Tag Archives: Nick Craddock

Olympic Men’s Basketball: Medal Round Preview

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will LeBron James (pictured above) lead Team USA to gold? Our very own Nick Craddock weighs in.

By Nick Craddock

The preliminary round of the London 2012 edition of the men’s basketball competition concluded Monday and we’ve learned (or merely confirmed) that the United States, which is escaping the group stage unscathed, is still the team to beat for the gold medal.

After the United States, the question of which team poses the biggest threat to the heavy favorites remains unclear. While the aforementioned question does not yield a definitive answer, what is clear heading into the medal round, which begins Wednesday, is that a handful of teams from the chasing pack can challenge LeBron James and Co. on a great day for American opponents or a bad day for the Americans when it comes to their own execution.

In a single-elimination format, anything could happen for these teams still vying for Olympic success: Continue reading

United States break Canadian hearts in women’s soccer thriller

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Alex Morgan (pictured above) saved the day sending the United States to the gold medal game and breaking the hearts of Canada.

By Nick Craddock

The United States women’s national team can’t help but thrive on late-game heroics, apparently.

Continuing in the same form as the string of heart-stopping games from last summer’s women’s World Cup, the U.S. defeated Canada 4-3 in extra time in an instant classic at Old Trafford to advance to face Japan in the gold medal game.

Perhaps this was the only fitting conclusion to a game where in order for the top-ranked U.S. to avenge a heartbreaking loss on penalty kicks to Japan in last summer’s World Cup final, the Americans had to deliver a heartbreaking loss to Canada, ahead three times in this game, only to squander the lead three times in this game before finally succumbing to an Alex Morgan header in the 123rd minute, seconds removed from penalty kicks. Continue reading

Olympic potpourri: Half way to the London 2012 finish line

Image courtesy of olympic.org. Over a week of London 2012 is in the books.

By Nick Craddock

The London 2012 Olympics are already in their second weekend and with the Games at their midpoint, here are some pressing questions you might be asking yourself.

1. Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian ever?

Of all the questions posited here, this one is clearly a rhetorical question with absolutely no debate whatsoever. Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever. Period. With 22 medals, 18 of them gold, Phelps has dominated the pool across a variety of stroke disciplines and distances.

Frankly, to think that Phelps winning four gold medals and two silver medals at a single Olympics can be considered a relatively so-so performance given his previous accomplishments, speaks volumes as to how accustomed we’ve become to his near perfection in the water.

A week ago, Phelps seemed out of sorts after a disappointing 400-meter individual medley race, but ever since he set the record for the most medals won by an Olympian midweek, his grin has seemed to grow larger each day and, more importantly, enjoying himself and his races.

Enjoy the well-deserved rest, Mr. Phelps. Your career will certainly be remembered as the best the Olympics has seen to date. Continue reading

Phelps empty handed after Day 1, showdown with Lochte

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Michael Phelps (pictured above) did not have a great Day 1 at the London Olympics.

By Nick Craddock

Day 1 of the London 2012 Olympics has concluded and it seems Michael Phelps’ road to becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time will be a winding, typical English countryside road, rather than a straight, smooth expressway to glory.

Phelps finished fourth in the men’s 400-meter individual medley final and the 16-time medalist was more than four seconds slower than fellow countrymen and rival Ryan Lochte. Both swimmers were expected to give the crowd at the Olympic Aquatic Centre a memorable head-to-head showdown, but Phelps was a shell of his normal dominant self, whereas Lochte was ready to capitalize on what may be a changing of the guard in the pool.

In fact, Phelps has seemed askew since a mediocre U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, nearly four years after his record-setting eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics.

Perhaps a tad early to push the panic button with Phelps set to swim in six more events (and therefore have a chance for six more medals), Phelps, who appeared noticeably frazzled and at a loss for words after failing to medal in an event for the first time since he was a 15-years-old, may be in danger of slipping from the summit of swimming we have all watched him so effortlessly climb. Continue reading

What to watch for at the 2012 London Olympics

Image courtesy of olympic.org. The 2012 London Summer Olympics are here. All eyes will be on London for the next 16 days.

By Nick Craddock

After years of planning and preparation, the world’s eyes are on London for the 2012 Olympic Games.

London 2012 represents the 30th edition of the Games (that’s including both the Summer and Winter Games) and will certainly represent some of the best drama sports has to offer. Just as the city of London has been preparing for many years, so, too, have the more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations expected to compete over the course of 16 days.

After the British attempt to top the Chinese spectacle of 2008 in Beijing at tonight’s Opening Ceremony, here are some storylines to follow during the Games:

1. Michael Phelps—The soon-to-be star of Full Medal Jacket Continue reading

The Winners and Losers of NHL Free Agency So Far

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. The New Jersey Devils are one of the big winners in this years free agency period due largely to the fact that they resigned star goalie Martin Brodeur (pictured above).

By Nick Craddock

Two weeks ago the NHL free agent frenzy (not sure if you could call it that this year) began, and in the spirit of prematurely judging things, here is a compilation of the winners and losers of the free agency period thus far.

Winners

New Jersey Devils: The Devils lost captain Zach Parise to his home state Wild (see below), but every true hockey fan knows that the real heart, soul, and leader of the Devils is Martin Brodeur, who resigned with the team for two years. Brodeur’s contract all but guarantees that the 40-year-old goalie will see out his Hall of Fame career with the only team that he has ever known.

Replacing the void of Parise will not be an easy task, but as the old adage goes: Defense wins championships, and Brodeur’s stellar play almost won the Devils a Stanley Cup title this past June.

One thing’s for sure: People in the Garden State will be able to forget about Parise much quicker than they would have been able to forget about their starting goalie for the past two decades had their beloved Marty left. Continue reading

Deschamps the natural choice to lead France

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Didier Deschamps (pictured above) be able to restore order with French soccer?

By Nick Craddock

The French football team has found itself in what is becoming a familiar predicament: In shambles following a major tournament.

Enter former national team hero, Didier Deschamps, introduced as the manager of France over the weekend to salvage the national side from the guillotine of the soccer world’s critics and naysayers. The only man capable of doing so.

Deschamps, captain of France’s 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 championship-winning teams, was the natural choice — the only choice — to lead France back to respectability following another disappointing major tournament, this time at Euro 2012. As a result, Deschamps’ former national teammate Laurent Blanc took the fall for the team’s poor performance and stepped down as the France manager. Continue reading

Euro 2012 Final Showdown: Spain and Italy

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Mario Balotelli (pictured above) stole the show in the semifinals. Will he put on another big time performance against Spain?

By Nick Craddock

Spain or Italy has won each of the last three major tournaments (2006 World Cup, 2008 European Championship, 2010 World Cup) and either Spain or Italy will have its named etched onto the European Championship trophy after today’s title game.

Coincidentally, fate seems to have brought both teams to the cusp of a championship yet again.

Much like the 2006 World Cup, the Italian national team entered this tournament amidst a gambling probe into the top flight of Italian soccer, where all but three players on the national team play their trade during the course of the season.

Rather than succumbing to the pressure of the media scrutiny and the off-field distractions, the Italians, much like the 2006 Italian squad, have come together to play a solid team game and to manage a surprise or two (Remember, it was host Germany which the Italians defeated in the World Cup semifinals in 2006 and a heavily-favored German team which the Italians beat to advance to this final).

This Italian team’s version of Mario and Luigi is not exactly identical to the mustached, overall-wearing Italian brothers who morph by eating mushrooms with faces, but, weird mushroom diet aside, striker Mario Balotelli and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon are responsible for forming what has been a prolific one-two punch.

Just ask the Germans. Continue reading

Euro 2012: Knockout Stage Primer

Photo courtesy of zimbio.com. Will Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured above) lead Portugal to a quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic?

By Nick Craddock

The Euro 2012 group stage concluded on Tuesday with England ruining any chance of co-host Ukraine advancing further in the competition by virtue of its 1-0 win, and France stumbling into the knockout stage after a 2-0 loss to the previously winless Swedes.

France and England will be joined by the Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Italy in the quarterfinals, which begin this afternoon.

Although Euro 2012 has served as a flash point for some of soccer’s most contentious issues on and off the field, such as the constant call for goal line replay technology and racist displays by groups of fans, the group stage offered a largely wide-open style of play with at least one goal scored per game, the first time such an event occurred in European Championship history.

And after three games of ironing out the kinks, tweaking lineups and getting settled in Eastern Europe, the eight remaining teams have simply three more games to win to become champs.

Here’s what to expect from the quarterfinals:

Czech Republic v. Portugal

The Czechs are deserving recipients of the “Most Resilient Team” award through this tournament thus far. Following a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Russia in their opening game, the Czechs rattled off two straight victories to secure top place in a wide open Group A. However, testing their mettle against a Portuguese team, which navigated its way out of the Group of Death in second place, will pose the biggest challenge to date.

When compared to Portugal and the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, who managed a brace and 10 shots last time out, the Czechs are severely lacking in offensive firepower. Their best hope will likely be playing in a defensive formation, perhaps a 4-5-1, and hoping their lone striker can capitalize on a Portugal miscue. If any player is capable of battering down the defensive hatches, it’s world class Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech and his protective skull-cap.

Players to watch: Milan Baros, once a top scorer at the European Championships, has lost a step or two in the twilight of his career, but maybe the Czech veteran’s savvy will be enough to deliver a winning goal. For Portugal, Ronaldo grabs the headlines, but the continued excellent play of Nani, particularly in delivering quality crosses and through balls to Ronaldo, will make this game much easier for Portugal.

Prediction: Portugal wins 2-1. Continue reading

Conference realignment has potential to ruin mid-major hoops

Photo courtesy of thevictoryformation.com. Our very own Nick Craddock gives his thoughts on NCAA Conference Realignment.

By Nick Craddock

There are college football dudes and college basketball guys. I’m more of a college basketball guy. I suppose it’s part of my genetic makeup, like it was in my Canadian forefather, Dr. James Naismith. But now, conference realignment is becoming downright cumbersome as it seems to be forcing me to cater to college football at the cost of quality collegiate hoops from top to bottom of Division I.

I’m not naïve enough to think that the NCAA is not (at least in part) driven by making money and although I was unhappy with the first wave of conference realignment in the fall (i.e. the one where Boise State became a member of the Big East among other moves where the major conference poached teams from one another), the desire for BCS schools to ensure their BCS Conference auto-bid status, lock up lucrative bowl tie-ins, and find the best television markets and contracts was rational.

Rivalries were shattered, athletic departments’ future travel budgets soared, and conference monikers became incredibly stupid (of course, everyone knows 12 teams play in the Big Ten, but 10 teams play in the Big 12, that’s just good logic). But money was to be made so fans were supposed to embrace the change and start booking off work now for those cross-country drives to see the heated Rutgers-Boise State series in person. Continue reading