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3 Things We Learned: 2013 March Madness

The Madness is over folks!

March Madness has come to an end and Louisville has proven to be the best team in the country by defeating Michigan 82 – 76 in the Championship Game of the 2013 Final Four at the Georgia Dome in HotLanta.

Here are three things we learned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Louisville’s Rick Pitino becomes the only coach to win a title with two different schools.

1)    Rick Pitino is the Man!

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has just solidified his place amongst the all-time great coaches in Division 1 history.  His postseason resume is staggering. He became the first coach to win the whole thing at two different schools (Kentucky ’96).  He is one of two coaches to lead three different teams to the Final Four (Calipari is the other but the Memphis years are vacated). He is also one of a pair of coaches to lead two teams to three Final Fours (Roy Williams). Pitino has coached a team to the Final Four in four different decades. His teams have made 18 tournament appearances, seven Finals Fours, and have won 11 conference tournaments over his 27 year career.

What do all these accomplishments mean? They mean Rick Pitino gets the job done when it counts the most. His up-tempo offensive attack combined with stifling, full court defensive pressure has led to 662 careers wins. That’s good for 22nd all-time, just two behind John Wooden!  It’s only fitting that a coach with as much style as Coach Pitino be named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on the same day that he makes coaching history…and the scary part is…he ain’t done yet!!

Photo by John Lariviere
A high school basketball players misses a dunk as today’s youth lack fundamentals.

2)    The quality of play is down compared to years past.

The tournament is always exciting. It doesn’t really matter what teams are in it, or if there are any major “stars” showcasing their talents, because the NCAA has built the brand of March Madness to a point where it has become self sustaining.  Brackets, office pools, and Vegas lines are a driving force behind what has become a multi-billion dollar business.  The tournament will always be good.

It’s the quality of play that stinks…

Young athletes are fundamentally flawed because we live in a society that values entertainment over hard work.  Youngsters are taught, by their peers and by the media, that it’s cooler to have swag and style than it is to be fundamentally sound.  24/7 sports coverage on television shows nothing but dunks and flashy plays. This becomes engrained in the minds of young athletes who, instead of practicing bounce passes and foul shots, are practicing lob passes and dunks.

Frank Ordonez/The Post-Standard Jim Boeheim has dealt with bad refs at the University of Syracuse since 1962 when he a walk-on guard for the basketball team.

3)    The Refs STINK!!!

Can it get any worse?

I sure hope not because it’s really, really bad right now for these NCAA officials. There were a multitude of terrible calls throughout this NCAA tournament that affected the outcomes of games. Trey Burke had a clean block on Peyton Siva but was called for a foul because the referee anticipated contact.  There was a charge call on Syracuse guard Brandon Triche at the end of the Michigan game in the semifinal that could have changed the game.

My point is that the poor officiating has contributed to the lack of quality play from the student athletes.  When the officiating is inconsistent (and it sure has been in not only this tournament but in the conference tournaments as well) the players don’t know what to expect when it comes to what is going to be called on a game to game basis.  This uncertainty and confusion leads to poor execution because more split-second decisions have to be made by the athletes instead of allowing their natural instincts to prevail.  The combination of uncertainty and inexperience leads to poor basketball, which doesn’t help when the refs can’t even get it right!

March Madness did exactly what it was supposed to do, entertain and excite while providing unforgettable storylines that we will remember forever.  Kevin Ware’s injury, Rick Patino’s glory week, the Big East goes out with a bang, the Fab-5 reunites at the Final Four…yeah, I would say it was Madness…but at least you learned three things!!!

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Most Valuable Video: Utley Down Looking

Today’s video brings happiness deep down inside. Not only is it a nasty pitch sending a Philly strolling back to the dugout, but it is all about the velocity. 58 MPH? Sends you right back to the days in little league where one kid throwing high 40’s cheese was a death sentence. Ring em up.

Now, the gun shows I got 58 if I reach back and let one fly. This is to keeping the dream alive. 58 MPH curveball specialists are underused and undervalued.

LNS: A Running Diary of The 2013 SJFL Baseball Draft

 

Tonight’s Late Snack is…well, it’s more than a snack. Last night was the draft for the 2013 Sports Junkies Fantasy Baseball League, and between welcoming back baseball and Sweet 16 action, Friday was a great night for sports. Here for your enjoyment is a diary of the evening, our first here at The Orange Wedge:

 

8:16 PM

I’m filled with anxiety as a basket of crumpled paper is passed around, and each contestant carefully selects his destiny. We’re picking the draft order, to some degree shaping the season with our first brushstroke. Poetic as it is, “Getting a High Pick” isn’t one of my strong suits, and I’m saddled with the sixth overall selection. This is officially a 10-team league, but there are only 6 bodies present. One is drafting via Facebook, one is having his entire team picked for him, and two are running late. I pick for my late buddy, and draw him the fifth pick. Figures.

8:23 PM

We give a phone call to our absent buddy Max who’s essentially hitting the Autodraft button. So of course he “draws” first overall. Max is a solid bar buddy, in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen him in sunlight. To top things off, his phone is off! We give him Mike Trout, and we are unceremoniously underway.

8:34 PM

With a possible suspension looming, Ryan Braun free falls out of the top five. He’s available at six, but I take Joey Votto. Nothing against Braun, in fact I had him last year, but I think Votto is primed for an MVP season. Braun falls all the way to the eighth pick, where our chum Adam is more than happy to scoop him up.

8:39 PM

Our first tardy arrival Dan walks in just in time for the first wraparound. Picking ninth, He takes Verlander and immediately nabs Strasburg two picks later. Instant contender.

8:53 PM

After taking Votto, Stanton, and now Adam Jones, I’ve gone 3 rounds with no pitching. And you know what? I’m fine with it. Elite pitching draws comparisons to elite quarterbacks, and after the first few are gone I promise myself I won’t reach. Also, pitchers don’t play every day! You’ll get 150 games out of an elite hitter. Out of a SP, maybe 40? I’m taking my offense.

9:08 PM

Our last arrival Rob shows up and is instantly fixated on the Board. He’s been phoning in his picks, but now he can really soak it all in before his fourth round choice.
“This is a critical selection,” he says quietly, his eyes scanning the board.
He scrolls his phone intensely as we feed him names to consider. The most popular is Johan Santana, who we learned earlier in the day would miss the entire season (again). Finally he announces he is reaching for Yoenis Cespedes, and only then does he find a couch and unpack his laptop.

9:30 PM

I’m in a good rhythm, personally willing Michigan to come up big and somehow landing all the players I’ve been eyeing.
On the walk back to my seat after grabbing Michael Bourn, I can hear cussing from another part of the room. Bourn was coveted. Victory.
Aside from the sheer excitement of building a team, isn’t taking a player right from under someone’s nose the best feeling in a draft? There’s nothing like the feeling of your heart dropping out of your chest because someone just took Yadier Molina. And when I can inflict that feeling upon someone else, I make sure to savor it.

9:46 PM

The same thing happens with Kris Medlen. I’m on a roll.

10:08 PM

Michigan has completed an unbelievable comeback, stalling a few picks but saving all relevant brackets left in the room. Awards right now:
Most Valuable: Trey Burke, who almost broke the DVR after the 25th replay
Least Valuable: Domino’s deliveryman Miguel, who is seriously pushing his “You Got 30 Minutes” motto.

10:34 PM

I take Neil Walker at 2nd base. This leads to the story about how Walker’s father Tom nearly boarded the rescue plane Roberto Clemente was killed on. Unfortunately, our buddy Adam mishears and asks if it was actually Neil who almost traveled with Clemente. In 1972. After a good laugh, we ultimately declare that the chances of Baby Neil Walker sneaking onto Clemente’s plane were next to impossible (he was born in 1985). But hilarious.

10:48 PM

Florida Gulf Coast opens their first Sweet 16 game with a nice run, but in the War Room an even more interesting run is being made. Rob has taken four straight closers, a devastating move to the few teams still looking for a top reliever. By 11 the well has all but dried up.

11:00 PM

The elephant in the room has become the ever-ticking clock. Time limits aren’t being strictly enforced on these picks, and it’s becoming clear we aren’t finishing anytime soon.

11:08 PM

Everyone hates Alan. Stuck with family obligations, Alan is doing his drafting via Facebook chat. Sometimes he responds, other times, the messages linger unread. But as rounds progress, his picks slump in quality, and the rest of us are getting edgy.

11:27 PM

Trend developing: If you ask if a player has been taken yet, we’re telling you he’s hurt. If you ask if a player is suspended, we’re telling you he’s hurt. If you ask if a player is hurt, we’re telling you you’re probably better off with Johan.

11:31 PM

The Commissioner informs us that there is only one DL spot. Anarchy ensues.

11:46 PM

Alcides Escobar earns me my third “Fuck You” of the night, putting me up there with the greats. I’m in fine form tonight. I’ve gotten everyone I wanted, I just don’t know if they’re any good.

11:58 PM

After our Round 16 picks, Ryan Rob and I, picking 4th 5th and 6th respectively, makes a bolt for 7-11. It’s candy time, bitches. I head inside and grab a Take-Five and Snickers PB box of Matzoh and we make it back without missing a beat.

12:14 AM

It has officially become a struggle. I’m on a couch in the next room; doing that thing where I’m listening and paying attention to the draft but also my eyes are closed and falling asleep would kick ass. But I’m not asleep, and right as I hear my name called, I reply back with a quick “Ben Revere”. We push onward.

12:31 AM

Andrew is in the corner drafting 3 teams and it is beginning to wear the big man down. He is our lone lifeline to Facebook Alan, and has been making “Best Available” selections for Absent Max all night. He’s about halfway through a 2 liter of cola, and at this point, it may not be enough.

12:40 AM

I have begun to share my resources. Tonight I’m only using two printouts: An ESPN Top 300 ranking, and an ESPN positional rankings sheet that I’ve highlighted with sleepers and overhyped players from rotochamp.com. Sure enough, Ryan’s laptop shuts off and destroys his spreadsheet in the process. I give him my spare Top 300 and let him peer at the positional list. He is intrigued by its highlighting. I explain it’s for sleepers and overhyped players, but don’t reveal which one is which. Being evil can be fun.

12:43 AM

“GODDAMIT BABY NEIL WALKER GET OFF THIS PLANE!!!”

12:52 AM

I have identified the Wild Card in the room. Every league has a guy that nobody takes seriously, and his team never gets enough respect. Then they usually fare pretty well. Well this league has Brennan. Brennan’s best friends with the Commish, and has been using his advice effectively. It’s three rounds before I notice he’s taken A.J. Pierzynski, and by that time there aren’t many catchers left.

1:09 AM

If midnight was a struggle, the 1 am hour has turned this into a chore. “How It’s Made” drones on in the background, as we’ve all grown sick of SportsCenter reruns. We are plowing through the last two rounds standing up; Brennan and the Commish make their final picks with their coats on and leave shortly after.

1:30 AM

It’s over. We breathe a sigh of relief and marvel at the Board, our color-coded bounty standing before us. Suddenly, life becomes easier to manage, and we sit for an extra 20 minutes just marveling at our creation. Analyzing a newly completed draft board like it’s a work of art; we compare each other’s newly formed squads and, of course, talk early trade. Rob’s run on closers becomes the main storyline of the draft, but it comes with a price- he didn’t take a catcher. Rob settled for J.P Arencibia in the final round, but he may have to deal a closer or two if he wants to improve.

Another successful draft indeed, and 5 hours of drafting now parlays into 5 months of fantasy action. Good luck in your own league, and thanks for pretending to care about mine.

Brunch: Now When You Say, “Classic”….

wbc

Here it is!  Today’s the big day! It’s the WBC!

The Baseball event we’ve been waiting for!

Um, anybody there?

For the third time now, ESPN has done a subpar job promoting the World Baseball Classic. Running until March 19, 16 countries will be competing for a trip to the Championship Round at AT&T park in San Fran. There are two newcomers to the field this year, involving a new wrinkle in the rules. A qualifying tournament was held for the last two spots in the tournament, which in the past two Classics were given to Panama and South Africa. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the national teams from Spain and Brazil! Two countries that are so accustomed to their teams dominating one sport are sure to love watching their homeland getting destroyed by the likes of Chinese Taipei.

The real draw of the WBC is that no other major baseball tournament had ever before used MLB players. And the USA roster has a decent amount of firepower. David Wright, Brandon Phillips, and Mark Teixeira provide a solid infield and Ryan Braun could provide the power necessary to give the USA its first medal.

Oh, you didn’t know? Team USA has yet to medal in either of the previous two Classics. Truth is, this field is very competitive. There are 11 All-Stars on Venezuela’s roster, including Miguel Cabrera, and they finished third last time around.

But the real trouble is in the Far East.

Japan is fielding an all-domestic team this year, so no namedropping necessary. The WBC has been the most watched sporting event in Japanese television history, and why not- they are the two-time defending champions. Their biggest rival is South Korea, who also has a roster filled with players you’ve never heard of. Just know this: South Korea is 12-4 all-time at the WBC, with all 4 losses coming at the hands of the Japanese.

Am I going to watch the Classic? Probably not. Truthfully, it’s just not classic enough for me. This is only its third time around, and half of these teams are likely to get trampled early (I’m looking at you, Brazil).

Now the Big East Tournament? That’s Classic.

And it’s the last one, so damned if I miss one last showdown at MSG. BUT, the Big East tourney ends on the 16th. The WBC Championship is March 19. So I’ll be there to bandwagon for whatever team makes it to California.

But with seven months of baseball ahead of me, can’t I just enjoy March Madness?

Lunch: So Long, Mr. Smith

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

On March 12th, the 49ers and Chiefs will agree to a trade that will send Alex Smith to Kansas City in exchange for two picks, one of which being the 34th overall selection in April’s draft. Smith now joins a list of quarterbacks to go from the Bay Area to KC, and a slightly longer list of quarterbacks who were drafted number one overall and then later traded.

What do we make of Smith’s career thus far? He certainly didn’t match the hype or potential that comes with a first overall selection, but as it goes with most top picks, he went to a 49ers team in a transitional mode. The problem is that San Fran stayed in that transitional mode for the better part of the next decade. Smith-led teams finished 4-12, 7-9, 5-11, 7-9, 8-8, and 6-10 from 2005—10. During this time, Smith’s teams never made the playoffs, and Smith never threw for 20 touchdowns in a season. That being said, for each one of those years, Smith has had a different Offensive Coordinator.

Smith’s complete resume reeks of mediocrity, but the 2011 season is the reason KC pulled the trigger. San Fran finished 13-3 and Smith had a QB rating 90.3.

90.3

Can Alex Smith do any better than 90.3? In 2012 his rating was a whopping 104.1, but I’m not counting it because he didn’t finish the season. If your stats are so good you can brag about them, why were you replaced??

Alex Smith depends on a solid run game to be a productive quarterback. In his career, Smith has only 12 game-winning drives, which puts him on the all-time ranks amongst eh likes of Jim Zorn and Neil Lomax. Again, these are not knocks on Smith. Or are they?

The numbers show one thing: Alex Smith is average. He’s not great. He can a game, but no with it all on his shoulders. And the thing is, that might be exactly what Andy Reid is looking for.

Andy Reid, for his lack of Lombardis to his name, won a lot of regular season games. And he did so with a balanced attack that hinged on accurate passing. This style may be suited to Smith’s game, and Reid will love his experience starting with a new franchise. Smith flourished when the Niners were running the ball. In 2012, the Niners were ranked 4th, and the Chiefs were ranked 5th.

Nobody has been looking for a quarterback for longer than the Kansas City Chiefs. In fact, the last time a quarterback was drafted by the Chiefs and started was a man by the name of Todd Blackledge. The Chiefs have used free agency to find their QB for over two decades and Smith looks to be their best prospect yet.

Even if Smith doesn’t set the world on fire, the Chiefs are poised to at the very least improve on last season’s 2-14 finish. With a solid run game and a tenacious defense, Andy Reid should have no problem righting the ship. The Chiefs also play in the AFC North, which is one Peyton Manning away from being the worst division in football right now. Did I mention they also have the first overall pick?

This is just the first step in a number of moves in what should be a long tenure for Andy Reid in KC. Even if Smith does go the way of, Elvis Grbac, Warren Moon, Trent Green, Dave Krieg, and now Matt Cassel, the Chiefs are trying, and as of right now they are on the rise.

Tomorrow, we look at how this deal impacts the 49ers and the future of Colin Kaepernick.

Breakfast: Putting Perspective on Pacers-Warriors Pushing Party

First things First: Last night was not Malice at the Palace 2.0. This needs to be said. But in case in you missed it, there was a scrum in the 4th quarter of last night’s Pacers-Warriors contest. The Pacers won, 107-98, but not after an incident that began when Roy Hibbert got tangled up with David Lee. Check it:

The whole thing could have ended at the :10 mark. David Lee gives Hibbert the most unfriendly chest bump I’ve ever seen, talks his trash and then turns his back. It’s over. Defused.

We at TheOrangeWedge are huge fans of David Lee. Not just because he started as a Knick, but the way he plays the game. As for Hibbert, I doubt you’ll find a nicer 7 footer than Roy Hibbert. Check out this article, or this article. The dude is exactly who you want as the cornerstone for your franchise.

And yet, the Pacers can’t fill their seats. But we’ll get to that later. Back to the video.

If anyone deserves to get suspended here (besides Hibbert), why not Steph Curry? Curry throws himself at Hibbert not once, but twice! And both times he gets tossed by Hibby. By that time, Curry’s sheer momentum has carried the pile towards the first row and photographers, escalating the situation and probably the main cause for the suspensions. Sitting courtside is the single best way to view a professional sport, and the NBA has to protect that asset or they will be at risk of losing that privilege. Just ask NASCAR.

Why these two teams? It wasn’t unlikely when you break it down. Since Frank Vogel’s arrival in Indiana his has instilled a very blue-collar mentality to the locker room. The Pacers play tough, they play physical, and they play unselfish. Even with the 2nd best record in the East, they play like an underdog every night.

The Pacers methodology and mindset is exactly what Mark Jackson has been attempting to do in Oakland. Jackson took the role of Warriors head coach before last season, had a shortened training camp, and struggled with injuries; all while management made significant roster moves. But he has transformed the Warriors into his mold: athletic, scrappy, and unselfish. Much like the point guard who trails only John Stockton and Jason Kidd in the All-Time assists totals.

A quick backtrack: last night’s scuffle is terrible for the Pacers, who are already ranked 26th in league attendance. Why would the team that only trails the Heat in the East be struggling to fill seats? I have my points, and they are much in line with that of Colin Cowherd. But this isn’t about that issue. The point is, this incident won’t stop people from going, but it certainly won’t have a positive impact. People that haven’t been going will finger-point and call this another reason they won’t attend games. But this wasn’t violence. It was hunger. Hunger from two teams that are built to win, but are destined to fall short of their goals.

Neither of these teams have a legitimate shot at the title. They are playoff teams, they will be in the discussion, but deep down, they know they won’t be able to reach the Finals. So what if the Pacers are 2-0 against the Heat this year? So what if the Warriors beat the Spurs in OT last week?

Both of these teams know they are good, but not good enough to win a series. As we hit March and teams pick up the intensity, more players are going to get technical, and more skirmishes like this may break out. It’s unfortunate this had to happen in Indiana of all places, but the NBA is too competitive for emotions not to boil over at this point. I believe, however, that last nights, tussle was a very good sign of things to come.

 

Brace yourselves, this Playoffs is going to be one of the best in recent memory.

Lunch: Damian Lillard is For Realsies

This year’s rookie class is full of surprises (AP/Michael Conroy)

Let’s set the record straight: some of us here at The OrangeWedge have a gambling problem. Well, it’s not quite a problem yet, but over the course of our sportsbetting educations, we may not always make the best decisions.

Let’s take a late night this past summer, where I was looking at NBA Future bets, specifically Rookie of the Year. Did I have a good knowledge about how this year’s crop of freshman would pan out? Absolutely not. But Austin Rivers was going off +1800, and for some reason it was looking sexy. “All the focus will be on Anthony Davis,” I told myself (I’m delusional). “Did you see his winner against UNC? The kid is real.” It’s safe to say my money is gone, as Rivers is averaging just 6 points in 23 minutes per game this season. A disappointing effort, but Rivers is 20 and he’ll have time to develop.

So who’s the Rookie of the Year? Right now, some kid from Weber State is the clear cut winner for an award that LeBron, Durant, and Chris Paul have all won in the past. Have you met Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard?

Damian Lillard grew up in Oakland, and I’ll let you write the next few sentences describing what a childhood in Oakland entails. The only difference is that Lillard’s father was a pillar in the community, keeping not just Damian out of trouble but other kids in the neighborhood as well. Despite positive influences and prep school success, Lillard was just a two-star recruit and received no major offers.

He ended up at Weber State, and spent the next three years taking dookies on the Big Sky conference. Check it out:

Bonus: Not only did Lillard post that video, another user commented with a question, and Lillard answered. What athlete does that? Lillard is also active on Twitter (@Dame_Lillard) and is constantly having giveaways and opportunities to interact with fans.

He finished his career as a Weber Wildcat 2nd in career scoring to the legendary Bruce Collins. Bruce, played for four years to Lillard’s 3, however, and went pro in 1980 where he was drafted by….wait for it…the Portland Trail Blazers. Feel free to geek out.

Lillard hasn’t transformed the Blazers with his presence  but his athleticism gives them a key piece to compete with the Westbrooks and Currys they see so often in the West. Lillard has the chops to be in their conversation, as he has quickly adapted to the speed of the game and can attack off the dribble effectively. There are not going to be any stats in this article (sorry, Daryl Morey), but know that barring injury, Lillard is your ROY. And he’s a good guy. And my Rivers bet is ruined.

Disagree? Let us know? E-mail us or tweet at us @TheOrangeWedge!