Friday, February 27, 2009

The Streak (2/27) and fun with numbers - Chiefs edition

I've refrained from publishing my streak picks lately, mostly because if you've been heeding my advice, you've been riding a longer "L streak" than the Detroit Lions. However, I'm a rugby match away from opening the day with a pair of cheap wins (the other in golf, where Bill Haas defeated the unstoppable Bo Van Pelt).

So, tonight, if I'm lucky, I'll have the chance to run my streak to 3. And it's unforgivable that I'll be rooting for them, but I'm picking the Lake Show to knock off the Nuggets in Mile High City. Denver got crushed by a KG-less Celtics team the last time I picked them. The Lakers aren't missing anyone. I like their chances.

In WHL action, the Chiefs got handled pretty easily by Vancouver again on Tuesday, this time 5-2. Fortunately, Spokane rebounded the next night, winning 5-2, behind four goals by The Greater One, Drayson Bowman.

The four-goal performance made me curious about a lot of things, so I did some research. Stats are fun:

Bowman has seven goals in his last five games, but hasn't scored in three of those.

Ryan Letts has eight goals in 114 games with the Chiefs.

The Chiefs have the following record when each player scores a goal:

Tyler Johnson: 15-2
Mitch Wahl: 19-4
Brady Calla: 7-0
Dustin Donaghy: 7-1
Justin McCrae: 6-0
Ondrej Roman: 8-0
Stefan Ulmer: 7-0
Levko Koper: 12-2
Drayson Bowman: 23-2 (and in both losses, Bowman was the only Chief to score)

And in the "they're not returning to Spokane this season and possibly ever" department:

Seth Compton: 5-0
Jared Cowen: 7-0

Of course, scoring is important, but for Spokane, it will make or break their season. The Chiefs are a perfect 35-0 when they score at least three goals in a game. That's filthy.

Unfortunately, it means they've scored two or fewer 27 times, winning just five of those games. As good of a defense as they have (and they have a great one, even without Cowen), they won't march through the postseason unless they light the lamp.

They've been able to do it against everyone except Vancouver this season, scoring only twice total in two meetings.

The Chiefs will host Portland and Tri-City over the weekend ... two golden opportunities to get the offense rolling. Now would be a good time for them to heat up and stave off the Kelowna Rockets for the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They're baaaaaaaack...

Spring training has officially started!

The BoSox defeated Boston College today 7-1 and take on the Minnesota Twins tonight. In the opener, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Junichi Tazawa combined for four perfect innings, striking out three between them. The less-heralded group of Chris Carter, Yamaico Navarro and Nick Green led the way for the Sawx, with Green and Navarro going 2-for-2 and Carter clearing the bases with a sixth-inning double.

Irregardless, it's good to have the guys back, even if most of the regulars didn't see action. And it's good to know that April and Opening Day are just a few weeks away!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Really Celtics? Really?

Before their championship run a season ago, the Boston Celtics reloaded their roster with All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to go along with Paul Pierce. When they ran roughshod throughout the league during the first part of 2007-08, they decided to attempt to self-destruct their team with the acquisition of Sam "I peaked about three teams ago" Cassell. He didn't kill their team and the C's, in spite of him, captured the NBA Championship.

This season, with Boston doing the same thing, they're upping the degree of difficulty on players they don't need.

The New York Knicks are about to buyout Stephon Marbury's contract, which will lead to his signing with the Celtics.

I suppose one headcase worked well enough, but Starbury takes it up a notch. He has been involved in feuds since playing for his first team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Over the last few seasons with the Knicks, disagreements with Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas have helped fuel Marbury's desire to get out of the Big Apple. He's a me-first player who might mesh well because of the personalities already in Boston, but if he doesn't, could be a poison that derails the Celtics march toward back-to-back titles.

He has experience playing with KG and the talent to be a great player in Boston, but from a Celtics perspective, if it ain't broke, why fix it? Rajon Rondo is becoming one of the best point guards in the league. Veteran Paul Pierce recently said something along the lines of "As Rajon goes, we go." And even in the absence of Garnett, Rondo is leading Boston's charge through some of the Western Conference's elite. He had 32 and 10 against a resurgent Suns team and followed that last night with 14-8-8 in a 38-point rout of the Denver Nuggets.

The Celtics were better than they were a year ago, but by acquiring Marbury, anything could happen. Marbury has never reached the second round of the playoffs ... just saying.

The Streak (2/24)

Well yesterday didn't quite go as planned. Quebec choked in curling versus Alberta and the Nuggets didn't show up at all, even though they were playing at home, against the Celtics.

So, riding an L2, I go into today's games with zero confidence, but a lot of games on the board I like:

7 p.m.

Colorado Avalanche over Atlanta Thrashers

The Avs are a weird team and don't play well on the road. Fortunately, Atlanta doesn't play well at home. Colorado also has their best player, Paul Stastny, returning from injury. If he is even close to 100%, the Avs should pick up a much-needed win in their chase for the postseason.

Penn State and Ohio State 126 or fewer

If there is a Big Ten matchup and it isn't a reflex to pick the under right now, something is wrong with you.

7:30 p.m.

Montreal Canadiens over Vancouver Canucks

Take this pick with a huge grain of salt. Vancouver is 10-0-1 in their last 11 against the Habs, but recently struggled on the road versus a not-very-good Maple Leafs team, while Montreal welcomed back Andrei Kovalev with a romp versus the Ottawa Senators. I hate backing former Tri-City netminder Carey Price against a goaltender like Roberto Luongo, but I think Montreal wins here.

10:30 p.m.

San Diego St. over BYU

I don't know much about this game aside from that BYU edged the Aztecs in Utah a month ago and SDSU is 11-1 at home. So...go San Diego State.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Streak (2/23)

If there is anything in my life that fluctuates more from time to time than anything else, it has to be patience. Some days, I can withstand a lot of anything while keeping my emotions in check. Other days, I'm ready to make my next move before thinking out the repercussions my last move might have on it.

The latter is especially true of my streaks. If I could calmly pick only games I'm 95% sure of, I could probably run up a pretty nice streak. But I would only get to pick once or twice a day and that isn't fun, so I get to four in a row and start picking Big East matchups. Or get to three in a row and not learn from my mistake and pick another Big East matchup.

That was the case this weekend, when my first streak met its demise courtesy of Providence and the second fizzled when Syracuse couldn't win on their home floor versus Villanova.

However, those losses have turned my mindset around with a newly-found one-game win streak.

Just kidding.

I'm putting my 1-0 record in curling contests on the line this morning by picking Quebec to defeat Alberta. Quebec lost this morning to undefeated British Columbia, but at 3-1 overall, should handle 2-1 Alberta.

Following that, I will learn a lesson by staying far, far away from the Louisville-Georgetown game and instead picking the Denver Nuggets to beat the Boston Celtics. Normally, one of the unwritten streak rules would be to never, ever pick against the C's, but with KG out and Denver already having won soundly in the Garden with him in the lineup, I like the Nuggets in this contest.

Note: this wouldn't normally be my pick (I would have squeezed in New Jersey over Philly and Golden State over the Clippers) but my bowling league is tonight and I only have the opportunity to fit one game in before I have to take off, so this is it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Streak (2/21)

You know what's unforgivable? Providence's performance against Notre Dame this morning.

Listen, Friars. You're trying to build your NCAA resume. As a decent Big East team, you need every win you can get, especially at home. On Saturday morning, you welcomed in an underachieving, 2-7 on the road Fighting Irish team who had won five games in conference while imploding on their 2008-09 season. Just play hard and get it done.

Or don't. Instead, give up 103 points. That will usually suffice in a college basketball game, right? Sigh...

So now that my four-game win streak is snapped, I must move on. On a day full of Bracketbusters, my only would-be lock (St. Mary's over Utah St.) is in limbo because of the status of Patty Mills.

But I need a game before that anyway and I don't often get the chance to pick a curling game, so I'm going with Ontario to defeat Newfoundland/Labrador. I did some research on this contest and discovered that Ontario's skip is good looking. She's no Winnipeg skip, but they aren't playing Winnipeg, so Ontario it is.

I don't know how long a curling game goes, but when it's over, I'm either picking the Gaels over the Aggies or Texas Tech over A&M. Both teams I want are great home teams. The A&M Aggies are mediocre on the road, while Utah State hasn't played anyone of St. Mary's caliber, especially when the Gaels are at 100 percent.

In the night game, I want BYU over UNLV. The Cougars are a pretty good road team (7-2) and are riding a five-game win streak. Meanwhile, UNLV lost their last contest. It isn't often I take the road team in a game like this, but I like BYU to run my win streak to three by the end of the day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Streak (2/18)

It isn't every day you see the variety of contests on the board that ESPN presents today. Want an NBA matchup? They have two. Want an NCB matchup? They have three. Want a points game head to head? Harangody vs. Butler. Want a margin game? UNC or Kansas? Over-under? Louisville-Providence? The list goes on...

Unfortunately, there are no great-looking games on the board. I made it to a W2 this morning when USKA Moscow (or something like that...I'm not familiar with my European futbol) defeated Aston Villa. I'm still picking at least one game, possibly two, but am not really confident with extending the streak. Follow my lead at your own peril.

I'm picking Louisville and Providence to score over 147 this evening. The Friars defense is porous, allowing about 75 points per game. I figure at home, the Cardinals could easily score 80 and possibly 90. Louisville has a good defense, but Providence can score in bunches themselves, averaging nearly 80 a game. Hopefully, it goes something along the lines of Louisville 84, Providence 68. That would work nicely.

(Aside: I actually like UNC to defeat NC St. by more than Kansas beats Iowa St., but can't pull the trigger. Both won on the road already against their respective opponents by double-digits, so anything could happen. Common sense would say UNC wins by 31, Kansas wins by 22, so...)

Since I'm going to be at the Chiefs game tonight, I can't squeeze in six goals or more for the Ducks-Kings game, but I like the choice. LA just gave up four to Atlanta in the first earlier this week, while scoring two themselves. They're high-scoring on both ends, so Ducks-5, Kings-3.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Streak (2/17)

I might regret writing this 11 minutes too soon, but we'll see. As it stands, it's 11:34 a.m. and I just switched my only lock of the day to a soccer match I know nothing about.

I just picked Brighton to defeat Luton Town in Johnstone's Paint Trophy Southern Final. I know nothing about either of these teams, but since 96.6% of people are picking Brighton to win and there's no draw, I'll play the percentages and hope to run my streak to 3 before tonight.

The game of the day in my eyes is the Colorado Avalanche defeating the Ottawa Senators in Denver. The Avs have made it a point to struggle recently, but after going to rival Detroit and knocking off the Red Wings 6-5 in a shootoot, hopefully they can ride the momentum into tonight's game.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Parity or putridity?

I just took a look at the Top 25 Coaches Poll for college basketball and couldn't believe what I saw.

The top four looked as it should, with Connecticut, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Pittsburgh leading the pack.

Then it became a mishmash of teams who could be ranked near the bottom of the poll without me batting an eyelash:

5- Michigan St. (20-4) The Spartans four losses aren't exactly inspiring. At home against Northwestern. At home against Penn St. At home against North Carolina (by 35). And, oh yeah ... on a neutral floor against Maryland ... by 18.

7- Louisville (19-5) Like Michigan St., the Cardinals losses are awful. Sure, they have some nice wins, but when you have the opportunity to win twice a week against Big East-caliber teams, that's bound to happen. Louisville has lost to Western Kentucky (by 14), Minnesota(a shaky Big Ten team), UNLV (at home), UCONN (at home, by 17) and at Notre Dame (by 33).

8- Wake Forest (19-4) This is the enigma of the bunch. They have already beaten UNC, Duke and Clemson, but have lost four of their last six, including to unranked Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina St. Their fourth loss? To unranked Miami ... by 27.

9- Duke (20-5) Probably the best team of this group, but lack consistency on both ends of the floor. North Carolina exploited their defense to the tune of 101 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Clemson shut down their explosive offense in a 74-47 shellacking two weeks ago. They've also dropped games to Wake Forest and Boston College on the season and still have Wake, UNC (on the road), Virginia Tech and Florida State on the horizon. Counting the ACC Tourney, nine losses isn't out of the question for the Blue Devils as they enter March Madness.

10- Missouri (22-4) The Tigers didn't even receive a Top 25 vote in the Coaches Poll until Week 4, have lost by 16 twice since and once to Nebraska. They have two semi-impressive wins in Big 12 play (by 4 over Texas and by 2 over OK State). Yet somehow, they are a top-10 team. I don't get it...

11- Arizona St. (20-5) Two wins over an overrated UCLA team isn't much to write home about. Neither are losses to Baylor, Cal (who Missouri beat by 27), USC (another Tigers victim) and home losses to WSU and Washington, both by double digits.

The list goes on: Illinois, Kansas, Washington and Gonzaga are top-2o squads and Purdue, Utah St. and LSU are in the top 25. Of those schools, Purdue, Gonzaga and Kansas were the only top 25 schools, while Illinois and Utah St. didn't receive a vote in the preseason poll. Sure, this type of thing happens year in and year out, but this is different. Is it parity or putridity?


If the tournament was seeded according to the rankings, Michigan State, Memphis, Louisville and Wake Forest would be the 2-seeds.

Would you be quick to pencil in any of those teams over a 15-seed without second thought except for Memphis? What if Portland State plays Michigan State in the first round? I'm picking the Vikings, I promise you.

The three seeds would be Duke, Missouri, Arizona State and Marquette. Are there any gimmes in that group?

The 5-12 teams, which are notorious for first-round upsets, would be Xavier, Kansas, Washington and Gonzaga. Could this be the year all four 12-seeds advance to the second round?

Last year was the first time in history all four top seeds advanced to the Final Four. I'm thinking we're about a month and a half away from seeing it happen again.

The Streak (2/16)

After a fun birthday weekend in Portland, missing a few days on the streak, I'm back and could be happier. Portland, as always, was a blast. We saw the Spokane Chiefs defeat division rival Portland 4-1, had some drinks at a barcade, played some basketball and then a few games of Mad Gab, Pictionary Man and Catchphrase on top of that. It was a typical weekend in Portland, which is why I love going back there all the time.

Anyway, since my win streak is up to 1, I'm going to stray away from guessing on the soccer field, but enlighten you on all college basketball games on the board. Here's who I like, in order of confidence, from most confident to lease:

Pittsburgh over Connecticut

This is the game I'm picking today for a multitude of reasons. Jerome Dyson being out is a blow to Connecticut's championship hopes. DeJuan Blair can, at the least, neutralize and, at the most, dominate Hasheem Thabeet (don't look too much into his 25-20 game this weekend ... it was against the Hall). And UCONN, while playing at home, will have the pressure on them as the number one team against a high-quality opponent.

Texas A&M over Texas

Texas is not a good road team (4-4) and only defeated the Aggies by nine at their own place. A&M is a good team (17-8) and even better at home (14-3). Sure, they're 2-6 in their last eight, but I have a feeling Texas isn't as good as a lot of people think and this game could prove it.

Delaware St. over North Carolina A&T

If I knew anything specifically about either of these teams, it would be my most confident game. Delaware St., while only 7-19, is a good home team. They're only 2-12 on the road, but one of those wins was by 14 over NCA&T. Meanwhile, the Aggies (NCA&T) are 3-12 on the road. The only thing the Aggies have going for them is their record, which is about to get worse.

St. Peters over Marist

This game is awful, but intriguing. An 8-19 team visiting an 8-17 team. The 8-19 team is 1-12 on the road, so I've got the 8-17 team ... I guess.

That's the kind of confidence you get here!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Streak (2/12)

Seeing as I'm heading to Portland tomorrow and may or may not have time to give you the inside on the streak game (yeah, I'm feeling good with my W2, thanks to Dayton defeating Xavier and Anaheim rallying versus Calgary), I'm going to divulge which games I like for Thursday ... and there are plenty of them.

Just not in golf or soccer.

I'm taking Stony Brook to defeat Albany with my first choice of the day. Stony Brook is coming off a loss and is just 5-7 at home, but I figure that's better than coming off three consecutive losses like the Great Danes are. Plus, Albany struggles on the road (5-9), so with two 13-11 teams matching up, I'll take the home team.

In games I like to think I know, there's plenty to choose from. My favorites are Northwestern over Illinois at home, but for Pac-10 fans, I like Arizona State to beat UCLA at home. Both of these games tip off around 6:05 p.m. I'm more confident in the Illini, despite 99.3% of the votes disagreeing. Northwestern knocked off Minnesota at home earlier this season and did it convincingly. Meanwhile, Illinois has, for lack of a better word, sucked lately, especially on the road. Need proof?

1/4- 74-64 L to Michigan
1/17- 63-57 L to Michigan St.
1/29- 59-36 (THIRTY SIX!) L to Minnesota
2/5- 63-50 L to Wisconsin.

Go Wildcats.

Finally, if you can squeak it in, Gonzaga and St. Mary's will score fewer than 138. First off, this game isn't going to overtime. I got burned last week with UNLV and San Diego St. combining for the under in regulation, but topping it after the extra five minutes. It isn't happening again. I have Gonzaga winning this game 71-55. That adds up to 126, for you non-math majors.

Go Zags, by the way. If they lose to a Patty Mills-less Gaels team ... sigh.

The Streak (2/11) and why I don't have a poker blog

At this point, if you're reading this blog for streak tips or insight, I hope you're just doing it so you can pick what I don't. I'm in a funk which has me popping bubbly for reaching two straight wins. As it currently stands, I'm at an L2. Here's what I've got for today ... hopefully I don't reach Thursday with an L5.

In the morning, I've got Albania to defeat Malta in European qualifying. I figure if 98.6% of people pick a team to win outright, it should happen. Plus, with my lack of soccer knowledge and no good sports starting until 4 p.m., it seems like a decent play.

This afternoon, I'm going with Dayton to defeat Xavier at home. The Musketeers are overrated and the Flyers are 21-3, including a spotless 14-0 home record. It's a huge A10 matchup, which Dayton needs to win to help its at-large case.

If that's a quick game, jump all over UNC to beat Duke and Oklahoma to defeat Baylor at 6 p.m. UNC is very athletic, which will give the Blue Devils problems on both ends, while Baylor is still Baylor. Enough said.

If you don't get a chance to take those games, Edmonton should defeat Montreal at home, while Anaheim will beat Calgary in NHL action. I'm sick of the Flames ... since I'm picking against them, if I were you, I'd go with Calgary

And onto the tables...

The reason I don't have a poker blog is very simple: there are only 24 hours in the day. If I kept up a consistent poker blog, my typical day would look something like this:

9:00 a.m.- Wake up
9:10 a.m.- Check myspace and facebook
10:30 a.m.- Quest tournament
12:30 p.m.- Blog about some ridiculous beat I suffered to knock me out (yeah, it's coming)
2:00 p.m.- Online poker tournament
2:03 p.m.- Blog about some ridiculous beat I suffered to knock me out
3:00 p.m.- Eat for the first time
3:30 p.m.- Online poker tournament
3:41 p.m.- Blog about some ridiculous beat I suffered to knock me out
4:30 p.m.- Shower
4:45 p.m.- Blog about how, if I gave poker up, I could have a job, girlfriend and life.
7:00 p.m.- Quest tournament
8:30 p.m.- Blog about some ridiculous beat I suffered to knock me out
10:00 p.m.- Daydream about where I went wrong in life
11:00 p.m.- Online poker tournament
2:45 a.m.- Bubble out of tournament when my QQ loses to running 4's all in preflop against 45 offsuit.
2:46 a.m.- Pass out on my futon.

Seeing as I don't quite want my life to head down this path (and I'm unemployed), I haven't frequented the poker room at Quest recently. But as a birthday gift, my mom spotted me the money to play for the first time in weeks.

It lasted about 45 minutes.

The first 42 minutes were rough, no doubt. After A10 ran into AQ, jacks ran into a KKxx, three heart board and several limps missed, my starting stack of 12,000 had been whittled down to 3,000, with blinds at 100-200. When I looked down at pocket kings in early position, I thought it was rally time.

I raised to 1,000, the lady to my left called and a limper called. The flop of 3 4 6 looked very good, so I pushed my last 2,000 in, hoping to possibly triple up. The lady called immediately, while the limper folded.

She showed 3 7 of clubs. Seriously? Five times the blind in early position and you're calling with suited 7 high?

The turn was an 8, giving her an open-ended straight draw, with bottom pair.

River 3.

There were many choice words running through my head at the time, but I just tapped the table, smirked and shook my head in obvious disgust before leaving the table. As a poker player, you know you want these calls, but when they backfire ... wow.

So, 45 minutes at the tables and just about another 45 minutes writing this...

This is why I don't have a poker blog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Alex Rodriguez: Cheating douchebag or regular douchebag?

As a diehard Boston Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed journalist-in-the-making, I've sat idly by for the past few days, watching as every media member in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Argentina and Kazakhstan has put in their two cents regarding Alex Rodriguez (A-Roid, to those of you who just read the front page of newspapers). Now, it's my turn.

It's no secret I loathe everything and anything to do with the Bronx Bombers. I don't allow them on my fantasy baseball teams (I benched, then traded Xavier Nady in the middle of a career year - and still won the league), mock their announcers with a heartfelt "The Yankees lose, theeeeeee Yankees lose!" whenever I get a chance to watch them put one in the "L" column and have a wardrobe devoid of anything resembling pinstripes. I refuse to date any girl, no matter how hot, if she claims to love her Yanks and even wrote a column about it back when I was a paid journalist. And if they happen to raffle off the opportunity to press the button to demolish The House That Ruth Built, I will end up emptying my life savings (which, to be fair, isn't much) for a ticket.

Yet, I can't hold anything against that $252 million prick for spending three seasons on the juice.

Call him a cheater if you want. I'll call you wrong. Back in 2003, steroid use in Major League Baseball was completely legal. The number of individuals who tried gaining a competitive advantage will never be known, but at this point, it's safe to say that number is high. A-Rod did what he thought he had to do, which was to be the best. Obviously, he didn't think he could be that type of player on natural talent alone, so he took steroids. What's important to remember in all of this is that steroids don't help you become a great ballplayer - they just make you stronger. Rodriguez always had the natural talent, which was evident when he was a Seattle Mariner. He could go both ways (even off the diamond like he's been doing for over four years with Derek Jeter), run the bases and field his position. His always consistent numbers are stellar and would most likely be All-Star worthy if you take back the home runs that cleared the wall by what...10 feet? Call him a liar for flat out denying it in an interview with "60 Minutes" if you'd like, but he's not a cheater. At least he wasn't in 2003.

However, A-Rod seems to be looked upon as a "hero" for his about face from that interview. Going from lying in one interview to owning up to his "mistakes" in another has people praising him for facing the music, rather than continuing to deny all accusations and running from the media.

Give me a break.

Listen, it's good for him and his image to handle this the way he has, but after seeing what Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have gone through, did he have any other choice? Does anyone truly believe he's in any way remorseful for what he did? If steroids were legal to this day, does anyone truly believe he would have realized what he was doing was unethical and quit?

So just because he's been backed into a corner and took the easy way out, he's the good guy in all of this? Yeah right. I'm not going to jump on his case for admitting to what he did, but he's not a savior either.

It's very important to remember that Rodriguez is not alone in all of this - he's just the most prominent figure. To fans of other baseball clubs, be careful how you scrutinize him. Remember, he was just one of 100-something names on that list. As a Sox fan, I know it's in my best interest to keep my mouth shut because the odds of a former or current BoSox being on that list is pretty good. I'm not going to look like a hypocrite by calling Rodriguez an embarrassment to the game and looking the other way when one of my own gets busted.

Whether Rodriguez is truthful when he said he only took steroids in his three seasons with the Texas Rangers may never be known, but A-Rod, to this point, it completely innocent of any wrongdoing on the field.

When do the asterisks for Neifi Perez's stats become recorded?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Streak (2/9) and the end of another streak

To anyone who knows how to pick soccer games, I'm jealous of you. Every day, ESPN has a couple to choose from and for people like me, it's simply a guess. This morning, I guessed wrong, giving myself an L3 streak, but I'm looking to turn it around tonight.

Unfortunately, the games on the board are gross. Points between Florida A&M and Norfolk State? Three pointers between Mississippi Valley State and Alabama State? Duke @ UNC in, uh, women's basketball? Points between two players in two different games? I'm staring L4 in the face, unless I win a coin flip, because I have no idea on any of them.

I'm taking DeMarre Carroll to outscore Sherron Collins when Missouri hosts Kansas. No insight. No reasoning. Let's move on.

I visited North Dakota from Wednesday to Sunday, seeing family and whatnot and was isolated from the sports world for the most part, though I was able to get to a couple high school basketball games on Saturday. (You know you're in North Dakota when the cafeteria is serving Knephla soup at basketball games.)

However, I did see Gonzaga get trounced once and escape an upset once, which was nice... I guess. I did miss Friday's much-anticipated matchup between the Spokane Chiefs and the class of the WHL, the Vancouver Giants. The Chiefs went in having won 11 in a row, Dustin Tokarski hadn't lost since November and even though the Giants were 44-4-3 and Spokane lost their top defenseman in Jared Cowen, I thought the Chiefs were playing great hockey and were the better team.

I was wrong.

I didn't see the game, but heard about it. Vancouver won 4-0, but it wasn't that close. Apparently, everybody was off their game except one or two guys. I didn't see the game on Friday, so I couldn't verify it. But I saw Sunday's game.

The Chiefs welcomed in the Kelowna Rockets last night for a contest between the third and fourth ranked teams in the Western Conference. Watching the game, it was clear the Chiefs had lost whatever momentum they gained while winning 11 straight. The Rockets netted a shorthanded goal in the first (when Kelowna's Colin Long broke in on Tokarski, I said "I've got Long." That's just how it's going right now...).

Spokane was able to tie it up in the second, but were still being outplayed by the visitors and when Long scored again on the power play in the third to make it 2-1 with about 12 minutes left, I hoped the boys would start skating harder and look like they wanted it, but nope.

With Tokarski pulled late, they had a couple chances, but after failing on those, the Chiefs spent the last 30 seconds trying to get the puck into the offensive zone, but to no avail. The 2-1 loss wasn't an indication of how poorly they played, but two home losses in a row is. Now, Spokane is clinging to the third seed and find themselves in a tailspin. They have one month to figure it out, but if they don't, not only might the Chiefs not see May, but possibly April as well.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I unleashed a flurry of harsh words toward Jeremy Pargo a couple games ago, calling him out for a number of things. I forgot to mention his lack of commitment, which was incredibly evident in the thumping the Zags took in their own backyard against the Memphis Tigers. But to be fair to Pargo, he wasn't alone in looking futile during Gonzaga's worst home loss in nearly two decades, but I'll address this later.

I have now had roughly 26 hours to digest the 68-50, not-as-close-as-the-score-let-on shellacking that took place at the Arena and I'm still furious at just about every player and coach that represents what is quickly becoming the most overrated college basketball program in the country.

On paper, Gonzaga was a chic pick to play during the season's last weekend. With a highly-successful coach, long, strong guards, versatile big guys and a deep bench, the Bulldogs had nearly all the elements to make a deep run in the tournament. Nothing changed during the early part of the schedule, as Gonzaga did what needed to be done: win. Even in a hostile environment against Arizona, and even in a loss, the Zags looked like a good team.

However, since dropping a heartbreaker to the now-#1 ranked Connecticut Huskies, Gonzaga has looked like a team that doesn't even want to win. That feeling culminated Saturday night when they fell behind by as much as 26 and had College Gameday off topic over the better part of the second half. They dropped a gimme to Portland State and a winnable game against Utah along the way and, barring an injury to the WCC's best player, Patty Mills, would be sitting with six losses and at second place in the conference with a tourney bid far from locked up.

As it stands, Gonzaga is a bubble team which, if not for their "perfect" conference record, would be on the outside, looking in. They'll avoid Patty Mills when they travel to Moraga, but should the teams meet up in Vegas to determine the WCC Champion, the Gaels will be at full strength. And unless the head coach and nearly every player decide they want, really want, to start performing to their full potential, the season is going to end like several before this: a first-round playoff exit.

That brings me back to the total lack of individual effort displayed versus Memphis. As poorly as Mark Few coached that game (not preparing for or adapting to in-game situations or watching any game tape of any game Memphis has played since John Calipari took over, or playing a 7'5" center when his team is getting outrebounded on every possession and opposing guards are slashing the lanes for layups) he did something great when he benched Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt for extended minutes and leaving them benched when Demetri Goodson and Micah Downs cut the lead in half with a few minutes to play. If Few has a backbone, he will send out a starting five of Goodson, Ira Brown, Downs, Will Foster and Steven Gray when the Zags take on St. Mary's on Thursday.

I hope the four starters got the message. There's no going back to Saturday and erasing the humiliating defeat handed to them, but the season isn't over yet.

But unless they snap out of it and play like they're capable of playing, first-round NCAA exits are going to look good by comparison.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Streak (2/3) and thoughts on Manny Ramirez

In today's blind guess soccer game, I'm picking two goals or fewer in the SC Heracles Almelo vs. Ajax Amsterdam contest. I did no research and have zero facts to back this pick up. In fact, I'm in the minority with this choice, as 15.7 percent of the picks are for two goals or fewer.

In the contests I think I know, but actually don't, I'm going with Ohio State at home over a Purdue team I can't, for the life of me, ever figure out. It probably has to do with the fact that they play in the Big 10. Well...the Big 11.

I also like UNC to win by more than Vasquez gets points and assists. Did anyone else see Maryland play Duke? Or Boston College? I'm pretty sure UNC's margin after 10 minutes might be higher than whatever Vasquez does.

I like the Calgary Flamers to defeat the Dallas Stars. Yeah, Calgary just lost at Colorado, but other than the Avs, the Flamers have been playing pretty well and should pick up a W.

Finally, in the late contest, I have SDSU and UNLV combining for fewer than 131 points. Both teams give up less than 64 per game and neither has an outstanding offense. UNLV- 70, SDSU- 58.

Now, onto the never-ending saga that is Manny Ramirez. With pitchers and catchers set to report in a couple weeks, Ramirez still finds himself unemployed, but not for a lack of offers, especially by his most recent ballclub, the LA Dodgers. In November, LA offered ManRam a 2-year, $45 million contract, which Manny turned down. Yesterday, Ramirez rejected a 1-year, $25 million contract to stay with the Dodgers.

Sure, Manny had a scorching hot end to the 2008 season, hitting roughly .850 with 71 homers and 233 RBI's in a few months, but really? He's turning down $25 mill to do what he loves? Having known this guy for the better part of the last decade, I figure one of the following is to blame:

1) He's holding out for $25.2 million over one year.
2) He wants to return to Boston.
3) He was too busy entertaining himself with a coloring book to have understood the offer presented to him.
4) He's waiting to see what the Dallas Cowboys offer him.
5) He's vetoing any deal which doesn't include his own personal knee specialist.
6) He doesn't want to face Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Jake Peavy, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain 20 times a year.
7) He wants to DH.

This guy is a nut job, plain and simple. He doesn't even know what he wants and that's a fact. The most likely scenario involves the Yankees trading Melky Cabrera and Phil Hughes to San Diego for Peavy, then nabbing Manny for 3 years and $80 million.

And it ends with Manny showing up to Fenway in a Sox jersey during his first trip with the Bronx Bombers because he forgot who he played for.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The road to Rimouski

For 39 of the first 72 games of the WHL season, the Spokane Chiefs hardly resembled the team that won last season's Memorial Cup. A new coach and new players staked the team to a 22-14-3 record and had them clinging to third place, just ahead of the Kelowna Rockets. Spokane was about 10 points behind the hated Tri-City Americans and was losing ground.

Enter Brady Calla and re-enter Ondrej Roman.

After winning the game prior to the acquisition of these two stars, Spokane hasn't lost with Calla and Roman in the lineup. Now, Spokane stands at 35-14-3 with three games in hand on the Ams and just six points back.

During their 11-game winning streak, Spokane has outscored opponents 53-10, including 9-1, 6-0 and 6-0 victories in their last three contests, two of which were against playoff teams to be.

They have the reigning Player of the Week - Drayson Bowman - along with their top two lines playing their best hockey of the season and the WHL Goaltender of the Week for the third straight week - Dustin Tokarski - running away from every other netminder in every statistic.

The only negative during the streak has been the loss of star defenseman Jared Cowen, who injured his knee in the 6-0 victory over the Chilliwack Bruins. However, against a decent offense on Saturday night against the Kootenay Ice, the Chiefs dominated both sides of play in the latter of the 6-0 whitewashes.

Coming in to town on Friday night is the Vancouver Giants, who boast the top record in the league at 44-4-3. Vancouver has been virtually unstoppable, with superstars in defenseman Jonathon Blum and forwards Evander Kane and Casey Pierro-Zabotel. With 244 goals against 102 goals allowed, the 142-goal margin is, by far, tops in the league... the next highest is the Calgary Hitmen at +116.

Nevertheless, Spokane is the team to beat in this matchup and will prove to be the better and more well-rounded team on Friday. The home-ice advantage helps, but the way the Chiefs are playing, it doesn't matter.

During the streak, Spokane's power play is 16 for 58, while they've scored more shorthanded goals (six) than their opponents have scored while on those man-advantages (4 for 52).

It definitely won't be a gimme, but it should be a preview of the Western Conference Finals. In their first matchup of the season, the Chiefs should defend home ice.

Prediction: Spokane- 5, Vancouver- 2.