Category Archives: General

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.

 

Finally, A Good Game in the Finals!

The result wasn’t what I hoped for, but at least Game 4 of the NBA Finals was competitive. After three-straight clunkers, we needed this as fans.

The problem is, all indications are that his might be it. Golden State has kicked it into a different gear since falling behind 3-1 in the Conference Finals.  Cleveland seems to either not have a higher gear, or is simply overmatched.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope Cleveland can get us back to Wednesday.

The Finals We All Wanted

Sure, if you had a team in this year’s NBA Playoffs you wanted them in the Finals.  But once they were eliminated, this matchup became the thing that warmed your basketball heart. Where to begin?

Well let’s start with the rematch factor. We had an amazing six-game series last year when LeBron basically played the Warriors by himself. This time we get to see if the full Cleveland team can do better.

Add in the 73 wins factor. It looked like the Warriors might flush that season down the drain in the Conference Finals, but they showed grit and heart and overcame a very good Thunder team in 7 games.

Don’t forget the stars. Curry and LeBron are obviously the headliners, but Klay Thompson has emerged as one of the best guards in the game. Kylie Irving and Kevin Love are really good too.

Add it all up and this should be an epic series. Is it too much to ask that it comes down to Game 7, Warriors down by 2, Curry with the ball and time running out?

The Moment Of Crisis

In 1998 the Yankees dominated MLB, clinching the AL East on September 9th in Fenway and finishing with 114 wins. They swept the Rangers in the ALDS, but then the script changed. After an easy Game 1 victory over Cleveland in the ALCS, the Yankees lost their cool and Game 2 in extra innings when Knoblauch held onto the ball and argued instead of getting time officially called. Game 3 was a disaster as Andy Petitte got roughed up and suddenly the Yankees, a team that had dominated all year, were facing the prospect of seeing their magical season end.

I was thinking about that last night as I watched Oklahoma City take apart Golden State and take a 2-1 lead in the Conference Finals. That did not look like a team that won 43, let alone 73 games, last night and the pressure is now clearly on the Warriors. For all the celebrations about winning 73 games, that won’t matter unless they can go the distance. The 72-win Bulls closed things out. The 1998 Yankees rebounded and did so as well, but think about the 2001 Mariners. 116 wins, but a loss in the ALCS denied them a shot at immortality. Those are the stakes for the Warriors. Win and become legends, lose and become an interesting footnote.

Which way will Golden State go now? I have no clue, but it is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Game 5 is Tuesday night at 9PM EDT.

The Agony

There are so many things I want to say about that game, but picture the Britt household tonight. Nate Britt, Carolina’s junior guard just lost the National Championship. That’s because Britt’s adopted brother, Kris Jenkins, hit the game-winning shot for Villanova. I still can’t wrap my head around that.

I said before the game that Villanova would win if they shot 71% again. They came close- 58%. And while Jenkins’ shot will get all of the attention, Villanova’s defense has to be given the ultimate credit. They kept Carolina out of the paint and forced them to become a perimeter team. UNC rose to the challenge, and almost won a game where they shot 43% overall, because they converted 67% from behind the arc.

I will never forget the final image of Marcus Page. Page has meant so much to UNC the past four years, not only on the court, but off of it as an Academic All-American. He hit the tying shot, then watched the winner go in and burst into tears.

I know how he feels.

Finals Time

So the truth is that if Villanova shoots 71% from the field tonight like they did Saturday, they are going to win the game. That is just an amazing night from the field. But assuming they don’t match that performance, they will have their hands full.

Quite simply, UNC is very hard to stop. If you watched the Syracuse game, when was the last time before it that you saw a team playing a zone lose from the inside-out? Teams attacking a zone usually have to hit jumpers to pull the zone out and then pound it inside against a spread-out defense. Carolina flipped that script, pounding the ball inside repeatedly and easily.

That’s going to be the script tonight for Carolina. Get it inside to Meeks and Johnson, control the glass, and watch good things happen. I think they will, and I predict a sixth banner raised to the rafters of the Dean Dome this fall.

Is It Midnight?

Syracuse has shocked pretty much everyone by reaching the Final Four as a number 10 seed. This on the heels of barely squeaking into the tournament. The question now is, can they complete their Cinderella run?

I picked UNC to win it all, and I see no reason to change that prediction now. These two schools have played twice in some pretty unique circumstances and both times UNC won. Game 1 was in Syracuse on the night that Jim Boeheim returned from his 9-game suspension. The Carrier Dome was rocking and Syracuse held a six-point lead with about 8 minutes to play. That’s when UNC first flashed their ability to go on runs this season, stepping up and closing out the game on a 34-17 roll.

The second time these two met was ironically the start of the Heels’ current winning streak. On Senior Night in Chapel Hill, and with the Duke game looming, UNC played distracted basketball and let Syracuse hang around and hang around. It almost cost them at the end, but they pulled it out thanks to some nifty work by Joel Berry.

One thing that Syracuse has shown in both games is the ability to rebound fairly well against UNC- no mean feat. That could be significant, but only if UNC lets Syracuse stay in the game. If they pound the ball into Johnson, Meeks, and Hicks, they could quickly turn this into a blowout. I don’t think it will go quite that far, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a “comfortable” win.

As for the other game, I am going to pick Villanova. I saw them in person for their first two games and came away impressed by their athleticism. They made a solid team in Iowa look terrible on Sunday, dominating them by over 30 points for most of the second half. They went to their regional and upset Kansas. I have a ton of respect for Buddy Hield, and I think he is the best player in the game, but I don’t think Oklahoma has enough besides him.

So I think we have a Villanova-UNC matchup Monday Night. Two teams that have met in the tourney more than a few times, and in the Final Four just seven years ago.

Basketball in Brooklyn

I went to a four-of-the six games this weekend in Brooklyn and had a great time. A few comments and observations on the Barclays Center’s NCAA Tournament debut.

1- The entrance lines are ridiculous. I get the security, but make more lines, open more doors, get more guards screening people. It took me over half an hour to clear security and get to my seat. This isn’t an airport, fix it.

2- The upper deck is the red-headed step child of the arena. That’s ok, the views are still very good even if the concourses are too narrow. But, you have to open the stairwells and allow people to use them to get up and down. Two escalators only going in one direction and a few scattered elevators are not enough to allow fans to travel up and down.

3- I like the policy of not allowing fans to get back to their seats while the game is in progress, but you have to announce that policy and make it known. Way too many fans getting needlessly upset over a good idea.

As for the games, saw two great ones and two terrible ones. Villanova absolutely destroyed both UNC Asheville and Iowa. I still don’t buy the Big East (notice what happened to their tourney champion Seton Hall?) but Nova was really impressive this weekend. Iowa-Temple on Friday was a great game with lots of sad Temple fans after overtime. Kudos to Iowans for traveling in numbers to support their team. And the Notre Dame-SFA game today was the best of all, so close to a major upset.

Assuming Barclays can fix the entrance issues and flow between floors, I think the tourney can really succeed there. Hopefully, it will be back soon.