Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday (Spring Game) Quickie

I've tried to show restraint here about Florida football during the spring practice season, but today is the Gators' spring game, so permit me a bit of obsessiveness:

It is the official start of the John Brantley Era. You may remember him from such posts as "Let John Brantley Start Over Tim Tebow Against LSU."

As a passer, Brantley is mechanically superior to Tebow -- so much so that I think Brantley will emerge next season as Mark Sanchez 2.0: One season of starting, but a sure-fire 1st-round pick.

True freshman Trey Burton plays the "Tim Tebow 2006" role -- the energetic back-up who will likely play a role in short-yardage situations.

Other things to watch for: The WR corps, which will benefit from Brantley's style; the linebackers, who are a wrecking crew; and Mike Gillislee, the talented RB squashed in between Jeff Demps and incoming freshman stud Mack Brown.

It's a gorgeous spring day here in New York -- and in Gainesville.

Couple of things on my radar today:

*Tiger: Still on pace to win.

*No charges against Big Ben?

*Break up the SF Giants!

*No Kobe, no problem -- at least against the T'wolves.

*Did Alex Ovechkin just lock up NHL MVP?

*Buying: David Price for a breakthrough season.

*Not buying: Jimmy Clausen.

Enjoy the day. Probably a lot of Masters-watching. At least keep the windows open...

-- D.S.

Friday, April 09, 2010

04/09 Quickie: Tiger, Stevens, Wells, More

Well, you can see it coming already: Tiger is going to win the Masters.

I guess it should have been obvious that Tiger would make his return and shoot the best 1st-round score at the Masters of his career, to an adoring gallery. Just, to see it happen though...insane. Obviously, it leads today's SN column.

If he is in contention on Sunday afternoon, it really will be the most-watched golf event in history.

More you'll find in today's column:

*Brad Stevens will coach as many of the 12 years' of extension at Butler as he'll get until Indiana inevitably fires Tom Crean and hires Stevens.

*Vernon Wells: Still the worst contract in baseball? (Probably, yes. But still: 4 HR already?)

*When LeBron and Kobe are "resting," their teams are tanking the game. This is just as bad as the Colts resting Peyton in Week 17 -- lot less outrage, though.

*Bulls-Raptors battle for East 8-seed. It's supposed to be this big symbolism for showing Bosh why he should sign with their team, but doesn't everyone know he's going to the Knicks?

*Of the CBB players who declared for the draft yesterday, I'm in an internal battle to figure out which prospect will be a bigger dud in the NBA: Willie Warren or Avery Bradley?

*It cannot possibly surprise you that Tim Tebow is on the cover of EA NCAA Football '11. He's been a lock for that since the 2007 season.

*Speaking of Tebow, Vikings coach Brad Childress is in Gainesville today for an Urban Meyer coaching clinic, so naturally it's time to speculate that the Vikings might take Tebow with the No. 30 pick. Can you imagine Brett Favre and Tim Tebow on the same team? It's the kind of Venn Diagram that would make many fans' heads explode.

More in the column today. All eyes on Tiger. More later and throughout the weekend.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Quickie: Tiger Ad, Kentucky 5, More

That Tiger ad is creepy. But say this for Earl Woods: Even from the grave, he asks better questions and makes more salient points than you'll hear from golf media this week -- and certainly the broadcast teams. Of course, Tiger leads today's SN column.

More you'll find:

*Kentucky sends 5 to NBA Draft: They're all going to go in the Top 20 (possibly Top 15), too, which makes the decisions a no-brainer. (I'll bet Orton goes ahead of Patterson or Bledsoe.)

Between Wall, Turner and Cousins, the Top 3 of the Draft declared yesterday.

*I think it's safe to say that Curtis Granderson is a Yankees fan favorite.

*More impressive milestone: Don Nelson setting the all-time career wins record or the Bobcats making the playoffs for the first time?

*A not-too-far-off comparison between NFL draft prospects and Idol Top 9 (not my analysis, but I approve).

Tons more in the column today. Sorry for the short post. More later.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

04/07 Quickie: UConn, Red Sox, Messi

How can you NOT be impressed by UConn's second straight undefeated national title season? Unprecedented. What made it all the more interesting: That 12-point 1st half against Stanford, the ultimate WTF? moment in sports this year.

That's the lead of today's SN column, which has a lot more:

*Duke wins the game, Brad Stevens wins America.

*How's that "run prevention" strategy working out for the Red Sox?

*Jazz-Thunder was the best game of the year in the NBA.

*Any mock draft that doesn't even acknowledge that Tim Tebow is very likely going to go in the 1st round is intellectually fraudulent.

*Lionel Messi. This is why you need to watch every Argentina game in the World Cup this year.

*Based on my experience watching what Bill Carmody has done going from Princeton to Northwestern, I don't expect much from Steve Donahue. At least he sold high.

*Hank Aaron loves Jason Heyward. Everyone loves Jason Heyward.

*Why would anyone ever expect the Masters broadcasters to talk about Tiger's off-course storyline? If that will bother you, watch with the sound off.

(But it's ludicrous to suggest that people are going to be tuning in to watch everyone else. 90 percent of fans will tune in to find out how Tiger is doing.)

Complete SN column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Daily Quickie Readers Challenge Final

Congrats to N. Jansen, whose "neily27" entry rode Duke's national title to a crushing championship in the 2010 Daily Quickie Readers group of the Tournament Challenge.

Jansen's bracket not only included Duke as the champ, but included Butler (!!!) and West Virginia in the Final Four. ranks Jansen's bracket as the 775th best in the entire field of umpteen million brackets.

Jansen: Email me to claim the coveted prize -- a guest-post on, to be redeemed at your convenience.

As for me, I finished 256th out of 414. My place in the 37th percentile is roughly twice where I finished a year ago, so I presume that qualifies as progress.

Mrs. Quickie finished 22nd overall (3rd among folks who didn't pick Duke as champ) and in the 93rd percentile nationally. (Did I marry well or what?)

President Obama didn't come close to last year's finish in the 80th percentile -- he barely cracked the 50th percentile. Then again, not having any Final Four teams will do that for you.

If you used the National Bracket, things weren't much better -- again, a function of the N.B. being very chalk-heavy. And yet, if I had followed it, I would have finished in the 60th percentile.

In my bracket autopsy of vicious hindsight, I shouldn't have doubted Tom Izzo. I should have doubted Kentucky's freshmen. I had the right idea in the West, taking Butler to the Elite Eight -- if I was sure Onuaku was going to be out, oh what could have been!

And as for Duke, I let blind loathing -- not to mention memories of the past few years' Tournament debacles -- cloud the evidence that was plain from Ken Pomeroy's advanced stats: Duke had the best combination of offense and defense in the country, by a wide margin.

I always stumble in the same way: I allow myself to be too influenced by what happened last year. So, naturally, next year I won't doubt Duke, and they'll go back to losing. Or I'll take Butler all the way, only to have them stumble early as a 1- or 2-seed.

The only constant -- besides my wife kicking my ass -- is that I continue to talk myself into dumb choices. After last season's debacle, this season I figured I would go "safe," and it totally backfired. I don't know where I go from here.

But, as always, I appreciate all of you joining me in bracket madness. This was as fun -- and unpredictable -- a year as we could have asked for.

Next year: 96. Maybe that will be my format....

-- D.S.

04/06 Quickie: Duke, Butler, MLB Openers

Anyone else think that Gordon Hayward's half-court shot was going in? I did.

It was the most memorable missed shot in the history of basketball, capping one of the best championship games in the history of college hoops.

I really thought it was going in.

Not to diminish Duke -- although that's the popular sentiment -- but when we look back at the 2010 Tournament, the first thing to come to mind will be Butler.

That's not to say Duke wasn't as worthy of a champ as any team this season. They had the best combination of offense and defense in the country this season -- and, unlike other would-be contenders like Kansas or Kentucky, didn't choke early.

I might even say that this Duke team was relatively likeable -- I said "relatively." But for whatever reason, this group was OK. (It might have a little to do with my longtime sympathy for Jon Scheyer, but it probably goes beyond that. The way they won -- yeah, including a few iffy calls -- earned our respect, even if it was paired with crushing disappointment that Butler didn't pull it off.)

Here's the crazy part: Butler will surely miss Veazey (and Jukes!), but they will be even better next season. Is it so crazy, based on this Tournament run, to install them as the No. 1 team in the country next year? Hardly. Certainly no crazier than me making Boise State my No. 1 team in football for next season, based in large part by the way they performed last season (and that they return almost everyone).

And so the college hoops season is over -- and, with it, the 65-team era of the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, I'm not as averse to the change as many many others, but it will be a change. This was a good way for this era to end.

(By the way, I really enjoyed the Jennifer Hudson version of One Shining Moment, but it was appalling that CBS included multiple shots of Hudson herself in the montage. Whose idea was that? If hers, CBS should have passed; if CBS's, someone should be demoted.)

Tons in the SN column today: MLB Opening Day (J-Hey! Pujols! Halladay! Buehrle!), Tiger press conference, UConn women preview. For a Tebow-Nike reaction, click here.

More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 05, 2010

2010 MLB Predictions and Picks

2010 MLB Predictions and Picks:

World Series Champ: Red Sox over Phillies

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
AL Wild Card: Red Sox
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
AL Rookie: Brian Matusz

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Rockies
NL Wild Card: Braves
NLCS: Phillies over Cardinals
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL Cy: Roy Halladay
NL Rookie: Jason Heyward/Stephen Strasburg

My Favorite Storylines:
*Roy Halladay on the Phillies
*Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward
*Rays trying to crash AL East lockdown
*Can Greinke repeat his '09 season?
*I obviously don't buy the Mariners, though I want to.
*Bigger AL X-Factor: John Lackey or Jake Peavy?
(I know I'm missing something...)

Baseball books I'm reading right now:
"Are We Winning?" by Will Leitch (out in May)
"Mint Condition" by Dave Jamieson (out now)

Season Highlight:
I will be taking my older son to his first MLB game in mid-July: Cubs-Phillies at Wrigley Field. Can't wait for that.

Let's get your predictions in the Comments -- playoff picks, award-winners and your favorite storylines for the season.

-- D.S.

04/05 Quickie: Butler, McNabb, Tiger, MLB

Wow: When MLB Opening Day is the FOURTH-biggest story of the day, it's a loaded day.

*Butler-Duke: Rooting for Butler, lamentably picking Duke. But in today's SN column, I argue that Butler will have historical resonance on its side, meaning: Even if Duke wins, we will remember this Butler team for its run to the title game.

(This is pretty rare in sports. In college hoops, I think Duke was involved in one of the other instances of this: 1992, when we remember the Fab Five -- national runners-up -- more than we do the Duke team that beat them. Obviously, we remember that Duke team won back-to-back titles, but the '92 season was defined by the Fab Five, even in ultimate defeat. UPDATE: Great comment that it was the '93 Michigan team that may have been better remembered than the '92 version, although I'm partial to the whole "freshmen" angle. But yes: '92 was Duke-Kentucky.)

*McNabb traded to the Redskins: Despite growing up in DC, I'm not a Skins fan. And while Philly sports fans are slightly more tolerable than Boston sports fans, that doesn't mean they engender my support. If you're like me, you can enjoy both fan bases not knowing HOW to react right now. (Ironically, I kind of like Donovan McNabb, going back to his days at Syracuse. Hope he finds success in DC -- best-case scenario, he has a Favrian renaissance.)

*Tiger meets media at the Masters: First, Augusta National -- and Team Tiger -- will ensure that he gets treated nicely by the media today. Not sure that's necessary, because -- second -- the mainstream sports media has always wanted to gush about Tiger and brush off his scandal. The media event will be a frenzy because it's Tiger, but I don't have high expectations. Augusta Nat'l is going to go back to the old blockade strategy for Tiger.

*MLB Opening Day: The 4th story of the day? Really? This deserves to have its own spot at the top -- maybe during the day, it will get all the attention because of the day games that are in play. I completely mis-timed doing my MLB preview in the SN column, so I'm going to post my MLB predictions and picks here at around 11:00 or 11:30 this morning.

I'll give a preview: The team I pick to win the World Series is the team that won last night. But among today's storylines, the debut of Halladay as a Phillie and the debut of Heyward as a Brave are the ones I have my eye on.

Oh, and the UConn women are about to finalize themselves as the greatest team in women's college basketball history -- and one of the great teams in sports history, period. They won their Final Four game by 20 -- and it felt close.

Complete SN column here. More later this morning.

-- D.S.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sunday (Butler) Quickie

Let's start with this: Mrs. Quickie is currently 5th out of more than 400 entries in the Daily Quickie Readers group. Now, she'll get passed by dozens if Duke wins. But if Butler wins, she will have a Top 5 finish in the pool this year. That's amazing.

More coming tomorrow, but my general thesis is that -- at this point -- Butler wins, no matter what happens on Monday night.

In this case, if Butler loses, they will still be the team/story we all remember from the 2010 season. If Butler wins... well, it would arguably be the biggest championship story in college sports history (and on the short list for all sports, all time).

That said: I don't think Butler will win. Make no mistake: I am ROOTING for Butler. But as good as their defense is, their offense last night against MSU was impotent. I'll credit MSU's defense to some extent, but....

Duke, meanwhile, carved up a very good, very physical West Virginia defense, while stifling the 'Eers with their own D. This Duke team is VERY good, and I think they match up particularly well with Butler.

You all know I'm a Duke hater; regardless, this team looks like a champion. (Which will make it all the more awesome if Butler can pull off the upset -- but it would be a huge upset.)

For all the Butler drama, the most riveting moment of the night was Bob Huggins hovering over the fallen Da'Sean Butler, faces just inches apart, with Huggins stroking the cheek of the inconsolable Butler.

In one image, it became the defining moment of Bob Huggins' career. I have never been a Huggins fan, but that moment displayed a level of coaching empathy you NEVER see publicly.

More (very briefly):

Yankees-Red Sox open MLB season tonight: Holler at me when the NCAA Tournament is over tomorrow night, then I'll be ready to engage fully in baseball.

Thunder clinch playoff spot: It is one of the most dramatic leaps in recent NBA history.

Happy Easter, to those of you celebrating. I will have a Cadbury Creme Egg (or few) to celebrate on your behalf.

-- D.S.