sr.
32. Vitor Faverani, F/C, Brazil, 7-0, 1988
33. Curtis Jerrells, PG, Baylor, 6-1, Sr.
34. A.J. Price, PG, UConn, 6-2, Sr.
35. Connor Atchley, F/C, Texas, 6-10, Sr.
36. Jeremy Pargo, PG, Gonzaga, 6-2, Sr.
37. Lee Cummard, G/F, BYU, 6-7 Sr
38. Nando de Colo, G, 6-5, France 1987
39. A.J. Abrams, G, 5-11, Texas, Sr.
40. Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette, 6-3, Sr.
41. Taj Gibson, PF, USC, 6-9, Jr.
42. Dionte Christmas, SG, Temple, 6-5, Sr.
43. Miroslav Raduljica, C, Serbia, 7-0, 1988
44. Jeff Pendergraph, PF, Arizona State, 6-10, Sr.
45. Hank Norel, PF, Netherlands, 6-11, 1987
46. Omri Cassipi, SF, Isreal, 6-8, 1988
47. Robert Vaden, SG, UAB, 6-5, Sr.
48. Lester Hudson, PG, UT-Martin, 6-3, Sr.
49. Tyrese Rice, PG, Boston College, 6-1, Sr.
50. Chris Johnson, PF, LSU, 6-11, Sr.
51. Slava Kravtsov, C, Ukraine, 7-0, 1987
52. Jack McClinton, PG, Miami (FL), 6-1, Sr.
53. Josh Carter, G/F, Texas A&M, 6-7, Sr.
54. Wesley Matthews, SG, Marquette, 6-5, Sr.
55. Leo Lyons, PF, Missouri, 6-9, Sr.
56. Joe Ingles, SF, Australia, 6-8, 1987
57. Robert Dozier, F, Memphis, 6-9, Sr.
58. Dante Cunningham, F, Villanova, 6-8, Sr.
59. Jeff Adrien, PF, UConn, 6-7, Sr.
60. Jon Brockman, PF, Washington, 6-7, Sr.

Other First Round talent likely to stay in school:
B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State, 7-0, Fr.
Greg Monroe, C/F, Georgetown, 6-10, Fr.
DeMar DeRozan, SG, USC, 6-6, Fr.
Jrue Holliday, SG, UCLA, 6-4, Fr.
DaJuan Summers, F, Georgetown, 6-8, Jr.
Cole Aldrich, F/C, Kansas, 6-10, So.
Samardo Samuels, PF, Louisville, 6-10, Fr.
Austin Daye, SF, 6-10, Gonzaga, So.
Nick Calathes, G, Florida, 6-5, So.
Kyle Singler, F, Duke, 6-8, So.
Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke, 6-5, Jr.
Wayne Ellington, SG, UNC, 6-4, Jr.
Raymar Morgan, G/F, Michigan State, 6-7, Jr.
Dwayne Collins, PF, Miami Fl, 6-8, Fr.

#Minnesota gets Miami’s ’09 1st round pick (top ten protected) via Ricky Davis trade
*Clippers get Minnesota’s ’09 1st round pick (top ten protectred) via Marko Jaric trade
+Thunder gets Spurs’ ’09 1st round pick (lottery preotected) via Kurt Thomas trade
^Minnesota gets Boston’s ’09 1st round pick (top 3 protected) via Kevin Garnett trade
&Kings get Houston ’09 1st round pick via Ron Artest trade
?Utah gets New York ’09 1st round pick (top 22 protected) via Phoenix
=Minnesota gets Philadelphia ’09 1st round pick (from Utah –Gordon Giricek trade-top 22 protected) via Rodney Carney trade

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Patrick Kane Able for Winter Classic

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By Paul M. Banks

Chicago Blackhawks top scorer Patrick Kane headed to the locker room with a knee injury during the first period of Tuesday night’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, but returned to action in the second. January 1, the Blackhawks’ franchise (and perfectly healthy) player will, along with his teammates, host the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field, in NHL Winter Classic 2009. (noon on NBC) Earlier this week, “Kaner” answered questions about the outdoor battle with the Wings on conference call.

“This year it seems to be really high-scoring and real close games. Both games have gone to a shootout, one was 6-5, another 5-4. That’s what the fans want to see. They want to see a lot of goals and a lot of up-tempo, a lot of skill in the game and two fast teams…Every game against the Red Wings is important, especially when we are trying to chase them right now,” he said regarding the team’s bitter rival.

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Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who played in the ’08 Winter Classic gave Kaner some advice about playing in the game. “I think it’s probably going to be a little frustrating out there. The ice is going to be a little different. They are going to have to fix it up a little bit more than you do in a regular game. The game is going to be longer. Sometimes you get cold out there and you’ve got to deal with that too,” Kane said.

Kane will unveil and use personally-designed skates and stick during the Winter Classic. Only 88 skates and 88 sticks were created for this special event and Kane, the only player wearing them, will personally sign and auction off a portion of the limited edition product to raise money for breast Cancer research.

“The skates and stick are the colors of the Blackhawks and should go well with the uniform, but at the same time, it’s a little bit of showtime,” Kane said. “Hopefully when I step out onto the ice, people will say ‘Oh wow, look at the skates Kane’s wearing.’ You know the old saying, ‘Look good, feel good, play good’” Kane said before adding, “It’s really exciting to look at a skate and design it to exactly how you want it to be made. To be able to give back to the community makes the whole experience even more special.”

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The Stock Report

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A weekly update of whose NBA Draft stock is rising and falling

By David “NBA Draft Treasury Secretary” K.


BUY:

Damion James, SF, Texas, Jr, 6-7

If I was an NBA scout, I would be drooling over this kid.  He has an NBA-ready body, three-point range, can put the ball on the floor, a nice mid-range game, great athleticism, and gets after it on the defensive end.  James had 18 points, 15 rebounds, and the game-clinching blocked shot in the Longhorns’ victory at Wisconsin.  I don’t see how he is not a top ten lock.

Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky, So, 6-9

Let’s just say I am really happy Patterson was hurt when Marquette played Ashley Judd’s boys in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.  Patterson is a beast, averaging almost 20 points and 10 boards a game.  Plus, he is shooting a ridiculous 72% from the field.  If these numbers continue during SEC, he doesn’t fall out of the lottery.

DeShawn Sims, F, Michigan, Jr, 6-8

I’ve given love to Wolverine sophomore guard Manny Harris, but now it’s Sims’ turn.  The junior forward has been as important to Michigan’s turnaround this season as Harris.  Sims is putting up 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds a game which includes a 20/20 game, albeit against Florida Gulf Coast University.  Keep an eye on Sims as Big Ten play begins, he could be a first round sleeper if he keeps playing at this high level.

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SELL:

Stephen Curry, G, Davidson, Jr, 6-2

Curry’s cold.  I mean, he is 4 of his last 21 from three and only scored 42 points in his last two games.  OK, so he is still out of his mind good as demonstrated by his 29 point, 9 assist, 7 rebound game against Charleston, but defenses are starting to figure out how to guard him more efficiently and Curry is has been forcing too many shots.  He was 5 of 26 in a big loss at Purdue and has committed 24 turnovers in his last four games as he stills transitions to the point guard position.  Maybe I am to blame for having him third in my last mock draft.  That was probably a little too high.


B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State, Fr, 7-0

Simply put, Mullens is not near ready to compete at the NBA level.  He is having a difficult time finding consistent minutes for the Buckeyes and I can’t imagine him being a top five pick like many mocks are predicted.  Maybe in 2010, but certainly not next summer.  He needs to become stronger and learn how to play the game against college level big guys before he makes the leap to the pros.  He doesn’t have a single double-digit rebounding game and has only scored in double figures twice this season.

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The Hansbrough Rule

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By Paul M. Banks 

How DISGUSTINGLY ANNOYING was it of ESPN to CONSTANTLY show Chase Daniel’s family during the final hour of the Alamo Bowl? Every other freaking play!!!!! Laura Quinn didn’t get half this much coverage during the 2005 Fiesta Bowl- where her brother Brady and husband-to-be A.J. Hawk squared off.

Like we freakin care that much about somebody whose life just peaked last night, and is inevitable headed into an Al Bundy like downward spiral starting tomorrow morning. This is yet another example of why ESPN sucks royally most of the time and I’m naming it the Hansbrough rule. After UNC post player Tyler Hansbrough, it’s an unwritten rule of the Boo-Yah network (and the mainstream media in general) they seemingly must whore college stars possessing absolutely zero potential to make in the professional ranks. It’s almost like they feel sorry for them and decide “hey, this guy’s going to have the best times of this life right now…he’ll spend the rest of his life telemarketing or driving a fork lift, so let’s fawn on him now as much as possible. Let’s help him get laid best we can by giving him extra publicity…because you know it’s going to become really hard for him to get some booty when he moves back in with his parents next year.

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The players fitting this rule are all exceedingly annoying because the collegiate stars who play professionally in Turkey or the Arena League (well, they’re in dire financial straits right now- guess you’re not playing pro ball after all next year Mr. Daniel!) are around for all four years. The real stars skip their last year of college ball to turn pro; these polarizing figures become so overblown and so overexposed that legions of people like myself and the TSB writers and readers grow to hate them. See Tim Tebow.
Now I understand why Peter Christian hated Drew Neitzel and Andy Weise hated Brian Butch so much. There are many others who fit the Hansbrough rule…if you think of some other good examples leave them in the comments below.  
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Gillette Stadium Road Trip Part I

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By Paul M. Banks

It’s impossible not to eventually grow to love a team that helps your career, and the New England Patriots certainly have done that for me. And I certainly love them in return. (I’m really disheartened by them being left out of the playoff picture, despite overcoming a ridiculous amount of injuries to post a solid 11-5 record) Therefore, making my first pilgrimage to my Mecca, Gillette Stadium, was certainly one of the highlights of my 2008.  Due to “re-tah-ded” urban planning, driving out here is not an option. The stadium can only be accessed by two-lane roads and rural route one provides traffic jams that would drive a person to suicide. Foxboro (or Foxborough or Foxborro….pick a way to spell your town already!) is located halfway between Boston and  Providence, New England’s two biggest cities; so the Pats are more than just the team of Boston and Massachusetts, they are the team of all New England. 

The best way to get to Foxboro is by the express train that runs out of Boston on game days; it’s a party train and a good time. When you arrive, you might feel like you’re in the rave party episode of Friday Night Lights because you’re now out in the middle of absolute nowhere with a crowd of other football obsessed people. The train station is so remotely underdeveloped that many of the passenger cars stopping there require us passengers to climb onto the train after passing through the forest and all its mud, grass and rocks; it’s the only way you can board.

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It’s fitting that my second favorite NFL team, the team that played a role in helping to launch my career would be the one that faced my hometown Chicago Bears in the biggest game (Super Bowl XX) in franchise history. The New England Patriots and Bears franchise share many similarities.

Dynasty Days

The Cowboys had the ‘90s, much like the Niners had the ‘80s, and the Steelers owned the ‘70s. The Bears dominated the NFL from 1940-46, winning four world championships in seven seasons. George Halas’ team, dubbed the “Monsters of the Midway” early that decade, revolutionized pro football with the T-formation. The Patriots have clearly been the best team of this decade winning three Super Bowls in five years. Most NFL franchises don’t have a decade to call their own, but these two teams do.
Saturday Night Live satirized their fan base

Remember that reoccurring Saturday Night Live sketch about Boston teens idolizing former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra? “No-Mah! We love you No-mah!” and then an idiot friend chimes in with “Hey Zazoo, my boy, No-mah is wicked good and wicked fast.” As bad as Jimmy Fallon was in that sketch, at least he didn’t have his guitar then, saving us the unholy alliance of bad comedy with bad music. Sports guy Bill Simmons, in his book, Now I can die in Peace, often reiterates his repulsion for another Red Sox/Fallon related endeavor. The film “Fever Pitch” is to him what the early ‘90s SNL ‘Superfans’ sketch is to me. Every time I hear some unfunny guy yell out, “Hey Bears” and “Da Bears 76, and Lions 0, my friend,” in his mangled attempt at a Chicago accent, I experience feelings of disgust. This started happening in 1991 and has never stopped. Most jokes get a little bit old when they’ve been repeated every fall for the past 15 years.

Snow Patrol

Both of these cold weather teams have a mythology concerning games played in snow and ice. Both believe the cold is an advantage to them. As a child growing up in Chicago, winter days were often referred to as ‘Bear Weather.’ (Even during those years from ’88 to ’01 when the Bears record in December was God-awful.) For Pats fans, the Adam Vinatieri kick in the blizzard and the snow plow game of 1982 are some of the biggest moments in franchise history. In the New England Patriots Stadium Stories book by Jim Donaldson, Tedy Bruschi is quoted: “the worse the weather gets, the better the Patriots play. When November, December comes and the sun goes down and the snow starts falling, we are extremely confident. That’s Patriots weather.”

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Welcome to the Razor

During the first quarter of the game I attended,  I was texting back and forth with two girls: one was Palestinian-American, the other Jewish-American. I pointed this out to my friend at the game, who said, “Yes, Banks, no one can unify such diverse people like you can. The world can all agree on your love and knowledge of the NFL.” I began by texting both of them what “Rudy’s” father said upon seeing the inside of Notre Dame Stadium.

“This is the most beautiful site these eyes have ever seen.” Let the week 12 nationally televised Thursday night battle between the Patriots and Jets begin. Although I’d rather not talk about the result of the game, it was easily the most exciting professional game I have ever attended live. When Randy Moss tied the game with a touchdown catch as regulation expired, it was extremely powerful movement. Gillette has a lot of cool quirks to it, such as the “Quiet please- offense at work” message on the scoreboard when the offense is on the field. However the signature symbol of Gillette Stadium is the bridge and tower- with its hypnotic graphics that emulate a flame and lightning. Watching this makes me feel like I’m in an ancient temple where the Pharaoh is trying to summon a deity. Speaking of superpowers, I bought the Belichick head band. The score without me wearing it was 24-6 Jets; with me wearing it, the Patriots outscored them 21-3. Clearly this is an enchanted headband that I should have put on sooner.

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One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Seven Bucks a Beer

I thought it was interesting how an older Patriots fan in the Gillette Stadium concourse
approached me asking, “What is Barack Obama going to do?” I did not have any of my Obama campaign buttons on and nothing to indicate I was from Illinois. He asked me “Can he turn beer into vodka?” obviously mocking the messianic qualities that journalists (myself included) have attributed to him these past couple of years. I said, “He’ll make things less fucked than they have been for 8 years, so let’s start with that and go from there.” He said, “I’m conducting a poll here,” pointing at one guy, “He said nothing,” then pointing at another, “He says he doesn’t know.”

I had no idea Patriots games were so political, with town hall discussions on policy adjustment being held between section 223 and 225. I knew the taverns in New England were all about political discussion during the revolution, but I guess the tradition is alive and well today in Foxboro. Dave’s man-crush Dwyane Wade inspired me to coin the phrase “the shot heard round the SICA.” Being in Lexington and Concord reminded me of Emerson’s “the shot heard round the world.” So…I’m claiming “the shot heard round the SICA” as that clutch midrange jumper Wade (greatest player in SICA history) down the stretch of the Gold Medal game in Beijing. D Wade’s 18-22 footer with about 3 minutes to go pretty much clinched a world-changing victory in a crucial battle for U-S-A U-S-A.

What can I say? I’m a huge Revolutionary War geek, so I love this stuff. And New England has inspired writers for centuries: Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott…maybe I’d be a better writer if I had a third name!

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College Hoops 101

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By David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.

Rewind

-All I have to say is Dominic James: ONIONS!!!  Talk about playing with swagger in Marquette’s dramatic win at N.C. State Monday.

-I got to witness just an outstanding college basketball game Tuesday when Texas won at Wisconsin, handing the Badgers just their 8th home loss in 121 games under Bo Ryan.  It really was the perfect example of why I love college basketball, even though some of the Longhorn players showed a pretty classless act by stomping on the ‘W’ at center court after the game.

-Ohio State suffered their first loss of the season in an ugly fashion, losing by 28 at home to West Virginia- proof that the Big East is still the elite conference in the country despite all the early season praise heaped on the Big Ten for what their teams have been able to accomplish.

-Rutgers was the most recent victim of the UNC runaway train on Sunday.  After playing the top team in the country, the Scarlet Knights get third-ranked Pitt and second-ranked UConn in their next two games… BRUTAL

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Fast Forward

-Big Monday starts out with a bang as Georgetown visits UConn. (ESPN 2)  The Hoyas also welcome Pitt to town Saturday.  Can you sense my giddiness?

-Monday also features an intriguing mid major game as Davidson visits their toughest competition in the Southern, 10-1 Charleston. (ESPNU)

-On New Year’s Eve, one of the surprise teams in the nation, Minnesota will put their unbeaten record on the line when they host Michigan State.  (BTN)

-BYU holds the nation’s longest home win streak, 53 games which will be tested Saturday when undefeated Wake Forest visits.

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The Drive to 225

“The Drive to 225” is way catchier than the “Push for 225”, hence the new name.  I am a third of the way to my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season.

Games watched through 12/28:  76

Games watched this past week: 9
Louisville vs. Minnesota
Marquette at N.C. State
Butler at Xavier
Texas at Wisconsin
Kansas at Arizona
Illinois vs. Missouri
UAB at Louisville
West Virginia at Ohio State
Rutgers at North Carolina

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Gardenhire Education

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By David Palmer

The job of a Major League manager is not an easy one.  You have to motivate your team to play everyday for six months, you have to appease the relentless media with interesting commentary after 162 games, and you have to perfect the chewing tobacco, bubble gum, sunflower seed trifecta.  I can attest to the latter being one of the hardest things in sports.  I would pay to see Michael Phelps try this without blowing chunks.  When asked, I would wager that almost everybody close to the Twins would heap praise on our manager Ron Gardenhire or “Gardy” as Minnesotans affectionately call him.

I think very highly of Gardy as a person, and would love to go ice fishing or bar hopping with him.  With that said, I feel like he has gotten a pass by the media over the last couple of years, and criticism of him has been very light.  I attribute this to three things:

1.    His down to earth personality and uncanny ability to give good quotes to reporters on a daily basis.

2.    His on-field success since 2002, with a very limited payroll.

3.    His almost robot-like managerial style.
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It is not hard to see why Minnesotans like him Gardy.  He is just like us.  He’s slightly overweight, but doesn’t seem to care. He openly talks about drinking and enjoys freezing his ass off in an ice shack or on a snowmobile.  I feel like he’s just like Lou Brown in Major League.  If he weren’t managing the Twins he would own a tire store in St. Cloud.  His personality is also a stark contrast of our previous manager Tom Kelly.  TK made Denis Leary seem like Mickey Mouse.  He was notorious for being cantankerous, irritable and blunt with reporters who asked stupid questions, and not surprisingly, often criticized.  I compare Gardy to the Celtics’ pre-championship Doc Rivers.  Even though Doc was wallowing in the cellar of the Eastern Conference before the big three came to town, he retained his job because he was such a supremely nice guy.  Now, the Twins are hardly cellar dwellers, but when was the last time you heard someone second guess one of Gardy’s decisions or say something even remotely critical of him?  He is so well liked by reporters, announcers, fans, owners and beer distributors that he rarely receives any criticism when he makes a mistake or the team is struggling.
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Consistently giving a good post-game quote to reporters is one of the easiest ways for any manager or coach to deflect criticism and keep his job in professional sports.  When you make the reporter’s job easier it’s hard for them to bash you.  The Twins could lose 0-13 and all Gardy has to do is say, “Glad this one is over, I can’t wait to go home, dig out the Maker’s Mark, fire up a cigar, watch Roseanne re-runs and forget about it.  We’ll come back tomorrow and see if we can do better.”  Inevitably, Jim Souhan and company eat it up and forget about any managerial missteps that may have caused the lopsided score.

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Probably the biggest, and most obvious, reason for Gardenhire’s non-criticism is the team’s success ever since he took over for Tom Kelly in 2002.  He has taken us to four post-season appearances in seven years despite routinely having a payroll in the bottom third of the league.  I cannot overstate this accomplishment.  He has done a lot with very little.  But, does he really do anything differently from what Kelly did?  He pretty much kept things status quo once he was hired.  They both place a high value on starting pitching, defense and fundamentals.  It’s a formula that will get you about 80-92 wins with any sort of offensive help.  The difference has been that Gardy has had much more front office help than Kelly did.  Before current general manager Bill Smith, Terry Ryan was regarded as probably the second savviest GM in the league behind Billy Beane.  It also didn’t hurt that we consistently drafted in the top five from 1993 through 2001, and are now reaping the benefits from those players who have come up through the system.  Hmmm, sounds eerily similar to Tampa Bay’s surprising success in 2008.  A first year coach who takes over a team full of blue chip, top five picks that are finally coming into their own.  I guess a decade as a doormat is also a formula for success.

You could argue that Gardy is the anti-Ozzie Guillen.  He is even-keeled, never gets too high after wins or too low after losses.  Ozzie loves calling out players, front office guys, ball boys, bullpen catchers or basically anybody he can think of (kind of like Peter Christian).  Whereas Gardy will go to bat for his guys and never say a negative thing about them in the media.  This is one thing I like very much about him.  But I kind of wish his in-game managerial style was a little more like Ozzie’s.  There are no X’s and O’s in baseball, so it is a game based on situational managing.  Lineups, steals, calls to the bullpen, pinch-hitting and such can be decided in only one of two ways.  Either it is based off logical numerical statistics (which baseball has an inordinate amount of) and match-ups or pure hunch.  Gardy uses the former, Ozzie uses the latter.

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Gardenhire will rarely use a starter for over 100 pitches.  In the words of Bert Blyleven, I guess they explode on the mound after the 100th pitch.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched him yank a starter with a lead after 7 strong innings and 94 pitches, only to see the bullpen blow it.  We would have won the division by five games last year if he allowed Scott Baker to throw about ten more total innings.  He will almost religiously follow righty-lefty match-ups with both hitters and pitchers.  Why else would you pinch hit Craig Monroe for Jason Kubel in a late game situation?  This style is easy because it doesn’t allow second-guessing.  When you tell reporters that you were just playing the match-up or keeping a pitch count they can’t argue.

By no means do I want the Twins to fire Ron Gardenhire, let’s make that clear.  There are very few managers in baseball that are fully capable of doing what he does.  I just think we need to look at him with a more critical eye, and not pass blame to everyone else on his obvious errors.  All I can say is pass the Maker’s Mark, and I’ll try and do better tomorrow.

Special Announcement: Twins fans, Brewer haters and Brewer fans alike will appreciate Trenni Kusnierek discussing Brewers and MLB Network.  10pm Central at MiLBRadio.com

You might recall my appearance on this show this past summer. You can listen in here, I come on right around the 40 minute mark.

Northwestern Can Win Their Bowl Game (Really)

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By Paul M. Banks

Despite having a higher record and better national ranking than their opponent, #20 Northwestern (9-3) finds themselves the biggest underdog of the bowl season to #23 Missouri (9-4) in Monday night’s Alamo Bowl. Odds-makers have the Tigers a two touchdown favorite over the Wildcats in this San Antonio battle of los gatos peligrosos. On paper, it’s strength versus strength: Northwestern’s 23rd ranking scoring defense versus Mizzou’s 6th ranked offense. If NU wins this side of the ball, they should have their first bowl victory since 1949.


Throw your Hands in the Air…as if you’re Unconcerned

Missouri has huge playmakers everywhere on offense- senior QB Chase Daniel (358 of 484-4,135-37 TDs-15 INT) who often finds electrifying WR Jeremy Maclin (95-1,221-12 TDs) and TE Chase Coffman (83-920-10 TDs). Oh, and the backup QB is named Chase Patton, just in case you thought this team didn’t have enough people with that obscure first name already. (Does Missouri have Chase Bank as one of their sponsors?) And don’t forget tailback Derrick Washington (162-992-17 TDs).

Daniel’s NFL Draft stock is about as high valued as Washington Mutual due to his lack of size. He’s listed at 6’0”, but in reality he’s as close to being 6 as I am to being 9 feet tall. NU’s primary strength this year has been their defensive line, so when they get near Daniel, they must “throw their hands way up in the air and wave ‘em around like you just don’t care,” to disrupt Chase’s passing-lanes vision or (better yet) deflect his passes and hopefully pick off a couple. This is highly doable considering team MVP and DE Corey Wootton  is 6’7”, NFL bound DT John Gill is 6’3,” and the rest of the line is that height or taller.

I asked Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year finalist and NU head man Pat Fitzgerald about employing this strategy at the bowl selection announcement presser. “Chase from a quarterback standpoint, maybe he’s not the tallest guy, but he’s very athletic; makes a lot of plays and does a good job extending the plays,” Fitz responded, also adding prior “Like 118 other schools across the country we made a mistake in not recruiting him.”

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Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Mizzou, like Northwestern runs the spread-option- currently college football’s sexy offense. In theory, this should help both defenses, but I see this as advantageous to the boys in purple because 1.) First year defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz is stellar and much better than anyone on the opposite sideline and 2.) Mizzou’s secondary shows no interest in covering and tackling anybody. Other than that though, they’re fine. Jordan Mabin is a Sporting News Freshman All-America corner for NU. “We go against our offense each day, so we’re used to the spread. They run a little different type of spread; they have a lot of trick plays in a lot of different formations. Our coaches are putting us in a great situation and will do a great job preparing us for what it’s going to be like,” Mabin said.

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Secondary of Primary Importance

“We can’t get into an arms race with them, they’re an explosive offense so if we’re competing with them we’re doing things that are out of character,” Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher said at bowl media day.

I agree, Bacher and company can’t win the game if the scoring is in the 50s, although he will be helped by having Tyrell Sutton (who will likely bypass Darnell Autry to become the second leading rusher in school history Monday night) back from injury. Bacher will probably connect with leading receiver and ARA National Sportsmanship award winner Eric Peterman quite a bit too.

However, it’s more important the defense limit Mizzou’s high-octane machine. One of the biggest reasons NU is poised to tie the school record for wins in a season is the consistently stellar play of safeties Brendan Smith and Brad Phillips. They along with corner Sherrick McMannis, were All-Big Ten honorable mention, so these Cats do pounce on mistakes made by opposing quarterbacks.

Prediction- Northwestern 28, Missouri 24.
Is 2008 the year of the underdog? Ask the Celtics, Giants, and Phillies!  Or maybe I’m just drinking purple colored Kool-Aid.

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Freshman All-American Mabin Talks About Stopping Mizzou

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Paul M. Banks has an exclusive with Cornerback Jordan Mabin a member of the the 2008 Sporting News All-Freshman first team

Mabin appeared in all 12 games this year for the Wildcats, starting the final 10. He compiled 49 tackles (2.0 for loss) while leading the team with three interceptions. He also broke up an additional five pass attempts, forced two fumbles and recovered another. He was honored as the Northwestern Gridiron Network’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year at the NGN football banquet Saturday, Dec. 13. I had an exclusive with him at Northwestern’s Bowl Game Media Day and we discussed the keys to shutting down Jeremy Maclin, Chase Daniel and the high-powered Missouri attack.

PMB: This year’s improvement defensively has been astounding. A lot of that is because of Mike Hankwitz’s first year on the job. What does he bring to the table?

JM: “From the very beginning of the season he came in here and gave us a brand new mindset. To be the aggressor, we used to let plays happen to us and now we go out and try to make plays, and just fly around and be physical. Fly around and hit people.”

PMB: What do you see on film of Missouri’s all-world wide receiver Jeremy Maclin that makes him so special?

JM: “A big fast physical receiver, he’s got all the attributes that you can ask for. I’m excited I know Sherrick’s excited, the DBs are excited, we just gotta be on our game that day, hopefully we come out on top.”

PMB: You face the spread-option every day when you practice against your own offense, tell me if that will be advantageous for you given that they run the spread as well…

JM: “We go against our offense each day, so we’re used to it. They run a little different type of spread; they have a lot of trick plays a lot of different formations. Our coaches are putting us in a great situation and will do a great job preparing us for what it’s going to be like.”

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PMB: What impresses you the most about Chase Daniel?

JM: “He looks like he’s so calm back there in the pocket, he gets through his reads and then sometimes when it breaks down, he’ll tuck it and run. A great athlete, he can run fast and like I said he looks down his receivers pretty good and a quick guy”

PMB: And what about the magnitude of the game itself, a chance for a ten win season would tie the school record for wins in a season with the 1995 Rose Bowl team…

JM: “It’s huge. We’re so excited, happy to be in the Alamo Bowl it’s hard to put into words We’re antsy to get down there to get this game going.”

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Hizzoner the Hockey Fan

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Mayor Richard Daley II and the Blackhawks are raising the City’s International Sports Profile with the NHL’s Winter Classic. Which can only help for 2016

By Paul M. Banks

In Chicago, it is pretty well known that a mayor is a die-hard White Sox fan. (the President-elect as well). But as the Winter Classic draws closer, the Hawks Q rating continues moving north, as does the city of Chicago’s reputation as a sports mecca. All of this greatly helps the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Here are some highlights from Da Mare’s press conference I attended at Wrigley Field following his examination of the rink being built for the game.

Re: the Hawks

“people are watching it on tv, they’re excited about it and they’re connecting with the players”

Re: hockey

“Hockey’s a great game, a fast game and the more exposure it gets on TV the better off it will be. That has a huge impact. And we’re looking to the future to build more hockey rinks. More indoor hockey rinks. That’s one thing we eventually have to expand in Chicago. The kids want to play the sport and we’ve got more and more high school aged kids who never played hockey more involved in the sport because it’s a great sport for young people

“That’s what sports is all about, The resurgence of hockey, that is the hottest ticket, the Blackhawks for this upcoming new year….We’re very excited about the national hockey league having this game right here in I believe the greatest sports town in the country”
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After the speeches, Rocky Wirtz presented Hizzoner II with a special Winter Classic jersey with “Daley 09″ stitched on the back. Later, he was probed by a reporter about how landing this game was another example conveying how Chicago was ready to host the Olympic and Paralympic games. “It brings in major TV with NBC, the Chicago Blackhawks the Chicago Cubs, it brings in the city. So it’s really combination of things, it really doesn’t matter who you’re cheering for; people love their sports in Chicago. And it really helps us {in} how we work the transportation, parking access to and from the stadium, security, outside- all that works together. And that’s what it is, it shows you we can handle large crowds as well,” Daley said.

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A brief mayor Daley bio from Wikipedia…

Elected mayor in 1989 and reelected in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. His 2007 re-election set him on the path to becoming the longest serving Mayor in the city’s history (a record currently held by his father, Richard J. Daley), should he remain in office beyond December 25, 2010.
Daley was chosen by Time in its April 25, 2005 issue as the best out of five mayors of large cities in the United States, and characterized as having “imperial” style and power he has presided over such successes as the resurgence in tourism, the modernization of the Chicago Transit Authority, the building of Millennium Park, increased environmental efforts and the rapid development of the city’s North Side, as well as the near South and West sides. He remains widely popular with city residents, taking over 70% of the mayoral vote in 1999, 2003, and 2007. Recently, he has been in the public eye for playing a significant role in forwarding Chicago as the U.S. bid city for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Prior to serving as Mayor, Daley served in the Illinois State Senate and then as the Cook County State’s Attorney. He also served as the 11th Ward Democratic committeeman after his father passed away until he passed the role on to his brother John P. Daley.

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What Became of Denis Savard

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By Paul M. Banks

During my childhood, Denis Savard was THE GUY when it came to the Blackhawks.

He was then what Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are now. A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and one of seven players in franchise history to have their jersey number retired, Savard recorded 1,096 points (377 goals, 719 assists) in 881 career regular-season games and 145 points (61 goals, 84 assists) in 131 Stanley Cup Playoff games in parts of 13 seasons with the Blackhawks (1980-90; 1995-97).

Savard also served as the Blackhawks Head Coach for parts of three seasons (2006-08), notching a 65-66-16 record. The Hawks’ first pick, third overall, in the 1980 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Savard ranks second in franchise history during the regular season in assists (719), third in points (1,096) and fourth in goals (377).

In the midst of last season, former Blackhawks Head Coach Dennis Savard made an infamous rant where he called on his players to specifically be “committed to the Indian.” ”They’ve got to commit to the Indian,” Savard fumed. ”If they don’t want to commit to the Indian, let’s go upstairs and we’ll get ‘em out of here.” Of course, this fall we learned that the Indian was not committed to Savard. On October 16th, Savard with a record of 1-2-1, was dismissed.

Looking back on these quotes from his press conference following the home opener seems a little more interesting now…

“3 games doesn’t make a season. Talk to me in a month”

“For us to be in the playoffs and the Stanley Cup champions we’ll need all cylinders going. And that’s work ethic 1.) and structure 2.)  and that’s pretty much the definition of winning.”

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In November it was announced today that Savard will serve as a team ambassador, joining legends Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in representing the organization at events at the United Center and throughout the Chicagoland area.

I also had a chance to speak with him during the Hawks inaugural Training Camp Festival

“Teams are come after us, they know. There’s a buzz in Chicago, but there’s a buzz around the league too. They talk about the changes the Blackhawks have made and how their fans are coming back. The fans are really the truth of what’s gone on here. They choose to come back because they see great things are going on here,” Savard told me.

Later I would observe the interior of the Hawks locker room, where the slogan “EARN IT” is emblazoned above the tunnel to the ice.

“We’ve made some huge steps and it’s time to graduate now. We’re getting our fans back and we got to go out and earn their respect. We want ‘em here every night for the next decade, or two decades,” Savard stated.

On Jonathan Toews, and his earning the title of team Captain…

“I named him captain because he’s got great qualities as a person, number two he’s the hardest worker on the ice everyday, and I don’t have to tell you how he performs in games. He wants to win, he doesn’t accept losing and that’s why he’s my captain.”

Regarding the Fans…

“I know because I’ve played in this building and I’ve obviously played in the other buildings so I know that having a full building will be a huge advantage, giving you an extra incentive, I don’t care what anyone tells you, if it don’t, than you’re a liar.”

Ambassadorship…

“It is important to our fans and organization that Denis remains a part of our family,” Team President John McDonough said. “He is a very classy individual that embodies the spirit of the Chicago Blackhawks.”

“It means so much to me that Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough have given me this chance to continue to be a part of the Blackhawks family, something I have always wanted to do,” Savard said. “I have been very fortunate to be a part of this organization, to wear these colors, for so long and this gives me the chance to continue to be a part of something I love. Today is a great day for me and my family.”

Savard still holds the top four single-season point outputs in franchise history, which includes his career-best mark of 131 points in 1987-88. He topped the 100-point mark in five of his 13 seasons with Chicago, which includes reaching at least 40 goals and 80 assists three times each. He reached the playoffs in each of his 13 seasons with Chicago and ranks second all-time in team history with 145 postseason points. Savard, who captured the Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1993, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame exactly eight years ago today on Nov. 13, 2000. He had his jersey No. 18 retired by the Blackhawks on March 19, 1998.

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Rocky Top (of the Blackhawks Food Chain)

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Paul M. Banks chats with Hawks Owner Rocky Wirtz

As the countdown to the NHL Winter Classic 2009 continues, Mayor Richard M. Daley, joined by Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks President John McDonough, and Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney came to subzero Wrigley Field on Monday for a special press event in advance of the much-anticipated outdoor regular-season NHL game on New Year’s Day.

Daley and the execs toured the current field infrastructure led by the NHL’s Don Renzulli, Senior Vice President of Events, and Dan Craig, Facilities Operations Manager — the team transforming baseball cathedral Wrigley Field into a hockey venue.  Following the tour, the fedora-clad Mayor and executives chatted with us journalists in a nice WARM press room. After the speeches, Rocky presented Hizzoner with a special Winter Classic jersey with “Daley 09” stitched on the back. 

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Rocky talked about the team’s recent resurgence in the Chicago sports scene….

“Dale Tallon the GM has done a great job of finding the right makeup of a player and players that want to play with each other, that’s as important as the talent.”

His plans for watching the Classic…

I’ll be moving around and you see what my uniform will be: as warm a wool suit as I can wear and maybe some long underwear if it’s like this.


We want everyone to have a good time: the fans the front office, the players. It’s a sport, but it’s not so serious. When times are tough we want to forget about our problems and go out and scream our heads off for a couple hours and have a good time and maybe have an adult beverage once-in-a-while and put our feet up and that’s why things are happening.

His official remarks on the Winter Classic…

I want to thank the Chicago fans who we asked a year ago or so, just to bear with us and please allow us to be relevant again in Chicago and I think you’ve seen the outpouring of how great the fans are, we were close to last in the league in attendance, and we’re lucky enough after 15 games to lead the league in attendance.

I wanted to thank Commissioner Bettman who had great faith in this fine city of Chicago and the mayor who know what a great city this is and how it can put on a world class event. And I also want to thank all those Chicago Bears fans who are going to be out watching the Bears beat Green Bay today, because that’s going to be much like the Chicago Blackhawks fans who are going to be following the Blackhawks on a day like today.

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Rocky Wirtz’s bio

From Wikipedia

William Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz (1952-) is the owner of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Wirtz managed the Judge & Dolph, Ltd. liquor distributorship until October 2007. He assumed control of the franchise shortly after the death of his father, Bill Wirtz; and his brother, Peter Wirtz, decided to maintain Bismarck Enterprises in lieu of owning the team
Almost immediately after becoming the new owner, Rocky Wirtz began altering some longstanding policies implemented by his father, which many fans saw as archaic. According to a source within the Hawks organization, Rocky Wirtz “believes in spending money to make money,” in marked contrast to his father. Wirtz also hired John McDonough, formerly with the Chicago Cubs to become the new President of the team.
Former players Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who were not on good terms with Bill Wirtz, have worked with the team in the role of “ambassadors,” another sign that Rocky Wirtz has been able to undo the damage to the franchise many attributed to his father. A big step showing that this damage had been coming undone came when the Chicago Blackhawks celebrated Hull and Mikita in a joint celebration at the United Center on Friday, March 7, 2008.

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