Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Coaching Counts

Despite leading the New York Knicks to their worse record in team history, Larry Brown still looks like a genius right now. How is that possible you might ask? Simple, look at Brown’s former team the Detroit Pistons. Possibly the most talented and well rounded team in the league, once again on the brink of elimination from the 2006 Playoffs.

Coming into the 2005-06 season the Pistons were bitter because from a game 7 lost in last years NBA finals and they were ready to reclaim what was theirs. Many of the players on the Pistons went as far as to claim the Spurs were just holding the trophy for the year till Detroit could take back what was theirs.

The Pistons team from last season to this season is the exact same, except one piece of personnel. Larry Brown.

Larry Brown left Detroit in anything but a quiet manor. Coincidentally his replacement had left his job in an unceremonious manor just a few months before. Flip Saunders was the coach who never could during his stint in Minnesota. Despite all the talent he was given in several different arrangements he only guided the Twolves to one Western Conference Finals and never saw the NBA Finals.

The result of all this coaching movement was a cast of bitter Piston players who wanted to prove their merit without Brown, and an underachieving coach ready to prove that he knew how take a team to the next level. Throughout the regular season Flip Saunders and the Pistons were doing exactly that. The Pistons rolled through the regular season. Four of their starters made the All-Star team, and they finished the year with the leagues best record.

On the sidelines people applauded Saunders for giving the Pistons what appeared to be a new breath of life. Scoring was up the tempo of the game was up. The Pistons suddenly were capable of scoring 100 points in a game without overtime. Chauncey Billups was being mentioned as a MVP candidate due to his scoring production.

However amid all this success there was a monster lurking in the darkness. The once heralded Pistons defense was slipping. The past two seasons Detroit had been ranked first or second in team defense. It was their defense that lifted them over the Lakers in the finals a few years ago, and pushed San Antonio to a game 7. It was the trademark lockdown defense and slowdown offense that gave the Pistons their success. This season they slipped back to the middle of pack under Saunders watch. But no one noticed or simply did not care because during the regular season the Pistons were able to win.

Then the Playoffs arrived. After blowing out a Milwaukie team that should not have been in the post season the Pistons struggled against a young Cleveland team. I know LeBron James is good, but he should not have been able to lift his team to a game 7 against the mighty Pistons. At times during the series, the Pistons looked disorganized, confused, and flat out uninterested.

The Pistons and Saunders survived the LeBron scare and moved on to the Big Daddy and Flash down in South Beach. Despite having home court advantage the Pistons are in a 3-1 deficit. Rasheed is going off, standing by himself during timeouts, being outspoken, brash and a complete disrespect for the higher ups. (Not that this is new) Ben Wallace is telling the media that the Pistons need to get back to defense, and after watching the beginning of this series he is right.

So with the Pistons on the brink of the greatest collapse this side of the Roman Empire one has to ask themselves what is the difference between this year and last year? Sheed is complaining and running off at the mouth, but that’s nothing new. Rasheed has made his living being outspoken and brash. But, there is a difference between last years outspoken Sheed and this years Sheed.

For the past two seasons when Sheed began to act out he was always reigned back in by Larry Brown. That’s what a great coach does. They understand their personnel, and how to manage it properly based on their personalities. Brown let Rasheed have his occasional rant and temper tantrums, but Brown had Wallace focused enough that he could quickly bring him back to the task at hand and make him into a focused player. Phil Jackson would do this with Denis Rodman, giving him enough rope so he can feel free, but not enough to hang himself.

That’s the job of a NBA coach to manage talent, not to coach it up and make it into something great. Just manage the talent, know what they do best and then exploit that to make them the best team possible.

The Pistons are built to be a defensive team. Their most recognizable player doesn’t average 10 pts a game, but has been defensive player of the year three times. The entire organizations tradition is built off of stout defense. Remember the Bad Boys? That being said the Pistons should focus on their defense, and not trying to become an offensive force.

This is where Flip Saunders has failed as a head coach. He is trying to make the Pistons into an upbeat team that will run and gun. He has let the players run amuck and lost their respect. A true coach understands his team’s strengths, and Flip has seemed to ignore the Pistons strength completely. Once again Flip is failing to do his job.

So the question left to answer is how did Larry Brown make the Pistons look so good and Flip Saunders makes them look so disorganized. The answer is coaching matters in the NBA. I don’t care what people might tell you, it does matter. NBA coaches may not need to build up a player, or create a great scheme, but they do need to analyze and manage their talent to get maximum performance. Brown can do that (why do you think he is willing to walk away from NYC?).

Flip Saunders had routinely shown he is incapable of doing that. He had some great team at Minnesota and never got them anywhere. That was sad, but it is a shame that this Detroit Pistons team will fall short of every expectation they had for themselves and everyone else had for them. Flip Saunders reminds me of the kid in high school whose parents gave him a new sports car for their 16 birthday, and the kid promptly went out and wrecked the car, because he could not handle it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Perfection is so sweet for the Champs

Entering the 2006 spring season the University of Virginia Men’s Lacrosse team had one goal in mind. Avenge last years heart breaking lost in the National Semi-Finals to John Hopkins, and more importantly win a national title. While UVA never met John Hopkins in the post season, they were able to take care of the big piece of the puzzle on Memorial Day when they won the 2006 National Championship.

The Virginia Cavaliers were a juggernaut all season, steamrolling everything in their path, and waltzing into the post season undefeated. Georgetown was the first team to face the wrath of Virginia in the post season, and they were promptly dismantled in a 20-8 romp.

Next was traditional powerhouse Syracuse. Syracuse was a fitting opponent for Virginia as they have heard the compressions to the dominant 1990 Syracuse team all season. The Hoos disposed of the Orangemen with a 17-10 victory in the National Semi-Finals. Finally the Hoos got over the hurdle and they were ready to take the next step and play in the National Championship game on Memorial Day.

Despite being a dominant team all season, Monday’s game had all the setup for a colossal upset. UMass is a storied program that never had what it took to take the next step and win a national title. Coming into this year’s tournament UMass was not supposed to win a game but back to back wins against top ranked Hofstra and Maryland. Just getting to the Championship game was an accomplishment. In the city of Rocky Philadelphia was ready for an underdog story and UMass was prepared to be Rocky while UVA went down like Apollo Creed.

Throughout the first half and into the third period it appeared that little UMass had what it took to pull the upset. With 9 minute to go in the third quarter UMass was only down one point and had the Hoos on the ropes. That would be as close as the Minutemen would get. The Cavaliers woke up and fired off six unanswered goals, as they proceeded to bury the Minutemen in a 15-7 romp.

For the Virginia Cavaliers this was a fitting end to a season and to a career for the seniors on the squad. Seniors Matt Poskay, Matt Ward, and Kyle Dixon led the way as they were the ones who started the Hoos run late in the third period. For these three men, Monday’s championship was extra special.

The seniors at Virginia began their colligate career accustomed to winning. They all sported warm-up t-shirts that sported the slogan “buckle up,” and it was a wild ride all the way to a national championship in 2003. The next year was not as sweet for the Cavs when they went 5-8 down the stretch and missed the NC2A playoffs. Back for their junior years and this time wearing shirts with the slogan “family” the Virginia Cavs lost one of the most memorable games in NC2A history, falling to Johns Hopkins in OT on a last second goal.

In 2006, there would be no mistakes. Preseason number 1 ranking, the Cavs lived up to every bit of billing. The only close game the Cavs faced was a 7-6 win over Princeton back in March. The Cavaliers averaged 15 points a game, an ungodly talented offense that was one of the most high power units in lax history. The Cavaliers steamrolled through the regular season, and into the playoffs, this time sporting warm-ups that said “harder.” The team moniker because they always felt they could play harder, goes harder, and trains harder. This was a perfect slogan for a Cavalier team that often seemed bored with the amount of ease they went through the season.

This Cavalier team was a special group of young men who came together at the right time. The 17 victories in a season is a NC2A record. Three players who are possible of player of the year candidates, a supporting cast of young players who were hungry to step in and play hard at every opportunity. Virginia hoisted its fourth lacrosse national title, and second this decade, taking one more step to establish themselves as NC2A powerhouse.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Bonds Joins the Ranks of the Immortals

On Sunday May 28, 2006 Barry Bonds took the final swing at etching his name into the Mount Rushmore of Baseball. That’s right mister controversy himself just stirred up a whole new pot of trouble when he stepped to the plate Sunday afternoon and walked into the history books by pelting number 715 over the center field wall at SBC Park in San Francisco.

The victim was Byung-Hyun Kim who is no stranger to giving up big homers (check his playoff performances in 01 and -02). Unlike number 714 that barely worked its way over the wall 715 was a monstrous 445 foot blast over center field, and was good for two runs. Possibly the most important factor outside the number itself was this shot came at home in San Fran, before a sellout crowd that was ready to shower Barry with admiration and the accolades he deserves.

The milestone homer finally puts some much needed distance between Barry Bonds and the legendary Babe Ruth who has loomed over Bonds like a shadow till this point of the season. Now Bonds has the chance to step ahead of Ruth and stand in second place alone. More importantly with Hit King Hank Aaron 41 homers ahead of Bonds it is unlike he will reach Aaron in the near future. This means no more BSPN. The intense spotlight on Barry Bonds should die down and he slip back into a moderate form of obscurity which is how Barry likes it.

Number 715 puts Barry Bonds in a league of his own. While he remains second on the All-Time Homerun list, the compilation of Bond’s career stats cannot be ignored. 715 career homeruns and 506 stolen bases. The only member of the 500 &500 club, he is the only member of the 400&400 club. Bonds is a seven time Gold Glove winner showcasing his defensive skills while playing right field. Bonds is also a six time MVP, the most in MLB history.

However, the hardware won does not tell the full story. Bonds has been walked more times in the past decade than anyone else has in the history of the game. His plate discipline is legendary. Over the pass five seasons Barry Bonds has broken his own walks-per-season record three times.

No matter what the overall public perception of Bonds may be, it is clear how his contemporaries view the man. "He's the greatest -- in my era -- home run hitter I have ever seen." (Atlanta Braves Pitcher John Smotz)

Many people doubt the validity of Bond’s record because of the steroid scandal that surrounds him. They want to places the blunt of steroids on his shoulders and force him to bow down. Yet, those people must remember the age that Bonds racked up his numbers in. There is no denying that the mid 1990’s through the turn of the century was a juiced era. Pitchers, catchers and everyone in between were using steroids it was becoming the norm in baseball.

That being said, they were all legal within the league guidelines at the time. MLB made no effort to stop players from using these substances despite the fact they were banded by U.S. law.

The only trust we know from that era is that steroids were used in MLB. The only players who have been caught have been dealt with in the past year. None of those players are Barry Lamar Bonds. Till he test positive for a steroid, it is impossible to condemn him or mar the records and achievements he has reached.

Congratulations Barry Bonds. You have reached a milestone that will not be touched for a long time. You have the right to hold your head high and take your place amongst the legends of baseball.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Show of Unity

Once again here we are talking Lacrosse here at Walker-Sports. This time it’s the Duke Women’s Lacrosse team making the headlines in Durham. Duke’s women’s lacrosse team has had a storybook season amid all the extra curricular distractions on campus this spring, and they have made their way to the NCAA Final Four beginning on Friday. While this was an expected outcome for a team that was stacked with talent, the women’s team will show their support and solidarity to their male counterparts by wearing wristbands with the word “innocent” written on them.

While most of the news coming out of Durham in the wake of recent accusations has been anything but surprising, this bit of information is intriguing enough to raise the eyebrows of most readers. First off the fact that women’s team has stepped forward to show such staunch support becomes a point of interest.

When the accusations of rape first emerged in Durham at the very least the trail became a gender based issue. It was gender based before race, politics or class issues moved to the forefront. Rape is one of the most heinous crimes known to man. There is no quicker way to gain the attention of female activist and support groups than when rape allegations are brought forth. At the bare minimum women have typically bonded together to support one another via a common bond.

The unity shown by Duke’s lacrosse team becomes a point of interest. They have abandoned the bonds of sisterhood rather to reinforce the bonds between classmates, teammates, and brethren of sport. Making the teams protest an even bolder statement.

In another interesting turn of events, is the silence coming from the administration at Duke University. When this whole case fist broke back in March the administration at Duke was quick to make decisions and reactions to gain control over their athletic program and teams. They suspended the men’s team before any charges were pressed and well before a grand jury was connived. The university pressured Coach Mike Pressler into retirement. For over a month now the school has held a strong line, supporting the law, and allowing the authorities to do their business, while keeping the university out of the way.

Now at what could be a crucial moment for Duke University the administration is remaining silent. When the women’s lacrosse team takes the field on Friday, they will be wearing a Duke University uniform. No mater what they may claim that team will be representing their school in a public setting. If every player on that team comes forth and is wearing a wristband that says ‘innocent’, then the wristbands become a part of the Duke uniform and the impression to the general public becomes the ‘innocent’ stance is the official stance of the university.

Sometimes silence can be worth 1000 words.

Watch as the investigation moves into a trial and see how the university changes its stance.

Finally do not get me wrong. I am glad the women’s lacrosse team is sticking together with their brethren. As a member of a sporting fraternity that is often misunderstood, and having been through my own scrutiny as a result, I understand the need to stick together. The side of me that believes in social protest appreciates the fact that these women are using their public platform as an opportunity to state their case. It is good to see that in this modern age when sports marketing and entertainment is more important than the individuals. We live in a P.C. age where players are unwilling to take a stand for anything more than making more money. As a result of that it is good to see there is still a social pulse in sports. I don’t agree with what these ladies are standing up for, but at least they are making an effort.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

College Preseason Top 25

Yeah, its late may, and yeah spring football has been over for the past month, and fall practice is a long way off but who cares it is never too early to talk college football. That’s right at Walker Sports we are all about football all the time, and now we’re ranking the nations top 25 post-spring practice. So what there are 1000 things that can change between now and August when these teams take the field to resume practice? We’ll re-rank them then. Right now it just feels good to talk football again.

Remember this is not an exact science

1)The Ohio State University
: The offense is going to be high octane, who said the Big 10 was all about 10 yrds and a cloud of dust. The Bucs lost an entire linebacking core to the NFL, but when has Coach Tressel not put together a solid D.

2) Oklahoma Sooners: Boomer Sooner baby, the Sooners got off to a shaky start in 05 but finished strong. Look for them to pick up where they left off in their Bowl victory over Oregon. Sophomore QB Rhett Bomar finally gets it and has grown into his role as a starter. And oh yeah Adrian Peterson… remember him?

3) Notre Dame: Brady Quinn is the top QB in the nation and looking for a Heisman Trophy. Jeff Samardzija is a top receiver who knows how to make the big play. Two questions that will plague the Irish the season: Painful schedule, once again the Irish may have bitten off more than they can chew. Second, is defense, ole Charlie is an offensive man remember?

4) West Virginia: Yeah, this feels strange saying this but you have to remember a few things. The Mountaineers played a hell of a game against UGA in the Sugar Bowl and look to build on that. Remember they play in the Big East the worse major conference in NC2A, so making a BCS game is not improbable.

5) Auburn: Looking for just a few small pieces in the blocking department. Other than that this is an experienced squad on both sides of the ball. What will hurt the Tigers is the same thing that hurts every SEC team the conference is too deep to produce a legit BCS Championship contender.

6) USC: Pete Carroll is still there and that is good for 3 wins alone. Throw in the Pac 10 factor and you can add another 3 wins and now you are well on your way to solid season and the players haven’t kicked in yet. If QB John David Booty stays healthy going into the fall there are still enough weapons around him to make him a productive QB. The biggest question will be how much longer can Carroll hold this empire together as the arrows of scrutiny and investigations begin to rain down.

7) Texas: If one player had come back the Longhorns would have been the hands down number one team in the country. There are plenty of weapons left in the arsenal. RB Jamal Charles and safety Michal Griffin will anchor both sides of the ball respectively. Texas is lacking experience at QB neither of their prospect have taken an NC2A snap that could cause the Horns to drop quickly.

8) LSU: There’s a lot of talent of on offense for this team JaMarcus Russell should return from his nagging injuries to be productive and be an instant standout. Once again the brutal schedule of the SEC will prove to be the downfall for the Tigers. Playing on the road at Auburn, Tennessee, and in the Swamp at Florida is enough to test any team.

9) California: RB Rashard Lynch and WR DeSean Jackson return as the cornerstones of a high power offense. They also have the choice of two successful QB’s in Nate Longshore who ran took snaps last season, and Joe Ayob who ended up losing the job last year. New offensive Coordinator Mike Dunbar has installed elements of the spread offense and Ayob has flourished. Look for the Bears to make a move on a weak Pac 10.

10) Michigan: The Wolverines are an interesting team to look at for the 06 season. Coach Lloyd Carr must come up with a big season in the newly expanded Big House. Chris Henne is returning as the starting QB and this should be the season it all clicks for him and joins the ranks of standout Michigan QB’s. RB Mike Hart is also healthy and looks to bounce back to the form he had in 04. Throw in defensive coordinator Ron English to revamp the defense and the Wolverines have the chance to make some big noise in the Big 10.

11) Florida: The Gators are in year two under Urban Myer. Chris Leak is returning for his senior year in what has been a colorful colligate career to say the least. In any other offense Leak would be the best QB in the nation however the Myer is sill not a perfect fit for him. Don’t be surprised if frosh Tim Tebow gets some snaps. Despite all that he is a smart enough player and, Myer is a smart coach with enough weapons around them (Dallas Baker and Cornelius Ingram) to overcome shortcomings to be a powerful offensive team. Now let’s see if they can take care of business on what will be a brutal schedule.

12) Louisville: The biggest returning star for this program last season was Bobby Patrino turning down the Oakland Raiders offer. Louisville had a great season going till QB Brian Brohm hurt his knee. From all indications he is recovery quickly and ahead of schedule. Throw in the addition of Michal Bush who may be the best RB in the country and you have another dominate offense brewing down in Kentucky that most the world will never get the opportunity to see.

13) Florida State: Every team at the top of the ACC has the same problems and FSU is no exception but may be the best of them. Returning QB Drew Weatherford has made major strides during winter workouts and spring training. This will be his second year as the starter and he’s ready to make his mark on the FSU football tradition. The defense is once again stout as the Noles were deeper than anyone thought last season.

14) Georgia: The Dawgs have a tenacious defense returning for the upcoming season. The will look to ride that defense and the legs of RB’s Thomas Brown, Danny Ware and Kregg Lumpkin. Now if they can find someone to play QB…

15) Nebraska: It has been a long time since we could rank a Cornhuskers team this high but it appears the storied program is finally turning the corner. QB Zac Taylor showed in spring training that he has made the adaptation to the west coast offense. There is also a solid running game split between Lucky and Glenn at tailback. Throw in a weak Big 12 North and the Cornhuskers can make a run.

16) Oregon: The Ducks have flown under the radar for a long time now. They showed off a solid defense last season, and have rode that so far through the spring. QB Dixon is returning and the possible addition of former USC signee Derrick Jones at WR and the Ducks are poised for a big year.

17) Clemson: The Tigers have what should be a loaded offense. WR/RB Rendrick Taylor had an outstanding spring game piling up 174 yards of offense. Add in RB James Davis and new QB Will Proctor is a kid being giving the keys to a new Mercedes.

18) Iowa: There are a lot of people who think the Hawkeye’s are the second best team in the Big 10 behind OSU. (Not us, go Big Blue) Drew Tate is another great QB coming out the Big 10 (where’d all these Midwest QB’s come from?) Add in a strong defensive line and talented safeties and Iowa can make some noise.

19) Miami: The Canes are sporting their best defense in years, which is scary. They will need that defense to dominate to make up for an offense that is rebuilding. New offensive coordinators, slow tailbacks and Kyle Wright are enough to hamper any offense. Luckily it’s a slow year in the ACC.

20) TCU: The Horned Frogs have the potential to be the next non BCS team to break through. That will be determined if they can survive their first month of play (Baylor, Texas Tech, BYU and Utah). To help with survival the Frogs showcase a deep backfield with a power running attack that is enough to hurt most any defense.

21) Boston College: The Eagles have quietly put together a great program under Coach O’Brian. Their success is based around one of the best offensive lines in the country. BC controls the ball on offense and therefore often controls the game.

22) Penn State: Joe Pa proved last year he still had a little left in the tank. Now the 2006 season will not be as story book as 05 was, losing 13 starters is never easy for any coach. Joe Pa will be happy that he got all those freshmen last season will come in handy as he will be looking for experience anywhere he can find it in the fall.

23) Va Tech: Coach Beamer always showcases a stiff defense and this year will be no exception with the return of Chris Ellis, Xavier Adibi, and Vince Hall. Now if he can overcome the scandals, the lost of four assistants, solid offensive production and late season choke jobs, Beamer and the Hokies will be able to make moves in the ACC.

24) Arizona State: Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter could be the best QB combo in the country. Throw in WR Terry Richardson and the Sun Devils will be prolific on offense. Good thing no one plays defense on the left coast.

25) Utah: QB Brad Ratliff and WR Brian Hernandez both had coming out parties in last years bowl game when they torched Ga. Tech. The Utes proved they still know how to run the spread even without Urban Myer. They will be able to put up points against any opponent they play out west.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Men's Lacrosse or Women's Basketball

Early on Monday morning I was in the middle of yet another sporting argument and I raised what I believe is one of the best questions in sporting history.

Which is more impressive, winning a NC2A title in men’s lacrosse or winning a NC2A title in women’s basketball?

Now I have already begun to circle this question around in different circles both male and female, and groups with sporting and non-sporting backgrounds. So far the responses have been varied and interesting.

When examining this subject there are several reoccurring themes that come up. First is the question of parity in both of the respected sports. For those who have picked woman’s basketball they have often done so citing that there are more teams and more competition.

I scoff at this line of thought. For as long as I can remember women’s basketball has been dominated by the same three to five teams. Turn on your TV on during the season and the see will not be EKU vs. Bowling Green game on. However you will see UConn, Tennessee, Duke, and LSU. Those teams have ruled the headlines of NC2A ball. I dare anyone who is not an avid fan to think of a supreme program other than those.

Men’s Lacrosse suffers from this same lack of parity. UVA, Syracuse, Princeton and Johns Hopkins have their annual passes the NC2A Final four. No one knows or cares about Lax programs that are not on this list.

So with that said advantage: Push

Onto the next area of comparison which sport gets more coverage?

The overwhelming answer to this is without a doubt women’s basketball. Now that brings up a few interesting points when looking into why do we see more women’s basketball. In regards to the WNBA the answer is easy. It is created and backed by one of the largest international sporting leagues in the world. The NBA bankrolls the WNBA, and will continue to pump money into it as a way of saving face for their product. The NBA knows it cannot debunk itself away from the WNBA because it then appears they no longer care about women’s athletics, so they will continue to pump money into a failing league.

There is only one WNBA team that is located in a non NBA city, Connecticut for obvious reasons. Other than that the WNBA has made no attempt to branch out into new markets, or fund independent ventures. Yes the WNBA is on television all the time, but that is because it comes as part of the TV package deal a company gets when purchasing rights to the NBA.

Women’s NC2A ball does get good coverage, but when it is actually examined the coverage is less than impressive. The tourney is covered on ESPN but outside of that very few regular season games

NC2A Lacrosse gets less coverage. While there are two pro leagues neither is covered extensively. ESPN will show the occasional game during the day but that is all. The Final four and Championship are televised on Memorial Day. Lacrosse is still looking for that major financial backer who can give them the boast that the NBA has given to the WNBA.

Now with all that being said the true matter at the bottom of this thought line is does more exposure actually make something a better sport? Answer: No. There are plenty of sports that are overexposed due to a good marketing scheme. Think about the Bass Masters series. Not very fun to watch but gets plenty of exposure due to a marketing plan. Also think of golf (a sport I love to play). Gets maximum exposure because of Tiger Woods success, but how many times does the casual fan actually watch a Tiger less field?

Therefore there is not a direct correlation to coverage and a good product.

Advantage: Lacrosse

Next is the sheer entertainment value that each sport provides to the casual fan. This is the person who walks into a room and the game is already on, or they pass it while flipping through the channels, not the diehard who owns season tickets and travels to away games.

Women’s basketball is an acquired taste. Even the basketball purest have trouble watching and getting into the game. This is due to the preconceived notions we have on what basketball should be. When most people hear the word basketball they think of Michal Jordan flying through the air or Shaq throwing down a thunderous dunk. Not Sue Bird setting up for a 14 footer, or Lisa Leslie hitting a spin move from the post. Yes they may they may have a more fluid jump shot that looks like the ones we were taught as kids in training camps. Yet women’s basketball is played at a different pace and in a different style that often loses the casual fans interest very quickly.

Lacrosse is a quirky sport that many outside of the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast have never seen or heard of. However put it on at a bar or in a room with a group of people and see how many stop to watch, and are soon getting into the game. The speed of a lacrosse game is requires the endurance of a rugby player, while maintaining the pace of a basketball or a hockey game. There are hits that catch the eyes of any football fan, even if you are skeptical about the nature of the sport at first a fan soon finds themselves sucked in and watching an entire half or a game.

Advantage: Lacrosse

Winner: Lacrosse

Yes that’s right it is more impressive to win a men’s lacrosse championship than a women’s basketball championship. This is not meant to knock or debase women’s basketball. Just that lacrosse offers a more entertaining product and as a result winnings that national title is more impressive. Feel free to contact us at and leave us your comments as we will be posting them as they come in.

Friday, May 19, 2006

NBA Roundup

There are plenty of story lines swirling around the NBA right now, and this is our attempt to touch base on all of them at one time in our weekly NBA Roundup.

Cleveland: The Cavaliers are in a position they have not been in since the Ehlo era. They are one game away from moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals. However, there is more pressure on them to win Friday night’s game than on the Pistons. The Cavs do not want to go back to Detroit for a game 7 in the loudest venue in pro basketball. Also the possible return of Larry Hughes should provide a lift.

Detroit: They have the opportunity to play loose on Friday night. The Pistons have not put together an A performance since Game 1 while the Cavs have thrown the kitchen sink at them and barely gotten by. If the Pistons play with some effort and a bit of their A game and less of their swagger they will do fine in forcing a game 7.

San Antonio: The defending champion Spurs went down quick 3-1 to the Mavs. Now they are coming back strong and ready to defend their title. In Game 5 Manu Ginobili made his fist impact of the post season, and the Spurs came out with a win. Now with game six on the line in Dallas, San Antonio needs to come up with another inspired performance. Two major outstanding factors for game 6. First, the hand of God that was Jason Terry’s punch that got him suspended for the game. Terry has been the spark and the second leading scorer for the Mavs. Second, Mark Cuban dominates the refs from the sidelines. He can wield his influence on the refs and has throughout the previous home games in this series.

Phoenix: The Suns dropped game 6 to the Clippers on Thursday night. Now they will return to Phoenix for game seven. That will not be played till Monday night due to scheduling conflicts in Phoenix. This completely plays into the Suns hands. Steve Nash has admitted his legs are dead after the quick turnaround from the first round series. The 2-time MVP is also suffering from ankle and back injuries that can use some rest. The long weekend plays into the Suns favor as they have already proven they know how to close out in a game 7.

Dallas: The Mavs must win on Friday night. The Spurs will not drop a game 7. Game 6 will not be easy without Terry. Dallas has to find away to replace his quickness and shooting in the backcourt. Also the Mavs have to find a way to keep Ginobili on the bench.

New York: The Knicks and Larry Brown are in the midst of one of the most drawn out soap operas in the history of sports. Larry Brown needs to figure out his buyout price and take the money and run as soon as possible. Zeke has run the Knicks into the ground and its only fitting that he is left to coach them on his own. He put together this mountain of crap he calls the Knicks now its time he runs it. And by the way, Zeke caused the CBA to fold, the Pacers have a 15 game decrease in victories after he took over and the Knicks are now the laughing stock of the league. How the hell does he keep getting a job?

NBA Draft: This year’s draft class is extremely weak. If teams are looking for upgrades they better look at the trade markets. Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, maybe Allen Iverson just to name a few. That’s where the team upgrades are going to be not the draft.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ju-Co Behavior in Houston

Last night Bonds made yet another attempt to break Babe Ruth’s mark of 714, but this time he faced more than the usual mirage of boo’s from the fans at opposing stadiums. Bonds had to square off against the ego of a bitter pitcher who was trying to further his personal vendetta.

It is understandable that no pitcher wants to go down in history as the man who surrendered number 714 to Barry Bonds. If you’re a MLB pitcher you should never want to give up a home run, and the fact that that particular homer will be seen for the rest of history.

To that extent I understand not pitching to Barry Bonds and simply walking him.

That being said, I understand even more and have a greater appreciation for a pitcher who is willing to man up and go at Bonds. I don’t like sissy baseball, cowboy up and throw your best pitches across the plate and if your good enough you get them by Barry if not… well then you’re on the bad end of a highlight reel.

All that being said, the Bush league crap that right hander Russ Springer pulled on Tuesday night cannot be accepted or allowed. During the fifth inning of Tuesdays game Bonds stepped into the batters box in Houston with the milestone in the balance. The first pitch sailed was a slider that barely broke in time to fly behind Bonds. Okay; dangerous but possible to have one of those get away from you.

Springer followed his first pitch with four more pitches all high all inside. The third of those pitches caught the knob at the bottom of Barry Bonds bat and was called for strike 1.(hell of a way to earn a strike) That pitch was so far inside I am still not sure it didn’t hit off the elbow padding Barry wears.

When Springer released his sixth pitch, that’s when hell broke loose. Springer’s fifth pitch was once again high and inside and drilled Barry Bonds square between the shoulders. Not with a slider that broke funny, not with a hanging curve that got away, but with a fastball clocked at 93 mph. This came after Springer was warned by the umpire for pitching behind Bonds. A blatant attack on Barry Bonds.

Russ Springer and Astros manager Phil Garner were ejected from the game. The two were ushered to the back to the chorus of a standing ovation from the 35,000 present in Houston.

MLB baseball has to put an end to this Bush league behavior now before someone gets hurt. I understand that Barry Bonds has not been the most likeable athlete in the world. Yes there is a massive cloud of steroids hanging over his head. However, Springer is not in the media, and if anything the exposure Bonds gets only helps Springer because I guarantee he’d never make SportsCenter another way.

In regards to steroids, think what you may. Springer has the right to do that as an American. However, nothing has been proven yet, I don’t care how big that mountain of evidence may be it is an issue to be resolved by MLB, and the U.S. court system. Not some vigilante pitcher with a chip on his shoulder. Also remember no matter what Barry Bonds did or did not do in his off-season training it never physically harmed anyone (other than himself maybe). Bonds never attacked another player, or threw his bat at a pitcher who initially walked him rather than pitching to him.

Manager Phil Garner tried to explain that Springer simply lost control of his slider. Doubtful. The first pitch was a slider inside that happened to break at the right time to miss Bonds. The rest of those pitches were high, inside and showed no potential of breaking. They were fast balls aimed at the upper part of Barry Bonds.

A pitcher with a ball in his hand has the potential to be a very dangerous man. If Springer looses control of that fastball he beams Barry Bonds in the head with a 93 mph pitch.

For once Bud Selig needs to take a proactive approach and stop a problem before it explodes in his face. He cannot allow his league to be full of rogue players who feel they have the freedom to take the law into their own hands

Springer has a history of this. In September 2004 Springer beamed Bonds four days after he hit his 700th home run. Maybe just maybe there is something deeper inside of Springer, this vendetta he has toward Bonds. Could it be possible that he doesn’t want to see a black man approaching the hallowed numbers of the great Babe Ruth? It is very possible. Springer is beginning to show a trend in the way he treats Bonds who is a black man. Springer is from small town Louisiana, and he played his college ball at LSU. He currently plays for the Houston Astros a team that has been called out on repeated occasions for its lack of diversity in what is one of the most diverse sports in the world. I am not saying that all Louisiana people are bad, I happen to love that state but still… Do not let the times fool you. Just because it is the year 2006 does not mean that racism does not exist.

Yet another reason that MLB needs to step in and make an example out of Russ Springer. A 10 game suspension plus a fine are in line. Bud Selig must show that he has some control over his league and will not allow it to be ruin by goons who think they can take matters into their own hands.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Out Spurring San Antonio

Three seasons ago, the San Antonio Spurs were a completely different team. They had one championship under their belt from the Duncan regime but that was the strike season, and no one considered it a legit accomplishment. The crowned king of the block were the L.A. Lakers who were coming off a championship run, and looked poised to run over anything in their path.

That’s when the Spurs emerged in the Western Conference semis, and we were introduced to a cast of virtual unknown players. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker was brought into our living rooms on a grand stage for the first time. It was at that moment the Spurs made the transition from the slow down post up team with the twin towers, to a fast paced run and gun team that happened to have one of the best big men in the league for the half court set.

Manu Ginobili came crashing through the lane with his reckless abandon, and the Lakers had no answer for him. Parker continually broke down the perimeter defenses and found that tear drop shot he has mad famous, or an open Duncan lurking near the rim.

Three years later the Spurs are one of the most dominate teams in the league. They are poised to win their second consecutive championship, and the fourth in seven seasons. They play off the balance of their size in the middle with Tim Duncan and the cast of other centers who play along with him, the speed of their guards Ginobili and Parker who have emerged into superstar players in there own right, and also the depth off the bench with veteran leadership from Horry, Van Exel, and Finely.

Yet, there is a monster looming over the Spurs shoulder. The Dallas Mavericks gave the Spurs all they could handle for the top spot in the Western conference, but this is not the Mavericks of old. This is not the Steve Nash team that was the precursor to the Phoenix Suns.

This is a Mavericks team that plays defense. More importantly they are a team of unknowns who get the job done. Dirk Nowitzki is still the star but the cast around him is all new, and man do they produce. In last nights game four Jason Terry went off for 32 points against what was the second best defense in the league during the regular season.

Devon Harris only started four games during the regular season for the Mavs. Now he has single handedly brought the Mavs to the verge of the Western Conference Finals. Devon Harris has found a way to out Tony Parker, Tony Parker. He is breaking down the Spurs perimeter defense, and attacking the basket causing Duncan and the rest of the Spurs big men to get into foul trouble. Harris’s offense has also worked to help the Mavs defense. After chasing Harris around the court Parker is often tired and fails to have to same burst and explosiveness to the hole he typically has, leaving his shots short.

Right now the defending champion Spurs are down 3 games to 1 to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs have figured out how to out Spur the Spurs. A cast of little virtual unknowns are taking it to the Spurs and giving the Mavs the lift they have been searching for over the past five seasons. Maybe now the Mavs are ready to take the next step from a solid team, to become a great team, and a leader in the league.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Slowing down the Daddy

The biggest news of this NBA post season is not the emergence of LeBron James, or the Kobe and the Kobetas blowing a series to the Suns. The biggest headline has to be that the NBA finally figured out how to properly officiate a game that Shaq was playing in. For years referees have stated that Shaq was the most difficult player in sports to officiate, and as a result they simply gave up on trying. Now in 2006 with Shaq’s skills diminishing before our eyes, the NBA finally figured out what they need to do to keep the diesel in check.

Shaq is without a question the largest and most dominating force to ever hit the NBA. At 7’2 and typically 335 pnds there has never been anything like Shaq in the NBA, even Wilt in his prime was never that physically intimidating. When you watched Shaq play it looked like players bounced off him like bullets off Superman, hence the name. Yet with a closer look especially from a basketball purest there was something wrong with Shaq’s game, and it wasn’t his foul shot.

The typical Shaq highlight consisted of him catching the ball on the low block and then slamming all 300 plus pounds of himself into the defender. Any defender needed more than one arm allowed hold off that onslaught. So the defender would back down and soon he would get a face full of Shaq as he stuffed another one through the rim. As a large basketball player myself, and watching that I was in awe at what Shaq could do. Not because it was graceful, or even that impressive, but because he could get away with it.

Whenever I have played basketball in the past and I used by size and strength to slam my body back into a defender it was an offensive foul. If I used my off arm to push off or create space when taking a baby hooks shot, that was an offensive foul. No matter how easy it was use my strength to move a defender I was not allowed to do it.

Yet Shaq got away with it for almost his entire career.

I watched him in is prime in L.A. and would cringe and yell and curse at the T.V. each time I saw him take that power step into a defender and got the shot to fall plus the foul called on the defense.

That’s not basketball. You cannot just maul your way through a defense simply because you are physically big enough for it.

Yet in the spring of 2006 there seems to be some relief to my pain. Finally my prayers and cries are being answered. The NBA officials are calling OFFENSIVE fouls on Shaq.

Throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs Shaq has been plagued by offensive foul trouble. In the Miami Heat’s three losses they have suffered Shaq has combined for 7 offensive fouls.

The officials got it right!!!

That push off that Shaq has made so famous if finally being called. You cannot guard your shot from being blocked with your lead off arm. The defender has the right to place an arm on the offensive players back. He can even lean back against the offensive player. As long as the defender does not try to alter there course of the offensive player (like an O-Linemen in football) it is legal for a defender to use his hands. A defender also has the right to occupy space, and the offensive player cannot push them out of that space.

Now my only hope is the NBA sticks to their new found philosophy and continues to stand tall with their new found spines. Already Shaq is making comments in the media about the new officiating he is facing. As seen by LeBron James crying and complaining in the NBA works, and even a side of the mouth comment from the Big Aristotle is enough to sway the fragile whistles of NBA officials.

NBA refs, its not often I agree with you, but stay strong, and blow that damn whistle on Shaq anytime he uses his size to gain an unfair advantage. Remember just because Jordan pushed off, it doesn’t make it right.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bonds and Ruth Still Trying

One swing of the bat away from history, two seconds away from witnessing something magical; a true historical moment in sports. Or is it? When Barry Bonds hits number 714 to tie Babe Ruth is it a historic moment? Eh… kind of…. Is Bonds breaking any records by doing that? No…. who is the real loser in all this? Baseball? The Fans? No and no. The loser is Hank Aaron.

For the past few weeks ESPN has guided our attention toward Barry Bonds and his pursuit of Babe Ruth, and held it captive with constant updates of every move Bonds makes on and off the field. Every radio show and sports talk show has found a way to insert the Bonds chase into their daily topic list schedule.

Nothing wrong with some of this hype, 714 is a historic number, but is it a record? Of course not, it is merely second place. Yet we are celebrating and holding this number sacred as if it is the golden standard.

Babe Ruth has been the golden legend of baseball for the last 80 years. Whether it’s Boston and their curse of the Babe, or the famous called shot out of Yankee stadium. Everyone watching baseball as a child knows the stories of Babe Ruth’s tales. The Babe brought superstardom to a sport that was floundering in the wake of the White Sox scandal. A superstar player for an era full of excess, the roaring 20’s were all about being bigger and better than the day before, and Babe Ruth lived up to mantra of life.

Yet look at the numbers, more importantly look at the numbers that are so often used to elevate players from great to legendary status. 73, formally 61 and 755, the big time numbers that make every sports fans ear perk up when they are heard. Chicks dig the long ball, and so do all baseball fans. Now take a look at those numbers, (use 61 if you’re too tainted on the newest record breakers) and Babe Ruth’s name is not present at the top of either of these lists. Roger Maris and Hank Aaron top these lists. Yet we continually act as if the records belong to the Babe.

For the past few weeks we have heard every sportscaster speculate what would you do if you caught Barry Bonds record breaking home run? Problem with that statement is Bonds most likely will not be breaking any records in the near future. Aarons 755 is a long way off and even in Bond’s prime would be a difficult number to reach in a single season. Passing Babe Ruth’s mark of 714 is a milestone at best, but I am hesitant to give it that much credit.

Babe Ruth was a great baseball player for his era. As mention he probably saved the sport from itself in the early days. The legend of Ruth is far greater than anything he could have done in his own lifetime to live up to it. That being said Ruth is in second place. That’s not an opinion it is a fact check the records. Second in the all time homers, and now fourth or deeper on the single season record chart. Nothing to be ashamed but still…

This is America where no one remembers who came in second, and quite frankly we do not care. First place has always been what mattered, and knowledge of who finished in second place was only good for a game of Trivial Pursuit. So if that’s the case then why have we all seemingly forgotten Henry Aaron?

Hank Aaron went through hell and high water to break Babe Ruth’s record. He received death threats at his home. He was booed everywhere he went. No one wanted to see him be successful. Yet he stood strong and not only broke the record, he obliterated it. Yet, we ignore his achievement choosing rather to focus on Babe Ruth’s mark, 714 a number that only ranks second.

I do not want to take anything away from Babe Ruth, he is a legendary player. In the same regard Barry Bonds is a legendary player with numbers to show it. However Ruth is more legend than substance now as more of his records continue to be surpassed by more people. Barry Bonds is the single season homerun record owner and should be celebrated for that. As for the all time homerun leader neither Ruth nor Bonds can stake that claim at this time, and neither should be heralded as a hero because of that.

So as Barry Bonds prepares to stride past Babe Ruth’s homerun mark there is no reason to celebrate. I don’t care what you think about Bonds. Give him his due he reached an impressive mark on the list, but let’s save for full celebration for when he passes Hank Aaron, because only then will he be a record breaker.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Looking for Help

Alright so here’s the deal I am looking for some help from the dedicated readers and NBA fans out there. The other day I was sitting around with a friend (who claims to be a basketball guru) and we got into a discussion about who are top 10 NBA players right now. I have my list and I believe in it. Now I am asking for feed back. Send me your top 10 list via the comments section on, and lets see what you got.

My Top 10

Gilbert Arenas PPG 29.3 APG 6.1 SPG 2

Allen Iverson PPG 33 APG 7.4 SPG 1.9

Dwyane Wade PPG 27.2 APG 6.7 3P% .171

Kobe Bryant PPG 35.4 APG 4.5 3P% .347

Time Duncan PPG 18.6 RPG 11 BPG 2

Dirk Nowitztki PPG 26.6 RPG 9 BPG 1

Steve Nash PPG 18.8 APG 10.5 SPG 0.8

Kevin Garnett PPG 21.8 RPG 12.7 BPG 1.4

Elton Brand PPG 24.7 RPG 10 BPG 2.5

LeBron James PPG 31.4 RPG 7 APG 6.6

New Rivalries Brewing

Chamberlain v. Russell, Bird v. Magic, Jordan v. the Knick, Jordan v. the Pistons, Shaq v. Kobe; these are all rivalries that the NBA is known for, and has made professional basketball a profitable industry. The NBA is predicated off of rivalries. Players clashing head to head and matching skills in a battle to the finish, with only one man leaving victorious. The rivalries are the one place where the one on one aspect of basketball is able to shine, and encouraged.

Since the end of the Jordan era however, the NBA has been searching for its next great rivalry to lift the league. After the 2003 draft we thought the rivalry would be Carmelo v. LeBron, but that match up has yet to evolve into the experience it was hyped up to be. Kobe and Shaq proved to be an intriguing storyline, but with the two only meeting twice a year, playing different positions the opportunities for conflict and achievement were few and far between.

However there seems to be something brewing on the playoff horizon. RIVALRIES. Players jawing at each other playing hard and going at each other to the bitter end. And since it is the playoffs that means they’re playing for all the marbles.

Without a doubt the most unlikely candidate for a new rivalry emerged in the Western Conference Playoffs and it has nothing to do with the forearm shiver delivered from Ron Artest to Manu. The rivalry is between the Phoenix Suns and the L.A. Lakers. Since game one this series has seen a rash of hard fouls, most recently when Raja Bell made his first WWE by clothesline Kobe Bryant on his trip to the hoop. Bell was suspended for game six due to his actions on the court. Since then there has been an escalation into a war of words between Bell and Bryant. At the very least this has been an interesting rivalry in the media, but a shame it will never truly bare itself out on the court. Kobe Bryant love him or hate him is one of the elite players in the NBA. He has that innate ability to force himself into a scoring frenzy and dominating a game with his shooting prow less. Kobe has also emerged as a tenacious defender on the perimeter making him an all around package. Raja Bell is a journeyman player. Who found a home in a starting lineup after the mass defections from the Suns during the past off season. No one ever thought of Bell as a leading player, more or less a star player. Because of that this rivalry in the brewing will quickly fizzle out.

For a rivalry to be great it needs more than media hype. There has to be some substance on the court. Players who are able to elevate their game to match the size of the stage they are playing on.

That brings us to the second rivalry being created in these years’ playoffs, LeBron James v. Gilbert Arenas. Both young shooting guards who have guided their teams into post season play despite obvious shortcomings around them. For LeBron his support cast can be skeptical, and flat out incapable of putting points on the board at times. Arenas may play on the worse defensive team in the NBA this side of the New York Knicks as seen in the outcome of last nights game, this has left Arenas the responsibility of out gunning whoever they are playing. Through five games of this opening round series LeBron and Gilbert have put on a showcase for NBA fans. Both players are averaging over 30 points a game, and their team success is completely based on their personal achievements. Game 1 LeBron gets a triple double and the Cavs win. Game two Gilbert strikes back with 30 and forces LeBron to commit 12 turnovers, Wiz Kids win. Game 3, LeBron’s miracle trek through the lane and the Cavs win. Game 4 Gilbert goes for 20 in the fourth quarter and the Wizards pull it out after being down all game. Finally in game 5, LeBron and Gilbert went at it in a game that should go down as one for the ages. Gilbert finished the night with 44 pts, and LeBron wrapped things up with 45 pts and a game winning shot.

LeBron James entered the 2006 playoffs looking for a defining moment of his young career. He is certainly finding that after hitting two game winning shots so far in the series. However, what James did not count on was having a counterpart on the other team who would push him for the spotlight. Gilbert Arenas was nearly snubbed for the All-Star team despite averaging 29ppg. Outside of the D.C. Beltway very little is known about him. Not anymore, in many ways LeBron and Gilbert are doing for each other what Bird and Magic did back in the 80’s. Pushing each other to reach new levels of success on the leagues largest arena.

This is a young and budding rivalry that has the potential to maintain its juice through the off season and into the next few years. It’s great for the league and it will be great for both these young men’s careers. Remember rivalries make great basketball for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sick of Yanks and Sox

Okay, I have to get this one off my chest after watching countless hours of dribble last night on the television. I cannot take another minute of Yankees and Sox talk, every time one of these teams so much as sneezes in the others direction it becomes a headline for the next 24 hours in every sporting affiliate on the East Coast. I cannot stand this North East Media Buys anymore.

Last night the N.Y. Yankees made the trip to visit the Boston Red Sox. It would mark the first of at least 24 meetings these teams will have over the course of the season. That alone is normally enough to monopolize media coverage for at least a day. However, throw in the fact that the game marked the return of Johnny Damon to Boston after defecting, and you would have thought that George Bush was traveling to Iraq to take up residency. Insane.

The Yankees and Sox were the lead off story on every afternoon talk show on ESPN. The game was the feature 7 PM game on ESPN, the leadoff story on Baseball Tonight and the lead off on Sports Center, all three shows that came on in succession. Overkill.

I know it appears that half the known world lives in the North East in the New York and Boston markets, but I guarantee that is not the case. There’s a vast majority of country who could give a rats ass about this game. Especially since the current date is May 2, and the baseball regular season last till September and the Yanks and Sox will play 23 more times. I seriously doubt what happens in that game will affect the outcome of the 2006 World Series.

In baseball last night the Cincinnati Reds beat the Cards to take first place in the NL Central, the Tigers are good, and the defending World Series Champion White Sox are on the best start of a defending champion since 1990, yet we not talk about that. Oh and don’t forget the White Sox played on the road against division rival Cleveland which marked the Jim Thome’s first return to his former team (Damon isn’t the only player to switch teams).

All of that is pushed to the back page though so we can allow the egocentrics of the North East gush over themselves and the combined near 500 million dollar payrolls. Disgusting.

As a fan I have to put my foot down. I am sick of watching the dribbling of Sox and Yanks fans bragging and complaining all in the same sentence about their teams that routinely fail do come anywhere close to the levels of success they should aspire to. I’ll watch the Yanks in Sox in August and September when they are fighting for a playoff spot then it becomes interesting. Till then it’s just a bunch of crying about nothing.

Oh and for the record no one cares when Theo or George go to the bathroom, or what they had for dinner the night before, therefore it is not news. I don’t care what they tell you.

Hoos Playing in The Pros

Once again University of Virginia products found success both in the draft, and in the post draft era. The Cavs had five players drafted during the seven round draft over the past weekend, and three more signed in free agency once the draft ended.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson went at the fourth spot to the N.Y. Jets. There was no surprise that he went in the top five. Ferguson was without a doubt the best linemen in college football, and the best prospect available. He will be a staple in a Jets uniform for years to come, and an annual Pro-Bowler.

Fellow offensive linemen Brad Butler was also picked up in the NFL draft. He went in the fifth round to the Buffalo Bills as the 143rd pick. Butler was a three year starter at UVA. At 6’8 he has the height to be a performing in the pros, but he will need to add weight to his 293 pnd frame if he wants to be a star at the next level. Remember the scouts questioned D’Brickashaw’s weight at the combine when he weighed in at 310 pnds.

Marques Hagans was picked up in the fifth round also as the 144th pick by the St. Louis Rams. Like many other QB’s coming out in this years draft Hagans is looking to make the position switch. Hagans worked out at the Combine as a receiver and made a solid showing. The Rams have already stated they are looking to give him reps at RB, and DB along with WR to see where he can make his best fit. With Hagans athletic ability he will be able to find himself a home and a position on an NFL roster for sure.

Wali Lundy was drafted in the sixth round by the Houston Texans with the 170th pick. The Texans are already deep at RB, but Lundy will provide depth at the position and complete any backfield team. Lundy was a solid performer throughout his career at UVA, and had a nose for finding the endzone (all time ACC leader). Those skills will be helpful in the NFL.

Place Kicker Kurt Smith was also picked up in the sixth round by the San Diego Superchargers. While Connor Hughes was one of the most accurate kickers in ACC history it was Smith who brought the power to the kicking game. Smith handled the kickoff duties all four years at Virginia. He routinely put the ball deep into the endzone and out of harms ways of the dangerous kick returnees in the ACC. In the NFL teams are always looking for a kicker who can keep the ball safe, remember what happened to the Panthers when their kicker botched a kickoff in the Super Bowl?

Three Cavaliers were signed in free agency right after the draft ended. Guard Brian Barthelmes signed with the New England Patriots. Barthelmes is a versatile threat having played every offense line position for at least one game during his college career. That is what made him so tempting to a team like the Patriots who suffered from a lack of depth in the offensive line. Connor Hughes found himself a home in New Orleans with the Saints. The comfy confines of the Super Dome will suit him well. Hughes has one of the most accurate legs I have seen, and it will not take long before he is showing it off to teams around the league. Kai Parham found a home with the Dallas Cowboys following former teammate Chris Canty. Parham is familiar with the 3-4 schemes and he can play both D-End and OLB. If he works hard he can make a good fit in the Dallas scheme witch is full of young players eager to make an impact.

The 2006 draft marked the second time since 2000 and the Al Groh era that at least five Hoos were taken in the NFL Draft. In the 2005 draft the Cavaliers sent a NC2A leading seven players to the NFL. Accompany that with the five players taken in this year’s draft and that makes 12 Hoos taken from Al Groh’s first two recruiting classes. We all knew those were highly regarded classes when Coach Groh brought them in, and in terms of professional success they seem to panning out. The complete effects on the colligate field have yet to be fully realized.

Monday, May 01, 2006

NFL Draft Winners and Losers

With the 2006 NFL Draft completed everyone is quick go out and evaluate who were the winners and losers of the draft. While this is anything but a perfect science, it is still an important step in understanding how teams are operating and progressing into the future. Here are the top winners and losers of the 2006 Draft provided with help from ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.


Tennessee Titians: Grade A-
The Titians had made the steal of the draft, and in the very near future we will all be saying the same thing. The Titans went away from the pleas of Norm Chow and picked up the best player in the draft Vince Young. He may not be the most polished QB in the draft by 5 years from no one will remember that. The Titians enhanced their stock by signing LenDale White in the second round. He may be over weight now but I'm sure he will be ready for the regular season. He is a bruising back who is clutch in short yardage situations. Offensive genus Norm Chow will know exactly how to use his former player. With those two pick ups the Titians sured up their offense for years to come.

Baltimore Ravens: Grade B+
The Baltimore Ravens probably had the best draft of any team in the league. This is due to the fact that they addressed their biggest needs (continue to find offense while keeping LB Ray Lewis happy). The addition of DT Haloti Ngata will plug the middle and free up Ray Ray to run. David Pittman will step in to round out the defensive secondary by being an effect Nickel back. WR Demetrius Williams and RB P.J. Daniels will provide a spark for an offense that is still looking for an identity. Throw in the possibility of signing Steve McNair on Monday and the Ravens had a hell of a day.

San Francisco 49’ers: Grade B+
The 49’ers have not done much well in the past few years, but this years draft may finally put them back on the right track. TE Vernon Davis will become an immediate comfort blanket for QB Alex Smith who has struggled. Manny Lawson will be an explosive threat on defense and along with Marcus Hudson, Parys Haralson they will form the base for what should be a solid defense of the future.

Houston Texans: Grade B +
While Mel and other experts have given them a high mark for they overall draft performance. Effectively using picks in every round to fill out a roster. Super Mario has the potential to be Julius Peppers and there is nothing wrong with that. Charles Spencer and Eric Winston will be helpful with the offensive line.


Washington Redskins: Grade C
The Skins have effectively given up on the idea of drafting players. They have routinely traded away top draft picks opting to maximize the potential of the Free Agent market. This year the Skins only had one first round draft pick and used it on LB Rocky McIntosh, hardly a fitting replacement for Lavar Arrington. Brandon Lloyd was the other big pickup of the draft and he cost them a third round pick for next year. Not a good year, you cannot ignore the draft forever.

Dallas Cowboys C+
Despite a great year in free agency, and good pickups in this year’s draft, it was not their best performance for a team that is usually draft savvy. Bobby Carpenter was a great pick of LB but the Cowboys needed a safety and never got it. Also spending a pick on a TE made no sense. Anthony Fasano is a great TE, but the Boys already have Pro-Bowler Jason Whitten who has plenty of good years left in him.

Buffalo Bills: Grade C
The Bills had two first round draft picks, and chose both of them poorly. Both Donte Whitner and John McCargo were picked up earlier than their value indicated. DB Ashton Youboty was a solid pickup but he was not enough to save what was a horrible draft.

Houston Texans Grade D
I personally disagree and think the Texans deserve a D. Despite what many experts have said by giving them such high rankings as we saw above. By passing on both Reggie Bush and Vince Young the Texans passed on two of the greatest talents available in the draft. The Texans turned their backs on their fans, and it will be a long time before they can gain that trust back, unless Mario Williams can figure a way to start scoring 10 points a game.

That’s a look at the winners and losers of the 2006 draft. Remember this is anything but an exact science, because none of the 255 players chosen in the draft have played a minute in the NFL, and there is plenty of time between now and opening kickoff. But I doubt I’m wrong.

Round 1 draft recap

The 2006 NFL Draft is complete, and that means its time for all us yodelers to step up and give our marks and analyst on the draft. The draft definitely did not fall the way many us thought, but I can already name a few teams who are happy about that. This will be part one of our draft coverage where I will break down the first round of the draft.

1) Houston: Mario Williams became the first pick of the NFL draft on after signing a deal with the DE on Friday evening. This pick was a solid move and had us scratching our heads at the same time. Super Mario is a freakish defensive end who has the ability to make an immediate impact on any NFL roster. Yet, with the offensive talent available in this draft and Houston’s lack of offensive talent, it’s difficult to imagine a defensive playing going first. However people have to look at the Houston coaching staff to gain a further understanding of this pick. Gary Kubiak the former Denver offensive coordinator and current Texans head coach is a genius in getting production from underachieving RB’s (remember Ron Dayne’s Thanksgiving Day performance). Kubiak still see’s potential in the Houston offense, and the defensive needs of the team need to be addressed first. In the end Williams will be a good defender but in the long run Texan fans will grow impatient with the pick because it won’t equal instant wins on the field.

2) New Orleans: Reggie Bush, this pick was a no brainier. Once he fell into the Saint’s lap, they were obligated by the laws of nature to take Bush. Originally looking to trade out of this spot, there was no way they could have gotten equal value for that trade. The Saints have not so quietly put together an amazing off season. Drew Brees will be the starting QB and should be an upgrade from the inconsistent play of Brooks. Deuce McAllister will return to the Saints lineup next season after missing a year due to an ACL tear. Now the Saints have a powerful duo in the backfield that can play off each other. McAllister will not be ready to handle a full workload this soon from his injury, and Bush is an undersized back who never carried the ball more than 20 times at USC. Now the Saints can use him as a specialist and further exploit his explosiveness.

3) Tennessee: Vince Young. It had looked like the Titians were going with Leinhart with this pick because he is the more polished and will be immediately available to play. Young is ready to play now, but a year long apprenticeship would do him well. However it looks like he will not get that luxury. The Titians are looking to trade or release McNair to the Ravens before the end of the day on Monday. Looks like Young will be relying on his speed more than he anticipated this up coming fall.

4) N.Y. Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson. He was the best lineman in the draft without a question. While the Jets have questions at QB, they will have Pennington returning and he needs protection now. Ferguson can lockdown the left side of the line and with Adrian Jones on the other side of the line will provide Pennington the time he needs to make the plays down field. While not a sexy pick, it was a smart pick, and for once even Jets fans liked their picked.

5) Green Bay: A.J. Hawk. Hawk is an athletic outside linebacker who can make plays all over the field. The Packers defense was horrible last season; Hawk gives them a cornerstone to build around. Coupled with the addition of Charles Woodson in the secondary the Packers defense is slowly but surely rebuilding.

6) San Francisco: Vernon Davis. Davis is a freak of nature there is no other way to put it. At 6’3 250 pnds and a 4.3 40 yard dash he looks like a physical specimen out of comic book. That being said Davis is a legitimate threat on the field. He has the burst to stretch the field vertically, and the strength to go over the middle without fear. With very few offensive weapons available on the 49’ers roster Davis will quickly become a favorite target for second year QB Alex Smith.

7) Oakland: Michael Huff. This pick was a little odd. It originally appeared that the Raiders would pick a QB rather it was Young or Leinhart if they were available. Al Davis has always been a sucker for the star picks. However, Oakland did have a need to fill at DB. Charles Woodson moved on to Green Bay, and the young DB’s currently on the Oakland roster have performed at a sub-par standard to this point. Huff can play all over the secondary, he is ready to step in right now and start at CB.

8) Buffalo: Donte Whitner. A safety from Ohio State who will go down as the biggest stretch of the first day of the draft. The Bills have a ton of needs across the board on defense, and safety was definitely one of them, however it is doubtful that Whitner is the man for that job. He has poor instincts, and was often caught out of position. In a league where QB’s fake out camera men and professionals with their play action, a young safety who wants to fill the gap hard will struggle, and everyone knows when a DB is out of place on the field because it goes for seven.

9) Detroit: Ernie Simms. Finally the Lions appear to have gotten a first round pick right. After taking offensive players who have fizzled the last four years, Lions GM turned to defense picking up the linebacker Simms. Simms is an explosive tackler who had offensive players across the ACC scared to meet him head on. He also provides on the field leadership through his enthusiasm for the game. He will add a fire to the Lions that they have lacked for years now.

10) Arizona: Matt Leinart. This was a gift that fell into the Cardinals lap. No one thought Leinart would fall this far in the draft. (Especially Leinart look at his face when the Jets picked Ferguson). Leinart land in a great situation for him though. Being in Arizona keeps him close to the Left Coast that he loves so much. Also he will have the opportunity to play behind Kurt Warner who shows a lot of similarities in playing styles to Leinart. Also playing under a Denis Green system with talent at RB and WR around him will aid Leinart in his growth pattern. While Arizona had other pressing needs, this was the elephant in the corner that could not be ignored.

11) Denver (from STL): Jay Cutler. Denver traded up to get this pick, and came back with perhaps the best aggressive pick of the draft. Jake Plummer had a great season last year, but he is getting older, and his play as seen in the playoffs can be inconsistent. Cutler was one of my favorite prospects in the draft. He reads defenses very well, and he also has a Bret Farve gunslinger mentality, without all the arm strength. The current Denver system will fit him well, as Cutler likes to roll out and buy time.

12) Baltimore (from Cleveland): Haloti Ngata. The Ravens answered Linebacker Ray Lewis’s plea by picking up a big body to play the defensive line. Ngata has a huge frame that requires a double team just to move him out of a given gap. That will free up space for a roaming Ray Lewis, who played his best ball when he had the big Goose and Sam Adams in front of him.

13) Cleveland (from Baltimore): Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley is a defensive end by trade who can play outside linebacker, and that is where he looks to lineup at in the NFL. Wimbley has great initial burst with lateral movement, and he will be a great athletic addition to the Browns 3-4 scheme. The Browns also signed Willie McGinest during the off season who will serve as a mentor for Wimbley in his early years in the league.

14) Philadelphia: Brodick Bunkley. Bunkley has great size, and will be able to fill out a starting lineup on the Eagles defensive line, that is looking to get bigger. He has great speed for an interior lineman, and has the ability to shed blocks and get up field. However, the Eagles have other pressing needs that were greater than D-Linemen. The Eagles are still lacking at offensive line and of course wide receivers. At least if the Eagles don’t pan out this season they cannot blame it on TO.

15) St. Louis (from Atlanta): Tye Hill. The Rams need help in their secondary. Last years second round pick Travis Fisher has not developed into the player the Rams hoped for. Therefore it is no surprise the Rams went defense with this pick. The surprise comes as to who it is. Jimmy Williams from Va. Tech, or Antonio Cromartie from FSU were thought to be better overall players for their respective positions, but both come with baggage. Williams has off the field issues, and Cromartie has injury problems. Yet, Hill already missed all of last season due to a knee injury. He is said to be healthy now, and ready to put in a full season of work. If that is the case he will be an immediate player for the Rams.

16) Miami Dolphins: Jason Allan. Allan is a talented safety who lost the end of his senior year due to a knee injury. If he is able to be bounce back from that he has the potential to be a great player in the NFL. He is a great open field tackler and shows a tremendous ability to play cover defense.

17) Minnesota: Chad Greenway. Greenway has been compared to Brian Urlacher on more than one occasion. He is slightly undersized, which becomes a concern as to rather he can hold ground against a heads up rush attack. Despite that, Greenway is excellent at reading keys, and has enough speed to often beat blockers to the point of attack. The term sideline to sideline definitely applies to Greenway. He is relentless in his pursuit of the ball, and will help sure up the weak side of what has been a bad Vikings defense for a long time.
18) Dallas: Bobby Carpenter: The Boys have had great success at drafting defensive players in the few seasons. Carpenter continues with that trend, but he is the wrong pick for the Cowboys. Dallas has immediate holes in their secondary where they lack a cover safety to help cover the hard hitting ability of Roy Williams. The Cowboys also need offensive linemen to replace the mammoth Larry Allen who was let go. Therefore OT Winston Justice or corner back/DB Jonathon Joseph would have been smarter picks. However in Carpenter the Cowboys get a fast linebacker who will fit their 3-4 schemes well. He is explosively quick, and gets up the field and after the QB.

19) San Diego: Antonio Cromartie. The Chargers have been in need of a DB for a while now. Too often in the past few season Charger DB’s have been burnt by average receivers. Cromartie has great size, and enough speed to quickly recover when he is caught out of position. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this pick is the possible rift it widens between owner and coach. It is no secret that Marty Schottenheimer and GM A.J. Smith have butted heads over the handling of the QB situation and the dealing of Drew Brees. If Cromartie does not develop into the player they hope, this rift will continue to grow and may leave to Marty leaving.

20) Kansas City: Tamba Hali. Hali was a great defensive lineman for Penn State last season, but he will be overmatched in the NFL. The Chiefs have other pressing needs at DB and WR, so this pick is questionable. Hali was expected to be a late first round picks at best, but more than likely an early second round pick. Even at 20 this is early for Hali. Hali lacks ideal athletic ability.

21) New England: Laurence Maroney. Maroney looks to fill out what is already a two headed monster at RB. Last season the Patriots had trouble staying healthy at RB, both Dillon and Faulk suffered from injuries, and the Patriots went deep into their lineup to find help at that position. By picking up Maroney New England has the opportunity to groom him slowly and allow him to evolve into an NFL player, while playing alongside two great players.

22) San Francisco (from the Redskins) Manny Lawson. Lawson was often over shadowed by teammate and number one pick Mario Williams. However, Lawson should not be slept on. He is another player who can play both DE and OLB which is perfect for the 3-4 schemes San Fran is currently running. He is excellent at finding and taking the direct path to the QB. He has initial quickness that is deceiving and will catch many linemen and offensive players off guard. He will need to work on his down the field cover ability which will be new to him, but he his big enough to withstand the run.

23) Tampa Bay: David Joseph This pick came as a shock to me, as I did not have Joseph coming off the board till the second round. Not a knock against him as a player because he is a dominating offensive guard. He has quick feet, and can get down field, and also has the ability to trap block. However guards while not a dime-a-dozen are much easier to come by in the NFL. Offensive tackles are harder to create. They require more skill and have a greater responsibility as they often match up with the elite defensive players in the league in one-on-one situation. Again Winston Justice probably would have been a smarter pick.

24) Cincinnati: Jonathan Joseph. Joseph is a talented cover corner. He can play in the nickel scheme, and has the athletic ability to make recovery plays on balls he may have initially misjudged. The Bengals secondary was much improved last season with the improved play of Delta O’Neal. However he also had the benefit of feasting on NFC North QB’s. They need to continue to improve in the secondary.

25) Pittsburgh (from the N.Y. Giants): Santonio Holmes. Holmes is without a doubt the best receiver available in this year’s draft. With Randle El leaving in free agency, the Steelers where looking to add another threat at wideout. While they may have given up too much to trade up for this pick, Holmes will still workout well for this squad. Holmes has enough speed to stretch the field; he will also allow Hines Ward to move into the Slot position on third down plays where he can be a clutch receiver.

26) Buffalo (from Chicago): John McCargo. Once again the Bills have managed to leave us scratching our heads. Maybe Marv Levy is too old to be calling the shots. McCargo is an athletic defensive tackle with a great motor. That being said he is extremely undersized. He will have trouble holding his ground against the rush. When a DT has trouble with run, it creates a downward spiral on the defensive front couple that with a newly acquired DB who is prone to be out of position and it could be another long winter in Buffalo.

27) Carolina: DeAngelo Williams. This is a great pick up for the Panthers, who have become a master of using two RB’s for maximum potential. Stephen Davis is no longer a Panther and DeShaun Foster is the featured back. However as we saw in the playoffs Foster has trouble staying healthy. Enter DeAngelo Williams. Williams is an explosive runner, and since he will not be the work horse of the staff, he will have the opportunity to exploit his speed burst through the hole.

28) Jacksonville: Mercedes Lewis. Lewis fills the Jags need for a TE who is a threat down the field. Lewis can be a playmaker in the open field and over the middle. He will quickly become a favorite target of Bryon Leftwich. His blocking ability is still in need of development therefore Kyle Brady will still need to sub in from time to time.

29) N.Y. Jets (from Denver): Nick Mangold. Continuing to improve a shaky offensive line Nick Mangold will sure up the middle as a center. If D’Brickashaw Ferguson was the best linemen in the draft, then Mangold is without a doubt the second best, and it’s not often you get to say that about a center. Look for both Ferguson and Mangold to become staples for the Jets organization for years to come.

30) Indianapolis: Joseph Addai. As a running back at LSU Addai was great when he was healthy, which could be a problem for the Colts who already suffer from a lack of depth at RB? Addai also have the very large task of stepping up and filling the shoes of the departed Edgerirn James.
31) Seattle: Kelly Jennings. Jennings is the best available DB who does not come with the baggage of character issues. After letting Andre Dyson go the Seahawks needed to add depth to their defensive secondary. Jennings is fundamentally sound and rarely gets caught out of position, when he does he has enough athletic ability to quickly recover.

32) N.Y. Giants (from Pittsburgh): Mathias Kiwanuka. This comes as an odd pick due to the already established defensive ends that are in place for the Giants. Last year the Giants had the best D-End duo in the league. If anything this is a plan for the future pick, and the Giants look to groom someone who will be able to replace Michal Strahan, as he begins to age. Also have three great DE’s for pass rush situations cannot be a bad thing.