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Saturday, November 24, 2007

College Football Picks

33-31 on the season. Can't seem to get on the type of roll i've had with my NFL picks. Then again, this has been the craziest season in college football since, well, maybe ever. So the fact i'm even above .500 is amazing. Off we go!

Boston College -14 over Miami
The Hurricanes have basically given up on this season, and BC still has a lot to play for...

Virginia Tech -4 over Virginia
This game is at Virginia, but i like they way Va. Tech has been playing. I think they get it done with the Atlantic division title on the line in the ACC.

Kentucky -3 over Tennessee
Tennessee only has to win this game to make it to the SEC title game, where they will killed by LSU (by the way, thanks for showing up yesterday LSU). Regardless, i think Kentucky makes one more stab at a dream season and beats the Vols, sending Georgia to the title game.

Georgia -4.5 over Georgia Tech
Georgia is playing better than perhaps anyone in the country, along with USC. With the chance to play in the SEC title game if Tennessee loses, i think Georgia comes out hitting on all cylinders.

UCLA +2 over Oregon
With Dennis Dixon, this game is something like Oregon -10. But did you see how bad Brady Leaf looked playing against Arizona last week? I think UCLA pulls it out in support of their beleaguered coach Karl Dorrell.

Florida -14 over Florida St.
Game is in the Swamp, and Florida St., despite playing decent as of late, does not have the athletes to hang with Florida. And 7 years ago i never thought i would say that...

Missouri pick em' over Kansas
I have no idea which way this game will go, and neither apparently does Vegas. But in this year of the upset, i'll go with the slightly lower ranked Tigers.

As an aside, i see that Notre Dame is the underdog in Stanford by 5.5 points. I'm not going to count it in my picks, but i actually like the Domers to finish the season with a road win.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NFL Picks

This isn't a full version, but I like the games on Thursday so wanted to throw those out there before the weekend.

Green Bay -4 over Detroit
This Lions team is starting its annual 2nd half slide, and it only gets worse with the red-hot Packers in town.

Dallas -14.5 over New York Jets
This line is pretty high, but with Dallas at home and the Jets showing an inability to do anything (except miraculously beat the Steelers, which sets them up for a letdown this week), the Cowboys should roll.

Indianapolis -12.5 over Atlanta
This pick scares me because the Colts have been STRUGGLING the last two weeks, but i think they come out with a vengeance this week against the terrible Falcons.

So there you go. Didn't think i would pick all three games tomorrow, but i like the games.

By the way, i'm starting to throw up more posts again, so scroll below to take a look at them. And post some comments already!

Phoenix Suns

I can't believe it's 10 games into the season, and I haven't put up a single post about the Phoenix Suns. That changes now!

Ok, so this isn't going to be an extremely long or in-depth post about them. I'm not prepared for that just yet. I do want to make mention of one thing i saw in last night's game that was encouraging to me: Amare Stoudemire.

Amare had a couple of issues last year, namely his propensity to get into foul trouble and his lack of an ability to take over games, especially late. The two somewhat go hand in hand, but even when Amare was on the floor, he didn't show the killer instinct needed to take over games down low (on both sides of the floor). Last night, however, against the Kings Amare really showed me something.

Amare scored the last 6 points of the game for the Suns, showing a willingness and a want to get the ball down low and take it to the Kings. He made a couple nice turn-arounds and jumpers, and had two free throws as well. On the defensive end, Amare also played well, including blocking the final shot of the Kings as time expired.

It's still early, and the Kings aren't very good, but Amare impressed me. He is showing signs of maturity and growth as a basketball player and as a power forward/center, which is exactly what this team is going to need as they make their run to the playoffs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Iowa Bball

I try not to be too much of a homer, and write excessively about the Minnesota Vikings or Iowa Hawkeyes. This post, however, is all about the Hawkeyes basketball team...

In 1999, i started college at the University of Iowa. Iowa had just hired new coaches for both its football and men's basketball teams. In football, they hired Kirk Ferentz, who at the time, was an unpopular hire. Hawkeye nation wanted Bob Stoops (who turned out to be a pretty good coach for Oklahoma). They got Ferentz, who in retrospect turned out to be a pretty good coach. Despite the last two years struggles by the football team, Captain Kirk has put together quite probably the greatest run by an Iowa football team ever.

On the flip side, the basketball team hired Steve Alford, a young up and comer fresh off a Sweet 16 run with Southwest Missouri State. Alford was considered one of the hot coaching prospects in the country, and got a lot of looks from big programs. When Iowa landed him, it was considered a big-time hire.

I remember sitting in the student section at an Iowa football game, in the middle of a 1-10 first season under Ferentz, when they brought out Alford for an interview on the sideline right in front of the student section. He received one of the biggest and longest standing ovations i've ever seen, long before he had ever coached a game. When he opened that season later in the month with a win over defending national champion UConn, Alford was the toast of the town. It was a short lived toast.

7 years later, despite seeing some of the best talent wonder through Iowa City since the BJ Armstrong, Roy Marble, and Ed Horton days, the Hawkeye basketball team was a perennial underachiever. The final straw, despite Alford lasting one more year, may have come in the 2005-2006 season when a senior-laden team, which had played well enough throughout the season to garner a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, lost in the first round on a last second shot to Northwestern State.

Those Iowa teams, along with off the court troubles (Pierre Pierce anyone?), were known for one thing by anyone who watched them consistently: Bad coaching. Whether it be bad defensive positioning, bad offensive sets, or lack of discipline, Alford was never known as a good in-game coach.

And nothing personified this better than their inability to break a press. I had season tickets for two years while I was in college, watched them religiously the other three years i lived in Iowa City, and watched them sporadically after i moved away. By that point, I couldn't bear to watch them anymore. Any team that played the Hawkeyes needed to have only one blueprint for success: Play a full-court press. It did not matter if the Iowa team had four senior starters or three freshman starters, under Alford they had a complete inability to break a press. Anytime a team played a press, Iowa looked like a bunch of 4th graders. Watching it made me want to ram my head into a wall; it shouldn't be that hard. Spread the floor, find the open man, advance the ball. It seems like a simple concept.

Yet no matter how many times or how many years other teams did this to Iowa, they never seemed to learn. After a while, you could only point to one thing: Bad coaching. Alford came in to Iowa as a supposed renown recruiter, but his coaching was suspect at best. When he feebly left Iowa to go to New Mexico (New Mexico!), Alford was known as a so-so recruiter and a bad coach.

That leads me to new Iowa coach Todd Lickliter. Lickliter's reputation was as a tough defensive coach and systematic offensive scheme, albeit with a fair amount of three-pointers launched. Through 4 games this year (3 of which i've been able to watch, thanks to the wonder that is the Big Ten Network), Lickliter's Iowa's teams have been just that: Tough defensively, systematic offensively, and with a propensity to shoot a fair amount of 3's. They haven't allowed a team to reach 50 points yet, but they haven't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard themselves.

But until tonight, i still wasn't sure about Lickliter's ability to coach. That is, until late in the 2nd half against U. of Maryland Eastern Shore, when that team started pressing Iowa because they were behind. Faced with a full-court press, this year's Iowa team did something i have not seen since the Tom Davis years: They broke it with ease. Not only did they break the press, but they broke it quickly, they broke it with good spacing, they broke it with sharp passes, and they broke it so well it led to layups and dunks. And as i watched, all i could think about was how well-coached this team looked.

I don't know how well this Iowa team will do. They are very young, and very green. They are playing in what is looking to be a very tough Big Ten Conference this year. And they are playing short-handed at the moment with their starting point guard Tony Freeman out with a broken wrist for the next month. But from what i have seen so far this year, the future looks bright. And unlike 8 years ago, when that future looked bright because of good players, this time it looks bright because of good coaching.

And i think that sets up the program for more success...

NFL Picks Review

What a terribly mediocre week for my weeks. I went 3-2-2 in the NFL, which puts my overall season record at 29-19-5. 10 games over .500 isn't too bad...

Monday, November 19, 2007

College Football Picks Review

4-3 on the week. Can't seem to ever have a really good week, but i keep finishing above .500. Season record is at 33-31. Not that good...

I will continue my picks for the rest of the season, including picking every single bowl game this year. Should be an interesting last month...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

NFL Picks

I missed last week's picks, so I'm a little behind. I went 5-2 two weeks ago, which puts my record for the year at 26-17-3. Not a bad year. On to this week's picks!

Cleveland -3 over Baltimore
The Raven's defense isn't the same as it's been the last few years, and Cleveland's offense is hitting on all cylinders. On the flip side, the Raven's offense is terrible. The Browns get it done.

Philadelphia -10 over Miami
I'm a little leery of this game because the Eagle's offense is a bit erratic. That said, since it's in Philly i think they get it done against a terrible Dolphins team.

New Orleans pick em' over Houston
Last week's blip aside, the Saints have been hitting their stride offensively. If they get any semblance of that going this week, they will take out the Texans.

Detroit +3 over New York Giants
The Giants were on a roll, but against mostly terrible teams. This Lions team is actually pretty good (I can't believe i just wrote that sentence), and at home I think they can beat the Giants.

St. Louis -3 over San Francisco
San Francisco might be the worst team in the league right now...

Denver -1.5 over Tennessee
Apparently Albert Haynesworth is out for the Titans, and VY hasn't been playing all that great lately. I think the Broncos will win at home.

New England -16.5 over Buffalo
A lot of people seem to think the Bills match up well with the Patriot's, and will make a game of it. I don't buy it, especially with Marshawn Lynch most likely out. Patriot's roll.