Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

At the start of each semester, I take a look at the classes I have to go to each day, what subjects they are, and reflect on the semester before it. How did I do? Did I ace Astronomy, but fall a little behind on my Latin? Did I have a stretch of bad test grades in the beginning, but somehow found a way to pull off a B+? These are the questions I ask myself, and every semester I have the same feeling: I am going to get a 4.0 this semester. Every project will be completed on time to the best of my ability, every test will be passed with flying colors. Yet, midway through the semester, the landscape looks vastly different. That Comm class? Acing it. That Thermodynamics class with the lab? Not so much. And by the end, I am exhausted. I didn't get a 4.0. Every class wasn't as easy as I thought, nor did I put in my best efforts each and every day. And then we get a break, and by the next semester, hope springs eternal.

Opening Day is exactly like that. Every team looks at their squad, their schedule, their division, and thinks: "We've got a shot to pull this one out". That young kid that tore up the minors and made the team out of spring training? He's gonna be the Rookie of the Year. The number two starter who didn't have his best year last year? He's going to bounce back. Everybody thinks they have a shot.

And why not? That's not to say that the Royals have as equally great a shot to win the World Series as the Red Sox, but that's not the point. Opening Day is about thinking about the future, envisioning successes that come out of the blue and guys realizing their full potential. If you don't think you can win, you don't belong in this game.

Opening Day is the greatest of all days in baseball because every team is equal. Every team is as close to the dogpile on the mound after the final out in the World Series as any other team. And then the summer wears on, pretenders fade from view, and the best of the best duke it out for a ring. And then, after the trees lose their leaves, and that groundhog sees his shadow (or not), everybody looks at their roster, and dreams of the chase for the ring in October once again.

Will Anyone Stop the Sox?

Even though we are in the midst of March Madness, most Americans have had the words “Opening Day” on their lips for several months now. Baseball is the game of choice in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave—no doubt about that. Along with the first real pitch of the year comes the speculation about which team will be the last one standing this fall. This debate this year should be somewhat different...not who will be the World Series Champion, but rather, will anyone be able to stop the Boston Red Sox?

The 2010 campaign was only the second year in the past nine where the Sox failed to eclipse the 90 win threshold. Although many fans around the country would be glad to see their team post 89 wins (as the Sox did last year), that didn't sit well with the Red Sox Nation. These aren't your ordinary fans. They not only expect to win...they believe it is their divine right for Sox to rule the MLB. The scary thing about the 2011 Red Sox roster is that it can fully back up the "Masshole Mentality" that the fans of Fenway bring to the game.

The Red Sox drove in 818 runs last year, second only the the Yankee's 859. They had the MLB's highest slugging percentage at 45.1%. This is a team that had no trouble thriving on offense, even in the face of decimating injuries to key players in the rotation. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all missed major time due to injuries and being placed on the DL. For large stretches of the season, the Sox were playing with a disrupted batting lineup. A slew of other injuries plagued Boston throughout the season, diminishing productivity and overall team chemistry.

This year, Boston seems to be back and badder than ever. The heart of their lineup will be difficult to navigate through smoothly. Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis and Ortiz are all healthy and ready to play. Add to the mix the two biggest off season acquisitions in recent memory, first basemen Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford, this lineup is going to be deadly to say the least. The Opening Day lineup consists of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Cameron, Saltalamacchia and Scutaro. No other team can put together a more potent lineup than this. On top of this, the Boston rotation projects to be one of the best in baseball. Although the Phillies may have the name recognition, the Red Sox rotation could be better overall. Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Buchholz and Matsuzaka are as a strong a starting pitching staff as any. Behind them is a proven bullpen led by Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield.

The bottom is that, barring unforeseen injuries, this team has no glaring weaknesses. One of the best lineups in baseball from last year is completely healthy and has added two monster additions, additions which could make it impossible to beat. The pitching staff, in particular Beckett, is healthy and pretty strong from top to bottom. This team has the passion of a determined fan base lighting a fire underneath them. If Lady Luck favors Boston this year, Major League Baseball should be afraid....because the Red Sox will be their own worst enemy on the road to the 2011 World Series.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Writer: Sean Devlin

"The Point After" staff would like to welcome our newest writer Sean Devlin. Sean has lived in the Philadelphia area for his whole life and is very knowledgeable about baseball, basketball etc. You name it and Sean will be sure to give you an update on the hottest sports topics. We are all looking forward to his posts and dedication to "The Point After".

A Look at the Senior Circuit: 2011 National League Preview

This past offseason, there were many different moves made in an effort to reshuffle the deck by many National League teams. We come into the season with a fresh start and clean record columns, and come tomorrow afternoon, every team is tied for first place. However, there are some clubs who have proven themselves to be the elite of the Senior Circuit, and this year promises to be a true battle to the final weeks.

NL East:

Despite numerous injuries, this Phillies team is still going to win games in bunches. With that starting rotation, how can you not? That aside, the Utley injury hurts the lineup for the first half of the season, but the hitters appear to be approaching another season with a strong spring to back it up. The most glaring loss is that of Jayson Werth, leaving the right field position to Ben Francisco. Also, the (re)addition of Cliff Lee makes this staff the best in the National League. The Phillies will have competition from both the Braves and Marlins, with the more serious threat coming from Atlanta. The Braves have very solid pitching and a good young core with players like Freddy Freeman and Jason Heyward. The Marlins, behind ace Josh Johnson, will win some games, but lack a bat behind Hanley Ramirez (formerly Dan Uggla, now playing for Atlanta) and the experience to stick out the late weeks. The Mets...are still the Mets. However, with new leadership in GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, New York is building for 2012. Washington rounds out the division, with good recent drafts and a big free agent acquisition in Jayson Werth, but other than that, the cupboard is pretty bare. Washington lacks the pitching to contend in 2011, but look for the return of Stephen Strasburg around July.

Division Winner: Philadelphia 96-66
Runner Up: Atlanta 91-71

NL Central:

This division appears to be up for grabs. The big deals over the offseason were made by the Brewers, who acquired ace Zack Greinke and young pitcher Shaun Marcum. With Yovani Gallardo in the rotation, Milwaukee could very well win the Central on those arms and the bat of Prince Fielder. Chicago and St. Louis may look to vie for second place, as the Chris Carpenter injury will hurt the Cardinals playoff chances mightily. Also, the threat of Albert Pujols leaving at the end of the season could cast a pall over Busch Stadium all year. The Cubs are still another arm away from the playoffs, but could look to acquire a big name in the 2012 offseason. Division champion Cincinnati is looking at a challenge when faced with the task of winning the division. Their pitching was exposed in the 2010 NLDS and questions remain as to whether they can handle the National League superstar pitchers in big moments. The Astros are in rebuilding mode following last year's Roy Oswalt deal, and Pittsburgh is apparently still a major league team according to my research, but the Pirates are destined for their 19th losing season in a row.

Division Winner: Milwaukee 90-72
Runner Up: St. Louis 87-75

NL West:

The National League West is often the weakest division in baseball by record, but in 2010, it produced the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. The Giants will remain atop the division in 2011, with a phenomenal pitching staff anchored by young ace Tim Lincecum. Also, look for Pablo Sandoval to have a rebound year. Their rivals to the south, the Los Angeles Dodgers will stay in the race, but can the post-Manny Dodgers achieve as they did in 2008 and 2009? The Rockies look to also pose a threat to San Francisco, as a squad fronted by hurler Ubaldo Jimenez and newly-inked sluggers Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki can play with any team in the majors. Arizona is a work in progress under first year manager Kirk Gibson. The Diamondbacks are also looking for a big year from Justin Upton and a foundation to build a team on. The Padres were significantly weakened in the offseason by trading Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, and no amount of good young pitching will save this team from finishing in the bottom half of the race.

Winner: San Francisco 94-68
Runner Up: Colorado 89-73


Philadelphia over Milwaukee
Atlanta over San Francisco

League Champion: Philadelphia Phillies
Runner Up: Atlanta Braves

Baseball is back! American League Preview

It is hard to believe that baseball season is almost upon us already. But ready or not, on Thursday, March 31st, the first pitch of the season will be thrown. Some crazy moves have been made this offseason. As winter kept us in its icy grip, the hot stove sizzled with high profile changes in the moves of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, among others. The flurry of moves this offseason left the American League with several solid teams vying for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. Below is a quick glance at each American League Division, along with picks to win.

AL East: The toughest division in baseball just got tougher. The Blue Jays and Orioles are rebuilding, Tampa is stocked with young talent, and the Yankees' lineup remains as potent as ever. But, the favorite to win the east has to be Boston. Coming off an injury-plagued season in which they still won 89 games, the Sox went out and added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, two of the most exciting hitters in the game. With an already formidable lineup, this team has the chance to be special. The thing that may derail the Sox's fortunes may be a somewhat shaky looking bullpen. Beckett and Lackey must also stay healthy. The team closest to the Sox is the Yankees. The lineup is great, but aging and prone to injury. The starting pitching, besides CC, leaves something to be desired. Look for the Yankees to try to trade for a starter at midseason, but it won't be enough to catch Boston, or make the playoffs for that matter.
Division winner: Boston: 97-65.
Runner up: New York: 91-71

AL Central: The AL central looks to be nearly as tough as the AL East. The Royals and Indians are stocked with talent, but not quite ready to compete. The other three teams teams, however, are looking to win the division this year. The Tigers bring a retooled roster into the new season and are hungry to get back on top. The Twins will be as good as ever, getting Morneau and Nathan back to try and repeat as division champs. It is the Chicago White Sox, however, who will win the division this year. The bullpen is solid from front to back, and their rotation will continue to be a strength of the team, with or without Jake Peavy. The question with the Sox has always been scoring runs. They brought in Adam Dunn this offseason, which will provide plenty of pop. The key to the lineup, though, lies in a resurgent Gordon Beckham. He tore it up as a rookie two years ago, but had a down year last year. If Beckham can get on base and move over lightning-fast Juan Pierre, look for the RBI's to pile up for one of the most fearsome 3-4-5 combos in the majors in Konerko, Dunn, and Rios. The Twins don't have many weaknesses either, as they have a solid back end of the pen, decent starting pitching, and the ability to score a lot of runs. Their organizational depth is unparalled. The Tigers have a lot of talent, but may be a bit distracted after the Miguel Cabrera saga this offseason.
Division Winner: Chicago: 94-68
Runner up: Minnesota: 93-69 (Wild Card)

AL West: The West is up for grabs. Besides the Mariners, any team in the divison has a legitimate chance to win the division. Although Texas lost Cliff Lee, they still have decent starting pitching and a good bullpen with Feliz as the closer. The lineup will surely score runs, especially with the addition of Adrian Beltre. Oakland is being picked as a possible division winner as well. With great young pitching and the addition of a few veteran hitters, many people think Oakland has the firepower to take the west. The team that many are not talking about, though, is the Angels. Los Angeles faded down the stretch last year, as they did not hit or pitch especially well. Many people wrote them off after failing to acquire Carl Crawford. But this team is better than people think. The pitching will for sure be better this year, with Dan Haren leading the rotation back to respectability. Kendry Morales is a monster, and there are many other solid hitters in a lineup that is speedy as well. The Angels will go back to playing Mike Scioscia style baseball, and win a weakened west.
Division Winner: Los Angeles: 90-72
Runner Up: Texas: 88-74

AL Champion: Boston
Runner Up: Chicago

Oh "Maya", Oh "Maya": Final Four

Disregard the title. Now picture a player scoring 3,000 points during their career. Now picture his or her team on their way to the Final Four looking to bring home a third straight championship. Whether its men's or women's sports, there is no objection against Maya Moore's ultimate talents at Uconn when shes on the court. Heading into the night, the Uconn Women's basketball team seemed a little shaky and not as dominate as years past. After leading #2 Duke 30-20 at halftime, the audience may have thought this game would come down to the wire. Well, lets just say that the Huskies made sure this wouldn't happen as they went on a 22-3 run right after intermission. Their defense trapped the Blue Devils everywhere on the floor while their crisp passing made it easy for Moore and others to take mid-range shots which therefore led to their dominance on the boards. While Uconn shot 32-54 from the field, Duke was the polar opposite as they only made 15 shots out of 59. For being a number two seeded team, that is just too embarrassing of a stat to repeat. To make matters worse, the Devils had more turnovers, nineteen, than shots. Maya finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds as the Huskies flattened Duke 75-40. Connecticut's on their way back to the Final Four looking to build off this blowout and Moore's momentum. Congrats to Maya for her unbelievable carreer at Uconn and hopefully she can bring home the trophy...again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I would like to thank everybody for your continued support for The Point After.  We are nothing without our followers, so thank you very much. We have reached 5000 views in under five months!

All of our writers have been swamped with school work, but we promise to have a few things out for you to read in the coming days.  We will have Final Four coverage, as well as MLB previews for the AL and NL.

If you are at all interested in writing for The Point After, please email us at  In  your email, please write a brief description on why you want to join and your areas of knowledge in sports.

Thank you once again!

Baseball Salary problems

30 teams, and over 100,000,000 dreams. As opening day looms upon the world of baseball, fans from across the nation are hoping that THIS is the year. This is the year that their team will surpass the odds, this is the year that will bring glory to their city, this is the year that will be remembered for a life time. Despite the 162 game season, only now do all teams have an equal opportunity to clinch the title of World Champions.

Is this really true? Does every city have a chance to win it all? I think not. With the ever growing spending of major markets such as the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Redsox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, and the Philadelphia Phillies; baseball is becoming a sport that favors the richest franchises. Excluding the Angels in 2002 Marlins in 2003, in the past decade the winners of the world series have been in the top ten (or very near) highest payrolls in the league. This upper echelon of teams have been consistent with their playoff appearances.

Lets take a look at the World Series Winners since 2001 and their opening day salaries
2001- Arizona Diamondbacks 81 million (8th)
2002- Anaheim Angels 61.7 million (14th)
2003- Florida Marlins 49 million (25th)
2004- Boston Red Sox 125.2 million (2nd)
2005- Chicago White Sox 75.2 million (12th)
2006- St. Louis Cardinals 88.9 million (9th)
2007- Boston Red Sox 143 million (2nd)
2008- Philadelphia Phillies 98 million (10th)
2009- New York Yankees 201.5 million (1st)
2010- San Francisco Giants 98 million (10th)
2011- TBA- >100 million

Aside from the Dbacks, Marlins, and White Sox, the trend is a 100 million dollar payroll and above will give you much better chances of playing in, and winning the World Series. I do not want to make the more successful franchises seem like they are evil for blowing so much money on key players, but more so to criticize the luxury tax system. Yes, it does add money to the sport, and makes teams such as NYY, NYM, and BOS pay a large fine for going over the salary cap (which is set annually); however, having no concrete salary cap in baseball is making it closer to impossible for the small city franchises to break through, and make a run for the championship.

If baseball were to adopt a soft salary cap, it would allow the smaller franchises to be more competitive once again For one of the greatest things about sports is its ability to always stay unpredictable. In the 2010 season, of the eight teams in the post season, four had a team salary in the top ten. Then in the championship series three of the four were in the top ten. Then finally in the world series, the team with the higher payroll was victorious. This year appears no different then the current trend in the MLB, a team in the top ten will be the winner of the world series this year.

As a sports fan, I'd rather see a close game then a blow-out; it's how some of the greatest moments in sports are made. Yes, the games between these top tier teams are always entertaining, and do draw some of the best t.v ratings for the sport, sports should be about the love of the game, and not how much one person can invest into a team. With that being said, here are my predictions for this season.

Red Sox vs Tigers
Yankees vs Rangers

Phillies vs Rockies
Cardinals vs Giants

Red Sox vs Yankees

Phillies vs Giants

World Series
Red Sox vs Phillies

Red Sox win in 7

Finally, the Red Sox and Phillies will both win 100 or more games this year, with both teams having three pitchers with 18 wins

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Elite Eight: Butler vs. Florida

Once a "cinderella team"and now an elite basketball program, the Butler Bulldogs are back in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year. Under management of Coach Brad Stevens, the Bulldogs are as ferocious as ever after a slow start to the season but now with a chance to go back to the Final Four. But hold on, because "Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!" come the Gators from Florida, who are sliding under the radar in the March Madness arena. A sleeper team ranked at number two, Florida under Coach Billy Donovan believes they deserve a spot in the Final Four. However, are the Gators barking up the wrong tree against these gritty Bulldogs? Well, quite frankly both teams are playing extremely well right now which makes this matchup a great game to start off the games today and tomorrow.
Keys to the Game: Florida's inside game vs. Butler's defense, Matt Howard's impact throughout the game, and transition defense for both teams.
So let the games begin. March Madness is heating up and it won't cool down anytime soon.
"The Point After is Good"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sweet Sixteen Preview: SDSU vs. Uconn

How sweet it is to be in the Sweet 16. For a team like San Diego State, this may be an unimaginable dream as they prepare to face the thrashing #3 Uconn Huskies tonight at 7:15. This is a battle between the #2 and 3 seeded teams, however that fact gets thrown out the window tonight because this is where pride and true skill are put to the test. The team I chose since day one to blast onto the college basketball scene (which they did) and make a statement is SDSU. Led by Kawhi Leonard and forward Malcom Thomas, the Aztecs are one of the hottest teams in basketball. After a dominating season, beating teams like Utah and UNLV (who aren't the toughest opponents, San Diego State suffered two losses to "Jimmer and the Gang". Round 3 between these two heavyweights went to the Aztecs which boosted their confidence level heading into the tournament. After beating Northern Colorado and surviving a scare from the Temple Owls, the Aztecs now understand what it means to be a worthy tournament team. I believe this team has not received the the amount of credit they deserve, but then again being the "underdog" against Kemba Walker and Uconn could play into their hands. Uconn hasn't had too much trouble throughout March Madness so far, as they steam rolled through Bucknell and handled the Cincy Bearcats with ease. However, tonight's game will give the Huskies their first true test of the tournament. They have proven to be one of the most balanced and highly efficient teams late in the season as they were projected to finish tenth in the Big East and ended up in third place. Kemba will show up to play, but can the Aztecs spear him down? Not to mention this game is being played in Anaheim in the home state of SDSU. A long trip for Uconn may mean an even longer trip home as San Diego State looks to strike down a dangerous Big East opponent and show that they too can play with the best. Do not miss this game tonight! It's sure to be an incredible battle under the lights.

Go Aztecs!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sweet 16 Preview: Southeast

I will be covering the Southeast region of the bracket, a region that has already had it's top seed eliminated. All has gone according to the script in this bracket with the exception of #11 Gonzaga upending #6 St. John's in round 2, and Butler's stunning victory over the top seeded Pittsburgh Panthers in round 3. Here is a preview of the two Sweet 16 games to be played in this region from the New Orleans Arena.

The first game of the night in this region will pit #3 Jimmer against the #2 Florida Gators. I strongly believe that Florida is a weak 2-seed, and have had a cake run through the tournament thus far, running through UC-Santa Barbara and UCLA. However, the Gators have always been coached well by Billy Donovan, and have many great weapons led by SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons. The Gators are playing their best basketball of the year and should not be underestimated, but they are running into a buzz-saw in BYU. Of course, there is no BYU conversation without mentioning one James Fredette. Fredette has looked absolutely unstoppable in BYU's first two contests. The Cougars have beaten Wofford and steamrolled a very good Gonzaga team to get to this point. If the Gators can figure out any way to slow this man down, they will have a chance, but the Cougars have proven that they can get other players involved even with the loss of Brandon Davies. In the end, I believe Jimmer and friends will come out on top, and play the winner of this next match-up in the Regional finals.

Final Score: BYU: 83 Florida: 76

The late game in this region will be last year's runner-up #8 Butler against a very disciplined #4 Wisconsin team led by Bo Ryan. With a very low scoring offense, two inexplicable losses to Penn State and tight games against Indiana and Michigan down the stretch, the Badgers have not looked very consistent as of late. If they are going to beat Butler, they will need a big game from their leading scorers Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. On the other end of the court, the Butler Bulldogs, winners of 11 in a row, will have all the momentum on their side. Led by Senior Matt Howard and Junior Shelvin Mack, the Bulldogs are a well rounded team. Brad Stevens has done a magnificent job at the helm in his four seasons in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs not only have the momentum, but they have the experience of going through the big dance. However, like Wisconsin, their offense has not been very sharp this year, especially with the loss of Gordon Hayward to the NBA over the offseason. In the end, do not expect an offensive onslaught. I believe Butler will come out on top in this game over the inconsistent Badgers team simply because of their experience of having been there and done that, and good ol' Big Mo.

Final Score: Butler: 55 Wisconsin:51

Expect a preview of the Elite 8 matchup between Butler and BYU on Friday night. Enjoy the games

Sweet Sixteen Preview: East Region

Now that the first two rounds are through in the tournament, it is time for the best basketball to be played. Gone are the teams that were overrated or did not deserve to be dancing, leaving the true contenders to fight it out for the national title. The East Region offers up some of the best matchups in this exciting round, with Ohio State playing Kentucky and North Carolina playing Marquette. Could we see some more improbable upsets from the east region?

The Ohio State-Kentucky game is at 9:45 this Thursday. Love em' or hate em', this is a classic matchup of two historic and successful programs. Kentucky is a solid team, especially with Brandon Knight playing the way he has been. Ohio State is just so good though. They remind me of a college version of the Orlando Magic, with an excellent big man inside surrounded by a stable of marksmen from the perimeter. Kentucky and Brandon Knight will give Ohio State a game, but Sullinger and company will prove to be too much for Calipari's team, icing the game late in the second half after a barrage of threes.

The other intriguing matchup of the day is UNC versus Marquette, which starts at 7:15. Marquette has been playing great lately, getting an unlikely win over Big East Power Syracuse. The thing that has struck me about UNC, though, is their ability to beat you in so many ways. They can shoot the three, pound it inside, or when the going gets tough give it to Harrison Barnes, one of the nation's most exciting young players. I love to pick the upset, but UNC is just too balanced to be beat in this round.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sweet 16 Preview: West

Here is the first of four previews of the Sweet 16, as we prepare for even more madness this weekend. The region that I will be looking at is the West.  There has only been one upset in this side of the bracket, with the 5 seed beating the 4.  All eight teams advanced to the third round, while four of the top five seeds are in the sweet 16.

The first matchup is Duke vs. Arizona.  This game has the makings to be another nail-biter, with star power on both ends.  Duke has been a top notch team all year long and with a revived Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils are poised to make a championship run.  Kyle Singler and company have been playing well, despite barely pulling out a victory against a pesky Michigan team.  This matchup does not favor Duke, because of Derrick Williams.  The standout big man for Arizona has had an unbelievable year and will cause problems down low for Duke.  Williams gets to the hoop very well and is so quick and big that no person can guard him alone.  He will cause foul trouble inside, creating a lot of free throws for himself.  This game will come down to Arizona's ability to control Duke's penetration and shooting.  If they can shoot well, they can easily win this game; however, the moment that Derrick Williams heats up, Arizona can take over as well.  Duke MUST not settle for contested jumpers, otherwise they will be dominated by a very talented team on the boards.

The other West game is a #2 - #3 battle, between SDSU and Connecticut.  San Diego State advanced to the sweet 16 after defeating Temple in double overtime, but should have lost that game.  SDSU is a solid basketball team and plays great team defense.  The team does not shoot very well, but they do control the tempo of the game and get to the free throw line.  They can lull you to sleep with their offense, often going deep into the shot clock.  On the other hand, Kemba Walker is just a flat out stud.  He can score however, whenever and wherever he is on the court.  He is an underrated passer and rebounder as well, and if he shoots poorly, he will contribute another way.  The rest of the Huskies better be ready, because you know Kemba is going to be fired up in what could be his final game at UConn.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Villanova Can't Stop Skid

Villanova's season ends on 6 straight losses.  They seem to lose every close game possible, finding ways to defeat themselves.  Antonio Pena missed two free throws late and Mouphtaou Yarou missed the front end of a one and one, and George Mason took advantage of Nova's mistakes.  For the first half, Villanova looked like the team at the beginning of Big East play, playing pesky defense and shooting at a high percentage from the perimeter.  However, that lasted only until halftime, as George Mason changed up on defense and Villanova had no response.

Instead of talking about this game, as a student at Villanova, I have no choice, but to look towards next season.  This team will lose three starters: Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena.  The recruiting class isn't the strongest of them all, but it will allow Villanova to build a new culture.  With Mouphtaou Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and newcomer, Markus Kennedy, Villanova will have a ton of big men, going away from the traditional Guard U teams that Jay Wright has put together.  Jayvaughn Pinkston will be back from his suspension as he also adds size to an already lengthy team.  Maalik Wayns will be in charge of running the offense, which he did a lot this year as well.  Dominic Cheek will possibly be put into the starting lineup, depending on how the incoming freshmen respond early (Tyrone Johnson, Darrun Hilliard, and Achraf Yacoubou).  James Bell will have to work hard this summer to get ready for next season, because he will probably play a big role next year.  He played well in glimpses, but he needs to become more of a consistent perimeter shooter.

Overall, this team will lose three very good players and will have to rely a lot on underclassmen, which may be their downfall.  Wayns will really have to step up for this team to do anything next year, but I still foresee a struggle for the Wildcats.  The loss of Corey Stokes could be the biggest of them all, because there really is no good three point shooter left on the team, unless Pinkston or the Freshmen are successful in their first season.  It's the worst day every year for any sports fan, but we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the NCAA tournament.

March Madness Starts off with.....well madness

There is nothing like this, in fact, there is nothing even close.  There were three "upsets" on the first day of the NCAA tournament, but there were so many other good games as well.  Here are some of the headlines from the craziness we call the Big Dance.

Butler's Matt Howard beat Old Dominion with a put back layup as the clock expired.

Morehead State crushes Louisville's Final Four hopes with three pointer in final seconds

Fernandez leads Temple to victory with tip in after Penn State tied the game with a late three

Kentucky escapes Upset City with Brandon Knights layup with two seconds left

Anderson's 25 allows Richmond to hold on late against Vanderbilt for the upset

Michigan State almost rallies back, but UCLA holds on for narrow victory

Gonzaga crushes St. John's as third upset occurs in Denver

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What is Wrong with the NCAA Selection Committee?

Why is (was) UAB in the tournament?
Why isn't Colorado in the tournament?
Why is Michigan an 8-seed?
Why isn't St. Mary's in the tournament?
Why are there five (Penn State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Marquette, and USC) 14 loss at-large teams in the field? (There were only 5 14-loss teams in the tournament from 1985 to 2010 combined)

These are some questions that almost anyone who follows college basketball has asked since the brackets were announced on Sunday night. Not only is the tournament field very watered down this year, but to make matters worse, the selection committee absolutely dropped the ball in it's selection process this year. Some teams have used this criticism as motivation such as VCU in their destruction of overrated USC in last night's first round game. Some teams such as Colorado and Virginia Tech won't have a chance to show why they belong. One thing we know for sure is that UAB did NOT belong in the field, and they showed it on Tuesday night.

What annoys me the most is that we have all these horrible conference champions in the tournament. Teams like UNC-Ashville, UC-Santa Barbara, UT-San Antonio, St. Peter's, and Boston University have absolutely no business playing in the NCAA tournament. It's understandable that it's only fair to see all of the mid-major and borderline D-II conferences represented in the field of 68. But it is precisely this notion that waters the tournament down.

So here is my advice to the selection committee and the NCAA:

Scrap the "First Four" idea. Play-in games are dumb and pointless.
Stick to a symmetrical 64 team bracket.
Get rid of the automatic bids for mid-major and borderline D-II conference champions.

And finally:
Just use common sense and pick the 64 best teams in the country, regardless of whether the St. Peter's Peacocks won their conference. If the Peacocks win their conference, stick them in the NIT, but don't water down my NCAA basketball tournament and let Purdue beat the hell out of them every year in the first round. Just think about how much better it would be if we had the 64 best teams in the country playing in the tournament. This would eliminate all or most of the questions that we currently have about the current field of 68.

Now that I got that out of the way, enjoy the games, and hopefully this year's tournament will be one to remember.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's the Point: RPI

For a while now, RPI has been arguably the most important stat for a team qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Even over wins and losses, RPI rules on selection Sunday, as the casual observer can literally pick the at large bids to the tournament in order of RPI. Although important, RPI does not come close to telling the whole story of a team's worthiness to dance. Instead of fairly judging the standing of a team, this arcane ranking system skews the rankings to protect the blue-blood programs of college basketball.

The RPI is composed of three parts. 25% of the number depends on a team's winning percentage, 50% depends on opponents' winning percentage, and 25% depends on opponents' opponents' winning percentage. This boils down to 25% of the ranking based on winning, and 75% due to strength of schedule. It is true that strength of schedule is very important when evaluating a team. But, should it be the crucial, deciding factor in judging whether a team is tournament worthy?

RPI does not take into account margin of victory, so a blowout of a powerhouse means the same as a squeaker over a weak mid-major. It also does not account for games against non-division- one schools. This means that a loss to a division II school does not affect your RPI. How can an observer get a full picture of a team's success through this stat? There is simply no way to do it.

A better ranking system would be one that puts more emphasis on wins, rather than only getting 25% credit for one. If a team loaded up its schedule with quality opponents, they would hardly have to break 500 to get into the tournament under RPI influence. The perfect case is Michigan State, who despite having only 4 more wins than losses, made the tournament as a ten seed!

The RPI system can give rise to a vicious cycle. Since it is 75% based on strength of schedule, a team will only try to schedule opponents who are not only good but who also have strong schedules, since 25% of a team's ranking is based on opponents' opponents' winning percentage. So, with a few exceptions, the teams with strong schedules all play each other and do not have to sweat on selection Sunday, while many teams are left out in the cold.

This year, 5 teams with 14 losses are in the tournament. 5! This just shows how actually winning games has fallen so far down the priority list. RPI is a misleading statistic that surely helped many of these teams into the tournament. The tournament is supposed to be about winning games, not about how tough your schedule was.

What's the Point is a weekly column written by David Straple. Feel free to comment.

The Point After: Final Four Predictions

The madness has begun.  University of Arkansas-Little Rock and University of Alabama-Birmingham have been eliminated, narrowing the field to 66.  There are two more play-in games tonight, and then tomorrow the craziness will really start.  there will be 16 games both tomorrow and Friday, and by the end of the weekend we will have a Sweet 16.  Before we get to the main part of the tournament, here are our predictions for the Final Four:

Ohio State
Ohio State
Utah State
Notre Dame
North Carolina
San Diego State
Notre Dame
Kansas State

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Play-In Games

As most college basketball fans know at this point, the NCAA Tournament was expanded to a field of 68 teams, opposed the usual 65. This new format includes three extra play-in games, making a total of four. The new format also causes, for the first time, play-in games to be truly relevant in the scheme of the entire tournament, as they are not all competing just for 16 seeds.

(16) UNC-Asheville (19-13) vs. (16) Arkansas-Little Rock (19-16)

Dayton, Ohio – 6:30 PM, March 15

At first glance anyone would question how two teams from mid majors with under 20 wins even got in the tournament, but both teams are excited to be dancing. The Bulldogs of UNC-Ashville come in to tonight’s match up having won only one tournament game back in 2003. On the other side, the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock haven’t appeared in the tournament in over twenty years. The Bulldogs come in to this game on a six game winning streak and are the favorite to win by far. The victor of this game would play the (1) Pittsburgh Panthers in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

(12) Clemson (21-11) vs. (12) UAB (22-8)

Dayton, Ohio – 9:00 PM, March 15

There was much debate over UAB’s selection in to the NCAA Tournament; Clemson on the other hand was a lock with a 21 win season from the ACC. The Tigers of Clemson come in to the tournament rebounding from a loss last Saturday to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament as do the Blazers of UAB, losing in the Conference USA tournament. Although Clemson is the favorite look for an upset in this game. Clemson tends to play poorly away from home (3-7), whereas the UAB is much better (9-5). Whoever comes out the victor in this game will play (5) West Virginia in Tampa Bay, Florida on Thursday.

(16) Texas-San Antonio (19-13) vs. (16) Alabama State (17-17)

Dayton, Ohio – 6:30 PM, March 16

It seems unfair to the teams left out that a .500 Alabama State team from the SWAC got in to a play-in game, but they are only one game away from getting in to Round 1 of the tournament. In Alabama State’s defense, the Hornets were devastated by injuries early in the season, starting 1-8, but since have turned things around, winning 11 of their last 12. The Roadrunners of Texas-San Antonio have also been a hot team as of late, winning five games including the Southland Conference Tournament. These teams are very closely matched, and have similar records home and away, however, look for the senior leadership of Alabama State to give them the edge in this one. The winner will advance to play the (1) Ohio State Buckeyes in the next round in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday.

(11) VCU (23-11) vs. (11) USC (19-14)

Dayton, Ohio – 9:00 PM, March 16

Most college basketball fans remember VCU as the school that knocked off Duke in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. None of the players from that team are around for this one, but the VCU program has been here before. On the other side, USC is a team that has had its ups and downs all year, at one point defeating #20 Texas, but then losing to Bradley. In this matchup the Trojans have a clear size advantage down low. Rebounding and points in the paint will be key in this game, both favoring USC. The winning team will move on to play the (6) Georgetown Hoyas in Chicago, Illinois on Friday.

The Madness Begins

Excitement, buzzer beaters, upsets, tears, smiles, noise, and oh yeah...Gus Johnson and Dick Vitale. March Madness is finally upon us and has always proven to be one of the most thrilling times of the year. The 2010-2011 college basketball season was very tricky and was jam packed with teams who bursted onto headlines (BYU and SDSU) after starting off hot in the regular season, teams who crumbled but bounced back (Kansas State), and those who saw their tournament dreams robbed from them (Colorado, Virginia Tech, Alabama);don't even get me started on that topic. Yes, the magic of college basketball in my opinion has opened the eyes of thousands of people across the nation because the season was literally unpredictable.
The addition of four "play in" games instead of two this year allows for lesser and more unknown teams the chance to prove they can play with the best college basketball programs. This year, UAB and VCU will get the chance to try and earn themselves a spot in the bracket. There has been much debate as to whether or not these two teams deserve to be in the tournament, but the fact of the matter is what's done is done, despite many disagreements. I wish UAB and VCU best of luck, but feel extremely sympathetic for Colorado and Virginia Tech who had outstanding years and showed the nation that their basketball programs will be fired up and ready for the opening tip-off to the season next year.
The four #1 seeds, Ohio State, Pitt, Duke, and Kansas will be ready to play but watch out because I gaurantee you whoever plays them will play with lots of heart, extreme tenacity and attitude in order to make a statement. BYU and SDSU, as highlighted before, find themselves in the national spotlight and are looking to perform well in the tournament in order to proudly represent the West Coast. So, from this post you can probably tell I am excited for March Madness right? Well here's how I really feel...
LETS GOO!! I wait every year for March. Not for the cold weather, not for the end of the school year but for the NCAA Tournament (with bathing suit season right around the corner). Ok, nevermind that last part but without further wait, ladies and gentlemen welcome to March Madness. The place where memories are made, hearts are shattered, nets are cut down, and where every single point, play, turnover and free throw counts. So buckle up, sit back, turn that remote to CBS or ESPN and prepare for an event thats "AWESOME BABY!!!" (Dick Vitale voice)
"The Point After is Good"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Join The Point After CBS Sports Facebook Bracket Tournament

Below is the link to join The Point After's NCAA tournament bracket challenge.  Please join the group and fill out your bracket and tell all of your friends also!

The Point After Bracket Challenge

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Head Husky: Kemba

UConn pulled out a great win against Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, as Senior guard Kemba Walker drained a jumper at the buzzer to end the Panthers chances of winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles.  Walker used a pick to get in to a matchup that he's more comfortable with: a 6-10, 250 pound Center.  Pitt's Gary McGhee was forced to guard Kemba after switching on a pick and was embarrassed by Walker.  Kemba waited until about five seconds in a tie game to make his move.  A dribble in, crossover to the left, a deadly hesitation dribble, and finally a stepback jumper as McGhee was fighting to stand up.  Coach Jim Calhoun was jumping up and down as the team swarmed Walker, and UConn lives another day in the Big East tournament after beating Depaul, Georgetown and now Pittsburgh.  

UConn is a team that feeds off tournament play.  In any tournament scenario, the Superstar Effect is in play.  I may have just made that up, but it's hard not to define the reason why UConn is so good this year.  Kemba Walker won the Maui Invitation by averaging over 30 points a game.  Now in the Big East tournament, he has averaged 26 points.  There's no doubt in my mind that he will win the Player of the Year award now that he has carried his team to the semifinals of the Big East tournament.  Critics may say that he started hot and then cooled off considerably, but he has been killing the Big East all season long.  He hit a dagger against Villanova, as well clutch shots against Texas.  Kemba comes up big when he's needed most and has done a tremendous job of making the rest of his players better.  Freshmen Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier have benefited from playing with him and are poised to take over next year after Walker heads to the NBA.  Pure scorers like Kemba are usually considered ball hogs, but he averages 4.3 assists per game to go along with his 23 points.  Even at 6-1, he contributes heavily to the boards, grabbing 5 rebounds a game.  

Now that UConn is in the semi-finals of the Big East tourney, one question begs: Can UConn carry this over to the Big Dance?  I believe they will trip up either tomorrow or Saturday in the Big East tournament, because tomorrow will be their fourth game in four days.  They will be exhausted, but I have learned not to doubt a team that has a player like Kemba.  Recent history has shown that winning the Big East tournament will help your seed, but ultimately may tire you out for the NCAA tournament.  Here's my bold prediction for the UConn Huskies: Kemba Walker will carry this team to at least the Elite Eight.  The Superstar effect can't get a team into the Final Four.  The other players must step up in order for UConn to go deep into the tournament, but I don't think that the Huskies have enough to make a run to Houston.  Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight before getting ousted, and I see Kemba duplicating Stephen Curry in the 2008 NCAA tournament. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The State of Villanova Basketball

When Villanova appears in the NCAA Tournament bracket on Sunday, they will be the first team to ever enter the tournament on a five game losing streak.  The Wildcats have lost 7 of their last 9 games and the last "good" game Villanova has played was February 5th against West Virginia, when they won 66-50.  Injuries have played a role with this team's struggles, with Maalik Wayns, Corey Stokes, and Corey Fisher all nursing some some sort of nagging injury.  You can also add Mouphtaou Yarou to that list after suffering a bruised right shoulder and bruised ribs on Wednesday against South Florida.  Yarou will be reevaluated on Friday, so only time will tell if he will be available for the first round of the NCAA tournament.

It is crazy to think that some people are now talking about Villanova being on the bubble, but watching this team play provides evidence to back up that claim.  Villanova currently doesn't pass the eye test, but the Wildcats have too many quality wins (Syracuse, West Virginia, Marquette, Cincinnati, UCLA, and Temple) to be omitted from the field of 68.  It is certainly true that Villanova is not the same team as they were a month ago, but the committee will not overlook them on Sunday.

Corey Fisher has struggled so much in this recent skid that Maalik Wayns has overtook him in terms of leadership of the offense.  I honestly feel more comfortable with Wayns running the offense versus Fisher because of the way Maalik is shooting the ball.  When hot, Fisher is one of the best players in the country, but his inconsistency has doomed this team.  Corey Stokes had to sit out four games due to a turf toe and then missed the game against Pitt with a left hamstring injury.  In the games he has played, Stokes has done a great job of spacing the floor and knocking down his shots, but he seems to disappear late in games.

Stokes and Wayns may be the only two players that have been positively contributing consistently in the past month.  Antonio Pena has struggled with his jump shot and has done a poor job on defense and rebounding.  Mouphtaou Yarou has done a little better rebounding, but is having a lot of trouble finishing around the hoop. Isaiah Armwood is playing a lot of minutes, but is simply not an offensive threat which creates problems for Villanova on offense.  Maurice Sutton has had trouble staying on the floor, as he fouls more than he rebounds.  Dominic Cheek has been in a three month shooting slump and has seen his minutes dwindle late in the season, while Freshman James Bell has been streaky at best.

In the end, I think a lot goes on to Jay Wright and Corey Fisher. After superstar Scottie Reynolds' departure last season, somebody needed to step up as a leader for Villanova.  Many believed Corey Fisher would take over that role, but he has struggled in that role this year.  Jay Wright has had trouble relying on Fisher because of his inability to stay out of foul trouble and to limit his turnovers.  Jay Wright has been trying new things to try and jumpstart this team, but nothing has worked so far.  It is time to see if Jay Wright can pull some magic out of his suit, as the entire Villanova team is basically in a slump.

I believe that Villanova could still make a run into the Sweet 16, but I still doubt the team.  The best scenario right now for the Wildcats is an 11 seed playing next Friday, allowing some of their players to rest up an extra day as they prepare for the NCAA tournament.  Villanova will be in the tournament, but will probably be the lowest ranked team of the Big East teams to earn a bid.  There have been better days at Villanova, but hope does remain on this lovely campus just north of Philadelphia.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's the Point: Divisions in the NBA

Divisions serve an important purpose in sports. If you win your division., you go to the playoffs. Also, they usually encourage regional rivalries due to the larger number of games you play against your division opponents. They keep travel costs down and hostilities up, at least for baseball and football. For basketball, divisions are all but pointless.

Divisions do not encourage rivalries or keep costs down in the NBA like they do in other sports. In basketball, you play your division opponents 4 times each. Then, depending on your schedule, you play other teams in your conference 3 or 4 times also, and have multiple games against every team in the other conference. Compared to the NFL, where 6 out of 16 games are against division opponents, basketball does not even come close in using its divisions to cut down travel costs and to stir up regional rivalries.

Winning the division in the NBA punches a ticket to the playoffs. But, in a league where half of the teams make the playoffs, is it necessary to have to be crowned a division winner in order to make the playoffs? If teams went on record alone, the playoff seeding would shake out much the same way that it does under this format. If a team did not battle it out against their division opponents and basically played the same number of games against every team in the league, it makes no sense to give out a meaningless award to the top team in a mere regional grouping.

Divisions may serve an important purpose in the MLB or the NFL, but they have no place in the NBA. They save the league virtually no money, they do not foster rivalries, and the title of division champion is basically meaningless. I think fans of the NBA are smart enough to know that the Miami Heat are located in the "southeast" part of the country.

What's the Point is a weekly column by David Straple. Feel free to comment.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Championship Week

This week can often be just as fun as the NCAA tournament, as most teams are fighting to extend there season.  There is one simple way to get in to the NCAA tourney now: keep on winning.  If you win the conference tournament, you're in to the Big Dance.  The regular season is used completely for seeding for these tournaments and there are always some surprises.  In recent history, we have seen teams (Georgia), who had terrible regular seasons, but got hot in the conference tournament (SEC), and clinch a berth in the NCAA tourney.  Here are a few teams that might not make the tournament with an at-large bid, but could cause some damage in their respective conference tournaments.

ACC:  Maryland Terrapins (18-13, 7-9)  The Terps are struggling right now, but are a team that can challenge anybody.  They have played Duke tough both times they've faced them this season, and have been competitive vs. Va Tech, UNC, and Boston College.  They will not make the tournament this year, unless they pull out an unlikely ACC conference tournament victory.  Maryland must play through its inside game to succeed.  Jordan Williams averages 17 points a game to go along with his 11.6 rebounds.  He is the star of the team and he must get the ball in the post in order for Maryland to win.  They take on NC State in the first round and if they can win that game, they will face off against Duke.  

Big Ten: Penn State (16-13, 9-9): The Nittany Lions are not flashy or even that offensively talented, but they have the ability to control the pace of the game.  This allows them to compete in a very good conference.  They have losses to Ohio State by 3, Purdue by 1, and Michigan by 3.  They have beaten Minnesota twice, and have a favorable schedule in the Big Ten tournament.  If they beat Indiana in the first round, then they would take on Wisconsin in the quarterfinals.  Penn State matches up well against Wisconsin, beating them once this year at home and losing by 10 on the road.  

Mountain West: New Mexico (20-11, 8-8).  The Lobos have had an interesting season, considering they have 11 losses, but only one blowout loss.  They have given SDSU fits both times they lost to them, and they even  have beaten BYU twice this season.  This is another team that needs to play down low more, given they have a talented big man in Drew Gordon.  Gordon has been a force this season despite missing the first ten games of the year.  He is averaging a double-double and he can play the pick and roll with talented point guard Dairese Gary, who averages 5.5 assists per game.  UNM plays Colorado State in the first round and will likely take on BYU in the semi-finals if they reach there.

Big 12: Baylor started the year well, winning its first 7 games, but has struggled mightily since then.  They finished the regular season at 7-9 in the Big 12.  Everybody knows they have talent, but they're inability to find a more consistent offense has hurt their hopes of entering the Big Dance.  Senior LaceDarius Dunn averages just under 20 points a game and can score in a variety of ways.  He must go off in the Big 12 tournament in order for Baylor to earn a berth into the tournament.  Baylor is in a position that they do not have to necessarily win the Big 12 tournament to get in to the NCAA tourney, but they must win at least 2 or 3 games.  They take on Oklahoma on Wednesday, and then would face Texas if they win.  Both are must wins for the Bears, but it wouldn't hurt them to enter the finals of the Big 12 tournament.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Greatest Rivalry in Sports

Throughout sports there are teams, fans, and organizations that just flat out hate another one.  The Red Sox-Yankees is a classic rivalry, as is the Lakers-Celtics; however, college basketball's Atlantic Coast Conference offers us the greatest rivalry in all of sports.  Both teams feature hall of fame coaches, a shade of blue, and a hell of a basketball program.  The schools are separated by just 8 miles and are two of the most successful programs in the history of college basketball.  Combined, the two schools have 9 national championships and 32 final four appearances.  These two schools have had over 150 total players selected in the NBA Draft and once again this year, you'll see that Duke University next to a player's name in the first round of the draft (Kyle Singler).  Duke and North Carolina play each other for the second time this season on Saturday.  It will be a tough game for both teams and is very important.  The winner will win the ACC Regular Season Title, but that is a secondary prize, as watching your biggest rival go down is so much sweeter.

Just three months ago, Duke was ranked #1 and seemed unstoppable.  The Blue Devils fought without one of their biggest contributors, Kyrie Irving, who still hasn't entered a game since his injury. After a loss to Florida State, Duke has rebounded by winning 12 of 14 games.  A month ago, most people thought that a 13-2 record in the ACC would guarantee a #1 seed in the ACC tournament, but UNC, possibly the hottest team in the country, responded to their critics to put pressure on Duke.  After an early non-conference loss to Texas, UNC has gone 16-2.  A preseason-All American selection, Harrison Barnes, who is only a freshman, has become more comfortable in the UNC offense.  He is beginning to dominate games, highlighted by his game winning three pointer last night against Florida State.  UNC lost to Duke by 6 points last month, but led all of the first half.  This team has the ability to win this game and playing in the Dean Smith Center will help.  Duke is fighting for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but before they can do that, they must take on the team that hates them most. 

Until Saturday, what is your favorite sports rivalry?