Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cheering for Duke

I could (and probably at some time will) write pages worth of words describing why you should root for Duke, but in the interest of time I will just leave you with a link:

Stewart Mandel - "Not so fast, Duke haters: These overachievers are worth rooting for."

It brings up a few key points about why people hate Duke and why that is inaccurate for this year's team. Again, I could go into more detail about this if you would like, but in the meantime try to take some time out to read Mandel's article.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

6 years ago

After my detailed review of the 2nd half of the Baylor - Duke there should be no question about why Duke won the game. However, if you would like more to read check this out. The call was 50/50 and it went against Baylor. There were other calls that went against Duke. Also, for those of you who pointed out that Zoubek would have fouled out and that affected the game keep in mind that he fouled out exactly 2 minutes later. During those 2 minutes he added one defensive rebound and one assist. That is it. Let's move on.

6 years ago I was at the big, yellow house (305 N College) in Oxford, OH watching Duke in the 2004 Final Four. I remember being upset at the poorly officiated game and how Emeka Okafor scored whenever he wanted after all of Duke's front line fouled out. That was a frustrating night. It would have been even more frustrating if I knew that Duke wouldn't make it back until I was 5 years removed from college, UNC would have 2 titles and that my brother-in-law would have suddenly become a UNC fan. I had just turned 21 shortly before the Duke-Uconn game and that served itself well during that Saturday night at the bar.

I am obviously hoping for a different outcome this Saturday night against West Virginia. I thought this Duke team's ceiling was the Elite 8, but now that they have made it to the Final Four I am starting to get greedy. It would be nice to match UNC's title from last year with a Duke title. Also, if Duke won I am in line to win around $160 from two brackets. I might even spend part of that prize to buy a NIT Champion shirt for my favorite Tar Heel fan.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Duke - Baylor 2nd half

Some people have been complaining that Duke got all the calls in the Baylor game on Sunday. Despite my beliefs that the game was called evenly I thought I would watch the 2nd half over again to see if those people had a right to complain.
  • Duke's 1st possession - Scheyer hits a 3. Nothing close to a foul happens or is called.
  • Baylor's 1st possession - Lomers hits a layup. No foul called or happened.
  • Duke's 2nd possession - Bad pass about Zoubek leads to a turnover. No foul called or happened.
  • Baylor's 2nd possession - Looks like a possible moving screen by Lomers leads to an open 3 that is missed, but rebounded for an easy dunk for Udoh.
  • Duke's 3rd possession - Thomas misses an easy shot. Zoubek with a rebound and a put back. No foul called or happened.
  • Baylor's 3rd possession - Anthony Jones hits a wide open 3. No foul called or happened.
  • Duke's 4th possession - Smith finds Singler underneath. He pumps fake and gets two Baylor players up in the air. They come down on him as he is shooting and a foul is rightly called. Singler hits the first free throw and misses the second. The second one goes long and Scheyer gets the ball. He shoots a 3 pointer and obviously gets fouled by Lomers. Replays are clear on this Clark Kellogg remarks on Lomer's "poor judgement" and how that is "almost inexcusable." Scheyer hits all 3 free throws.
  • Baylor's 4th possession - Dunn drives and shoots a wild left handed lay-up as Miles Plumlee gets called for a foul. It looks clear that Dunn initiates the contact with Plumlee who is just moving his feet next to Dunn as Dunn just jumps into him. Kellogg "he gets his body into the shot-blocker." I don't know how that is a foul? Dunn misses the free throw. Questionable call number one against Duke.
  • Duke's 5th possession. Smith drives through the zone and gets fouled by Udoh. It looks like a foul, but there were no up close replays that conclusively show that. Udoh and Baylor don't seem to complain much. The announcers don't say anything about it. It would be a stretch to say this was a questionable call against Baylor. Smith knocks down both shots.
  • Baylor's 5th possession. Dunn misses a contested three and Plumlee gets the rebound. No foul called or happened.
  • Duke's 6th possession. Smith misses a shot. Duke gets the board. Singler misses a driving layup. No foul called or happened.
  • Baylor's 6th possession. Carter misses a layup. No foul called or happened. (After this just assume no foul called or happened if I don't write any more.)
  • Duke's 7th possession. Smith got the rebound and took it coast to coast before getting hammered by Dunn. This is a no question foul that leaves Smith on the floor as Dunn comes over to try and help him out. Smith hits both free throws.
  • Baylor's 7th possession. Baylor misses a baseline jump shot, but gets the rebound. Udoh then takes the ball into Plumlee and gets and Mason gets called for a foul. Watching it at real speed I see no foul, but in slow motion there might be a foul on Plumlee's off-hand gently placed on Udoh's hip. The refs call a blocking foul, which seems questionable. I really don't see a foul, but I think the refs didn't like the fact that Duke was up 9 to 2 on free throws. Questionable foul number two on Duke. Udoh hits both two free throws with 15:35 left in the half.
  • Duke's 8th possession. Smith hits a jumper from the elbow after Duke's breaks the press. No foul called or happened.
  • Baylor's 8th possession. Dunn shoots another contested shot and Scheyer gets the rebound.
  • Duke's 9th possession. Scheyer misses a 3. Duke gets the rebound, but throws the ball away for a turnover.
  • Baylor's 9th possession. Udoh misses a jump hook. Duke gets the rebound.
  • Duke's 10th possession. Singler misses a layup, but Zoubek rebounds it for an easy layup.
  • Baylor's 10th possession. Off ball foul called against Lance Thomas as he is pushing Udoh out near the 3 point line. I would say this was another questionable call, but it really didn't matter that much, so I will let it pass. Zoubek then steals the inbounds pass/
  • Duke's 11th possession. Smith misses a 3 pointer and Zoubek gets fouled for pushing a Baylor player in the back. Looks like a good call, even if it is rarely called. Thomas is upset, but I can't tell if he is upset with the call (Zoubek's 4th with 13:38 left) or the fact that Zoubek has to go to the bench now. Team fouls are now even in the 2nd half at 4.
  • Baylor's 11th possession. Carter misses a 3 and Duke gets the rebound.
  • Duke's 12th possession. Scheyer misses a 3 and Walton from Baylor gets the rebound.
  • Baylor's 12th possession. Dunn misses a shot, but Udoh gets the rebound. As Udoh is going up for the shot you see a do a sideways dive into Udoh and a foul is called on Thomas. This is a blatant missed call. Replays clearly show Dunn shoving Thomas with two hands into Udoh. The only reason Thomas is falling at Udoh's feet is because he was pushed. Scheyer and Duke's players complain and point at Dunn, but the announcers don't mention anything. Definite wrong call number one on Duke. Udoh makes one free throw at the 12:27 mark.
  • Duke's 13th possession. Mason Plumlee takes the ball into Udoh's body (similar to Dunn taking into Miles Plumlee's body earlier) and doesn't get the foul called. The ball goes out of bounds off Duke. This is the correct no call, even though in other plays it might be called a foul. Scheyer then gets the ball of a hand off from Plumlee and as he is bobbling the ball some fans want a travel called. Good no call though as Scheyer never had possession of the ball and you can't call a travel without possession. The possession ends with a missed 3 and a missed tip-in before Baylor gets the ball.
  • Baylor's 13th possession. Dunn misses a contested 3 and the ball bounces off a Baylor player.
  • Duke's 14th possession. Smith misses a running floater and the ball goes off Baylor. Udoh tries to get a charge call on Smith's shot, but nothing is called on his flop. The announcers say nothing about any no call. Off the inbounds Miles Plumlee then gets his shot blocked by Udoh.
  • Baylor's 14th possession. On the break Jones from Baylor gets the ball and gets hammered by two Duke players. Good foul called. Jones misses both free throws.
  • Duke's 15th possession. Smith hits a tear drop runner.
  • Baylor's 15th possession. Carter hits an impressive layup over Mason Plumlee.
  • Duke's 16th possession. Smith misses a shot and the Zoubek off the board gets his shot blocked by Udoh.
  • Baylor's 16th possession. Udoh goes off a screen, gets the ball and dunks it in. Game tied at 51 as Duke calls a timeout with 9:39 left.
  • Duke's 17th possession. Singler misses a 3.
  • Baylor's 17th possession. Dunn has the ball cleanly stolen by Smith.
  • Duke's 18th possession. Scheyer makes a good pass to Thomas, who pump fakes and gets a Baylor player up in the air. He then goes up for the shot and gets fouled by the player who was fooled by the fake. The Baylor player clearly hits him on the arm and the announcers don't mention anything as the replay is shown. Good call. Thomas makes both free throws with 8:48 left in the game.
  • Baylor's 18th possession. Good pass by Udoh to Lomers for an easy layup. Baylor's home crowd (again playing in Houston) gets on their feet.
  • Duke's 19th possession. Singler takes the ball into Lomers and gets the foul called. A replay is shown and Kellogg praises Singler from going right at him "to draw that foul." I guess you can't say this was definitely 100% accurate, but I also don't think you can call this a questionable foul. Lomers is shaking his head as he heads for the bench and I feel bad for all those Duke conspiracy people out there, so I will give this the first questionable call that goes against Baylor. Lomers is out of the game and the possession results in a turnover as Singler goes up for a shot. It looks like the ball is slapped out of Singler's hands by a Baylor player and then hits a Baylor's player foot before hitting out of bounds and then hitting Singler. It looks like the ref has a better angle than I do, so I will side with him.
  • Baylor's 19th possession. A few missed shots by Baylor and Zoubek comes down with the board.
  • Duke's 20th possession. After a sloppy possession and a few misses shots Zoubek finally comes down with the ball and gets fouled. No complaints and no commentary on the call. This was a great hustle play by Duke. Zoubek makes one of two free throws.
  • Baylor's 20th possession. Dunn makes a layup that really shows you how talented he and all of Baylor is and how they could beat anyone on any given night.
  • Duke's 21st possession. Thomas gets cleanly blocked by Udoh, but gets the ball back. This leads to a dumb reach in foul (you can see Dunn's hand on Thomas's arm) by Baylor. Thomas misses the front end of the 1 and 1.
  • Baylor's 21st possession. Dunn goes up for a crazy shot in traffic and a foul gets called on Thomas. Looking at the replay two times I guess they called a foul on Thomas stepping on another Baylor's player foot. At first glance it looked like the Baylor player stumbled, but I guess that might have been a result of Thomas's foot even though replays are unclear. One thing that is clear is that Dunn was not fouled on the shot. Questionable call number three on Duke. Dunn hits both free throws with 5:44 left. Baylor is up 3 and the team fouls are 8 on Baylor and 7 on Duke.
  • Duke's 22nd possession. Scheyer misses a 3, but gets another chance after Mason Plumlee gets a rebound. He reloads and hits this one to tie the game at 57.
  • Baylor's 22nd possession. Acy slips the screen and is rewarded with an easy dunk.
  • Duke's 23rd possession. Zoubek gets his shot blocked by Udoh.
  • Baylor's 23rd possession. This is the possession that almost everyone is commenting about as Acy with 4:37 left in the game drives in (out of control for the record) and a 50/50 block or charge call goes Duke's way as the refs call a block. Kellogg "it was very close." Baylor's home crowd doesn't like the call. Questionable call #2 against Baylor. Baylor is up 2 with over 4 minutes to go and Duke's ball.
  • Duke's 24th possession. Scheyer misses a 3, but Thomas gets the rebound and kicks it out to Nolan Smith who drains the 3 for a one point Duke lead.
  • Baylor's 24th possession. Udoh uses his free hand to get separation from Thomas and knocks down a tough left-handed shot to put Baylor up a point.
  • Duke's 25th possession. Carter fouls Smith by sticking his leg out to stop his progress. This is a no doubt tripping foul even if it is a "touch foul." Smith makes the first free throw. He misses the second one long, but Thomas gets another offensive board and passes it out to Smith who then hits a huge 3 pointer to give Duke the lead.
  • Baylor's 25th possession. Jones drives and Zoubek tries to take a charge that is almost the exact same play that wasn't called when Udoh tried to take a charge on Smith back on Duke's 14th possession. Good no call. Udoh then misses a shot (as he is guarded by Scheyer of all players) and Zoubek gets the board.
  • Duke's 26th possession. Off a Zoubek pass Scheyer knocks down the biggest 3 of his life as he gives Duke a 6 point lead with only 2:35 left.
  • Baylor's 26th possession. Udoh drives to the basket and lowers his body into Zoubek to get his 5th foul called. Zoubek pleads his case with both arms held out wide to ask the ref what he did. I really don't know. Questionable foul #4 on Duke. Udoh makes the first free throw and then misses the 2nd, but gets his own rebound. Dunn then misses a 3 and Smith gets the rebound. Duke is up 5 with 2:13 left.
  • Duke's 27th possession. Singler shoots and misses from the corner. Thomas follows up though and dunks the ball home as he gets fouled by Udoh. It is hard to see a foul on Udoh and even though nobody on Baylor complains and the announcers don't question the call (even after multiple replays) I will say this is the 3rd questionable call against Baylor. After the free throw Duke has an 8 point lead instead of a 7 point lead with 1:36 left.
  • Baylor's 27th possession. Singler steals a really low percentage pass.
  • Duke's 28th possession. Scheyer is trapped and as he is getting fouled calls a timeout. he flails his arms a little bit and Acy from Baylor takes offense to that call and runs up and bumps Nolan Smith. This is a no doubt contact technical foul in my mind, but it doesn't really matter though as Duke already has an 8 point lead with 1:19 left. Even if a T isn't called the game is all but over. Jim Nantz calls this an "enormous call." It isn't. Scheyer hits 2 free throws and then Singler turns the ball over.
  • Baylor's 28th possession. After a few missed shots Udoh hits a tip in with 47 seconds left and Baylor is down 8.
Game Over. Duke shoots 8 more free throws the rest of the game as Baylor intentionally fouls since they are down with not much time left.

  • Questionable calls against Baylor: 3
  • Questionable calls against Duke: 4
  • 1 blatant missed call against Duke.
  • Duke's free throws (before intentional fouls) - 19 attempts
  • Baylor's free throws - 19 attempts.
Duke won the game because of rebounding and 3 point shooting. They are and were the better team. I challenge anyone to watch a replay of the game and question my analysis of any of the possessions. I know I am biased towards Duke, but I really don't believe an objective person could find much validity with the argument that the refs favored Duke.

Final/Frozen Four

Duke won. Miami won. If you don't care about sports then this post isn't for you, since all I really care about at this point is that both Duke and Miami are one of the final four teams left in their respective sports. First Duke beat Baylor and then Miami beat Michigan. Over a course of a 7 hour time period I was ranged from all different types of emotions as both games were toss-ups. The fact that both 50/50 games broke the correct way was very fortunate. Here are some thoughts on both games.

  • What a great game and incredible tournament so far for Nolan Smith. He has elevated his game this year and then took another big step over the tournament. It wasn't just the tear drops or 3 pointers on offense, but also the tough man-to-man defense he played that really made the difference for Duke.

  • Jon Scheyer has hit some big shots (Duke at UNC this year, Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, etc) in his career at Duke, but none were bigger than the two he hit at the end of this game. The shot he hit with that put Duke up 6 with 2:37 left in the game was the biggest shot of his life and something that took major onions.

  • Calm down everyone about the refs. The block/charge call on Zoubek was a tough 50/50 call that went against Baylor. There were a few of those that went against Duke. It was an evenly called game (before Baylor had to foul at the end free throws were even at 19 attempts each) that Duke won because they made more plays. To say that Duke got all the calls is inaccurate and lazy.

  • One call that I didn't see replayed on Sportscenter was when Lance Thomas was shoved into a Baylor player and Thomas sideswiped the Baylor player and got called from a foul. I wondered why Thomas was diving at a Baylor player, so I rewinded the DVR and saw the Baylor player give a two handed push that sent Thomas diving.

  • One great thing about this Duke team is that they all know their roles. Smith, Scheyer and Singler are going to do the scoring and the post players are going to set picks, play defense and get massive amount of offensive rebounds. The fact that everyone on this team is willing to accept their roles makes this a well-rounded team that could win the National Title. Sometimes it isn't just about having the best or most talented players.

  • Andre Dawkins is the one player who gets the most support compared to actual production from me. I love watching him as a player and always find myself cheering for him to do well. Ever since the Wisconsin game where he nearly single handily brought Duke back I have thought that he has a chance to be one of the best pure 3 point shooters in Duke history. That being written I was extremely happy to see Dawkins knock down two big 3 pointers in the 1st half of the game. His 2nd three right before the end of the half cut a 6 point Baylor lead in half and was a huge, probably forgotten shot of the game.

  • Lance Thomas really redeemed himself after a terrible 1st half, where he tried to do too much scoring. In the 2nd half he really stuck to his role and got some huge offensive rebounds and kick outs. In addition to that his follow up dunk of Singler's last shot put the game on ice.

  • Congrats Duke. These players have gone through a lot (personally and basketball related) and deserve all the accolades that they get.

Miami 3 - Michigan 2: Double OT

  • Hockey is a boring, confusing sport that can be painfully frustrating to watch. It moves quickly and there is always something going on, but the lack of consistent scoring can be tiring. Also, the fact that some goals seem to be based solely on luck seems to make it the most luck based sport out of football, basketball or baseball.
  • Michigan should have won that game. Besides a 5-10 minute stretch in the 3rd period they looked like a better team.
  • That 5-10 minute stretch was described as "the best Miami has played all year" by the announcer. The score at the beginning of that stretch was 2-2 and the score at the end of the stretch was 2-2. Can you see why I find the sport incredibly frustrating? In no other sport could you dominate without gaining an advantage on the scoreboard.
  • Both Miami and Michigan had shots at the end of the game that clanked against the goal post. That has to be the worst feeling for a hockey player. To know that 1 inch to the left you score a goal that wins the game and send your team to the Frozen Four.
  • Michigan had one goal disallowed because of an early whistle. In a game with only 5 overall goals to have one goal not counted because of a bad call is like having the refs give 30 more free throws to a basketball team. I would feel bad for them except they are Michigan and I like to think this karmic payback for the way their fans acted when I went up to Ann Arbor to see Miami play Michigan in 2004.
  • M and I went to go see the game at Joe Senser's. After 4 hours and the end of 3 periods and an overtime there was no chance I was convincing M to stay any longer. The good thing is that I made it home in time to see the winning goal by watching ESPN-U online.
  • My love of Miami can best be expressed by the fact that I spent 4+ hours watching a hockey game. I think that overall 80% of my hockey watching history has been spent watching the Redhawks.
  • Now Miami has a week and a half to rest before facing BC in Detroit in the Frozen Four. That will give me a week and a half to get ready for another hockey game.
  • Congrats Miami. I hope you are able to continue to the redemption all the way to a title.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Elite 8

I can't remember a day that has been this important for two of my favorite sports teams. At 4pm Duke tries to make it back to the Final Four for the first time since 2004. This Duke team isn't as talented as other Duke teams (including probably last year's team), but that doesn't mean they aren't a better team. Also, it doesn't mean that as of now they might be the *favorite to win it all. All along I have been hesitant to embrace this Duke team because I always thought next year would be their year. The peak of this year's team always seemed to be the Elite 8. Now they have reached that level and are a win a way of exceeding my expectations. I don't expect it to happen because Baylor is a very good team and they are playing a practical home game. I saw this game coming when the brackets were announced and at the time I picked Baylor to win. I still think that will happen, but of course I am holding out hope that I was wrong for picking Baylor and wrong for underestimating this Duke team.

*Right now I would consider West Virginia to be the favorite though.

Then after that game I think I will be heading over to a bar to watch the Miami University Redhawks compete against Michigan for a spot in the Frozen Four. Yes, that means two of my favorite teams are playing today for a spot in the Final/Frozen Four. You already are probably well aware of how much I want Duke to win, but Miami's victory would almost be a nice. After last's year epic collapse in the championship game I have been cheering on Miami during this season of redemption. They have played well all year and are the #1 ranked team heading into the tournament. They beat Alabama-Huntsville yesterday and now are just one more win away from going to the Frozen Four. I am trying not to get too excited since hockey is one of the toughest sports to predict (example - RIT making it to the Frozen Four this year or Bemidji St/Miami making it to the Frozen Four last year), but I really feel like this is the year for Miami. They have two incredible goaltenders and they seemed primed to deliver Miami's first national title back to Oxford.

To recap I am predicting Miami to win and Duke to lose. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the other way around or if both teams won or loss. In fact I would imagine the odds would be 25% both teams win, 25% both teams lose, 25% Duke/Miami wins and 25% Duke/Miami lose. I have already brought up the word redemption in this post and really that is what today represents for Duke and Miami. For Duke they are trying for redemption from previous tournament failures and for having to watch the Tar Heels cut down the nets in Detroit last year. Scheyer is trying to add his name to the list of senior leaders that have led Duke to the Final Four. Zoubek is trying to continue his year long redemption of someone who after 3 unproductive years is finally putting it all together in his last year. For Miami I already wrote about how they are trying for redemption from last year's bitter ending. With the many uses of the word redemption there isn't much more to do than leave you with a quote from The Shawshank Redemption:

"Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things." - Andy Dufresne

Friday, March 26, 2010

Commercials (part two)

Two months ago I wrote a post about commercials that were bothering me. Now that some time has past and I have had more than a little bit of exposure to commercials thanks to March Madness I will add a few more to my list. The first one has been bugging me for about a year now. The great Joe Posnanski gave his opinion on this commercial, which validates the opinions that I have had about such a terrible ad. Below is comments on the BW3 overtime NBA game commercial from his post on the great Kansas St-Xavier game.

First Commercial - Buffalo Wild Wings - italics are Joe Posnanski's opinion

This feeling would later be articulated in one of the most egregious sports commercials ever made — the Buffalo Wild Wings commercial where the guy in the Boston jersey says those very words, “I wish this game would never end.” This then inspires the bartender to hit some sort of bat cave button that alerts a photographer at the game to use a very bright flash and blind a Boston player as he breaks away for what would have been the game-winning basket. The photographer later blinds the the Boston mascot who shoots a T-shirt into the general groin area (more on general groin areas in a minute) of a Boston player who promptly gets hit in the head with the ball, prompting a second overtime.

There is no way to break down ALL the things wrong with this commercial but I’ll give you just three.
  1. In the commercial, Boston is playing New York. There is no way a Boston fan — even a clearly clueless and potentially drunken one like the guy in the bar — would prefer overtime to a victory over a New York team. I don’t care how good the wings are supposed to be. Also, this Boston fan is seen cheering when the New York guy dunks the ball to tie the game. Cannot happen.

  2. We are led to believe that Boston called timeout just before the first photographer flash-out — led to believe this by an announcer who says “timeout Boston” — so you’re telling me that with the score tied and 6.1 seconds left, the Boston coach designed a play that led to a wide-open breakaway lay-up? And the New York coach decided to have NO PLAYERS on the defensive half? Come on.

  3. If you watch closely in overtime, you will see that when the mascot hits the Boston player in the general groin area with a T-shirt, there is 1.5 seconds left, and then the guy THROWS IT INTO THE POST with .8 seconds left — that guy wasn’t getting a shot off anyway. The clock runs out before the guys hits the floor. The same coach who designed that breakaway layup play designed that stupid play?

Second Commercial - Southwest - Bags fly free ad.

As you will see with my critique with the 3rd commercial is that I don't like ads that focus on small details of their company. Well Southwest has put all of their eggs in the "bags fly free" basket and have bought what seems to be 10,000 ad spots from CBS. The ad (for those of you who haven't seen it) shows a bunch of Southwest bag handlers who run up next to a competitor's plane. They then rip off their shirts to reveal painted out letters that spell "Bags Fly Free" as they scream in what seems to be a Braveheart ripoff. Anyway, it isn't nearly as bad as the BW3 ad (I can't imagine another ad being that bad), but after seeing it once every 30 minutes it definitely has gotten on my nerves.

Third Commercial - AT&T - Luke Wilson ad's describing AT&T's service.

You have to love AT&T's marketing strategy. At first it seemed like they were trying to combat Verizon's aggressive "We have a map for that" ad that touted Verizon has better coverage. AT&T's counterattack brought to mind an old lower school chant that used to happen during pep rallies at my school. I don't know if this happened at your school, but during lulls in the action one side would start the chant "We've got spirit...yes we do....We've got about you?" The other side would repeat the chant back and this would go on back in forth until one side decided to try and end the debate with the chant "We've got more...We've got more." It was riveting stuff as an 8 year old. Well Verizon seemed to start this game with something like "We've got coverage...yes we do....we've got about you?" AT&T had no answer besides the refrain "We've got more."

Now, that strategy seems to either have been sidelined or maybe it is on channels I don't watch. In its place is fat Luke Wilson (where have you gone Godfather?) who is in random situations where he is able to not only talk on his phone but also surf the web at the same time. So in one corner you have Verizon pointing out that you get a better service with them over AT&T. In the other corner you have AT&T trying to position themselves as the premier phone company for those people who just have to be able to talk on the phone and also get on the web. It seems to me that a lot more people would care about service than about this random, seemingly insignificant detail with AT&T's service. As an AT&T stock holder I am slightly concerned with their marketing strategy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Final Four picks

In yesterday's post I broke down my initial thoughts on the bracket. Today I have done a little a more in depth research. My main points of interest I used in determining who would win were:
  1. RPI ranking

  2. Kenpom ranking

  3. Where is the game being played? (The closer a site is to the school the better)

I tried not to take into account what teams I liked, but some times that slipped through in my picks. With that being written here are my picks

1st round (upsets in bold)

  • Midwest: Kansas, UNLV, Michigan St, Maryland, San Diego St., Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Ohio St.

  • West: Syracuse, Florida St, UTEP, Vandy, Xavier, Pitt, BYU, Kansas St.

  • East: Kentucky, Texas, Temple, Wisconsin, Washington, New Mexico, Clemson, West Virginia.

  • South: Duke, Cal, Utah St, Siena, Notre Dame, Baylor, Richmond, Nova.

2nd round (upsets in bold)

  • Midwest: Kansas, Maryland, Georgetown, Ohio St.

  • West: Syracuse, UTEP, Xavier, BYU

  • East: *Texas, Wisconsin, New Mexico, West Virginia

  • South: Duke, Utah St, Baylor, Nova

*Yes, I am picking Texas over Kentucky. This is a combination of me disliking Kentucky so much and the fact that I think there is a chance Texas can finally use all their talent and stop underachieving. Also, I was going to pick Wisconsin to beat Kentucky anyway, so I thought I would just knock Kentucky a round early.

Elite 8 matchups: Kansas vs. Ohio St. Syracuse vs BYU. Wisconsin vs West Virginia. Duke vs. Baylor.

Final Four: Kansas, Syracuse, West Virginia, *Baylor

*Houston is a 3 hour drive from Waco, Texas. Durham is 18.5 hours away. The only team with a bigger complaint would be Syracuse if they play BYU in the Elite 8. Even so if both scenario played out as I predicted I would still probably play a #7 seeded BYU team in Salt Lake City than a #3 seeded Baylor team in Houston. My hope is that my bracket is wrong and Notre Dame can beat Baylor in the 2nd round.

Championship: Kansas over West Virginia.

Kansas is the best team and I can't see anyone beating them in the tournament. I wish I could pick another team to win, but from everything I look at it seems like Kansas has to be the prohibitive favorite.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bracket Analysis

Selection Sunday is always an exciting day for me. The hour long show where the brackets are announced is kind of like Christmas morning. For the past few years it has revolved around Duke's draw and that is where I would like to start.

Beginning in the South I hate the potential 2nd round matchup against Louisville or California. Louisville has a really good team, coach and an inside player (Samardo Samuels) who might foul out Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and both the Plumlees. California won the Pac 10 regular season title and is ranked 14th in's ratings. In adjusted offensive rankings they are the 3rd best team in the nation. The two teams ahead of them are #1 seeds Duke and Kansas. Duke might be fortunate to make it to the 2nd weekend.

After that if Duke is able to make it to Houston then I think things will be easier than other #1 seeds. I am not too scared of Villanova (despite the beatdown that the Wildcats put on Duke in last year's tournament), Purdue, Texas A&M, Baylor or Notre Dame. However, it is a little bit worrying that they could play Texas A&M and Baylor in Houston. That hardly seems fair. Another thing is for sure is that the teams in the South can score. There is the #1 ranked (Duke), 3rd ranked (Cal), 4th ranked (Notre Dame), 5th ranked (Baylor) and 7th ranked (Villanova) offensive teams. Some analyst might think this region on a total level is week, but don't count me as someone who thinks Duke will have a cake walk to the Final Four.

One thing I dislike about the brackets is when my Final Four *underdogs are placed in the same region as my National Title winner. All along this year I have thought Kansas will win the title and nothing has happened this year that has altered my opinion of that. Now of course they get placed in the Midwest with Ohio St (who were absolutely screwed with their draw), Georgetown and Maryland. Those are some good teams and any of those 3 teams were teams I would think about picking to go to the Final Four....if they weren't matchup up against Kansas. Bad luck with that draw means I will have to look outside those teams for potential Final Four underdogs.

*Underdogs being any seed that isn't a number 1.

I don't think Kentucky is going to get of the East. Call it karma, reversal of luck, or not having the SEC refs to do them any favors, but I think that somebody else is going to make it from that region. Right now I am tossing around the idea of putting Wisconsin, New Mexico, or West Virginia in the Final Four. Regardless of any analysis I do I am not going to pick Kentucky. With UNC out of the tournament (congrats on the NIT draw by the way) I am nominating UK as the team I want most to lose.

In the West I want to pick Kansas St to make the Final Four, but it is hard picking a #2 seed where you are aren't very confident that they will win their 2nd round game against BYU. I know I am quoting this site a lot, but both Kansas St and BYU are ranked 7th and 9th on kenpom. That seems like two high rankings for a 2nd round matchup. There is a lot of confusion on this bracket, which might mean I just stick to chalk and pick Syracuse.

There is time think it over and get over the fact that Mississippi St. didn't make the *field.

*For the record Mississippi St. should have beat Kentucky twice this year. The calls in the first game were all-time bad, but the sequel was also pretty tough to watch. The final free throw in regulation had two huge lane violations that should have been called before Cousins even had a chance to tie the game. It was so frustrating that it took away a lot of the joy I got from watching Duke win the ACC title. It would have been one thing to see State lose and not make the tournament, but to see them lose in such a heartbreaking, unjust way was too much.

Friday, March 12, 2010

To UNC fans

Your season is over. You spend your waking hours checking for to see if the Tar Heels are one of the last four teams in NIT bubble projections. How have things gone so wrong? Well this friendly Duke fan has a few teams that I think you should consider rooting for as they try to make the NCAA tournament:
  • Miami University – My former school is in the semifinals of the MAC tournament against Ohio University, which means they are only two wins away from the tournament. The odds aren't good (estimate 20%), but who doesn’t like a good underdog story. Also, just like UNC they lost by 2 points at Kentucky.
  • University of Miami – Just in case you like all teams named Miami.
  • NC State – You probably don’t want to root for your in-state rival Duke, so why not throw your support around the red headed stepchild of North Carolina.
  • University of Southern Mississippi – Another underdog who is the semifinals of their conference tournament. Could this be the year of Eagle with a College World Series appearance and a NCAA tournament?
  • UVA – You get the bonus of rooting against Duke.
  • Georgia Tech – They must be a powerhouse team considering they beat the defending national champions 3 times.
  • Ole Miss – Isn't it time for something good to happen for Ole Miss athletics?
  • N.J.I.T – The ultimate underdog…a 10-20 team is only two wins away from the tournament. The crazy thing about those 10 wins is that they represent a 10X improvement over last year’s 1-30 season. Oh yeah in 2007-2008 they went 0-29.

Just some suggestions.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A special message...

For those of you who missed the game last night here is a quick recap. Duke is a incredible team at home. UNC is a terrible team on the road. Duke is a great three point shooting team. UNC's defense sometimes forgets that college basketball has a three point line. Add that all up and you can see why Duke beat UNC by 32 points. Since I don't know when this will happen again forgive me if I don't repeat that Duke won 82-50 on Senior Night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It has been too long since Duke beat UNC at Cameron and there is no guarantee that once Harrison Barnes arrives in Chapel Hill that Duke will able to even win at all next year.

Until next year though I will relish in the fact that a team with something like 7 McDonald's All-Americans is this unwatchable. How can a team that was predicted to win the ACC title be on the NIT bubble? Make no mistake about it UNC's team this year is awful. They have a lot of talent, but they don't play together well. It is as if Isiah Thomas put together the team. Anyway, as noted in the subject line it is time for the special message from a friend and family member of mine:

"Enjoy the NIT. Dat's not a joke. I'm dead serious" - Henry

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Twins schedule

I just finished my first Twins ticket draft. I went in on season tickets with some friends and today we went through the season and picked what games we wanted to see. I bought 5 tickets and my starting point was the last pick in the first round. Below are the games I selected in the order of when I selected them.

  • 1st pick - Friday night: May 21st against the Brewers
  • 2nd pick - Friday night: April 16th against the Royals
  • 3rd pick - Wednesday night: September 1st against the 2nd place Detroit Tigers
  • 4th pick - Sunday day game: August 15th against the Athletics
  • 5th pick -Sunday day game: April 18th against the Royals

Here are my thoughts on the draft:
  • It is very much like a fantasy football draft. Same mix of excitement and anxiety of what you will pick. For me my main concern was not being stuck with a game that I couldn't attend because of a conflict.
  • The best thing during the draft was when someone would take one of those red letter games (I highlighted the games I couldn't attend) and I could happily cross it off my list.
  • All of the Red Sox and Yankees games went in the first round before my pick. This is despite the fact all of those games were weekday games. You can see the appeal of those two teams.
  • I almost botched my first pick of the draft. I wanted to go see a Braves-Twins game and my first pick was going to be the June 11th game. Thankfully I remember just in time (2 seconds after the words came out of my mouth) that my friend is getting married that night. I was able to take that pick back and switch it the Brewers game.
  • The way the draft worked out I ended up with 2 games against the Royals in April. I liked those games because they were the first Friday night game and Sunday afternoon game at Target Field. The cons of that are I am currently lined up to see four Royals-Twins games in a 8 day time frame when you combine those two games with the two games I am planning on seeing at my bachelor party.
  • I wanted to make sure to get a Sunday afternoon game, so that I can take advantage of outdoor baseball and a Minnesota summer. The 4th pick of an August day game against the A's was an easy pick.
  • I couldn't believe my last pick was the first Sunday afternoon game. I didn't want to take it because of all the Royals games I am scheduled to see, but it was a much better option than any of the other games available.
  • I have a trade pending that would trade the Sunday afternoon game against the Royals (the one described above) and the Brewers game for a June night game against the Rockies and a July day Sunday day game against the White Sox. That would give me a better distribution of tickets since I would have a game in April, June, July, August and September.

Anyway, I am excited for the Twins season.

Flight cost

One of my favorite blogs is the Freakanomics blog on the NY Times website. They usually have interesting takes on unusual topics. I enjoy reading how certain things are looked at from an economics viewpoint. Well I had this one experience this past week that made me curious enough to try and get their opinion on it. Below is the email I sent to one of the writers on the blog (and the co-auther of the two books) and I thought I would share it with you.

Mr. Dubner,

As an avid reader of both your books and your Freakanomics blog I was hoping to get your take on an economics problem that is perplexing me. I would like to fly from Minneapolis (MSP) to Memphis (MEM) to meet up with my brother-in-law to go see an Ole Miss baseball game in May. I looked at flight prices on and discovered the flight I wanted would cost $398. My brother-in-law suggested I look at flying into Jackson (JAN). When I changed the final destination to Jackson the flights all came in at below $300. The bizarre thing is the flights that are below $300 fly through Memphis . Why would this be? Why would it be less expensive to fly from Minneapolis to Memphis to Jackson than it would be to fly from Minneapolis to Memphis ? I checked the dates and the times and found the exact same flights, so that can’t be the answer. If you would like to see the flights I am referring to please refer to the attached grid with a summary on one tab and screenshots on the other tabs.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email and I look forward to your response.