Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 13 Predictions, Playoff Predictions

Week 12 Record: 10-6
Season Record: 125-50-1

Saints at Falcons - I thought ATL was ripe for the upset last week.  They'll be ready for NO.
Jaguars at Bills - No Mojo Drew, no interest from me.
Seahawks at Bears - Seattle's 5-0 (should be 4-1) at home, 1-5 on the road.
Colts at Lions - Det had 4-5 chances to upset Houston and didn't do it.  I'm still mad.
Vikings at Packers - After GB's opening TD drive, they were shockingly shut out of endzone.
Texans at Titans - Houston should have lost last week.  Its not a contest this week.
Panthers at Chiefs - How bad do you have to be to be underdogs at home to Carolina?
49ers at Rams - Kaep is Harbaugh's guy.  Sucks to be Alex, but he should be grateful to Jim.
Patriots at Dolphins - Miami, you did your job vs Seattle.  Might as well take the week off.
Cardinals at Jets - 7 straight losses for AZ.  Sadly, it won't get better in NY.
Buccaneers at Broncos - I killed Peyton for not coming to SF.  Looks like Denver ain't bad.
Browns at Raiders - Palmer got what he deserved for walking out on Cincy.
Bengals at Chargers - SD finally wins one.  Why does Turner still have a job?
Steelers at Ravens - Pitts had 8 turnovers on Sun.  EIGHT turnovers.
Eagles at Cowboys - If Philly isn't careful, it could be 12 straight losses to finish Reid's tenure.
Giants at Redskins - NY busts out of their 2 game slump with 2 strong showings.

3/4 Season Playoff Predictions

NFC West: 49ers
NFC North: Bears
NFC South: Falcons
NFC East: Giants
NFC Wildcards: Packers, Buccaneers

The only division in question is the North.  Can GB catch the Bears?  As for the wildcards, it'll be either the Bucs or Seahawks.  Seattle has the easier schedule left but also has bad karma.

AFC West: Broncos
AFC North: Ravens
AFC South: Texans
AFC East: Patriots
AFC Wildcards: Colts, Steelers

All divisions are sown up.  The only question is whether Big Ben returns or not.  If not, Cincy makes the postseason again.

NFC Championship: 49ers over Falcons
AFC Championship: Texans over Patriots

Superbowl Champions: 49ers

Monday, November 26, 2012

UCLA gets embarrassed by Cal Poly SLO

The only thing memorable about this night was that we finally got to see John Wooden's statue, now that he has been unboxed after sc week.  It is well done.

And also Shabazz in UCLA home whites.  Otherwise, we've now lost twice to unranked teams in our first 6 games.  Howland's team is playing with an alarming lack of intensity.  After having a 51-33 lead with nearly 12 minutes left in the game, UCLA was outscored 37-17 the rest of the way to lose 70-68.  True, Cal Poly made 6 three pointers in that last 12 min stretch (they only made 9 on the night), but our defensive effort was missing.  To make things even more frustrating, Norman Powell still didn't realize the score (even though we had just had a timeout) and fouled them with 12 seconds left WHEN WE WERE TIED.  Their subsequent FTs and a Adams missed 3 finished us off.

Shabazz managed to score 15 points and grabbed 10 big rebounds but looked still out of rhythm to me.  He shot a poor 4-13 on the night.  Even so, in the last 4 minutes, he didn't even attempt a shot.  I would have liked to see us run a play or five for the best prep player in the nation in crunch time.

Kyle Anderson was relegated to the bench as Howland still prefers to start both Wear brothers when he can.  He continued his poor shooting and didn't manage a basket in the game.  As for Travis Wear, I don't understand how he can play 34 minutes, most of which at center, and only have 4 rebounds.

Big picture, our main problem is our defense.  Clearly none of our 4 bigs can defend one-on-one.  Kyle and Jordan Adams are poor perimeter defenders.  Drew and Norman are not exceptional either.  Our most experienced defender was Tyler Lamb, who announced before the game that he intends to transfer.  As I mentioned before, he had likely dropped below Powell, Adams and Shabazz for minutes.  But he and Shabazz were clearly the best options when we need a stop.  It was a bad day all around.

As low as things seem now, it is still extremely early.  If Howland can get this team to gel offensively and play hard defensively, we have the talent to turn things around by the time Pac12 play starts in late December.  After all, of our 9 man rotation, 5 players are new.  I think Howland will.  If not, he won't be around past this season, let alone hope to have his own statue erected one day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 12 Predictions

Week 11 Record: 13-1
Season Record: 115-44-1

Texans at Lions - Houston gets upset again as Stafford-Megatron get back into rhythm.
Redskins at Cowboys - Dallas wins again.  Jerry pronounces them contenders.
Patriots at Jets - This game won't even be close.
Vikings at Bears - Chi was exposed by SF.  Cutler gets them back on track.
Raiders at Bengals - Palmer's return to Cincy does not go well.
Steelers at Browns - Batch can't lead team to W in this important division match.
Bills at Colts - Luck bounces back from bad game.
Broncos at Chiefs - Peyton's won the AFC West.  The other 3 coaches should all get fired.
Seahawks at Dolphins - If MIA doesn't win here, a 3 game slide can turn into 6 games.
Falcons at Buccaneers - Matt Ryan's 5 picks didn't cost them.  TB gets the best of ATL.
Titans at Jaguars - Chad Henne is clearly better than Gabbert.
Ravens at Chargers - SD is 1-5 in last 6 games.  They lose another close one.
49ers at Saints - Not sure why Harbaugh created a QB controversy with big game ahead.
Rams at Cardinals - Its sad that Fitzgerald is wasting his prime years without a QB.
Packers at Giants - Packers pull off the upset even though NY plays better after bye.
Panthers at Eagles - Philly stops its 6 game skid here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Bruins win.

A 2nd signature moment.

Friday, November 16, 2012

UCLA scores 100 in romp over JMU

For the first time since Dec 2009, Howland's squad has scored triple digits.  After's Tuesday's dispiriting OT win over UCI, this was a dominating win that UCLA needed to regain its confidence.  I'm glad I went, since it gave me hope once again that this season may not be as disappointing as the last few years.

Norman Powell rebounded from Tuesday's 0-7 performance and led the team in scoring with a career high 27 points (10-14).  I'm glad the hit to his confidence didn't last past the final buzzer on Tuesday.  He had two breakaway dunks - a 1st half steal resulting in a one-hander, then a resounding alley-oop from Drew in the 2nd half.  He was even 4-5 on 3 pointers.  If Shabazz one day gets to play, I wonder who's minutes will be more severely affected - Powell's or Lamb's.  (Sadly, I guess it'll be Lamb).

Its likely that it won't be Jordan Adams, who became the first freshman at UCLA to score 20 or more points in his first 3 consecutive games.  Granted Alcindor and Walton weren't allowed to play varsity then, but the fact that Jordan is the first to do so since the rule change in 1973 is very impressive.  He was 7-10 from the field including 4-6 on 3s.  He also continued the awesome FT streak with another perfect night: 7-7.  He's at 26 straight.

Josh Smith surprisingly put in a stout 17 minute showing by going 4-4 en route to 11 points while the Wears totaled just 16.  I think we're better off not depending on the Wears every night for the bulk of our scoring.  Tony Parker had a strong night with 12 points as well, but I'd be happy with half that on any given night.

I'd also be happy with Larry Drew finishing with 12 assists a night, playing his role perfectly.  I didn't realize Kyle Anderson was so terrible from the field going 1-10 until I looked at the box score, but I'm sure his wrist injury contributed to that.  Even more surprisingly, he had 12 boards on the night.  Our 4 big men only combined for 17.  But his standout play was the incredible wraparound lead pass to a Wear, resulting in a easy layup.  He's the real deal.

After seeing the Bruins push up court, time and time again and immediately launching a 3 pointer (Adams usually making it) en route to 100 points while consistently leaving open shooters around the perimeter on defense, I realized Howland has perhaps sold his basketball soul to keep his job.  Gone is the tough man to man defense and the grind-it-out offense.  Perhaps he's realized the only way to bring in today's 5 star recruits is to play this style of basketball.  And perhaps he's right.

OR ...maybe its just early and these young guys haven't learned.  Ok, maybe its both.

Anyway, we can't get too high from this win against a miserable James Madison or too low from an extremely impressive UCI squad.  The reality of who we are is somewhere in between.  So if we beat Georgetown on Monday, we get to match up with #1 Indiana.  Hopefully Bazz will be back for that.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Buster Posey wins 2012 NL MVP

Just as expected, Buster Posey has won the 2012 NL MVP award.  He also won the 2010 Rookie of the Year.  Interestingly, both years that he earned these prestigious awards, the SF Giants won their only two World Series.

Its the 10th time a SF Giant has won the NL MVP, but only the 6th player to do so, since Barry won 5 of those times.  (Barry won 7 overall, the first 2 were with the Pirates.)  Willie Mays did win 2, but the first time was in NY.

SF Giants MVP Seasons:
Willie Mays 1965
Willie McCovey 1969
Kevin Mitchell 1989
Barry Bonds 1993
Jeff Kent 2000
Barry Bonds 2001
Barry Bonds 2002
Barry Bonds 2003
Barry Bonds 2004
Buster Posey 2012

Of the 32 first place votes in the Baseball Writers of America, 27 voted for Buster.  That means he received 84% of the first place votes, while AL MVP Cabrera won just under 79%.  Also, while both won their league's respective batting titles, Buster actually had the better BA at .336.  (Not to mention that both were involved in the last play of the WS with Cabrera trudging away in defeat while Buster joyously flung his mask in the air.)  In fact, he is just the 2nd SF Giant to ever win the batting title (Barry Bonds).  He is also just the 4th catcher to lead the league in batting since Ernie Lombardi in 1942.

It was just the 9th time a catcher has been awarded the NL MVP and just the 5th catcher in the NL to do so.  There hasn't been a NL MVP catcher stretching back 40 years to when Johnny Bench won his 2nd in 1972.

I will now plagiarize myself in my earlier posted case for Buster's MVP:

- If we go only by batting average, Posey leads not just the NL, but all MLB with .336.  (Triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera won the AL at .330).  More impressively, he hit .385 after the All-Star break!

- In On Base Percentage (OBP), which helps us understand that walks are earned by hitters and not merely mistakes by pitchers, Buster finished 2nd in the NL with .408.  (It bears mentioning that the leader, Votto, had 156 less at bats than Buster).

- For Slugging Percentage (SLG), which weighs extra base hits, Buster finished in 4th with .549.

- But its worth noting that in OPS (OBP + SLG), which is a metric that many experts use to determine a player's actual hitting ability, he finished 2nd in the NL with .957.

- Other traditional stats of Posey this season, many of which are popular but may not be as accurate of a measure of a player's value, include:
     - 103 RBIs - He was 6th in the NL but had 74 less at bats than the RBI leader (115 RBIs).
     - 24 HRs - NL leader was at 41.
     - 178 hits - Finished 8th, but had between 63-116 LESS at bats than everyone above (leader: 194 hits).

- And in perhaps the best metric about one's measurable value to one's team, WAR - wins above replacement, Posey led the NL at 7.2.

- The two other players in the NL who deserved a look were Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, but they both trailed Posey in batting average, on base percentage and most importantly, wins above replacement.  We also can't forget that Braun and McCutchen's teams finished 14 and 18 games, respectively, out of their divisional leader.  Posey led an average group of hitters to 1st, not to mention the WS.  Braun finished 2nd, McCutchen finished 3rd.

- And, in case you've forgotten, HE'S A CATCHER who deals with the wear and tear of a season in a crouch.  It is obviously the most physically demanding position in the sport.  The value he provides as perhaps the game's best hitter is enough to win alone, before you even account for his value as the team's everyday catcher.

- Also, don't forget that this is just his first season back from the devastating leg injury last year.  On May 25th, 2011, he broke his fibula and tore multiple ligaments in his ankle.  For his efforts, he was also awarded the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year a few weeks ago.

- In the playoffs, Buster called nearly flawless games to navigate Giants pitchers through treacherous lineups.  He also hit the game-winning grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS and a key 2-run HR in Game 7 of the World Series.

Hopefully Buster can join Barry in SF Giants lore as the only two with multiple MVPs on their resume when its all said and done.  And think about this - Buster's only been in the major leagues THREE years.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

UCLA escapes over UC Irvine, Visiting new Pauley

There are 3 things that I will remember this night for:

First, it was our family's first night at new Pauley Pavilion, which has been spruced up all nice.  Sure it inevitably loses its classic Pauley feel (since classic usually simply means old), but it does actually feel like the new type of modern, glitzy and bright arenas you'd expect to see in the NBA.  Think Staples.  New Pauley has CPK, Subway and Jamba Juice alongside the glass case enclosed reminders of Wooden's accomplishments and a UCLA adidas store - all in the new outer lobby.  Inside, the player benches have been moved directly opposite to the IM field side of Pauley along with the Wooden family section still behind the UCLA bench, while the main student section and TV cameras have swapped to the other side.  The new midcourt logo takes some getting used to.  I much prefer the classic UCLA circle.  The championship banners are now hanging centrally instead of around the perimeter and the updated jumbotron was much needed.

Speaking of the jumbotron, the 2nd thing I'll remember most is my boys getting some Dance Cam time, twice.  And thats why they both got jerseys.  Need to have a camera ready next time.

Thirdly, I'll remember how terrible pretty much every Bruin not named Jordan Adams looked.  The Wear brothers were on fire for about the first 10 minutes of the game but were more off than on for the rest of the night.  Norman Powell seemed to lose all the confidence he built up in the first game and shot 0-7 from the floor.  Of all players, I didn't think he needed to be told to attack the hoop when his shot isn't falling.

Kyle Anderson hurt his hand/wrist in the first half and probably wasn't himself the rest of the game.  At least I hope thats what it is, because he was invisible in the biggest moments of the game until his last minute tip-in.  Larry Drew, who played 43 minutes since we do not have a backup point guard, has a terrible looking jump shot.  But, his driving layup was the game-winner in OT so he'll get a pass for now.

The one who does not get a pass is Josh Smith.  He looks bigger than he was last season.  He looks more out of shape as well.  He had one breakaway opportunity and somehow managed to airball a layup from right in front of the rim.  I literally thought he tore his knee on the takeoff - thats how awkward it looked.  Larry Drew should have stolen the ball from Josh to insure the points.  All you need to know about what Howland thinks of Smith (and Parker) is that when Travis Wear fouled out in OT, Howland opted for a hurt and mostly ineffective Anderson at PF.

So how did we manage to beat an Irvine team who had 4 smart seniors including the best shooter on the floor in Michael Wilder (6-9 from 3s)?  Mr. Jordan Adams.  After a 21 point college debut, he followed up with another 20 in regulation and 6 more in OT.  This freshman, the least heralded and the lowest ranked member of the incoming frosh foursome, was a flawless 16-16 from the free throw line.  10 of those FTs were in the last 13 min of regulation and OT.  So, he was clutch.

I knew he could shoot, but we had no idea what kind of offensive instincts he possesses.  In 2 short games, he's shown an innate ability that a hardworking player like Tyler Lamb probably never will.  (Although I will say that Tyler probably would have done the best job sticking to Wilder to prevent some of those dagger 3s.  It was absolutely aggravating to see our defenders drift away from Wilder to provide help somewhere else.  Howland should have had them faceguard him and deny the ball no matter what.)

Adams actually reminds me of a poor man's James Harden.  He can shoot, he can find his way to the rim, but doesn't possess the greatest leaping ability.

So our best lineup currently is: Drew, Adams, Anderson, David and Travis.  Until the return of Shabazz, who was seemingly unfairly ruled ineligible by the NCAA, this is what we've got to work with.  Powell, off the strength of his game 1 performance, also seems to have surpassed Lamb on Howland's depth chart.

Speaking of Howland, it seems that his maniacal devotion to defense may have waned.  The emphasis seems to be on pushing the ball offensively instead of spending the preseason concentrating on tough man to man defense.  Is this because Howland has forced himself to change his ways to bring in recruits and keep his job, thus selling his basketball soul?  Or is it because we're adding 4 new players to our rotation in addition to the already defensively challenged Wear brothers and Smith and we just need time?  We'll find out.

But we know that right now, we are certainly not a top 20 team.

NFL 2012 Week 11 Predictions

Week 10 Record: 10-3-1 (tie)
Season Record: 102-43-1

Dolphins at Bills - A bad week in MIA for dolphin and marlin fans get worse.
Cardinals at Falcons - I called the upset.  But they won't lose to this sorry team.
Browns at Cowboys - You'd think this'll be a blowout.  But you never know with Team Jerry.
Packers at Lions - Detroit needed that game vs Minny.  Playoff hopes die here.
Bengals at Chiefs - Cassel is terrible.  In fact, all trojan QBs play for terrible teams.
Jets at Rams - Rams played the 9ers tough.  They would've lost had Smith stayed in though.
Eagles at Redskins - The only rookie QB I'm picking over RG3 is Luck.
Buccaneers at Panthers - TB offense is as potent as anyone's.
Jaguars at Texans - Jax would lose this game even if they were spotted 2 TDs.
Saints at Raiders - A high-scoring affair to be sure.  NO crawls back to .500.
Chargers at Broncos - I have no confidence that Norv's team can pull off this upset.
Colts at Patriots - I miss the Manning-Brady battles.  Hopefully Luck starts off with a W.
Ravens at Steelers - My 4 year old has a quicker delivery than Leftwich.  No Ben, no win.
Bears at 49ers - SF needs a bounceback win after that disappointing non-W.  But nobody wants to see a Kaepernick-Campbell dual.  Everyone get healthy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

UCLA Basketball 2012-13 Season Preview

Look at what has transpired in the program's recent history.  These are the facts and they are not in dispute.

- UCLA has missed the NCAA tournament twice in the last 3 years.  We have not been past the Round of 32 in last 4 years.

- UCLA has not finished atop the Pac 10 (or 12) since 2007-08 (4 years).  That's an entire graduating class having come and gone, never experiencing even a conference title.

- UCLA was picked to finish 1st in the Pac-12 last year, but finished a miserable 6th.

- Through 9 seasons, Ben Howland's winning percentage at UCLA is 68% (and that's including the three consecutive 30+ win seasons), which is much closer to Steve Lavin's 65% than Jim Harrick's 76%.

Since the departure of the last of our heroes of those glorious Final Four days, particularly Darren Collison, UCLA has experienced an extremely tumultuous road trying to live up to those high standards.  I looked at our history at that time, and I thought that we were at the beginning of another march toward greatness.

Howland's first season in Westwood, '03-'04, was sub .500 (11-17) but the future looked bright with Farmar and Afflalo.  Similarly, it seemed that the '09-'10 season (14-18) was again the new starting point, with new promising recruits.  In '04-'05, we finished a respectable 18-11 and made the NCAA tournament.  Similarly, in '10-'11, we improved to 23-11 and made it into the 2nd round.  This is where the paths diverge.  In '05-'06, we went 32-7 and made the NCAA championship game.  How about '11-'12?  The plan went off the rails.  This was the year where we were supposed to have earned our way back to the contenders picture.  We were supposed to win our own conference and ascend to the national spotlight.

Well, we made the national spotlight alright, but for all the wrong reasons.  First, our two best players, Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt, both declared early and left for the NBA even though neither was a surefire 1st round pick (neither was).  Then Reeves Nelson, the default best player left on the team and the one that SI put on its regional preseason cover, was dismissed early on for discipline problems.  Ironically, he was eventually destroyed by another national SI mag story after his dismissal, which also cast blame at Howland for losing control of his program.  Again, it is clear that this was mostly trojan propaganda written by a UCLA-hater.  However, it is still fact that we were an extreme and inexcusable disappointment last season - the inability to make the tournament was reason enough to have cost Howland his job.

But as I examined at the close of last season, the real reason for UCLA's 3 year funk is simple: the lack of true basketball talent.  Since Jrue Holiday and Collison left in 2009, UCLA has not had any players drafted in the 1st round.  That's 3 years.  Don't be fooled.  More than any other reason which includes Howland's team management, players' bad behavior, not playing at Pauley all last season, etc, we haven't been successful simply because we haven't had talent.

Howland went out this offseason and changed that.  He brought in 2 of the top 5 players in the country - some would argue top 2.  And though Shabazz Muhammad is not yet eligible, for the purposes of this preview, we will assume he is.

With the experienced big men and capable guards already on the roster, the addition of our four talented new freshmen plus a motivated senior PG should enable Bruin fans to expect a Pac-12 title and a deep tournament run.

Because Kentucky had been extremely successful with its one and done freshmen, some UCLA fans think a Final Four championship run is all but done.  In reality, I think a #10-#12 ranking to start off is about right and an Elite Eight showing makes sense.

Point Guard

Larry Drew II, 6-1, RS Senior
Again, Drew disgracefully and abruptly left UNC midseason 2 years ago for unknown reasons.  On the surface, it might have been because he, as a junior, lost his starting job to freshmen Kendall Marshall.  My objections to allowing his transfer must again be noted.  Its not the kind of player I want representing UCLA.  That said, this is his last chance to save his basketball career.  Hopefully he's grown up after what must have been a humbling year off.  On the court, Drew might be one of the fastest players we have.  In his last full year as a starter, he played 29 min a game, averaged 8.5 points on 41% shooting, and had 5.9 assists to 3.2 turnovers a game.  He's had a full season of nothing but practice under Howland's tutelage and we've had a good track record of this with the Wears.  Drew will probably start for us since he's now really the only traditional point guard on the roster (another reason why Howland went and got him 2 years ago).  Kyle Anderson was my original bet to play point, but Howland seems enamored with Drew.

Shooting Guard

Tyler Lamb, 6-4, Junior
Tyler's minutes will be most affected by the additions of Shabazz and Anderson.  He's the only returning perimeter starter but will probably play more SG than SF this season.  Its conceivable that Howland will eventually go with the new trio Drew-Shabazz-Anderson to start, but Tyler would still be a major contributor either way.  Hyped for his defensive skills before last season, I thought Lamb was a disappointment defensively while scoring about 9 points a game.  He did raise his 3 point % from 20% to 36% last season and we'll need his outside shooting to open up our inside game.

Norman Powell, 6-3, Sophomore
Along with Shabazz, Norman probably has the most raw athletic ability on our team.  As a freshmen, he attacked the rim with confidence and didn't shy away from an open 3 pointer.  His percentages and numbers weren't great but fundamentals have never been his strength.  I'm glad Howland played him significant time to prepare him for this year.  He'll come off the bench again and his energy and athleticism should be important for the 2nd team.  With 6 perimeter players now, it will be interesting to see how Howland juggles minutes between Powell and Adams.

Shooting Guard / Small Forward

Shabazz Muhammad, 6-5, Freshman
The best high school player in the country, averaging 25.1 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, is the key to our year.  Our deep tournament hopes lay squarely on his shoulders.  Shabazz surely would have gone straight to the NBA if he could.  Though this lefty doesn't possess the Kobe or Lebron level of athleticism, he has the perimeter scoring instincts, the basketball IQ, the fundamental skills and the work ethic to lift a team in the college ranks.  There's zero chance he stays at UCLA past this season.  Here's hoping the NCAA clears him soon.

Jordan Adams, 6-5, Freshman
This newcomer's greatest skill is his shooting ability from range.  Jordan's probably our best pure shooter right now.  Even though his physical athleticism is not outstanding, it is likely not particularly lacking either - certainly much better than Michael Roll's anyway.  And in college, all you need is that one exceptional skill.  Fortunately for us, it is also the most needed skill.

Point Forward

Kyle Anderson, 6-8, Freshman
Kyle is massively important to the next few years of our program.  Though 6-8, Kyle is a great ball-handler and distributor.  I had wanted to see him run our team from the point immediately, but it is yet to be seen  how he can guard the little quick pgs at the college level.  However, this is the kind of premier talent that we have been lacking for years now.  If Howland doesn't start him at PG, he needs to start at SF.

Power Forward

David Wear, 6-10, RS Junior
Well, at least he knows nobody is planning to use him at SF.  David averaged 10.2 points on 49% shooting and 6.8 rebounds in 28.4 minutes last season.  Though both brothers are extremely versatile and well-rounded, David is the better jump shooter.  Strangely, he also has slightly more rebounds.  He will start at PF for us. Neither Wear looks to be an impact player at the NBA level, but for us they will be the solid, reliable and sizable inside presence that every college program covets.

Power Forward / Center

Travis Wear, 6-10, RS Junior
Travis averaged 12.5 points, but just 5.9 boards in 26.2 minutes of play.  He does seem to be the more reliable inside scorer of the Wears, 53% shooting.  With Stover dismissed, he is also our best shot-blocker, which isn't saying much.  Unless Josh Smith surprises everyone and seriously reasserts himself, Travis will be our starting center and receive most of the minutes.  I love that we will have the Wears for another year after this.

Tony Parker, 6-9, Freshman
Tony averaged 16.6 points, 11 rebounds last year as a HS senior.  However, anyone expecting Tony to be a dominant force right away in college is misinformed.  He definitely has the physical body and strength to be useful inside.  However, his footwork needs work, his post skills seem raw, and his conditioning, though not on the Josh Smith level, seems to need improvement.  Hopefully he doesn't sulk with getting limited minutes this season.


Josh Smith, 6-9, Junior
After a promising freshmen year, Josh was supposed to take the leap to being one of the dominant big men in the country.  I was readying myself for his departure to the NBA.  Instead, Josh gained weight after a summer of home cooking in Wash and was never in good enough shape to contribute consistently.  His minutes, points and rebounds all decreased.  In short, it was a horrible sophomore year.  This past summer, he opted to stay in Westwood and recommit himself to conditioning.  Disappointingly, late in the summer, Howland indicated that he had improved, but still had a way to go.  If Josh doesn't show this season that he's realized that he has an enormous opportunity at a NBA career in front of him, then he never will.  There has never been any doubt about his physical basketball gifts.  But he needs to learn mental and physical discipline to be effective for us.

Probable Starters:
Larry Drew, Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, David Wear, Travis Wear

Tyler Lamb, Jordan Adams, Norman Powell, Joshua Smith, Tony Parker

While Shabazz is still out, Lamb will start at SG.  It's possible that Lamb could move over to SF and Kyle comes off the bench if and when Shabazz returns.

Ideally, I'd want Anderson at the PG, Tyler at the 2, Shabazz at the 3.

Arizona was picked to be the conference favorite, mostly because Shabazz still hasn't been cleared yet.  But forget that, we need to use pre-conference games to gel (and rack up easy wins) so that we can dominate the Pac.  Given the excitement of a new Pauley and our new recruits, I think a 25-7 kind of season is reasonable to expect.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NFL 2012 Week 10 Predictions

Week 9 Record: 13-1
Season Record: 92-40

Colts at Jaguars - Does anybody really think RG3 should have gone after Luck?
Giants at Bengals - I figured the Steelers would pull it off.  Cincy?  Not so much.
Titans at Dolphins - MIA coaching staff deserves some recognition for the turnaround.
Lions at Vikings - I 'm not convinced either way.  I'll go with the hot team and the better QB.
Bills at Patriots - I'll be surprised if this isn't at least a 2 touchdown blowout.
Falcons at Saints - Yep, I'm calling it.  ATL gets its first loss at Drew's house.
Chargers at Buccaneers - TB's offense is rolling, but SD actually keeps it close.
Broncos at Panthers - Denver gets a 2 game lead in division - its already over.
Raiders at Baltimore - Has there ever been a more beleaguered 6-2 in history?
Jets at Seahawks - Sanchez gets revenge on petey for embarrassing him at sc presser?  No.
Cowboys at Eagles - Both in disarray, both coaches on hot seat.  Philly can't protect Vick.
Rams at 49ers - Has the bye week cooled Alex off?  9ers under the radar now.
Texans at Bears - This will fill in the blanks about Chicago's chances this year.
Chiefs at Steelers - 4th straight win sets up huge matchup with Ravens next week.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

UCLA demolishes UofA 66-10

Just about the only thing I didn't like on the day was the dark uniforms and the dark helmet.  Was this the punishment for losing to Cal?  If Adidas wants to try out the new alternate unis for a game, at the very least let us keep our traditional gold helmets.  The dark blue ones were underwhelming.  Even my toddler boys, decked out in their own true blue jerseys, were wondering why we weren't wearing the right unis.

With my lone complaint out of the way, it was the perfect game to be at in just about every way.  Uncharacteristic of recent UCLA football teams, we devastated a #22 Arizona team who was coming off an upset of Southern Cal last week.  And it seemed that nothing could go wrong for us.

- 9 touchdowns.  WE SCORED NINE TOUCHDOWNS.  We were up 14-0 just 3 1/2 minutes into the game.  We had a 28-0 lead by early 2nd quarter before they finally managed a field goal.  By half, it was 42-3 and the game was long over.

- Johnathan Franklin set the record for most rushing yards in UCLA history, now at 3,873 career yards.  He broke Gaston Green's record of 3,731 set back in '84-'87.  The best part was that he set the record on the best run of the day - a 37 yard TD juking scamper on our first drive.  Mora took a timeout for the ensuing celebration.  Franklin finished with 162 yards on 24 carries (6.8 yard average).

- Up 14-0, we drove for a 1st down at their 5 yard line, but nearly wasted it by retreating to the 17 yard line after a negative rushing play and two false starts.  Next play, Hundley drops a perfect pass over a streaking Payton's shoulder for a TD.

- Even when we had to finally punt on the next drive (up 21-0), they immediately fumbled the punt return.  Though we ended up 2nd and 18 at nearly midfield, Hundley found Jerry Johnson for 47 yards to setup a 1 yd TD rush.

- 2 min left in 1st half, the aptly named Goforth returned a punt for 36 yards to get us a short field.  Then on 3rd and goal from the 1 yard line, we opt to throw a fade(!) for some strange reason .... but convert anyway.  42-3.

- Hundley completed 82% of his passes, going 23-28, 288 yards and 3 TDs.  He threw to 11 different receivers, the leader being Fauria who had 5 catches for 81 yards and 2 TDs.

- We finished with 308 yards rushing - 5 RBs and Hundley contributing to the ground effort - to add to the 303 total passing yards.  611 offensive yards on the day.

- Arizona threw for 369 yards against Southern Cal last week but only 136 vs our defense.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a night game (a concern when you've got toddlers) - sweatshirt necessary, but not heavy jacket-gloves weather like last year's ASU freeze-fest.  And the halftime show was perfect for its Veteran's Day military branches tribute - the boys could make out the jet, the boat and the tank - not to mention the enormous US flag that is commonplace in every NFL game, but rarely seen in college.  A good time was had by all, except the 'Cats.