Friday, March 23, 2012

03/23 (Elite Eight) Quickie

You'll have to excuse me -- I'm busy reveling in Florida's largely unexpected run to the Elite Eight.

I knew the Gators had the potential to do it. Marquette seemed like the kind of team that would give Florida fits -- and, despite being forced into quite a few misses, Florida handled them easily.

Now regional 1-seed Michigan State has been dispatched and it's Billy Donovan vs. his mentor Rick Pitino for a spot in the Final Four -- 25 years after they paired up for Providence's Final Four run that put both of them on the map nationally. Should be a fun one.

(A quick aside about fabulous Florida freshman Bradley Beal: I have been watching Florida closely as a die-hard fan for more than 10 years -- and was certainly very familiar with the program before that -- and it is pretty clear that Beal is the best player to ever suit up for the program. Now that his 3s are dropping reliably, he is the most complete player in college hoops -- he can shoot, his defense is tremendous, he rebounds better than any guard in the country, he is supremely athletic and, best of all, he has as high of a basketball IQ as anyone I've seen. And he is not even 19 yet. Don't be surprised when Beal emerges as the clear No. 2 talent of the 2012 NBA Draft behind Anthony Davis. Questions about Beal's size -- he is probably somewhere between 6-3 and 6-4, on the small side for an NBA 2-guard -- should be mitigated by how big he plays. If you watch him on the court, you would swear he is 6-6 or 6-7.)

Meanwhile, kudos to Louisville for KO'ing a Michigan State team everyone assumed would be advancing. Louisville's defense was phenomenal.

On the other side of the bracket, it's chalky in the East: Syracuse vs. Ohio State, a match-up of two very good defenses and two OK offenses. It is a testament to how good Syracuse is that even without Fab Melo, they should be considered the favorites to beat the Buckeyes tomorrow night. (Although they will never miss him as much as they will when trying to stop Jared Sullinger inside.)

Tonight in the Sweet 16: Kentucky has four games left to claim what should be theirs, and the easiest step of all of them will be wreaking vengeance on an Indiana team that gave Kentucky its only loss of the regular season... In the other South regional semi, if Baylor can shoot like it did last weekend, Xavier won't have a chance to pull another upset. Kentucky-Baylor on Sunday would be a fun one, with a half-dozen (or more) NBA first-round picks on the floor.

In the Midwest: No Kendall Marshall for UNC, which would be a problem against any other team in the Sweet 16 except Ohio.... Based on the close call against Purdue, Kansas could absolutely lose to NC State (particularly if they are looking ahead to playing UNC without or with a very limited Marshall); KU muscles through, setting up the regional final we all wanted to see (and predicted we'd see).

How's your bracket? I'm still hovering around the 50th percentile. The bracket I filled out for my 3-week-old daughter is in the 97th percentile. The bracket my five-year-old filled out himself is in the 87th percentile. He gets to write the Wall Street Journal column next year.


*Tim Tebow takes New York, cont'd: The trade was delayed (again), but this is still happening. The major media meme is that this is going to be bad for the Jets. I'll just go back to the idea that every time the media has proclaimed something limiting about Tebow or the Tebow phenomenon, it has been wrong, often diametrically. So I'll say it's going to be great for the Jets. Whatever the most absurd scenario is (short of winning the Super Bowl), I'll take that.

*Pat Robertson thinks God will strike down Peyton Manning because the Broncos screwed around with Tebow: Are we really paying attention to this? Ironically, if Robertson had simply said "Why is everyone making an assumption that Manning's neck will hold up to being battered by defensive ends intent on hurting him?" he would have been fine.

*Andrew Luck's Pro Day: Throwing to his receivers on his home field in a choreographed pattern he had been practicing for weeks, he looked... amazing! Well, naturally. The fact is Luck remains the No. 1 talent of the draft and the most can't-miss QB prospect in a generation (as is Robert Griffin III, which is its own fascinating sub-plot). Colts fans will be thrilled.

*Chipper Jones will retire at the end of the season: He's a Hall of Famer, sure, but it strikes me as a bit disingenuous that HOF voters would come out so strongly for Jones but keep Jeff Bagwell at arm's length. They have the same level of confirmed PED usage -- which is to say: Zilch.

Great weekend of hoops ahead. Hope your brackets stay solid.

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

03/22 (Tebow and Jets) Quickie

Tim Tebow on the Jets is going to be insane. Tim Tebow anywhere is already insane. Now add New York.

I think Jets fans (and New York media) have no idea what's coming. They think they do, but they don't. It's so much bigger than they think. Tebow is better than they think. The impact he has on the game and his teammates is bigger than they think. After three-plus years of covering Tebow for, I can assure you: It's ALWAYS bigger than you think.

Just wait for that first touchdown in Week 1 -- the Jets fans will come around quickly. This is what happens. I think he'll be starting by midseason, either because Sanchez implodes or gets injured.

Tebow's success is self-created, up to a point. But I go back to a familiar refrain: He needs a coach brilliant enough and ballsy enough to create innovative schemes around him -- schemes that the league hasn't seen before and very well might change the game.

The Denver Post's Mike Klis had a tweet last night that the Jets should go for two after EVERY touchdown, letting Tebow manage the conversion. Even if they only make it 3 out of 4 times, that is 6 points versus 4 points -- for a team and in a league where every point counts.

Would that be innovative enough for Rex Ryan? Exploiting an arbitrage between tightly held NFL conventional wisdom about kicking extra points and the expected value of going for two every time when you have the ultimate "going for two" player? Changing how the game is played? Winning games based on an undervalued edge? This is the essence of Moneyball.

And so, yes, the Page 6 stuff is going to be bananas. The Post and the Daily News and SNY and WFAN and and everyone else are going to see audience surges like they have never seen before. The team is going to be the NFL's biggest story, and nothing else even comes close.

But it's not simply that the Jets have acquired Tim Tebow. It's HOW they'll use him. That is the really interesting part.

BTW: Like other Tebow fans, as of yesterday, I am no longer a Broncos fan and am now a Jets fan. I'm sure the die-hard Jets fan nation are thrilled to hear it.


*NFL crushes the Saints: Star coach Sean Payton is suspended for the year. GM Mickey Loomis is suspended for nearly half the season (but none of the offseason, which sort of defeats the purpose). In any other industry, that kind of punishment would be accompanied by their termination by a self-respecting owner. But Tom Benson will ride it out; 2012 will be a lost season.

(Gregg Williams won't be so lucky. He is suspended "indefinitely," which means that his NFL career is all but over; the Rams might want to keep him around -- but, really, though: why? -- but I suspect the suspension comes with a back-channel warning from the NFL that the guy isn't to be employed by a team ever again.) Player suspensions pending.

*Oh, and today is the first half of the Sweet 16 regional semifinals in the NCAA Tournament. It's kind of a shame those have been drowned out by the Peyton-Tebow-Saints news this week. I'm picking Wisconsin over Syracuse and Ohio State over Cincinnati in the East. In the West, I'm taking Michigan State over Louisville -- Tom Izzo is just too good in games like this -- and Florida over Marquette, which is, by far, the best game of the night and by no means one I feel comfortable picking the Gators in. Let's revise that: I think Marquette has a really really good chance of winning, but I'm obviously rooting for UF. (The story of the night, obviously, would be if either of the 1-seeds lost.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

03/21 (Where's Tebow?) Quickie

And so we have moved from "Peyton Manning to the Broncos!" and "The Broncos are going to trade Tim Tebow!" to... "Where is Tim Tebow going?"

There's a case for the Jaguars, obviously.
There's a case for the Patriots.
The Packers were rumored to be involved.
In a late-breaking development Tuesday, the Jets are reportedly interested.
I wrote a five-point analysis for the Washington Post of why the Redskins should trade for him.

Deadspin did the heavy lifting and found an appeal for Tebow from every team in the league.

Tebow is already an object of omni-media fascination -- this is another level, like the week leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft x 100.

I think the Jaguars owner will ultimately step in and -- ahem -- insist to his GM that the team import the local star.

As I have since around 2007, I think that the Patriots are the best fit for him -- you have to lose your presumption that the only role Tebow can or would play is full-time starting QB. (Of course, I don't see John Elway trading Tebow to a bonafide rival for the AFC title. Elway may not think much of Tebow as his starting QB, but he surely can visualize Bill Belichick unleashing Tebow in a playoff game against the Broncos in a way that punishes Elway severely.)

And yet I heard about that Jets rumor tonight and realized that -- yes -- it would be just perfect that mere months after I leave New York City, Tebow would come to town. The dumb part is that we can all see it coming that Tebow would displace Mark Sanchez, even with all that money that the Jets stupidly just gave him.

I'd say we're anywhere from a few hours to 72 hours from a conclusion here. And part of the excitement is that no one can really say where he's going to end up. Think what you want about Tebow as a starting QB -- you can't deny the popular appeal of the story.

-- D.S.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Peyton Picks Broncos; Whither Tebow?

I don't have much to say about Peyton Manning picking the Broncos except for:

(1) "If Peyton can stay healthy..." is the biggest "if" in sports history.

(2) John Elway (and John Fox) never wanted Tebow. They are doubly thrilled, not just to get Manning but to get rid of Tebow.

(3) I enjoyed my two years of being a Broncos fan. Feel fine about moving on.

Now, I do have a fair bit to say about "What next for Tebow?", given that the Broncos are going to (try to) trade him. I noted these on Twitter:

(1) Best fit for Tebow: Team with a coach clever/confident enough to use him in innovative ways (maybe as QB, but not necessarily/exclusively).

(2) That's not necessarily the best fit for the Broncos. No way Elway trades Tebow to Belichick so TT can play uberback & score 12 TDs a year.

(3) Last thing: Unclear why everyone assumes Tebow would demand to play QB. He lined up as a WR in Week 3. He'll do whatever his team needs.

More later.

-- D.S.

03/19 (Sweet 16) Quickie

"How's your bracket?" It's the question of the day. As the NCAA Tournament hits the end of its first of three acts, I'm barely (but still barely!) over the 50th percentile.

By comparison, President Obama's bracket is in the 99th percentile (although he has already lost one of his Final Four teams, Mizzou). My 2-week-old daughter's bracket is in the 98th percentile.

It is a testament to the lack of drama in the tournament's first weekend that the biggest story as we hit the Sweet 16 is Kendall Marshall's injured wrist, which probably has derailed UNC's shot at a national championship -- and probably even a Final Four. The injury is that questionable and Marshall's value to the Tar Heels is that integral.

It probably doesn't matter -- it is hard to see any team stopping Kentucky, and if the Wildcats do fulfill every expectation and win the championship, that's what we'll remember, along with Friday night's epic pair of "15 over 2" wins.

I don't feel badly for Lehigh and Norfolk State getting bounced out of the tournament yesterday; their place in college hoops history is secure and forever -- we will remember those two wins more than whoever ends up runners-up in the Final Four.

Otherwise, the Sweet 16 is dominated by Marshall's injury, Kentucky's dominance, the unprecedented presence of four teams from the same state (Ohio, Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati) and the idea that -- excluding Kentucky, which is going to throttle Indiana -- at least one 1-seed won't make it through the weekend (maybe UNC, but almost certainly Syracuse).

I'm not going to lament the absence of buzzer-beaters, which is a big reason we all plug in for twelve hours at a stretch. Just remember that feeling as Lehigh was knocking off Duke on Friday night -- that should be more than enough to sustain you through the end of the week.


*What will Peyton Manning decide? Titans if he wants to feel close to home... Broncos if he wants to make the playoffs from the AFC... 49ers if he wants the best shot to win a Super Bowl.

*Seahawks sign Matt Flynn: Yes, it's a risk, but a calculated one -- Seattle wasn't getting a better QB through the draft and needed a solid prospect to build on. (The Dolphins though? Yeesh.)

*What about Alex Smith? He's the odd-QB-out if Peyton ends up in SF, but if Manning spurns the 49ers, they could absolutely bring back Smith -- it's the best situation for him, pride aside.

*Derek Fisher jumping to the Thunder? Yes, please. Especially if it includes a playoff match-up with the Lakers.

*Madoff trustee settles with Mets' Wilpons for $162M: The Wilpons had to do it -- it's probably low enough they don't have to sell the Mets, but it sure doesn't help. (Except that it puts this lawsuit behind them.)

*Women's tournament: You've GOT to try to catch Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, who is arguably -- pound for pound -- the most talented basketball player on the planet right now.

Lots going on at Quickish -- pop by and scroll down to catch up on some of the best of the weekend. It'll only take you about 60 seconds, and it's got some great nuggets in there.

-- D.S.