Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some Hunger Games thoughts

Setup: I am a huge fan and proponent of adults reading kids' literature. The Harry Potter books are fantastic, as are some other selections.

Caveat: I have read The Hunger Games but only book one. I have not read the second or third books in the series and, frankly, do not plan on doing so. I did not love the book. It seems slightly overrated, the Oreo of books: a lot of buildup and popularity when there are far better, lesser known options out there.

Thoughts: The movie left me with the same exact feeling I got after finishing the book. I thought the story and plot were viscous almost to the point of being unnecessarily ghoulish. Obviously the movie plot stems straight from the novel so it is through no fault of the movie producers this exists. Nevertheless, this exists.

With this gruesome, over the top story arc, the scenes progress almost like a fairy tale. It is a juxtaposition I cannot overcome as a reader/watcher.  Everything horrible is happening yet every additional piece of information falls into place perfectly to suit our protagonists, almost on cue. I suppose this is the dynamic that should exist in a children's book but it doesn't do it for me.

Beyond the book problems that carried over to the movie, the film had some of its own drawbacks. Skipping over massive amounts of narrative left emotional holes in the story arc. At one point, when it is revealed two children will be allowed to win if they come from the same district, Katniss thinks of Peeta and the possibility of both of them surviving. So with the turn of her heel, she departs and immediately finds his blood trail and stumbles literally right on top of him, even though the movie never addressed that Katniss ever even knew Peeta was bleeding, let alone hiding.

These skips in plot are necessary for a movie to cover so much from a detailed piece of text yet the movie did a rather poor job. With the omissions the writers chose, they somehow managed to still make the movie feel way too long, as it dragged on much of the pre-Games fanfare that I did not find particularly engaging.

Not everything was bad. There were a few misty moments, a few heartstrings being pulled but I think that may have more to do with kids being in such grave peril and impossibly ridiculous situations that touches my sensitivity rather than how it was portrayed on screen. I felt the eyes water when Katniss volunteered to take her sister's place just because I knew it was supposed to be touching even though the scene itself seemed a bit awkward in its execution. The same can be said for Rue's demise, who I knew I was supposed to care about greatly but the movie failed to build her up as anything more than a squirrely girl in a tree.

Closing: Haymitch is no Mad Eye Moody.

(Image courtesy of

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sustained Mediocrity

Long-time New York Giants running back and recent Super Bowl victor Brandon Jacobs just signed on to be a member of the San Francisco 49ers ending his tenure as a Giant.

More accurately, his Giants' time ended earlier this year when they released him but there still remained the option that they could bring him back, until today that is.

Jacobs was never a star, nor even a full-time starter yet his career accomplishments are surprising. He is the Giants' all-time leader in rushing touchdowns. He had four consecutive seasons of at least 800 yards rushing even though he was the starting back for only roughly half that time. His career year, 2008, was a sight to behold: 1125 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in just 13 games. And more important than the individual numbers, since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, Brandon Jacobs has been on two Super Bowl champion teams. Not a bad career for a big boy out of Southern Illinois.

The question of how successful someone is always comes up when a chapter of their career comes to a close. Jacobs is no longer a Giant, so how impressive was his Giants career? Taking a broad view it seems he was nothing more than a cog in a good franchise and yet his numbers are pretty impressive and he was a main part of those two title teams. So who's career has been more successful, Jacobs or a man like LaDainian Tomlinson?

Obviously this is a ridiculous query from a talent standpoint. Tomlinson is a Hall of Fame back and one of the most impressive runners in NFL history. His numbers are nearly peerless. And yet, his teams always came up short in the playoffs. He never made a Super Bowl, let alone won one. He was a very high pick (fifth overall in 2001), meaning the production was almost expected. So was he actually more successful than Jacobs? It comes down to how you evaluate success and what qualities are more important but the interesting thing to me is that the question can exist at all.

In the basketball world, a more extreme yet common analogy is between a player like Chris Webber or Charles Barkley and Robert Horry. Would you rather have the Hall of Fame career from the highly drafted player or the championship-laden career from the often forgotten "role player"?

It is a fascinating quandary, one that just cements the fact that Brandon Jacobs, Giants career finalized, had himself one heck of a time in Big Blue.

(Image courtesy of

My Spring Training Voyage Part Three

On my journey through the Grapefruit League, we already touched on game one here, and game two here. Below is part three:

March 18
Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays
Dunedin Field, Dunedin, Florida

After scrounging up tickets for this afternoon’s game, we found out why the game was sold out to begin with. If Steinbrenner Field is the Yankees’ version of a Spring Training home, Dunedin Field would be the bullpen. The Blue Jays spring home could hold no more than 6000 folks, if that. Needless to say, our tickets, in the “upper deck” were probably closer to the field than our seats at the first Yankees game. To finish the analogy of Toronto being quite a bit minor league compared to our previous host, Dunedin had their own in-game announcer to keep the crowd engaged and to give away stuff. But we were not discouraged. Cole Hamels would be on the mound for the Phillies and Jose Bautista would be in the lineup for the Jays. There would be no Brett Lawrie today but instead, at third base for the Jays, we got to see the ageless, glove wonder, Omar Vizquel. The crowd loved Vizquel partly because he is easy to root for and partly because the Dunedin crowd’s mean age was pushing 70.

In the bottom of the first inning, Jose Bautista’s first at-bat of the ballgame, he was fooled by a Hamels’ pitch and launched his bat into the stands and down one of the spectator tunnels. (I told you the field was small.) On the second pitch of the same at-bat, Bautista ignited an inside pitch deep and way foul onto a practice field next door where, for some odd reason, someone had parked a car. As the ball was approaching the car, the crowd began to rumble. It ended up missing the vehicle but I think the reaction would have been louder for that connection than if Bautista had hit a home run. And we got our control variable later in the game as Joey Bats did indeed mash a huge home run to left center. P.S. the crowd loved it.

The Phillies got beat up pretty good in the game, leading even more to everyone’s desire to mark the Blue Jays as a sleeper pick this season, with the extra wild card spot available. Toronto put up a couple crooked numbers, in the third, fourth and sixth innings on their way to victory. The batting hero of the game was, in Spring Training fashion, catcher Yan Gomes. He went 3-3 on the afternoon with two doubles and three RBIs. We also got a glimpse of one of Toronto’s new closer options, veteran reliever Francisco Cordero.

After the contest, the story, other than Jose Bautista’s at-bats, ended up being the stadium itself. So quaint and tiny, Dunedin Field is the epitome of Spring Training baseball: where you go to see the best players in the world, the Major Leaguers, play in little town parks and get closer to the action than you ever could during the regular season. I mean the Jays’ park was so backwoodsish, they didn’t even have a recording of Take Me Out to the Ballgame playing during the seventh inning stretch. 

Tune in for the conclusion of my Spring Training trip coming soon...

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Spring Training Voyage Part Two

If you missed Part One of my journey south to check out Florida's MLB Spring Training, you can catch it here. Below is part two:

March 17
Houston Astros at New York Yankees
George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, Florida

Five games in four days quickly dissolved into four games or perhaps three games. The original Sunday double-header underwent a schedule change since the last we checked as the Yankees-Orioles game went from being Tampa-hosted into being held in Sarasota, an Orioles home game. It also came to light that the Blue Jays game, in very tiny Dunedin Stadium, was sold out on Sunday afternoon. My dad and I scrambled for tickets, trying to salvage at least one Sunday match but in the mean time, we had our second Yankees game to attend: a sunny, Saturday tilt against the Houston Astros.

The Astros are actually quite an ideal Spring Training team to see play. It is hardly impossible to be disappointed with the lineup they trot out as their normal, Major League, April starting lineup is pretty Triple-A-ish to begin with. The highlights existed in the forms of Jason Bourgeois (because of the spelling of his name and because he was traded within a week of this game being played), Brett Wallace (because of the massive post-hype sleeper potential of this once prized prospect), and Chris Johnson (because he might actually just be plain good at baseball). The Yankees again rose to the occasion, giving us a semi-normal squad featuring Gardner, Granderson, Cano, Rodriguez and some bench guys. The pitching matchup was also fortunate.

Bud Norris, probably Houston’s very best starting pitcher, would be facing new Yankee Hiroki Koroda. This was my first chance to see Kiroda and he did not disappoint, breezing through the first few innings before making way for the bullpen. Norris, on the other hand, struggled mightily, walking four men in just the first two innings. But the bullpens were the story anyhow. Houston brought in former starter, former closer, former starter, new closer Brett Myers to pitch the middle innings and he was pretty good. The reason for Houston, a team going nowhere this season, to transition one of their top starters back into being a closer is suspect but Myers can certainly close out games at the Major League level.

On the home team’s side of things, the middle innings were host to another closer sighting as Mariano Rivera entered to Enter Sandman to pitch the fifth. Not that it mattered how he fared but Mo was just fine in his one inning of work. To close out the game, the Yankees, having already used their regular season closer, turned instead to a prospect hoping for big league glory this season: Dellin Betances. Standing at 6’8”, saying Betances is an imposing figure on the mound does not quite do him justice. Pardoning the pun, big things are expected of this man by 2013 if he does indeed spend this season in the minors.

To wrap up the Astros match, and the Yankees half of our Spring Training pilgrimage, we had two great Brett Gardner sliding catches, a Dewayne Wise sighting, a Bill Hall home run and Chris Johnson cementing himself as perhaps the only Astros hitter worth drafting in fantasy baseball this season by tallying two doubles. The Yankees won, if that sort of thing matters to you, but we would be saying goodbye to Steinbrenner Field and making our way west for some new pastures.

Part three on the way...

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Spring Training Voyage Part One

My Spring Training Voyage:
The Grapefruit League Edition


It started as a simple idea, floated into the ether out of the mouth of my father. “Let’s go to Spring Training this season.” I am paraphrasing of course, as the literal vocabulary is neither memorable nor important. It was the proposal that mattered. So out of the blue the thought came that I at first assumed this was impossible. There was not enough time to plan such a venture. This was, after all, just a few weeks from now. We both were healthily employed, albeit in circumstances easily maneuverable to act on such an endeavor. After my initial hesitation, paraphrasing myself now, I said something along the lines of, “Okay.”

The plan was in motion. I would fly in to Tampa Airport on Thursday night, the 15th of March. Spring Training would be in full bloom by now but it would feel like the very start of it for us, neither man having ventured into the world of Grapefruit League action before. We would see five games in four days, culminating with a return flight home on Monday night, March 19th.

March 16
Washington Nationals at New York Yankees
George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa, Florida

Walking in to George M. Steinbrenner Field, the home away from home of the fabled New York Yankees, it is hard not to see the correlation. Having a professional vibe in an amateur setting is not easy to pull off. Yet, a Yankees’ Spring Training site cannot be second class. The seating is limited but the façade is here; the concession prices are in line and the unmistakable air of superiority flows through the fences as if George himself were sitting up in the press box.

With Spring Training games though, as with any exhibition, you never know what type of team you will see. Not everyone is going to suit up; this is a given. Brett Gardner was seen taking some swings on the practice field next door, leaving the strong implication that he would not see any game time this afternoon. In regards to Gardner, the Yankees’ punch-less leadoff man, a player with 15 career home runs to his name, he sure was ripping the ball in batting practice. Not to say that this should be a surprise. He is a Major League ballplayer after all. And yet, it was still surprising to see a man of Gardner’s known skills tearing frozen ropes to the fences. It was equally as perplexing to see that same man, perhaps the 20th most popular current Yankee, have a line of seemingly sane adults line up at the field edge to get his autograph and picture. But to each his own.

So knowing the roster may be Spring-ish, we were crossing our fingers for a Yankees lineup that resembled anything close to what April would deliver. In fine fashion, the baseball gods complied. Granderson would start, as would Robbie Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira would bat cleanup, followed by some notable bench players in Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez and Francisco Cervelli. Throwing in starting shortstop Doug Berneir, a man no one outside of the Berneir family was familiar with, was just the exception that tied the lineup together. It couldn’t be perfect and we knew that going in. On the other side, it was exciting to see what the Washington Nationals would serve us. Really the other eight batters were irrelevant as long as Mr. Bryce Harper had his knee-highs on. Being the number one prospect in the world yet not being of legal drinking age and destined to start the year in the minors, Bryce Harper is the future of the Nats. He, along with Stephen Strasburg, makes the future Nationals one of the more compelling teams to follow.

As we took our seats, fortunately in some shade, Washington was taking batting practice and the afternoon’s starting pitchers were making their way onto the field for some light running. On the visitor’s side, new Nat Gio Gonzalez would be manning the rubber, an exciting option if Strasburg was not to start. And in pinstripes, the man on the mound would be one CC Sabathia. Listed at 6’7”, 290 pounds in the game program, CC came out looking rather svelte if I do say so myself. Add him to the list of players coming into Spring Training “in the best shape they’ve ever been in.”

The game progressed as many other games have, with starters struggling out of the gate. This specific game continued as only a Spring Training game could though. Nearly every batter took three hacks and made way for a replacement somewhere in the middle innings. Each starter was yanked just as unceremoniously. The swapping became so hurried that, to start the 6th inning, Curtis Granderson ran out to center field only to find Justin Maxwell already there. Curtis had been taken out of the game, only it seemed no one had told him about it. We also had another Melky sighting. Yankee fans will remember Melky Cabrera fondly from past seasons, as The Melk Man always delivered! Now, there is another Melky in Yankee pinstripes this season: Melky Mesa. I can safely say I never expected there to be two separate sets of parents to name their child that, but one can never predict the wayward feelings of people who have just brought a living creature into the world…or something.

The end of Game One came. Bryce Harper played and managed nothing of note; A-Rod cranked a huge home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the fifth; and the star of the game was none other than Nats’ third baseman Steve Lambardozzi! The young infielder went 3-3 with a home run, 2 runs scored and a nice glove stab on the defensive side of things as well. We would be back to Steinbrenner Field tomorrow to continue our journey.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Madness: South Region Game Breakdown

Courtesy of College Sports Madness

#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Mississippi Valley State/Western Kentucky

No matter which 16 seed wins their first round match, Kentucky should throttle them in the round of 64. Not only does Kentucky have the huge talent advantage, they will also be playing the game in Kentucky: one of the perks of having the overall number one seed. A 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed and they sure don’t make it easy. If this game is closer than people expect, do not read too much into it and just assume a young and inexperienced Wildcats squad may be looking ahead to Iowa State or Connecticut.

#8 Iowa State vs. #9 Connecticut

Iowa State should be kind of upset about this. Last year’s National Champions, the Connecticut Huskies, are conceivably even more talented this year. They struggled with consistency and acclimating new players, as well as coaching vacancies and player suspensions. Yet despite UConn’s trouble in the regular season, they were playing well coming into the NCAA Tournament and are quite terrifying as a 9 seed. Iowa State has had a very pleasantly surprising year under new coach Fred Hoiberg. However, they have to be upset with this draw. It’s not that the Huskies deserved a better seed as they did lose 13 games this season. But that is no consolation to the Cyclones as UConn just might be the most talented 9 seed in tournament history.

#5 Wichita State vs. #12 VCU

Touched on in the South Region Overview, each of these teams has something going for them. The underdog Rams are one of the hottest teams in the country. Winners of 25 of their last 28 games, VCU has gone on a tear all the way through the CAA conference title. They also come into March Madness off the incredible run their school made a season ago. No team has higher confidence in themselves right now than the Rams of VCU. However, their opponent is so efficient on offense it might not matter. There are very few schools who use possessions more effectively than the Wichita State Shockers. With such great shooting numbers, opponents have a hard time playing within themselves when any spurt of mistakes could put the Shockers out of reach. Although State does a good job of spreading the scoring around, two of their best offensive weapons are Joe Ragland and Garrett Stutz. Both men score more than 13 points a game while shooting above 55% from the floor. Ragland’s shooting splits are something to behold by themselves, as he also shoots 49.5% from three and 82% from the line.

#4 Indiana vs. #13 New Mexico State

Indiana has faced some intimidating front lines this season, including Kentucky, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Minnesota. And yet, the New Mexico State Aggies may be the biggest team Indiana has had to battle all year long. With three rotation players standing 6’10” or taller, New Mexico State sucks up rebounds like a vacuum. And the team’s best player and leading rebounder is none of the three. Wendell McKines averages a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds per contest, standing at just 6’6” tall. Of course Indiana has some bodies to match the Aggies, including freshman sensation Cody Zeller. The younger brother of ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller, Cody looks to be even better than Tyler was as an underclassman. Teamed with sharpshooters Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls, New Mexico State may be able to control the boards and little else in this game.

#6 UNLV vs. #11 Colorado

If this game was played in January, here would be the game reset: Colorado stinks and UNLV does not. If this game had taken place even just two short weeks ago, the story would have been much the same: Colorado is barely an NIT team; UNLV is comfortably in the NCAA picture. Yet in mid-March, after Colorado’s impressive conference tournament run, and UNLV having taken a bit of a slide since their early 2012 heyday, the story reads a bit differently: Colorado could beat UNLV. It probably won’t happen but there is something to be said for momentum. Colorado won the Pac-12 title. The team that won the Pac-12 regular season, Washington, was the first ever power conference team to have won their regular season and not made the NCAA Tournament. So…the Pac-12 was kind of down this season, in an understatement to rival saying the Big Dance is sort of popular. Yet this should not take away from Colorado’s accomplishment. They still went out and won their conference, playing in do-or-die games every step of the way. UNLV will have to have some smooth practices and come out sharp to avoid the upset.

#3 Baylor vs. #14 South Dakota State

Some fun facts about South Dakota State: (1) they are nicknamed the Jackrabbits; (2) they won the Summit League title for the first time this season, ending Oakland’s attempt at a three-peat; (3) their best player is junior guard Nate Wolters. (4) Wolters led the team in minutes, points, rebounds, assists and steals this season. (5) Wolters will not be enough to prevent South Dakota State from being swallowed up by Baylor’s massive size and length.

Okay, you caught me. That last one is not really a fact, nor the least bit fun. However, Baylor’s front court is no joke. Led by future NBA lottery pick Perry Jones III, and surrounded by Quincys, the senior Acy and the freshman Miller, the Baylor Bears are one of the most talented teams in the country. I can see no reason why South Dakota State should trip them up.

#7 Notre Dame vs. #10 Xavier

In one of the more intriguing second round games, the underachieving, underdog Xavier Musketeers will face the overachieving favorites, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish…if that makes sense. Coming into the year, the predicted fates of these two teams would have been mirror opposites of how they turned out. If Notre Dame was going to make the tournament, it would be as a late at-large choice, garnering a double digit seed. Xavier, meanwhile, would stroll through their conference and receive a high mid-major seed. If this matchup was guaranteed in November, not only would the seeds be flipped, you could have assumed it to be a 6 v. 11 or 5 v. 12 game, with Xavier as the heavy favorite. Nevertheless, here we are. Xavier’s season was rattled by an on-court incident that left them out of sorts and behind the at-large pack. Notre Dame, on the other hand, played surprisingly well once conference play started and revealed themselves as a Big East power behind Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant. How fickle the college basketball landscape can be.

#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh

Duke is a weak number two seed. They do not defend well, especially in the back court. They have very spotty inside play and rely too heavily on the three point shot. What they do have though are great shooters, a talented play maker and a great coach. These should be enough to squeeze past Lehigh even if the outside shots aren’t falling. Lehigh relies almost exclusively on the playmaking of junior guard C.J. McCollum. He led the Mountain Hawks in everything this season and won his second conference Player of the Year award. Yet without much help around him, even Duke’s spotty guard defense should be able to control Lehigh. During the season, when Lehigh played any team close to the caliber of Duke, they lost. They simply do not have the bodies to stick with an ACC power like the Blue Devils even if the best player on the floor may be wearing their jersey.

March Madness: South Region Overview

Kentucky has been the best team all year long, the SEC title game not withstanding. They deserved the number one overall seed and, maybe just a tad, doesn’t it seem like they got quite an easy draw? Duke has a nice resume but should be considered a weak two seed. Baylor has come on lately but has been very spotty at points this season. Even Indiana, who took down Kentucky for their lone regular season loss, seems like a weaker four seed. But, as we all know, the bracket is not played on paper.

Who can win?
Kentucky. Certainly other teams have a chance, just like there is a chance of winning a hand when hitting with 15 and the dealer is showing a face card. There is a reason Kentucky’s only loss before their conference title game came on a buzzer beater. They are loaded. Tough on the inside and tough on the outside, the only weakness of this Wildcats team is inexperience and sometimes, talent just trumps all else.

Who can surprise?
Xavier. Be leery of the double digit seed who was a preseason top 25 squad. If that is not in the bracketologist handbook, it certainly should be. Teams with talent who underachieve, for whatever reason, are scary outs in the tournament. Xavier still has all the same players that warranted that preseason ranking. They beat Vanderbilt and Purdue back to back, followed by a win versus Cincinnati early in the year. That Cincinnati game held some sort of unpleasant player gathering, perhaps you heard about it, and Xavier subsequently lost five of their next six contests. Whether they ever truly recovered was still up in the air until the Atlantic 10 conference tournament where the Musketeers made it all the way to the finals and seemed to get some of their moxie back. I know Duke plays everything one game at a time but if I were the Blue Devils, I would have a hard time not worrying about a possible matchup with Xavier.

Who’s hot?
Virginia Commonwealth. Since the 28th of November, the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, VCU has only lost three games, going 25-3 in the process. Since the second week of the new year, VCU has gone on a 17-1 run, which includes their drive to the CAA conference championship and their automatic NCAA berth. Many of the main contributors from last year’s Rams squad are long gone, yet a number of players with that tourney experience remain. Taking down the Wichita State Shockers will not be easy by any means. Coming into the game red hot can only help though.

Who’s cold?
UNLV. Losers of five of their last 10, the Runnin’ Rebels have had trouble regaining that early and mid-season swagger. With a number of very impressive wins on their resume, UNLV has the chops to win the Albuquerque regional, and yet they have only beaten one really good team since the first day of February. Giving up 102 points to TCU in a five point loss one day and only managing 45 points in a 20 point blowout in The Pit the very next game out is the kind of wild point swing that shouldn’t be seen from a team firing on all cylinders. That specific example of course has much to do with the opponents but Rebels star Mike Moser has also been in a bit of a lull (Wyoming games as the exception that proves the rule) and they will need him to get back to mid-season form.

Upset alert!
Indiana. The Hoosiers should be careful with New Mexico State. Although Indiana has some good guards and nice shooters, their best player is center Cody Zeller. He happens to play the position New Mexico State has the best chance of slowing down. The Aggies are, after all, huge up front. With one of the very biggest front court rotations in the country, State has put up rebounding numbers that rival any team out there. They crush both the offensive and defensive glass. To make matters worse for Indiana, New Mexico State also gets to the free throw line a ton…or more accurately, half a ton. Ranking first in the country, the Aggies have attempted over one thousand freebies on the year. Talent is sometimes hard to overcome but rebounding and scoring with the clock stopped are two fantastic equalizers.

What possible matchup is interesting?
If Indiana is able to handle New Mexico State, a possible rematch with the one seeded Wildcats would be very interesting. Kentucky would be out for blood, trying to avenge their only regular season loss. As much as teams could give extra effort in the Sweet Sixteen, Kentucky would be. Also for Indiana, it would be a chance to prove to nonbelievers that the first win was no fluke and the Hoosiers are an upper echelon team. As interesting as a Duke-Baylor, outside versus inside matchup would be, the game of the region would be the one seed facing the four seed in Atlanta.

Which player will dominate?
So many good players reside in the South region. Kentucky has the probable Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Duke has a freshman of their own who was first team All-ACC. Baylor is loaded with lengthy forwards with NBA bodies. We have already mentioned Cody Zeller out in Indiana. Yet the player to watch out for in the South is Notre Dame junior forward Jack Cooley. Cooley is a big-bodied, gravity-challenged, next generation Luke Harangody. If Notre Dame is able to squeak by Xavier, look for Cooley to go off against Duke in round two. Front courts already give Duke trouble, as they are very outside oriented. But with Cooley’s girth and court smarts, he could singlehandedly control one aspect of the potential seven-two matchup. Shooting over 60% from the floor for the season and averaging near a double-double with 1.5 blocks per game to boot, Cooley is a matchup nightmare for the Blue Devils.

What system is tough to prepare for?
Wichita State. Although they don’t necessarily play abnormally, the Shockers are a tough team to prepare for because of their efficiency. They shoot very well from the floor at 48.5% and knock down over 75% of their free throws. A respectable three point percentage adds up to give Wichita State one of the best true shooting percentages (TS%) in the country. Their points per game and points per possession numbers are also very impressive, both ranking in the top 15 in the entire nation. To top it all off, they do a good job of taking care of the basketball. The entire product leaves opponents being overly careful knowing mistakes on even a few possessions could lead to multiple baskets and an insurmountable Shockers lead.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March Madness

I've been college basketball heavy these past few weeks, writing team tournament previews and preparing for the NCAA Tournament at College Sports Madness.

A number of recent college bball pieces include a look at the Connecticut Huskies and what may have been their problem during the regular season,

I also took a second look at a number of players previously profiled at the beginning of the season and took stock in their rise and fall as far as NBA potential goes.

CSM has recently posted up a tournament preview for every NCAA and NIT team. I wrote roughly 20 of these previews; check out my profile page or CSM's Tournament page to see your favorite team's write-up.

Coming up, starting tomorrow night, will be region by region NCAA Tournament breakdowns. I will be focusing on the SOUTH Region and updating the group as the tourney proceeds.

Happy Selection Sunday everyone!