Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final Thoughts on Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl is tomorrow. Below are a few updates:

1) Terrelle Pryor is playing with a slight tear in the MCL in one of his knees. Its always possible that he exacerbates the injury or plays less than perfect because of it. This is a plus.

2) The Pac-10 has not been doing well in bowl games.

#21 Stanford lost to Oklahoma (31-27).

#18 Oregon State lost to #14 BYU (44-20).

#20 Arizona lost to #22 Nebraska (33-0).

Cal lost to #23 Utah (37-27).

All in all this is not good. Infact, its a terrible record for the Pac-10. 0-4 in bowl games so far.

However, Oregon also beat Oregon State, Arizona, and Cal. They lost to Stanford (then unranked) the week after demolishing USC at home.

Obviously I would prefer the Pac-10 to be winning its bowl games, meaning the relative strength of the Pac-10 is better.

However, what matters is what happens tomorrow between Oregon and Ohio State. Go Ducks!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The Clippers were blown out three games in a row....the Celtics had won 11 straight road games and just beaten Orlando at home...surely this game was ripe to be a blow out, right?

Instead, the Clippers battled the Celtics all night and finally took the lead with Baron Davis' game-winning shot as time expired.

So what happened? Well, the NBA happened, thats what. The league is stacked, even losing teams have veterans and talented players.

But more to the point, the game above highlights the emotional context of the NBA. The Clippers had been beaten badly by teams inferior to the C's. Now they are at home facing the juggernaut Celtics. They were scared, nervous, worried about a blow out, and played with ferocious energy.

They won.

The NBA. Where amazing happens.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

OHST vs Oregon Preview

This article is meant to compare these two teams and make an educated guess about the bowl game.

Coaching: Ohio State's coach is Jim Tressel. His game plan typically emphasizes defense, conservative offensive playcalling, lots of punting, etc. He has been coaching since 1986, has been the Head Coach at Ohio State since 2001, won a national championship, and his job is secure. The Rose Bowl is a BCS bowl but is nothing for the program to be excited about, having been to three national championship games since 2001.

This is Chip Kelly's first season as a head coach. He has been the offensive coordinator at Oregon since 2007. His attack led the Pac-10 in his first season in points scored. This bowl game is seen as a step up for Oregon, and is their first BCS bowl since 2002.

The motivation factor will be on Chip Kelly's side. It is his first bowl game and he will be more interested and motivated.

As far as technical knowledge, I believe there to be a diminishing return to experience and knowledge. While Tressel has the advantage in preparing his team for bowl games, its unclear to me how much of an advantage it is.

Ranked Opponents: I am a firm believer that the ending ranking, not the midseason ranking, indicates the true skill of a team. For example, USC was ranked #4 when they lost to Oregon, but have clearly proven to college football followers everywhere that they are not the fourth best team in the land.

So lets look at their ranked opponents and how they played against them:

Oregon lost to #6 Boise State, beat #23 Utah, beat #24 USC, lost to #21 Stanford, beat #20 Arizona, and beat #18 Oregon State. Also of note, they beat Purdue.

Ohio State lost to #24 USC, beat #25 Wisconsin, beat #13 Penn State, and beat #10 Iowa. And they lost to Purdue.

Here Ohio State has the advantage of beating two highly ranked teams (Penn State and Iowa) but Oregon has played half their season against ranked opponents (tougher average schedule).

Common Opponents: Oregon and Ohio State played two common opponents: USC (home games for both teams) and Purdue (home for Oregon, away for Ohio State). Oregon won both games and Ohio State lost both games. This seems like an important detail. Especially the USC game. With hindsight we realize USC was lucky to upset Ohio State by scoring on a last minute touchdown.

Schematics: Ohio State and Jim Tressel have struggled against the option and spread in the past. Look at their performance this year against Navy, and Florida in the national championship game. Also, Texas when they had Vince Young. Oregon has a fast, small, and athletic group of scorers who thrive on open field running. Ohio has struggled in the past against these teams.

Oregon has this season handled physical teams with mixed results. They lost to a fired up Boise State team in Idaho and to a physical Stanford team. They did however beat USC easily and handled their difficult schedule with aplomb.

Stadium: I anticipate the Rose Bowl being a home game for Oregon, as it is their first trip in many years there and Oregon's proximity to the Rose Bowl (relative to Ohio State).

X-factor: Ohio State has lost three straight bowl games. Jim Tressel won't want to graduate a class that hasn't won a bowl game.

Secondly, Ohio State has lost three players due to academic ineligibility.

Conclusion: Oregon has the bulk of the advantages.

NBA Christmas Day Notes

I read the preview about the Lakers game on Christmas, when they played the Cavaliers.

The Cavs talked about how the game was a test for them, to see where they were and how they measured up against the Lakers. They frequently used the word "test" and insisted it was a big game.

Conversely, the Lakers described how they lost to Orlando twice last year in the regular season before beating them in the playoffs. They said it was just another game and not to draw too much meaning from it.

The Cavaliers won handily and lead the final 40 minutes of the game, often by twenty points or more.

This should have been a real red flag for the Lakers, who were non-chalant about the game and were blown out.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

NBA Notes

When the Lakers held Utah to six points in the fourth quarter and came from behind to beat them, they travelled two days later to play at Utah. And promptly had their double-digit win streak broken.

Remember: Basketball is a game of effort. There is non-sustainable effort, and sustainable effort. A better team with equal effort will win the game. An inferior team with superior effort will overcome a better opponent.

And I don't just mean hustle during the game. I mean locking in on a game, practicing extra hard, and getting everyone "in the zone" days before hand.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ohio State versus Oregon

Ohio State plays Oregon in the Rose Bowl this year; the game is still two weeks away. Oregon is favored by 3.5 points over Ohio State. My initial reaction was that Oregon should win by more than that, and a few things lead me to that consideration.

One is that they both played USC at home. Ohio State lost on a last minute touchdown, while Oregon blew out USC and trampled all over their defense.

The second is that Jim Tressel has suffered notable losses to option quarterbacks, and at least struggled more against them than they do against conventional attacks. Losses to Vince Young, Illinois two years ago, and the near to defeat to Navy (Navy?!) at home highlight his teams struggles. I think it is a combination of the rarity with which they face option attacks and simply a facet of Jim Tressel's coaching philosophy. He doesn't like to take risks, he doesn't like uncontrolled chaos, etc., that the option attack is more lethal than normal against him. He recruits players and coaches them to do specific functions really, really well and he tries to keep the game within those parameters. He's had a lot of success doing that (one national championship, three national championship appearances) but has also seen his teams struggle against the spontaneous playmaking and athleticism of spread and option attacks (like the loss to Florida).

This will require more thought and analysis, plus a return to Bleacher Report is called for!

Miami vs Dallas Part 2,3,4,5,& 6...

I just read how Dallas hasn't lost in Miami since their playoff defeat there four years ago. They have a lot of painful memories of that loss and still try to stick it to them. And their record against Miami since then has been very, very good. And basketball is a game of motivation and focus.

Dallas simply cares a lot about winning against Miami, to try to ease the pain of that defeat. So I can't help but think that it would have been a good bet to go with Dallas against Miami. And in general any team that gains supremacy over an opponent who handed them a bitter post-season loss, will consistently deliver victories against them. Being the better team, it is a matter of effort and focus. The painful memory will ensure both.

This is a formula that could be applied to the future.

Friday, December 18, 2009

NBA Notes

I was reading about Andrew Bynums rebounding woes, and how they have coincided with Pau Gasol's extraordinary rebounding performance. And people have been studying film, trying to figure out why Bynum can't be more like Pau Gasol.

And it seems clear to me that the two are related. With two seven footers on the team, if one is getting 22 rebounds in a game, the other simply can't be getting that many. Of the rebounds that fall near the rim and in the key (the ones a big man will collect), there can't be more than 30 or so a game per team.

A typical game has about 50 missed shots. Most fall within the key (where big men on both teams fight for the rebounds) and 15 or so rebound long and the guards and small forwards fight over them.

So if Gasol is hogging all the rebounds (and getting all the accolades) Bynum can't be blamed too much.

Also, the Hawks are this year's "overachieving" team, running up the score at every opportunity and enjoying the ride and their performances. They should handily cover the spread the majority of the time this season. This prediction is based on the data I did last year by watching teams' performances versus the spread for the entire 2008-2009 season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts on the Heisman

The Heisman Trophy has, to me, lost some of its prestige. It is supposed to be given to the season's most outstanding player. But it is frequently given to the running back or quarterback on the top ranked team.

Team performance has a considerable effect on Heisman voting, but it is an individual award. This makes no sense.

Also the voting is divided by region, and the Heisman Voting regulations stipulate: For Heisman voting purposes, the nation is divided into six regions—each of which get 145 votes. Put another way, each region gets exactly 16.67 percent of the votes. However, each region does not constitute an even one-sixth of the population. Three regions (Far West, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic) have larger populations than that – and three have less (Northeast, South, and Southwest). In fact, the Far West has the greatest population at 21.1% of the country and the Northeast has the least – 11.9%.

To me this is a strange way to vote and decide a winner. I also disagree with the fact that it almost always goes to a quarterback or runningback and never to a defensive or offensive lineman. The award would be much more prestigious if it were spread evenly throughout the positions, simply trying to highlight the most outstanding players regardless of stats.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kobe's game winning shot

I watched Kobe hit a crazy game winning shot over Dwayne Wade in a game recently. And after he hit it, he was surrounded by teammates who were cheering, congratulating him, etc.

The teammates all like each other. Any complaints about Kobe dividing the team or being a negative influence on the team appear to be overrated.

Florida's Woes

Florida ended up losing the SEC Championship game to Alabama, a resounding 31-13 defeat. Two things of note: their best defensive lineman, the MVP of last year's SEC Championship game, was suspended prior to the game for getting a DUI about five days before the game.

Second, I just read that defensive coordinator was officially hired by Louisville, just five days after the loss. He most assuredly had been contacted by Louisville before the SEC Championship game and had heard about their interest even earlier.

So did that help his focus? I'm sure it did. It certainly didn't IMPROVE his focus. And all the distractions inside his own head, visions of grandeur, etc., contributed to Florida's defeat. But thats how it goes in sports. The winners get copied, and the best copy of a program is a coordinator, or even better, the actual head coach of the program.

Lastly, Florida was a five point favorite.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The attack on Florida begins!

I was reading that the defensive coordinator for Florida, which has had one of the top defenses in the college ranks these last four years, is being sought after by the program at Louisville.

This is consistent with the idea that successful programs breed success in their coaches, and vice versa, and thus programs that struggled hire away coaches from good programs.

But that added bonus for Louisville, an SEC team, is two fold: they weaken Florida by taking away their defensive coordinator (who runs the defense and calls the plays), and the next time they play Florida, they will have a coach who knows their offense, defense, and personnel inside and out.

Upset alert the next time Louisville plays Florida.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bill Belichick's 4th down call

I like his call. It was aggressive, and determined to go for the win, not just avoid losing! I haven't been blogging lately, I just haven't had the urge to. Not sure why.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Week #10 Lines

NCAA Football
Saturday, Nov. 7
MICHIGAN STATE20Western Michigan54½
WEST VIRGINIA20Louisville54
NC STATE6Maryland
ARKANSAS7South Carolina53½
Oklahoma State7IOWA STATE51
TEXAS36½Central Florida48
PENN STATEOhio State40
Fresno StateIDAHO70
UTAH27½New Mexico46
ARIZONA33Washington State60
CALIFORNIA7Oregon State60½
Texas A&m3COLORADO56½
MIAMI FLORIDA13½Virginia45
CLEMSONFlorida State
TULSA1Houston U67½
UNLV1Colorado State61½
Utah StateHAWAII60
UABFlorida Atlantic66½
ARKANSAS STATE13½UL Lafayette47½
MIDDLE TENN ST13Florida Intl54
NCAA Football
Sunday, Nov. 8