Sunday, October 28, 2012

10/28 (ND! SF! Harden!) Quickie

Plenty to talk about...

*Notre Dame. It's almost a "'Nuff said" scenario.

Any lingering skepticism about their other wins -- and I had some -- is gone. If Kansas State was getting max credit for winning at Oklahoma as "Single-Best Win of the Year," then what do you give a team that won at Oklahoma in even more impressive fashion?

Spoiler alert: You make them No. 2 in the country, as Notre Dame deserves to be. There are four teams left with a realistic shot at playing for the national title: Alabama-LSU winner, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon. And all four could conceivably go unbeaten.

Honestly? Oregon is probably the second-best team in the country, but USC's loss at Arizona yesterday makes the Ducks' tepid strength of schedule even more flimsy. Let's go back to the old idea: It seems unfair to punish them for it, but you can't reward Oregon for playing a patsy schedule.

(Let's remember what happened last year when they tried to boost their schedule strength by playing an elite SEC team -- they got walloped. This year's Oregon team is better -- but how much better?)

But let's not diminish the larger point: Notre Dame deserves to be part of that uber-elite group.

*Giants up 3-0 on Tigers in W.S.: It will be under-appreciated because the series will end in a sweep or maybe 5 games, but this is a wonderful Giants team every bit worthy of the championship it is about to claim.

(And I can't help but make this personal about the Nats and the Strasburg Shut-Down: The 2012 Giants are a pretty good example of why you can never take it for granted that you can simply make the playoffs again, let alone win a championship once you get there.)

*NBA Blockbuster: Thunder trade Harden to Rockets. OKC was never going to pay Harden what he wanted (or what he could command) -- a max deal. It is unreasonable to ask him to accept a huge haircut to keep the core together.

And so the Thunder shipped him to Houston for Kevin Martin -- a nice complement for the OKC Big Three, if not nearly the dynamic presence Harden was -- and Jeremy Lamb (a decent prospect) and a slew of picks, which is, if nothing else, "The Thunder Way."

I would argue that the Thunder are no longer on par with the NBA's super-elite, but the cynic would note that it's not like Harden showed up in the NBA Finals a year ago anyway. But chemistry is an interesting thing.

Meanwhile, the Rockets get something they have lusted after for years: A franchise player. The Lin-Harden backcourt is very strong, although hardly a championship contender. But at the very least, they have a go-to star (and go-to scorer).

*CFB Hangover: The tragedy of Marcus Lattimore. I'm sick to my stomach about his season-ending (and possibly/probably career-ending) injury. This is why I am so adamantly against the NFL Draft age minimum -- Lattimore would have been a 1st-round pick had he been able to enter the league after his marvelous freshman season. But mandated to stay in college, he had a serious knee injury last year and a devastating one this year.

If I'm star soph teammate Jadaveon Clowney, why would I play next season at South Carolina when I could spend the year training for the NFL Draft (and NFL) -- as if Clowney playing 13 more games next year (more accurately: putting his pro career at risk for 13 more games next year) would raise his stock higher than the Top 5 lock he is now?

*Florida loses to Georgia: Yes, I'm bitterly disappointed. The only consolation is that it goes hand-in-hand with expecting your team to win championships, a glorious feeling I hadn't had about this Florida team since halfway through Urban's final season in Gainesville. "Win or Fail" is brutal, but that's what I signed up for.

UPDATE: This week's poll -- with ND at No. 2, as foreshadowed above.
-- D.S.

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