Saturday, March 31, 2007

Final Four Previews
by Chris Clement and Paymon Hashemi

National Semifinal #1
The Ultimate Preview: #1. Ohio State vs. #2. Georgetown

The first national semifinal of the night has Thad Matta’s youthful and extremely athletic Buckeyes matched up against John Thompson III’s disciplined and chiseled Hoyas. It’s the type of matchup that any college basketball fan should be truly excited about. Why? Let’s take a deeper look into the Four Factors that make this a game that a can’t-miss matchup.

Georgetown is just 25 years removed from Fred Brown’s errant pass to James Worthy in the closing seconds of the ’82 title game. The Buckeyes, despite an appearance in ’99, haven’t been in a National Title game since 1968. Add to that who is coaching, John Thompson’s son, and that a Ewing, Patrick Ewing Jr., is on the court for Georgetown. The last-second shot against Vandy, with more than a little controversy attached to it, was perhaps the talk of last weekend’s games. That was the case until their 10-point comeback in the final seven minutes against the East’s top-seed, the North Carolina Tar Heels. The return to dominance, in only three short years under Thompson III, is a thing to behold out of Georgetown this season. As for the Buckeyes, they brought in the most hyped freshman in years [Greg Oden], and for the most part, delivered time and time again as a team. Their amazing comeback against Xavier, thanks in large part to the clutch shooting of Ron Lewis, was followed up by exciting games against Tennessee (included both a 20-point comeback and a last-second Oden block) and a nailbiter, of sorts, against a brash, hungry Memphis squad. Both teams earned their tickets to Atlanta and both teams, at least in the back of their minds, have to be thinking about cutting down another net before they leave.

Every game needs high-profile names, like it or not. Georgetown might have a Thompson on the bench and a Ewing on the court, but it’s all about Roy Hibbert and Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green. At 7-2, Hibbert is the latest Hoya big-man to talk about. His footwork has improved mightily over his college career and he often poses an indomitable force on the inside block, both offensively and defensively. Watching him play inside, with four fouls, against the Heels frontline last week was a thing of beauty. As for Green, his inside-outside game is among the best in the entire country. Walking violation or not, his play to beat Vandy in the closing seconds was one of pure strength and skill. He can beat you from the outside or put the ball on the court and create his own high percentage shot. Don’t underestimate what that takes on the college level. As for the Buckeyes, Greg Oden is a man among men, even at 19 years old. The 1st-team All American has avoided stints of foul trouble to make big plays on both sides of the court. Ironically, he may pose an even bigger threat when he’s off the court, as teams often panic to find the best possible offensive scheme to take advantage of the shot-blocker’s absence. Alongside him are plenty of talented players, but none more than high-school teammate and freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. Not the best shooter on the team, Conley Jr. is one of the nation’s most balanced, quickest, and poised backcourt penetraters. His vision is spectacular and he always seems to rise to the occasion, often as a calming influence, when his team needs him the most.

Winning Streaks
The Big Ten conference and post-season champion Ohio State Buckeyes haven’t lost since a January 9th visit to Wisconsin, 21-in-a-row win in fact, which included two wins over Wisconsin, two wins over Tennessee, beating Memphis, and slew of other tough conference opponents. Idle number or not, 21-wins is an impressive feat for the overall #1 team in the country. They’ve avoided several near disasters and are only stronger because of it. As for Georgetown, the Big East conference and post-season champions, have won 19 of 20 [only stumble being a 14 point loss at Syracuse, which sure does look good right now for the Orange, thank you] which included that comeback win against North Carolina (in which Thompson III never panicked), two wins against Pitt, and several other notable victories. Both of these teams are playing the best basketball of their seasons just at the right time. Neither of these coaches need to remind these guys the importance of sticking to their game plan and playing within themselves. Teams who win this much already have that luxury.

You might be surprised to hear this, but Ohio State can win without Greg Oden dominating. Georgetown has also survived with Hibbert being in foul trouble throughout big games. Not surprisingly, both big men could spend heavy minutes nursing foul trouble this game. So it’s no surprise Georgetown would look to their top player, Jeff Green, to anchor them. And he most likely will. Ditto with Ohio State, turning to their primary ballhandler Mike Conley Jr., for aid and leadership. And he most likely will deliver. Yet, it is the true role players who will decide this game. For the Buckeyes, that means that Ron Lewis needs to stroke more than a couple idle threes from behind the arc. This task is gonna be a mighty challenge when you consider Georgetown has held Vandy/UNC to 14 of 48 from behind the 3-point line in their last two contests. Jamar Butler, on a scoring rampage as of late, is going to have to hit open shots and get to the line early and often. That’ll be tough mainly due to the suffocating Georgetown defense, experts at keeping such players outside of the lane. Daequan Cook will have to often pass up deep shots that aren’t high percentage; instead, kicking it out and looking to find teammates for better opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s just too tempting to pass up rare outside opportunities, even from 23+-feet, for the hybrid-shooter. Things aren’t much easier for the Hoya role players easier. Jonathan Wallace and DaJuan Summers have enjoyed mostly-stellar shooting this tournament, but have shown a tendency at times to go cold during the season. Jessie Sapp will certainly have a size advantage over the Buckeye PGs, but will his lack of true speed come to hurt him in late stretches? Patrick Ewing Jr. has improved his play steadily throughout the year, but is he ready to do all the little things – which may include hardly ever taking a shot – on the stage his father once dominated three times in a stellar career? A lot to think about for coaches Matta and Thompson III this weekend.

In the end, I’m ecstatic for tip-off to begin. I would enjoy seeing both teams win and just want one heck of a game. Predictions can wait until Monday night. Tonight’s just about having fun. But I do have one thing to look for…

Ohio State will win if…it shoots better than 35% behind the 3-point line.

Georgetown will win if…Roy Hibbert posts a double-double in 30+-minutes of play.

Now onto the night’s second national semi-final.

National Semifinal #2
The Ultimate Preview: #1. Florida vs. #2. UCLA

In the second national semifinal, we'll have a rematch of last year's championship game. A year later, Ben Howland has officially brought UCLA back to the powerhouse ranks and Billy Donovan has three Final Four appearances and a National Championship before the age of 42. A year removed from the national title, Billy Donovan is fighting off rumors about returning to Kentucky as a head coach, where he was an assistant for Rick Pitino during their glory years in the mid-1990s. Either way, he's cashing in come next week guaranteed.

Last season, Florida's shocking championship run culminated a full-scale beatdown of storied program UCLA, 73-57. In that game, Joakim Noah and Al Horford posterized Ryan Hollins and whomever else the Bruins decided to put down all night in the blocks. Corey Brewer never let Arron Afflalo out of his sight and Jordan Farmar was deemed useless. When UCLA shot the ball, they were one-and-done.

This year, UCLA is a stronger offensive, but questions remain about their ability to score points regularly. Josh Shipp has taken up a portion of the scoring load while Darren Collison continues to be a very efficient scorer. However, his 7 turnover/1 assist game last Saturday should be something to forget about moving forward. Unlike last year's run to the Final Four, Florida has had the target on their chest all season, but this has not gotten in the way of their courage and resolve.

For Florida, one immediately thinks of the three guys who would have been drafted as lottery picks last year - Noah, Horford, and Brewer. Nevertheless, the catalyst for the Gators is none other than Taurean Green, who has been Florida's leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament. He's also rescued the Gators out of some binds, as they trailed in the second half against both Purdue and Butler. The point guard was crucial to both comebacks and eventual slayings of the Hoosier-state upstarts. Don't get me wrong, he'll do his best to include Noah and Horford early and often in order to exploit an obvious mismatch in the paint.

The Bruins feature AP All-America first team selection Arron Afflalo, who finally had *that* game against Kansas. Afflalo scored 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field, including three from behind the arc. Also, the Bruins have the aforementioned Collison, who is undersized, but one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation. He will drive, penetrate, and look to dish to the big men, but he's not afraid to get fouled. More importantly, Collison won't be afraid to take the big shots from 3-point range (46.3%). His dagger heave from behind the arc proved costly in the win over Kansas, and Bill Self will have nightmares for years on end.

Can UCLA force turnovers and turn them into points?
UCLA has proven throughout the season and during the tournament that when they can force turnovers, they will turn them into points. Kansas was made a national example last Saturday. Let's not forget the flipside of this argument. UCLA committed 24 turnovers last Saturday. If that's the case, then Florida will be game-planning for Monday with a half left to play. As for Florida, they kept Oregon in the game on Sunday by committing a bevy of careless turnovers. UCLA needs to turn Florida over early and often.

v. Purdue 15 turnovers
v. Butler 11 turnovers
v. Oregon 18 turnovers

Three pointers?
Florida from behind the arc
v. Purdue 5-18
v. Butler 8-19
v. Oregon 11-24

If Taurean Green begins to hit threes like he did in the Butler and Oregon games, UCLA has very little room for error. Meanwhile, Lee Humphrey is back to his old self, hitting 7 threes against in the regional final. For UCLA, they'll need Shipp and Roll to hit open shots in order to take pressure off of Collison and Afflalo, who will have their hands full. It should be noted though that Florida's increasing reliance on the deep ball may be their Achilles' Heel because UCLA is a better rebounding team than their size indicates.

UCLA production on the frontline
The real media is hyping Noah and Horford, and you can't really blame them. I watched last year's championship game and they seemed to dunk on every other possession. This year, they're not as dominant, but both are very good, especially Horford down the stretch. I would argue though that UCLA's frontline is stronger defensively than last year; moreover, they know their role. 4 guys (Mata, Mbah a Moute, Aboya, Keefe) with 20 fouls - provide help-side defense, rebound, box out, and be in position to attack the rim off of dribble penetration. There is no equivocation whatsoever.

Point Guard Leadership
If Florida wins the national championship on Monday night, look no further than the point guard. Brewer's been off, Humphrey was off until the regional final, Noah's been ordinary, and the bench has been non-existent. Green has hit the streak three-pointers and settled down the Gators whenever the opposition has gone on runs.

UCLA will win if... they cause 20 turnovers and hit open shots in the second half

Florida will win if... they stick to their guns and limit UCLA to one shot on every possession

Thursday, March 29, 2007

2007 MLB Preview: Part II of III [Truth vs. Myth]

It’s time to analyze a baker’s dozen worth of hot names/topics that the majority of baseball fans will be focused upon, one way or another, this upcoming season.

The question for you, the reader, is this: which of these two statements, per player, is a truth and which is a myth?

Let’s dive straight into it with…

13) Craig Biggio
Truth: Craig Biggio will reach the 3,000 hit milestone this season [70 hits to go].
Myth: Biggio will retire following this season, his 9th-straight hitting under .300.

12) Eric Gagne
Truth: Gagne will be the stabilizing back-end of the Rangers bullpen to carry them through the intense dry heat of the
Texas summer.
Myth: He’ll appear in less than 14 games this season, just as he did the previous two seasons (16 total).

11) Kenny Rogers
Truth: The gambler will again defy his old-age, 42 years young, and be the steady ace of the otherwise youthful Tiger-rotation.
Myth: The wheels are about to fall off for the pine-tar-laden pitcher.

10) Delmon Young
Truth: Forget the bat-throwing incident; this guy is as close to a complete player as any 21-year old in recent memory.
Myth: He’ll be a bust down in
Tampa and his emotions will again get the best of him.

9) Randy Johnson
Truth: The dry
Arizona heat will be just what the 44-year old pitcher needs, alongside a weaker NL lineup, to regain prominent form.
New York exposed something about Randy everyone now knows: he’s too quick to give up the deep homerun ball from start to finish.

8) Chris Young & Matt Holiday
Truth: These are the two young prospects you better learn about ASAP. [Young is the #2 pitcher, behind Jake Peavy, on the Padres staff and Holliday is the best player, a leftfielder, on a talented young
Rockies team.]
Myth: Playing in the NL West, outside of
Los Angeles and San Francisco, means these guys – productive or not – matter little in the public eye.

7) Alex Gordon
Truth: The Rookie of the Year third-basemen for the Kansas City Royals will be the best thing going in the
Midwest you’ll never hear enough about.
Myth: He’s a Royal. Who cares?

6) Lou Pinella
Truth: Sweet Lou may not see the playoffs this season, but the Cubs will play their butts off for him and he will be the steadying force Dusty never seemed to be.
Myth: Risky free-agent signings and typical Cubby bad-luck will yet again doom another hapless Cub-manager.

5) Alfonso Soriano
Truth: The Cubs slugger will be a front-runner for the MVP award, enjoying a massive 50-homerun season at Wrigley Field.
Myth: The contract was far too large for a swing-happy guy who may still not be ready to play outfield in Wrigley.

4) Daisuke Matsuzaka
Truth: He’s the next it-guy and has 15-wins and Cy Young contention written all over him. Worth almost every penny.
Myth: The pressure of the contract and expectations, as well as the wear-and-tear of the MLB season is just too much for Dice-K in his first season; especially those trips to the
Bronx. At least he wont be Hideki Irabu...right?

3) Roger Clemens
Truth: He’ll be a Yankee.
Myth: He’ll be in
Houston or Boston, retired or pitching.

2) Alex Rodriguez
Truth: This will be his breakout year before banking another mega-contract next season.
Myth: Same old underachieving Pay-Rod shows up when it matters the most. Finally he’s shown the exit from the Big Apple.

1) Barry Bonds
Truth: He’ll slug home run number 756, whether you like it or not in the summer of 2007.
Myth: This season will be a wash one way or another as Aaron’s record lasts just a little longer.

Hopefully, we’ll find out the answers to these questions – and more – sooner than later.

Until next time…

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2007 MLB Preview: Part I of III [Burning Questions]

So, it’s nearly MLB time. Yeah, that’s right…baseball is almost back. While most of us don’t really care about the national pastime until post-NBA Draft time, there are plenty of fans who are still salivating for the first pitch from their prospective teams.

So I decided to pop out a mini-three-part preview. Part I focuses on one burning question, selected out of a potential 4,567 per team, each squad will face this season. Part II will be a straight-up truth and myth section, with plenty of focus on the future for a baker’s dozen worth of prominent MLB superstars. Part III will be the meat and potatoes, aka predictions ala carte.

Without further adieu, let’s roll!

AL East:
Baltimore Orioles -- Is Nick Markakis really the “it-guy” that may put the Orioles back into contention?
Boston Red Sox -- Is Papelbon able to do it alone in the pen, or will Brendan Donnelly and Joel Pinero wind up being stellar off-season acquisitions?
New York Yankees -- Is Carl Pavano ready to make up for a downright hideous first two seasons in pinstripes?
Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- Can Delmon Young live up to his talent-related hype rather than the infamous bat-chucking hype?
Toronto Blue Jays -- Is the back-end of this rotation able to put up a .500 record?

AL Central
Chicago White Sox -- How short of a leash does out-spoken manager Ozzie Guillen have on a
team that could finish anywhere from 1st to 4th?
Cleveland Indians -- Seriously, will this team ever live up to its pre-season potential…especially with this bullpen?
Detroit Tigers -- Will Gary Sheffield be the added power this team was missing last year or will he be nothing but a clubhouse nuisance and an oft-injured veteran?
Kansas City Royals -- How does this team avoid losing 100 games?
Minnesota Twins -- Can a guy named Boof Bonser really be a legit arm to accompany the likes of Johan Santana?

AL West:
Los Angeles Angels -- Is this team willing to move prospects mid-season in order to give Vladimir Guerrero help batting in runs?
Oakland Athletics -- Simply put, who will be this year’s Frank Thomas for this team?
Seattle Mariners -- When will this team blow up its entire roster, even possibly moving a guy named Ichiro?
Texas Rangers -- How deep into the dry summer months will Texas lurk at the top of the standings before its typical late-season collapse?

NL East:
Atlanta Braves -- Can Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton possibly stay healthy 90% of the season?
Florida Marlins -- Who do they trade Dontrelle Willis to this summer?
New York Mets -- Who’s going to keep the ship righted until (or if) Pedro returns at the end of the summer?
Philadelphia Phillies -- When will this team not underachieve immensely?
Washington Nationals -- What is missing in their starting lineup that they could’ve landed for Alfonso Soriano last season?

NL Central:
Chicago Cubs -- Kerry Wood and Mark Prior?
Cincinnati Reds -- Is this the year they finally trade Griffey?
Houston Astros -- Can they talk Roger into coming back yet again?
Milwaukee Brewers -- When is Ben Sheets gonna have that long awaited Cy Young-esque year?
Pittsburgh Pirates -- Does this organization know something the rest of the Earth doesn’t about their chances this season?
St. Louis Cardinals -- Is Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols the most underrated duo of their kind in recent memory?

NL West:
Arizona Diamondbacks -- Are they that young team that nobody wants in the post-season?
Colorado Rockies -- Can Todd Helton return to MVP-form and lead this dangerous team of young talent?
Log Angeles Dodgers -- Can Nomar stay healthy and again be a leader for this team?
San Diego Padres -- How will Jake Peavy react to not pitching in the WBC.
San Francisco Giants -- How will that Bonds-character do this season?oHow

Plenty o’ questions here and plenty more still linger.

Part II is coming soon…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

NCAA Tournament Performance (by conference) - From 16 to 4

**Before I get into the meat of this post, I found this glorious clip on YouTube. All Madden ’92 lovers will have nostalgia tingling down their spine. Check it out.**

In the first weekend, the chalk held for the most part. In the second weekend, the chalk held almost entirely. The only exceptions were not even upsets with UCLA defeating Kansas (in California, mind you) and Georgetown upending North Carolina in overtime. With regard to UCLA’s win in California, I think they would’ve won on any court on Saturday night, save Phog Allen. The stronger in-game tacticians won in both of those games.

Conference (in order by RPI rank)

Actual Record

Exp. Record

Actual vs. Exp. Diff.

Sweet 16 teams

Elite 8 Teams

Final Four Teams






















Big Ten







Big East







Missouri Valley














Mountain West







Western Athletic




























* higher winning percentage for actual record

The chart above demonstrates the poor performance by the ACC relative to their regular season accolades. To send the most teams (7) and only send one to the Sweet 16 is weak. This marks the second straight year in which the ACC had a 1-seed that failed to make it to the Final Four.

For the second straight year, the SEC outperforms its expectations, but not quite like last year. Had Vanderbilt and Tennessee won games that they should have, that would’ve meant that half of the SEC East was in the Elite 8. That’s crazy good. Does it beg the question of including Georgia over Arkansas? Not at all. Georgia wasn’t the same team after losing one of its leading scorers.

The story though should be the Pac-10, who was the only to send two teams to the Elite 8. Given the season previews from real media outlets that have access to first-hand information, I expected 3-4 bids this season. They’re also the perennial doormat during the NCAA tournament and a constant focus of criticism whenever a representative (usually Stanford) falls as a 1-seed during the first weekend. In a 10-team league, five teams were no-doubters and only one came into question (Stanford) when it came to Selection Sunday. UCLA and Oregon took care of business while USC was 1-2 contributors away from fending off Carolina in the round of 16.

As for the Final 4, I had Texas A&M instead of Ohio State, so I’d like to thank Memphis for playing its best game in two years in the Sweet 16 matchup. I’m obligated to picking Georgetown versus Florida, because that’s what I had in my bracket.

Given the circumstances, I can see UCLA defeat Florida, because the Gators have needed excellent long distance shooting to get where they are right now. Florida has had a lot of unforced errors on offense. If the Bruins stick to their guns and play stellar perimeter defense, annoy the big men, and score points, then I like their chances of playing on Monday.

With little margin for error, the Ohio State/Georgetown game is a pick’em. I’ve characterized the Buckeyes as lucky all tournament long, but they’re obviously talented, well-coached and don’t give up when they’re down. They also just played their most complete offensive game of the season. Let’s just say that it won’t be a repeat performance. Who will stop Jeff Green? Is Cook, Hunter, or Lighty up to the challenge? At this point, Jeff Green may be the most lethal player in the tournament because of his ability to affect games in so many different ways, even when he’s not scoring points.

Kentucky Resolution, Heath Firing Fallout, Iowa Chasing Pearl?

With what some considered "over-coverage" of the NFL coaching carousel, you had better expect the same for my forte, college basketball. In college basketball, the 'carousel' is more like a circular metropolis. Instead of 32 coaching staffs, you've got more than ten times that number. The very second that a name is swirled around as a potential candidate, universities and boosters start ante-ing up to keep their beloved coaches. It's a different animal than pro sports, but a business nonetheless.

Kentucky Resolution?
Last Thursday, Tubby Smith left the blue grass to freeze his ..., well, you know. Since then, numerous analysts, most notably Andy Katz of ESPN, have said that many coaches are in line to benefit financially from the Kentucky vacancy even if they have no intention of taking the job. Earlier this week, John Calipari agreed to an extension through 2011-12. Also, sources report that newly-anointed basketball school Texas A&M will do its best to match any offers for head coach Billy Gillispie. And let's not forget about former UK assistant and current god of Gainesville Billy Donovan. He's going to make bank whether he's at Florida, Kentucky, or the Miami Heat. Shall any of these coaches leave their posts, coaches from lesser programs will occupy their posts and move up a few tax brackets. For those who read my post suggesting former players such as Ford and Pelphrey as coaching candidates for this position, they are not even being mentioned by the real media (aka people who have coaches' digits), so I'm content in ceasing conversation about the pair.

Heath Firing Fallout
Staying in the SEC (said with a Tony Barnhardt-esque southern drawl), Arkansas fired its head coach Stan Heath yesterday in what was considered a surprise to all of us except for Heath, who made his second trip to the NCAA Tournament in as many years. In his defense, Heath's team - a much younger one than the previous year - won 21 games; however,winning 21 nowadays isn't your father's 21 when considering that most D-1 schools play in excess of 30 games per season.

Many, including myself, think that the firing was made with a successor already in mind. Although Heath was somewhat successful, his results were always compared to his predecessor's (Nolan Richardson), and in comparison, it's not even close. The Heath style of play isn't exactly the appealing 40 Minutes of Hell either. With that said, everyone returns from an Arkansas team that is expected to win the SEC West (and not with a 8-8 record), making the job more appealing than at first glance. College sports are the only game in town, to boot. For those reasons, expect Arkansas AD Frank Broyles to make a concerted play for the aforementioned Gillispie and possibly Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler who is more of a contingency. Given the athletic makeup of their roster, Arkansas should consider giving VCU a call to see if head coach Anthony Grant is available. Nevertheless, I expect them to go after a more proven head coach despite the obvious upside (yes, that word means the NBA Draft is only 3 months away). Whomever he is, expect him to be paid, as Broyles expects to make a big splash before he dives into retirement.

Iowa's Chase for Pearl Rendered Useless
Now that Steve Alford has left the Iowa rebuilding project (Blair Witch Project) for the New Mexico rebuilding project (Tony Rich Project), the Hawkeyes are chasing former assistant and current Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl. Hoping for the nostalgia hook, Iowa received permission from the Tennessee AD to speak with Pearl, but he rebuffed the overtures informing Iowa that he is not interested in their head coaching position. For his troubles, Pearl earns a one-year extension through 2013.

In my opinion, given the saturation of big-name/talented head coaches in the Big Ten, it may be career suicide for whomever is audacious enough to take the reins at Iowa during a rebuilding period (notice how I did not say "year"). This may result in Iowa hiring from within the extended Iowa family or going after a coach of a mid-major program with ties to Midwest recruiting.

Monday, March 26, 2007

2007 NFL Mock Draft
by: Armin Mohajeri

In my years of pretending to be an NFL draft guru, I've found one thing to be constant. A mock draft that is on-the-money one day, could become a mockery the next. Outside of the top pick, that statement could be very true of this draft. Even the Raiders can't make the mistake of bypassing Russell, can they? Regardless, many teams employ several strategies (best player available, draft for need, draft towards strength), which is the ultimate wild-card. Below is the first version of my first round mock draft. It has its fair share of reaches and steals. So, without further ado, let the mocking begin.

1. Oakland: Jamarcus Russell, QB - LSU
His Pro-Day was so impressive, Oakland cannot look elsewhere.

2. Detroit: Brady Quinn, QB - Notre Dame
Ignoring Marinelli and Martz, who want Joe Thomas, the Detroit front office goes for the guy that will put rears in seats.

3. Cleveland: Adrian Peterson, RB - Oklahoma
Cleveland will take a QB if either Russell or Quinn are available. Peterson is too good of a talent to pass up on, regardless of Jamal Lewis's presence. Lewis only has a one year deal.

4. Tampa Bay: Calvin Johnson, WR - Georgia Tech
Probably the top prospect in this draft. Galloway and Hilliard are old. Clayton is coming off a down year. Johnson is just what this team needs.

5. Arizona: Joe Thomas, OT - Wisconsin
Thomas is the 2nd highest graded offensive lineman in the draft in the last 20 years, behind Jordan Gross. The Cards fill a HUGE void at left tackle. Thomas will be everything Leonard Davis never lived up to in Arizona.

6. Washington: Gaines Adams, DE - Clemson
Despite reports that Washington came away unimpressed by Adams's workouts, the team cannot pass him up. Adams will bring the pass rush that this team has lacked at DE since Dexter Manley.

7. Minnesota: Jamaal Anderson, DE - Arkansas
With Erasmus James coming off a season ending injury, and Kenechi Udeze's pass rush non-existent (zero sacks in 2006), Anderson is the pick. The Vikings could trade down to a spot where taking a WR might make more sense.

8. Atlanta (from Houston): LaRon Landry, S - LSU
By NFL standards, Lawyer Milloy is older than molassas and slower than dirt. No, that wasn't a typo. Chris Crocker would be a backup on most other teams. Landry fits this team to a "T"

9. Miami: Alan Branch, DT - Michigan
Despite being outdone and outperformed in off-season workouts by Okoye, and despite reports of off-season laziness, Branch wins out as the top DT drafted. The Dolphins hope he is as dominant on the field as he was at Michigan

10. Houston (from Atlanta): Amobi Okoye, DT - Louisville
The Texans go with the D-Line for the third year in a row, drafting the 19 year-old stud from Louisville. As far as upside goes, his limits are still undefined. Okoye and Mario Williams have the potential to give O-Line coaches heart attacks.

11. San Francisco: Adam Carriker, DE - Nebraska
Bryant Young's successor. Carriker is moving up the charts. His combine numbers weren't impressive, however his individual workouts have teams doing a double-take. Regardless of if the 9ers run a 3-4 or 4-3, Carriker can play any position on the D-line, except the 3-4 NT.

12. Buffalo: Patrick Willis, LB - Mississippi
What a treat for Buffalo fans. Willis is strong and athletic, and he just posted a 4.3 40 time. He will likely take over in the middle, but if Takeo Spikes gets traded he could move outside. Willis will eventually be the unquestioned leader of the defense.

13. St. Louis: Leon Hall, CB - Michigan
While drafting a CB in the first round 2 years in a row isn't ideal, the Rams cannot pass up on Leon Hall at this point. He brings a physical style that the current Rams CBs lack.

14. Carolina: Greg Olsen, TE - Miami
Unless some team surprises and picks him earlier, this is about as much of a "LOCK" as a pick as any this year.

15. Pittsburgh: Jarvis Moss, DE - Florida
This ends any flirtation with Brett Keisel playing OLB. Moss can play OLB if the team sticks with the 3-4, and he can play DE if the team moves over to the Cover-2.

16. Green Bay: Marshawn Lynch, RB - California
While the team could go after Ted Ginn, to give Favre a weapon in the slot, Lynch would fill a GAPING hole at RB, where Vernand Morency is penciled in as the starter.

17. Jacksonville: Reggie Nelson, S - Florida
Great pick for the Jags. They have a huge hole at center field, as Donavin Darius is not a cover guy. Nelson had amazing individual workouts, bringing his status back up to where it was before the combines. Plus the Jags get a Florida boy.

18. Cincinnati: Jon Beason, LB - Miami
Odell Thurman. Gone. David Pollack. Gone. Brian Simmons. Gone. Beason keeps firing up the boards. He'll start.

19. Tennessee: Teddy Ginn, Jr., WR - Ohio St.
Vince Young gets a big smile on his face. He gets what he lacked last year…a game-breaker. Ginn and Young's strong arm are a marriage made in heaven for the Titans.

20. New York Giants: Levi Brown, OT - Penn St.
He replaces Luke Petitgout. Don't be surprised if a CB like Revis or Houston is the pick here.

21. Denver: Joe Staley, OT - Central Michigan
One of the most athletic/versatile linemen to ever grace the draft. He can play all positions on the line except center. However, he could probably learn that too. A Broncos type of lineman. He'll battle Adam Meadows for the starting RT spot.

22. Dallas: Darrelle Revis, CB - Pittsburgh
Revis hurt himself at the combines, however his individual workouts put him back as the #2 prospect at CB. Henry and Glenn are up there in years, and possibly have lost a step. Revis could supplant Henry at some point during his rookie year.

23. Kansas City: Dwayne Bowe, WR - LSU
KC has plenty of speed at WR, but no true possession WRs. Bowe infuses the kind of talent at WR that KC has been lacking for many years.

24. New England (from Seattle): Paul Posluszny, LB - Penn St.
The Pats land a player that fits their team philosophy to a "T". Posluszny will eventually replace Tedy Bruschi. A bit of a steal as Posluszny improved on his combine numbers during his individual workout.

25. New York Jets: Chris Houston, CB - Arkansas
Jets had some depth issues at corner last season, and need to address the position. Houston had a great combine, and his laundry list of receivers he faced in college is pretty impressive.

26. Philadelphia: Michael Griffen, S - Texas
Griffen steps into the SS spot vacated by Michael Lewis. Griffen brings a lot of speed and coverage ability to the Eagles defense. Look for him to start from Day One.

27. New Orleans: Aaron Ross, CB - Texas
The Saints are in dire need of some young talent at CB. Ross is a bit raw, as he started only one year in college, which could be blamed on the large amount of talent in the Texas D-Backfield. However, Ross won the Thorpe award.

28. New England: Brian Leonard, RB - Rutgers
A player who I'm hoping the Patriots take, as they would utilize him the best. He could be a day one starter. Very intelligent, and as much of a team player as anyone in the draft. He could be used at a number of positions, and the Pats have the type of offense where he could be moved around a lot to create mis-matches.

29. Baltimore: Anthony Sprencer, DE - Purdue
The Ravens can go a number of ways. Currently, they have Jarrett Johnson penciled in as Audalius Thomas's replacement. Spencer would fit that position even better. He might need a year for the transition to LB, but this coaching staff has had their fair share of DEs that they've converted to LB.

30. San Diego: Robert Meachem, WR - Tennessee
Meachem brings much needed speed to the Chargers receiving corps. His talent grades out as a mid-first rounder, however WRs tend to fall on draft day.

31. Chicago: Ben Grubbs, G - Auburn
When you decide to hand the reigns to a young RB, you better make sure you got the blockers that can pave the way in front of him. Grubbs is the best all-around talent at guard in the draft. An athlete at the position.

32. Indianapolis: Lawrence Timmons, LB - Florida St.
Colts have huge holes to fill at OLB. This is a bit of a steal, as Timmons grades out high. However, teams with needs at LB have bigger holes elsewhere.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday's Finest: Elite 8 Coverage

... Midwest Region ...
#1. Florida vs. #3. Oregon [aka The National Champs vs. Team Track Meet]
Florida wins it 85-77 in a game played in the single digits. Florida asserted itself on both sides of the boards. More importantly, they hit three-pointers at a very high clip, which makes them unstoppable. When Taurean Green gets into an offensive groove, the whole team gets elevated to a different level. When Lee Humphrey is on, you'll have bad dreams that go into next season. Just trust me on that one.

Len Elmore has made too much out of the "struggles" of Tajuan Porter early on, but it was validated in the 2nd half when Porter's shooting slump translated into poor decisions. To expect a repeat performance of Friday night is preposterous. Porter still penetrated effectively. After letting Porter take the accolades for a night, Aaron Brooks re-emerged today as the Ducks' go-to guy. One major trend stood out - whenever Oregon cut the lead to two scores, either the Ducks could not execute or Florida prevented them from doing so. That's the mark of a champion.

The Florida Intangible
The ultimate intangible for Florida is targeting key members of the opposition and getting them into foul trouble. After that, they are able to attack the reserves as well as starters who are trying to avoid prohibitive foul situations. This is exactly how they exploited Butler on Friday night and how they intend on cutting the nets in Atlanta. Today was no different.

An Honest Question
Will Al Horford ever get called for a player control foul when backing down on the opposition? (Note: I would say Horford/Noah, but Noah is so out of control at times that even the worst referee would blow the whistle.)
As Walter Sopchek says in the Big Lebowski, "This isn't [Viet]'nam. There are rules."

... East Region ...
#1. North Carolina vs. #2. Georgetown [aka 12 Deep vs. Hoya Paranoia]
After the Hoyas were down literally all game, they fought tooth and nail to tie up the Tar Heels in the final minute. When the overtime began, the game was over. The Hoyas rolled to a 96-84 overtime victory and their trip to the Final Four in more than twenty years.

Despite 94 combined points in the first half, Georgetown dictated the pace of the game in the second half. Both teams had their cold streaks in the second stanza and Carolina had a 5-11 point lead for the majority of the half. For the first 32 minutes, North Carolina owned the offensive glass (namely, Deon Thompson) and were demonstrating a relative repeat performance of the USC game given the talent of the opposing frontcourt personnel.

Following the under-eight minute timeout, the game turned on a dime. Shortly thereafter, Brandan Wright picked up his fourth foul, and Carolina hit a brief spell. Meanwhile, the Hoyas seemed to score on every trip. In the waning minutes, Carolina took no less than three ill-advised early in the shot clock. All resulted in empty trips. The lack of continuity and the lack of defensive intensity - both being by-products from youth - stifled the Tar Heels' ability to finish off Georgetown.

With less than a minute remaining, Jonathan Wallace hit the shot that others may have seemed afraid to take. As a result, Georgetown tied the game. In my biased, mean world syndrome-affected mind (note: I'm a UNC fan, and have seen many near-giveaways against much weaker teams than Georgetown this season, who I picked to win it all in my single sheet of integrity), Georgetown had won the game because I had little to no faith in Roy Williams' ability to either select the right personnel or choose the right play to break Georgetown's mettle.

When the coach called the timeout for the final play, I expected a well-scripted play. What we got was a generic curl scripted for the wrong player shooting the ball without a single move to Hansbrough. Although Wayne Ellington will live to be a terrific player, he is for all intents and purposes, a young streak shooter. And when your young streak shooter is 2-for-8 (and a freshman), why not script the [horrific] play for the more seasoned pressure shooter, Reyshawn Terry? I would have preferred the boring feed inside to Hansbrough against Roy "I played masterfully with 4 fouls" Hibbert and having Terry on the perimeter waiting for the collapse on the ball, but what do I know? I'm not a coach, never will be, and would be humbled by the opportunity to come within two sniffs of press row.

The end game is that the better team with the better in-game tactician won. Carolina should be very strong next year unless both Wright and Hansbrough declare for the NBA Draft. Georgetown faces a slightly different Ohio State team compared to the one they defeated last year in the NCAA tournament. Just slightly.

Key Stats
North Carolina had a free throw attempts and makes edge of 34-18 and 29-12, respectively. The difference is more stratified when considering that Georgetown made many if not most of its trips during the extra session. To make up for that, JTIII's men shot 8-for-14 from 3-point range, with the underrated Jonathan Wallace hitting 3 of 4 including the one to tie it up.

Fun Facts
- Brad Slepetz, architect of the Hashemi-Slepetz Percentage Index (an evolving alternate to the RPI), has his second school going to the Final Four in as many years. Last year, Slepetz lived the dream at George Mason University. Over the summer, Slepetz, like many before him, bolted for the greener pastures of Georgetown.
- I muted Billy Packer with 9:59 left in the first half after further suggesting that America is blind (insisting Jeff Green did not travel on Friday night). I went back to full volume shortly after the start of the second half.
- Jeff Green had about the quietest 20-point performance he's had all year.
Why Hating Duke is Just

Here's Greg Paulus taking a charge (thank you, Clement).

This video created by Peter Rosenberg chronicles why so many people hate the four-letter university in Durham (and no, clever Dookies, I'm not talking about NCCU).