Monthly Archives: December 2010

“NFL Week 17 Predictions”

Aaron Rodgers (pictured on the right) looks to lead the Packers in a "must win" game against the rival Bears while Brett Favre (pictured on the left) appears to be entering his final Sunday as an NFL Quarterback.

We have reached the culmination of regular season play in the NFL.  It is very hard to believe, but we have reached Week 17.  Closing time baby.  What a year it has been.  Full of many highs and many lows.  There have been plenty of disappointments.  Just ask Dallas, Minnesota, and Cincinnati.  There have been many surprises.  See St. Louis, Kansas City, and Philadelphia.  And there have been the usual suspects (Patriots).

Still many questions linger though. Will Tom Brady win the MVP?  Who will represent the NFC West in the playoffs?  We will find all of that out and more come Sunday.

Lets take a look at the Pick’em scoreboard.

TheSportsKraze:   136            CV3: 141

Can I catch CV3 during this final week? I will have to make up some serious ground come Sunday.

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Bengals at Ravens:  A good old-fashioned AFC North tussle.  Sadly this game has lost a lot of its luster due to the Bengals vastly underachieving this season and due to the lack of the TOcho-Show suiting up for this game.  Though Cincinnati has looked very good these past two weeks, it will not be enough against a Raven’s team looking to win the AFC North outright.  Baltimore’s balance on both sides of the ball will prove too much for the Bengals and send Cincinnati home with their 12th loss of the season.  Ravens by 3 at home in a tight one.

Panthers at Falcons:  This game is an interesting matchup.  It pits the NFL’s worst team versus perhaps the best team in all of football.  Not to mention the Falcons are an outstanding when in their friendly confines of the Georgia Dome.  You better believe that the Falcons would love to clinch that number 1 seed in the NFC.  No resting the big guns on this day.  Atlanta, led by their offensive stars Matty “Ice” Ryan, Roddy “talk too much” White, and Michael Turner will provide loss number 14 for a horrible Carolina team.  Falcons by 9 at home.

Steelers at Browns:  One of the NFL’s best rivalries adds another chapter come Sunday.  Though Cleveland has shown some improvement this year and a very strong rushing attack, it will not be enough against a Steeler’s team that is superior in every facet of the game.  Not to mention Pittsburgh knows how to win ball games.  Look for Pittsburgh to win this game with ease behind their tenacious defense. Steelers by 9 on the road.

Vikings at Lions:  So Brett finally received his big punishment.  A whopping $50,000.  This is equivalent to 4.5 minutes of game playing time for mighty #4.  What a joke.  At least it appears his career will be over finally after Sunday.  It has been a horrible year in Minnesota and they have really underachieved, but at least they can begin looking towards next season after a game with their long time foe, Detroit.  The Lions on the other hand have been a pleasant surprise, and have won 3 consecutive games.  Well expect that number to move to 4 on Sunday. Detroit will win a close one by 3 due to their outstanding passing attack featuring the one and only Calvin Johnson.

Raiders at Chiefs: Kansas City has already clinched the AFC West.  A shocker for sure.  But definitely a very strong team that can run the ball as well as anybody.  I fully expect KC to come ready to play, but I also expect the Raiders to be on their “A” game.  Oakland is looking to end the year on a high note and end up 500 for the season.  This will be a game won on the ground. The Chiefs have already won the division and are not really playing for much.  Oakland is looking to end on a high note.  Raiders by 1 on the road in a great game.

Dolphins at Patriots:  It is Miami’s lucky day.  New England has clinched home field throughout and will most likely sit the majority of their starters.  Miami on the other hand is looking to bounce back from embarrassing losses to the Bills and the Lions.  Sadly for Miami, the Patriots are just too good.  Even their 2nd and 3rd stringers.  There is a winning mentality in Foxborough.  Do not expect the Pats to drop a game at home any time soon.  Patriots by 7 at home.

Buccaneers at Saints:  This is one of those games that has a whole lot of meaning.  Tampa is fighting for their playoff lives while the Saints are riding high after knocking off the dirty birds in ATL.  Now the defending champs could gain home field throughout the playoffs.  You better believe that Brees and company will be ready to roll.  It will be a season sweep over the Buccaneers, who earlier this season proclaimed themselves as the “NFC’s Best Team.”  Too bad they will not even make the playoffs. Saints by 7 at home.

Jets at Bills:  The Jets have already clinched a Wild Card and probably will rest a good deal of starters, but that will not stop them from taking care of business in Buffalo.  The Bills are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and showed that last week in getting absolutely pounded by NE.  Buffalo is the worst in the League at stopping the run and the Jets are one of the League’s best rushing squads.  Jets by 6 on the road.

Chargers at Broncos:  Two teams that have been eliminated from playoff contention.  I will admit that I was highly disappointed in San Diego.  They are a team that I, along with many expected to win the AFC West for a 5th straight year.  It didn’t happen.  Now they are looking to end the year above 500.  I guess good stats do not always correlate to a successful season.  San Diego all year has been in the top 2 in the League in both overall offense and defense.  It didn’t matter.  In this game though, stats won’t matter yet again. But San Diego will win this one just based on their raw talent.  Chargers by 9 on the road.

Bears at Packers:  This may be the matchup of the Week.  Green Bay is holding on for their playoff lives, while Chicago is looking to gain home field in the playoffs.  These are two very good teams that are still playing for something.  The difference is Green Bay is playing for more.  Expect the Cheeseheads to come out smoking like they did last game against New York and shred a very strong Bears defense.  Rodgers and the Packers will avenge a tough Week 3 loss to their rivals by 3 in front of a raucous home crowd.

Titans at Colts:  Indianapolis will most likely need to win this game to maintain their playoff hopes.  Peyton doesn’t know how to miss out on the playoffs.  Not to mention they are playing in front of a home crowd.  Chris Johnson and the Titans have looked tough at times this season, but their inconsistency has been far too much to overcome. Not to mention that Tennessee has sported one of the worst secondaries in the NFL all year. Indy by 10 at home.

Cowboys at Eagles:  In the preseason, I picked the Cowboys to win the NFC East and the Eagles to finish in the cellar.  I was wrong.  Since the departure of Wade Phillips, Dallas has played inspired football.  Philadelphia blew a major opportunity at home field advantage on Tuesday.  This week it appears that Vick will not be playing.  No Vick equals no victory.  Plus the Eagles are not really playing for anything.  Cowboys by 3 on the road.

Cardinals at 49ers:  The NFC West has been absolutely horrible.  Both of these teams have underachieved.  Take your pick of the two bottom dwellers in the NFL’s worst division.  I will take San Fran in the post Mike Singletary era by 6 at home.

Giants at Redskins:  A good old-fashioned NFC East battle.  Washington’s season may be over, but you better believe that they would love nothing more than to spoil any hope that their rival has at making the playoffs.  Sadly for Washington though, they have struggled defensively all year.  Not to mention they never developed an effective rushing attack.  Expect New York to come to play.  Giants by 10 on the road.

Jaguars at Texans:  Many thought that the AFC South would be a 2 team race between the Colts and the Texans.  Many were wrong.  Jacksonville is the team battling Peyton and Co.  Jacksonville has a very strong rushing attack and has had a solid year where they have vastly exceeded expectations.  But I will state that Houston, despite its less than flattering record is still a very dangerous team. Sorry Jacksonville, the pressure got to you.  The Jaguars will lose this one, ending any playoff hopes that they were clinging to.  Houston by 7 at home.

Rams at Seahawks:  This is the NFC West Championship game.  Talk about some excitement in Seattle. Who will get to represent the NFL’s worst division in this year’s playoffs?  It has been an uphill battle all year for this abysmal division. The battle for the divisional crown will come to an end on this day though.  I am taking the rookie Sam Bradford to lead his Rams to the playoffs.  Who picked STL preseason?  Rams by 3 on the road.

CV3 Picks:

Bengals over Ravens by 3

Falcons over Panther by 10

Steelers over Browns by 6

Vikings over Lions by 6

Chiefs over Raiders by 1 (Stay undefeated at home)

Patriots over Dolphins by 21

Saints over Buccaneers by 10

Jets over Bills by 8

Broncos over Chargers by 5

Packers over Bears by 3

Colts over Titans by 17

Eagles over Cowboys by 3

49ers over Cardinals by 10

Giants over Redskins by 7

Jaguars over Texans by 6

Rams over Seahawks by 10

So there you have it.  It has been a wild year in the NFL as we head into the final Sunday.  You better believe that a crazy playoffs is forthcoming.  Lets hope that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) gets settled in time so that we get to enjoy all of this yet again next year.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“MVP of Christmas Day?”

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant (pictured above), wowed a national audience today with a 44 point performance. Is this guy in the same elite class as Kobe Bryant and Lebron James?

Christmas is always one of the most special days of the year.  A day of giving.  A day of reflection.  A day of family time.  But it is also always a day of big time NBA basketball.  And this year had the makings of being one of the all time greatest Christmas Days of NBA Action.  So the games did not exactly pan out to be as close and exciting as expected.  There were some big time performances though.

Some of the League’s main MVP candidates put their talents on display for the whole world to see.  In the early game, the Knicks sported their traditional “festive (green)” Christmas jerseys.  They put on a show and brought home a victory for the jam-packed Madison Square Garden crowd.  Two of the League’s top MVP candidates took part in this one. 

Derrick Rose

Rose almost willed his “Noahless” team to victory by filling up the stat sheet.  He had 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists.  It was quite the performance.  Sadly though, he put up 28 shots and committed 7 turnovers.  It was an impressive performance.  And the 22-year-old out of Memphis continues to wow me with his improvement each time I see him.  But I give him a C+ on the day.  This is due to the fact that not only did his team lose, but he committed nearly as many turnovers as assists, and he shot well below 50 percent from the floor.

Amare Stoudemire

This guy is definitely in the discussion to take home the MVP hardware at this point in the season.  He is absolutely lighting up the stat sheet.  Today was no different as he put up yet another double/double.  20 points to go with 10 boards and a Knick’s victory is a solid day.  He did not exactly wow the crowd with his lowest scoring effort in some time, but he did do enough to lead his team to another victory.  I give him a B on the day.  An above average performance, but no wow factor.

Game two was a very hotly anticipated matchup.  It pitted two teams that have duked it out for the East the past couple of years.  Though neither of these teams have a sure-fire MVP candidate, they demonstrate the importance of team basketball as well as anybody.

Kevin Garnett

KG is not the force that we all once knew.  The guy can still play defense as well as any guy in the League though, and today he showed some of his old school offensive prowess.  Garnett shot a very efficient 10 of 14 from the floor and finished with 22 points.  7 above his regular season average.  I give the guy a B+ for the day’s work.  He played above average, but his team lost for the first time in 14 games.

Brandon Bass

How many of you had heard of this guy before today’s game?  If you were not a Magic fan, you probably had no idea who this kid out of LSU was.  Boy did he show up to play today.  Bass shot 8 of 15 from the floor and finished with 21 points to go with 9 boards.  Bass averages just 11 points and 5 boards a game.  This kid had the best game of his career.  He was a main reason why Orlando picked up their biggest victory of the season.  I give the kid an A for the day.

Game 3 was the most anticipated game of the entire season thus far in my eyes.  All of the talk around the NBA has centered on the Miami Heat since July.  The Lakers are the two-time defending champs yet nobody has been talking about them.  This matchup featured the likes of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, and Lamar Odom.  Sadly, this game was way overhyped.  LA forgot that they had a basketball game today.  They did the same thing last Christmas in a showdown with Cleveland.  Did it affect the final outcome?

Lebron James

I will admit that I am not the biggest fan of the “King.”  But the guy really played an outstanding game today.  Plus he kept his composure while a pesky Ron Artest did everything he could to throw him off.  James went 8 of 14 from the floor and shot an amazing 5 of 6 from 3 point range.  Who says LBJ cannot shoot from the perimeter?  Plus James ended up with the first triple/double every recorded on Christmas Day. Nobody can fill the full stat sheet like the King.  27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and 4 steals.  Give me a break.  Plus his team won on the road by 16.  I give the guy an A+.

Kobe Bryant

It is very hard to choose a most valuable player for LA on this day.  Nobody brought their A game, much less their B game.  But Kobe has been the rock of this franchise for some time now.  And he did have the best numbers on the day.  Bryant finished with 17 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds.  He really never got a rhythm going though.  Could it have been Miami’s outstanding defensive effort?  Could it have been the lack of production from his supporting cast?  Whatever it was, I give Kobe a D- on the day.  Do not take this game as an indicator of things to come though.  The Lakers know how to win when they need to.  Today was an off day.  It also could serve as a wake up call.

The 4th game of the day was another big time matchup.  A Nuggets team that has been around the block versus a young and very talented Oklahoma City Thunder team.  Plus this was probably the last Christmas that fans would get to watch Carmelo in a Nuggets uniform.  Sadly, Carmelo did not play.

Chauncey Billups

This guy has been one of the best big game players in the NBA for over a decade now.  He just always comes to play when he is put on the big stage.  Well today was no different.  The former Piston’s star finished with 30 points, on 10 of 16 shooting.  Plus he was a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe.  The guy did everything in his power to give his injury riddled team a chance to win.  It just was not in the cards tonight.  I will give him a B+.

Kevin Durant

This guy may be the best player in the NBA now.  After watching Kobe, Lebron, and Kevin Durant today, it is hard to not consider this guy in the same elite class.  The guy has become the face of this franchise that is all the sudden looking like a contender.  44 points on 14 of 20 shooting?  Absolutely outrageous.  This guy is leading the League in scoring for a reason.  He is the leader of the most exciting team to watch in the NBA.  Today he just continued to do what he has been doing all year.  I give the guy an A+.

Recap

To conclude my thoughts on the first 4 games today, Kevin Durant is my MVP.  With Lebron James in a very close second.  If you have not gotten to watch Durant play a full game this year, tune in next time they are on national television.  He has hit that elite level and is a joy to watch.  Lastly, I will state that the Heat put on the best overall team performance this afternoon.  I know that the Magic’s win over Boston was huge, but they did not exude dominance the way that the South Beach boys did.  Miami looked awesome.  And believe me, ABC Sports Analyst Jeff Van Gundy will make sure you know it.  This guy hated the Heat 10 years ago.  What happened?  LA will be fine though.  They will work out the kinks just like they have in past years.  I still have the Lakers winning the title.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NFL Week 16 Predictions”

After a heartbreaking loss last week to Philadelphia, New York Giant's quarterback Eli Manning (pictured above), leads the G Men into a must win game at Lambeau.

It is Week 16 baby.  Closing time is near.  The playoff picture is starting to become clearer.  There are plenty of teams that have basically closed up shop and are looking ahead to next season.  But there are still a good few teams fighting for their playoff lives. 

Lets take a look at the Pick’em Scoreboard.

TheSportsKraze:   131                  CV3:  134

I am still 3 back on the great CV3.  Is there any way I can finally catch him during these final two weeks? 

TheSportsKraze Picks:

Cowboys at Cardinals:  NFL action on Christmas?  After a day full of NBA games, the ratings might not be top-notch for this affair, but a good amount of people will still tune in.  In the “Post Wade Phillips Era,” the Cowboys offense has scored 30 plus points every game.  It has been an impressive offensive outburst for Jerry Jone’s squad.  Maybe Jon Kitna is not so bad?  The Cardinals on the other hand are coming off of a loss to perhaps football’s worst team, the Carolina Panthers.  Expect Dallas to shred a very weak Arizona defense all night.  Cowboys by 9 on the road.

Patriots at Bills:  The Patriots have appeared nearly unstoppable over the past month and a half.  Winners of 6 straight, no team has held the potent Pat’s offense under 30 points since the beginning of November.  Do not expect that to change in Buffalo.  Sure the Bills have won 2 straight games, but they have not played a team the caliber of NE.  Good luck slowing down Brady, Welker, Branch, and Woodhead.  Patriots by 9 in most likely atrocious Buffalo weather.

Jets at Bears:  This is one of Week 16’s best matchups.  Though the Bears have already clinched a divisional title, they are still playing for seeding.  Home games in a cold Chicago could be a major advantage in postseason play.  The Jets on the other hand answered their critics with a huge victory in Pittsburgh last week.  Can they answer the critics for a second straight week?  This will be an old-fashioned defensive struggle at Soldier Field.  The difference in this one will be New York’s ability to run the ball effectively against anyone.  Jets by 3 on the road in a very exciting game.

Ravens at Browns:  The Ravens look to keep pace with the Steelers atop the AFC North as they head to face their bitter rival, Cleveland.  You better believe that this will be a cold and physical affair.  Is Peyton Hillis ready to take on the Raven’s mighty defense?  If the Ravens can stop the run, they will win this game.  And my money is on Baltimore to stop the Brown’s solid rushing attack.  Sadly, Cleveland is about to experience their first 3 game losing streak since they started the season on a 3 game skid.  Ravens by 7 on the road.

Titans at Chiefs:  The Titans ended their horrific 6 game losing streak with authority against the Texans last week.  The Chiefs on the other hand look to remain atop the AFC West.  After a huge victory over the Rams, the Chiefs remain a game ahead of a hot Charger’s team.  Can they hold on to their lead?  I am going to go out on a limb and pick the Chiefs to choke away this one.  The Titans have struggled this year.  But with Chris Johnson, they have a guy who can score on any play.  Look for CJ to give KC a little taste of their own medicine.  And run the Chief’s defense ragged all day.  I got the Titans shocking KC by 1 on the road. 

49ers at Rams:  This is San Francisco’s last chance.  If they want any hope of salvaging their season, this is a must win.  Can they make good on their team owner’s promise of the season not being over when the team struggled to an 0 and 5 start?  I think they can.  St. Louis has had a season where they have exceeded expectations in a big way.  Sam Bradford has been even better than advertised.  There is no logic to why I am picking the 49ers.  But I think they will make this NFC West fiasco turn into a photo finish with a victory in this one.  49ers by 3 on the road.

Lions at Dolphins:  Detroit has shocked the world over the past couple of weeks.  Knocking off the likes of a tough Packers team and a solid Buccaneers team.  Can they keep rolling as they head to Miami?  I think so.  Miami has struggled at home this year for some odd reason.  Detroit is playing their best football.  Look for the Lions to continue their late push with a 3 point victory in Miami.

Redskins at Jaguars:  Washington has lost 4 straight games and Jacksonville just let Indianapolis back into the picture.  Neither team is very happy heading into this rumble in Jacksonville.  Sadly for the Jags, it appears Maurice Jones-Drew will not be suiting up.  Without MJD, the Jaguar’s offense will have to rely on its less that stellar passing attack.  Luckily for them, Washington has a very weak secondary.  This will be an ugly game in every sense of the word.  I do expect the Jags to survive and conquer by 3 though.

Colts at Raiders:  Peyton and the boys are once again full of life after a huge victory over divisional foe, Jacksonville last week.  Indy is a team that strictly relies on a lethal passing attack.  The Raiders are the polar opposite, placing all of their offensive stress on the ground attack.  Old school vs new school.  I am taking the new school.  As long as Indy has Peyton Manning under center, it is very hard to pick against the Colts in any must win game.  Colts by 7 on the road.

Texans at Broncos:  Two teams whose seasons are long over.  Back to the drawing board.  Just based on raw talent, the Texans are an obvious choice to win this game.  Denver’s horrific defense will struggle with the Texan’s balanced offensive attack.  I expected much bigger things from the team out of Houston.  But I still go them winning this game.  Texans by 7 in Denver.

Chargers at Bengals:  Teams heading in very different directions.  Both of these teams were favorites in their respective divisions heading into the season.  Cincy got off to a decent start while San Diego got off to their normal very slow start.  Following a Week 3 win, the Bengals then went on to lose 10 straight games.  Even though the losing streak is finally over for the Who Deys, the bleeding is not. The Chargers will demonstrate their great balance in every aspect of the game.  The real question in Cincinnat is who will they draft and which players/coaches will return.  Chargers by 9 on the road.

Giants at Packers:  This is possibly the biggest game of the week with respect to the NFC Playoff picture.  Two teams fighting for their respective playoff lives.  The Giants possibly suffered their most heartbreaking loss in franchise history last Sunday.  The Packers on the other hand, almost shocked the Patriots without their starting quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.  These are two teams that are very solid in all facets of the game.  It is a toss-up.  I am going out on a limb and taking the heartbroken Giants by 1 on the road.

Seahawks at Buccaneers:  This is a must win for the Buccaneers.  So was last week’s game vs the Lions.  Can the Buccaneers redeem themselves?  I think that they can, but it will not matter.  I see the Buccaneers just missing out on the playoffs even with a win over Seattle on Sunday.  Bucs by 7 at home.

Vikings at Eagles:  Will Brett Favre play?  Who really cares.  Philadelphia is flying high behind their outstanding offensive attack.  Expect to see the Eagles continue to fly high, with a big victory at home.  Eagles by 12.

Saints at Falcons:  Battle for the NFC South.  Roddy White has made it publicly known that his team will be ready.  The Falcons have won 8 straight games.  New Orleans had won 6 straight until they traveled to Baltimore on Sunday.  I would pick the defending champs if this game was being played in NOLA.  But it isn’t.  Atlanta does not lose at home with Matt Ryan behind center.  Falcons by 1 at home.

CV3 Picks:

Pats over Bills by 9
Jets over Bears by 10
Ravens over Browns by 3
Titans over Chiefs by 6
Rams over 49ers by 10
Lions over Dolphins by 6
Jags over Redskins by 10
Raiders over Colts by 7
Texans over Broncos by 8
Packers over Giants by 9
Bucs over Seahawks by 10
Eagles over Vikings by 21
Bengals over Chargers by 1
Falcons over Saints by 3

It is crunch time in the NFL now.  This week will make or break many team’s playoff hopes.  Most teams are looking to do all in their power to clinch a spot in the postseason heading into Week 17.  Enjoy the great matchups highlighted by a big time Monday Night Affair between the Saints and Falcons.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“College Football Weekly Bowl Outlook”

San Diego State's hope of beating a tough Navy team rests on the right arm of their star Quarterback, Ryan Lindley (pictured above).

 Five bowls down and 30 to go.  So the Bowl Season has not been too glamorous thus far.  Outside of a nail biter in the Beef “O” Brady’s Bowl between Louisville and Southern Mississippi, the games have been blowouts.  Are you really surprised?

Generally the bowls Pre Christmas are pretty weak.  This year has been no different.  Here is a look at the bowl games upcoming for this week.

Thursday

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL

Navy at San Diego State:

New school vs old school football.  A team that hardly throws versus a team that lives and dies on the pass.  Navy has looked extremely strong down the stretch.  They even put up 76 points on East Carolina.  So much for people saying that football is all about high-flying passing offenses now.  Somebody forgot to relay the memo to Navy.  They also beat up on Notre Dame earlier this year.  San Diego State is a team on the other hand, that lives and dies on the throwing arm of QB, Ryan Lindley.  This team has had a great year.  All 4 of their losses have come by 5 or fewer points.  The Aztecs have been in every game that they have played this year.  Well expect this game to be the 2nd nail biter of the bowl season.  I do fully expect the dominant rushing attack of the Midshipmen to control this game down the stretch though.  Navy by 3 in a very close battle.

Friday

SHERATON HAWAII BOWL

Hawaii vs Tulsa

Make sure you come into this game well rested.  Because this will be an up and down affair from start to finish.  This will be like watching the Knicks play the Suns in the NBA.  There will be a lot of scoring, followed by more scoring.  These teams both have lethal passing attacks and rank in the top 10 in the country in scoring.  There are two differentiating factors in this game.  Number one, Tulsa can run the ball effectively to go along with their lethal aerial attack.  The two-headed rushing attack of quarterback  G.J. Kinne and running back Damaris Johnson could win this game for the Golden Hurricane.  The other differentiating factor is the home field advantage that Hawaii has. And I feel this factor is more important than the ability to run the ball effectively. My head is saying to pick Hawaii at home, and I am going to listen to my head.  Hawaii by 6 at home.  What a year for Tulsa though.  A win in South Bend.  And a bowl trip to Hawaii.  Who cares if they go home with a loss.

Sunday

LITTLE CAESARS BOWL

Florida International vs Toledo

The Florida International Golden Panthers lost 4 games to start this season.  How often does a team that loses for the entire first month of the year get to play in a bowl game?  Florida International has won 6 total games this year.  In my opinion, a 6 win team out of the Sun Belt has no business playing in a bowl game.  Now I realize that Troy, a 7 win team out of the Sun Belt, embarrassed an OU team that finished towards the top of the MAC.  This is the same sort of matchup as a Sun Belt team is taking on a top of the conference MAC team in Toledo.  So logic would say to pick Florida International after watching what Troy did to OU right?  I mean OU did beat Toledo early this year.  And Florida International did defeat Troy.  But I am going out on a limb and taking Toledo in this one.  Neither of these squads do anything especially well.  But I said I thought the MAC was a stronger conference than the Sun Belt last week.  And I am sticking with that statement even though Troy whooped OU down in New Orleans last week.  Look for Toledo to steal one by 3, showing great poise late in the 4th quarter.

So there you have a look at some of the upcoming bowl games as we head into Christmas.  It still is not the most exciting of matchups yet, but expect some closer games this week. And have no fear, the Bowl Season will heat up in a hurry as we head into the New Year.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“The SEC Basketball Preview”

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari (pictured above), took the SEC by storm in his first year in the conference. Will he have a repeat performance in year two?

Today we are in for a special treat.  We have our debut post from our SEC expert out of Lexington, Mr. Matt Murray.

Matt is the Editor in Chief for the University of Kentucky’s student run newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel.  You can follow him on twitter @MurrNation

Six weeks into the college basketball season, teams are gearing up for conference play, and their non-conference schedule has helped provide a litmus test for just how good they are, while other teams still haven’t quite figured it out. While the SEC hasn’t been the best league from top to bottom the decade or so, it has produced the second most Final Four teams over the last five years, and ties the ACC for the most national championships over the last five years.

The SEC has surprised many critics in the early stages of this season, but it’s the lopsidedness of the conference that is glaring. The East appears to have 6 teams that could rightfully make their way into the NCAA tournament, while you’d be hard-pressed to find a single team from the west that could legitimately find themselves in the field in March.

 

SEC WEST
1. Mississippi- Ranking the teams in the SEC West is like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You are just as likely to nail it as you are to accidentally stick the pin in your great aunt Edna’s ass. The Rebels are 7-2, but they have yet to play a ranked opponent. However, the Rebels have an experienced squad and are able to put up points. Senior guard Chris Warren averages more than 19 points a game and shoots nearly 92% from the free throw line. The Rebels average almost 80 points per game, but that offense is yet to be tested by a worthy opponent. The Rebels first real test comes in their SEC opener at #19 Florida. This team will have a better feel of how good they are after they see how they play on the road in Gainesville.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks– Arkansas is currently 7-2, and each of their two losses has come in overtime. However, head coach John Pelphrey has much to prove. He has only won 14 games in each of his first two seasons at Arkansas. Arkansas’ rich basketball history will have Pelphrey on the hot seat if he can’t push his team above a .500 record this season, and there’s reason to believe he finally has the pieces to do so. Sharp-shooter Rotnei Clark has another year of experience under his belt and is currently the Razorback’s leading scorer. The good (and bad) news for the Razorbacks is that they have no real star. Clark is the leading scorer with a mere 13.8 a game, while their second leading scorer is senior Delvon Johnson with 11.1 per game. The Razorbacks have an even scoring distribution and get decent production out of their bench. The problem is that unlike many of the marquee teams in the SEC, they lack playmakers that can get them out of a bind, but if their squad continues to gain experience and play smart, they can become one of the deeper teams in the division.

3. Mississippi State- Sitting at 7-3 after finishing last season with an eye-opening deep run in the SEC tourny taking a stellar Kentucky team into overtime in the SEC Championship game last season, the Bulldogs are working on rebuilding, particularly after losing swat machine Jarvis Varnado. However, like most of their SEC West counterparts, this team has yet to face a ranked opponent, and thus has no real way of knowing exactly what they are capable of.  In fact, all they know as of now is that they’ve lost to a 4-5 East Tennessee State and ACC bottom-feeder Virginia Tech. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they kick off SEC play against three straight SEC West opponents, which might give them a chance to get their feet under them before facing a surprising Georgia team in Athens, kicking off a stretch against three straight tough SEC East opponents. However, if senior guard Ravern Johnson continues his outstanding play, which has him averaging 22 points per game, this team has reason to believe they can rise to the top of the SEC West.

4. LSU Tigers- Unlike the others in their division, the Tigers have faced a top 25 team, and held their own, losing to #19 Memphis by nine. The problem is that the 7-4 Tigers have posted three additional losses to teams that won’t be dancing in March and that they have the daunting task of playing their games against SEC East leaders Kentucky and Tennessee on their home floors. This LSU team will most likely stumble their way through SEC play, and would be lucky to finish out their season at .500.

5. Alabama Crimson Tide- The Tide has a faced a host of respectable opponents. The problem is that they are 5-6 as a result. The Tide puts up a measly 64 points a game, and has no real leadership. The young squad is led in scoring by a sophomore and junior, and find two freshman in their starting lineup. In a conference full of teams boasting rosters that are either full of experience or freshman that are far more talented than those on Alabama, the Tide are going to find themselves outmatched in the majority of their SEC match-ups this season.

6. Auburn Tigers- The Tigers are bad. In fact, they’ve been bad for quite some time, and there’s no reason to expect any change this season. They rank in the 200s in almost every major statistic and already find themselves in a 4-7 hole, despite having yet to play a ranked opponent. They barely average 60 points a game, and their latest recruiting class was lackluster at best.  The Tigers would be lucky to post 14 wins this season.

SEC EAST
1. Kentucky Wildcats- The fight for the top of the SEC East should be a slugfest. Tennessee and Florida find themselves at the bottom of the division with three losses a piece, while every other team has only two losses to their name. So far, the East has collectively knocked off opponents like Pitt, Notre Dame, Villanova, Washington and  Kansas State. The Wildcats sitting at 9 and 2, are responsible for two of those wins, and their only two losses have come to ranked opponents away from Rupp Arena. Kentucky is young, and there is no doubt this class lacks the talent of last year’s highlight reel squad. But what the Cats do have is an intelligent team that has come off as very coachable so far this season, as well as one of the top NBA prospects in freshman forward Terrance Jones. Jones is averaging a double double this season, with 19.8 points and 10 rebounds a game as a freshman. Additionally, Calipari has reloaded yet again in the point guard position, as Brandon Knight has replaced John Wall, who replaced Tyreke Evans, who replaced Derrick Rose. Knight averages 17.2 points per game, but the problem is that he only averages about four assists per game. Unlike Wall, Knight isn’t a true point guard, but also unlike wall, Knight is a much better shooter. In fact, this Kentucky team is in many ways the polar opposite of last year’s team, which was the tallest team in the NCAA. With Cousins, Patterson and Orton, the Cats could push the ball and earn points in the paint. This year’s team lacks a big man, as Josh Harrellson is its starting center. However, now the Cats are a real threat from behind the arc. The Cats are likely to finish about 12-4 in the SEC, which would likely put Calipari in position to post yet another 30-win season. Lucky for the Cats, no team in the SEC has a dominant big man, which is the only real kryptonite for this team and Calipari has the Cats playing the kind of defense he is known for, and their length has proven to be a big challenge for opponents.

2. Tennessee Volunteers- Of those marquee wins listed for the SEC, the Volunteers are responsible for some of the biggest as Tennessee has already knocked off Big East powerhouses Pitt and Nova. Had I written this preview 10 days ago, Tennessee would’ve been my hands-down favorite to finish at the top of the SEC East. However, after starting 7-0 and knocking off two top 10 teams, the Volunteers have dropped two straight to non-BCS conference teams Oakland and Charlotte, and a third straight to USC. Two-faced Tennessee is capable of beating any team in the NCAA by double digits, but they’re just as capable of losing to anyone. More than likely, these early loses will bring the naysayers back out of the woodwork, but there’s no reason to expect this Tennessee team won’t get back on track and make a serious run for the top of the conference and an equally deep run into the NCAA tournament. Their match-ups against Kentucky and Florida could likely determine who comes out on top of the conference, but then again, every SEC East matchup could be that pivotal this season.  What will be interesting to see is whether or not Bruce Pearl’s eight-game SEC suspension will really affect his team. During that stretch, Tennessee will have to face Florida and Vanderbilt, outcomes which could very well effect the SEC East standings for the season.

3. Florida Gators- Florida may be just as two-faced as Tennessee, posting wins against top 10 Kansas State, and turning around to lose to the Jacksonville Dolphins that very same week. At 8-3 Florida has no reason to panic, especially as one of their losses came from a very realistic title contender in Ohio State in the early stages of the season. Donovan has yet to recapture the talent he had in his back-to-to back title teams 3 years ago, but the addition of Kenny Boynton last year was a good first step. The sophomore averages 12.4 points per game, and in tandem with Erving Walker, Florida is finally building a team that could be a real threat in the NCAA tournament. The Gators have built up a great deal of depth, which will make them tough to beat due to their ability to give guys ample rest. The Gators should win the rest of their non-conference schedule and enter SEC play at 12-3, and pick up an SEC-opening win against Mississippi before having to travel to Knoxville to face Tennessee in one of the first big SEC clashes of the season.

4. Vanderbilt Commodores- The Commodores have found a way to put themselves in the mix for the past four years, and head coach Kevin Stallings has been the primary reason. He finds ways to put his team in position to win games, and while the ‘Dores have never been outstanding, no one plays them expecting an easy win. Playing in Nashville is always a nightmare and the team plays equally well on the road. However, there’s reason to believe that the strength of the SEC East this season could see the Commodores having a less-than-stellar season.  Fortunately for Vanderbilt, they face rival Tennessee during Pearl’s suspension, and any help is welcome. If Stallings can keep his team on their current pace of scoring, which has them at 24th in the country with 80.1 points per game, he can likely get his team into the NCAA tournament, but the graduation of center A.J. Ogilvy is going to be his biggest road block. However, like Kentucky, Vanderbilt too can benefit from existing in a league that lacks a dominant big man.

5. Georgia Bulldogs- Georgia is on the upswing. Junior Trey Thompkins stormed onto the scene last season with a posterizing dunk on Kentucky’s Demarcus Cousins and he’s never slowed down since. He averages 16.2 points per game, and fellow junior, guard Travis Leslie, adds 14 a game. The duo has led the Bulldogs to a 8-2 start, their best start since 2006, and their only losses have been at the hand of now-ranked opponents. There’s no reason to believe this Georgia team won’t enter SEC play at 11-2, and contend for a spot at the top of the conference. The only thing working against them is the strength of the other teams in the East, but if they can win the games they’re supposed to win, and stack that with some surprises, this team could find itself back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since their surprise SEC tournament-winning run in 2008.

6. South Carolina Gamecocks- The loss of Devon Downey is the primary reason for the Gamecocks likely slide to the bottom of the east this season. Yet, somehow South Carolina has earned a 7-2 start, losing only to top 10 teams. This is the biggest question mark in the SEC East, as this team has no reason to finish better than 8-8 in the SEC, but their play against teams like Michigan State has shown the talent and ability that could be extracted from this team if head coach Darren Horn can pull it out of them. Despite any true big man presence, South Carolina is 9th in the NCAA in rebounding, and in a league with no truly talented big man, the Gamecocks’ ability to crash the board could earn them invaluable second chance opportunities if they can stay on that pace. Their biggest problem will be finding offensive production in a league full of a tenacious defense. If the Gamecocks play to their potential, they could get to 10 wins in the SEC, but there are only so many wins to be divided among the conference, and its more than likely a host of talented SEC East teams will be taking a fair share of them from South Carolina.

Only time will tell whether or not this fast start for the SEC East is the real deal, but so far their games against big-time opponents seem to show there’s reason to believe it could be. College basketball as a whole is down this season, and so far, the SEC seems to be capitalizing on this fact.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Food for Thought 12-21-2010”

UConn Head Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma (pictured above), looks to make history tonight with an 89th consecutive victory. Is he the greatest College Basketball Coach (Men's or Women's) of all time?

Today is another “Food for Thought” day.  There is just entirely too much going on in the sporting world to not at least touch on multiple items.  Being a sport’s fan at this time is good.

Lets take a look at some of the main storylines.

Bye Bye Brett

-Once again the media has been dominated by yet another storyline regarding the legendary #4.  I am not going to lie, I thought we would hear very little about Brett until the conclusion of the season when whispers of retirement came into the picture again.  Sadly, I was wrong.  Brett shocked America by suiting up and starting last evening’s Monday Night affair against the divisional rival and 1st place, Chicago Bears.  I will state, this was a mistake for Brett.  Not only did he hardly play, but he took another massive hit and suffered a concussion.  I know Brett’s legacy has been built on playing in big time Monday Night Games in the snow.  But the guy was not healthy, and had no business being on the field.  Will this be how Brett goes out?  He ended his career in Green Bay throwing an INT in the NFC Championship Game.  In addition, he ended on a sour note in New York (and still is dealing with the repercussions).  Now his Minnesota reign has appeared to end in a sad fashion.  The man just needs to retire already.  It is not worth permanent injuries.  He has nothing left to play for.

What is next for the TO Show?

-So Terrell Owens has suffered a major knee injury and appears to have played his last down in Cincinnati.  Does TO or Cincinnati really care?  Many thought TO was the final piece to the puzzle for the Who Deys.  Many thought that the Bengals were a Super Bowl contender.  Many were wrong.  I will state, Terrell has had his best year in some time.  He has quietly had a very strong year.  Until recently, he had even kept his mouth shut.  Amid all the losing, he finally opened up his mouth and his true colors showed.  Owens had 72 catches for 983 yards, and 9 TDs this season.  At 37, the guy can still play.  My question for you is who will pick him up?  His days in Cincy are without question over.  Who saw this Bengal’s team getting 7 or 8 games worse after the offseason they had?  Sadly, Cincinnati is very used to being disappointed by the Who Deys.  It is fact of life for the people who live in the 513.

Auriemma>Wooden?

-In less than an hour, Geno Auriemma leads his Lady Huskies into battle with a chance to rewrite history.  With a victory this evening, the Huskies will have one upped John Wooden and his legendary UCLA teams, with an 89th consecutive victory.  I do not care that this is women’s basketball.  89 wins in a row is an astounding feat.  Something that will probably never happen again.  Now my question for you.  Is Geno Auriemma in the class of the all time great coaches such as John Wooden, Coach K, Dean Smith, and Adolph Rupp?  Bobby Knight on ESPN coverage today stated that Auriemma should be the number 1 choice on any team’s list when looking for a new coach.  Is it that easy to go from coaching women to men?  I do not think so.  Sorry Bobby.  Geno is one of the best ever, but coaching women is far different from coaching men.

Coach K Satisfied?

-Coach K secured his 879th career victory last evening behind yet another stellar Kyle Singler performance.  The greatest Duke Coach of all time is now tied with UNC’s best, Dean Smith, for 2nd on the all time list.  Krzyzewski now sits just 23 wins behind the all time record, which is held by the legendary Bobby Knight.  The real question at this point is not if Coach K will catch Knight, but when, and by how much?  My money is on this year during another deep NCAA Tournament run. Is Coach K the greatest College Coach of all time if surpasses this milestone?  Is he even as good of a coach as Geno Auriemma?

Magic in Orlando

-So Orlando has been struggling.  They tried to change their luck by making the trade of the year thus far (LBJ’s decision was a free agency decision).  Following a trade that could really shake up the battle of the top of the East, the Magic ended up with Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and their former (now current) star, Hedo Turkoglu.  Now I realize the Magic lost again last evening to the Hawks.  But do not sleep on this team.  They are definitely a contender in the East and this trade will make them a better team in the long run.  Give them a couple of weeks to develop a chemistry.  The battle for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, much less the state of Florida will be exciting in the near future.  I still have the Magic going to the Conference Finals as I predicted in the preseason.

So there you have some of my insights on the major happenings going on in the sporting world on this particular day.  Obviously there are other things going on as well.  Feel free to ask about whatever is on your mind via commenting or emailing.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Weekly Nickel”

The Heat have now won 12 games in a row. The "Main Event" this week involves a matchup between the Heat and the Lakers on Christmas Day.

Its Monday.  And you all know what that means…

It is the start to another stellar week in the wide world of sports.  Lets take a look at the pulse of the action.

5.  Come Thursday, there should be a heavy focus on the NHL.  It should be no surprise to you why people should tune in to NHL Hockey.  Sure two of the top teams in the NHL are going head to head.  But it is the Kobe/Lebron matchup of the NHL.  Sid “the Kid” Crosby leads his Penguins to the nation’s capital to take on Alex Ovechkin.  Who you got?  Crosby or Ovechkin?

4.  College Football Bowl Madness continues.  3 of 35 are complete.  Lets keep them coming. 

Tuesday

Beef “O” Brady’s Bowl:  Southern Miss vs Louisville-America will get to see 1st year Louisville coach, Charlie Strong, lead his team into their first bowl game in 4 years.  Contrasting styles should make for a fun one in St. Petersburg.  Louisville has lived on its defense all year while Southern Miss has lived on its O.

Wednesday

MAACO Bowl:  Utah vs Boise State-This is hands down the best game of the week.  Two teams that were both ranked in the top 5 at different points during the course of this season.  Plus, this could be the last time we get to see Kellen Moore suit up in the Bronco Blue.  If you get to watch one College Football Game this week, watch this one.  You will not want to miss Titus Young and Austin Pettis play in their last game.  Outside of a kicking breakdown, Boise has played a near perfect season.

Thursday

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl:  Navy at San Diego State-Navy can straight pound the rock.  Not the most appealing game to watch.  But if you want to see some old school, smash mouth football, Navy is the team to watch.  San Diego State will provide some pass heavy offense, led by their QB, Ryan Lindley.

Friday

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl:  Hawaii vs Tulsa-Tulsa is one of the luckier teams in the country.  They first of all got to defeat Notre Dame in South Bend.  Now they get to head to Hawaii for a bowl game?  Not to shabby.  Both of these teams can really score.  Expect both offensive units to put up 35 plus in this one.  Hawaii has the most lethal passing attack in the country for a change and Tulsa is right up there as well.  The difference is that Tulsa can run the ball effectively too.  Take note of this fact when picking a winner for this one.

3.  Not the greatest week for College Hoops.  Christmas always is a time to spotlight the NBA.  But, there are some good matchups, especially on Wednesday.  Here is a look at the two marquee games on Wednesday.

Missouri vs Illinois:  One of the top dogs in the Big 12 takes on one of the better teams in the Big Ten.  Missouri plays basketball at a gut wrenching pace for all 40 minutes.  Welcome to the fastest 40 minutes in basketball.  Outside of Washington, not many teams play at this pace for the duration of games anymore.  Outside of a heartbreaking OT loss to Georgetown, a game they should have won, this team has looked pretty strong.  They will score points, averaging just under 86 a game.  Illinois on the other hand fell to the only other Big 12 foe they played this year (Texas), and are coming off of a shocking loss to Illinois-Chicago.  This team though also has beaten some very tough teams this season such as UNC and Gonzaga.  You will not want to miss this one.

Texas at Michigan State:  I applaud both of these squads for playing brutal non conference schedules.  They are already preparing their teams for March.  So what if they each have suffered multiple losses.  You cannot undervalue big game experience in November and December.  Please note though that all 3 of the Spartan’s losses are against current top 10 teams.  Texas did suffer a loss to an unranked foe in USC, but they have beaten some top-notch opponents such as Illinois and UNC.  This should just be a great all around game.  I will be very interested to see how Cory Joseph, the Longhorn’s freshman phenom, matches up with experienced Spartan guards such as Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Korie Lucious.  Should be a fun one to watch.

2.  I had to give Geno and his ladies some love.  Sure I realize that most are not as in to Women’s College Basketball as Men’s.  But this is history folks.  The great John Wooden’s record could fall.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, Auriemma looks to make history.  The Lady Huskies go for their 89th consecutive win!  Yes I said 89th.  Can you imagine winning 89 straight games?  Can the Seminoles somehow stop this train?  Do not count on it.

1.  This week’s NBA slate will not disappoint.  Every night features a big time matchup.  Tonight, there are two great games.  The Magic bring their new look squad to the ATL to take on the always dangerous Hawks.  And the Mavs head to Miami to take on the red-hot Miami Heat.  Can the Mavericks cool off the South Beach All Stars?

On Tuesday, the Mavericks have to recover in a hurry as they head over to take on the new look Magic.  Come Wednesday, the Garden will get a taste of Kevin Durant.  Can he put on a big time performance against the overachieving Knicks?  Then Thursday, as Orlando continues on with their “hell week,” the Spurs come to town. 

Christmas is always an awesome day in the NBA though.  Boy did the League outdo themselves with the slate of games that they put together.

Chicago at New York:  Derrick Rose and the “Noahless” first place Bulls head to the Garden.  Big time players always put together memorable performances at MSG.  Plus it is Christmas.  Expect Derrick Rose to put up a triple double as he wows the New York crowd.  Now I will state, up until the 2nd half of the game vs the Heat on Friday, the Knicks had thoroughly impressed me.  They have played way above their talent level.  Amare looks like an MVP.  Gallineri is playing like an All Star and really has developed an all around offensive repertoire.  And Felton has rejuvenated his career.  So what if the New York guys are not quite at that Miami or Boston level.  They are good enough to make the playoffs this year.  Plus they have caught the attention of Melo.  You add Carmelo to this team, they are a contender in the East.  You add CP3, the Knicks are a title contender again.  Boy would that be fun.

Boston at Orlando:  The two teams that have owned the Eastern Conference the past 3 years link up in Disney World.  This is the final game of the Magic’s “Hell Week.”  Will Orlando have anything left in the tank for this one?  They will have already played the Hawks, the Mavericks, and the Spurs already before they even get to step on the floor with the C’s.  Boston is playing outstanding basketball.  Though they are missing Rondo, do not expect a huge drop off.  I am curious to see how the new look Magic match up with the Mean Green Fighting Machine.

Heat at Lakers:  Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Gasol, and Bosh on the same floor?  No this is not the All Star Game.  This is the primetime game of the day though.  And boy is it one that every basketball fan in the country has been waiting for. The Heat have gelled, winning 12 straight games.  There could not be better timing for this game.  All of the stars will be out (not just those on the floor).  Do not take away too much from this matchup though.  There is still a lot of basketball to be played.  But outside of Lebron’s return to Cleveland, this is the year’s most anticipated game up to this point. 

Also, there are two other games on Christmas.  It will be a Merry Basketball Day.

So there you have a look at this week’s main events.  And I did not even touch on the NFL’s Week 16.  You better believe that there is a ton going on.  Let me hear your thoughts.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze