Posted on: March 6, 2009 11:11 am
 

Tournament Spotlight: CAA

***This is just a transcribed version of SportsHead: A Blog with Balls. For the original blog, please visit sportsheadblog.blogspot.com and suscribe***

 

The conference championships started this past week, which means the bracket picture is solidifying. We already know one team that will be in the tournament and that is Cornell, thanks to a postseason-free Ivy League where the regular season champ gets the bid. And while the bigger conference tournaments won't start until next week, there is some good action already beginning.

Most people don't care about these tournaments. They want to watch the Big East and the ACC. If you ask me, however, I rather watch the small tournaments; the ones with meaning. Who wants to watch a Big East tourney where every team who makes it to the quarterfinals is probably going dancing anyway. Whereas in the tournaments of the Patriot League and Big South Conference, it's do or die time. The winner goes dancing. The losers gets to sit around during the last days of winter.

One of these do-or-die tournaments will be the CAA. Usually the CAA is solid enough where at least a few times who lose will be on the fence for a conference bid. But with the crowded March Madness picture the way it is, the only team in the CAA with any kind of at-large hopes should they lose the tournament is VCU, and those would be some excruiciatingly long odds. So what do you get when with a conference with three 20-win teams playing for one spot? You get some great basketball.

This year, the CAA tournament has been reshaped. Whereas in years past only the top 8 teams in the regular season standings came to the tournament, this year all 12 teams come to play in Richmond, VA, the state's capital, giving the top 4 teams a first-round bye.

These four teams, the one-seed VCU, two-seed George Mason, three-seed Old Dominion, and four-seed Northeastern, look to be the only four legitimate contenders for the title. Although with dark horse William & Mary advancing to the championship last year and almost stealing the conference's one automatic bid, anything can go.

VCU is the odds-on favorite to win it all. Senior Guard Eric Maynor is named once again the conference's player of the year. Likely NBA-bound after the season, he is easily the most dangerous player in the tournament. However, VCU, the No. 1 seed last year, too, was knocked out in the first round of the tournament last year by William & Mary, leaving the school with something to prove this year. They'll play the winner of the Georgia State-Delaware game. If they draw the Blue Hens on Saturday it could shape up to be a great game as the two teams split wins in the regular season each winning on their homecourt.

George Mason, last year's champion, comes into the tournament as one of the three 20-win teams in the conference. As the two-seed, conventional wisdom would suggest they would meet VCU in the tournament. The Patriots lost their only game to VCU this year in Richmond, and would likely be seeking redemption if they were to be so fortunate as to meet VCU once again for the title.

Northeastern was the suprise of the season. Expected to finish fifth in the conference, the Huskies hovered at or near the top for the majority of the season before a February meltdown, including a head-t-head end-of-season matchup with the Old Dominion essentially for the three-seed in the tournament, had them sliding to fourth. Northeastern won 18 games over the regular season including handing top-seeded VCU their only loss at home in a controversial and close game back in January. If anyone is going to beat the Rams in Richmond, this is the only team who has proven they can.

Old Dominion has quietly slid into the three-seed for the tournament. Without much buzz around the team, most people probably have forgotten about them. But as one of the 20-win teams in the conference, it'd be a huge error in calculation to write them off should you meet them in this year's tournament. At 20-9 the Monarchs proved they can win, but with losses to Northeastern, George Mason, and VCU, they'll have to prove how legitimate those 20 wins are in this tournament.

The lower-seeds begin the first round in a little less than an hour, and when the dust settles Monday night, the number of storylines coming from this tournament should be heavy!

Posted on: March 5, 2009 1:12 pm
 

Looks like once again T.O. is on the 'g.o.'

***This is just a transcribed version of SportsHead: A Blog with Balls. For the original blog, please visit sportsheadblog.blogspot.com and suscribe***

 

I'm pretty sure the gods of sports disapprove of my March Madness bracket projections because everyday I plan to post them, the sports world gives me something better to talk about. Can you really blame me, sports gods, for thinking Maryland will make it?!

Nevertheless, today's distraction is T.O. I use the word distraction because it's a word both us bloggers and T.O. are used to hearing in sentences with his name in it. And it looks as thought the walking, talking, neverending sports story is at it again. Although no official announcement has been made, it appears T.O. is done in Dallas.

While I would never want Owens on my team (I don't care how good he is or is not, he seems to do more harm than good wherever he goes), I actually disagree with Dallas' move here, from a logical perspective. If you're going to cut T.O. at this point, there's only two real reasons why you would cut him; one, you need some cap room to go shopping this offseason and, two, you want the on and off fields distractions gone.

Considering Chris Canty just left for the Giants, I'm guessing it's the former. But this year, as far as T.O. goes, Owens was on relatively good behavior. Or maybe Adam 'Pacman' Jones just overshadowed his shenanigans. Either way, I think ridding themselves of the Jones drama was enough for one offseason. Combine this with the fact that there seems to be a glass cieling when it comes to Dallas and advancing at all in the playoffs, and suddenly the move doesn't make sense. When you're struggling as much as you are to get to the super bowl why would you let go of anyone with any legitimate talent, especially if you're willing to hold on to the coach who has so far failed miserably to get them over that hump.

So the question is now, where will T.O. go? And that, is a very good question indeed. Everywhere he goes, he seems to taint the franchise he plays for, which is why I don't see him returning to either of his former teams. He won't be in Dallas next year, and now I just ruled out an Eagles return. The Giants just took Canty so I don't seem them dropping the dough for Owens and the Redskins just gave six figures to Albert Haynesworth, so I think it's safe to say T.O. will not be in the NFC East, either. Could we see a Parcells-Owens reunion in Miami? Unlikely. Perhaps Al Davis and his struggling Raiders would be willing to take a chance on him, if they could afford him. Wherever he goes, it's going to have to be someone he can overlook a laundry list of negatives in exchange for the sometimes forgotten talent Owens possesses. And with a growing history of tainted franchises, the number of teams willing to do just that is dwindling, and dwindling fast.

 

Posted on: March 3, 2009 3:47 pm
 

Off-the-wall Offseason!

We're a month removed from the Super Bowl and the NFL headlines seem to be just as exciting. Why? Because there seems to be as many superstars taking Jets and hiring movers as there are journeyman players this season. Usually, the NFL junkies of the world get one hit in the offseason in the form of a big name player. Favre retires, comes back to the Jets. McNair to Baltimore. A story here and a story there. For someone on the Jones, one good story isn't a good enough fix for the long almost half-year those junkies must go without football.

But this year is quite different. There's almost too many big moves being made to digest. And with the state the economy is in now, the amount of money being thrown around is laughable. However, it just wouldn't be right to rant on the moves...

Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel traded to Kansas City for 2nd Round Pick
As much as you can commend the Patriots for quietly resolving what could've been a huge quarterback controversy, credit also has to be given to the Chiefs. As much as we've seen from Matt Cassel the best guess on him seems to be that he's a starter-caliber player. Vrabel may not be the linebacker that he once was, but he can still play and his mentoring value is significant. So how much do you pay for a starting QB and veteran linebacker? The Chiefs paid for it with a single second round pick. That's certainly more than I wrote down. Back to the Patriots, kudos to them on avoiding controversy and clearing some cap room. Now even the star-studded Patriots can go into the free agency market with a little spending money.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs with Seattle
Yeah, sure, you might scratch your head at this one at first, but put yourself in T.J.'s shoes. Your star QB was out all last season which precipitated a team-wide downfall. Furthermore, the rest of the receiving corps. your in is comprised of a lesser known Henry who, while having enormous potential, has yet to burst onto the scene and the walking, talking clown that is Chad Johnson. Wouldn't you take your first ticket out, even if it was to a team in full rebuilding mode? At least in Seattle, T.J. can know he is the go-to guy and doesn't have to share the spotlight with a guy who seems to be more and more suited to be a halftime show than a professional wide receiver.

Albert Haynesworth signs with Washington
This one looks like it will have to be one of those "wait and see's". Haynesworth could be the most talented player on the market, but going to a struggling Washington offense, his impact remains uncertain. However, the Redskins have made a few other smart moves like resigning DeAngelo Hall. Perhaps one or two more sleepers in the draft, and Washington's defense is on the road to recovery. If they can reattain that Top 5 defense they once had, there will be 4 legitimate threats in the NFC East.

Chris Canty signs with New York Giants
It's almost always a risk when you leave one NFC East team for another. In this case, however, leaving Dallas was probably a smart move for Canty, even if his destination isn't the most desirable for him. The Cowboys are still reeling from the bad P.R. tsunami that was Pacman Jones (No, Adam, you're back to being called Pacman) and many still believe leaving Wade Phillips in power there is an error in judgement. Whatever the deal is, the Cowboys, however good, have struggled to go very far in the postseason in almost a decade, leaving many to believe there is some sort of glass ceiling in Dallas that has yet to be broken. Even if you leave for a conference rival like New York, at least you know a team that has recently gone past that glass ceiling and is never out of the running to do it again.

Posted on: February 25, 2009 3:37 pm
 

Blue and White 88 no more

 

The once quintessential triple-threat in the NFL is now officially disbanded. While Edgerrin James left Indianapolis a couple years ago, we still had the pleasure of watching the tandem of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Now, even that, however, is history.

The Colts, stuck between a rock and a hard place, were for all intents and purposes forced to release Harrison Tuesday. Comprised of several former first round picks that have not disappointed the eternal bending of the salary cap finally snapped, and as any logic would follow, the veteran got the boot.

On Tuesday, when they announced the release. The press conference turned into a tribute of sorts to the career Harrison had with the blue and white. A tribute where the same men releasing him were at times choked up with emotion. Such a scene made a shocking story mix with a pinch of bizarre. Watching the likes of an NFL owner red-eyed over his own decision was kind of like seeing a boyfriend crying over his ex-girlfriend (no offense, Marvin) when he initiated the break up. Hopefully they'll skip the awkward "not returning each other's calls" phase.

But as wierd as yesterdays events were, they should be remembered moer for their significance. With the era of trades and free agency that we're in. It's rare that we see such a vivacious anchor on a team. A superstar that rarely complains about money, never has off-field issues, and year-in-and-year-out wears the same jersey. Only a handful comes to mind in recent history: Brett Favre, Mike Alstott, Donovan McNabb, Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas, Emmitt Smith, Steve Young.

What do all of these guys have in common? When they left a team, it made headlines. Not because they were stars (I mean, sure, there's that) but because they were icons; icons for a franchise not just on a local level, but on a national level. They went beyond the Rock Cartwright's (if you don't get the reference, you're only furthering my point), they represented their team on a national level. It doesn't take much a fan to know who Marvin Harrison is, and to picture him in the Colts' blue and white I guess is what I'm trying to say.

So what does this mean for Harrison? Will he retire? Will he go and learn the ins and outs of the free agency market? My guess is that he's not done. Guys like Harrison feel that they always have more in the tank than they tend to show. Unfortunately however, chances are his days on SportsCenter are past him.

If there was a person you could most closely compare him to, it might be Jerry Rice (another one of those home-team-favorite-superstars). A future hall of fame receiver who felt that his career with his primary team was cut short, and that he had more to offer the league. So he goes to Oakland and plays there for a few years. When his short shelf life in Oakland ran out, he tried Denver. But when he was told he'd be the number three wide receiver, he opted to hold onto his pride and retire.

If I had to bet, I would say that that is what will happen with Harrison. Play another three or four seasons with another team, someone looking for a veteran who not only can still play, but can mentor their young receiving corps., and then ultimately retire.

It'll be strange next season, if Harrison plays, that is, to see him in anything but that painfully tame royal blue and ivory white jersey. But if we learned anything from las toffseason with the Favre fiasco, it's that these things have to happen at some point. And for Marvelous Marv, that time was now.

Posted on: February 24, 2009 8:30 am
 

Apparently it's superstars that make you "super"

Take Oklahoma and Davidson for example. A few days ago Oklahoma was ready to become the number one overall. Then Blake Griffin suffers perhaps the oddest concussion ever scene in sports (with the exception of Gus Frerotte's infamous celebration) and what do you have now? A team that loses to unranked Texas and No. 15 Kansas. We were asking if they would be number one in the country. Now were asking if they'll even get a number one seed.

Then there's Davidson, one of those rare Mid-Majors who cracked the Top 25. They flat out dominated their fellow Mid-Major competition and were even beating teams from the powerhouses of the ACC and Big East. There was nothing that could stop them, except say Stephen Curry's ankle? Two and a half months after being the likes of West Virginia in West Virginia, Davidson lost to the Citadel by nearly 20 and was equally handled by Butler a few days later.

Now the skeptics will say it's just a "few bad games." That's just simply not the case here. You don't snap a 13 game winning streak (and 25 of your 26 games) with back to back losses coincidentally at the same time the favorite for player of the year suffers a concussion. You don't win 12 of your last 13 games and then lose to the Citadel coincidentally at the same time your star player goes down.

So forget all those coaches who lecture "he is only one man." Because while he is only one man, it's clear now he is also the lifeforce of your team. And when he goes down, it seems pretty clear now your just not the same team.

Posted on: February 21, 2009 6:34 pm
 

Upsets making the bubble picture crowded

"Go home and write down all the teams you think that are on the bubble for the tournament. Then pick 34 to get in. You'll see it's harder than it looks."

Seth Davis says that laughing, almost taunting, neh, daring anyone to try and decide who should go dancing and who shouldn't. The fact of the matter is, he's right.This year's Selection Sunday is almost undoubtedly going to have more heartbreak than normal.

how crowded will it be? Just look at what we learned today.

Stephen Curry and Davidson will most likely have to win their conference tournament in order to get an invite. A month ago, we would've laughed at the fact. But today, as Butler, another team that better win their tournament just to be sure, handedly beat them at home in a game where Curry looked more like an obstacle for Davidson than the phenom he is said to be, all that seems to have changed.

And let's not forget about Maryland. They were already on the bubble and just knocked off #3 UNC. And they're probably still on the outside looking in. They'll most likely need to be Duke in their upcoming game and give a solid performance in the tournament just to have a fair shot. Who wouldathunkit?

But perhaps the craziest part of it all is the Big East, a conference that will likely send 8, possibly 9 teams to the tournament. You'd think with such a crowded load of temas already going the picture in the Big East would be pretty much set, right? Far from. Suppose the top 8 in the standings right now are good to get the nod. Then factor in Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Providence are still on the bubble. Then factor in that there are only 5 other teams in the 16-team conference. Then factor in that only one of those remaining 5 teams has an overall winning record.

Just step back and look at that as a bigger picture. 11 teams in one conference are still fighting to get into the tournament. There are 19 conferences in the NCAA with 11 teams or fewer!

But don't just blame the Big East for the crowded picture. Okay, do, but shake your fingers at these other guys. The ACC will most likely also send 8 and break some hearts in the process. The Pac-10 (named so for its 10 teams, if you didn't know) will send at least half of their teams. The Big 12 may only send somewhere between 3 and 5, they'll burst at least that many bubbles if not more.

It's crazy I know. And the worst part is, those who'll be the most upset come Selection Sunday will almost undoubtedly be the fans of Mid-Major schools. Just do the math, with three major conferences alone putting up 30 teams to contest for a total of 34 at-large seats, how can there be room for any Mid-Major team that is anything but spectacular this year?

To use a downright terrible metaphor, if the NCAA were a soft drink, this year it would be particularly fizzy going into selection sunday. And with only 34 bubbles able to stay afloat, the attrition rate looks to be painful.

Posted on: February 19, 2009 6:33 pm
 

Tiger is back! Golf world breathes relief

Today, Tiger Woods announced that he is coming back after finishing his last tournament essentially on one leg eight months ago. A statement on his website announced that Woods would be back for Accenture Match Play which starts in about a week. Woods said that he felt his leg is good to play on.

So what does this mean for the golf world? For one thing they can relax. Like it or not, Woods is the life blood of the PGA tour, at least from a national exposure perspective. By now, the world has come to terms with the fact that Tiger is one of the greatest golfers to ever play, if not the best. Therefore, when Tiger plays more people cover it. Why? Because if you have a star like Tiger playing, it's not just golf, it's potential history.

The same bodes true for every sport. Headlines, by nature, become bigger when they have historical relevance. The difference between golf and say, football or basketball, however, is that the latter sports have more to fall back on when, say, an NFL or NBA legend isn't playing. Sure it helps to have hall of famers on the field, but if they don't, millions of people will still watch professional and college football and basketball. Golf is different, however. Golf has to fight for it's share of the spotlight, and more so now than ever before.

That's because we're in an age where all smaller, less covered sports are seeing a rise in exposure. Thanks to men like Travis Pastrana, the X Games are a legitimate event in most people's eyes. They even put snowboarding in the Olympics several years ago. Simple progress, sure, but the symbolism is overwhelming. Even quasi-sports like poker are getting air time on the likes of ESPN. With all this going on, I ask you how can golf NOT be relieved their superstar is back?

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 18, 2009 10:18 pm
 

Mid-Major Manifest: VMI (Back From Hiatus!)

That's right, SportsHead is back! And not a moment too soon. The big dance is less than a month away, racing is under a green flag, and it turns out that all this excitement has A-Rod pumped in more ways than one!

We come back from hiatus with a spotlight on the Keydets of the Virginia Military Institute. In recent history, when it comes to talking about dangerous Mid-Major teams, it's not unusual to pay a visit to Virginia. Remember way back when George Mason made it to the final four? They're housed out of Fairfax, VA. And the next year when CAA rival, Virginia Commonwealth sent Duke packing early in the first round then took Pittspurgh into overtime in the second round? They're from the state's capital.

This year, both of those programs are having very strong seasons again, which was manifested in their January 24th meeting in Richmond where VCU squeaked by 5 in a great game. However, like their in-state friends, Virginia Military Institute's basketball program has developed a bite of their own, beating the likes of Army and Richmond (another strong Virginia mid-major school). And let's not forget they started their 20-6 record off with a win at a small school called Kentucky!

VMI is in the Big South, a conference that has delivered dangerous dancers come tournament time in years past (i.e. UNC-Asheville, Winthrop, Gardner-Webb), and is a shoe-in to win the conference and nab the automatic bid. If that happens, it's likely VMI will see a seed somewhere between 15 and 13. And if you're a 2, 3, or 4 seed assigned to play them, you may not want to take them likely. Just ask the Wildcats, who will likely be a bubble team in the SEC thanks in no small part to their loss to the Keydets at the very beginning of the season.

 
 
 
 
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