Tag Archives: syracuse orange

Orange Crushed

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On Tuesday afternoon, March 13th, 2012, 2:47 pm I ripped up my NCAA tournament bracket.

That is the earliest in the history of the NCAA tournament that anyones bracket was considered useless.

In big bold red print on ESPN my favorite team and my favorite to win the national championship was done. The print read “Syracuse Orange Center Fab Melo ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament.”

I walked into the kitchen at my job, pulled my work shirt over my head and put my head in my hands.

Call it howarding.

The loss of Melo completely changes the dynamic of this tournament. Syracuse was considered at minimum a favorite to make the Final Four and by others including yours truly to win the national title.

After going 31-2 and winning the Big East regular season crown it would’ve been hard to bet against them. Syracuse had its best all around team since their title run in 2003.

It was Jim Boeheim’s deepest team with four guards capable of running the point guard position, six players who can light up the scoreboard, and a defensive intimidator in Melo who was almost equal to freshman phenom Anthony Davis in terms of shot blocking.

Melo was Syracuse’s only interior presence an with the kind of production he received from Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph and others that was all Syracuse needed.

Now without him Syracuse is screwed.

Without Melo the Orange go from a title contender to a team that would be lucky to make the Sweet 16.

After UNC-Asheville the Orange have to get through either Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Ohio State in some combination and all of those teams have some fore of interior presence whether it be Yancey Gates, Jared Sullinger or Kevin Jones.

Unless Rakeem Christmas or Baye Moussa Keita can put together some sort of inside production then the Syracuse Orange will be the first number one seed eliminated in the tournament.

Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange have overcome two scandals and constant scrutiny to stay at the top of the rankings this season and prime themselves for a run at the national title.

However, the loss of Fab Melo will be the straw the breaks the backs of the Syracuse Orange.

A dream season has now become a nightmare.

Now excuse me while I try to piece this bracket back together.


The Powerless ACC

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So this is why Pittsburgh and Syracuse are throwing away their basketball allegiances?

This is the reason that the Big East is going through a hideous makeover?

After watching Virginia Tech and Clemson the last two nights in BCS bowl games I can’t help but wonder what the hell Syracuse and Pitt were thinking?

The move by both schools was supposed to bolster it’s football programs, but after watching Virginia Tech lose another big game and Clemson just get drilled you have to wonder if it was really a smart move on their parts.

The Hokies had every opportunity to beat a weaker Michigan team but couldn’t convert inside the red zone all night and settled for field goals. In the end their offensive ineptitude caught up with them and Michigan continued it’s recent resurgence with a 23-20 win on overtime. The loss dropped Virginia Tech to 1-5 in BCS games all time (more on that later), this is supposedly the class of the ACC in football but every time they reach the big stage they just can’t get over the hump.

However, at least they put up a fight… What the hell Clemson?

In their first BCS game and biggest bowl game since their 1980 national title Clemson just got murdered. How does a supposed top 15 team and conference champion allow 49 first half points and 70 total? Clemson look far less skilled than their opponents from the Big East as Tavon Austin and Geno Smith looked like they were playing on All-Madden while Clemson was stuck on rookie. The funny thing about it is before the game every analyst picked West Virginia to get killed. They must’ve forgot that the Mountaineers take BCS games very seriously as seen by their previous convincing wins over Oklahoma and Georgia.

West Virginia has now won 3 BCS bowls… The ACC has 2 total. The ACC is 2-13 lifetime in BCS bowl games… 2-13!!! Boise State has the same amount of wins in two games (yet had to watch Va. Tech go to the Sugar Bowl over them). The Big East is 7-7 in BCS bowls with one less BCS bowl win than the Big 12, and people want to revoke the Big East’s automatic bid?

The ACC has been one of the weaker power conferences for years now and this just proves it.

The ACC has no business being considered a power football conference. Their mediocrity has been exposed by everyone from Florida, to Iowa and even Kansas (yup, the Jayhawks beat the Hokies in the Orange bowl a few years ago). The fact that teams would jettison their conference to join this circus for football reasons is laughable. After the last two nights the hilarity should be at it’s highest level ever.

After watching the Sugar and Orange Bowls I hope Syracuse and Pitt are happy with their decisions.

You thought that aligning yourselves with the ACC would mean stiffer competition and a better brand to recruit with. Instead you just joined the laughing stock of the BCS and forced West virginia’s hand in leaving behind a crumbling conference that they made respectable.

Nice job guys. Good luck wallowing in even more mediocrity than what you began with.


Higher Learning Week 4

Things are all rosy in Baton Rouge.

So what did we learn in college football this week?

  1. Your top two teams in college football are from, dun dun dun…. The SEC. LSU’s late blowout of West Virginia and Alabama’s drubbing of Arkansas put both teams at numbers 1 & 2 in the coaches poll and have set up our first “playoff” scenario of the 2011 season. One of these two teams will be playing for the national title this year no doubt it and one can knock the other out of the race for the title on November 5th when they clash in Tuscaloosa. I’m not shocked by Alabama’s performance as much as I am LSU’s.  With so much controversy surrounding the Tigers at the beginning of the season with the incident involving Jordan Jefferson the Tigers have put it in the rearview and put together impressive victories against Oregon in Dallas and West Virginia in Morgantown. If there was an NCAA comeback player of the year award then it should go to Jarrett Lee. Lee was a one-time starter before the arrival of Jefferson. Ever since Jefferson was suspended for the season opener Lee got his job back and has a strangle hold on it. Also let’s give Les Miles some credit. We call him the ‘Mad Hatter” due to his questionable decision making on the sidelines but he has had his boys ready to play for a full 60 this year. they play their best ball late in games as well as the scored the last 20 points in the 4th quarter to put WVU away and 24 straight in the second half against Oregon.  LSU and Alabama play tough ones against Florida in the next month, but nothing should stop them from a possible 1 vs. 2 matchup in Saban Bowl 3. Mark your calendars folks.
  2. If Texas A&M can’t put away an Oklahoma State team that plays absolutely no defense then what will they accomplish in the SEC? after Saturday’s 30-29 loss to the Cowboys you have to wonder just what will happen to the Aggies once they begin SEC play. It’s been well documented that Oklahoma State plays no defense but that didn’t stop the Cowboys from shutting down the Aggies for almost 2 quarters as Oklahoma State score 27 unanswered after being down 20-3 in the third quarter on the road. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon were stellar once again in leading the Cowboys back from the dead. However, the focus is on Texas A&M’s lackluster finish. if they couldn’t put away the Cowboys and were turnover prone against their defense what will happen next year when they face LSU, Auburn and Alabama? Mike Sherman’s bunch had an opportunity to make the Aggies last year in the Big 12 a memorable one; instead the Aggies are staring uncertainty in the face as they make their departure.
  3. Before all is said and done the Arizona State Sun Devils may have a say in the Pac-12 race. Their 43-22 win over USC featured a tremendous performance by their defense, which put Matt Barkley in bad positions all day forcing him into two interceptions and 4 turnovers overall for the Trojans. Running back Cameron Marshall finally got the running game going with a 3 touchdown, 141 yard performance to match Brock Oswilers passing proficiency. After a slipup in Champaign, Illinois last week the Sun Devils were able to right the ship in impressive fashion. The road for the Devils doesn’t get any easier with trips to Salt Lake City to face Utah and then they head to Eugene the next week to face the Ducks. They might not win the Pac-12 but they will be a team to watch.
  4. The Big Ten, like most conferences had its top tier, middle of the road and bottom feeder teams. That was more than on display this weekend as the upper echelons strived, the middle of the pack struggles and the bottom feeders looked bad. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa all rolled to victory, So did Ohio State but their passing game looked ineffective and Illinois had trouble putting Western Michigan away. Then there was Indiana and Indiana who lost to North Texas and North Dakota State… yep. As conference play begins this weekend it will be clear to see who belongs where in this conference.
  5. You should put Houston Nutt on the ax watch. Ole Miss is 1-3 with losses to BYU and Georgia at home and an embarrassing showing at Vanderbilt last week. Nutt was

    No Houston they're not walking you out of Oxford... yet.

    impressive in his first season leading the Rebels to a 10 win season and a Cotton Bowl win. Ever since then it has been one disappointment after another. If Ole Miss could fire a coach after a 10 win season (hi Ed Oregeron) how do you think they will treat Nutt?

THE GOOD

Florida’s run game. They have been a pass oriented program for the last few years but not against Kentucky last weekend. The Gators ran for over 400 yards including 157 from Jeff Demps and 105 from Chris Rainey in a 48-10 beat down.

THE BAD

Pittsburgh’s offensive line (I meant the school but after last night’s win in Indy you could include the Steelers too). They gave up 6 sacks to Notre Dame in a 15-12 defeat. Todd Sunseri had no time to throw and the Panthers suffered for it.

THE UGLY

This is usually reserved for the Maryland Terrapins uniforms (and they were hideous) but how about some hate for the actual game play. Falling behind 31-0 to Temple… TEMPLE!!!??? Yeah Pitt and Syracuse made a great decision in joining the ACC.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

LaMichael James, Oregon: 23 carries, 288 yards and 2 TD’s in Oregon’s 56-31 stomping of Arizona.

EMBARASSMENT OF THE WEEK

To the referees in the Toledo-Syracuse game… everyone saw that extra point for Syracuse sail wide left and you called it good even after replay confirmed that you were wrong? Even that call would’ve been made properly then Toledo would’ve had a win. Looks like the Big East officials are practicing ACC standards already.

TOP 5

After further review... it's still no good.

 

  1. LSU
  2. ALBAMA
  3. OKLAHOMA
  4. BOISE STATE
  5. OKLAHOMA STATE

HEISMAN TOP 5

  1. KELLEN MOORE, BOISE STATE
  2. ANDREW LUCK, STANFORD
  3. LANDRY JONES,  OKLAHOMA
  4. TRENT RICHARDSON, ALABAMA
  5. LAMICHAEL JAMES, OREGON

Next week has some interesting matchups on tap. Texas A&M takes on Arkansas in the TEXARKANA battle at Cowboys Stadium, Nevada travels to Boise as the Broncos look for revenge for last year’s BCS busting loss at Reno. Michigan State takes on Ohio State in the Big Ten opener for both. Clemson travels to Virginia Tech in a ACC battle. But the two big ones are Florida-Alabama and Nebraska-Wisconsin both at night.


The Betrayal Of The Orange

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No one's happy about the move to the ACC in Syracuse.

When I was a kid I remember watching Syracuse-Georgetown on CBS and going insane with every piece of action.

There was one game in particular, I can’t remember the date but it involved John Thompson getting ejected, Syracuse shooting six straight free throws and the Carrier Dome going insane. I had my eyes glued to the television not knowing what to think.

After that game I was a Big East fanatic. It wasn’t just about Syracuse-Georgetown, it was big Monday, Villanova-Georgetown at the Spectrum or Wachovia Center, The Big East tournament at the Garden, The Backyard Brawl twice a year, Gerry McNamera and Kemba Walker’s magic at the Garden, Ray Allen going bonkers in the Big East Tournament… As you can tell I love the Big East.

It’s been the best basketball conference since I was a kid, the only conference to have 11 teams in the tournament, 3 Final Four teams and it’s the conference that my favorite basketball team plays in, The Syracuse Orange.

Since Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens an Derrick Coleman to John Wallace to Anthony and the current group of Orangemen I’ve been a borderline nutcase. Even as an Ohio State alum Syracuse is still the basketball team I die with. I love them more than any NBA team that’s how deep it is.

As much as I love Syracuse football, the school is synonymous with basketball and the Big East.

When February rolls around there is nothing greater than looking at the Syracuse schedule and seeing a gauntlet of opponents that gives me ulcers but creates some of the best basketball around. 10 games against Louisville, Pitt, UCONN, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame who are all ranked in the top 15 at some point and then St. John’s, Providence and Marquette thrown in for good measure. Hostile environments, tough opponents who bruise you in every way and just awesome basketball.

It makes winter just as much fun to be a sports fan as any other time of the year… and it’s now over.

When Syracuse announced that it was joining the ACC I almost cried (no seriously, I was at a bar after the Mayweather fight and saw the announcement on ESPN… I left immediately after in a rage… I’m a little overboard with this stuff sometimes I think). The tradition that it had built up for years, the rivalries with Georgetown and UCONN that had been so prevalent and the mystique of the Garden were pushed aside for a TV deal, money and a chance to showcase the ACC in New York as AD Daryl Gross put it… They have a showcase, it’s called the Greensboro Coliseum, let em have it.

I’m a traditionalist, I like rivalries, I like mystique, that’s what makes sports great especially college. Rivalries are what fuels games and competition. When the Cuse played UCONN it was about supremacy for the conference year in an out with the same area and the games were so physically and passionate it drove you nuts. Are we really going to get the same feel when the Cuse plays Maryland?

This is agonizing, the games will never be the same nor will they have the same intensity. I go from a gauntlet to watching the Cuse play Virginia, N.C. State and Wake Forest (ooooooohhhhh….). The age of the superconference has begun and it is killing the fabric that college sports was built on.

First we get Nebraska-Oklahoma taken away from us, then Texas A&M-Texas, now this… What’s next?

What is the reason for any of this? Jim Boeheim may have the answer himself.

“Football and money,” he said while on ESPN yesterday. That’s all it really is. Schools with football programs want TV money and their own network. The only reason Syracuse and Pitt for that matter are on the move is because of this one reason…

And it makes no sense.

One, if you want more money and a chance to showcase yourself wouldn’t you join a better conference. The ACC has been the most mediocre of the other 5 big BCS conferences (yep more than than the so-called woeful Big East. In BCS bowls the ACC is 1-9, the Big East has 5 wins including a National championship when Miami still called the Big East home) when it comes to football. They’ve become a punching bag for mediocrity and no one outside of their conference takes them too seriously.

Also in terms of basketball is anyone outside of Duke or UNC any good?

You kiss moments like this goodbye Syracuse.

The Big East basketball conference is hands the best in the nation. At least 10 of it’s 16 teams have been in the top 10 in the last few seasons, the ACC has only had 3 Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest who is as bipolar as they come.

So in reality Syracuse downgraded itself in it’s number one sport of basketball and plays lesser competition on a smaller stage while the ACC gains a decent football program that is still trying to find it’s winning ways.

And as fans this is supposed to make us happy? Now instead of the magic of Madison Square Garden in March fans of the Orange and the Panthers get the Georgia Dome or Greensboro Coliseum? It’s like having your Benz repo’d and having to drive a Hyundai Elantra.

But this is what it’s coming to. Tradition is out the window an the AD’s and chancellors of your alma mater’s and favorite schools are putting money first. It’s not fun but change is always eminent even if it’s not for the best such as with this case.

I’m still an Orange fan no matter what though. It’s gonna hurt two years from now when there’s no more Big Monday showcase games, no brawls with St. John’s, no more payback games with Villanova and no gauntlets to run through where every game is a must see.

Syracuse had a great thing going in the Big East and they ruined it over money. Now everyone involved from the players, fans and The Big East conference has to suffer for it.


Your Scandal-Free College Football Preview

Way to continue the trend Jordan.

You know why I started to watch sports as a kid? Because every time I watched the regular news all I saw was murder, poverty and scandal. After a while you get sick of looking at poor kids starving in Africa, someone shot in Brooklyn or some greedy CEO going to jail for screwing over his company.

In my head sports was simple and true. Just guys scoring goals, touchdowns and making shots. There was no greed in athletics, no horrible occurrences and no death. Was I naïve? Of course I was but I hadn’t hit 10 yet.

The harsh reality of sports hit me in 1992 when Mike Tyson went to jail for rape. I couldn’t really fathom how it happened and even today still can’t. How can an athlete do something wrong I thought? All he does is box. What does rape have to do with sports and who would do something like that?

Once Tyson went to jail Michael Irvin got caught with cocaine, Rae Carruth killed his baby mother and hid in his trunk and the steroid scandal began. Naivety went out of the window, sports is no different than any other thing in life. Athletes and institutions screw up just as much as the guy that robbed the 7-11 last night and looked into the camera, that’s just a reality.

The worst culprit of all I’ve come to realize is college sports in particular college football. As much as I love the pageantry and craziness of football on Saturdays it might be the most corrupt association in all of sports.

I’ve given the notion that no school is clean and everyone cheats. With all that’s at stake in job security, getting the best players and getting to a BCS game AD’s, boosters, coaches and players do what they can to make sure that they win whether it’s pay for play, turning the other cheek when your players commit crimes, taking benefits or whatever. You have to win, winning keeps you employed, winning makes recruits want to come there, then when they get there they have to be happy hence the benefits of cars, tattoos and free bar tabs.

I’ve come to accept this in the last ten years or so, but honestly after this year it is getting out of control.

Even without the guy on the right Luck has Stanford ready to compete.

How many scandals can the NCAA have in one year? dating back to October of 2010 Auburn has had a pay for play scandal with Cam Newton, Georgia and Florida have had issues with arrests, USC was sanctioned for the Reggie Bush scandal, Tennessee has had ongoing investigations due to violations under Lane Kiffin, Ohio State… (I won’t get into this any further 5 blogs on them is enough), Oregon suspended its top corner Cliff Harris after an arrest, North Carolina is still awaiting its punishment for its players receiving improper benefits, Miami’s scandal looks like an episode of Miami Vice and now LSU is in hot water after Jordan Jefferson and company got into a huge bar far in Baton Rouge and he’ll miss time including opening night versus Oregon…

AND THIS IS IN ONE YEAR!!!

College football is at its opening weekend and there is barely any talk of the games being played but the scandal that surrounds it. Big time matchups will not have marquee names, the eye of the NCAA is fixed everywhere and honestly, I’m watching ESPN everyday to see who slips up next.

This year could be a wide open year as far as the race for a national champion goes and you wouldn’t even know it. Florida State is back in the top 10, Nebraska is in the Big Ten, Utah is in the Pac-12, Texas A&M is acting like a spoiled child, Syracuse might be back, Oklahoma could run the table and it’s all about scandal.

Well I’m sick of it. let’s talk about the football people because that’s all that matters. this is a scandal-free college football preview where football is the only discussion. let’s talk about who’s number one, who can contend and who can take down the SEC (hopefully someone because I’m sick of the SEC.)

ACC

The conference is the worst of the big 6 (yes worse than the Big East), however it looks to get better this season.

Florida State is back in the top 5 coming off of a 10-3 season and has high hopes for a run at the national title behind QB E.J. Manuel. Once mainstays in title hunt the Seminoles have had it rough in the last ten few seasons but clearly have the edge in the conference this year.

One team to look out for is Maryland. Returning QB Danny O’ Brian is a beast under center and new head coach Randy Edsall should whip this defense into shape.

It’s still a weak conference (hi Wake Forest and Duke) but Florida State’s returning star power should give the conference something to hang its hat on

Non-conference game of the year: FSU-OKLAHOMA

Conference game of the year: Conf Champ. Game VT-FSU

Conference winner: FSU

Player of the Year: Danny O’ Brian

BIG EAST

You all know I’m overly geeked that Syracuse is good again (and you especially know this after they came back to beat Wake Forest last night) but the conference is on its way up again with TCU entering next season.

Yeah, I'm excited for SYracuse football too.

West Virginia returns QB Geno Smith, who is a dark horse candidate for the Heisman trophy and Louisville may finally have a defense that can keep up with its offense.

The key to the success of the conference this year lies in its top 4 though. West Virginia, Pittsburgh, South Florida and Syracuse have big non-conference games that can showcase whether or not this conference is truly worth being a BCS conference.

However… THE CUSE IS BACK!!!

Give me reason to have hope after a 8-5 season, a huge win last night and the possibility that Ryan Nassib can have some magic in that arm of his. In a conference that has been mired in mediocrity it needs Syracuse to be good again. The Orange may be neck and neck with West Virginia for best football history in the conference and it needs to rekindle its rivalries with WVU and Penn State. You have to cheer for the Cuse to come back the conference needs it.

Non conference game of the year: Syracuse-USC, South Florida-Notre Dame, West Virginia-LSU, Pitt-Iowa

Conference game of the year: Pitt-WVU

Conference winner: WVU

Best Player: Geno Smith

BIG 12

The best team in the country resides in Norman, Oklahoma; the best offense resides in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The team that could make noise more than any school is in College Station, Texas. Sure the conference cut two teams, but it made the conference better.

Oklahoma at number one followed by Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, combined with an underrated Missouri, a comeback year for Texas and a growing threat in Texas Tech makes this the second best conference in the country.

They have the best arms in the nation in Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden, a great hybrid QB in Robert Griffin and don’t forget about Kansas State getting Bryce Brown, who transferred from Tennessee.

The question is can anybody in the conference finally play some defense?

Texas A&M lost standout linebacker Von Miller, Oklahoma won’t have its leading tackler Travis Lewis for Florida State and the Cowboys (and every other team in the conference for that matter) can’t stop anyone.

Catch us if you can.

If the Big 12 wants to climb past the SEC and be the big dog on Saturdays then one of these teams has to allow less than 35 points a game and get physical up front. Until that happens, as much as I like this Oklahoma team, I can’t pick them to win the national title… but I can pick them to get there.

Non-conference game of the year: FSU-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Arkansas

Conference game of the year: Texas A&M-Oklahoma

Conference winner: Oklahoma

Best player: Landry Jones

BIG 10

The Big Ten has been Ohio State’s personal punching bag for the last ten years… not anymore.

With Nebraska and monster defensive tackle Jared Crick coming to the conference it’s a new day in the Midwest. Nebraska comes off a disappointing finish to last year where it looked like the Cornhuskers were going to ride Taylor Martinez to the Fiesta Bowl. However, as with most freshmen QB’s he faded.

This year however he and the Huskers are reloaded and ready to contend for a national title… if they can get by Wisconsin.

After watching last night’s beat down of UNLV it looks like new QB Russell Wilson will fit right in at Madison. Behind a monster offensive line and Monte Ball in the backfield the Badgers, if they don’t make it to New Orleans, could still find themselves in Pasadena.

Watch out for Northwestern too (yes, Northwestern) they are primed to make a run to the top with Dan Persa returning from an Achilles injury. Also, Michigan might be making a comeback with new coach Brady Hoke at the helm. The days of a punch less Michigan defense might be over.

(Ok so I have to say a few words about Ohio State. This year is such a disappointment already even though there hasn’t been a game played yet. when Joe Bauserman was named the starter yesterday it hit me that this is what’s left at Ohio State.

The scandal has left the team spinning and it hasn’t stopped. Three more players were suspended for the opener against Akron for accepting improper benefits adding to the four suspended starters from the tattoo scandal and Terrelle Pryor going AWOL to the NFL. All that’s left is Carlos Hyde, Bauserman and Block O.

It’s been such an embarrassing turn of events leading into what was supposed to be a legendary new beginning to the Big Ten. The Buckeyes were supposed to collide head on with the Huskers for supremacy of the conference early on. It was supposed to be a new rivalry brewing that would decide the Big Ten for the next however many years. Now Ohio State is a non-factor., an afterthought, and it’s hard to swallow.

College scandals were way easier to deal with when it wasn’t the school that you went to.)

Non-conference game of the year: Penn State-Alabama

Conference game of the year: Wisconsin-Nebraska

Conference winner: Nebraska

Best player: Jared Crick

PAC-12

LaHeisman?

 

Welcome to the conference Colorado and Utah… now watch Oregon blow by all of you.

Much to the contrary belief that this is a two team race I highly disagree. Stanford is highly overrated thanks in part to Andrew Luck (though it is a good reason because Luck is a beast). Stanford lost a lot on both sides of the ball and they may need Luck to throw up 40 points a game to have a chance at winning 10 games…

And 40 won’t be enough to beat Oregon.

They only lose Jeff Maehl on the outside  and Casey Matthews on defense, however LaMichael James, Chip Kelly’s silly cards and the most high octane offense in the NCAA is all back. Getting through the Pac-12 will be a little bit of a problem, but just a little problem.

Non-conference game of the year: Oregon-LSU

Conference game of the year: Oregon-Stanford

Conference winner: Oregon

Best player: Andrew Luck

THE MIGHTY MIGHTY SEC

Were the 2 mighty’s necessary? Um… they’ve won the last five national titles so yes. I’ve finally given in and given the SEC its props and rightfully so. It’s the best conference in the country by a mile, no one recruits as good as them, is as fast them or as tough on defense as them.

Their top 6 teams year in and out could win any conference by a game or two, they routinely run over competition and make the best in another conference look bad (hi, Big 10 and Big 12) and they are bigger and faster than anyone in the nation.

However there are some concerns all over the conference. Besides the LSU hiccups there are issues in Georgia as they come off of their first losing season since the 80’s, Florida adjusts to a new coach in Will Muschamp and people in Gainesville are still skeptical of John  Brantley, Auburn and Alabama have to replace national champion QB’s and Tennessee is still trying to climb its way back to respectability.

However the news is all rosy in Starkville, Mississippi and Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Bulldogs are looking to build on a 9-4 season as Dan Mullen enters his third year as coach, and the Razorbacks are a dark horse national title pick. Bobby Petrino has to reload at QB after losing Ryan Mallett but Tyler Wilson should ease some concern for fans of the Hogs if his year mirrors his 332 yard 4 TD performance versus Auburn last year.

The wildcard here is South Carolina. Steve Spurrier after 6 years finally has the Gamecocks in position to win the SEC and make a claim as one of the best teams in the conference as well as the nation. Troubled QB Stephen Garcia looks like he’s getting his last shot at redemption and with the help of the best defense in the SEC (which gets better with the freakish Jadeveon Clowney coming to Columbia, SC) and Marcus Lattimore who is gaining buzz for a run at the Heisman.

If South Carolina can survive road tests “Between the Hedges” and at Arkansas then they should be dancing to Atlanta for the SEC title game and to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

Non-conference game of the year: Arkansas-Texas A&M, LSU-Oregon, Florida-Florida State

Conference game of the year: LSU-Arkansas

Conference winner: South Carolina

Best player: Marcus Lattimore

South Carolina may finally be the cream of the SEC crop.

 

As for the Non-AQ schools it’s all about Boise State. TCU is in its last year in the Mountain West before runs through the Big East and Boise looks like the only challenger to a BCS bowl game. However, a number 5 ranking after losing Titus Young, Austin Pettis and half of your defense is tough. As much as I like the Broncos (and Kellen Moore especially) I don’t see them getting to the BCS this year even if they beat Georgia this Saturday. TCU even without Andy Dalton is still no slouch and they have to travel to Fresno to take on a always frisky Bulldog team. it looks like this will be the first year without a BCS buster in sometime.

So with all that said who plays in the national title game? Oregon and Oklahoma.

Yeah I know the SEC is the best conference and that they’ve won the last five titles but it’s got to end at some point. Last year while watching Oregon-Auburn I saw Oregon not only keep up with the Tigers but they beat them in certain areas. If that game were played a week or two after the end of the season then the Ducks would’ve been national champs.

I like the Sooners but I don’t know if they can stop anybody outside of their conference on defense. Landry Jones will have a huge year and look like a first round draft pick under center, but do they have the speed to keep up with a team from the SEC or Oregon? I don’t think so.

So there it is the Oregon Ducks will win the national title and Puddles the Duck will be doing celebratory pushups in New Orleans. Hopefully that’s what we’ll remember this season for is the action that takes place on the field and not the calamity and chaos that happens off of it.

ACC- FLORIDA STATE (DARK HORSE- MARYLAND)

BIG EAST- WEST VIRGINIA (SYRACUSE)

BIG 12- OKLAHOMA (OKLAHOMA STATE)

BIG 10- NEBRASKA (NORTHWESTERN)

PAC 12- OREGON (UTAH)

SEC- SOUTH CAROLINA (FLORIDA)

HEISMAN- LAMICHAEL JAMES

BCS CHAMP GAME- OREGON VS. OKLAHOMA

ROSE BOWL- NEBRASKA VS. STANFORD

SUGAR BOWL-  SOUTH CAROLINA VS. WEST VIRGINIA

ORANGE BOWL- FLORIDA STATE VS. WISCONSIN

FIESTA BOWL- TEXAS A&M VS. FLORIDA


The Birthday Confessions Of A Sports Writer

Nothing will ever beat this game.

So I turned —- today (you’ll never get my age ever in life), and I’m currently nursing a hangover thanks to the normal heavy dosage of liquor consumption made possible by my friends (raspberry rum and soda and raspberry vodka and soda are two totally different entities, ugh).

This is hardly the condition I should be in to write a blog especially when there isn’t much to discuss right now.

However, in this silly mind of mine I decided to give you some of my sports confessions.

We as sports writers get our favoritism, views and beliefs in sports at a young age and two things happen; either you stick to your guns or you switch up sides.

I’m the latter of this. Truth is my New York sports bias is a recent thing. I used to…

Wait, let’s do this in a proper numerical style. I mean why give you a drawn out explanation then get into the confessions? I think we’ll do 24 facts, not my age but the number I wanted to wear if I ever got to play with Michael Jordan as a kid because 23 was sort of taken.

1. I hated New York sports teams growing up

Giants, hated them. Yankees, they sucked. Mets, them too. Knicks, yuck. Rangers… That’ll be number two.

My mom forged my sports life as a kid. I loved who she loved because she was a sports nut. She loved Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, and the Mets. All I knew was the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls, baseball cards and that NY sucked.

I actually cried when the 49ers lost to the Giants in 1991 when they were trying to three-peat. That seems so weird now especially now that I scream at Eli Manning every two seconds and own 8 giants jerseys.

This is how I got into hockey.

(my favorite sports moment is still Super Bowl 23. Me and my mom watched that game on the couch together with me curled up underneath her. As Montana led the 49ers up the field on that last late fourth quarter drive my mom and I slowly pulled away from each other and moved closer to the TV until Montana hit John Taylor for the winning score. You should’ve seen us scream and parade around our house like we had won the Super Bowl. That will never be beat.)

2. I used to hate hockey.

I mean I’m black and from the projects in Brooklyn, NY. My mom hated hockey and so did I. She always thought it was a dumb sport and there were no black players so there was no point for it. Since I followed her lead with everything (except the mets, I wasn’t that dumb) I followed that philosophy.

Then the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup and I watched it all. That hooked me.

I was in Washington D.C. when it happened but I felt the energy of New York. I learned about the 54 year curse, how much of a hockey city New York actually is and how truly bad ass Mark Messier truly was.

After that run you couldn’t pull me away from a hockey game. Even when the New Jersey Devils killed hockey in the late 90’s I was still into it heavy.

(I guess you could say the Rangers made me a New York fan. After that run in 94 I felt that I had to like all New York teams because how could I like teams from other cities when I was a true New Yorker?)

3. I was a Michigan fan growing up. (Florida State too.)

In New York there was no college team team in the area that drew attention. Every Saturday the TV selections were Notre Dame, Florida State on ESPN and the Big Ten on ABC with Michigan on every single week.

Truth is I always wanted to go to Michigan. I loved the colors, the fight song, Brian Griese, Elvis Grbac, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson… And the fab five… And Glen Rice’s performance against Seton Hall in 1989….

I still have more great Michigan memories than Ohio State memories… AND I WENT TO OHIO STATE!!!

I could point out moments in great games like the Rose Bowl in 1997 versus Washington State, I cried when Kordell Stewart’s hail Mary beat Michigan in the Big House, I was so happy when we got revenge in Boulder some years later…

I should probably stop there before all of my Ohio State buddies kill me.

4. I never truly liked Tiger Woods

HELLLLOOOO HEISMAN!

There was always something off about him to me. He was too pristine, too clean. Me being from the projects I felt as though with black men there had to be some nasty streak in you somewhere. Jordan had one, Michael Irvin too, Jerry Rice was a prick at times but Tiger was too perfect.

I didn’t like how he always won and how everyone jumped on his bandwagon. I didn’t like how black people crowned him as our king of the moment when he didn’t seem interested in being black (whatever that means) I just never liked him.

When this scandal tore him down I laughed at him, but it didn’t bother me too much. It was just another athlete taking a nose dive. I don’t feel bad for him, I don’t care that he’s not playing well and honestly I dont care if he ever does again.

5. Maryland made me love Duke

I used to be the biggest Duke hater alive… They beat UNLV when I loved Larry Johnson, they prevented the Fab Five from winning a title, The Laettner shot that beat Kentucky made me want to stab myself… and I couldn’t believe that this many white guys were good at basketball and that they kept beating brothers.

(side note 2: for Grant Hill and coach K to criticize Jalen Rose for saying that Hill was an Uncle Tom because he played at Duke was silly. Everyone in the projects felt like that. We liked Kenny Anderson, baggy shorts and baldies. Hill and any other Dukie was a sellout to us. How could they play with all of these white boys and not there own people? Do I think like that now? Of course not. I understand what coaching can do and that you can ball no matter the color. But still you can’t criticize a guy for saying something that the majority of people like him felt was true.)

Then I moved to Maryland where they hate anything New York; Yankees, Jets, Metrostars it didn’t matter. I didn’t understand the hatred because one, New York wasn’t their rival in anything and two, because it didn’t make sense. It got to the point where I kept hearing Yankees this, Giants that, blah blah blah that I got angry and said that I would hate the Terrapins just out if spite.

And who do Terps fans hate more than anything?… Duke.

So there I was cheering for Duke, the team I always hated but because I wanted to piss Marylanders off I was forcing myself to like.

That’s when I fell in love with Jay Williams, Shane Battier and Carlos Boozer and they had me hooked.

It was Williams especially because he was a Jersey kid and I always liked guys from my neck of the woods. I loved his game, fearlessness and how he ate the Terps for lunch. His ten points in 58 seconds still makes me laugh.

Watching Maryland fans whine and cry more than made up for the Yankees not winning a World Series for ten years.

6. I didn’t care that Brett Hull’s skate was in the crease.

The skate had nothing to do with the goal. Get over it Buffalo.

Dumbest… Rule… Ever!!! So many goals were disallowed because of that dumb rule that never should have been made because half of the time the skates never interfered with the goalie.

Did Hull affect Hasek’s angle? No. Did Hull interfere with Hasek? No. Did he skate in late and come up on the side if Hasek an nothing to do with the goal? Yes.

Ok then. Sorry Buffalo deal with it.

7. My least favorite sports moment as a kid was watching my Oakland A’s get swept by the Cincinnati Reds.

How did Eck, Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson and my favorite player Mark McGwire not only lose but look awful against the Reds? Was Jose Rijo that good? How about Chris Sabo and Eric Davis? That was the first time in my life where I went to school the next day after a game and couldn’t stop thinking how in the hell that just happened.

The A’s were so much better, they had the pitching, the hitting and the power and they lost to The Nasty Boys?

I need a juice box.

8. Syracuse-Georgetown is the best basketball rivalry in college basketball

John Thompson, Jim Boeheim, Billy Owens, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Sherman Douglas, technical fouls, physical basketball, a loud Carrier Dome and an even louder Capital Center… God I love the Big East.

9. I will always hate Texas A&M football

Why? Because they screwed Michael Bishop out of everything.

A title, a Heisman, and a pro career.

I only watched Kansas State because of Bishop and his speed, arm and instinct. I couldn’t name another Wildcat from that team but I just loved Bishop.

I didn’t care that he was six feet tall or needed some fine tuning. I just knew that once K-State got to the National Championship all the world would see his skill…

And Sirr Parker killed that.

I’m glad the SEC said no to you.

10. I really don’t care who did steroids in baseball

It was legal and it brought the game back.

Where would baseball be if Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa didn’t have their home run chase?

Steroids or not that was a magical summer where everyone sat in front if the television and their lives hinged on every at bat. It was awesome; McGwire found the fountain of youth, Sosa emerged as a superstar and the game was popular again.

As much as everyone hides it we love baseball. We all played it, watched it live and have fun at the yard whenever go. The game was suffering well after the strike of 1994 it needed a boost and this was it.

Yeah he did steroids... he also saved baseball.

Did the use get out of control? Yes, but to me it was worth it and I’ll always remember the summer of 1998 as the summer that baseball truly came back.

11. Steffi Graf is my least favorite athlete ever.

She beat Monica Seles who was my favorite women’s player at the time, she beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, she won seemingly every tournament she played and won with ease.

She wasn’t snooty, had no mean strike, no off the court issues… nothing.

She was just a machine, a well-oiled wrecking ball that made Saturday’s at Roland Garros and Wimbledon no fun to watch because you knew she was going to win.

She was the Bulls before the Jordan, golf before Tiger and Yankees before their rise…

And she was a total class act. That’s why I hated her I guess.

12. The only reason why I hate The Pittsburgh Steelers is Super Bowl 40

The Seahawks played against 17 men at a time, the Steelers and the refs. Quite honestly the worst called game ever and the Steelers acted like nothing happened. I still want Mike Holmgren to body slam Bill Cowher.

13. If Ohio State plays Syracuse in anything… I’m cheering for Syracuse

Buckeye Nation is really going to kill me.

Now I was a Michigan fan and I loved the Seminoles but I always wanted to be an Orangeman (and I would’ve if tuition wasn’t $42,000 a year).

Of course in basketball I loved the Orange and always will, however I like Syracuse football as much as I love OSU football.

Those were the Donovan McNabb days when he was slinging it to Marvin Harrison. I had a man crush on McNabb because he was just a beast. He could run it, throw it and make a three pointer every once in awhile. He was the first in the era of the scrambling QB and he made it work.

Harrison I thought was going to be the next Jerry Rice, and he almost was. He made everything look easy and could catch any ball thrown at him. With those two guys I thought it was the beginning if a dynasty at The Cuse on the field…

But we know how that went.

Fast forward to this year and The Cuse is on its way back. Coming off of an 8-5 year Syracuse has an outside shot at the Big East and could win 9 games. I’m honestly more excited for Orange football than Buckeye football.

Maybe it was the scandal, the tats, the selling of rings but I’m over it. I want to cheer for something I can believe in and right now my childhood favorites are trending up. I’m not totally abandoning Ohio State, but if they square off against the Orange I might be in a Syracuse Marathon Men shirt.

I’m looking so bad to the alumni right now.

My man Donovan.

14. I laughed at The Knicks when Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 17 seconds

I mean it was funny.

15. I still think the Ravens fixed Super Bowl 34

THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT BALTIMORE CAN SCORE 34 POINTS!!!! ESPECIALLY AGAINST A TOP FIVE DEFENSE!!! AND I’M STICKING WITH THAT!!!!

16. My first pair of basketball kicks weren’t Jordan’s… They were Ewing’s

That orange and blue with the basketball hanging off the side… C’mon son! They were way fresher than the Jordans.

17. As much as I loved Mark Messier my favorite Ranger is Adam Graves

You ever date a girl who isn’t prettier than other girls that you’ve dated, doesn’t have big boobs, doesn’t have a great body, but makes you happy and does all the little things? That’s Adam Graves. He wasn’t as well known as Messier or Brian Leetch, he wasn’t as rough as Jeff Beukeboom and he wasn’t Mike Gartner fast.

But he always scored goals when you needed them, always killed penalties well and always laid it out in the ice. I was more upset when we traded him to San Jose than when Wayne Gretzky retired… true story.

18. The first game that made me throw a violent tantrum and had me cursing up a storm was the Mariners-Yankees ALDS game 5 in 1995.

Literally cursed so loud that my mom barged into my room and caught me about to tear into my book bag.

I hate that the M’s got into the playlets in the first place with that late season run (I was cheering for then to make it at first because I loved Ken Griffey Jr… Learned that lesson) I hate that Randy Johnson was so unhittable and I hate Jack McDowell because he had no business being out there amongst other reasons for hating him.

When we fired Buck Showalter at the end of the year I was part pissed and part happy. I was happy he was gone but mad that he cost us so many games including that one.

19. Pete Sampras- Andre Agassi is still my favorite sports rivalry.

This was the first sports thing that me and my mom went at each others throats about. She loved Agassi, the image, the hair, the return game and that he seemed like a down to earth guy. I liked Sampras’s nerve, his serve, the way that he played the game. He was the first cerebral athlete that I admired because he always seemed in control.

She called Sampras snooty, I called Agassi a punk, yeah a tennis rivalry broke up our house, weird I know.

It was the tennis that was so great. They were constantly gunning for each other and only measured themselves against each other. Jim Courier, Boris Becker. Stefan Edberg, none of them mattered. Sure they were good competition but Sampras only cared about Agassi and vice versa

You know these Roger Federer- Rafael Nadal matches? Those were three to four times a year for Sampras and Agassi or so it seemed. They were epic and just had you sitting on your hands past the third set.

Man did they hate each other.

They wanted to kill each other I thought. It was the perfect match if wits; Sampras and his finesse versus Agassi and his power. The series never tilted too far in one way. Sampras won his titles as did Agassi but Each has their own bragging point; Sampras won 7 Wimbledon crowns the most ever while Agassi has the career slam.

(side note 3: you know how I know this rivalry was really nasty? Last year in a charity match Sampras teamed with Federer to take on Agassi and Nadal. Agassi and Sampras traded barbs that were more than just smack talk. The crowd and Federer and Nadal just stood there with the crackers looks on there faces. I guess time doesn’t heal all wounds.)

20. The biggest choke job I ever saw was at the 1994 World Cup when Roberto Baggio missed a wide open net in penalty kicks costing Italy a chance at beating Brazil

I didn’t understand soccer at the time and didn’t like it… But even I was saying to myself “how did he miss that?”

21. As much as I hate the SEC, Nebraska is still my least favorite college team

They are still the most overrated program ever. They never threw the ball and no one could stop them. I remember watching the 1996 National Title game against Florida (who I also hated thanks to my allegiance to Florida State) and watch them beat down a team that beat down everyone and I couldnt understand it.

That Tommie Frazier run was the perfect example. You know option right was their bread and butter, they were in position had him stopped, yet 65 yards later the Huskers were up 62-24.

I can’t believe in 1994 that Nebraska and Penn State both finished undefeated but Nebraska won the outright title. PENN STATE WOULD HAVE KILLED THEM!!! Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter and Kyle Brady along with that defense would’ve stopped that option I guarantee it.

Same with the split tile in 1997 with Michigan. Michigan was definitely the better team and had a better defense. However, everyone loved Nebraska, the loved Tom Osbourne a his gimmick offense. It ticks me off and I hope Ohio State beats them by 80 this year.

(by the way, you know what could’ve solved the issues of 1994 and 1997? A playoff… Just saying)

22. I still get nervous when I see a Florida state kicker kick

Wide right… Wide right 2… Wide left… That’ll do it to you.

Ugh!

23. I used to love Cal Ripken Jr an thought he was the greatest shortstop ever…

Then I moved to Maryland and heard about Cal so much that I wanted to puke… oh and Derek Jeter happened.

Cal made me want to be a shortstop. He hit for power, drove in runs and was great defensively. He had the iron man streak and everything pulled me in.

I had a serious collection of Cal Ripken cards that I wouldn’t sell for anything…

Then I got older and studied the game more and realized that he was alright.

One, that streak is the most overrated streak ever in sports. Of those 2600+ games only 200 of them were meaningful. He trotted out for so many bad teams and bad years that really the streak took on it’s own life because that’s all there was in Baltimore.

When you look at Brett Favre’s streak in the NFL it is way more impressive because Favre played in title games, won 3 MVP’s, went to the playoff in all but 3 or 4 years and carried his team to victory. Ripken wasn’t even close.

Then there was the fact that he wasn’t a great hitter. He always hovered around .275 and once his power went so did he.

Then there’s this fact… for all of the mess about Derek Jeter’s defense did you know that Ripken has more career errors, more 20+ error seasons and a lower fielding percentage than Jeter.

Maybe we should steer some of this overrated talk in Cal’s direction.

Ripken was good but he isn’t Jeter. Jeter has played in way more important games, come through in the clutch too many times and has made more ridiculous plays than Ripken ever did.

It’s not even close as to who’s better. Jeter is hitting almost .300 and playing decent defense at shortstop at age 37, Ripken was already tanking.

I’m sorry Maryland and baseball critics, Ripken was highly overrated. It just took me a few years to figure it out.

24. My middle school teacher Ms Rodriguez first put it in my head that I should be a sports writer.

We had a project where we had to write something and put it into summary form for class. I used the NHL all-star game for my project. I watched the entire thing took notes, wrote a three page report and talked about in threw minutes or less highlighting Owen Nolan’s hat trick (I still don’t know how he didn’t win MVP that year, the game was in San Jose… He was a Shark… silly voters),

Needless to say I got an A and she, as well as my classmates were really impressed. She told me to stick with it and that I would be a really good writer one day.

Overrated.

I hope she’s right. Writing a blog hungover while spilling your sports guts isn’t fun. However it may be worth it in the end and I might have many more happy birthdays in my future.

Thanks for reading and supporting the blog so far and letting me spew my ridiculousness for all the world to see. Now if you’ll excuse me my hangover is gone and I’m going to try to get a new one.

I might need a few drinks once I hear it from Buckeye fans about what I said.

Sometimes confessions should stay secret.


Random Thoughts Vol.2

Hit me... I dare you.

It’s been a month… time for more random thoughts.

I’m pretty sure that even if Dontrelle Willis’s improbable comeback as a pitcher fizzles out, he can be a DH or first baseman with that bat.

The Pirates are now dead… I knew it couldn’t last.

FC Barcelona losing to Chivas USA is the equivalent of Michigan losing to Appalachian State.

Justin Verlander might throw 6 more no hitters this year… I’m not joking about that either.

The U.S. Women didn’t choke.

(I mean did you watch the game? Japan never died. They kept fighting back and took advantage of the opportunities that were given to them. Sure the U.S. missed chances in penalty kicks where the Japan goaltender all of a sudden looked like Ken Dryden. However, you can’t say that they choked the game away when Japan played well in the face of adversity. Sometimes teams give games away but most times teams pull victory from the jaws of defeat. That’s what Japan did.)

Isn’t it funny that Ben Roethlisberger provided good off-season news for the Steelers as opposed to everyone else?

I’m surprised Steve Williams didn’t rip Tiger Woods even more than he did.

The Red Sox have not had a solid starting staff for the entire season with bullpen issues… yet have been in first place since June. And you think Adrian Gonzalez doesn’t deserve MVP?

Randy Moss aint done… seriously.

Are Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand the more extreme version of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter?

Seguin and Marchand are really enjoying winning the Stanley Cup.

I hate Merrill Hoge… but he was right about Tim Tebow…

And LeBron James would back him up wouldn’t he.

(My least favorite basketball player who shrinks in the moment defending the most overrated athlete not named Jimmer Fredette… god has a sense of humor.)

Kevin Durant dropped 66 at the Rucker… somewhere Russell Westbrook was seething.

Nice to see that Shea Weber got $7.5 million in arbitration… he’ll get that when he’s a Red Wing next year too.

The most aggravating rotation in baseball would consist of A.J. Burnett, John Lackey, Barry Zito, Edinson Volquez and Zach Greinke… with Burnett leading the league in headaches.

(I hate A.J. Burnett.)

The Eagles are the new Heat.

Osi Umenyiora can talk about a new deal all he wants. However, if he follows up another big sack season with a small sack season… kick rocks.

Ocho and Brady… Jesus.

What do you think Carson Palmer will do with all that money now that he’s retired?

Kyle Orton has lost his starting jobs to Jay Cutler, Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow…if he went on a 12 month bender I wouldn’t judge him.

Oklahoma is no.1 in the coaches’ poll. The last team to start the season no.1 and finish it as such… 2004 USC… good luck Boomer Sooner.

Strasburg is coming back… *giddy face*.

Shaq and Barkley on TNT… I need my cable back and fast.

The Red Sox traded for Erik Bedard to help their rotation… his ERA at Fenway is near 7 lifetime… I’m starting to feel ok that the Yankees didn’t get anything before the deadline.

Ryan Howard in his last 3 games has 3 home runs and 6 RBI, yep it must be August.

Michael Irvin on the cover of a gay magazine to promote equality of all people. Don’t know if I would’ve done it but very gutsy.

I win... again.

Duke being investigated for violations in recruiting… told you that no one is clean anymore.

When is Verlander’s next start again?

(We’re at a point with Verlander that he is must see TV. Verlander throws harder than anyone else in the league and his location has improved to the point where now he is close to pinpoint accurate. If you play the Tigers and Verlander is up on the mound then you might as well take it as a loss. He’s currently baseball’s best hurler and he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. Imagine this guy in 4 years… scary.)

Yani Tseng is the most dominant athlete in the world right now. And I am well aware that she is a 22 year-old female golfer and not many people watch women’s golf, but you should watch her.

Dan Uggla has a 25 game hitting streak… yet is batting .213… ummm?

NFL players like talking smack about how bad Roger Goodell is in the media, yet the signed this new CBA like everything is ok. Either take action or shut the hell up.

Is it wrong that I’m more excited for Syracuse football than Ohio State football? Keep in mind that I’m an OSU grad though I grew up with the ‘Cuse.

When A-rod retires there will be no specials on his greatness, no lauding over his accomplishments… hell there maybe a party thrown just for the fact that we never get to hear his name again.

(I haven’t been on A-Rod in a while but he’s like a bad ex-girlfriend he always finds a way to drive you crazy.

Really A-rod… illegal poker rings? And you still go after MLB and the Yankees tell you not to?

The Yankees are in a pennant race, one game back of Boston with the biggest part of the season approaching and you decide to blow a few thousand in front of low lifes, coke users and violent outcasts.

Eat your heart out Red Sox Nation.

I always say that I’m over A-rod but I really mean it this time. If this is true and A-rod did violate MLB policy then the Yankees should find a loophole in his deal, drop him like a bad habit and let Eduardo Nunez go through his growing pains at third.

I’m over the A-rod drama, I’m over the fact that there is always something with him and I’m ready to move on from him. Hopefully the Yankees brass feels the same.)

Kate Upton’s a Yankees fan, thank you God.

Had to end it off positively. Have you ever seen Kate Upton? That would make anyone feel good even when your third baseman is a perennial screw up.


Gerry McNamera’s Four Day Magic At The Garden

Five years later Gerry McNamara's legendary run still lingers in the brains of those that watched.

Here’s a YouTube video for the ages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn3kPBww2w0

 

Jim Boeheim was unloading on to the media about the importance of Gerry McNamara to his Syracuse Orange team after McNamara led the ‘Cuse to a win over Cincinnati in the Big East Tournament. He laid into assistant coaches, other head coaches, players and even Syracuse students who had the nerve to say that G-money was overrated.

 

It had been written in Sports Illustrated, in a local campus newspapre and talked about by Big East players that McNamara wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. He was a preseason player of the year candidate and the last member of the 2003 national championship team left.

 

His importance over his career was highly understated up until his senior year. He was arguably Syracuse’s most important player in each of his first three seasons.

 

In the national championship game versus Kansas his threes put the Jayhawks in an early hole that they never could get out of. He had out of this world range. As soon as he stepped across half-court he was in range. He dropped 43 in a first round slugfest in 2004 versus BYU that would’ve made Jimmer Fredette blush. We called him G-money for a reason; as soon as he let it fly it was going in.

 

There was never a moment when I lost faith in his shot. Even when he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn against Vermont in 2005 I knew the ‘Cuse were in good hands going into the 05-06 year.

 

He was supposed to be the backbone of a team that was on arguably the best run of any of Jim Boeheim’s teams in his 30 seasons at Syracuse. It looked like things were status quo as the team started off 15-2 though they had no real impressive victories at all during the early stretch of the season.

 

But then everything fell apart once they got into conference play. Every single deficiency was exposed as they lost 4 straight games to the upper echelon of the monster that is the Big East (and Seton Hall) and 9 of their last 13 games.

 

The games were nightmares. UCONN destroyed Syracuse in both games that they played, so did Villanova, Pittsburgh outmuscled them, Cincinnati guard Devan Downey beat up G-money, DePaul… DEPAUL MURDERED SYRACUSE 108-69!! THEY WERE 12-13!!!

McNamara's senior year didn't go as planned but Coach Jim Boeheim always had his back.

Syracuse couldn’t shoot consistently; rebound consistently, couldn’t get the 2-3 zone to work, and had no real second scorer.

 

Not that the number one option was working that well.

 

As much as I loved McNamara he was getting killed. There was too much put on him, he had too many responsibilities. Lead the team in scoring, distribute the ball to players that weren’t as good as he was. He had to get his and make sure that everyone got their game going.

 

His stats were horrendous. He shot 35% from the field for the season and 33% from 3, which were career lows. He was drained and you could tell. What started off as a promising year and a great end to an era had turned into a nightmare.

 

The ‘Cuse finished 19-11 and 7-9 in the conference. As the conference tournament approached it became clear that unless Syracuse made a serious run then G-money would end his great career in the NIT.

 

The reality was that it was impossible. Their first round match was against Cincinnati who was fighting for their tourney lives themselves and had beaten the Orange by 17 one-month prior. The winner of that game got the pleasure of facing national title favorite UCONN who had a gang of NBA talent in Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams and Josh Boone. Then maybe Georgetown with Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert or Marquette and their sick 4 guard set, and finally Villanova and their own sharpshooting guards Allan Ray, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry or Pittsburgh their beasts of forwards Sam Young and Aaron Gray.

 

They had to win at least two of those games to even get a sniff of the tournament. But after the way that they had played I thought that there was no way it was going to happen.

 

Especially with how G-money was shooting, sure he found a rhythm on senior day versus Villanova but how would he perform when we needed him most? Add to that the fact that he was playing on an injured leg, which would hinder his shooting and ball handling and I wanted to shank myself with a spork.

 

Even though I loved Eric Devendorf  he was way too young to carry the load, same for Terrance Roberts and Daryl Watkins who were great around the rim but couldn’t go for self to save their life.

 

So as that Wednesday lunchtime tip-off rolled around I came to the realization that the magic was gone. The ‘Cuse was done and McNamara wouldn’t get the proper send off that I though he deserved.

 

The Cinci game was brutal. James White destroyed Demetris Nichols all game long. White was the kind of guy that you knew couldn’t have an NBA career because he was way too raw. He could jump through the roof of a gym but loved his outside shot too much. If he ever settled into a game he could’ve been a first-round draft pick.

The shot that started the magic.

McNamara had another one of those games that had plagued his entire season, he couldn’t hit a two to save his life. He missed layups, and mid-range jumpers all day, but he was getting everyone involved. Devendorf, Watkins, Nichols and Roberts all had double figures and were feeding off of McNamara’s playmaking. At one point the ‘Cuse had a 14 point lead and seemed comfortably in the lead until they forgot how to rebound and Cincinnati ruled the offensive glass and climbed back into the game. Once James White hit a two to put the Bearcats up by one I figured it was over. Devendorf fouled Downey who hit one of two at the line. Roberts grabbed the rebound and immediately gave it up to McNamara who got fouled with about six seconds left. Cinci had one to give and came close to an intentional foul that had Boeheim livid.

 

The inbound went to McNamara who fought through what seemed like a sea of Bearcats going behind the back, ducking under a high defender, and dodging everything in his way. He took two steps guarding the ball from swiping hands and leapt from just behind the free throw line and launched a floater that dropped in for a 74-73 lead.

 

I was at work when this happened, when I screamed my guests thought I was insane.

 

G-money’s prayer erased a 1-8 second half and a lost 14 point lead to save the day as Jihad Muhammed’s prayer fell about two inches short from giving me a heart attack.

 

I was breathless. I couldn’t believe McNamara had fought through a bad half and all of those defenders to lead the Orange to victory and possibly the NCAA tournament. Yeah I was a little delusional, I mean sure we got to 20 wins but we needed a lot more than just a last second win over a mediocre Cincinnati team to make the tournament. UCONN was up next and that game was our season I thought. If we beat the consensus number one in the country then we were in. But if we had a redo of those prior two games… done.

 

I watched the UCONN games, yeah we lost the first one by 8 but we were down by 30 at one point. I remember Marcus Williams darting into the lane for a layup stopping after it dropped and watching him wink into the camera. As overly confident as they were they had reason to be. They went nine deep and had talent seeping from its pores.

 

The problem with them was that they were so confidant that Jim Calhoun couldn’t control their cockiness. You could tell all year he had a problem getting his team to work hard instead of living off of their talent and it showed.

 

(funny thing is that they should’ve won the tournament that year and by a landslide. No one was as deep and talented at multiple positions like they were. That was Jim Calhoun’s best team and he’s won two national titles. Even funnier is that hen they lost to George Mason I didn’t blink. That was typical of their year, play down to competition, pull out games you should’ve won by 30 and lose to teams you had no business losing to. They were one of the most bizarre teams in NCAA tournament history.)

 

did I see Syracuse winning this game? No way especially after the first two but after Wednesday I figured why not?

 

McNamara’s shot was failing him from the get go, he didn’t make a basket until the 16:46 mark of the second half where he buried a three ball to put the ‘Cuse up by 14, again. UCONN was being UCONN. They were underachieving against a less talented team and the 2-3 zone that Syracuse is known for was doing a number on them and they couldn’t get one clean shot off at all.

G-money's magic continued versus UCONN.

Marcus Williams played his worst game all season shooting wise even though he handed out 11 dimes. McNamara, though he couldn’t hit a shot, was setting up all of his guys again. Nichols was able to get easy buckets and Terrance Roberts was a monster on the inside. Problem was Roberts was in foul trouble all half because even though UCONN couldn’t hit a shot they controlled the offensive glass.

 

The combination of Hilton Armstrong and Boone killed Roberts and Watkins all afternoon and just like against Cinci, the lead evaporated. When Roberts fouled out with 3:17 remaining Boeheim decided to go small instead of relying on Arinze Onuaku in his early stages of development.  Luckily it worked out because UCONN all but abandoned the inside game relying on jump sots instead.

 

Rashard Anderson hit a three to put UCONN up by one. After Josh Wright missed a gimme, Denham Brown grabbed a rebound and I thought that was it. Brown wasn’t missing any of those two free throws and I wondered if there was anything left. That’s when the what if’s run through your head. What if G-money knocked down a jumper? What if Roberts had stayed out of foul trouble? What if we didn’t lose four straight and didn’t look so bad all year.

 

It was over. As Brown sunk that last freebie McNamara took the inbound at 11 seconds from the defensive end. He wasn’t contested as Calhoun told his troops to play off and not foul. As he brought the ball across half court only Rashard Anderson was even remotely close to him. McNamara pulled up about 30 feet from the basket and three feet in front Anderson who put up a lazy arm to contest McNamara’s heave… AND HE DRAINED IT!!! 30 FEET OUT!!!

 

The Garden is going nuts. Roberts is holding his head Travis Hill style after Christian Laettner’s jumper against Kentucky. G-money did it again. I was crumpled over behind the bar in shock. How in the hell did this happen again I wondered? The guy just suffered through another bad shooting night and somehow got up the stones to hoist a prayer that drops in like it was nothing.

 

That’s why they say the best shooters keep shooting. No matter how bad you night is going your confidence can’t be shaken. For all that G-money had been through that year from the overrated talk, to his poor shooting percentage, he remained confident. That’s why I always loved him. You could never tell things were bothering him, he just went out and did his thing.

 

Needless to say the game went into overtime and the 2-3 zone did UCONN in for good. The Huskies only hit two shots in overtime and McNamara nailed 3 of 4 free throws to give the Orange the lead for good.

 

When Williams’ last two shots fell short it was over. 86-84 Orange. Roberts sprinted off of the bench to grab McNamara and toss him over his shoulder in jubilant fashion. I damn near cried. I knew we were in at that point. We had the signature win needed to make the NCAA’s. who could say that this team wasn’t worthy of a bid after the last two games? Two close victories on a neutral floor in a big-time environment, you’d be nuts to exclude the ‘Cuse from the dance.

 

It was all McNamara though. It’s funny because the way that people made his run seem was that McNamara was going off every night leading Syracuse to victory. The reality was the he was 9-31 in his first two games but dropped 22 dimes and made everyone on the floor better.

Despite his stats McNamara made teammates like Eric Devendorf better.

McNamara hit shots when he needed to and set up Nichols, Roberts and company for success. That’s why he was so important. The shooting was secondary, he gave guys with little experience the confidence to play big in big scenarios.

 

In the first two games of the Big East Tournament each member of the starting five scored in double figures. That kind of well-rounded play was the reason for both wins as much as G-money’s heroics.

 

Even though Syracuse had the win I thought it needed to make the dance I knew they couldn’t have a letdown versus Georgetown on Friday.

 

At this point the media was all over this thing. McNamara was the latest in a long line of players to shine in the Madison Square Garden spotlight. It was his time. The overrated talk was out of the window, people knew what he meant to Syracuse basketball now and if they didn’t then they need their heads examined.

 

The confidence in Syracuse was growing. You could see an extra hop in their step from the jump against Georgetown. Thing is that the Hoyas were way far left from Cinci and UCONN. They were a slow down and grind team that limited their possessions and played wicked defense.

 

The first half set basketball back a few years. There were no baskets in the first 4 minutes and Syracuse couldn’t buy a bucket after that. Syracuse trailed by 15 at the half and were on the verge of getting run out the building. It was the first game of the tournament that McNamara couldn’t get his teammates and needed to bear the offensive load. Once again he stepped up.

 

After taking only two shots in the first half he went 5-8 in the second half, all of which from three land. He hit three in a row in a two minute stretch that cut the Hoya lead from 12 to 4. The 2-3 zone set in and it was Georgetown that couldn’t buy a basket. Once he got going McNamara found Matt Gorman for a game-tying three and Nichols got to the foul line hitting some key free throws.  Georgetown however still clung to their slim lead late into the second half when G-money hit his 5th and final three of the half to cut the lead to one with 48 seconds left. The crowd just like it had done in previous games began chanting his names over and over.

 

On Georgetown’s next possession Ashanti Cook threw a bad pass that landed in Nichols hands. He immediately gave it up to McNamara who led a two-on-one and fed Devendorf for a one point lead with 1.5 seconds left. The man had done it again.

McNamara led a furious second half comback against Georgetown.

58-57. The ‘Cuse was in the Big East title game for the second straight year and in the most silly of fashion. In the last minute of each game G-money was the direct reason as to why Syracuse won each game. I had never seen anything like it.

 

The Big East Tournament had Ray Allen’s runner, Erick Barkley going HAM and countless other memorable figures and moments. But none like what McNamara was doing. There was no explanation as to how a guy with a busted wheel was single handedly leading his team to the top of one of basketball’s best conference.

 

This team couldn’t beat a good team all year and now had done it in three straight days. They had a chance to be the first Big East team to win 4 games in four days to win the tourney.

 

I didn’t care about the NCAA’s. they were the furthest from my mind. I wanted this team to win this tournament and have McNamara shove it in everyone’s face afterwards. For McNamara this was his moment. Melo had his in 03, Warrick had his the year before, but arguably neither was like this.

 

Pittsburgh was last on the list. Unlike their previous opponents Syracuse matched up well with Pitt and played a similar style of basketball. Pitt was a team of a New York transplants as Jamie Dixon loved draining NYC of its talent for his own use. I actually admired Pitt because of this. Guys like Carl Krauser, LeVance Fields and Ronald Ramon were tough point guards who could penetrate or spot up and shoot. They also crumpled early versus that 2-3 zone of coach Boeheim’s.

 

This game was different from the previous three as the ‘Cuse jumped out in front early instead of coming on in the second half. McNamara got it going early with ten first half points and that defense confused Krauser and limited Sam Young’s athletic ability.

McNamara got the 'Cuse going early and put them up late.

Once in control, McNamara spread around the ball in the second half feeding Nichols for a three  as well as finding Watkins for an easy score. But even though this game was different in that Syracuse jumped out early, it was similar in how they blew their lead. After taking a 44-34 lead Pitt went on a 14-3 run taking a 1 point lead with 8:40 left to play. After a timeout McNamara buried a three and Syracuse never trailed again.

 

Syracuse didn’t need McNamara’s late game heroics today instead Josh Wright knocked down 4 free throws late to seal a 65-61 win and give Syracuse their second straight Big East title. They won four games in four days, never done before. They made the NCAA tournament and the underrated Gerry McNamara was named MVP of the tourney. I mean who else could’ve possibly won it?

 

His numbers were average but his heart, and guts, were huge. The Three against Cinci that won it, the three against UCONN that tied it, the three to bring them within one against G’Town and the pass to Devendorf that won it and the three against Pitt that put them up for good.

 

I watched him soak it all in and I basked with him. I thought to myself that this team was going to win the national championship. How could it not? We just won 4 in 4 days, 6 in 3 weeks is nothing… unfortunately it was something.

 

In the first round against Texas A&M McNamara and the entire team was gassed, the emotion of the Big East Tourney never carried over and the Aggies broke the Orange spirit 66-58. It was the second straight first round loss in a row for the Orange. It was painful for two reasons; 1. because everyone was so high from the magic at the Garden and 2. because G-money only played 23 minutes as the banged up leg finally got to him.

McNamara was named the Big East Tournament MVP leading Syracuse's improbable run.

He gave too much of himself at the Garden, when he was done so were the Orange. It was part maddening and part sad.

 

No one drafted G-money. He played overseas for a little and then in the D-League before joining Boeheim’s staff two years ago. If they drafted off of pure heart and will McNamara would’ve been a first rounder, instead people like Adam Morrison got a shot.

 

Whatever, I have my lasting image of McNamara. For four days he took the fears of the Syracuse fans and turned them into unrelenting ecstasy. That run will never be duplicated. Guys will score 30 a game for four straight days, guys will make big plays, and someone will be the next one to light up the Garden for his own personal use. But it wont be like what McNamara did. They wont hit those shots, put a team on their back and make history like he did.

 

Gerry McNamara for four days was the best player in the country and let the whole world know. He was the furthest thing from overrated, he was as good as advertised.


Orange Crushed

Things are have been ugly for Syracuse... they could get uglier.

I haven’t gone on a good rant in a little bit, ok a good long while.

 

The last time I was ticked off at one of my favorite teams was two years ago when my Ohio State Buckeyes had a horrendous loss at West Lafayette to Purdue. You know that story; poor offense, poor play by Terrelle Pryor, yeah let’s not revisit that please.

 

Today my venom is being spewed towards the Syracuse Orange. To say I’m ticked off is an understatement… I’m pissed.

 

Two weeks ago the Orange were third-ranked in the country going into the Oakland Zoo to face the Pitt Panthers. Come this Monday they will barely be in the top 20 after suffering their 4th straight loss this time to a scrappy Marquette team in Wisconsin.

 

Except for the Pitt loss (Kris Joseph was injured), every loss has been unacceptable.

 

The Orange has fallen behind big in the early portions of each and has had to climb its way back. They fell behind 19-0 to Pitt, down by 12 to Villanova at the half, by 14 to Seton Hall and by ten today to Marquette.

 

They’ve been awful on the defensive end. Their patented 2-3 zone has been getting eaten alive as their last four opponents have shot over 48% from the field, 40% from three and each opponent has gotten to the foul line more than them and have been making them pay.

 

It’s like watching Lemoyne College instead of Syracuse basketball.

 

Rick Jackson is getting no help from anyone on the inside (Fab Melo has been atrocious in his freshman year) and Scoop Jardine’s shot selection has been terrible as he’s been chucking up ill-advised three’s and had found himself sitting next to coach Boeheim on more than one occasion in the last two weeks.

 

The bench hasn’t been much better either. Dion Waiters’ isn’t helping the team offensively and the same can be said for C.J. Fair. Boeheim has resorted to playing the seldom used Mookie Jones, which hasn’t done much either.

After their fourth straight loss on Saturday, the Orange are left with more questions and fewer answers.

Today I woke up and saw that the Orange were playing and instead of getting ready for the game I sat in my house and followed on line. By halftime I was happy I did. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom destroyed the 2-3 zone by cutting into the lane time and time again and then burned us from the outside. There was no answer for those guys. Even though our shot was falling for the first time during the 4 game drought, the defense just couldn’t get stops.

 

This was against Marquette! This team has killed themselves with their late game meltdowns (ahem, Louisville). They aren’t deep, cant shoot the ball well and are horrible in rebounding. We should’ve taken them to the woodshed especially after the Seton Hall debacle, which most was a horror show in itself.

 

Where’s the pride? Where’s the passion? Where’s the top ten team in the nation that I thought was good enough to win the Big East and get to the Final Four? Scoop, Brandon… anyone wake the hell up! Your season is currently getting flushed down the toilet!

 

I thought that Marquette and Seton Hall were teams that the Orange would beat up and could to them getting back on track (I’m not calling them pushovers but two teams at a combined 20-20 entering the week against the number 10 team in the nation? come on!). Instead of getting their act together The Orange take the losing streak to Storrs and face #5 UCONN, then after South Florida (not a gimme after this stretch) they face Georgetown at home, then Louisville on the road then West Virginia at home. Not to mention two road games against G’Town and Nova after all of that. SHOOT ME, PLEASE!!!

 

This current team can’t survive that stretch. Kemba Walker, Peyton Siva and Malik Wayans can kill that 2-3 with their speed and ball handling and Austin Freeman and Casey Mitchell can shoot them out of it. The Orange aren’t deep enough or skilled enough to handle this stretch. As a result, unless Kris Joseph goes all Carmelo Anthony on the Big East, the Orange are looking at dropping to a 8 or 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and becoming second round knockouts. It’s not impossible for the Orange to fix their problems on defense yet I don’t see it happening due to their lack of talent and lack of discipline on the offensive end.

 

Last year’s team could shoot them out of a problem, this year’s cant. Last year Jackson and Arinze Onuaku could beat down an opponent on the inside. This year Jackson is helpless.  Last year the Orange were serious national title contenders, this year I don’t think they could beat Utah State or Maine in a one and done scenario.

 

Right now I don’t plan on watching much more Syracuse basketball. The next month is going to be ugly and rather than view it in horror I’d rather focus on hockey and hope Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams get to campus fast.

 


The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (NCAA Basketball Preview)

The Dukies look to go back-to-back for a second time.

In all of my madness and melancholy of covering football from college to the NFL I almost forgot what time of year it was… THE START OF THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON!!!

It happened last night as I was watching the Bengals season go down in flames (still can’t believe I picked them to win it all), I look over and what do I see? Number 4 ranked Pittsburgh taking on Rhode Island. Hmm, I love the excitement of the crowds, the college kids from the Oakland Zoo to the Little Apple to The Kennel all going crazy with the prospectus of their team somehow going for the glory come March.

You see college basketball trumps the NBA to me in so many ways; 1. The atmosphere, there are no places in the NBA like Cameron Indoor Stadium, Rupp Arena or Hinkle Field house. The crowds are right on top of you and the energy is surreal. Even when watching it on TV at half volume you can feel buzz, the stadium shaking, and the kids going bonkers. Maybe Madison Square Garden and maybe Arco Arena do that in the NBA and that’s it.

2. The rivalries. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kansas-K-State, Syracuse-UCONN or Duke-Maryland, every time interstate enemies or inter-conference rivals go at it its must see TV. Last year I watched Memphis play Tennessee in a down year for both programs and t didn’t matter. The game was still full of energy and passion and don’t turn your head away action that made for an awesome night especially when you’re procrastinating as to stall yourself from studying for a meaningless exam. Not that I ever did that in college.

Kansas- K-State. One of the many rivalries that make college basketball so awesome.

(speaking of which, the greatest sporting event from my college years had to be the 6 overtime marathon between the Cuse and UCONN about 20 months ago. I was struggling through that quarter of school badly, I’m talking Carolina Panthers quarterback situation badly, and I absolutely needed to focus on getting at least a 2.0 that quarter and it was finals week. So what did I do instead of study for an Italian final or write my medieval poetry final paper, I watched Jonny Flynn, A.J. Price and a cast of thousands go hard for nearly 4 hours of grueling basketball that left my roommate Ian wanting to kill me for yelling so loud at 1230am and had me up until 4am watching highlights and trying to figure out what the hell just happened. That one game is the reason you watch college basketball, because the unexpected is always bound to happen. You never know when the next ESPN Classic moment will happen. Side note: I did pass all of my finals that quarter but it wasn’t pretty. I blame the referee for blowing the Eric Devendorf call on the three that was clearly good before the buzzer and the fact that St. Patrick’s Day fell during finals week.)

3. The fact that college basketball is changing. The elite programs are still there… sort of. Last year UCLA, Arizona, UCONN and North Carolina DID NOT MAKE THE TOURNAMENT. Yeah you read that properly, four of college basketball’s best programs didn’t even sniff the tournament. There was a point in the tourney where we were looking at a final four that could’ve consisted of Northern Iowa, Butler, Xavier (hi Sean Miller) and Baylor. Yeah that’s where we are at. Granted UNC won it all in 2009 and Duke took home the crown last year, but the game itself is no longer the top heavy huge program dominated juggernaut it has been for the last 20 years.

The top 3 teams expected to make a run at the crown for this year are Duke, Michigan State and… KANSAS STATE! Yes the same Kansas State who you couldn’t name one single player from their roster for a 20 year period. The same Kansas State who wasn’t even a factor in the BIG 12 until Bob Huggins convinced a guy named Michael Beasley to come to Manhattan, Kansas three years ago and then left before Beasley arrived. The same Kansas State that was Kansas’s whipping post for every season that I’ve been alive and they are now viewed as the best team in Kansas. Time’s they are a changing.

What Frank Martin has done at K-State is amazing, he got great results from Beasley and Bill Walker and he is now able to bring in excellent recruits to Manhattan and leave the folks in Lawrence feeling a little salty. Led by Jacob Pullen and his beard and guys like Wally Judge and Curtis Kelly, the Wildcats have what it takes to overpower the Jayhawks and get to the Final 4. Yep, Kansas State, believe it.

Then of course there is last year’s darling the Butler Bulldogs who were two inches away from pulling off one of the greatest upsets sports has ever seen against Duke in the title game. The Dogs proved that they belong in the hunt for the crown for a long time to come with a run that stunned everyone in the sport that included wins over K-State, Syracuse and Michigan State. They return with no Gordon Haywood but pretty much same team from Ronald Nored and his tough defense and Matt Howard and his inside post game. They have replaced Gonzaga as the best little guy in the game and will be a tough draw in the tourney for anyone.

(With that said Gonzaga is ranked higher and with Robert Sacre at center they still aren’t a team to be messed with. Also the recruiting class they have for 2011 is stupid silly good. You think Mark Few is happy he stayed at Gonzaga instead of take the Kentucky job a few years ago? Yeah, me too.)

So what about the big dogs? Oh they’re just fine thank you. Ohio State behind one of the silliest recruiting classes including Jared Sullinger since the “Thad 5” is primed to go toe-to-toe with Sparty for the Big 10 and the national title. They have a date in November with SEC rival Florida which finally seems to have shaken the title hangover of a few years ago and are expected to rule the SEC this year behind do it all forward Chandler Parsons. They still have Kentucky hanging around in the background however. Yes they lost John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe and Enes Kanter is still awaiting eligibility pending an NCAA investigation (hmmm, another investigation involving John Calipari? No way), however they get another top flight point guard for John Calipari to groom in Brandon Knight and swingman Terrance Jones from Oregon. They’re young again but if anyone knows how to get the best out of a young squad then its John Calipari.

Now I know what you’re wondering, Kevin, you haven’t even begun to wax poetic over the Mighty Big East yet. You know the conference you love so much that you’re willing to through any other program under the bus when playing them. You know the conference that you think is so much better than everyone else but last year underachieved in mostly every big out of conference matchup. Yeah yeah yeah I know. I know they struggled last year with off years by UCONN, Georgetown and Louisville and honestly past Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh every team is the same. G’Town, Marquette and Seton Hall all have shots to make an impact behind guys like Austin Freeman, Jeremy Hazell and others and Steve Lavin may finally bring St. John’s back to where it belongs in the picture of college basketball. Yet I’m not sold that the conference is better than the Big 10 who have 3 teams who could make a Final 4 run including Purdue who I think is getting undervalued because of the loss of Robbie Hummel. In the Big East I think only Syracuse and maybe Pitt has a shot at the Final 4. However, even though it might be a down year for the conference the games will still be a blast to watch.

Something about the words Melo and Syracuse just sounds good together.

(Side note: I really like this Syracuse team. They are deeper than last year’s squad and they have a guy in the middle that will be a huge problem for everyone in the future, Fab Melo. Hmmm, an impact freshman in Syracuse named Melo? Smiley face.)

However with all of that said, from the little guys to the big ones, from the “Thad 5” part two to the beard, from Indianapolis to Spokane the two teams to beat come from tobacco road and (ugh) the ACC, Duke and UNC.

Duke brings back everyone from last year’s team including the soon to be player of the year Kyle Singler and they get Kyrie Irving, a lightning quick guard, and Seth Curry, yep there’s another one of them running around. Plus the Plumlee twins return to roam the middle with their size and athleticism which is going to be a problem for anyone to handle.

As for UNC you knew that last year’s flame out was only an aberration. Roy Williams returns with a team that has a year of experience under its wing, a healthy Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes one of the most talked about freshmen in the nation. Barnes as well as Reggie Bullock should help shoulder the load left by Ed Davis and the Wear twins who transferred to Stanford.

Both Duke and UNC should have little trouble running the ACC with one exception, Maryland might be back. Gary Williams has escaped the firing that seemed eminent years ago and has his best team since the Steve Blake, Juan Dixon days.  Sean Mosley and Jordan Williams provide a great in and out game and Mychal Parker and Pe’Shon Howard will provide some pop off of the bench.  If he can find the right rotation for this team then it should be happy times in Gary-land for the Terps.

With all of this said who should be playing in the Final 4 come March? How about Duke, Ohio State, K-State and Syracuse with Ohio State winning it all. No it’s not a cop out because I went to OSU it’s because OSU has the best mix of under classmen and youth of any team in the nation. David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and Willie Buford all return to blend with the aforementioned Sullinger, Jordan Siebert and Deshaun Thomas. I think Michigan State is a tad overrated with no Kalin Lucas and the Buckeyes should steamroll through the tough Big 10 behind their talent level and Thad Motta’s defensive scheme.

So there you go, even in the changing landscape of college basketball where the little guys are getting bigger, the top dogs still reign supreme. However, don’t be surprised if everything I said gets blown to smithereens and the landscape changes again. That’s the beauty of the college game, and I’m so happy that it’s back.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR- KYLE SINGLER

BIG EAST WINNER-SYRACUSE (SLEEPER: VILLANOVA)

ACC- DUKE (MARYLAND)

BIG 12- KANSAS STATE (TEXAS)

BIG 10- OHIO STATE (ILLINOIS)

PAC 10- WASHINGTON (ARIZONA)

SEC- FLORIDA (TENNESSEE)

THE NEXT BUTLER- San Diego STATE

ATLANTIC 10- XAVIER (mark my words; you will take the A-10 seriously again. The league is too good to be considered a mid-major)