Category Archives: General

Getting Uglier

Back in October we got the initial details of a big scandal in college basketball. Now, right before the best time of year for the sport, we are getting even more details and they are really bad.

Start with the fact that the FBI has the head coach of Arizona on a wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 to his star freshman. Arizona is a top-20 team, and the player in question, Deandre Ayton, is one of the best players in the game right now.

But it goes much deeper than that.  Michigan State and Duke, two of the best teams in the country have current players accused of taking money.  Assuming that is true, those programs might have to vacate wins or championships because they used inelligble players. And, they have to decide right now if they want to sit those potentially ineligible players to try to head off those penalties

Kansas, Kentucky, and UNC are also implicated in this as they have former players who show up on the expense report of the rogue agent at the center of this scandal.  It isn’t hyperbole to say that this could fundamentally change the way the sport works

But for now we will be left with more questions than answers.  The FBI is still investigating and they are not going to answer questions in the middle of that process.  Maybe more charges get filed that bring some answers, but it is also quite likely that March Madness gets played this year under this enormous cloud of uncertainty.  What a mess.

 

 

 

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How I Feel About The Super Bowl Explained

What A Mess

The Islanders are moving back to Nassau County, but it is going to be a messy process until they get there. The Barclays Center wants them out and soon, threatening to terminate their lease after next season if they won’t play at least half their home games at the renovated Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders have apparently agreed to play at least a third of their games there.  That probably means that for at least the next three years, you will have to really, really check the schedule before buying Islanders tickets or you may be in for a big surprise. And I have no idea what happens to season ticket holders under this situation.

I was trying to think of a parallel to this situation and drew a blank. The Packers used to play a couple of games in Milwaukee and the Bills did the same with Toronto, but football is a bad comparable. There are only eight home games. The Islanders have 41 home nights a year, this will be a logistical nightmare.

And, as usual, the reason comes to greed. The NHL doesn’t want any games played at the new Nassau Coliseum because it would be the smallest arena in the league with very few corporate suites. (I suspect that they are also worried that if the Islanders start playing there and people love it, support for building the new arena will crumble.). How does this end?  It will end with ticket-buying fans getting hosed once again.

Pat Shurmur

The Giants have hired their new coach, giving a five year job to the former Browns Head Coach and current Vikings Offensive Coordinator. It’s a solid move in my mind.

The knock on Shurmur is his time in Cleveland, but the thing is everyone fails in Cleveland. That team has averaged 3.8 wins per season since 2007. So, Shurmur’s nine wins in two seasons look good in that light.

He is unquestioned in his ability to develop quarterbacks and that is a critical skill for the Giants right now. With the second overall pick in the draft, they will almost certainly take a QB. If they choose right and develop him correctly, the Giants could go from 15 seasons of Eli to 15 seasons of the next guy. Few teams have ever had that.

But the real test of Shurmur will be changing the culture of the locker room which went completely off the rails this year. That may require some tough choices like cutting some big players and demanding accountability for others, but it has to be done.

The harsh reality is that coaching hires in the NFL is a crapshoot at best. Consider the seven coaches hired two years ago, a group which included Ben McAdoo. Three have been fired already and only one, of the remaining four, Doug Pederson, has a winning record.

A Quick End To The Finals

Give Golden State credit.  Not only did they eliminate the bad taste from last year, they did it in a dominating fashion. Going 16-1 in the NBA playoffs is an amazing feat. But, can’t we praise the Warriors while also praising LeBron James’ efforts in the Finals? Why do people feel compelled to tear him down yet again today after losing that series? He averaged a triple-double in the Finals, so I find it hard to place the blame for this loss on him.

Here’s another way to look at it. The Warriors set the record for most wins in a season last year and came one game away from winning a title. (Remember who stopped that) They then went out and added one of the best players in the league in Kevin Durant, so they got even better. Stopping that freight train was never going to be easy and while LeBron had his moments, the Warriors had too much talent.

Durant got ripped in the offseason for leaving Oklahoma City and going to Golden State because it “proved he couldn’t win on his own” according to the haters. LeBron is getting ripped today for not being able to stop that from happening. One thing is for sure, haters and going to hate.

How Quickly We Forget

According to a lot of the “experts” the NBA FInals are over as the Warriors have a 2-0 lead and LeBron sounds “defeated. I get it, but based on what we saw just last year, maybe wait until tomorrow night’s result before calling the series over?

After all that series saw the Warriors win Game 1 by 15 and Game 2 by 33. Golden State had won both regular season meeting and 71 other games. Cleveland looked pretty dead at 0-2 then. And, despite a Game 3 victory, things looked pretty over when the Warriors won Game 4 to go up 3-1. But a funny think happened, LeBron took the team on his shoulders and the Cavs won three-straight and a title.

That may not happen this year. Golden State with Kevin Durant may truly be unstoppable. But recent history tells us not to bury the Cavs until they have lost four games in this series.

Mitch Trubisky

I like Mitch Trubisky, but I am absolutely amazed that he may be the top pick in the NFL Draft.

I would bet that I am one of the few people outside of NFL executives who watched every start he made in college. He was great a lot of the time, but there are two major red flags to me.

1- The game against Virginia Tech in October. Yes, it was played in driving rain, but he was terrible. When you have only made 13 starts in college, you have to be judged on every one of them. I would not feel great about Trubisky’s prospects in a cold weather stadium based on that.

2- The games against Duke, NC State and Stanford. Context is important here. For UNC Football, Duke and NC State are the biggest games of the year. Furthermore, this year they cost themselves another trip to the ACC Championship game by losing to two mediocre teams. Trubisky’s numbers from those games are good, but he didn’t do much, and he didn’t respond late when he had a chance to take UNC down the field and win them. Stanford was the bowl game, and the same thing that happened against Duke and NC State happened there. So, you could say that in the three biggest games of the year, Trubisky didn’t respond. Again, with only 13 NCAA starts, you need to weigh each one carefully.

That’s why I am hoping that Trubisky isn’t picked by Cleveland or San Francisco. I think he can be a very successful QB in the NFL, but he will need time and those situations won’t give him that. He needs to go to a place where he can hold a clipboard for a few years and learn about the game. Based on all the draft boards I have seen, he is probably not falling out of the Top-1o and I think that will be bad for him and bad for the team that drafts him. We shall see on Thursday.

Two UNC players I could see rewarding the teams that draft them are Ryan Switzer and Elijah Hood. Both will go in the middle rounds most likely. Switzer catches everything thrown anywhere near him and is a great return guy. Hood can pound the ball in between the tackles and bust a big run. Watch for them on Friday and Saturday.

I’ll post some more Giant-centric draft thoughts before Thursday.

We Need More!

Unless you are a big college hoops fan, it probably escaped your notice that the NCAA revealed the top-16 seeds for the tournament on Saturday. Of course, with a month left in the regular season, those seeds are just temporary, but it gave us a glimpse of how March Madness might set up.   The idea comes from football where they start releasing CFP rankings in late October, and it is a great way to get some buzz going for the tournament. I am hopeful that they will add two tweaks to it to really get this going.

1- Announce it weekly. They do this in college football like I said and it generates a lot of buzz. A weekly announcement would do the same thing and keep the information more current. As of right now, these 16 seeds could change significantly over the next month.

2- Include a list of teams on the bubble or, even better, the last four in and the last four out. Now this would be harder because of the need to look at the entire field every week, but can you imagine the buzz that would generate?

Anyway, its a good start that could be really improved down the line.

Hail Brady

I often dream of an alternative NFL history. In it Bill Parcells resigns from the Giants in time for their defensive coordinator, Bill Belichick, to take over and the Giants, fresh off a great Super Bowl victory, go on to dominate the NFL for years.

There are two problems with my dream scenario.  First, Belichick went to Cleveland off of that Super Bowl victory and failed- 36-44 in his time there. And second, Tom Brady wasn’t the Giants QB.

I think it is time to recognize that as accomplished as Belichick is, he is nothing without Brady. Brady is the greatest draft pick ever. Every NFL team missed on him, at least FOUR times. That is their shame and evidence that Belichick isn’t quite the genius people make him out to be. He’s very good, but he hit the lottery with Brady.

Take Brady away from the Patriots and do they win any of their Super Bowls?  I don’t think so.  Belichick has done s lot of great moves, but Brady is the guy who makes it all work.

As for the game.  Atlanta blew it with some terrible play calls and Brady was magnificent when it mattered.

Ahead 28-20 with the ball and just under six minutes, there are two clear goals  1- score to make the game a two-score difference 2- run the clock.  Three plays later, Atlanta is on the New England 22-yard line with 4:47 left in the game.  At this point, goal #1 is within reach a and goal #2 can be achieved if you run the ball.  They ran on first down, lost a yard, and then went to the pass.  A sack, inexcusable at this point, backed them up 12 yards.  That’s not great, but a potential field goal would still be 51-yards at this point, if they didn’t gain another yard.  Instead, they call pass agajn and while they competed it, a penalty negated the play and backed them up another 10 yards- out of field goal range. On 3rd and 33, they tried to pass again, when a run could have got them a possible field goal and forced New England to spend another time out.

And you know against almost any other QB, they still might have gotten away with their stupidity, but Brady, with the help of an amazing catch, made them pay.  My only quibble is with the NFL’s stupid overtime rule.  Both teams should get the ball once to have a championship decided off of a coin toss is ridiculous.

Finally, think about the sports run we are on.  You had the Super Bowl and the college National Championship game decided on the last play. You had extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series.  You had the NBA finals go seven games with a 3-1 comeback by the winning team. And yes, while it broke my heart, you had March Madness decided by a three at the buzzer.

I have been racking my brain to find a comparable run and I can’t.  I think the 2016-17 sports championship cycle is the greatest we have ever seen.

 

 

 

 

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Bye-Bye Brooklyn

Bloomberg is reporting that the Barclays Center will kick the Islanders out after the 2018-19 NHL season.

This is not a major shock. Barclays simply wasn’t built for hockey. It’s asymmetrical, leading to terrible seats on one end of the ice, and the scoreboard hanging over one of the blue lines. Furthermore, the Islanders are simply not drawing fans to the games, ranking third to last in the NHL in attendance which they also did in their inaugural season.  (And yes, they should have built the Barclays Center for hockey, but the original design was massively changed when the financial crisis hit in 2008.)

The question is what happens now? The new owners have been trying to get into a partnership with the Mets to construct an arena near Citi Field, but I can’t see how anyone would bite on that financing. We already have the completely redone MSG, the very new Prudential Center in Newark, the completely redone Nassau Coliseum reopening this spring, the very new Barclays Center, and the sitting in mothballs Izod Center at the Meadowlands, in the immediate area. How many arenas can we realistically support? And while a return to the Nassau Coliseum would have made sense, the renovations have lowered the capacity for hockey to 13,000. The Barclays Center is already the smallest in hockey (15,800) would the Islanders really move to an even smaller venue? Would the league even allow them to do so?

I am afraid that barring some miracle, this probably spells the end of the Islanders in the tri-state area. That’s a real shame. As much as I dislike the team, it has a passionate and loyal following that deserves better. My only hope is that if relocation is the final decision, they go to a real hockey hotbed, like Quebec, and not to some sunbelt city that doesn’t have the passion for the game. The Islanders can opt-out of their lease after next year, so we could have a quick resolution to this. Expect the rhetoric to ramp up quickly.