Saturday, December 02, 2006
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.)
Friday, December 01, 2006
One of the hottest blog-feuds going right now is between Dave Berri and ESPN.com'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
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.
Bears over Vikings: Keep that
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?
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 (
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
(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
And in the Big East, if Rutgers wins at
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.
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.
LSU to Rose Bowl? This is GREAT on one level: It's a chance for the SEC doubters/haters in the Big Ten (
This is IFFY on two levels:
Good "Iffy": If Florida loses to
Bad "Iffy": If Florida loses to
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
Bama coaching search: Spurrier in or out? He says he's staying at
Wade can't lead Heat past Pistons: As long as Shaq is healthy for the playoffs, it's an empty win for
(If Joe Dumars was offered
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
College Hoops: Sucks to be Dan Monson, who resigned (read: was axed) from
Final thought: I guess Eva's rumored fling with Mario Lopez didn't take. Or TP didn't have a problem with it.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
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
I think that voters for the Walter
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
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...
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
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.)
*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.
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
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
Magic beat Jazz in
Manny being... moved? I know Manny has wanted out of
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
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.
Monday, November 27, 2006
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.)
(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.
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
(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
Star of the Week: Drew Brees.
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.
(If USC loses, the title game appears to be OSU vs.
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.
Right up until Alabama fired Mike Shula. Perhaps Steve Spurrier and Greg Schiano weren't interested in the
(More: NC State fired Chuck Amato. Could Norm Chow be the next head coach? Sounds more wishful thinking than reality. And
College Hoops: I'd prefer to accept
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.
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;
More MLB: Giants targeting Manny? The most awesome upshot of Ramirez going to