Friday, March 05, 2010

Quickie: Things Just Got Interesting

First of all, let me say this: I find it hard to believe we live in a world where Sandra Bullock could beat out Meryl Streep for a "Best Actress" Emmy. For a sports movie, no less! The annual Quickie Oscar picks are in today's SN column.

Meanwhile, this weekend tips off the official start of "March Madness" -- Championship Week. I love these first few conference tournament title games, because they are one-bid leagues and this it. Nevermind that their NCAA Tournament ends on Day 1 -- this is a career-maker.

I'm less mesmerized by the major-conference season finales, if only because all Bubble teams inevitably save/crush their seasons in their conference tournaments later next week.

NFL Free Agency is here, and in today's SN column, I go back to my childhood roots as a comic-book nerd to compare the state of the NFL to the state of a planet when Galactus is on his way.

There's a ton of other stuff in the column today -- please check it out here. I'm hustling up to Boston for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. If that kind of stuff interests you, I'll be updating mostly via Twitter.

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Quickie: Griner, Greivis, ND, Melo-KD

I feel bad for Brittney Griner, if only for the fact that she is a 6-foot-8 super-talented, YouTube-sensation freshman for a Baylor team that should be poised for a run into the Elite Eight of the women's NCAA Tournament, and she will now be known almost entirely for clocking that Texas Tech player last night.

However, it did inspire a bit of Quickie-esque shorthand for today's SN column lead: It was her "One Shiner Moment."

I don't think that if this happened in December or January that Griner would be suspended through the end of the season, including the NCAA Tournament. (Who knows: Maybe.) But the fact that this happened in March means that Baylor and the Big 12 can't possibly NOT suspend her through the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments. That's, like, all of 8-10 games, which is probably not enough for throwing a full-blown punch on the court.

But the reality is that like LeGarrette Blount, this will migrate from niche sports news to mainstream cable news, and Baylor and the Big 12 won't be able to avoid a month-long suspension, because of the extra scrutiny from the national glare.

Anyway, if it was DeMarcus Cousins, I wonder what would happen. You know that Calipari would want to suspend him for the SEC but not NCAA Tournament (Calipari doesn't care at all about winning the SEC; he only cares about NCAA seeding). I would be curious what the SEC would do, given that Kentucky represents the league's best hope for an NCAA hoops title this season and Cousins is an integral part of that run.

More you'll find in today's column:

*Good for Notre Dame! (See: I don't hate everything about ND. Just Charlie Weis and the football team. As far as hoops is concerned, I totally respect their season-ending run.)

*You all know that even though I dislike Duke, how much I like Jon Scheyer -- arguably the greatest Jewish college basketball player of the past 50 years. But watching Maryland beat Duke last night -- what an atmosphere -- I have to give Greivis Vasquez the nod for ACC Player of the Year ahead of Scheyer. No one saw a Maryland regular-season ACC title coming, and that's in large part due to Vasquez's skill -- and demonstrative sensibility, which I love.

*Kansas beats down K-State: I will be curious to see how universal the attitude is to take Kansas to the Final Four on everyone's bracket. I cannot imagine not giving them 4 wins to start the Tournament. (I learned a painful lesson last year not to overthink myself -- that, and the field looks so top-heavy this year... at least among the Top 3.)

*Kennesaw. This is why conference tournaments are fun -- but truly make a mockery of the regular season. As long as a team does the minimum to qualify for their conference tournament, they can offset an entire season's subpar body of work by simply winning 4 straight games in March. There isn't a major-conference Bubble team that has the same level of pressure as the minor-conference regular-season champ that won't go to the Tournament unless they win their league tournament.

*If you were starting an NBA franchise today, trying to win over the long-term, LeBron would be the obvious No. 1 pick, with Kevin Durant likely being No. 2. But today, I think you can make a strong case that Carmelo Anthony is superior to Durant, and I'm not just saying that because Melo put up 30 to Durant's 19 last night in Denver's rout of OKC. Melo has the better team around him -- for now. But in all the hoopla to celebrate Durant's breakthrough this season (and he deserves it), Anthony is more quietly having his best season ever and affirming himself as a top-tier player at the same level as LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Howard and, yes, KD.

*Anyone want to put Jake Peavy in the Top 5 for 2010 AL Cy Young predictions? I'll do it, lumping him in with Greinke, Sabathia, Lackey and... well, I know I'm forgetting someone. (UPDATE: Cripes, how could I forget King Felix and Cliff Lee?)

Tons more in today's column. Check it out here. And check back for more later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Quickie: Bubble, Tiger, Combine, MLB

I don't think it makes me a bad fan that I think -- as of last night -- that Florida doesn't deserve an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

As I mentioned in today's SN column lead, I recognize that a team's fans are mostly bound to make the affirmative case for their team's NCAA Bubble status -- no matter how tenuous.

I think that's misguided, and ultimately, you're only deluding yourself -- not to mention eroding the Tournament.

From a micro perspective, the question is whether Florida has done enough to get in. Yes, they beat Tennessee a week ago, but they lost at Georgia on Saturday, then at home in a "must-win" to Vandy. They play at Kentucky on Sunday, which I'll consider a moral victory if they don't lose by more than 20. But I have watched this team a lot, and they don't play like a Tournament team. In fact, they play like a team that if they DID get in would lose in Round 1.

At the macro level: Does a Bubble team that loses in the Tournament's 1st round mean the spot was wasted on them? Not quite: Half the teams have to lose in the 1st round... and, in fact, those at-large teams seeded 9-13 are, technically, expected to lose in the 1st round. Still: The question is whether the Tournament is better off having the Nth unsatisfying major-conference team that's going to get bounced before the 1st weekend is over... or the plucky mid-major with more upset/upside potential. If they lose, no harm done; if they win, it's a great story.

It's not about Florida. It's about all those Bubble teams that are limping to the finish or with resumes that are hardly compelling.

In fact, the more provocative point from today's lead is not that I'm down on Florida's NCAA chances -- but that I appear to contradict my long-held idea that the 96-team tournament is superior to the 64-team tournament. If I'm deflated by the weak Bubble teams that get in, how will I feel about adding another 32 teams to that mix?

But the fact is that it's just as much of an indictment against a 64-team field. Forget "Last 4 In" -- the last 12 major-conference at-large teams that will get in are all mediocrities who would surprise me to survive the first weekend. (I'm sure that at least 1 or 2 will get to the Sweet 16; that's just numbers. But let's hope of the 9-14 seeds that get to the Sweet 16, they are from mid-major or minor conferences.)

Then again, the reason the 96-team field works is the same reason, in the end, the 64-team field works -- and it has nothing to do with the teams that make it (or don't). The NCAA Tournament has always been about the format. Whether the Last 4 In include Florida or not, fans will still rush to the bracket in two weeks to pore over it and make picks, then stay glued to the TV two weeks from tomorrow to watch the games -- no matter who is playing.

Is it more fun when YOUR team is in it? Most of the time. But it's really worth asking yourself: Do they honestly deserve it? I'm not saying Florida can't play their way back into me thinking they deserve it -- a win at Kentucky would suffice, thanks, but I'll settle for 2 wins in the SEC Tournament. And, frankly, even if they lose to Kentucky then in the 1st round of the SECs, they may still make it in as an at-large. But we're a long way from back-to-back title squads.

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Championship Week Pick 'Em

Let's get warmed up for the annual Daily Quickie Readers NCAA Tournament pick 'em contest with a Championship Week pick 'em contest. Sign up here. Group name: Daily Quickie Readers.

Advice for About Video

As we are on the subject of the future of sports journalism, PaidContent had an update on's new foray into videos -- besides the cheesecake related to the Swimsuit issue -- and it is an interesting (some might say "must-try" experiment) for them. I would urge them to read this post from Jeff Jarvis about an online-news video success story in SI's backyard.

('s new video unit includes one of the star students in the Entrepreneurial Journalism course that I co-taught with Jarvis at CUNY this past fall: Collin Orcutt. ME Paul Fichtenbaum and new video honcho Ian Orefice would be smart to give Orcutt plenty of room to innovate; he intuitively gets this stuff Jarvis talks about.)

The Future of Sports Journalism?

On Saturday, I will be moderating a panel at this year's MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, founded by Rockets GM Daryl Morey and my HBS classmate (and Patriots executive) Jessica Gelman. I think it has become one of the best sports conferences of the year, and since it was started a couple of years ago, I have wanted to participate in some way.

After bugging both Jess and Daryl, they graciously have allowed me to participate in this year's conference, including a headliner panel ("The Limits of Moneyball: What the Geeks Don't Get") that includes Mark Cuban, Bill Simmons and Bill Polian, moderated by Michael Lewis.

Although I have a massive appreciation and enthusiasm for analytics in sports, I am by no means an expert; however, I was thrilled that they wanted to expand the agenda to include a panel about sports media, a topic that I care about -- although it is questionable whether I am expert anywhere but my own mind.

Still: There we are -- "Future of Sports Journalism" -- capping (rather than, say, "ending") the day's program. It is going head-to-head with "Coaching Analytics" (featuring Nate Silver!) and "Buzzworthy Events." I hope that we can draw a crowd and that the panel holds up to its potential.

It is a great group: Rob King, Editor-in-Chief of; Henry Abbott, founder of TrueHoop on; Howard Beck, national NBA reporter for the New York Times; and Jason Fry, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and now one of the most influential thinkers on the state and fate of news media, sports and otherwise. I get to lead them in the discussion.

I have a couple of ideas about things I want to talk about, but I would really love to get your input on big issues -- particularly related to the perspective of how consumers are... well, consuming. It's my thesis -- and others' too -- that in all the navel-gazing about the news industry, there hasn't been nearly enough focus on the customer. I hope to dig into that.

But I would love to hear the issues related to sports journalism -- the "future" of sports journalism -- that you think are particularly relevant or interesting, particularly as they can be informed by the group that will be talking on the panel.

Sincere thanks for your input.

-- D.S.

(Don't think there's a Webcam on the event, but I presume there will be a Twitter hashtag you can follow. I'll pass that along as soon as I find out. UPDATE: #sloansportsconf)

Quickie: Suh, EA, LeBron, Bubble, More

It's a good morning for some predictions, which lead today's SN column:

*Erin Andrews is going to win Dancing With the Stars. It's totally obvious.

*LeBron will sell more No. 6 jerseys in the final three months of this year than he will in the previous 2 or 3 seasons.

*Julius Peppers AND Darren Sproles to the Redskins? Can totally see it.

*Here was my biggest prediction: In 3 seasons, Ndamukong Suh may be an NFL star... but Sam Bradford won't even be starting.

*I love that the US-Canada hockey game earned an insane audience -- it will NOT carry over to the NHL; this was a once-in-a-couple-generations event in American sports, let alone hockey.

*As usual, I really really want to pick Georgetown to go to the Final Four. As usual, they are making it very difficult on me.

(I was just thinking: To the folks who think that expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams will water it down -- and I couldn't disagree more, because the Tournament has always been about the format, not the talent -- I want them to defend some of these mediocrities that are on the Bubble in the 64-team format. In advance of tonight's Clemson-GA Tech game, I was checking to see where on the Bubble they were, and SN had them both as 8-seeds, which isn't even close to the Bubble. Does anyone think that either Clemson or GT is going to make noise in the Tournament? In fact, if both were 8s, I'd probably pick them both to lose to the 9-seed and not even make it past the 1st day. This is hardly supportive that the current set-up is rigorous. Now, you could make the argument that expanding that only waters things down further, but I'd argue that things are already pretty watered-down, so you might as well add two more rounds, which will only increase fan interest. Again: Most fans don't care about the fact that teams on the periphery aren't all that good; they just want to fill out their bracket and watch close games during the work day. /end digression)

Check out the complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Quickie: Canada, Purdue, Combine, More

"It feels like s--t." I feel for Ryan Miller and his USA Hockey teammates -- and all USA Hockey fans everywhere, both die-hard and fair-weather -- but, as I lead in today's SN column, it is very difficult to begrudge this hockey gold to the Canadians.

But if you want grudging, the rest of the column will make you happy:

*I remain stunned that any self-respecting bracket expert would even consider Purdue a No. 1 seed -- and that was BEFORE they lost to Michigan State. Let's hope people come to their senses and put them where they should be -- around No. 4.

*Before this weekend, I thought my pick of Syracuse to win the national title was safe but not so conventional that I would be out-bracketed by the masses picking either Kansas or Kentucky. But now EVERYONE will be on the Cuse bandwagon. Drat.

*Speaking of KU/UK, those are precisely the kind of losses that should make you tremble as you stick with the chalk on your bracket in two weeks. (Two weeks? TWO WEEKS!) I still don't know what to make of New Mexico. But I really like Xavier (and Richmond, for that matter).

*Yeah, yeah: I'm in the tank for Tebow, but his Combine measurables WERE impressive -- he will enter the NFL as just about the most overall athletic QB in the league, when you factor in speed, size, strength... my only disappointment is that he didn't do the bench press.

(That I'm in the tank for Tebow also influences my criticism about Bradford and Clausen, but I don't think I'm the only one to question that Bradford (a) has a bum shoulder that may or may not stand up to constant pounding from NFL DE's, and (b) played in just as much of a "system" as any QB in the country. Clausen may or may not be good, but is certainly unlikable.)

*Shaq's out for the rest of the season? Shrug. The Lakers win over the Nuggets feels like foreshadowing. More on the Mavs later -- I was at the Mavs-Hawks game on Friday night and have a few thoughts on both teams.

*Yesterday while in Atlanta, I had the chance to play a die-hard Quickie reader (and Morning Quickie regular) in a game of H-O-R-S-E, and if I lost, I owed him a shout-out in the column. Well, I lost -- barely (and I have some embarrassing potential YouTube video to prove it) -- but I neglected to put him in the SN column today, but I'll make it up in a post later today. And perhaps posting the video.

Complete SN column here

It's March, everyone. Full-throttle college hoops from here on out. Isn't that glorious?

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday 02/28 (Very) Quickie

Sorry for the light posting this weekend. I'm in Atlanta and access to the Web is spotty. Unfortunately, I'm flying back during the US-Canada hockey game, but hoping I can track things via in-flight WiFi.

Meanwhile, aside from satisfying a craving for Chik-Fil-A and Waffle House, I got a chance to go to the Hawks game on Friday night. More on that tomorrow, but it was a great game. I had never seen Jason Kidd in person, so the fact that he had a monster triple-double -- not to mention that crazy play where he ran into the Hawks coach -- was fun. I have a lot of thoughts on Josh Smith, coming tomorrow.

The Kansas and Kentucky losses are precisely the kind of late-season results that can mess with your mind, as we all start to think about how to fill out our brackets. I had been sitting on Syracuse as my pick to win it all -- thinking the majority of people would pick KU or UK -- but after yesterday, Syracuse will likely be the popular pick to win it all. (We'll see if the Big East Tournament cools things off.)

On a random note, I cannot believe that people are still listing Purdue as a No. 1 seed -- these "real-time" brackets completely undercut their credibility by not dropping Purdue until they prove that, without Hummel, they are still worthy of a No. 1. Let's wait and see what they do against Michigan State -- or even in the Big Ten tournament. But I stand by Friday's column: Without Hummel, they are -- at best -- a 4-seed. Tournament seeding should reflect late-season injuries.

But, anyway, yesterday was a great day of games -- precisely for the craziness. (I watched the Florida loss to Georgia in UGA country, and it sucked. I don't understand how Florida can beat Tennessee one night, then lose to Georgia the next; actually, that's exactly the profile of a Bubble team that does NOT deserve to get in... if they do, I can't imagine not picking them to get bounced out early.)

I loved that New Mexico win over BYU -- but I have no idea how to value UNM (or BYU, for that matter) against the Tournament field. Are the Lobos a Xavier-style squad that will make a run to the Elite Eight? Or a nouveau riche pretender that will earn a 3-seed only to flame out early, like South Carolina in 1997 (2-seed loss to Coppin State).

Anyway, complete catch-up tomorrow, both in the SN column and here on the blog. The USA-Canada hockey game should be insane -- I was too young for 1980 (as is anyone under the age of 40), and so this is arguably the most interesting or exciting hockey game that I or anyone under the age of 40 can remember. I'm bummed to not be able to watch it live, but hopefully I can follow the live-blogs and tweets about it, then catch extended highlights. That'll teach me to not bring my laptop on the road for the weekend. If I had to make a Quickie jinx prediction, it would be that Canada is going to win -- it is just easier to be fueled by justifiable revenge than it is to find the power to pull a second straight upset over a superior team on its home ice. I didn't think it was possible for otherwise docile Canadians to get insanely fired up, but this would be the moment.

-- D.S.