After an extended leave of absence from writing, due to finals, college visits, and scholarship applications, I’m finally on Spring Break. So much has happened since my last post on March 18th, both for me personally and in the world of sports. I finally experienced world renound Chicago-style pizza at Giordano’s, was accepted to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and had a great campus visit (followed by being notified in the mail that the first year in Evanston would be upwards of $60,000 and I lost any interest I had in the school), officially became a second semester senior, and most importantly, decided on Indiana University for college and can not be happier about it. A month’s worth of sports headlines have taken place in the past eighteen days; the Major League Baseball season officially kicked off in Asia, the Kentucky Wildcats won their eighth national championship, Nike released the new NFL uniforms, and Mohammed El Akkari, an International Basketball Federation player for Moutahed of Tripoli, allegedly scored 113 points in a single game.
Going into the NCAA Tourney, UK was clearly the best team in the country and I picked them to win the National Championship, yet it was so difficult to choose the Wildcats because of the reservations I had about them. Coach Cal had choked in his previous appearance in the title game as well as Kentucky was relying on freshmen and sophomores to not crack under the pressure riding on them to win it all. Not to mention that UK entered the NCAA Tournament on a one-game losing streak after being defeated by Vanderbilt in the SEC Championship.
Coach Calipari and the University of Kentucky needed the National Championship to validate their one-and-done focused program. In each of Cal’s previous six seasons, going back to his tenure at Memphis, his worst postseason finish was in the Sweet Sixteen. His teams were eliminated three times in the Elite Eight, once in the Final Four, and once in the National Championsip in 2008 (Memphis later had its entire 2007-2008 season vacated due to Derrick Rose’s misconduct regarding his false SAT score). If he had fallen to Kansas, many of his critics would question his ability to close out a season. No one can argue his greatness from November through February, but if UK would have lost in the NCAA Tourney a part of Big Blue Nation would have been ready to show him the door out of Lexington.
Overall, this was an ideal tournament for college basketball. There were some major upsets, with #2 seeds Duke and Missouri exiting in the first round, and three double-digit seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, but no “Cinderellas” made it to the Elite Eight. It was exciting to watch the likes of Xavier, Ohio, and North Carolina State challenge major powers in college basketball, but at the end of the day, the best matchups are between the premier teams. The 2011 National Championship between UConn and Butler may have been the ugliest college basketball game I’ve ever seen. Upset-minded md-majors and Cinderellas can make the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament two of the best weeks of the year, but once the Final Four rolls around, basketball powerhouses are the only teams who can guarantee high-quality basketball that is enjoyable to watch.
Jared Sullinger to the NBA
I can’t argue with his decision to leave because there is a direct correlation between the number of years of college and when a prospect is drafted. Sully has nothing left to prove in college. He’s averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds for his two years of college, with a shooting percentage above 50%. He has lead Ohio State to the Elite Eight and Final Four in consecutive years and the Buckeyes have sixty-four wins in that time span. However, don’t expect him to be dominant in the NBA as he is in college. While he is physically big at 6’9″ and 265 lbs., he lacks the height and the jumping ability to average a double-double immediately at the next level. If he can develop a consistent outside jumper, he can become a very nice role player. He shares the size and stature of Indiana Pacers forward David West, who has career averages of sixteen points per game and seven rebounds per game. The longer he stayed at OSU, the more NBA teams would begin to see him plateau at the college level and it could only hurt his draft prospects.
Joe Flacco Thinks He’s the Best QB in the NFL
On WNST 1570 in Baltimore earlier this week, Joe Flacco said that he believes he is the best quarterback in the NFL. I have no problem with him thinking this. If I were an NFL owner or coach, I want a QB who thinks that he is the best every single snap. However, his thoughts about how he stacks up compared to the rest of the starting quarterbacks in the league should not leave a four inch radius in his brain. He is only opening himself up to more criticism than he already deserves and his resumé does not warrant him being a top five quarterback, let alone the best one in the NFL. Last season he threw for 3,610 yards and 20 touchdowns while Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,643 and 45, Eli Manning threw for 4,933 and 29, and Tom Brady threw for 5,235 and 39, to name a few of the league’s elite quarterbacks. Of course, statistics alone do not define a player and Flacco’s two AFC Championship Games help his case but still not enough. If I rank all of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL, he is thirteenth on my list. Eli Manning has two Super Bowl rings, Aaron Rodgers has one, Tom Brady has three, Ben Roethlisberger has two, Peyton Manning has one, and Drew Brees has one. Until Flacco gets some jewelry on his hand, he is not in the conversation and should be careful about publicizing questionable statements.
Ubaldo Jimenez Beans Troy Tulowiztki
The pitch was by all means intentional, especially considering the bitter feelings Jimenez has towards his former club. It’s a shame that he was willing to plunk Tulo in the preseason. He deserves his five-game suspension, but he still may be able to make his scheduled start if the MLB hasn’t responded to his appeal in time. Hopefully Jimenez does not start for the Indians if they face the Rockies this season because there is a high likelihood that Colorado would get revenge in some form or fashion.
FIBA Player Drops 113?
It is highly unlikely that a story like this could be completely fabricated but part of me is still skeptical. Mohammad El Akkari averaged just under eight points per game heading into his three-point shooting contest that happened to occur in the middle of the Lebanese Division A League Final Eight game. Maybe it’s that basketball overseas is different than what we’re accustomed to in the NBA and there were 314 total points in the game, but Akkari’s performance is out of the ordinary by all means. There are only three players in the modern era of the NBA who I could rationalize their taking of sixty-nine shots in a game–Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Monta Ellis. To make 40 of 69 shots from the floor and 32 of 59 from behind the arc is beyond comprehension. I’m not sure who his team was playing that night, possibly a team of local nuns or fifth-grade rec basketball team, but his performance goes down in history nontheless.
Joey Votto’s Contract
It is great to see that the Cincinnati Reds are committed to winning and have a “World Series or Bust” mentality. However, the 10-year, $225 million dollar contract should raise an eyebrow. The Reds have no idea how good Votto will be in ten years, but if the first baseman can lead Cincy to a World Series, then it won’t matter as much. The 2010 N.L. MVP’s price tag makes it difficult to re-sign second baseman Brandon Phillips, which is very hard to swallow since Phillips is one of the best Reds on and off of the field. The contract extension tops off the biggest offseason in Cincinnati Reds history and is a great way to kick off the season with their best player under contract until 2023.
Mo Egger Interview
I got the chance to interview sports talk show host Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 tonight and it was fascinating listening to him talk about his career and Cincinnati sports. The interview will takes lots of editing but should be posted in the next week.
Matchup of the Day
St. Louis Cardinals @ Miami Marlins. Tonight’s game is Opening Day in America since the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners played in Japan last week and also is the first game played in Miami’s new stadium. Two excellent pitchers in Kyle Lohse and Josh Johnson face off in the National League matchup.
Video of the Day
Courtesy of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBMQ79NweQU