Category Archives: Lunch

Lunch: Monday Night Football

Manchester City rejoices after breaking a scoreless tie this afternoon. Photo: Jon Super

Manchester City rejoices after breaking a scoreless tie this afternoon. Photo: Jon Super

You’re not a die-hard soccer fan, and that’s ok. Most of us aren’t die-hard college basketball fans, yet odds are good we’ll collectively tune in to watch Louisville and Michigan compete for the right to wield scissors. But everyone appreciates a good Derby, right?! And United-City is always an entertaining watch, so I present to you: TOW’s “Average American Guy Talking Soccer” Report.

Man City have struggled as reigning champions, but have also struggled to stay healthy. Manager Roberto Mancini  has responded to this adversity by publicly calling out the players who are healthy and griping he didn’t get funds to add more talent in the summer. But given the extraordinary talent/payroll already on his side, I can’t imagine anyone taking Mancini’s complaints too seriously.

It’s not pretty, but United have been grinding their way towards retaking the Premier League crown. Unlike City, United did add talent during the summer, and there’s no questioning Robin Van Persie’s impact in his first year as a Red. United have a goal differential of +38 for the season, an impressive margin for any champion.

As for today’s impact: really there isn’t much. United has a comfortable lead in the table, and City is locked into the top 4. But there is more than just 3 points at stake. City ripped out the hearts of United fans last May, and the rivalry has never been more fierce. While a United win would only pad their healthy lead, City wants this victory if only to prove a larger point: that they aren’t going anywhere, and the title, while it might be settled for this year, does not have a permanent residence at Old Trafford.

When the final whistle was blown, it was Manchester City a goal ahead and three points the better. City had excellent pace from the start, as both teams played an open game early. But as the minutes progressed, it was City who had more solid possessions, while United was held to sporadic efforts on goal.

Scoreless at the half, many wondered if this would be a fourth consecutive 1-0 result for United. But City continued to play explosive, and broke through with a cannon from James Milner six minutes in. But less than ten minutes later, United equalized in ugly fashion- which has been their style during this campaign. Phil Jones knocked a ball off Vincent Kompany for what was ruled an own goal.

This year, City had never lost a match after taking a lead. Conversely, United is the best comeback team in the League, a large factor in their lead in the standings. Something, or someone, had to give. And that someone was Sergio Aguero.

Sergio Aguero started today on the bench as he is slowly returning from injury, but he made his mark with a spectacular finish in the 79th minute. Similar to the finish that won City the crown last year; Aguero raced towards the right post around the defense, and delivered a powerful blast to the near post side.

The final ten minutes was slow and physical, but United were unable to take advantage of any chances. A corner in the 95th was snatched by Joe Hart, and City was able to snatch the win. While United will ultimately win the war, this battle proves that City still has the talent to retake the top spot, regardless of what their manager thinks. If City can stay healthy next season, there is little doubt they will contend for a championship.

Lunch: Madness Resumes, Plus Memes!

Still reeling from last night’s debacle, we’re switching back over to the college game. And how! This year’s Sweet 16 may have 5 or 6 absolute classics in sotre for us. Here are my picks for today, complete with very little explanation (trust me, when I have been wrong?):

Miami Over Marquette
Too much experience, especially in close games, for a Marquette team that did too much surviving just to get to this round.

Arizona Over Ohio State
I think it’s time to move Sean Miller into that “Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, and Other Young College Coaches on the Rise” class.

Syracuse over Indiana
Syracuse could win this game, but they could also get blown out by 30. But isn’t that every game? Great coaching matchup here.

LaSalle Over Wichita State
Not a great week for the LaSalle Explorers, who had to deal with FGCU Mania despite making a Cinderella run of their own. It continues.

To welcome in the new weekend, here are some memes from the first weekend of March Madness. Enjoy, and enjoy the games tonight.

brain banker picard scumbag steve boromir brian toodanmnhigh stacey fry

Lunch: Top NHLers Likely on the Move

With the NHL’s April 3rd trade deadline fast approaching, the Pittsburgh Penguins struck first this past weekend acquiring Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray; two veterans hungry for their first Stanley Cup win. The other teams in the playoff picture have surely taken notice, so now it’s time to speculate which top players are on the trading block.

Jarome Iginla – Calgary Flames – W

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

• Iginla is this year’s Ray Bourque. Once they were out of the playoff race, the Flames began shopping their long-time captain, whose contract is set to expire this summer. Taking matters into his own hands, Jarome has made it known that he will only waive his no trade clause for the Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings, and Penguins. Rumors indicate that the Bruins are the top suitor, but Jerome will not be cheap. The Flames will be looking to acquire a top prospect, a secondary prospect, and picks in exchange for Iginla, who has scored over 30 goals for 11 straight seasons. The man is a warrior who will bring intensity and heart to whichever locker room he ends up in.

Bobby Ryan – Anaheim Ducks – W

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

• The Ducks made it clear that Bobby Ryan is on the trading block after they signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to expensive, long term deals this season. The 26 year old power forward’s contract is also up at the end of the season, and the Ducks definitely don’t want to lose him for free. The tricky part of this situation is that the Ducks are flying high at 2nd place in the west and will be looking for a center who can step right into the lineup plus a prospect/picks. I could see the Flyers, a team that Ryan would fit into nicely, trading a package including Sean Couturier, but it’s still an open race. I would not rule out the Red Wings offering Valtteri Filppula or the Washington Capitals offering Mike Ribeiro as the top chip of their trade packages.

Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks – G

Luongo (right) stands with Schneider (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Luongo (right) stands with Schneider (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

• The Canucks need to eventually deal their $5 million a year backup goaltender, but they will not be selling him for cheap, as the Toronto Maple Leafs learned this past off season. The Olympic gold winning keeper has been supplanted by the younger, more consistent Cory Schneider, but he’s still the same lovable Lou. The trade market obviously isn’t full of playoff bound teams looking for a starting goalie, but there are definitely quite a few teams who would love to turn a weakness into a strength going into next season. If the Canucks opt to trade Lou, I’d guess that it will take a top 4 defenseman, a top prospect, and picks. Eric Brewer of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers could be that veteran defenseman that Vancouver is looking for.

A couple other players who could be moved before next Wednesday are winger Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers, center Derek Roy of the Dallas Stars,  and defenseman Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers.

When the dust clears, there will surely be some new faces in locker rooms around the NHL as teams prepare for the final playoff push.

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

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.