Saturday, April 02, 2011

Butler Is Back In National Title Game

Premature? Nah... Turns 16 -- well, "" (I've got the swag to prove it) -- launched 16 years ago today: April 2, 1995.

I joined as college basketball editor in the fall of 1996. (I still have the epic cover letter I sent to the original publisher, Geoff Reiss.) That was my first stint. It was unforgettable, hustling with amazing people -- some of whom are still there, many of whom have moved on to other things -- and working on an amazing, media-defining product.

I left for a few years, but I was lucky enough to start writing for Page 2 shortly after it launched in 2000 -- one of my close colleagues from the mid-90s, Kevin Jackson, was Page 2's founding editor -- and a regular spot in the Page 2 rotation turned into a daily, top-of-the-morning column for nearly four years.

I remain a proud and loyal alum and participating both in those formative years -- they were my formative years, too -- and in the post-2000 years of acceleration and experimentation on Page 2 is a professional and personal experience I cherish.

Here's to on its birthday -- and to a great next year ahead.

-- D.S.

04/02 (Final Four) Quickie

Fans are in a tough position tonight: In any other typical Final Four scenario, we'd be rooting for Butler against whoever -- some major-conference team, undoubtedly.

In this Final Four, you'd have to be soulless to root for Butler, if it means that the Bulldogs knock out VCU, currently on a run as the greatest Cinderella in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

For most fans -- and I do think that fans will tune in for the novelty of Cindy-vs-Cindy -- it's a can't-lose proposition: No matter who wins, a fiesty underdog will have a shot at the national title on Monday night against a "power" team, either UConn or Kentucky.

I can't remember a match-up that has left me less uncertain than Butler-VCU. On the one hand, Butler's D should stifle VCU's 3-point shooting; on the other, VCU's press should rankle Butler's poise.

I'm picking Butler. I'm rooting for VCU. I think a lot of fans are with me on that one.


In the second semifinal, I'm taking Kentucky over UConn. Feeling certain about it should be the kiss of death. UConn was projected to run out of gas 7 or 8 games ago. I love the idea of VCU and UConn meeting in the title game -- it's the "hot-team" theory like never before.

But the way Kentucky played in the regionals knocking off Ohio State and UNC -- it's a different team than the one that got torched by UConn at the beginning of the year.

The uncertainty of both Final Four games is a large part of what makes them so amazing. As with everything in this Tournament, anyone who says they know what is going to happen is a fool.


The most interesting thing that happened on baseball's second Opening Day was... the Rangers out-slugging the Red Sox (with the runner-up being Roy Halladay taking the no-decision before the Phillies ultimately pulled off the last-gasp comeback on the hapless Astros).


But, really, it's all about the Final Four today. Let's settle in. And pop by Quickish all evening for real-time analysis from the best sources.

-- D.S.

Friday, April 01, 2011

04/01 (No Foolin') Quickie

I'm not a big fan of April Fool's Day. A guy just sent me a message telling me he loved Quickish and my first thought is: "This could very well be the cruelest April Fool's joke ever."

But, no, he was serious -- and I couldn't appreciate it more. No fooling: Quickish had its best month yet in March (following a best-month-yet in February).

MLB Opening Day: Great for Quickish. The NCAA Tournament: REALLY great for Quickish.

Now we're into April: Amazingly, Quickish doesn't finish its third month until the 9th (because we launched on January 10th). That it's been less than 3 months live is mind-boggling to me.

I wouldn't say that you shift gears in a start-up after some set number of weeks or months. It's not like on March 31, we're doing one thing then on April 1, we're doing another. It's more gradual than that.

But there's no question, I want to take the momentum from the past month -- the past three months, really -- and push the accelerator down. You'll see how that manifests itself in the next few weeks and months as we introduce new programming, new products and new partnerships.

Mainly, I wanted to say thanks to all of you for your support. The insane thing is that things hav been going so fast, I haven't even been able to really lean on you for support -- telling friends, offering tips to the site, etc. Oh, I've sort of leaned on you, but I think it's time to be a bit more shameless about it, don't you?

I'm kidding -- kind of -- but it's been too easy to simply focus on delivering a killer product and not do more to get that product out to as many people as possible.

So the continuation of many requests: Please check out Quickish. But, if you're already inclined to visit, please tell friends. Tell them through Facebook. Tell them through Twitter. Tell them in person over beers or over the cubicle wall. We've got to get the word out -- yes: we, including you.

I was reading this typically great post by Joe Posnanski today -- it's up on Quickish at 3 p.m. ET -- about "Day 2" in baseball. How Opening Day gets all the love, but all the meaning of baseball is really in that second day, that second game -- and every day after that.

That's a bit where I feel like Quickish is: Opening Day was the first few months. And now things are going to really get going.

This is Posnanski talking about the legendary Buck O'Neil, who had this "Day 2" philosophy:

"To him, baseball wasn’t about the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day. It was not about irrational hopes that this player might have a career year or that player might suddenly reach his potential or any of that. For Buck, the baseball season was about Day 2 and beyond, and no excuses, and his heartfelt belief that if you put nine good men on the field you could beat anybody."

That about sums it up.

It applies to the Reds winning in the bottom of the 9th yesterday. It applies to Albert Pujols' worst-day-ever, which he will obviously bounce back from immediately. It applies to VCU playing in the Final Four tomorrow (or Butler or Kentucky's freshmen or Kemba Walker).

This has been the hardest three months of my career -- maybe my life. But "hard" in such a good way. I cannot wait to see what the next three months bring, but my feeling about it is pretty simple: Working hard and enthusiastically and -- when you can remember -- having fun, that's all I can ask for. That's all any of us can control.

So let's go get it.

Day 2, folks.

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

03/31 (Opening Day) Quickie

Follow MLB Opening Day coverage on Quickish all day.

I spent yesterday looking at more predictions than I ever thought I'd want to. Of course, the beauty is that short of the Red Sox beating the Phillies in the World Series -- prompting a nails-on-chalkboard chorus of "Toldya!" -- most of these people will be wrong, just as they were wrong when the Giants beat the Rangers in last year's World Series -- an outcome no "expert" predicted.

That said, preseason predictions are a rite of passage -- a way to officially commit to the season ahead. It's a stake in the ground, even if your picks implode (see your NCAA Tournament bracket).

So it's time to add mine to the litany. Add yours in the comments. I'll update throughout the day.

AL: Boston (AL Champ), Chicago, A's (bandwagon!), Yankees (WC)

NL: Phillies (NL Champ), Reds, Dodgers, Braves (WC)

World Series: Red Sox over Phillies. Yawn.

MVP: Adrian Gonzalez (AL); Albert Pujols (NL)
Cy: Jon Lester (AL); Cliff Lee (NL)
Rookie: Jeremy Hellickson (AL); Aroldis Chapman (NL)

My picks are so conventional. Ugh. The good news is that assures that you'll see results entirely different from these. So there's that!

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

03/30 (Cleveland) Quickie

(1) Cavs earn moral victory (and a real one, too): Given that the top contenders -- the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, Lakers -- will eclipse any regular-season games they played against each other (however exciting they might have been) by meeting up decisively in the playoffs, it's a pretty good argument that the Cavs' win over the Heat in Cleveland last night was the most meaningful win -- by any team -- of the 2010-2011 NBA regular-season.

This was a season-maker for the Cavs: They weren't close to sniffing the playoffs. They were humiliated by LeBron, who throttled them in his first return to Cleveland back in December. All the Cavs had left was to salvage their pride with an unlikely win last night. There will be no more meaningful win for any fans in the NBA than Cavs fans got last night. It should offset everything else. It's rare when a single win can do that, but this has always been an exceptional situation.


(2) Fiesta Bowl scandal: I have absolutely no problem with the BCS stripping the Fiesta Bowl of its BCS status. In fact, I think it is the appropriate punishment -- this is the epitome of "lack of institutional control," far more egregious (and arrogant) than anything I've seen from a school that has been cited for violations.

And I'm positive that Jerry Jones will be thrilled to suggest to the BCS cabal that Cowboys Stadium is a perfect insta-replacement to host a BCS-level bowl representing the "Southwest." The BCS might even be able to get Jones to pay an entry fee to get his stadium into the mix, and it's exactly the kind of super-profile event that Jones wants to use his arena for.


(3) The "Frontline"/PBS special on money and March Madness: I'm conflicted about paying college athletes. On the one hand, I think there is a substantial level of compensation already given to the athlete; on the other hand, I think the NCAA has gone well past the boundary between giving athletes an opportunity and exploiting them, particularly as it relates to things like TV rights, merchandise sales and the perpetual license it demands athletes give them for things like video games.

I have yet to see a reasonable plan for paying athletes, and to suggest that every athlete get a few extra bucks every month as a stipend ignores that the best players are getting tens of thousands of dollars (or more) from boosters, runners and agents, anyway. It also ignores that no one will find "one-size-fits-all" payments satisfactory. It also ignores the implications for the non-revenue sports, including women's sports. And, in the end, we're not really talking about paying college athletes -- we're talking about paying the biggest stars in college football and basketball, which is where it gets a bit more complicated.

The ideal solution is that any athlete with professional aspirations skip college and go into a formal pro development pipeline, directly. (The problem is that college football and basketball have become the informal pro development pipelines -- cheap for the pro leagues, revenue-generating for colleges -- and there are no incentives to do what's actually best for the players, which is to direct the ones with pro potential to a system that helps them maximize that potential, which the college system most certainly does not.)

But it's worth noting that any high school senior basketball player who wants to get paid for their one-and-done year -- as well as get actual pro coaching expressly mandated to get you ready for the NBA -- should go straight to the D-League. They will earn approximately $30,000 a year (plus any money they can earn from shoe deals or endorsements) -- is the expectation that paying them for playing in college would yield more?


(4) Should Purdue's Matt Painter jump to Mizzou? It's more money, but it's not a better job -- particularly if he has emotional ties to Purdue. Then again, he was willing to talk to Mizzou, so how devoted to Purdue could he be? If he doesn't leave now, he'll leave eventually. Purdue fans need to consider that.


(5) Cricket World Cup: India vs. Pakistan. To put it in perspective, right now 10 times the number of people around the world are watching this cricket match than watched the Super Bowl last month. 10 TIMES.


MLB Opening Day is tomorrow. Tons of great preview stuff is being released today, and you can find the best of it at Quickish, either in the front-page stream or on the "MLB Preview" stream. More here tomorrow morning.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

03/29 (Interregnum) Quickie

I'm still contemplating the idea that VCU is the greatest Cinderella story -- through the week of the Final Four, at least -- in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

George Mason got there first, but VCU's path was harder -- geometrically harder.

And I can't help but look ahead, even though I know the chances are VCU's run stops Saturday night against Butler:

If VCU wins the national title, it would be the greatest championship in U.S. sports history, displacing even the 1980 "Miracle On Ice."

Jingoism aside, the sheer improbability of VCU's run is what sets it apart from... well, anything we've ever seen.

Yesterday was VCU-heavy (and Final Four-heavy) at Quickish. Give it a look for recommendations to really good analysis and commentary.


CBB All-America team: It is a great reminder that picking this team before the Tournament -- given that the sport is defined by the Tournament -- that Derrick Williams was not a first-team All-American but JaJuan Johnson (a fine player, but no Williams) was. Can't argue with Jimmer, Nolan Smith, Kemba or Sullinger.

CBB Jobs: Matt Painter to Mizzou? That he is even taking a meeting with the Tigers alone should, in theory, spoil his relationship with Purdue fans. He's supposed to be a loyal son of PU, not a head-swiveling mercenary. Mizzou will pay whatever, so really it's up to Painter to decide he wants to stay in West Lafayette. But he already seems to have decided -- by interviewing somewhere else -- that's not good enough.

NFL Draft: Cam Newton is the big story. Pro Football Weekly -- is that even still around? -- released a blistering review of Cam Newton. Forget for a second that PFW, like every NFL media publication or self-styled draftnik, should have no influence over a team's decision. But Cam Newton has always been an acquired taste. So what if a certain critic doesn't like his potential? All that matters is that the team likes his potential. (I'm in the camp that he's going to be a good pro, as long as the coach puts him in a system where he can take advantage of his unique talents.)

NBA: Knicks edge Magic -- I really find the day-to-day EKG for the Knicks to be wearying. The team has no chance of doing anything in the playoffs, now or probably ever. (By "anything," I mean contending for a title. This isn't 1999.) The good news is that the playoffs start in less than three weeks, and we can put the largely inconsequential regular season behind us.

Bonds trial: Kimberly Bell apparently did better than expected -- but what does that even mean?

Ochosoccer: Can't we just appreciate that the guy is even trying?

MLB Opening Day is Thursday: Shallowest Preview Ever coming Thursday morning.

Tons of awesome

Sunday, March 27, 2011

03/28 (VCU!) Quickie

Want a classic Quickie superlative? How about this:

VCU has pulled off the single-greatest run to the Final Four in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

(More than Butler in this very same Tournament? More than George Mason in 2006? More than LSU in 1986?

Yes, yes and yes. And here's why:

Because it was in the "First Four," VCU had to win FIVE games to make this Final Four, rather than the typical four.

It's hard to express what that 5th game means, except to say that every additional game you have to win adds geometric complexity, difficulty and chance for failure to the route.

Then layer in that they had to cap the run by beating 1-seed Kansas -- not just the best team left in the Tournament but one of two teams that the majority of fans gave any chance of winning a title.

George Mason's run was incredible -- the standard-setter. Butler's run to the title game last year was inspiring (but let's remember they were a 5-seed -- hardly an afterthought).

But the unprecedented quality of VCU's run qualifies it as earning the greatest run to the Final Four in the history of college basketball.

And, if they play like they have the past two weeks, the run isn't over yet.

-- D.S.