Friday, March 30, 2012

Golf, The Masters, Tiger, and Happy Gilmore

YES!  A new sport is finally emerging to be covered here at Rock Bottom and Gainer will be bringing you all your golfing needs.  14 official PGA tournaments have been played thus far with the 15th currently being played in Humble, TX at the Shell Houston Open.  Spring is finally here and that means the Masters is just around the corner.

"Gold jacket, green jacket, who gives a s**t"
This year the Masters is Thursday, April 5th through Sunday, April 8th in Augusta, Georgia (obviously).  This marks the first major of the 2012 season and a good starting point to kick off our coverage of the PGA.  There are 48 tour events this year (thanks and as much as I'd like to cover them all, I cannot and will not.  Here's the list of 10 events that I do hope to bring you coverage of throughout this season:

  • The Masters (first major)
    • 4/5-4/8
  • THE PLAYERS Championship
    • 5/10-5/13
  • The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance (Columbus and Nicklaus, boom)
    • 5/31-6/3
  • U.S. Open (2nd major)
    • 6/14-6/17
  • The Greenbrier Classic (betcha didn't know West Virginia hosted one did ya?)
    • 7/5-7/8
  • The Open Championship (British Open; 3rd major)
    • 7/19-7/22
  • World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational (Akron, holla)
    • 8/2-8/5
  • PGA Championship
    • 8/9-8/12
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs
    • The Barclays from 8/23-8/26
    • Deutsche Bank Championship from 8/31-9/3
    • BMW Championship from 9/6-9/9
    • TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola from 9/20-9/23
  • Ryder Cup
    • September 28-30
Obviously this is not just a great line up but you throw in a year with the Ryder Cup, it should be a tremendous 2012 season.  Further, in 2016 golf will be an official summer Olympic sport!

This is America, best country in the world
Golf is a great sport for any person at any stage in life.  It was the one sport my father wanted me and my brother to play growing up because he knew it might be the only one we could all play together as we aged. My brother played competitively through high school and I picked up the game later on in college.  I enjoy the challenge and skill it takes to compete.  I also enjoy driving golf carts because I am reckless.  Just ask me about an Oglebay Resort internship I had a few summers ago and I'll tell you about my golf carting stories.

Here are the top 25 players ranked in the world as of March 25th:

 Rank   Player                 
   1    Luke Donald              ENG     
   2    Rory McIlroy             NIR     
   3    Lee Westwood           ENG     
   4    Martin Kaymer           DEU  
   5    Steve Stricker             USA     
   6    Tiger Woods               USA    
   7    Charl Schwartzel         ZAF     
   8    Justin Rose                  ENG     
   9    Webb Simpson            USA    
  10    Adam Scott                AUS     
  11    Jason Day                   AUS     
  12    Dustin Johnson            USA    
  13    Graeme McDowell      NIR     
  14    Hunter Mahan             USA     
  15    Phil Mickelson            USA     
  16    Bill Haas                     USA  
  17    Matt Kuchar               USA     
  18    Bubba Watson            USA     
  19    Nick Watney              USA     
  20    Keegan Bradley          USA     
  21    Sergio Garcia              ESP     
  22    Brandt Snedeker         USA     
  23    K.J. Choi                    KOR     
  24    Ian Poulter                  ENG    
  25    Peter Hanson              SWE     

Here is Team America's Top 8 for the Ryder Cup Standings (as of 3/25):
Note - Captain Davis Love III will select 4 additional players of his choice to compete

Rank   Player               
   1    Keegan Bradley       
   2    Phil Mickelson         
   3    Tiger Woods              
   4    Bill Haas                  
   5    Kyle Stanley             
   6    Steve Stricker            
   7    Johnson Wagner     
   8    Mark Wilson          

Tiger Woods Sings Cry me a River pictures
He won finally at Arnold Palmer's tourney, can he keep it up at the Master's?

The FedEx Cup started in 2007 as a year long system of collecting points in all the tour events culminating in golf's first ever playoff system.  The first winner was Tiger Woods, then Vijay Singh, Tiger again, Jim Furyk, and Bill Haas last year.

And finally here is the top 10 rankings for the FedEx Cup as of this week:
Rank   Player
1 Johnson Wagner
2 Rory McIlroy
3 Kyle Stanley
4 Mark Wilson
5 Phil Mickelson
6 Justin Rose
7 Tiger Woods
8 Bill Haas
9 Hunter Mahan
10 Brandt Snedeker

I will update these throughout the summer as necessary.  In the meantime, look for a Master's Preview to come up this weekend and coverage throughout all of next week.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Then and Now: A Thursday Tale of Gainer's Grand Final Four

It's the Final Four.  It's MY Final Four.  Literally.  My favorite 3 college basketball teams are in it.

From top left: John Wall, Scott Padgett, Rajon Rondo, Patrick Patterson, Tayshaun Prince

Since 2nd grade when I lived in Kentucky for less than a year, I fell in love with the Blue.  My memories lie in the Tubby Smith era which started with my first favorite college basketball player Scott Padgett who just shot lights out.  He was the really white Dirk before Dirk!  They lie in my least favorite player Saul Smith who was a joke.  They peaked with my all-time favorite UK player Tayshaun Prince.  They rode with Rajon Rondo until I finally got to a game in Rupp Arena for the first time in 2007 in the blow out of Auburn in the SEC Opener (Tubby's final season).  I wanted to throw up during the tenure of Billy Gillepsie and the problems he faced personally but that ended, thank goodness.  My brother and I, as far back as we can remember, have always had one bracket where we picked Kentucky to go all the way.  Funny thing is, after they won that championship in 1998, our brackets began to suck every year since then.  I held on because of my main man Patrick Patterson who I saw play at the University of Charleston (WV) as a senior in high school from Huntington High (teammate of OJ Mayo).  Now, I live and die by freshmen.  I loved John Wall, the dance, the fun that is the excitement of Coach Calipari's incredible recruiting efforts.

From top left: Matt Terwilliger, Mike Conley, Jr., Jon Diebler, Greg Oden, Evan Turner

In that time, I had moved to Ohio (2001) and casually followed the Buckeyes.  I played basketball through my junior year (my one glorious Varsity season) and vividly remember a scrimmage at Troy.  A future Buckeye was a senior on that team, Matt Terwilliger.  He was approximately 6'8" and 250lbs.  On one possession, he got an outlet pass and as I ran right next to him trying to stop the ball, he just threw it down.  I felt molested yet in awe of this huge man.  That same year our BHS team took in an Ohio State game vs Texas Tech (BOB KNIGHT!) where they lost in their first game of 2004.  My senior year is when I started watching the Buckeyes because of Matt and BOB KNIGHT and it happened to be the first season of Thad Matta's coaching tenure.  I also didn't play basketball that year so I had plenty of time to watch!  I rode the the wave with the championship runner-up squad featuring the hot shot Daequan Cook, the speedy Mike Conley, and the impenetrable monster that was Greg Oden through the early departed Evan Turner and the seniors of much loved David Lighty and white chocolate Jon Diebler.  Now I have seen the fat and skinny Jared Sullinger, the streaky Will Buford, the defensive prowess of Aaron Craft, and the emergence of Deshaun Thomas.

From top left: Chane Behanan, Samardo Samuels, Peyton Siva, Edgar Sosa, and my autographed Pitino pic

A funny thing happened after finishing my undergraduate education, I got accepted into grad school and headed to Louisville, Kentucky.  I kind of chuckled seeing all the Cardinal red and wondered if I could cheer for this team.  I got to see a game in the final season of Freedom Hall in January 2010 when Louisville lost to then #4 ranked Villanova in the now famous white outs when Head Coach Rick Pitino dons the full white suit.  I then interned (unpaid of course) that summer transitioning all the season ticket holders out of Freedom Hall into the new KFC Yum! Center.  Coach Pitino even signed a picture for me as gratitude.  Say no more. I was a house divided.  I have seen the maturation of Peyton Siva, the frustration that was Edgar Sosa, the oddity of Samardo Samuels leaving, and the disappointment of losing in the first round against Morehead State?!?  I survived the scandal that was Rick Pitino's personal life and saw the grand opening of a grand new arena.  Now, it's the fun nature of Russ Smith, the shooting of Kyle Kuric, the defensive stalwart that is Gorgui Dieng, and the future superstar of Chane Behanan.

Saturday night, a little after 6pm, will be all out fun for me.  I like my chances that 2 of the 4 will play in the finals.  But before then, I have to sit through the intense UK UofL rivalry game.  Then I must will OSU to beat the "no-one-cares-about-us" Kansas team.  Come Monday night, I hope I'm cheering because one of these three is cutting down the nets.  No matter the outcome, I will cherish this Final Four of 2012 because the odds of all 3 being in the title hunt may never happen again even for these storied programs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Inaugural Rock Bottom Podcast

Rock Bottom Podcast #1!

Ladies and gents, Boomer and I are pleased (and proud) to present you with the first ever Rock Bottom podcast featuring our views on the NCAA Tournament including the Final Four match-ups, the last 2 weeks of the NHL, and finishing with a little NFL free agency chaos.  Let us know what you think!

If you don't like it, then we take the Eric Cartman stance!

What If Wednesday

This years Final Four marks the 5th time its been played in New Orleans inside the Louisiana Superdome,  and each of the previous four have been memorable (1982, 1987, 1993, and 2003). So, I thought this week "What If" would involve two of those classic Final Four's down in the Big Easy. Again, make sure to check out this years Final Four on Saturday, first game starting at 6:09 (UL vs. UK), with the night cap starting around 9ish (Ohio State vs. Kansas).

  Chris Webber Calls a Timeout

The 1993 Final Four, featured four powerhouse programs: UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, and the Fab Five from Michigan. UNC would beat Kansas in the first national semifinal and the Fab Five needed overtime to oust Kentucky in the second national semifinal. In the National Championship, it was assumed that the Fab Five would win it all, after being embarrassed by another ACC opponent Duke in the 1992 National Championship Game. The 1993 National Championship game was defined by a single "bonehead" play by one of the Fab Five members. With the score within one possession, UNC 73 to 71, after a missed free throw by UNC, Chris Webber pulled down the rebound. Following the rebound, Webber unable to find someone to pass the ball to, appeared to travel, however, no call was made and Webber dribbled the ball down the court. Dribbling it right into a trap in front of the Michigan bench. Webber twisted and turned to the bench and frantically called a timeout. Which is the right thing to do, unless your team does not have anymore timeouts to call. Webber's TO resulted in a Technical Foul against Michigan, giving UNC two free throws and the ball. UNC would make four straight free throws and win the game 77 to 71, giving their legendary Head Coach Dean Smith his second title with the Tar Heels. Webber's timeout is one of the most memorable moments in NCAA Tournament history. In the end, the whole season was for not, as Webber would come out later and admit to getting under the table benefits from a Michigan booster, resulting in the program having to vacant the entire 1992-93 season, like it never happened. So, maybe it was meant to be for Webber to call that TO, Michigan never had.

What If
When I look back at this moment and watch the clip from the game, I always think of one thing. COME TO THE BALL! I mean I hate Michigan in everything they do, but once Webber grabbed the rebound, one of the UM guards needed to be right at Webber's hip to get the ball from him and dribble down the court to set up a last second chance for the tie or win. You felt bad for Webber as he clearly had no clue what to do, and traveled with the ball (no call was made). What would the game of been like, if the travel call was made? Even with the second chance from the no call, Webber should of found a guard to get the ball to, clearly, he did not look good dribbling down the court on his own. If Webber would of just tried to head to the hoop, what sort of shot would he have been able to get? What if Webber wasn't the one to grab the rebound from the missed FT? Lets say Michigan WOULD of had a timeout, what sort of play would been drawn up by legendary Michigan Head Coach Steve Fisher? It is a classic moment from the NCAA Tournament, and I couldn't/wouldn't want it any other way. What if...

Hakim Warrick's Block Shot

The 2003 Final Four was another classic from New Orleans inside the Louisiana Superdome. The four teams that represented the Final Four that year were: Syracuse, Texas, Kansas, and Marquette. Syracuse would oust Texas, 95 to 84 in the first national semifinal, with the help from Freshmen Carmelo Anthony scoring 33 points. In the second national semifinal game, Kansas would blowout Marquette in the fourth largest blowout in Final Four history, 94 to 61. Setting up a great National Championship matchup, Syracuse vs. Kansas. This game matched two Head Coaches in line to win their first National Championship, in Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams. Syracuse jumped out to a 11 point lead at half. With the score Syracuse 81-78, Hakim Warrick missed two free throws for the Orange, giving the Jayhawks a lost second chance to tie the game. Warrick would totally redeem himself after the missed FT's, when he came out of no where to block KU's Michael Lee's 3-pt shot in the corner with 0.07 sec left in the game. After another Kansas 3-pt attempt bounced off the rim, Syracuse and Coach Boeheim won their 1st ever National Championship in basketball. Carmelo ended up with 20 points and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. Warrick's block shot is another classic moment in Final Four history and one of the classic moments from another Louisiana Superdome Final Four.

What If
A game with many moments that could have changed the outlook and results from the 2003 National Championship. Another Freshmen, not named Carmelo, Gerry McNamara had a huge 1st half knocking down six three-pointers, scoring his game 18 points in the first half for Syracuse. What if Gerry misses one of those 3's? What about if Kansas and Coach Williams would of been able to stop Melo and the other bigs on Syracuse's roster? If Kansas comes back and wins this game, is Roy Williams still the coach at KU and not currently at UNC? Where is Bill Self (current KU coach) coaching at? Is Jim Boeheim stay coaching Syracuse? What if Warrick doesn't get over there to block the shot in time, does Lee's shot go in and tie the game? What would of occurred in overtime, if that were the case? Again, another moment in Final Four history, that we will never know the outcome, if it went the other way. What if...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Boomer's Weekly Basketball Full Court Press: Final Four Edition

Here We Go! The Final Four is set, with the four remaining teams from the field of 68 ready to battle it out down in New Orleans "The Big Easy", this weekend for the right to be the last team standing cutting down the nets inside the Louiisana Superdome. Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State, and Kansas will provide us with a GIANT Final Four that includes: Great Tradition, Hated Rivals, Legendary Coaches, Future NBA talent, and a little thing called REVENGE. In the first matchup, the Bluegrass state will be well represented as Louisville faces off against Kentucky for the second time this season (with UK beating Louisville @ home, 69-62 in the first meeting). In the night cap, its another rematch from the regular season, when Ohio State gets a second chance against Kansas, with the help of a certain big-man this time around (Ohio State lost @ KU, 78 to 67 w/o Jared Sullinger). Lets take a minute and breakdown the two match ups and I'll give you my predictions and picks.

#4 Louisville Cardinals (30-9) vs. #1 Kentucky Wildcats (36-2) 6:09 PM EST CBS Saturday 3/31

Two schools separated by just 69 miles, this will be the first meeting between in-state rivals in the Final Four since 1962 (Cincinnati defeated Ohio State in the National Championship). Two legendary coaches that have been to this point before multiple times, Coach Pitino has beaten Coach Calipari in the previous two meetings in which they have meet in the NCAA Tourney, the last coming in the 1996 Final Four, when Coach Pitino's Kentucky team knocked off Coach Calipari's UMass squad in the national semifinals. Kentucky has turned in a pretty impressive tournament thus far, winning their first four games all by double digits. Louisville is making a similar run as last years National Champion UCONN Huskies did, by winning the Big East Tournament and getting to the Final Four. This makes the 3rd year in a row that the Big East Tournament Champions have reached the Final Four. This matchup has to be a dream for anyone from the state of Kentucky with such a rich history between the two schools and programs, it should be very entertaining to watch. Kentucky has NBA talent up and down its roster, but unlike the past two seasons, this team looks to finish off the job and be crowned the NCAA Champions come next Monday night. On the other hand, Louisville has to be the surprise team out of the four in the Final Four. The Cardinals got off to a hot start with a 12-0 mark and were ranked in the top four at one point earlier in the season. Then came numerous injuries and the grind of the Big East schedule and the Cardinals were struggling at times during the season. Fast forward to the present and with the Big East Tournament Championship under their belt and a healthy roster, the Cards have played great up to this point in the NCAA tournament, relying on their great team defense and timely scoring. Although, it would be great to see Louisville continue their tourney run on Saturday night with a win vs. Kentucky, I just think UK is too talented and will prevail in Round Two of the Bluegrass Rivalry and move one step closer to winning a National Championship for Coach Cal. I'm pretty sure, the state of Kentucky will shutdown mid-week and head down to New Orleans to watch this historic meeting.
Bracket Pick: Kentucky
Live Pick: Kentucky
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes (31-7) vs. #2 Kansas Jayhawks (31-6) 8:49 PM EST CBS Saturday 3/31

Being a loyal Buckeye fan, it was tough watching this team during a 2-3 stretch in the month of February.  With a load of talent on this roster, it was frustrating to watch them lose knowing they could play better then what they were showing. However, March came with a renewed look about this team and they now find themselves at the place that everyone had them at way back in the preseason. The Buckeyes, who rely on a number of underclassmen, are making their first trip to the Final Four since 2007, when they were defeated by two-time champions the Florida Gators in the National Championship Game. The Buckeyes had a mix of experience and youth on that team, lead by big-man Greg Oden. This current squad is young, but has been together the past two seasons, winning 30-plus games in the process. This matchup will mark the second time the two teams have played each other this season, and there will be a BIG difference this time around. Jared Sullinger, who sat out vs. the Jayhawks back in December (back issues), should provide the fans with intriguing matchup going up against KU's big's Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey. Another matchup to watch will be the play from the two starting PG's Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor. Of course, the x-factor in this matchup will be the play of Senior Wing player William Buford for Ohio State. Buford up to this point of the tourney, has been very quick and at times has had Buckeye fans screaming for him to play better or head to the bench. It will be interesting to see what sort of factor Buford will have for Ohio State in the Final Four. In what looks like the making of a instant classic, I think the Buckeyes use the revenge factor and punch their ticket to Monday night's National Championship Game.
Bracket Pick: UNC
Live Pick: Ohio State

Well, there you have it, Boomer's take on the Final Four and how it should play out. As a Buckeye fan, you like to think they have two more games in them and can capture the schools first NCAA basketball title since 1960. Regardless, this should be a memorable Final Four with four powerhouse programs and a bunch of players that will be making their mark in the NBA sooner then later. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

T-Rex in the Lost World also known as Fantasy Baseball

As Rock Bottom finishes its third month, I've realized how difficult it is to get guest bloggers! So here's T-Rex once again with every piece of advice you could ever need in drafting your perfect fantasy baseball roster.  With just over a week until opening night, you could use some help Bottom Dwellers.
Go Braves...

You're a wizard Harry...
"The weather is getting warmer, the plant-themed spring leagues are kicking up, and that one guy you know is trying to convince you that it is the Cubs’ year this year. We all know that means it is one of the most important times of the year in all of sports: time for your Fantasy Baseball draft. Whether it is to assert your superiority over your coworkers, show your cousins that they are still stupid, or swindle your old college buddies out of their hard earned paychecks, the draft is a critical component to winning your league. My role is to help pull back that curtain of uncertainty and here are some things to keep in mind on draft day.

1)      For you amateurs, know your scoring. It changes the value of players. A standard head to head league places higher value on pitchers than a standard roto league (so if you’re in roto, don’t reach for pitchers). The former also increases the value of consistent players who have full time starting jobs, since you need them week in and week out to win you that week. In addition, standard head to head leagues usually place more emphasis on high OBP guys because of the total bases category, so love you Logan Morrisons and Nick Swishers, people.

2)      Don’t draft for a name. If you’re still riding the A-Rod or Jeter train, you’re in for a rude awakening. Same goes for Ichiro, Nelson Cruz, and Kevin Youkilis. Age and injury risks abound! Usually, if you’re smart, you can hold off and draft a guy a couple of rounds later who can produce as good or better. Another name to watch out for? Strasburg. He’ll be super productive, but he also has an innings limit. Let that be someone else’s late season headache.

3)      Know who is awesome? Craig Kimbrel. He’s a young stud closer with great stuff and job security. Know who I won’t be drafting? Craig Kimbrel. No way in hell am I drafting a closer at the point he’s going. Saves (and closers) are an unpredictable bunch. You will find Saves on the waiver wire, you will find it from unlikely sources. Some of the same is true of steals, but Michael Bourn is still a great pick.

4)      If you’re an idiot, you think all positions are equal. Alas, each year, some positions have more good players than others. Catcher, traditionally a shallow position, is pretty deep this year. Outfield is unusually shallow. 3B seems to get shallower all the time, especially thanks to David Wright. 1B and SP still looking deep. What does this mean for you? Mind the talent gap. Troy Tulowitzki is high value because he’s so much better than every other SS option, but Brian McCann is not as high because the value of other available catchers (such as the various Monteros) make drafting him early no longer a necessity.

5)      A lot of people play fantasy with a strong attraction to the sleeper. In fact, they get so caught up in it that they reach for sleepers. Please, don’t be that guy. The whole point is that his value is that you can get him below his performance point. But hell if they aren’t fun. This year’s high end treasure is Brett Lawrie, middle round seems to be Emilio Bonifacio and Dee Gordon, and late round gems Dexter Fowler and Cameron Maybin. People will reach for them. You, my smart friend, shouldn’t.

6)      I have trouble not being biased when it comes to busts, so forgive me, but it is also because the most popular names are overhyped. I know what you’re waiting for me to say. The bust is someone you have to see who is either trending downward, had a great year from luck (hello, BABIP!) or both. I’m not going to say it, by the way. Jered Weaver saw some luck last year, as did, Carl Crawford scares me with his wrist injury and strong downward trend, and you can stop falling for the temptation of B.J. Upton. Oh fine, I’ll say it, just don’t even bother drafting A-Rod.

7)      Home field advantage is very real in baseball what with different parks and all, so who goes wear is a big deal. Edison Volquez’s move to San Diego could pay dividends because it’s a pitcher’s park, while Mat Latos left that haven but for a place where he’d get the run support to nab some wins. Meanwhile, the Marlins have made a ton of changes, with benefits for Hanley and Reyes, but I think it will be to the detriment of Heath Bell.

8)      Earlier, I mentioned seeing trends. What do you with a guy who strongly bucks the trend? Adam Dunn went from a premier hitter to a cataclysm of a season. Carl Crawford was a first rounder not so long ago, and last year was seen in some free agent pools. Chone Figgins has gone from an elite consistent leadoff guy to a complete joke. Who can rebound? Not Dunn or Crawford, and while I want to believe Figgins (and Ichiro) will, they won’t. Josh Johnson can, with new run support and plenty of rest, as can Jason Heyward and his boundless talent, having worked on a new swing all offseason.

9)      I’d like to end with the guys I’m looking to snag in my drafts. I know you’re here for the names.
  • Early Rounds: Mat Latos, Josh Johnson, Pablo Sandoval, Brett Lawrie, Starlin Castro, Michael Bourn, C.J. Wilson
  • Middle Rounds: Eric Hosmer, Howie Kendrick, Alex Avila, Ian Kennedy (if he falls), Jason Heywad, Doug Fister, Desmond Jennings, Andre Ethier
  • Late Rounds: Dexter Fowler, Alejandro De Aza, Daniel Murphy, Mike Leake, Huston Street, Brandon League, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, Lucas Duda, Mark Trumbo, Gaby Sanchez

10) It’s a numbers game, so don’t be afraid to play. Have an SP slot you can’t find the right guy for? Stream it (last year, whoever was playing the Padres, Mariners, or Astros was a shoe in). Have an extra position player spot? Grab the hot hand. Sell high on guys your friends like and value a guy’s numbers over a guy’s coverage. In the end, that’s all you’ll need.

Go forth and dominate."

NHL Games of the Week

It's crunch time in the NHL with teams ranging from 5-8 games left in the season which finishes Saturday, April 7th with all 30 teams playing.  The playoffs then begin Wednesday, April 11th!  That means only 1 MORE games of the week preview on the ice before we start preparing for Lord Stanley!
As you can see here, 3 teams have clinched a playoff spot.  The Rangers, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are all in, who also all happen to be in the same division, which is why Pitt and Philly are seeded 4-5.  However, the Pens are within 1 POINT of taking the overall lead in the East which would guarantee them home ice throughout the playoffs in their conference.  Here's hoping that happens because I do not want to see them play the Flyers in the first round, eventually, yes, but not right away!

About a month ago I said the top 7 seeds would all be locks, and 6 of them seem to be.  Ottawa has really struggled of late but they beat down my Pens Saturday night 8-4 so who knows.  I also picked Buffalo to grab the 8th seed and right now they are tied with Washington.  Speaking of which, Ovie is really stepping up in recent weeks but I just don't think it will be enough in the end.  

Final note of the week:  Columbus we know is already eliminated along with Minnesota, Edmonton, and Montreal.  However, yesterday Edmonton beat down the CBJ in the battle for worst team in the league.  It clinched for CBJ the worst record in the NHL.  They now have the highest odds of winning the overall #1 draft pick in this year's draft (June 2012).  And just so you all know, it's nothing like the NBA where other teams have legit chances to win the top pick.  Columbus and the 2nd worst team really are the only 2 teams with actual hopes of landing #1.  Here's hoping the Blue Jackets don't get screwed as a franchise yet again!


Here are the games to keep your eye on this upcoming week because it's going to be intense:
Ottawa @ Winnipeg 8:30pm - most likely the game that will keep the Jets playoff chances alive. Luckily for them, it's at home where they are TNT dynamite.

Buffalo @ Washington 7pm - Probably the actual game of the week! Both teams are tied for the final playoff spot.  Enough said, it's a huge game especially if there's a tie-breaker scenario at year's end.

Detroit @ Columbus 7:30pm on NBC Sports
I picked this game because it's literally the only nationally televised Blue Jackets game this year.  It would be nice for us to beat that state up north just for kicks.

Washington @ Boston 7pm on NHL Network
Boston is by no means a lock for the 2 seed.  They have been up and down recently and need a strong finish to hold off Florida and/or Ottawa.  Every game for the Caps is a game they need points.

Pittsburgh @ Buffalo 7:30pm
The Pens start the week with a home and home Tues/Thurs series against the NY Islanders where you'd like to get at least 3 points.  They then get a chance to destroy the hopes and dreams of entire city.

Ottawa @ Philadelphia 1pm on NHL Network
Philly just won't go away.  They are only 4 points behind the Pens and 5 behind the Rangers.  Ottawa needs to stay afloat but winning in Philly is never easy.

April Fool's Day - Pens @ Flyers on NBC at 12:30pm
This game is big time.  A must win for both sides as they try to get as high of a seed as possible.  Flyers G Bryzgalov seemingly has turned his season around just in time. Can he stop Malkin, Crosby, and Staal?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Boomer's NCAA Men's Sweet 16 Preview Part II

Wow, first night of the Sweet 16 I went 3 for 4, with correctly picking Syracuse, Louisville and Ohio State in my bracket, congrats to the four teams that found themselves one win away from the Final Four...Syracuse will now face Ohio State as well as Louisville will go up against Florida on Saturday in the first set of Elite Eight matchups over the weekend. Now, lets discuss the four Sweet 16 games for this evening and see who Boomer has advancing tonight.

South Region 7:15 CBS

#7 Xavier Musketeers (23-12) vs. #3 Baylor Bears (29-7)  Line: Baylor by 6
Xavier at the beginning of the season were talked about as being a potential dark horse team to reach the Final Four in New Orleans this season after starting 8-0. Then the brawl in Cincinnati happened, and after suspensions were handed out, the X-Men would drop their next 5 out of 6 games and end up finishing 3rd in the A-10 Conference. Fast Forward to the present, and the Musketeers find themselves two W's away from a trip to the Final Four, that everyone was thinking could be possible at the beginning of the season for this team. Xavier will go up against an athletic team in Baylor in their Sweet 16 meeting. Baylor having an outstanding season (29-7, losing twice to Kansas and three times to Missouri) rely on their starters and a balanced scoring attack which features 5 guys avgering 10 or more points per game. Look for this one to be a high paced game, as both teams avg. over 70 points per game ( Baylor 75 ppg & Xavier 71 ppg). Players to watch out for, from Xavier Tu Holiday, Mark Lyons, and Dezmine Wells and for Baylor Pierre Jackson, Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. A slight edge goes to the Bears in this one.
Bracket Pick: Notre Dame
Live Pick: Baylor

South Region 9:45 CBS

# 4 Indiana Hoosiers (27-8) vs. #1 Kentucky Wildcats (34-2)  Line: Kentucky by 8.5
One of the rematch that everyone was hoping to see once the brackets came out back on Selection Sunday. December 10, the Hoosiers got a program building/back to being relative again W, when they knocked off the then #1 team in the land the Wildcats of Kentucky. Down two with seconds to go in the game, Hoosiers Junior Forward Christian Watford lauched a GW 3 pointer at the buzzer "Watford for the win...", and the celebration and party begin in Bloomington and lasted long into the night I'm sure. Fast Forward now to the present and like that night back in December, the Hoosiers again find themselves as heavy underdogs going up against just twice-defeated Kentucky Wildcats. Look for the Wildcats to pull away in this one early and cruise to the finish. I just don't see a repeat of what happened back in December happening again this time around, Kentucky is focused on getting to the Final Four and winning a National Championship and will have the revenge card to play with as well tonight.
Bracket Pick: Kentucky
Live Pick: Kentucky

Midwest Region 7:47 TBS

#13 Ohio Bobcats (29-7) vs. #1 North Carolina Tar Heels (31-5)  Line: UNC by 10.5
David vs. Goliath. That pretty much sums up this matchup between a National Title contender and the Cinderella of this years NCAA Tournament. The Ohio Bobcats are here in the Sweet 16 after pulling off upsets over Michigan and South Florida, but face a stiff task in tonight's matchup vs. the boys of Tobacco Road. The Tar Heels look to play without their starting PG Kendall Marshall, who suffered a breaking bone in his wrist the last time out. Even without, Marshall, the Tar Heels have plenty of NBA-talent on the roster to have no problem with the Bobcats. This one could be close at the start, seeing as the Tar Heels will be relying on their back-up PG in this one, the Tar Heels go on a run in the middle of the 1st half and keep the pedal down to the finish. This one could be ugly, but hats off to the Bobcats for representing the MAC Conference and the state of Ohio, but sometimes the clock shocks midnight on ALL cinderella's.
Bracket Pick: UNC
Live Pick: UNC

Midwest Region 10:17 TBS

#11 NC State WolfPack (24-12) vs. #2 Kansas Jayhawks (29-6)  Line: Kansas by 7.5
The night cap for the evening and second night of the Sweet 16 pairings, has NC State going up against Kansas. Kansas got a scare in their last outing, having to come from double digets down to beat Purdue in their 3rd Round meeting, a game that Purdue let slip away, while the Wolfpack are coming off back-to-back upsets setting up this matchup tonight. I believe NC State got a lot of confidence in their loss to UNC in the ACC Tournament and were granted one of the final spots in the NCAA Tournament, have providing to this point their deserve to be here. This has the feel of being a really good game and probably the game of the night. The Jayhawks rely on balanced guard play and a heavy dose from Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson (17 ppg & 11 rpg). We will see if the Jayhawks got their wake up call from the close-call vs. Purdue or if the Wolfpack can pull off another upset setting up an All-ACC Midwest Regional Final vs. UNC Sunday afternoon.
Bracket Pick: Kansas
Live Pick: Kansas

Check back early Saturday for my preview on the Saturday Elite Eight matchups...
#7 Florida vs. #4 Louisville 4:30 CBS
#2 Ohio State vs. #1 Syracuse 7:05 CBS

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Boomer's NCAA Men's Sweet 16 Preview

East Region 7:15 CBS

#4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-9) vs. #1 Syracuse Orange (33-2)  Line: Syracuse by 4.5
This matchup pits two different styles of teams, 2-3 zone vs. Man-Man, Up Tempo vs. Slow it down, Athleticism vs. Pure shooters. The Badgers led by Head Coach Bo Ryan are making their 4th trip to the Sweet 16 under Coach Ryan. The Badgers rely on their perimetering shooting (36 %) and their slow it down time wasting offense. Badgers Senior PG Jordan Taylor will be counted on to score on the offensive end as well as on the defensive end slowing down Syracuse's backcourt. Taylor needs help from the rest of the Badgers squad including forwards Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren to pull the upset against the Orange tonight. Syracuse will counter with the deepest and most balanced team in the country. With nine players avgering over 10 minutes a game and only two of those players avgering double figures, the Orange relied on a number of players to win 33 games so far this season. Even without Fab Melo in the middle of the 2-3 zone for the Orange, I like Syracuse in this meeting, for the sole reason, that the Orange have the more athletic team in this matchup. The only way I see the Badgers pulling the upset, is if they can find spots in the zone defense and knock down some 3's.
Bracket Pick: Syracuse
Live Pick: Syracuse

East Region 9:45 CBS

#6 Cincinnati Bearcats (26-10) vs. #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (29-7)  Line: Ohio State by 7
Battle of Ohio in Boston, Mass. Say what you want about why these two teams do not face each other regularly in the regular season over the years, this Sweet 16 meeting theres no where to run. The Buckeyes come into this game the favors after winning their first two games in the NCAA Tourney by 19 and 7. The Buckeyes have a balanced attacked offensivly with three guys scoring over 14 ppg, led by big man Jared Sullinger. Aaron Craft is the do everything PG and looked great in the first week of the NCAA Tourney will look to shutdown the Bearcats backcourt. The Bearcats will lean on their three-headed monster in Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon, and Sean Kilpatrick all scoring over 12 ppg. in hopes of pulling off the upset. This game should be very entertaining to watch with two in-state rivals going up against each other for the right to go to the Elite Eight. In the end, the x-factor will be DeSean Thomas for the Buckeyes, if he is able to score from the inside AND outside, the Buckeyes should be alright. Lets Go Buckeyes!
Bracket Pick: Ohio State
Live Pick: Ohio State

West Region 7:47 TBS

#4 Louisville Cardinals (28-9) vs. #1 Michigan State Spartans (29-7)  Line: Michigan State by 5
Pitno vs. Izzo. Do I have your attention now? Ha, this matchup pins two Hall of Fame coaches against each other with a ticket to the Elite Eight on the line. The Cardinals come in riding a 6-game winning streak including the Big East Tournament Championship, and will continue to try and ride the wave from that. The Cardinals have done more with less then any other team this entire season, with injuries to key players all season long. The Cardinals will lean on a squad that have six players scoring 9 or more ppg. and have played well in the post season. What Pitno does to slowdown Spartans big-man do everything Forward Draymond Green will be a big factor in how this game goes. On the other side, Coach Izzo is money in the month of March reaching the Elite Eight 7 times in his career. To get to his 8th Elite Eight, Izzo will have to come up with a gameplan to slowdown the red-hot Cardinals. This one is a toss-up for a general fan, but I did have Louisville getting to the Elite Eight in my bracket, as well as, Gainer being a alumi of the school, I lean towards the Cardinals pulling the upset in this one.
Bracket Pick: Louisville
Live Pick: Louisville

West Region 10:17 PM TBS

#7 Florida Gators (25-10) vs. #3 Marquette Golden Eagles (27-7)  Line: Marquette by 1.5
In the night cap for the night, this matchup has a team that was suppose to be here and another that for most is a surpise at this point. Maruqette comes into this meeting after beating BYU by 20 in their Second Round Game and then beating Murray State by 9 in the Third Round Game. The Golden Eagles have a two-headed monster in Darius Johnson-Odom and Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder. These two guys lead the team in scoring and provide some quality all-around play for the Golden Flashes who are more then just a two-man team (four other players scoring 7 or more points ppg). The Gators will focus on shutting down the two big name players, and try to continue their run in the tourney (outscoring their opponents by a score of 155-95 in their first two games). Marquette will be a much tougher test for the Gators up to this point in the tourney after beating Virginia and Norfolk State. Should be plenty of entertainment in this game and another great matchup to cap the evening of the first set of Sweet 16 games.
Bracket Pick: Missouri
Live Pick: Marquette

Have fun watching tonights games, good luck with your bracket picks and check back in tomorrow, for Friday's Sweet 16 games.

Thursday Thrashing

I don't want to say the past 48 hours in the NFL were kind of crazy, but suffice to say, it was epic.

  • Peyton Manning has his press conference as the new QB of the Denver Broncos - Even the guy who had his #18 retired by the Broncos said Peyton could still wear it!
  • Roger Goodell handed down an immense penalty on the New Orleans Saints by suspending head coach Sean Payton for the entire season as well as other penalties including assistant coaches suspensions, lost of draft picks, large fines, and Gregg Williams being out indefinitely.
  • After a long afternoon, Tim Tebow was traded (twice) to the New York Jets after nearly landing in Jacksonville as well.
Where do I begin?!

We'll just go in order of how I wrote it.

5 years, $96 million...that's a lot of money for a nearly 40 year old
After missing an entire season due to multiple neck surgeries, as soon as the Colts released him, John Elway said "screw Tebow Mania, I want Manning."  And Manning he got.  Like Boomer talked a little about in his What If Wednesday, it's hard to picture Manning in another uniform.  He single handily brought the Colts franchise and the city of Indianapolis to where it is today.  Denver was his first visit as a free agent and looking back on it, it's obvious it is where he wanted to be.  I think he saw them first and just went to a few other teams seeing if they could top Denver.  So what does this mean to the Broncos?  First, it meant the Tebow era was over.  Elway never just seemed to grasp the idea of Timmy being the franchise guy and all the attention it brought.  I'm sure some of the fan base is alienated at this point but if Manning can be the Manning of old for the next 5 years of his enormous contract, it will be over the top worth it.  The Broncos already were a 1 win playoff team without Manning so I think Denver has a decent chance to be in the same spot.  Against the Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders, I like their chances to come out on top again because this division is as Jekyll and Hyde as they come.  All 4 of these teams look like Super Bowl Contenders one week and then #1 draft pick eligible the next.  I'm not sold on the Broncos receivers but then again, Peyton can help sub par route runners look pretty decent.  I still hate the Broncos after they beat the then likeable Favre's Packers and my then hometown Atlanta Falcons in back-to-back Super Bowls.  However, I've always been a fan of Mannings and I hope he can at least return to form this upcoming season.

 While the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning are starting a new, positive chapter in their lives, the New Orleans Saints are on the brink of disaster, Katrina style (too soon?).  After being the underdogs everyone fell in love with, Drew Brees is great, because of the hurricane and how the team just brought the city together, now is facing tough times.  NFL Commissioner handed down one of the more severe punishments in NFL history to non-players yesterday.  The Saints, who already failed to sign Brees long term with the franchise tag, are going to be without their head coach all season.  On Twitter, Brees was upset but you have to wonder in the back of his mind if he thinks the 1 year tag will be good to get out of this mess.  Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is out indefinitely because of this bounty scheme.  Listen, I understand where former players are coming from and the culture they describe but to put money on hurting other human beings is something that doesn't belong in sports at any level.  That's better left to the men and women fighting for our basic rights and freedom overseas.  You know, hurting other humans for a cause actually worth it not just to make the highlight reel on ESPN.  Williams should be banned for quite some time and I'd imagine this is a wake up to other coaches who were flirting with the idea.  I like Coach Payton, but I also liked Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel.  Guess what, good people make bad choices.  And when you are on top of your totem pole in your profession, where media scrutiny is always on high, your poor decisions, no matter how few and far between, will define you.  And for these guys, their lack of decision cost them jobs, money, probably their legacy, and for JoePa, it ultimately ended his life.  Goodell's choices have been hit and miss with me but I think this one was good.

Just when I think the Jets couldn't throw the ball any worse, they go and do something like this...
From happy, to sad, to oh-my-gosh-what-just-happened?  Tim Tebow somehow was traded to MY New York Jets yesterday.  The Jets really have been messing with my brain all month and all 2012.  First they crap down their leg and miss the playoffs.  Sanchez was awful  and Rex Ryan was clueless.  The defense that had led them to back-to-back AFC title games got really old, really fast minus Revis.  The locker room became a cancer and Ryan even admitted to losing the pulse of the team.  Last time I checked, that's a doomsday quote from a head coach.  They promised to rid the team of losers including Schottenheimer their offensive coordinator.  I honestly thought maybe they were beginning to figure it out until about 2 weeks ago.  First, they bowed out of the Manning sweepstakes which disappointed me.  Even if I knew Manning wasn't going to go there, a little pursuit wouldn't hurt anyone.  Immediately after that, they signed Mark Sanchez to a HUGE extension even thought he hasn't done anything.  They are now paying him like he's a top 15 QB in the NFL.  But I realize he's young and perhaps a new offense will spark him.  Then yesterday, in a saga too long to discuss here, Tebow is a Jet.  We gave up some lower end draft picks and paid a couple million to get him.  Tony Sparano is the new OC and he basically created the wildcat down in Miami so I get the idea of where this is going.  But if Tebow is your main back up, you have 2 guys who do not throw the ball very well.  I hope this works long term, I really do.  I hate seeing the Jets lose every year.  But March has been kind of interesting to say the least from the front office.  We got another 35 days until the draft so hopefully things will become clearer by that point, but until then, let's hope Tebow doesn't get swallowed up by the city that never sleeps.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What If Wednesday

With, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow getting traded to the NY Jets, Boomer provides you with a couple "what if" moments that if were the case, these events may not of happened. Lets take a look at a few "what if" moments from the past. Enjoy!

Colts draft Peyton Manning
In the 1998 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts had a decision to make. Go with QB Peyton Manning out of the University of Tennessee or go with QB Ryan Leaf out of Washington State University. The Colts would end up drafting Manning with the #1 overall pick, while Leaf followed right behind in the #2 spot when the San Diego Chargers grabbed him. Over the next decade, the two picks would go in two different directions, and lets just say the Colts made the right decision. Peyton Manning would go on to win 4 NFL MVP's (most all-time), 11x Pro Bowler, throw for over 54,000 passing yards, including 399 passing TD's, a Super Bowl XLI MVP leading the Colts to a Super Bowl win over the Chicago Bears. Where as Ryan Leaf had a troubling and very short NFL career. While Leaf has been out of the league for years, Manning is still hanging around, althought now with is NEW team in the Denver Broncos after 14 successful years with the Colts.

What If
Now lets say the Colts went with Leaf #1 overall instead of Manning. What sort of career would each of them of had in different cities and on different teams. With Manning being in San Diego would he of still had the same success that he gained in Indy with different coaching staff and different teammates around him. If so the Chargers probably do not draft Drew Brees and/or Philip Rivers, meaning where would those two All-Pro QB's have landed in the NFL and would they of still had the same success as they have accomplished to this point in their NFL careers? Would it be the San Diego Chargers as Super Bowl XLI Champs instead of the Indianapolis Colts? Obviously, we will never know what the NFL would look like, if the first two picks in the 1998 NFL Draft were flip flopped, but its differently something to talk about and wonder. What if...

Broncos draft Tim Tebow
In the 2010 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos used the 25th pick to land Tim Tebow, and at that moment the mania begin. After sitting out for the majority of his Rookie season, and not starting till the 6 game of his 2nd season, Tebow would lead the Broncos to 7 wins in their final 11 games while winning the AFC West Division. In the playoffs, the Tebow magic continued when Tebow on the first play of overtime vs. the Steelers throw a touchdown pass, sending the Broncos into the 2nd round of the NFL playoffs. During the 2nd half of the 2011 NFL season, you couldn't watch a game without the mentioning of Tim Tebow and/or #TebowTime, #TebowMania, etc. Tim Tebow not your protectial NFL QB was finding ways to do one thing: WIN. Althought, during his stint of being the Broncos starting QB the questions were still out on Tebow being the Broncos franchise QB for years to come and the media was having a field day after every Broncos win. Now to the present, after Peyton Manning made his final decision in choicing the Broncos to be his next team, Broncos were in position to trade Tim Tebow to one of the other 31 teams in the NFL. That came today when the NY Jets traded a 4th and 6th round pick to the Broncos for Tebow and a 7th round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Now lets take a look at it from a different view.

What If
Lets say Tim Tebow doesn't get drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL Draft, who would have taken a chance on the Heisman Trophy winner? Without the Broncos would we have had Tebow Mania somewhere else around the league, say Cleveland, Jacksonville, Seattle? The success/fame Tebow was receiving in Denver might not of been the same or differnent else where. Who represents the AFC West in the 2011 NFL playoffs if not the Tebow-led Broncos? Like any other situtation I threw at you on Wednesday's, we will never know what the case would be if Tebow landed anywhere else, but Denver. What if...

So now Peyton Manning is in Denver and Tebow is in New York with the Jets. Two storylines that will different be at the forefront of the 2012 NFL season and overly documented by the media for sure.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boomer's Weekly Basketball Full-Court Press: Update on NCAA Tourney Edition

I'M BACK! Vegas was a blast and some good memories and sleepless hours of entertainment and fun. Looking forward to the next time I get a chance to go back out to Sin City. However, back to were I belong back in the state of OH-IO and back to "the rock" to give you all an update on how the 2012 NCAA Men's Tournament is playing out. Lets take a minute and recap each region and check out some interesting stats from the first weekend.

South Region
As the #15 seed Mountain Hawks of Lehigh were celebrating their victory over #2 seed Duke Blue Devils, millions of NCAA brackets were offically busted. The South Region left us with a rematch from eariler in the season, when #4 seed Indiana faces #1 seed Kentucky (IU beat UK in the regular season meeting, 73 to 72.). The other match-up in this region, matches #7 seed Xavier vs. #3 seed Baylor. With the way the bracket has played out, its Kentucky's to lose. Look for a preview of the Sweet 16 later in the week back here at "the rock".

West Region
Before Lehigh busted brackets all across the country, Norfolk State provided us with the first big upset of this years tourney. Norfolk State played lights out and upended a potential title contender #2 seed Missouri, 86 to 84. The only one-loss team heading into the tourney (Murray State) was able to win their first game, before falling to Marquette in the 3rd Round, 62 to 53. The first matchup pits #1 seed Michigan State vs. #4 seed Louisville. In the other regional semifinal, #3 seed Marquette takes on #7 seed Florida (who have won their first two games by a combined score of 155-95. I could see either of these four teams representhing this region in the Final Four, should be interesting to see how it plays out this weekend. Look for a preview of the Sweet 16 later in the week back here at "the rock".

East Region
The bracket that came the closest to being "chalk", the East region played out almost as expected. Syracuse got a scare in their first game vs. #16 seed UNC-Ashville, but bounced back to beat Kansas State and reach the Sweet 16. Ohio State got two balanced attack games out of their starters verus Loyola (MD) and Gonzaga to reach the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. Regional semifinals pit #1 seed Syracuse vs. #4 seed Wisconsin. In the other matchup, two Ohio schools face each other, when #2 seed Ohio State goes up against #6 Cincinnati. Although, in my bracket I have Syracuse advancing out of this region, I will be 100% commited to the Buckeyes, in hopes of reaching the Final Four. Look for a preview of the Sweet 16 later in the week back here at "the rock".

Midwest Region
The Midwest region is represented by the two Cinderalla teams of the NCAA tourney so far. #11 seed NC State and #13 seed Ohio are into the Sweet 16 after winning their first two games in the tourney in upset fashion. It also left us with two potential title contenders with one possibly having to play short-handed the rest of the tourney (UNC) and the other (Kansas) lucky enough to still be in the tournament after rallying in their Third Round game vs. Purdue. In the Sweet 16, #1 seed UNC will go up against #13 seed Ohio, with #2 seed Kansas verus #11 seed NC State. With the injury to UNC PG, Kendall Marshall, I lean towards Kansas being the team to get out of the Midwest region. Look for a preview of the Sweet 16 later in the week back here at "the rock".

Fun stats from the first weekend

- Not one single OT and/or buzzer-beater
- Four teams in the Sweet 16 from one state (Ohio), all-time record
- In the First Four, WKU came back from 16 with less then 5 mins to go to win, NCAA tourney record, also, in the First Four, BYU rallied from 25 down to beat Iona, 78-72 another NCAA tourney record
- First time three teams seeded 13 or higher won on the same day to advance to the Round of 32 (Ohio, Norfolk State, and Lehigh)
- First time two #2 seeds (Duke and Missouri) lost to #15 seeds in a single NCAA tournament
- All #1 seeds are still alive
- The Big Ten and Big East have the most teams left in the tourney with four (4), including three matchups pinning the two conferences against each other.
- The Big Ten went 9-2, while the Big East went 11-5 in the first week of the NCAA tourney
- The Midwest is represented by the Sweet 16, with only two teams west of the Mississippi River still in the tournament.

Please feel free to add a stat and/or fact in the comments section and check in later this week for a preview by Boomer on the Sweet 16.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Did you miss us? No? Well, I didn't miss you either" Games of the Week

I'm still not certain Boomer is alive at this point.  He texted me at random times throughout the weekend and for all I know, it was somebody who stole his phone.  I'll let him dive into what happened in college basketball over the past few days. I'll just continue my focus on the pros in the NHL and NBA.


On the ice:
I'm tired of covering the whole league when I only really care about one side.  So today marks the beginning of me covering the East with a focus on the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Suck it.

Yesterday's game of the week on NBC featuring the Flyers and Penguins is still sitting rather unwell in my tummy.  The Cryers won with 0.9 seconds left in OT to take the 2 points.  However the Pens managed to get that point.  Nevertheless, the Pens did have a 2-0 lead going into the third and it snapped an 11 game winning streak (longest in NHL this season).  If that shot would have missed, I would have liked the Pens chances in the shooutout too.

Now look at what it has done in the standings!  Here's how hockey works.  The 3 divisions, Atlantic, Southeast, and Northeast, leaders get the top 3 seeds.  Then everyone else just fills in behind with the top 8 going to the playoffs.  The Penguins have the 2nd most points but since they are not in first, they ultimately fall to the 4th seed, LAME.  The good news is that the Rangers, Penguins, and Flyers (Atlantic) are all within 3 points which will make for a very exciting finish.  Boston and Ottawa (Northeast) are basically batting for a HUGE spot because you will end up 2-3 or 7th.  A top four team gets home ice in the first round.  The Devils are also in the Atlantic but seem destined for a 6-7 seed.  Everybody in the East is still mathematically in the race for the 8th spot and there's the lowly Florida Panthers (Southeast) holding a decent 5 point edge for the 3 spot.

As you can see by the GP (Games Played) column, most teams have about 10 games left.  That's 20 points on the line.  A win = 2 points. A loss in regulation is 0 and both teams are awarded 1 point for going to OT/shootout with the winner receiving the extra point.  EVERY POINT MATTERS.

Just for fun since I live in the State of Ohio.  The Columbus Blue Jackets (in the West) are the only team mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this past week.  Such a shame with such high expectations this past October.  And speaking of Ohio, the NCAA Sweet 16 features 4 Ohio schools! Go Ohio State, OU, Xavier, and Cincy (only for a few more days until the Bearcats play the Bucks, then it's Scarlet and Grey all the way).














1New York RangersRangers  71442079519515814.286.524-1120-164-5-1
2Boston BruinsBruins  71412738522817817.283.221-1520-154-6-0
3Florida PanthersPanthers  713523138318019719.179.520-1715-196-3-1
4Pittsburgh PenguinsPenguins  71442169423118019.489.324-1020-179-0-1
5Philadelphia FlyersFlyers  72422289223120419.882.019-1523-158-1-1
6New Jersey DevilsDevils  72412658719818716.589.420-1621-156-3-1
7Ottawa SenatorsSenators  733726108422121318.681.819-1818-185-3-2
8Washington CapitalsCapitals  72363067819320516.680.723-1313-235-4-1
9Winnipeg JetsJets  72343087619220318.579.723-1511-235-4-1
10Buffalo SabresSabres  723329107618020415.781.618-1915-206-2-2
11Carolina HurricanesHurricanes  732929157319421716.479.318-1911-255-3-2
12Toronto Maple LeafsMaple Leafs  72323287220821919.577.816-1916-213-6-1
13Tampa Bay LightningLightning  71323277119924015.578.621-1511-245-4-1
14New York IslandersIslanders  722932116916921618.480.915-2214-213-4-3
15Montreal CanadiensCanadiens  732832136919120314.889.513-2415-214-3-3

Here are the games to watch this week!
Monday 3.19 - Devils @ Rangers 7pm on NBC Sports Network
I hate both these teams but I need the Devils to win in regulation to keep the East lead at 1 point, 2 at the worst.
Tuesday 3.20 - Jets @ Penguins 7pm
After losing for the first time in forever, the Pens need to rebound so they don't fall asleep.  It won't be easy as a hungry Jets team is dying to make the playoffs.  
Wednesday 3.21 - Red Wings @ Rangers 7:30pm on NBC Sports Network
A month ago I would have said this is possibly a finals match up but now, Wings Captain Lidstrom is hurt and the Rangers are falling apart.  Go Wings!  That hurt a little.
Thursday 3.22 - Capitals @ Flyers 7pm on NHL Network
I really wanted to say Pens/Preds here but to pass up on my 2 least favorite teams was impossible.  I hope the stadium blows up. But go Caps.  Man, that still really stings. Stupid Ovechkin.
Friday 3.23 - Jets @ Capitals 7pm
Not really a ton of relevant games Friday night but this one is huge for the final spot.  Which if you're a Pens fan like me, it will matter when we finish #1! Stupid Ovechkin.
Saturday 3.24 - Pens @ Senators 7pm
I'll miss this game due to a concert I'm attending but Ottawa has way over achieved.  Here's hoping Crosby has finally scored a goal by this game.
Sunday 3.25 - Devils @ Penguins 7pm
Just over a week later, this teams meet again after a 5-2 blowout Pens victory.  This time it's in Pitt.  I have a strong dislike for goalie Marty Brodeur.

Alright, I'll move on to some round ball.  NOT.  I'll admit it.  I just don't care.  I attended the Hawks/Cavs game yesterday afternoon with our good friend T-Rex.  After exiting my row, I realized how boring, effortless, and crappy that game was.  These were 2 teams fighting for playoff position and I saw about 3 guys on each team putting forth effort.  All teams have 20+ games left and I just don't have the energy to give a crap.  

A word on the Cavs:
Kyrie Irving is the real deal.  He made mistakes yes, but he's 110% every second he's on the court.  That's offensively and defensively.  A real pleasure to watch.  The Cavs were a way less talented team and got within 6 or so points before Atlanta realized in the 4th quarter, they have good players.  I don't want the Cavs to make the playoffs so they can get a decent chance at a good lottery pick.  But it's painfully obvious they aren't that good.  Jamison the last time I was at a game in February had 34 points and yesterday 17 on 6-22 shooting.  The story of his career, streaky.  The Cavs already desperately miss Ramon Sessions behind Irving because Daniel "Boobie" Gibson is, uh, awful.  Alonzo Gee is a pleasant surprise as an energy guy who dropped a career high 20 points and 9 rebounds but that was it.  Seeing Varejao in a suit is crappy too,  they miss him a lot.  

Next year, they'll have Jamison off the books as well as Anthony Parker.  I see them resigning Alonzo Gee, Samardo Samuels (Louisville Cards represent!) and possibly Ryan Hollins because he's huge. That's a core of Irving, Gibson, Casspi, Gee, Walton, Thompson, Samuels, Varejao, and Hollins.  9 guys. You can have 15 signed but only 12 dressed to play.  I see them addressing a back up point guard big time this offseason as well as a post presence to complement Varejao.  While Gee has been solid, they need a reliable shooting guard who can put up some points.  I see that position or the post up player being their first and/or second picks of the 2012 draft.  They will have 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders.

The post-LeBron era really has begun and frankly, they aren't the worst team in the league after the debacle that was 2010-11 which surprises me.  A couple more decent pieces and a some savvy veteran back ups coupled with Coach Byron Scott, this team will be a contender for the 2nd spot in the Central next seaon.  Mark it down bottom dwellers.