Archives for September 2009

NBA Power Rankings: #18 Philadelphia 76ers

elton-brand

by: David Kay

2008-09 Season Summary:
Heading into 2008-09, Philadelphia was the “sexy” pick to make the NBA Finals. Finishing at the .500 mark and seventh in the Eastern Conference was a quite a disappointment. It appeared Philly was ready to redeem themselves in the post season when they took two of the first three in their opening round series against the #2 seeded Orlando Magic. However, Philly lost the next three: including an embarrassing 25-point home loss in which Orlando eliminated them despite missing their superstar, Dwight Howard. The Sixers had plenty of issues to deal with last season including a season-ending injury to their big off-season acquisition, Elton Brand, and the firing of head coach Maurice Cheeks just 23 games in. The post-season ended with controversy as well as free agents Andre Miller and Theo Ratliff skipped the team’s final meeting and criticized the coaching staff.

Depth Chart:
C: Samuel Dalembert/Primoz Brezec
PF: Elton Brand/Marreese Speights/Jason Smith
SF: Thaddeus Young/Jason Kapono/Rodney Carney
SG: Andre Iguadala/Willie Green
PG: Lou Williams/Royal Ivey/Jrue Holiday

Head Coach: Eddie Jordan (1st year)

2009-2010 Team Salary: $63.9 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $65.0 million

Off-Season Grade: Failed
Facing the possible departure of free agent point guard Andre Miller, the 76ers let him leave and did little to replace him.  Yes, they drafted Jrue Holiday with their first round pick, but Holiday couldn’t establish himself as a true point guard in his one year at UCLA and is still a few years away from being a contributor at the next level.  When experienced college floor leaders like Ty Lawson and Eric Maynor were still available, taking Holiday was a strange pick.

76rrs_holiday_basketball

I like the acquisition of sharp-shooter Jason Kapono since the Sixers were the worst three-point shooting team in the league last year.  Signing Primoz Brezec, Rodney Carney, and Royal Ivey via free agency adds depth, but were moves made more so to fill out the roster than be a true impact to the team.

2009-2010 Outlook:
The health of Elton Brand will be crucial to the Sixers’ success, or lack thereof, this season.  If Brand can come back at 100% and be the low post offensive threat that he has been during his career, Philly has a chance to compete for a playoff spot.  If he ends up wearing street clothes on the bench more times than not, Philadelphia is in trouble.

The point guard play is a major question mark and what is preventing the 76ers from being a post-season caliber club in my view. Williams has had success as a back-up during his career, and now will be thrust into the spotlight as a starter.  His career average is less than 2.5 assists per game and he will need to become a playmaker.  Other than Williams, Royal Ivey or Willie Green will likely see the other minutes at the point, and neither are true point guards.

Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:

Unless Philly pulls off a trade to unload some salary, their roster will remain in tact for the 2010-2011 season.  They will be above the salary cap and not have any flexibility to make any major moves next summer.  With Dalembert, Kapono, and Green, the Sixers will have contracts that are expiring in 2011 and could try to swing a deal involving those guys.

Click here for other NBA Power Rankings/Season Previews.

Fightless Illini Exchange

arreliousbenn

By Paul M. Banks and Paul Schmidt

(PMB) Wow! Can’t say any of us saw this trainwreck coming down the railroad. The University of Illinois have been anything but Fighting this year, as they’ve lost both of their meetings with FBS schools by a combined score of 67-9. They did achieve one victory, but that was over a FCS team. But have no fear, Paul squared (myself and Paul Schmidt) are here to guide you through this potentially disastrous season.

So where is the allegedly vaunted offense hiding? WR Arrelious Benn was a favorite in August to win the Biletnikoff award. He has a whopping 44 yards receiving on the season. I’m beginning to think he’ll actually be a poor pro prospect now, as he can never stay on the field, and be 100%. He had been a consensus top ten pick in mock drafts all across the www, but now you have to question his ability to stay and remain healthy. Because last season was his only year of true full production. Although I have to applaud him for putting up the numbers he did, while having a separated shoulder the whole time.

(PS)  Regardless of the validity of your statements — and there certainly is some truth there — I honestly believe that Benn is one of the toughest cats playing college football today (channeling my inner Jim Rome there). He’s an absolute physical specimen, and with his unbelievable combination of strength and speed and size, he has the potential to be a Charles Johnson-type receiver — just an unbelievably tough matchup.

Is he an injury risk?  Sure.  But if he slips in the first round because of that, not only would that be a horrible, horrible mistake, it’s going to make one of the better teams in the league (i.e., a team drafting at the end of the first round) a whole lot better. As for his lack of production, I predict you’re going to ask a question about the real reason in 3…..2…..1…..

(PMB) His partner in disappointment Juice Williams was on every QB award watch list you can mention. Through three games, he has 0 TDs, 3 INTs and a passer rating that would make Rex Grossman vomit. What on Earth is wrong with him so far? There’s a conspiracy theory floating around that now departed Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley altered the offense last year from an option-read attack to a more pro style, utilizing a greater number of NFL style pass patterns. Locksley intentionally went away from what worked in ’07 in order to improve his stock in the coaching job market. And Juice followed along, in order to help his pro stock. True or not, who knows? Now what do we have? Other than a hot mess overall on offense.

juicewilliams

(PS) I was as big a fan of Locksley as anyone, especially his unbelievable recruiting skills.  He got passed over for some decent jobs and jumped at a New Mexico job that…well, that decision was odd, to say the least.  Now he’s punching wide receiver coaches.  All I mean by that is that maybe Locks wasn’t the answer here either.

Juice….JuiceJuiceJuice.  Ever the enigma.  When we brought him in as a highly-touted recruit I thought he would be the one to lead us to the promised land. Now?  More than anything, it seems like so long ago.  I don’t know what’s wrong with Juice, because I’m starting to wonder if anything is.  Maybe this is just who he is.  I feel bad for him because he really is a great guy, but I just don’t think he has it in him anymore.  It hurts me to say it, but I think it’s true.

What are your thoughts on the demise of Juice?

juicy

(PMB) I agree that Juice is the main reason for Benn’s decline. As for Mr. Williams, he looks lost/apathetic/back to early 2006 form. Is he resting on his laurels? Not in the game mentally/physically/emotionally/psychologically? The Zooker best find out quick. At Illini Media Day Zook talked about how he was in Puerto Rico and the cab driver saw his Illini gear and immediately brought up Juice, like he’s some kind of international superstar. Well, he’s quickly becoming a has been.

I know Zook signed a contract extension earlier this year, but with this assemblage of “talent,” and right now I use airquotes because of the awful performances we’ve endured, when does the seat start warming for Zook? Last year was a huge let-down, so how much time has the Rose Bowl in 2007, which in all honestly, is the only thing he’s accomplished so far, actually bought him?

(PS) I said when they signed Zook, the difference between Florida and Illinois is…back to back 8-5 seasons gets you fired in Gainesville, but it would get a statue erected to him in Champaign. I still maintain I’m right about that, but he’s shown no propensity to actually achieve it.  I thought talent could overcome his obvious coaching deficiencies, but that hasn’t even been the problem this season. He’s said after both losses that the team just wasn’t ready.  How??  Could that EVEN be possible?  And whose fault is that?  To me, it was inexcusable to hear it the first time, so when it was said a second time this year I was furious.  There’s no excuse for lack of preparation, there’s no excuse for lack of heart, there’s no excuse to be as badly coached as that team was on Saturday.   If his seat isn’t getting VERY warm at this point, then it never will.

(PMB) Now with Penn State coming to town, this season could get ugly quickly, like Lou Tepper or Ron Turner era ugly. PSU holds a 13-3 series advantage, including a 6-3 edge over the Illini in Champaign. We’ll be sitting in the press box together on Saturday (for the “Orange Out” game), and I have a feeling we’ll sound like a younger version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. They spend most of the time pointing out  how terrible what they’re watching is. “Well, I certainly enjoyed that last series?” “why?” “Because it was the LAST series.” statler_waldorf

(PS) I fear that this is going to be the turning point of the season, which is unfortunate given that a REALLY pissed off Penn State team is coming to Champaign.  I don’t want to relive last season’s Minnesota debacle…I really will have to start poking one of my eyes out with a fork. Can Illinois win on Saturday?  Of course they can.  They’re definitely talented enough.  I just don’t know if they care enough to show up at this point. The first sentence of Pat Forde’s “Forde-Yard Dash” sums up the season so far: “From High Octane to Low Comedy: The Illinois Offense Story” Not much you can add to that.

2009-2010 Big East Basketball Preview: Part of 3 of 5

onuaku-flynn

by: David Kay

Part three of our week long Big East Hoops Preview focuses on my predictions for the fifth-eighth place teams that should be dancing come March.  Louisville captured the regular season and conference tournament titles last year but lose two major players in Terrence Williams and Earl Clark.  Syracuse loses three starters including Jonny Flynn, who made last year’s team run.

Seton Hall and Cincinnati are wild cards.  Both squads return a lot of players from last season and have talented newcomers who should make an immediate impact and in my opinion, get their respective teams into the tournament.

5. Syracuse (6th, 11-7, 28-10, Sweet 16)

2009-2010 Outlook:
Losing Jonny Flynn was understandable as he ended up being the sixth overall pick, but why Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris left early still baffles me.  Despite losing their top three scorers, the ‘Cuse shouldn’t fall off too much.  Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson will be a major addition on the wing and getting redshirt sophomore Scoop Jardine back should fill some of the void at the point.  Adding freshman DeShonte Riley alongside upperclassmen Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson will give the Orange one of the best frontcourts in the Big East.  Depth will be an issue though for Jim Boeheim.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Arinze Onuaku (Sr)/DeShonte Riley (Fr)
PF: Rick Jackson (Jr)/Kris Joseph (So)
SF: Wesley Johnson (Jr)/Mookie Jones (So)/James Southerland (Fr)
SG: Andy Rautins (Sr)
PG: Scoop Jardine (So)/Brandon Triche (Fr)

Gone: PG-Jonny Flynn, G-Eric Devendorf, G/F-Paul Harris, F-Kristof Ongenaet, C-Sean Williams (transfer-Cal State Fullerton)

Player to Watch: Johnson- Boeheim has spoken very highly of the former Cyclone this summer and thinks he will be a very special player this season.  Syracuse will need the long, athletic Johnson to pick up a good chunk of the scoring slack left behind by Flynn, Devendorf, and Harris which he should be able to do with his ability to break down defenders off the dribble.

6. Louisville (1st, 16-2, 30-6, Elite 8 )

2009-2010 Outlook:
56879913Don’t expect another re-peat of conference regular season and tournament champs for Louisville.  The loss of T-Will and Clark is huge as Rick Pitino will struggle to find someone to replace their leadership and all-around game.  The Cards’ guard play should be solid which means their full court pressure will once again be prominent.  There is young talent up-front, but the wing play will determine how good L-Ville will be this season.  It will also be interesting to see if Pitino’s off-the-court escapade serves as a lingering distraction throughout the season.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Samardo Samuels (So)/George Goode (So)
PF: Terrence Jennings (So)/Jared Swopshire (So)/Rakeem Buckles (Fr)
G: Reginald Delk (Sr)/Kyle Kuric (So)/Mike Marra (Fr)
G: Preston Knowles (Jr)/Edgar Sosa (Sr)
PG: Jerry Smith (Sr)/Peyton Siva (Fr)

Gone: G/F-Terrence Williams, F-Earl Clark, G-Andre McGee

Player to Watch: Jennings- The 6’10 sophomore is the wild card for Louisville.  He showed definite signs of improvement at the end of his freshman season.  If he can combine with Samardo Samuels to be a formidable duo down low, it will open up more opportunities outside for the guards, thus making the Cards a more rounded team.

7. Cincinnati (9th, 8-10, 18-14)

Cincinnati Shovels Out Basketball2009-2010 Outlook:
The Bearcats made nice strides last season and that should continue as they return almost everyone from ’08-’09.  Adding super-freshman Lance Stephenson is a major get as long as he behaves himself and becomes a team player at Cincy.  This team could be the sleeper in the BE especially with Cashmere Wright, who missed of all last season with an injury, back and healthy.

Projected Depth Chart
C/F: Steve Toyloy (So)/Anthony McClain (So)
PF: Yancy Gates (So)/Ibrahima Thomas (Jr)/Rashad Bishop (Jr)
G/F: Lance Stephenson (Fr)/Darnell Wilks (Jr)
G: Deonta Vaughn (Sr)/Dion Dixon (So)/Larry Davis (Jr)
PG: Cashmere Wright (Fr)/Eddie Tyree (Jr)/Jaquon Parker (Fr)

Gone: F-Alvin Mitchell (dismissed from team), F-Mike Williams

Player to Watch: Thomas- The Oklahoma State transfer will be eligible for the Bearcats after the fall semester, just in time for Big East play.  He started seven games for the Cowboys last season and should form a double-threat inside with Gates.  He could be the x-factor for a potential Cincy run to the tourney.

8. Seton Hall (11th, 7-11, 17-15)

2009-2010 Outlook:
hazellFour of their five starters are and transfers Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson, and Keon Lawrence are eligible this season, adding some much needed depth for the Pirates.  I would by no means be shocked if they finished above .500 in the conference as their experience should be a major plus, and think they have a very good chance of making the tourney.  Jeremy Hazell might be one of the better players in the country who receives little love on the national scene.

Projected Depth Chart
C: John Garcia (Sr)/Melvyn Oliver (So)
PF: Robert Mitchell (Sr)/Herb Pope (Jr)/ Matt Cajuste (So)
G/F: Jeremy Hazell (Jr)/Jeff Robinson (So)/Ferrakohn Hall (Fr)
G: Keon Lawrence (Sr)/Jamel Jackson (Jr)
PG: Eugene Harvey (Sr)/Jordan Theodore (So)

Gone: C-Mike Davis (transfer-St. Francis, NY), PF-Brandon Walters (transfer-Siena)

Player to Watch: Pope- The New Mexico State transfer averaged 11 points and almost seven boards a game in his freshman season with the Aggies.  The Pirates starting five is in tact from last season, but they lacked a boost off the bench which Pope should be able to provide, especially inside.

WEEK LONG PREVIEW:
Monday: Teams 13-16 (Rutgers, South Florida, Providence, DePaul)
Tuesday: Teams 9-12 (Notre Dame, Pitt, Marquette, St. John’s)
Thursday: Teams 1-4
Friday: Post-season Award Predictions

NBA Power Rankings: #19 Houston Rockets

yao-hurt

by: David Kay

2008-09 Season Summary:
The Rockets valiantly tried to be the best NBA team in Texas but fell short in the end, finishing one game behind the San Antonio Spurs. Tracy McGrady only played 35 games before having season ending microfracture surgery on his knee but maybe that was a blessing in disguise as the Rockets actually came together as team without him and finally got out of the first round of the playoffs. On the flip side Yao Ming’s lower body once again proved to be fragile and the Rockets were left short handed to finish the season. Luckily for Houston, their front office has put a very good roster together that had better than average chemistry and were able to succeed with the likes of Aaron Brooks, Von Wafer and Luis Scola.

Depth Chart:
C: Luis Scola/David Andersen/Joey Dorsey/Yao Ming??
PF: Chuck Hayes/Carl Landry/Brian Cook/Pops Mensah-Bonsu
SF: Shane Battier/Chase Budinger
SG: Trevor Ariza/Brent Barry/Jermaine Taylor/Tracy McGrady??
PG: Aaron Brooks/Kyle Lowry

Head Coach: John Kuester (1st year)

2009-2010 Team Salary: $74.2 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $53.0 million

Off-Season Grade: Failed
Here’s the thing; Houston knew Yao Ming would likely be missing the entire season and did nothing to find a true replacement.  They acquired the rights to David Andersen from Atlanta, but Andersen has never played a minute in the NBA, having spent his professional career thus far overseas.  Why they haven’t made an effort to bring in a suitable lost post presence confuses me.

ariza-rocketsThe major move this off-season was pretty much swapping Ron Artest for Trevor Ariza.  Ariza is coming off a breakout season with the Lakers in which he was the perfect compliment alongside Kobe, Pau, and Odom.  In signing a five-year deal, $34 million with the Rockets, Ariza will take on a much more prominent role especially with T-Mac’s health a question mark.  Ariza thrived as a lockdown defender and someone who can thrive in transition in L.A., but I’m curious to see how he will respond to being a go-to scorer.  Yes, Artest was a little crazy and out there, but at least he was capable of being that offensive presence that Houston lacked at the end of last season.

Other than that it was a fairly quiet off-season as the only other moves the Rockets made were acquiring second round picks Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger who shouldn’t fit much into the regular rotation.

2009-2010 Outlook:

I really think this team is going to struggle this year without Yao and T-Mac’s status uncertain.  The rest of their roster is better suited being role players which they have excelled at in their respective careers.  I just don’t see how this team is going to score a lot of points, meaning they will have to win games on the defensive end.

Up-front, Houston will be incredibly undersized.  Andersen is the only player on the roster taller than 6’9” while power forwards like Landry, Hayes, and Dorsey are physical, but lack the ideal height.  Luis Scola will likely be asked to shoulder a major load underneath.

If T-Mac’s knee recovers sooner than later and he does come back healthy and can be an effective scorer, the Rockets will be in much better shape.  But with his recent injury history, that cannot be counted on.

Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:
The Rockets will be faced with two major questions next off-season.

1) Will Yao pick up his $17.7 million player option?
2) Will Tracy McGrady be brought back?

tracy_mcgrady31Coming off a major injury, I would be shocked if Yao turned down his player option and tested the market.  His health will determine his fate and if he comes back at 100%, I would expect the Rockets to do everything possible to lock him up to an extension.

As for McGrady, one thing is certain; no chance on earth is he going to net a payday near the $23-plus million he is making this season.  He is an unrestricted free agent after this season and Houston will have to take a serious look at brining him back if he proves to be healthy.  The Rockets don’t have the money to pursue a major player next off-season since they will have little to no cap flexibility, but Houston could go over the cap to retain T-Mac.  If Yao does opt out of his contract though, the Rockets would have the cap space to be a serious player next summer.

Fire tie TFC, another disappointing 2-2 performance

Justin MappDeRo

By Alex Simon

It was an ugly performance by both teams’ backlines Saturday night.  However, a late inexcusable mistake by a Fire substitute let the visiting TFC (Toronto FC) side off the hook.  Thus, the Fire played to a 2-2 tie against Toronto.

While Chicago’s playmaker Cuauhtémoc Blanco was sidelined with a strained hamstring, TFC’s star player, DeRo (Dwayne De Rosario), made his presence felt from the get-go.  In the 6th minute, DeRo scored off a defensive blunder by C.J. Brown and Wilman Conde.

“We’re gift wrapping goals. It’s like Christmas time. If they beat us with a good goal, fair enough, but quit giving away easy goals and putting ourselves behind the eight-ball. That’s the bottom line,” said Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch after the match.

DeRo was able to pick apart the shaky Fire defense once again, this time coming in the first minute of the second half.  The Fire D failed to get back on a TFC counterattack as DeRo sent a beautiful cross in the box, scored by unmarked ex-Fire forward Chad Barrett.

Fortunately for the Fire, as bad as their defense was, Toronto’s Nick Garcia was worse.  The Fire’s first goal came on a TFC own goal in the 14th minute, when Garcia chested the ball into his own net.  Then in the 78th minute, Garcia was caught ball watching and left Brian McBride wide open for the easy header from a Justin Mapp cross, equalizing the game at 2-2.  (Garcia’s lackadaisicalness on McBride’s goal was frighteningly similar to an Eddy Curry box out). mcbride

The Fire had several scoring opportunities late in the game.  None would be as good as the one the Fire had in the last play of the game.  With the game level 2-2 in the 93rd, Fire forward Patrick Nyarko beat his defender and passed to a running teammate.  Unfortunately, that teammate was late sub, Calen Carr.  With the goalie nowhere to be found, Carr just needed a simple tap in from a foot away from goal to be the hero.  Carr hit the ball wide of the goal, leaving 16,890 Fire faithful dejected with how the game ended.

Chicago vs Toronto Highlights 9/26/09

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly against TFC

The Good

Justin Mapp:
He was tremendous.  This was the best I have seen Mapp play since the Soldier Field days.  IF Mapp can play at a similar level in the remaining games of the regular season, he can expect major minutes in the playoffs.

Brian McBride:
Back in August, team doctors thought McBride would be out for the season after having shoulder surgery.  “Superman” is back and most importantly, healthy.  I asked McBride how the shoulder felt after last week’s game against Columbus, saying the shoulder was a non-issue.  He proved that against Toronto, giving TFC fits all night.

The Bad

Injuries:

With only three games remaining in the season, now is not the time to be dealing with injuries with the playoffs coming up.  Rolfe was a late scratch but the Fire said it was just precautionary.  Ward and Woolard are still out, but players I think we can do without.  Although Banner played well at left back, a healthy Segares is a major step up.  The same goes for Thorrington.  Not only is Thorrington a good player, but also provides toughness and grit that this team is lacking without him.  With Soumare gone, Thorrington would be a huge help to Conde and C.J.  With that said, if Blanco is not ready to go come playoff time, it does not matter how the other Fire injuries play out.  Blanco is without question our best and most valuable player, and without him, there will be NO deep playoff run.

The Ugly

The D:

The Calen Carr rant and why the f#$% Hamlet put him in the game to begin with is ridiculous, but I think and pray that the Calen Carr era is over. (Carr’s miss was equivalent to a kicker missing an extra point to win the game)  Carr won’t matter in the playoffs, but the defense will, and they really need to figure their s— out.

Badgers impressive in Big Ten opener, now to focus on keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe

Michigan St  Wisconsin Football

By Jake McCormick

I’ve seen so many horror/thriller movies that I’ve gotten into a mindset where the main character could be sitting in a living room writing a thesis paper on the Chi Square and I would fully expect a 2×4 to come flying through the window and make acquaintance with said character’s temple. Hell, I had that feeling the other night watching Milk for the first time. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

But we’ve all had a few moments where no matter what good you see, you are automatically assuming it is a mirage or outlier. If you’re a Wisconsin Badger fan, this is about as common as TNT playing a Tom Selleck movie or TBS running a 48-hour Tyler Perry marathon. But after a dominant win against Michigan State, where Scott Tolzien’s performance netted him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors and the defense held the normally high-powered Spartan offense to 17 points over 55 minutes, the Badgers look as ready as ever for the Big Ten season.

In the second quarter against Wofford, the Badgers scored 28 points, and committed zero penalties. Can the team find a way to harness that dominance over more than a quarter of play?

The Badgers scored in every quarter, ended each half with 14 points, and only committed one penalty for five yards each quarter. Statistically, the Badgers look like the most consistent offensive team in the Big Ten, ranking second in points, total yards, yards per game, rushing yards per game, and third down conversions. Minnesota’s defense has a fairly strong pass rush, but is in the middle of the pack in overall ability. The battle up front will be key to a Badger victory.

Michigan St  Wisconsin FootballCoach Bielema laughed a little about students yelling “Tolzien for Heisman” heading down the locker room tunnel. Obviously that slogan is pretty farfetched, but what can Tolzien do in a high pressure game against a tough opponent?

Does Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week answer that question? Tolzien continues to improve each week and spread the wealth in a way that would make FOX News pundits foam at the mouth. He is arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten right now, leading the league in QB rating (161.7) and yards per attempt (8.8), and is second in completion percentage (66.7). Let’s also give the offensive line some credit, as they have given up a league leading two sacks for -13 yards. Tolzien will face his first road test against Minnesota, who have only recorded two interceptions on the year and sit right in the middle of the Big Ten against the pass statistically.

Can the Badger running backs protect the ball and prevent turnovers?

John Clay has taken a first step into a larger world. He registered his first 30 carry game of his career, protected the ball all game, and pounded out 143 yards against a fairly good run defense. Greg Jones was barely a factor, and the Badger rushing attack will again face a good group of linebackers in Minnesota, all three of which rank in the top six for tackles in the conference.

Michigan St Wisconsin FootballI’ve altered the last question to focus on the defensive side of the ball: The defense leads the Big Ten in turnover margin and has at least three in each game this year. Is playmaking able to make up for giving up yardage?

Wisconsin’s defense is seventh in points against (23.8) and is similarly ranked in yards given up. But they are second in interceptions and tied for first in fumbles. Likewise, the Badgers are ranked third in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks. Michigan State tallied over 400 yards of offense, but yards don’t win games; points do.

Questions for this week’s matchup with another buck-toothed rodent:

How will the Badgers respond to their first big ten road game, especially in a new stadium that adds more hype to an already strong rivalry?

The Badgers held star Spartan receiver Blair White to one catch for nine yards. How will they deal with Minnesota stud Eric Decker, who is the focal point of the gopher offense?

Wisconsin has multiple weapons in its passing offense, and it seems like a different player leads the team in receiving each week. Can the Badgers utilize their offensive diversity to neutralize a good Gopher linebacking corps?

Was the 30 carries, 143 yards against the Spartans a breakout or fluke for John Clay? Can he continue that in a rivalry road game?

Big Ten Power Rankings Week 5

dreamz032706161

By Paul M. Banks

1. Ohio State (3-1, 1-0)

Buckeyes post back-to-back shutouts for first time since 1996, and are starting to look like the best team in the conference. Again. Eventually making this year…well, so FUN and EXCITING that I just had to get up and dance (see picture above)! Ok, seriously,  yet another OSU conference title would really suck for ratings; for everybody. Because it would be BORRRRRRRRRRING!  Where are the 2000 Purdue Boilermakers, 1995 Northwestern Wildcats, and 2001 Illini when you need them?

2. Iowa (4-0, 1-0)

Meet senior linebacker Pat Angerer, could there be a better name for a linebacker? Angerer racked up a game-high 14 tackles and two turnovers to help the Iowa defense limit Penn State to only 10 points. Angerer recorded his first interception of the season and rambled 38 yards to set up the Hawkeyes’ second touchdown of the quart. Later he forced a fumble that was recovered by the Hawkeyes at the 18-yard line.

So far, the eyes have it, as the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes look a cut or two above the rest of the Big Ten, but this next group of five teams could all go bowling this holiday season.

3. Penn State (3-1, 0-1)

PSU holds a 13-3 series advantage over the Illini, including a 6-3 edge in Champaign, so 4-1 looks likely. The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten (sixth nationally) in allowing just 10.24 points per game. They got a big boost from the return of LB Navarro Bowman: In first full game back from injury, he recorded a career-best 13 tackles (five solo) with three TFLs (-7 yards) against Iowa

4. Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0)

QB Scott Tolzien set career highs with 19 completions, 31 attempts and four touchdown passes against Michigan State. He became the first Badgers’ signal caller to toss four TD passes in a game since ‘06.  Three of them went to Tight End Garrett Graham, the world’s least interesting interview subject.

5. Michigan (4-0, 1-0)

Yes they’re undefeated, after going just 3-9 last year. But their secondary and offensive line units are terrible. To quote TSB Michigan correspondent H. Jose Bosch

“We already knew how lame the secondary was. Boubacar Cissoko and JT Floyd were awful on the corners this week and that situation doesn’t look much better. As for the offensive line, the loss of David Molk hurt more than I thought it would. The slight rearranging to fill in for him affected the line enough to make Tate Forcier’s day a little more difficult.”

6. Minnesota (3-1, 1-0)

Did you know THEY have the 3rd most championships in Big Ten history. (Yes, Michigan and Ohio State are 1 and 2) Is it possible to develop a man-crush on a player whose team you hate? Because if anyone can inspire it- Eric Decker, the early favorite to win the Silver Football award. He could also end up fourth on the Big Ten’s all-time receiving and receiving yardage list at the end of 2009. The feat is more impressive when you consider how the top three WRs on both lists emerged from the statistically-inflated, pass-happy “Basketball on Grass” era at Purdue.

7. Indiana (3-1, 0-1)

Ok, so they’re much better than you or I (or anyone thought) And they deserved a power rankings jump based on Bill Lynch’s angst alone. Which was almost Mike Gundian. They also have Darius Willis going for them (152 yards on 16 carries, 9.5 avg. 2 TDs) His 85-yard score tied for the third longest in school history and the longest run against Michigan in over 20 years.


For these schools….basketball midnight madness is just a couple weeks away

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8. Northwestern (2-2, 0-1)

Last year, the Wildcats set a school record for fewest rushing yards allowed per game. They returned 8/11 starters on defense this year, including everybody’s pre-season All-American Corey Wootton. Yet everyone’s running all over them these days. What gives? Start with Wootton- 0 tackles for loss, just 6 total stops through 4 games. Maybe he’s a real-life, high-brow version of Boobie Miles- never the same after knee injury and rehabilitation.

9. Purdue (1-3, 0-0) illinette3

Are they better than you think, or is Notre Dame worse? Well, 99 times out of 100, ND is much worse than their publicity suggests. Boilers sophomore running back Ralph Bolden, who leads the Big Ten in rushing with a per-game average of 122 yards, is seventh in the nation. But defenses are figuring him out, as he was held to a season-low 64 yards by Northern Illinois and 67 by ND.

10. Illinois (1-2, 0-1)

So where is the allegedly vaunted offense hiding? WR Arrelious Benn was a favorite in August to win the Biletnikoff award. He has a whopping 44 yards receiving on the season. Juice Williams was on every QB award watch list you can mention. Through three games, he has 0 TDs, 3 INTs and a passer rating that would make Rex Grossman vomit. With Penn State coming to town, this season could get ugly quickly, like Lou Tepper or Ron Turner era ugly.

11. Michigan State (1-3, 0-1)

Replacing a QB and tailback is tough, but at Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan, they just re-load instead of rebuild.  They do have a bright spot in WR Keshawn Martin (and how could you not end up becoming a wideout with a name like Keshawn Martin?) At Wisconsin he had four catches, 139 yards and two TDs, including a 91-yard score, the second-longest pass play in MSU history.

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Patrick Kane and Company Head to Europe

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By Paul M. Banks

It’s known as the “Grand Tour,” a rite of passage for college kids. Upon completion of college, or perhaps during the summer in-between, college students often go sightseeing in continental Europe. Patrick Kane, and many of his Chicago Blackhawks teammates are college age or younger. Since they find themselves playing in the NHL instead of going away to school, they can consider this week’s trip to Switzerland and Finland, their Grand Tour.

On Monday afternoon, the Blackhawks played the first of two European exhibition contests at Zurich’s Hallenstadion Arena against HC Davos.  Chicago won Monday’s contest 9-2; including two goals from star left-wing Patrick Kane, who I had an exclusive with back in Chicago, just before the team flew across the pond.

“It will be cool. Hopefully, we can get some Blackhawks fans over there that can cheer us on pretty good. From watching soccer games on TV and being in world championships things like that- those European crowds can get pretty crazy with waving the flags, the face-paint and things like that. I’m sure we’ll enjoy it,” he said.

I also asked him about the power play, which has struggled mightily in exhibition matches. “Once we get out there on the power play, we pretty much know what to do. We’ve been with each other for a couple years here, so hopefully we get some practice in the exhibition and we work on it there,” Kane said.

The Blackhawks will join the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Florida Panthers as National Hockey League teams selected to participate in “NHL Premiere,” launching the 2009-10 regular season. The Blackhawks and Panthers will play “home-and-home” games at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, on Fri., Oct. 2 and Sat., Oct. 3. This will be the Blackhawks’ first-ever regular-season game in Europe, but not Kane’s first trip to the old continent.

“I’ve been there a couple times. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do that, but we’re excited about it and getting the season started…I’ve been to Germany, Russia, I haven’t been to Switzerland so that will be a goal for me. Finland, it can be pretty dark when you’re there in the winter, but luckily we’re going there a little bit earlier, so that’s pretty nice,” Kane said.

The trip should also help build chemistry within a team that had an off-season filled with adversity. “Going overseas for a couple weeks really helps us bond, as we really get to hang out with each other. Usually, when we’re at the rink we hang out, but then we go home and do our own thing and come back the next day.  But there, we’ll probably be together 24-7,” Kane said.

2009-2010 Big East Basketball Preview: Part 2 of 5

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by: David Kay

Part of two of our week long Big East Hoops Preview continues with the teams that will likely fall on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.  Unfortunately, I have to include my beloved Marquette team in that category.

This list includes the most hatred duo to ever play on one college basketball team, a usual conference powerhouse re-tooling, my MU boys (tear), and a usual bottom feeder that could be poised to make some noise for the first time in almost a decade.

9. Notre Dame (9th, 8-10 in BE, 21-15 overall, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:
A lack of depth was a major issue as the Irish failed to live up to their lofty expectations last season, and it will once again be a concern as four important seniors graduated.  Luckily, Luke Harangody chose to come back for his senior season and Ole Miss transfer Ben Hansbrough (yes, Tyler’s little bro) should step into the starting line-up right away.  A Harangody and a Hansbrough on the same team; the hatred should be plentiful for ND this year.  Tory Jackson should be a steadying presence as he enters his fourth year as the team’s starting point guard.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Luke Harangody (Sr)/Thomas Knight (Fr)/Mike Broghammer (Fr)
F: Tyrone Nash (Jr)/Carleton Scott (Jr)/Jack Cooley (Fr)
SF: Scott Martin (Jr)
SG: Ben Hansbrough (Sr)/Joey Brooks (Fr)
PG: Tory Jackson (Sr)/Jonathan Peoples (Jr)

Gone: G-Kyle McAlarney, G/F-Ryan Ayers, C-Luke Zeller F-Zach Hillesland

Player to Watch: Martin- The Purdue transfer started in eight games for the Boilermakers during his freshman season.  He is a well-rounded player who can hit from the outside and will need to be a perimeter compliment to Hansbrough as sharp-shooters McAlarney and Ayers (who combined for 218 three-pointers last season) have both graduated and Jackson is inconsistent from deep.

10. Pitt (2nd, 15-3, 31-5, NCAA Elite 8 )

2009-2010 Outlook:
I realize this is low for Jamie Dixon’s team.  But losing four starters in Blair, Young, Fields, and Biggs means 59% of their scoring, 63% of their rebounding, and 60% assists from a year ago need to be replaced.  If their role players from last year can adjust to being starters under the tutelage of Dixon, there is a good chance Pitt will be tourney bound.  It doesn’t help though that returning sixth man Gilbert Brown will miss the first semester after being suspended for the first semester due to academic issues while their lone returning starter, Jermaine Dixon has a broken foot that will cause him to miss the beginning of the season.

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Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Gary McGhee (Jr)/Talib Zanna (Fr)/J.J. Richardson (Fr)
F: Nasir Robinson (So)/Gilbert Brown (Jr)/Dante Taylor (Fr)/ Dwight Miller (Fr)
G: Jermaine Dixon (Sr)/Lamar Patterson (Fr)
G: Brad Wanamaker (Jr)/Tim Frye (Jr)
PG: Ashton Gibbs (So)/Chase Adams (Sr)/Travon Woodall (Fr)

Gone: C-DeJuan Blair, SF-Sam Young, PG-LaVance Fields, PF-Tyrell Biggs

Player to Watch: Gibbs- The reins of the Pitt offense will be put in Gibbs’ hands.  He helped lead the Jamie Dixon-coached U.S. U-19 team to the gold medal this summer which should be a big confidence booster as he only averaged ten minutes per game off the Panther bench last season.  Dixon needs someone to step into the leader role on the floor with four starters gone, and Gibbs will have to be that guy.  Spending a year learning from Fields could have only helped his preparation to be the Pitt floor general.

11. Marquette (5th, 12-6, 25-10, NCAA Second Round)

lazar12009-2010 Outlook:
Like Pitt, Marquette loses four starters who accounted for 67% of their scoring and 83% of their assists including their trio of four-year starting guards (McNeal, Matthews, and James.)  It will be a major transition this season as MU tries to find a new identity as six new faces join the Golden Eagles.  MU suffered a major loss in the pre-season when expected starting point guard, freshman Junior Cadougan, ruptured his Achilles tendon and will be sidelined for the season.  Still, If they can build their chemistry early in the year and Hayward emerges as a go-to player, there’s a chance Marquette could be dancing.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Chris Otule (So)/Youssoupha Mbao (Fr)
PF: Lazar Hayward (Sr)/Joe Fulce (Jr)
SF: Jimmy Butler (Jr)/Jeronne Maymon (Fr)/Erik Williams (Fr)
SG: Dwight Buycks (Jr)/David Cubillan (Sr)
PG: Mo Acker (Sr)/Daruis Johnson-Odom (So)/Junior Cadougan (Fr-out for season, ACL)

Gone: SG-Jerel McNeal, G/F-Wesley Matthews, PG-Dominic James, C-Dwight Burke

Player to Watch: Mbao- For a team that has lacked a real inside presence the past few years, having a 7’2 threat like Mbao will finally give Marquette a shot blocking threat they haven’t seen since Jim McIlvaine or Amal McCaskill.  It will just be a matter of how much Mbao will be able to contribute in his first season.  He is still rail thin and very raw, but if he can play 12-15 minutes a night right away at a very unsettled position, it could be a major boost for the Golden Eagles.

12. St. John’s (13th, 6-10, 16-18, CBI)

mason-jr2009-2010 Outlook:
Getting a medical redshirt year for senior Anthony Mason Jr. who played in just three games last season due a torn muscle in his foot was a big-time plus for a program that hasn’t had a winning record in conference play since 2001-2002.  They only lose one player who barely contributed and their recent youth movement is beginning to mature.  St. J’s could make some noise, but until they prove to be a consistent team, cannot be ranked any higher than this.

Projected Depth Chart
PF: Sean Evans (Jr)/Dale Coker (Jr)
F: D.J. Kennedy (Jr)/Justin Burrell (Jr)/Rob Thomas (Jr)
G/F: Anthony Mason Jr. (Sr)/ Omari Lawrence (Fr)
SG: Paris Horne (Jr)/Quincy Roberts (So)/Dwight Hardy (Jr)
PG: Malik Booth (Jr)/Malik Stith (Fr)

Gone: C-Tomas Jasiulionis, C-Phil Wait (transfer-Monmouth), SG-TyShawn Edmundson (So) (transfer)

Player to Watch: Horne- When Mason Jr. went down with his injury, Horne stepped up his game and finished the season at Storm’s leading scorer.  He loves to pull the trigger from deep and could be a solid compliment to Mason Jr.

WEEK LONG PREVIEW:
Monday: Teams 13-16
Wednesday: Teams 5-8
Thursday: Teams 1-4
Friday: Post-season Award Predictions

NBA Power Rankings: #20 Detroit Pistons

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By David Kay and Paul M. Banks

2008-09 Season Summary:
In Detroit, both the automotive industry and the professional basketball team headquartered there are in need of aggressive rebuilding options. Both have also seen better days. Despite trading Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess (who was waived and later re-signed) for superstar Allen Iverson, the Pistons regressed during the regular season, partly due to the controversial moves of first year head coach Michael Curry. The former players union representative made questionable choices that disrupted team chemistry, including playing Iverson and Richard Hamilton as sixth men. ‘08-‘09 was the first time since the 2000-01 season that the Pistons failed to reach 50 wins and finished with a losing mark. Detroit also saw their sellout streak at The Palace of Auburn Hills end on February 4. The streak began on January 19, 2004, the year the Pistons won their third NBA title, and was the franchise’s longest sellout streak at 259.

Still, the Pistons were able to earn the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, but were quickly swept out of the first round of the Playoffs by LeBron’s Cavs. It was the first time the Pistons have been eliminated in round one since 2000. In the previous season, Detroit advanced to the NBA Conference Finals for the sixth straight time, where they lost to the NBA Champion Boston Celtics. Today however, the window seems to be closed on the Pistons’ tremendous run this decade.

Depth Chart:
C: Kwame Brown/Chris Wilcox/Ben Wallace
PF: Charlie Villanueva/Jason Maxiell/Jonas Jerebko
SF: Tayshaun Prince/Austin Daye/DaJuan Summers/Deron Washington
SG: Richard Hamilton or Ben Gordon
PG: Rodney Stuckey/Will Bynum

Head Coach: John Kuester (1st year)

2009-2010 Team Salary:
$61.3 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $53.0 million

Off-Season Grade: Failed

The Pistons entered the off-season with a ton of cap space.  Unfortunately for Detroit fans, they wasted that flexibility by signing two streaky, offensive-minded players to long-term deals totaling $93 million.  Ish.

hamilton_300_070104Ben Gordon got five years, $58 million and Charlie Villanueva a 5 years, $35 million deal.  The Pistons put their future in the hands of two players who have yet to show they can carry a franchise.  What makes the Gordon signing even more strange is that Detroit already has Richard Hamilton locked up for the next four years at almost $50 million.  That’s $108 million spent on two shooting guards who really don’t have the ability to play another position.  Unless Hamilton is dealt during the season, that’s not a wise investment in my opinion.

One of the major holes this off-season was up-front for the Pistons who faced losing Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess to free agency.  While Villanueva plays power forward, he is far from an intimidating post presence or physical on the boards and spends most his minutes out on the perimeter.  Detroit addressed their need for some toughness inside by bringing back Ben Wallace even though he was washed up two years ago.  Chris Wilcox was signed at a reasonable price and will likely see a good amount of playing time off the bench.

I am far from in love with the selection of Austin Daye at number fifteen.  Daye is a skilled big man with plenty of potential but is soft and rail thin and couldn’t even establish himself on a consistent basis at Gonzaga.  Don’t be surprised if second round pick DaJuan Summers sees more minutes than Daye this season.

2009-2010 Outlook:

Remember, just two years ago Detroit had the best record in the East and was a year-in, year-out contender for the NBA title.  The new look Pistons are going through a reformation of sorts and will not be the defensive-minded team that they have been for the majority of this decade.  Gordon and Villanueva will bring some offensive fire power alongside veterans Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, but there are big question marks on the rest of the roster.

Detroit enters camp with Kwame Brown slated as the starting center which is never an encouraging sign.  It will interesting to see if someone steps up and becomes the low post threat the Pistons need to replace the likes of ‘Sheed and McDyess.

The point guard play will also be worth watching.  Rodney Stuckey is more of a combo guard than a true one and will have to carry more of the ball-handling and play-making responsibilities with Allen Iverson gone.  If he doesn’t firmly establish himself in that role, Detroit might have to look for a true point guard at some point during the season.

Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:
Detroit destroyed any cap flexibility they will have for next summer by throwing all that money at Gordon and Charlie V.  Brown will be a free agent and barring a breakout season will likely end up elsewhere meaning the Pistons will need to find an answer at center.  I still maintain that Hamilton needs to be traded at some point, so if it doesn’t happen during the season, I would think Joe Dumars would explore that option during the off-season.

The exchange: Tigers-Twins showdown

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By H. Jose Bosch and Andy Weise

The Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins are the only real reason to keep track of baseball this week. For those of you lost in college football and the NFL, the Tigers are just two games ahead of the Twins and tonight is the first game of a big four-game series between the two clubs.

Twins fan Andy Weise and I exchanged e-mails about tonight’s game and the series.

HJB-My first question to Andy is why, WHY! do the Twins always come back despite being so mediocre during the regular season? I mean, off the top of my head I can remember just one season in recent memory where the Twins were clear cut better than everyone else. The rest of the time they just seem to stew in crappiness with everyone else until the last few weeks of the season. (I ask this because I respect the hell out of them for balling up late in the season, something the Tigers have had trouble doing.)

AW-Well it’s nice to see the respect. I don’t have the hatred for the Tigers like I have had for Cleveland and Chicago White Sox but I was disappointed last year in the Tigers vs. White Sox game that if Detroit one, the Twins would win the division and head to the playoffs.
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The Twins overachieved last year, in my opinion. They had an extremely young staff that did fairly well and Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer finishing in the top five for the MVP race proved that they have the star power to carry this team. It’s clear though that inconsistency in pitching has hurt them a lot this year. Guys like Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano have been big time busts, they lost Kevin Slowey to injury and they’ve had to rely on guys like Carl Pavano down the stretch, not ideal!

What about the Tigers? Where do you see the problems on your team that have put them in a position where they could lose the division this week? They seem to have some big names in pitching and hitting but why haven’t they closed this thing out yet?

HJB-Those big name pitchers and hitters haven’t gotten the job done consistently. Edwin Jackson, who was a pleasant surprise of a Cy Young candidate, has gone 6-5 with a 4.80 ERA in the last two months of the season. Magglio Ordonez, who can reach base, just doesn’t have pop in his bat. Curtis Granderson is an electric player, but this season he’s been an awful lead off hitter. And the bullpen has chosen the final weeks of the season to pitch like we all thought they were: mediocre.

Don’t even get me started on the Jarrod Washburn deal. I would make that trade again but I want to just take a golf club to that freaking knee and put it out of commission for good.

And don’t be down on Pavano. He’s been a Tiger killer of late. Speaking of pitchers, look at the probable match ups:

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) v. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14)
Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) v. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41)
Carl Pavano (13-11, 4.86) v. Eddie Bonine (0-1, 4.60)
Scott Baker (14-9, 4.48) v. Nate Robertson (2-2, 5.56)

There are only two pitchers on this list I’d trust (Verlander and Pavano since he’s been a Tiger killer of late). Everyone else would make me nervous. Who do you like in this series?

I’m going to be optimistic and say Porcello, Verlander and Robertson can pull off wins. What’s your perspective?rick-porcello-kevin-youkilis

AW-I thought the Tigers getting Edwin Jackson was going to be a huge move. He looked good with Tampa Bay last year and I always see the Tigers making moves I wish the Twins would make. And you’re right on Pavano; he’s given the Twins a boost that they really needed with more than half of their rotation not helping this year.

As I look at the match ups for this series, tonight’s game features two guys who really need to step it up and show their team’s they can pitch in a big game setting. I do think Porcello is the better pitcher of the two right now but Blackburn has a little more experience. Tuesday’s match up with Duensing and Verlander will probably feature the best match up of them all. If the Twins can keep it close and get to the bullpen once Verlander goes out, I think Minnesota can come away with that one. Do you like Bonine against Pavano? I don’t know much about your guy but that might be a slugfest of a game. And finally, Baker versus Robertson is a good one given that the Twins haven’t hit good against lefties. Baker needs to rebound after his loss to the Tigers a couple Sunday’s ago and I think he can do that.

Offensively, Michael Cuddyer has to keep playing the way he has been playing. The Twins need production from some the lower part of the order too. Nick Punto looks like he’s finally getting some good at-bats and Jose Morales has proved that his bat can help too.

I think the Twins have to win 3/4, they can afford to lose one but not two. I think game two and four will be the ones where the Tigers are favored to win.

HJB-I’m conceding the Bonine game right now. I have zero confidence in him. I agree with your assessments of the other games, which worries and excites me at the same time. As a Tigers fan I’m going to be a nervous wreck but as a baseball fan I know these are going to be some epic games and a nice appetizer for the postseason, especially for the guy whose team makes the playoff (*cough*me*cough*).

verlanderThe only thing that worries me about the Verlander game is he has a tendency to give up a big inning late in his start and as you alluded to earlier, the Twins bullpen is pretty solid Detroit’s has shown flashes of brilliance but I’d rather spot them a 2-3 run lead rather than go into the bullpen with a tied game or (eeek) trailing.

Everyone in the lineup is a tough out; they just haven’t done it on a consistent basis (except for Miguel Cabrera). If there was ever a time for the line up to be clicking on all cylinders, it’s during this series. Some of the changes the Tigers made, like getting Adam Everett and Gerald Laird, were done because we didn’t need more sluggers and we needed a better defense in tight games. Now we’ll see how the moves pay off. These are going to be tight games and I don’t think Detroit can expect to slug its way into the postseason during this series.

Last question Andy. If you asked me the one thing I NEED to see in this series to make me feel good it’s a solid bullpen. As I said, I think these games are going to be close and Detroit will need the ‘pen more than ever (especially when Bonine and Robertson start). What’s the ONE aspect of the Twins’ game you want to see at its best during this series?

AW-One? Haha, I don’t know if there is just one. Off the top of my head I have two right now — starting pitchers cannot afford to let the game get out of reach early. If the starting pitchers for the Twins struggle early and let the game get out of hand, I’m going to worry. I’ve seen plenty of comebacks lately and some big innings from the Twins but I just don’t think they have the firepower to do that too much more. The pitchers have to keep the games close or protect leads if we have them.

The other thing like I pointed out earlier — Twins need to get offensive production from the infielders outside of Cuddyer. Punto, Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris, Brian Buscher and Alexi Casilla, whoever they send out from all these guys, they have to produce some offense. It hurts the Twins big time if they can’t get some guys on base for the top of the order to hit home.

It’s nice that the race is only two games right now and the teams have four games head-to-head. You can’t ask for anything more exciting at this point. Overall both teams have been extremely inconsistent and probably do not deserve to make the playoffs but rules are rules, the division winner will make the playoffs and head to New York to face the Yankees when all is said and done.

There will be a live blog of tonight’s game at Michigan and Trumbull. Check it out!

Erin Andrews Sexually Harassed by College Gameday Sign

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By Paul M. Banks (photo courtesy of The Big Lead.com)

ESPN College Gameday may want to re-consider broadcasting live if this continues. Or they might want to dip into their deep pockets, and hire some private security to screen out the people coming to see the show. Check out this photo on The Big Lead.com it’s the full size version of the thumbnail above, and I have a feeling that we’ve now found the guy who secretly videotaped Erin Andrews through a peephole. Because the maker/carrier of this sign is just as much a disgusting degenerate as the person who violated her privacy earlier this year.

Whether you love or hate EA, you have to be with her on this one. Seriously, this sign didn’t cross the line of bad taste, it dropped a nuclear bomb on it. This is, to quote Seattle Seahawks Coach Jim Mora yesterday, “unacceptable. UNACCEPTABLE.”

It will be interesting to see how ESPN handles their future on-site broadcasts, and possibly censoring the unruliest of fans who show up. Because this network is owned by Disney, and just as last night’s Family Guy reminded us, every thing produced by the world of Disney is happy, and family-friendly. Well, sort of.

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