Thursday, March 30, 2006

Brazilian Ping Pong

Final Four Pick'em

Game #1
+ 5 George Mason
- 5 Florida

I'm picking + 5 George Mason and OVER.

Game #2
- 1 LSU
+ 1 UCLA

I'm picking -1 LSU and UNDER.

Since the bracket contest is over, I encourage everyone to post their picks, hopefully someone will get all 4 right. And by someone I mean me.

NFL Update

I'm pretty excited already about all the new quarterbacks. Culpeppy on the Dolphins, Brees on the Saints, Griese on the Bears as soon as Rex goes down in the preseason; the AFC West took a step back, as Phillip Rivers and Aaron Brooks will be starting for the Chargers and Raiders, which is fine by me.

There are some nice rule changes: you can challenge plays even if they were downed by contact, there are more rules for safety including low tackles and horse collars, and the playoffs are going to remain at 12 teams. Seriously, how dumb are the Chiefs for proposing to increase the number of playoff teams, when you were the last team to miss the playoffs. Even if you think the idea is good (which it isn't) it just looks like they are whining about missing the playoffs (no comment). The fact is if the Chiefs had beaten either the Cowboys (which came down to the last play) or the Giants (which was an ugly behind the woodshed beatdown) they would have made the playoffs and the Steelers would have been left out. It's funny that the Champs had to win their last game of the season just to edge the Chiefs for the 6th wild card spot.

But c'mon, don't reign in the celebrations. Everyone loves them. No one is hurt by them. Let em dance.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Football Fever

Right in the middle of all the Madness, the NFL drops this little ditty on us: The Manning Bowl. The primetime game on opening Sunday. Other interesting tidbits: the season kicks off on Thursday, with Culpeppy in teal and orange playing the champs in black and gold. Phillip Rivers finally makes an NFL start, on the back end of a opening MNF on ESPN doubleheader.

And three games on Thanksgiving! Including... ta-da... Broncos at Chiefs! Although it is only available on NFL Network, I can't think of a better way to cap off a big dinner, then by feasting on the Donkeys.

Final Four

While everyone is all over the fact that George Mason did make an improbable run to the Final Four, no one seems to be talking about the fact that in all 4 Elite Eight games, the underdog won. Has this ever happened before?

Also, ESPN and everyone else quoting ESPN is quick to point out of their 2.7 million brackets, only 4 people picked the Final Four. But here's the thing: Only 2 of them are in the top leaderboard spots. One is in 8th, and one is off the board. What's the point? Well, if you had enough brackets you could pick lots of crazy upsets to cover yourself and try and get the final four right. But in doing so you'll end up with a sweet 16 featuring: unc-wilimngton, nc st, northwestern st, and san diego st for example. And that would put you in 8th place. So it's not enough just to get the final four right, but do it, while not going overboard with upsets to still rack up the points. Also, all the people with the final four teams right, picked Florida to win it all. So if you think these guys had to have some sort of time machine to get their bracket right, put all your money on Florida, back to the future style.

Re-pardon the re-interruption, but the best strategy is betting the opposite of what Mark thinks.

After picking 5 of the 8 sweet 16 games right (with spreads), I only got 1 out of 4 games right over the weekend, picking GM +8. Another thing, while I was surprised that GM won the game, they were only an 8 point dog, and I thought that was too high anyways. This wasn't Miracle on Ice. So over the last four days, I've gone 6 out of 12. Mark went with the favorites every game during the elite eight, putting him at 4 out of 12.

So if we were putting 20 bucks on each game, I would be even, and Mark would be down $80.

Also, thanks to Bobby for ridiculing us and then telling us how UConn would win it all, even giving us a final score prediction. Just goes to show you how unpredictable these games are.

Also, my picks broke me even, but if I just would have heard what Mark picked, and then done the opposite, I would have made $80.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pardon the Interruption, but I'm Smarter than Mark

To quickly recap the outcome of the first day of the sweet 16:
Dave 3 out of 4
Mark 1 out of 4

We were both right about Memphis, and we were both wrong about UCLA covering the 4 point spread.

My hope is that we can continue picking spreads, picking the final 15 games of the tournament. (all spreads via pickspal hoops1001)

In fear that I won't be able to get to a computer before Saturday's games, I will pick them now. I'm going with the favorites:
-3 Texas
-3 Memphis

Sweet and Sour

So yesterday I predicted that these would be great games:


*This should be a good game in theory, but I just can't believe that Gonzaga could actually get to the Elite Eight. UCLA runs away with it.

And Memphis/Bradley could be a good game if Bradley shows up, but they won't. They're just happy to be there.

And the Duke, West Virgina games were throughly great. And the Gonzaga game was a stunner, although my analysis was a little off. In hindsight, Gonzaga looks like they're running away with it, but I just can't believe that Gonzaga could actually get to the Elite Eight. This is a good game and Ucla wins it.

Also, I feel like I need to say how awesome the bracket contest makes everything. Without it I wouldn't have a rooting interest in West Virgina/Texas, but with it, I was screaming by myself in my apartment, throwing a foam basketball around, hitting a pillow and just plain ol going bananas.

Last night was so good it deserves a recap:

C'mon CBS, switch to the Duke game! It's tied and I'm stuck watching Bradley lose by 10. Come on!

Redick makes both free throws (barely) to cut the LSU lead to 1, with 38 seconds to go.
Duke lets Tyrus Thomas go free and he gets an uncontested dunk, LSU up 3 with 32 seconds left.

So even though Redick has been slumping hasn't he earned the chance to shoot a 3 in this position? Apparently not. Paulus misses a layup and has to foul LSU.
Makes the first shot. LSU up 4 with 21 seconds left.
He misses the second...and Big Baby with the LSU rebound!
Okay 19 seconds left, makes the first one, LSU up 5. Coach takes away LSU rebounders to get back on defense.
Second attempt...and of the 4 Duke players standing at the lane, no one blocks out the one LSU player on that half of the court - the shooter, Big Baby! He gets his own rebound! And Duke officially gave up. Redick bows out in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year with a bad game.


I need West Virgina to beat Texas to stay ahead of Sakina.
Ugh, WV down 39-27 at the half, it looks like their shoot nothing but 3's philisophy might be hurting them.
In the first 53 seconds of the second half, WV goes on a 8-0 run! Will Texas get Pittsnogled?
WV finally ties the game with 8 minutes left.
Still tied with 6 minutes, looks like another great finish.
Pittsnogle "fouls" a Texas player, but Pittsnogle takes a elbow to the nose and he's bleeding.
Uh-oh. WV down 5 with 26 seconds left. Looks like it might be over. Pittsnogle shoves more bloody cotton up his nose.
They're taking a long time...and Gansey with the 3! WV down 2, 18 seconds left.
With 14 seconds left, Texas misses the first FT. At worst WV can tie with a 3. Texas makes the second shot.
With 7 seconds left they run the play to get a 3 pointer by...Bloody Pittsnogle! It's good. 5 seconds left. Ohmygodthey'renottakingatimeout, Texasisshootingathree, c'monbric--It's good! Texas wins!

Since Texas didn't take a timeout, the final 13 seconds were like an extremely short episode of 24 - in real time and had 2 twists!


Gonzaga is up 37-20 in the first half. UCLA looks terrible.
With 14 minutes to go, it's 50-40. UCLA is hanging around.
With 3:26 left, Gonzaga up 71-62. Remember that. 71-62. 3 minutes to go.
UCLA scores, Morrison misses. UCLA scores, Batista misses. 71-66, UCLA ball. 1:30 remaining.
UCLA driving for a layup, gets fouled, and the ball goes in! But the ref is waiving it off?! Terrible call. Absolutely terrible. Could cost UCLA the game! The ref says that the foul occured on the floor, no basket. Absolutely wrong, and could kill UCLA's momentum. They should be shooting one to cut the lead to 2. Instead they are down 5, shooting a 1 and 1. And he misses! Wow. Gonzaga still up 5. The ref just stole a basket from the Bruins.
Morrison misses a shot with a minute left, UCLA scores again. 71-68 with 50 seconds left.
Morrison shoots with 20 seconds left, and misses again! UCLA gets fouled and makes 2 free throws.
Zags inbounding with 15 seconds left, only up by one. Morrison trapped in the corner. Gets it to a big man. It's stolen. UCLA lays it in. Their first lead of the game comes with 9 seconds left! 72-71. 9 seconds. Will Gonzaga take a timeout? No, they're pushing it up the floor, is that a foul, the ball is loose, everyone's diving on the floor, jump ball, arrow to the Bruins, Morrison is crying.
2 seconds left. Last second shot goes to Batista, no good. Morrison sprawled out on the floor. Ugh, I feel terrible for him.

He'll probably get/is getting a lot of flack for crying, but I can't blame him. I've cried over sports before, and I was only a fan. Heck, I've pouted when I paid 7 bucks for a bad sandwich. So to be up with that kind of lead, and then to see it get stolen away. Unbelievable. And it's not just that you lose a game. But you realize that you can never win another game for Gonzaga. That's the last time you'll ever put on the jersey, and it tears you up inside.

But on every amazing play, there will always be a winner and a loser, and that's what we love about it. Sweet. And sour.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What's Sweeter Than This?

Also I know that Lee Corso only does college football, but hey I couldn't find a picture of someone holding a sign behind Billy Packer.

There are really going to be some great game this weekend including:


*This should be a good game in theory, but I just can't believe that Gonzaga could actually get to the Elite Eight. UCLA runs away with it.

And Memphis/Bradley could be a good game if Bradley shows up, but they won't. They're just happy to be there.

Since I'm already in first place with in my 12-person bracket pool, I thought I would up the ante, and pick the sweet 16 with spreads:

+ 5.5 LSU
+ 5.5 West Virginia
- 6 Memphis
- 4 UCLA
- 6.5 Connecticut
PK George Mason
+ 2.5 Boston College
+ 3.5 Georgetown

Of the four underdogs, I think West Virginia and Georgetown will win outright, LSU will cover the spread, and I have no idea what will happen with BC. I really like not to pick it all because this one is a tossup - so I've got to take the points and go with BC.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Tourney Time

In just 4 days, 3/4 of the tournament teams have been sent packing. Obviously the big story is the 3 shocking, brave teams that have lead a mid-major revolution into the Sweet 16: Wichita State, Bradley and George Mason. And along with the other upsets, there was one that almost happenned: Albany over UConn. It would have been the biggest upset ever, and up 12 late in the second half, I'm sure the Albany campus was going nuts. So it's fair to say, that while there are still powerhouse programs, the rest of college basketball is catching up.

What I find very interesting is that all 4 of last year's Final Four teams have already been eliminated. And only 1 team that was in the Elite Eight last year, is still alive this year. So what team has the only chance of making it back-to-back elite 8 seasons? Of course, the dominant power that it West Virginia.

In fact, 12 of last year's Sweet 16 is already gone. The repeat offenders: Duke, Washington, West Virginia and Villanova.

This shouldn't be a big surprise, none of the 2004 elite eight teams made it back in 2005.

And only 3 teams made the Sweet 16 in both 2004 and 2005: Oklahaoma State, Illinois, Duke.

So while Wichita State, Bradley and George Mason shouldn't be content to get to the regionals and lose, they should realize that even making it this far is a feat worth celebrating, and is hard to do year after year.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


C'mon big money, no whammy, no whammy, big money, and STOP!


Game show legend Peter Tomarken died in a plane crash on Monday. He will be missed.

Monday, March 13, 2006

How could this not work...

Bob Patterson
Listen Up!
The Michael Richards Show
Watching Ellie
and now...The New Adventures of Old Christine

Weekend Wrapup

Is there a bigger tease in all of sports, then the Big Mac Minute? On Sunday night I witnessed the Red Wings beat the Blackhawks 5-3 at the United Center. McDonald's has a longstanding promotion, that if Chicago scores in the final minute of any period, every fan gets a coupon for a free Big Mac. A feat that seems totally reasonable while everyone in the audience switches the chants from "Lets Go Red Wings / Red Wings Suck" to "Lets Go Big Mac" and "C'mon and freaking score, I want a Big Mac!" (Also, it is worth mentioning that there were more Detroit fans [or they were at least louder] than Chicago fans) But if there is one thing that can bring rivaled fans together, it's free meat! How ironic.

Also, the Edge went from perennial Super Bowl Contender Indianapolis, to a team that can't make the playoffs, Arizona. Randel El went from winning the Super Bowl with the Steelers to the Redskins. While I'm not blaming the players for accepting a promotion/raise at the job, the whole concept of how loyal fans are to a team is funny when players jump around from team to team, from a team to their rival. Are fans loyal to the owner, the uniform? The city? Does it come down to "the city I live in is better at sports than the city you live in?"

Although to play Devil's Advocate, the notion of loyal fans is often dependent on them winning. You think that if Duke missed the big dance 10 years in a row, the Cameron Crazies would really big that crazy? Would Arizona be having ticket slumps if they went deep in the playoffs for a couple years? Of course there are exceptions like the Cubs, whose tickets sold out faster than the World Series Champs. Either the fans like to be able to relate to a loser, or I blame the water. Seriously, don't drink the water.

Also, I'm sure you've heard about the book that proves Barry Bonds took steroids, but I'm not sure how anyone could make such a preposterous claim.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Let the Madness Begin

Okay, so doesn't is seem like Gerry McNamara has been at Syracuse for 6 years? Maybe that's because when Carmelo was lauded for carrying the Orange to a National Title as a freshman, Gerry was also a freshman playing 35 minutes a game and shooting 36% from beyond the arc. But as the talent from the champion season left, Gerry was forced to carry the team and force a lot of shots. So this season, when it looked like 'Cuse might be headed for the NIT, and I saw highlight after highlight of McNamara jumping awkwardly and shooting one handed shots, I thought that he was overrated.

Well if one wasn't enough, Gerry came down and hit last second 3-pointes to beat Cincinnatti and UConn. And now the Orange are headed to the Big Dance, where it seems that anything could happen this year.

Speaking of anything could happen, how about that Pitt/Louisville game. I couldn't believe what I saw when I turned on the game in the first half.

With 11:20 to go in the first half it was Pitt 16-0.
With 4:30 to go in the first half it was 33-5.
Clearly this was not the same Louisville that went to the Final Four last year.
But if I couldn't beleive the score in the first half, I really was shocked to see the score in the 2nd half.
With 23 seconds left in the game Pitt was only up 3, 57-54.
Pitt would hold on to win by 5, but the whole game was madness. Can you imagine going on a 51-28 run to finish the game and lose?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hooray for Mini-Quesadillas!

Lots of snacks promise big taste, but how many can deliver the big taste of chicken quesadillas into bite-size portions. Only one.

The best part about the mini-quesadillas is in the cooking directions, microwave is the preferred method of cooking. In the world of frozen food, it's always a debate to go for the quick fix of the microwave of the better tasting results of the oven. Jose Ole thinks you shouldn't have to choose between great tasting mexican finger foods and wanting hot food in under 60 seconds.

Also, they make sure you know they're using only the top ingredients. Check out that seal on the right side of the box: made with Real Cheese! That way you know it's real! Ole!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Smart Heuristic

Which of the following two cities has more inhabitants — Hanover or Bielefeld?

I pick these two German cities assuming that you don’t know very much about Germany. Most people will think it’s Hanover because they have never heard of Bielefeld, and they’re right. However, if I pose the same question to Germans, they are insecure and don’t know which to choose. They’ve heard of both of them and try to recall information. The same thing can be done in reverse.

Daniel Gray Goldstein did studies asking Americans which city has more inhabitants — San Diego or San Antonio? About two-thirds of my former undergraduates at the University of Chicago got the right answer: San Diego. Then we asked German students — who know much less about San Diego and many of whom had never even heard of San Antonio — the same question. What proportion of the German students do you think got the answer right? In our study, a hundred percent. They hadn’t heard of San Antonio, so they picked San Diego. This is an interesting case of a smart heuristic, where people with less knowledge can do better than people with more.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NFL Offseason: The most popular sport cutting players

First things first, ESPN has a sportsnation poll asking what your favorite sport is. What's not surprising is football's dominance both in terms of overall percentage, or that every state and internationally it is the #1 sport. What is surprising is that Nascar is in last. With 45,000 votes in, more than enough for a fair sample size, Nascar has a dreadful 3%, behind the NHL. And this is among stories that the Daytona 500 just set records for viewers, and that Nascar was becoming more popular than baseball.

There are 2 explanations for this:

1. Lots of people like Nascar, but they would rather watch football, given the choice. Perhaps if there was an option to rank your favorite sports, Nascar would have many second-place votes.

2. during the day is not a fair sample of the sports fans across the country. It is possible that sports fans during the day who like Nascar, may not have available internet access or prefer nascar websites instead of espn.

What is shocking though is how low 3% really is. Earlier when a poll asked which CBB team was most undeserving of a 1-seed, at least 5% picked UConn - over obviously inferior teams such as Gonzaga and Memphis. The point is that there is always a decent percentage of people who just pick everything, so to see Nascar with only 3% seems fishy.

But moving on to the state of the NFL currently. Due to no labor agreement, the salary cap will be much lower than expected. Which means that teams will have to cut many players: (The following is from ESPN)

The Chiefs started their salary cap purge Thursday by terminating the contracts of four veteran players: cornerbacks Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon and linebackers Shawn Barber and Gary Stills.

The moves cleared out $6.3 million, but the Chiefs have more work to do to get under the $94.5 million salary cap. They started the day $18.1 million over the cap, so these moves leave them $11.9 million over.

I guess the good news about having a crappy defense, is that it is easy to find a bunch of shitty players to cut.

But I wonder, if so many teams have to cut people just to get under the cap, who is going to have any cap room to sign these hundreds of players that are now free agents. There are some decently high profile players that are just being cut, and I don't know if any one can afford to sign them.

Priest Holmes was reportedly considering retirement earlier in the week. I wonder if the Chiefs will end up making that decision for him, and drop his expensive salary.