Archives for February 2009

The Real Bracket Busters

By: David K.

Last weekend, ESPN featured their “Bracket Buster” day in which some of the best mid-major teams went head-to-head as to make a statement to the committee come Selection Sunday.  This got me thinking (which is always dangerous when it involves college basketball.)  What if there was a true Bracket Buster day featuring the major conferences?  This would give the committee a true look at which of the real bubble teams deserve to be dancing.

Here is how it would play out:
First, I would try to get all six of the BCS conferences to be eligible (Big East, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Pac-10), as well as the Atlantic 10, Conference USA, and Mountain West which always seem to have a couple teams on the bubble.

Of course, it would be quite the task to get those nine conferences to agree before the season on setting a day in which of all of their teams were off to possibly be included in the Bracket Buster (BB) game.  So you would have to agree on a day and then a few weeks beforehand, pick the teams that appear to be bubble teams come tourney time to participate in the BB.  That time span would be needed to arrange travel and allow your fans a chance to get tickets so they could see the game.

Making this idea even more difficult is my belief that any home court advantage should be eliminated because the game would clearly favor the home school.  Therefore, you pick eight neutral sites spread throughout the country that could host a game as well as draw a decent crowd to make the event financially beneficial, which in this day of age is always a major factor. And again why having regional seeding would be necessary.  Since bigger NBA-type arenas would be preferred, you would have to make sure the venue is not being used that day or plan an early afternoon game so as to not interfere with the already scheduled event.

You then pick 16 teams that are considered “on the bubble” and strategically place them in the designated neutral sites based on location.  There would be rules where you cannot play a team in your conference or a team that you have already played earlier in the season on the BB day.


So let’s pick 8 neutral sites:

Philadelphia (Spectrum)
Charlotte (Time Warner Cable Arena, Bobcats home court)
Atlanta (Phillips Arena, Hawks home court)
Indianapolis (Conseco Fieldhouse, Pacers home court)
Chicago (All-State Arena, DePaul’s home court)
Denver (Pepsi Center, Nuggets home court)
San Antonio (Alamo, Spurs home court)
Sacramento (Arco Arena, Kings home court)

Now you place the 16 bubble-type teams in the pre-determined venues:

Philadelphia
Penn St. vs. Providence

Charlotte
Virginia Tech vs. Temple

Atlanta
Tennessee vs. Miami (FL)

Indianapolis
Cincinnati vs. Michigan

Chicago
Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame

Denver
Kansas State vs. BYU

San Antonio
Oklahoma State vs. UAB

Sacramento
USC vs. San Diego St.

A couple bubble-caliber teams would be left out like Georgetown, Texas A&M, and Maryland, but I think adding a ninth or tenth game would be too much.

The biggest advantage to creating a BB day for the big conferences would be to have one program prove without a doubt that they are better than the other in case it comes down to choosing one school over the other.  It would also serve as an indicator of strengths of conference.  For example, if the four Big East schools went undefeated and the three Big Ten schools did not win a game, you should favor a Big East school instead of a Big Ten school come selection time.

The odds of this actually happening are probably 1-100,000.  But with the amount of debate that is now rampant during two months prior to Selection Sunday about bubble teams, RPIs, strengths of schedules, bad losses, and good wins, this would serve as a definitive determining factor of why to pick one bubble team over another.

Illini, Spartans Class of Big 10 during ’00s

By Paul M. Banks

When second place Illinois hosts first place Michigan State on Sunday, the battle for the Big Ten title will be yet another chapter in a decade familiar story. For the past ten years or so, the Illini and Spartans have met each other at the apex of the conference. In 1998 and 2001, they finished conference co-champions. In the latter season, they both earned #1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. In 2005, both programs reached the Final Four. In ’99 and ’00, they met in the conference tournament title game, in ’06 they squared off in the semifinals. Last season, both reached the Big Ten tourney semis. At 3pm Sunday, CBS will nationally televise the #20 Illini (23-6, 11-5) hosting the #9 Spartans (22-5, 12-3).

A rivalry reminiscent of Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons is emerging. Once again a prairie state team finds a squad from the mighty mitten across the lake in their way. But you can’t compare this Big Ten rivalry to the conference’s most bitter blood-feud yet. The football acrimony between Ohio St. and Michigan, whose oligarchy over the rest of the conference during the ‘60s and ‘70s, made critics often refer to the Big 10 as “Big 2, little 8.” By contrast, the Illini and Spartans have had company at the top. During the “oughts” (the proper name for this decade) Wisconsin had the two best seasons in school history, and both Ohio St. and Indiana played for the National title.

However, numbers show that Illinois and MSU are the creamiest of the conference crop. During the past five years, Illinois and Michigan St. are one and two in NCAA tournament wins among Big Ten teams (ninth and eleventh nationally). Before last season, Illinois was the nation’s winningest program over the previous six. After last year’s 16-19 aberration, the Illini are the nation’s tenth winningest program during the past five seasons. The Spartans boast of the most Final Fours in the nation (4) and the second most Sweet 16 appearances (7) during the past 11 years. And like most authentic rivalries, it’s evenly matched. Illinois leads the all-time series 53-52. In other words, the negative PR you’ve heard about Big Ten basketball won’t apply when the ball goes up in Assembly Hall on Sunday.

2009 NFL Mock Draft

By Peter Christian

1. Detroit Lions Matt Stafford QB Georgia

Stafford held his own at the NFL Scouting Combine by showing off his skills, strength and poise. He isn’t the best player overall in this draft but he does have a bright future at the QB position.

2. St. Louis Rams Jason Smith OT Baylor

At 6’5″, 305 lbs. Smith has great size but he will wow people with his athletic ability. The converted tight end is extremely agile and quick and will defend against speed rushers very well. Smith’s showing at the combine has likely helped him up draft boards around the league and is now getting consideration as the best Offensive Tackle available in some scout’s rankings.

3. Kansas City Chiefs Aaron Curry OLB Wake Forest

Curry is being called the safest pick in this year’s draft. His size, speed and strength all translate very well to the NFL game and will make an immediate impact on which ever team’s lap Curry falls into.

4. Seattle Seahawks Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech

The stress fracture and subsequent surgery has many scouts, coaches and GM’s, well, stressing about his value. However, the last two years of game film will likely ease some of that stress. The injury shouldn’t affect his value but it may cause team’s to proceed cautiously.

5. Cleveland Browns Brian Orakpo DE Texas

Orakpo has the tools to become an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Some scouts and NFL junkies have said that he could be converted to an outside linebacker which could happen in Cleveland if Eric Mangini brings the 3-4 defense to the Dawg Pound. Where ever the Browns have Orakpo line up he is definitely going to fill a need.

6. Cincinnati Bengals B. J. Raji DT Boston College

Raji has solidified his claim to the best interior defensive lineman in the draft. The team that takes B.J. will be thoroughly impressed with his upper body strength and his ability to change the direction of the play.

7. Oakland Raiders Eugene Monroe OT Virginia

Eugene Monroe’s stock is on the rise after a very solid showing in Indianapolis and due to the meteoric fall of Andre Smith. However, Monroe has great talent. His skills and ability were the reason that Branden Albert (15th overall pick in 2008) was a guard in college. Albert is now a starting tackle for the Chiefs

8. Jacksonville Jaguars Michael Oher OT Ole Miss

Oher is finally getting more buzz about his skills and NFL potential than about the Michael Lewis book that was written about him. He looked great at the combine and the Senior Bowl and should definitely be a top ten pick in 2009.

9. Green Bay Packers Aaron Maybin DE Penn State

Maybin has the talent to be great in the NFL. He also has great versatility to play as a speed rush defensive end or to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

10. San Francisco 49ers Andre Smith OT Alabama

Andre Smith is very large (6’4″, 330 lbs.) and is going to be a great run blocker in the NFL. However, his antics at the combine are causing many character questions and will likely cause him to fall out of the top ten unless he has an amazing pro-day on campus.

11. Buffalo Bills Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State

Pettigrew’s stock is rising. At 6’6″, 260 lbs. he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses, no matter who is throwing him the ball. He can be a great asset to the offense in the short and intermediate passing game.

12. Denver Broncos Rey Maualuga LB USC

Maualuga is without a doubt the best interior linebacker in the draft. He is very explosive and can fill holes in the line very quickly. If Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu had a baby, Maualuga would be the result.

Footlocker.com
13. Washington Redskins Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri

Maclin has a great skill set. He has good hands, great speed and agility. He can help a team in the passing game, the return game and was also a very effective option out of the backfield on occasion. His combine performance locked him in as the 2nd best receiver available in the draft.

14. New Orleans Saints Malcom Jenkins CB Ohio State

Jenkins has been given the benefit of playing behind a very good defensive front during his college career but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented. OSU’s history of producing good CB’s will continue with Jenkins.

15. Houston Texans Mark Sanchez QB USC

Sanchez’s decision to participate in the drills at the Combine was a good one. Not only did it show an eagerness to prove himself as an elite prospect but he was able to silence many of his critics. His performance not only locked him into the first round but will likely be a top 15 pick.

16. San Diego Chargers Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia

Moreno is a blend of speed, agility and muscle and can provide any team with a great home run threat out of the backfield. He has amazing downfield moves and can make just about any defender look foolish.

17. New York Jets Brian Cushing LB USC

Cushing has plenty of question marks to go with his talent, there is quite a bit of debate as to whether he will translate into a OLB in a 4-3 scheme or ILB in a 3-4. However as GM’s watch him on the field, those question marks will likely be forgotten. Cushing’s draft stock will likely hinge on his medical records and team interviews rather than his measurables.

18. Chicago Bears Vontae Davis CB Illinois

Malcom Jenkins gets all the hype of a Big Ten CB but Davis has the better upside. His recovery speed is what is going to make him a great corner in the NFL.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Percy Harvin WR Florida

Harvin is possibly the best athlete in the draft. He has amazing speed and is surprisingly strong for his stature. His game likely translates to becoming a slot receiver in the NFL but he can line up anywhere if asked.

20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) Eben Britton OT Arizona

Britton is a big man and can anchor an offensive line. He will have to work on his footwork, but he has the raw skills to be great.

21. Philadelphia Eagles Chris Wells RB Ohio State

Wells is a downhill runner that doesn’t shy away from contact. He has deceiving speed which allows him to break away from opposing linebackers. “Beanie” is working very hard to toss the reputation that he is injury prone.

22. Minnesota Vikings Everette Brown DE Florida State

Everette Brown is an extremely agile defensive lineman. There is talk about his game translating to the OLB position in the NFL which would likely best utilize his versatility.

Footlocker.com

23. New England Patriots James Laurinitis LB Ohio State

Laurinitis likely would have been taken in the top 10 in last year’s draft, but his slipping has little to do with his own play. He brings great energy to the field and is always around the ball.

24. Atlanta Falcons DJ Moore CB Vanderbilt

Moore dealt with a lot of injuries last season but was still a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award as one of the nation’s best defensive backs. He has shown an ability to make good reads and get good breaks on the ball, racking up 11 interceptions over the last two seasons.

25. Miami Dolphins Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland

Heyward-Bey went into the combine with the title as a big physical receiver. He can now add “lightning fast” to that resume. His 4.30 makes him the fastest offensive player available. He needs to work on catching the ball with his hands more, but his size and speed make him extremely attractive.
Footlocker.com

26. Baltimore Ravens Clay Matthews LB USC

Matthews has joined his USC teammates as a first round prospect after a great work-out at the Combine. He can jump even higher up draft boards by showing his great work ethic in individual work outs and at USC’s pro day.

27. Indianapolis Colts Max Unger C Oregon

Unger doesn’t have the intimidating size that you expect out of a first round pick but he is very quick and is very fundamentally sound. He has plenty of frame to pack on another 15-20 lbs. of muscle and could be a solid Center in the NFL.

28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina) Tyson Jackson DE LSU

Jackson’s biggest knock is that he takes plays off, if he had a consistent motor he would likely be mentioned in the same breath as Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin. As long as he doesn’t mail in his performance at the combine he should still be a first rounder

29. New York Giants Larry English OLB Northern Illinois

English’s size will likely lock him into being an OLB in the NFL but his stock is on the rise nonetheless. His stats and accolades in the MAC shouldn’t be downplayed, his ethic is pure.

30. Tennessee Titans Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss

Peria Jerry is extremely quick and agile for a 312 lb. man-child and gets into the backfield with regularity. The biggest knock on Jerry is his lack of sheer strength. At the Senior Bowl he upped his stock into a late first round prospect.

31. Arizona Cardinals Donald Brown RB Connecticut

Brown is very similar to a very successful running back taken in last year’s draft, Matt Forte. He has plenty of experience and is very smart on the football field. He is very patient to find the hole and uses a quick burst to eat up yardage in bunches. He is rising up draft boards very quickly.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers Darius Butler CB Connecticut

Butler is relatively unknown at this point but his cover skills are going to be whispered about in war rooms on draft day. He is very fundamental and has a ton of field experience due to his status as a three year starter.

Big Ten Power Rankings

By Paul M. Banks, David K, & Peter Christian

1. Michigan State

-Momentum is on the Spartans side right now
-Izzo finally beat Bo
-If you can beat this team on the boards, you’ll likely go far come March

2.Purdue

-Getting healthy and regaining their chemistry at the perfect time
– 10-1 with Hummel in the line-up in conference play, 0-3 without him
-Cuonzo Martin must love this team

3. Illinois

-33 point games aside, they are playing well beyond expectations
– Gutsy performance in win at The Ohio State University
-3rd ranked scoring defense compensates for those nights when the motion offense stands still

4. Wisconsin
-Finally coming together to end the season.
– Trevon Hughes is terrible.  I’m surprised Bo hasn’t strangled him yet.
-Sort of traded places with Michigan since January

5. Penn State

-Big Ten’s leading scorer and nearly 20 wins has to count for something, right?
– Hanging on the bubble by a thread
-Tailor Battle may have a porn star name, but he can ball

6. Minnesota

-Inconsistency is the new constant for Tubby’s team
– Only chance is when their defense is unstoppable
-41 points at Illinois, no bubbly in Champaign

7. Ohio State

-Nice win over Penn State almost helps forget the three consecutive losses by a combined 10 points
– Snapped 3-game skid in a crucial game against Penn State
-Dallas Lauderdale may have a porn star name, but he’s a solid contributor

8. Northwestern
-Another season without a tournament appearance. I’d say “maybe next year” but another Chicago team has that copyrighted
– Hey, an NIT birth isn’t terrible for the Cats, right?
-After last season’s 8-22, 1-17 catastrophe, any postseason berth will do

9. Michigan
-Promising start turns into a disappointing finish. Wolverine fans have to feel like giving themselves a swirly right about now.
– Must win Sunday at Wisconsin if they want any hope of dancing.
-Sort of traded places with Wisconsin

10. Iowa
-Iowa is ranked 10th because Indiana has to be ranked 11th.
– I mean, at least they’re keeping games relatively close.
-Do their own fans even want to watch this team?

11. Indiana
-At what point does Tom Crean just say “Screw it, I’m calling Eric Gordon to find out where I can buy some weed”
– Lost at home to Northwestern for first time in 33 games.  HAHA.
-I’m loving watching this train wreck in circus clown pants season continue

Big Ten & Memphis Match Made in Heaven

By Peter Christian

About a week ago I had a revelation. A true vision that was so perfect it nearly made me cry in my car while driving into work. I have no idea why the thought penetrated the gray matter that is my brain, but the fact remains, it did.

For at least the last fifteen years there has been rumblings and whispers about the Big Ten athletic conference wanting to add a 12th team. The school that was always mentioned as a possibility was Notre Dame because of its natural and historic rivalries with Indiana, Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State, but financially it never made sense for the football program (they had their own TV contract, set their own schedule and had their own clause written into the Bowl Alliance and BCS agreements) and the basketball team was already a card carrying member of the Big East. Not to mention the fact that Notre Dame in the Big Ten would have just felt wrong. They are an elitist bunch of assholes that make the pretentious fans at Michigan and Ohio State look and sound ho-hum.

However, that still left the Big Ten a team short. Why does the conference need to add another team, you ask?

Twelve teams were needed for symmetry. Twelve teams were needed to divide the conference into divisions so that the conference could create a Big Ten Championship for football. Twelve teams would also help the conference in basketball to match up with the ACC during the conferences annual Big Ten/ACC challenge. It would be more fun to see the conference tournament feature a bracket that people can actually visualize without studying it for two and half hours.

Still answering the why left the who unanswered. There were possibilities of looking at some of the MAC schools, but they were far too small to make the step up. Which other non-BCS conference school could possibly step into the Big Ten and compete in both football and basketball immediately. Which school had the enrollment and the ability to recruit talent that could consistently match up?

There is only one possibility:

University of Memphis!!!


Memphis has a great basketball program which is not debatable, however the knock on them each year heading into the NCAA tournament is the fact that they play below average competition once the Conference USA season begins. A jump to the Big Ten would solve that quite easily. Plus it would definitely help the program’s already great recruiting reputation. A high school star that is on the fence to go to Memphis because of the lack of competition and subsequent lack of coverage would be swayed to be a Tiger if they were on national television every other week playing the likes of Michigan State, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The benefits would not be exclusive to only Memphis however. The Big Ten could finally align into two divisions (likely an East and West, with Memphis joining the West) and would also have another elite program to add to the top of their rankings. Gone would be the days of one elite program and four or five dark horses going to the NCAA tournament, the conference could confidently send two title contending teams while providing a handful of other competition tested teams.

On the football side of the equation, the Tigers would come in with a little less clout but would still boast the same number of bowl appearances as Indiana, Northwestern and Illinois combined. Plus it isn’t too far fetched to think that Memphis could corner the market on recruits from the South vs. the other Big Ten schools which could elevate the Tigers’ football program in a hurry. As for the conference (football-wise), this situation is a dream come true. Finally the Big Ten would be poised to set up their own Conference Championship (a proven cash cow for the SEC and Big 12). Think of how exciting an early December game to determine who goes to the Rose Bowl would be! Snow falling on Soldier Field with two sets of raucous fans on a chilly December night? Just the thought of it gives me goosebumps.

For now, this is simply a pipe dream. However, I’m hoping that with a little effort and a bit of momentum that I can lead the loyal readers of thesportsbank.net to the steps of the Big Ten Conference Commisioner James Delaney’s office to get this vision to be something more than just an amazing idea. Until then, start the whispers and we can build from there!

Marquette-UConn Exchange

By: Quentin and David K.

TSB.net’s Quentin and David K. share their thoughts as they watch Marquette’s biggest game of the season, and a true test to see just how competitive MU can be come March Madness.

(Q) One minute in and we just heard that Buzz and Tom Crean “played phone tag all day.” Sounds about right for Indiana.

(DK) I think I just vomited a little bit in my mouth.  Do you think Buzz sends Crean fire extinguishers once a week just in case he decides to light himself on fire?

(Q) Just wondering: where does UCONN get their offense from?

(DK) We can’t let A.J. Price go off.  UConn is at their best when he is feeling it.

(Q) Isn’t the Marquette-gets-87%-of-its-offense-from-its-starters a bit overdone? How many teams have 4 guys who can put up 25+ on a given night?

(DK) What?  We don’t have a bench?  Really?

(Q) 30 seconds after we were told Stanley Robinson can’t shoot, Jimmy Butler fouls him on a jump shot pump-fake from beyond the free-throw line. Fantastic.

(DK) I am going to try and avoid making any jokes about Jim Calhoun’s press conference meltdown this past weekend.

(Q) 17:00 (left) – Marquette seems to be playing kind of dumb so far. Burke took a 12-footer which missed badly, the aforementioned Butler foul, giving up an easy alley-oop. I think it’s safe to say we’re a little too fired up right now.

(DK) Dwight Burke should never shoot the ball unless it is a dunk or free throw.

(Q) 14:36 – Dickie V just said “trifector.” Totally unrelated, but great moment on the BS Report today when the Sports Guy mentioned personalities on a certain network that have grown to be parodies of their former selves.

(Q) 12:38 – Props to Dan Shulman for being the first announcer I’ve heard that recognized that though Dominic’s scoring has dropped, he is a far better player now than he’s ever been.

(DK) Speaking of Dom, why has he been on the bench for the last four minutes?

(Q) 11:30 – Butler gets fouled again. Some good minutes from him thus far.  Just caught myself watching a commercial and remembered this is actually DVRd and I’m behind the live broadcast. YES!  Thabeet is back in for UCONN, could be some big minutes coming up.

(DK) Don’t even get me started about my affection for DVR.


(Q) 10:01 –The “Buzz sent tons of letters to coaches” story makes an appearance!

(Q) 9:14 – ESPN stops my heart with news that Dominic is out for the game. I wondered why Acker was getting so many minutes. I’m already rationalizing: yes, it’s a huge loss but it’s not the end of the world. Acker is a good backup and this gives more freedom to Jerel and Wesley. Defensively, it’s a big loss, of course. I’ve almost convinced myself that I feel better.

(DK) Yeah, I’m not all that concerned.  He’s our fourth most important player.

(DK) Lazar just hit a three to put MU up 26-22 to which TSB.net frequent commenter Jason Moe, who am I watching the game with says, “Flame on with your Junior High Name.”

(Q) 8:41 – Wesley dunks to put MU up 6, 28-22. Dickie V gives us the old “that was a good TO!” line. Of course, neither Crean nor Buzz ever calls those types of timeouts, especially on the road. Not sure what that means, just an observation.

(DK) Huge that Thabeet has pretty much been a non-factor thus far.

(Q) 8:27 – Stanley Robinson hits a three.  I thought he couldn’t shoot?

(Q) 7:24 – Thabeet with his third straight possession with a block as there’s contact between he and Wesley.  Seemed like something should’ve been called there.

(DK) Totally a foul.  And my apologies for jinxing us by saying Thabeet has been a non-factor.  They just showed Dickie V signing autographs at Marquette’s Golden Eagle Shop to which Moe responded, “Tell him to hook us up with some Hooters.”  I love Moe.  Speaking of Dickie V, he just said after a Thabeet dunk, “There’s no defense to stop that slam jam bam.”  More vomiting in my mouth.

(Q) 5:53 – I simply cannot judge offensive fouls anymore. I’m so used to them being overcalled that I’m not sure what exactly constitutes a valid one anymore. Lazar took one on Robinson that seemed ok.

(Q) 4:20 – It sounds like this mini-controversy with Jim Calhoun centers around the idea that he should give back some of his salary b/c the state of Connecticut is broke and had to fire some people. Is he paid by the state? I can’t imagine he is so why is this an issue? Just seems like some hack political activist trying to get noticed. Of course, Dick and Dan back Calhoun up b/c he and his wife donate a lot of money, as if that has anything to do with anything.

(Q) 3:52 – UCONN is up 10 and have all the momentum right now.

(DK) A 16-0 run will do that.  Did Calhoun give some of that $12 million that UConn’s program brings in to the refs because they are getting every call.  Not bad that the first Calhoun joke came 16 minutes into the game.

(Q) :47 – A 40-year old man just came off the bench for UCONN and hit a three! Thabeet looks 14, Stanley Robinson looks 30 and whoever this guy is has to be older than everyone on the bench except Calhoun. You win 800 games, you learn how to do it with kids of all ages I suppose.

(DK) I have watched A LOT of UConn this year and never seen this 40-year old Harrelson character play a single minute.

(Q) Down 43-37 at the half.  Overall, an up and down first half for Marquette in which they started slow, came on strong, then faded a bit. This one’s got all the …

(DK) Yeah, I feel like we should be down a lot more than six.  I’ll finish what you started… this is shaping up to be a great finish.

2ND HALF

(Q) Oh my. Price just crossed-over Jerel and gave him the “I’m disgusted with you” look before hitting the jumper. I am willing to admit that I love when guys do that

(DK) ESPN just announced Dom has a broken fifth metatarsal and it out for the game.  Ok, now I’m concerned…How long will he be out? Until the Big East Tournament? For the Year? Not good.

(Q) – After hearing that news, my eyes look as glossed over and bloodshot as Dominic’s right now. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one in the locker room crying as MU starts the second half looking totally disinterested. This might get ugly.

(Q) Looks like we got past that bit of lethargy and are back in the game at the first timeout of the second half. We needed those few buckets badly.

(DK) 15:58 Price just bombed his sixth three of the game.  We might want to think about guarding him.

(DK) 12:07 ‘Rel is starting to get that swag.  Wesley hits two free throws and MU is up one.  By the way, Moe just found a toy that makes a noise you would expect to hear at an arena after a made free throw and hits it anytime MU sinks one from the charity stripe.  You should all be jealous Moe is my friend.

(DK) 10:54 Tied at 65… This is turning into a Jerel vs. A.J. showdown.

(Q) Jerel seems to have accepted the challenge of being a leader with DJ out and is doing everything he can to fire up his ‘mates. For the 1,249th time this season: I freaking love this team.

(DK) 9:05 Thabeet and one… They are killing us on the boards.  No real surprise though.

(DK) 6:13 Foul on Burke… seriously?  UConn is getting every call.

(Q) The crowd seems to have officially lost its mind. Regular fans aren’t even sitting down anymore. I can’t imagine how great it would be to be in the Bradley Center right now. What an amazing game.

(DK) 4:32 Stanley Robinson just had his 73rd baseline dunk of the game.  What a crappy game for him to have a career night.  Another dumb foul by Marquette … UConn up 84-74.

(Q) UCONN is getting to every loose ball and rebound. I’m going to have nightmares of Stanley Robinson dunking tonight.

(DK) 2:53 Lazar offensive foul on a crucial possession with MU within five, saw that coming from a mile away.

(Q) There was no denying that one. As soon as he started stumbling toward the hoop, everything slowed down and you knew it was coming.

(DK) 1:15 A.J. three gives UConn the 89-81 lead and pretty much clinches the win.

(Q) – Glad we got to see the crucial play of the game with half the screen taken up by Jim Calhoun. Did you know that winning 800 games puts you in “pretty select company”, according to Dickie V? Apparently, simply having the 6th-most wins in D-I history wouldn’t prove that to you.

(DK) Tough loss especially with ESPN confirming that Dom’s career as a Golden Eagle is over.  A little surprising considering I fractured my 5th metatarsal in 7th grade and was only out 3 weeks.  Not sure how I want to digest this injury.  Our bench is now even thinner and what had the makings of being a very special season just took a major hit.  The hope is not gone, but this definitely hurts.  I feel terrible for Dom.  It reminds me of when Travis Diener suffered a broken wrist with a few games left in his senior season and ended up falling short of breaking MU’s all-time scoring record.  I’m going to call it a night and drink my sorrows away.

(Q) I’m a mess. I hadn’t really considered the thought that we weren’t going to win that game. And we had the opportunities, but every loose ball and rebound went to the Huskies in the last 8 minutes. Size was certainly a factor, combined with the fact that we just looked too ragged on the boards. I’m hoping against hope for better news in the morning on DJ. I agree that we can still make some noise but it would be callous to pretend losing DJ isn’t a huge hit to this team. His growth and willingness to change his role has been a major part of the success this year’s team has had. Acker isn’t much of a shooter but that willingness to pass should help Jerel, Wesley and Lazar. I was really impressed with his on-ball defense tonight as well. Where this really hurts though is the lack of depth we already had. I like our chances in the tourney more than I do in these next 2 road games. I’m off to the LOST island to forget this…

Sports Bank on The Airwaves Friday!

By Paul M. Banks

Check it out! I’ll be guest hosting the Morning Break sports talk radio show on Friday, February 27th from 10am-noon AM 1240. Listen online, at work, or in your car and maybe call-in too 773 792 1240 http://www.morningbreak1240.com/.

We’ll be discussing Chicago sports, the beginning of baseball, the coming of March Madness, thesportsbank.net, maybe the Soxman and much more. Part of the reason we sports fans love watching our teams play is because we have plenty of people out there to discuss and debate the players and games that we find so compelling. So NBC and Sports Bank commenters, be sure to come on out and partake in the discussion on Friday!

The Political Steroid Era

By Paul M. Banks

If there’s anything children of this age have had plenty of experience with, it’s cheating. When today’s youth seek role models, the National Pastime is certainly one place not to look. And our leaders in government aren’t much better.

With the recent admission of steroid guilt by Major League baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, we now have an unholy trinity of the game’s best overall position player joining the era’s best hitter (Barry Bonds) and best pitcher (Roger Clemens), all being disgraced.

In terms of governance, here’s the special group I had ruling over me in 2008. On the Federal level: George W. Bush, state: Rod Blagojevich, congressional district: Rahm Emanuel (the dirt and grime on his record will be unveiled someday when they dissect the amazing rate of return he acquired on his investments), and the Chicago politics of the Daley machine on the city level.

The “Steroid Era” really took off in 1998 with the summer of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, but 2001 was probably the most unbelievably awful year possible as Bush, our worst ever president, took office, and Bonds ushered in a new low with his 73* homeruns.

George W. Bush=Barry Bonds
Gotta start at the top with the biggest most powerful players in each game, both of these trust fund babies were born with a lot of the blue chips they held during the heights of their careers. And the chip each one has on his shoulder is partially because each spoiled little boy has defined his actions in adulthood by trying to escape his father’s achievements. The fact that neither one has any actual grasp on the difference between right and wrong causes a treacherous trickle down crisis of confidence.

Eliot Spitzer=Alex Rodriguez

Both high profile New York figures were once rising stars and potential redeemers of the crooked game. Before his involvement with a high-priced prostitution ring became public, Spitzer was talked about as a future Presidential candidate. Before his past steroid use became public knowledge, A Roid was prospectively the man who would make the career home run record untainted again.

Rod Blagojevich=Jason Giambi
A significant player in the fixed game, but history will likely remember each of them as the guy whose cheating was the most painfully obvious of all.

Roland Burris=Jeremy Giambi
Neither really had any authentic power, and both will be remembered more for whom they were close to than what they actually did, if they’re remembered at all.

Donald Rumsfeld=Sammy Sosa
We never heard of either of these guys until the absolute peak of egregiously immoral corruption began. Rumsfeld was the architect of a war that yielded nothing good for anyone except a handful of defense contractors. Sosa was the co-captain of 1998’s “Summer of Steroid Love.” Both are great for ridiculously bad sound bites.
Rumsfeld: “stuff happens,” “there are known unknowns and known unknowns, known knowns” “you go to war with the army you have, not the war you want”
Sosa: “baseball been berry berry good to me.” “I’m a gladiator, it’s hard to stop me.”

Dick Cheney=Rafael Palmeiro Everything Palmeiro did in life will now be a distant afterthought to his emphatic statement, “I have never used steroids- EVER!” a year or so before he tested positive. Cheney likewise had no problem lying straight to your face even though the truth is right in front of you- “we’ll be greeted as liberators,” “the revenue we generate from the oil will pay for the war.” But his most bizarre lie was in the 2004 Vice Presidential debate, when he told John Edwards, “I’ve never seen you before,” despite video existing of him speaking with Edwards on more than one occasion. Sure, I can’t remember everyone I’ve met in my life, but I would hope that if I were Vice President, I could recall meeting the guy who was trying to take my job!

Tom Delay=Mark McGwire We haven’t heard much from either of these guys lately, but let’s not forget how much juice they once had, how much faith the American people once had in both of them…and how greatly they violated that trust!

Patrick Fitzgerald=George Mitchell Somebody needs to prosecute the biggest cheaters of the day. And their massive task requires more help.

2004 Bush voters=Bud Selig
We need a proper nickname for the steroid era of politics, and we also need to remind the enablers that they have a few drops of blood on their hands for the past decade.

Mainstream media=ESPN Maybe this is redundant, but in both cases…so much for the idea of “the 4th Estate” providing a check on power. During the home run chases and the run-up to war, both acted as public relations flaks for the people that should have been under scrutiny.

Condoleeza Rice=Roger Clemens
Neither of these individuals should take up high stakes poker because each one has an obvious and anxious tell that has been on display before Congress. Whenever Rice lied to congressional committees, you saw her face glaze over into a frozen and emotionless state. When Clemens was on Capitol Hill, you saw him nervously lick his lips every time he strayed from the truth.

Pre-invasion Anti-war left=Jose Canseco
It’s hard to find a governmental whistleblower to match Canseco, because so far our politicians haven’t been justly disgraced and punished for their crime. Those “nuts” and “hippies” on the left who shut down roadways all across the country as they protested the start of the Iraq war actually had it right all along. If only we had listened to the fringe. Remember the attacks on Canseco’s credibility? The “opportunistic book seller” had the goods on everyone back in ’05.

What’s Brewing in ’09: The Gag Rule & Spring Training

By Melissa S. Wollering

It’s time to redeem yourself, GagMe. A gag rule forbids discussion of a particular topic.  I instituted the gag rule when Eric Gagne ruined my life, namely when he used a plunger to push $10M down the drain while compiling a 5.44 ERA in 50 appearances.

Now he has a minor-league offer with big-league camp invite attached. If he makes the team, he gets $1.5M, possibly $3M in incentives. If that’s not enough to make you choke, here’s the arrogant son-of-a-jackal’s response:

“You look at your paycheck every two weeks and it’s like, ‘Man, that’s crazy what I get paid for,’ and you put pressure on yourself,” Gagne said. “I knew [Doug Melvin] took a chance on me last year…and it didn’t work out with me.”

You think?  You pitch 6.98 for two months, go on the DL for your shoulder, then give up two homers and four runs against the Reds on July 12th and you’re shocked at fans’ boos?  You’re the first EIGHT FIGURE reliever in the club’s history and still in utter befuddlement as to why we screamed like you murdered our mother?

There are only two open bullpen slots, so go duke it out with Jorge Julio, Todd Coffey, Eddie Morlan, Mark DiFelice and Tim Dillard.  See if I care whether they tear you up. Gagne says he’s looking forward to playing with Trevor Hoffman.  Funny, bet Hoffman’s not looking forward to playing with you. When Gagne retires, I’m throwing a gag party. That’s the new gag rule.

Darn, no more goggles jokes. Gagne and Bill Hall both got LASIK eye surgery in the off-season.  He says the goggles gave him a headache all the time. Welcome to my world, Eric.  Welcome to my world.

In a new update called “Ace’s Corner,” Yovani Gallardo will not be #1 in the rotation after all. Ken Macha wants him the middle of the rotation, which is fine with me. Dave Bush or Braden Looper in the #1 spot would be my wager, in that order.  Although, my buddy Jason Craig (nicknamed because his roommates found him on Craigslist) thinks the Soup’s On in Numero Uno. 

Manny Parra must sing Stevie Wonder in the shower. He changed his number from 43 to 26 this season because he’s very superstitious. He wore 26 in HS, was drafted in the 26th round, signed on the 26th day of the month and is 26 years old right now. Wow. At least he did it the right way, making it to the big leagues first Alshon Jeffrey, cough, Steve Spurrier. The number could pay off: our friends at Razzball think lucky 26 is a fantasy sleeper.

Last week Macha confirmed what I called three weeks ago; which was Wickie Reeks will top the batting order, J.J. Hardy will bat #2. As for our OF Corey Hart, he got more than he’s worth AND avoided arbitration, finally netting $3.25M for one year.

In Spring Training, 3B prospect Mat Gamel’s shoulder hurts. He didn’t tell anyone prior to camp because he thought it wasn’t serious enough. Yeah, right.  He was also a bit “late” to warm-up the first day because his wife is expecting, so his teammates gave him the Bronx cheer and told him they were none too happy. Then Macha and Gord Ash had a stern talking to the young man last Thursday. Tough crowd in Maryvale these days.

Gamel has the same shoulder problem as Lil’ TG (Tony Gwynn, Jr.), so no throwing for now.  This is coming at a time when he could have seen more action due to Bill Hall’s calf injury. Billy should be back in action in a little more than week.

In other ST news, the once-porky Prince is slimmer! He says he beefed up his cardio regimen, no pun intended.  You’ll also notice Prince has a new tat on the right side of his neck – angel wings to complement the Asian character on the other side. Sweet. Also sweet: fat kid pictures of Prince from the 80’s on this week’s Two Fisted Slopper Blog, courtesy of a Cecil interview.

You have too much time on your hands if you’re the group of Brewers fans who set up shop last Friday to wait for single-game tickets that go on sale this Saturday. Sales managers sent them home and told them they should come back to Saturday’s Arctic Tailgate after they’ve put down their crackpipes.

In another new update “What A-Rod’s Done For Me,” Ryan Braun is standing by A-Rod. He says no one’s perfect. Braun met A-Rod in 2001 on a recruiting trip to U of Miami, allegedly the same year Alex started taking banned substances. Alex later helped #8 transition from 3B to LF and Ryan still considers Alex a mentor. Btw, Braun started his own clothing line called Remetee and he’s the cover boy of this season’s media guide.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” former-Cub, now-Brewer Casey McGehee is prominently featured on the Cubs’ pocket schedule. Really? Who’s your Director of Marketing/Promotions?  That’s like featuring Gabe Kapler on Miller Park’s $2 Scorecard, which they only print once a year.

In “Just a Bit Outside,” it’s official.  Ueck will omit the word ‘Jimmy’ and insert the word ‘Cory’ into his two-bit comedy routine. Cory Provus of Cubs Radio replaces Jim Powell. FSWI’s Brian Anderson says Cory is low-maintenance, humble and a solid journalist. Good, because I would not categorize Bob Uecker as low-maintenance.

Meantime, blonde bombshell-lovers everywhere are mourning the loss of Trenni Kusnierek with the announcement that Telly Hughes is to replace her. Hughes is a DUDE, yes that’s right, a MAN who’s made some cameos as a studio host on FSWI. At least they didn’t promote Jeff Cirillo.  Dave, I’m convinced your interview would have impressed beyond Telly’s. The name reminds me of four dancing PBS characters.

Trying to redeem themselves, FOX Sports Wisconsin is making it up to me by televising 136 regular-season games in 2009 with WMLW also broadcasting 151 games over-the-air! When I worked for WMLW in 2003, we hired Pat McCurdy to write and sing our commercial jingle “WMLW means Milwaukee” and it’s still around. Thank you Pat and WMLW for helping me live life to the fullest between April and October.

And finally by request, more “Chart Magnificence.” Let us examine spray charts for Alcides Escobar’s ground balls, courtesy of a new feature at the Minor League Splits database. Here are all the balls Escobar hit that were classified as ground balls by minor league scorers. Green is a hit and red is an out.

Compare that to Huntsville 2B Mike Bell, who played in the same park, had about the same number of at-bats, and racked up a .220 BABIP on ground balls, though he hit far fewer of them overall than Alcides.

Look for more on spring training and Attanasio’s fear of reaching $90M with his payroll next week…

College Hoops 101

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

-It’s becoming obvious that Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin will undoubtedly win Player of the Year honors.  But the Sooners could actually complete the trifecta.  Jeff Capel has to be one of the top names for Coach of the Year and after what Willie Warren did Saturday night against Texas, he has to be a top contender for Freshman of the Year.  With Griffin out due to a concussion, Warren carried the Sooners on his back scoring 27 points in a five-point loss.  If the tournament started today, I would probably pick Oklahoma to win it all.

-A 22 point, 23 rebound performance against Hasheem Thabeet has thurst DeJuan Blair into the National Player of the Year discussion.  Blair absolutely owned the 7’3 Husky, as Thabeet fouled out in 23 minutes, finishing with just five points, four boards, and two blocks.

-ESPN’s Mike Patrick was off his game when calling Saturday’s Marquette-Georgetown game.  He constantly misidentified players, gave credit to guys who weren’t even on the floor, and kept calling MU “the Warriors.”  Seriously ESPN, hire me.  I am sane and actually watch college basketball.  (Yes, that shot could also be directed at Verne Lundquist and Brent Musburger, who I am convinced, takes naps during stretches of games that he is calling.)

-Penn State 38, Illinois 33. Yes, that was really a FINAL score.  (I’ll be shocked if Paul M. Banks does not edit this portion out)

My AP Top Ten (if I actually voted in the poll)

1. Pitt (25-2)
2. Oklahoma (26-2)
3. UConn (25-2)
4. North Carolina (24-3)
5. Memphis (24-3)
6. Louisville (21-5)
7. Duke (22-5)
8. Marquette (23-4)
9. Clemson (22-4)
10. Wake Forest (20-5)

Nipping on their heels:
Villanova (21-5)
Michigan St. (21-5)
Arizona State (21-5)
Missouri (23-4)

Fast Forward

Oklahoma at Kansas (Monday, 8:00 ESPN)
Missouri at Kansas (Sunday, 1:00 CBS)

First place is on the line in the Big 12 as OU and KU enter this game at 11-1.  Griffin is going to be a game-time decision due to the aforementioned concussion he suffered against the Horns.  Mizzou is right behind them at 10-2, making Sunday’s match-up in Lawrence just as important for the Jayhawks.

Penn State at Ohio State (Tuesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Loser’s bubble is likely burst.

Footlocker.com

UConn at Marquette (Wednesday, 6:00 ESPN)
Marquette at Louisville (Sunday, 11:00 CBS)

All three of these teams and Pitt are in a logjam atop the Big East standings.  Some sort of separation has to come after this week.

Memphis at UAB (Thursday, 8:00 ESPN2)
So much for a re-building year for Memphis…  The Tigers have now won 18 straight, 53 consecutive Conference USA games, and could land a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.  UAB is in second in C-USA and must win this game if they want to be dancing.

With UCLA fading faster than Aubrey O’Day’s once promising career, the winner of this game takes control of the Pac-10.

The Drive to 225

To update my goal of watching 225 college basketball games this season…

Games watched through 2/22: 200

Games watched this past week: 13
Pitt at UConn
Texas at Texas A&M
Michigan State at Purdue
Wisconsin at Indiana
Washington at UCLA
Butler at Davidson
Marquette at Georgetown
Utah State at St. Mary’s

Oklahoma at Texas
Illinois at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Michigan State
Wake Forest at Duke
Arizona at Arizona State

Footlocker.com

2009 NFL Mock Draft

By Peter Christian
1. Detroit Lions    Matt Stafford    QB    Georgia
The first post-Millen draft is going to be important for the Lions. The team has plenty of holes to fill, but getting a stud QB will give the franchise a face to build around. The Lions are definitely thinking of taking an offensive tackle here and hoping to grab Sanchez with the 20th overall pick.

2. St. Louis Rams    Andre Smith    OT    Alabama
Andre Smith is very large (6’4″, 330 lbs.) and is going to be a great run blocker in the NFL. There is question as to whether he is quick enough to handle the speed rushers off the edge at the pro level, which likely means he will be moved to right tackle.

3. Kansas City Chiefs    Aaron Curry    OLB    Wake Forest
There is little doubt that this pick will be a front seven defensive player. Between Curry and Brian Orakpo (DE – Texas) the Chiefs will likely decide based on their combine performances, however as of now Curry’s upside is higher.

4. Seattle Seahawks    Michael Crabtree    WR    Texas Tech
It seems like the Seahawks haven’t had a reliable receiver since Steve Largent. Crabtree can be that reliable down field threat to help open up the rest of the offense.

5. Cleveland Browns    Brian Orakpo    DE    Texas
Orakpo has the tools to become an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Some scouts and NFL junkies have said that he could be converted to an outside linebacker which could happen in Cleveland if Eric Mangini brings the 3-4 defense to the Dawg Pound. Where ever the Browns have Orakpo line up he is definitely going to fill a need.

6. Cincinnati Bengals    B.J. Raji    DT    Boston College
Raji is moving up and down many mocks and draft boards and will likely continue to do so until the Combine. The team that takes B.J. will be thoroughly impressed with his upper body strength and his ability to change the direction of the play.

7. Oakland Raiders    Eugene Monroe    OT    Virginia
Eugene Monroe isn’t getting as much hype as Andre Smith, but he is probably just as fundamentally sound, if not more. Monroe can play tackle on either side at the NFL level.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars    Michael Oher    OT    Ole Miss
Jacksonville needs talent and depth at offensive tackle badly. Luckily for them, this draft is stocked with exactly that. Oher is quietly moving up many draft boards and could find his way into the top 5.

9. Green Bay Packers    Aaron Maybin    DE    Penn State
Aaron Kampman is not getting any younger and the Packers really have no depth at DE. Aaron Maybin is a suitable candidate to learn from Kampman in Dom Caper’s 3-4 defense and not only because they have the same name.

10. San Francisco 49ers    Rey Maualuga    LB    USC
Maualuga paired with Singletary in San Francisco could be a match made in heaven.  If Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu had a baby, Maualuga would be the result.

11. Buffalo Bills    Brandon Pettigrew    TE    Oklahoma State
Pettigrew’s stock is rising. At 6’6″, 260 lbs. he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses, no matter who is throwing him the ball. He can be a great asset to the offense in the short and intermediate passing game.

12. Denver Broncos    Malcom Jenkins    CB    CB
Jenkins has been given the benefit of playing behind a very good defensive front during his college career but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented. OSU’s history of producing good CB’s will continue with Jenkins.

13. Washington Redskins    Everette Brown    DE    Florida State
Everette Brown is an extremely agile defensive lineman. There is talk about his game translating to the OLB position in the NFL which would likely best utilize his versatility.

14. New Orleans Saints    Vontae Davis    CB    Illinois
Malcom Jenkins gets all the hype of a Big Ten CB but Davis has the better upside. There isn’t a lot of buzz on him now but as the draft nears he will start to turn a few heads.

15. Houston Texans    Jeremy Maclin    WR    Missouri
Maclin has a great skill set. He has good hands, great speed and agility. He can help a team in the passing game, the return game and was also a very effective option out of the backfield on occasion..

16. San Diego Chargers    Brian Cushing    LB    USC
Cushing has plenty of question marks to go with his talent. However as GM’s watch him on the field, those question marks will likely be forgotten. Cushing’s draft stock will likely hinge on his medical records and team interviews rather than his measurables.

17. New York Jets    Mark Sanchez    QB    USC
Sanchez probably causes the most debate than any other player in this year’s draft. He is a definite question mark due to inexperience (only 16 starts in college) and inconsistency (tough games against Arizona and Arizona State). However with the Jets QB situation definitely in limbo they need to do something to address the emptiness.

18. Chicago Bears    Sean Smith    DB    Utah
A big, fast player that can play corner or safety. At 6’3″ he could match-up very well against the taller more physical opposing receivers. Chicago’s lack of depth in the defensive backfield was exposed last year and Smith would be a welcomed addition.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers    Jason Smith    OT    Baylor
At 6’5″, 305 lbs. Smith has great size but he will wow people with his athletic ability. The converted tight end is extremely agile and quick and will defend against speed rushers very well. He will likely be asked to gain some strength in both his upper and lower body in order to prevent him from getting outmuscled in the trenches.

20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas)    Eben Britton    OT    Arizona
Britton is a big man and can anchor an offensive line. He will have to work on his footwork, but he has the raw skills to be great.

21. Philadelphia Eagles    Knowshon Moreno    RB    Georgia
Moreno is a blend of speed, agility and muscle and can provide any team with a great home run threat out of the backfield. He has amazing downfield moves and can make just about any defender look foolish.

22. Minnesota Vikings    Percy Harvin    WR    Florida
Harvin is possibly the best athlete in the draft. He has amazing speed and is surprisingly strong for his stature. His game likely translates to becoming a slot receiver in the NFL but he can line up anywhere if asked.

23. New England Patriots    James Laurinitis    LB    Ohio State
Laurinitis likely would have been taken in the top 10 in last year’s draft, but his slipping has little to do with his own play. He brings great energy to the field and is always around the ball.

24. Atlanta Falcons    Alphonso Smith    CB    Wake Forest
The Falcons were less than mediocre in pass coverage last season and why would they ever pass on a guy nicknamed “Prime”? Smith, given the nickname for being a shorter version of Deion Sanders, has great tools to get after opposing receivers and will likely be a regular in quarterback’s nightmares.

25. Miami Dolphins    Darrius Heyward-Bey    WR    Maryland
Heyward-Bey can give the Dolphins offense the one thing it really needs, a big physical receiver. Currently the Dolphins are relying on three slot-type receivers (Ginn, Camarillo and Bess) and lack any size on the outside and don’t have anyone that they can just “toss it up to” in the end zone. Until now.

26. Baltimore Ravens    Larry English    OLB    Northern Illinois
English’s size will likely lock him into being an OLB in the NFL but his stock is on the rise nonetheless. His stats and accolades in the MAC shouldn’t be downplayed, his ethic is pure.

27. Indianapolis Colts    DJ Moore    CB    Vanderbilt
Moore dealt with a lot of injuries last season but was still a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award as one of the nation’s best defensive backs. He has shown an ability to make good reads and get good breaks on the ball, racking up 11 interceptions over the last two seasons.

28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina)    Tyson Jackson    DE    LSU
Jackson’s biggest knock is that he takes plays off, if he had a consistent motor he would likely be mentioned in the same breath as Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin. As long as he doesn’t mail in his performance at the combine he should still be a first rounder

29. New York Giants    Hakeem Nicks    WR    North Carolina
Nicks is a big, physical receiver that has bear paws for hands. He catches everything thrown to him. His breakout season for Butch Davis at UNC has made him a must see at the combine for NFL GM’s.

30. Tennessee Titans    Peria Jerry    DT    Ole Miss
Peria Jerry could be a perfect replacement for Albert Haynesworth should he leave. He is extremely quick and agile for a 312 lb. man-child and gets into the backfield with regularity. The biggest knock on Jerry is his lack of sheer strength.

31. Arizona Cardinals    LeSean McCoy    RB    Pitt
The Cardinals also need an offensive tackle and another athlete or two on defense but Arizona needs to address their situation at running back. McCoy wasn’t a household name last season, but he should have been. McCoy has the skills to be great in the NFL and can help the Cardinal offense to be less one-dimensional.


32. Pittsburgh Steelers    Darius Butler    CB    Connecticut

Butler is relatively unknown at this point but his cover skills are going to be whispered about in war rooms on draft day. He is very fundamental and has a ton of field experience due to his status as a three year starter.

Marquette Running the Big East Gauntlet

By David K.

It is very rewarding to witness a team’s full potential be reached.  To this point, an amazing season for Marquette has garnered them not only national attention, but national respect.  At 22-4, they are ranked tenth nationally and are tied with Pitt, a half-game behind first place UConn in the Big East.

Since the season started, the final five games of the season have been dubbed as the true determining factor as to just how deep a run the Golden Eagles can make in the NCAA Tournament- time to face the gauntlet.

Plenty is at stake in these final five regular season games; most notably, a two-game bye directly into the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.  This will be the first time that the conference has expanded their post-season tourney from 12 teams to all 16 Big East teams.  The top four finishers won’t have to play until the quarterfinals while the 5th-8th place teams will get an opening round bye.  As it sits right now, Marquette would get that much needed bye into the quarterfinals and more importantly, an extra day of rest for a team that usually only goes seven deep.

Thanks to recent struggles by Georgetown at Syracuse, and an injury to a key UConn starter, this stretch is not as daunting as it appeared it was going to be a month ago when all five up-coming opponents were ranked in the top 12.  Still, the Golden Eagles face their toughest task to date, and it comes at a very critical time when gaining momentum heading into the post-season can be a valuable jump-off into the tourney.

At the end of the stretch, my reactions to the following outcomes would be:
0-5: I would start rooting for the Badgers
1-4: Expect not getting past the first weekend of another NCAA Tournament
2-3: Probably a very reasonable result
3-2: Very pleased if we could steal one on the road
4-1: Elite 8 bound
5-0: Book your tickets for the Final Four in Detroit

Here are the keys to the final five games and my completely un-biased predictions:

At Georgetown, Saturday Feb. 21

Key for a MU win:
The Hoyas shot lights out (56% from the field, 10-20 from three) in their first match-up this season and still lost by twelve.  The two keys that game were MU forcing 17 G-Town turnovers and getting to the free throw line 38 times.  Expect big games from McNeal and Matthews as they are tough match-ups for the slower Hoya guards.  I’ll go with a re-peat overtime thriller like last year’s meeting.

My Prediction:
Marquette 87, Georgetown 82 (OT)

Vs. UConn, Wednesday Feb. 25
Key for a MU win:
If Marquette can somehow get Hasheem Thabeet in foul trouble, they win this game.  Thabeet has been a terror inside blocking and altering shots and it is well known that MU has zero height, so they will need to get out in transition at every possible opportunity and hope Thabeet is slow getting back on the defensive end.  With Huskies’ guard Jerome Dyson done for the season, Marquette will need to take advantage of a very thin UConn backcourt.

My Prediction:
Marquette 66, UConn 62

At Louisville, Sunday March 1
Key for a MU win:
I think Louisville is a very vulnerable team at times.  If they aren’t shooting lights out from the perimeter, they are definitely beatable.  Marquette lost their two meeting last season by a combined 34 points, and had a lot of trouble breaking the Cards’ pressure defense.  Louisville has a lot of length and athleticism up front and their guards will pester the hell out of you.  MU has handled pressure pretty well for the most part, but really seems to struggle against bigger, more athletic teams like L-Ville (see Dayton and Tennessee.)

My Prediction:
Louisville 72, Marquette 61

At Pitt, Wednesday March 4

Key for a MU win:
Pitt’s practically unbeatable at home, posting a perfect 16-0 record at the Zoo this season.  DeJuan Blair owned Thabeet on Monday putting up 22 points and 23 boards, so just imagine what he is going to do to Dwight Burke, who very well could have more fouls than minutes played in this game.  Outside of Blair, Pitt does not have a lot of size on their roster.  So if Blair gets into foul trouble which he has had a tendency of doing this season, that is Marquette’s best chance in this one.  Sam Young will be a tough match-up for Wesley Matthews and I would not be surprised to see Welsey get in early foul trouble.  This one could get out of hand in the second half, but I think MU keeps it close.

My Prediction:
Pitt 80, Marquette 75

Vs. Syracuse, Saturday March 7

Key for a MU win:
Jim Boeheim’s teams have always played a lot of 2-3 zone, though this year the Orange have used a fair amount of man-to-man.  If Cuse comes in out in zone, Marquette will have to be on from the outside and attack the holes in the zone (I sound like Jay Bilas there.)  The Orange will try to run at every opportunity possible so MU will have to get back on defense.  If James can lock down on Johnny Flynn on the perimeter and not let him go off, I really like Marquette’s chances.

My Prediction:

Marquette 87, Syracuse 74