NFL Thoughts-Week 8

>> Tuesday

Geez, I did not see that blowout in the Metrodome coming. Brady sure shut those stupid airhorns up.

What the hell happened in Carolina? While I was busy killing brain cells at a wrestling event, Tony Romo ran wild on the Panthers.

Vinnie said it best, I don't think the Steelers will be repeating as Super Bowl champs. In fact, losing to the Raiders should be grounds for forfeiting last year's trophy.

Damn I'm gonna miss watching Shawne Merriman play. Okay, so that may relegate me to Joe Morgan territory, I'll sell my soul for Lights Out.

Peyton Manning does it again. I may be in the extreme minority, but I really want him to shut all the haters up and win that big game soon(just not this year).

Reggie Wayne, Larry Johnson and Ahman Green, a big fuck you guys for collectively ending for my fantasy winning streak.

Seneca Wallace, shockingly respectable quarterbacking play. On the other hand, nice job Seahawks defense for giving up 350 passing yards to a gimpy Damon Huard.

Michael Vick actually mastering the forward pass, who would have thunk it?

Way to go Ravens for ruining the spirit of New Orleans. I hope you can live with yourselves you immoral bastards.

Da Bears 41, 49er's -37. Oh, and it looks like 8% percent of NFL players need a swift kick in the nuts for calling Urlacher overrated.

For once, I could mildly enjoy a Packers win. Can we crown their asses too Sheriff?

Apparently Jack Del Rio must have sent a harsh message to Jaguars last week.

Gary Kubiak's proof the genius of Mike Shanahan spreads way too easily. Seriously, benching your franchise quarterback for Sage Fucking Rosenfels.


This is a Weird Story

Apparently Drew Brees' mother is running for a judgeship in Texas and has been running ads that feature her super-famous son in them. Nice, right?

Not so much. Apparently, Drew Brees and his moms ain't got no dealin's with each other because he refused to hire her as his agent when coming out of college. Strange.

Stranger still is the fact that Brees has demanded he be removed from the ads and has even threatened legal action if his mother doesn't comply. Weiiiiird.


United States of South America?

OK, it's Tuesday, and I think I've finally gotten over the Fire's MLS Cup Playoff loss Saturday night to New England on penalty kicks to read and write about the beautiful game. (Simmering anger at Taylor fuckhead douchebag Twellman may remain throughout the offseason.)

They say soccer brings the world together, but I'm pretty sure they didn't mean by shifting the plates of the Earth's crust to create a new Pangea.

Yesterday, the US National Team accepted an invitation to compete in the 2007 Copa America Tournament. Copa America is the Regional Championship of South America. That's right. Get lucky in this tournament, and the good ole' USA could be South American champions, just like Pizarro, but without the smallpox-infested blankets. Apparently CSF (the South American governing body) and CONCACAF (North America) have an agreement to extend invitations to the other for their own regional competitions, but why let that stand in the way of geography humor?

The tournament is set to kick off in late June in Venezuela, so I'm confident that not only will the weather be UNDOUBTEDLY PLEASANT, but that the Stars and Stripes will also recieve a warm reception.

Copa America begins just days after the completion of the Gold Cup (The North American Regional Championship), where the U.S. will try to defend their title.



Consider this somewhat of an addendum to Vinnie's post about the return of the NBA. For Nate and I (and we're not "somewhat" Bucks fans, you son of a bitch), this is big news:

Andrew Bogut will be healthy enough to start the opener tomorrow night in Detroit.

Similar to Vinnie's comments about the baby Bulls, the Bucks have a chance to be a very entertaining team this year due to the young talent that includes Redd, Bogut and the newly acquired burn victim Charlie Villanueva. However, for the team to live up to its potential, it needs to be at full strength and can't afford to lose anyone for a significant period of time, especially from its limited post depth. Did we fleece them or what.

Regardless, I'm still pissed that Vinnie left "Tim Duncan's engaging personality" off the things to be excited about for the NBA season.


Apparantly you CAN accomplish something while sitting on your ass watching reruns of Fresh Prince

West Virgina and Louisville have reinforced the best strategy for climbing the polls. I hear Charlie Weis is looking to line up a few more dates with McDonalds and Burger King for his 2007 schedule.

BCS Rankings:
3. West Virgina Prvs. 4; This Week - Did Not Play

5. Louisville Prvs. 8; This Week - Cheeseburgers with West Virgina

9. Notre Dame Prvs. 9; This Week - A convincing win over some team that may or may not have been good.

HOWEVER, it appears that Weis' BCS campaign (i.e. running up the score on Navy) convinced someone. The computers let the Irish leapfrog Rutgers and Auburn to go from a computer ranking of 8 to 5. Of course, the computer has West Virgina ranked 13th and Cal no. 3. So what the fuck does it know?


We're talking about games.

>> Monday

...Not practice. We're talking about games. We're not talking about practice. We're talking about games, man. We're talking about games. Not practice; we're talking about games. Regular season games.

So baseball season is over, but from its ashes rises the start of a new professional sporting season. It's kind of like that song "Lightning Crashes." (I think.)

And unless you're a soccer-loving geek who still pines for the days when the fade hairstyle and John Tesh theme music were king, you're probably excited, as I am, for the start of this NBA season.

Here is what we at YCS will be watching for this season:

Daaaaaa-Bullsss (...da bullss da bullss da bullss...). And seriously, who even needs Ben Wallace? The beloved team of half this blogstaff was primed to kick some ass and make the maidens wail even before the Wallace acquisition.

With talents the caliber of Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Andres Nocioni all hitting the happy cusp of their primes, it should be an excellent year for us not-long-but-semi-recently suffering Bulls fans.

And if I can be blasphemous for a moment, I truly believe that this year's team--on pure entertainment value--will bring us more viewing pleasure than any of the JordanBulls teams. And I don't just mean because Thabo Sefolosha is so handsome.

The Bucks. I only mention them out of fairness to our couple members who are sort of Bucks fans. They're not the Bulls, but at least they flizzity-fleeced the Raptors out of a really talented hairless dude.

Tyson Chandler. The frightening downside to the Ben Wallace signing for any Bulls fan is the very real chance that TC will blossom into a star. And perhaps immediately.

Admittedly, I had a huge talent crush on this guy since his first season with the Bulls, so I already assume he'll be an All-Star--and better than Wallace--by 2008, at the latest. I don't think that giving up on Chandler will prove nearly as awful as the infamous Artest trade. But I have more than a hunch that Bulls fans will be wishing we had him back in a couple years.

'Sheed. I dare say only one website loves 'Sheed more than we do. We look forward to Rasheed Wallace maintaining his stature as one of the game's greatest talents and its single greatest personality.

Steve Nash. Last season, good NBA point guard and beloved whitedude Steve Nash won the league MVP. Back in May during this blog's infancy, we hotly contested the merits of this voting decision. (Fuck me if I'm actually gonna find all of these posts and link them, but if you'd like to search our archives, be my guest.)

Basically, we at YCS look forward to seeing how Nash backs up the honor this season, undoubtedly on his way to a third-straight MVP regardless.

Stephen Jackson. The true villain of the famed Basketbrawl two years ago is already busy being a srew-up and pissing off the old guard, and the season hasn't even started yet. Now that he's stepped into the NBA's bright searchlight, I could see Jackson drawing at least a couple more suspensions by the end of the year.

Fisticuffs. Speaking of brawls. I may very well be speaking only for myself, but I hope to see a few more players sticking up for themselves--even if it means jumping in the stands.

A lot of NBA fans are obnoxious, racist pricks. And as I don't see this fact changing anytime soon, I'll continue to take sick pleasure in seeing fans learn the hard way what it's like to have an athletic 6'6" guy ready to beat their ass.

Look--if all-time niceguy Dikembe Mutombo was baited to anger during a preseason game, we know something bad is going on. Certainly, NBA players have to realize there are severe consequences to any retaliation, but just the same, fans need to learn that there are consequences to being an insufferable jag.

Warriors. No, not those Warriors, silly. With all due respect to the people in the lovely beachfront city of Golden State, we couldn't give a flying fugazi about those chumps.

However, former Marquette Warriors are starting to make their mark on the league. And I'm not even talking about Dwyane Wade. That's pure yesterdaysville. D-Wade's off posing for GQ and playing Jesus on TV commercials, and besides, he was never one of us at MU to begin with--raising his kid and excelling at basketball and all that.

But Travis Diener and Steve Novak--now there were some priviledged suburbanites we could relate to. (Not to mention that everyone of us on this blog has at least a couple good stories about one of these two guys enjoying the Marquette night life.) And as it turns out, both guys caught some attention this preseason.

We don't expect a whole lot out of either guy this season, but look out NBA--these two Wisconsin whiteys are on their way.

Bulls in five.
Bulls in four.
Bulls in seven.
Bulls in three. (Wha?!?!...)


Convincing win over hapless Cardinals leaves Packer fan hoplessly optimistic.

Let me start by saying that I am fully aware that this is a homer pick from a fan who is hopefully and possibly unreasonabley optimistic, but I'm putting this out there because come December when the Packers are in the playoff race everyone will be saying "nobody saw this coming." And they will be wrong, because I'm seeing it coming right now.

Don't look now but the Packers have a chance to get back to .500 against a very bad Bills team. Their remaining schedule after that includes two games against what I think is a very overrated Vikings team (although tonight will determine whether that is a fair assessment or not) as well as games aginst the Jets, 49ers and Lions. The only really tough games remaining on Green Bay's schedule are New England and Chicago.

More important than their schedule, however, is the team itself. At the beginning of the season everyone scoffed at Favre for calling this Packers team the most talented he's ever been with, but it's starting to show. Each week the Packers are a better team, and each week a new player seems to come into his own. The famous Broncos-style zone blocking system that was introduced in training camp is developing into a powerful running attack, as is evident from the two 100-yard rushers against the Cardinals.

Favre is just as good as he ever was, as I have already explained. As the young players around him learn the system and the game at an NFL level, this team is going to continue to improve. Players like Brandon Miree and Vernand Morency have become big contributers (unfortunately, both are injured and should miss a week or two, but no worries-Ahman Green looks to be healthy for the first time in two years). David Martin is starting to live up to his potential. Aaron Kampman is the David Eckstein of the NFL: tough, hard-working, gritty, unathletic, white.

But perhaps the most promising news is the teams criticism of themselves, because players are taking the blame for their mistakes instead of blaming coaches or teammates:

Dave Rayner on the fake field goal on 4th and 1: "That was completely my fault. I didn't know we were running a fake. Coming off the field, they huddled up, I went on the field and I was ready to kick. But I'm supposed to look up and kind of see what arrangement they're in. I heard them say 'keep it' and I thought they said 'kick it.' It was 100% my fault."

Mike McCarthy on the same play: "I should have went with my first (thought). My first reaction was to run it there because we obviously came right out of the gate running the ball very well."

Defensive coordinater Bob Sanders on the blown coverage by Patrick Dendy that allowed Troy Walters' 17-yard touchdown catch: "It's my responsibility to make sure the call gets in there and gets communicated. I'll take that responsibility and I'll get it corrected as best I can."

Dendy on the same play: "It was definitely my mistake. I was playing the wrong coverage."

When players take responsibility for their mistakes they can correct them, and expect the Packers to continue to correct mistakes each week. If they continue to improve the way they have throughout the season, look for them to be playing in January.

Finally, it is always helpful for a team to fly under the radar as long as possible (see last year's Steelers). With the Bears running away with the division and the NFC East beating up on each other, don't expect anyone to pay attention to the Packers.

At least, not until Christmas time when everyone starts saying, "Where the hell did these guys come from? Who saw this coming?"

Nathan Franklin saw it coming. That's who.


The man who's less agile than Ted Washington, and almost as dumb as Rod Smart

Okay, this has been floating around out there for a while, and I don't know who's seen it and who hasn't, but it is pure gold. Anyone who has not seen this will thank me I put it up here.

Big Red's 53 rating in Madden 07 is the worst in the game, but it's a 3-point improvement from last year, so apparantly he's getting better.

Worst-rated player in Madden sounds off.


I hate to pick on John Madden

>> Sunday

...Because he's one of those entertaining personalities who's really not supposed to be airtight analytical, but just now after a non-fumble call he said this:

"I'd like to go back to the days in the NFL when a fumble was a fumble. They do all these things to see whether or not it's a fumble, but to me, a fumble is a fumble is a fumble. And that was a fumble."

Excerpt from the John Madden NFL rule book:

Ch. 5, Sec. 7, Rule 13.01. A fumble is a fumble. A fumble is a fumble, unless it is not a fumble, in which case it is not a fumble.

When determination of a fumble is inconclusive, a fumble shall be ruled if a fumble occurred and ruled not a fumble if no fumble occurred.

A fumble is a fumble is a fumble.

I'm just having some fun, Johnny. We still love ya.


Red Auerbach: They don't make 'em like this anymore

After watching this 30-minute interview with a much younger, but still douchey, Jim Rome, I realized that Red Auerbach is quite possibly the greatest coach ever, in any sport.
When the interview starts, there's Rome flapping his mouth, and then there's Red, leaning back and smoking a stogie.

Rome: Red, did they tell you this is a non-smoking facility?
Red: No.
Rome: Would it have mattered if they told you that?
Red: Not very much.

I love this guy already. Plus, any guy who smoked cigars on the bench when he knew his team had the game wrapped up deserves the love of every member of YCS.

Another fun tidbit from the interview:

They'd say, "It's so hot to play in the Boston Garden" and I'd say, "Yeah, isn't it terrrible? But I'll tell you something, we've got an advantage, because the half of the court we play on is air conditioned and the half of court you play on is hot." What the hell? We're playing in the same place. Anything that happened to anybody happened to us, but as long as they were stupid enough to believe that we manipulated it and we'd get an edge by that I'd say, "Yeah, fine."

I wish I would have been alive to watch him coach. And I hope they have cigars in heaven.

R.I.P. Red


YCS One Line NFL Predictions - Week 8

After last week's debacle (come the fuck on, who picked Houston to beat the Jags?), the Beck is back and less convinced of his picks than ever. A few of these games I picked based on absolutely nothing at all. Woo Hoo!

Arizona @ Green Bay: Possibly the first time I've picked GB to win all year. Yay, loyalty!

Atlanta @ Cincinnati: Will it be another shootout?

Baltimore @ New Orleans: Reggie Bush and Jamal Lewis are on the bench this week for my fantasy team, so expect them both to have monster afternoons.

Houston @ Tennessee: I should probably pick Houston for this one, but I'm a coward and am just gonna go with Vegas. I still think Houston'll prolly win.

Jacksonville @ Philadelphia: Anyone wanna guess what practice was like for the Jags this week? Here's my guess: wind sprints and severe beatings from Jack del Rio all around.

Seattle @ Kansas City: If Brodie Croyle starts this game, KC may be fucked, but all he'll have to do is turn around and give it to Larry Johnson.

San Francisco @ Chicago: Just Kidding.

Tampa Bay @ New York Giants: There seems to be a running theme this week, eh guv'nah?

St. Louis @ San Diego: This Phil Rivers kid can play, apparently.

Indianapolis @ Denver: Something tells me Peyton Manning has a huge game in this one because A: it's not the playoffs yet and B: the Denver defense is overrated.

NY Jets @ Cleveland: I hope the Browns aren't becoming the new version of the Cardinals...

Pittsburgh @ Oakland: How many people on the Raiders roster still care? 2? 3?

Dallas @ Carolina: Apparently, Carolina has some fellow named Julius who enjoys tackling the quarterback...take note of that, Tony Romo.

New England @ Minnesota: Bill Belicheck is a good coach and Tom Brady is pretty - man pretty.


Gentlemen, We May Have Been A Bit Hasty In Our Complete Disdain For One David Eckstein.

>> Saturday

For example:


Gene the Pole is on the beat!

Gene Wojciechowski does not watch baseball, as his columns throughout the World Series proved. If you didn't read them, please don't, unless you hate yourself. All you need to know is that he called Placido Polanco "arguably the Tigers' MVP this season." Honestly, I don't believe the man watches baseball at all.

Anyway, here's his last column of the season, and hopefully his last ever as a baseball beat writer. I cannot understand why the world's biggest sports media outlet would have this hack on its World Series beat. I really can't. Observe:

ST. LOUIS -- I see it -- the giddy St. Louis Cardinals celebrating near second base like they're kids at Williamsport ... manager Tony La Russa looking on like a proud parent -- but I still don't believe it. The Cardinals didn't really just win the World Series, did they? And if so, does this mean I never have to watch another Fox promo for "The Rich List"?


My gawd, what just happened here Friday night?

"My gawd"? Is that supposed to be cute? Gene, you are not cute.

One minute we had a perfectly wonderful, heart-tugger Series featuring the former losingest team in baseball, the Tigers. They had starting pitching. They had relievers whose fastballs are timed on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Oh, so you're more of a racing fan. That would sort of excuse the fact that you know nothing about baseball. Of course, that begs the question--Why in Sam Holy Hill is ESPN featuring you on the World Series beat??

They had the calming, experienced presence of Jim Leyland, one of the most successful managers in the history of the game.

Man, those mid-90s Pirates were deadly. So were the '98 Marlins, just as the Rockies after that.

I'm not saying that win percentage is a good measure of a quality managing, but I'm not sure what other than win% Gene could be implying by "successful."

La Russa and Sparky Anderson are the only managers to win Series titles in both leagues.

Awesome. So did Alfredo Griffin.

And they lost. Not only lost, but they nearly got swept by La Russa's team, 4-1.

I don't get it. Then again, I don't get why La Russa wears highway patrolman shades in the dugout during night games.

What, no "Sunglasses at Night" reference? I'm disappointed.

But that's the Cardinals for you in 2006, always defying explanation.
La Russa won't admit it, but this Cardinals team might become his all-time favorite. It won't be because it was his best team, but because it wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Just look at Friday evening's Series-clinching, 4-2 win in the bone-chilling cold of Busch Stadium: up by a run ... down by a run ... up by a run ... then two ...

Coming back after being down one? That never happens.

then time for confetti, fireworks and the sweet sting of champagne spray in their eyes.

"Win or lose," said La Russa, as he stripped away layer after layer of clothes in his clubhouse office, "it's the damndest experience you can have."

You could easily argue that this was La Russa's most artful and clever job of managing since he wrote out his first lineup card in 1978 for Knoxville of the Southern League.

That game, he started two third basemen and one outfielder. And he wrote his lineup in caligraphy, in his own blood...on a bamboo scroll.

And for once, La Russa might not argue back.

There were injuries. Lots of them. There were personnel moves. I counted 62 of them from April to October,

Translation: My intern told me this. I hope he's right.

including the acquisition of Game 5 winner, Jeff Weaver, who had his reputation and confidence repaired by La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Weaver, in 15 starts (reg. season) with STL this season: 83.1 IP, 1.50 WHIP, 5.18 ERA

So it was only fitting that La Russa and a champagne-soaked Weaver exchanged a heartfelt postgame hug in the hallway leading to the St. Louis clubhouse.

La Russa is going to have bruise marks from all the hugs.

Really? They should probably test him for lukemia then.

Pitchers Chris Carpenter and Jason Isringhausen got him in the corner of the dugout moments after Brandon Inge struck out to end the game. Then the Cardinals' coaches collected for a group embrace. Then Albert Pujols lifted La Russa off the infield grass and held him high for a few happy seconds. La Russa, only the second manager to win a championship in both leagues, beamed.

But don't bother asking La Russa about La Russa. It's his least favorite subject. The third-winningest manager in the history of the game kick saves everything away from him.

"The accomplishment is not personal," he said. "It's a player's game."

That's what he always says -- "It's a player's game." He says it enough that you actually believe him.

Which you would, because it's true--unless you're Gene Wojciechowski and clearly do not watch baseball.

But it was La Russa, the players' manager, who pressed enough buttons to turn his team into a World Series factoid: No world champion has won fewer regular-season games than the '06 Cardinals.

You're the first person to observe this, I think. Maybe the second. I thought I heard John Kruk mention that.

He is -- how did center fielder Jim Edmonds put it?--

You tell me, Guy ESPN Pays to Report Stuff.

"consistent." Always consistent.

No way should the Cardinals have been the team reeking of bubbly. I'm not saying they didn't deserve to hoist the World Series trophy -- they did -- but not even Spock can come up with a logical reason why this series failed to return to Detroit for at least a Game 6.

Here it is. The proof that Gene Wojciechowski doesn't actually watch baseball but only pretends to. (Also the proof that Gene is a huge fucking dork, but we already knew that.) Were he an actual baseball observer, he would realize that the Tigers could have easily gone 1-4 over a five game stretch against the Royals, Cubs, Nationals, or any other bad team.

The Cardinals had the fewest regular-season victories (83) of the eight playoff teams. Five teams that didn't make the playoffs had more wins than St. Louis. Ten other franchises had higher player payrolls.

Payroll-vs.-win total discrepancies don't really shock anyone anymore. Unless you only follow the Yankees and Red Sox, or simply don't watch baseball.

And it wasn't like the Cardinals stormed into the postseason. They played sub-.500 ball in the second half, lost seven of their final 10 games and barely won the NL Central Division. Even now, the Houston Astros, who just missed overtaking the Cards, are slapping their foreheads like Homer Simpson.

How many times in the 17 seasons of The Simpsons has Homer actually slapped his forehead? Maybe I just overlook this animation detail, but I'm guessing this is another case of Gene pretending to watch something he does not watch.

Once again baseball makes fools of anybody (hello) who thinks they have the game figured out.

You probably should've started by watching some games first before thinking you'd figured the game out.

I picked the Tigers.

No friggin' kidding.

If the Series started over tomorrow, I'd still pick the Tigers.

I probably would too, but with about 51-55% confidence, rather than your foolhardy assuredness.

Even St. Louis fans who wear authentic custom Cards jerseys with general manager Walt Jocketty's name on the back (and I saw at least one in the right-field stands) would pick the Tigers.

So what you meant to say is, "I saw this one dude wearing a 'Jocketty' custom jersey. I bet he'd even pick the Tigers." Just say what you mean, dipshit.

And the Cardinals would astound us again -- except for La Russa, who was convinced the Cardinals could go long and far if they reached the postseason.
"We just refused to get a complex about it. ... We thought we had a chance to play really well," he said.

Bold words, Tony. I'm glad you thought there was "a chance" your team wouldn't suck.

He thought they had a chance because the starting pitching was better than it looked,

...Mmmmmaybe...I stll don't think many people are convinced that Reyes, Suppan, and Weaver are any better than their regular season marks, regardless of postseason numbers. I still don't see much in Reyes, and Suppan is generic-average. Weaver is great but immensely frustrating.

because his team could play defense, because La Russa loved the idea of being perceived as an underdog. As usual, he was right.

"If you get into a short series and you have a few assets, look out," he said.

The Cardinals won the 102nd World Series with assets: Edmonds, shortstop David Eckstein, third baseman Scott Rolen and Pujols in varying (and always silent) degrees of pain.

What a shock. He mentions Scrapstein before Rolen and without any mention of Carpenter or Adam Wainwright.

And they won it without having available their second-best starter, Mark Mulder, and their all-time saves leader, Isringhausen.

Mark Mulder, in 17 starts this year: 93.1 IP, 7.14 ERA, 1.70 WHIP. Izzy in 58.1 IP this year: 38 BB, 1.46 WHIP, 10 HR allowed (admittedly not a very fair stat to judge 58.1 IP, but still sucky). Yes, both guys were good before this year, but the point still stands: Gene's an idiot.

But your 2006 World Series MVP was none other than Eckstein (MLB commissioner Bud Selig botched his name in the postgame presentation ceremony -- it's "Eck-stine," not, "Eck-steen," Bud).

He may have won the award, but he was difinitely NOT the MVP of the series.

And Rolen, who took the collar in the 2004 World Series disaster, is the guy who drove in the seventh-inning insurance run that clinched the first Cardinals championship since 1982.

The Tigers will be back in a World Series before the Cardinals,

You have absolutely NO WAY of knowing, or even surmising, this. That's a ridiculous assertion. And I don't exactly see a dynasty out of this Tigers roster. Besides Bonderman, Verlander, Zumaya, and Rodney, what real standout talents are in this team's immediate or long-term future?

but that doesn't lessen the hurt right now. They could have won this thing. But they squandered nearly every advantage they had: home field, starting pitching, most of the baseball nation rooting for a team that three years earlier lost a record 119 games.

Gene's also the first person to bring this up.

Maybe they were overwhelmed by the moment. They hit .199 for the Series, committed eight gruesome errors, didn't walk hitters when they should have (Pujols, Game 1),

Oh, right...tuna fish-flavored mouthwash.

and, in my opinion, didn't start pitchers when they should have (Rogers, Game 5).

The topic of an equallly pointless Gene column this week. Way to try and look right. I still don't buy it.

But in the end, the Cardinals won this championship more than the Tigers lost it, but just barely.

Meaningless. Infuriating.

Maybe that's why La Russa had to dab at his teary eyes as he walked toward the 25-player pileup near second base. He knew, better than anyone, how foul line-thin the difference is between celebration and depression.

And how Bazooka Joe-sweet victory is. And how foul tip-in-groin-painful losing is. And how DiamondDry-gritty his shortstop is. And how David's Sunflower Seeds-salty my critique of Gene Wojciechowski is.

This wasn't the most memorable World Series I've ever seen. Other than the awful weather and a game where nobody could get their stories straight (Rogers' Dirtgate win in Game 2), the Series was as compelling as a "Judge Judy" re-run.

That's hilarious because that wouldn't be compelling at all!

America yawned almost as many times as Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco went without a hit (all 17 World Series at-bats).

Gene, your sense of proportion is awful. It would have made more sense to say, "America didn't yawn with the same frequency as Placido Polanco reached on a hit," or "America was as yawnful as Placido Polanco was hitless." But you shouldn't have said these things either because they're lame and awful and don't make sense, just as your line didn't.

I think ESPN needs an editor. They don't seem to have one.

But I'll give the Series this much: It featured the ultimate grinder team

Gene, you did not.

and the ultimate grinder manager.

You double-did not.

The Cardinals earned every diamond that will be in their championship rings.

Especially Aaron Miles. That guy was, and is, aweseome.

"This group of guys will never forget this accomplishment," La Russa said. "We'll be friends forever because we share something very, very special, very rare."

Just like La Russa himself.

Gene, you've made me cry. But not at all in the way you intended.


Short attention spans all around (...What World Series?)

>> Friday

Do my eyes, ears, and neurosensors deceive me? I'm watching Stephen A. Smith and John Rocker talking about playing each other in fantasy this weekend. Is anyone else? Why am I watching this? When does baseball season start?


Time for Shrink to Triple my Anti-depressants

Baseball season is over. *sniff* *sob* *convulse* *wilt* *bloody cough* *collapse*

On the bright side, I'll be hearing that f-ing Mellencamp song about 97% less often.


Albino Midget Jew Excells In Sport

I think (fuck it, I KNOW) I speak for everyone here when I say -


Although I'm really happy the Cardinals won, I would almost trade it just so fuckstein didn't win the award. God damn it. Welcome to another winter of hell, everyone who reads anything written by Bill Plaschke and/or Joe Morgan.


"Ev-'ry-body Clap Your Hands!"

[...Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap]

("The Venga Boys"? That's what they chose to play while the players were mobbing each other in celebration? "The Venga Boys"? What?)


Who's the Dream Weaver now?

I always said Jeff Weaver was gonna be an incredible pitcher. I just never said it would be for an isolated two-month period in the eighth year of an extremely rocky career.

Dream. Weaver.

(I still don't understand why this guy didn't turn out supergreat. Talk about a mental case. I hope little bro does more with the God-given skills. Big bro still has time to make up for lost time. I believe in you, Jeff!)


Thank you, once again, Rob Fucking Neyer

You don't need Insider to know this guy is awesome.

I believed it last week, I believed it yesterday and I believe it today. Which isn't to say I'm all that surprised by the results thus far. The biggest mismatch in World Series history arguably was in 1906, when the 116-win Cubs faced the White Sox. The Sox won in six games. In 1990, the dynastic A's played the upstart Reds ... and got swept. If you're terribly surprised by anything that happens in October, you haven't been paying much attention to old Octobers.


Sports World Nostalgia: B.J. Armstrong

When discussion comes up to the legends of the 1990s Chicago Bulls Dynasty, the same names always come up. Michael, Scottie, Rodman, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, even Tony "The Croatian Sensation" Kukoc and Steve "The little white guy who could" Kerr get mentioned with wistful tones as sports fans everywhere remind themselves of the glory days of a time that may not have actually existed where "teamwork," "grit," "hustle," and "humility" reigned supreme.

But while talking about his Airness or the little white guy who could, many people forget about the little black guy who could. That man, is Benjamin Roy Armstrong, Jr. (Initials, BRA, but more commonly known as just "BJ.")

Armstrong was born in Vinnie Bergl's favorite rust belt town of Detroit, Michigan. He later went on to play his college ball at the University of Iowa. He was drafted by the Bulls with the 18th pick in the 1989 draft, 8 spots ahead of Vlade Divac, but 6 picks after Mookie Blaylock, and only one pick after Shawn Kemp.

BJ never really took control of the spotlight, largely because his 6'2" 175 pound body was often mistaken for another player's shadow , and the spotlight moved on. However, Armstrong played an integral role in the Bulls' first three NBA championships, averaging just over 11 points per game in the playoffs during those years.

In 1994, with Michael Jordan gone, BJ had his breakout season, scoring a career high 14.4 ppg, and was rewarded for his efforts with a trip to Minneapolis for the All-Star Game where his 11 points helped lead Mark Price, Mookie Blaylock, Dominique Wilkins, Derrick Coleman, and Scottie Pippen's red shoes to a 127-118 victory over the West. It was Armstrong's only All-Star Game appearance.

Despite his continued efforts and achievements for the team that drafted him, a rift grew between BJ and the Bulls, perhaps because he was only making $620,000 a year. After all, Michael Jordan made $4 million in 1994 without playing one minute, and BJ was making about half of Will Perdue's salary that year. The tension came to a head after the 1995 season, when the Bulls, apparently unable to afford BJ Armstrong anymore, let their team's third-leading scorer go in the expansion draft to the Toronto Raptors. While BJ never got to fly in the Raptors plane , he was spared the fate of having to wear one of the most ridiculous jerseys in sports history.

Traded from the Raptors to the Golden State Warriors, BJ finally started raking in the dead presidents as his salary ballooned to over $2 million. However, as his salary doubled, his production was halved....then halved again. Like a piece of Uranium-238 in the core of a nuclear bomb, BJ Armstrong's usefulness was steadily deteriorating with time. He played with the Warriors, Charlotte Hornets, and Orlando Magic with minimal success, untill he played his last NBA game in 2000 with the Chicago Bulls. Armstrong averaged 7.4 points per game that year, putting the final mark of success on the franchise, as he led Fred Hoiberg, Rusty Larue, and Corey Benjamin to a 17-65 record.

So today, we salute you BJ Armstrong. Not only do you have an awesome stage name if you want to enter the world of adult entertainment as a post-retirement venture, but if it weren't for you, it would have been "PAXSON! TO BE DOWN BY EIGHT OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT! YESSSSSSS!!!!!"


I Give in

Since even is getting into the "classic World Series matchup" theme by highlighting 1934 and 1968 on the homepage, I figured I would do a total reversal on my disdain for such things and do my own Page2-style "How has the world compared to the other times these franchises played?" thingy. (Additions welcome.)

Marquee WS superstars
1934: "Ducky" Joe Medwick, "Semitic" Hank Greenberg
1968: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain
2006: Jim Leyland, Tony LaRussa

Series venues
1934: Sportsman's Park and Navin Field
1968: Busch Stadium and Tiger Stadium
2006: New Busch Stadium and Kramerica Park

Baseball era
1934: Live-ball era
1968: Year of the pitcher
2006: Year of the scrapper

Player demographic
1934: "No coloreds allowed!"
1968: "Come one, come all, come Juan Marichal!"
2006: "White dudes need love too!"

U.S. President
1934: Franklin Roosevelt
1968: Lyndon Johnson
2006: Someone equally anonymous and noncontroversial

Topping the charts and making the young girls scream
1934: The Sons of the Pioneers, Tumbling Tumbleweeds
1968: Tiny Tim, Tiptoe Through the Tulips
2006: "Weird" Al Yankovic, White and Nerdy

Marquee summer event
1934: Chicago World's Fair
1968: Race riots
2006: Snakes on a Plane

Emerging mode of transportation
1934: Boxcars
1968: Hippie vans
2006: Stolen bikes

Wave of the future
1934: Communism
1968: The Great Society
2006: Pure annihilation!

Hottest celebrity couple
1934: Bonnie and Clyde
1968: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara
2006: still Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara

Hot new catch prase
1934: "Can you spare a dime?"
1968: "Groovy!"
2006: "My name a-Borat!"

(Sorry if that was lame. My sleep schedule is way messed up and I was bored.)


McDonald's Strikes Again

At least this time, T.O. didn't rat out infamous Dallas Cowboys receiving coach Todd Haley.


I don't think Sean Casey would like us very much.

>> Thursday

FOX just showed on his little "player profile" thingy that he loves Dave Matthews Band, watches pro wrestling (sorry Zuch), and reads the Bible every day. What a loser!

Also, that damned John Mellencamp song makes me vomit and/or relinquish my citizenship and/or hurt John Mellencamp.

I have no real point here. Scroll down for actual posts.


YCS College Basketball Preview Part Four-Americans overcome Commies

In these next sections, I will preview the major, non-BCS conferences. There will be some dangerous tournament teams in this group, with Memphis once again the best of the bunch. Projected NCAA Tournament teams in bold italics, NIT teams in italics.

1. Memphis: They lost Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams and Darius Washington. Not a problem for John Calipari's crew, as they bring in highly regarded point guard Willie Kemp and super athlete Doneal Mack to join a talented group of returnees.

Kemp takes Washington's spot at the point, and will do a much better job of running the offense. The Tigers mightily struggled when teams kept them from running last season. Kemp gives the Tigers a floor general who will set up his teammates and not force shots. Andre Allen returns, and should be an excellent back-up to Kemp. Allen also is a pass first point guard, and his minutes increased throughout last season as Washington played more off the ball.

On the wing, a talented pair of sophomores lead the way. Chris Douglas-Roberts simply can be called a scorer. He shoots the ball well, including a very nice mid-range game, and has a deceivingly strong slashing ability. He always seems to be in the right place at the right game. Antonio Anderson is the Tigers best perimeter shooter. While he had the typical inconsistent efforts as a freshman, he showed flashes of brilliance including a 31 point effort. In more of a featured role this season, he could easily double his 7 point a game average.

Mack, a late commit after initially signing with Florida, will bring serious athleticism off the bench. Possessing a 41 inch vertical, look for him to replace Carney as Memphis's representative during Throwdown Thursdays.

Up front, Joey Dorsey returns to intimidate opponents in the lane. The 6'8, 260 bruiser averaged nearly 8 rebounds a game last season, despite often spending many minutes on the bench with foul trouble. While he does an excellent job of altering shots, he needs to occasionally curb his aggressiveness to stay on the court. If he has improved his offensive game, this will likely be his last year in college. Joining him upfront will be the super athletic Robert Dozier. While Dozier does not have the body to bang down low, the athletic 6'10 forward can score in many other ways. He has a nice touch from the perimeter and will also make many appearances on the highlight reel.

Kareem Cooper gives the Tigers an excellent option off the bench if his back has healed. The back injury hindered his conditioning last season and restricted him to short spurts on the court. When he played, he showed a real nice offensive game with strong post skills and a good shot from the perimeter.

Like Gonzaga, they have to replace significant contribrutots but should reload very nicely. If everything comes together, the Tigers could definitely make another deep run in the tournament.

2. Houston: Tom Penders has done an excellent job in revitalizing a dormant Cougars program. Best known for the Phi Slamma Jamma era with Clyde Drexler and Akeem (No H yet) Olajuwon, this group of Cougars should make some new memories this season.

Lanny Smith, an extremely underrated point guard, returns to lead the Cougars attack. Assuming his toe injury has healed, Smith will successfully run Penders fast paced attack. Averaging 12 points and 5.4 assists a game last season, Smith nicely balances looking for teammates and his own shot.

At one of the other perimeter spots, scorer deluxe Oliver Lafayette returns. While he did not shoot a high percentage last season, Lafayette did manage to average just under 16 points a game. With a year of division one experience under his belt, he should improve his percentage by not forcing as many shots. At the other wing spot, Texas transfer Dion Dowell will nicely compliment Smith and Lafayette. Eligible at the start of the second semester, Dowell will give the Cougars a defensive stopper. After coming into Texas with a heralded reputation, Dowell has the motivation and an opportunity to play to his vast potential.

Penders has another pair of junior college transfers ready to contribute in the backcourt. Robert Lee and Robert McKiver both shoot the ball well from 3, and will get an opportunity to earn quality plating time before Dowell becomes eligible.

Jahmar Thorpe returns to anchor the Cougars frontcourt. The undersized 6'6 big man averaged 9 poins and 4 rebounds a game last season. He will have to incease his rebounding totals after the graduation of last season's leading rebounder, Ramon Dyer. Freshman Nick Mosley and JC transfer Tafari Toney will compete for the other starting frontcourt spot.

If the frontcourt can hold their own, the Cougars talented backcourt should lead Houston back to the NCAA Tournament for first time since 1992.

3. UAB: New coach Mike Davis has a tough act to follow, with Mike Anderson taking his version of 40 minutes of hell to Missouri. He will have to replace last seasons two top scorers, Marvett McDonald and Demarrio Eddins, along with team leader and top playmaker Squeaky Johnson.

Talented swingman Wen Mukubu will be counted on to be the team's most prolific scorer. Primarily in a reserve role, he averaged 9 points a game last season. Mukubu thrived in Anderson's up tempo system, and it remains to be seen how he adjusts to the slower pace of Mike Davis. Paul Delaney will join Mukubu in shouldering the scoring load. Delany also averaged 9 points a game a year ago while shooting 50 percent from the field. In a more featured role, he will have to take more contested shots.

JC transfer Andre White, just a sophomore, looks to be the favorite to replace Squeaky at the point. Frank Holmes and Lawrence Kinnard return the anchor the frontcourt, along with freshman Jeremy Mayfield. Holmes and Kinnard will not be big scorers, but successfully rebound and compete in the post. Mayfield, a talented post player who originally signed with Oklahoma, has a chance to win a starting spot this season.

Other tidbits:
Rice could be a major player in the conference race if someone could help complement star swingman Morris Almond. UTEP has to overcome the loss of four starters and coach Doc Sadler to Nebraska. Tulsa may return to the postseason thank to a strong recruiting haul by Doug Wojcik.

Player of the Year: Morris Almond, Rice
Newcomer of the Year: Willie Kemp, Memphis
All-Conference team:
Morris Almond, Rice
Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
Lanny Smith, Houston
Josh Peppers, Central Florida
Oliver Lafayette, Houston


Did Big Mac Really Save Baseball?

What I’m embarking on is admittedly a flawed science, but it was spawned by an ESPN Page 2 Article on whether or not Mark McGwire should make the Hall of Fame. Certainly his career statistics are impressive (16 seasons, 583 HR, 1414 RBI, .982 OPS) enough to warrant consideration.

For some, the spectre of steroids overhangs McGwire’s bid for the Hall of Fame. I’m not going to argue in favor of denying McGwire the Hall of Fame on this front because of three reasons. First, McGwire always had high HR totals, and in any season where he was healthy, he almost always managed to hit 30-40 HRs a season. So a “juiced period” where his stats picked up, doesn’t appear evident. Secondly, in a country where people are legally presumed innocent until proven guilty, and McGwire has never been proven guilty of any steroid charges, you can’t deny someone the Hall based on suspicions. Thirdly, steroids were not specifically banned by Major League Baseball when McGwire is alleged to have used them.

I'd like to disclose that I do think McGwire took illegal steroids, but at the time, it was not specifically against the rules. His refusal to testify about his own use or lack thereof of illegal performance-enhancing drugs has convicted him in the court of public opinion for many people, including myself. However, I will not let steroids enter into this discussion, because it is off-topic to my central point.

The argument that I hear most often in response to the steroid controversy (even more than, "they weren't illegal at the time"!) is that steroids or not, McGwire “saved baseball” with his home run chase with Sammy Sosa in 1998. That intangible seems to be the overriding sentiment to let bygones be bygones on a now-taboo issue, and certainly makes for a more glowing history, adding the fate of baseball hanging int he balance to a now-epic duel. But did McGwire really "save" baseball?

This is such a nebulous question of causation, so any statistics used are going to be imperfect ("What is defined by "saved"?). However, the question can be rephrased as "Is Mark McGwire one of the central reasons why Major League Baseball has rebounded from ill will caused by the 1994 strike to the state of success it is in today?" I don't believe this to be the case.

One of the figures you can use to compute baseball's well-being is its attendance. With a 162-game schedule both before and after McGwire, did the home run chase inject energy back into baseball, drawing more people to ballparks than before? Conventional wisdom says yes, and in support of this, it is worth noting that 20 of the 30 MLB teams have set their respective season-total attendance records after 1998. However, upon closer examination, you can see that this may not be related to McGwire, but to baseball’s stadium construction boom or just a good product on the field.

Looking closely at those 20 teams that hit record total attendances after the McGwire-Sosa Chase (1999-Present), we find that 6 franchises had either a new stadium that season, or a new city (Washington). 13 of the 20 teams that hit records either went to the playoffs that season or had gone the year before. In addition, since 1991, 20 of 30 teams have either sprung into existence, moved to a new city, or built a new stadium. An additional 6 teams have seen their old stadiums renovated or expanded (CHC, BOS, KC, LAA, OAK, LAD). It should also not be overlooked that the ownership of no fewer than 8 stadiums changed hands from local government authorities to the ballclubs themselves, keeping gameday revenues inside MLB instead of in rent payments to local governments. It appears that successful teams and the novelty/curiosity of new teams/stadiums bring in people. Likewise, control over revenue streams brings wealth.

The data seen above also holds up in similar circumstances for the remaining 10 teams who hit their yearly attendance record in 1998 or before. Tampa Bay, Colorado, and Florida had their all-time high attendances in their inaugural years. Texas, Toronto, Oakland, Minnesota, Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Cincinnati had all been to the playoffs either the season of or season before their all-time records.

But individual teams' record attendance is by its nature a flawed statistic since it is wholly concerns a statistical outlier. What about total regular season attendance? According to Major League Baseball, more people walked through the turnstiles of all MLB stadiums this summer than in any previous summer, besting the previous record year of 1993. (Of course, in 1993, there were two fewer teams.) In 2006 though, Mark McGwire had been retired for five seasons. OK, maybe he "kickstarted" the process, but with McGwire giving us all hope again, a bevy of new stadia, two new teams (and their respective 162 extra home dates) and more on-field parity than before, wouldn't this have happened sooner than 8 years after the Chase?

So what caused the increase in attendance? The most common theory is that the 1994 introduction of the Wild Card and the 2002 CBA which increased revenue sharing has enabled more teams to compete for more playoff spots and be competitive later into the season. Given what we've already found out about winning teams drawing more, having more teams competitive late in the year would seemingly naturally lead to increased attendance. After all, everybody loves a winner.

What about TV ratings? If baseball is more popular at the box office, it would follow that the fans who couldn't get in would be watching the game on TV, right? Regular season ratings are difficult to track, due to the variety of broadcast outlets, gametimes, and teams playing. So I've decided to use ratings for the World Series as a measuring stick due to similarity in caliber of play, gametime, and collective consciousness (More people know the Cardinals are playing the Tigers tonight than knew the Cubs were playing the Rockies 3 1/2 weeks ago).

The 2005 World Series drew a rating of 11.1. This represented the lowest rating for a World Series since ratings started being tracked back in 1968. Outlier aside, it still represents a 21% decrease since 1998 (The Mac-Sammy Chase), and a 36% drop from 1993 (Last year before the strike). Admittedly, using Nielsen ratings is at best, an imperfect science, since it only tracks the number of TVs, not the number of people watching (like in sports bars), however, this can't account for all of the ratings drop, since I'd imagine people watched baseball in sports bars before Big Mac as well. Sure, you can bring up how since MLB started broadcasting games on the internet, more people can watch, but honestly, can you name 5 people you know who have paid for that service? Even then, if McGwire saved baseball, shouldn't TV viewership be if not soaring, at least not an all-time low?

This post should not be construed as my not wanting Mark McGwire in the Hall of Fame, or even to say that the Sosa-McGwire Chase didn't help baseball, I mean, it couldn't have hurt it.

But to say that McGwire "saved baseball" seems ridiculous. Major League Baseball is in the position it is in today because of more parity on the field and the replacement of outdated facilites like Jack Murphy Stadium and Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field.


J.R. Smith, swinging shooting guard

Thanks to Dime Magazine smack section, we have this beauty from Nuggets shooting guard J.R. Smith on practice. I see why he is on his third team at age 21.

From everything we’ve seen and read, the Nuggets are aching to simply hand J.R. Smith the starting two-guard spot, but they can’t just dismiss his struggles with defense and work ethic. Yesterday J.R. told the Rocky Mountain News that George Karl wants him to “be serious” about practice by showing up early. Smith says he’s trying, but also told the paper, “I’m not really a morning person.”


Even I Think This Is Sexist

>> Wednesday

The Green Bay Packers are offering a "Football 101 class for Women."

Insert joke here.

**By the way, YCS staff, I expect the jokes to follow in the comments section to be nothing but your best.


A Terrifying Message from May 2005

I recieved this in my email today from, former employer of YCS's own Matt Zuchowski. Apparently someone over there didn't get the memo.

Its basketball time again Gold fans! To kickoff our basketball coverage, is offering a 2-for-1 special TODAY ONLY!You've seen all the
breaking news, practice reports, and inside scoop, and yet you haven't yet scratched the itch to give us a try.Well, here's your chance to try out and get two months for the price of one, but this offer is
good for TODAY ONLY!

(emphasis added. I thought Marquette pulled another fast one.)


In The Words of the Nameless Sega NBA Jam Announcer, "Is it the Shoes!?!?"

From the New York Post:

"October 25, 2006 -- With Stephon Marbury sitting out with a sore foot..."


Hattip to Deadspin on the link.


Hype, you have misled us again you bastard.

When I was 12 years old I started learning a lot about the world. Thanks to the 1997 Green Bay Packers' loss to the huge underdog Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, one of the lessons I learned early on was just because everyone says a team is going to win IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE GOING TO WIN.

Apparantly, the rest of sports nation missed this lesson. They missed it when the Patriots beat the Rams. They missed it when the hall-of-fame roster put together by the Lakers couldn't pull it off against the Pistons. They missed it when those same Pistons lost last year to the Heat. They missed it every time Peyton's Colts fell in the playoffs. They missed it when our own Wade-led Marquette team beat the "unbeatable" Kentucky Wildcats.

They missed it when the Tigers knocked off the Yankees, and I'll bet my firstborn son (that's a softball Bechtel) that they're missing it as we speak, even though the Worst World Series Team Ever is up 2-1 over the Team of Destiny.

And they'll say nobody saw it coming. But I bet Pujols saw it coming. I bet Tony LaRussa saw it coming. I bet half the city of St. Louis saw it coming. Hell, I even had a sneaking suspicion.

This is why the games are played. Eventually, we should realize that ANY team that makes it to a championship game or series is a damn good team, and worthy opponents for any other team that happens to be there.

Oh, and for the record, after Game One I said the Cards would win in 7. I'm sticking with that.


United States May Host 2010 World Cup

This past summer's World Cup in Germany was the most successful in history. With profits being raked in and sponsorship and worldwide viewership booming, one might expect more of the same from the next World Cup, which kicks off in June 2010 in South Africa. However, this is not the case.

FIFA World Cup organizers have now publicly expressed reservations about South Africa's ability to successfully host the World Cup. Jamie Trecker analyzes the developments in what has been whispered across the international soccer community ever since the summer, that South Africa is simply not ready with stadium construction, transportation, hotel accomodation, law enforcement (2nd among all nations in violent crime per capita) and basic infrastructure like roads, water, and electricity to host an event on the scale of the World Cup. Alternative venues are already being explored. The short list includes Mexico (Hosts in 1970 and 1986), the United States (Hosts in 1994) and Australia, which has never hosted, but where soccer is enjoying a new popularity, on the level with MLS.

For the record, the 2010 World Cup is still set to be held in South Africa, and FIFA's official line is confidence, but the chance South Africa could lose the World Cup grows by the day. Moving the tournament would not be unprecedented. The 2003 FIFA Womens' World Cup was moved from China to the United States because of the SARS epidemic. However, this represents the first time we have heard from the President of the U.S. Soccer Federation on any possible move stating, "the United States is always be ready to help FIFA in any way if needed."

Out of the three potential candidates, the U.S. shines the most where South Africa fails. Mexico has the stadiums, but not the law enforcement and infrastructure. Coaches, players, and their families are routinely kidnapped in Mexico. Australia has the safety, but doesn't really have the stadiums, or the transportation. Australian venues are held by Rugby teams and Australian Rules Football teams, and the World Cup falls during the height of their seasons.

The United States has the stadiums. (Soldier Field, Giants Stadium, Gillette Stadium, Qwest Field, A temporarily expanded Home Depot Center, Invesco Field at Mile High, The Rose Bowl, Reliant Stadium, The Georgia Dome, and Lincoln Financial Field have all been mentioned as likely or possible venues.) Its violent crime rate is relatively low, and transportation between cities is safe. The U.S. also has the hotel capacity to host the World Cup. I'm keeping an eye on these developments, because any decision will have to be made within a year to determine who gets the host nation's automatic bid to the World Cup Finals.


YCS College Basketball Preview-More Sequels than Police Academy

>> Tuesday

In the third part of my extensive college hoops preview, I will highlight a few teams from mid-major conferences to keep an eye on. I assure YCS readers, this article is written in English.

1. Gonzaga: Once again, the Zags should be best non-BCS team in the land. Losing a top five draft pick and a go to guy in the post normally leads to a rebuilding season. At Gonzaga, it gives talented players the chance to prove themselves. After a disappointing junior season, point guard Derek Raivio returns with something to prove. Raivio will have to shoulder more of the scoring load this season. With his shooting stroke returning back to form, I look for him to significantly improve on his 11 points per game average from last season. Junior Pierre Marie-Altidor Cespedes and sophomore Jeremy Pargo join Raivio in the backourt. P-Mac, Gonzaga's defensive stopper, showed flashes of becoming a dependable scorer at the end of last season. Like his brother Jannero, Jeremy Pargo is not afraid to shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor. After fading down the stretch last season, Pargo will have to up his game to stay in the Zags rotation. These three have plenty of help coming in. Matt Bouldin, the highest ranked recruit Mark Few has ever signed, has a chance to step right into Adam Morrison's spot. Along with his scoring ability, Bouldin looks for his teammates a teeny bit more often the Morrison. Eligible at the start of the 2nd semester, 2005 McDonald's All-American Micah Downs, a Kansas transfer, gives the Zags another offensive weapon. Never comfortable with Bill Self's system, Downs should fit in with Mark Few's offensive minded system. He can shoot the ball from deep, and has the ability to play both wing spots and the four against smaller teams. Josh Heytvelt, an extremely athletic frontcourt player, steps into J.P. Batista's vacated spot. Heytvelt broke his ankle in the epic Maui Invitational game against Michigan State and never really settled in after that. He should develop into the athletic shot blocker the Zags have desperately needed against top teams. Joining him upfront will be the dependable Sean Mallon. Mallon deferred to Morrison, Batista and Ronny Turiaf in past seasons. However, he has a versatile offensive game he will show more of this season, including a nice touch from the perimeter. Joining them at the start of the second semester will be BYU transfer David Burgess. Like his younger brother Chris, a former Dukie who finished his career at Utah, David will try to revitalize his career in a new location. A heralded recruit of high school, Burgess never realized his potential in Provo. He should get a fair chance in Spokane, as Gonzaga does not have another low post banger. If he plays this season, sophomore Larry Gurganious could the X factor for the Zags. The athletic swingman could be a redshirt candidate this season given the Zags depth on perimeter. Gurganious may the lockdown defender that Zags have continually lacked, but his lack of offensive skills make it tough for him to play significant minutes. While many names will be new, the talent level remains extremely high, and Zags should win another 25-plus games.

2. Akron: Remember Lebron James's high school teammates you saw on TV a few years ago? They will reappear this season, as Romeo Travis and Dru Joyve III lead the Zips towards their first NCAA tournament in 21 years. Travis, a versatile frontcourt player, should be one of the favorites for the MAC player of the year. He averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds a game last season, and should greatly improve those numbers this season. Joyce is the consummate floor leader who sets up his teammates and leads the break. On the wing, he will find sharpshooter Nick Dials. Dials, who began his career at Ohio State, is the type of player you see on the mid-major level who hits big shot after big shot. These three, alongside with the return of Jeremiah Wood, an undersized post force, should lead the Zips to the top of MAC along with this next team.

3. Toledo-The Rockets will join the Zips in leading the MAC to multiple NCAA Tournament bids for the first time since 1999. Leading the way will be undersized post player Florentino Valencia. Valencia, a bruiser who stands just 6'5, muscled his way to a 12 point per game average last season. Jerrah Young, a West Virginia transfer, joins Valencia upfront. Young does a little bit of everything for the Rockets, and leaves the limelight Valencia and the talented backcourt. Last season's leading scorer, Justin Ingram, anchors said backcourt. The 6'2 guard averaged 15 points a game in 2005-2006. Ingram can score in a variety of ways, and generally saves his best for the end of games. Steady point guard Kashif Payne leads the Rockets attack. The 5'9 junior primarily looks to set up his teammates, averaging 4.3 assists a game last season, sixth in the MAC. When he does shoot it, he connected at a 40 percent clip from three last season. Keonta Howell, a 6'4 swingman, joins Payne and Ingram on the perimeter. Howell, a strong wing at just under 220 pounds, likes attacking the basket. Third on the team in scoring last year at 11 points per game, Howell nicely compliments his backcourt mates. Super sub Tyrone Kent can fill in at all three backcourt spots. The athletic 6'5 guard can drive to the basket and fill it up from deep. He would be starting for many programs. The Rockets live up to their nickname, as they play an uptempo style to make up for their lack of size. With their strong guard play and a horse upfront in Valencia, they will give opponents fits all season long.

4. Western Kentucky-Former Marquette assistant Darrin Horn has his Hilltoppers poised for a huge season. They still have a bitter taste in their mouth after an embarrasing blowout loss in the Sun Belt tournament finals to South Alabama. With a strong performance in that game, Western Kentucky would have gotten serious consideration for an at large bid. Instead, they had to settle for the NIT. This season, there will be no settling. Courtney Lee, a runaway favorite for Sun Belt player of the year, returns to lead Horn's squad. Lee, a 6'5 swingman, averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds a game last season. Look for him to greatly increase those numbers this season. Benson Callier, a 6'6 senior swingman, joins Lee on the perimeter. Callier averaged 9 points a game last season, hitting on 44 percent from downtown. With a season of Division 1 basketball under his belt, the former Juco transfer should be more prepared to shoulder a greater scoring load. The other backcourt spot should belong to 6'3 guard Ty Rogers, who averaged 7 points a game last season. Rogers will have to score this season as he steps in for last season's Sun Belt player of the year, Anthony Winchester. Look for incoming freshamn A.J. Slaughter to provide some backcourt help. Upfront, the Toppers will have to replace the dependable Elgrace Wilborn. The key guy may be JC transfer Raed Mostafa. Mostafa, who played for same junior college as Marquette's Jamil Lott, gives the Toppers an 6'8 forward who does a little bit of everything on the court. Mostafa will compete with Mike Walker and Daniel Emerson, the two experienced big men in the program for frontcourt minutes. If Courtney Lee gets some help, the Toppers should be an extremely dangerous mid-major this season.


My doctor says I wouldn't get so many nosebleeds if I just kept my finger out of there!

Brace yourselves, YCS Nation.

In a most unfortunate turn of events for you, the reader, my trusty old desktop computer went a little--as the kids say--insane in the computer brain, forcing me to buy a replacement, laptop computer.

What does this mean? You can now expect my posts to grow even more senseless, frequent, and annoying than before. And watch for our new "Live Blogging" feature (meaning I respond to each and every on-air comment Tim McCarver makes. Good thing there's only four-max baseball games left).


And so the Dicksuckfest Begins...

In the top of the 5th tonight--moments after Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth--Joe Buck analyzed the previous half-inning like so:

"Jim Leyland came out and said the magic words to Nate Robertson to get him out of the inning."

That guy manages the fook outta ballgames.


Wait, how big was that Orange's forehead last season?

A new minor league baseball team in Bradenton, FL (Corporate Headquarters of Tropicana) has just named themselves the Bradenton Juice.


I imagine the Jose Canseco Promotional Night one-game contract is no longer a matter of "if" but "when" at this point.


NFL Thoughts Week 7

You know, I have this inner peace about missing the MNF broadcast. If I'm going to kill brain cells on Monday night, I might as well watching wrestling live.

I did hear Dallas finally yanked old man Bledsoe. T.O. strikes again.

The losing Super Bowl curse seems to be in full effect now. Seahawks fans, have fun watching Slash II.

It may not be a thing of beauty, but the Vikings have played winning football under Brad Childress.

The '76 Buccaneers can now uncork the champagne bottles. Apparently the Raiders weren't what Cards thought they were.

Speaking of winning ugly, Denver also does that very well.

So he may be a huge sell-out, Peyton Manning is still double-tough. That, and the best quarterback in football.

Wonderful effort Jacksonville. I don't think the Texas Longhorns lose by twenty to Texans.

Oldtime AFL fans smiled this week. While defense may have been a foreign word in Chargers-Chiefs and Steelers-Falcons games, they surely entertained.

Huge win for Bengals, and a big 2 game swing in AFC North. After a nice stretch, Carolina was probably due for a close loss.

Matt Bryant, enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.

Thank you Fox for that replay of McNabb yakking during the middle of my dinner.

Okay, I think the Jets have filled their quota of wins for 2006.

The Pats quietly have developed into a juggernaut again.

Top Five:
1. Da Bears
2. Chargers
3. Patriots
4. Broncos
5. Colts

Bottom Five
28. Lions
29. Dolphins
30. Cardinals
31. Titans
32. Raiders


The Chunky Soup Curse lives!

>> Monday

The famous string of bad luck to befall Campbell's Chunky Soup pitchmen in recent years has claimed its latest victim. Apparently, all-time least charismatic face of Chunky Soup Matt Hasselbeck will be out at least two to four weeks after suffering a knee injury yesterday.

When the Campbell's people come knocking on Rex Grossman's door next year, here's hoping he has the wherewithal to send those bastards on their merry way without as much as a second glance.

Quarterbacks, take heed. Do not succumb to the lure of the Chunky Soup spokesman role, for she is an evil temptress.


Gene Wojciechowski writes like a dyslexic, meth-addicted ESL student potentially having other unspecified cognitive deficiencies (and stuff)

>> Sunday

The Pole had this to say about last night’s World Series Game 1:

Why the Tigers, with two outs and first base open, decided to pitch to the best hitter in baseball makes as much sense as tuna fish-flavored mouthwash.

Has Gene ever heard the cliché, “Hindsight is 20/20”? I’d be shocked if he hadn’t since Gene himself is a living, breathing cliché.

But as cleverly-phrased as that observation is, I’m not so sure that Jim Leyland’s decision was truly as senseless as tuna fish-flavored mouthwash. In fact, one might even say it was as sensible as cinnamon- or mint-, or to a lesser extent, citrus-flavored mouthwash. Or even further, one might rate it as brilliant a move as inventing mint-flavored antifreeze and slipping it into Gene Wojciechowski’s mouthwash bottle.

What was I talking about again? Oh right—intentional walks. Admittedly, I don’t know exactly how drastic a talent drop-off from the current hitter to the on-deck hitter renders an intentional walk a statistically advantageous strategy. However, I’m willing to guess that the Pujols-to-Edmonds drop-off doesn’t make the cut.

I also do know that giving the other team an extra baserunner adds to potential damage from ensuing hitters. I also know that bases-loaded situations force pitchers to remain more safely in the strike zone, a fact that good hitters—guys like Jim Edmonds—know well. Add in the fact that Edmonds is a famously excellent fastball hitter and that Verlander is a famously fastball-heavy pitcher, and suddenly the intentional walk doesn’t seem like a tuna fish-flavored mouthwash-caliber mistake.

Had the Tigers elected to intentionally walk Pujols, I would have expressed my disagreement at the time, but I certainly would not have used so harsh an analogy as tuna fish-flavored mouthwash. Because unlike, Gene, I realize that without the proper supporting evidence, I must concede the possibility of being wrong. Also unlike Gene, I’m not a colossal dork who uses really horribly lame simile-based witticisms to sound clever when I’m making a bad point.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve made this exact post many times before, so I’ll stop and just leave you with more awesome cleverness from Gene.

When it comes to people disrespecting his ballclub, La Russa has a fuse as short as chin stubble.

The Tigers played as if they had a coat of rust on their bats and gloves.

Gene Wojciehjchohwjchiecjhowski sucks about as much as the Suckretary of Suck from Sucksylvania on the third Suckaday in Suckuary.


Lock of the Week

>> Saturday

After finally winning a game comfortably last week, I may have met my Waterloo. There are no great options this week, so I am going out on a limb and taking a road team. Even at Reliant Stadium, Jacksonville seemed to be a sure victor over Houston. Then, three prominent starters, WR Matt Jones, DT Marcus Stroud and OT Stockar McDougle were declared out. Starting quarterback Byron Leftwich has been added to injury report late in the week, never a good sign. That being said, I tenuously declare Jacksonville my lock of the week. Here's hoping I will be back for this segment next week.


YCS College Basketball Preview Part Deux

After my profiling of three surprising teams, here are my disappointing ones. I don't think that they will be lacking name recognition.

1. Duke: God bless America, this looks like the year Duke finally has to suffer through rebuilding. I'm expecting Coach K's back to flare up again at midseason, or has he come up with a better excuse since 1995? (Duke went 13-18 that year, and Coach K left in the middle of season) Already expected to be a down season for the Dukies, they will now play a good portion of this upcoming campaign without starting point guard Greg Paulus. Paulus broke his foot in workouts, which leaves America's Team without a true point guard on the roster. As Marquette fans can attest to, this leads to ugly ballhandling scenarios. The next Duke golden boy, Jon Scheyer, will fill in at the point for Paulus. While I can personally attest to Scheyer's offensive skills, he is a wing guard not meant to be the primary ballhandler. Duke does have solid talent on the wings with incoming freshman Geral Henderson, and holdovers Demarcus Nelson and Marty Pocius. Pocius plays very aggressively, but would often make dumb mistakes that would lead Coach K to benching him. If he can reign in his game, he could help pick up the scoring load of the departed J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. Henderson has garnered some comparisons to Grant Hill, but he does not possess Hill's ballhandling ability yet. He will be their most athletic perimeter player since Jay Williams, but may not be ready to make a huge contribution. Demarcus Nelson can take the ball to the basket, but does not have a reliable perimeter shot, and does not have the right mindset to play the point. The key to Duke's season will be the improvement of Josh McRoberts. McRoberts should blossom into an all-conference type player this season, but it's premature for him to be regarded as an All-American. Late signee Lance Thomas gives Duke an athletic four man, and he should help McRoberts shoulder some of the frontcourt load. Massive freshman Brian Zoubek(7'1, 270 pounds) will alter shots and bang down low. There is a strong collection of young talent in Durham. However, unless Paulus makes a quicker than expected recovery, they will struggle terribly against quick, aggressive teams like Marquette, North Carolina and Georgia Tech. I think Duke should comfortably make the Big Dance, but projections of them being a top 10-15 team are way off.

2. UCLA: The loss of point guard Jordan Farmar and big man Ryan Hollins will hurt a lot more than most experts predict. Farmar's back-up, Darren Collison, did a nice job as a freshman who came in for a change of pace. However, I expect Collison's aggressiveness will cause him to turn the ball too much for a point guard. Also, he lacks a proven back-up. Aaron Afflalo wisely pulled his name out of the NBA Draft, but will he be worried about impressing scouts? Hassan Adams can tell you how that can effect your game. An impressive freshman two seasons ago, Josh Shipp returns from a serious hip injury that forced him to redshirt last season. He appears to have recovered nicely, but you never know with hip injuries. Hollins quietly emerged as a strong post presence during the Bruins late season run. Replacing him will be difficult, especially since there is no proven option. Sophomores Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright have potential, but neither showed a level of consistency last season. The prince, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, was one of the biggest freshman surprised last season. The least heralded member of the Bruins strong 2005 recruiting class, he did a little bit of everything last season. He should be the one consistent member of the squad, although the NBA issue also lingers with him. Once again, I don't expect the Bruins to be a complete failure this season. However, a top 10 ranking is unjustified for a team with so many questions.

3. Kentucky: The last time they missed the NCAA Tournament, the first Bush had just begun his regin of terror. The streak will end this year, as the younger Bush continues to do such a fine job. And yes, politics will play a part in the Cats struggles. Backwoods Kentuckians, probably drunk on moonshine, have continually sabotaged Tubby Smith's regime. Smith, despite winning lots of games at Kentucky in a classy manner, continually has to dodge job threats. While fans point to his struggles in recruiting, I believe the root cause of this to be his job insecurity. Recruits do notwant to commit to a coach who may not be there when they arrive on campus. Smith has made a strong commitment to Kentucky despite overtures from other major schools and the NBA. However, he has not received the same commitment in return. All of this has caused the Cats to have a young, unathletic roster. Ramel Bradley, a natural off guard, will have to be the starting point guard. Freshman Derrick Jasper, also a better fit off the ball, will be Bradley's primary back-up. At the wing spots, junior Joe Crawford, a mild disappointment so far based on his incoming reputation. While Crawford had a much more effective sophomore season, he has not developed into the prolific scorer many scouts projected him to be. Another freshman, Jodie Meeks, has a good chance of earning a starting spot at the the other wing shot. With a reputation as a perimeter marksman, Meeks may be the newcomer most ready to contribute. Seniors Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas will compete for a starting spot in the frontcourt, with Perry likely winning the spot. Perry showed promise as a scorer off the bench last season, and he will need to become a go to guy upfront along with Randolph Morris. Morris had a respectable sophomore season when he finally entered the line-up following a lengthy suspension due to his flirtation with the 2005 Draft. A skilled back to the basket player, Morris needs to put the Cats on his back for them to compete in the loaded SEC. So far, he has not been that type of player. There are questions if he can become that guy? In years past, Tubby Smith has made up for a lack of elite talent. This season, in a conference that will be its toughest in a decade, it will finally catch up to Cats. This should lead to the beginning of a new regime and allow for Tubby to go somewhere his coaching ability and class will be lauded.



>> Friday

All-Time All-Clutch Team member Carlos Beltran struck out looking with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the LCS! How could this be? He's clutch! He's clutch!

Also, Jeff Suppan and Yadier Molina--welcome to the team. Endy Chavez and Oliver Perez, however, since your team didn't win, you only make the All-Clutch farm team. One more grab like that, Endy, and you're on the big club.


Unsung hero comes through in the clutch with grit and moxy

A team that couldn't win 90 games in the regular season is going to the World Series, and I will not sit idly by and watch an MLS post sit atop this blog.



YCS MLS Cup Playoffs Preview

Last weekend, MLS's 32-game regular season league campaign closed. Four teams were eliminated, and the natural selection continues with this and next weekend's MLS Cup Playoffs. 8 teams are still alive in the competition to bring home the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy November 12th in Frisco, TX, home of FC Dallas. Here's a preview of this weekend's Conference Semi-final matches.

This round consists of a two game series, each team hosting one match. The series is decided by total aggregate goals. (ie: If Team X wins the first leg 2-0, but loses the second game 3-0, Team X is out of luck, since they lost 3-2 on aggregate.) Ties go to extra time at the higher seed's stadium.

The marquee matchup of the first round is #3 Chicago Fire vs. #2 New England Revolution.
In an 11-year old league, grudges and fan malice are rare, but Fire-Revs is quickly becoming the bad-blood rivalry of the league. 2006 will be the sixth time in seven seasons that the Fire or Revs have ended the other's season. (Revs lead 3-2 in those encounters.) The series is a rematch of the 2005 Eastern Conference Final. The Fire won the 2006 season series 3-1-1, outscoring New Eng-er-land 9-7.

New England may be losing a number of players to Europe in the offseason, so the pressure is on to win NOW. The Fire on the other hand are a relatively youthful team, including their new goalkeeper, leaving franchise keeper Zach Thornton on the bench in favor of his understudy Matt Pickens. Pickens shone in the Fire's run to the U.S. Open Cup Championship last month, but is still wet behind the ears. ESPN analyst Eric Wynalda picked the Revs, saying they're the better team, but all fan biases aside, Eric Wynalda is full of shit and doesn't know what he's talking about most of the time. The Fire have been on a tear since the All-Star break going 12-3-1 since August 16 (8-3-1 in league play). New England is also hot, having won 4 of their last 5. I predict the Fire win the first leg 2-1 at home, then hold on for dear life against a VERY GOOD New England team, and maybe escape Foxboro with a 1-1 tie. I only make this pick because for whatever reason, Foxboro stopped being a bugaboo for Chicago this year, as the Fire won both contests held at Gillette. Whatever the outcome, I can't see this series being decided by more than one goal. In terms of intangibles, the Fire also hold the distinction of having won their season series against every team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
My Pick: CHICAGO FIRE, 3-2 on aggregate

The other Eastern Semifinal is notable if only because it is this rivalry that spawned one of the first incidents of fan violence among soccer supporters in the US earlier this season . #4 Red Bull New York vs. Supporters Shield Winner #1 DC United. Leg One kicks off at Giants Stadium on Saturday. United may have been the best team in the regular season, but they've been playing like absolute SHITE since the All-star break. United have only won 3 league matches since the All-Star Break (3-6-6), and have lost 4 of their last 5.
DC is a talented team, but history has shown postseason performance follows how you play down the stretch. New York has been playing with urgency the last few weeks to wrest away the final playoff berth. DC has been coasting since July, and I don't think United can turn it on like a lightswitch. I'm calling it right now. The upset special.
My pick: RED BULL NEW YORK, 4-3 on aggregate

The marquee series out west is #2 Houston Dynamo vs. #3 CD Chivas USA. Houston is led by All-Star game MVP Dwayne DeRosario and US International Brian Ching. Houston is as solid a team all around as can be, but have been decidedly average as of late. (4-5-5 since the All-Star Break). Chivas is chock full of veterans, Mexican internationals, and Rookie of the Year candidate Jonathan Bornstein. The two teams tied their season series, each claiming a win and two draws from each other. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one go to PKs, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see Houston move on.

My pick: HOUSTON DYNAMO 5-3 on aggregate. (and dumbass blogger wouldn't let me upload their badge.)

Lastly, we come to #1 FC Dallas vs. #4 Colorado Rapids. Frankly, Dallas is stacked with American talent (Kenny Cooper), and international stars (Carlos Ruiz, Guatemala, Ronnie O'Brien, Ireland, and Saka Hislop, Trinidad). The "Toros" should move on to the Western Conference Final without too much difficulty, but then again, Dallas lost to Colorado in this same round last season.
My Pick: FC DALLAS, 4-1 on aggregate.

I know for a fact that I am going to be a wreck Saturday night in anticipation of the Fire's playoff tilt on Sunday, so let the playoffs soon as possible...for my sake.


YCS College Basketball Preview Part One

>> Wednesday

College basketball practices have started and the season will begin in less than a month. With another exciting season on the horizon, I will take a look at teams I expect to surprise and disappoint and preview all of the major conference races. The preview will culimnate in my projected NCAA Tournament field, Sweet 16, Final Four, and national champion.

In today's preview, I will present three teams that will surprise people and exceed expectations.

1. Tennessee: The Volunteers finally have a men's basketball program that can be featured. While I think of Bruce Pearl as a snake-oil salesman, the man can flat out coach and recruit. Inheriting Buzz Peterson's annual underachievers, Pearl led the Vols to a SEC eastern division championship, finishing ahead of defending national champions Florida during the regular season.

Four key losses, including rock solid point guard C.J. Watson, has led many prognosticators to predict a middle of the pack finish. However, this edition of the Vols will be more talented thanks to an outstanding five man recruiting class.

Chris Lofton, the best shooter a season ago not named Novak or Redick, will lead the Vols. Largely bypassed by hometown Kentucky and Louisville, Lofton scored 17 points a game last season, and has unlimited range. His improved athleticism has catapulted Lofton onto many preseason All-American lists, and he should be a strong candidate for SEC Player of the Year.

The versatile Dane Branshaw will move back to his natural wing position this season, and he should take some off the ballhandling responsibility off of the young guards. Having played both poitn guard and power forward, Branshaw will continue to be an excellent role player. One of the nation's best sixth men, JaJuan Smith, also returns to provide a scoring punch off the bench.
Detroit combo guard Ramar Smith will likely join Lofton and Branshaw in the starting backcourt. A strong scorer in high school, Smith may not be a natural point guard. However, Branshaw's playmaking ability will allow Smith to be more of a lead guard and not worry about being the primary distributor.

Freshman combo guards Marques Johnson, a top 100 player out of Indiana, and Josh Tabb, the talented former Southern Illinois signee, give Pearl a deep backcourt that will allow him to employ his trademark pressure defense.

The frontcourt should be ably manned by two heralded young big men, Duke Crews and Wayne Chism. Crews, the signature recruit in the SEC's top rated class, earned his reputation through his willingness to play strong at the basket. Chism will provide length and athleticism, and could be the rebounder and shot blocker the Vols lacked last season. Frontcourt depth will be an issue, but the attacking style and overall talent and athleticism should mask the problem.

While it may tough to predict how such a young team will perform in March, they will present significant match-up problems all season long and should contend for another SEC East title.

2. Florida State: Projected to finish in the middle of pack in ACC, it would not surprise me if they finished 2nd to North Carolina. While they may be college basketball's version of the Arizona Cardinals, annually underachieving despite a vast amount of talent, I think this season will be different.

The Noles finally have attitude, in the form of Auburn transfer Toney Douglas. Douglas's transfer was an extremely ugly one, and I look for him to have a big chip on his shoulder and silence his critics. Another lead guard who primarily looks for his offensive game, Douglas should give Leonard Hamilton the go-to guy he has searched for since coming to Tallahassee. Talented juniors Isaiah Swann and Jason Rich will likely join Douglas in the Noles three guard attack. Swann can play both on and off the ball, and Rich can fill it up from the perimeter.

One of the ACC's best returning players, Al Thornton, returns to lead the front court. He plays much bigger than his 6'7, 205 pound frame, mixing it up inside. He also does have a solid outside game, which makes him such a difficult match-up. His pro future is likely on the wing, but he successfully plays the four in college.

The other position upfront is still up in the air after Alexander Johnson's early departure to the NBA. A heralded spring signee, Uche Echefu failed to make much of an impact last season. However, he does have a lot of potential and could be the defensive presence down low the Seminoles need. If Echefu cannot get the job done, talented big man Ryan Reid could be the answer. Reid sat out last season due to eligibility issues, but was highly recruited and could be the inside presence that allows the Noles to live up to expectations.

This should be the season Florida State finally returns to the NCAA Tournament, with the ability to do damage when they get there. Of course, I'm the same person continually predicting the Arizona Cardinals as the break out team in the NFL.

3. Baylor: This will be the season when the Bears make headlines for their play on the court. Coach Scott Drew has done a miraculous job in getting top flight talent to Waco.

Their first ever McDonald's All-American, Demond "Tweety" Carter, will provide a huge spark. Although he's just listed at a generous 5'10, the little guy can light up scoreboards. The second all-time leading scorer in high school basketball, Carter should get significant minutes alongside Curtis Jerrells and Aaron Bruce. Jerrells had an excellent freshman season, leading the Bears in scoring and assists. This year, he'll have to focus more on being a creator and distributor, leading the Bears attack. After a huge freshman season where he averaged nearly 18 points a game, Bruce fell off a bit last season. He still finished right behind Jerrells in the aforementioned categories, and should bounce back with more talent around him and the chance to play a full schedule.

After a solid freshman campaign, Kevin Rogers returns to give the Bears a dependable post player. Rogers has the potential to double his 6 point, 4 rebound averages, and he should blossom with the perimeter talenter around him. Mamadou Diane and freshman Josh Lomers will compete for time alongside Rogers. Diane averaged 6 rebounds a game last season, and Lomers came to Baylor after choosing the Bears over instate powers Texas and Texas A&M. The 7'1, 250 Lomers will give the Bears someone who can bang with the talented post players in the conference like A&M's Joseph Jones.

Henry Dugat and Patrick Fields also return to give the Bears some needed depth. Dugat, who can play either backcourt spot, averaged 7 points a game his freshman year. A versatile senior, Fields can fill in on the perimeter and upfront, and gives Baylor an expereience veteran whose experienced a lot during his career. In an inexperienced Big 12, Baylor has a chance of making a Texas A&M like move to the top tier of the conference.

After getting screwed by the NCAA in having to sit out non-conference play last season, they deserve it.

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