Archive for the ‘College’ Category

We are about halfway through the season in college and nearing the midway point in the NFL. October is a wonderful month that includes all 4 major sports going on at different moments throughout the next few weeks. Unfortunately for the NFL, the season has not gone as predicted and Washington, specifically, has been shell-shocked by injuries and failed expectations.

Terps Going B1G-Time

terps10s-1-webStarting with Maryland, the Terps have started relatively well in the B1G. With two very solid quarterbacks with two styles of play, Maryland has been able to fight through a couple of games and earn a handful of wins. While sitting at 4-2 (1-1 B1G) is definitely good, the season has been a little bit of a roller coaster. Not necessarily a surprised for a team that barely made a bowl game last season in the ACC, Maryland is at least on-track to set themselves back up for another bowl game run.

On the positive side, the Terps fought through one of the sloppiest games I have seen at South Florida and managed to get the win. Heading up north to Syracuse, turnovers and strong defense help propel the team to victory. On the road at Indiana, Maryland looked great against the Hoosiers and both CJ Brown and Caleb Rowe racked up touchdowns. The great thing about each of these wins was that they were on the road, an area where the Terps have really struggled in the past.

On the other hand, CJ Brown’s play has been sniffed out and his accuracy has been called into question. Against Ohio State, he lost the starting job to Caleb at the half and did not see the field again. It is unclear if he will get the start against Iowa for homecoming, but both quarterbacks deserve some attention as the team continues to march through the first season of the B1G. That loss to Ohio State was one of two at home, with the other being against West Virginia on a rainy day in College Park. The game ended up being decided by a field goal at the final seconds, but the game was full of controversy. In the first half, CJ went down for a slide on a QB run and was close-lined by the defender. No pass interference penalty was called and he was taken out of the game. Luckily, Caleb threw a touchdown on the next play. In the second half, a no-call on a pass interference penalty led to giving up the ball after punting on 4th down. Finally, the WVU player who intercepted Rowe in the 4th quarter was suspended soon after the game for conduct issues prior to taking the field that Saturday. Spotty ref-calling and poor weather conditions led to a failed opportunity against Maryland’s biggest football rival.

There is still a lot of opportunity left with games against Iowa and Rutgers at home and Penn State and Michigan on the road.

Washington’s Struggles and Missed Opportunities

4533122181-e1407518377725While my Terrapins are in the hunt for some post-season action, Washington is not looking anywhere as good in the NFL. The name controversy has stuck around with a harsh Daily Show critique and episode of South Park, but the attention in the pros is much more centered on the conduct of the players more than anything else.

For DC, the season has tossed in a mix of missed opportunities and costly injuries. As RGIII was looking to get back on-track, he was injured in the second game against Jacksonville (the only win of the season so far). Cousins showed up and looked to be a good solution until Robert was ready to come back, but he has struggled greatly in his time since then. He has managed to throw for 10 touchdowns to RGIII’s 1, but he has also fallen short 11 turnovers (8 INTs and 3 fumbles). With the interceptions, he has failed to look off defenders and even thrown directly at the defensive back without a wideout in play. The way to help a struggling quarterback is to have a great running game, but Jay Gruden has also failed to return to Washington’s bread and butter from last season. Alfred Morris has less than 400 yards in the first 6 games. He is splitting time almost evenly with Roy Helu, neither of which are consistently being given the opportunity to help keep the ball moving. Much of the challenge seems to be with the offensive line and their inability to provide consistent pass and run blocking.

The one victory was over a team that has failed to fine a win so far this season. The run game is big, but so is the defense. Players have regularly been going down with exhaustion or minor injuries, but DeAngelo Hall’s absence with injury is certainly hurting their success with changing the momentum of the game. Washington is regularly playing catchup and is forcing the defense to keep the offense within range. The special teams is also still failing to produce and has regularly missed on managing field position.

The one truly bright spot of the team has been DeSean Jackson. He is the deep threat the team needed and has produced in Washington’s last two games.

Top Performances Around College and the NFL

  • 20141011162956.0The state of Mississippi is gleaming right now. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M (x2) have all fallen to these surprise teams. While the SEC quite a bit more love than other conferences, this is quite the accomplishment.
  • FSU and Baylor are also continuing to hold strong as undefeated teams. While FSU may be able to complain about losing the #1 spot after maintaining an extended win streak, their conferences have thrown challenges at both of them and they have held strong.
  • Notre Dame is playing with its half in-half out status in the ACC but also managing quite the slate of games and wins. The embarrassment of Michigan (31-0) and¬†a win over Stanford make for a solid start to the season. Wonder if that will hold up against FSU, Arizona State, and USC.
  • Marshall is on pace for a perfect season themselves. Although their strength of schedule is far from being able to compete for a national title, they will be able to potentially earn a shot at a high-level bowl game.
  • In general, the SEC will benefit from the new playoff system when it comes to contenders for the national title. A 2-loss SEC team may be able to outrank a 1-loss team from any other conference based on the projected difficulty level of the SEC. For now, Ole Miss and MSU can take advantage of their position but MSU still has to face Alabama, Ole Miss still has to face Auburn and LSU, and they will finish the season in a potential showdown for a final shot at the SEC championship and playoff run.

 

  • Cowboys Seahawks Football-1After starting out slow, Dallas and San Diego have rattled off 5 straight wins and look ready to take on the talent of their divisions. After adjustments on both the offense and defense, DeMarco Murray is running circles around the rest of the league, while the San Diego defense has become a top-10 stopper of the pass and the run. Both teams have taken down the Superbowl-defending Seahawks.
  • Denver’s matchup in Seattle came down to a end of fourth quarter comeback and subsequent Seahawks¬†touchdown in overtime. Other than that, teams have not really been in contention with the Broncos. Denver has been taking over as “America’s Team” and may be on route for another Superbowl run.
  • With the talent of San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West, Arizona is currently sitting atop the division. Their single loss was to Denver, but they have succeeded at beating San Diego and San Francisco. Their true test will not come until November and December, when they will be forced to prove their competitiveness against the rest of their division.
  • While they started at 1-2 and continue to own the worst rushing defense in the league, Green Bay has recovered from a slow start and are finding the end zone with more consistency. Blowout wins against two divisional opponents bodes well for their chances against Detriot (also at 4-2).

Not So Top Plays in Football

518462684-Jameis-Winston-Being-Investigated-by-Florida-State-forBefore getting into the discussion of the actual play on the field, the off-the-field issues are getting in the way of enjoying the game. College football is fine overall, but there have been infractions that have affected several keys players. Jameis Winston (FSU) was forced to sit out an entire game for poor judgment making jest of his dodged sexual assault charge. He also was caught for autograph violations. Todd Gurley (UGA) might be missing the rest of his season for breaking policy on earning money for autographs as well. DeVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendall Moore, and Eilar Hardy have all been removed from the team this season for academic violations. None of these violations are super surprising, but the behavior of the former Heisman winner is highly concerning from the standpoint of role-modeling and his future in a professional league that is having its own issues with managing problems much worse than the college level.

goodell-podium-640x400In the pros, the conversations about the offensiveness of the Redskins name has fallen significantly to the background in lieu of other serious, pressing issues. Sexual assault, drug abuse, relationship violence, and abuse have become an all too common issue in the NFL. While Ray Rice was not the first problem, his has brought forth a parade of horrible acts and responses that has tarnished (but not destroyed) the NFL brand. Roger Goodell has performed horribly in response to these issues and is still in danger of eventually being asked or forced out of his position. The league should be ashamed of the player conduct and needs to be more upfront about accepting some of the responsibility for its management of its players. A 2-game suspension for such a blatantly violent act in a hotel elevator was laughable. The hesitation when dealing with child abuse was deplorable. The teams’ decisions to delay suspending players after the allegations arise seems to show a willingness to accept the poor conduct as part of the challenge of “dealing” with these players. Changes are definitely needed.

  • Michigan v Notre DameUMass may have finally gotten a win, but they are also holding on to one of the worst recent records in college football, especially after blundering a potential win during a matchup with also winless Miami (Ohio).
  • Michigan may have beaten Penn State, but they were embarrassed by Notre Dame and sit with a solid losing record halfway through the season. It does not help when the QB gets a clear concussion and the coach decides to leave him in the game.
  • B1G may have great, recognizable schools, but the respect has failed to hold true. Non-conference play has almost eliminated the conference from feeling confident about having a representative in the playoff this season. Michigan State and Ohio State have the best chance, but two losses on either team’s record could spell doom, even if the other taps out.
  • Idaho and Kent State are still searching for a win…maybe…maybe not.

 

  • 140807_HO_LedeWhile I hate to hate on my team, Washington is struggling to figure the game out. Choosing to focus more on the pass over the run, Cousins has not appeared ready to take the led with the talent that surrounds him and Gruden has failed to allow Morris to get a rhythm with the run game. The defense is typically getting overtaxed and eventually is left to give in to each opponent, except for…
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars…As one of two teams struggling to find a win (Oakland being the other), they have given up more than twice the number of points they have scored. Tennessee gave them a chance but they failed to capitalize. Bortles may be the future, but that future may be another season with a better defense and stronger running attack. At least they have pools to distract people from the poor attendance at their games.
  • St. Louis is making the best of a bad situation. Bradford is out again, and they suffered other injuries at the QB position. They have a chance to turn it around, but their one win came against bottom-tier Tampa Bay, who lucked out on a win against the Steelers.
  • The Saints are a mystery. Sitting at 2-3, they have the benefit that the Falcons and Panthers have not run away with a lead yet. Newton has been hampered by injury and Ryan has shown serious inconsistency with his receivers (with Roddy White only catching 50% of the passes thrown his way).
  • Vontaze Burfict will need to watch his behavior on the field a bit closer, as he was caught twisting ankles twice in the game versus Carolina. Penalties are forthcoming.

Maryland is prepping for a homecoming game against 5-1 Iowa, while Washington looks to recover and get a second win of the season against lowly Tennessee. Definitely hoping for a better weekend.

The 2014 season is already underway and excitement is around every corner. Upsets have already presented themselves and key matchups have been the marquee of the early weeks. Giants have fallen and scandal has risen. It is going to be an exciting fall and I am more than excited to get going. I am going to be reporting on both the NFL and college football, focusing mostly on Washington and the University of Maryland, but I have plenty of love for the rest of the leagues.

Start of the Season

ncaa-football-maryland-south-florida1-590x900For the Maryland Terrapins, the start of the B1G career has begun. While other olympic sports are also engaging in their campaigns in the new conference, the football team has started its slate against an FCS school (JMU) and AAC opponent South Florida. The first game was a bit of a blowout, which is to be expected against a lower conference school. The defense was operating on all cylinders, but the offense still had some work to do. Senior QB CJ Brown was not a accurate as his previous performances have shown. He overthrew his receivers on nearly half of his passes, but he found a way to complete a few necessary and important connections. The running game also looked solid, but competition against an FBS opponent was needed to truly get a sense of the total offense.

The second game was another story. Although it turned out to be another victory, the offense was again rather shaky. When teams turn the ball over, they reduce their chances of winning. One turnover is not impossible to overcome, but each successive one makes it significantly more difficult. Maryland had 6 over the course of the game, including a combination of fumbles and interceptions. Accuracy continues to be a concern for Brown, but the running backs also need to be more prepared for ball control. As for the defense, they produced another impressive showing. The line held South Florida in check for most of the game and reduce the bulk of their offense to relatively short runs for their talented runningback. On the slate for this week is West Virginia in a rivalry game from College Park.

redskins-texans-footballjpeg-0cbd1_c0-321-3000-2069_s561x327In the NFL, Washington has proven nothing through their first entry into the regular season, other than a name change to the Washington Football Club would match their decent soccer score of 6 points against a formerly 2-14 team from 2013. The preseason had left so much to question, with RGIII having a modest and forgetful showing for the now healthy third-year quarterback. The Texans had bombed¬†through the majority of the 2013 season. There was hope for them that they would be able to put the mediocrity of Schaub’s unusual struggles behind them and boast the powerful defense they were know to possess. Against Washington, they did just that in Week 1. JJ Watt and Brooks Reed lived in the Washington backfield, giving RGIII no time to make decision and forcing him to dump the ball off before many of the offensive plays could develop. While he avoided mistakes (except for his costly third quarter fumble), he was unable to do anything spectacular and seemed way too cautious to use his legs to make plays. Morris and Helu continued to represent a strong Washington running game but both failed to put up any points at the end of a couple of solid runs and drives. Garcon, Jackson, and Paul all had respectable numbers (save for Paul’s extremely costly fumble after solid yards after a reception), but the loss of Reed took a more dynamic receiver out of the lineup.

The imbalanced offense was unfortunately matched by the struggling special teams that have received a poor reputation amongst the rest of the league. Extra points are supposed to be automatic, but Kai Forbath was blocked following Young’s 1-yard rushing touchdown by JJ Watt getting his hand up in the middle of the defense. The bad times continued when rookie Tress Way’s punt was blocked and returned by rookie Alfred Blue, accounting for one of Houston’s two scores.

The defense was certainly a much brighter highlight for the team. Fitzpatrick was able to score a huge 76-yard touchdown to Hopkins, but he was kept in check for most of the rest of the game. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster can always be expected to pick up significant yardage but were also held scoreless. Field position was the name of the game for most of the first three quarters, and Washington was winning the battle for the most part. If the offense can catch up to the play of the defense, the team may have a chance to compete in the NFC East. Next up, Washington takes on Jacksonville at home at FedEx Field.

Top Performances Around College and the NFL

  • kenny-hillJohnny who?? Texas A&M picked up where they left off with their high-scoring offense against a highly ranked South Carolina team. Hill surpassed Manziel’s highest yardage college game in his first start. Did I mention this was on the road? Oh, and they won in Week 2 with a score of 73-3.
  • They may have lost the game, but Navy put up a fight that caught a lot of attention. Winning 7-6 at the half, the Buckeyes finally opened up the offense and sent the Midshipmen packing.
  • USC is officially back, holding their Week 1 opponent scoreless and snagging a quality win over conference rival Stanford in the closing moments of the game.
  • LSU may have started their matchup with Wisconsin down by 17, but the Tigers were more than ready to mount an impressive comeback.
  • Baylor continues to outscore opponents by impressively high numbers. 45-0 versus SMU and 70-6 versus Northwestern State.
  • Oregon took advantage of an early-season marquee matchup with Michigan State to prove they are ready for a title run.

 

  • rlhvamjvpiaryqyuls2cSuper Bowl contenders faired well in Week 1 and proved why they are to be feared again. The Seahawks embarrassed the Packers in a complete trashing from Seattle, while the Broncos made the Colts look completely overmatched in the first half (forcing Indy to attempt a comeback in the second half).
  • Megatron may be the strongest and most talented player in the NFL, particularly with 146-yard and 2 touchdown performance.
  • The Florida air was not the only thing on fire on Sunday. The Dolphins surprised the favored Patriots with a rushing attack that reenergized the career for Moreno.

Not So Top Plays in Football

  • ap356029960854South Carolina would like to forget that it played in Week 1, as they are all but eliminated from contention for a national title. Originally ranked 9th, they traded places with Texas A&M and struggled to put away East Carolina with any authority.
  • Michigan would like to forget that they played in Week 2. Their series with Notre Dame is coming to an end and they dropped their final matchup 31-0. The rest of the B1G could have breathed a sigh of relief except that Michigan State and Ohio State joined Michigan in the loss column. Losing to decent opponents, all three schools have opened up the competition in the conference for anyone to step up to take it all.
  • Washington State would like to figure out how to get their running game going, as Mike Leach’s team has failed to break 22 yards per game.
  • UMass is still trying to figure out why they moved from the FCS to the FBS. Sure, a chance for more national attention is great, but amassing only 1 win per season since their league transition has left them struggling to justify their readiness. 0-2 is not a great start for 2014.
  • FAU is¬†back to where they started last season at 0-2. Teams that start with Florida and include a second part that starts with a vowel do not seem to fair well in recent years.

 

  • NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersNo-no for Romo. While the fantasy-popular QB can put up yardage and points, he also added 3 first half interceptions to his stats on Sunday. Potentially another long season for Cowboys fans.
  • One brother was strong, the other fell far short. Eli struggled all game to connect with his receivers for significant yardage and added a pair of picks to his very poor first 2014 outing.
  • Jacksonville was looking to post the upset of the week with their 17-point lead over the Eagles, and then they collapsed. Failing to score after halftime, they also gave up 34 points and made Foles from looking embarrassing to providing a solid performance with 2 scores and 322 yards.
  • Manziel has been the talk of the preseason and has appeared to be the eventual leader of the Browns, but he was given no snaps in a losing effort to Pittsburgh. Hoyer gave a lackluster performance but never lost his chance to try to finish.
  • The most significant hit of the week was actually delivered by Antonio Brown to the face of Spencer Lanning while trying to hurdle during a return. Brown is now the meme of the week.
  • The Ravens are the team of controversy as their performance left little to be desired, but Ray Rice’s removal from the roster has left Baltimore fans feeling lost, frustrated, and angry.
  • On that same point, the organization has much to answer to for their level of knowledge of Rice’s incident and Roger Goodell is seriously under fire with the continued controversy over league rules for suspensions and degree of awareness of the severity of incidents.

This upcoming weekend boasts a number of solid matchups at both levels of the game, particularly the SEC battle of Georgia vs. South Carolina. I will be watching to see if Maryland can repeat their success over West Virginia from last season in their commemorative military uniforms. Go Terps!

marylanduniforms

Hello! It has been a while since I was on here commenting on the broad range of topics on this blog, but I am back and ready to take on the NFL…at least with some draft analysis.

The first thing I will say is that ESPN and the NFL surely have enough money to pay for more than 1 song to represent the draft. While I know that Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” is well-fitting and was used last season with some commercials, it was just too much to use it after every pick, into every commercial break, and any time they had to fill some space. That certainly felt like an attempt to overplay a song so much that peoples’ heads would explode from the insanity. No offense to Aloe, but I hope to not hear that song for quite some time.

nfldraft-1

Now on to the actual draft…

Starting with my home team, the Washington Redskins had some interesting conversation surrounding this draft. Some of this was off-the-field issues that would certainly detract from the actual movement of the team’s front office. The name dispute continues to grow again, this time surrounding the NBA’s reaction to Donald Sterling’s offensive comments. This is a story that will continue to weave itself back into conversation over and over again until the team finally makes a change. My personal belief is that the name is offensive and the organization could do with the change, even just to stop the insanity. Snyder will never have it and the other owners cannot seem to do a thing about it, especially in a league that fails to live up to the same standards as the NBA.

Prior to the draft, the Redskins acquired some serious talent. Jason Hatcher from the Cowboys adds a little more depth to the OLB position. He is a hard hitter who can make an immediate impact on nickel defenses and potentially special teams. DeSean Jackson is likely the bigger name and had a great season with the Eagles last year. He fills in for the loss of Josh Morgan and will provide great balance with Pierre Garcon on the other side and Jordan Reed in the slot or coming off the line. Tracey Porter from Oakland also adds a little more to the CB position that struggled to maintain opposing offenses all last season. Replacing Reed Doughty with Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark may not be the best move, but the team still made some good decisions with free agency.

Entering the draft, this was to be the last season with the depletion of first round picks off of the RGIII deal. This meant that we were slated to pick 2nd in the 2nd round. We instead decided to trade down and made our most questionable pick of the draft as our first player. With many other needs clearly ahead of us, we went with OLB Trent Murphy out of Stanford. He was projected for 4th round or lower, making this a very questionable call when we needed OL, CB, S, or ILB. Our 2 picks in the 3rd round set up extra support on the O-line, with Morgan Moses from Virginia and Spencer Long from Nebraska filling some big needs. Bashaud Breeland of Clemson was picked up in the 4th round, adding another CB to help the depth at that position, although there were some stronger candidates still available at the time of his selection. Out of the final 4 picks, the best decision was RB Lache Seastrunk from Baylor. His speed, versatility, and experience with RGIII could be great for the team. The other picks included WR Ryan Grant from Tulane, TE Ted Bosler from Indiana, and PK Zach Hocker from Arkansas.

This was a okay draft, but there were some teams that truly made out much better than DC. Here are some of the highlights from the rest of the draft…

  • With the 1st pick of the draft, Houston took¬†Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina. There was no surprise with this pick but it certainly will make Houston’s defense even scarier with JJ Watt partnering with the rookie.
  • The first QB to be selected was not Johnny Maziel. Instead, Blake Bortles from UCF went to the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they seem to have had enough of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Jackson continued to sure up their offense with two WRs for their next two picks: Marquise Lee from USC and Allen Robinson from Penn State.
  • WR Sammy Watkins was picked up at #4 by the Buffalo Bills, having sent Stevie Robinson to the San Francisco 49ers and needing to get more talent at receiver. This trade also pushed the Cleveland Browns from 4th to 8th in the draft order, gaining them an additional pick from Buffalo later.
  • Cleveland seemed like they were channeling the move¬†Draft Day¬†with their movement throughout the draft. They shocked everyone when they decided not to select Manziel at #8, going with Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State.
  • The decision to not draft Manziel immediately hurt the QB’s stock, as he even slipped past the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones later admitted that Manziel was the #1 option on their draft board if he was still available, but the contract extension for Tony Romo immediately changed their decision and Dallas went with OT Zack Martin from Notre Dame. Manziel continued to slip past a couple more potential teams until Cleveland traded back up from 26 to 22 to finally end the drama. Manziel, who should have been humbled by the experience, was a mix of annoying interactions. He flashed money hand gestures when he came out on-stage but proceeded to appear more humble in the interview immediately after leaving center stage. Browns fans are still mixed about this one.
  • After finally moving past Manziel, the draft excitement calmed a bit, but Teddy Bridgewater was surprised to find out that Minnesota traded up to grab the Louisville QB with the final pick of the 1st round.
  • Houston avoided the QB position in this draft, which appeared to be a position that they desperately needed. They eventually picked up Tom Savage in the 4th round, but there is not a lot of hope for him to succeed. Instead, the Texans passed on other options, including Fresno State’s Derek Carr (who went to Oakland), Eastern Illinois’s Jimmy Garoppolo (who went to New England), Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (who went to Arizona), Georgia’s Aaron Murray (who went in the 5th round to Kansas City), Alabama’s AJ McCarron (who went in the 5th round to Cincinnati), and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger (who went in the 6th round to Tennessee).
  • Teams, like Cleveland and Kansas City, appeared to have a chance to help their offense immensely in this very WR-rich draft, but waited way too long to consider addressing the need. Kansas City never chose to get a WR, but picked up Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas in the 4th round.
  • Cleveland’s situation with WRs was more complicated, as news broke that both starting WRs may be out for at least part of the season. Breakout star Josh Gordon has been cited for failing 2 drug tests and could be suspended for the entire 2014 season. Nate Burleson, who was brought over from Detroit, injured himself in a mini camp and may not be available to play until the start of preseason. With no WRs picked up in the draft, they may have put either Brian Hoyer or Manziel in some serious trouble to start the season with only Greg Little and Jordan Cameron as legitimate threats.
  • Some strange patterns developed in this draft. There were a record number of WRs selected in the first and second rounds. Twelve WRs were taken across 11 different teams. As far as RBs, the first one did not happen until the 54th pick. This unusual avoidance of RBs led to 1st round prospect Carlos Hyde dropping into the late 2nd round. RBs went flying off the shelf in the 3rd and 4th rounds, but this seemed like an unusual occurrence.
  • The University of Texas was without a single player being selected
  • The NFC West made themselves the division to fear again for this upcoming season, but the Cardinals and Rams were the movers and shakers that may have pulled the division more even than originally projected. The Cardinals balanced their offensive and defensive picks, including Washington State’s S Deone Bucannon, Notre Dame’s TE Troy Nikias, UNC’s DE Kareem Martin, and Pittsburgh State’s WR Josh Brown. The Rams added strength with Auburn OT Greg Robinson, Auburn RB Tre Mason, and Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald.
  • The Rams also made history with selecting Missouri DE Michael Sam in the 7th round. Having openly announced that he is gay prior to the NFL combine, he became the first drafted openly gay NFL player. The moment was shared widely over the media, but there were some unfortunate unfriendly reactions to the news. The reality is that the young man played hard for Missouri and should be individually commended on the combination of his dedication to the game and bravery for coming out in a testosterone-fueled, adrenaline-supported sport that has frowned on sexuality issues throughout its existence. Congratulations, Michael Sam and the the Ram organization!

And now it is over. Time to see if these players hit the field in 2014, warm the benches, or get cut from the team prior to the start of the season. All sorts of speculation is ahead of us, and I am ready for it.

March Madness is Upon Us!

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Basketball, College

While my team failed to make the NIT, there are 68 other teams that have high hopes to end their season the champion. After the first weekend, 68 has been reduced to 16, with some pleasant surprises in the early rounds.

In the first four, Albany, NC State, Cal Poly, and Tennessee survived. While these teams are given a chance to continue, it is never assumed that they really get any momentum from their play-in game. Cal Poly and Albany were set up to take on Wichita State and Florida, respectively. Meanwhile, NC State and Tennessee had more favorable match-ups against Saint Louis and Massachusetts.

The first full round was a wild ride! There were a number of upsets that truly stunned audiences and gave some cinderella teams real hope to press forward. The #1 and #2 seeds all survived, though Virginia was given a scare against Coastal Carolina, but here are the most interesting headlines from the Round of 64.

  • dm_140321_ncb_duke_mercer_highlightPittsburgh had a 9-8 match up with Colorado and dominated the game with a 29-point win.
  • VCU’s experience with the tourney has been beneficial in the past, but Stephen F. Austin University was ready to play and steal a 2-point win.
  • Dayton looked to be the upset king on day 1 with a last second win against state rival Ohio State.
  • Stanford upset a lot of brackets that believed New Mexico had a shot to go deeper this season.
  • Harvard achieved a rare tournament win against the struggling AAC team Cincinnati.
  • On day 2, North Dakota State surprised Oklahoma, as the state came up 0-3 with loses for OSU and Tulsa as well.
  • Tennessee became the only play-in team to steal a win versus their first real tournament opponent versus UMass.
  • Mercer joined the BEAT DUKE club (with Lehigh) with a 78-71 win against the Blue Devils. This makes Duke’s 2nd first round loss in the past 3 years.

The second round was a little more straightforward but included a few fun upsets as well. There was a lot of faith in the undefeated Wichita State, but Kentucky’s youth and energy propelled them to a close victory after WSU’s final shot was just off the mark. The rest of the #1s survived, but a few other big teams were not so lucky.

  • -61997e82daf0f2a7Dayton was ready for the second round as well and shocked Syracuse, who failed to sink a single 3 the entire game. The Flyers move into the Sweet 16.
  • Kansas gets sent home early after Stanford surprises the Jayhawks, though they were not the only #2 seed to fall.
  • Iowa State squeaked by UNC. Though not an upset by the rankings, the Tar Heels are left with a controversy with the game clock operation that changed the play on the court in the final 1.6 seconds.
  • Connecticut plowed through former conference foe Villanova in this AAC-Big East matchup.
  • Baylor demolishes Creighton, as two players from the Bears are able to outplay and outscore McDermott after 40 minutes.
  • Tennessee and Mercer made up an 11-14 matchup, which left Tennessee to join Dayton as the two sub-10 seed teams to make the Sweet 16.

There are a number of great match-ups coming up this Thursday and Friday. Virginia and Michigan State are two very possible Final Four teams, but have to face each other (and Iowa State or Connecticut) to get there. Louisville and Kentucky met up for a state rival showdown. We get a break for a couple of days, but the action starts back up later this week.

March-Madness

Maryland’s season is over (pending a potential bid to the NIT) and the Terps have nothing to show for it other than a big regular season win versus rival UVA and a look to the future. There were a number of close games, including the start of the season versus UConn. At times, the season felt like a roller coaster. Seth Allen injured before game one. Hosting the President for the Oregon State game but losing at home. Winning the Paradise Jam only to pick up back to back losses to Ohio State and GW, and then to lose to Boston University at home. Getting close games at home but suffering staggering defeats on the road at Pitt and FSU. Not being able to close out games against major opponents until the final game of the season. Taking FSU to the wire in Greensboro but allowing a jam to close the door on the Terps in the final appearance in the ACC.

Highlights Throughout the Season

kwyant-20140309-0007On the high side, nothing was bigger than closing the season against UVA and taking the game to overtime. Even though there were times that UVA looked like they had a chance to make a run, the Terps were able to find ways to stay in it. The Paradise Jam was a great set of games as well. Even though the teams were not the top in the country or from the major conferences, the win over Providence in the finals was a quality moment to make up for the close UConn loss. After the rough 24-point loss to FSU in Tallahassee, the team was able to rally at home for a redemption 12-point victory to split the series (until matching up in the ACC tourney).

The problem was that the low side was much, much larger. The season started with a 1-point loss to UConn where the Terps had the final shot to make an early season statement. The third game of the season against Oregon State saw Maryland losing to the Beavers at home in front of the Obamas. While the loss to Ohio State was not a surprise, the 2-point loss to the Colonials was a tough one to swallow, especially when that was followed by a 6-point loss to Boston University at home. Pitt and Florida State were able to bully the Terps on the road. After a wavy middle part of the season, the Terps found ways to lose their match-ups against ranked teams by no more than 4 points per game. They played Pitt at home, Duke on the road, and Syracuse at home. The double overtime loss to Clemson did not help either.

The Terps ended the season with a record of 17-15 (9-9 ACC). This was actually a step back from last season, when the Terps started with a tough close loss against Kentucky at the start of the season, finished the regular season with a record of 20-11 (8-10 ACC), went on a mini run with wins over Wake Forest and Duke in the ACC Tournament, and ended up in the NIT semifinals (losing to Iowa). Losing Alex Len was tough but the hope would be that the incoming recruits can fill the gaps currently in the roster.

Breaking Down the Team’s Performance

Rather than ranking the individual players, I have chosen to look at this from a positional standpoint. From an overall perspective, the team played small with no truly dominated inside players. While it appeared that there should have been an outside game with the 3-point shooters, the team struggled at time, especially with its top shooters. The incoming recruits are bringing more size and inside game, which should fill the gaps in the final ACC season.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at MarylandPGs:¬†Seth Allen is the clear best player on the team at this point. Although he does not always play as a 1-man, he can score and pushed himself to clean up the play of the rest of the team, particularly in the second half of the season. His 3-point shot is a little off at times, but he is the future of the team to build around. The only other player to truly play point was Roddy Peters. He has a lot of development left to do. His passing/assist game is not clean. He can smoke it through the paint on the fast break. This is a team that needs a true point guard…one who can actually run the offense effectively.¬†B-

SGs: The conversation in this category is all around Dez Wells. He is a talented, NBA-style player, but his play this season was inconsistent. He disappeared during the first half of games in the second half of the season. He averaged less than 5 points per first half. In the second half of games, he seemed to turn it up. A lot of his points were from driving and drawing fouls. It is not clear if he is playing tentative and scoping out his opponents or if he has something else going on. The other significant SG was Nick Faust. He played with passion but not with consistency. He may be one of the better defenders, a guy who can disrupt offenses and score on the fast break. His 3-point shot was not as on-point later in the season, but there were a few solid makes that turned the tide of a few games. C+

SFs: The bulk of the 3-point shooting seemed to come from Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman. These guys seemed to play well at different times. Smotrycz was bothered by back spasm issues at different points but seemed to play with passion. Layman started the season hot, especially from 3, but cooled off later in the final games. Their defense was something that was suspect at times. Shooting guards and small forwards were able to have their way against Maryland because of the poor match-ups. Both players have potential to improve their game prior to next season but there is some serious work to do. C

PFs:¬†This section of the team had the most depth but struggled the most overall. Free throws are supposed to be high percentage opportunities. Jonathan Graham had the best percentage at 47%, Charles Mitchell struggled with a poor 32.9%, and Damonte Dodd truly was abysmal at 12.5%. None of these forwards were taller than 6’9″ and none of them played larger than their actual size. Charles Mitchell did rebound relatively well at 6.3 per game, but the others fell below 3 per game. Second chance opportunities were hard to come by. This was a squad that failed to make a presence inside and failed to put up great point averages to cause the overall game for Maryland to be balanced. It is not clear who will be the lead player from this group for next year.¬†D+

bal-terps-trio-maryland-basketball-20140314C:¬†There was only one true center this season. Shaquille Cleare stands at a short 6’9″, particularly in the way that he played like the rest of the PFs. In the end, it is tough to say that there was a true center in the first place. Cleare finished the season with only 3 points per game and under 60% at the stripe. Like the power forward position, this is the biggest area of need to strengthen the inside game and open up opportunities on the outside.¬†D+

Coaching: It is easy to highlight that Mark Turgeon struggled in his third season, but he also showed a lot of passion for the team. It is hard to know how a coach impacts the game when you cannot be in the huddle or follow the stats and visuals on the court in the same way, but there was a tentativeness that plagued his coaching throughout the season. He allowed the ball to stay along the perimeter on offense too long, leaving the Terps without points on many trips down the court. Defensively, the Terps did not seem too bad, but there were a number of possessions when the defense forced opponents to hold their shots until the end but still dropped them in. There have been some questions about his post-game interviews as well. He has placed blame on everyone except himself. There is time to turn this around, and the basketball team is in a better position to succeed in the B1G move than the football team, but he is going to need to do it quickly. C-

Definitely hoping for some major, positive changes for our move to a new conference.

Alex LenI have been more critical than most about Alex Len’s draft stock after only 2 seasons at the University of Maryland. Even with his size and natural ability, he looks a little lost at times. I thought he probably could use one more year in college, partially out of my selfishness of wanting to have him in the competition of our last year in the ACC. Still, all the conversation recently pushed him to the top of the draft and leaving early definitely paid out for him in the end.

Congratulations to the newest Phoenix Sun! Make your Maryland family proud.

 

If you received a letter from a national organization about a $20 car washing penalty, would you take it seriously? A student athlete in the WCC now has to consider this a real thing. The NCAA discovered and chose to penalize a female golfer for washing her car on the university campus, using university water and a hose. Stop me if you need a moment…

With all of the other issues in college sports, is this really a good use of the NCAA’s time? Are they still an effective organization if they think this is an NCAA issue versus a university-specific concern? Couldn’t the university have decided if washing her car on-campus was really a problem?

I just wanted to put this out there since I truly believe that there are much bigger issues to focus upon than a student minimally using university resources.

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Here is the article: http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/9325352/ncaa-penalizes-golfer-washing-car

2013 has been a great year in sports. College basketball seemed like a free-for-all throughout the season as no one team could hold the #1 spot for longer than a few weeks. Indiana, Michigan, Louisville and others were seen as likely frontrunners to lead the pack into the tournament. Most of the well-known contenders made it to the big dance, but even just getting in was not a guarantee.

wichita-state-mascotMy home school, Maryland, struggled to find consistency throughout the season. While they had two huge wins over Duke (including one in the conference tournament), a failure to win needed road games and a weak non-conference schedule hurt their chances to go further than the NIT. Kentucky was last year’s champions but Calipari learned that he cannot always just trust in his laurels of young talent. The reality is that he will be back next season, but a 1st-round loss to Robert Morris in the NIT was certainly a shocker. Tennessee missed out to get at least one extra win to match their relatively decent schedule and solid end stretch.

So on to the march to the tournament…

2013-03-11-gonzaga-4_3_r536_c534The #1 seeds started off strong but even their seeding was a bit of controversy. Gonzaga was the consensus #1 in the pools at the end of the season, but Louisville took the top spot in the tournament selection. Indiana was able to last long enough to make it to a #1 and Kansas rounded out the top group. A few teams experienced some early tournament scares, but Western Kentucky and Southern made Kansas and Gonzaga fans sweat it to the end of the game. Both 16 seeds looked to be the first to make history over a #1. Then there always has to be a #1 who goes first. While Gonzaga performed well prior to the tournament, they quickly became the team fans shouted overrated at when Wichita State. Louisville ended up being the only survivor, with Kansas and Indiana losing to eventual Final Four teams (Michigan and Syracuse).

ncaa-duke-louisville_0401Added to the impressive positioning for Louisville was a horrific injury to Kevin Ware in the Elite Eight matchup, breaking his leg in two places. There was an immediate rally by the team to solidify their placement in the Final Four, but a somber feeling overshadowed the win and served to put their victory into perspective. The team has rallied around their strong-willed player and look to finish up with a championship.

One of the big surprises in the seeding was with the misplacement of Ole Miss and Oregon. Both schools won their conference tournaments but ended up as 12 seeds. To prove their worth, they both pulled off their 5-12 upsets (along with fellow Pac-12 school California). Ole Miss ended up falling to La Salle in the round of 32, but Oregon showed a little life with their defeated of semi-overreated Saint Louis. Speaking of La Salle, they pulled off the upset over Big 12 school Kansas State with a slight 63-61 win.

0327-eagles_full_380The most significant upset had to be the tournament run by 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Only established in 1991, the school was not even on the map until they went from 15-seed “happy-to-be-in-the-tournament” team to Sweet Sixteen surprise. Knocking off Georgetown and San Diego State, the small school quickly became the Cinderella team that everyone wanted to get behind. They also changed the nickname for their basketball program to Dunk City¬†after they impressively were able to play above the rim with lob after lob, some of which became SportsCenter highlights. They may have lost to Florida, but they put up a fight and their coach received the recognition needed to get picked up by USC as their new head coach.

With all of the excitement so far, there are some great match-ups left to experience. Louisville looks to avoid the upset by Wichita State, while Syracuse and Michigan have a battle of the 4-seeds. Prediction for the moment would have to go toward Louisville, especially after their domination of Duke, but the reason it is called March Madness is because it is impossible to know what will happen. Enjoy the end of the college basketball season!

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Going back to my previous post, the conference realignment has caused a lot of disturbance in the college sports landscape. I talked about a complete scrapping of the current system and breaking it down into the four regional conferences. This would allow for a better football playoff system and even potentially readjust March Madness to fit the new format (though it would not be necessary). So how does that play out…

With four conferences and two divisions per conference, each division could host a team for the playoff. The current BCS could still be used to help identify the ranking between the divisional champions for seeding purposes. Each division would host a championship (like the current conference championships), allowing for each of the teams to be selected without the controversy of questioning the lack of appreciation for teams with perfect records that would arguably deserve more of a consideration for higher bowls games. The evened out talent also helps that cause. If the NCAA chose to, they could also simply do conference championships and a 4-team playoff system.

Time to break down the conferences into their divisions…

West: The most logical breakdown of this conference would allow for states bordering the water. The Pacific would boast some of the great Pac-12 teams, like Oregon, USC and Stanford. With the Mountain division, the Arizona schools and Boise State would be able to help create some great possible match-ups, even with greater presence of the MWC.

  • Pacific: California, Fresno State, Hawaii, Oregon, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Joe State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State
  • Mountain:¬†Arizona, Arizona State,¬†Air Force, Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV, Utah, Utah State, Wyoming

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South: With a Central division anchored by the states of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas and a Gulf division dominated by Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, this conference has some truly great competition both within the division and the greater conference. The teams a essentially divided between a northern and southern group.

  • Central: Arkansas, Arkansas State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,¬†Texas Christian, Texas Tech,¬†Tulsa
  • Gulf: Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Houston, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, SMU, Southern Miss, Texas, Texas A&M

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East: The combination of ACC and SEC schools makes this a very entertaining conference, and also finally unites Florida and Florida State in the same division. The east coast has a strong combination of teams that may have a little more strength in the southern schools than the north, but still boasts some possible strong match-ups with Florida, Louisville, Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State in the mix.

  • Mid-Atlantic: Duke, East Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Navy, NC State, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
  • Coastal: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami,¬†Middle Tennessee State,¬†South Carolina, South Florida,¬†Tennessee,¬†UCF,¬†Vanderbilt

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North: Anchored by the B1G, the dividing line for the divisions is the coastal schools plus Ohio and west of the Great Lakes. Both divisions boast some great talent: Ohio State & Penn State in the New England area and the Michigan schools, Indiana schools and Wisconsin in the Great Lakes division.

  • New England: Army,¬†Ball State,¬†Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Kent State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
  • Great Lakes: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

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Even with these divisions (which do divide some of the more classic talents), there would still be opportunities for the teams to meet outside of their divisions. Ohio State-Michigan is still a yearly match-up and could be an additional meeting in the bowl season. Texas-Oklahoma could also meet up between the regular season and postseason. Army, Navy and Air Force could use their non-conference schedules to travel for yearly competition. Arizona might be a little left out with the Pac-12 mostly in the Pacific region but they get match-ups against the best of the MWC (Boise State, BYU, Colorado State and Utah State).

I focused on trying to keep the divisions divided by state (with the exception of Ball State joining the New England division), but there could be a little more separation of teams within states that are not traditional match-ups (like Florida State versus UCF or Tulsa versus Texas Tech).

Using this conference and divisional setup, the most recent year would have had a playoff system at the end of the regular season that ended up like this…

  • #1 v. #8: Notre Dame (BCS #1) v. Kent State (BCS #25)
  • #2 v. #7: Alabama (BCS #2) v.¬†Louisville (BCS #21)
  • #3 v. #6: Florida (BCS #3) v. Boise State (BCS #19)
  • #4 v. #5: Oregon (BCS #4) v. Kansas State (BCS #5)

Keep in mind that Ohio State was on penalty (final BCS #3) and Penn State will also be able to rebuild after another few years. But here would be the re-imagined playoffs based off the actual final standings from this past season…

  • #1 v. #8: Alabama (BCS #1) v. Utah State (BCS #16)
  • #2 v. #7: Oregon (BCS #2) v.¬†Louisville (BCS #13)
  • #3 v. #6: Ohio State (BCS #3) v. Kansas State (BCS #12)
  • #4 v. #5: Notre Dame (BCS #4) v. Georgia (BCS #5)

All of these possibilities are also not taking into account that the ranking would be different with a changed conference and divisional setup that would have also changed the schedules. I would be happy to take any thoughts about this new setup if anyone would like to comment.

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March Madness: 2013 Edition

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Basketball, College

The conference championships are over and the field is set. The tournament is not filled with as many automatics as in the past and there are a number of teams that could pull upsets. The numbers ones are fallible and the number twos have been beaten by teams that did not make the tournament, but that is the best thing about the competitive field.

Starting with the snubs, each of the teams that missed out were only a win or two away from making the field. Maryland had two big wins over Duke and a home win against NC State, but fell three times to UNC and had a very weak non-conference schedule. A win over Kentucky at the beginning of the season and an extra road win in conference would have been better. Virginia had a slightly better placement in the conference and a win over Duke, but their RPI and SOS were also too high. Tennessee may have had the closest argument but failed to get a strong enough record in a weak SEC. Alabama and Kentucky both missed key opportunities in their conference in both the top-50 representatives and early in the conference tournament. Southern Miss is just not in a great conference and lost to Memphis three times, missing a chance to at least take advantage of a power within the conference.

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Now onto the tournament…

314_largeMidwest: Anchoring this region is Louisville, the #1 team of the tournament. With a possible late matchup against Duke, there is a lot of talent in this group. The bulk of the teams in this region seem to be more from the Mid-Majors. Creighton can always be a dangerous team but Memphis is the team to watch out for. The easy prediction would be to say that Louisville can make it out of this region with little challenge. Duke will have to get past both of the Mid-Major powers but will likely not meet up in the region final. There are a number of teams that are vulnerable in this region for beating each other up before meeting with the top 2. Saint Louis and Michigan State are likely upsets early but could make a move if they get a little momentum. Look for Louisville to make the most of their last season in the Big East with more than a conference championship.

233_largeWest: Originally thought to be the outright #1 team, Gonzaga still made it to the big dance with a big position. As the only Mid-Major to get a spot in the top 3 of any region, their road is going to be tough, with possible match-ups with Pitt and Wisconsin before likely meeting Ohio State. Kansas State could be the buster of this region, though Wisconsin/Ole Miss will not be an easy out before meeting the Zags. Notre Dame and Arizona could also be dangerous if they get hot quickly. The top teams in this conference do not have much to worry about as the bottom half are easy outs overall. The strongest team to possibly pull an upset would be Ole Miss, but Gonzaga will likely match up with the Buckeyes or Wildcats as their biggest match-ups.

271_largeEast: Originally sitting at the #1 spot at the start of the season, Indiana is poised to make quite the run. Losing out in their conference semifinal, Zeller and company will be looking for redemption and will have to get passed a couple of teams that really show up come tournament time. Marquette, UNLV and Syracuse are not going to make things easy for Indiana or Miami. In particular, the Orange will look to avenge their conference championship loss with a strong run in the tournament. Probably surprised that they were skipped over for a #1 spot, Miami will be looking to make a statement with a fairly veteran lineup that has been very dangerous. NC State and Butler will also be looking to push against this group, but Indiana will probably rise to the occasion. It may be tempting to pick an upset with Montana and Davidson for their previous success but these are not the same teams.

287_largeSouth: Poised to be the toughest of the regions to get through, Kansas is likely to be in for a real test. After they get passed WKU, they will likely face UNC and have trouble with the 4-guard/shooter lineup. Michigan and VCU will likely make a push as well and face a tough Jayhawk team after a few days rest. On the other half of the region, Georgetown, Florida and UCLA are poised to avoid the early round upsets and meet up with either the Jayhawks, Tar Heels, Rams or Wolverines in the regional final. This is the most exciting region with possible match-ups including UNC-Villanova, Kansas-UNC, Georgetown-Florida, Michigan-VCU and VCU-anyone, if they can get some momentum.

Likely bracket busters include Creighton over Duke (#7 v. #2), New Mexico State over Saint Louis (#13 v. #4), Oregon over Oklahoma State (#12 v. #5), UNC over Kansas (#8 v. #1), Colorado over Illinois (#10 v. #7) and Ole Miss over Wisconsin (#12 v. #5).

The final four is really tough to predict this year, though it is the top half of each region that could fluctuate and all of the #1s and #2s are vulnerable to a tough slate of teams. The finals will probably be Indiana versus Louisville with the Hoosiers claiming their final place atop the college basketball landscape.

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