Monthly Archives: March 2010

“March Madness Enigma”

So before I even touch on my thoughts on the wild first weekend of the NCAA tournament, let me first say, what a horrible weekend for Minnesota.  First their beloved Gophers get it handed to them by the Xavier Musketeers to make an early first round exit from the tournament.  Then their closer, and possibly most reliable player, Joe Nathan will be missing this season and undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Kiss one of the game’s best closers good-bye.  In today’s MLB, closers who are consistent year after year are very hard to come by.  Well the Twins just lost one of the few for the year before the season even started.

Next, many Twins fans breathed a sigh of relief in finding out that they had just resigned their best player Joe Mauer to an 8 year deal.  I mean who wouldn’t be relieved in re-signing one of the game’s elite players to an 8 year extension?  I forgot to mention that the deal cost the Twins 184 million dollars!  Mauer will be making 23 million a year plus god knows what incentives.  Talk about breaking the piggy bank on one guy.  The Twins do not have money like the Yankees or Red Sox.  The Twins better win this year, because keeping a team around this guy will be very tough to do with a lack of funds.  And enjoy trying to win this year without the heart of your bullpen, Joe Nathan.

So now on to basketball..A key statistic of the entire weekend.  Only 11 of the 16 teams remaining are from the power conferences.  And many did not consider the Pac 10 a power conference this year, which would mean only 10 of the 16 left are from the power conferences.  So much for Big East and Big 12 supremacy.  These conferences only produced a grand total of four of the final 16.  The conference that has the most teams left in the Sweet 16 is the Big Ten.  Many analysts at the beginning of the year said that the Big Ten was the best conference in America.  I along with many others laughed at this notion.  I mean we all knew the Big Ten had some solid teams, but the best conference in the land?  Give me a break.  Well I guess those analysts are laughing now in that this conference has the most teams left standing as we enter the 2nd weekend of tournament play.

Another key question.  Who is the real Cinderella this year?  I mean you got 5 teams left from the non power conferences.  You got your 10th seeded Gaels of St. Mary’s.  Also you got your boys out of Northern Iowa who shocked the world in taking down the mighty Jayhawks of Kansas.  Then lets not forget about the sharp shorting Cornell team out of the Ivy League.  The other two teams from non power conferences are Xavier and Butler.  Neither of these top-notch programs still being around should come as a huge surprise.

I will admit to being wrong in a previous blog post saying to ride the Big East with your picks this year.  This conference that appeared so strong all year has truly laid an egg in the tourney thus far.  It will be interesting to see how deep Syracuse and West Virginia can go and if they can save face for the conference.  In addition, the SEC, whom many thought was way down this year has just as many teams left as both the Big 12 and Big East.  Not to mention they have the best team left in the field.  From the first weekend, regardless if I like the team out of Lexington or not, they put on the best two game performance by far.  This Kentucky team looks to be hitting on all cylinders and will be very hard for anyone to beat much less come close to beating.

This weekend showed why the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is arguably the best weekend in sports.  Breathtaking game after breathtaking game.  Down to the wire battles that ended with buzzer beaters.  You name it, and this weekend had it.

Hope you enjoyed this weekend and are able to help me make some sense of the enigma that transpired.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Destination School?”

Please everyone catch your breath.  I am not even going to touch on the enigma that is March Madness just yet.  I am going to let the events that have transpired over the past 4 days set in, and discuss them tomorrow.  Today I am going to talk about one team in particular that continues to wow me.  There is a small, private, jesuit school off of Victory Parkway in Cincinnati called Xavier.  This is a University that has about 4,000 undergraduate students, yet they have gone dancing 9 of the past 10 years!

Not many teams in the country come close to boasting the highly impressive resume that the Xavier Musketeers have put up in March over the past decade.  This is a team that is no stranger to big games and has really thrived under the tourney pressure.  Well today was no different as they knocked off a very strong Pitt team out of the mighty Big East (or at least mighty before this weekend).  Even when Pitt made a furious run in the middle of the 2nd half, the Musketeers kept their cool and made their free throws down the stretch to insure a birth into the Sweet 16 for a 3rd consecutive year.

Coaches such as Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, and Sean Miller have all come and gone.  They have made pit stops in Cincinnati and departed for so called “bigger and better” jobs.  At this point, there are not too many “bigger and better” jobs that you can get in College Basketball.

Xavier, as I mentioned before has been dancing 9 of the last 10 years. They have made the Sweet 16 or better in each of the past three years including 2 Elite Eight appearances.  Cintas Center is an outstanding, top of the line facility that sells out every night.  Not to mention Xavier has not had a Varsity Football team for years!  The basketball team is the biggest and only show in town at this school.  There is no competition with another big revenue sport.  Men’s basketball is the identity of the University.

Now guys like Pete, Skip, Thad, and Sean all did wonderful jobs while they were at Xavier.  I am not calling them bad people by any means.  They are actually all great coaches, and even better people.  Every basketball player that has played for the Musketeers since 1985 has graduated.  Their players take care of business both on and off the court.  In addition, Forbes rated Xavier a top 20 most valuable program in College Basketball.  Xavier is one of only 2 non BCS schools to make this distinguished list.

So today just really reiterated to me that Xavier should not be a launch pad school.  They have become a destination program.  The Muskies have developed into a powerhouse and look to be here to stay.  So if Chris Mack continues to have the success he is having over the next couple of years, will he depart for a Big 10, ACC, or Big East school that comes knocking?  This is something that we will have to wait and find out on.

So my question for you today.  Is Xavier a destination job for men’s hoops or will it continue to be just a stopping point for coaches as they continue to want to leave for the power conferences?

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Terrific Thursday”

College Hoops has “Big Monday.”  They have “Super Tuesday.” And they have the “Thursday Night Showcase.”  Well I am proclaiming yesterday’s first day of NCAA tournament play, “Terrific Thursday.”  I mean, what a day of games yesterday.  You got a little bit of everything.  Game after game went down to the wire.  Players left their hearts out there and I really do not think there is anything more a fan could ask for after yesterday’s set of miraculous games..by the way, we get 16 more games today!

There is really only one way to describe Thursday’s games.  In the words of Dickie V, “It’s totally awesome baby, with a capital A!”  I mean regardless if you had teams that you traditionally root for playing, these games had to of caught your eye.  It was just teams going to battle game after game leaving it all on the court.  Down to the wire finishes.  Buzzer beaters.  Overtimes.  Very few blowouts.  I mean what else can you really ask for?

Sure, most people’s brackets are already shred to pieces after day 1.  But would you really want it any other way?  Today’s slate of games will be very entertaining.  So strap in for an amazing weekend of College Hoops.

Day 1’s biggest surprise:  Most would say Georgetown losing to Ohio University by 14.  I will take it a step farther.  How about Big East teams going 1 and 3 on the day, and almost 0 and 4 if not for a Villanova comeback?  I still believe that this is the best conference in the land.  But the results yesterday were very surprising for the big dawgs from the Big East.  Maybe today will be different?

In other basketball news.  The Regional Final for Southwest Ohio high school hoops is set to be played tonight.  And what a surprise, it is a GCL rumble between the mighty Moeller Crusaders, and the Sir Lancelot Lancers of Lasalle.  Before the season I predicted on this blog that the Regional Final would be the boys from Princeton taking on the Lancers in a rematch of last year’s epic Regional Final.  I was nearly right until the Vikings relinquished a 16 point 2nd half lead against Moeller on Wednesday evening.  It was a great year for the Vikings though and they should be very proud.  Not many public schools from Cincinnati can say that they won 3 straight district championships in basketball in recent memory.  Best of luck to Jordan “J Smooth” Sibert at the next level.  He had an outstanding high school career.  Very much deserving of being named Gatorade Ohio boy’s basketball player of the year.

So a quick breakdown of the Regional Finals. Lasalle and Moeller are two teams that are very familiar with each other.  They split in 2 regular season meetings.  Coach Kremer and Coach Fleming each have a plethora of big game coaching experience and know that tonight’s GCL battle for all the marbles will come down to the wire.  Cintas Center will be rocking to a crowd at least double the size of the UC Bearcats first round NIT game (2200 people there on Wednesday). 

On paper, you would think Lasalle would win this one.  They are a very well-rounded team led by junior Brandon Neel.  This team, though lacking seniors, is very experienced from last year’s deep tourney run.  But for some reason, I am picking Coach Kremer and the Moeller Crusaders.  It has been a few years since this basketball powerhouse has booked a trip to state and for some reason I feel like destiny is on their side.  They pulled off an unthinkable comeback against Princeton on Wednesday, and will thrive in the underdog role again tonight.  Moeller senior star Griffin McKenzie would love to help the Crusader’s return to state tonight while playing in his future home.  McKenzie will be playing for Coach Mack and the Muskies next season.  The Lancers will be back next year though with nearly the entire team returning and will be the heavy favorite to represent Southwest Ohio at state next year.

Look for Moeller to be booking a trip to state tonight in a very hard-fought game.  I will be watching College Basketball while this showdown takes place at the Cintas Center.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Spring Training Shenanigans”

As we inch closer to one of sport’s greatest spectacles, NCAA March Madness, the MLB had an eventful last 24 hours.  And it was not a good day of attention for baseball.  First of all, Cliff Lee, the Mariner’s ace, was suspended 5 regular season games for throwing a pitch that sailed over a batter’s head.  It did not even hit the guy, but he received a 5 day suspension?  If this is a sign of things to come, pitchers better be cautious of throwing inside this year.  Hitters will become much more comfortable in the box knowing that the League will be taking the inside part of the plate away.  Also stars will not need to wear the body armor like Barry Bonds once did as they crowd the plate.  It will be irrelevant to crowd the plate if umpires are going to take a heavy stance like they did on Lee yesterday.  This is what the MLB wants.  More home runs and offensive output.  It is what puts butts in the seats.  And as we all know, the MLB is a business.

In the other  big baseball story of the day, it has come out that Ranger’s manager Ron Washington tested positive for using cocaine last season.  And according to him, that was the one and only time he used the drug.  Is this Mark McGwire all over again?  Big Mac said that he used the roids only to help out with his health and not to improve his play.  This guy says that he used cocaine just one time when he tested positive for it.  Can we get the whole truth and nothing but the truth for once please? 

Both of these incidents are horrible signs for the American pastime.  If this Lee suspension is an  indication of future things to come, pitchers mine as well kiss the inside part of the plate goodbye this year.  I hope guys can really paint the outside corner.  There will be no dusting guys back off the plate.  Umpires are buckling down and if you have one sail, well you are likely going to receive repercussions from the League.  Give me a break.

In addition, more drug usage is going on in baseball.  And it is not just the players.  But now it is the managers.  Also, it is almost certain that a couple of more players will be revealed off the Mitchell Report throughout the course of this season as well.  Baseball has a lot of cleaning up to do.  Both internally and externally.

It’s a shame in that the playoffs were so exciting last year and the level of play has been outstanding.  I hope both of these incidents are not a sign of what is to come this season.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“March Madness Baby”

March Madness tipped off last evening with Arkansas Pine-Bluff handling a tough Winthrop team to advance to play Duke.  Today I am going to provide you with some advice when filling out your NCAA brackets over the next day.  You can take it for what you want in that I rarely win the pools that I am in each year.  I will just provide you with some tidbits that I have picked up over the years.

1.  First of all there are plenty of upsets.  But once you hit the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, the big boys take back over.  The tournament takes place over 3 weeks.  By the end of the 2nd weekend, it has struck midnight on the Cinderellas 99 percent of the time and the  big time teams from the power conferences are the ones left standing.  That is why it should be no surprise to you that every one of the top 4 seeds in each region come from the power conferences except one (New Mexico).

2.  Pick with your head and not your heart.  This can be very tough for most.  They want to see their teams do well and struggle to pick against their guys.  Well, there will only be one team left standing in the end.  It is very unlikely that it will be your team unless they are a one or two seed.  So look at the matchups and pick the team that you actually think will win, not who you want to win.

3.  Do not over think and over analyze games.  There is a reason why most people in America do as well or better than Sports Illustrated with their picks.  Sports Illustrated has access to every stat and generally over analyzes games rather than going with a gut.  This does not mean that you know more than Sports Illustrated.  This just means that picking with your gut is the best way to go most of the time in this tournament.

4.  Pick the teams from the Big East.  This conference was overwhelmingly the best conference in the land this year.  I know the Big East generally has teams fizzle out by the Final Four, but you should expect the teams from this basketball powerhouse to provide more of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 teams than any other conference.  They may not provide you with the National Champion, but look for more teams to leave the first weekend from this conference than any other.  The Big East has 8 teams in the NCAA tourney and 5 in the NIT.  13 teams in the two premier tournaments in the country.  Big East teams play tough grind it out games all year.  They are used to the intensity of the atmosphere and this will show starting tomorrow.

5.  Other than Kentucky, do not waste your time on the SEC.  The SEC was way down this year.  I will be very surprised to see any of them leave the first weekend other than the Wildcats.  Florida does not match up well with an experienced BYU team.  BYU thrives against teams that are do not have a strong interior presence.  Tennessee, if they survive the first round will likely take on a very tough Georgetown Hoyas team.  If Georgetown plays anywhere near their capabilities, they should handle the Volunteers with ease.  Then Vanderbilt takes on a tough Murray State team that has won 30 games.  Also do not forget, that turnover prone teams tend to really struggle in the NCAA tournament regardless of if they are talented.  The Racers are great at forcing turnovers, and Vanderbilt struggles to take care of the ball (this is a 13 vs 4 upset alert).  And even if Vanderbilt wins, they will have a tough Butler, or dare I say UTEP squad waiting for them.

6.  Pick teams that have a  go to guy to advance deep into the tourney.  Kentucky has John Wall.  Kansas has Sherron Collins.  Ohio State has Evan Turner.  Villanova has Scottie Reynolds.  Then finally, West Virginia has the best finisher of them all, Da’sean Butler.  Most tournament games come down to the final couple of possessions.  If teams have a guy that they know is ready and able to take the big shot, they generally move on in these down to the wire battles.  So look for all of these teams to make great showings in that they have a star to rely on.

7.  Look at where games are being played.  For instance if Baylor is able to get to the Sweet 16 in the South Region, the games will be in Houston.  This will be a huge home court advantage for this very hard to predict team out of the Big 12.  Also, take note that the Final Four is in Indianapolis.  You better believe that if UK gets to the Final Four, it will be like a home game for the Wildcats in Peyton Manning’s palace.  So take notes of where these games are being played.  Most of the time the tournament committee does a good job about only rewarding top seeds with good locations.  But there is the occasional lower seed that lucks into playing close to home and this can make an upset bid all the more possible.

8.  Rely on teams with great guards to go far.  Teams like Kansas, UK, Villanova, and Syracuse.  They all have strong backcourts and guards are a real key in March Madness.  Taking care of the ball is essential to success.  Now obviously teams with strong interior play will do well, but it is the teams with the great backcourts that make Final Four runs.  Remember Villanova last year?

9.  In the words of Dickie V, it’s totally Awesome Baby with a capital A!  This is the best tournament in sports for a reason.  Make sure to sit down and take in as many games as you can.  Especially the first weekend, where there is normally complete madness.

First Round Upset Alerts:  UTEP over Butler and Murray State over Vanderbilt (people will be going wild in San Jose where both of these games are being played if this happens)  Sienna over a Robby Hummel’less Purdue team.  Also do not be surprised to see one of these three teams sneak into the Sweet 16 and be this year’s Cinderella.

My Elite 8:  Kansas, Georgetown, Syracuse, Kansas State, Kentucky, West Virginia, Duke, Villanova

My Final Four Picks:  Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, and Villanova.

My National Champion: Kansas (best and most well-rounded TEAM in the tournament)

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Sorry David”

Bend it Like Beckham can no longer bend it like Beckham. Soccer icon David Beckham suffered an achilles tendon tear on Sunday.  It’s a shame in that this is a really painful injury.  Beckham will most likely miss out on making his 4th consecutive World Cup appearance, which would have been more than any other English player.  The man is visibly upset about it and I feel his pain..

Or do I?  I have all the condolences in the world for this man’s injury.  It is never fun to see anybody get hurt.  But this guy, in my opinion, is one of the most selfish,egocentric athletes of them all.  I mean the man could obviously really play at a time.  You do not get voted runner-up for FIFA Player of the Year on two separate occasions.  You are not Google’s most searched sports topic for two consecutive years or have a major motion picture that bears your name if you can’t play.  But the thing is, he really is not a shell of what he was anymore.

He came to the United State to quote on quote “make soccer huge in the United States.”  Was that really his attentions?  I believe he came due to his waning abilities and in order to increase his public aura.  He looked like a great guy for coming to the US.  Making the oh so hard sacrifice to come here and sign a 32.5 million dollar deal for 5 years, in which he has hardly played during the majority of these seasons. 

Beckham’s agent is the real stud of the David Beckham camp.  He has marketed Beckham into one of the biggest, most well-known names in sports.  The sad thing is that he is not only over the hill, but way over the hill.  This injury possibly saved him from embarrassing himself and not making the English National Team.  Or it could have saved England from putting Beckham on the squad, and taking away somebody’s spot who was more deserving.

I mean this man has it all.  He has the money and the fame. The strikingly good looks.  The gorgeous wife.  Not to mention he is known all over the world.  He has been marketed perhaps better than any other athlete of our time.  In his time playing for the LA Galaxy in the states, he has managed to score just 7 goals in his 3 plus years here.  Not to mention he has continued to play in Europe for AC Milan and many call him a “part-time player.” 

Just do us all a favor David.  Play over in Europe and leave us alone.  Your so-called mission of making soccer the prime sport of the United States has failed.  Your real mission of increasing your own popularity has been a success.

Also thought that I would let you know that at this time, Landon Donovan is the best player the United States has to offer and not you.

Your star power is at its highest point.  Do not ruin it with your lack of abilities at the ripe age of 34..

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“Winning Time Special”

I just watched the 30 for 30 special on ESPN tonight:  Reggie Miller vs the Knicks: Winning Time.  What a phenomenally well done special.  Really brought back some memories of being a young kid watching the Knicks vs Pacers grudge matches.  Boy did I hate Reggie Miller and “Miller Time.”  Gave me nightmares for years.  This rivalry defined pro basketball in the mid 90s.  It was big city vs small town hicks.  The bright lights of New York vs the corn fields of Indiana.  City basketball vs old-fashioned fundamental basketball (just in thought, not in the actual play that occurred on the court)

This matchup really captured the entire country’s attention.  Basketball in the 80s was defined by Bird vs Magic.  The early 90s and the years of 96 to 98 were the Jordan years.  But 93 to 95, belonged to the Knicks and Pacers, even though neither squad even won an actual title.  This rivalry had everything.  Two very contrasting cities with two very differing cultures.  Teams with big time coaches in the slick haired Pat Riley and the old school Larry Brown.  Hall of Fame caliber players in Reggie Miller and Patrick Ewing.  Amazing sidekicks to the superstars in Rik Smits and John Starks.  The body guards to the stars in the Davis brothers and the combination of Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley.  And then finally, the most well-known NBA fan of them all.  Spike Lee..

Now I am not going to go deep into the actual details of the results of these epic matchups.  The Knicks won the series in both 93 and 94, while the Pacers got over the hump with a game 7 win in Madison Square Garden in 95.  But this television special and entire storyline really made me realize why the NBA is lacking at this time.  After this rivalry ended following Ewing’s missed finger role in game 7, things have never really been the same for the NBA.  It was the end of a short-lived era.  The team from the Windy City took over the League again for a few years. And then all the sudden power shifted to the West and has stayed there.

So as I mentioned before, the League had the rivalry in the 80s of Magic and Larry.  They had Jordan as a superstar.  But it has been atypical to have rivalries between 2 squads of so much differing heritage that just duke it out in phenomenal series year after year.  In today’s NBA, we have the superstars.  You got the Kobe’s and Lebron’s.  The League is still entertaining.  But the playoffs are not like the ones of the mid 90s.  There are no consistent rivalries that draw the entire country’s attention year in and year out.  There are no slug fest brawls that take place over a 3 year period.  There are no real media wars.  There is just basketball and the occasional trash talking incident.

The League needs another playoff slugfest to develop and quick.  I mean the Celtics/Bulls first round series with 4 overtime games was awesome last season.  But is this a rivalry in the making?  And these rivalries generally take years to develop, so maybe one is in the making now and we do not even realize it.  It is very interesting though how close the Knicks/Pacers rivalry came to not even being anything.

In the 1985 draft, the first year of the NBA lottery, the right to the number 1 pick came down to the Knicks and Pacers.  Both lowly franchises in the League at the time.  Each team planned to draft Patrick Ewing, it was just a matter of who got the number 1 pick.  What if Ewing had been a Pacer?  In 1987, fans were clamoring for the Pacers to take hometown hero Steve Alford with the number 1 pick.  Donnie Walsh, went against the entire state’s wishes and took Reggie Miller.  What if he had caved to the pressure and taken the former Indiana state champion, and Indiana Hoosier National Champion with that pick and Reggie had gone elsewhere?

There are so many what ifs but this was the perfect rivalry.  It is what the NBA needs now to take its popularity to new heights.  I also believe the League needs a team like the Knicks to become relevant again.  Madison Square Garden is the Mecca of basketball and now has turned into the visiting team’s playground.  The Knicks need to turn the Mecca back into their own playground.  Ever since the departure of super center Patrick Ewing, things have never been the same.

Maybe this summer the Knicks will all the sudden be back in the thick of things.

Another big time rivalry needs to develop and fast to bring back real “Winning Time” to the NBA.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“A Microcosm of a Season”

The Mayhem continued in the Big East last night as nearly all 4 of the top seeds went down.  If it was not for a fluke bank shot at the buzzer of the final game, all four top seeds would have been watching the semifinals and finals of the Big East Tournament from home.  See yesterday’s blog post where I say teams that have really clinched a good position in the NCAA tournament fall asleep at the wheel a little in their conference tournaments.

I mean what are they really playing for other than pride?  They have already locked up their bid in the tourney and are looking ahead to that.  I will say that Syracuse still definitely deserves that 4th number 1 seed.  If you look at their overall body of work this year, they are deserving without question.  A 7 and 1 record against top 25 teams and an overall 28 and 4 record against a brutal schedule.  Not to mention winning the regular season crown in the toughest conference in the country.  Their resume speaks for itself.  Now an interesting fact for all you basketball fans out there getting ready to fill out your NCAA  brackets.  No team has ever won a National Championship that has lost in the first round of their conference tournament.  So keep that in mind when making picks in a few days.

I do not normally talk about the Bearcats on this blog.  But I will have to make an exception today as last night’s game really hit home.  The team played their hearts out for 3 consecutive nights and really deserved to win that game last night.  On very tired legs, the Bearcats hung around with a tough Bob Huggins led Mountaineers squad.  West Virginia won on a couple of fluke plays down the stretch by their ring leader Da’Sean Butler.  UC shot the ball horribly over the course of the entire tournament, yet they still fought their way to nearly 3 victories in the toughest conference in the land.  Not to mention they played without their best defensive player Rashad Bishop.  It was a very impressive showing for UC and should get fans excited for next year’s team already.  Plus former President Bill Clinton seemed to really be enjoying the game courtside.

I guess that destiny was not on the Bearcat’s side.  The last few plays of the game seemed to be a microcosm of the Cats season.  UC comes up with a great defensive stop.  They get the ball back with a chance to win..then turn it over.  The other team puts up a shot that may go in 1 out of 15 times and it falls.  The Bearcats could easily be a 20 plus win team with a couple of breaks.  But unfortunately, hard-fought games and unlucky breaks come with the territory of playing a brutal non-conference and conference schedule.  At times the Cats looked phenomenal this year such as down in Maui.  Then at other times they have made you scratch your head with losses to teams like St. Johns and Seton Hall.  Also there have been times where they deserve to win a ball game and a team hits a lucky shot down the stretch, such as Reggie Redding’s three that hit off the rim and backboard to secure a win for Nova over UC a week ago.

Be aware that this team will be bigger and better next year though with most of their players returning.  Lance Stephenson is developing into a superstar and will be a first team all Big East performer next year.  Then you add in the inside punch of Yancy Gates, the slashing and perimeter defense of senior to be Rashad Bishop, and the improved guard play of Cashmere Wright and Jaquon Parker, this team will be ready to contend for a spot at the top of the Big East.

So maybe they underachieved this year.  Maybe their coaching staff made some poor decisions at times.  But their effort level was always there.  You cannot say that they did not give it their all.  And on a final note.  What is Jay Bilas’s deal?  The man consistently laid into the Cats in every way for 3 straight nights.  He consistently made remarks about their style of play and just how lucky they were to be in games.  Sorry that UC plays a contrasting style to Duke Jay.  Sorry that this team did not pan out the way that you and many others thought they would after Maui.  Not everyone plays simple fundamental basketball.  Defense, rebouding, and effort are what takes some teams to paradise.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“March Mayhem”

Before the storm that is March Madness, there is March Mayhem.  Every conference except the Ivy League dukes it out in the form of Conference Tournaments.  For many teams, they are playing their conference foes for the 2nd and 3rd time of the year.  There is no love lost in these rivalries.  The winner of each tourney receives an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.  If you are in a smaller conference, this is the only chance you got at dancing with the big boys.

These tournaments in my opinion are just as exciting, if not more exciting than the actual madness.  The smaller conferences all get their championships put on ESPN.  For many of these teams, this will be the only time they are on national television.  It is the thrill of a lifetime for their players, who predominantly consist of guys who were not “good enough” to play at the marquee programs.  This is really their chance in the limelight.  Their chance to sign.  And generally, these conference championship games do not disappoint.  For the smaller schools, they realize the significance of these conference championship games to their school on both a local and national level.  That is why these games are generally so close and hotly contested.

It is also the chance for America to see new heroes and find some new stud players that nobody is talking about.  For instance, Anthony Johnson, Montana’s star, blew up for 42 points and hit the crucial game winner to send the Grizzlies dancing.  Maybe Anthony Johnson will bounce on to some NBA team’s radars?  See Stephon Curry who took Davidson to the tourney, became America’s fan favorite, and turned into a lottery pick.  These guys at the smaller schools can play.  They may have been overlooked by college scouts, but their team’s are playing deep into their conference tourneys for a reason.  They may be a step slower, and an inch or two smaller, but they still got game.

Another beautiful part of March Mayhem.  Watching the bubble teams from the power conferences play for their lives.  For instance the Big East Tourney.  You got teams like Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Marquette, and dare I say Cincinnati all playing for their tournament lives.  In programs from the big time conferences, making the tourney is an afterthought and something that everyone expects.  If they do not make the tourney, the year is looked at as a disappointment even if the team won 20 games and performed at a high level for the majority of the season.

Then the last aspect to March Mayhem.  Watching teams that have been top 5 or top 10 all year and are looking to make sure they do not screw up their 1 or 2 seed.  This is generally the time that these top teams sputter in that they are not as hungry as their opponents who are playing for their tournament lives.  The hunger is lacking for many of these squads, but don’t worry, they will regain their swagger and intensity for the actual madness that is the NCAA tournament.

All I have to say is, bring on the Mayhem, and then bring on the Madness.

It’s totally awesome baby.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze

“We Need You Big Guy”

Aaron Harang picked up right where he left off after an abysmal 6 and 14 season last year in his first spring training action.  Harang only threw 1 and 1/3 innings and gave up 3 runs on 4 hits.  Aaron was scheduled to throw 3.  Harang has already been slotted as the Reds Opening Day starter.  The Reds have had the big guy since 2003. Harang was a go to guy to eat up innings and pound the zone.

Aaron is a huge guy who can really intimidate when he is rolling.  During his first few years with the Reds, he was near the top of the League in strikeouts and innings pitched.  What else could you want from your number 1 starter? He went out, pounded the strike zone, and competed. In his 3rd and 4th seasons, Harang went a combined 32 and 17 with 8 complete games.  He really was coming into his own and anchoring the pitching staff.  The past two years though, have been disastrous.  Harang has compiled a record of 12 and 31 with just 3 complete games.  These are unacceptable stats from your number 1 starter and are probably a reason why the Reds have not sniffed the playoffs.

Now the past couple of years, Harang has had plenty of good outings where the team has just not provided him with any run support.  But in baseball, as in anything else in life, when it rains it pours.  Harang throws some good outings and gets no run support.  And all the sudden those 3 quality starts turn into 3 losses.  Then over the next 3 outings he throws terrible and gets 3 more losses.  All the sudden the big guy is 0 and 6.

This has been a common trend for Aaron the past 2 seasons and will be unacceptable this year.  The Reds finally have enough arms and young talent that if Harang continues to struggle, we can somewhat afford to get rid of him.  Now I am personally a big Harang supporter and want to see him do well.  If Harang pitches like the Harang of a couple of years ago, this team has a shot to go to the playoffs (of course if the rest of the staff performs).  The team really needs to provide the big guy some run support early on in the year so he can start rebuilding the confidence he once had.  His first few starts in April will really determine if he ends up going 16 and 7 or 6 and 17.  Can the Reds provide him with some decent run support?

Aaron is in the midst of some mechanical changes to his delivery.  All I have to say is I hope these alterations work.  The Reds need you big guy.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze