Frogballing to Cali

(Photo Credit: Associated Press)

In the top of the sixth inning, the TCU baseball team trailed the Dayton Flyers 9-6 and had only a mere twelve outs standing between them and losing five straight, ending their season. That’s about as dramatic, back-against-the-wall a situation can get. And what did the Frogs do? Exactly what they haven’t all season – relaxed, stayed patient at the plate, and watched the runs flow like a waterfall. Since that sixth inning, the Frogs have played with a calm and reserve they have been incapable of tapping into for the whole of this season. At one point, there was a stretch of 13 innings where the Frogs outscored their opponents 32-5, per @tcusid. They were down in every game they played this weekend, and came back to win four of them in a row, playing the last innings placidly, not batting an eye. They quietly disposed of A&M, and then just dismantled Ole Miss to win the regional.

Their maturity at the plate is astonishing, as the majority of their team and offensive production this end of season stretch has come from freshmen, but it helps that Brance and the older players remembered who they are. I have no idea what happened to Brance, but some proverbial WD-40 on the gears has fired him back up again, peaking at the perfect time this season. The Frogs are playing great ball, the best we’ve seen all season, and with the veterans there to bolster the blazing freshmen, the Frogs are going to be hard to beat. As long as Derek Odell stops making errors. Scratch that – also long as he keeps his Error to Home Run ration at 1:1.

Before I make some picks, let’s take a 30,000 foot view at the UCLA Bruins, who the Frogs face in the Super Regional for a three game series this weekend. UCLA is 45-14 on the season, the PAC 10/12/Whatever regular season champs. This is the Bruins’ third Super Regional appearance in six seasons. They are led by manager John Savage (ok not that guy). Savage has been at UCLA for 8 years, and the Bruins have been in the postseason for six of them. He matches Schlossnagle pound for pound in experience.  The Bruins play in Jackie Robinson Stadium, which has no bearing on the matchup other than it’s a pretty cool name for any baseball facility, especially what with the whole Dodgers-being-in-LA-now ordeal.

The Bruins overpower the Frogs in batting average, .310 to .268, but despite the reputation their pitching staff has nationwide, their 3.28 team ERA is higher than TCU (.317). In the Super Regional, UCLA was dominant, outscoring their three opponents (Creighton 2x and New Mexico State) 23-6 in three games. The Bruins actually gave up more hits in their third game (12) than they did in their first two combined (4). They are led by Junior OF Jeff Gelalich, who has 50 runs scored this season, and, wait for it… a .998 OPS. He’s also batting .372. So he’s pretty good. Also, on the Bruin pitching staff is sophomore Adam Plutko, who has 2.56 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 105.2 innings over 16 games. He essentially guarantees 6 innings a game, on average, and their bullpen is beyond fierce. The relief trio of Ryan Deeter, David Berg, and Scott Griggs have 115 appearances between them, and Deeter and Berg both have ERAs below 2.oo. The Frogs are going to have to score runs early, as a late comeback just doesn’t happen against UCLA. These guys are lights out.

We’ll do nationwide picks, then talk more about the Frogs. Last week I was 8-8, a .500 record, which I consider marginally respectable. Here’s the Super Regional:

  • In Gainesville, Florida takes care of NC State in two games. All business here.
  • South Carolina will advance over a scrappy Oklahoma team, conceding the second game.
  • Kent State rolled through an easy regional, but so did Oregon. Golden Flashes in three. Because we like the little guy here at DSR.
  • Arkansas over Baylor in Waco. Again, all business. Two games.
  • Florida State and Stanford is a series I’m excited to watch. I’ll pick the Cardinal here, in three tough games.
  • Arizona is rolling, and St. John’s can’t keep that pace for three games. ‘Cats lose game one, close, win it on Sunday.
  • As much as everything in me wants Stony Brook to beat LSU, it probably won’t happen. But I’m going to pick the upset. Stony Brook rallies late on Sunday, stuns the Tigers.
  • Last, but not least: UCLA v TCU. I think the Frogs will win game one here. They have serious momentum. We can attribute the game two hold-your-ground win to UCLA. So it comes down to Sunday, again. Honestly, the Frogs play best when they’re on the hot seat, and I think they can squeeze by UCLA. It won’t be easy, and it sure as heck won’t be pretty, but if they keep pace with this weekend, they can hang with anyone. The key is to stay relaxed. With all these young guys, it would be very easy to get caught up in the moment, and to freeze. If Schloss can calm the boys down, the Frogs should advance. Officially, TCU 2-1 in a nailbiter.

Well, just like last time, bet against all of these, and hopefully you can win some money. Leave your picks below if you think you can do better. Follow @TheDSportsRant for general updates, and look to @spfleming for my live tweeting of the games.

Go Frogs.

Frogballing, Post Season Style

Tomorrow afternoon kicks off our postseason with NCAA regionals. The Horned Frogs, after an astoundingly mediocre and disoriented first half of the season, have rallied to a respectable 36-19 record this season, scoring a date with Ole Miss Friday at 12:35 CST in College Station. After the jump I’ll preview the regional, suggest some strategy for the Froggies, and who knows, maybe even pick the regional winners nationwide.
*****

The College Station regional is seeded as follows:
1) Texas A&M, (42-16, #9 in Baseball America)
2) TCU (36-19, NR)
3) Ole Miss (35-24, NR)
4) Dayton (31-28, NR)
A&M will face Dayton to meet the winner of TCU/Ole Miss, double elimination.

Ole Miss comes in a little battered and beaten by a rough SEC schedule. The Rebels limped to a 14-16 record in conference, hitting a huge speedbump after starting the season 15-3. One of those losses came in Fort Worth, as the Rebels and Frogs split two on Opening Weekend. The Rebels have hot bats, boasting a team average of .298, but their ERA sits at a pedestrian 3.57. Ole Miss has lost six of seven headed into the regional and desperately needs a jumpstart to make something happen in the postseason. Ole Miss is lead by Junior Infielder Alex Yarbrough, who is batting .389 with 41 RBI on 91 hits this season.

The Dayton Flyers, out of Dayton, Ohio (enrollment 7500), are the Atlantic Ten Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champs, rolling through the regular season with a 17-7 conference record. The Flyers are on somewhat of a tear, winning 9 of their last ten, and six straight. They are batting a better-than-respectable .293 on the season, but their pitching is 186th in the NCAA with a 4.93 ERA. Let’s just say that this will not bode well against the Aggies. The Flyers don’t do well on the road (15-16 record this season), having dropped games at Ball State, Miami of Ohio, and two to Temple. The Flyers’ player to watch this season is Brian Blasik, the Atlantic Conference’s only position player honored. The shortstop is batting .344 with 46 RBI on 84 hits.

Last, but not least, are the Aggies. A&M has the 5th best pitching staff in the NCAA, boasting a nigh ungodly 2.86 team ERA. The Aggies also hold a scary home field advantage: they’re 30-10 when playing at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park. (Apologies. Unnecessary endorsements made that last sentence clunky.) The Maroon and White will be tough to beat on their home field. They have 5 starters batting over .300. They have 6 pitchers with at least 14 appearances and an ERA under 2.95. In layman’s terms, they are very good. Very good.

The Frogs shouldn’t have trouble with Ole Miss, which of course in this Season without Reason means that they will. Pitching will have to be on, and the freshmen who have put the team on their backs will have to keep doing so, despite the pressure of the postseason. After a rough conference tournament, TCU needs to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and perform. It should be an exciting weekend. I’m planning on making the trip for game two on Saturday.

Predictions:
TCU: A&M cruises past Dayton, and TCU staves off a rally to beat the Rebels. This Frog team has played terribly, and they’ve played well. If they play well, they could eek this regional out. I think Schlossnagle settles the boys down, and they beat A&M on Sunday to advance.
Nationally, I’ll just run down the list of who I think advances to the Supers.

  • Florida will meet Vandy in Gainsville
  • Costal Carolina (a perennial tournament performer) will head to Virginia after just scraping by South Carolina on Sunday
  • Oregon will host Valparaiso. Fleming’s Guide to Losing Money, Episode 28: Never bet against Valpo.
  • I want to pick Dallas Baptist and Rice, but I think I have to go with Baylor-Arkansas in Waco. Sorry little guys, maybe next year.
  • It’s hard to see anything else happening besides UCLA cruising to the Super Regional. They’ll host the Frogs.
  • Miami-LSU will be a fun matchup in Baton Rouge. I’d love to tailgate that.
  • New Mexico State will be extremely excited to move on, until they realize that they have no idea where Chapel Hill, NC, is.
  • Mississippi State will face Stanford. Why not FSU, you ask? Because SEC. That’s why.

My professional advice is to pick against literally every single one of the above matchups, and maybe you’ll make some money. Leave your picks below, if you think you can do better.

Be sure to follow @TheDSportsRant on Twitter for updates periodically throughout the weekend, and @spfleming for emotional responses to the Frogs’ performances.

2012 NFL Mock Draft – First Round

Alright, all these so called “experts” have made their picks, now it’s time to make mine. I just hope I get one right.

1. Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2. Washington Redskins (from St. Louis) — Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3. Minnesota Vikings — Matt Kalil, OT, USC

4. Cleveland Browns — Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

6. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)  — Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

8. Miami Dolphins — Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

9. Carolina Panthers — Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

10. Buffalo Bills — Mark Barron, S, Alabama

11. Kansas City Chiefs — Luke Keuchly, LB, Boston College

12. Seattle Seahawks — Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

13. Arizona Cardinals — Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

14. Dallas Cowboys — David DeCastro, OG, Stanford

15. Philadelphia Eagles — Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

16. New York Jets — Shea McClellin, LB, Boise State

17. Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland) — Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

18. San Diego Chargers — Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

19. Chicago Bears — Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

20. Tennessee Titans — Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford

21. Cincinnati Bengals — Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

22. Cleveland Browns (from Atlanta) — Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech

23. Detroit Lions — Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

24. Pittsburgh Steelers — Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

25. Denver Broncos — Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

26. Houston Texans — Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin

27. New England Patriots (from New Orleans) — Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama

28. Green Bay Packers — Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

29. Baltimore Ravens — Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

30. San Francisco 49ers — Jeff Allen, OG, Illinois

31. New England Patriots — Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

32. New York Giants — Doug Martin, RB, Boise State

Again, I am hoping that one of these picks, outside of #1 and #2, will be correct.

If that happens, I’ll run naked through the streets (this is a lie).

Ozzie Being Ozzie

They’re rioting in the streets in Little Havana. Granted, “they” are a group of about twenty Latino men holding poorly crafted albeit colorfully worded signs. But they’re here, and they’re against Castro, and they want Ozzie Guillen fired.

Is anyone surprised that the volatile re-branded Miami Marlins only took 5 games to implode? I had money that Ozzie wouldn’t last a month. And, true to his nature of showmanship and competition, Ozzie is doing his darndest to prove me right. If you’ll give me about two hundred words here, though, I’ll tell you why this shouldn’t be a big deal.

Ozzie Guillen said that he respected Castro for how long he had been alive, despite numerous attempts to kill the Cuban dictator. Ozzie did not come out in support of communism. Ozzie did not declare how proud he was of Castro’s history of violence. He didn’t yell “Viva Castro!” while running through the streets waving the Cuban flag. Ozzie simply mentioned in an interview with Time that he was amazed that someone so hated had lived for so long. I understand how the Miami Marlins can take this as a serious crisis, given the Latino context of their organization and their geographical and cultural proximity to Cuba. Honestly, though, this “Ozzieism” should not be a huge deal. I know, I know, hot button issues and sensitive ethnic fanbase, etc etc. Let’s ignore all that and think about this, for a moment. Ozzie Guillen obviously does not support Castro. I’d even venture to say that this was not an overtly “Pro-Castro Statement.” Everyone needs to just calm down for a few, and think about this rationally.

The suspension is warranted, but not for the nature of Ozzie’s Castro joke, as it were. Two days before, Ozzie mentioned that he has a ritual of excessive drinking after every game. The suspension should really serve two purposes: 1) In light of two outrageous comments in the public eye, this suspension should remind Ozzie that while he has the “freedom” of speech in the United States, his obligations to a professional sports organization and a great American institution (MLB) constrain his linguistic liberty. 2) This should convey to Ozzie that as the leader of a national organization, it is utterly unacceptable to encourage heavy/binge drinking and unquestionably a terrible idea to comment, support, or even joke about world leaders/politics, given public scrutiny and how poorly everyone takes offhand comments these days.

Ultimately, Ozzie is at fault here. We know he doesn’t support Castro, he doesn’t want a dictatorship, and he is obviously no proponent of human suffering.
But you just can’t say somethings, big guy. You just can’t. You’re in the public eye, people are tweeting things seconds after you say them, and you have to watch yourself. I love your antics, Ozzie, and I love how crazy you are sometimes, but lets keep that to badmouthing rival players and flipping out in the dugout. Keep your drinking habits and political views to yourself, and continue to bring madness to the realm of baseball in other ways.

Opening Day

The dream begins again today.

For a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan like myself, this day represents the first step towards a repeat of greatness.

For baseball fans, these few hours before the first games provide time to sit and catch our collective breath after what has to be the greatest playoff stretch (Game 162-World Series) most of us will ever see. For a few hours this morning, fans everywhere will be ignoring school assignments, classes, and work responsibilities to reflect on the last season. In that spirit, I’d like to delve into my playoff experience, closing this last magical season and opening the book on the new one all in one post here.

First off, go watch this, the MLB the Show Intro featuring Game 162. It gives me chills.
On September 26th, 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Houston Astros in Houston, 13-6, while the Atlanta Braves lost 7-1 to the Phillies in Atlanta, pulling Atlanta and St. Louis into a two-way tie for the Wild Card Spot. I called two of my closest friends, and we knew what we had to do: We skipped class the next day and sped to Houston to see Chris Carpenter pitch. And pitch he did. From the first baseline, we watch Carp throw a complete game no hitter, securing the Cardinals at least a one game playoff with the Braves, and giving the bullpen some much-needed rest, which would come in handy later. Little did we know that the night was far from over. After moseying out of the stadium (I love to be that guy, watching the players file off the field, seeing the grounds crew begin working their craft, etc), we grabbed some food and turned in. In the hotel, we flipped on the TV just in time to see the Orioles come back in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Red Sox. We flipped over to watch Philadelphia squash the Braves’ playoff dreams, and our celebration began. But before we were done yelling, Evan Longoria and the Rays did something amazing. My heart rate is skyrocketing just writing about it – as is probably evident by my uniform and simple sentence structure. That night was, I thought  at the time, the best baseball could be.

But then, the Cardinals kept scrapping. And in the AL, the Rangers just dominated. They looked nigh unbeatable. I’ll spare the recaps of the games here, because we’ve all read them, but that World Series provided the rest of the nation with a view into the mystery that only us true fans and romantics see in baseball. Game 6 of the world series held a Kinsellian weight, transcending the realm of a mere competition and tapping into that dream world of an otherworldly struggle, each strike thrown or double hit to the centerfield wall conveying more about human nature and the essence of conflict than a simple box score.  When the Cardinals won game six, everyone, even Rangers fans, knew it was over. The war had been decided and the seventh battle was just a formality to end an unbelieveable conflict and settle peace between the AL and NL until spring. To avoid sounding like an arrogant Cardinals fan reveling in my joy,  I’ll move on.

Three days after the world series, everything began to fall apart for my Cardinals. Tony LaRussa, arguably the best active manager in the game, retired, and not too soon afterwards, the Albertocalypse happened, leaving a midwestern rivertown with a gaping void at first base and in their hearts. The Rangers, meanwhile, kept up a manner of consistency, and improved themselves almost more than anyone else did, signing the most famous pitcher to not have thrown in the Majors and returning a stacked lineup and bullpen despite also losing one of their own.** These two teams are poised to make runs again this season, and could very easily repeat the success they had last season. Maybe it’s the Rangers’ year. The beauty of baseball is, though, that it could also not be the Ranger’s year. The cosmic struggle of the baseball world picks its favorites, and who knows who that will be this year? All of this brings us back to Opening Day. Back at square one, and last year is just that – last year.

Today, everyone has a shot* at the pennant. Opening Day is a clean slate, a chance to step into new roles (Can Josh Hamilton be an everyday centerfielder? Can Carlos Beltran stay healthy and hit again?), shake off old stigmas (Ryan Braun’s redemption, Jose/Ozzie’s New Start in Miami), and to take a shot at the big boys and surprise everyone (I’m looking at you, Toronto.)

It’s a magical day, and we here at tDSR can’t wait to start the journey of the season again. We’ll focus mainly on the Texas Rangers, given our bias, but we’ll be keeping tabs on the national picture as well.

*Well, not Seattle or Oakland. But did they ever, really?
**Dear Rangers fans, let’s hate the Angels together, ok? Ok.

Masters Pick ‘Em Challenge

Pick ‘Em Leaderboard

How to play:

1.  Each person is to fill out their team by selecting 1 player from all five groups. (UPDATE: As of 4/3 — Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from the tournament. His replacement player in our challenge is Stewart Cink)

2.  3 of 5 players must make the cut to make your team score valid.

3.  The total cumulative score of the lowest 3 players to make the cut will determine your final score.

4.  The lowest final score will determine the winner.

5.  A maximum of 3 entries per person may be entered.

6.  The top 3 contestants will receive a Dallas Sports Rant frocket tee-shirt.

7.  All entries must be made by Wed, April 3 at midnight. Submit your picks by posting a comment below, or by emailing them to jamie@dallassportsrant.com.

I’ll be updating the standings at the end of each day, and I’m going to try and set up a live scoreboard (Not sure if it’ll work).

Groups are below:

Good luck!

Why the Masters is Awesome

Ahh yes, the Masters. Golf’s version of the “Granddaddy of them all.”

It’s fancy, formal, and possibly the most presumptuous tournament in all of sports.

If you’re not into it, you should be. Here’s why:

1. It’s Exclusive

Watching the Masters is like catching a glimpse into the most exclusive club in the world, because, well, it is.

Membership hovers around 300, and is by invitation only. Also, there are no girls allowed. Literally.

Notable current members include:

  • Bill Gates
  • Warren Buffett
  • Jack Welch
  • Pete Coors
  • T. Boone Pickens
  • Lou Holtz
  • Harold Poling

2. Amen Corner

Three holes that bring the best golfers in the world to their knees. Every shot is on the edge of oblivion, every putt is on the brink.

The 11th (White Dogwood), 12th (Golden Bell) and 13th (Azalea) at Augusta National are arguably the most difficult three holes in all of golf. It’s why, unlike most tournaments, any playoff at the Masters begin at No. 11, instead of 1 or 18.

They’ve been the setting for some of golf’s greatest (and most defeating) moments. Larry Mize’s chip-in to defeat Greg Norman in 1987, Tom Weiskopf shooting a 13, or Fred Couples’ par in 1992.

3. The Masters Brings out Classic Phil

The Masters turns Phil Mickelson into a Lefty/Bradly Cooper hybrid. He’s cockier when he’s in Augusta, and why shouldn’t he be? After all, he’s won here three times.

Oh, and let’s not forget, Phil can hit the ball backwards:

He also gave us this gem back in 2008 (Jump to 3:44 to see it):

“Thank you, Scoops.”

No, thank you, Phil.

4.The Par 3 Contest

The Par 3 Contest is held the Wednesday before the Masters begins, and takes place on a 9-hole par-27 course at Augusta National. Here are a few fun notes about the contest, pulled from the official website:

  • There have been 73 holes in one in the Contest’s history, a record of five in 2002.
  • No winner of the Par 3 Contest has ever gone on to win that year’s Masters.
  • The course record of 20 is shared by Art Wall (1965) and Gay Brewer (1973).
  • There have been 18 sudden-death playoffs.
  • The Contest is very sociable—players often have their children caddie for them.

5. Tiger being Tiger

As I noted in my post last week, Tiger is the favorite to win this thing. Since 1996, Tiger has only finished outside the top-8 three times (T-18th in 1999, T-15th in 2003, T-22nd in 2004), and he’s won it five times (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2005).

He’ll be in it at the end, and with the way he won two weekends ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins it.

6. Sunday at Augusta

It’s the single most intense, breath-taking sports day of the year. Tremendous runs are made, along with giant collapses.

Just last year, Rory McIlroy led the pack by four strokes going into the final round. He then forgot how to play golf, shooting an eight-over-part 80, to finish at four-under for the tournament.

McIlroy wasn’t the first, or the most famous, golfer to collapse on Sunday at Augusta.

Greg Norman led the 1996 Masters field by six strokes coming into Sunday. He promptly shot a six-over 78, while Nick Faldo shot a five-under 67, and Norman lost by five strokes.

7. There are Trophies

Yes. More than one. In fact, if you look closely, the Masters reeks of 2nd grade basketball.

You probably know that the winner gets a green jacket. It’s the ultimate desire of every Tour member, along with millions of frat-daddies from coast to coast.

The Masters Champion gold medallion

But did you know that there’s a trophy. And a MEDALLION? Yup, the winner literally gets a gold medal.

Then there’s the trophy for the runner-up, along with a silver medal.

Let’s not forget about the trophy for the “low-amateur.”

Or the one for the low-amateur runner-up.

Or the trophies for each day’s low score.

Or for shooting eagle, double eagle, or getting a hole-in-one.

Basically, the Masters has ALL THE TROPHIES.

8. The Masters Drinking Game (modified version, originally from the Bro Bible)

Did a fan just yell “get in the hole!” and/or “You da man!”? If yes, then DRINK

Did Jim Nantz just refer to the Masters as “A Tradition Unlike Any Other”? If so…DRINK

Did Nick Faldo just decided to start living in the past and talk about his playing days and/or Masters’ victories? DRINK

Oh look, it’s Snoopy One. DRINK

An Eagle was made. DRINK

Were you just reminded that Jack Nicklaus won the tournament 25 years ago? DRINK
Did you just see this picture? If so, DRINK

Did a commercial for the Buick Lacrosse just come on? DRINK

Someone gets a hole-in-one. DRINK

Well if it isn’t a clip of Phil’s amazing shot from the pine-straw… DRINK

Anytime a tee shot lands in the bunker next to the 18th fairway… DRINK

TAKE A SHOT  every time there is a severe meltdown or disgusting shank. Take two if it happens on Amen Corner.

Every time Tiger looks confused… DRINK

Anytime Tiger stops his swing in mid-downswing because a photographer took a photo — to the amazement of everyone who has seen him do it 1,000 times before. DRINK

Speaking of Tiger, is he out of contention, yet they still continue to show his every shot? DRINK

Did an announcer just refer to a hole as “dog-leg right” or a “dog-leg left”? DRINK

And finally, anytime someone mutters one of the famed Masters words: Magnolia Lane, Butler Cabin, Rae’s Creek, Hogan’s Bridge, Amen Corner, Eisenhower Tree… DRINK

This list could go on forever, but we’re creeping up on 1,000 words, and that’s more than plenty.

Watch the Masters. Do it.

NCAA Championship Preview: Kentucky vs. Kansas

We’ve finally made it to the National Championship. Unfortunately, my prediction record took a hit when I said Ohio State would beat Kansas in my Final Four Preview. As it turns out, Sullinger + Thomas + Craft = very stoppable.

I’m now 12-2 picking games since the start of the Sweet 16.

So here we are. Kentucky vs. Kansas.

AP Player of the Year/Naismith Player of the Year/Wooden Award winning freshman Anthony Davis sets out to capture an NCAA Title to add to his collegiate trophy case.

Meanwhile, Naismith Player of the Year/Wooden Award Finalist Thomas Robinson looks to finally earn some bragging rights over Davis other than the distinct gap between his eyebrows.

Both will be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, but only one will add NCAA Champion to their resume.

Obviously both of these guys are going to get theirs. They’ve proven to be relatively unstoppable all season, and they’ve done nothing but reinforce that notion during their tournament runs.

Davis is averaging 15.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Robinson is averaging 16.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.

Which leads us to what I like to call Obvious Statement Time.

Ready?

This game will come down to secondary players taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Obvious bomb dropped.

So, here are three key players to watch for each team, outside of Robinson vs. Davis:

Kansas

  1. Tyshawn Taylor – Taylor is easily the second most important player to Robinson on the team. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.6 rebounds in the tournament. If Kentucky can slow him down, it could be a tough night for Kansas fans.
  2. Elijah Johnson – Johnson has scored at least ten points in every game this tournament, but more impressively, he’s been doing it while shooting 54% from the floor.
  3. Jeff Withey – Withey is the defensive mainstay on this team, turning opposing players away with 27 blocks in the tournament so far, including seven against Ohio State on Saturday. If he gets into foul trouble trying to defend Kentucky’s big front court, Kansas could be in trouble.

Kentucky

  1. Doron Lamb – A potential lottery pick, and a definite 1st rounder, Lamb is the Kentucky’s leading scorer for the tournament.
  2. Marquis Teague – Teague is the straw that stirs this big blue drink. He’s averaging 5.2 assists for the tournament. However, his production has dropped the last two games as the competition has stiffened up. He’ll need to be able to facilitate against this Kansas D if the Wildcats want to win.
  3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrest – Another potential lottery pick, Kidd-Gilchrist has helped lighten the post burden of Davis, and he needs to stay out of foul trouble in this game. He’ll also need to take care of the ball, as he had 4 turnovers in just 23 minutes against Louisville.

Kansas coach Bill Self is looking for his second championship in his ninth season as leader of the Jayhawks. As head coach at Kansas, Self has never missed a tournament (he actually hasn’t had a team miss the tournament since the 1997-98 season, his first as head coach of Tulsa) and has reached the Elite Eight five times.

Meanwhile, Kentucky coach John Calipari is still searching for his first championship has a head coach. His second attempt at winning a championship has him facing a familiar foe, as he faced Self and the Jayhawks back in 2008, when Calipari was still at Memphis.

In fact, Kentucky’s win against Kansas earlier this year was Calipari’s first win against a Kansas team. The two teams faced off November 15th, with the Wildcats winning by ten, 75-65.

I’ve said all along that I think Kentucky is an unstoppable force, but if anyone has the pieces to beat them, it’s Kansas.

I think this is going to be a hard fought, incredibly well coached game that comes down to the wire.

Final Score: Kentucky-72, Kansas-69

 

Final Four Preview

I think this is the farthest any team I have picked to win the championship has ever advanced, but it isn’t going to save my bracket.

The good news is, since I’ve taken to talking about the tournament here, I’m 11-1 with my picks. Let’s keep the streak going.

#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville

There are so many story lines that come with this matchup. First things first though, the Wildcat/Cardinal rivalry brings out the rage in both fan bases, no matter the age.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this story about how a 68-year-old Kentucky fan flipped the bird to a 71-year-old Louisville fan, and was promptly punched in the face.

More importantly, this is a matchup of the frontrunners for the “coach that most resembles a mob boss” award.

I strongly dislike John Calipari. I strongly dislike picking against Rick Pitino. So there’s that.

Fresh off winning Player of the Year, Anthony Davis will be out to solidify his spot as the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. He’s unstoppable, so Louisville needs to focus on stopping other Wildcat players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb.

Kentucky is my champion, and I’m sticking with them.

Final Score: Kentucky-75, Louisville-68

#2 Ohio State vs. #2 Kansas

Jared Sullinger + Deshaun Thomas + Aaron Craft = Unstoppable.

Thomas Robinson + Tyshawn Taylor + Jeff Withey = Unstoppable.

Uh oh.

Final Score: Ohio State-65, Kansas-60

 

Tiger is Back, Right?

(Photo Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo)

I’m not one to jump to conclusions based on one result.

Ok, that’s a lie.

I’m going to try to refrain from doing that here, but we’ll see how it goes.

We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of a post I wrote about how badly golf needed the old Tiger back.

Golf needs the Tiger of old. It needs the excitement of knowing that at any point, viewers could be witnessing history.

It needs his emotions, good and bad. The fist pumps, the screams, the club throws and the cussing. Golf needs it all.

Most of all it needs him to put on that majestic Green Jacket, just one more time.

I believe that to this day.

Tiger Woods played four fantastic rounds of golf this weekend, and I think it’s a sign that he’s actually returning to his old form.

Before he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this weekend, it had been 29 long, painful, almost unwatchable months of Tiger struggling to regain any sort of golf dominance in the “public affairs” era (see what I did there??).

He had been showing sparks as of late. His game off the tee was arguably as good as it has ever been. His short game was returning slowly. The only thing that was lacking was his putter, which I’m pretty surprised he didn’t Happy Gilmore into a lake after his terrible putting performance at the AT&T National Pro-Am (where he averaged 30 putts a round).

While that number didn’t drop this week, he tied for 59th in putting for the tournament, his confidence seemed to be exponentially higher, and the putts he was making showed it.

His short game is where the major improvement came though. He tied for first in greens in regulation, hitting them at a 79.2% clip.

On the back nine of the final round, Graeme McDowell faded, as did the rest of the field, and the final leader board  showed Tiger a five stroke victor.

So now the question is posed: Is Tiger back? Or is this just a one time deal?

As evidenced above, he sure played like he was back.

He sure dominated par 5s like the old Tiger used to. And it seemed that near the end he mentally screwed playing partner Graeme McDowell into the ground as McDowell shot a plus-two 38 to finish the tournament.

Most think the answer lies two weeks away, at Augusta National. However, I disagree, to an extent.

Tiger is the odds on favorite to win the Masters. It’s been this way every year for almost two decades. Since 1996, Tiger has only finished outside the top-8 three times (T-18th in 1999, T-15th in 2003, T-22nd in 2004), and he’s won it five times (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2005).

In order for me to claim that Tiger is “back” after the Masters, he’ll need to win it. Not finish in the top-10, or top-five, or runner-up. Win another Green Jacket.

And after that, he’ll need to win some more, because that’s what the old Tiger would do.

I want it to be true (as does the rest of the golf community), and I have no doubt that this could be the beginning of the second coming of Tiger, but I’ll need a little more than one win before I concede that the best is truly “back”.