Saturday, December 02, 2006

CFB Saturday Live-Comment Tailgate
FINAL UPDATE: Ohio State vs...?!?!

UPDATE 2!: Before this game, if you told me that USC would lose, I would have had a hard time deciding between Michigan and Florida. But based on Florida's performance in the SEC title game win over Arkansas -- combined with Michigan's previous opportunity to beat Ohio State -- I couldn't argue more strenuously for Florida to play Ohio State in the BCS title game.

Here's what it's going to come down to: How many human voters -- Harris poll and Coaches' poll -- will vault Florida over Michigan based on the SEC championship? (And what will the computers do with the new data? Isn't it worth pointing out that if UCLA beat USC and USC beat Notre Dame that Michigan's single high-quality win of the season -- over Notre Dame -- continues to look less and less impressive?)

All records being equal:
1a. Florida won the SEC title.
1b. Michigan didn't win the Big Ten.
2. Florida played a tougher schedule.
3. Florida had more quality wins.
4. Michigan had their shot vs. Ohio St.

You don't have to be a Florida fan -- just someone who loves college football -- to understand that the only title game that makes sense, justifies the bodies of work and upholds the fairest sense of competition in an otherwise murky process is to pit Ohio State versus...Florida. Let the debate begin.

(PS: The real winners in all this are all all the folks who want to see a playoff system. No matter who gets picked -- Michigan or Florida -- it should help accelerate and facilitate the creation of a playoff... which, as all of you know, I have yet to hear of a system that doesn't create as many problems as it purports to solve. But that's a debate for another day, because we've got a hell of a debate going right now...)

UPDATE!: I don't care if USC wins -- the way they've played today, they don't deserve to play in the national title game. Let's hope they lose and make it a non-issue. If voters/ESPN hold "style points" against Florida recently, they sure as hell better hold it against USC right now. Meanwhile, Florida is playing their best game of the season, TD notwithstanding. I hope voters are paying attention -- I can imagine they're a little focused on USC-UCLA right now... -- D.S.

Our last regular-season CFB Saturday Live-Comment Tailgate of the year. I'd be all nostalgic if it wasn't for the compelling game storylines: Rutgers to BCS? Wake Forest to BCS? USC to title game? Florida BCS controversy? Michigan scoreboard-watching? And, of course, Army-Navy.

Have your say in the Comments section all day long. (Oh, and since there's no real Quickie-style wrap-up today of the biggest storylines -- CFB and otherwise -- coming out of last night and this morning, please feel free to drop in your own news items, complete with your own spin. The rest of us will pile on.)

-- D.S.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Craig Smith the NBA's Best Rookie?
(Related: Could I Really Be Right? Wow.)

Friday Quickie! | CFB/BCS Mania! | NFL Picks!

One of the hottest blog-feuds going right now is between Dave Berri and's John Hollinger, two of the leading voices in the world of statistical analysis in the NBA, which only in the last season or two has really gotten the pub it deserves. (See TrueHoop for a good recap.)

Berri has a really interesting book, The Wages of Wins, that you might have heard of (Malcolm Gladwell has praised it) and that I definitely recommend as one of the more fascinating -- and controversial -- reads from 2006.

Berri also has a blog, which regularly has some pretty interesting arguments and analysis, which brings me to this post: Berri had a post casting some statistical skepticism that Adam Morrison is truly the leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year after the first month.

This was of particular interest to me, because in yesterday's A.M. Quickie post, I handed out my first-month NBA Awards and gave Rookie of the Year to Craig Smith. His stats were pretty good for a rookie, but what swayed me was that of the group of ROY contenders, Smith was the only one from the second round – there's got to be a bonus for exceeding expectations. After all, Top 10 picks are SUPPOSED to contribute. But my analysis was highly qualitative.

I emailed Berri today asking him if I was on to something with my pick, and he replied that, in fact, yes: Craig Smith is the most productive rookie using his Win Score per-minute statistic (adjusting for position played). Here are the top six in that category:

1. Craig Smith
2. Paul Millsap
3. Kyle Lowry
4. Ronnie Brewer
5. Shelden Williams
6. LaMarcus Aldridge

Here's what I (Dan) find fascinating: Millsap was ALSO a second-round pick, which to me speaks volumes about the inexact science of the NBA Draft, as well as the opportunities for recognizing inefficiencies in the marketplace.

In the case of Smith and Millsap, two undersized power forwards, there was/is an obvious draft obsession these days with "length," which undoubtedly placed a discount on Smith and Millsap's talent based on their physical measurements alone.

Does this marks a watershed moment for the stereotypical college hoops "tweener?" More likely, they are two exceptional players who ended up in particularly good contexts to maximize their potential.

With thanks to Dave Berri, I now have some quantitative muscle to back up my qualitative arguments. And anytime I can bolster one of my wilder theories, it's a good day.

-- D.S.

NFL Week 13 Picks:
Who Else is Sick of Romo Mania?

Earlier Today: Friday Quickie | CFB Breakdown

Chargers over Bills: LaDainian is going to shatter the all-time single-season TD record. How close can he come in a single game?

Bears over Vikings: Keep that Chicago snow on the field.

Chiefs over Browns: It's nice to know that Larry Johnson doesn't have a problem with either coach.

Jets over Packers: The "final indignities of Favre" keep piling up. The latest: Favre can't win on snowy tundra of Lambeau.

Colts over Titans: But I reeeeeeeally want to pick Vince Young to lead the upset. That would be a week late, though.

Rams over Cardinals: When does the Pete Carroll Era begin?

Pats over Lions: Avert your eyes.

Saints over 49ers: Another 300-yard day for Brees?

Falcons over Redskins: Vick plays better on the road.

Texans over Raiders: Is this the Brady Quinn Bowl?

Dolphins over Jags: Two teams going opposite directions.

Cowboys over Giants: I'm already sick of Romo Mania.

Steelers over Bucs: Not many teams have the honor of being worse than the defending champs.

Broncos over Seahawks: I've been saying it for more than a year: Jay Cutler is for real.

Panthers over Eagles: National TV debacle in Philly.

Whee: I'm already 1-0 on the week! (Bengals)

Comments Question: What are your most intriguing storylines of the NFL schedule this week? What are the X-factors to watch?

CFB Weekend Preview: Last One!
Dare I Defend the CFB System? (Eh...Sort Of.)

Friday Quickie is here (or below). Meanwhile...

Who else is more than a bit sad that this is the last Saturday of non-bowl college football?

Regular readers know that I have argued for a long time that college football's regular season is just one long de facto double-elimination playoff -- and that one loss usually does the trick.

I think it's pretty amazing that over the course of the season, a contenders' pool of 119 teams has been whittled down to, at most, 4 teams (with 2 of the 4 still with a chance to stumble).

One of those teams (Ohio State) is in. USC is in with a win. Florida has an argument if USC loses, but first they have to beat Arkansas (and I'm not sure they can/will). Michigan had their chance but couldn't close the deal (though if both USC and Florida lose, Michigan backs into the title game in the Rematch No One Really Wants To See.)

That's it. Over 15 weeks, 119 teams is down to either 4, 3 or 2 teams, depending on tomorrow's results and your CFB worldview.

In every other sport with a traditional playoff, teams can lose – not just once or twice, but lots of times – yet still get a shot at the title. It produces a decisive champion but devalues the regular season.

Only college football is so exclusively brutal that even a single off week can kill a team's title chances -- and two off-weeks end the season.

It's what makes college football's regular season the best in sports by a ridiculously wide margin – because it's the only one where every game -- every week -- is meaningful.

We can agree that college football should have some sort of playoff system (though I have yet to hear of any system -- from a 4-team playoff to an 8-team playoff to a "Plus-One" after the bowls are over -- that doesn't create as many problems as it solves.)

But we can also agree that the sports world gets a little less intense now that every Saturday, week-in and week-out, won't be its own quasi-playoff elimination round.

Meanwhile, here's where we stand for tomorrow's games:

If USC beats UCLA, they're in the national title game. (And they will beat UCLA. But wouldn't it be deviously fun if they didn't?)

Presuming USC wins, if Florida beats Arkansas, the Gators are in the Sugar Bowl, with a legit (if futile) gripe about their BCS-title-game worthiness. This is the result BCS-haters should be rooting for...

...Because if Florida loses and USC wins, even the biggest BCS-haters have to agree that the system worked this season.

(And again: The worst-case scenario is that both Florida and USC lose, with Michigan backing into the national title game and a rematch that no real fan could possibly think is good for the sport. Actually, no: The worst-case scenario is that USC loses, Florida wins and somehow, Michigan still ends up in a rematch with Ohio State, with Florida shut out. I don't write that as a Florida fan; I write that as a college football fan.)

To sum up:
USC win/Florida loss: Current system works!
USC win/Florida win: Argument for playoff!
USC loss/Florida loss: Sucks for everyone!
USC loss/Florida win: The sport is ruined!*
(* - Presuming UF still can't jump Michigan.)

Plus: There are two conference title games – one official, one unofficial – that are worth watching, because they represent college football's two biggest Cinderella stories of the season:

In the ACC, how can you NOT be rooting for Wake Forest to beat Georgia Tech and claim the ACC's BCS spot.

And in the Big East, if Rutgers wins at West Virginia, they win a BCS ticket to the Orange Bowl and complete college football's biggest Cinderella story since Northwestern went to the Rose Bowl in 1995.

And, in the ultimate rivalry game, you can't beat Army-Navy.

Be sure to drop by the blog all day Saturday for our final College Football Live-Comment Tailgate of the 2006 regular season.

-- D.S.

Friday 12/01 A.M. Quickie:
Eva, Kobe, WhoDey?, LSU, Zito, More

Tony Parker and Eva Longoria got engaged? Here's the over-under of the day: What will come first -- the Spurs' next title or the TP-Eva divorce? I'll take the latter.

More on the top storylines of the day:

Bengals beat Ravens: I could imagine these Bengals playing the role of last year's Steelers in the playoffs: Get in as the 6-seed and make a run. The Bengals have an improving defense that stymied the "Billick Offensive Juggernaut" and an offense that always has the potential to put points up, but last night, against one of the league's best defenses, did just enough to win.

Kobe scores 52: So much for all the talk that his knee problems will keep him from being the same old Kobe we know and talk about the morning after a scoring binge. (Even more impressive is that he did it against the NBA-leading Jazz. And even more impressive than that is that he had a 30-point quarter, which matches his best quarter from the 81-point game. Amazing.)

LSU to Rose Bowl? This is GREAT on one level: It's a chance for the SEC doubters/haters in the Big Ten (Michigan fans, specifically) to get a taste.

This is IFFY on two levels:

Good "Iffy": If Florida loses to Arkansas, then the Rose Bowl becomes an optimal "3-vs-4" matchup.

Bad "Iffy": If Florida loses to Arkansas, how can the Rose Bowl pass over a 2-loss Gators team that BEAT this 2-loss LSU team head-to-head? (And since the BCS has an out-dated rule that each conference gets a max of 2 spots, the Gators will be shunted off to the CapOne Bowl.)

Forget the Rose Bowl talk (and, for that matter, the SEC championship game): The most important, must-see game of the weekend is Rutgers at West Virginia. A win for RU would put give them the Big East title, put them in the BCS (Orange Bowl) and complete a Cinderella season. (Honestly, if Rutgers wins, I'm not quite sure why the Rose Bowl wouldn't pick Rutgers to play against Michigan.)

Bama coaching search: Spurrier in or out? He says he's staying at South Carolina. Alabama must have really screwed up the offer.

Wade can't lead Heat past Pistons: As long as Shaq is healthy for the playoffs, it's an empty win for Detroit.

(If Joe Dumars was offered Orlando's entire roster for Detroit's entire roster, straight up, do you think he'd make the deal? I'd ask the same thing of Pat Riley. The Magic's 5-year outlook seems much better than the Heat or Pistons' 5-year outlook.)

MLB Hot Stove: Zito-palooza! It's gotten to the point where we simply add "palooza" to any premier free-agent pitcher's last name. (See "Pavanopalooza.") He met with the Rangers, who are like the "nouveau riche" version of the Yankees and Red Sox: They have the money to spend and interest in spending it, but can't seem to convert that into playoff appearances. I like the CW that has Zito joining the Mets.

Bud Selig to retire in 2009: Let's start the speculation now about who would be the best choice to replace him: Peter Gammons? Larry Lucchino? Bob Costas?

I've got an unconventional (if predictable) choice: Theo Epstein. Give him a 30-year contract and watch the New Golden Era of baseball begin.

College Football: Rules to be Central Michigan, which won the MAC championship game over Ohio. Bring on the... uh, GMAC Bowl?

College Hoops: Sucks to be Dan Monson, who resigned (read: was axed) from Minnesota after running the program into the ground. Wonder if he looks back on that Gonzaga program he left and says, ""

Final thought: I guess Eva's rumored fling with Mario Lopez didn't take. Or TP didn't have a problem with it.

-- D.S.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Spurrier to Alabama?

This rumor is juicy only because he's the biggest name in college football coaching (yes, ahead of Carroll, Weis, Meyer or any of them). Let's see... Pros: More money; more prestigious program. Cons: Dick move to S. Carolina. Yep: I think he'll go. Thoughts?

Thursday 11/30 A.M. Quickie:
Oden, Naqi, Pujols, BCS and More!

Wait: So Ohio State lost last night at UNC, yet the Buckeyes should still be No. 1? How can I explain that? Two words: No. Oden.

The hot new NFL feud? Frustrated Giants DE Michael Strahan vs. intrepid ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi.

Strahan has her on height and weight, but Naqi clobbers him in reach: There's no way that a disgruntled NFL player will win a battle with a reporter asking what all fans would agree was a perfectly reasonable question about how badly his team is fractured due to sucking so badly.

Pujols is a whiner: Albert Pujols thinks that the MVP award should go to a player on a playoff team. It's a criteria that some voters choose to apply, but thank god it's not some sort of binding rule.

Pujols is afflicted with "Michael Jordan MVP Curse" (the idea that one staggeringly amazing player could be the MVP *every* year, but that voters would rather have variety than reflect reality). This won't endear Pujols to voters.

(By the way, LeBron James set a new record last season for earliest application of MJ MVP Curse. He was the best/most valuable player in the NBA, but he's SO good that voters discounted his candidacy.)

T.O. supports Vanderjagt. That should be the next fill-in duo for PTI.

Did the Red Sox sign Japanese lefty RP Hideki Okajima to grease the skids to sign Matsuzaka?

The BCS is OK if the Rose Bowl wants to pair Michigan in a rematch with Notre Dame. It's just the rest of us who will hurl.

I think that voters for the Walter Camp Award (for best CFB a very poor man's Heisman) should pick Hawaii QB Colt Brennan simply because that would be awesome.

Bill Cowher doesn't want the NC State football job. Well, no shit.

Speaking of the college football coaching carousel, I highly recommend the coverage on AOL Sports' Fanhouse, particularly the Alabama coverage. Jamie Mottram of Mr. Irrelevant blog-fame has created a collective that is absolutely sizzling right now.

NBA Mania: Jazz beat Spurs, prove ultimate legitimacy. Mavs win 11th in a row. Magic win 5th in a row. Knicks finish November on pace to win 29 games and shatter Larry Brown's win total from last season.

NBA First-Month Awards: I was going to save my NBA first-month awards for a separate item, but I'm going to put them down now:

MVP: Dwight Howard
Rookie: Craig Smith
Coach: Jerry Sloan
Most Improved: Kevin Martin

-- D.S.

UNC beats Ohio State:
Who's College Hoops' No. 1?

Who's No. 1 in college hoops?

Ohio State lost at UNC last night in the most high-profile game of the new season. And after watching it, I'm convinced that the No. 1 team in the country is...

Ohio State. (Yes, even though they lost.)

Consider this one factor: Ohio State was playing without Greg Oden, who is not only their best player but who is also the most talented player in the country (if you believe players who are a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft -- for three straight years -- qualifies one as "most talented.") Presumably, Oden, who was sitting on the bench, just got hungrier.

If the Buckeyes can keep up with full-strength UNC -- in Chapel Hill and without their own best player who doubles as potentially the most dominating player in the country -- I'd say that if the Top 25 is supposed to reflect previous performance plus future potential, the Buckeyes have a serious claim as the team to beat.

(Combine this game with the one that OSU will play in late December at Florida -- again without Oden -- and we'll have a great idea of the baseline that OSU is at compared to the elite teams before they add Oden into the mix.)

The game last night said more about the jaw-dropping potential for this Ohio State team next March than it did about UNC. In a rematch in the Final Four next spring on a neutral court with Oden at full strength, would anyone really want to pick against OSU?

More Quickie-style stuff coming later this morning...

-- D.S.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This Week in the NFL: Is It Thursday Yet?

"Is It Monday Yet?" is probably the best (if most ubiquitous) sports-ish ad campaign of the year. (Any other nominees for sports-ish ad campaign of the year? "Man Law?" "Mac vs. PC?" Madden '07? Put them in the comments.)

But "IIMY?" has created the "Is It [Blank] Yet?" phenomenon: Throwing the catchphrase out there for any day of the week where you can make a case.

And I'd say that "Is It Thursday Yet?" has jumped to the forefront of fan consciousness. Last week's Thursday NFL games didn't seem as novel as this week's; you expect Thursday games during Thanksgiving week.

But the game tomorrow night (Ravens at Bengals) is sitting right out there, enlivening an otherwise fairly slow week in sports (CFB coaches firings, MLB hot stove). Except for this one, terrifically important factor:

Because of the Thursday game, your fantasy football lineup has to be finalized by tomorrow mid-day at the latest (and I would imagine that most of you have your lineups finished by end of business today).

There's a cognitive break there: After a season of not having to really make the hard FFL choices until Friday (if you do your FFL at work) or Saturday (if you do your FFL at home), all of a sudden you've got to set your roster by midweek.

Does this "TNF" phenomenon make an otherwise "hump day" Wednesday any less... um... humpy?

You know what? Actually, it does. Thursday Night Football has done what Monday, by definition, can't: By starting the next football week three days early, it has broken up the "real-life" week.

Is It Thursday Yet?

(By the way: It's a pretty damn good game, too: The AFC's surprise team of the year -- Baltimore -- against the team everyone thought was due for a breakout year, but instead is in a near-must-win to make the playoffs -- Cincinnati. Too bad I live in NYC and won't be able to see the game on my cable network. Pick: Bengals.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday A.M. *VERY* Quickie

I have to take my son to daycare this morning, so I won't be able to weigh in fully until later in the morning. For now, here are a few things on the radar this a.m.:

*Big East/ACC Challenge: It's obvious now that Maryland is painfully underrated at No. 21. They won the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament and, last night, became the first non-conference team to win at Illinois since 1998. Are the Terps this year's Gators? (I thought Maryland's women's team -- defending champ, all five starters returning -- was this year's Gators?)

*BCS bowl picks: Specifically, which way will the Rose Bowl go if USC beats UCLA? Word is that they'll take LSU. But wouldn't it make more sense if the Sugar Bowl didn't *automatically* get the SEC champ (if they're not in the BCS title game), so we could see a real "3-vs-4" game? 3-vs-5 is nice, but not the same.

(Of course, if Florida loses to Arkansas in the SEC title game, then LSU *will* be the No. 4 team. Look, can we all simply agree that the answer should be: "Anyone But Notre Dame.")

*MLB Hot Stove: The Red Sox signing JD Drew is only interesting in that it catalyzes the trade of Manny Ramirez out of Boston. Speaking of Boston, MLB won't let them apply their $51.1M posting bid to Matsuzaka's actual contract -- some rare common sense from MLB.

(Meanwhile, the Yankees won the bid on a Japanese pitcher with half the posting price but more than half the talent. It doesn't take an MBA to see the relative value there; it remains to be seen whether EITHER pitcher will be worth the huge outlay of cash.)

*More Hot Stove: Who else thinks that the White Sox are robbing the Angels by potentially getting rising starting pitcher Ervin Santana (and Chone Figgins) for Joe Crede and Freddy Garcia? "The Other" Santana could end up nearly as good as "The Cy" Santana.

*Obligatory Bama Coaching Watch: Hiring Rich Rodriguez from WVA makes a ton of sense...for Alabama. For RR? Hardly: His best players are only sophs and the Big East/unbeaten season is his for the taking in '07 *and* '08. And don't you think better jobs than Bama (perhaps offering even more money) will open up between now and then? (Yes, I'm looking at you, Florida State. Yes, FSU is a better job than Alabama...uh, I think.)

More later. Feel free to throw your own intriguing storylines of the morning/day into the comments.

-- D.S.

Update: How about the B&B owner-turned-Raiders O.C. getting yoinked from play-calling duties? If you didn't see that coming when TK hammered on it on MNF in the preseason, you weren't paying close enough attention.

And how about the NFL fining Mike Vick $10K for his middle finger(s). That's $5K per finger, right? There is nothing as impotent as monetary fines in pro sports.

And, since I'm always on the lookout for sports-media beefs and feuds, did anyone else catch Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel's shot across the bow of my former colleague Bill Simmons in Wetzel's interview with The Big Lead, published yesterday? (These must-read interviews with online media types are becoming TBL's signature.) It's a classic example of Rule #1 of feuding: Always take your punch in the direction of a higher weight class.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Re-Evaluating the Comment Situation

Quite a terrific string of comments (100+) on today's main a.m. post. Here's my question for those of you who comment regularly: Would it make sense for me to put each substantial-ish item in its own post, so all the comments will stay on one topic? Or do you find it fairly easy to follow your particular comment string, even when other comment strings are going on around you? I'm happy to keep things how they are, but I just wanted to give you all a chance to revisit how it's handled.

Tuesday 11/28 A.M. Quickie:
Mike, Mac, Magic, Manny, More

The Top Stories on the Radar This A.M.:

*Should the Falcons trade Vick!
*McGwire WON'T make Hall in '07!
*How low has Brett Favre sunk!
*Are the Magic the NBA's best!
*Are the Sox crazy to trade Manny!

Vick's Dirty Bird, Day 2: He says he's sorry and – really – the hubbub over the gesture itself is overblown. But what's not overblown is that this incident symbolizes his fractured relationship with fans and begs the question: Is it time for the Falcons and Vick to part ways?

Here's the crux of the debate: As a fan, would you rather win a Super Bowl or get to watch arguably the most exciting player in the league every week?

Because the Falcons won't win a Super Bowl with Vick as QB. On the other hand, he is the city's greatest sports icon and one of those rare athletes who could do something ridiculous on any given play.

But that makes him Vince Carter or Allen Iverson or Ken Griffey (in his prime): Individually brilliant but highly unlikely to actually lead their team to a championship. It's not a bad strategy to focus on putting asses in seats -- but at the cost of a title?

McGwire/Hall a Non-Starter? He's got virtually no chance at induction this year if the AP's research is right. They polled 20 percent of all voters; only 25 percent of those said they would vote for McGwire's entry into the Hall. That seems statistically significant enough to suggest that he's got no shot in '07. (But will they continue to reject him annually or is this some sort of first-year punishment?)

Seahawks beat Packers in Seattle snow: You would think that the Packers would have the edge in the snow, particularly given that it was Seattle's first home game ever in the snow. Alas, it's yet another symbol that Brett Favre – who used to slay in those conditions – is long over the hill. Meanwhile, get Shaun Alexander into a cold-weather city: He had a season-high 201 yards churning in the snow-slop.

Magic beat Jazz in Utah: Raise your hand if you predicted the Magic and the Jazz to have the best records in their respective conferences nearly a month into the NBA season. No one? Exactly. Meanwhile, the Magic did it by beating the Jazz at their own game: Rebounding. Orlando outrebounded the Jazz (who lead the NBA in rebounding margin) by 43-36. Dwight Howard -- my pick for first-month MVP -- continued to dominate (21 pts, 16 reb). But letting preps turn pro is SO bad for the game...

Manny being... moved? I know Manny has wanted out of Boston for years, but who else (particularly Red Sox fans) can't see a good outcome for the team's offense if they trade Manny away (rumored to the NL)? JD Drew had a fine year, but – come on – he's no Manny. And David Ortiz will feel that directly.

More Quick Points:

So Eli hates Plax? He joins the rest of us. Between drafting Manning and signing Burress as a free agent, is there a more pitiable GM than NYG's Ernie Accorsi? Don't let the door hit you on the way out to retirement.

Cowboys cut Vanderjerkoff: But only after giving him a $2.5 million signing bonus. Worst NFL offseason signing of the year?

Jay Cutler will make Broncos fans forget about Jake Plummer before the end of the first quarter next weekend.

Bulls uphold no-headband policy: This could be the stupidest decision of the NBA season. How out of touch does the Bulls management want to be? And to tick off their cornerstone free-agent acquisitions? Mind-boggling.

No one wants the Bama job? Understandable. Spurrier feels like he's got a better shot of winning an SEC title at South Carolina. Saban feels like he has nothing left to prove at the college level. They need to skip the "names" and go for young/aggressive/up-n-coming.

Ohio State has pulled a rare double-double: They are ranked No. 1 in the coaches' football poll and No. 1 in the coaches' basketball poll. (Strangely, OSU hoops got fewer 1st-place votes than UCLA.)

Lost in the McGwire/HOF mess is that there is absolutely no excuse for Ripken and Gwynn not to make the Hall unanimously. But you just KNOW there will be some ass-hat voter who abstains on them.

-- D.S.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday P.M. Quickie

Cleaning up today's emerging storylines...

Bama job open: I wonder if they'll go after Spurrier and/or Schiano and/or Rich Rodriguez. Whoever it is, there better be some sizzle.

UCLA is new college hoops No. 1: Eh, it's as good as any, I guess. Who else thinks it's a little ridiculous that Butler wins the NIT but only debuts at No. 19? Why don't we ask UNC, Tennessee and Gonzaga where Butler should be ranked?

Saints-Cowboys is NFL 12/10 "flex" game: I believe it was that first Saints MNF game with the boffo ratings that had me saying that the NFL/NBC would absolutely grab the Saints if they could. It's icing that the game will actually be consequential.

Irvin story, cont'd: He's on Dan Patrick right now. Be interesting to hear what he says -- if it makes any sense at all. It might take others to spin it smoothly for him.

Update (3:17 p.m.): I've tossed in a Comment on this post that includes my Heisman ballot. Here's a sneak peek: (1) Dwayne Jarrett, (2) Darren McFadden, (3) Troy Smith. Please don't get me started on Troy Smith, who is the 2006 version of Geno Torretta: A Heisman leader simply for being the QB of the overwhelming No. 1 team. (More recent analogue: Troy Smith = Ken Dorsey.)

Mark McGwire: In or Out of Hall of Fame?

Mark McGwire is on the Hall of Fame ballot. I'd like to know what you would do if you were a voter. Here are your choices:

(a) Yes in 2007
(b) No in '07, Yes eventually
(c) No, never

I'm betting the voter consensus coagulates around Choice B, which seems to me as bankrupt a choice as the voters could make. Essentially, Choice B is punitive, which doesn't seem to be the Hall of Fame voters' job. Who assigned them the role of morality police? (I've long argued that the BBWAA has no business exclusively bestowing Hall status, but that's an argument for another time.)

Voters' choice should be: In or out now? Worthy or not now? Not "Yes, he's Hall-worthy, but just not THIS year because we should make him wait because there's a good chance he was juicing." If you don't think he's worthy because of the taint of steroids, you should NEVER put him in. How will waiting a year change the taint, aside from totally undercutting the intent of the original statement?

My take: If I was a voter, I would vote him in right now, even though I suspect he was a cheating d-bag. The entire era is tainted; to single out McGwire because he's the poster guy for it seems unfair. History, not Hall placement, will judge McGwire and his peers, much like the way that most fans now mock the one-time conventional wisdom that McGwire helped "save" baseball, an analysis that no self-respecting fan or expert can possibly maintain.

Monday 11/27 A.M. Quickie:
Blanks, Birds, Backups, Bama, More

After a long weekend where I didn't really have access to a computer, I'm back with a bunch of random thoughts on yesterday's NFL results, plus BCS analysis, college hoops, NBA, MLB Hot Stove and more:

(1) Ravens shut out defending champs: I'm not sure whether Baltimore's crushing win said more about their own legitimacy as a Super Bowl contender or the state of utter oblivion for the Steelers. Probably a little of both.

(2) Tomlinson for MVP: After his 3-TD game yesterday (2 rush, 1 pass), LaDainian Tomlinson has created a situation where everyone else is playing for 2nd place in the NFL MVP race. (LT needs 5 TDs in 5 games to break Shaun Alexander's single-season TD record. That didn't take long. He might do it in 2 weeks. In 5 games, he might seat an unbreakable standard.)

(3) Giant collapse: I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like the Giants' 21-point 4th-quarter collapse. But I do know that Vince Young put on a show worth vaulting him into the Rookie of the Year race.

(Speaking of Rookie of the Year, does Redskins QB Jason Campbell count? It's not like he had ever played before last week. And this week, he's leading the Skins to a win, improbably calling his own game-winning play when his helment radio fizzled out.)

(4) Bears lose to Pats: Is it time for the Bears to bench Rex Grossman?

(5) Vick's flick (-off): The image of the week was of Michael Vick flipping off (with TWO hands!) the boo birds in Atlanta. They're not booing you, Mike. They're booing the frustration of watching a losing team. They don't REALLY want you benched for Matt Schaub... do they?

Star of the Week: Drew Brees.
Moron of the Week: Vincent Jackson. (Update: I erred here. It probably should have been Michael Irvin for his Romo comments. In and of itself, it may or may not be worthy of getting him canned, but -- more important -- doesn't it simply pile on a body of work that qualifies him for the same fate?)

(Althought, if you read ProFootballTalk's analysis of the Vincent Jackson play, which PFT calls the worst officiating call EVER -- and you know how much I like that superlative characterization -- it's not Jackson who is the Moron of the Week, but the Raiders-Chargers refs.)

Comments Question: What were your biggest developments of the NFL week?

More on today's top storylines:

BCS Mania: Isn't it refreshing to have some clarity? If USC beats UCLA next week, it's USC vs. Ohio State in the BCS title game. Period.

(If USC loses, the title game appears to be OSU vs. Michigan – unless Florida beats Arkansas thoroughly enough... and there's enough of a backlash from voters about an OSU-Mich rematch... to put the Gators in.)

But when USC beats UCLA (as they inevitably will), the BCS will beat back a controversy this season.

CFB Coaches: Bring me the head of... The last game of the regular season means holiday shopping and the annual firing of head coaches. Miami's Larry Coker was axed a few days ago, which WAS the best job available...

Right up until Alabama fired Mike Shula. Perhaps Steve Spurrier and Greg Schiano weren't interested in the Miami job, but if Bama came calling, you would have to think it would be harder to resist.

(More: NC State fired Chuck Amato. Could Norm Chow be the next head coach? Sounds more wishful thinking than reality. And Michigan State seems ready to hire Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio. Lot of work to do.)

College Hoops: I'd prefer to accept Florida's loss to Kansas as more of a wake-up call for UF (and redemption for Kansas after that Oral Roberts loss) than a signal that Florida is ultimately doomed this season.

Who's CBB No. 1? Speaking of doomed, just try to figure out who really deserves to be No. 1 in the polls this week. Florida? Lost to Kansas. UNC? Lost to Butler. Could the best team in the country really be Pitt? Only if you create your ballot by inertia.

NBA: Spurs are road warriors. The Spurs are only the fourth team in 10 years to start 7-0 on the road. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have claimed the title of NBA's Most Entertaining Team from the Suns. Carmelo went over 30 points... again. Scoring title in his future?

MLB: Matsuzaka, Red Sox far apart. Who didn't see THAT coming? The Sox want to pay $7-8M; Boras wants $15M. Presumably, they'll settle around the $10M originally projectded.

More MLB: Giants targeting Manny? The most awesome upshot of Ramirez going to San Francisco would be the Red Sox signing Barry Bonds to replace him. And I have to say: That's not a terrible idea.

-- D.S.