Monthly Archives: March 2013

How’s Your Bracket?

Surprisingly, I made it through the first weekend of March Madness still in contention. Every year we do a 50-50 bracket to raise money for JDRF, so I fill out three different brackets.  This year I made the following choices:

Bracket #1- Louisville winning it all over Indiana with Florida and Ohio State joining them in the Final Four. This one looks to be in very good shape. Ironically my two Final Four losing teams, Ohio State and Florida probably have the easier paths to the Final Four. Ohio State has to beat a #6 and then either a #9 or #13. Florida has a #15 seed, but then will face either a #1 or #4. Louisville faces a #12, but then has to face either a #2 or #3. Indiana’s bracket is the only one where the top-four seeds survived.

Bracket #2- Florida beating Ohio State for the title with Indiana and Louisville joining them in the Final Four. (See what I did there?) Based on the analysis above, this might be my best shot at winning.

Bracket #3- aka the troubled one- Duke beating, wait for it, Georgetown with Miami and Gonzaga joining them in the Final Four. Well yes, this one stinks, but it is one of only two in the entire pool with Duke as a champ. The other bracket is in better shape now, but I could still catch them.

I should also give a shout out to one of our group members who accurately predicted FGCU beating Georgetown AND San Diego State. I saw that in the ESPN bracket version they had almost 9 million entries and not one of them picked Georgetown to lose to FGCU.

Enjoy the games!

Follow The Guaranteed Money

There is nothing like the NFL free agent market. You hear about huge sums of money being thrown around and players moving everywhere. But the problem with all of it is that very little of this money is guaranteed.

Take Marcellus Bennett’s new deal with Chicago which is referred to as a 4-year/$20-million deal. If Bennett played the entire deal, that would be true. But, the fact is very little is guaranteed. Bennett will get a $4-million signing bonus and his $715,000 salary in 2013. But, if the Bears decide to cut him before the start of the 2014 season, that’s all Bennett would get. So, he signed a deal for $20-million, but unless he performs he could walk away with only 25% of that.

Look at Aaron Ross who is headed back to the Giants after a year away. He signed a three-year deal with Jacksonville for almost $10-million last offseason, but was cut and earned a little over a third of that.

So don’t follow the headline, follow the guaranteed money. That will tell you how likely or unlikely it is that a player sticks around. If Bennett doesn’t produce for the Bears this year, you can bet he will be back on the free agent market next season.

Do Not Mourn This Week

A lot of people seem to be mourning this week as the “last” Big East Tournament is being played at The Garden. The general line you hear from people is how it “will never be the same”.

Part of that is true. We will never again see Syracuse or UConn winning the Big East Tournament and that is a shame. But we will also avoid seeing a 16-team or 14-team tournament that simply went on way too long. Sure, you can argue that it is great that every team (or this year most of them) have a chance at advancing to the NCAA’s, but the fact is conference tournaments should not last five nights. They should not have double-byes in them. How many people even realize that the Big East Tournament started LAST night?

By shrinking back to down to a more manageable size, the Big East is actually returning to its roots. Back in the 19080’s, the tournament had 9 schools with a play-in game the first night and then the quarters, semis and finals. The longest drive any fan had to make to The Garden was about 6 hours and fans didn’t have to buy seven different sets of tickets to see all the action.

Next year won’t restore all of that. I am sure the tourney will be split into sections again. (For instance today’s schedule has an afternoon session and an evening one, each with separate admission.) And it is a lot farther to drive from say Butler to NYC than Pittsburgh to NYC. But, a lot of the old feelings will be back. It will be the crown jewel of its conference again and it will be a showcase for some of the best basketball in the country. Mourn the demise of the Football Big East all you want. I’m looking forward to a new world starting in July.

Forget Something?

Guys, and I do mean guys for this post, here is a story about a Mets player who decided to face Justin Verlander without wearing a cup. As you can guess, it doesn’t end well. As the story says, why is a guy playing second not wearing a cup?

It reminds me of a good friend of mine who never wore one and played lacrosse. One game he cut around the back of the goal and right as he emerged by the post, the ball arrived. Unfortunately, the timing was a bit off and he took a shot right where he didn’t want it. Not a pretty sight and a pretty tough way to learn a lesson. Hopefully, Jordan Valdespin has learned that same one.

Falling Apart In The Stretch

As the Knicks reach the final 22 games of the season the news keeps getting worse. Rasheed Wallace is out for at least the regular season and now Amar’e is going to join him. Throw in an injury to Carmelo and you have to wonder how long the Knicks will be able to stay atop the Atlantic Division.

Amare’s loss is going to be a tough one to fill because he helped the Knicks much, much more than most of us thought he would. Sure, his defense was bad as usual, but he was incredibly efficient on offense, providing big points off the bench. His PER of 22 is second-highest on the team only to Carmelo. With Wallace out, Amar’e provided a big boost. Now the Knicks will have to figure out how to replace both of them.

Last night’s rotation may give us a bit of a clue. Kenyon Martin played 22 minutes and looked pretty good doing so. Martin comes with his own set of questions, but he is certainly a better choice at this point than starting Kurt Thomas. Marcus Camby got 14 minutes off the bench and if he can be effective a Martin-Camby combo could be good compliment to each other. One is an offensive player, the other a defensive one.

The ultimate problem is that all of the injuries to the Knicks’ depth will force them to rely more on their healthy players and a lot of those players are old. Somehow the Knicks need to win enough to win the division and thereby avoid the Heat for at least two rounds in the playoffs, but also avoid burning out their players in doing so. That’s a pretty tough needle to thread.

Time For A Visor Rule

If you haven’t seen this video, don’t watch if you are squeamish. It’s not a pretty sight. What it reinforces is the fact that the NHL needs to require every player to wear a visor.

I can hear the howls from “old-time” hockey fans about how it cheapens the game and I can hear the howls from people who claim that it will adversely affect play. But, here’s the thing. Those were the same arguments against the adoption of mandatory helmets and the AHL, which a majority of NHL’ers graduate from, already mandates visors.

The players won’t want to look like wimps so the only way this happens is if the NHL gets together with the NHLPA and makes this rule change. For the sake of the players’ eyesight, I hope they don’t wait too long.

 

The Blind Side Is Covered

Kudos to the Giants for getting Will Beatty signed to an extension and keeping him off the free agent market. Watching Beatty this past season, he passed the “eye test” of protecting Eli and according to this article he passed it statistically too. It’s a reasonable deal for a guy who definitely could be “ascending” as Jerry Reese described him.

Where do the Giants turn next though? Personally, I think they had better lock down Nicks and Cruz before anything else. The Giants have taken at least one wide receiver in every draft since 2005, except for one. They’ve ended up with two of the best in the league at this point and they should do everything they can to keep them under contract.

After that, they are going to need a new tight end. Marcellus Bennett was a great pick up, but he is probably going to want more money on the free agent market. Considering the Giants’ recent success in developing tight ends, I don’t think Bennett will be a major on the field loss and the team would be smart to save their money for improving the defense. (Though losing a guy who gives himself the nickname “Black Unicorn” will be huge off the field.)

Speaking of defense, the Giants had an awful one in 2012. They were terrible against the pass and terrible against the run. Statistics suggest that their secondary has some huge holes. (subscription required) Corey Webster gave up yards by the dozen and Antrele Rolle missed tackles at an alarming rate. Both make a huge amount of money so the Giants would be smart to renegotiate their deals or consider cutting them to save cap space. Whatever course they follow, they need to think defense when the draft comes around in April.

Back Where It Started

Apparently the Big East name and the Big East tournament venue of the Garden will remain with the Catholic Seven when they split away from the football schools. in addition, the split may come as soon as next season. It’s the right decision because it honors what the Big East once was and what it might become again- the best basketball conference in the country.

Back in the 80’s Big East basketball ruled the NCAA. The catholic schools that had banded together to from the league were the best in the nation. But then the siren song of football came and ruined it. Miami was brought in and suddenly the Big East became a strange mix of schools that had football teams and schools that didn’t. Eventually other conferences, especially the ACC, started raiding the Big East and taking away teams until the league became a geographic joke.

So now the league has seven basketball-only members and it sounds like they will add two great basketball programs in Butler and Xavier. All the schools will end up with much more TV money than they would have had in the old league but there are stories that they will then expand to 10 or 12 teams. Personally, I hope they don’t for now. The football landscape keeps shifting and if you follow the money it looks like there is more change to come. The remains of the Big East are now a second-tier football conference leaving a “Big Five”. But, of those five, the ACC is starting to lag behind the others in terms of TV money. It won’t happen overnight, but I suspect that the best of the ACC will eventually get lured away to the Big-10, Pac-10, SEC and Big-12, leaving only a Big Four.

If that happens, there will be schools in the ACC left out in the cold, perhaps schools that have very good basketball programs. Perhaps even some of the schools that left the Big East for the ACC. At that point, if the Catholic 7 has remained small and focused they might benefit by aligning with those schools. Stay tuned.