Back to the brackets!
Annually, Stanford gets absolutely screwed by the committe. It's become a tradition for them to have a ridiculously stacked regional, and this year is no exception. OK, St. John's isn't that great, but UNLV is arguably the best four-seed in the field. But the real threat is the Beach and their uber-pitcher Jaret Weaver. Weaver's beyond good, he's un-frickin-believable. There's just no easy wins here.
If the Cardinal manages to get through, as they usually do, they don't have that bad of a regional pairing. Notre Dame got a one-seed in the committee's never-ending desire to help Northern baseball. They gave them an extraordinarily balanced regional. neither UC-Irvine or Arizona are pushovers, and they are arguably better teams than the injury-riddled Irish. The winner of Palo Alto should breeze to Omaha.
What the hell did Rice do to deserve this? The nation's best rotation will get a workout, facing Lamar and Texas A&M in their regional. OK, they got a freebie in the sub-500 Texas Southern, but Lamar is one of those teams that just seems to own Rice. Every team in this region can pitch lights out, so expect a lot of low-scoring games. rice, with their excellent rotation is the favorite in any short series, but they don't have the huge pitching edge they usualyl have. and they cannot hit the way they did last year, which wasn't that great anyway.
Waiting on the horizon is LSU. The Tigers got a gift of a regional, as Southern miss, Charleston, and Army are all pretty good teams, but nothing special. Expect the overwhelming offense of Gorilla Ball to just smother the visitors. This would set up the glamour matchup of Rice's pitching versus LSU's hitting. The defending champs versus the best program in the nation. It's not right these teams can play before Omaha, but them's the breaks. Let's put it like this, if you asked either team who they didn't want to face, it would've been each other.
#7 ARIZONA ST
Thanks for nothing. ASU got a national seed for their #3 RPI keyed by Pedroia's brilliant play. They also finished fourth in the Pac-10 , so the seed is a pyrrhic victory as the committee puts the Sun Devils on the road right away. At Fullerton. Minnesota, the Big Ten champs, are pretty good as well and four-seed Pepperdine can play with anybody, but that's not the story. USF has won 21 of 25 games and is probably the best two-seed in the tourney. Suzuki was the Big West player of the year (in baseball, the Big West is really good), and Windsor was co-pitcher of the year with Weaver. These guys are awesome.
Ole Miss got a regional, but it's another thanks-for-nothing scenario. Washington, ranked 6th in Boyd Nation's ISR, will come to town. And so will Tulane and a pretty good Western Kentucky team. There's no real glamour team, but everyone can play. It should be ultra-competitive and then a quick exit in the Supers for the winner.
A surprise winner of the SEC, I don't think anyone really believes in this team. I know I don't. But they were rewarded with a great draw. Wichita State is a shadow of the program they once were, still competitive, but nothing special. Missouri is decent, but finished 7th in the Big 12. The Shockers will also be short their ace pitcher, Uhlmansiek, to Tommy John surgery. Arkansas can run and play little ball, so this regional should be exciting at the very least.
No national seed for Florida State in their rebuilding year, but they have to be the favorites to make Omaha in this regional pairing. Oklahoma State and Central Florida are tough teams, but they really aren't in the same class as FSU. Actually, outside of Texas, no team got a better draw than the unseeded Seminoles.
OK, some picks....
#1 Texas over Vanderbilt
East Carolina over #2 South Carolina
#3 Miami over Oklahoma
#4 Georgia Tech over Georgia
#5 Stanford over UC Irvine
LSU over #6 Rice
CS-Fullerton over Washington
Florida St over Missouri
posted by Poseur 6/03/2004 10:58:00 AM
Giro d'Italia: Cunego dumps Simoni
Daimiano Cunego attacked his own team leader and the race leader in the final week in order to win the second biggest bike race in the world. Cunego had the lead in the first week after a couple stage wins, but then yielded the lead to his teamate and defending champ. But in the final week, Cunego left everyone in the dust, claiming two more stages and the overall victory.
JASON: Simoni got punked by his own teammate. We knew Simoni wasn't invincible, but we never would have predicted an unknown rider--a 22 year old--would beat the defending champion. When you've got the defending champ and heavy favorite on your team, everyone on the squad is supposed to work for him. I can see Simoni being OK with Cunego grabbing a stage and the lead in week one, but normally, the team managment would set things straight and let the young punk know he's working for the team leader, not himself. Instead, Cunego said "to Hell with that, I can win this thing."
STEVE: It reminded me of LeMond pulling up so his teammate could win the Tour. Yeah, Hinault got his fifth win, but it was cheap, everyone and their best friend's sister knew LeMond was the better man and deserved the title. Cunego, simply put, just blew Simoni's doors off. If Simoni can't repsond to a simple challenge, screw him. Saeco's got a keep an eye on the future, and the emergence of Cunego means a decade of dominance. I wouldn't respect Simoni either considering how easily he folded.
Besides, Simoni spent most of his energy whining to the press about unfair this all was. Win a damned stage and we'll talk. Cunego won four stages, one on a solo breakaway. That's just domination. He doesn't have to apologize to anybody.
JASON: Right, what Cunego did was unconventional, but not evil. After all, he did beat Simoni like a drum, so it's pretty obvious who deserved to win. The team should be happy--they still won the Giro, and now they they have another guy to market. But Simoni's career as a tour boss is virtually over unless he transfers to a fledgling team that needs a star. Think about it, if the same Saeco team rides the Giro next year, do they ride for Cunego, or Simoni? Duh.
STEVE: Agreed. Simoni is done. What's the Italian equivalent of FDJ? That's where he's headed. The team bosses aren't stupid, they know to ride Cunego. Young guys aren't supposed to win grand tours, it just doesn't happen.
JASON: It reminds me of when Jan Ullrich won his Tour in 1997. That was another case of the youngster beating the defending champ from his own team.
STEVE: So, let's get to that crucial question, is Cunego the next superstar of road cycling? With the death of Pantani, Italy really needs a new superstar, so he comes at a great time. He has the look of a future Tour winner, even if he's already ruled out riding this year. Armstrong can't ride forever.
JASON: Well, the Italians have a superstar in Petacchi, who has completely taken over from Mario Cippolini, but that's in the sprints, not the grand tours. It has been a really long time since the Italians had a very dominant cyclist in the big tours. As good as Simoni is, he only won the Giro twice and doesn't have anything else on his resume. It's way to early to tell how good Cunego will be. He won this race by brute force--he was stronger and faster, so he just beat his man. He won't always have that physical advantage. His psychological tenacity is untested, and he hasn't had to use his team to win--think back to Lance Armstrong's win in 2003.
STEVE: Yeah, Petacchi is the best sprinter in the world, but that hardly makes him Eddy Merckx. And congratulations to Petacchi for actually finishing the Giro, his dropout of the Tour last year was disgraceful. Until he learns to just climb enough to stay in the race, I can't in good conscience call him the best anything in road cycling. I'm irrationally mad at this guy.
Well, I disagree about the psychological fortitude. It takes a ridiculous amount of chutzpah to attack your team captain in the final week. Cunego has star written all over him, much like Ullrich did about a decade ago. He's got to be mentally tough to single handedly take over the team during the biggest race in his home country. That's the good news.
The bad news is, like most Italian cycling stars, he also screams prima donna. It's too early to tell whether he'll be an entertaining ego-driven madman like Claudio Chiappucci or an arrogant ass like Marco Pantani. I do agree that I don't see him having the ability to lead a team as talented as US Postal. Lance has got ego, but he does a great job recognizing his domestiques, handing them stage wins and accolades. Riders on the USPS have to put their personal goals behind the ultimate goal of Lance winning the Tour, but he does a terrific job making them feel like important members of a team. Right now, Cunego can't lead a team like that. He's also 22, so maybe he will as he matures. And maybe the Tour organizers will actually let some good Italians in their race next year.
JASON: With due respect to the Giro, the race isn't as long, fast, or difficult as the Tour de France. Besides, Italians don't give a shit about the Tour anyway. So what? The Giro is often a close race with plenty of turnover on the leader board. Quite entertaining.
STEVE: Well, it's why the Tour de France is the best of the three grand tours. The Giro is nice, but it's no Tour. Hope that whets the appetite for everyone. The Tour is coming...
posted by Poseur 6/02/2004 03:55:00 PM
The worst game ever played?
Did anyone actually watch the whole game? I kept flipping back and forth to the Orioles game because I just couldn't take it. And don't let anyone tell you it was stellar defense, it was simple bad shooting. The NBA is currently strangling itself to death with awful play reminiscent of the NHL's over the past decade. To say the game was bad is an insult to merely bad games. This game was epic in its putresence.
One player with more than one shot had a field goal percentage above 50%. One. Austin Croshere shot 4-6 from the field, a lone shooter in a game full of bricklayers. Indiana shot 36.4% from the field. Detroit shot 32.9%. How do you miss two of every three shots and win the game? I can't believe I'm going to root for the Lakers, if only to spare the world from Detroit's style of play.
But let's take a second to understand why bad franchises suck. The Detroit Pistons have three, count 'em, THREE starters who once played for the Washington Wizards. All three of them were run out of town for a variety of stupid reasons. Let's review:
-Ben Wallace got traded along with Tim Legler, Terry Davis, and Jeff McInnis for Isaac Austin after the 1999 season. Yes, that Ike Austin. The Wizards traded Ben because he couldn't shoot and they wanted the undeniable talent of Austin anchoring their rebuilding effort.
-Rasheed Wallace was never a Wizard, he was a Bullet. And let's quote the transaction line: "Traded by the Bullets with Mitchell Butler to the Portland Trail Blazers for Rod Strickland and Harvey Grant on 7/15/96." This is when the Bullets were intent on going from the most talented young team in the game to a bunch of washed-up vets in just one year. They wanted Sheed gone because he was a headcase, so they traded him for the reliable and steady Rod Strickland. Uh huh.
- Finally, Rip Hamilton got traded along with Hubert Davis and Bobby Simmons to the Detroit Pistons for Jerry Stackhouse, Brian Cardinal and Ratko Varda in 2001 because Jordan didn't want the kid competing with him for touches. MJ left after the season, and Zard fans (both of 'em) are stuck watching Jerry Stackhouse.
Words do not describe just how stupid the Washington front office is. These moves were stupid when they took place, and they are even dumber in retrospect. Hell, this is a team that traded Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond so they could build the team around Juwan Howard. Fans in Washington can look at the Pistons and just wonder what could have been if they actually had intellegent people making the roster moves. Wes Unseld and Michael Jordan were both great players, but they were lousy executives.
posted by Poseur 6/02/2004 11:00:00 AM
The French Open
After writing a defense of the Stanley Cup in the face of idiotic criticism, I'd like to do the same for the French Open. The national media has been fairly upfront with their reasoning for not covering the French Open: American jingoism. If there are no Americans, it must suck. Which is pretty much an idiotic way to cover sports. Euro 2004 is right around the corner, and it will be the best sporting event of the summer not in Athens, and we won't pay one lick of attention to it (actually, we will here, Jason and I are poring over depth charts as we speak).
We like the illusion of international sports. Americans like golf because we can pretend it's an international game, even though three of the four majors are in the States and the PGA has seperate tours for each continent. The top players are predominantly American, with a sprinkling of world flavor just to make it seem we are watching a game that rivets the earth. It doesn't. Tennis actually is an international game, America is just another coutnry that plays it. We're pretty good, even one of the best, but it's not America vs. the World. And Americans don't tend to watch sports that we don't absolutely dominate. If the US isn't the best in the world at it, then it is obviously a minor sport.
This is a perception fed by a gloriously ignorant US sporting media. Sportswriters actively brag about their ignorance of international sports, particularly soccer. It's insulting to anyone who has spent some time overseas and actually has some interest in international events. Right now, you can flip on sports radio and here some jackass whining about how there's no good sports to cover once the NBA wraps up, ignoring the College World Series, Wimbledon, auto racing, Euro 2004, the Tour de France, and the Olympics. This is one of the busiest times of the sports calendar if you can just get your head out of your posterior. Even if you do hate baseball.
OK, that said, the French Open sucks. Watching clay court tennis is the equivilent of watching the Pistons play basketball. Yeah, it's a high level, but it doesn't change the fact it's about as much fun to watch as the cicadas currently dying in my backyard. Rallies are interminable, and a bunch of clay court specialists, who get waxed on every other surface, dominate the event. So I'm curious who wins, but I'll just catch the highlights thank you very much.
posted by Poseur 6/02/2004 09:59:00 AM
It doesn't have the cachet of the basketball tourney, but the College World Series is the second-best postseason tournament in the country. Just like the basketball tourney, they wrap it up in a month of f urious competition, narrowing 64 teams down to one. You don't follow college baseball that closely, so here's your handy-dandy guide for this postseason.
The no-brainer #1 seed, they actually have the best team ERA in the NCAA. The strength here isn't just the starting pitching, it is the bullpen, which is fantastic. And in the postseason, a bullpen is essential. Not only are they the best team, they have a terrific draw. No one in their sub-regional should give them too much trouble. Oal Roberts and TCU are pretty good teams, but pretty good won't cut it against the Longhorns. If everything goes right, ORU has a slight chance of pulling an upset, but don't hold your breath.
The opposing sub-regional is a dozzy, lacking in top tier teams, but loaded with pretty good ones. Once again, Texas has got to be drolling over the prospect that the best team they could play in the Supers is Virginia. UVa is a good team, but they lack power and the ability to put teams away, which Vanderbilt can do. Geroge Mason can pull off an upset or two, and Princeton's pretty good for a four-seed. It's an incredibly evenly-matched regional, with the winner probably a sacrificial lamb to Texas.
#2 SOUTH CAROLINA
They finished 5th in the SEC in the regular season, won the conference tourney, and got a #2 national seed, which is frankly ridiculous. The SEC was loaded this year, so 5th place isn't as bad as it seems. These guys can mash with the best of 'em, and they were handed a deceptively tough regional. UNC isn't a powerhosue, but they actively despise USC, so placing a good rival in your sub-regional is a pretty dirty trick. Coastal Carolina is one of those teams you'd never guess is good, but they've got some mashers of their own and a real good pen. The Citadel, as a four-seed, isn't that bad.
Paired right across from the Gamecocks are the ECU Pirates. The team slugs .535. The team, not a player. You want to talk about mashers? They got 'em. And Tennessee is a solid SEC club, but nothing special. UNCW is happy to be in the tourney in a rebuilding year. So their sub-regional is set up beautifully for ECU to win in three and then advance to Columbia. Despite getting that gaudy national seed, the committee did USC no favors.
As usual, the Canes are awesome. They also seem to be peaking at the right time, spending the last weekend of the season sweeping a real good Long Beach State team and super-prospect Jared Weaver. They hit for average, they hit for power, they can run, they play defense, and even pitch a little. They are the most complete team in college baseball. So the committee sent two strong teams to Coral Gables, NC State and Florida Atlantic. State can't hit a lick, but they've got a great staff and could advance on their pitching.
Waiting for Miami should they survive is the Norman regional. Oklahoma is a two-seed, but they get to host since one-seed Florida didn't submit a bid. A subregional with those two would be pretty good, but throw in UCLA, and it's just obscene. Anyone of them could win the regional and it wouldn't be a suprise. According to Boyd Nation's ISR's. the lowest ranked one of the three is UCLA at #23. The highest ranked? Florida at #19.
#4 GEORGIA TECH
The hottest team in the country, Georgia Tech's been playing ridiculously well down the stretch. Their subregional can best be described as fair. It's not a group of death or anything, but it's not a cakewalk. Mississippi State missed the SEC tourney, but that's more a function of the SEC's depth than the weakness of the #27 team in the RPI. Texas Tech's not a real power, but they are a solid team from a power conference.
On the other side of the potential Supers is the SEC regular season champ, Georgia. The committee worked overtime cramming their regional with the toughest teams they could possibly find. Clemson has their usual quality side, but there's newcomer birmingham Southern lurking as the ultimate wild card. In their first full year in Division I, they won their conference, made the tourney, and even upset Alabama, Mississippi State, and Georgia along the way. no need to tell the Bulldogs to take the newbies seriously. Even the four-seed is rough. Middle Tennessee St qualified as an at-large team.
That's enough for today, seeds 5-8 tommorrow with their draws. Plus, why does the committee hate Rice?
posted by Poseur 6/01/2004 04:10:00 PM