Monthly Archives: March 2013

Lunch: Back in the Bubble

Joe Harris will need to play big if Virgina wants to dance (STEVE HELBER / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Joe Harris will need to play big if Virgina wants to dance (STEVE HELBER / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

We’re back for Lunch with another round of bubble teams. Picking up right where we left off:

Maryland (20-11) – In order for Maryland to overcome their sky-high computer numbers and make the tournament as an at-large, they’re going to have to make some serious noise in their last ever ACC tournament. Maryland will play Wake Forest in the first round and Duke in the quarterfinals, both must-win games.  A second win over the number one RPI team would usually be enough to make the tournament, but that would be only the fifth top-150 RPI win for Maryland all season. For a team with as many top-150 opportunities as the Terrapins have had (16), five wins doesn’t cut it. A win in the ACC semis over North Carolina might be enough to push them over the edge, but at that point they might as well just win the whole thing and grab an automatic bid on their way to the Big Ten.

Ole Miss (23-8) – Despite a lack of good wins (a home win against Missouri two months ago being the only one), Ole Miss wound up with the three seed and a double-bye in the SEC tournament. The Runnin’ Rebels are in line to play Missouri again in their first game. Even though the Tigers are the second-best team in a weak SEC, a second win over Mizzou doesn’t a tournament team make. The Rebels would then most likely play Kentucky in what would essentially be a play-out game. There’s no guarantee that wins in these two games would be enough to seal the deal, however, and Andy Kennedy may just have to find a way to win the league’s automatic bid to save his team’s season and quite possibly his job.

Temple (23-8) – Temple is in the best position of any team on this page. They took care of business on Saturday, beating VCU convincingly in the regular season finale. The Atlantic 10 tournament actually poses itself as more of a minefield than a profile booster for the Owls. As long as they can avoid a slip-up to a lesser team (starting with the George Washington-UMass winner in the quarterfinals), there’s almost no way Temple doesn’t go dancing.

Tennessee (19-11) – This is the definition of a profile right on the cut line. The Volunteers have four top-50 RPI wins, including an early-season battle with Wichita State and a marquee win over Florida. They also have a near .500 road/neutral record, something that is very important to the selection committee. On the flip side, they are 1-4 against teams on this page, having lost to Virginia, Kentucky, and twice to Ole Miss. It’s going to take a strong SEC tournament performance and perhaps a little bit of luck to go dancing. Tennessee will need to beat a bottom-feeder (South Carolina or Mississippi State) then Alabama in the quarterfinals to have a fighting shot. If Tennessee can’t take down the Gators one more time in the semis, they’ll be left hoping their bubble doesn’t burst on Sunday.

Virginia (21-10) – No team has ever made the tournament in its current form (since 1985) with as many sub-100 RPI losses as Virginia (seven). Only three teams have even made it with more than four such losses. For this reason the Cavaliers have their ACC tournament work cut out for them. They play the NC State-Virginia Tech winner in the quarterfinals, followed by a likely matchup with regular season winner Miami in the semis. If Virginia can find a way to beat Miami, they should find themselves on a bracket line come Sunday night.

My Picks: I see Boise State and Iowa State getting in based on the work they’ve already done and the fact that even a loss in the first round of their conference tournament won’t hurt too badly due to the quality teams both are playing (San Diego State and Oklahoma, respectively). Temple will get in because they are simply playing too well this late in the season to let a poor team get in the way. Kentucky is arguably better than any team in their half of the SEC bracket, and can make it to the tournament final with relative ease. La Salle will put up a fight against Butler, but win or lose will still make it based on the fact that they’ve won 10 road/neutral games, more than any other bubble team.

Ole Miss and Maryland have too many obstacles to overcome, and too few opportunities to do so. That leaves Tennessee, Baylor, and Virginia. Whichever team seizes the opportunities that their conference tournament presents will snatch up the last remaining bid. Based on the ease of the opponents they are facing, my money is on Tennessee. See you on Sunday.

 What do you think of our picks? Think Virginia can sneak in? Will Kentucky get a chance to repeat? Get at us @TheOrangeWedge

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Breakfast: Breaking Bubbles

Kentucky still has work to do if they want to repeat as champs (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Kentucky still has work to do if they want to repeat as champs (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Most of the teams in this year’s field have already done enough to punch their ticket to the big dance, but some squads could use another quality win or two on their resume. This brings us to Championship Week, when teams that haven’t won enough regular-season games have the chance to come out of nowhere to win their conference tournament and “steal” a bid away from an at-large team. 37 bids are up for grabs, but after all of the “locks” are accounted for, that leaves just 6 bids.

Today we’re going to look at ten teams from various conferences.  These teams, which are certifiably “On the Bubble”, need some help over the next few days but are still in contention for the aforementioned final 6. The number-crunching and bracket-building all stops on Sunday, but for now it’s Bubble Time!

Baylor (18-13) – The Bears got a huge win last week, beating Kansas by 23. This bumped Baylor back up near the cut line, but right now they are still on the outside looking in. Scott Drew’s team draws Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday night, an opportunity they cannot pass up. Should the Bears lose they will have 14 losses, more than any team on the bubble, and will have to sit around waiting for the rest of the tournament pieces to fall into place. If Baylor can beat Oklahoma State however, they’ll most likely have done just enough to land on the right side of the bubble.

Boise State (21-9) – Boise State has been one of the most underrated teams in the bubble conversation. Not only are the Broncos the only team on this page with 4 top-35 RPI wins, they’ve also got the second-highest RPI, after Temple. The biggest blemish on this resume is the low non-conference strength of schedule, a measly but not crippling 217. If the boys in blue can beat San Diego State for a second straight time in Thursday’s Mountain West quarterfinal, they will be in for sure.

Iowa State (21-10) – Missed calls occur in sports almost daily, but rarely does a league commissioner admit to such mistakes. This was the case in Iowa State’s recent overtime loss to Kansas, where a missed charge at the end of regulation extended the game and deprived the Cyclones of a marquee win. Fortunately the Cyclones have done enough that they should be alright without one. They have beaten every other quality Big 12 tournament team and only suffered one truly bad loss in the process. They draw a struggling Oklahoma in the first round of the Big 12 tournament, and so long as they put up a fight, they should be fine come Selection Sunday

Kentucky (21-10) – One of the most intriguing bubble cases comes in the form of the defending champions. Granted, this team only returned 4 players from last year’s title team, none of which started in either season. The loss of star center Nerlens Noel a month ago nearly crippled this already under-performing team. But a recent win over Florida cat-apulted these Cats back into serious consideration. The Wildcats draw either Arkansas or Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC tournament – a loss to either could drop them off the bubble for good. In the semis they would most likely draw the Missouri-Ole Miss winner. A win over one of these two teams could lock up a bid for John Calipari’s squad. However being that this game won’t take place until Saturday afternoon, mid-week bid thieves could make this another do-or-die game for the Cats.

La Salle (21-8) – La Salle has a very simple tournament path laid out – Win and you’re in. The Explorers get a bye to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, where they’ll face either Dayton or Butler. If it’s Dayton, they need to win to avoid their second sub-100 RPI loss. If they draw Butler, a win would be their second over the top-20 RPI Bulldogs, and would validate an already impressive resume. A loss to a very good Butler team probably wouldn’t hurt, but with the rest of the bubble teams trying to win important games at the same time, it could set them behind the rest of the field.

That’s the first five. But these teams do not have their spots reserved by any means. Which other teams want to take their place? Check back at lunchtime to find out, and we’ll also tell you which ones will actually have their names called come Sunday.

Breakfast: Today’s The Day

NFL free agency is set to begin at 4 p.m. today, and TheOrangeWedge is as excited as ever to break down all the happenenings. Today many big names are waking up to their names all over the media, and could potentially finish the day far richer than they started.

But getting back into the workforce isn’t always easy. You need to be ready, and you need to be prepared. That’s why some of the top NFL free agents have highly sought-after resume coordinators. We happen to have gotten in touch with one of these men, and are here to bring you an NFL exclusive report. Here are some previously never-before-seen images of resumes being sent to all 32 general managers today. Enjoy!

Dashon GoldsonRESUME11

**Edit: Goldson attended the University of Washington, not Washington University. Blame his agent.

Links:

Greg JenningsRESUME1Link:

Steven JacksonRESUME1

Link:

Do you think having a resume will help these job-seekers? Perhaps Goldson should have included a cover letter? Lets us know @TheOrangeWedge.

Late Night: NFL Roundup

DeAngelo Hall is the latest NFL veteran to be released  (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

DeAngelo Hall is the latest NFL veteran to be released (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Boldin Goes West

The excitement and speculation over the Percy Harvin deal was short lived as a new trade agreed upon late Monday afternoon sparked even greater eyebrow-raising around the NFL. Anquan Boldin, who was so instrumental during the Raven’s championship run, has been dealt to the team they defeated, San Francisco, in exchange for just a sixth round pick.

Are you surprised? In some ways, you shouldn’t  be. The Ravens were fully prepared to live life beyond Boldin, making that perfectly clear with last week’s “Pay Cut or Be Cut” ultimatum. Anything the Ravens could have gotten for Boldin was better than nothing, and now Baltimore has made the most out of an awkward situation.

As for the Niners, well you just have to hate them right now. We talked about ways they could use their stockpile strategically to influence the draft, but we didn’t say they could use a third-day pick on a receiver with five 1,000 yard seasons under his belt. Boldin was fully prepared to retire as a Raven; so how will he respond to being traded? Boldin’s presence on an already loaded offense will be a major storyline in 2013.

Redskins Release Hall

As many teams struggle to find cap room expects the cuts and releases to keep coming. Today’s victim was DeAngelo Hall, who was released by Washington after five seasons. Hall, who is 29, has a few years left and will certainly end up overpaid by another team desperate for a lockdown corner. Hall has been known to be a liability at times, and a player who has difficulty controlling his emotions on the field.

The latest incident cost Hall 30 large for verbally abusing a ref during a game in October, but other than that he is a solid player. He posted a career-high in total tackles in 2012, and has played all 16 games for Washington for 3 straight years. While there seems to be a lot of talent at DB in this year’s draft, no doubt there will be a team that wants to pay DeAngelo.

Jets Add Another Arm to Compete

David Garrard has become the latest quarterback to officially compete for the Jets starting job. Numerous other veteran names were being tossed around but sadly no, Chad Pennington will not report to training camp this year. As of now it is Garrard, Sanchez, Matt Sims, Greg McElroy and Tim Tebow, although reports indicate Tebow is to be cut any day now.

Garrard was pretty effective as the Jaguars signal-caller, replacing Byron Leftwich and even leading the Jags to a playoff berth in 2007. He was even likable on Hard Knocks with the Miami Dolphins, but an off-field injury prevented from competing for the job.

Whether or not Tebow stays, this “open competition” in New York could prove very intriguing. Will the Jets draft a young arm to add to the mix? That would make six on the roster, but I think Tebow will be gone by spring and Sims is just for headlines. Make no mistake, all were competing before this move, but with Garrard in the mix, there are legitimate questions to be answered when training camps begin.

Lunch: Percy No Longer Wears Purple

 

Harvin will get another chance in Seattle after demanding an exit from Minnesota (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Harvin will get another chance in Seattle after demanding an exit from Minnesota (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Although we are still roughly 24 hours from the start of free agency, NFL GMs have been and will be hard at work for what should be one the more intense offseasons in recent memory. But before anyone has been signed other deals are still hapening.

The Minnesota Vikings have agreed in principle to ship Percy Harvin to Seattle in exchange for several draft picks, including the 25th overall pick this year. Harvin spent four years in purple, is an undeniably explosive talent, but has had issues that have prevented him from being elite.

I liken Harvin to an world-class English Premier League striker, someone like Carlos Tevez. Harvin has refused to play unless he’s 100 percent healthy (migraines?). And when he’s off the field, Harvin has had problems arguing with coach Leslie Frazier and has made headlines with statements made to the media. He’s very much the diva for a receiver who has never had 100 receptions nor 1,000 yards in any season.

So what does Harvin do for Seattle? Like I always maintain, a balanced passing attack needs a possession guy and a speed guy. The Ravens had Boldin and Torrey Smith, the Giants have Cruz and Nicks, etc. The possession guy is the primary target, but gets help from the fast guy, who can work out wide or in the slot. The possession guy gets first downs; the speed guy gets fantasy points.

Sidney Rice is a good athlete, but he has long been the possession guy and Seattle has looked to find a faster counterpart.  “Fail Mary” aside, Golden Tate is a bust, and Doug Baldwin is a nice piece but inconsistent. If Harvin can stay healthy this is a great pickup for the Seahawks and an offense that is strong and only getting stronger.

As for Minnesota? They now have the 23rd and 25th overall picks this year in a talent pool that is loaded with young talented wideouts. But early sources are indicating they might have something bigger on their minds. Today the New York Giants slapped a first-round tender on Victor Cruz, which would be owed to them if another team decided to sign the restricted free agent. If Cruz gets signed, the Giants get a pick, and now the Vikings have two….and we’ll see where this story goes as free agency gets underway Tuesday.

Lunch: Alex Ovechkin Drops the Gloves with Mike Milbury

Ovechkin led the Capitals to a dominant victory over the Panthers on 3/7/13.(Alex Brandon / AP)

Ovi leads the Capitals to victory over the Panthers.
(Alex Brandon / AP)

Mike Milbury, NBC’s hockey analyst, has been one of superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s toughest critics since the Russian entered the National Hockey League.

If you are unfamiliar with Milbury, I’ll give you a brief recap of his involvement with the NHL. The most memorable act of his playing career came in 1979, when he climbed into the stands at Madison Square Garden, removed a Rangers’ fan shoe, and slapped him in the face with it. I’m not joking. Here it is:

And I’m almost positive that he was inspired by the 1977 film, Slapshot. If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, grab yourself a sixer of Molson and enjoy.

Milbury eventually found himself managing the New York Islanders in the late ’90s. During his brief stint as the GM, he traded away Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi, Ziggy Palffy, and Olli Jokinen, as well as numerous other players who went on to have long NHL careers. In addition to trading away that loaded pool of talent, he also signed Rick DiPietro and Alexei Yashin to 2 of the worst contracts in hockey history. To this day, Islanders’ fans still blame Milbury for robbing them of their superstar prospects and financially crippling the franchise.

Somehow (maybe he called Matt Millen for advice?), Milbury wound up as the “hockey expert” at NBC Sports. Now, it seems like his favorite thing to do is compete with Don Cherry, his former coach, for the title of the most embarrassing TV personality in hockey.

Just last Wednesday, after Ovechkin had a particularly weak performance, Milbury went after the Russian with petty insults and a brutal attack upon his character.

I’ll admit that Ovi underperformed. Hockey is a brutal, emotional sport. Milbury should know from experience that it is nearly impossible to be on your game every night of year. Much like Ovi’s play, Milbury’s rant was inexcusable.

It took about a week for Ovechkin to respond to Milbury’s comments, but he eventually fired back:

ovicomments

Last night, Ovi also responded on the ice, picking up a goal and 2 assists as the Washington Capitals routed the Florida Panthers 7-1. With the Caps sitting at 12th place in the East, Ovechkin must continue to elevate his play if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

This weekend will be a big test for the team. After a game against the Islanders on Saturday, the Capitals and New York Rangers play in NBC’s game of the week on Sunday at 12:30.

I think for the first time ever, I am eagerly waiting to hear what Mike Milbury has to say.

Lunch: Purple and Gold Can’t Fight the Old

Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points but was entirely outplayed by Russell Westbrook (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points but was entirely outplayed by Russell Westbrook (Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Stop it. Stop. Just stop it.

No, I’m not talking about the Harlem Shake.

I’m talking about you talking about the Lakers. Stop it.

Last nailed was the ultimate Reality Check for the Los Angeles Lakers. Nothing embodied that check more than two stats:

  1.  The Thunder, at the bottom of the league with 15.5 turnovers per game, had 2 last night.
  2. Russell Westbrook*, athletic, speedy and aggressive, had 37 points to go with 10 rebounds. and was far more efficient than usual.

*=Westbrook also played opposite Kobe, and even stripped Bryant to seal the game.

The Lakers are a team built to play one way, they are coached to play another way, and they can win if they play a third way.

And they don’t play any of those ways. They just play old.

And yet, they lead news stories almost every night, and there is grumblings that they may still be able to contend in the West.

No más.

When the Lakers are in the half-court game, they aren’t terrible. They’re ranked in the top 10 in points and offensive efficiency, averaging 102 points at home. But it’s not their defense necessarily that’s the problem; it’s the way they give up points. They give up more fast break points than any team in the league (16.6), and are in the bottom three surrendering points in the paint per game (44.9).

Wait that is the defense. That’s and old, slow defense. That’s a defense unwilling to play physical, or even hustle back.  That’s a defense that not even Phil could save. Kobe can talk trash and the Lakers can win back-to-backs, but they wouldn’t be able to compete in a series against the top five teams in the West.

It would be best for everyone involved if the Lakers missed the playoffs this year. It would force management’s hand, maybe giving them cause to move Pau Gasol. But the Lakers don’t belong on this side of the fence this year. This roster can’t take it, and it has nothing to do with basketball strategy or shot selection. They’re old and it happens and its okay. But please, talk about Paul George, or how good the Warriors might be, or whatever is going on between the NBA and Lil’ Wayne.

But not the Lakers. They’re toast.