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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mid-Major? No longer

Hey everyone, sorry for the hiatus. Many of you probably thought that I was taking a break since my NCAA bracket was busted last weekend. No, that is not the reason, even though my bracket has been busted, and I have a greater chance of winning mega millions than I do of winning my work pool. Others probably think that I needed time to recover after the defeat of my favorite team, Ohio State. While that loss to Tennessee in was disheartening, especially considering that despite their horrendous play throughout the Buckeyes still had a chance to win, that too was not the reason I have not chosen to write. No, after last weekend I am suffering from a little writer's block-but I believe that I finally found something worth writing about-the use of the term 'Mid Major Conference'-and its subsequent death.

For years we(media and fans across the nation) have used the term 'Mid-Major Conference' to refer to a team that belongs to a conference that is not considered a traditional power. The conferences that make up the traditional powers are the ACC, the Big East, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the Pac 10, and the SEC. Any school that is from a conference other than the aforementioned is considered a 'Mid Major" school, simply for the fact that in the past it has been believed they could not attract the athletes to compete with such schools. But if recent history has taught us anything, it is that these schools can compete with the big boys. In football, Boise State, a school from the Mid Major Western Athletic Conference has made it to the Bowl Championship series twice in the last four years-their first appearance being a victory over Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma. Schools like Boise State have also produced more picks in the NFL draft that have become starters, the most notorious example recently being Delaware's Joe Flacco starting at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. And in basketball, the most teams from non-traditional power confereences received at-large bids--13 I believe it was-with six teams from non traditional power conferences making the sweet sixteen. All culminating with the Horizon Conference's Butler making its first final four appearance. Butler's road to the final four included wins over basketball powers such as Syracuse, Kansas State, Ohio State, Xavier, Georgetown, and St. John's. I believe that we will be seeing this type of trend continue in both Divison I NCAA football and men's basketball, and with the arrival of teams from schools that do not belong to the traditional powers, we must reevalute the use of the term Mid Major. Nay, I say we should abandon the use of the term altoghether.

This weekend's final four should bring us some exciting games. My head says that West Virginia has the best chance to win it all, although as a fan I wouldn't mind either Duke or Butler winning it all. Regardless of the outcome, however, I believe that this tournament should be the death of the term ' Mid Major' when referring to NCAA Divison I conferences.

Monday, March 22, 2010

March is almost over so that means...

Well, its that time of year again. For many sports fans, it is the most exciting time of year. Where something magical happens. No, I am not talking about the Masters. Nor am I talking about the NCAA basketball tournament, which is already more than halfway over. I am talking about the start of Major League Baseball, opening day being a little more than a week away, with the Yankees and Red Sox playing on April 4th. THE EXPERTS (I put that term in allcaps because I believe that when it comes down to it they(baseball media) are no smarter than you or I when it comes to making predictions) are predicting that the Red Sox will thwart the Yankees attempt to become the first team since, well, the Yankees to repeat as world champion. I have to respectfully disagree with THE EXPERTS. I believe that this year's version of the Yankees might actually be better than last year's, especially if Phil Hughes can settle into the fifth starting position as expected, and Joba Chamberlain returns to the setup man for Mo Rivera as he once was. The Red Sox have added pitching, but in doing so they might have cost themselves some key hitting. And the Mariners think that by adding Cliff Lee to the rotation they will become instant contenders, sort of like the Phillies did last year. Well I have a news flash. The Phillies were already good before they added Lee, Lee just put them over the hump. I am not so sure about the Mariners. No, I think Yankees will face a tougher challenge in their quest to repeat from the NL, where I see the Cards and Phillies duking it out again. The Cardinals always have a tough lineup, and the Phillies just added the best pitcher in baseball in Roy Halladay to an already dangerous lineup. I think we just might be seeing you again in October, Yankees and Phillies.

The start of the 2010 baseball season also brings another phenomenon that I have recently latched onto: fantasy baseball. As you are all aware, I have an unhealthy obsession for stats. It's to the point that I have even taken that obsession with me to work, where I am constantly checking my productivity and quality numbers. I probably have driven a couple of the warehouse leads crazy agonizing over averaging around 150 labels per hr per dc(distribution center) for a day means that I was averaging 90 labels per hr for the whole day. That obsession may take on a whole new meaning when it comes to fantasy baseball, for I have just drafted my fifth (that's right fifth) free team the other day. Some may think that this is bordering on the level of The Fan, starring Robert DeNiro. I would like to think that I am more on the level of Pedro Cerrano in Major League when he gives homage to Jobu. But hey, I had three leagues last season, and seeing as how I didn't really know anything about fantasy baseball going in, and not really paying attention to it until after the all-star break, I ended up 2nd out of 10, 3rd out of 10, and 6th out of 10 respectively. I will probably drop a couple of teams, of course the one that has Albert Pujols and CC Sabathia on them won't be one of them. But hey, as long as they are free, what's the harm? Nothing really, but between you and me, it's probably good i am not paying to join these fantasy leagues because then my interest in them would force me to do a Cleveland Indians to this blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness is here!

It's my favorite time of year: NCAA basketball tourney time, baby! The one time of year where every underdog has its chance. Just like me in the half mile at the state track meet in high school. Oh wait, its nothing like me in the high school state track meet. A 2 minute 10 second half mile would be pretty sweet about now but even now I don't think it would get me out of the district in Ohio's Division II District Track meet. That's okay though. I am a legend in my own mind. Kinda like Georgetown thought they were tonight vs. Ohio. You all see that? Ohio won by double digits! They were a nine seed in their own conference tournament! Unbelieveable!

In other games played today, it looks as if Duke screwed me again. I put them in the final four time and time again and they never seem to make it past the second round. I guess its a mental thing, also reminds me of trying to run the mile in under 5 minutes in high school. But hey I a had a heckuva coach. Mike Arends was the ultimate picture of what a track coach should be, yelling at me to run harder while at the same time holding a cigarette in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. Maybe that is what I need to become a high school track coach. But I digress. I can't believe Duke got knocked off by Arkansas Pine-Bluff! My bracket i am in at work is ruined! What's that you say? Duke doesn't play until tomorrow night at 9:30? Whew! That is a relief. Now I won't feel like an idiot when they eventually lose to my Buckeyes in the final. Yeah, yeah, I know, many of you are thinking that Ohio State has a hard road to even get to the sweet sixteen, but how many of you also had Georgetown playing Kansas in the elite eight? So, while OSU has some flaws in their game, even the Jayhawks, the number one overall seed, appeared to struggle for a half against Lehigh. Sounds more like a style of jeans that Lee would come out with than an actual university.

The first day seemed full of upsets, some of which I predicted, and others that again left me scratching my head. I joined all the other experts who called the Murray State upset of Vanderbilt. I must give props to ESPN's own Doug Gottlieb, whom I first heard that prediction from. I also correctly predicted Old Dominion beating Notre Dame, thanks again to the Big East for underacheiving this weekend. I did not have Ohio U, but that is a minor disappoinment as I would rather see OU vs Ohio State than have Georgetown go into the final four. No, my biggest loss today came when St. Marys beat Richmond, I had them playing Duke in the Elite Eight in what I still feel is the weakest fourth of the whole bracket. Just goes to show you that the Atlantic 10 once again may be another mid major who is not there yet. But you gotta love all the upsets that happened today. Reminds me of the ultimate underdog, Ohio State walk-on senior Mark Titus. If you haven't checked out his blog, you really should. It is Pay special attention to the post from January 13, when he talks about reaching 2million hits. He has a video tribute of himself shot by him and his best friend, a guy named Keller. It is a great video, has to rank up there with the Rocky movie workout montages. You can check it out by clicking on this hyperlink: . It's about halfway down the page, entitled Mark Titus-Mr. Rainmaker. Bonus points if you can guess who the song is by. That's all for now. Until next time. J-rod out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Texas Tech/Adam James incident illustrates why colleges should think twice before recruiting the kid of a former standout athlete

Recent videos that have surfaced showing former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach berating his players after two different games once again brings to the forefront the whole Adam James debacle. However, rather than rehash that whole scenario, I would like to look at that story from a different perspective. Adam James, the Texas Tech player who allegedy was mistreated in this situation, is the son of Craig James, a former NFL player and current ESPN analyst. It is not uncommon for the sons and daugthers of former athletic greats to be recruited by colleges nowadays. In fact, two players on Ohio State's football team are the sons of two former standouts for Ohio State: Duron Carter is the son of former All-American and Minnesota Viking Cris Carter, and Adam Griffin is the son of the two time heisman winning running back Archie Griffin. Even going back a little further, Jarret Payton, son of the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, played football for the University of Miami. The situation with Adam James and his father Craig, is unique, however, in that it underlies the peril in potentially recruiting such an athlete. Adam seems to indeed have felt that because of his pedigree he was somehow "entitled", and that subsequently he did not have to work as hard as the other athletes on scholarship. Craig James for his part used his position as ESPN analyst and former NFL player to force Texas Tech in a corner regarding the investigation surrounding his son, thereby raising an ethical issue that ESPN will ultimately have to address prior to the start of the 2010 college football season. So as appealing as recruiting an athlete that comes from a strong pedigree sounds, it can definitely have its drawbacks. Even the younger Carter did not escape his freshman season without trouble, having been reported skipping class on a routine basis and being declared academically ineligible to play in the Rose Bowl vs. Oregon. My suggestion to coaches who want to recruit such players is that they tread lightly when doing so. They should first have their assistants conduct thorough interviews with the players, and then the parents. The head coach should be able to rest easy knowing that the parents of such a reruit want their kid to be treated just like any other kid on scholarship, and that the player does not have any expectation of playing time just because of who his or her parents are/were. The university/college should relax in the comfort that they will not lose the thousands of dollars spent on the student athlete when the parent's decide to use their influence to sue/threaten to sue them. If university programs and/or head coaches adopt this advice, then I believe incidents like the one surrounding Adam James will become less frequent.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Browns QB situation: McNabb? Kolb? Delhomme? Smith? Roethlisberger?

The central question surrounding the Cleveland Browns this offseason, and it seems almost every offseason since they rejoined the league in 1999, is who will be their starting quarterback once the season begins in September. It seems we know more about who won't be the starter next season at this point than who is likely to take over that position. Gone is Derek Anderson, cut by the Browns at almost the 11th hour before they had to pay him an almost 2 million dollar roster bonus. And rumor has it that Brady Quinn is likley to be traded too. So who are the candidates to become the next qb in cleveland? There are the names we have been hearing all along such as Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb of the Eagles, and they have also been eyeing Troy Smith of the Ravens as well. Recently they have invited former Carolina Panthers starter Jake Delhomme to workout for them, prompting many to wonder if he could be the next starter. And there is also rumor they could pick up someone in the draft, maybe someone such as Colt McCoy. One name however, that you might not think would be available that could be is current Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Sure Roethlisberger has enough on his plate with his current legal situation, but if he comes out of this without any jail time the Steelers could still be willing to trade him because of all the negative publicity he has brought to the team. Nonetheless, detractors of this scenario would argue that the Steelers wouldn't be that dumb to trade someone like Big Ben to a division rival. And I agree they wouldn't. But, if Roethlisberger is indeed traded, the Browns do have 11 draft picks this year, and I couldnt think of a better way to use most of them than to make a trade with the team that lands him. Not only is he a proven winner, with two super bowl rings as proof, but he is also a hometown boy as well, having been raised in nearby Findlay, Ohio. And he would be the perfect for head coach Eric Mangini's ball control offense, having run a similar style offense himself in Pittsburgh. It is probably more a pipe dream than anything else, with the Steelers deciding to retain Ben's services or his legal troubles getting the best of him. But the Browns, who have had a terrible time in naming a starting qb in recent history, would have nothing to lose by going after Roethlisberger.

Did Bengals make right decision by signing Bryant? In my opinion, no

The recent signing of free agent wide receiver Antonio Bryant by the Cincinnati Bengals has been hailed by many as a significant upgrade to their offensive unit. Bryant is only two years removed from a season in which he had amassed over 1200 yards receiving. But I do not believe that this was the best move possible for the Bengals. Indeed, even though I am an avid Browns fan, I can objectively say that I believe this was not the best move they could have made. In my opinion, they should have reached out to Denver and swapped their first round pick for Brandon Marshall. Marshall has made over 100 receptions each of the last three seasons and at only 25 years of age still has his best years in front of him. Bryant, at age 29, has several more seasons of wear and tear and has shown himself to be injury prone. And the 83 receptions Bryant had over two seasons ago was the most he ever had. In my estimation, this is another case of the Bengals not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to go from playoff contender to championship contender.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Secret Alliance between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson?

There were a couple of dominant headlines after Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Atlanta. The first was the impressive manner in which Kurt Busch took the checkered flag. The second was the ongoing feud between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, that ultimately ended in Edwards wrecking Keselowski, the debate there being whether he did it intentionallly or accidentally. Neither of those stories, however, are as compelling as one NASCAR doesn't want you to know about: is there a secret alliance between drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson whereby Gordon may be sacrificing his race car in part to help Johnson win another Sprint Cup title? The evidence, while purely circumstantial, that this might be the case is intriguing nonetheless. The first thing I would point to is that Jeff Gordon owns the number 48 car of Johnson, not anyone else's car on Hendrick Motorsports, his own car included. His performance of late might also suggest an alliance between him and Johnson. At Las Vegas, many speculated Jeff Gordon could have won the race had he taken four tires on his last pit stop; instead he took only two and Jimmie Johnson ended up winning the race. Then there is the finish this past Sunday, where Gordon, who ended up 18th, was never really in the race, and Johnson, who finished 12th had a shot to win until he got banged up late. Opponents of the theory that there is an alliance between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson would argue that it is still early in the season, and currently Gordon is alive and well in the Chase. Those are valid points. And Johnson himself is no slouch, he has a great team and is obviously a great driver. I would still argue that it is very interesting that Gordon owns the number 48 car, has not been doing great overall as of late, and at 4th in the standings now Johnson looks poised to make another run at a 5th consecutive championship. Should Jimmie Johnson win his 5th Nextel title, remember he may have had a little extra help.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A surefire way to force college basketball players to stay in school

Commissioner David Stern, NBA owners, and NBA front office types have been working for years on ways to encourage college and high school basketball stars to stay in school longer. The current collective barganing agreement states athletes wishing to declare for the NBA draft must be out of high school for at least one year. I have a solution that is a little more practical, and does not require a major overhaul of the current agreement. My solution is this: current head coaches adopt a style of play that focus more on the team than the individual. Many people would disagree with me on this point, but I believe that currently the NBA has devolved into somewhat more organized game of pick-up ball. But if today's head coaches help to change they way offense and defense is played in the NBA, that might convince players to stick in school longer to work on the fundamentals.

The first thing that needs a makeover is team defense. Today's NBA players see defense as running down the length of the court to block a shot or trying to make an all important steal and go the other way for a thunderous dunk. Lost in this approach is the concept of taking away a players path to the basket or denying the passing lanes. One way to change is to implement a zone defense similar to the 2-3 that is several NCAA schools currently use. This defense, when executed correctly, employs traps that take away passing lanes and make it harder for offense to beat you by simply taking the first shot available. This approach, combined with a defense that uses a full court press more often, would make it harder for offenses to score and force them to actually run an offense as opposed to cherry picking many times. A full court press would also force many guards to become better ball handlers. And rebounding has become a lost art. No one really boxes out any more. Coaches should bench any player who gets beat to the rebound because he didn't block out his opponent.

If team defense needs retooling, then so does the offense. The first thing that needs to go is the shoot first pass later mentality. Coaches need to stress ball movement, and they could do this by benching players who decide to shoot the ball before making at least a pass or two. Critics of this approach would argue that if a player has an open shot, he should take it, but I would counter that is exactly what is wrong with the NBA today. Too many times you see players spotting up for an open three and missing way long or way short, with the rebound going the other way for any easy layup. With a pass or two to a more high percentage shot, I believe this scenario would decrease. Addtionally coaches who use a heavy dose of the pick and roll should see that the players who do it are more disciplined. This means not setting a lazy screen or making a quicker roll to the basket. Finally I believe that coaches should bench players who miss layups and free throws during crunch time. This oftentimes can cost many teams games, and has even led to strategies such as the "hack a Shaq". Forcing players to make free throws not only increases a teams chance of winning but it also forces opposing defenses to employ a different strategy.

The one downside to this approach would be the willingness of NBA coaches to implement these changes. Many coaches find it hard to argue with players whose salary and egos are larger than theirs. And even if they were to try this approach, they have to convince the players to buy in to their system. Players might be averse to this idea at first, and request to be traded to a team that has more freedom, but if enough coaches adopt this strategy then the players will be forced to either adjust their game or ride the pine.

I believe that this approach gives the NBA considerable leverage when trying to convince today's youth to stay in school longer. The first and most tangible thing it accomplishes is that it will force kids to work on the fundmentals such as free throw shooting, ball handling, passing and rebounding. It would also force younger players to focus more on the team. Driving to the basket, shooting an open three, or trying to make that all important block or steal would take on a different meaning. Free throw shooting would no longer be reduced to the joke it is currently. Players would be forced to stay in school longer to work on the fundamentals that I see a lot of today's NBA stars lacking in.

To all the NBA owners, general managers, and others who suggest that players wait before entering the draft, I give this advice: encourage your respective head coach to call the game differently. College freshmen and sophmores will have to think twice about leaving early if they realize their playing time will be cut because they can't make free throws or don't know the ins and outs of the zone defense. In today's era of exploding guaranteed contracts and free agency, the idea that any coach would take the time to implement this may seem like a pipe dream. But, if they are able to do so, I believe you will see a huge decrease in the number of one and dones in college.

Friday, March 5, 2010

For top NBA draft propsects John Wall and Evan Turner, decision to turn pro early not so clear cut

There has been plenty of speculation for months that point guards John Wall of the University of Kentucky, and Evan Turner of The Ohio State University, will more than likely turn pro after their respective season(s) end. These guys are more than likely the best players in the nation, and either one could be the number one pick in next June's NBA draft. However, does that mean either one should declare for the draft as soon as their season is over? In my opinion, no it does not. As the number one pick in the draft they would more than likely be taken by the Nets, and any casual NBA fan can tell you that New Jersey is not a fun place to be in right now. Sure you get a lot of guaranteed money as a number one overall pick but being drafted by the Nets this year would seem to me worse than being drafted by the Clippers in any year. There is a chance that New Jersey could be the worst team in 2011 as well, but if that is case what is the rush to be on the worst team in the league? Turner has been banged up this year as well, and might not want to risk further injury, but I would point to his teammate David Lighty as proof that sticking around does not always result in further injury. Plus, how could Turner not be moved by the story of the OSU 1960 national championship team? If Turner sticks around, he, Jon Diebler, Lighty, and the incoming freshman could lead them to their first NCAA title in over 50 years. Wall may accomplish the feat of winning a national title this season, and thus he might feel he has nothing left to prove. Wall might, however, want to leave a legacy such as the one that Jamal Mashburn, Ray Mercer, etc. left several years ago though. Plus there is the matter of the potential lockout in 2011, and both players might want to get their guaranteed money while they can. In any case, the decision to go pro for the top two players in college basketball this season is hardly anything but easy.

Browns head into draft, free agency period with many questions; a few suggestions I think may answer some of them.

As the free agency period in the NFL commences, and with the draft less than a couple of months away, the Cleveland Browns again have many holes to fill if they want to be a playoff contender. Among the top needs the Browns have is at the quarterback position, where neither Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn have definitively set themselves apart as the go-to-guy. Media types have speculated that the Browns will either go after Sam Bradford in the draft, or try to trade for someone such as Donovan McNabb or Matt Hasselbeck. I would suggest that the Browns do not select Bradford, given their history with drafting first round qbs. I also think that McNabb and Hasselbeck, while short term upgrades, are aging too quickly and could be a bit of an injury risk for the Browns. My suggestion for the Browns would be to trade for someone like a Troy Smith or Kevin Kolb and sign them to a short term deal. Sure they are unproven, but they might be less of a risk than turning to the draft, and having less wear on them than McNabb or Hasselbeck means that should they pan out you can sign them to a long term contract. Smith would be a natural choice and a fan favorite, as the Ohio State grad would be returning to the city where he starred in high school. And even though he is small of stature, one only has to look at the example that Drew Brees set to realize that you don't have to be big to succeed at the qb position. Smith has shown us while at Ohio State that he not only has the arm to succeed in the NFL but also the accuracy, completing over 65% of his passes during his senior year. He has also shown a knack for fitting the football in tight windows, and he does not lock on to one receiver, something that NFL scouts also look at heavily.

So if the Browns do not take a quarterback in the draft, the next question becomes whom do they select with the 7th pick overall. The current consensus is that they select safety Eric Berry from Tennessee or corner Joe Haden of Florida. While I would not argue with either of these selections, as they fill an immediate need for Cleveland in the secondary, that would not be my pick, as the secondary seems to be the deepest position in the draft. They could potentially wait until the second round and beyond to draft someone like safety Taylor Mays from USC or even further down the list draft OSU safety Kurt Coleman. Instead, I would argue that the Browns put themselves in a position to draft wide receiver Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State. Bryant has the speed, size and agility to make himself a natural compliment to Mohammed Massaquoi. And in this day where it seems the game has evolved from run first to pass first, you can never have too many quality receivers.

A third pressing need the Browns will have to address is the linebacker position. D'qwell Jackson retruns from injury to an otherwise underperforming unit last season, with former first round draft pick Kamerion Wimbley still struggling to make an impact. Last year the thinking was that the Browns would have drafted one of the standout LBs from USC, and while they eventually did draft a USC linebacker, it was not one of the big three. Certainly there are linebacker prospects in this year's draft, but the Browns will have to act quickly as the top LBs may not last past the second round. There is a small chance that the Browns could luck out and land someone like a Brandon Spikes in the early portion of the second round, but if not they may have to rely on free agency. The New England Patriots released Adalius Thomas, and signing him may be another option for the Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have a lot of decisions to make this off-season, as evidenced by the 11 picks they currently hold in next month's draft. How well they draft, as well as the choices they make in the free agent market, will ultimately determine if they are fighting for a playoff spot or just to get out of the cellar next season

Blue Jackets' Umberger prime example of what is wrong with team

Recent comments by Columbus Blue Jackets' interim head coach Claude Noel that his team needed to significantly improve their fitness level did not sit well with many of the players, especially center R.J. Umberger. Umberger was so upset with the comments that it prompted Noel to apologize to his team for publicly criticizing them. In my opinion, it is players like Umberger, who immediately go on the defensive when called out by their coaches, that exemplify everything that is wrong with the Blue Jackets. Former head coach Ken Hitchcock tried to toughen up this band of "softies", but when he failed, it was time for him to be shown the door. Hockey is a very physically demanding sport, and it takes someone who is not only physically tough, but also mentally and emotionally tough to succeed in the NHL. Umberger, rather than use Noel's statement as incentive to fire up his teammates, instead takes Noel's comments personally and goes on the defensive. I have no problem with what Noel said, and I believe he should never had to make an apology. He was no doubt trying to motivate his team. And until someone else inside the Blue Jackets locker room starts to get thicker skin and give his teammates a figurative "kick in the rear", Columbus will continue to be a supbar professional hockey team.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

LeBron James is not leaving Cleveland

It has been the hot topic of discussion since last spring: will LeBron James return to Cleveland Cavaliers after the end of the 2010 season or will he exercise his opt out clause and seek employment with another team? I am going to put to rest once and for all the rumors that King James' silence have undoubedtly created: LeBron James will be a Cleveland Cavalier next season. Many have speculated that LeBron will leave and head for a destination because he can make more money in places like New York or LA. To those people I would say news flash: LeBron already generates close to 100 million dollars in revenue when you take into account his salary combined with endoresments. For him its not about the money. Never has been. There are others who would point to the fact that he could not pass up the opportunity to play for a championship alongside someone such as a Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade. Again, I say news flash: LeBron is playing with what might be the most talented supporting cast he has ever had in Cleveland to date. and he is having a lot of fun doing it. Watching tonights game versus the Nets, it amazed me how deep the Cavaliers are, that Anderson Varejao, once a starting forward, is now a 7th or 8th man, and that is without having Shaquille O'Neal due to injury and Zydrunas Ilgauskas because they have to wait to re-sign him. Guys lke Jamario Moon, JJ Hickson, Anthony Parker, and Jawad Williams have become good role players carryovers from last year James and Mo Williams. Antwan Jamison actually turned out to be the better acquistion for the Cavs than Amare Stoudemire, because they add the scoring that Stoudemire would have produced without having to give up the defense that they would have lost by trading JJ Hickson. Should Daniel Gibson and Delonte West return in time for the playoffs they will have the deepest Cavalier team ever in the playoffs. LeBron is having fun with the Cavs, as evidence by his pre-game rituals of throwing the talcum powder in the air and horsing around with his teammates. He loves the city of Cleveland. So why is he being so secretive about his plans for next season? There are several trains of thought on this issue. The first is that LeBron just wants to finish out his existing contract, which techincally does not expire until 2011, and that being the consummate businessman any talk of reworking his contract before then wouldn't be prudent. The next is that this has all been a ploy by James to goad owner Dan Gilbert and GM Danny Ferry to make the off-court acquistions necessary to complete the Cavs quest for a champisonship. The Cavs decision to sign Shaquille O'Neal in the off-season, combined with their recent trade for forward Antwan Jamison, might have been enough to put them in positon to win the franchise's first title, and now all James wants to do for the rest of the season is focus on playing basketball. Finally, a team such as LA would have to do a major overhaul of its lineup, which could only mean parting ways with all-star Kobe Bryant, to have room under the salary cap to sign a player like James. Financially it does not make sense for other playoff contenders to try to absorb James' salary and still be under the salary cap. And James already having made it to the finals once would not want to be part of the rebuilding process that is New York, he wants to win now. Like I said before: come the summer of 2010, LeBron James will still be a Cleveland Cavalier.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

OSU needs to be weary of Illini tonight

While a win by the OSU men's basketball team would give them a share of the Big Ten regular season title and a number one seed in next week's tournament, the Buckeyes should not take their opponent, Illinois, for granted. Sure, the Buckeyes beat them by 20 last time, and yes they are playing for a home crowd on senior night tonight(note: if you haven't checked it out yet, I would direct you to walk-on senior Mark Titus' blog page, It's pretty good. He has over 2 million visitors already, and maybe someday I will be able to approach his notoriety. But right now I will settle for any readers I can get). But Illinois has to be foaming at the mouth at the beating they took a couple of weeks ago. Not only that, but this game may be even more important to the Illini in that their NCAA tournament lives are on the line. I believe when the dust settles OSU will clinch a share of another Big Ten title, but if they blink they could be in for a rude awakening.

23 or 6? for Lebron James, the most athletically gifted athlete ever, it doesn't really matter

Much has been made of the recent announcement by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lebron James that he will change the number he wears on his jersey next season from 23 to 6. James has publicly stated he is making the change to honor one of the National Basketball Associations all-time greats, Michael Jordan. Proponents of the move argue that James should defer to Jordan, who in the eyes of some took the game of professional basketball one step further than Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Opponents of the move will argue that Lebron should choose another number besides 6, as this was the number worn by legends Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics and Julius Erving of the Philadelphis 76ers. I would argue that Lebron James has earned the right to wear whatever number he likes, whether it be 23 or 6 or 32 or 00. In my opinion, James is not only the most gifted athlete in the NBA, or in sports today, but he may also be the most athletically gifted athtlete ever. Not only does he dominate in the NBA, but many have speculated that he could also star in the NFL as well. And one part of his game that is overlooked is his quickness; that quickness might have made him an excellent track star as well. So let King James wear whatever number he likes: it may be a long time before the world sees an athlete as naturally talented as him again.