Bring Me A Frozen Envelope!

It’s somewhat eerie, but the Knicks are back where they were in the spring of 1985. The 1984-85 Knicks had a dynamic scorer who went down to surgery in season and not much else to root for. Those Knicks had a bunch of role players forced into starting roles. But two things are different.

1- The 84-85 Knicks won 24 games, seven more than these Knicks did.

2- The 1985 NBA Draft had one big prize and a big drop off. This draft has at least two prizes and maybe three.

And that’s the key thing for the Knicks and their fans to remember tonight. The Knicks want to win the lottery obviously, but they will be absolutely fine picking second. Personally, I would rather have Towns than Okafor, but Okafor would be a heck of a consolation prize. Even if they picked third, Russell looks like he will be a very, very good NBA guard. The Knicks could live with him.

The problem is, the Knicks have about a 55% chance of picking in the top-3 and that means they have a 45% chance of picking 4th or 5th. (They can’t pick lower than 5th) That’s where what looks like a sure-thing pick turns into more of a guess. That’s where fans will be right to worry about who they pick.

So let’s hope the fix is on tonight like it obviously was thirty years ago.

Wow

A 4-1 lead with under 15 in the third period turned into an absolute nail-biter. I’m still not sure how the Rangers pulled that off, but they did and now they have reached Game 7, which is in their home building. Momentum should be on their side, but considering how thoroughly dominated they were in the final 12 minutes of tonight’s game, I would argue it isn’t.

Game 7’s are incredible, but after 13-straight (13-STRAIGHT) Rangers playoff games decided by one goal, my nerves may not be up to it. Luckily, I have until Wednesday to get my heart rate down again.

We’ve Been Here Before

I take a bit of solace in the fact that the Rangers appeared dead after going down 3-1 against Pittsburgh last year. They overcame that deficit with only one home game. They certainly appear dead again, but this time they have two home games to get to the next round. That should be an advantage.

But, they are simply not playing well. Rick Nash has disappeared, though to be fair most of his teammates have as well. The defense is making too many dumb plays and the offense isn’t doing enough to overcome them.

Yet tonight is Game 5 and I still like their chances. I think they come out and take control of the game. They probably have to hold on tightly in the later stages, but I think they get back to Washington.

That’s when the real challenge will happen.

Four Down Twelve To Go

Let’s take a minute and appreciate what the Rangers did last night. The Rangers have made the conference finals two times in the last three years, but it took them seven games in the first round both times. In fact, it took them seven games in the second round too. That won’t be the case if they advance this year to the conference finals as they have dispatched the Penguins in five.

That could be huge as they will get a chance to rest a bit now. Depending on what happens tonight in Washington, the Rangers may be off until Wednesday. That’s valuable time as it will allow Kevin Klein more time to heal and Matt Zuccarello more time as well. The NHL playoffs are a grind and rest is always a good thing.

And while we wait, I am going to root for the Islanders to beat Washington tonight and Monday. I know it may be sacrilege for a Rangers’ fan to root for the Islanders, but I want to see them face each other in the playoffs again. It happened eight times from 1975 to 1994, but hasn’t happened since then. It’s time to see it again.

One More Win

The Rangers are leading the Penguins 3-1 in their playoff series and heading home for Game 5. It was almost exactly a year ago that Pittsburgh was leading the Rangers 3-1 in a playoff series and heading home for Game 5. It’s important to remember that as the Rangers haven’t won anything yet.

My biggest worry is that the Rangers keep showing up flat. They did it in Game 2 of this series and got beaten and they did it last night, but escaped after a brutal first period. Luckily for the Rangers, Pittsburgh didn’t take full advantage of a team that seemed to be skating in circles for the first 20 minutes. The Rangers somehow emerged from a period where they managed only two shots down 1-0.

I don’t think they will get that lucky again. Pittsburgh has way too much firepower, and if the Rangers come out flat tomorrow they will pay for it. And if they lose Game 5, Pittsburgh gets to go home and play for Game 7. And if they go to Game 7, all bets are off.

What’s Your Favorite Sports Day?

Some of my favorite sports days of the year have happened in the past few months. The opening day of March Madness with 16 games is a personal favorite. Opening Day of the baseball season, especially when it is combined with the end of March Madness like this year, is another. It got me thinking, what other days merit inclusion on this list?

For my list, I am including two rules. First, the day has to be a day. You can’t say the first week of the NFL season for example, or the World Series. Second, it has to be a national event. Patriots’ Day in Boston is cool, but it isn’t really known outside of Boston. Here are a few of my favorites.

Fathers’ Day- You get the final round of the U.S. Open and plenty of baseball.

The NFL conference championships- I prefer these games to the Super Bowl because there are two of them and they are usually better.

Belmont Stakes Day- Often you get a triple crown bid, but even without it you also have a NBA final or NHL final game to watch as well, plus plenty of baseball.

Thanksgiving- Turkey and plenty of football.

New Year’s Day 2015- This was awesome with the college football semis, but the powers that be won’t let us enjoy it again until 2018 because they are dumb.

How about you?

 

Dayton Saves The Day!

Thursday was upset central at the NCAA Tournament. Friday saw favorites dominate the action, winning the first 15 games until Dayton came along and prevented the first-ever 16-for-16 performance from the favorites on a single day since the tournament became a 64-team affair.

The tournament is halfway done from a games played standpoint. The strength and weakness of the opening two days is the proliferation of games. It normally provides some memorable upsets, but individual games often get drowned out in the noise of the overall experience.  Saturday we narrow things down to a more manageable number of games. Some of them should be great.

While it is hard to call UCLA a Cinderella, they are an 11-seed. But, they are facing a 14-seed in UAB in the opening matchup. This will be a lot of fun and enjoy this game because the winner is almost, almost, guaranteed to get destroyed by Kentucky next week.

That’s unless Cincinnati manages to beat Kentucky in Game 2 which would be the greatest second-round upset ever.

#10 Ohio State vs. #2 Arizona tips next and that could be a good game if Ohio State plays like it can.

The coach everyone is rooting for #14 Georgia Southern takes on #6 Xavier an hour later in another great matchup. This will be an enjoyable one.

The 6-0 ACC puts that streak on the line when #8 NC State plays #1 Villanova at 7:10. Wichita State (2014), Gonzaga (2013), Pittsburgh (2011), Kansas (2010) are all recent examples of #1 seeds that lost in the second round. History doesn’t have to repeat itself, but if you were going to pick from a list of Kentucky, Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin to lose in the second round this year, which one would you pick?

The final three games are all 5-4 or 6-3 match ups.

Georgetown meets Utah.

UNC meets Arkansas

Butler meets Notre Dame

While wins by Utah, Arkansas, and Butler would be considered upsets, I don’t think they really are. All three games should be good ones.

I can’t wait.

Tear It Up

Always fun to see the bracket go up in smoke on Day 1, but Iowa State’s loss did just the to me. Interestingly, CBS reports that over 99% of their brackets have one loss or more at this point after 16 games. And since misery loves company, there is also this. (In fairness, I hadn’t read his original article. This mistake was all my own.)

What have I learned? When you think a conference is mediocre, like I did with the Big-12, watch out. I’m curious to see how far that mediocrity can sink in that conference. Could Kansas lose today to a #15 seed? That’s the real fun of March Madness.

Let’s Dance- Part 2

Well the brackets are out, and I like my ten picks from yesterday, with the exception of Butler and Kansas. They were placed in the same bracket as Kentucky. Not good at all.

But the other eight, look to be in good spots. Let’s go through it.

1- Kentucky (#1 seed)- They are the number 1 seed overall and have Kansas, Notre Dame, and Maryland as the “seeded sixteen” teams in their bracket. I think they cruise to the Final Four.

2- Duke (#1 seed)- I’m not sure how they got a #1 while UVA, the regular season ACC champ didn’t, but they have a clear path to the Final Four. Iowa State (#8 on my list ) is their biggest threat.

3- Arizona (#2 seed)- #2 in the West and probably the biggest threat to Kentucky in the Final Four. I think they make it and I think they do it. Put them in my Final Four.

4- Wisconsin (#1 seed)- Great comeback today, but I think they bow out early.

5- Louisville (#4 seed)- The East is probably the most wide-open bracket, but I don’t think they get past Villanova.

6- Kansas (#2 seed)- Kentucky will kill them. Notre Dame, Indiana could as well.

7- Villanova (#1 seed) – A clear path to the Final Four. UVA is damaged, Oklahoma is flawed, Louisville is the threat.

8- Iowa State (#3 seed)- See #2

9- UNC (#4 seed)- They can beat Wisconsin and Arizona, but that is a stern test.

10- Butler (#6 seed) – doomed with their draw.

So my Final Four is- Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Iowa State. And I will take Arizona and Iowa State in the finals with Arizona winning it.

Other seeded sixteen teams I didn’t consider.

2 seeds- Gonzaga and UVA. Gonzaga never impresses me as a favorite. They are the classic underdog. UVA is not the same team that won the ACC regular season.

3 seeds- Baylor, Notre Dame, Oklahoma. Of the trio, Notre Dame would be the one I consider the closest to a title.

4 seeds- Maryland and Georgetown. Maryland is also dangerous, but Georgetown could be upset in Round 1.

And if you want two bracket busters, I would pick Northern Iowa and Wichita State. Northern Iowa is a #5 seed in the East and Wichita State is a #7 in the Midwest. Ignore them at your own risk.

 

Let’s Dance!-Part 1

We are 18 hours from the brackets being revealed, but I can’t wait. I have to pick the 10 teams I think can win it all when they ultimately get revealed.

1- Kentucky- If you don’t agree with this, you aren’t paying attention.

2- Duke- Yup, they lost in the ACC semis, but Okafor is awesome. (Though I think the Knicks would be better off taking Towns with the #1 pick)

3- Arizona- We tend to ignore the Pac-10 unless UCLA is leading it, but ignore this team at your own risk.

4- Wisconsin- Frank the Tank is a real beast in college and the next Adam Morrison in the pros.

5- Louisville- Pitino, Pitino, Pitino. Count him out at your own risk.

6- Kansas- Bill Self, Bill Self, ah you get it. I still think this crew is a bit short though.

7- Villanova- If the Big East still was the Big East, they would be higher. For now, let’s just say they have a legitimate shot.

8- Iowa State- Beat Kansas at home and won the Big 12 tourney. Don’t ignore them.

9- UNC- Talent to play with anyone, but do they have the heart ?

10- Butler- Again, if they Big East still was the Big East….

Some teams I am discounting at my own risk that others will tout….

1- UVA- Too hurt

2- Notre Dame- Too lucky

3- Any other SEC team besides UK- too mediocre

4- Any other Big 10 team besides Wisco- see above

5- Any other Pac-10 team besides Zona- The Pac-10 is terrible!

Back after the brackets.

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