Sunday, March 30, 2008

And Then There Were 4...

Two weeks later, 65 teams have been trimmed to a final 4. UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas represent the last men standing atop a heap of dreamers. These fabulous four offer something surprising, as well as something not so surprising.

It’s not surprising to have four number 1 seeds remaining, if you consider they earned those seedings with regular season play and a determination that they were the best in the field. If anything, this should often be the norm. But it’s surprising that all 4 did survive, since history shows this as the first time all top seeds have ever advanced to the final four. The pattern has always been at least one of those seeds stumbling somewhere along the way. Some may have struggled to get there, but all managed to make a historic arrival in 2008.

East Region: Before a single game was played, many viewed the East as the toughest bracket, yet the Tar Heels plowed through the majority of it like a bulldozer clearing smaller obstacles from the path. Even if the drubbing of their first victim, Mount Saint Mary’s, didn’t impress you, a nearly identical beating of Arkansas had to make you somewhat of a believer. Then came all the talk about Washington State’s stingy defense, and if you ask the Heels, after whipping the Cougars 68-47, they would probably say... “What D”? Finally, they found an opponent slightly worthy, as the Louisville Cardinals tried to make it a game, after being run out of the gym in the first half. The comeback was cut short, and North Carolina cut down the nets.

South Region: Maybe we should call this one the “disrespected” region. No one wanted to give Memphis any credit for their play, and people weren’t just waiting for the South’s top seed to fall, but they were expecting it. Those doubters nearly received their satisfaction, as the Mississippi State Bulldogs pushed Memphis to the limit, before falling just short. Memphis responded to that nail biter with routs of Michigan State and Texas. As much as people expected Memphis to do light packing for a short tournament trip, the Tigers packed their scissors, and used them to bring down the Southern nets.

West Region: This was said to be the easiest bracket, but I’m sure the Bruins would tell you different. UCLA made quick work of Mississippi Valley State, holding them to just 29 total points in that first round game. But the Bruins struggled with Texas A&M, escaping again on a questionable “no call”, and had their hands full with Western Kentucky’s Cinderella dreams. They managed to momentarily silence the critics with an overpowering victory to dump Xavier, but still won’t be viewed as the final four favorite, despite making their third consecutive appearance in the field.

Midwest Region: This region was stacked with some big names, but highlighted by a little name that refused to go away. The Davidson Wildcats were finally silenced by the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks, but it wasn’t easy. In fact, I feel that Davidson began to panic, with the game winding down under 5 minutes. They were still in striking distance, but Curry forced some bad shots, and the Wildcats appeared to surrender to the logic of living or dying behind the arc. The last possession of the game gave proof, as Davidson never attempted to set up a tying drive to the paint, and desperately tried to get off a game winning 3.

The Jayhawks walked easily through the tournament, until they ran into the feisty Davidson team, but survived to complete the final four puzzle.

Now What?

Can you pick the best team of the 4 remaining? I’d say all are evenly matched, and we’re headed towards a spectacular weekend in San Antonio. Early in the season, I said Memphis was the best team in the country. But by the end of the regular season, I became one of the doubters, probably caught up in the media bashing of a team coming from a non power conference. I chose UCLA in all my bracket pools, but honestly, any of the remaining teams can win this thing.

I think the Networks would love to see a UCLA versus North Carolina final. It’s perfect. It gives you Love vs. Hansbrough. Williams vs. Howland. It gives you old school royalty vs. the modern day warriors. It’s East vs. West, Lawson vs. Collinson, and the team with the most NCAA basketball championships vs. the team with the most NCAA final four appearances. it’s umm…baby blue vs. baby blue. Who could ask for more?

A final note: In the past two seasons, the Big East has sent 14 teams to the NCAA tournament (8 this season), and only one has made the final 4 (Georgetown '07).

Monday, March 24, 2008

DOH-Mer Of The Week- DeAngelo Hall

I didn’t even have to search for a DOHmer to fill this week’s slot, because he found me. Well, he didn’t walk up to my door and introduce himself, but his past words placed the bull's-eye directly on his forehead. DeAngelo Hall gives further proof that athletes should have traveling stenographers for every media appearance. They should then plaster those notes on their bedroom walls, and read them repeatedly with each morning’s stretch and yawn. There’s no doubt they forget some of the bull$h!t that flowed from their lips or don’t care, but I always remember, and care enough pin them with my personal award.

We all know DeAngelo Hall, because he’s one of the more outspoken brats of the NFL. When he’s not making headlines with his play on the field, the write ups are about his full support of the dog fighting Michael Vick, arguing with teammates, and insubordinate behavior towards coaches and management. I won’t dwell on every incident involving DeAngelo, but just a couple of comments to show why he is DOHmer worthy.

When Bobby Petrino packed his bags and left Atlanta for the college game, a few players were vocal about the departure, with some calling him a quitter. Two of those Falcons were Alge Crumpler and Warrick Dunn. With Atlanta recently giving both players their walking papers, the organization basically said “Thanks for your support, but we’re quitting on you”. But they didn’t have to open the door for Hall, who was also critical of Petrino's exit, because he turned the knob and walked out on his own. You’ve gotta love the hypocrisy, and lack of loyalty, from a player that chose to shove his face in front of cameras to slam someone else abandoning that sinking ship.

It doesn’t end there, because we then received DeAngelo’s comments about money. From the lips of Mr. Hall came, “I don’t want to be the highest paid cornerback in the league and losing every game. Money only gets you so much happiness”. I doubt he remembered those words, while inking his name to a $70 million contract with the Oakland Raiders. If my memory serves me correctly, the Falcons just won a coin toss to determine which of 3 teams (all equal in futility) would have the third selection in the first round of the upcoming draft. The Raiders were one of those teams involved in the flip, meaning DeAngelo’s new team shares the exact same misery as his old.

Oakland won 19 games in the past 5 years, and the Falcons have won 35 (with a playoff birth). If it’s all about winning, then you latch on to the Cowboys or Patriots, who are in need of your services, and have a far greater chance of winning consistently. Winning is the "happiness", right? That kind of happiness could have be found if he stayed true to his words and lowered the asking price. Asante Samuel said “screw the happiness”, and went after the money. And guess what DeAngelo?---so did YOU.

You’ll now play for a team with an experimental quarterback (like the Falcons), went 4-12 in 2007 (like the Falcons), has a first time NFL coach from the college ranks (like the Falcons), and has a defensive line that parted like the red sea for opposing running backs (like the Falcons). Not much of a change of scenery, huh? But I hope you enjoy your new “happy place”, DOHmer.

The Little Guys Are Alive And Kicking

After two rounds of dancing, what does your bracket look like? Did one of those little guys shatter one or more of your regions? Did they make child’s play of your entire field, leaving marks and scribbles all over the name of a team you projected to win it all? Did they make your viewable bracket about as colorful as your words describing Connecticut, Duke, and Georgetown’s tournament failures?

I certainly didn’t pick Davidson or Western Kentucky to be dancing in the sweet 16. I had my suspicions about San Diego possibly making some noise, but bigger names denied my gut feeling, and I penciled in Connecticut on the line. I should have known better, but like everyone else, I got caught up in Major conference hype.

Davidson walked into the tournament with the nation’s longest winning streak. And after 2 rounds, they’ve stretched that number to 24. Why do we doubt them? Is it because they lack the media attention and we judge them by conference? In November, North Carolina edged them by 4. In December, Duke escaped by 6, and UCLA also failed to find a double digit victory over these same Wildcats. After a 3 point late December loss to NC State, Davidson didn’t lose again. Sure, the Wildcats lost to all the major conference teams they played early, but they certainly were not dominated by either of them.

Western Kentucky had victories over Michigan and Nebraska, before they even entered the tournament. Gonzaga escaped by 3, and Tennessee by 6, yet we still doubted the Hilltoppers in our brackets. They’re 20-2 since the new year began, but we never saw it coming. Or maybe we did see it, in little flashes of final scores on an ESPN ticker. We knew they were there, but unlike the basketball royalties, there was no official announcement of their arrival.

The Big East sent 8 teams to the Dance, and now going into the Sweet 16, the conference break down appears as follows:

Big East: (3) West Virginia, Louisville, Villanova
Pac 10: (3) UCLA, Washington State, Stanford
Big 12: (2) Kansas, Texas
Big 10: (2) Wisconsin, Michigan State
ACC: (1) North Carolina
SEC: (1) Tennessee
C-USA: (1) Memphis
Sunbelt: (1) Western Kentucky
A-10: (1) Xavier
Southern: (1) Davidson

Each year we’re told that the ACC is the best conference in college basketball, but it’s not often reflected in the postseason. With North Carolina sitting as the lone member remaining from the ACC, their sweet 16 total is equal to C-USA, the Sunbelt, the Southern, and Atlantic 10 conferences. Does this mean we’ll have a different view of mid-majors in the future? No. Davidson and Western Kentucky will just be token “flukes” of March, and we’ll go right back to discrediting their conferences in October.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Trojans are One and Done in NCAA Tournament

People will call it an upset, but it's really not. Kansas State came into the game as the 11 seed to face the 6 seeded Trojans, but the Wildcats should have been seeded higher. Despite having freshman phenom, Michael Beasley, in first half foul trouble, Kansas State controlled this game from start to finish. Any attempts at a USC run were survived. And even after falling behind briefly in the second half, the Wildcats eventually cruised to an 80-67 victory.

The biggest difference in the game was the maturity of KSU's youngsters, in comparison to the young Trojans. O.J Mayo finished with 20 points and 5 assists, but Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson managed just 10 and 15 points between them. Michael Beasley recorded another double-double, with 23 points and 11 rebounds, but another freshman, Bill Walker chipped in 22, carrying the Wildcat load, as Beasley sat in foul trouble. The Trojans were outrebounded by a margin of 44-27, and unable to capitalize in moments Beasley wasn't on the floor.

Monday, March 17, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- University of North Carolina

Before Tar Heel fans get butt hurt and go off on a tangent about the headline and DOHmer choice, sit back and soak up the explanation. I acknowledge and applaud the Tar Heels for the current success on the hardwood. They are the ACC champions, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and an early favorite to win it all. What more could you ask for? But I’m not giving this to the North Carolina athletic department for something they’ve already done, but for something they’re about to do.

The University of North Carolina announced that they will be retiring Tyler Hansbrough’s jersey when he leaves school. My initial reaction to the announcement went something like, “What the F*ck?!?!?” Not taking anything away for Psycho T, because after all, he puts in work and has been a force down low for the Heels. I have nothing negative to say about his numbers, and my reaction isn’t about the player, as much as it is the program.

Each program is different, and if Hansbrough’s jersey was being retired at USC, Illinois or Bumf*ck Egypt State, I’d give no second thought. Even if it was at his neighboring North Carolina Charlotte, that would also be suffice. But we’re not talking about a program that’s poor in basketball tradition, because this is about North Carolina. We’re talking about a program that breeds superstars. We’re talking about hanging a Hansbrough jersey adjacent to Michael Jordan and James Worthy. I’d say the bar was set pretty damn high at UNC. Wouldn’t you? Just the thought of that number hanging in the Carolina rafters has me flashing back to Sesame Street learning games, where you choose which item doesn’t belong. Worthy, Jordan, and---HANSBROUGH? Are you sh*tting me?

It turns out that the only requirement the Heels have for jersey retirement is for a player to be selected “national player of the year” by one of these agencies: Associated Press, U.S Basketball Writers Association, The National Association of Basketball Coaches, The Sporting News, The Wooden Award, and the Naismith Award. The Sporting News named Hansbrough the player of the year, which made them equally eligible for a DOHmer. How does Michael Beasley not get that award? It’s obviously another fashion show, with the Heels’ success being a lot prettier than Beasley’s Wildcats. But truth is, Hansbrough will leave the Heels, and they’ll just reload and remain a basketball power. Beasley will leave Kansas State, and they’ll return to their role of sh*t on the bottom of Big XII shoes.

When you really give it a lot of thought, which makes my head hurt, Bob McAdoo, Bobby Jones, Vince Carter, and Rasheed Wallace didn’t receive the honor of having their numbers retired at North Carolina. You also won’t find Kenny Smith, Mitch Kupchak or Matt Doherty, but you’ll eventually find Tyler Hansbrough. Antawn Jamison’s number is also hanging high, which is another “wtf”. Let’s just throw Eric Montross up there, since we’re feeling so generous.

How did Rick Fox miss out on this good stuff? Anyone that was banging both Tyra Banks and Vanessa Williams is legendary and worthy of jersey retirement, in my book. I bow in the presence of that former Heel. Maybe I should start a "Rick to the rafters" petition, and see if I can get the Sporting News to sign it first.

The Utah Jazz retired the jersey of Darrelll Griffith, because they were obviously desperate to have something in the rafters. Eventually, “true” superstars in Karl Malone and John Stockton emerged. The Seattle Seahawks retired the number “12” to represent the fans as the 12th man. How difficult was that one? Hmm---Jim Zorn or the fans? But Carolina isn’t desperate for superstars, because they recruit them in bunches. Legends of the program have given an example of basketball excellence, and in my opinion, their last 2 choices for jersey retirement appear as tiny feet in Worthy and Jordan’s shoes. If anything, anyone following those players should be equal or one size smaller, and not appear as a shoe size difference of "Mens" and "Boys".

It took 10 years for UCLA to consider hanging Ed O'Bannon's number next to Lou Alcindor and Bill Walton. It even took North Carolina a year to lift Jordan's number to the top of the gymnasium to appear beside Worthy's. Hansbrough's airspace has been decided and reserved, while his status in the program remains "active".

Congratulations to you, Tyler. Without a doubt, you're a great college player. Are you considered one of UNC's greatest players? Nah. Unlike the athletic department, I don't think so.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Trojans Fall To Bruins But Gap Is Closing

The Men of Troy were officially eliminated from the Pac 10 tournament, and of all people to send them packing, it was the hated Bruins. The 57-54 victory launches UCLA into the conference title game to face Stanford. But have no worries, because the Trojans will be dancing next week. Other Pac 10 brethren, such as Arizona State, Arizona, and Oregon are sitting on the bubble, but USC is a solid entry, and should receive a decent seeding.

Watching the Trojans perform this year against the Bruins shows that the gap between the two basketball programs is closing. UCLA finishes 2-1 against USC this season, but the Trojans are far from the crosstown punching bag they were in years past. USC gave one of the nation's best teams 3 hard fought battles. The Bruins never spent a week outside the nation's top 10, and the Trojans never reached that plateau. But still, if the 3 games are a projection of Trojan performance against tournament strength, you have to love our chances. There's always the possibility that these rivals can meet again in the NCAA tournament, and what better place for the Trojans to make a statement than on the larger stage.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bracketology: Your guide to the madness

It’s that wonderful event that will slow production in the workplace and send employees searching the web for live updates. It sends housewives sniveling, as their daily CBS soaps are bumped from the schedule and the network is hijacked by a hoop. It’s the madness that keeps us waiting, selecting and hoping. It’s been called “bracketology”, that single sheet of paper in your possession that contains all the winners. On selection Sunday, you are the genius, confident in each pick. But by Thursday, you’re already cursing the imperfection. Is there a reliable formula to break it all down, as to come out on top? Let’s take a look.

Everything you should know when making your selections

1. The play-in game: The NCAA recently expanded the tournament field to 65 teams, and for no logical reason. Two of the worst teams in the country, which happened to qualify with automatic conference bids, will play to decide who will get blown out by one of the best teams in the country.

The bracket will have both teams listed on the same line, already telling you that one or the other holds no significance. If anyone honestly thought either had a chance, they wouldn’t post any team on the line until the play-in was complete. A top seeded tournament team has never lost to a 16 seed, and the play in winner is the absolute worst of the bottom seeds.

2. Selecting with the heart: The easiest way to kill an entire region of the bracket is to select based on favoritism or homerism, without facing the reality that your team actually stinks. To put it another way, just because you attend Cornell University doesn’t make it sensible to pencil them in as your national champion.

3. All brackets are imperfect: There is no such thing as a perfect bracket, which is why you have a plethora of sites giving away big money prizes for achieving it. In Vegas, it would be equivalent to a 63 game parlay, and what kind of odds would Sin City give you on that one? All it takes is one loss, in 63 games, and perfection is over.

As much as you would like to get every game right, you don’t have to. You can lose plenty in a region, and it won’t matter. What matters most is to have your regional champion advance and keep it alive. The more regional champions you can move forward, the better your odds of winning.

4. Beware the Ball Busters: Cinderella is always looking to crash a party, and though the 16 seeds have played to perfection, other lower seeds have pulled upsets. A 2 seed losing to a 15 seed occurs about once every 5 years, but the one to watch is the 5 vs. 12 match up. In the past 6 tournaments, the 5 seed is just 15-9 against their lower seeded opponent.

*Only two 10 seeds have ever won the tournament ( Indiana ’87, UConn ’99)

*Only two 11 seeds have ever made it to the final four (LSU upset top seeded Kentucky in ’86, George Mason upset top seeded UConn in ‘06)

Two of my early Cinderella favorites are from the WCC, in San Diego and Saint Marys, providing they are selected to the tournament field.

5. Changing Of The Guard: Guard play dominates the NCAA tournament. A team can travel deeper into the tournament if the guard play is excellent. You can be stacked with height, but if you have no one to distribute, it negates your strength. Take into consideration that UCLA (Collinson), Indiana (Gordon), Memphis (Rose), and USC (Mayo) feature point guards that can take over the game. You have to assist a big man, before he can take over the court, and packed in zones often disallow it. It’s the free wheeling point guard with the most opportunity to carry his team on his back. Also note the struggles of North Carolina when point guard Ty Lawson was forced to sit out with an ankle injury. Despite having Hansbrough, one of the best post players in the game, the team looked anything but dominant.

6. Experience: The best college players often jump quickly to the NBA ranks, and what is left behind is parity. The tournament will feature great teams, but the gap between themselves and their opponents has narrowed in comparison to the great teams of the 80s and 90s against their competitors. The back to back defending champion Florida Gators were a team that stayed together and played together. Dangerous teams are those with starting line ups loaded with Seniors and juniors.

7. Ignore the analysts: The media is guessing, the same as you. When you look at Vitale, Phelps, Lavin, etc, keep in mind that it was ESPN’s female sideline reporter (Erin Andrews) that correctly selected the past two national champions. If the media had pinpoint accuracy, we would just take the top two teams in the final AP poll or RPI rankings and have them play for the national championship. Sounds a lot like the BCS, doesn’t it?

8. Power rankings: When undecided, avoid selecting according to conference. Conference power rankings are just like any other ranking, meaning it’s garbage. In 2007, the ACC topped the power rankings, and despite sending 7 teams to the tournament, only one made the field of 16. In comparison, the Pac 10 and SEC delivered 3 teams each to the sweet 16, and each had a representative in the final 4. The match ups aren’t the same against every team, just as Virginia Commonwealth provided a poor match up for Duke in last year's tournament.

9. Streakers: Teams rolling into the tournament on a hot streak tend to remain on fire. Not saying they can roll all the way into the final game, but such teams have created havoc for bigger tournament names in early rounds.

10. Lady luck: Luck is the most important element to bracketology. Sometimes getting the right bounce, roll, or call can be a difference between winning and losing. 2 of the past 5 pools I’ve entered were won by females that knew nothing about the game. One chose teams based on how “cute” their logos were. That same girl, in another pool, once picked only 3 winners after the first round of play. The odds of getting only 3 right of 32 games is equally as difficult as a perfect bracket.

Each game holds importance to someone in your pool, which is what keeps us glued with excitement about advancements, eliminations, and scores. It’s a one of a kind, and unrivaled playoff system that allows the hearts of fans to share in the madness. I wish you luck, and enjoy the games.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jarrett Continues to Blow Opportunities

Like other Trojan fans, I sat here and frowned at NFL franchises that passed on both Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith in the first round of the 2007 draft. How could I not believe they were first round worthy? The cardinal and gold pumps through my veins. I could understand Calvin Johnson being the first receiver taken, with his speed and hands on such a large frame. But Teddy Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez? Please!

One year later, I can see those franchises had it right, at least in the case of Dwayne Jarrett. Steve Smith has a superbowl ring. Injury kept him off the field for a good part of the 2007 season, but he was always productive, and a sure handed pass catcher in the Giants red zone. Dwayne Jarrett failed to become that NFL receiver I thought he would be. Instead of proving all those that passed on him wrong, he continues to prove them right.

The Panthers aren't looking for a No. 1 receiver, because they have one in their own Steve Smith. All they're asking is for someone to step up and make some plays on the other side, to loosen the double teams Smith faces with each snap of the ball. For whatever the reasons may be, Jarrett wasn't able to do it.

He aimed to prove his worth in the upcoming camps, and would be challenged by the Panthers acquisition of Mushin Muhammed. Jarrett was believed to be the frontrunner, up until this latest incident. Jarrett was arrested on Monday night and charged with DWI. Punishment is nearly certain, and can include entry into the NFL's substance abuse program. Not a good move for Dwayne, whose own actions may be planting him on the bench for another season.

The good news out of Carolina is the waiving of the often injured Justin Hartwig. This move most likely gives Trojan Ryan Kalil the starting center position. Also, away from the coast, and up in the Rockies, the Denver Broncos signed Keary Colbert, who was released by the Panthers last month.

DOH-mer Of The Week- Al Davis

Skins fans found a new best friend for the free agency period , and it’s called the salary cap. This newfound buddy has created a barrier between Daniel Snyder and any unnecessary overpriced bonehead trades and acquisitions he could have possibly made. Be thankful for your regulator, because some other fans weren’t as lucky.

In Oakland, Al Davis is throwing his money around and not getting much in return. In fact, I think the dollars would have been better spent touring strip clubs with Pacman Jones. At least you can get a rise at a nudie bar, where free agency has left the Raiders dollars short and--- still limp.

The Raiders actually began on high notes. They retained the services of cornerback Nnmandi Asomhuga and re-signed running back Justin Fargas. But then our DOHmer went spendthrift crazy, making some very questionable free agency moves. Old Al Davis always has a vision, but unfortunately, the rest of us can never see it.

The Raiders acquired former Broncos receiver Javon Walker. I can’t say it was a difficult grab, since Denver appears happy to see him go, and he didn’t exactly interview with many teams, though others “claimed” to have interest. I guess he knew a sucker when he saw one, and targeted my DOHmer. Walker’s former coach, Mike Shanahan, says he needs microfracture knee surgery. I’m not going to pretend I’m a doctor and know exactly what it is, but any person needing that sounds like a hobbler to me. But let’s always look on the bright side, since every cloud has a silver lining. Walker should be the first on the practice field each day, considering the handicap parking spaces are always closest to the stadium entrance.

Davis served up a 6 year $55 million dollar deal for Walker, and he’ll receive $16 million over the first two years. The package also features $11 milliion in guarantees. The Raiders allowed Jerry Porter to leave, and picked up this new “No. 1” receiver that caught 9 passes for 67 yards and no touchdowns in his final 14 games as a Bronco. If they were willing to spend that kind of money, Randy Moss was available and shopping himself across the NFL, so why not throw the money in Moss’ route?

---wait. Randy Moss? Didn’t he already play or “not play” for them? Moss did say he and Daunte Culpepper had thoughts of re-uniting through free agency, so hell, why not roll a fatty and let them take a cruise?

An even bigger head-scratcher came before Walker ever limped his way into Davis’ office. Al had already stuffed the pockets of Tommy Kelly (who?) with a 7 year $50.5 million deal, that gave over $18 million in guarantees. I realize Warren Sapp was retiring, but I didn’t know his paycheck would become an addition to anyone fitting the jersey. If I knew this, I would have increased my daily intake of calories and tried walking on to the squad. Sure, the public may not know who I am, but that didn’t stop Kelly from cashing in. Kelly played in just 7 games last season. The Raiders finished 31st in the NFL against the run. I guess Davis feels the absence of Kelly was the reason for opposing runners leaving cleat marks on the chests of his defensive line. Oakland went 2-5 in the first 7 games with Tommy, and finish 2-7 without him. I don't know about you, but with or without him, I see consistency.

In case you’re not keeping count, which I am, that’s $105.5 million on two very questionable players, and $29 million in guarantees. Sure, I know Tommy Kelly has the versatility to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, but who the hell cares? Shouldn’t he be a proven beast in either of those, before making him one of the highest paid defensive tackles in the history of the NFL? You drafted a franchise quarterback in 2007, and here we are one year later, and he still has no true target. Here’s a suggestion, now that I take a good look at the two packages, why not put the stationary Javon Walker on the defensive line, and line up Tommy what’s-his-face at receiver?

For the record, let’s mark this free agency period on the calendar. The Raiders went 4-12 in 2007. Let’s check back in 9 months to see if the new money bags helped in any way to improve the team. If they can accomplish this, I will give myself the title of DOHmer of the year. But I’ll tell you right now, I’m feeling very confident.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bruins Feast on Home Cooking

After narrowly escaping losses in two crucial weekend games, the UCLA Bruins find themselves poised with an opportunity to be one of the nation’s top tournament seeds. There were three big assists over the weekend that helped Houdini escape losses to Stanford and Cal, and they didn’t come from Darren Collison or any other player on the floor. The Bruins were assisted by some good home cooking, with officials making calls, well---like momma used to make.

With 2 second remaining in Thursday’s game against Stanford, and the Bruins trailing by 2, Collinson drove the lane and the Cardinal appeared to get a clean block of a shot attempt. Every replay shows all hand on the ball, with minimal body contact, but as momma would say, “my boy was fouled”, and the officials agreed. Collinson’s 2 free throws sent the game into overtime, where UCLA prevailed.

On Saturday, you could still smell the food in the kitchen, as UCLA again found themselves down and desperate against Cal, with less than 30 seconds to play. After a double clutch 3 point shot from Kevin Love brings the Bruins to within one, the call from the bench is to foul and stop the clock. Cal inbounds, a Bruin hacks and strips, and the Bruins are awarded the ball out of bounds. To the home viewers, and Cal bench, it was an obvious foul. But screaming from the kitchen, momma says, “that’s just good defense, and clumsiness on that other boy’s part”, and the officials agreed.

And finally, for dessert, momma cooks up a game winning circus shot that travels over the backboard and through the hoop. Shh! Don’t tell anyone that a shot traveling over the board is a violation and should not count. Obviously the cuisine is quite different in Pauley Pavilion.

But in all, let’s remember, only Duke gets all the calls in college hoops.

Championship or Bust

There was still a glimmer of hope for the defending champion Gators to go dancing, until they went into Lexington and dropped a must needed game. In a battle of two bubble teams, Kentucky helped their cause with a victory. The Gators now look to be in a position where they would need to win the SEC conference tournament to get in.

Florida has lost 5 of its last 7, has a poor out of conference schedule that featured losses to Florida State and Ohio State, and they’re 8-8 (6th) in the SEC. In other words, the Gators have nothing to offer the NCAA tournament committee. A couple of big wins over Vandy and Tennessee won’t do it. They’ll most likely have to win out to have a chance to defend their title, because it’s doubtful that anything less will do it.

And what about Kentucky, are they in? Gillispsie’s boys fought back in what began as a disastrous season. The Cats went 11-3 for the second half of the season, with a victory against Tennessee along the way. Their early season losses came against some big names, like Louisville, UNC, and Indiana. The loss against litte USD doesn’t appear so bad now, as they proved to be a legit challenger to Gonzaga and St. Mary’s in the WCC. And don’t forget the biggest thing they have going for them, the program history and name. Kentucky basketball is synonymous with the NCAA tournament. If you’re eyeing a group in a bubble, UK will always stand out.

Trojans Risen To The Top Of The Bubble

Barring any east coast bias, the Men of Troy may have assured themselves a ticket to the NCAA tournament. The weekend sweep is complete, and our hated neighbors to the north can head home with the common bond of both losing in Los Angeles. After the overtime win against California, the Trojans made it look easy against Stanford, and should now have a resume solid enough to get them into the dance, regardless of the performance in the upcoming Pac 10 tournament.

The Trojans grabbed a lead and never looked back. 4 points marked the slimmest gap in points between the two teams for the entire game, and the much smaller Trojans outrebounded the Cardinal by a margin of 47-31, and went on to secure a 77-64 victory. Taj Gibson went for 20 points, 11 boards, and 5 blocks against the Lopez Giants, giving a different look than he displayed in their earlier meeting, when he was thoroughly dominated.

O.J Mayo Scored 25 points, but scored even bigger with the fans at Galen Center. Mayo says, as for now, he will be returning to USC for his sophmore season. Many believed this to be his last game on the Galen floor. He claims to enjoy the college atmosphere and the opportunity to fulfill one of his dreams of playing in March Madness. But of course, just last year, Texas star Kevin Durant also promised a sophmore return. The last I saw of Durant, he was wearing a Sonics jersey and collecting fat checks.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is It a 'Must Win" Situation?

There's good news and bad news. The good news is, the Trojans avoid collapse and managed to outscore Cal in an overtime period to grab a 93-89 victory. The bad news is, No. 7 Stanford is on their way to the Galen Center. In regards to the NCAA tournament, does Stanford represent a "must win" for the Trojans? My answer would be no, because "must" presents too much emphasis to decribe the current situation.

USC is 19-10 and a definate bubble team. Even with a loss to Stanford, they could pick up a couple of wins in the Pac 10 tourney to get in. But a victory over Stanford may solidify an NCAA tournament bid, because it would give the Trojans victories over UCLA and Stanford, the top 2 teams in the Pac 10. Anything can happen in those crazy conference tournaments, so it's best to put in the work now and not have to worry later.

But Stanford and the Lopez twins present a difficult task for SC, and it doesn't help that they're coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to UCLA, which handed the Bruins the Pac 10 title. The Trojans have struggled with the size of the Cardinals, so the key to this upcoming game will be the guard play of O.J Mayo and Daniel Hackett. The Trojans have won 4 of their last 5 games, and can cap their regular season by cutting down those Northern California Redwoods.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

If It Looks Like A Rat...

Anytime I see photos of Carmella DeCesare, a few things come to mind. I’ll exclude my personal desires, for the sake of this piece, and touch on the memory of a then 49ers receiver, Terrell Owens, and his questioning of the sexual preference of quarterback Jeff Garcia. To put it not so nicely, T.O called Jeff gay.

A Quarterback/Receiver feud is neither new nor uncommon, but T.O took it to another level in his Playboy Magazine interview, when he made references to Garcia’s lifestyle (never seeing him with girls) and the way he carried himself. To quote Owens’ exact words, “Like my boy tells me: if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it’s a rat.”

Of course, there was a quick fallout to the statements, and one day later, Owens has clean up duty and says he didn’t know if Garcia was gay or not. Although his “misinterpretation” claim brought his saga to an end, it only marked the beginning for Jeff Garcia. Gay and Lesbian groups quickly came to Garcia’s defense and made him their poster boy, to which he wasn’t happy. He spent months defending his sexuality, and those groups spent months hammering away at T.O’s homophobic claim of keeping a distance from gay players, and plastering Garcia’s face as the victim.

The quarterback and receiver pair recently hooked up for another touchdown in last month’s Pro Bowl. But this time it wasn’t the single Jeff Garcia, who is never seen with girls, but the newlywed Garcia, who is married to Carmella DeCesare. Garcia married the former wrestler turned playmate last year, and anyone that’s seen her umm…”spread” in Playboy, knows she’s 100% woman. Unless this is one of those marriages of convenience, I would say Garcia has more than cleared his name. And if it is a marriage of convenience, I could only wish things could be as convenient for myself.

Since the marriage, I don’t believe the 2004 war of words between old 49ers has been revisited. It’s mostly all but forgotten, until I come across one of her photographs (or maybe 3 or 4). Who knows what Jeff’s bride would say about those old accusations, but the teary eyed Carmella would probably tune in with something like this:

“Y’all leave Jeff Garcia alone. That’s my soul mate. That’s my quarterback".

Monday, March 3, 2008

DOH-mer Of The Week- Pimpin' Aint Easy

Every sports franchise has a pimp working their block. And though he’s behind the scenes, collecting a percentage of product sales, his hoes are most visible in the neighborhood. One particular pimp, Tom Condon, has a hoe on every NFL corner. And when it comes to negotiating costs of a franchise player, chances are you’ll be phoning him about one of his laborers. Condon’s list of hoes will include, Peyton and Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Matt Leinart, Marvin Harrison, Drew Brees, Chad Pennington, Ladainian Tomlinson, Alex Smith, Marc Bulger, Brady Quinn, and Adrian Peterson.

The list is quite impressive, and highlighted by plenty of big name quarterbacks. When you look at Alex Smith, Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn, and Adrian Peterson, you see that he’s also picked up some bodies that were recently on the Heisman stage as winners or finalists. Tim Couch is also one of his clients, but that hoe became very ugly and hard to sell, but does represent another “top of the draft board” client.

With Matt Ryan, Condon has another potential top 5 player in this year’s draft class. But it’s a little different this time, considering Ryan isn’t from a traditional college power, and didn’t receive the national media exposure that others did. Even Alex Smith, from small time Utah, was able to highlight his college career with a BCS bowl victory to seal an undefeated season. And No.1 overall pick last year, Jamarcus Russell, had the privilege of torching media darlings Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. But Ryan is a player known, but seldom seen.

Condon's trend is to not let you eye the goods before purchase, and it continues this year, with Ryan Skipping the Senior Bowl and not performing at the NFL combine. Bill Parcells, holding the first pick in the NFL draft, was forced to request tapes of Ryan from his former coach at Boston College. If the pimp hides the hoe behind closed doors, then peep through the keyhole.

Can Ryan still go No. 1 overall? Possibly, if NFL scouts truly view him as a “hidden” gem. Condon’s last 2 quarterbacks, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn, slid down the draft boards. Leinart went from a possible 3rd overall pick, and first QB taken, to a No. 11 choice. Quinn faired worse, slipping from a possible No. 1 overall and landing at No. 22.

From the business standpoint, the man may be a genius. Even after his client slides, they still hold out and ask for money more deserving of the higher draft positions. Where you are drafted means nothing to Mr. Condon, because no matter the number, a hoe is a hoe. But from a fan perspective, he’s a DOHmer. A team makes a pick, fans get excited, and then some prima donna becomes the disruption of training camp, trying to get a pay increase with no services rendered.

But I’ll admit, one of my life’s ambitions was to be a sports pimp, just like Condon, so there is some admiration. But as of today, and for his annual pattern of secrecy, he’s my DOHmer.

Cats Roar No More?

Sunday’s loss to UCLA may have put a damper on Arizona’s tournament run. Unless the Wildcats can roar their way to the finish, picking up big wins in the Pac 10 conference tournament, their 24 year streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances will come to an end. It may have also ended any doubts over who is the dominant team in the Pac 10, a league owned by Arizona for many years. The Bruins have firmly planted themselves back on the throne.

The Wildcats are 17-12 overall, and their 7-9 conference record has them tied for sixth with Oregon. And though Oregon may need a miracle to get to the big dance, Arizona’s position is better, yet still slim. ‘Zona has the No. 1 Strength of schedule in the nation, playing Virginia, Texas A&M, Kansas, Illinois, and Memphis out of conference, and going 2-3 against that field. Couple that with the 6 games played against the Pac 10 powers of UCLA, Washington State, and Stanford, and the Cats submit a fairly good tournament resume. But a Pac 10 team with 9 wins in conference has never made the NCAA tournament field, and Arizona is sitting on 7. The last two regular season games, and at least a couple of conference tournament wins are a must, before throwing themselves at the mercy of the selection committee.


Cornell is the first school to punch a ticket to the Big Dance, as the Ivy League champion. Do you care? I think we need to shrink the tournament field. It’s grown to 65 teams, with one having a “play-in” game. That play-in game has meant nothing, except showing America the winner, and who will be routed by the No. 1 overall tournament seed in the following game.