Well, we've put together a top 25 poll for basketball. Now, polls are compeltely meaningless, and there are some quibbles I have with Jason's rankings, but not enough to change things up too much. So my comments are in bold behind his.

1. Stanford. They are 14-0 with wins against Arizona, Gonzaga, and Kansas. The pollsters love Duke so much that they can’t name the #1 that really deserves it. They are killing teams right now, only four times have they won by less than 10 points, and only once by less than four (Arizona St)
2. Louisville. At 14-1, they’ve won everything since a one point loss in the opener. They’ve beaten Florida, Kentucky (both #1) and Cincinnati. They didn't just beat Cincinnati, they made them look silly. The Iowa loss looks bad, but it was the opener.
3. Duke. The one loss was to Purdue, but they beat Michigan St. and Texas. They handed Wake Forest their first loss of the season before beating Maryland on their own court. They can shoot the long ball and they’ve got good interior defense. Let's face it, they are awesome. They are the evil empire of college basketball.
4. Connecticut. The Huskies are loaded with talent. Really, they ought to be undefeated, but Georgia Tech and UNC have revived their programs. UCONN did get big wins over Pitt and Oklahoma. Is any team higher rated for accomplishing less? They've played four teams in the RPI top 50, and gone 2-2, with the wins over Pitt and rutgers. They are good, but they are underperforming.
5. St. Joseph’s. They are 16-0, but really untested. Their best win is the season opener over Gonzaga, but since then the schedule has been very thin. But they have beaten the crap out of most teams they’ve played. They have a better win than UConn.
6. Kentucky. They lost to UGA and Louisville, and nearly lost to Mississippi St., but they also beat UNC, Michigan St., and Vanderbilt. Look at their schedule—unlike a lot of the big time teams, they’re not afraid to go on the road. How did they lose to Georgia? They should have lost to Miss State, but "should have" means squat. I really like this team.
7. Georgia Tech. Road team? The Yellow Jackets won at UCONN and at Wake Forest. OK, they lost at UNC and at Georgia, but also throw in home wins against Texas Tech and Maryland. God, did Maryland go into the tank against Tech or what? GT's been terrific at times this year, but there is a line here between the top six and the rest of the nation.
8. Mississippi St. If not for a miraculous play by Kentucky, they’d be undefeated. They just won at Florida. Except maybe the Bulldogs, they belong ahead of GT. A tough, physical team that will be a hard game come March.
9. Gonzaga. Their only losses are to Stanford and St. Joe—notice they are undefeated and in everyone’s top 5. Gonzaga also beat Georgia, Missouri, and Maryland, that’s three wins against the second tier of some of the best conferences in the nation. They're going to the tourney, and they'll get a good seed. This is the best Zag team ever.
10. Cincinnati. 13-1 is nice. The only big win is against Marquette. They fell flat against Louisville. Flat? Is that what we're calling it? I'd call it getting beat like a narc at a biker rally.
11. North Carolina. Wins against Georgia Tech and UCONN make up for losses to Kentucky, Maryland, and Wake Forest. The ACC is a tough place to play, every team has a shot at the tourney.
12. Pittsburgh. They beat Georgia, but are 0-1 against ranked teams. Talk about playing nobody.
13. Texas Tech. Bobby Knight has these guys ready to play. They lost on the road to Georgia Tech, and followed that up with an ugly loss to SMU, but in the last week they’ve beaten Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. I hate Bobby night with a fiery passion, but he wins games. I'm stunned they aren't getting more respect in the polls.
14. Florida. Yeah, 4 losses, but it’s the toughest schedule in the nation. They’ve lost a couple lately, but they also won at Arizona, at South Carolina, and against Florida St. How tough? Even with four losses, their fifth in the RPI. They've played 6 games against the top 50 with two more this week.
15. Texas. Their losses were high quality—Duke and Arizona, but they did beat Wake Forest. TJ who? Not really.
16. Arizona. Good wins against Texas and Marquette, but aside from losing at home to Florida, they’ve dropped recent games to Stanford and USC. Well, they're not as good as Stanford, and there's no shame in that. Still a real threat come tourney time.
17. Wake Forest. Did someone say losing streak? After an 11-0 start including a win at UNC, they’ve dropped three straight. With each loss getting worse. But now is the time to see how they bounce back: Maryland, Virginia, and NC State.
18. Kansas. They’re 11-2, but it’s been a long time since they beat a good team. Richmond's decent, but you cannot lose to the Spiders. And now comes the conference slate.
19. Syracuse. Play somebody!!! They beat some decent teams, albeit underachievers, in Michigan St. and Missouri, but also lost to Seton Hall and Charlotte. Well, they can't be blamed for State's lousy year, or Mizzou's. They tried to schedule tough.
20. Vanderbilt. They built up a 13-2 record with a lot of weak opponents, but they did win against Florida, and their only losses were on the road to Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm very forgiving of in-coference road losses. Vandy hasn't been this good since billy McCaffery was gunning threes.
21. Purdue. Nice wins against Wisconsin, Duke, and Illinois, but bad losses to Colorado St., SMU, Iowa, and Oklahoma. The toughest team in the nation to figure out.
22. Oklahoma St. They lost to Texas Tech and BYU, but beat Oklahoma. That’s why they’re in, but OU isn’t. Neither of the Oklahoma's have been very impressive, but they both have done enough to merit watching.
23. South Carolina. At 16-2 they are a popular pick, but they’ll soon fade as they face tougher competition in conference. They did beat Georgia and Tennessee, but lost to Florida and Temple.I expect an ugly second half fade once the big bodies of the SEC start banging them around.
24. Wisconsin. It pains me to put them here, because all they’ve done is beat Marquette. Zero wins over the RPI top 50, and the Big Ten sucks this year, so it's possible they can go the whole year without a quality win. Nobody's rooting harder for Marquette to turn it around than these guys.
25. Providence. Their three losses were by a combined 13 points, but they have beaten Seton Hall, Alabama, and Illinois. Bama's better than you think. They're 2-3 against the RPI top 50, with only the Xavier loss standing out.
Next 5 out…
Creighton. 13-2 is fine, and we like Creighton, but they haven’t played anyone good. They lost to Northern Iowa and Wichita St.
Illinois. A good win against Missouri, but that loss to Northwestern shames them.
Maryland. It hurts to have half your players go pro.
Oklahoma. A complete and utter fraud. When they see a good team, they lose. I think the win over Purdue was out of character.
Utah. They gave Utah St. their only loss, and their losses are to UCONN, Texas Tech, and LSU.
posted by Poseur 1/23/2004 01:13:00 PM


Jesse Orosco finally calls it quits

24 years. And the scary thing was, he didn't hang around too long. Last year was the first bad year Orosco has ever had. In every other season save three, his ERA has been better than league average, and in those three, he was pretty close. He retires with an ERA 80 points better than league average, which is pretty darn good. He finishes his career first all-time in games (1252), and 15th in strikouts per nine innings (8.19). Not bad. He's been an effective pitcher since the Carter Administration. He'll be missed.

posted by Poseur 1/22/2004 01:25:00 PM

Payton says no, or the Raiders do, we're not sure

The weirdness of the Raiders will continue in its future.

Meanwhile, the strangeness of the Raiders' coaching search will continue indefinitely.

And the oddness of the Raiders' luck is, this might all actually work out for them in the end.

You go on believing that. The writer later talks about the Bears having talks break down with McGinnis and eventally signing Dick Jauron. and yeah, that worked out real well. Don't believe the company line, the aiders are in trouble and nobody but nobody wants to work for Al Davis anymore.

posted by Poseur 1/22/2004 01:17:00 PM


Recruiting news

Yes, it's overrated, but it's also the lifeblood of every program. How do you follow recruiting?

The important thing is not to follow individual players, but general trends. Players bomb out all of the time, but if a team recruits 10 five-star recruits, it means that program is a real player and they are continuing to pump talent into their pipeline. Maybe half will flop, but that still means five studs.

Be wary of teams that over-recruit one position. Signing five top-rated running backs ain't as good as you think. Signing five top-rated linemen is awesome. Recruiting two stud QB's? One will transfer. Guarranteed. Watch out for guys with bad grades and partial qualifiers, or two-sport stars (particularly baseball)... chances are, they won't ever play for the team that they sign for.

It's a lot like the draft, only with a higher margin of error. It's just tough to project how a 17-year old will do in the college game.

posted by Poseur 1/20/2004 02:16:00 PM

Patriots worry about scoring points

"We left a lot of points on the field," Brady said.

With their rock-solid defense dismantling the Indianapolis Colts' potent offense with a five-turnover feast, the Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII with a 24-14 victory.

Perhaps it should've been a blowout.

Indianapolis still had a chance, however, trailing by seven with two minutes remaining because the Patriots offense had a few problems finishing its drives.

Early in the fourth quarter, it was Brady's end-zone interception on a forced pass to a well-covered Dedric Ward on a slant. Before that, a short third-down toss slipped through tight end Christian Fauria's hands in the end zone. Another march fizzled when Nick Harper's would-be pickoff was jarred loose by an alert Troy Brown. Another opportunity was squandered as pressure forced a poor pass to Brown in the end zone.

In all, the Patriots drove inside the Colts 20-yard line seven times Sunday but managed one touchdown — Brady's 7-yard toss to David Givens to cap the game's opening drive. On five of the drives, they settled for Adam Vinatieri field goals.

It should have been a blowout. You can't go one-for-seven in the red zone, especially against an offensively-challenged team like Carolina. Chances are, teams are going to have to make the most of their few chances to win the game, 21 points may be insurmountable.

The Patriots, as I said last week, have the best special teams you're ever going to see. It's boring, but it's effective. I admire the Patriots for investing so much in the kicking game and not worrying about a flashy offense to draw fans to games. Nothing packs 'em in like winning.

So now they enter the Super Bowl in exactly the opposite position they did two years ago. they are the overwhelming favorites. They are the team with the genius coach. They are the team quietly talking about a dynasty. they are the team everyone's trying to copy. It should be interesting if they can win when they are supposed to.

posted by Poseur 1/20/2004 02:08:00 PM

Three in a row, fans complain

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could feel worse than I did last year leaving the Tampa Bay game," said Media resident and Eagles super-fan Shaun Young. "But this was the worst sports-related thing that I’ve been through.

"I’m tired of getting this promise every year and then falling on our faces. It’s brutal."

Oh, shut up.

Your team has been to three straight NFC title games, a game that Eagle fans haven't exactly been familiar with over the last two decades, and you're going to complain about how rough you have it? Talk to a Cardinals fan. Gioia's a Saints fan, I'm sure he can explain real fan suffering. Yes, it sucks to lose this close to the Super Bowl, but do you remember the Eagles ever being this good? Didn't think so.

It sucks to come close, but it's still pretty good being an Eagles fan right now. Or maybe you want Rich Kotite back.

posted by Poseur 1/20/2004 02:02:00 PM

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