Wednesday, December 29, 2010

NFL Week 16 Predictions

Panthers at Steelers - Looks like Luck will be a Panther next year.
Cowboys at Cardinals - Kitna for 2nd half Dallas mvp.  X
Jets at Bears - I'm still not a believer in Chicago.  X
Patriots at Bills - no contest.
Ravens at Browns - Baltimore in close one.
49ers at Rams - Should the 49ers win this one, they have good chance to make the playoffs.  wow.  X
Titans at Chiefs - Arrowhead in Dec wins it.
Lions at Dolphins - Should I pick against the Lions again?
Redskins at Jaguars - Jags edge out Wash to stay in the hunt.  X
Texans vs Broncos - 2 disappointing teams - I'll go with Texans.  X
Chargers vs Bengals - Chargers push to catch Chiefs.  X
Colts at Raiders - They might not stop McFadden but Peyton wins anyway.
Seahawks at Buccaneers - Please, a TB win might propel niners into January.
Giants at Packers - If Rodgers plays, I'm picking GB.  If not, then NY.
Vikings at Eagles - Vick and Jackson are the 2 most dynamic players in the NFL.  X
Saints at Falcons - Gonna go with the NO upset.

Week 16 Record: 9-7

Overall Record: 147-97

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NFL Week 15 Predictions

49ers at Chargers - These two were supposed to win their West divisions.  Loser probably won't.
Browns at Bengals - After 10 losses in a row, the Bengals win their last game.
Redskins at Cowboys - This is the 'Boys last chance to win their 2nd home game.
Texans at Titans - Finnegan vs Johnson, Rd 2.
Jaguars at Colts - Division could be determined on Sunday.
Chiefs at Rams - Bradford hasn't been playing as well of late.
Bills at Dolphins - Miami's D wins this one.  X
Eagles at Giants - Giants hammer Vick and slow him down but can't score the upset.
Lions at Buccaneers - This one used to be unwatchable.  Wait, it still is.  X
Cardinals at Panthers - This one too.  X
Saints at Ravens - NO offense is coming around.  X
Falcons at Seahawks - Falcons have far easier schedule left than Saints.
Broncos at Raiders - Could Tebow start his first game?
Jets at Steelers - Both defenses are great.  Pitts offense is better than NY right now.  X
Packers at Patriots - Rodgers is likely out.  I wish Brady was too.
Bears at Vikings - Who's the backup?  Webb?

Week 15 Record: 11-5

Overall Record: 138-90

Sunday, December 19, 2010

UCLA knocks off ranked BYU in Wooden Classic

Reeves Nelson set a career high with 23 points in UCLA's first quality win of the season.  We really needed a win over a ranked team before conference play since the committees look for those when they select ncaa tournament teams.  Also, hopefully Nelson snaps out of his funk with this breakout game - Reeves' game-clinching emphatic dunk (in which a BYU player actually got his hand on the ball) might be the play of the season so far.

Overall, causing 19 turnovers and "only" committing 10 was a great sign for us.  Honeycutt and Jones both made big 3 pointers down the stretch to maintain our narrow lead.  It was just fitting that we won our first big game in the Wooden Classic.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

UCLA > UCDavis

I'm glad I went to this game instead of the one vs Montana.  We witnessed a balanced attack as four starters scored in the double digits while Josh Smith finished with 8 points and 10 boards.  Honeycutt was the standout with 15 points, 12 boards, 5 blocks and 3 assists.

Monday, December 13, 2010

NFL Week 14 Predictions / Results

Colts at Titans - Peyton can't possibly lose 4 straight games, can he?
Browns at Bills - That Hillis trade is probably a big factor in McDaniels' firing.  X
Packers at Lions - The Lions seem to be having a much better season than their 2 wins... X
Giants at Vikings - Tavaris finishes game again and wins another one. X
Bengals at Steelers - This is probably a double digit pounding.
Buccaneers at Redskins - Going with 'Skins in the upset.  X
Falcons at Panthers - Would Car draft Luck even though they already have Clausen?  I would.
Raiders at Jaguars - MoJo is on fire right now.
Rams at Saints - Saints need to win out to grab top seed.
Seahawks at 49ers - Really?  Now Alex Smith is your guy, Mike?
Patriots at Bears - Hate to say it, but Brady is mvp so far.
Dolphins at Jets - NY takes it out on Chad Henne.  X
Broncos at Cardinals - At least the Broncos can score.  X
Chiefs at Chargers - Gonna pick SD in a must win game for them.  Will Cassell even play?
Eagles at Cowboys - I'm not picking against Vick on a fast track.
Ravens at Texans - Schaub has a big day. X

Week 14 Record: 9-7

Season Record: 127-85

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NFL Week 13 Predictions / Results

Texans at Eagles - AJ mysteriously doesn't get suspended, Philly wins anyway.
Bills at Vikings - Adrian's balky ankle makes this a close game.
Browns at Dolphins - Dolphins slow down Peyton locomotive enough for one game.  X
Jaguars at Titans - Kerry Collins returns to right the ship.  X
Redskins at Giants - Manningham needs to come up big with Nicks and Smith out.
49ers at Packers - Might be a blowout.  Which niner team will show up?
Saints at Bengals - Everything about Cincy stinks.  Their QB, their divas, their unis.
Bears at Lions - Bears impressed me in shutting down the Eagles.
Broncos at Chiefs - Can Bailey slow down Bowe?
Raiders at Chargers - SD is on a roll.  Still favorites to win division.  X
Falcons at Buccaneers - Not picking against the ATL.
Rams at Cardinals - Of course the Cards will probably surprise us after the 49ers debacle.
Panthers at Seahawks - Please Carolina, please beat cheatey petey.
Cowboys at Colts - Peyton still has Wayne, Garcon and Tamme.  No excuses.  X
Steelers at Ravens - This could be an ugly game.
Jets at Patriots - 2 best AFC teams duke it out.  Don't see NY beating NE twice, especially with this one away.  I'm conflicted about who I want to see win though.  Belicheat, metro-Tom vs trojan Sanchez.

Week 13 Record: 12-4

Overall Record: 118-78


Here's the contenders through 3/4 of the season.

AFC

New England 10-2 - I think they're the best team right now.  Its not just their record.  Look at who they've beat: Baltimore, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, NY Jets.  If the playoffs run through Gillette Stadium in January, look out.

Pittsburgh 9-3 - The defense may have to carry the Steelers again if Big Ben's foot really is broken, just as they did during Big Ben's suspension.

NY Jets 9-3 - After over a month of barely edging out mediocre teams, they finally got served by the Patriots.  But, they've still got a dominant running game and great defense.  They should be able to regroup by playoffs.

Baltimore 9-3 - Flacco has yet to show that he can win big games consistently.  Raven's probably don't have what it takes.

Kansas City 8-4 - They're the only team with a 2 game cushion in division with 4 to play but they play the Chargers again.

Jacksonville 7-5 - Only leading because of Indy's faltering offense.  But hey, who doesn't want to see Mojo in the playoffs?  They've got to visit Indy soon.

Indianapolis 6-6 - Just 1 game back, you'd think Peyton will kick it into gear in December to make the playoffs.  Still, Peyton's Colts have finished with 12 wins in 7 years straight.  That's amazing.  This year, the best they can do is 10-6.


NFC

Atlanta 10-2 - Only one real test (vs NO) for the rest of the year, they should have 1st seed locked up.  Pretty impressive, they've beat the Saints, the Packers, the Ravens and the Bucs twice.  Only lost respectably to the Eagles and Steelers.

New Orleans 9-3 -  Though the play the Falcons, they've also got the Bucs and Ravens to beat before they can take the top seed.  But I wouldn't want to play Drew Brees in the playoffs.

Chicago Bears 9-3 - I didn't realize how many games they've won until just now.  They've reeled off 5 straight including a signature win over Philly in Week 12.  Though their defense is solid, they're definitely the weakest of NFC contenders because of Cutler.

Philadelphia Eagles 8-4 - Eagles matchup vs the Giants should decide the division crown.  I wouldn't want to gameplan for Vick in January, would you?


Green Bay Packers 8-4 - They were my preseason favorite to get to the SB.  I guess I'll stick with them, even though no one saw the rise of Vick coming back then.  The final game vs Chicago could determine the division.

NY Giants 8-4 - Well, only 5 of these 6 NFC teams can make the playoffs (because 1 of the Rams/Seahawks/49ers - yes, I'm holding out in blind hope - will have spot.)  I think it could be the inconsistent, banged-up and turnover prone Giants who miss out.


NFC West - I'm not listing the Rams cause then I'll have to list cheatey petey's seahawks.  Go niners.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

UCLA plays Kansas to a tie

Now that is some garbage.  Malcolm Lee even touched the ball first.

For those who were intelligent enough to avoid watching ESPN's over-hyped love affair of Lebron and Cleveland's mutual hatred and collective stupidity, perhaps saw a great college basketball game between two college basketball powerhouses.

Too bad the refs robbed UCLA and basketball fans everywhere of an rightful overtime period with that inane foul call.  So I've decided to just call it a 66-66 tie.


The Good

Honeycutt played the best game of his career finishing with 33 points, including a clutch game-tying NBA 3 pointer with 5.9 seconds left.  He shot 5-6 on 3 pointers, even getting fouled twice for 4 point plays, both of which he converted.  It was basically his national coming out party as a premier college player.  He single-handedly kept us in the game.  And the refs robbed everyone of the chance to see how he'd play in OT.  By the way, he's leaving for the draft next year.

Joshua Smith also played the best game of his young career, all 6 games of it.  Coming off the bench was an ingenious move by Coach Howland and it kept our big frosh out of early foul trouble.  In fact, he ended up with only 2 fouls.  Though Smith still needs to work on his low post footwork (and FTs) - he seems to have a predisposition to awkwardly turning the wrong way under the basket, he was still able to physically dominate the paint to the tune of 17 points, 13 rebounds including 8 offensive boards.  He's getting better.

(By the way Joshua, stop self-consciously pulling on your jersey as if those constant tugs will stretch it out enough so that nobody will notice your weight.  This reminds me of the time that the Lakers and Celtics agreed to play a game in throwbacks, complete with short shorts.  Except that the Celtics reneged and came out with knee longs.  It was the ultimate screw you.  The Lakers played embarrassed the entire first half just dying to get into the locker room for a change.  They kept tugging at their shorts at every stoppage.  Hilarious.  Anyway, Josh, go work out harder or ask for a bigger jersey.  Speaking of which, why is Adidas messing with tradition?  The lettering on the back should be straight across, not curved.  They messed up the football unis already but don't touch bball, please.  Anyway, in the meantime, instead of feeling so self-conscious, go dunk on somebody.)


The Bad

Malcolm Lee only scored 4 points.  On a night where Tyler is on fire, you could understand a slightly subpar scoring production from our leader and starting SG.  But 4 points is not enough.

Reeves Nelson has dominated inferior teams with inferior big men, but he was rendered just ordinary vs an elite Kansas frontcourt, at least for one night.  Though Kansas isn't overwhelmingly big, they are skilled and Nelson had a difficult time finding enough space to score.  He also has a problem with forcing his shot up when he should be passing, which can work vs the Cal States, but not always against the KUs.  He finished with only 5 points and 5 rebounds.  However, I still haven't forgotten when Nelson outplayed Cole Aldrich vs KU last year.  He has what it takes.


The Ugly

With the introduction of the uptempo offense, we all knew that an increased number of turnovers would come with it.  I just forgot how frustrating it is to watch.  It killed us last week in that maddeningly winnable game vs VCU where we gave up possession 21 times, including in our last 2 real possessions.  Argh.  Last night, we committed another 19.  Alarmingly, our PGs combined for 9 of those (Zeke 4, Jerime 5) while Reeves committed another 4.

The final foul call was preposterous.  A tied game.  2 players going for a loose ball.  Malcolm hesitated but still got his hand on it first.  It was an easy no call.  And it was a horrible ending to a great game.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just doesn't quite make sense...

- Jonathan Spector, the US international RB at West Ham who was banished to the bench after a year of poor form and who has never scored in 7 years of English football, manages to score 2 goals vs Manchester United in the Carling Cup.  Interestingly, he was deployed at midfield - perhaps that's the better position for him?



- The NCAA, who will even violate a homesick player for making a call home to mom from coach's phone, has ruled Cam Newton eligible to continue playing for Auburn after they confirmed that his father tried to sell his son's services to Miss St for $180K.  Really?  So Jeremy Bloom having a sponsor (if I remember correctly) as a world class skier makes him ineligible to play college football, but if your dad asks to be paid for you to play college football, that's okay?  Cam Newton's not going to miss a single game?  Ridiculous.  Corrupt.

- Lakers have lost 4 games in a row - to Utah, Indiana, Memphis and Houston.  No Phil Jackson championship team has ever lost 4 games in a row.  Panic!  Laker fans need to calm down.  Who in the West can beat the Lakers in 7 games in May-June?  Of course the Lakers will snap this streak on Friday against, who else, my Kings.

- Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan are involved in the biggest on-field fight in years but the tough disciplinarian Roger Goodell merely slaps them on the wrists with $25K fines?  He suspends players for many games for off the field misconduct but opts to let AJ slide even though he connected with 2 haymakers during a game?  The belief that this decision was influenced by NFL Network's Thursday night Texans game makes this even more egregious.

- Qatar wins the bid for the 2022 World Cup?  This is the most corrupt one of all.  Lets see.  Its around 110 degrees in Qatar - soccer is an outdoor sport.  They don't have stadiums built.  Their team has never qualified for the World Cup and isn't going to anytime soon.  There's less than 1.5 million people in Qatar.  They only have 1 major city.  The political situation is completely unstable.  Not many visitors will want to go there.  On the other hand, the US bid makes perfect sense.  Along with China, the US is the new frontier for soccer.  It also makes logistical sense.  In fact, if you were forced to hold the World Cup in the same country every time, you would pick the US.  80-100,000 person stadiums not being used in June.  People of every culture and country live here.  Easy transportation and lodging everywhere.  Heck, if Qatar ceases to be a country in 2021, they could just alert us on short notice and we could still host it practically overnight.  And now that they've awarded it to Qatar, an "Asian" country, China probably won't get it for awhile either.

So how did the undeserving Qatar win?  What can Qatar offer that the US can't (or didn't)?  Of course, by lining the pockets of voters with oil money.

Anyway, after Brazil, Russia and then Qatar, it should return to the US in 2026.  2030 will have to return to Europe, and therefore England.  Though they are the inventors of the beautiful game and home of the EPL, they haven't hosted since 1966.  Since all this makes too much sense, of course it won't happen.  At least we'll always have Spector's 2 goals.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NFL Week 12 Predictions / Results

Patriots at Lions - The Belicheats' win last Sunday reignited my hatred for them.
Saints at Cowboys - No way Kitna throws for 150 yards and 3 TDs vs the Saints.
Bengals at Jets - NY keeps winning close games vs ordinary opponents.  Is that good?
Packers at Falcons - NFC contenders showdown.  I'm going with the new look Pack offense.  X
Titans at Texans - I'm taking Schaub over Rusty Smith.
Vikings at Redskins - Favre and Rice find their chemistry again.
Jaguars at Giants - NY needs a win to keep pace with GB/ATL.
Steelers at Bills - Mendenhall has been quiet lately - big game coming.
Panthers at Browns - Cleveland is no longer a punchline.
Chiefs at Seahawks - In addition to run game, KC has located Dwayne Bowe.
Dolphins at Raiders - Miami looked inane vs Chicago on Thursday, didn't they?  X
Eagles at Bears - I'm not picking against Vick, especially against INT happy Cutler.  X
Buccaneers at Ravens - Statement game for Bucs: we're not that good yet.
Rams at Broncos - Orton gets back on track.  X
Chargers at Colts - Return of Vincent Jackson not enough to beat motivated Peyton.  X
49ers at Cardinals - SF must win to have any chance this season.

Week 12 record: 11-5

Overall record: 106-72

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NFL Week 11 Predictions / Results

Bears at Dolphins - Coin flip. Cutler's better than Dolphins 3rd string QB.
Ravens at Panthers - Flacco gets back on track.
Texans at Jets - Not sure what's going on with Schaub.
Bills at Bengals - Upset, Bills win 2nd straight.
Browns at Jaguars - Its Peyton's world.  X
Packers at Vikings - Vikes make it a game, but GB defense is better.
Cardinals at Chiefs - KC takes out frustrations on AZ.
Lions at Cowboys - Should've fired Wade years ago.
Raiders at Steelers - Pittsburgh don't look right, but I'm not picking against them.
Seahawks at Saints - I need Brees to go crazy for my fantasy team.
Buccaneers at 49ers - SF resurgence continues.  X
Falcons at Rams - Atlanta makes case as best NFC team.
Colts at Patriots - Peyton scores the upset.  X
Giants at Eagles - Vick played the most dominant game I've ever seen outside of the 49ers glory days.
Broncos at Chargers - Could be the highest scoring game of the week.  Tebow scores winner.  X
Edit 11/30/10: I forgot this game - Redskins at Titans - I would have picked CJ and the Titans at home.  I would have been wrong.  X

Week 11 Record: 11-5

Overall Record: 95-67

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jeremy Lin - Better than Wat


Jeremy scored a career high 13 points on 4 for 9 shooting in 18 minutes of play.  It is very interesting that he scored five of his points on free throws (out of 5 taken - the 2nd most taken by a Warriors player) which is usually a sign of aggressive and attacking play.  Also interesting is that though the Warriors lost 117-89, they were +6 when Jeremy was on the court, which was the highest differential of any Warrior (only Charlie Bell finished in the positive at +3).  Though he might not have been playing vs the Laker's A team, he contributed positively on the court, including 3 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals.


Jeremy's career high previously was 3, so this was a breakout night for him.  Also significant last night was that the first full Asian American in the NBA, Wataru Misaka, scored 7 points total in 3 games in 1947-1948.  Jeremy has now surpassed him as the most successful Asian American in NBA history with 20 total points.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

US Soccer's Young Guns

I expected Bob Bradley to start bringing in new faces starting in January Camp, which is basically MLS based players plus players in Norway, since their league is off then as well.  I didn't really think he would call up a roster of backups and first timers for a trip to South Africa.  After all, it was a FIFA date where Europeans were playing Euro qualifiers, so the best players were all with their national teams.  Plus, we called up everyone, including our European regulars for the past 3 meaningless friendlies vs Brazil, Poland and Colombia on home soil in the last few months.  Why wouldn't we call them up for a goodwill return trip to SA where we wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves or disrespect our hosts?  Heck, it was the Nelson Mandela Challenge after all.  (I believe the players even got to meet Mandela himself today.)  So it was shocking that Bradley brought in only 5 players from the WC squad - none of which are regular starters on the A team.

It was a shocking, but also exciting because US fans got to see a glimpse of several players that could play a large role for our 2014 team and beyond.  Put it this way.  This was the equivalent of the NFL draft in international soccer.

Lets group the team into 4: WCers, B team, C Team, Young guns.

WCers- I was still half expecting Landon to show up anyway, heh.
Brad Guzan, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Clarence Goodson, Robbie Findley - Guzan played like the captain today.  Goodson was solid and looks to be a regular contributor for the next few years.  Spector and Bornstein took turns looking suspect at LB.  Findley didn't deserve a place to begin with and should never be called up again.

B Team
Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Bedoya - Rogers and Bedoya just missed out on the WC.  They still have a chance to play in the Gold Cup and more - Bedoya probably has a better outlook right now.
 
C Team
Brian Carroll, Logan Pause, Eddie Gaven, Nat Borchers - Carroll, Pause and Gaven were chosen to be fill-ins for the central midfield.  None were inspired choices and only Gaven should hope for another look.  I wish we had tried out younger options at CM instead of Carroll and Pause, but with the depth we have there already, it doesn't really matter.  Borchers is a wildcard - I suppose Bob may give him another chance going forward.


Young Guns

Eric Lichaj - I learned that his name is pronounced "Lee-High".  Hard nosed defender just turned 22 yesterday.  I saw no reason to continue to believe that he can't be our RB in 2014.  While Dolo is still around, I think Bob needs to consider playing him at LB if Boca can't go.

Tim Ream - Already a standout rookie in the MLS at age 23, I think he's got great potential to be Boca's replacement by 2014.  He looks composed and poised on the ball and just needs some international experience.  Our defense will experience the most change this cycle and he should fit right in.

Gale Agboussamonde - Shares a bday with Lichaj, although he just turned 19 on gameday.  Bradley capped him with a couple late minutes just to get his feet wet.  A few months ago I had him slated as a 2014 starter.  He still could be, but he's got the U-20s to get through first.  I'm just glad Bob brought in so many young defenders into the fold.

Mikkel Diskerud - This 20 year old has been hyped up among US fans for years.  He certainly didn't disappoint, showing solid technical skill on the ball, including the beautiful control and assist inside the SA box for the win.  I thought that Mikkel's work on that play was more impressive even than the goal itself.  It will be interesting to see how Bob uses him in our stacked midfield but I think he's got a chance to be the only newcomer, besides perhaps Jermaine Jones, to the midfield corp in 2014. 

Teal Bunbury - Regardless of the 20 year old from Canada's motivations, he's made his international choice.  Why not considering the paucity of striker options?  He was better than Findley.  Deserves another look.

Juan Agudelo - A few hours before, Messi scored a stoppage time game winner vs Brazil.  Then this 17 year old scores the game winner with minutes left.  See the correlation?  He's the next big thing.  He's better than Adu and Altidore combined!  He's the ANSWER TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS!  or not.  (Everyone needs to calm down.)  But at least he'll get another look.  Agudelo did become the youngest player to ever score for the US senior national team in history.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UCLA v UOP - Reeves and Tyler show

The alumni fans might've been in preseason form - half empty stadium - but at least the student section was as excited as I was for our team to erase the memories of last November, where we only had 2 regular season wins.  We ended up starting the season 3-7.  This year, we were hoping to get to 3 wins without any in the loss column.  But, I guess the 8:30pm start time was too late for the alumni.  Or maybe they were all allocating their Bruin support weekly quota for the ESPN game vs UW on Thursday night.  Either way, they missed out on what Howland calls the best half of basketball so far this year, as well as what I'd call the worst half of basketball in 3 games.



Observations

- A great first half where we shot 54.8% (40 points) was followed by a 35% horror show where we only scored 17 to UOP's 20.  Howland was ecstatic about our first half play and the best overall defensive effort we've had so far.  So I guess I should be too.  That 2nd half though, was the most frustrating game I've ever seen when we've had a double-digit lead.

- Looking back, Drew Gordon's expulsion a year ago was the best thing to happen to the UCLA frontcourt.  Though he was the most athletic option we had this time last year, it turns out that getting Reeves Nelson significant playing time all last year will be the key to this season.  Reeves may not have played vs a legitimate division 1 power forward yet, but he is posting astronomical numbers.  21 points, 14 rebounds vs UOP after a 20-11 performance the night before.  No wonder he looked exhausted in the 2nd half.

- That said, why didn't Anthony Stover play in the 2nd half?  He only logged 6 minutes in the first.  Smith was in foul trouble and Nelson was tired.  I didn't see anything from his time on the court that would lead to him being in the doghouse.

- Tyler Honeycutt is leaving UCLA after this year.  No, I don't have inside info.  He just is.  I'm guessing he'll go somewhere in the draft between 14-24 first round.  As disappointing as that is, at least he didn't pull a Jrue Holiday and jump ship after 1 underwhelming year.  At least, it looks like he'll give us a full year of performances that should be up to his potential.  15 points (including 3-5 on 3s) and 15 rebounds on the night.  Not bad.  He's got to cut down on turnovers though - 4 TOs to only 3 assists.

- Zeke Jones is so much better than Jerime.  So much better.  4 or 5 times he was able to find a crease and drive to the hole for much needed layups.  It is slowly erasing memories of Jerime bricking layups last year.

- Tyler Lamb is impressing Howland with his defense.  If that doesn't make you like this guy, I don't know what will.

- Josh Smith looked slow, unsure and undisciplined.  Yeah, it was the 2nd night of a back to back, but how can he finish with 4 fouls and ZERO rebounds?  We'll chalk it up to freshman inexperience.

I'm ecstatic that we'll be playing #6 Villanova next week at MSG on national TV.  It'll be an early test - as long as Malcolm gets back.  We could use the exposure.  Plus, we'll always need these early season wins over ranked teams when it comes to March.  Things are looking up.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NFL Week 10 Predictions / Results

Ravens at Falcons - Two 6-2 teams.  Draftmates Flacco vs Ryan.  White v Boldin. X
Lions at Bills - Stafford can't stay healthy.  Bills win high scoring affair.
Vikings at Bears - Chicago won't allow Favre comeback.
Jets at Browns - Jets D stop Peyton Hillis.
Bengals at Colts - Bengals D can't stop Peyton Manning.
Titans at Dolphins - Randy Moss scores in debut.  X
Panthers at Buccaneers - How did the 49ers lose to the worst team in the L?
Texans at Jaguars - Another high scoring affair.  Houston eeks one out.  X
Chiefs at Broncos - Denver scores upset vs division rival.
Cowboys at Giants - Giants.  X
Seahawks at Cardinals - Seattle has been outscored 74-10 in the last 2 weeks.  X
Rams at 49ers - The legend of Troy Smith grows.
Patriots at Steelers - Steelers make case for best team in the L.  X
Eagles at Redskins - Philly loves Vick.  Nobody loves McNabb.

Week 10 record: 10-6

Overall record: 84-62

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kevin Love's 31 and 31


Kevin Love had 31 rebounds! and 31 points in a single game tonight.  This comes a few days after a 24 board and 23 point performance vs the Lakers, of all teams.  According to ESPN, the last 3 players to do this are Moses Malone, Robert Parish and Kareem.  I honestly never thought he was capable of this in the NBA.  I thought that college would be his chance for stardom.  But he has shown that basketball IQ can go a long way.  I think he was the leading rebounder per minutes played last season.  This year he's currently ranked 2nd in rebounds per game (12.8) and he only plays 28 min/game.  The leader, who shall remain nameless, averages only 1.1 rebound more (13.9) in 39 minutes/game.  Amazing.  This is the first time in 28 years that someone has had a 30-30 game.  Nice work Klove.


UCLA Season Opener

Just need to mention UCLA's first game as well.  After last season's embarrassing double OT loss to Cal State Fullerton to start the year, this year's squad dropped the hammer on Cal State Northridge 83-50.  At one point, the Bruins had a 41 point lead.  The standout performer has to be Zeke Jones, who shot 6 for 7, including 2-2 on 3s, to finish with 15 points, 4 assists in 23 minutes.  Jerime Anderson played 16 minutes but only had 1 point and 1 assist.  I think we have a starter.

Nelson led the team with 17 points and Honeycutt dropped in 16.  Amazingly, we shot 72% in the first half and 57% in the game.  Howland is probably ecstatic that we held CSUN to 29% shooting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UCLA bball exhibtion vs CSULA

This game was a monumental moment in our family.  It was my younger son's first UCLA bball game.  Can't tell if he enjoyed it or not.

My older son definitely did.  Joe Bruin was dancing around, the tubas were shiny and 8 claps were nonstop.  He's also got the finger-in-the-air-during-free-throws thing down.  Since he attended more games than any alumni I know last year (and we've got a hoop in the backyard and a little tykes hoop in the living room), he's really been into basketball.  Also, he recognizes and likes the letters and logos of UCLA now, so we've got him brainwashed pretty good.  All that to say, it was a pretty big thrill for him, and therefore for us.

Quick Thoughts:

Reeves Nelson was out with a hip flexor, but since this was just a preseason match, I was more interested to see our newcomers for the first time.  Joshua Smith was who I thought he'd be - a wide presence in the paint on defense and a post option on offense who has great hands.  In the last decade, Kevin Love has been the only other player who I recall being a viable option in the post.  Being able to dump the ball inside now will make a huge difference in our offense.  There have been times in the last few years where we are completely confused on offense and were unable to get off a good shot.  Not that this won't happen to us this year, but now, at the very least, we can send it inside to Joshua for post move and he can kick it out for an open shot if double teamed.  Simple.  What I didn't expect to see was our big man diving on the floor for a loose ball.  I think the crowd collectively winced.  With a sprained and wrapped up thumb, Joshua wasn't able to score or rebound normally in this game, but I at least got to see him on the court with my own eyes.  He is definitely not 6-10.  He still needs conditioning work.  He probably needs to develop a few go-to post moves.  And he is definitely a huge piece of our success this year.

Tyler Lamb was the newcomer standout on the night.  For a freshman, he clearly showed way more than Mike Moser did in limited minutes last year - I guess that's why we let Moser walk.  There was one play where Lamb cut baseline, absorbed contact before altering his release, which went in.  On the night, he shot well: 6-9 (including a 3) for 17 points in just 21 minutes of play.  He also seems to be committed to defense, though he could still use some Howland training.  In addition to scoring, he also finished with 3 offensive boards and 3 assists.  He won't produce like this against Pac 10 opponents, but he will be part of the core rotation (unlike Moser).

I didn't see anything extremely special from Zeke Jones on the night but there were moments that were encouraging.  He made a 3 off the dribble with the clock winding down.  He dove into the lane and made an off balance floater while absorbing contact.  These were the kind of gutty PG plays that I don't really remember from Anderson last year.  However, I didn't see tremendous playmaking ability or outrageous court vision from him either.  He finished with 7 points, 4 assists, 3 turnovers.

Anthony Stover has claimed that he once blocked 19 shots in a HS game.  Though he only had 2 here, his length alone will be hugely important to our defense.  I think we're all going to love this kid.  He seems to run pretty hard up and down the court.  Which brings me to the Wear twins for next season.  We've got Smith, Nelson, Lane and now Stover.  I don't expect any to leave next year.  How will the Wears fit in?  6 big men for 2 spots?

As for the sophomores, Brendan Lane had a terrific game in Nelson's absence.  He looked noticeably thicker - he said he added 20 pounds of muscle - and was very confident on his shot.  14 points, 7 boards, 4 assists.  Honeycutt was obviously our most talented player.  15 points, 15 rebounds!  However, I'm starting to not really like his off the court demeanor.  In interviews he comes across as a little smug and affected.  Its as if he knows his ability and that he's headed to the NBA this year.  Hopefully I'm wrong.

Malcolm Lee is rather underwhelming so far.  Our most veteran player, especially at SG, should be our top scorer and most influential presence on the court.  Instead of jumpers, I want to see him attacking the basket too.  That said, his shooting form seems to have improved a lot.  Before, he never straightened his shooting elbow all the way.  Still, he'll never be mistaken for a 3 point specialist.  The one bright spot was the fact that he hasn't turned the ball over in 53 minutes of preseason play.

We were 3 for 21 on 3s in the first exhibition.  Tuesday, we were 8 for 19 - 42%, not bad.  Which is more indicative of our team?

Jury's also out on our new uptempo offense.  I can honestly say that it was difficult to tell the difference except that there were not as many extremely stagnant possessions.  Its hard to say if this was a result of playing an inferior team or not.  Of course, last year we struggled in our Concordia exhibition so perhaps this change is good.

Last year, we also embarrassingly lost the season opener to Cal State Fullerton, which essentially set the tone for the rest of the season.  Friday, we have a chance to start anew vs CSUN.  As my son would say, go buuuins!


New Recruit

Norman Powell signed his LOI.  This 6-3 senior will be the most athletic player we've had since Westbrook (who would be a senior this year).  Powell will likely spend most of his time at the 2 and should fit right in with the Howland defensive mentality.  This signing is significant simply because he could very well be our only recruit next year, besides the Wear transfers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NFL Week 9 Predictions / Results

Buccaneers at Falcons - Ryan slows down the pro-Freeman sentiment.
Bears at Bills - Buffalo's gotta win one of these weeks, right?  Not this week.
Patriots at Browns - Is anyone else shocked that NE only has 1 loss?  X
Jets at Lions - Jets secondary will slow Stafford down.
Cardinals at Vikings - I would've fired Childress a long time ago.  AD wins this one.
Saints at Panthers - Rumors of Brees' left knee tear is frightening for Saints fans.
Dolphins at Ravens - Dolphins are undefeated away.  Ravens haven't lost at home.
Chargers at Texans - Gates not healthy just won't do.  X
Giants at Seahawks - NY could be class of NFC now.
Chiefs at Raiders - Winner has advantage in AFC west, shockingly.  X
Colts at Eagles - Vick's return ruined by Peyton.  X
Cowboys at Packers - Dallas has given up.
Steelers at Bengals - Pitt offense takes it out on division rival.

Week 9 Record: 9-4

Overall Record: 74-56

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Death, Taxes and Kai Forbath


Kai Forbath hit a 51 yard game winning FG with time expiring to secure UCLA's 4th win of the season.  There isn't a lot to celebrate about UCLA football these days so I figured this would be a good time to honor the 2009 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award winner, which is given to the top placekicker in college football.  He is the first Bruin to win the award.  Forbath could have declared for the NFL draft last year since he also won 1st Team All-American honors, but opted to return for his senior season.  He is still likely to be the first PK drafted in the 2011 NFL draft.

My greatest hope for UCLA football, besides winning a national championship, is for a true star QB to emerge and succeed in the NFL.  Its been about 20 years since we last had a Hall of Famer QB (Aikman).  McNown raised then crushed our hopes.  It doesn't look to be likely anytime soon.

Anyway, we're pretty much Kicker U nowadays.  If Kai sticks in the NFL, he would become the most successful UCLA kicker ever.



UCLA All American Kickers

2009 Kai Forbath
2007 Justin Medlock
1993 Bjorn Merten
1985 John Lee


UCLA Kickers drafted

2007 Justin Medlock
1986 John Lee
1978 Frank Corral
1974 Efren Herren

Thursday, November 4, 2010

UCLA BBall Preview 2010-2011


I'm brimming with anticipation over the 2010-2011 UCLA Basketball season, which starts tonight with the team's first exhibition, so here's my quick preview.

Last season's 5th place finish in the Pac-10 (8-10), 14-18 overall was Ben Howland's 2nd worst season as the UCLA coach.  His worst was also his first season - 2003-04, when he finished 11-17.  It should be noted that following season, UCLA went 18-11 and made the NCAA tournament with 3 freshmen in the starting lineup - Jordan Farmar, Josh Shipp and Arron Afflalo.  They were Howland's first recruiting class.


In many ways, we may be living through that transition again.  This year, our team will be heavily reliant on newcomers to fill out the core rotation.  And just as the 2004 team experienced addition by subtraction (goodbye bad attitudes in TJ Cummings and Trevor Ariza), we are now finally rid of my least favorite player of any UCLA squad since I became a Bruin.  I hope to never mention his name ever again.  And no, its not Michael Roll, whom we will miss more than we know this year.  Read here for my 2009-10 season review if you're really stumped.

So before we go into this year's squad, here are those who have left us from the start of last year's squad:

Drew Gordon - Team cancer was kicked off team and transferred.
Bobo Morgan - Big plodding center was not conditioned and lacked defense.  Transferred.
Mike Moser - Still not exactly sure why he wasn't the right fit, but he transferred too.
James Keefe - Another injury marred, under-achieving season for the senior.
My least favorite ucla baller ever - This euro senior makes my blood boil.
Michael Roll - So of all the players who left our team last year, Roll is the only loss that hurts us.

Besides Roll and perhaps Moser (whom we didn't see enough to know much about and didn't impress the little time he was on the court), the rest are addition by subtraction, one way or another.

Another big difference between last season and this is a better balance of players at each position.  Again, because of Jrue Holiday's early defection, we were left shorthanded with only 3 players (Lee, Anderson, Roll) at the 2 guard spots last year.  This year, we have 4, maybe 5 who may be in our guard rotation.

Also we were bitten badly by the injury bug in the 2009 preseason.  This year, our team has been fairly healthy throughout the summer and preseason camp.  This has allowed our team to focus on conditioning, strength training and skill building, instead of wasted recovery time.  Thirdly, team spirit and team chemistry is far superior to last season by all accounts.  No one on the team is saying it, but its obvious that the absence of Drew Gordon and you-know-who this year has dramatically improved the environment in which Howland can prepare this team.

This year's major contributors:

C

Joshua Smith, Fr, 6-10 - Possibly the best HS center from the west, Joshua (he prefers Joshua to Josh) worked hard this summer to shed his baby fat - some have said he's lost 40-50 pounds.  Apparently Howland forbade him from touching a ball until September.  I bumped into Matt Carlino on campus in August and he seemed impressed with Joshua's conditioning.  Anyway, our new big man seems to have good hands and will be slotted in immediately as our starter.  With the Pac-10 down this year again, a big interior presence can make all the difference.  By the way, I don't think he's 6-10.  Maybe more like 6-8 1/2.  Maybe that will keep him in school more than a year or two.  Not that this worked for Kevin Love.

Anthony Stover, R Fr, 6-9 - This thin but long redshirt freshman should be Joshua's backup.  Though he is extremely raw offensively, I'm hoping he'll be a Lorenzo Mata type - block shots and rebound.

PF

Reeves Nelson, So, 6-7 - He played as an undersized center last year after the forced departure of Gordon and he was instantly effective with his physical and workmanlike play.  I thought that he had even outplayed Kansas' Aldrich last December.  Reeves was definitely my favorite player to watch night in, night out.  Over the summer, he says he worked hard daily on his jump shot and seems to be eager to show that he's more than a brute in the paint.  That's sounds great but I hope his game doesn't change at the expense of his production inside.  The move over to PF should instantly provide us with a stronger frontline.  Be sure to check out his new tats.  Does anyone else think that he has a perpetual black eye?

Brendon Lane, So, 6-9 - Word is he put on 20 pounds this offseason.  He also seems to deal with injuries quite often so hopefully this helps.  As Nelson's backup, Lane will contribute with his jumpshot and work rate.  The jury is out on his effectiveness inside.

SF

Tyler Honeycutt, So, 6-8 - The most gifted of all Bruins, Honeycutt may very well be the most important player to the success of our squad this year.  First of all, he's really the only player who can play SF.  When he's subbed out, we'll essentially be playing 3 guards.  But overall, he's the best passer on the team, has the best court vision, seems to have the best basketball IQ, and might be the most athletic.  If he can add a consistent jumper to his already versatile game, he'll be a star.  Honestly, I think this is his last season here and I hope he doesn't let it all go to his head.

SG


Malcolm Lee, Jr , 6-4 - Malcolm will essentially be the veteran presence on this team this year.  With no seniors, he's the most accomplished junior we have (and the only member of the famed fab five that made an overall positive impact last year) and he will be relied upon to score a major bulk of our points.  Without having to play point (hopefully) this year, he can concentrate solely on playing off guard.  He may also slide over to SF at times (as will Lamb possibly).  We will see tonight if Malcolm has revamped the form of his jump shot but we will definitely see the same commitment to defense that he always plays with.

Tyler Lamb, Fr, 6-4 - Another impact freshman in Howland's newest class, he is slated to play significant minutes off the bench.  He seems to be in the same vein as Afflalo - hard-working kid, good attitude, loves defense.  I have high hopes for him.

Matt Carlino, Fr, 6-1 - This former Indiana commit is technically supposed to be in his senior year in HS (though I believe he's 18) but Howland brought him in early to see if he could fill the 3 pointer void that Michael Roll is leaving behind.  This looks to be our greatest need.  That said, he probably needs to get stronger and a little more seasoned before he plays major minutes for us.  Like I said, I got a chance to chat with him briefly this summer and he just seems to be a solid kid.  I'll be rooting for him.

PG

Lazeric Jones, Jr, 6-0 - With the poor play of Jerime Anderson last season, Howland combed the ranks of junior college transfers and found a hard-nosed and tough PG to compete for the job.  We all know that PG is probably the most important position for a Howland team and it will be difficult for Lazeric to live up to those before him.  But any improvement from last year will be much needed.

Jerime Anderson, Jr, 6-2 - After such a disappointing season, we were not surprised to find out that he had not put in the work last summer.  This preseason, they say that he has re-dedicated himself.  However, I don't have high hopes for someone who doesn't seem to love the game and seems to lack the natural court instincts that good players possess.  His lapses of concentration on the court and even missed layups were just infuriating to see.  We shall see how the battle for the only available starting spot turns out.  It appears that already Laz is the early leader.


The above 10 players will make up the regular playing rotation and its very possible that Carlino won't get that much PT, bringing the rotation back to 9 strong.  Last year after defections and injuries, we were still only at 8, and I'm including Abdul-Hamid.

Should Joshua live up to his expectations, our frontline with Smith, Nelson and Honeycutt could be the best in the Pac-10.  While we weren't so sure who would emerge last year, this year's big men each have roles that are already clearly defined.


In the backcourt, Jones and Lamb (and maybe Carlino) will join an improved Lee and Anderson.  Again, with only one clear SF, Malcolm and Tyler Lamb may also log some minutes backing up Honeycutt there.

But ultimately, the core is Malcolm, Reeves and Honeycutt.  If they're better, we'll be better.

The starters appear to be what I predicted back in April:

Lazeric Jones, Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt, Nelson Reeves, Joshua Smith

Bench: Brendan Lane, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, Anthony Stover, Matt Carlino


Much has been made recently of a transition to a more uptempo game.  It appears that we'll be pushing the ball on offensive possessions even when there's a made basket.  This is extremely interesting to Bruin basketball fans.  The knock on Howland, if that's possible for a coach that's made 3 straight Final Fours in a 7 year stretch, is that he doesn't adapt very well to different styles of play.  If our teams are unable to impose our will defensively and keep the number of offensive possessions low, we struggle to win.  Also, at times, our offense seems to consist of our pg dribbling out the clock while looking for a play on his own.  It will be fascinating to see if we do adapt a different philosophy on offense based on our personnel.

After all of Howland's success, we should allow him that one rebuilding year.  This year, we must contend for the Pac-10.  As with last year, many experts predict that we finish 3rd in the conference, this time behind Washington (who only lost Pondexter) and Arizona.  With a healthier and more balanced squad, with an infusion of new talent a 2nd straight year, with the core of our team one year better, I think the conference can be won.  I think we can make a run in the tournament.  I hope.

By the way, Wooden's Den in the UCLA Athletic Center Hall of Fame is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  For any Bruin fan, this is a must see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Redeeming '89, '02

I know the Giants haven't won since moving to San Francisco in 1958, their last championship being the Willie Mays-led 1954 NY team.  And I know they lost the 1962 World Series in a 7 game series to the Yankees.  And I know that the Dodgers had won 3 championships from '59-'65 and another 2 in the 80s while the Giants sat idly by.  But for me, my baseball consciousness started in the mid '80s.



1989

The Bay Area Series in 1989 was the watershed moment for me when it came to baseball allegiances.  After all the success of the 49ers in the 80s, I was not really feeling deprived of sports championships.  So the A's loss to the Dodgers in '88 was memorably upsetting, but for whatever reason didn't lead me to automatically root for the feel good story of the A's in '89 Series.  In fact, highlights of that Gibson HR probably irks me more now in my 13 years of living in LA than it did at the time, mostly because I hate seeing Dodgers do well.

(By the way, I think Dodger Stadium is a dump.  The park holds no appeal to me at all.  It doesn't have the classic history of a 20s or 30s park but is too old to be interesting now.  I dislike that the outfield pavilion is completely separate from the rest of the park, but its definitely a welcome feature since its filled nightly with degenerate and violent Dodger fans.  Most baseball parks have family friendly outfield sections, Dodger stadium uses its as a penitentiary to keep away from the general public.  Oh, and Dodger dogs suck too.  Try the food at AT&T park and talk to me then.)

Anyway, I can only think of 3 reasons why I was a Giants fan instead of and A's fan back then:

1) I hate green.  To me it just looked ugly, probably because my childhood soccer club teams always wore green and yellow.  Come to think of it, my high school colors were green and gold too.  Comparatively, the classic black/white/gray with a dash of orange was infinitely cooler.

2) I was born in SF.  Since I grew up in Sacramento, this fact was a deep source of pride for me.  Plus, I was already a huge 49ers fan.

3)  Will Clark.
 Yeah, McGwire, Canseco, Steinbach, Henderson and Dave Stewart were huge heroes back then - especially Dave Stewart - but there was just something about the way Will Clark quietly and confidently went about his business.  He had the sweetest swing too.
Kevin Williams, Brett Butler, and Matt Williams were other key players that I remember.  Interestingly, I don't recall any of the pitchers that well.

So, all that to say, losing the Bay Bridge Series to the A's was a shock to the system.  SF teams weren't SUPPOSED to lose.



2002

In the 90s, Matt Williams took over as my favorite Giant after Will Clark left.  Of course the Barry Bonds era which began in '93 really took over the national limelight during the 2001 HR season.  But it seemed like just about every time I went to Dodger Stadium for a Giants game from 98-04, Barry would hit a bomb.  He was the most reliable performer I had ever seen.  Maybe not the nicest, but definitely the most reliable.  I'm pretty sure I saw at least 2 or 3 of his 73 HRs in 2001.

Anyway, when the Giants finally got past the NLCS again to advance to the Series vs the Angels, I dreamed of going to see my team at the World Series.  Imagine my surprise when I didn't even have to go through a broker or scalp for tix.  Nope.  Got them from Ticketmaster at face value.  Only clicked away on the site for an hour or so before scoring paper gold.

Center field, just left of the waterfall/rock design at Angel Stadium, near the top of the section - that's where I saw my first (and maybe only) World Series game.  Having been to Dodger stadium and barely escaped with my life every time, my wife (then gf) and I were expecting a hostile reception.  Angel fans couldn't be nicer.  I think I got tapped with a thunder stick a couple times, thats about it.  Bonds hit a towering HR to right field that game and my Giants were off to a great start.  At least I saw a win.  Remember how that Series ended?  A 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of the clinching 6th game was not enough.  We choked away that game, we lost the next game, we lost the freakin World Series.

Still, my favorite player from that Giants era also provided the best moment - JT Snow alertly grabbing Dusty Baker's toddler out of the way of a home plate collision in Game 5 of the Series.



2010

Its fitting that this is the team that won instead of the Bonds/Kent squad.  This team is devoid of big hitters and the big egos that accompany them.  The offense on this team are a collection of "misfits and cast-offs" - guys like Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria and Andrew Torres, who don't light the league on fire with their bats (aside from Games 1 and 2) but took turns getting clutch hits and scoring just enough to win.  Our cleanup hitter, Buster Posey, is a rookie catcher with exuberance and earnestness to spare.  The team spirit in this crew made them so likable and easy to root for.

But the true stars in this Series are obviously the pitchers led by 2 time CY Young winner Tim Lincecum, another ace in Matt Cain, youngster Madison Bumgarner, and the intense black-bearded closer, Brian Wilson.  The most amazing thing about this staff is that they are home-grown (drafted and developed by the Giants farm system), not purchased or rented off the market.

Basically, we won it the right way and for me, erased the bitterness of '89 and '02.  Giants fans may never have such a perfect championship team again in our lifetime.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World Series Game 5: Lincecum finishes it


Giants 3 - Rangers 1

Just unbelievable.  I'll get to the game first.  How fitting is it that after Cain's and Bumgarner's dominant performances, Giants ace Tim Lincecum is the one who finishes it off.  Pitted against Cliff Lee again, most experts were predicting that the series would be won back in SF.  After all, is it possible that the best offense in baseball gets shut down again at home?  Is it possible that Cliff Lee loses two World Series games in a row?  Is it possible that the Giants can dominate this series 4 games to 1?  Smart money was on a Game 6.

Lincecum proceeded to pitch 8 dominant innings and finished with 3 hits and 10 strikeouts.  He could've pitched a complete game but it wouldn't have felt complete without a Brian Wilson showing.  His only mistake was to give up the Cruz HR.  Cliff Lee, on the other hand, gave up 6 hits and only struck out 6.  So while the story of the Series is about how the Giant's pitching was superior to the Rangers' #1 offense, it must be remembered that Lincecum beat Lee twice, including the Series clincher.


We should also not overlook the surprising Giants' offense - in these 5 games, they outscored Texas 29-10.  Unbelievable.  11 runs in Game 1, 9 runs in Game 2, 2 runs in Game 3, 4 runs in Game 4, and 3 runs in Game 5.  After the Rangers' 7 runs in the first game, which I thought was a omen of things to come, they then got shutout twice (again after being shutout only 5 times in 162 regular season games), scored 4 in winning Game 3, and scored 1 run in the elimination match.  Think about it.  In 2 games in a pitcher's park, the Giants scored 20 runs.  At home in a hitter's park, the Rangers scored 5 total in 3 GAMES.


In Game 5, Edgar Renteria emerged the hero, his 3 run HR was all the Giants needed on the night.  The 7th inning lead-up to it was equally memorable - Ross slapped a base hit up the middle, Uribe powered a line drive into center, and Aubrey Huff, who had never laid down a sacrifice bunt in his entire 5,505 career at bats, put down a perfect sacrifice bunt up the first baseline on his first try.  Though Burrell struck out again, Renteria redeemed him with a HR more meaningful to SF fans than any of Barry Bond's 586 blasts as a Giant.

Monday, November 1, 2010

GIANTS WIN THE SERIES! GIANTS WIN THE SERIES!

NFL Week 8 Predictions / Results

Dolphins at Bengals - Cincy takes it in a low scoring slugfest.  X
Jaguars at Cowboys - Kitna plays decently in first start.  X
Redskins at Lions - Stafford takes advantage of CJ and Best in his return.
Bills at Chiefs - Shocker special, Bills' prolific offense gets first win at very unlikely place.  X
Panthers at Rams - Panthers won't get another win for awhile.
Packers at Jets - Rodgers' offense is not hitting on all cylinders.  X
Broncos vs 49ers - Broncos are mad.  49ers are starting Troy Smith for a reason I don't get.  X
Titans at Chargers - SD is #1 in offense and defense.  They finally win a big game.
Seahawks at Raiders - Error filled game swings Oakland's way.
Vikings at Patriots - Favre will play, Peterson will win it.  X
Buccaneers at Cardinals - Bucs win an unwatchable game.
Steelers at Saints - Who knows which Saints team will show up?  Going with the Steelers.  X
Texans at Colts - Peyton, minus Collie and Clark, gets revenge for 1st game beatdown anyway.

Week 8 record: 6-7

Season record: 65-52

Jeremy Lin - A second night of firsts


Jeremy Lin played non-garbage minutes last night, entering in the 3rd quarter to applause from the Lakers crowd.  He logged 16:10 minutes of game time in total.  My favorite Jeremy moment was when he dove on the ground to steal the ball from under Odom's legs and from there, fed a teammate for a layup.


While he didn't shoot particularly well (1-5), he scored his first 2 NBA points on a breakaway layup.  He also snagged 4 more steals, dished his first 3 NBA assists and even grabbed his first rebound.  And though the Warriors got blown out by 24 points, they were plus 3 when Jeremy was on the court.  He was a big part of the 12-1 3rd quarter run and hopefully he gets more meaningful minutes while Curry's out.

Honestly, other than this Lin story and whether the Kings can make the playoffs with their young squad, the NBA has very few interesting story lines for me this year.  We all know that the Lakers will win the Western Conference with little to no resistance.  In the finals, they'll play either the Celtics or the Heat.  Wake me up then.

World Series Game 4: Bumgarner shutout - 3 down, 1 to go


Lose this 4th game, and the Giants would have surrendered a 2-0 lead and all the momentum they had built up to this point.  It would have been a whole new best of 3 series.  Game 3's loss was not devastating as they only lost in a 4-2 match that merely represented the resistance that you'd expect in a World Series.  But losing Game 4 would have meant having to beat an angry Cliff Lee in order to avoid playing 2 elimination games.

But win this game and the Giants put a 3-1 stranglehold on the Rangers, forcing them to win 3 games in a row, including two in SF, to win it all.  This was the key game.  And the key player in this game would be Madison Bumgarner.  This 21 year old threw 8 shutout innings giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks.  How did he do this?  According to ESPN research, Bumgarner threw 21 first pitch strikes to the total 27 batters he faced.  He was ahead 0-1 to 20 of those hitters.  Awesome.  Its a whole lot easier to get outs when you're not pitching from behind the count.

Though SF didn't win this time with an overwhelming offense, they manufactured runs through both long balls (HRs from Huff and Posey) and consistent bats (Torres and Renteria had 3 hits each).

Amazingly, the Rangers were only shut out FIVE TIMES in the 162 game regular season.  The Giants have shut them out TWICE in 3 games.  Amazing.

One win away, holding my breath.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jeremy Lin debut!


Oct 29th, 2010.

Jeremy Lin has become the first Chinese American to ever play in the NBA.  He is, of course, not the first Chinese person to play in the NBA (Wang Zhi Zhi 2001) and definitely not the first Asian American (Wataru Misaka 1947-48 - also the first non-Caucasian in the NBA).  While there have been a handful of random players with some Asian descent over the years, Jeremy's only the 2nd American who is full Asian to make an appearance.

In his first game, he played for 2:32 minutes to raucous cheers and managed to register one steal off a jump ball.

Friday, October 29, 2010

World Series Game 2: Texas gets Cain-ed. 2 down, 2 to go!


Giants 9 - Rangers 0

Shockingly, the Giants have scored an amazing 20 runs over the first 2 games of this Series.  Consider the fact that they've only scored 30 runs total in the 2 playoff series (10 games) up to this point.  After putting away Game 1 with a 6 run 5th inning, they scored 7 runs with 2 outs(!) in the 8th inning to secure Game 2.  The Rangers helped the Giants' cause by walking 4 straight batters (2 with bases loaded) in that progression.

But the real story of this game was the dominance of Matt Cain.  Though Lincecum has been the face of Giants' pitching, Matt Cain has been the most successful arm this postseason.  In 7 and 2/3rd shutout innings pitched in Game 2, he only allowed 4 hits.  In fact, in 3 postseason games (21 1/3rd innings), he's allowed no earned runs.  NONE.

Looking forward, SF fans should still prepare themselves for the likelihood that Texas will finally start swinging the bat back home in hitter-friendly Arlington.  Josh Hamilton is only 1 for 8 with no RBIs so far.  We can't expect that to continue.

Still, the good news is that only 11 teams in the last 51 to go down 2-0 have come back to win the title.  That means, historically, we have a 78% chance of winning it all.  It seems a difficult task for Texas, since the Rangers have to win 4 of the next 5 games.  But, momentum is a funny thing in baseball, and it could change with one swing of Hamilton's bat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

World Series Game 1: One down, three to go!


Giants 11 - Rangers 7

That's why they play the games.  Cliff Lee was being worshiped by ESPN talking heads and experts everywhere as one of the best postseason pitchers of all time.  He was supposed to be virtually unhittable.  Nobody locates a fastball like he does, he's the most consistent pitcher Nolan Ryan's ever seen, etc.  Last night, the Giants battered him for 8 hits and 7 runs and chased him out of the game after 4 and 2/3 innings.  Though Juan Uribe hit another game winning HR, this time a 3 run shot in the 5th, Freddy Sanchez was the most impressive Giant on the night, hitting 3 doubles and getting to 2nd base a 4th time after a Vlad G error and finishing with 3 RBIs.  With this game in their belt, I think now they truly have a good chance to win it all.  Had Cliff Lee dominated them and taken away home field advantage in the first game, it would have uphill vs a superior offensive squad the rest of the way.  The Rangers are still ultra dangerous though - it will be tough for the Giants to score enough runs to keep up.  After all, Texas scored 7 runs in a losing effort.  And the SF fan's greatest fear is that they used up all their offense in game 1.  But hey, that's why they play the games.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NFL Week 7 Projections / Record

Jaguars at Chiefs - A listless performance vs Tenn gives no indication they can win at Arrowhead.
Eagles at Titans - I'm taking Iggles in a close one.  X
Bills at Ravens - Only a Bills-Panthers matchup might be fun to watch.
Browns at Saints - Colt looked better than expected.  I'd let him play out the string.  X
Redskins at Bears - Cutler gets back on track vs soft Wash secondary.  X
Bengals at Falcons - Carson Palmer looks like a shell of his old self.
Steelers at Dolphins - For pure strategic reasons, there's no reason to ever pick against them.
49ers at Panthers - Its interesting that the niners won't play their 2nd division game until Wk 10.  X
Rams at Buccaneers - Its time for Tampa Bay to get back to their winning ways, haha.
Cardinals at Seahawks - I hope Max Hall will have vastly improved during his bye.
Patriots at Chargers - Upset.  SD still has Patriots' number at Qualcomm.  X
Raiders at Broncos - Tebow scores again.  X
Vikings at Packers - Packer nation exults in Brett's low point of season.
Giants at Cowboys - Just when you think its over, Cowboys win again.  X

Week 7 record: 7-7

Season record: 59-45

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Giants in the World Series!


Juan Uribe's 8th inning HR was the series winner.


Brian Wilson's 5 out save clinched it.


Things are aligned for the Giants this year.  The NL won the allstar game for the first time in over a decade just in time.  Hopefully a pitcher's park will boost SF to a 2-0 lead.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Giants good, MLB bad

Giants advance past the Braves to the NLDS vs the Phillies!  (Thanks in part to Cody Ross.)  Just wanted to get that in there.

So I always get asked why I care about the Giants when I dislike MLB so much.  Well, they've got a point.  Although I don't follow them as religiously as UCLA ball or US Soccer, I follow 'em cause they're the team I grew up watching.  But unless its the Giants or perhaps a Yankees-Red Sox playoff game, I'm not watching MLB.  That's one problem MLB has.  People watch their own teams, but not the sport itself.  Its why last night millions watched a meaningless and ultimately boring Titans-Jaguars MNF game instead of the Yankees-Rangers ALDS game 3.  Don't get me wrong, I flipped back and forth to see the Yanks get destroyed in the 9th, but that was more than enough for me.  MLB needs to understand that their entire brand is important.  The NFL?  They do.  Its part of the reason why there's a midweek change to hopefully curtail helmet to helmet hits.  Baseball would've never done that.

I decided to post a few emails I've sent during this postseason:

Being reminded its a 5 game 1st round series:
Ridiculous.  162 games to make the playoffs and MLB thinks you only need 5 to see who's better.  absurd.

Watching teams celebrate after winning the first round:
Why do they celebrate with bubbly after winning a playoff round?

After being told the answer is tradition:
Baseball loves tradition more than common sense.  its pretty much the root of everything that's wrong with it.

After realizing that the 2nd round hasn't started after almost a whole work week has gone by:
Why the heck haven't the mlb 2nd round started yet?  What are they waiting for?  Are they trying to compete for viewers with college and the nfl this weekend?  Are they waiting for the rain and snow in Nov?  This is the dumbest sport out there.

After seeing pitcher Halladay run the bases with a track jacket on:
Why is he allowed to wear that jacket when no one else does?  What makes him so special that he needs to wear a jacket?  Oh, he's a pitcher?  He's not just another field player?  So why can't there be DH in the NL?
-Yeah, that's really how my brain thinks.

After reading a Posnanski article:
So Selig has always argued that his sport doesn't need fixing because the number of different teams that have won the WS in the last decade, etc.  Seriously makes me want to puke everytime I hear him interviewed.  So I read Posnanski's article just now in which he argues that baseball's better off with one less playoff round because its a crapshoot anyway.  Apparently, the better record team in the playoffs have a 117-102 record, just over 53%.  That's astounding.  And ridiculous.  I'd completely agree with him, IF every team played every other team in their league an equal number of times.  Heck, if every team played every team in MLB and equal number of times, you wouldn't even need the playoffs.  Best record wins championship (EPL style).  Otherwise, shorten the regular season, allow 16 postseason teams, lengthen the playoff rounds to 11 games, and the best team should win.

NFL Week 6 Projections / Record

Seahawks at Bears - The good Cutler returns.  X
Dolphins at Packers - Only if Rodgers plays.  X
Chargers at Rams - Amendola fever!  Not enough to win though.  X
Ravens at Patriots - Ravens and Jets are class of AFC.  X
Lions at Giants - I don't know why, but I like this Lions squad.  But Calvin J and Best aren't healthy.
Falcons at Eagles - Eagles peck em to death with McCoy.
Browns at Steelers - After a crazy offseason, Big Ben's return sure is a quiet one.  Thanks Brett.
Saints at Buccaneers - I wouldn't be surprised if the Saints lose.
Chiefs at Texans - Chiefs defense is for real.  X
Jets at Broncos - Okay.  I guess I was wrong.  Jets are contenders.
Raiders at 49ers - This should be SF's 4th win of the season.
Cowboys at Vikings - Is anybody really buying Favre's misdirection elbow act?  Of course he's playing.
Colts at Redskins - People think its gonna be close.  Colts by 2 TDs.
Titans at Jaguars - This'll be the first time I've seen CJ this year.

Week 6 record: 9-5

Season Record: 52-38

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jermaine Jones debuts!



Finally, after over a year since US fans first heard about the possibility of Jermaine Jones joining the US side, JJ debuts on the field in a US kit.  After the 2009 season, one German publication (Kicker?) had him rated as the top defensive midfielder in Germany.  Even if that was an exaggeration, he was clearly an effective midfield presence in Bundesliga.  There's no doubt in my mind that had JJ been healthy for WC 2010, we would not have conceded that Gerrard goal or the early heartbreaking one vs Ghana, since both were Clark's fault.  Is he the missing piece we've always been looking for?  No.  He's not the striker we hope Jozy will someday be.  He's not a new defensive stalwart for the future.  But what he does provide is a reliable and skillful CM for this next cycle next to Bradley.  I'm know a lot of experts are worried about how to deploy JJ with Bradley and Edu in the mix.  For me, he is a clear step up from Edu, therefore he starts.

Against Poland, Bob Bradley played what appeared to be a very fashionable 4-2-3-1.  Holden and Feilhaber were the attacking wings with Dempsey tucked in below the lone striker, Jozy.  We created quite a few chances including JJ's beautiful left-footed pass over the top to Jozy, which was coolly slotted home.  Jozy did miss a couple more good opportunities however, which should serve to remind us again how much he still has to learn, attitude included.  Dempsey and Holden were particularly solid on this day.  Back to JJ - he was clearly comfortable both on the ball and defensively which allows the wings to stay wide and the forwards to stay, well, forward.  His field vision and distribution is inarguably much better than Edu and probably even Bradley.  Again, I don't think there is much debate here.  He should start in every major game we have until he can't play anymore (or he begins showing some crazy cancerous attitude or something unforeseen like that).  Hopefully it lasts through the next WC, when he'll be 32.

Against Colombia, Bradley decided to experiment with a 4-3-3.  It was horrendous.  JJ, Bradley and Edu cannot all play at the same time.  I'm not expert on football formations, but when Chelsea uses a 4-3-3, they at least have one primarily offensive midfielder, like Lampard in there with Essien and/or Mikel stationed behind him.  Our 3 were all more apt to be defensive minded and tried to occupy the same space in the middle.  It was ugly.  And boring.  It wasn't until Bob went back to a 4-4-2 in the 2nd half that our attack improved.  Other observations: Eddie Johnson's best move is to receive a ball with his back to the goal and dribble expertly backwards.  He's terrible.  I'm tired of watching him.  Brek Shea wasn't as useless as so many writers thought.  I'd have no problem giving him another look - definitely January camp.  Eric Lichaj is likely the future at RB.  Spector plays hard, but he's just too slow to defend the flank.

Since we probably won't see the full squad again until maybe even March, here's another starting lineup, as if there hasn't been enough this year.

I like the 4-2-3-1.  Best XI if we played Mexico tomorrow:
-------------------Howard----------------------
Dolo------Goodson-------Bocanegra-----Lichaj
-------------Jones--------Bradley------------
Holden-----------Dempsey-----------Donovan
-------------------Jozy----------------------

Gooch just looks rusty and hesitant still.  Bornstein can perhaps make an argument to start but Aston Villa seem to like Lichaj, so I do too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NFL Week 5 Predictions / Record

Jags at Bills - The stage is set for a great game from Mojo.
Buccaneers at Bengals - Benson finally breaks out this season.  X
Falcons at Browns - Last week's 49ers scare helps Falcons refocus.
Rams at Lions - Shaun Hill out duels Bradford for Lions' first win.
Chiefs at Colts - No team will even reach 4-0 this year since the Colts are ticked after losing to Jags.
Packers at Redskins - GB will regret not dealing for Marshawn Lynch, but not this game.  X
Bears at Panthers - With Cutler out, this contest is up in the air.  Bears by a hair.
Broncos at Ravens - Ravens secondary slow down Orton's newfound air attack.
Giants at Texans - Houston surprisingly dominates NY on both sides of the ball and blow them out.  X
Saints at Cardinals - Hmm, Drew Brees vs Max Hall.  Who should I pick?  X
Titans at Cowboys - After bye, Romo and the boys kick it into gear.  X
Chargers at Raiders - Oakland can't keep up with Rivers.  X
Eagles at 49ers - Defense plays well at home.  49ers reel off 3 in a row from here.  X
Vikings at Jets - Favre will make darn sure that Moss has a TD and the jacked up Vikes steal this one.  X

Week 5 Record: 6-8

Season Record: 43-33

Friday, October 8, 2010

SF Giants in the playoffs!

After a 7 year drought, the Giants finally made the playoffs, just edging the Padres even though they were down 6.5 games at one point in late August.  The NL West crown came down to the last 3 game series vs SD with the title and a playoff spot was finally secured on the last day.


Game 1 vs the Braves was the best debut for a pitcher ever.  Tim Lincecum threw a 14 strikeout, 2 hitter complete game.  Overall, though the Phillies are the easy favorite to win it all, I think the Giants' are the only team to pose a real threat in the NL because of their dominant starting rotation.  Why not?  Maybe these Giants will be the 2nd team of mine to ever win a championship for me (while I was a fan).  [The niners being the other].

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ryder Cup, love it, hate it

The Ryder Cup is my favorite golf event, if we win.  Its my least favorite when we lose.  When you see a grown man like Hunter Mahan cry after losing the pivotal anchor match, you know what it means.  After losing 5.5 points out of a possible 6 in the 3rd round to go down 9.5 to 6.5, the deficit was just too much to overcome.  And definitely not worth blaming Mahan for.


Can't wait for 2012.


I find it interesting that the Europeans are so passionate about winning, even though they're actually representing an entire continent.  You'd never see Americans get all worked up about playing for North America.  Ha!  Actually, I'd find it a little embarrassing that you'd have to resort to rooting for your local rival.  Anyway, its also interesting that we also play the President's Cup every off year, which is essentially US vs the non-european countries.  I guess world citizens everywhere just all bond over trying to beat USA.  Personally, I'd like it better if we combined the tournaments into a US vs Everyone else.  Or maybe each country can have a group of 4 and play a tournament that way.  We'll call it the World Cup.

NFL Week 4 Predictions / Results

49ers at Falcons - New OC opens things up for SF, and Atlanta suffers letdown after big win.  X
Jets at Bills - Bills ownership not trying to win, neither will the players.
Bengals at Browns - Cincy defense dominates the day.  X
Lions at Packers - Rodgers runs up the score after last week's frustrating loss.
Broncos at Titans - Titans are surprisingly emerging as force to be reckoned with.  X
Seahawks at Rams - I'm pulling for the Rams so badly.  X
Panthers at Saints - Poor Panthers will suffer Brees' wrath.
Ravens at Steelers - Steelers can't possibly go 4-0 without Big Ben, can they?
Texans at Raiders - Embarrassed Texans take it out on Cable's crew.
Colts at Jaguars - The Jags would've been better off drafting Tebow and handing him the keys.  X
Redskins at Eagles - Marquee matchup of the week.  McNabb gets booed, Vick gets the W.  X
Cardinals at Chargers - Rivers will throw till his arm falls off.  They win in blowout.
Bears at Giants - Giants rebound from 1-2 start and bring the sky high Bears back down to earth.
Patriots at Dolphins - Patriots defense gets gashed by Dolphin running game.  X

Week 4 Record: 7-7

Season Record: 37-25