Thursday, March 29, 2007

NFL Mock Draft: Part Deux

"You don't understand, I can't walk...they've tied my shoelaces together!"
"A knot...bastards!"

So with all of the mumblings and grumblings that have gone on over the last month or so, here comes the second version of my Mock Draft. This will be the second of three installments, with the final one coming on the week of the Draft. A couple things to note are that I will not be giving any real rhyme or reason to why I have certain guys where they are. I think that I'm going to save all of my analysis for the final one. So, for now, sit back and relax. Here comes the pain:

  1. Oakland - JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
  2. Detroit - Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
  3. Cleveland - Adrian Peterson, RB, Oakland
  4. Tampa Bay - Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
  5. Arizona - Joe Thomas, OT, WIsconsin
  6. Washington - Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
  7. Minnesota - Laron Landry, S, LSU
  8. Atlanta - Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
  9. Miami - Levi Brown, OT, Penn St.
  10. Houston - Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
  11. San Francisco - Alan Branch, DT, Michigan
  12. Buffalo - Marshawn Lynch, RB, California
  13. St. Louis - Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
  14. Carolina - Greg Olsen, TE, Miami
  15. Pittsburgh - Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida
  16. Green Bay - Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Southern Cal
  17. Jacksonville - Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
  18. Cincinnati - Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas
  19. Tennessee - Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
  20. New York Giants - Darelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh
  21. Denver - Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska
  22. Dallas - Patrick Willis, ILB, Ole Miss
  23. Kansas City - Ted Ginn, Jr., WR, Ohio St.
  24. New England - Michael Griffin, S, Texas
  25. New York Jets - Aaron Ross, CB, Texas
  26. Philadelphia - Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn St.
  27. New Orleans - Jon Beason, OLB, Miami
  28. New England - Brian Leonard, HB/FB, Rutgers
  29. Baltimore - Joe Staley, OT, Eastern Michigan
  30. San Diego - Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU
  31. Chicago - Justin Blalock, OG/OT, Texas
  32. Indianapolis - Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida St.

Take care. Peace.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

MLB Preview- AL East

"Bass in the face means peace see ya later."

So with Spring just around the corner, and my National Title winner gone in the second round (again, thank you D.J. Augustin!...that guy would have been more productive doing summersaults up and down the court...yikes!), I'm thinking it's about time to get into some actual baseball previews. I am going to break each team down and tell you why I think they could be contenders or pretenders. Hopefully, this will be a helpful guide as the season wears on to how things could shake down. This is the first of six parts, each covering a particular division, with the final update having my predictions for the playoffs. So...onward and upward:

Writer/Editor/Publisher Note: This article was started on March 20, and since then, Jonathan Papelbon has been named the closer, so disregard the question about who's closing games out for the Sox (thank God).

AL East:
Team On A Whole: Well I mean, I had to start here. This one is probably going to be a little more in-depth than the other teams, but then again, I am a total "homer," I have no idea how many people read this (although I hear it maybe getting into the 10's), and I'm not getting paid, so why not be biased? Anyway, here's how I stand on the Sox. Great starting rotation, and after that, pretty much everything is suspect (Ortiz and Ramirez being the obvious exceptions). However, with that being said, I still say they are somehow going to win something in the vacinity of 90-95 games. The reason I say that is because, on a whole, it seemed to me like the Red Sox were the only ones to take a step forward, while the others stood in place (possible exception is Baltimore). For the three other teams, they basically stood pat with their teams. The Sox were not satisfied in their third place finish last year, and decided to do something about it, shelling out big money for free agents, and holding on to their core of young players. While it remains to be seen if the Sox were wrong in doing this, the fact remains that the new ownership has done everything in its power to try and salvage the farm system and not go too crazy as far as trading for veterans. Right now, I see the Sox winning the division (yeah, I know, what else is new from me) purely based on the starting pitching. Oh they have question marks, but then again, who doesn't?

Infield: Easily the biggest question mark as far as position players go is right here. With two new-comers in Pedroia and Lugo, and a light hitting first baseman in Youkilis, it's clear to see that this will be a unit that will struggle on offense. The only real solid guy out there as far as offense goes is Mike Lowell, who had a surprisingly good season last year (.284/20/80). As far as defense goes, however, look for this unit to continue being strong despite losing Alex Gonzalez to the Reds. If they are able to save the kind of runs that they did last year, it should come close to compensating for their lack of offense.

Outfield: Another set of question marks hits here with Coco Crisp and newly-acquired J.D. Drew. It seems as though the Sox have already made up their minds in that this will most likely be Coco's last year in Boston unless he is able to produce some eye-popping numbers. With the trio of Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones, and Ichiro hitting the free-agent market next year, Coco is goign to have to do a whole lot to keep his job in the friendly confines. I have always said that signing Drew was a huge mistake, but my hopes are that he proves me wrong, and is somehow able to stay healthy for an entire year. And in know it will be an adventure, but Manny will hit .300, hit 40 homers, drive in 130 (yawn). Seriously, I know the guy's a headache and all, but when he leaves, what the hell are we going to do to replace that?

Starting Pitching: Right now, on paper, it doesn't get any better than this (I mean I love Wily Mo, but could you imagine if we still had Bronson on the Although Dice-K is unproven, he's going to be good...really good for about the first month or so. After that, who knows? Once teams get a second look at him, that's when you're going to see if this really did pay off. Schill is going to be solid as always, Papelbon still has to work on his longevity in the pitch count, and Wake is probably the most solid #5 pitcher going (and don't forget about Jon Lester...they say he's back and better than ever). But the real question still remains Josh Beckett. As the once heir-apparent to the throne of "ace," Beckett did have a 15-win season last year, but managed an ERA of 5, which is not going to cut it in this division. Again, he needs to work on his non-fastball pitches, as he was able to blow people away in his first go-around, but stumbled mid-season, and wound up being mostly ineffective after the All-Star break. If Beckett can capture some of the magic that won him the MVP of the 2003 World Series, this could be one of the best pitching staffs to come down the line in quite some time.

Bullpen: And here come the big, big question marks. So may bodies, so little room, and even smaller is the amount of guys who could actually be considered "closer material." Personally, you have to let Timlin, if he is healthy, start off the year closing. I know supposedly Piniero has the inside track because of his relief efforts in the second part of the year last year with Seattle, but he has never played in this role before, and he certainly hasn't done it in the greatest city in the whole freggin' world (thank you, I'll be here all night). Timlin, however, has. He's not the most solid guy, but compared to everyone else they could try and throw in there right now, this guy is a rock. This clearly will be the story of the year for the Sox (that and the unforgettable Mr. David Jonathan Drew I presume). Can they figure out their closer situation in time? Will Craig Hansen step up and claim the role before the season gets out? If you're like this guy, you have to just hope that they are able to sort everything out before it is too late. As far as middle relief, they have plenty, and they will wear teams out with the combinations of lefties and righties they can throw in there.

Overall: I like the Sox to win the A.L. East. They have so much potential and so many young guys coming up real soon that I can't help but feel almost blindly optimistic about this year's team.

Record: 92-70

New York Yankees:
And of course, how could I not do these guys second. Ah yes, the Bronx Bombers. Well, I will say this: this team wins...a lot. You can blame whatever, or whoever you want to, but the fact remains...these guys are good. They have enough talent to wipe you out in a series (see last year's Boston Massacre II). However, the only way this team will have enough gas to make it deep into October is if they get some kind of infusion of youth on the team. Guys like Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Chien-Ming Wang were able to add a serious boost that helped propel the Yankees into their 387th division title in a row (sure feels like it's been that long). However, by staying quiet in the offseason, other than signing Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have shown that they believe in the team they have right now. They dealt off a grumpy Gary Sheffield to the Tigers for three minor-leaguers, two of which could be pro ready by the end of the year.

Infield: Of course, the captain is still there, and from all accounts, he is looking better than ever. Outside of that, it starts to get a little more interesting. The hot corner has been hotter than ever over the offseason, as A-Rod officially opened the flood gates to a never-ending supply of trash talk from every point in the universe. Fans, media, coaches, players, the owner...all were in the mix of pouncing on him. A-Rod will put up numbers, but seriously, is that really going to matter? The only way for him to come back into some of the good graces he felt at the beginning of his Yankee tenure will be to play up to his level come October. Until then, let the booing continue. First base is a question mark because the Yanks would like to have Giambi play more at DH than at first, because he is a defensive liability over there. He seems as though he is actually physically unable to play first anymore, so look for a Josh Phelps/Doug Mientkiewicz combination to make most or all of the starts. At second, you're looking at one of the brightest prospects in the game at Robinson Cano, so there are no worries there.

Outfield: Tragic was the news about Bernie Williams being released, as he was one of the class acts in baseball. Last year, the Yanks picked up Bobby Abreu from the Phillies, which made Sheffield expendable. Abreu has seen his power numbers get completely smashed after setting the single round record in the Home Run Derby a year and a half ago. Abreu went 161 at bats last year in between home runs, but with the short porch in right, Abreu should see his power numbers go up this year. Johnny Damon is the rock of the outfield. He will get you timely hits, power and RBIs, and SBs. He will always play his heart out for you. Matsui is once again healthy, and is one of the most dangerous hitters in the league. Having him back will really give this team the boost that it was lacking in his absence last year.

Starting Pitching: It's not all roses for the Yanks however, as their starting pitching is beyond questionable. Chien-Ming Wang had a breakout performance last year, but is there anyway he can duplicate that success? Or will he end up just like Aaron Small and be a bust? With the departure of Randy Johnson, the Yanks went out and got the lefty they need in old friend Andy Pettitte. Paying him $16 million a year was probably too much, but for a team looking for anything to remind them of their late nineties championship years, it seems to me that money was certainly not an issue. Pettitte has health problems of his own, but when healthy, he has shown that he is one of the best starting lefties of the last decade. The Yanks also re-upped with Mike Mussina for two more years. The "Moose" has been the anchor of the staff since his arrival from the O's in 2001. Kei Igawa, the Japanese import, may turn out to be a great signing, but, just like with Dice-K, it is a questionable proposition. With Igawa, people know even less about him, so the gamble is even higher. The real question has to do with Phillip Hughes, the top prospect in the organization. Can a 20 year old take the ball at Yankee Stadium, wearing the pinstripes, and be successful. It's too soon to tell, but it seems that the Yankees have shown tremendous optimism in Hughes, and shuffling him into the rotation late in the year is definitely not out of the question.

Bullpen: Just like the last decade, there is no question who is closing out games...but how can they get the ball from the starters to the Sandman? I have always been a big fan of Scott Proctor. He has shown great potential and has a tremendous upside. I believe the Yanks will use him as their eighth inning man to set up Rivera. The hard-throwing Kyle Farnsworth still needs to work on his mechanics and his accuracy, as they both troubled him last year. Outside of that, it is a complete "wait and see" attitude that may end up hurting them. As seen in the past, the Yanks have a tendency of overworking their relievers, meaning that once they reach September and October, there is nothing left in the tank.

Overall: The Yankees are going to be incredibly tough to get around in the AL East. If they win another division title, I will most certainly not be surprised. However, I feel like their bullpen will be a major question mark and will be very inconsistent. They still have a lineup to turn your lights out, and they will be carrying the "Bronx Bombers" this season. I definitely see a playoff trip for them, whether it be through the wild card or winning the division outright.

Record: 90-72

The Blue Jays have made tremendous strides over the last couple years, and landed them a second place finish last year in the East. J.P. Riccardi has been given the reigns and an enlarged payroll, and with it, he has brought in some major free agents (Burnett, Ryan, Glaus, Overbay). In addition, the Jays signed their franchis player, Vernon Wells, to a seven-year, $126 million contract, so you know that they are not just keeping this mentality for the short-run. The Jays also went out and got themselves a legitamate (not bad, not bad) cleanup hitter in Frank Thomas.

Infield: The corners are strong with Overbay and Glaus, but with Glaus, I will always question his health, especially when he plays half of his games on Astroturf. I do like Aaron Hill at second. I thought he showed tremendous upside last year, and I believe in his second full season, he will hit right around .300/10/80. At the six-spot, you have the aging Royce Clayton, who will serve as their nine-hitter. Clayton looks to be a desperation pickup in my opinion. A guy to be a stop-gap for this year.

Outfield: Again, Wells is the guy out there. He is an incredible fielder and is a five-tool player. Wells was in the MVP discussion last year, but with a gigantic contract extension, will his numbers start to drop? It's different for everyone, but Toronto needs Wells big time, as he is the leader of that team. An up-and-comer is Alex Rios, who has shown amazing potential out in right. Batting behind Frank Thomas in the five-hole, Rios will get plenty of RBI opportunities. Reed Johnson is out and left, and is extremely inconsistent. Top prospect Adam Lind may be getting some looks and might even platoon the position with Johnson.

Starting Pitching: When you talk Jays' starters, it all starts with former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, who has anchored that staff for years. Expect another strong season from Halladay, who has been one of the most consistent starters in the AL over the last few years. After that, you will see a bit of a drop off. A.J. Burnett, last year's prized acquisition, had a respectable 10-8 record with a 3.98 ERA. Then, you have the other 3/5, Gustavo Chacin, Tomo Ohka, and Shaun Marcum, which will probably be the downfall of this team. Chacin is inconsistent, and in this division, you need at least three quality starters, and Chacin is far from "quality." Ohka was good in Montreal/D.C., but is not nearly good enough to survive in the East. And Marcum is unproven, and only had limited experience in his first season last year. The Jays are still rebuilidng, and if they are looking to contend for at least a wild card birth, they are going to have to go out before the deadline and get a quality #3 starter, because in a short series, having three starters who are dependable is priceless.

Bullpen: This is another team that needs to figure out how to get the ball to their closer. B.J. Ryan proved all doubters wrong last year, saving 38 games with a 1.37 ERA. However, the Blue Jays were unable to keep their best middle reliever, Justin Speier, to the Angels. Now, the Jays will be relying on their young prospects, most notably Brandon League, to try and pick up the slack for the departed. It could be a bumpy ride at first, but much like the Red Sox, I like the influx of youth here. With young arms comes added stamina, and coupling that with the experience of playing teams like the Sox and the Yankees 19 times a year, this could be a group that has a lot of potential to be good for a long time.

Overall: The Jays will struggle this year undoubtedly. However, they will rock the cover out of the ball with the 3-4-5 of Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, and Troy Glaus. The Jays desperately need one of two things to happen: either make a trade, or wait on their young guys to mature. Knowing Riccardi, I believe he will keep his young guys, but with that comes consequences. They will be stuck in limbo this year, but will most likely finish around .500 due in large part to Halladay and their bruising offense.

Record: 83-79

Tampa Bay:
This is possibly the most intriguing team in all of baseball, and I don't even think they will amount to anything. The reason I say "intriguing" is that the Rays have so many great, young prospects on the team that seeing how they progress over this season will be a very interesting scenario indeed. The problem with having a plethora of young talent is that you know it's not going to last, at least with this cast of characters. But for now, this should be a fun team to watch.

Infield: The big offseason move for the Rays happened when they went out and got Akinori Iwamura, a prized prospect from Japan, and signed him to a three year deal. Iwamura has apparently been having issues as far as plate discipline in his first go around with major league pitchers in Spring Training, but as the year wears on, Iwamura could have the potential to be a 25-30 homer threat. Another move the Rays made was giving Ty Wigginton a contract extension and moving him to first. Wigginton had a surprisingly good season last year, and will be looking to build off of that. As far as up the middle, you are looking at huge question marks in Jorge Cantu at second and Ben Zobrist at short. Cantu seemingly had a bit of a "power outage" last year, watching all of his power numbers decline. However, most of that was due to the fact he only played 107 games, so it will be interesting to see if Cantu can not only stay healthy but rebound from last year. As far as Zobrist, not much is known about him other than the fact that he has had a good spring and that he is known for his defense. Also, remember B.J. Upton if the Rays hold onto him (Upton's been on the trading block for the entire offseason), because he is listed as the backup at second, short, and third.

Outfield: As said by many before me, this is probably the best young outfield in all the land. Carl Crawford has steadily improved his ranking as far as the best players in the game, and is now at least in the top 15, maybe even in the top 10 in all of baseball. Crawford is one of the most dynamic players in the game, and showed some power last year with 18 homers. Still, Crawford will always be known for his speed, stealing an AL high 58 bases last year. Also, Crawford hit .308. It's a coin flip between Jose Reyes and Crawford as to who is the best leadoff hitter in the game. Rocco Baldelli, coming off of injuries that sidelined him for a year and a half, returned last year, and in 92 games, showed unbelievable skills at the plate, putting up a .302/16/57 and also swiped 10 bases. Look for Baldelli to have a huge impact on this lineup. Speaking of impact players, nothing more can probably be written about Delmon Young. Although right now, he is probably known as the guy who chucked a bat at an umpire, Young could easily win Rookie of the Year this upcoming season. Young has dominated on every level so far, and he has also shown tremendous plate discipline to go along with his tremendous power and his speed on the bases. Young could be able to have a breakout year if he is able to harness his personal demons.

Starting Pitching: You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who is as young and has as much promise than Scott Kazmir. In what could be argued as one of the top 10 most lobsided trades in baseball history (Kazmir to the Rays and Victor Zambrano to the Mets), Kazmir has become the clear-cut ace of the staff. In just his third season at the tender age of 23, Kazmir has turned into one of the best left-handers in the game. He will be the rock of this staff again, and is poised to have another huge year. However, after Kazmir, the Rays literally have nothing going for them. Between Fossum, Seo, Shields, and Ryu, Tampa does not have anything close to reliable. Again, look for the Rays to start calling up their prospects around June or July to take over for these guys. You never know, they may strike gold. With all of those first rounders waiting in the wings, Tampa could have a potential #2 or #3 guy in the farm system.

Bullpen: Seth McClung will take over the closer role from Brian Meadows this year. McClung has had limited experience in this role, and has not had any kind of success yet. It will be interesting to see if he can hang onto the role for an entire season. Shawn Camp could prove to be a more reliable option than McClung. This could be an intriguing set of circumstances. If they usher in Camp to become the closer, his trade value would instantly go up, making him very useful to a contender for a strectch run into the postseason, and if history has shown us anything, it's that relievers are in big demand come July.

Overall: Tampa will struggle, and there is no doubt about that, but on this team, you are looking at a nucleus of some of the best young talent in the game. Will Tampa try and build off of them? From what I have gathered, it appears as though Tampa is still content with being a major league AAA team, getting their players big league experience, and then letting them walk or trading them off to get a whole new breed of young talent. If Tampa is going to make a run anytime soon, they better start ponying up for some experienced free agents. They have shown somewhat of a commitment by signing Baldelli and Crawford to lengthy extensions, but still, they need some kind of veteran leadership to move that ballclub in the right direction.

Record: 68-94

And then there are the boys from Camden Yards. The O's tried a couple of years ago to try and make a franchise changing move in acquiring Miguel Tejada via free agency. Although Miggy has put up his usual amazing stats, there seems to be a lot of unrest about his impact on the clubhouse. First, there was the whole B-12 shot conspiracy, then there were the trade demands (by the way, the phone lines at Yawkey Way are always open), so Tejada, although still amazing, is not the leader that Baltimore was hoping they would get. However, Baltimore did make some moves in the offseason that I particularly liked, so although I'm not expecting a whole lot out of them this year, I think that the O's made a step in the right direction, and hopefully they will continue their pursuit of filling their needs in the future.

Ramon Hernandez could be one of the most underrated players in the league. I'm serious on this. He had such a quiet season (.275/23/91) that you would think such productivity from a catcher would have been a little more newsworthy. Hernandez should have a similar year this year, and if Baltimore can parlay his success, they could have their catcher for the next four or five years. Newly acquired Aubery Huff should provide some pop, but Camden is not exactly the most "hitter friendly" park for a lefty, so it will be a total "wait and see" as far as how effective he will be. B-Rob (Gamecock!) at second should have another fantastic year. He is turning himself into quite the leadoff hitter, however, he needs to work on his OBP (.347) so that he can do his damage on the basepaths (20+ steals four years in a row). Of course the O's have a rock at short in Tejada. I don't even have to mention his accolades. This guy is just a big time player, and one of my personal favorties. Melvin Mora has seen his numbers decline in the past few years. However, Baltimore has no one outside of Chris Gomez, so his job security should be quite high right now.

Outfield: This is a very underrated unit. Nick Markakis is a very promising player out in right. I can see him hitting right around 30 homers and about 90-100 RBIs. Also, he hits for average, so he really is an all-around great hitter. Then there is Corey Patterson. Patterson was fantastic last year, and has grown accustomed to hitting in the nine-spot. I just want to make this observation before I continue breaking this team down. I believe that you should put one of your best hitters at the ninth spot in your lineup. Here's the thing: Most teams generally go 1-6 and then there is the "bottom of the order," which has also meant that you are probably going to have the bottom-rung hitters in the 7-8-9. But why not bump the lineup up one spot? Think about it. Take your six hitter and move him to the nine-spot. You will be able to create more opportunities for the top of the lineup this way. In my ideal lineup, I would put a guy with a high OBP down in the nine-hole. It's time to think outside the box and do something different here. Anyway, that's just my thoughts on that. The reason I bring this up is that Patterson would most likely be a leadoff hitter on a majority of other teams, but the O's despite knowing that Patterson is quicker than Roberts, put him ninth so guys like Mora, Markakis, and Tejada will have opportunities to drive in runs. Jay Payton is out in left. The O's signed him in the offseason because they felt they were not getting enough production out of Jay Gibbons. Payton has shown that, given an opportunity, he can make an impact. However, Payton could be out the first two to three weeks of the season with a hamstring injury, so Gibbons will be the starter for the time being.

Starting Pitching: Erik Bedard has been hurt in the past, but it seems as though he has shaken off the injury bug for now. Bedard has long been touted as the ace of the future, and now in his second year as the #1 guy, Bedard has a real possibility to win about 17-18 games this year. Next in line is Daniel Cabrera...I mean does he even know what he's going to do? Seemingly, Cabrera would strike out 12 one start, and then in his next, he would walk seven and throw four wild pitches. I mean this could probably be the biggest test for Leo Mazzone (pitching coach) he's ever had to face. I think one of the things that makes Cabrera so dangerous is that he is so unpredictable. When a batter is standing up there, he has no idea what to expect. Is the ball going on the outside corner, or at his head? If Cabrera can somewhat grasp his control, he would be amazingly dangerous off of the rubber (98 MPH fastball...and he can keep it up for seven innings). The guy reminds me of a rawer version of the Randy Johnson when he was on the Mariners. No one really knew what to expect, and he had the velocity and sometimes, could be a bit erratic at times...not like Cabrera, but he could be a little off base. Still, he was able to get strikeouts because of his unpredictability. In the three spot is Jaret Wright. Here's a guy who has shown some of what made him great with the Indians back in the day, but has not been able to keep his stuff fresh for a long period of time. Adam Loewen is entering his second year, and has looked very good this Spring. Steve Traschel rounds out the group. Traschel is a journeyman and is probably just holding down the fort for a guy like Hayden Penn, one of the top prospects in the whole league.

Bullpen: This is where it starts to get really intriguing. At the end, you have one of my early favorites for breakout performance of the year in Chris Ray. I saw him against the Sox last year, and he impressed the hell out of me. He has great stuff, and he's also got the control to go along with it. I expect Ray to have in the neighborhood of around 35-40 saves this year, with a sub 2.00 ERA. The O's also made tremendous strides in bolstering their middle relief this offseason. Danys Baez is coming over from Atlanta and will be called upon to be the eighth inning man to set up Ray. Baez was the former Tampa closer and another guy I have seen a lot of. The Sox had plenty of interest in Baez throughout the years, but the O's made a surprising push for Baez, and landed him for a cool $19 million over the next three years. Chad Bradford and Scott Williamson will bring valuable leadership to the 'pen, and Jamie Walker will add the lefty element coming over from Detroit. Overall, the O's made great strides to help out Ray in his quest to become one of the best relievers in the game.

Overall: I like what the Orioles are doing...really. They added some quality arms to the bullpen, and with their young core of Bedard, Markakis, Cabrera, and Ray, along with veterans like Tejada and Mora, Baltimore could be smelling roses in the near future. But for right now, I'm not so sure if they will be able to make any kind of impact in this division, especially when you consider who are the other teams there. I mean even Tampa is going to be a tough game for anyone this year. So a last place finish, although never a good thing, is probably what the O's are looking at this year. However, they will be getting strong very soon, and again, they will need to bolster their starting rotation, or else, it will be a waiting game for them to wait on guys like Penn and Brandon Erbe to come through the farm system.

Record: 66-96

Stay tuned for the wild AL Central, one of the most unpredictable divisions in all of baseball. Take care. Peace.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ok, I'm Going To Be Random...But I'm Gonna Make It Do What It Do Baby!

"For Boston, for Boston, we sing our proud refrain..."

Ok, again, I am fully aware that I need to update this way more than I have, but certain circumstances have arose (i.e. drinking escapades...again, if you are in my immediate family...I don't know, scroll down or go to another page, and just remember, that last statement never happened...also, thanks beautiful...I know that was a long way to go for a Nomar quote, but here's a guy who did it!...haha, it's all good) that have kept me quite busy. Anyway, I thought I would help you guys out who may have been going through Mell-o withdrawals (trying to raise the funds to get a center built for that...check back with me, I think this magazine subscription scam that Office Space featured is going to work). So, here are some random rantings of anything and everything I've been seeing/witnessing over the last couple of days.

Although the basketball has been tremendous, on paper, this is probably the most boring NCAA Tournament I have ever seen. Seriously, the Elite Eight has seven ones and twos, and the lone other team is a number three (quack quack). Basically, what this means is that people who actually know what they're talking about (maybe this guy...I don't know for sure though) and people who simply pick top seeds to win are getting the complete opposite sensation. If you picked all the top seeds this year, odds are you are near the top of whatever pool you are in, which is complete bull. I mean this is freggin' March Madness...I know I've said it before, but this isn't "madness." People who have no clue what they're talking about are making me look stupid, and that's just not right. But then again, is part of the "madness" being that someone who clearly has no clue what they are talking about can win a tournament pool? It's took me a long time to realize this, because truth be told, I like being right. And when I'm not (see "Reverse Cinderella" theory), it doesn't tend to sit well with me. However, with that being said, I think I am having more fun this year seeing people who don't have a clue do well than I think I ever had (partially because there is no money involved...actually, make that entirely because there is no money involved). It's interesting to me to see someone who puts little to no effort into filling their brackets out doing way better than me, who breaks down each game using a myriad of statistics and intutitive knowledge (I mean, with the knowledge thing...there's not much there, but still, there's something). Here I thought that high seeds would be in trouble because of how much talent is being spread around, but really, I should have realized that the top programs got all of that talent. Anyway, this is the first time seven ones and twos made the final eight, and I pray that this never happens again while I'm alive.

Top 10 College Fight Songs:
10. Georgia Tech- Rambling Wreck
9. Oklahoma- Boomer Sooner
8. Texas A&M- War Hymn
7. Michigan- Hail To The Victors
6. Boston College- For Boston (ok, I'm a homer...whatever, you got the disclaimer)
5. Ohio St.- Buckeye Battle Cry
4. Penn St.- Touchdown, Fight On
3. Southern Cal- Fight On
2. The Real USC- Step To The Rear
1. Notre Dame- Victory March

An idea was posed to me the other day before a basketball game I was refereeing, and I figured I would share it with you because I think it was genius. For All-Star Saturday, replace the "three ball" event with a game of Horse. I realize this would be cutting out the WNBA (how they are a league I don't even know) and old, out-of-shape vets, but I feel that this could be a necessary cutback. If you are able to get guys like LeBron, Kobe, and D-Wade playing a game of Horse against each other (dunks included), that would be riveting television. And after watching the NCAA this year (literally during the UNC/USC game, I was yelling "damn it Tim Floyd, go back to the Bulls!"...yeah the NBA is definitely playing second fiddle right now), I think the NBA should do anything to attempt to keep its fans somewhat interested.

I am all for the Celtics losing right now, considering that they are nowhere close to making the playoffs, and that there is a potential of two franchise-changing guys that could go 1-2 in this year's draft, but I mean, come on Doc, the game against Charlotte was completely ridiculous. I mean I know that he's fairly certain that he will get fired after this year (by the way, I actually liked the idea of the Celts picking a guy who was a former player as a coach...I mean if you look in the past with K.C., Chris Ford (I know that's a stretch), Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn (you call that a foul!), Don Nelson, and Dave Cowens...pretty good track record there), but I mean...Doc, what are you doing kid? I mean starting the B-team in crunch time during a winnable game is appauling. I was embarassed to be associated with that team at that moment when I was watching the highlights. Again, I know that I'm "rooting against them," but it's really out of fun, and also, I can't help but look toward the future of the team. I mean deep down, I really do want them to win. I mean it is just impossible for me to be 100% against this team. I mean this is the team I grew up on, and I would give anything to remember the days of the Garden, because from what I can recall, only Fenway can rival the Garden as far as atmosphere. I mean when you were in the Garden, you felt like everyone knew exactly what they were talking about. Everyone was seemingly a hardcore fan. You still had the best frontcourt in the history of the game, and then you had Reggie Lewis, one of the brighest up-and-comers in the league, and a hometown product (went to Northeastern). So for me, a guy who has grown up watching the Celtics as much as I could, I am embarassed at the direction this team is going in. First of all, they have to get rid of Doc. I mean he clearly just doesn't know what to do. Although he had some success in Orlando, it seems that those years were something of a fluke, and now, when faced with adversity, he simply hasn't lived up to the expectations Celtic fans judge a coach by. Maybe because we have been spoiled in the past, but in any case, it's still the Boston Celtics, the owners of 16 NBA titles. There are still people out there like me that believe that the Celtics will be able to right the ship at some point, but it is taking every ounce of patience I have to wait this one out. Hopefully, the Draft will be kind to us, and maybe, just maybe, we will return to the promised land someday.

Finally we are going to see what Matt Schaub is made of. Earlier this week, Schaub was traded by Atlanta to Houston for a switch in first round picks, a second rounder this year, and a second rounder next year. If Schaub will be able to live up to half of his potential, this will be a great deal for Houston. Unfortunately, Houston's offense is still in a bit of a transitional phase, meaning that there is a very good chance Schaub will not be using the same weapons in each year (signed a six-year, $48 million contract). First of all, the Texans attempted to lock down their backfield by signing free agent Ahman Green from the Packers. Green was easily the most accomplished runner in the free agent market this year, but the problem with that is that there is a lot of wear on those tires, and you have to wonder how long Green can go in Houston. Their backfield is definitely aging, with Green and incumbent Ron Dayne. The receiving core was definitely bolstered last year with the addition of Eric Moulds, and when you have a perennial all-pro in Andre Johnson, there are definitely weapons for Schaub to go to. Also, TE Owen Daniels quietly had an outstanding rookie season. With all that said, it would seem as though the Texans will once again be focusing on defense in the upcoming Draft. After the stellar rookie campaign of DeMeco Ryans, and the non-sophmore slump of Dunta Robinson (you know where he's from), the Texans are definitely going to be a team to watch out for. It's funny because the AFC South has all of a sudden become the best division in football. I know, the NFC East is always going to be strong, but as of right now, as far as potential and talent, nobody beats the AFC South. You have the reigning Super Bowl champs (cringing), Jacksonville, who showed tons of promise last year, and had it not been a season-ending injury to stud linebacker Mike Peterson, may have been able to make the playoffs, Tennessee, who was rolling last year thanks to the play of Vince Young, and Houston, who seem to be heading in the right direction in the post-Charlie Casserly era.

The Sox officially put all the hoopla over the closer position by stciking to their guns and putting Jonathan Papelbon back into the role. Now I know that the Sox went out and got a ton of relievers to try and take over the role so Pap could join the rotation, but in the end, the Sox got the OK from Pap's doctors about his shoulder, and now, we have one of the top 5 closers in the league. Barring any other kind of setback, Papelbon could wind up as one of the most dominating closers to ever play the game. I know that is saying a lot, but if you think about it, the guy is 26 years old and has only played one year in the majors. The future is so incredibly bright right now for Pap, and you have to think that with this new change, all of a sudden, Craig Hansen becomes a very nice bargaining chip for anything in the future the Sox may want to negotiate. Although he would be a real good setup man, you have to think that the Scott Boras client would be further inclined to be a closer at the major league level, and with the Papelbon roadblock, it seems that Hansen is fresh out of luck in Boston. I earlier predicted that around July or August, Hansen would be on the fast track to getting the closer job once he was able to hone his abilities at Pawtucket for another couple of months. If Hansen will be willing to settle as a setup man, you are looking at potentially one of the most young and devastating bullpens in recent memory. Considering the Sox have not really parted with a lot of their young talent (except in the Josh Beckett trade, which was getting a 25 year old pitcher with "ace" potential). If they are able to keep this philosophy, and continue to bring guys like Papelbon, Hansen, Dustin Pedroia, and Manny Delcarmen through the major league ranks, the Sox will be looking real good for a long time.

If I think of anything else, you will be the first to know. Take care now. Peace.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

This Is "Madness?"

"Yeah I have a question...when did you become a nut bar?"

Ok, so obviously, I was just so pumped up about the tournament this year. First of all, it will always be amazing. I don't think there is anything they could possibly do to not make it the greatest thing ever (unless they start playing the games on the higher seeds home courts, like they do in the women's tourney, then maybe). And secondly, the games were being played during my Spring Break, meaning I didn't have to worry about cutting classes to watch the games (note to immediate family: disregard the last sentence...never happened). So this year, I was jacked. I mean I couldn't even stand myself. I saw potential for huge upsets and cinderellas and all sorts of things. And what do I get the first day? Two lower seeds winning. Two! Tell me you're joking right now. With the tourney field being so wide open, I figured higher seeds would be dropping at a record rate, and I could not have been more wrong. Only Michigan State and VCU (I clearly became the de facto captain of that bandwagon train...I don't believe anyone who had no prior association to that school could have been rooting as hard as I was for VCU...ok maybe it was a little against Duke...just a little...and there was nothing better than to see Duke get bounced in the first round; that just made my day) were able to "shock" higher seeded teams. At the end of the first round, only two double-digit seeds were still alive (the aforementioned #11 VCU and another 11 seed in Winthrop, who I am convinced more people picked than Notre Dame). And overall, only four higher seeded teams had won. So, clearly you could see what that would do to an upset-minded individual and his bracket (thinking this guy...hey Davidson made it interesting for a while against Maryland, but them in the Sweet Sixteen?...probably not the smartest move I've ever made). With all that being said, there has been a real high quality of games so far despite there not being any major upsets (especially on Saturday). So overall, I have been pleased with how the tournament has gone (I have to say though, Thursday was pretty rough as far as quality goes...lots of blowouts).

So later on today (writing this on Sunday at around 1:00), Winthrop is playing Oregon, who I decided would be going to the Final Four (quack quack). However, this game I had circled as the "scared the bejeezus out of me" game. I am fully aware that I said Winthrop would be the big time sleeper team this year (I also said stay away from Kansas, who I have going to the National Title game...I kind of recanted, but this was only after seeing them play in the Big 12 Championship against Texas, which to me could be classified as the game of the year). To me though, if Oregon is able to survive this game, I still think I have a fairly decent shot (although with Florida out there, you never know). So I am not looking forward to the potential heart attack I am going to have later on today.

So far, the "reverse cinderella theory" has not worked out for me. I can recall being pretty adamant about these teams going down early, but so, not so much. Butler is in the Sweet Sixteen after knocking off Maryland yesterday (who were so soft it was hard to watch). The Salukis got by Holy Cross in the first round (which again was par for the course given the nature of the lower seeds prevailing, which was something that could have been brought to my attention yesterday!). Hopefully, there will be a change of the tides, because there is perhaps nothing I hate more than being wrong (should I make a list of that? top 10 things I hate?...that could be potentially the most uninteresting/horrible idea ever; got to chill on the hating a little bit...hate hate hate!).

Alright, so I figured I would just give you a brief synopsis of what I have seen so far. Hopefully there will be more to come, but I can't guarantee anything given that I only have a month and a half of "real" classes before I graduate, and for some reason, I have a feeling that things are not going to get any easier (it should just be a downward slope of "toughness"...I'm worn out man!). So I am going to go enjoy the last few hours I have left of Spring Break (which has been amazing), so take care now. Peace.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Wackiness Of The NFL Offseason

"Has the whole world gone crazy!..."

The wildness of the NFL never ceases to amaze me. Just when you think you know everything, it turns out you know aboslutely nothing. So I'm going to do my best in attempting to bring you up to speed on the wheelings and dealings so far...

Who said this was the "No Fun League?"

The first real major splash came out of the Bay Area, as San Francisco, who hasn't got a decent free agent since the Eddie DeBartolo ownership era (no salary cap, literally got whoever they wanted), went above and beyond to sign the top free agent corner, Nate Clements, to an 8 year, $80 million contract, the most ever for a defensive player. Now I said all along that Clements would be getting some serious bank for his play not only at corner, but as a return man...but I mean, $80 million? Clearly, the Niners are trying to send a message to the league and their fans, which is basically saying "we refuse to be a doormat in this league any longer." Although this definitely fills a void in their defense, San Fran has a long way to go before you can come close to calling that unit "legitament." However, it is good to see that the Niners are making some kind of push to at least attempt to recreate some of the success they had in the Eighties through the mid Nineties. I don't believe Alex Smith is going to be anywhere close to being a "franchise QB," but they have a good deal of young talent, and if they continue to land top free agents like Clements, they have a very good shot of getting back into the playoff picture given the division they play in.

Of course, I have to talk about the Patriots, who, as of right now, get an A+++ (I was almost going to go all "Christmas Story" right there and just string together a massive "+" series, but I think you get the idea). First of all, they made the absolute right decision in franchising Asante Samuel, who proved last year that he is indeed at least in the discussion for the "top 5 corners in the league." So, the Pats obviously figured that paying him like a top 5 corner, at least for one year, would be totally worth it, given how far under the cap they were (I want to say around $26 million...whatever it may have been, it was big...really big). Considering they will almost surely take a corner with one of their two first round picks, corner was not exactly going to be a strong suit, but when you bring a guy like Asante back into the fold, it makes your secondary immensly better.

(I figured it would also be good of me to tell you the others who were franchised as well this year...)

Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis
Charles Grant, DE, New Orleans
Justin Smith, DE, Cincinnati
Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago (he is also currently seeking a trade because of this)
Cory Redding, DT, Detroit
Josh Brown, K, Seattle

(Notice the three defensive ends at the top of the list. It is by no accident that these guys were given "the tag." Think about it: They will all be receiving the exact same amount ($8.644 million) next year. If any one of these guys signed a lucrative contract that was front-ended (most of the dollars coming up front, which seems to be the trend in the market right now), then you would probably be talking about giving any one of these guys an excess of $10 million for next year, so that was obviously a smart move)

Then, the Pats made what I thought to be an even more surprising move in signing former Balitmore LB Adalius Thomas to a six year deal. Many believed Thomas to be the #1 free agent in the market this year, and given the Pats usual "stand-offish" attitude when it came to big free agent names (Roosevelt Colvin I think is pretty much the only "name" the Pats ever signed in the offseason to a huge deal like this...and by no coincidence is he also a linebacker). Thomas is arguably the most flexible at playing different positions in the league. He has the ability to play outside linebacker, defensive end, and has even played a bit of safety before...he is that good and that fast. The debate about who has the best linebacking core has officially been answered. When you talk about Thomas and Colvin on the outside, along with Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel on the inside, it's almost like a joke now. The Pats found an answer to the "Willie McGinest problem" that they have tried to figure out over the last year and a half since his departure to the Browns. You have to believe Peyton Manning heard about this and thought about that whole "repeat" thing they're trying to do...not so fast!

Then, in what could be the most underrated move of the offseason, the Pats acquired Wes Welker from the Dolphins for a second and seventh round pick (Welker was a restricted free agent, and the Pats were going to construct an offer sheet in which they would have gotten Welker for just a second rounder; however, the Pats, especially their owner, Bob Kraft, were aware of the dealings that happened last year for Steve Hutchinson, who is obviously a better player than Welker, but was in a similar situation last year when his old team, Seattle, and his current team, Minnesota, had an all-out war in terms of the necessary compensation the Seahawks should receive in the deal; so Kraft gave the Dolphins the seventh rounder as a sign of "good faith"...there's a reason he's the best owner in the NFL). Welker was notorious for being a "Patriot killer." Seemingly every time the Pats played the 'Fins, Welker would have a big game, or make some kind of big play (or even kick field goals like he did three years a go when Mare got hurt and they didn't have a backup). So, what better way to stop a guy than to sign him on your own team! Also, you're talking about a guy who is 25 years old and can be put immediately into the "Troy Brown" position (I got 3-to-1 he plays nickelback next your bets!). Welker is also a character guy. He's about putting the team first, and what better team for that than New England. I was so happy they went out and got Welker, because I've always liked the guy, we needed receiving help, and I couldn't take anymore of the guy ripping the Pats apart. So bravo to that one.

The rumors continue to swirl about what the Pats could have in mind as far as getting a #1 type wideout. Two names that have been coming up as of late have been Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth. Both of these guys have serious baggage that comes with them. Moss being the most obvious of the two given his history of contract holdouts, lack of hustle, fake-mooning, and everything in between. Stallworth has been less difficult, but still...he has been difficult. Also, it is now coming out that Stallworth has participated in the league's "substance abuse program," meaning that a suspension will be upcoming if he is caught again. This just seems bizarre that the Pats are even linked to these two guys. Normally, they are all about a guy like with character, integrity, and a "team-first" attitude. Both Moss and Stallworth seem to be out as much for themselves as individuals as they are for the team, if not more for just them. Here's my opinion on this: I feel like this is something that Belichick can claim as a "challenge," and if you know this guy, he is all about challenges. Both of these guys have been written off by most NFL execs. In fact, the Pats came out during a press conference before the 1998 Draft, and said "there is no way we are drafting Randy Moss under any circumstances." So why the change of heart all of a sudden? Well, you have to figure that Moss' value, if sent off in a trade, is at an all-time low. I mean what are the Raiders expecting in return? A fourth rounder, maybe a third? If you had told me three years ago that I could get Randy Moss for a fourth round pick, I would at least have to think about it. But in all honesty, I cannot see this happening...ever. It's just that Randy Moss is the antithesis of everything the Patriots stand for. Why do you think the Super Bowl teams are teams? Look no further than Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Rams had their stud offensive weapons all introduced seperately, and the Pats went as a unit. I will never forget Pat Summerall saying "here are the New England Patriots, wishing to be introduced as a team." That just sent chills through me. As far as Stallworth is concerned, I can at least think the Pats will look into it, but the fact that they just traded a second-rounder to get Welker, and given how much Bill likes to maneuver around in the Draft (by the way, I will be stunned right now if they keep both first-rounders...stunned; with losing a second rounder, but yet filling their three biggest needs (LB, CB (Samuel), and WR), they effectively are now going to be looking for value, so I see them trading out of at least one of their first rounders), I can't see the Pats making any more big splashes in the trading market.

Eric Steinbach going to Cleveland, in my mind, makes it all the more likely that the Browns will be drafting Adrian Peterson with the third overall pick in an attempt to make him their "franchise running back" (by the way, how about that call I made on the coin flip?...if I said it once, I'll say it again: "Tails never fails!"). This is a big time signing that has fallen on deaf ears for the most part. You're looking at a guy in the prime of his career that can play both guard and tackle (although for a guard, he is a little "undersized"). I love this pickup, and from what I can gather, a lot of Cleveland supporters are fully on board with this. If they can get some defensive depth through free agency and the Draft, the Brownies definitely could be looking at getting over that .500 hump real soon.

So, I realize it's a little late to recap the Combine, but I mean I just haven't been able to update the blog as much as I intended (note to immediate family reading this: notice the large space in between posts...I'm studying!). Anyway, I just wanted to throw some things out there about who benefited themselves the most, and who may have seen their values start to go in the wrong direction.

The big winner was obviously Calvin Johnson, as he once again proved how much of a genetic "freak" he is. Johnson measured in at 6'5, 235 lbs and then ran a 4.35 40! I mean this guy is an animal...easily the best athlete in the draft. Unfortunately for him, it seems like the first three teams picking (barring any trades) have more pressing needs than getting a standout receiver (again, this can change through trades or free agency very quickly). Johnson seems to be the unanimous #4 pick going to Tampa, who recently got aging Joey Galloway to restructure his contract.

Another big winner was LaRon Landry, safety from LSU. Landry impressed scouts with his speed (4.35 40), his athleticism (37 1/2 vertical leap), and his knack for being able to read receivers in the simulated route running. Landry has moved from a top 20 into a surefire top 10 pick, with many experts having him going either at #8 to Houston or #10 to Atlanta. Landry capitalized on Reggie Nelson's "fair" showing, as Nelson was one of the quickest risers up the Draft board. Again, that 40-yard dash is a huge key for a guy being able to elevate his stock, with Landry being no exception.

And now I want to sum up the rest of the winners:
Greg Olsen, TE, Miami
Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
Chris Henry, RB, Arizona
Gaines Adama, DE, Clemson
Tim Crowder, DE, Texas

As far as the losers, you don't have to look to far (at least in my case) for this guy...Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina...and it wasn't really even his fault! Unfortunately for Rice (who is going to be an even better pro as his stock slips, meaning he will land with a better's not all that bad...ask Troy Williamson), a bunch of receivers have been passing him on the draft board, with even more nipping at his heels (Anthony Gonzalez impressed a bunch, and Robert Meachem almost assured himself of a top-20 selection). This one really hit home for me because I know how good this guy is. I think if he had stayed another year though, he would have been a lock for going in the top-10. In the end, Rice saw that he had a first round grade, and he bolted. I personally don't blame him, because he would be risking an awful lot by playing another year and continuing to get double teamed on every single play. Again, this guy is going to be huge...huge I say! Unfortunately for him, he will not be drafted as high as he deserves.

The biggest loser had to have been Quentin Moses, DE from Georgia. After being projected as a top-10 pick before the season began, Moses had a sub-par year, and an even more sub-par performance at the Combine, which has rendered him a mid-to-late second round grade. Still, this guy has shown he has a lot of potential, but in a "what have you done for me lately?" league, and his track record for having a poor work ethic, Moses will be looking to try and prove the skeptics wrong at the next level.

Other guys who underperformed and/or got leapfrogged:
Lawrence Timmons, LB, Florida St.
Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh
Daymeion Hughes, CB, California
Zach Miller, TE, Arizona St.
DeMarcus Tyler, DT, North Carolina St.

To wrap everything up, I just have one last thing to say: Why in God's name is Leon Hall so far down on every draft board! Are you kidding me? I recently saw a mock draft that had him going 23rd! In a league that covets a shut-down corner as much as about any other position (note the Clements deal and the 'Dre Bly to Denver trade...yeah, they don't come cheap). Hall was a standout at Michigan, earning all conference honors two years in a row. He was also an All-American in his senior year. You couple the fact that the biggest knock on him was his speed, and then ran a 4.37 40 at the Combine...I mean what's not to like? Plus, when you have a school that pumps out guys like Ty Law and Charles Woodson, you definitely have a good track record to go by. I mean I watched the Michigan/Notre Dame game this year, and Hall simply dominated in both the passing game as well as the running game, as the Wolverines used him in blitz packages off the edge to slow down Darius Walker. Maybe I'm "gushing" a little too much about the guy, but I just can't understand how a guy with top 6 or 7 talent can slip to the mid-to-late first round? Hall has done everything in his power to prove that he is going to excel as a pro, yet it seems there is still some skepticism about his play. I don't know, I'm just throwing this out there and being like "what the hell is with that?" I am going to be following Hall closely though as he tries to make a name for himself in the NFL, which I have no doubt he will do.

That's all for now. My tournament preview is going to be a touch delayed given that I will be in Florida until next Wednesday. However, I will make my predictions available, and also, I will be providing information about many of the schools that look like they will get in, so you can pretty much interpret from that who I'm probably leaning towards. Take care everyone. Peace.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

This Isn't Russia Is It?

"Hey Wang, what's with all the pictures? It's a parking lot, come on!"

So we are officially into March, and at this time, I would like to congratulate you on making it through another month (although it was an abbreviated one) and hope everyone is doing good out there. Again, it is March, so you know what that means: "March Madness." In lieu of that, I want to offer up a short, little preview of what you can possibly expect when it comes to Tourney time.

Yes, I am one of "those people" who does a ton of research on the Tourney. I'm not going to lie, I absolutely love just pouring over statistics trying to figure out what team has what it takes to make a deep run, and what teams will be out there to "shock" people. In the coming weeks, as "Championship Week" unfolds, I will be listing a lot of statistics that you should definitely keep in mind when you are filling in your brackets. As for now, let me break down a couple of teams in different categories. First, I'm going to start off by talking about teams that have what it takes to win a bunch of games and make it far in the tournament. Secondly, I will talk about teams that are simply out there to screw with your head. These will be ones that could sink your whole bracket. And finally, I will talk about some potential "cinderellas" that could earn you some points that others may be overlooking.

Who's Going To Make A Run:
UCLA: The Bruins, in my opinion, have been the most solid team in the country this year. Led by the favorite to win the Pac-10 Player of the Year, Arron Afflalo, the Bruins have posted a solid 25-3 record, including a 14-2 mark in the surprising Pac-10. The Bruins do not appear to be outstanding in any category, but the thing is, they aren't bad in any area either. This is a solid team from top to bottom. I think the main concern I have about UCLA is the fact that they were in the Final Four and the National Championship game last year, and very rarely does it happen that a team can duplicate its success from the previous year. Still, with all that being said, Ben Howland is probably one of the most underappreciated coaches in the country, which makes me think the Bruins have a definite shot to perhaps equal their success from last year.

Ohio St.: The Buckeyes have enough depth to go lights out on pretty much any teamin the Tourney. Everyone knows about Greg Oden and his dominance, but what is overlooked has been the play of the other Buckeye freshmen, most notably Mike Conley, Jr. and Daequan Cook. With those two running the backcourt, and the aforementioned Oden, I don't see anyone that could possibly slow this team down.

Texas A&M: Acie Law IV is just that good. I'm basing this prediction just on one guy. And if he isn't convincing enough, you're also looking at a team that boosts four players averaging double-digits in scoring a night. The Aggies have five losses this year (LSU with a healthy Mark Davis, UCLA, two to Texas Tech, and Texas). But when you look at those games, they lost all of them by a combined 21 points. This team is blowout-proof, meaning that playing against them will be a struggle for most opponents.

Texas: There is no hotter team right now than Texas. Plus, when you throw in Durant, who I think will have a "'Melo" like impact on the Longhorns in the tournament, then you have all the makings of a team that can catch fire and start knocking out the big names. Definitely keep an eye on Durant's health, as he left the Kansas game over the weekend with an ankle injury.

Teams You Should Have Nothing To Do With:
Kansas: Ever since Roy Williams made his return to Tobacco Road, the Bill Self-led Jayhawks have been horrendous in the tournament, losing in the first round the last two years. I know that people have billed Kansas to be "the deepest team in the country," but I have more than my fair share of doubt that they will be making any noise come March. I can definitely see them getting bounced in the second or third round, depending on what kind of draw they get.

Pittsburgh: If you want to talk about a really bad tournament team, look no further than the Panthers, who have a top-5 seed in four of the last five tournaments, and have not made it out of the Sweet Sixteen. This team plays pretty well in the regular season, but has disappointed time and time again in the Tourney.

Southern Illinois: The Salukis are going to be in for a train wreck this year. After their loss to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Championship game, they will most likely end up with a 5 or 6 seed, at which point they will turn around and get completely blown out (ok, maybe I shouldn't say "blown out" because I have no clue who they might be playing). The Salukis are going against my "reverse cinderella theory," so I don't see them getting far at all.

Nevada: Again, in staying with the reversals of fortune, Nevada has to still be in that category. They do have one of the most underrated players in the country in Nick Fazekas, but again, they will be getting a top 5 seed for the second year in a row, and considering they had a 5 seed last year and lost in the first round to Montana, I have absolutely no confidence in the Wolf Pack at this time.

Teams To Watch Out For:
Winthrop: Winthrop, Winthrop, Winthrop. If I've told you once, I'll tell you again: Winthrop is going to be the sleeper this year for sure. The Eagles have already made their presence known this year with two close road losses to North Carolina and Wisconsin. Also, Winthrop has won 18 games in a row, the second longest active winning streak in the country (Memphis). Winthrop looks like they will get either an 11 or a 12, and if they get the right teams in their bracket, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen is not out of the question at all.

Arizona: With the toughest schedule in all the land, the Wildcats have "underperformed" this year, coming into the Pac-10 tournament with a 20-9 record and an 11-7 mark in the conference. However, when you talk about talent, the 'Cats are definitely not short on that. This team could be especially dangerous if they get a 7 or 8 seed, as they will give a top-ranked team all kinds of headaches with their athleticism.

Indiana: As I was watching the Hoosiers play Michigan St. last week, this occured to me: If Indiana can get hot, they could be arguably the most dangerous team in the entire tournament. I am dead serious right here. Indiana boosts five guys on their team that shoot over 40% from beyond the arc. When you take that, and you add an outstanding post player like D.J. White, the potential for this team is out the window (also I've always liked Kelvin Sampson as well)

Texas Tech: Here's a team, like Indiana, who has been thrown into a 10 seed as of right now. The Red Raiders have been a team that has flown under the radar, but when you look back on their year, they have some tremendous victories (Kansas, A&M twice, Oklahoma St. when they were #17). And of course, you know who is on the bench, so you never know what "The General" has up his sleeve.

There will be more to come as the tournament continues, but that's all for now. Take care now. Peace.