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.

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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.

The NFL is Oblivious

Thr NFL will announce the 2017 schedule tonight, but thanks to more leaks than the Titanic, you can find your team’s schedule online already. One date stands out for the Giants, Thanksgiving at Washington.

Some people are bothered by Native American nicknames for sports teams some are not. I personally avoid using them for the reason that they cause a portion of the population offense. I understand why people may not agree with that, but I hope the insensitivity of scheduling a Washington home game on Thanksgiving needs no explanation.

The NFL doesn’t care. Roger Goodell seems to have zero empathy for victims of domestic violence, victims of brain trauma, and Native Americans who object to a racist trademark. At what point do we, the fans supporting this enterprise, vote with our wallets?

Playoff Hockey

It’s the best time of the year in hockey and so far, the Rangers and Canadiens are living up to the hype. Montreal pulled out a stunner in Game 2 and then blasted the Rangers in Game 3. New York rebounded with a much, much better effort in Game 4, and now we head to Montreal tied at 2.

The best series right now is the Toronto-Washington one. All three games have gone to OT and the surprising Maple Leafs have the Presidents Cup winners on their heels. Game 4 is tonight in Toronto and the Leafs could go up 3-1. Pretty much every other team in the East would be thrilled by that.

Boston and Ottawa aren’t far behind. The last two games have been OT affairs and Game 1 was decided by a goal as well. Game 4 is tonight with the Senators looking to take a 3-1 lead back home Friday.

A really shocking series is Chicago-Nashville. Chicago was the best team in the West, but they are down 3-0 to a surprisingly tough Predators squad. Nashville can close things out tomorrow night at home.

If you like late games, Edmonton-San Jose has been a great series, apart from Game 4 which was a rout. The series is tied, but the games don’t start until 10:30 EDT, which is rough.

Not all the series have been good, or even close to what was expected. Columbus finally put up an effort last night to avoid getting swept by Pittsburgh. Both teams won 50-games during the season and Pittsburgh only claimed home ice because of a better record in OT, so this looked to be a close series. Maybe Columbus will rally, but it hasn’t been pretty so far.

Anaheim and St. Louis can sweep their series tonight. The Minnesota-St. Louis series is a surprise as the Blues were actually the underdog. Barring a historic collapse, that wasn’t accurate.

And while I am not a huge fan of the fact that the NHL takes the games away from local TV after this round, the flip side to that is that all playoff games are televised nationally now. USA and NBCSports are doing the bulk of the games, with the NHL Network chipping in occasionally. So go out and watch, there is nothing like it.

 

 

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)

The Madness Arrives!

To me Thursday and Friday should be national holidays because we have 32 college basketball games to watch. March Madness is upon us again and while I am still heartbroken about last year’s result, I think this year could turn out better for me.

So yes, I will pick Carolina to win it all in my “heart” bracket, but here’s an alternative view.

EAST- Villanova is a popular choice to repeat, but I don’t think they get past Duke. Duke was maddeningly inconsistent this year, but they are finally healthy and guys like Tatum will be easy lottery picks. This is probably the most talented team in the field and they are peaking.  Ignore them at your peril.

WEST- Gonzaga was a great story for years as an underdog, but they seem to me a team that is overexposed as a favorite. I don’t think they make the Final Four. I think Norte Dame, WVA, and Arizona are all their primary obstacles. In fact, I expect them to get eliminated by the winner of Notre Dame-WVA. I think Florida State gets bounced early too, and give me Arizona as the ultimate survivor.

MIDWEST

No team has ever won the title after losing their first conference tournament game. That’s what stands in the way of Kansas as they look to get through this bracket. I think they won’t buck history and that the biggest game in this bracket will be Louisville-Michigan for a spot in the sweet sixteen. Louisville is incredibly talented. Michigan survived a plane crash on Thursday and went and won the Big Ten title in a big upset.  I think Pitino cools them off and gets Louisville into the Final Four

SOUTH

UNC baby!  Ok, if you want a different pick give me UCLA. They have an amazing point guard and are very talented. Plus, I think Kentucky is going to get picked off by Wichita State which opens that side of the bracket. I picked UCLA to cut down the nets back in December, so I will stick with that.

FINAL FOUR- Duke, Arizona, Louisville, UCLA.

FINALS- Duke-UCLA

Champ- UCLA

But go Tar Heels!

 

You Cannot Be Serious!

ESPN has a new story titled, “Should the Knicks blow it up or pursue the playoffs?” I am not making that up. It includes this amazing quote”

That time is here for Knicks management. Jackson needs to decide whether he wants to continue to push for the playoffs or pull the plug on what feels like another lost season in New York.

“continue to push for the playoffs”!? The Knicks are 11-games under .500 and 3-7 in their last 10. That’s a playoff push? Sure, the Eastern Conference is once again top-heavy, but they are four-games back with three teams in front of them. And if they made the playoffs then they would probably be a sacrifice to King James in the first round.

Instead here is a “crazy” idea. Lose games as often as possible. If ever there was a season to tank, this is it, because the draft looks really deep and the Knicks finally have paid off all of Isiah and Jimmy’s terrible draft pick trades. If possible, trade Carmelo for another first round pick and then do the smart thing- rebuild. A lottery pick added to Porzingas with another first rounder thown in is a good start. Stink again in 2018 and you have another lottery pick. Suddenly, you might have a pretty good core of players.

Whatever you do, don’t try to add anything to this team that would sacrifice the future. That would be amazingly stupid.

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.