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Monday, March 26, 2012

Free Agency Round Up

Well, once again, free agency and trades have shook up the prognosis for the Draft.  This is why I always chuckle when I put together that first Mock Draft of the season.

What a great off-season it has already been this year!  So, before I write up Mock Draft #2, let's take a quick look at some of the free agency moves that will have an effect on what we thought was going to happen in this April's draft.  I know Free Agency is not done, but the majority of the moves are done and for the life of me, I couldn't come up with a pending free agent that got me all that excited.

Peyton to the Broncos: This was the huge blinking neon sign hanging over this off-season.  Who had a chance at him?  How much does his body have left?  What will it mean to the draft?  Well, what it meant is Tebow is out, putting him in New York with LinSanity and Rex.  The OVER on ESPN imploding in on itself due to the conflicts pet story lines?  2.5 weeks.

Oh, and Eddie Royal has to feel like an idiot.  I get not wanting to play with Tim Tebow when you aren't the guy who just runs straight downfield, and there is nothing wrong with playing with Phillip Rivers, especially since they all of a sudden have a gap where their #1 receiver used to be.  But, Peyton is Peyton.

Mario Williams to the Bills: All of a sudden the Bills have something going on, at least on paper.  Williams signs and Mark Anderson jumps over from the Pats.  Put them around Marcel Dareus and you have a line.  Seriously, take a look at their front 7 and tell me that QB's are going to look forward to traveling to Buffalo this season.  They are so loaded, that they are trying to decide if Shawn Merriman should try to be a DE or an OLB.  That is a good problem to have.  Just imagine, if Light's Out can play like any semblance of himself, the fun they could have moving the 2 of them around the formation.

Kamerion Wimbley to the Titans: This doesn't look like a huge move for the Titans, bringing in the solid veteran Wimbley.  However, the Titans were in pretty dire need of a pass rush and this should alleviate that.  Wimbley came into the league as a pass rushing 4-3 DE out of Florida State and he should be a leader for the Titans this year.  This will allow them to focus on getting value rather than need, which is always a better way to draft.

Aaron Ross to the Jaguars: I love this move for the Jags and hate it for the Giants.  Ross somewhat underachieved in New York but he is a legit starting corner with very good size.  What this does it put a little pressure on the Giants to find a corner as having Ross behind Terrell Thomas was an ace in the hole for their defense.  What it does for the Jags is remove the urgency to draft a corner which leaves them open to fill some other needs.

Matt Flynn to the Seahawks: This was a great move.  They have set themselves up for a great QB battle which will either improve up Tavaris Jackson, or drive him to improve himself.  The cost was reasonable and it really is a win-win for this franchise.  It really does meet with Pete Carroll's M.O. too.  Always Competing.

David Garrard comes back to the NFL and to the Dolphins: This is a mystery.  Noone knows if Garrard can start in this league, or if the signed him so he can backup and they are going with Matt Moore.  Or, is this just a roster filler in case they can't get one of the guys they are targeting in the draft.  They are widely linked to Ryan Tannehill due to their OC Mike Sherman having been his coach is A&M, but he may not be the right move or available when they are drafting. 

Reggie Wayne stays in Indy: A lot of people were expecting Reggie to follow Peyton wherever he went, which would have made sense from a football POV.  He didn't, he stayed loyal to the only city he's known as a pro.  So, what does that mean?  Well, the Colts have a go-to for Andrew Luck, which could be huge for his development.  And the Broncos are going to have to make moves to find skill position players for Peyton to throw to. 

Vincent Jackson, Carl Hicks, and Eric Wright to the Buccaneers: These were perfect moves for the Bucs.  They shored up their front line, which will only help their power running game.  They got Freeman the #1 Receiver he has never had, and they got a corner to take Aqib Talib's spot while he is in jail.  They still have needs, but these were great moves.

Brandon Marshall to the Bears: For any other team this would be a bit of a head-scratcher.  However, this risk makes sense for the Bears.  Jay Cutler and Marshall were great together in Denver and they seem to understand each other.  Combine that with the Bears badly needing a #1 kind of threat at Wide Receiver and this risk makes sense.

Cortland Finnegan to the Rams: Anytime the Rams can get a solid veteran player, especially one with some tread left on the tires, it's a good move.  Locking Finnegan up like they did to be the anchor of their secondary was a move you have to love.

Randy Moss is back in the league too with the Niners: The interesting part here will be to see if picking up Moss and Manningham is enough that the Niners won't be looking at the top receivers in this draft.  How much does Randy have left?  Best case, defenses will have to respect the deep ball now, which will open up running lanes.  Worst case, Moss pouts for playing in a run-first offense and disentegrates...again.

I guess that's why Manningham is there too.

Jason Campbell to the Bears to backup Cutler: Why is this an important move you ask? Have you seen the Bears' Offensive Line I ask?  They are focused on fixing it, or they should be, but until they have that done, they better have a backup who can play.

Perrish Cox dodges prison (note that I did not say jail) and is back in the league with San Fran: I know some Bronco fans who are just horrified by this.  There was no way he was going to be out of the league.  He was not convicted and is a talented cornerback who has several years left to play, if he can stay out of trouble.  As for the draft, the Niners were a bit old at corner, so this is a nice move to bridge them to whatever their future is in their secondary.  Oh, and they just sold their collective soul.

Robert Gallery to the Pats: How does the rest of the NFL let this keep happening.  Mark my words.  Gallery will go to the Pro Bowl while playing for the Patriots.

Peyton Hillis to the Chiefs: I really love the moves that the Chiefs have been making this off-season.  Peyton Hillis is a fullback with the skills to be a lead tailback, oh and he can actually block too.  This give the Chiefs a 1-2 punch with the big back they needed for the red-zone and gives them great depth.  Oh, and I am betting Hillis might be able to get up to play the fighting Peyton's twice a year.

DeSean Jackson gets his contract to stay in Philly: This is a huge move for the Eagles.  Without him, they have a nice offense.  With him, they are lightning in a bottle.  If he had been on the way out, Wide Receiver would have been a require move this april.  With him, they can truly go Best Available.

Martellus Bennett to the Giants: The G-Men lost both of their Tight End's to knee injuries.  Chances are that at least one of them will be slowed for a portion of the season.  Bennett is a great receiving tight end which should be a good fit in New York.

Brandon Carr to the Cowboys: How many years have the Cowboys been trying to fix their secondary?  Carr will be their new #1 from day one, replacing the quickly aging Terrence Newman.

Eric Winston to the Chiefs: See Brandon Carr comments and swap positions and you have Eric Winston.  The Chiefs suddenly have a fairly young and talented O-Line with no apparent gaps.  This team is well-positioned to make some moves on offense this year and their defense looked to be coming into it's own last year.  Payton chose the wrong team.

Eddie Royal to the Chargers: Huge for the Chargers because they lost Vincent Jackson.  Huge for Eddie because he has a chance to be a #1 and I think he has the talent to do it, though he may live in the slot.  Huge for the Broncos because they now have 1 healthy starting receiver left from last year.  Oops, maybe they should have told Eddie that they were going to make a run at Payton.  I mean hell, would you have stayed if you were the slot receiver in an offense with Tebow at the helm?

Brandon Lloyd to the Pats: He revived his career under Josh McDaniel in Denver and the Pats need receivers.  Tom Brady is going to make him look very good.  The important word there is "look".  Lloyd does a lot of things a little better than average, but the best thing he has going for him is that he thinks he's a star and will fight like hell to convince the corner in front of him.  If he can buy into the Patriots' way of doing things, it could be interesting.  And if not, he's always got his music career.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

And so it begins

Ok, we are past the play-in games, which I could have sworn were called the Regular Season, but turns out it's so that the 4 teams that should have been left out get a check too.

Learn something new everyday. 

Anyway, I am not going to waste your time ranting about how stupid I think it was to move up 68 teams.  Such an arbitrary choice and messy implementation.  The issues seem clear, so lets move on now that we have reached the first full day of the tournament.

So, I am going to rank the 16 first round games I am most looking forward to, by my level of interest, and then wax sarcastic for a bit.

1.
WICHITA STATE
vs.
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH

For those of you who don't follow basketball closely or care about mid-major basketball, this just looks like this year's mid-major against the Cinderella from last year.  But if you look back a bit, you will come across a game that took place just over a year ago.  Last February 18th, VCU travelled to Wichita Kansas to play in the ESPN bracket buster series against the Shockers.  It was a tight, physical, game between 2 well coached and deep teams.  VCU's point guard Joey Rodgriguez drew a foul with under a second left, hit the free throws and won the game.  It is widely beleived that the winner of that game was going to the tourney and the loser to the NIT.  The interesting thing about the game is, it didn't just give VCU momentum, it ignited runs for both teams.  We have a final 4 team against the winner of the NIT.  When I first saw this matchup I was angry, seeing it as a cop-out so that the big schools could knock one of these teams not really being worth because they didn't even win a game.  But, I doubt either of these squads, and I know the Shockers for sure, would rather play anyone else.

That said, I now beleive that the big boys didn't do this to protect their conference reputations, they made this happen because they are scared.  And they should be.
2.
NEW MEXICO
vs.
LONG BEACH STATE

This one catches my interest because I want to see who is for real.  My first thought it.....both.  LBSU went all over and put some serious scared into several of the top seeds in the tourney.  They are deep, taleted and experienced.  New Mexico has a star in Drew Gordon who transferred from UCLA to escape the mess that Ben Howland is dealing with.  Both of these are teams that play withour a true center, so it should be an exciting, fast-paced affair. 
3.
CREIGHTON
vs.
ALABAMA

This is a game that I look to for the rest of the country to see that not all of the mid-majors are 'system teams'.  The Creighton Blue Jays have a legit star who was in player of the year talk, and he's a sophomore.  They have the Missouri Valley defensive player of the year inside who transferred from the Big East, and they have a point guard who could start for nearly anyone in the country.  Throw in a handful of quality role players and shooters, and it's no accident that they were ranked much of the year.  Their weakness is defending on the wings.  Luckily for them, Alabama is not really known for it's outside shooting.  That said, Bama is one of the most athletic teams in the country and if Creighton doesn't work at it, they will just rebound and pound them into submission.  This one could be fun, but I have to admit I will be rooting for Creighton.  I really would love to see McDermott match up against his high school teammate Harrison Barnes in the second round.  Seriously, think about that high school team for a second.  2 guys 6'8" who can score with anybody, playing in Ames Iowa. 

4.
GONZAGA
vs.
WEST VIRGINIA


This looks like the classic case of the one man show against the solid team concept.  Kevin Jones is a stud, while Gonzaga has 4 guys who average double figures.  Normally, I would think the Zags a prohibitive favorite, but this game is a near home game for the Moutaineers.  Funny how that happens.  The higher rated, small school, has to go to the big conference team's backyard to play.  Weird...huh


VANDERBILT
vs.
HARVARD


This is easily the highest IQ game in the tournament. 


6.
IOWA STATE
vs.
UCONN


This is the game of misfits.  UConn shouldn't be in after their mid-season collapse and some would say that half of Iowa State shouldn't be allowed to play after their off-court shenanigans.  That said, both teams are redemption stories for some very good players and both teams have very good coaches.  I like UConn because of their size, but you never know which Husky team is going to show up.


7.
MARQUETTE
vs.
BYU


I like the story from Marquette, but every time I saw them this year they were largely underwhelming.  BYU is riding high after their huge comeback to start the tourney off.  I like them to keep it going and think their size will be troublesome for Marquette and good ol' Buzz.  One thing though, about BYU and their vaunted honor code.  Funny how they enforce it when they have Jimmer and think he can carry them through and then forgive and forget when they need  a kid like Davies to have a solid team.


8.
KANSAS STATE
vs.
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI


This is the classic contrast game.  KSU is big and physical.  They are going to smother the boards and make you shoot from outside.  Southern Miss is going to run you to death and shoot from outside.  I really think this will be determined by the style of officiating.  The more physical they are allowed to play, the less likely the Golden Eagles are to have a chance.  That said, over/under on concussions heading back to Hattiesburg is at 2.


9.
NOTRE DAME
vs.
XAVIER


Notre Dame came on late, in conference, after a very poor showing out of conference.  Xavier was slow to recover after their mid-season brawl with Cincy.  These kids should be as mentally tough as you are going to find after finding ways to pull their seasons back from the brink.  There will be no quit in this one.  Some punches...yeah maybe, but not quitting.


10.
MEMPHIS
vs.
SAINT LOUIS


Much like game #8, contast is the name of the game here.  The Tigers average 75 a game, the Billikends less than 70.  Saint Louis has a young coach, Saint Louis' looks like he ate a young coach.  Whoever sets the pace, wins the game.  Saint Louis does not want to run, Memphis plays 9 guys 10 minutes or more a game. 


11.
SAN DIEGO STATE
vs.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE


This is the little team from out west coming to play the Big team from the coast.  And those descriptions are literal.  The Wolfback has 7 players 6'8" or bigger, SDSU has 2.  NC State has to dominate the boards and take away any second chance shots to have a chance against the Aztecs 3 guard attack. 


12.
CINCINNATI
vs.
TEXAS

Texas is between recruiting hauls, but J'Covan Brown is the kind of player who make them forget that for a night.  That said, here is the real trick for the Longhorns to pull this one out.  Give someone some headgear and have them insult Yancy Gates' mother, and/or manhood.  Don't worry, after he is done pummeling your guy, they will kick him out and you will win.  I promise.

13.
SAINT MARY'S
vs.
PURDUE

Saint Mary's has slowly ground it out until they became a top-25 team.  They are there and Matthew Dellavedova is a fun player to watch.  He looks more like a rowdy from the front row than a point guard, but he is the engine that make this train go.  Robbie Hummel, on the other hand, is my hero.

14.
GEORGETOWN
vs.
BELMONT


I want to see Georgetown lose to a double digit seed.....again.

They are consistently overrated.  Maybe noone realizes that this John Thompson is not that John Thompson.  First team to 70 wins.


15.
UNLV
vs.
COLORADO

This should really just be a play-in game for the Pac-12.  Colorado loses and Washington State gets kicked out in favor of UNLV.  Seriously, like soccer, a little promotion demotion can be very motivating.

16.
LOUISVILLE
vs.
DAVIDSON

The Cardinals can't shoot, Davidson's players weren't good enough to play at Louisville.  I hope their coach reminds them of that before the game.  Siva will have a day, but Louisville is an immature team and might just get frustrated by Davidson's hustle and shooting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2012 Bracket, Me vs Them. What did they get wrong?

The brackets are out.

Let the second-guessing commence.

Overall, I have to say that the committee did a better job than they have done in several years.  Just my opinion, but there are no glaring issues to my eye.

But, since someone has to be wrong, me or them, let's get started on where they were wrong /sarcasm.   First, were they right on who got in?

Well, here are the teams that they had in that I would have left out:

UCONN: I love the Huskies, seriously I have been rooting for them for years.  BUT, you should not make the big dance with a losing record in your own conference...period.  Choices like this combine with the automatic bids to continue to devalue the conference seasons.  I disagree with that.  That said, the Huskies were playing awfully well at the end of the season and may be dangerous.

WEST VIRGINIA: The Mountaineers were my second team out, directly after UCONN.  They are not a great team, and they were pretty inconsistent this year.  Also, I am always hesitant when a team only has a .500 record in conference.  The Big East was a solid, but not spectacular league this year, so that was not an overwhelming record.  Not a big beef here, but I had them out.

VIRGINIA: This is the one I don't get.  I had Virginia as my 14th.....yes, FOURTEENTH team out.  They can't score the ball, missed chances to lock up a big late in the season.  And on top of that, a team in the ACC who plays all of those highly regarded teams twice a year should not have a Strength of Schedule above 80.  They need an offense, and they need to go play someone.

Seriously, that's it.  3 teams that I had out that they had in.  And, really one that I had a huge beef with.

Now, on to the teams that I had in that they had out.

DREXEL: Will someone tell me what the Colonial Athletic Association has to do to get some respect?  Has everyone forgot what George Mason and VCU did in the tournament?  This is the CHAMPION of that conference.  16 conference wins.  27 wins overall.  Lost in the title game of the conference tournament.  These guys got screwed.  That said, if they can't get anyone to play them, this is going to keep happening.

MIAMI (Fl.): Miami was a bubble team that got in for me.  They are a terribly athletic team that got better as the year went, knocking off a very good Florida State team late.  They are a much tougher match up than the Virginia team that got in where I think they should have been.

MARSHALL: Marshall had an RPI of 44 against an SOS of 24.  These numbers are supposed to matter.  A run to the conference title game is supposed to matter.  They played a tough schedule, they won a lot of games, and they were hot at the end.  I know you don't think basketball when you think Marshall, but this is a solid team who should have been in.

.........................

Now, for the nitpicking....where were the seeds off.  Now, I am not even going to worry about slots that had delta's of less than 3.

MEMPHIS (-4): Memphis had an RPI of 15 against an SOS of 20.  I felt that I had them set conservatively at a 4.  Dropping them in at a 8 was low.  That said, Saint Louis is a tough match up for them because Memphis wants to run and Saint Louis will control the ball and pace...or try to.

COLORADO STATE (-6): The Rams haven't gotten any respect this year, but they played in a solid conference, played good at the end and had great numbers.  Seriously, did anyone else notice that their RPI was 30 against an SOS of 7.  Yes, the Colorado State rams played the 7th toughest schedule in the country.  I had them at a 5, and admittedly, I do love numbers and may have fallen for those shiny numbers, but an 11 really disrespects them playing a consistently tough schedule.

MISSOURI (+4): I can't beef on this one too much with Missouri winning the Big 12 title, but they really are a one-trick pony.  They will run you out of the gym, but a physical team gives them fits. (See K-State owning them).  They got very lucky with their draw because none of the teams in their part of the region are big inside.

SOUTHERN MISS (-3): Again, and RPI of 20 should have had them at a 5 at lowest.  I went conservative to have them at a 6, but a 9...really?

TEXAS (-3): Meh, I had them at an 8, but it really does depend on which Texas team you think is going to show up.

SOUTH FLORIDA (-3): South Florida is a ball control team, but they looked to be near peaking at the end of the year.  A 12 tells me that they were nearly out of tournament.  I had them at a 9, they are a really physical team who played a tough schedule.

NEW MEXICO (+4): New Mexico slipped late in the year.  They had control of their conference and then lost some games they were expected to win and let some teams catch up.  I don't see them as a top 20 team which is what a 5 tells us.  I had them at a 9.

ST. MARY'S (+3): They were the best team in the WCC, but the Gonzaga is not quite what it used to be.  Not a big beef here with them being a 7 instead of a 10, but I felt like they were falling off at the end of the year.

MURRAY STATE (+4): The press fell in love with the Racers.  I don't get it, but at least the logic was consistent.  Murray State beat St. Mary's so they better be rated ahead of them.

CINCINNATI (+5): Man, the committee does love the Big East.  Cincy was up and down all year long but finished strong in the Big East tourney running to the title game.  To my mind, that put them in the tourney (as an 11), but the committee must have had them in because it pushed them to a 6.

KANSAS STATE (-3): Kansas State is big and tough but they don't score the ball well.  I had them in, but an 8 is high. 


Anyway, I was really let down when I went to write this.  They just did too good a job.

Oh, and for those who had challenged my picks from an earlier post, here are my top 4 seeds for each region.  Have fun.

 EAST:
1. Syracuse
2. Ohio State
3. Louisville
4. Georgetown

MIDWEST:
1. Kentucky
2. Kansas
3. Michigan
4. Wisconsin

SOUTH
1. North Carolina
2. Duke
3. Florida State
4. Memphis

WEST
1. Michigan State
2. Baylor
3. Marquette
4. Vanderbilt

There a lot of potential conference re-matches which I think the committee tries to prevent, but mix and match, I feel good about those seeds.