Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2000-2010 Decade of Winners in Review

Its way too much to try and go back and think of the most significant sporting events of this past decade for me.  I just don't have the time or energy to go through it all.

But I figured I could at least list all the teams or individuals (in sports that I care about, sorry hockey) that I was happy to see win a championship as well as the ones that ticked me off when they won.  We're going strictly by the date it happened, not season (since football seasons are technically the year before, but the playoffs are in Jan, Feb).


2000


Good - Kurt Warner and the Rams winning the Superbowl after an extremely improbable season was definitely a highlight of the decade.  Kurt came out of nowhere to win the MVP and Superbowl MVP (in one of the best finishes in SB history vs the Titans).


2001

Bad - Lakers win 2nd Championship in a row.  The first one didn't bother me but the arrogance of Shaq/Kobe made them extremely unlikable in the 2nd run.


2002

Bad - Belicheat, Brady and Viniatieri beating Kurt Warner was an angry moment.  Especially after it was revealed that Belicheat taped Rams practices / gameplans.


Good - Zidane leads Real Madrid to their 9th UEFA Champions League title with a mind-blowing left-footed volley from the edge of the penalty area that won the game.

Bad - Lakers win 3rd championship in a row.  This one was completely undeserved as they should've been eliminated in Game 6 of the Western Conference championship had it not been for the consensus worst officiated NBA game in history.

Good/Bad - US Soccer gets through the group stage of the 2002 World Cup after upsetting Portugal.  They then beat Mexico dos a cero (2-0 is the customary score when the US play Mexico) in the first knockout round.  Hey, its not a trophy but this was bigger than anything the US had done in 50 years.  They lose 1-0 to Germany in the quarterfinals in a game where they were the better team but was robbed of a goal by a handball on the goalline.

Bad - The San Francisco Giants lose the World Series after choking away a 5-0 lead in Game 6.  I went to Game 1 and witnessed a Barry bomb.  awesome.


2003


Good - David Robinson and Tim Duncan win their 2nd NBA championship for the Spurs.  Good guy, David Robinson retires on top.


2004

Bad - usc wins the BCS title game vs Oklahoma.  Leinart and Bush become anointed as football masters of the college universe.  Neither have yet to make any impact in the NFL.  Auburn was deprived of an opportunity to play for the championship even though they went undefeated in the SEC.

Bad - Patriots win again.  ugh.



Good - Phil Mickelson breaks through and wins his first major championship at the Masters!  He does it with a back 9 charge and an 18th hole birdie.

Good - The Lakers' allstar lineup of Shaq, Malone, Kobe and Payton manage to lose in the finals against a no name Pistons team.  The ridiculous dysfunction in the Lakers squad made this upset highly satisfying.

Good - Liu Xiang wins the 110m Gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.  A Chinese won a sprint championship.  whoa!




Good - The Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918, finally breaking the curse of the Bambino that had hung over the last bastion of baseball for a lifetime.  Making it sweeter, the Red Sox had rallied from a 3 games to none, 9th inning deficit to beat arch nemesis NY Yankees 4-3.


2005

Good - Vince Young upsets highly touted and heisman trophy winning leinart-led trojan team in one of the best college football upsets of all time.  Yes!

Bad - Patriots win again.  ugh.  Tom Brady nearly becomes anointed as greatest of all time.  Belicheat is nearly canonized.

Good - Duncan and the Spurs win a 3rd championship.

Good - US Soccer win the Gold Cup and also finish top of their Concacaf 2006 World Cup qualifying group.

Good - Phil Mickelson wins his 2nd major trophy at the PGA Championship.


2006

Bad - Florida beats my UCLA Bruins in the NCAA finals.  While it was an unexpected appearance, UCLA never actually got back to the final game the next two years.  Heartbreak.

Good - Phil Mickelson wins his 2nd Masters trophy.

Good/Bad - US ties Italy 1-1 in the World Cup.  I know its not a championship or even a win, but holding eventual champion Italy with only 9 men felt like a championship.  Plus, I was there.  Losing to Ghana next game was a painful painful loss.

Bad - Phil Mickelson only needed a par to win the US Open but managed to double bogey 18th in heart breaking fashion.

Bad - Zidane has a magical WC run but infamously finishes in the Final with 2 OT headers: a Buffon-saved header on goal and a dead-on header on the classless Italian defender who shall remain nameless.  Zidane's grand career ends on a sad note.


2007

Good - Peyton Manning finally wins a SB and sheds the title of greatest QB never to win.  Tony Dungy finally wins!


Good - Kaka' leads AC Milan to UEFA Champions League glory.

Good - Real Madrid finally win La Liga after a 3 season drought.  Beckham, previously ostracized, wins his place back and helps bring down mighty Barca.

Good - Duncan wins 4th championship and anointed as best PF ever to play.

Good - US wins Gold Cup with 2-1 come from behind victory over arch rival Mexico. 

Good - Red Sox wins 2nd championship in 4 years.


2008


Good - Good guy Tim Tebow leads the Gators to the title.

Good - Eli Manning and David Tyree slay the 19-0 Patriots in one of the greatest upsets of all time.  Yes!

Bad - John Terry slips and misses his game-winning PK and Chelsea proceeds to lose to Man U.

Good - Boston Celtics destroy the Lakers in a classic NBA Finals.

Good - Michael Phelps won an unprecedented 8 gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics including an incredible 0.01 come from behind victory over Cavic.


2009

Bad - Kurt Warner puts in a heroic effort but loses on a spectacular Roethlisberger to Holmes connection.

Bad - Kobe finally wins a championship on his own against completely mediocre NBA opposition.



Good - US Soccer beats world #1 Spain in the semis of the Confederation's Cup and then finishes top of their group in the 2010 World Cup qualifying Concacaf group with a 93rd minute last gasp goal in the final game.

Bad - Donovan and Becks get to the MLS championship game and lose on PKs.




So there's 25 "Good" outcomes and 15 "Bad" outcomes but it definitely feels worse because the bad ones were really really bad while the most of ones rated "good" were just decently good.

Hated rivals Lakers managed to win 4 championships and the trojans won 1.  My real teams, UCLA BB and FB, SF Giants and the 49ers managed to win a combined 0 championships this decade. (Red Sox, Real Madrid, etc bring some solace but they are my adopted teams, not childhood teams.)  To make it worse, UCLA basketball actually made it the finals - and lost badly.  Hopefully this next decade will yield much better results.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

100! (ok, so its on new mexico st.)

UCLA finally won a game convincingly this year, beating down the Aggies 100-68.  It halted a miserable 5 game losing streak and gave us renewed confidence against ND on Saturday, I hope.  While it looked like less than half of Pauley was full, I still enjoyed going to this game much more than the one vs Kansas.  A win's a win.


Positives:

Malcolm Lee needs to play this way every game.  He needs to step up and be our star scorer and main playmaker.  Yesterday, he shot 7-8 from the field en route to racking up 20 points.  He also seemed to purposefully be attacking the rim for rebounds, gathering in an impressive 8.  What's more, Lee could've added to those stats had he not been benched early in this lopsided game.  It was an encouraging sight, to be sure.

Jerime Anderson finally played a solid game, putting up 13 points and an encouraging 7 assists, including a memorable wrap-around, no-look pass to Nelson in the first half.  He really needs to be willing to take the open shot as he was yesterday.  But hopefully this gives him some confidence.

Michael Roll put in a consistent performance on both ends, again.

Tyler Honeycutt showed his athleticism in scoring 14 points and grabbing 7 boards.

Reeves Nelson continued to establish himself as our best big man option as he battled inside for 16 points and 8 boards.

Hard for me to believe this, but I'm giving props to Mustafa, who has been one of our better jump shooters.  Plus, he made the crazy layup to push us to 100 points, a great cap to a much needed win.


Negatives:

Dragovic is driving me nuts.  At one point, he pulled up on a fast break for a 20 foot jump shot with only defenders waiting for the rebound.  At what point during his 4 years here did he learn that Howland would be happy with that shot?  He's a senior, he needs to show some leadership, some discipline, some heart, or he can get out.  If this man cannot make his shots, he ceases to have any positive impact on the team.  Far be it for me to question Howland, but I cannot understand why he gives Dragovic so much slack.  Anyone who cannot play good defense and makes such poor decisions offensively should be languishing on the pine over there with Soo.

Bobo is really an inadequately skilled basketball player.  He's uncoordinated with the ball and could use a lot more work with his post moves.  That said, he's so big that he still gathered in 5 rebounds in just 16 minutes of play.  I still think we should give him as much playing time as possible and see how he progresses this season.

James Keefe injured his left shoulder again.  Since its the same shoulder that he had operated on 2 years ago, it is worrisome.  Not that he was really producing anyway, but you never like to see a senior end his career because of injury.

Tiger better not be on PEDs

Reports came out that a doctor who treated Tiger during his recovery from his knee injury last year is being investigated by the FBI for distributing PEDs to athletes.  I hope for the sake of golf that Tiger was not using PEDs.  This would be a scandal that ignite a firestorm far beyond what TMZ and other media outlets have already perpetrated.

I know that he has bulked up his body the last half decade or so.  And I know that someone who is willing to cheat on his wife in his personal life in the manner that he did may also lack the moral backbone to keep his integrity in his professional life, a profession that does not test for PEDs.  And I know that someone who seems willing to go great lengths to get any woman he wants may do anything when it comes to achieving what he really wants, the record for the most majors ever.

But why would he do this if he was already the most dominant golfer of all time? Perhaps, it was really all about arrogance when it comes to Tiger.  Against all common sense, he did all the things he did actually believing that he was too important to get caught and that he wielded enough power and enough influence to make things turn out the way he wants.

How much would PEDs help a person's golf game anyway?  Golf is not merely about power, it is also about finesse and touch.  For the great ones, its about consistency under pressure.  Would HGH really help in that regard?  Not really.  Tiger didn't make that long putt on 18 in the 2008 US Open on one knee because of a PED.  He made it because he's Tiger.  Perhaps, the greatest benefit would be the ability to recover faster from injury.  Maybe Tiger used it to help him recover faster?

But there have been no real link between Tiger and any PED usage.  There are no dirty needles or dirty trainers that we know of.  But it is no longer in the realm of the unthinkable to question Tiger's performances now.  Nobody said what everyone was thinking in MLB and look where it got them.  Plus, Tiger didn't just break his wife's trust, he broke ours too.  So, let the media do its due diligence and investigate the story.

In the end, I don't think he used PEDs.  I don't want to believe it.  I don't think his once-in-a-lifetime kind of greatness was fake.  I hope that his on course performance and all his records stand unblemished for all time, even if his character is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The real Tiger says hello to the world

Its hard to believe that a person as disciplined, calculating, and intelligent as Tiger would believe that he could get away with all those affairs.  As recognizable as he is, it was going to have to come out eventually.  Then again, it took a freak accident in the middle of the morning to finally blow the cover off of all of this.  We still don't really know what happened that night.  At first, it looked like a domestic argument over National Enquirer's report of one of his affairs resulted in broken rear windows, a decapitated hydrant and a dinged up tree (not to mention the smashed up Escalade).  But now there are reports of possible drinking or maybe some kind of medication drug overdose.  Who knows?  All we know is that Tiger was in and out of consciousness that night lying in the street.  It wasn't the last time that circumstances would spiral out of his control in the last couple of weeks.

At first it was just the one waitress.  Then the women started coming out of the woodwork.  The number of "mistresses" seemed to exponentially multiply every few days.  ESPN is not covering the alleged affairs as they shouldn't since it is in the realm of his personal business.  However, entities such as TMZ do not care about his athletic accomplishments, they only care about his celebrity.  Tiger must've overlooked this fact and overestimated his ability to control the story.  It doesn't help that he seemed to pursue mostly cocktail waitresses who would likely look to tell their story for the money and/or the publicity.

Personally, this actually doesn't change my view of Tiger that much.  He always came across as someone extremely aloof and private.  He didn't connect to his legion of golf fans as much as other golfers seem to.  Basically, he acted like a corporate creation and not a human being, like us.  What he did on the course was impressively inhuman but how he acted off the course was robotic and generic.  Its why I was always more a Phil Mickelson fan.  He makes errors on the course much like we would and seems to value his marriage and family, much like we should.  He also values his fans - I've seen him sign autographs for 30 minutes while Tiger will sign maybe 2 or 3 times after a round.

Of course, I personally expected that Tiger was indeed faithful to his wife and wanted to be a good husband and father.  I assumed those things because I assumed that's what someone in Tiger's position would want.  Stability in your family life offers you stability in your occupational performance.  I guess his awesome golf ability was far greater than even I could comprehend.  I also figured that with such a strong father figure in his life, he would also want to be that kind of individual in his children's lives.  It wasn't until this week that I read an article saying that his father actually left a previous marriage with 3 kids to be with Tiger's mother, whom he also separated from eventually.  It is no wonder that deep down inside, Tiger does not really believe in the importance of a family unit.

Tiger's corporate image will surely take a hit but I don't think it will negatively affect his on course performance much.  He clearly has the ability to compartmentalize the different facets of his life extremely well.  If anything, it will probably drive him to win even more.  However, it will be interesting to see how his popularity will change with the fans as well as how his relationships with fellow golfers will be, Jesper Parnevik aside.  While I hope he can truly reconcile with his wife, I doubt that it can happen.  He actions seem like that of a sex addict.

Just 2 weeks ago, the number the world was concerned with when it came to Tiger was how many majors Tiger will ultimately win.  Now its how many "mistresses" he actually had.  That's a sad commentary on both him and us.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rock chalked by KU, not by Drew

Leading into the game vs KU, we had lost all three of our Chevron 76 tourney games, the last of which was most embarrassingly to Long Beach St. in the 7th place game.  It was of some sort of moral victory to almost beat #10 Butler the previous game, but losing to a So Cal peon meant that we likely hit rock bottom.  It wasn't.

Drew Gordon was my favorite player on the squad.  In my view, he was the only real inside presence that we had and he would anchor our team for at least another 2 years, maybe 3.  His raw athleticism would keep us viable in the Pac 10 as we get ready for next season.  I had no idea that he was who he was revealed to be.  Seriously, this was more disappointing than the Tiger Woods saga.  I literally lost all taste in my mouth when I heard.

Reports are that he openly defied Howland and other coaches in practices and games.  He apparently also got into altercations with teammates up to 3 times.  Over the course of weeks, the coaching staff apparently had been trying to work with him but eventually Howland decided to suspend him for 2 practices.  Its unclear to me what happened next but it seems that either he quit the team or he was kicked off the team immediately.

I don't understand what Gordon was thinking.  You're a starter at UCLA and would be through 2012.  You are playing for what is clearly a top tier college coach in all the land who has recently gone to 3 consecutive Final Fours.  This premier coach has also sent 7 players to the first round of the NBA draft in just 6 years.  Are you telling me you know more than this coach?  He could not have been in a better situation and will not find a better situation after this.  Sure, we're not winning right now, but guess what?  Do something about it on the court.

I partially blame his parents who clearly didn't instill any respect in their son.  He doesn't know how to respect or obey authority at all.  Even now, they were defending him, covering for him, enabling him and actually dooming him to a lifetime of failure.  Goodbye.  You won't be missed.


vs #1 KU

We probably had the most productive week of practice after Gordon's departure this season since he wasn't around to take up the coaches time.  As a result, we played a very promising game.

Sure, this is UCLA, so moral victories don't mean much but #1 KU had blown out a team by almost 70 points earlier last week.  That man child freshman Xavier Henry has a NBA ready body right now and has the skills to leave in June.  While it is funny and a little sad that the entire stadium was bubbling with excitement that we were only down by 7 at half, I believe it is progress.

Positives:

Reeves Nelson would have outplayed lottery pick Cole Aldrich had he not been poked in the eye early in the 2nd half.  Even so, his numbers are comparable.  Though he's undersized at 6-8 trying to handle the 7 footer, he more than held his own, especially in rebounding.  He was skilled in positioning himself and courageous in throwing his body around against KU's trees.  Six of his nine rebounds were on the offensive end.  And again, he essentially didn't play the last 15 minutes of the game.

I liked our energy and enthusiasm on the defensive end.  Had we been more efficient on the offensive end, we would've been in the game.  We closed to a 4 point deficit early in the 2nd half and the stadium was rocking with excitement.  True, it was a classic case of peaking way to early, but it was nice that we were excited in the 2nd half against these Jayhawks.

Tyler Honeycutt made his debut and I like his energy and athleticism.  Hopefully he comes every game with the proper attitude and buys into Howland's coaching and system.  Even this season, he can emerge as a major contributor to our success, whatever that may be this year.

Roll and Lee were solid once again.  Perhaps Lee should start from now on.

The team proved to the fans that they didn't need Drew Gordon.  We showed as good of an effort vs KU as we have all season, if not better.  Cohesion and chemistry are vital to success in a college program.  Hopefully we have that now.


Negatives:

If we could've limited our turnovers, especially the 10 or so in the first 10 minutes and hit a better FT percentage, we might've been within striking distance at the end.  At any rate, if those two issues can be limited, we can be very competitive in the Pac 10 this year.

Bobo Morgan needs to be strapped to a chair while basketballs are hurled at him.  How else can he learn to have better hands?  I still contend that once he gets the ball in proper position, it will be very difficult for any defender to stop his hook shot.  That is a skill nobody else on our roster has.  The problem is getting him the ball in the position that he needs without turning it over.  There are rumors that he may transfer as well but I bet it depends on his involvement in this season's games.

Jerime Anderson doesn't even have the confidence to finish layups.  Since we have no other options at PG, he needs to realize that he can play without the fear of making mistakes.  I still believe that he can be a solid contributor for us this season.  The fans have been spoiled by the excellence of Farmar and Collison but it is difficult to run the point in Howland's offense.  Give him some time.

Dragovic needs to disciplined in his shot selection and he needs to try harder to play defense.  The fact remains that we haven't won a single game this year when Drago has played.  I personally wouldn't mind ceding his time to the underclassmen to develop them for the future.  But I realize that he is probably going to be one of our leading scorers this year, which we will clearly need.

James Keefe only got 10 minutes of run, surprisingly.  He didn't score and only grabbed 1 board.  Howland has probably given up on this senior.

I also didn't like how many KU fans were able to get their hands on tickets.  Sure, it was kinda cool to hear some of their traditional chants including the victory chant that belonged in some monastery, I would prefer not to hear it in Pauley Pavilion.  At least it was Kansas and not Florida or some other program with fans that I don't have any respect for.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

World Cup Draw - no Group of Death for US!

England, Algeria, Slovenia.  That's our group.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Well, actually, its freakin awesome!

There are 4 "pots" that the 32 teams were separated into.  The first group are the top ranked teams in the world, such as Brazil or Italy, plus host country, South Africa.  The second pot are the North and Central American teams plus Asia/Oceania.  This is clearly the worst group since that eliminates our chance to play a weak Asian or Oceanic team.  We would much rather be grouped with African teams so we could avoid them.  The 3rd group are the South American countries plus the aforementinoed African contingent.  The last group are the leftover European teams.  You cannot play another team from your own Confederation or 2 teams from the same Confederation, except from Europe since there are too many teams from there (13).

Side note: I think its ridiculous that FIFA waits until a couple days before the actual draw to announce how the pots would be comprised.  Why would they need to wait to decide if Concacaf gets paired with Asia or Africa?  Its also ridiculous that FIFA waited until the end of European qualifying to announce how the home and away playoffs would be seeded.  Why could this not be set in stone years ago?  Its incredibly corrupt and there should be a bigger outcry at these obvious moves to put the top teams in the best position to qualify for the World Cup.  American journalists would never allow this kind of corruption.  Then again, we do have the sham that is MLB...

Anyway, so obviously the USA wanted the weakest of the teams from Pot 1, which is South Africa.  Then we'd clearly want one of the weaker African teams or Chile from Pot 3.  And from Pot 4, we'd like to avoid France or Portugal.

Absolute worst case scenario: Brazil, Ivory Coast, France.

Best case scenario: South Africa, Chile, Slovenia.



I know most Americans couldn't care less about the draw but I personally wished I could be in a soccer bar celebrating or groaning with the US fans.  It is one of the most anticipated events in the world and Fifa estimates that 200 million from 200 countries would watch.  Here, the results of the draw didn't even lead off Sportscenter that night.

So the evening included a lot of rhetoric by Fifa representatives, Nelson Mandela, and others about how far Africa has come and how its time for them to emerge on the world stage.  I'm not entirely buying what they're selling but it is about time that the World Cup goes to a new continent.  Okay okay, I guess I will rent Invictus when it comes out.

Charlize Theron was the logical choice head up the actual drawings but I did think the female host who MC'd the event did an excellent job of representing South Africa.  Theron clearly was not a longtime soccer fan however, and her attempts at humor didn't mesh well with the overall serious nature of these proceedings showed.  I didn't mind her so much but she honestly seemed very American, actually.  I do remember seeing her with a throwback Chelsea shirt at the Chelsea-Inter exhibition game this summer in Pasadena so maybe she is somewhat a football fan.  And yes, that's what the Adidas WC 2010 ball looks like.  I prefer the 2006 Deutschland edition.

Anyway, the draw began with all 24 non top tier teams praying that they could be in South Africa's group.  I knew I was.  Who from Pot 2 got chosen?  Freakin Mexico.  I almost started throwing things in my office.  I can accept that we never have much luck with our draw but why did it have to be Mexico?  It could not have started any worse.

We were put into England's group.  I'm not convinced right now that we can beat them.  Its almost like we play a similar style except that they're technically a lot better than we are.  Memories of getting destroyed in Wembley flooded my mind.  Alexi Lalas, on the other hand, seemed very excited about this during the ESPN telecast.  I couldn't tell if it was just false bravado since he was sitting next to Steve McManaman, who played for Real Madrid and ended up being the most decorated English player who played abroad.  Anyway, its coincidental that the recently leaked Nike 2010 US jerseys are a nod to the 1950 jerseys (with a diagonal blue sash) that was worn by Gaetjens and the other Americans who pulled off the biggest upset in World Cup history with that 1-0 victory over England.


Of course, I'd rather play England than Brazil since the Seleccao are too good, or Italy since we played them in 2006, or Spain since they're freakin Spain, or the Netherlands since I have doubts that we can handle their style, or Germany cause they always win their group.  So I guess, playing England might be pretty good draw.  Argentina might've been nice too since who knows how they'll do with Maradona at the helm.  That said, it'll be fun to play such a premier squad with world class names such as Terry, Lampard, Rooney and Gerrard.  At the very least it will raise our visibility even more in the world.  Hopefully England starts off with their typical slow start and we can steal a draw.

When Pot 3 was getting placed, I was bracing for Ivory Coast or Ghana, but it ended up being Algeria.  Algeria?  You mean the team that barely edged out Egypt to clinch the last African spot?  Looking at the other options, it couldn't have been better.  Mexico ended up with Uruguay and that seems like a dangerous matchup.  Things are improving.

At the outset of Pot 4, I was just hoping Mexico would end up with France.  That's all I really wanted.  If not France, then at least Portugal.  But France would be phenomenal.  They still have some of the best players in the world in Henry, Ribery, and Anelka.  I couldn't care less that France would essentially get rewarded after qualifying in such embarrassing fashion.  Anyway, Fifa punished them by not letting them be a top seed.  I just wanted them to get Mexico.

YES!  pump your fists.  shake your booty.  I did.  Mexico's group ain't that easy for them after all.

So now, US fans are just holding their breath that they wouldn't get Portugal.  Not only was it not CRonaldo's squad that was placed in our group, it wasn't the formidable Serbia team or Denmark/Slovakia -teams that we just lost to in the last month.  It was Slovenia, possibly the weakest European team in the entire tournament.  Now I really wish I was in a soccer bar somewhere.

The only drama that was left was where Portugal would go.  Of course it would be with Brazil, the favorite, and Ivory Coast, Africa's best.  Clearly the Group of Death this time.

As Lalas said, if we can't beat Algeria and Slovenia, we don't deserve to get out of the group.  Then again, we were supposed to beat Ghana in 2006, weren't we?  We would've played Brazil in the next round! exhale.



Group Predictions in Dec 2009

Why not?

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
I think Uruguay and France will emerge, in that order.  Its about time Mexico misses the knockout rounds and I expect France to lose a shocker to finish 2nd.  Their coach is still an idiot.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
South Korea and Argentina.  South Korea has the cohesion and work ethic while Argentina has the class players.

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia
England and the US.  Under Capello, I don't think England will start slowly this time.  Algeria and Slovenia may be the underdogs but I don't think Bradley will let the US be unprepared.  I think we lose to England and beat both Algeria and Slovenia.

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana
Germany and Serbia.  I like Australia's gusto and Ghana's stars but Serbia has the overall team quality.

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon
Netherlands and Cameroon.  Eto'o leads his squad to glory on the shoulders of their fans.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia
Paraguay and Slovakia.  There has to be a shocker somewhere, right?  Italy's age catches up to them and they see an early exit.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal
Ivory Coast and Brazil will emerge from the Group of Death fairly comfortably after both beating an overrated Portugal squad.

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Spain has the easiest draw of any top squad and will be racking up the goals.  Switzerland barely emerges from the scrum as well after beating a talented Honduras side.



Knockout Stages Predictions


Round of 16

Uruguay vs Argentina - 2-2 Argentina in PKs

France vs South Korea - France 3-1

England vs Serbia - England 2-1

Germany vs USA - USA 1-0

Netherlands vs Slovakia - Netherlands 3-0

Paraguay vs Cameroon - Cameroon 2-1

Ivory Coast vs Switzerland - Ivory Coast 2-0

Spain vs Brazil - Brazil 3-2


Quarterfinals

Argentina vs France - Argentina 2-1

England vs USA - 0-0 England in PKs

Netherlands vs Cameroon - Dutch 4-0

Ivory Coast vs Brazil - Brazil 4-2


Semifinals

Argentina vs England - England 2-0

Netherlands vs Brazil - 2-2 Brazil in PKs


Final

England vs Brazil - England 2-1

The golden generation finally break through in their last hurrah.  Beckham wins it on a 84th minute signature swerving free kick.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

pete carroll has no class.

We had 3 timeouts with a minute left.  He had a 2 TD lead and should've run out the clock.  We are trying to build a mentality of playing hard to the end in our program.  He was just trying to theatrically show up a beaten opponent, after hypocritically complaining about the same thing happening to him just 2 weeks ago vs Stanford.  Way to celebrate after that play, pete.

What a classless jerk.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Finally seeing glimpses of Howland ball, but no Drago

UCLA beat Pepperdine 71-52 and is starting to look like a completely different squad from the one we saw lose to Fullerton in double OT a week ago.

Positives:

Our shooting was much better - FT 13-15, 3 point shooting 8-19, and FG percentage 54%.  Compare that to last week's Fullerton debacle when we shot 31% out of a total 84 shots, which is by far the most shots a Howland coached UCLA team has ever thrown up at the rim.

Drew Gordon has arrived as a force inside.  He put up 19 points on 8-10 shooting, 3 blocks, 6 boards on Friday and another 18 points on 6-7 shooting, 3 blocks and 9 boards yesterday.  While on Friday he had one of the best blocks I've ever seen (where he wound up, swatted it cleanly with no body contact and then gathered in the ball), more impressively, last night he scored 9 points, including 5 clutch FTs, late in the 2nd half after Pepperdine had pulled within 5 points to help UCLA go on a 14-2 run to put the game away. 

Michael Roll - I would bet that if Roll shoots above 50% on his 3s, we would win that game.  He really is our only consistent outside threat right now.  He also might be our best distributor with 5 assists last night.  I've noticed that his defense has improved so much over the years under Howland.

Malcolm Lee's shooting form looks better.  I'm sure someone has worked with him this week since it almost seemed like he was purposefully working on extending his arm all the way, especially on FTs.  He also plays less frantically, now that he's had a few games under his belt.

Our defensive rotations look much improved.  Also, our team has started to draw a few of those vintage Howland charges on out of control players.

The one positive I see out of Drago being out, is that our freshmen big men are getting a lot more playing time especially Lane and Nelson.  They clearly will both be big contributors to our program.

A double digit win over an inferior team is a good way to springboard us into a tough 3 game schedule over this weekend.



Negatives:

We still need work on attacking a zone defense, just like all Howland teams.  There were a few bright spots such as Keefe's flash to the FT line for a jumper or Jerime's penetration for a layup early in the first half.  But more often than not, we passed the ball around the perimeter without really knowing what to do.

James Keefe needs to score.  He only took 2 shots in 31 minutes of play.  I think eventually his baseline jumper, which extends out to the 3 point line, will be important for us.

Bobo needs to play.  What a sad commentary on Bobo that freshmen Lane and Nelson are getting almost 10 minutes a game in Drago's absence while Bobo never got off the bench.  He needs to really apply himself to the point that Howland trusts him.

Mustafa hit 4 big jumpers for us and looked a lot more settled on the ball yesterday.  So why is he listed in the negatives?  Because Mustafa should never play.  We will get hurt by good teams when this liability is on the court.


Dragovic under arrest

For the 2nd time in 2 years, Dragovic couldn't help but get involved in some kind of physical confrontation that was investigated by authorities.  Last year it was his girlfriend and this year it was a stranger at a concert whom Dragovic pushed through a glass case, lacerating the guy's achilles tendon.  This time the DA has decided to press charges of felony assault.  While there are conflicting reports as to who's really at fault, there is no question that trouble follows Dragovic around.

In my opinion, since he's a senior anyway who doesn't play sound defense or good team ball AND we're probably not going to win anything this year, I hope he doesn't come back.  (Its not like he was shooting lights out anyway.)  I'd rather we get Nelson, Lane and even Bobo more minutes so that we can compete for a national championship next season.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bruins in the NBA

Most of any school in history, UCLA has had 102 players drafted into the NBA and 74 players play in the NBA.

Currently, UCLA has more players in the NBA than any other school (tied with Duke) so I thought I'd list who they are in chronological order of when they went to the draft.


Baron Davis - 1999, 1st round, #3 - I can't believe he's the oldest Bruin in the NBA.  He's probably still the most talented and most successful player of the group.  I will never forget the dunk from just inside the free throw line on the UDubb center, then turning and jogging past me as I practically had a seizure in the 1st row.

Earl Watson - 2001, 2nd round, #40 - Though he's the same year as Baron, he stayed and started every game for 4 years to become a UCLA legend in his own right.  He's been a reliable role player in the NBA.

Dan Gadzuric 2002, 2nd round, #34 - The 7 foot "Flying Dutchman" was rumored to be among the fastest players end to end on the court.  Maybe not the quickest learner, he's figured out how to rebound and block shots.

Matt Barnes 2002, 2nd round, #46 - Self-proclaimed "Sactown's finest", this versatile forward blossomed his senior season into a good jump shooter and used it to springboard into a productive NBA career as a journeyman.

Jason Kapono 2003, 2nd round, #31 - Perhaps the best pure shooter in the NBA, he won back to back 3 point shootout contests.

Trevor Ariza 2004, 2nd round, #44 - Everyone, including new UCLA coach Howland, thought that Ariza was making the wrong decision when he declared after his freshman year.  He lucked out since NY didn't have a 1st round pick and made him their rookie project.  One of 2 players on this list to win a ring.

Jordan Farmar 2006, 1st round, #26 - The first 1st rounder from UCLA since Baron Davis in 99 (a shocking fact for a tradition rich college powerhouse like UCLA), Farmar won a ring as a backup.  This marks the beginning of a series of 1st round picks.

Ryan Hollins 2006, 2nd round, #50 - Under Howland's tutelage, this lanky 7 footer emerged in the tourney, helped UCLA to get to the championship game and now has a good career as a backup center.

Arron Afflalo 2007, 1st round, #27 - A 3 year starter at UCLA, he was picked 1st round for his defensive mentality and tremendous work ethic.

Russell Westbrook 2008, 1st round, #4 - An athletic revelation his sophomore year, Westbrook was selected higher than any Bruin since Baron Davis and given the reigns to a rebuilding Thunder squad.

Kevin Love 2008, 1st round, #5 - The best big man UCLA has had in over a decade left UCLA after 1 season.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 2008, 2nd round, #37 - A hardworking, versatile, defensive-minded glue guy, he definitely earned his place into the NBA.

Jrue Holiday 2009, 1st round, #17 - The 2nd consecutive top ranked prep player to leave UCLA after just 1 year.  He could've been drafted in the lottery had he stayed 1 more year.

Darren Collison 2009, 1st round, #21 - Continuing the great recent tradition of UCLA point guards, Collison surprised many by staying for his senior season and then again surprised many by being drafted in the 1st round.  He has shown his ability to produce at the NBA level in Chris Paul's absence.  Having taken us to 2 Final Fours, he will always be a legend to me.







Other players who were drafted or played in the NBA during my time there include:

Jelani McCoy 1998, 2nd round, #33 - he only had a skill: shot blocking, but he did it really well.

Toby Bailey 1998, 2nd round, #45 - he was good at all things, great at none.

JR Henderson 1998, 2nd round, #56 - a PF with the body of a SF.

Jerome Moiso 2000, 1st round, #11 - tall, lanky, skilled PF who likely didn't have the mental toughness to make it.

Dijon Thompson 2005, 2nd round, #54 - a supremely talented scorer who never looked like he wanted to play defense.

Ray Young 2005, Free Agent - Looked and played more like a linebacker than a guard, he had raw  athleticism but never any skills to make it.

Cedric Bozeman 2006, Free Agent - a highly touted PG coming out of HS, he never fulfilled the promise he showed.  Like Hollins, he did emerge as a productive college player his senior year but his lack of scoring ability hindered his dreams of NBA stardom.


While there are 14 current players in the NBA, there are really only perhaps 3 bonafide starters (Baron, Westbrook and Love).

Its also interesting to note that out of Lavin's 11 recruits that have played or are playing in the NBA, only 2 were drafted in the 1st round (Baron and Moiso).  7 of those 11 are still in in the NBA (Baron, Watson, Gadzuric, Barnes, Kapono, Ariza, Hollins).  You could argue that 3 - Ariza, Hollins and Bozeman developed under Howland's coaching.

In contrast, Howland has 7 first rounders and 1 second rounder in just 6 years of recruiting and coaching (not including the aforementioned Ariza, Hollins and Bozeman).  The last 2 years, UCLA has lost 5 players to the NBA while only Darren Collison left as a senior.  This accounts for the down year UCLA is currently experiencing.  Can you imagine a lineup right now with Love, Westbrook and Holiday (plus Michael Roll and Drew Gordon)?

Jim Harrick, who won our 1995 championship, recruited the 3 players who all played as seniors during my freshman year - McCoy, Bailey and Henderson.


Just for fun lineups:

Lavin's best 5 (still in the NBA, sorry Moiso):
Baron, Ariza, Kapono, Barnes, Gadzuric

Howland's best 5:
Collison, Farmar, Westbrook, Moute, Love

Best Five:
Baron, Westbrook, Kapono, Moute, Love

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Cup 2010 Field of 32 has been set, but not without controversy

Concacaf (35 teams - 3 or 4 berths - playoff with Conmebol)

USA - finished top of the group again.
Mexico - after several coaches and a lot of angst, they qualified as they should.
Honduras - they should name a city after Bornstein, whose stoppage time goal vs Costa Rica essentially clinched it for Honduras and eliminated CR.


Conmebol (10 teams - 4 or 5 berths - playoff with Concacaf)

Brazil - playing more like Italy these days, but winning like Brazil.
Paraguay - beat both Brazil and Argentina in qualifying.
Chile - first booked ticket since WC 98.
Argentina - why is Maradona still their manager?
Uruguay - after missing in 06, back where they belong.


UEFA (53 teams - 13 berths)

Spain - The best team in Europe.
England - Capello has them playing with a new confidence.
Germany - I read somewhere that they've never lost a road qualifier?
Netherlands - the first group in Europe to qualify.
Italy - not convincing, but won their group.
Portugal - lost their group but won their playoff, even without CRonaldo.
France - why is that idiot Domenech still their manager?  Henry's handball.
Denmark - Surprisingly beat out Portugal and Sweden to win their group
Serbia - Shockingly beat out France to win group.
Slovakia - Only had to contend with a down Czech Rep.
Switzerland - Easiest group in UEFA.
Slovenia - sent Hiddink's Russians home in shame in playoff.
Greece - conquered Sheva and the Ukrainians in playoff.


CAF (53 teams - 5 berths, 1 host nation)

South Africa - host nation
Ghana - Essien will be there.
Ivory Coast - So will Drogba and Kalou.
Nigeria - and Jon Obi Mikel.  wow, Chelsea has a lot of CAF players.
Cameroon - And of course Eto'o.
Algeria - beat out Egypt in extra game playoff.


AFC (43 teams - 4 or 5 berths - playoff with OFC)

Japan - naturally
South Korea - who else.
North Korea - Okay, I understand Japan and So Korea qualifying, but how does China not qualify above North Korea?  The Chinese are communist too, except they have a few billion more people to choose from.
Australia - Not sure why Australia gets to compete in the Asian conference.


OFC 

New Zealand - Oceania isn't even guaranteed a WC berth.  The winner from OFC has a playoff vs 5th place AFC team.  NZ beat Bahrain to qualify.



Hand of Henry

Okay, so the controversy continues to grow over France's qualification vs Ireland in that playoff.  I definitely believe that had Ireland committed the handballs which led to a goal which eliminated a football country as big as France, Fifa might actually do something about it.  But as it stands now, there's no way anything will change.  If it were up to me, I would make France and Ireland replay a 45 minute period.  If there is still no score, then play another 45 minute period.

Henry did commit handball but it is entirely up to the ref to make that call.  Even if Henry admitted to the handball on the spot, the ref still has to make the call based on what he saw.  Therefore, as I've always said, instant replays for goals should always be used.  Always.  The game is interrupted anyway, so why can't they review goals, especially when there's controversies involved?  Everything should be up for scrutiny, including offsides, goal-line calls, handballs. The only thing that shouldn't be reviewed are fouls.  Fouls not called during the course of play on the field cannot be called as a result of the replay.  Also, the running clock should be stopped on replays (as well as other stoppages in play such as injuries, cards, substitutions, goals but I digress).

To improve refereeing during the game, there should always be a permanent goal-line referee stationed at each end as well as an additional ref on the field of play.  As it stands now, there are 2 sideline refs and only 1 ref for the rest of the field of play.  That's ridiculous in itself.  While it is the nature of this game to have major controversies, Fifa should be held responsible to fix the issues within their control.  These are easy solutions.

Tim Lincecum wins NL Cy Young Award

Tim captured a 2nd consecutive Cy Young Award with an ERA of 2.48.  He finished with an impressive 15-7 record in what was supposed to be a down year for the Giants and led the NL in strikeouts with 261.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Still looking for our real season opener

UCLA's 2009-10 season opened in disappointing fashion last night as we went down to Fullerton 68-65.  With 3 average college players as our senior leaders and a couple handfuls of green sophomores and freshmen, it appears that we will need a couple months to become a cohesive unit capable of competing in the conference.


Critical moments in the game for UCLA:

- Roll's missed front end of a 1 and 1 FT at the end of regulation.  He could have put UCLA up by 3 with seconds to play.

- Jerime and Malcolm's missed shots at the end of regulation and the first OT could have put away the game.


Positives:

- Down 10 points (43-33) with about 15 minutes to go in the 2nd half, we went on a 15-2 run to actually pull ahead 47-45 with about 7:30 left.  Our defense and rebounding during this time was above average.

- We held them to 40% shooting and forced 19 turnovers.

- Michael Roll has stepped up to be our main offensive cornerstone.  While Howland admittedly overused him last night (49 minutes), he almost has to be on the floor for our offense to be productive.  He and Malcolm led us each scoring 17 points.  He was also the only one to shoot a decent percentage from 3 point land.

- Reeves Nelson, whom Howland called probably our best interior scorer after the game, contributed 11 points in just 12 minutes (Dragovic and Keefe combined for 7 points in 72 minutes) and a memorable block, which probably looked better live from my view behind he basket than on TV.

- While their scoring was atrocious, Dragovic surprisingly grabbed 14 boards while Keefe contributed with 9.


Negatives:

- Dragovic shot 2-14 (1-9 from 3 point line).  As a senior starter, we cannot have this kind of performance.  Had he scored more than 2 points in regulation, we probably would have won.

- Jerime Anderson shot 1-11 including several missed layups late in the game.  UCLA shot a lousy 31% mostly due to these 2 rim-clangers.  Jerime also only had 3 assists in 40 minutes of action.

- Malcolm Lee (7-23) also shot poorly but it is clear that he will never be a great spot up shooter (1-8 from 3 point line).  His form is shaky and out of sorts especially when he is on the move.  Needs to work on extending his shooting elbow for a more consistent shot.

- FT shooting, 8-17 for 41.7%.  3 point shooting, 5-29 for 17.2%

- We essentially went with a 7 man rotation.  We need to work Moser and maybe Bobo in a little more.  It will help when Tyler comes back.

- Our offensive was completely stagnant when Fullerton smartly went to a zone defense.  We could use some more off the ball movement instead of 4 guys standing there while Roll runs back and forth along the baseline.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The moment Belicheat completed my weekend

It was a great weekend in sports.  The 49ers was gifted a much needed victory, UCLA football finally won convincingly, Pacquiao maintained his hold on his Ring mag pound for pound title, the Galaxy booked their place in the MLS final... and Peyton managed to put down his nemesis in memorable fashion.

In fact, the only team that didn't come through was US soccer in their friendly vs Slovakia but if I had to choose a team to lose, they were it.  The game didn't mean much especially with Donovan out of the lineup (having just powered the Galaxy to victory the night before) among others.  Plus, the US actually played a better game, created more chances and only lost on an iffy penalty call on Bornstein.



But, back to the topic at hand.  The Patriots vs Colts was billed as this season's edition of Peyton vs Brady.  However, I do think its interesting that whenever they talked about the battle of wits, it was always Belicheat vs Peyton, instead of mentioning Brady, or Caldwell for that matter.  Anyway, I thought Andrea Kramer's poll of living HOF QBs was extremely interesting.  When asked who they would rather have as their QB, 13 chose Manning, while only 2 chose Brady (Elway and Bradshaw on the strength of Brady's 3 titles) and 5 (including Montana, disappointingly) abstained.  Thirteen of the15 most qualified judges of QB talent has more respect for Manning's ability than Brady.  Obviously, this massively increases my respect for Peyton more than ever before.

It was a depressing game to watch until the 4th quarter.  The Brady to Moss/Welker connection was unstoppable and there were times when the Colts defense was doing their best to not cover Moss.  Since the Colts running game was nonexistent, Peyton had to be extremely accurate to score.  Already being down double digits for most of the game, it didn't help that Peyton uncharacteristically threw a couple terrible interceptions in the 2nd half as well.  Down 17 points in the 4th quarter?  Not good.  Well after a flurry of back and forth scores, the Colts were gifted a long gain on a borderline pass interference call.  Then a Addai TD made it a 6 point game.  Then the real fun began.

Brady took over the ball at his own 20 needing a first down to just about kill the game off.  Strangely, the Pats burned a timeout before 1st down - something about not having the right personnel?  Then, after a couple short gains and an incomplete, the Pats were faced with 4th and 2 with just over 2 minutes in the game.  A first down would win the game.  Belicheat burns his last timeout and decides to go for it.  As soon as I saw Brady and the offense walk out there, I knew they weren't just going to try and draw the Colts offside.  I knew Belicheat's arrogance had prompted him to go for the 1st down right then and there.  If I was a betting man, I would've wagered that they would get their first down.

Colts blitzed and Brady quickly threw to Faulk, who bobbled the ball and was pushed backwards as he tried to control it.  Looked to me that he got it, but the officials ruled it short of the first down.  Unbelievable.  Even worse, Belicheat didn't have any timeouts to pull an Andy Reid and challenge the spot, though the replays were inconclusive.  Shocking.  He had just made the kind of emotional and arrogant decision that you'd expect to see from a frustrated immature high schooler who got tired of getting hacked all game and tried to posterize somebody instead of dribbling out the clock.  Pete Carroll made a similiar 4th down decision vs Texas in 2007 to lose that game.  Afterwards, analysts rightly brought up the point that he would lose the confidence of his defense especially in the the next big moment of this season.

Facing a disheartened defense, the re-energized Peytons marched the 30 yards with ease while also masterfully wasting the clock until a Wayne double-move freed him up for a quick slant TD.  Game over.  Belicheat had snatched defeat from the hands of victory.

Had he opted to punt, Peyton would've had 2 minutes to march 60 or 70 yards.  Is it possible that he would've still won the game?  Yeah, possibly but remember he had thrown 2 interceptions to go along with the 2 TDs the Colts scored in the 2nd half.  So, it was a 50-50 chance at best, or worst.  I think that Belicheat knew that his defense was worn down but more than that, I think deep down, Belicheat didn't want to give Peyton the opportunity to be the hero.  He would rather win the game based on his gutsy play-calling than give Peyton another game winning notch on his belt.

In the aftermath, Belicheat may be getting roasted nationally but I don't think his team will splinter the way many are predicting.  I think the Patriots will still win their division and be a contender in January.  True, they probably won't have home field advantage in the playoffs but if they come back to Indy then, the entire Pats squad will be fired up to avenge this bitter loss.  That said, I'm glad Belicheat is getting blamed.  Its about time ESPN's lovefest with the Pats stops.

The Sports Guy wrote an article recently talking about some of the sports figures he hates.  He included Peyton into the list alongside A-Rod and Kobe.  You gotta be kidding me.  If anything, Brady is the one who belongs on the list with primadonnas A-Rod and Kobe.  Nobody else tries to run up the score on other teams in garbage time like Brady does as if BCS votes depend on it and then reacts so bushleague.  He's the one who whines and gets 15 yard flags called even when a defender doesn't even TOUCH him.  Brady's also the one who is essentially a publicity chaser, dating and impregnating an actress only to dump her for, what is clearly a step up - a model.  So no, The Sports Guy, Brady belongs with A-Rod and Kobe.  He is, as they all are, just plain unlikable.

Peyton, on the other hand, will go down as maybe the greatest of all time.  Not only is he the consummate professional, he also has revolutionized the way that the position of QB can be played.  As 13 of the 15 most qualified authorities have attested to, there is no comparison.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pacquiao, all time great



For $65 bucks, I was not planning to buy this fight.  I had thought about trying to recruit a dozen or so friends but I didn't think I could stir up enough interest.  I figured I would save the effort for the Pac-Mayweather fight.  Fortunately, someone at my place for poker night wanted to see the fight enough to chip in more than half.  Even my wife couldn't resist that.  You know HBO's 24/7 series knows how to lure in the customers if they can even convince my wife to loosen the family coffers.

Without this generous guest benefactor, I would have missed the fight of the year.  (Okay, so HBO will replay it this Sat but whatever.)  I must admit, I was extremely worried in Round 1 when Cotto's jabs seemed to effectively neutralize Pacquiao's fight plan.  Pacquiao's jabs and straight lefts, which had singularly worked so devastatingly against Oscar, were being stymied by Cotto's solid jabs.  Prefight, the whole match had been framed as Pacquiao's speed vs the strength of Cotto.  For Manny, the question was whether he could take a real punch from a true welterweight champion in his prime, since the only welterweight he had faced was a rapidly declining and soon to be retiring Oscar.  The expert's consensus was that for Pacquiao to win, he would have to outbox Cotto and avoid getting caught by Cotto's heavy left hook, which most believed he could do.  In the aftermath, Pacquiao claimed that he was merely testing Cotto's power early on, trying to ascertain his strength as well as learn the gameplan he was up against before unleashing his own attack.

Rounds 2-4 were worth the price of PPV itself.  Especially in round 2, we saw a true slugfest that we rarely see these days.  Both Cotto and Pac were getting rocked with hard punches and it was difficult to tell who had the upper hand.  While I gave Cotto round 1, I slightly favored Pac in round 2.  Then came the knockdowns.  The 2 punch combinations that dropped Cotto in round 3 and round 4 were shocking to say the least.  Many would say that without the knockdowns, Cotto might have taken those rounds.

Cotto was never the same.  From round 6-9, it was like watching Pacquiao work a punching bag.  After round 10, I was really hoping that Cotto's trainer would have the sense to throw in the towel.  Even though Cotto wanted to finish the 12 rounds, it was painful to watch him retreat and try to hang on.  Personally, I think it was a gutless decision by the trainer to not stop the punishment.  Then again, Cotto seemed like a stand up guy and deep down, I was hoping he could muster some kind of attack and defense to at least finish the fight.  Throughout watching 24/7, I got the feeling that he wasn't marked by arrogance as many title holders are - see Mayweather.  Even after the fight, he was humble, courteous and professional.  I hope he is able to rebound and regain a belt again.  You gotta love boxing, there's always multiple belts that can be won.  While I'm on the topic, I hope Margarito comes clean about his obvious and revolting cheating in the Cotto fight.  He should be banned for life for endangering someone else's life like that. 

Manny became the first fighter to have held titles in 7 weight classes: flyweight  (limit) 112 lbs, junior featherweight 122 lbs, featherweight 126 lbs, junior lightweight 130 lbs, lightweight 135 lbs, junior welterweight 140 lbs, and now welterweight 147 lbs.  That unprecedented achievement is incredible.  Think about it.  He has put on 30 pounds of muscle while perhaps getting FASTER.

I've always appreciated Pacquiao's brash fighting style the most.  He seems willing to mix it up with anyone instead of opting for a defensive strategy, which brings me to Floyd Mayweather.  Mayweather enhances his persona by doing a lot of boisterous talking outside of ring but inside the ring, he is actually a very conservative and defensive fighter.  Sometimes, it is actually a little bit boring, especially in comparison to Pacquiao's fights.  While possessing superior quickness over most opponents, he seems to allow them to come at him and make them miss while raining punishing and lightning-quick counter punches in retreat.

I am not entirely sure if Pacquiao can beat Mayweather but it will be one for the ages.  They have to fight.  There is no other fight that will be more anticipated than this.  I heard that the purse could be as much as $40 mil each.  If anyone postures for more than a 50% share, which the Mayweather camp is likely to do, it will be because they want to duck the fight.  We'll see what the PPV numbers for Pacquiao are for Sat and then we'll know if he has as much drawing power as Mayweather's 1 million buys vs Juan Manuel Marquez earlier this year.  Mayweather also doesn't like to fight under 147 which could pose a problem for Pacquiao since he is probably right around 143.

Like Freddie Roach, I hope Manny beats Floyd, then retires.  He would go down as one of the best pound for pound fighters of all time.  He could go become president of the Philippines or something.  But he would have nothing left to prove.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Humbled St.

Ahh, much better.  So what did I learn from last night's exhibition game vs Humboldt St?  Mike Roll is the key to our season.  I have never been so happy to see Mike Roll.  Just as we suspected, he was a calming influence on our offense and he knows Coach Howland's system.  That experience showed in that our spacing improved drastically as well as the flow of our offense.  At the very least, his shooting opened up the floor for the rest of the squad to operate.

Jerime Anderson cannot get hurt.  Please. A huge improvement over Mustafa, Jerime was a true point guard out there.  He continually looked to set up other players with good shots.  Malcolm is clearly not a true point guard at heart, as he seems to excel at getting his shot off.

Drew Gordon is a monster inside and will have to be this season.  There is really no other proven banger inside for us.

Dragovic is a ball-hoggin, shootin fool.  While his defense is probably better than all of Europe, thanks to Coach Howland, it still stinks.  If he isn't shooting well, I already know I'm going to be mad at him all game.

I did think it was strange that Keefe only played 16 minutes when Reeves Nelson played 11.  I would have thought that Keefe might even start and play a good 25-30 minutes a game this season.  Either he picked up a knock or he hasn't earned Howland's trust yet.

In big recruiting news of the week, Josh Smith, a 6-9 five star center from Washington spurned the Huskies and chose us.  Josh Smith has already said that he intends to stay to earn a degree unless he's going in the lottery.  I'm fine with that.  At least he's up front about it.  As long as he doesn't start comparing himself to Alcindor (who is fighting a treatable leukemia now) or Walton, I'm okay with that plan.  From the video that I've seen, he looks like a 2 year player to me.

We've also already got 6-4 SG Tyler Lamb, so our recruiting class is off to a good start.  I watched some youtube interviews of these two and they both seem relatively well-spoken, balanced and intelligent.  While Lamb did sign his LOI today, Josh Smith has postponed doing the same.  Some say that he is putting together a signing party but I'm a little worried that he might back out, considering he's right in the Huskies backyard, which is still where his mom is.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A win's a win

I got to go to the first Pac-10 victory of the UCLA football season.  Somehow 1-5 in the conference is not what the bruin faithful were hoping for.  But, a win's a win.

Looking back at this game, our defense played pretty well considering we had 5 turnovers.  Some of these turnovers put us in bad field position but they only scored 23 points on the day.  I think we also had a few stupid penalties as well.  Coach Neuheisel needs to do something about that.  Turnovers and penalties can be mostly remedied by good coaching.

Kevin Prince looked like he has turned the corner.  We were marching down the field at a very encouraging rate.  Hopefully he returns from his cheap-shot concussion and plays on Sat.

The 3 biggest plays of the day (besides the 5 turnovers), in my mind, are the long touchdown to Austin (which apparently wasn't and I'm still confused as to why it wasn't reviewed), the horribly botched Wash FG, and the Rahim Moore interception.

As for the jerseys, I actually thought they looked pretty sweet.  Personally, I like the lighter shade of blue instead of the deeper blue we have now.  Its a nice touch to commemorate Gary Beban's 1967 heisman year and invite him to be a honorary captain.  I actually met him once when I worked at a book store a few years ago.  He was doing a Q&A and a signing in LA and they let me spend much of the hour talking him.  Nice guy.  Anyway, its great that UCLA recognized his incredible achievement.


The alumni were unusually fired up for this game.  We really did need the win.  Man, woman and child guy said we can still finish 7-5.  Now that's a true fan.

After the game, Neuheisel invited everyone who had jumped off the bandwagon to jump back on.  Year 3 is when he really will have to produce.  But first, lets beat sc.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

UCLA exhibition of inexperience

Interestingly, the consistent strength of the UCLA squads of the past decade or so was the greatest weakness last night: PG.  We went from Baron Davis, Earl Watson, Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook (notice I didn't include Jrue Holiday) to now Mustafa Abdul-Hamid?  I don't think so.

Mustafa could not even bring up the ball comfortably much less run the offense.  They harassed him into turnovers in the backcourt.  He would dribble into corners or sidelines and no one on the offense would show for the ball to get him out of trouble.  Even some of his passes were embarrassingly thrown way off the mark and out of bounds.  Now I know that for a 4th year walk-on, he's doing the best that he can.  I partly blame Howland for allowing him to play 36 minutes when he was completely inept and unqualified.  But mostly I blame Jrue Holiday.  Fortunately, Jerime Anderson will be the primary ball-handler for this season.  He might have to play 35 minutes a game.  Hopefully, Howland will allow Malcolm Lee to be the PG (when Anderson sits) just as he did in high school.

So we were down by 3 at the half and down by 8 with around 8 minutes to play.  When Malcolm fouled out with 5 min to go (his 4th foul was a completely bogus charging call.  Hey ref, its not charging if he doesn't even make contact with the defender's torso) after his 2 big shots had just tied the game, I thought it was over.  Mustafa was going to lose the game for us.  I couldn't contain my laughter when he hit the game winning 3 pointer with 15 seconds left.  Since I had been besmirching his game all night long, my friend started yelling, "Apologize!  Apologize to him right now!".  Hilarious.

After seeing the team live for the first time, my first thought is that Michael Roll will be very very important to our team this year.  I think he would have been a stabilizing force in the midst of all that confusion on offense.  Plus, he would've hit a few 3s that we badly needed.  Secondly, we are only 3 guards deep so all three must stay healthy.  We now know that we could lose to a NAIA squad if 2 of our 3 guards are out.

Thirdly, Honeycutt has the tools to be a great player.  He probably lacks confidence right now but one play in particular showed his ability.  He drove baseline with a quickness missing from most of our other players and setup Drew Gordon for an easy dunk.  The fact that Honeycutt started and played over 20 minutes is a sign that Howland likes him.  Mike Moser looks to be in line for about 5-7 minutes a game this year.

Reeves Nelson, though he missed all 4 FTs after effortlessly swishing them in warmups, looks like a capable contributor as well.  I thought he did some positive things on the offensive end and is the perfect hustle guy for a Howland squad.  He may not get a lot of minutes this year with Keefe, Gordon and Drago clogging the PF minutes, but he'll make his mark, I guarantee it.  Conversely, the only good thing Bobo showed was that he had slimmed down.  I still have my doubts about his approach to the game.  You can lose weight just through mindless cardio exercises but you can't get better at bball without mental concentration and determination.  Still, he brings potential offensive post skills that nobody else has including his towering hook shot.

The bright spots I thought were Drew Gordon, our leading scorer with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and James Keefe, to my surprise.  Keefe put in a noticeably solid performance on offense and showed me that he may understand the importance of his role this year.  He even nailed a couple 3s from the wings.

As for our other likely starters, Malcolm Lee looked over-anxious to get started and needs to just settle down.  It seems like he was excited to show off everything he worked so hard on offseason.  He did hit a couple big shots late in the game before fouling out.  However, I was discouraged to discover during pre-game warmups, he never extended his shooting arm fully in his shooting motion.  How could he shoot 500 shots a game all summer and not have been tutored to shoot them correctly?

Dragovic was pathetic as usual on defense, often refusing to hustle to cover open shooters.  He also shot very poorly on the night but perhaps we can chalk up his performance to his food poisoning.  If it were up to me, I wouldn't even play Drago.  He doesn't play Ben ball.

Overall, our offensive spacing and cohesion was terrible so there's a lot of work to be done.  This will be an interesting teaching year for Howland.  I look forward to seeing our growth game by game.

This is how I think our minutes should be dispersed:

Anderson 30 min at PG
Lee 30 (20 at SG, 10 at PG)
Roll 30 (10 at SF, 20 at SG)
Keefe 25 (20 at PF, 5 at C)
Gordon 30 at C

Bench:
Dragovic 22 (15 at PF, 7 at SF)
Honeycutt 18 at SF
Morgan 5 at C
Nelson 5 at PF
Moser 5 at SF

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bruin bball's back


So I'm going to tonight's first UCLA bball exhibition game vs Concordia.  Nevermind that I've never heard of Concordia.  They've probably never heard of the majority of our players either.

It looks like we're not supposed to be a Pac-10 contender this year, much less a final four contender but we're UCLA - we've always got a shot.  They're predicting we finish 3rd behind Cal and Wash.  I suppose that is a rational conclusion since our only 3 upperclassmen may be the most pathetic out of any major college bball program.  They are also the whitest and also the most ... umm, grounded.  James Keefe, an absolute failure at PF after his McDonald's All-American hype, Nikola Dragovic, a 6-9 euro 3-point shooter, and Michael Roll, a decent shooting guard who will finally get his chance to start.  With no significant juniors to speak of, the rest of the squad are dominated by talented but raw underclassmen.  It will be interesting to see who steps up as the leaders of this squad especially when your most experienced players aren't the best players.

I'm still a little sore at Jrue Holiday's early defection to the Sixers' bench when he could be running this team and earning his way into the lottery next spring.  The hastily labeled Fab Five freshmen never came close to living up to their expectations, most clearly exemplified by a subpar showing from Jrue, who was widely considered as possibly the best player in the country.  Now, we've got 3 players at the 2 guard spots and lack the ability to contend.

Oh well, lets look at the guys we do have.

Jerime Anderson So 6-2 PG - This sophomore true PG will have to run the show after Jrue's early departure.  Hopefully, he turns out to be a capable playmaker we think he is.

Malcolm Lee So 6-4 G - Athletic, long-armed but thin, this versatile hybrid scoring guard will be a big piece to build around this year and beyond.  While comparisons to Westbrook are probably unfair, I think he has the defensive skills to excel in Howland's system.  He could end up being our best player.

Mustafa Abdul-Hamid Jr 6-2 PG - This unimpressive junior may be pressed into backup duty since we are so thin at PG.  Thanks Jrue.

Michael Roll Sr 6-5 G/F - Probably our best pure shooter, the senior leader has clearly improved over the years under Howland's tutelage.   His defense, formerly a concern, is likely good enough to merit him major minutes this year.

Mike Moser Fr 6-8 G/F - A 4 star recruit that was originally bound for Zona, he seems to be versatile enough to contribute at both G and SF for us.

Tyler Honeycutt Fr 6-7 SF - There are high hopes for this 5 star recruit.  Recovering from a spinal stress fracture, he is uber-athletic and highly-skilled but thin.  If healthy, I hope we give him a lot of minutes to let him develop this year.


Reeves Nelson Fr 6-7 F - This elite prospect was also given offers by UNC and Duke but opted to stay in-state.  While he seems on the shorter side of  most PFs, he is said to be a crafty low post scorer and possesses great leaping ability.  Howland likes these tough and scrappy players.

Nikola Dragovic Sr 6-9 F - Nikola had his coming out party last year to supply some of the frontcourt scoring missing after Love and Moute's exit.  He's a streaky 3 point shooter and is always willing to take it in crunch time.  Personally, I think his interior defense is suspect and he can only take us so far.

James Keefe Sr 6-8 PF - For me, Keefe has been a massive disappointment.  On paper, he seems to have what it takes to be an excellent college player.  But on the court, he plays like he has little bball instinct.  He's got this year to fulfill some of that McDonald's all-american promise.

Brendan Lane Fr 6-9 PF - A long, lanky recruit from Rocklin has some potential but probably won't contribute much this year.

Drew Gordon So 6-9 PF/C - Drew is likely our starter at center.  A tough rebounder and decent inside scorer will have to anchor our team inside.

J'Mison Morgan So 6-10 C - It looks like Bobo is in much better shape this year after having lost significant weight in the offseason.  He clearly has the physical tools to be a great college center but does he have the mental drive?

Anthony Stover Fr 6-10 C - The last of a very tall freshmen class is still raw and is unlikely to contribute this year.


If it were up to me, here's my starting lineup:

Anderson, Lee, Roll, Keefe, Gordon

Bench:
Dragovic, Honeycutt, Morgan, Nelson, Moser


We've also been hit by the injury bug bigtime this summer/fall.  Let's see -  from bigs to guards: Jamison's knee, Keefe's shoulder, Gordon's knee, Lane's ankle, Honeycutt's fractured spine, Moser's back, Roll's ankle, Lee's concussed head, Anderson's groin.  That's 9 scholarship guys.  Oh yeah, lets not forget Howland's appendectomy.  So not a great start to the season and this was before Howland's hard practices were in full swing.

But, after all that Howland has done for us, namely 3 straight final fours, it is okay to have a true rebuilding year.  But just one.  After all, we are still UCLA.  Next year, we should expect to win the Pac and make a deep run in the tourney.  Meanwhile, why not believe that we can surprise some people this year?  College basketball is ultimately about coaches and we have one of the best there is.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sactown's Finest



The 2009-10 season starts for the Kings today.

My starting lineup:

PG: Tyreke Evans - Exceptional talent who could end up being ROY.  Many experts are not sure if he's a 1 or a 2 but I think he's just a baller.

SG: Kevin Martin - Funky shot from the hip notwithstanding, he's a dependable scorer and the best player on the team.

SF: Desmond Mason - A former slam dunk champ who brings some athleticism to this group.

PF: Jason Thompson - 2nd year gem unearthed by Petrie plays big and rebounds big.

C: Spencer Hawes - Versatile, passing big man who would only be a senior at UW this year.  Our only 7 footer and sadly our only true center.  Is that even possible?


Bench:

F: Andres Nocioni - Hardnosed veteran competitor can set the tone for this young team.

G/F: Francisco Garcia - a freak weight-lifting accident will sideline him for a few months.  He's a good contributor but needs to hit the weights, heh.

PF: Sean May - a UNC talent that bombed in Charlotte.  Maybe he can rebuild his game here.

PG: Beno Udrih - quite a letdown after signing a big deal before last season.

F: Omri Casspi - Rookie.  Also first NBA player from Israel.  I like his length and physical play.

SF: Donte Green - Raw 2nd year 6'10 baller with potential.


Probably can't get off the bench:

PG: Sergio Rodriguez - If we drafted Rubio, we'd have 2 Spaniard PGs.  2 too many if you ask me.
PF: Kenny Thomas - 10 year vet may be past his contributing days but his huge contract is off the books this year.
F: Jon Brockman - A 6'7 rookie played PF in college, not sure if he can cut it here.


The Kings are still in rebuilding mode are trying to develop young talent as we go.  The truth of the matter is that free agents will never willingly come to Sacramento as they would to the lakers so the only way to build a team here is through the draft and via trades.  Remember, we drafted Jason Williams (whom we eventually traded for Mike Bibby) and fleeced Washington in that Mitch Richmond for Chris Webber trade in order to build our contending team of the early 2000s.  And in 2002, we clearly had it won before the refs took it away from us.

So when we draft, we have to be looking for the superstars, which is why I loved this Evans pick.  We can't sign a Dwyane Wade, so we have to try to draft one.  Hopefully Tyreke's the real deal.  And hopefully we battle our way out of the cellar.  By some miracle, maybe we can nab the 8th playoff spot.  Either way, we need to play a more exciting brand of basketball and put some rear ends in the seats.  Sacramentans need to realize that all they have are the Kings.  If the Maloofs bolt for Vegas, Sacramento becomes completely irrelevant on the national sports scene.

Next year, we'll have two 1st round draft picks again so Petrie can continue to work his magic.  Or maybe Lebron will want to be a real King...

Monday, October 26, 2009

with QB controversies to boot...

The Bruins have now lost 4 straight games to go 3-4 overall.  Worse still, those four losses came in all our Pac-10 contests so far.  Since Stanford's Gerhart truly exposed our lack of run defense, Oregon, Cal and Arizona have each subsequently humbled us in games that we were never competitive in.  I know that our offense is young and inexperienced, but I thought that our defense would be a solid squad and help keep us close.  Apart from Rahim Moore and his 7 interceptions as well as Brian Price's strength on the inside, they have been mostly nonexistent.  Kevin Prince has also been replaced during games recently but not always by the same guy - sometimes its Brehaut, sometimes it Craft.  I don't understand how we don't know who our second best QB is more than halfway through our season.  Personally, I wish we'd just start Brehaut and keep him there.  The ball just looks good coming off his hand.  Now there's talk about using a 2 QB system this Sat.  Not good.


The 49ers are also on a losing streak, having just lost to the Texans this Sunday after last game's embarrassing blowout at the hands of the Falcons.  This game marked the debut of Michael Crabtree who had a decent 5 catch, 56 yard effort.  But it will be remembered for the halftime benching of Shaun Hill and the re-appearance of former #1 overall pick, Alex Smith.  Smith led the 49ers to 3 TDs, all to Vernon Davis, and finished with a rating of 118.6.  Clearly Coach Singletary was just looking for a spark since Shaun Hill couldn't move the offense down the field, but is he really ready to make a permanent change?  I'm definitely watching with interest since I would love for Alex Smith to rebuild his reputation and dump his "bust" title.  While Hill has been a winner more often than not for SF, he clearly isn't the long term solution.  As of now, the 49ers are probably planning to look long and hard at the QB prospects in the draft next April again.  We'll see if Singletary will use the rest of the season to see if Alex Smith is the guy.  What worries me is that we still have a chance at a playoff spot and can't afford to be experimenting.  That said, does it really matter this week vs Indy?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Cup 2010 roster Oct 2009 Prediction

Now that we've qualified and suffered some key injuries, this is how I think our SA roster will play out.


Keepers:

Tim Howard - #1.  But he's got to tone down his anger on the field.  Sheez.
Brad Guzan - They say he's the clear #2, but honestly, I've never really seen why.  Plus, it looks like he's got short arms compared to the long lankiness of Friedel, Keller and Timmy.  Who else is there, I guess?
Troy Perkins - does it really matter?

We're good for this cycle but who is our #1 in 2014?  We all knew Tim was the keeper in waiting in 2006.  Oh wait, Tim will still be the man in 2014 too.  Nevermind.



Defenders:

Carlos Bocanegra - Now that our CBs have been decimated by injuries, there's no chance El Capitan will move to LB again.
Oguchi Onyewu - His torn knee tendon will keep him out anywhere from 4-6 months.  Then he'll need to get back to match fitness/sharpness with the remaining few months.  But he'll be on the plane.
Steve Cherundolo - This fleet footed veteran returned from injury to stake his claim at RB.
Jonathan Bornstein - 2 solid performances in big games should keep him in the starting lineup for now.
Jay DeMerit - How unlucky can we get?  Needed an eye procedure to combat infection from contact lens accident.
Jonathan Spector - Will still have his say at RB before its all said and done.  He's a versatile EPL defender so yeah, he's going.
Edgar Castillo - By summer next year, he will have been brought into the fold.
Chad Marshall - 4th CB, other contenders are Califf, Goodson, Conrad.  I prefer the experience of Conrad.

I can understand that knee injuries happen but really?  Cutting your eye with a contact lens?  For the short term, it looks like we're looking at starting Goodson.  I guess this will allow us to grow some depth at CB.  There's rumors that the US briefly considered bringing in Castillo to camp for the qualifiers so it looks like he'll get his shot soon.  Personally, I hope we find a way to bring Freddie Hejduk to SA.  Team morale coach? 


Midfielders:

Landon Donovan - He's in his prime.
Michael Bradley - Needs to break out of his funk and get back to being the deep-lying engine for our team. 
Jermaine Jones - Now that Fifa has cleared his switchover, we're just waiting for injuries to go away.
Stuart Holden - An energetic right-sided winger may get his chance with Davies' injury (Dempsey moves up).  He seems to attack and defend with purpose.
Benny Feilhaber - This year marks his reemergence.  Hopefully this playmaker will peak next summer.
Maurice Edu - I still think he's a better DM option than Rico Clark, but held back by injuries.  They say he can also play CB.
Francisco Torres - Looks like the playmaker of our future.  Maybe even in 2010.
Robbie Rogers - Left-sided winger option.

My guess is that by next summer, Jones will get paired with Bradley in the middle with Holden starting on the right.  I wonder if JJ can play at DM by himself and let Bradley/Feilhaber/Torres play in front of him?  Donovan will key our attack, as always.  I know Rico has put in his time this year but I still favor Edu's versatility and offensive abilities over Clark's hot headedness.  I'm still astounded on how far Beasley has fallen this year.  If by some miracle he gets back on his horse, he'll take Rogers' spot.  Kljestan is also a favorite of Bob's and could make the plane.





Forwards:

Clint Dempsey - Davies' injury should force the US to look at this permanent switch.  Paraphrasing Wynalda, when Clint plays in the midfield, we all get mad at him, but when he plays up top, he scores.
Jozy Altidore - A man possessed, Jozy showed glimpses vs CR of what he can do when he harnesses that ability.
Conor Casey - I was never a big fan but he's shown himself useful in the last two big games.
Brian Ching - Too experienced to overlook but we still could use some speed up top.

Charlie Davies really filled the void that we've been worried about for years.  Without him, I don't know who we'd look at.  Not Eddie Johnson or Freddy Adu, I hope.  Maybe someone new will emerge, like Jemal Johnson?  Or Cunningham?  Also, Kenny Cooper could steal Ching or Casey's spot, I suppose.


Starting lineup:

------------Howard-----------
Dolo - Gooch - Boca - Bornstein
-------------Jones-------------
Holden -- Bradley -- Donovan
--------Jozy--Dempsey-------