Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's been a while...

Not saying I'll be back to stay, but maybe a post here and there. This week will end one of the (if not THE) great sports month time spans of each year. It will be ended potentially with Tiger Woods winning the Masters - his 14th overall major, the 1st of this calendar year and the 1st in his confident quest of the unprecedented grand slam. The month began with the exciting NCAA tournament, in which Kansas won in dramatic, instant classic fashion. In the midst was the start of baseball season (twice if you count those 2 Red Sox/A's games in Japan, but because there was so much news, the start of MLB didn't even get much notice. This is not even to mention the NFL draft (still waaay too long), which is coming soon enough. Wait, there's more... This NBA season has been one for the ages. It's been one of the most exciting seasons in a long time, with about 5-6 teams towards the top that could potentially win it all when the playoffs begin in 2-3 weeks (Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, LAL, San Antonio, New Orleans). Wow, just crazy. Since I can't possibly touch on all these great sporting events, I'll try to clump some of them together. Here we go:

This season's NCAA tournament would seem to have been a boring higher seeds ride, considering it was the 1st time ever all 4 #1 seeds made the Final Four, which wasn't surprising, surprisingly since all season Kansas, UNC, UCLA and Memphis seemed to be one tier above the rest (if that makes any sense, hopefully it does). This "boredom" was not so. The tournament gave birth to new stars, teams and stories. The best of which could not even be decided upon if it was up to me... but I'll try. It's between Davidson's Elite Eight run with their star Stephen Curry and Kansas completely dominating Roy Williams' UNC Tar Heels after all the talk in the Final Four (others that easily were in consideration: Kansas' unbelievable overtime victory behind guard Mario Chalmers, Western Kentucky's mid-major Cinderella story as a 12 seed into the sweet sixteen, which was highly overlooked because of all the stories and the rest of the highly competitive games). The reason I chose Stephen Curry was because up until that shot by Richards to try and defeat the eventual Champ, Kansas, HE was THE story of the tournament. It wasn't even close - America found it's new college basketball icon and he had a baby face. Curry's already declared that he's staying at school next season and I'm not sure if it's the smartest long-term move, but it does guarantee this - that he WILL be a leading candidate for player of the year (even if Tyler Hansbrough stays for his senior year) and he will put Davidson on the map as a Gonzaga-type "mid-major" school (which essentially means that Davidson will have a chance to be on the national level for the long-term as long as they keep commitment to the basketball program). The Roy Williams' story was simple. He's said in the past that he would never schedule a duel with his former team of 15 years so basically the only way they ever would meet would be in the tournament, which seems unlikely if this weren't 2 elite programs, but we're talking about Kansas and UNC here, two perennial top 10 programs in the nation in all aspects. Clearly, the matchup was bound to happen eventually and now, after a national title already with UNC and 5 seasons in between, Roy met his old team. Albeit, all of his former recruits have since graduated or moved on, but Jayhawk fans are some of the most passionate in the country and many wouldn't let Roy's statement of "never leaving" Lawrence go. After all this, an essential beatdown of the Tar Heels and a clutch, dramatic National title win, hopefully the rest of Kansas will forgive Roy Williams as well and move on (or then again, they could just turn of Coach Bill Self if he takes the job at Oklahoma State - that would just be a mistake for both parties). The stories were plentiful though, obviously many of which were about draft prospects as well. There's a good reason why the National title game gets so much attention. In fact, some of you may have noticed that there were no NBA games scheduled that night. It would be foolish to compete with that event and scouts can watch those players easier if their team isn't playing the same night. I gave my top 5 prospects about a month ago here:

At this point, there can't be too many changes, although I'm sure Derrick Rose's performance in the tournament, leading that Tiger team to the title game may have swayed some people and Eric Gordon may have dipped a bit on some charts. I still like Beasley, Rose, Bayless, Lopez (not Gordon anymore) and Mayo as my top 5 guys. Jordan and Gordon quite easily drop from this group because Gordon seems a bit one-dimensional for my liking, although the kid's got unbelievable range and athleticism and his hurt wrist may have contributed a bit to his late season dipping numbers and DeAndre Jordan just isn't ready for the NBA. Sure, he's 7'0" tall, 260 lbs and has great length, but if he can't dominate the college game at that size, he's in no man's land for at least a couple of seasons in the quicker, longer (in terms of gameplay and season) NBA game.

That makes it easier for me to talk about the NBA. The West is still not set in stone, as the 7th and 8th playoff seeds are still two musical chairs with 3 teams vying for a seat. Denver, as I've predicted (even after Dirk's leg injuries), would still be the odd man out and I'm sticking by that. I just think Golden State, with their style, can string enough wins in a row to push themselves in and Dallas has pulled ahead of the other 2 teams by a couple of games, which at this point in the season is a huge deal. I also gave my MVP picks (along with the other picks) a while back:

I stand by my Chris Paul pick and what seems to be the deciding factor for reporters and the voters (the people who actually decide the award) is if CP3 can lead his Hornets team to a #1 seed. If he does, he'll be the most deserving MVP since KG got it in 2004 (I believe? It was the season he won and took the T-Wolves to the WCF). We've seen quite a few controversial ones in past years (Nash VS Shaq in 2005, Nash VS Kobe in 2006, Dirk as an "underqualified" MVP last season). I agree there's got to be some sentiment for Kobe, after the great year that LA has had, but can we remember something - LAL has made the playoffs the past 2 seasons, New Orleans wasn't even CLOSE and to shoot up to #1 is completely, utterly incomprehensible and the hands-down best player, game-changer, "makes-all-of-his-teammates-better" guy is none other than Chris #3 Paul.

As for the NFL Draft, I basically have no clue what's going. What I hear, though, is that Miami is already negotiating with Jake Long (Offensive Lineman, University of Michigan) as the 1st overall pick. I can't really say I can disagree with their way of thinking considering Joe Thomas went #3 last season and if not for Adrian Peterson's magical rookie campaign, Thomas would have been Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was easily the most ready to play out of the top 3 (JaMarcus Russell and Calvin Johnson were the top 2 picks, respectively). Anyways, I'll be watching closely at what my Bengals do considering they've made the 1st step towards a better campaign with the waiving of oft-problem-seeking WR, Chris Henry, and still having Chad Johnson complaining over whatever network will have him speak. Here was one I wrote on the Bengals and what they should do to hopefully pass these off-field issues:

The beginning of Baseball season is useless to talk about since the season is so long and unless there's a big trade, there's not much to be interested about... So there's the Masters and usually I wouldn't be excited about Golf, but how could you not be excited when one of the great players of any sport of all time presents himself with an impossible (so far) task. Tiger basically said that he should have won the Grand Slam already and he's just not been lucky enough to get the "right 4 tournaments". This is just as good as anything MJ could say about predicting a sweep of an anticipated playoff series or A-Rod giving himself the task of hitting 100 Home Runs or the simplest comparison would be Roger Federer predicting himself to win the Tennis Grand Slam (although, he's a shoo-in for 3/4 of those every year anyways it seems - He's THAT good).

Anyways, this month will conclude soon and once May and June go by with the NBA playoffs (which is ridiculously long as many others have pointed out), the "boring" of the year will begin, when all summer there will just be Major League Baseball, America's favorite pastime.