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Here’s to 2018!

2017 gave us some great sports moments from an amazing Super Bowl comeback, to a fantastic World Series. What will 2018 bring?  Here are my predictions.

January

Oklahoma survives a nail biter against Alabama to win the National Championship.

In the pro game Pittsburgh edges New England on a last minuet field goal to face Minnesota in the Super Bowl

Bonds and Clemens get into the Hall of Fame along with Chipper Jones

February

The Vikings win the Super Bowl

MLB hands down five 50-Game suspensions for sexual misconduct by its players

Vince McMahon announces the return of the XFL

March

Michigan State, Duke, Wichita State and Arizona State get number one seeds in March Madness

The MLB season opens to weather-related chaos

April

Michigan State cuts down the nets with a win over Duke

Tiger Woods plays in the Masters, but doesn’t factor as Jordan Spieth runs away with it

The Knicks make the playoffs and lose in the first round, the Rangers don’t

May

The expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights make history by advancing to the Finals in their first year where they face Tampa.

The Celtics return to the Finals against Golden State.

June

Tampa wins the Stanley Cup while Golden State cuts the nets down again

July

The Yankees are mired in mediocrity at the break three games under .500 and ten games behind Boston.  Minnesota has the best record in baseball

August

After running off a bunch of wins, the Yankees trade for Zach Grienke to fortify a shaky rotation

Jordan Spieth falls just short of the grand slam finishing sixth in the PGA

September

The Giants open the season with Eli Manning under center

Boston, Minnesota, and Houston win their divisions in the AL.  Washington, Chicago, and Colorado in the NL  Cleveland and New York are the wild card in the AL with Atlanta and LA in the NL

October

Houston meets Washington in the World Series with Washington winning it all.

The Giants finish October with a winning record, San Francisco is undefeated.

November

The Rangers fire Vigneault.

The Giants go into a tailspin and bench Eli for their number one pick, Josh Rosen

December

Five teams finish the NCAA football season with perfect records throw ing the playoffs into chaos.  Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Ohio State make it while USC doesn’t.

San Francisco and Jacksonville clinch the number 1 seeds in the playoffs

A blogger in Brooklyn vows to do better in 2019

Happy New Year!

 

 

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Bye-Bye Brooklyn

Reports are that the Islanders have won the bidding for the right to develop a new arena on land adjacent to Belmont Park. While it isn’t unclear how long it will take to build the arena, this clearly means they will be leaving the Barclays Center very soon.

Hockey in Brooklyn just didn’t work and there are two main reasons why. First, this is Ranger country. The Islanders have a loyal following, but it isn’t in Brooklyn. Second, the arena is a terrible place for hockey. It’s asymmetrical and there are seats that don’t let you see the entire ice. That combination of forces led the Islanders to look for a new home.

The amazing thing is how many new sports facilities have been built this century in the local area. Every major sports team has either gotten a new building, or had their entire arena gutted and rebuilt. We’ve also added a soccer stadium and have another team looking to build one somewhere in the area. By my count, that’s six new buildings in about 15 years with a seventh on the way. Atlanta just built a new football stadium to replace one that wasn’t even 25-years old, so we may see more building in the near future. I hope everyone enjoys paying taxes.

If…

There are all sorts of reports that the Giants will fire Ben McAdoo tomorrow.

I cant defend McAdoo at this point. For a supposed offensive genius, it is damning that the Giants have never scored 30 points in a game under his management. Add in the appearance that the team has quit on him and you can’t argue with the idea of letting him go. But, to do it now, and to do it without firing Jerry Reese at the same time, would be ridiculous.

Reese gets credit for the last Super Bowl, and he gets partial credit for the previous one,  but that doesn’t excuse the past five years. Tom Coughlin was forced out and that was Reese’s mulligan. If McAdoo, the coach he hired, is going to be fired, the Giants need to clean house completely and part with their GM.

That’s not the way they typically do business, but firing one without the other would be a joke.

How Bad Can This Get?

The Giants have never lost more than 12 games in a season, but a quick look at the schedule suggests that “achievement”could be surpassed this year. They have eight games left, and after this Sunday against the winless 49’ers, every opponent, save the Raiders, is .500 or better, and the Raiders are a decent team that isn’t playing like one right now.

Lets say they win this week. Not a great bet, but this is the one game they clearly should win. Where does their next win come from?  At home against KC the following week?  I doubt it. On the road in Washington Thanksgiving night?  Almost certainly not. On the road in Oakland? I don’t think so. At home against Dallas and Philly?  No and no. On the road in Arizona Christmas Eve? Again, not likely. At home against Washington in the season finale?  Yeah, I could see that. Add it up and I have them finishing 3-13.

The real question is what would happen then?  The Giants almost never fire people, but a franchise record for losses would have to end in firings, right?  What I suspect is that Jerry Reese is already a goner and Ben McAdoo has the remaining games to save his job. The bar isn’t high. Finish the year with 3 more wins and I bet he comes back under a new GM. He would have two seasons left on his contract and with a major rebuild commencing, he would face a make or break 2018.

 

A Disgrace

The U.S. did not qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. That in itself is a major headline, but the way they failed is absolutely breathtaking. Trinidad and Tobago has a population about 1/6th that of New York City and was the worst team in the hexagonal qualifying format that decides the 3 or 4 teams to qualify from CONCACAF for the World Cup.  How bad was this loss?  This article makes a compelling case that it was the worst ever by the U.S.

What happens now is the big question?  What makes this so frustrating is that youth soccer participation has almost tripled since the last time we missed the World Cup to over 3-million  To put that into perspective, that’s over twice the population of Trinidad and Tobago.  US Soccer needs to figure out why that isn’t translating into sustained excellence and who can put things back together.  This loss will sting for a long time, but even longer if the flaws it exposed aren’t corrected quickly.

 

This Could Get Ugly

College recruiting is an ugly process and this morning there was evidence of how ugly it really is. Coaches at four schools, Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State, USC, and an executive at Addidas, were arrested.  It was part of a three-year investigation and the documents add that Louisville and Miami are also being investigated.

The feds caught everyone, including the NCAA, by surprise and the fallout from the could be massive  it’s naive to think that only six schools are involved and impossible to guess where this will all end.  What we do know is that two premier college programs are charged with bribery and wire fraud among other things. This won’t end well.

 

Draft Time

Here are my two beliefs about the NFL Draft.

 

1- The “experts” are generally wrong over half the time.

2- Because of this focus more on the positions a team drafts than the actual players.

Every year we get bombarded with mock drafts, draft grades and player thoughts and every year they’re are mostly junk. Look back at your favorite team’s draft and the analysis of it. Most of it turns out to be garbage once the players have actually taken the field. Lets face it, GMs get top dollar for making theses picks and they can’t deliver great and consistent results, so why do we rely on the experts?

That’s why I focus on the positions taken and the Giants have some pretty clear needs. Eli is nearing the end, but they want to make one more title run. The defense is returning 10-of-11 starters, so it is in good shape,  So, I would like to see the Giants come out of the draft with a bunch of of players who can help on offense. Specifically, I would like to see them get a running back, a tight end, and an offensive lineman. On defense a linebacker and a defensive tackle would be nice.

Things I would not want to see the Giants do include drafting for the secondary or taking a QB with a high pick. You may never be able to have too many cornerbacks, but the Giants have three good ones and two good safeties. If they get to a position where the best player on their board is a player from the secondary, I hope they trade down. And while it may be tempting to try to find Elis successor now, I would rather try to get him more help on offense in order to make one last run at a title. This is not the time to worry about the future QB of the team, a fifth rounder is fine, just not before that.

A Word On The Knicks

i wrote last July about how I didn’t understand the Knicks adding Joakim Noah as a free agent because it created a team on paper that could make the playoffs and possibly win a first round series. My feeling was that the Knicks would be better served in the long term by tanking in 2016-17 and getting a lottery pick while trading away everything except Porzingas.

Phil Jackson deserves no credit for the Knicks ending up in the lottery. That clearly wasn’t the plan at the start of the year and the Noah deal is clearly going to be a disaster. But the Knicks are thankfully in the lottery and can do themselves a lot of good by not winning any of their remaining four games.

The Knicks are currently sixth-worst in the league, but only one win separates them from “dropping” to ninth. If they got lucky, they could possibly get to fourth.

Its not about the first pick, that chance, even with fourth-worst record is small (about 11%). It’s about ensuring they have a pick as high up in the draft as possible. This is a deep draft, but scouts generally say the drop off happens somewhere between picks 6 and 8.

Finish with the fourth-worst record and the worst pick you could have is 7th. Finish with the ninth-worst and you only have about a 7% chance of picking higher than ninth.

So the Knicks need to lose. We need to hope that Sacramento and Minnesota win, and maybe even Philadelphia and Orlando. Fultz and Ball aren’t walking through that door, but getting Monk or Tatum would be just fine with me.

Nothing Could Be Finer!

It wasn’t pretty, but the Tar Heels came through  and won title number six. Roy Williams now one of only six coaches with three or more titles.

This championship is so satisfying for UNC fans because it was 364 days in the making. Kris Jenkins broke our hearts exactly one year ago today. It was great to see him sitting their last night, cheering on his brother, Nate Britt.

You could see this possibly happening early in the season. UNC went out to Maui and dominated the tournament in November. Meeks played like he did Saturday and they beat some good teams including Wisconsin. They got their doors blown off visiting Indiana, which raised some questions, but showed their mettle in a one-point loss to Kentucky in December.

There were a few hiccups in the ACC. They dropped easy games against Georgia Tech and Miami, but beat the best in the conference and won it outright at 13-5. Thr ACC Tournament ended prematurely when they played a Duke team that finally played to its potential.

And then they fought their way through the tournament. After a blowout in their first game, they pulled of a big escape against Arkansas. They handled Butler with relative ease, but needed some heroics from Luke Maye when Malik Monk almost beat them a second time. And finally they survived Oregon and Gonzaga to put the memories of last year to rest.

This championship validates Roy Williams approach to recruiting. He won’t guarantee anything to incoming recruits, so UNC misses out on the top one-and-done type players. Instead, Williams builds a program that can emphasize certain talents, but also develop them. Anyone who watched Kennedy Meeks as a freshman lumbering up and down the court has to be amazed at what four years of college did to revolutionize his game.

And now the Tar Heels will see a real change in their lineup. Meeks and Hicks are graduating along with Britt and White. Jackson will almost certainly leave for the NBA and Tony Bradley could too. But Joel Berry and Theo Pinson will be back to lead next year’s team, and new faces will emerge to replace the departed. But we will always remember and cherish this squad.

The Final Four

Raise your hand if you had South Carolina, Gonzaga, Oregon, and UNC as your picks. Amazingly, 657 people did in the ESPN brackets. Sure, that’s out of 18.5-million, but it still seems high to me.

Thats how unlikely this Final Four is. Two teams that have never been there, one team that hasn’t been there since 1939 and the team that has been there a record 20-times. Once again, the conventional wisdom was very, very wrong. The East was going to be a battle of Duke vs. Villanova. The West would see Gonzaga picked off early. Oregon couldn’t possibly go to the Final Four after suffering a big injury in the PAC-12 tournament. Kentucky or UCLA would cut down the nets in the South.

It wasn’t what we thought it would be, but it should be a great Final Four. I think we will have a South Carolina-North Carolina Final which should include a side bet that the winning state forever is known only as “Carolina” and the losing state has to keep the directional part of their name. (That is quite a big deal down there almost as much as which state has the better BBQ)