Thursday, November 28, 2013

I've Got Your Back...Way Back

When I was younger one of my favorite activities was playing a Nintendo game called Tecmo Super Bowl. Now it is ok the feeling you are having right now is just that spark of nostalgia. It was the early 90's and my friends and I would play that game for days on end. I mean daaaaaaaays on end. You would play it at home hour after hour and like most games you would get really good at it and need to changes things to make it more challenging.

One of the ways I would give myself a different experience was to replace all the starting quarterbacks with back-up quarterbacks. For example, I would bench Troy Aikman in place of Babe Laufenburg. Or I would bench Joe Montana for Steve Young. Or I would bench Warren Moon for Cody Carlson.

At this point you get the idea.

The changes made would give me a much harder road to hoe in order to win games and ultimately win the Super Bowl. The differences for each back-up quarterback was extremely visible. Their ability to scramble and be fleet of foot was much slower. The zip on their passes were "lobbed" more than like a frozen rope.

The defenses were able to react quicker and the likelihood of throwing a touchdown was less and the likelihood of throwing an interception was much greater.

It made playing the game harder and much more stressful. It changed the entire ability of what you were used to and made you adjust to their strengths. Some teams had other skill players to compensate for this weakness and others didn't.

It was not much different than what is going on in the NFL right now.

I am not sure what team, you the reader, are a fan of but chances are you have sat through either a half, full game, or stretch of games with your starting quarterback holding the clipboard while the back up took the snaps on the field.

The problem with this is there really is only a few "elite" level quarterbacks in the league right now.

You can count them easily and they are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Rothlisberger. There are large group of good quarterbacks such as Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Russell Westbrook, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, and Eli Manning.

The rest of the bunch are a group of quarterbacks that you can win with or lose badly with. Some of them you probably couldn't pick out of a line up. The Tecmo Super Bowl game had naming issue with some quarterbacks to not use their names such as QB Bills, QB Eagles, and QB Browns.

There are some teams that might as well use this same terminology to describe their QB. Because you might ask someone who is quarterbacking the Oakland Raiders these days and they would probably say, "I don't know somebody named McLovin?"

He is not "McLovin".

He is Matt McGloin!

Unfortunately not much different in their ability. He is just lucky he plays for a terrible Raidaz team and is able to see the field.

There is a plethora of below level talent that is roaming the sidelines these days which is an even bigger endorsement for how bad of a QB Tim Tebow was. Did anyone watch the Packers vs. Lions match up Thanksgiving Day? The Packers offense is abysmal without Aaron Rodgers. What patchwork/smoke and mirrors they have gotten away with by having an elite QB running the show.

With Aaron Rodgers out they have gone through Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and now bringing back Matt Flynn.

Yes that Matt Flynn. The Matt Flynn that cashed in on his couple game success a few years ago and Seattle thought he was the next coming of Aaron Rodgers and paid him bank.

Teams need to stop evaluating back-up quarterbacks by a couple of games of experience and remember what they were doing all the other weeks that made them not good enough to take the job outright without an injury to the starter.

It is nice to have a back-up that is capable of weathering the storm and then when the starter is fully healthy give the reigns back and let him do his thing.

The Chicago Bears are having that experience right now. Josh McCown is handling the situation very well and has stated to everyone he can come in contact with he is the back-up and Jay is the starter. He knows his role.

When there starts to be confusion with the starter and back-up or even in some cases the back-up's back-up then you ave what everyone seems to want a good old fashioned quarterback controversy. This does nothing but destroy teams and sends them quickly to "on the clock" status for the next NFL Draft.

This is a quarterbacks league.

There is a direct correlation between having an elite/good quarterback and having success in the NFL. If you look at the teams vying for playoff spots and that have a realistic chance to win a Super Bowl this season in the AFC they are as follows: New England Patriots (Tom Brady), Denver Broncos (Peyton Manning), Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck), Kansas City Chiefs (Alex Smith), and Cincinnati Bengals (Andy Dalton). In the NFC it goes as follows: Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson), New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees), Carolina Panthers (Cam Newton), Dallas Cowboys (Tony Romo), and Detroit Lions (Matthew Stafford).

The teams listed above have a select group of elite QB's and the rest are all good to very serviceable. If you have a quarterback that has elite to good ability then you will put yourself in position to have a very successful season and potentially win the Super Bowl.

Teams don't want to be in the discussion for WHO is going to be our quarterback. They all want to have someone in place with ability and confidence to lead their team to the promised land.

If they don't they all hope to have a back-up in place that can manage the game and not send them and their season spiraling out of control.

This was evident last season as the Washington Redskins did this when they drafted Robert Griffin III. That very same year they drafted Kirk Cousins as their back-up. They liked them both and felt they needed an upgrade at the quarterback position not only at starter but at back-up. It paid off as RGIII was injured during last season and Cousins managed the team in his stint and they ultimately made the playoffs.

So as I am writing this I am watching the Baltimore Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Flacco is leading the Ravens and Rothlisberger is leading the Steelers. The game is entertaining and business as usual but in the back of my mind I still think of my days playing Tecmo and what it would be like with the back-ups playing instead.

Imagine for a second if it was Baltimore led by Tyrod Taylor and Pittsburgh led by Bruce Gradkowski.

Doesn't sound as good in real life now does it?

So the next time your quarterback goes back to pass just pray he gets it off successfully and doesn't pull a hammy or get concussed by the defense because the alternative is a much lesser product than the original.

Teams have back-up plans for when things go south but unfortunately for some teams that plan doesn't bring them back from the dead it usually leaves them way back of the pack.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Does A Fan Say?


If you havn't been fortunate enough to hear the viral video and song of "What does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis.   Just take a few minutes out of your day and Youtube it sometime. 

Spoiler is supremely annoying.

Which brings me to this point. 

What does a fan say? 

In particular to when his favorite team is punked on national signing day.  Let me give you a hint. 

It starts with a d and rhymes with ram.

The past week Illini Nation took one on the chin with the announcement of Cliff Alexander and Quentin Snider ultimately choosing to continue their "education" elsewhere in 2014.

This happens year in and year out with schools and recruits.  Commitments and decommitments.  It just becomes commonplace for teenage athletes to try and make decisions that impact their lives forever without hurting someone in the process. 

It just sucks when it happens to involve the team for which your loyalties lie. 

The day started off like any other when the sun came up.  Illini fans everywhere were preparing for a celebration of the hard work John Groce has put in during the short time he has been on campus.  His time has been short but his efforts have been mighty. 

He and his staff worked the state of Illinois and city of Chicago diligently and respectfully.  They were classy in their approach to the kids they were recruiting.  They were building relationships that seemed to be genuine from all parties involved.

Then the first bomb dropped. 


Quentin Snider has recommitted to Illinois and has chosen to sign with Louisville. 

Damn #1.

The point guard of our future was giving us a sequel to the "Eric Gordon" fiasco.  At first I was upset and angry.  After an hour of fuming with other fans I took a step back and thought about being in his shoes.  He was from Louisville and had committed there initially and was committed for a few years until they had another point guard commit. 

He felt jilted and wanted to look elsewhere.  He decommitted and looked at his options outside of Louisville, Kentucky.  He decided upon Illinois and everything seemed headed in the right direction for him and Illini faithful. 

This changed when the point guard who committed then changed his mind and decommitted and opened his recruitment up.  Are you sensing a pattern here?

Teenage kids make decisions at times that make you scratch your head and then you remember what you were like as a kid and it becomes crystal clear. 

Snider loves where he is from and wanted to represent his state.  I can't fault him for that.  It is the same situation the University of Illinois wants for the players here.  We want our best players to stay home.  Represent their state.  Have a sense of pride for where you come from.  Not take your talents to another state and institution. 

I have to give Quentin credit for doing what he felt was right.  At least he did it now and not half way through next season if he was unhappy.  If her truly didn't want to be an Illini then better to say goodbye now rather than later.  

At the end of the day he didn't want to be at Illinois and Coach Groce has been very clear he wants good people and players that want to be at the University of Illinois. 

This brings me to Damn #2. 

The day had gone from culmination of hard work and reaping the rewards to a potential disaster if and only if Cliff would decide to sign with someone other than Illinois. 


That scenario became a reality when in front of a national television audience on ESPNU Cliff picked up that Illinois hat, then oh wait, I mean then picked up the Kansas hat and the proverbial shit hit the fan. 

I have a great deal of respect for Cliff and his talents.  He is a monster player and will be a high lottery pick in the NBA draft someday.  What I hope for him is during his year in college I hope he takes an ethics class and learns what is right and what is wrong.  I again go back to the fact he and his entourage thought this was a funny way to make the television experience better.  It is the Twitter and Facebook universe and these kids don't think before they act. 

Once you make a decision and put yourself out there it is out there forever.  There are no "do-overs" in life.  Eminem said it best, "You only get one shot do not miss your chance to blow because opportunity comes once in lifetime."

The battles in recruiting are as stressful on a coaching staff than anything they will do in their professional life.  It single handily gets coaches hired and fired for their ability to build relationships with teenage phenoms and their representatives.  The amount of time and effort put in on each and every player is mind boggling.

The lack of respect given to all the other coaches and institutions of higher learning by Cliff Alexander and this stunt by faking to pick up one hat for the other was asinine.  It was a low class move towards others and the feeling was felt throughout the Illinois Fighting Illini faithful.

Don't get me wrong here.  I am not a hypocrite.  Had Cliff chose Illinois and done that to another school I would have felt the same way.  I would have been elated he chose Illinois and thought of better times watching my favorite team but still you don't disrespect others on national TV like that. 

You certainly don't do it you your home state and where you come from.  You have to come back home eventually and his will only be after one year of college.

This is the hardest part for me to understand.  I guess that is just the "Chicago way". 

Coach Groce, as he has always been, handled the situation with class.  His press conference was inspiring and made Illini fans feel proud to be affiliated with this team and coaching staff.  He emphasized the additions made and not the subtractions from what was once considered a top 14 recruiting class.


Leron Black & Michael Finke. 

The 2014 Illini recruiting class.  We look forward to seeing these fine young men represent the Fighting Illini in the future. 

I wrote before that the train is coming.  This is still true.  There are just a few stops and starts along the way. 

So the question posed earlier was "What does a Fan say?"

They say, "I am proud to be an Illini fan and I will follow my team through thick and thin."

Yeah, that sounds pretty good to me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All Aboard...


The college basketball season is just a few days away but the recruiting season is always on topic.  This is never more evident right now for John Groce's Fighting Illini.  I wrote last year about Groce's ability to recruit and if given time, with his track record, the fruits of his labor would grow. 

This past few months have been a whirlwind of recruiting and has resulted in terrific results.  Just yesterday the Illini coaching staff have secured a commitment from 2015 prospect D.J. Williams.  This is a huge "get" for Groce and his staff. 

It shows the connections and relationships he has made in the Chicago market have been genuine.  This 6' 7'' small forward has now created a Simeon pipeline of sorts with his commitment.  The addition of Williams gives this team yet another Simeon product to go with Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. 

One of the greatest recruiting beds has always been Chicago and the coaching staff is staking their claim early in John Groce's tenure. 

The  news gathered yesterday from this very talented player doesn't stop there.  The Illini have already secured a stellar class for next season as well.  The 2014 class has been rated by some as a Top 15, i.e.  The players with whom Coach Groce has put his time and effort into to attend the fine institution of learning that is the University of Illinois goes as follows. 

They started it all off with local product Michael Finke out of Champaign Centennial.  He took the leap of faith to join his favorite team and wants to bring Illini basketball back to where it rightfully should be.  A top tier Big Ten and national program.  If he can do for the Illini what Brian Cardinal did out of Tolono for Purdue basketball I think everyone in orange and blue will be very happy. 

The Illini coaching staff worked very hard to bring in the next two players for this years class and went out of the state to do so.  It shows everyone that not only the state of Illinois has talent but the rest of the country can ball too. 

Coach Grace added PF, Leron Black out of Memphis, TN.  He is a long and athletic player with great ability to run the floor and get to the rack with ease.  Leron can get his own shot but what team is really a team without he addition of a quality ball handler.  What better one to get than Louisville, Ky point guard Quentin Snider. 

Snider was a late addition to this class as he originally committed to Louisville but had a change of heart and opened his recruitment.  The Illini swooped in and sold a quality education, quality coaching, and the ability to compete for a role on this team as a freshman.  He is rated as the 5th best point guard in the 2014 class and Groce sees everything he likes in floor general in Quentin.

Now most fans would be happy with Coach Groce's second recruiting class and be content to look towards the 2015 class and the new addition of D.J. Williams as stated above. 

But this is not the case. 

There is one more big fish out there that is waiting to be caught. 

For those of you who are unaware of who I am speaking of his name is Cliff Alexander, or Big Cliff if your nasty.


The 6' 8'' backboard breaking powerhouse is a consensus top 5 player in the 2014 recruiting class and would be a humongous get for the Illini Nation.  They have already struck it rich with the players they have committed at this time but if they can add Big Cliff they would strike recruiting gold.

Guys of his ilk don't come around very often.  He is a post presence who is a complete and total game changer.  You add a player like Cliff to your current roster and the season can go from being good to potentially being all time great.

He is the type of player national championships are built on. 

And the Illini are right in the thick of it.  

He has taken his official visits to DePaul (8/24/13), Kansas (10/4/13), Memphis (10/18/13), and Illinois (10/26/13).  He didn't take an official visit to Michigan State but by reports he took an unofficial there.  It should feel good for Illini fans to have this guy on campus.  Groce has shown an ability to close the deal with recruits when he gets them on campus now that he has had ample time to entrench himself within this university. 

The Illini are waiting for this final countdown of days until Cliff decides to make his choice.  He has made one choice, which is certain, that is the decision will be made on his birthday, November 16.  This is just around the bend.

The Illini have fallen short in the recruiting game before which led to the firing of Bruce Weber.  They have fallen short with must get players like Jabari Parker last year.  But this to me feels different. 

Cliff has kind of done his own thing and been his own man playing his high school ball at Chicago Curie.  He could have moved to one of the perennial power schools like Simeon but he chose to stay home.  There is a great deal of respect in that decision.  It seems to me he wants to create his own niche.  This is what Groce is burning into his brain as bright as the orange uniform we hope to see him wear in Champaign. 


Groce is selling relationships and a new culture.  Cliff decides to play at Illinois and if he leads them to the promised land then he just might have a statue built in front of the newly named State Farm Center. 

Since the addition of John Groce as Illini basketball coach things have changed for the positive.  His positivity and optimism are infectious.  The kids be brings on campus love what he is all about. 

He is getting the Illini Nation to be proud of their basketball team again.  He is working diligently to restore this program.  He is the conductor of this train and it is rolling down the tracks once again.

Illini fans everywhere should climb aboard because I believe this is going to be one very smooth ride and the next stop just might be a national championship.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis


The Fall Classic is upon us.  Two of the best franchises in all of Major League Baseball are left. 

St. Louis Cardinals versus Boston Red Sox

The Cardinals arriving after taking care of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Boston Red Sox's road took them through the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers. 

Both teams were the cream of the crop in their respective leagues.  They were division champions with quality pitching, timely hitting, and that extra sense of team chemistry that separates winners from losers.

The Cardinals will travel to Fenway Park for the first two games and in the process will face Jon Lester and John Lackey.  The Cardinals will counter with Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.  Wainwright, the veteran right hander, has been in this situation before.  He has the experience to call back on and use to get him through those rough patches that will most certainly occur in the World Series. 

Wacha, the rookie right hander, isn't as seasoned as his teammate.  He is a raw talent with electric stuff.  He has been as dominate a pitcher in October as I can remember.  His numbers in October are as follows:  21 innings, 8 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, and 22 strikeouts.  The most amazing aspect of this is he hasn't hit his prime yet. 

The Cardinals seem to mass produce these corn fed mammoth right handed pitchers in a factory.  Maybe the supervisor of that factory is Yadier Molina.  The coach on the field calls a masterful game and assists the pitchers with his knowledge and understanding of the game and its situations.  They must go on the road to start the series but if they can continue to pitch the way October has gone it will be a very happy Busch Stadium come games 3, 4, and 5.

Beltron has the eye of the tiger when the calendar hits October.

The Cardinals can't be mentioned without stating the obvious.  Carlos Beltran is the new Mr. October.  He is as scary a clutch a player when the weather goes cold and Halloween is on the horizon.  It doesn't matter the amount of hits Carlos gets, it is the time in which he does it.  Whe the team needs a hit he gets it.  It is a wonder why teams even pitch to the guy.  Oh wait, it is because having Matt Holiday backing him up helps him get pitches to see.  Beltran still must swing the bat and make contact and in this regard Mr. Beltran is achieving great success. 

The Red Sox will need to keep Matt Carpenter off the bases which isn't an easy task.  The top of the order is the table setter for those mentioned above.  They take pitches to work the count and tire out the opposing pitcher.  When you go deep into counts it pays dividends later in the game.  The Cardinals are wonderful at this aspect and pounce on bullpen pitchers when the starter is pulled. 

The same can be said about this years Red Sox.  They aren't a bunch of witness protection looking fugitives, they with their playoff beards, they are talented and together in every aspect. 

They have the luck of playing potentially 4 games in their friendly ballpark with the very important designated hitter rule.  David Ortiz, or Big Papi, getting to DH and not be forced to play first base will help the Red Sox immensely.  Keeping with as much normalcy as possible, even though this group is anything but normal, can keep momentum going in their favor.

The series against the Tigers could have gone much different and horribly wrong if not for two mistakes by Tigers pitchers that resulted in 2 grand slams and ultimately the Red Sox claiming the American League Pennant.  They have shown to have some luck on their side but have struggled against high quality pitching.  We saw this before in this past series.  Their team batting average was unusually low and they were almost victims of being no hit on a couple of occasions.  They can be all or nothing at times and this is what I feel separates the Cardinals from the Red Sox.

The Cardinals seem to find hits and put them together to make crooked numbers on the scoreboard. 

These two teams squared off in the World Series before with Boston sweeping the Cardinals using momentum and exercising some demons in the process.  This is not the case now. 

The Cardinals, in a way, exercised some demons on their own by eliminating the Dodgers in 6 games.  Last seasons end to the San Fran Giants after having a 3-1 lead was troublesome for St. Louis fans to stomach.  They were able to finish the job and reach their ultimate goal.  The World Series.

The game is simple.  Throw the ball.  Hit the ball. Catch the Ball.  It is grown men playing a child's game. 

That is what makes it so great.  As much as it pains me to write this I feel the roll the Cardinals are on right now is not going to be denied.

I like the St. Louis Cardinals to add their twelfth championship banner to Busch Stadium and beat the Boston Red Sox in 5 games.

Please God I hope, at least this time, I am wrong!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World War B (log)


Ok, so it is not as dramatic as Michael Jordan's return announcement in 1995 but it will do.

Sorry to all my loyal readers for the length of absence on my part.  Technical gremlins kept me from spreading the written word. 

I will be tackling more interesting topics in the not so distant future. 

Stay tuned and thank you again for your patience and understanding.

And to all the St. Louis Cardinal lovers out there you better hope history doesn't repeat itself after having a 3-1 lead in the NLCS like last year. 

We, of the Chicago Cubs Nation, know all about 3-1 series leads too!  10 years ago is still to soon! 

So I will just say this...


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Madness

Selection Sunday has come and gone and now we set our sites on fine tuning our brackets.  Everyone wants to have the edge in their respective office pool.  Everyone wants to have bragging rights when it comes to picking the big upset. 

But regardless of our vast knowledge, we all know Janice from Accounting will once again win the pool by picking teams based on uniform color.

This being said it truly is the best tournament in the world.  Where else for a three week period can the entire nation come together in the name of basketball?  Tides will turn.  Games will be decided by last second heroics.  David versus Goliath.  I am salivating as I write this. 

This time last year I went through region by region and listed my power conference player to watch, mid major player to watch, a sleeper pick, potential upset special, my sweet sixteen, my elite eight, and my final four pick.

I will continue this trend with yet another analysis with maybe a little bit extra.  It is time to dance!


Power Conference Player to Watch:  Ryan Kelly, Senior, Forward, #2 Duke

The Dukies are a different team with this sharp shooting big man than they are without him.  The numbers don't lie.  They are 18-1 with him in the line up and their only loss was an ACC tournament loss to scrappy Maryland.  Of those wins they were against the likes of Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State, and Miami, Fla.  He strokes the three with great touch for a big man at 48%.  He stretches the floor for others on his team to succeed like center Mason Plumlee.  He may not be the most athletic player in this bracket but he could very well be the most valuable.  Keep an eye on Kelly and the Blue Devils to make a serious run to the Final Four in Atlanta.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Doug McDermott, Junior Forward, #7 Creighton

For the second year in a row there is no other mid-major player in this bracket worthy of consideration than McDermott.  He has once again led his Dad's club in scoring at 23.1pts per game and also grabs 7.5 rebounds per contest.  He has a multitude of scoring moves and almost does it with ease.  He has the potential to lead this MVC stalwart into the next weekend if they can get a break or two against a potential second round match up with Duke.  Should be fun to watch him teach the Cincinnati Bearcats how to Dougie.  And everyone else how to Dougie!

Player with Best Name in Bracket: Mogboluwaga Oginni, Freshman, Forward, #7 Creighton

May I buy a vowel???  He doesn't see much action, 0.4pts/0.3rbs, and that is a good thing for the announcers ticketed for his match up.

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Seth Curry, Senior, Guard, #2 Duke

In his case you could say, "Who's your Bro?"  He is the son of former NBA marksman Dell Curry and current NBA three point assassin Stephon Curry.  The boy has NBA shooting touch running through his veins.  Somebody needs to package and sell that in GNC.         

Sleeper Pick:  #4 Saint Louis Billikens

They have six players who average between 7-13 points and are a veteran team with a roster full of juniors and seniors.  They also are playing for the memory of the late great Rick Majerous who past away.  He was a great coach throughout his career and an even better person.  These players are hungry to keep his memory alive and want nothing more than to march on.

Potential Upset Special:  #12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma State

Oregon was the winner of the Pac 12 tournament and according to just about every analyst televised yesterday felt they were grossly undervalued.  Using this as fuel don't be surprised to see them pull this upset in a 5/12 game that almost every season has one or more. 

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Louisville v. #4 Saint Louis, #3 Michigan State v. #2 Duke

Elite Eight:  #4 Saint Louis v. #2 Duke

Final Four:  #2 Duke



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Aaron Craft, Junior, Point Guard, #2 Ohio State

The college games closest thing to Gary "The Glove" Payton we have seen in some time.  He has the best on-the-ball defensive skills and quickest hands that allows him to deflect and disrupt would be passes.  He averages two steals per game and those are just the ones he is able to come up with on  his own.  He and his teammates create such havoc on the defensive end it makes up for their offensive shortcomings.  Craft averages 9.9pts and 4.6 assists per contest.  His confidence has blossomed of late and he is becoming more aggressive in driving to the lane.  He needs to attack the basket and dish dimes to guys like Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith, Jr.  If you don't see Aaron Craft's cheeks a flush rosey red color then he isn't having a very good game.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  (tie) Tony Snell, Junior, Guard, Kendall Williams, Junior, Guard,  #3 New Mexico

The majority of folks would have chosen Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, but they are a number one seed this year,  and I really don't consider them a mid-major program any longer.  New Mexico is an up an coming program in a very competitive conference.  The Lobos are led by this combo of guards, Snell/Williams, that have created a great deal of happy times in "The Pit".  They follow the lead of their coach, former Indiana super shooter Steve Alford, and could take this team to new heights.

Player with Best Name in Bracket:  Igor Hadziomerovic, Sophomore, Guard,  #13 Boisie State

Maybe the 5.4ppg of this guard will get Boisie over the HUMP and into the second round to face Bruce Weber's Kansas State ball club.  Yes, master, we will wait and see.   

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Madut Bol, Senior, Center, #16 Southern Jaguars

Son of former NBA center, Manute Bol, he sees the floor just under ten minutes per game and he averages just above 1pt and 1rb per game.  Not a shot blocking force like his old man but nice to know a Bol is still playing hoops.

Sleeper Pick:  #8 Pittsburgh Pathers

The Big East representative, sitting with a 24-8 record, have been battle tested and ready for a rumble.  Pack a lunch type of team.  Jaimie Dixon is a great coach and really needs a breakthrough in the NCAA tournament after disappointments in past trips.  The potential match up with Gonzaga in the next round could be a saving grace for the Panthers.

Potential Upset Special:  #11 Belmont over #6 Arizona

Arizona has not fared well against Bruins this year, three losses to UCLA, and why not these Bruins of Belmont.  They are led by scorer Ian Clark, a Senior Guard.  Belmont was a #14 seed last year and have built on that success and hope to create some excitement in Salt Lake City as a lower seeded underdog.  If the threes are falling and the lack of achievement out of Arizona's athletes could be a perfect storm for an upset.

Sweet Sixteen:  #8 Pittsburgh v. #5 Wisconsin, #3 New Mexico v. #2 Ohio State

Elite Eight:  #8 Pittsburgh v. #2 Ohio State

Final Four:  #2 Ohio State



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Otto Porter, Jr., Sophomore, Forward, #2 Georgetown

Mr. Everything for John Thompson's Hoyas has literally carried them to the top of the Big East and a 25-6 record.  He has all the skills you want in a talent and leader.  He puts the ball in the basket in variety of ways.  He can shoot the three and also has the strength to go down low and get an old fashioned three point play that would have the likes of Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning proud.  He is a potential high draft choice in the NBA draft.  His ability to knock down free throws at a high rate separates him from other players in his category.  Could bring back glory days of old for G'Town.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Nate Wolters, Senior, Guard, #13 South Dakota State

The poor man's Steve Nash  has an all around game that doesn't show nary a weakness.  He can fill it up from deep and break your ankles on a cross over and make you look dumb doing it.  The Jackrabbits leading scorer, 22.7ppg, has steadily increased his totals over his four years.  He has the potential to be a good player at the next level.  It should be a great match up against another great guard in Michigan's Trey Burke.  If Nate the Great has it raining threes in Auburn Hills it could be another early exit for the Big Ten.

Player with the Best Name in Bracket:  Sooren Derboghosian, Junior, Center, #6 UCLA

I don't think the late John Wooden had anyone by that name for sure.  The little used center has only logged 7 minutes in heaven but is shooting a scorching 100% from the field.  Ok, so he is 1-1 but who is counting! 

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Tim Hardaway, Jr., Junior and Glen Robinson III, Freshman, #4 Michigan

The sons of NBA nickname hall-of-fame greats Tim "Killer Crossover" Hardaway and Glen "Big Dog" Robinson have definitely made their pops proud.  The younger Hardaway scoring 14.8ppg and "Little Dog" Robinson making amazing plays throughout the course of the season.  Michigan will need a "killer" performance on a "Big" stage to advance far in this tournament.

Sleeper Pick:  #5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams

The "Havoc" they play at VCU lead them to the Final Four a couple years ago.  Now they are in a new league, A-10, and have what some consider a better team than what Shaka Smart led to the promised land.  It will take yet another full court press and turnovers galore to make another magical run but with a Smart man leading them it would be hard not to put Smart money on VCU.

Potential Upset Special:  #11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA

This one game will be decided by one stat.  Rebounding.  UCLA rebounds like they are playing hot potato.  Minnesota, although on a downward spiral lately, rebounds very well.  Trevor Mbakwe will need to own the paint and with help from the Hollins boys it should be party time for Tubby and his team.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Kansas v. #4 Michigan, #3 Florida v. #2 Georgetown

Elite Eight:  #4 Michigan v. #2 Georgetown

Final Four:  #2 Georgetown



Power Conference Player to Watch:  Cody Zeller, Sophomore, Center, #1 Indiana

This seven footer dominates the game.  The Hoosiers power post player is almost unstoppable when he gets position against his opposition.  As he goes so does Indiana.  He not only scores but rebounds and runs the floor like a gazelle.  He leans on his teammates to feed the beast and this guy is starving for a championship.  Zeller has shown an ability to carry his team on his back and clutch victory from the heart of his opponent when his team most needs him.  This was never more evident against Michigan the last game of the regular season when Indiana won the Big Ten outright on the road in dramatic fashion.  Could be Hoosier Daddy come April.

Mid Major Player to Watch:  Rotnei Clark, Senior, Guard, #6 Butler Bulldogs

The Arkansas transfer has not disappointed in his one and only season with the Bulldogs.  He is picking up where he left off with range that begins when he enters the gym.  He can  hit threes from all over the court and has a clutch ability in his being that allows him to send daggers through the heart of those who doubt him.  He sent Marquette packing in Maui with a wild three and has not stopped since.  Could be another key contributor to Coach Brad Stevens's already stellar tourney resume.

Player with the best name in the Bracket:  Bak Bak, Senior, Center, #12 California

The Johnny Two Times of the tournament who's name is so nice you  have to say it twice.  He has almost as many fouls (18) as rebounds (20) this season.  Will probably be a very short stay for the Golden Bears cause UNLV will make them go the papers, get the papers.  Their walking papers.

Best Who's Your Daddy:  Shane Larkin, Senior, Guard, #2 Miami, Fla

The son of Hall of Fame shortstop, Barry Larkin, he has lead the Hurricanes to an ACC regular season championship and ACC tournament championship.  He is as steady as they come for Miami's veteran squad.  He directs this team like Marty Scorsese and puts them in position to win.  He made the right choice in basketball and the only triple play he hopes to create is lasting into the third weekend of this tournament.

Sleeper Pick:  #6 Butler Bulldogs

Not much more you can say about one of the best tournament ready teams in recent memory.  They play hard, tough, and smart.  All direct reflections upon their future Hall of Fame coach Brad Stevens.  He has carved out a nice niche in Indianapolis and knows who he is and where he comes from.  Refreshing to see and highly respectable.  Always a tough out in the NCAA's.  This season will be no different.

Potential Upset Special:  #14 Davidson over #3 Marquette

Coach McKillop's Wildcats are annually one of the little known teams nationally but within the ranks of college basketball they are well known.  They are always playing tough high caliber talent in the nonconference like Duke, Gonzaga, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Vanderbilt.  They will not be scared to face Marquette so Buzz better have his guys ready for a fight.

Sweet Sixteen:  #1 Indiana v. #4 Syracuse, #6 Butler v. # 2 Miami, Fla

Elite Eight:  #1 Indiana v. #2 Miami, Fla

Final Four:  #1 Indiana


FINAL FOUR - Atlanta

#2 Duke v. #1 Ohio State

#2 Georgetown v. #1 Indiana

National Championship Game:  #2 Duke v. #1 Indiana

National Champion:  #1 Indiana

Most Outstanding Player:  Cody Zeller

Mr. Zeller came back to school for two things.  One, he wanted to bring Indiana basketball back onto the national scene.  And two, he wanted to win a national championship.  The Hoosier guards need to remember who got them there and get him touch after touch after touch down low.  He is more skilled offensively than Duke's Plumlee and IU's Victor Oliodipo will shut down Seth Curry and make his shot erratic.  Best conference.  Best Team.  National Champ.

Let the games begin!