Sportazine.com (Doug Whitfield) dougsportazine@identi.ca

Cincinnati (July 2015), United States

Editor-and-Chief of Sportazine.com. We're working on on-site football journalism projects in 2016 and 2018. We're always looking for those interested in free culture sports journalism. If sports aren't your thing, maybe one of our sister projects is for you. Find out more at http://douglasawh.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/what-netizen-empowerment-federation-nef-and-its-constituent-sites-need/

  • 2015-05-25T16:21:11Z via Spigot To: Public

    Free Culture Sports Show (FCSS) – BPL 2014-15 Season Review http://sportazine.com/football/soccer/free-culture-sports-show/

    Champions:  Chelsea

    Champions League Spots: Arsenal, City, United

    Europa League:
    Tottenham and Liverpool…although if Arsenal retain the FA Cup, then Southampton will play in the UEFA Europa League.

    Relegated:
    Queens Park Rangers
    Burnley
    Hull City relegated after Newcastle victory

    Chelsea 1st (87)
    Evan’s Prediction: 2
    Doug’s Prediction: 2

    Man City  2nd (79)
    Evan’s Prediction: 1
    Doug’s Prediction: 1

    Arsenal 3rd (75)
    Evan’s Prediction: 5
    Doug’s Prediction: 4

    Man United 4th (70)
    Evan’s Prediction: 3
    Doug’s Prediction: 3

    Tottenham 5th (64)
    Evan’s Prediction: 6
    Doug’s Prediction: 7
    Europa League Group Stage

    Liverpool 6th (62)
    Evan’s Prediction: 4
    Doug’s Prediction: 5
    Europa League Qualification 3rd Round

    Southampton 7th (60)
    Evan’s Prediction: 18th
    Doug’s Prediction: Relegation

    Swansea City 8th (56)
    Evan’s Prediction: 11
    Doug’s Prediction: 10

    Stoke City 9th (54)
    Evan’s Prediction: 8
    Doug’s Prediction: 9

    Crystal Palace 10th (48)
    Evan’s Prediction: 16
    Doug’s Prediction: 17

    Everton 11th (47)
    Evan’s Prediction: 7
    Doug’s Prediction: 6

    West Ham 12th (47)
    Evan’s Prediction: 12
    Doug’s Prediction: 12

    West Brom 13th (44)
    Evan’s Prediction: 13
    Doug’s Prediction: 11

    Leicester City 14th (41)
    Evan’s Prediction: 10
    Doug’s Prediction: 14

    Newcastle 15th (39)
    Evan’s Prediction: 9
    Doug’s Prediction: 8
    What will happen in the future?

    Sunderland 16th (38)
    Evan’s Prediction: 17
    Doug’s Prediction: 13

    Aston Villa 17th (38)
    Evan’s Prediction: 14
    Doug’s Prediction: 15

    Hull City 18th (35)
    Evan’s Prediction: 19
    Doug’s Prediction: Relegation

    Burnley FC 19th (33)
    Evan’s Prediction: 15
    Doug’s Prediction: 16

    QPR 20th (30)
    Evan’s Prediction: 20th
    Doug’s Prediction: Relegation

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  • 2015-05-18T15:01:22Z via Spigot To: Public

    FCSS: Wingin’ It (It’s Almost Summer) http://sportazine.com/podcasts-2/fcss-wingin-its-summer/

    SHOW NOTES for May 16
    Not a lot to say about this list other than…weird that there are so many in the Swedish second division, but none in the 1st! Also, only one player in Scotland after so many in the past!
    Is the Scotish League dead? Celtic and Rangers are nowhere near what they used to be.
    Could so many be in Germany and Scandavia because the players have similar body type? I’m just spitballing, but Americans are usually taller and built stronger (but slower) than French, English, Spanish, etc.
    a few players in Iceland, but http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players doesn’t use Iceland flag for some reason, which is why they didn’t initially make the list.
    Champions League SemiFinal Review – Barca over Bayern.
    Juve over Real. Morata comes back to haunt Real. He didn’t celebrate the two goals that he scored. His wikipedia picture is still in a Real jersey. 

     

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  • 2015-05-11T16:01:13Z via Spigot To: Public

    Currated Commons: Palace vs MUFC http://sportazine.com/football/soccer/currated-commons-palace-mufc/

    This entry was originally posted on G+ and dedicated to the public domain by Andy Cowling.

    Took my seat in the corner. Unfortunately guest ale Bombadier Burning Gold had been replaced by Brill Gold which was OK but not as nice.

    Guildford Red (Ben) arrived after 10 minutes. He saw me, I saw him but we didn’t even bother to acknowledge each other. I think he was still sore after the RvP penalty incident.

    Thankfully, he struck up a repartee with a chap at the bar who occasionally comes in and spouts the longest ever, cliche ridden, predictable, media inspired, interminable stream of crap since Vesuvius last erupted.

    His main themes for the day were Carrick, Carrick, Michael Carrick and Carrick.,

    Carrick. He’s obviously listened to Adrian Durham, scoured every MUFC forum listened to Radio 5 606, watched MOTD and read The Sun to arrive at the devastating conclusion that

    ‘We really miss Carrick’

    Thereafter he would seize upon any chance to add to this amazing and startling insight with

    ‘Oh – you see. Carrick would have passed forward there’
    ‘Oh – now we’re really starting to miss Carrick ping’ing it forward into the channels now’
    ‘Jesus – Carrick would have sniffed that out’
    ‘We simply have to replace Carrick in the summer. That is the biggest task facing the club since rebuilding after Munich’.
    ‘People wont’ truly appreciate Carrick until he’s retired’.

    Don’t disagree but for feck’s sake I don’t need to hear it throughout the first half when I’m just trying to enjoy the game

    United correctly awarded penalty which only serves to spark Guildford Red into life. Initially, he was delighted ‘Ah great – Rooney will take this as RvP has a virus. He’s a superb penalty taker’.

    I was expecting Kronenburg Keith to interject that he’d read in The Times that van Gaal was pissed off with United’s dismal penalty record and took the responsibility away from Rooney and RvP.

    When Guildord red saw Mata pick up the ball, he actually jumps up and hollers at the 72″ screen ‘ WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING ? ROONEY IS THE CLUB CAPTAIN !’ as is every club captain must be automatically designated as the penalty taker for all eternity.

    I said nothing. After last week’s trauma, I was half expecting to get a volley of abuse for somehow brining about this change of preferred 12 yard specialist. Thankfully Mata scored right in the corner despite the keeper going the right way.

    Beer was flowing – for me at least – I asked the barmaid for another pint and when she served it, I said ‘Thanks, that’s brill’. She surprised me by smiling and actually laughing. Which was nice. I looked upwards at the sporting memorabilia to avoid staring at her bosoms.

    Kronenburg Keith didn’t like the fact Rooney was hobbling with a thigh injury and thought he’d run it off at half-time not realising Rooney was doing a short fitness test before conceding way to Falcao.

    Guildford Red was hugely impressed with Ashley Young and Fellaini’s contribution and kept telling us that a year ago he didn’t think either would be at the club.

    Palace equalised and like all part-timers they turned on the team, criticising every loose pass, every missed tackle – ‘Ah shit – this is just like 8 weeks ago’. ‘Jesus Christ – we need to get Carrick back’ and ‘Palace are going to win this now. We’ve lost the momentum’ and other footballing cliches.

    De Gea pulled off an excellent save that stunned Kronenburg Keith so much all he could muster for the next 10 minutes was ‘David De Gea. That’s David De Gea for you. That’s just De Gea’.

    Ashley Young crossed for Fellaini to head in the winner. Like all part-timers, they immediately started praising the team – ‘Never in doubt. Always knew we’d get the winner. Herrera’s just controlling midfield. Palace are quite mediocre really and have nothing to play for’.

    I got another pint of Brill in and the barmaid gave me a knowing smile. Which was brill.

    We held on, Kronenburg Keith stubbornly kept slagging ‘Danny Blind’ off and thought Luke Shaw was ‘a girl’ for going off with ‘a nosebleed’ while Guildford Ben was pressing for Pereira to be given a late run out. I nearly pointed out we’d used our 3 subs but kept quiet.

    We all applauded a fantastic United move climaxed by Herrera volleying over.

    Final whistle went. Ben and Keith pissed off home to listen to 606 and perhaps call in themselves one day, read the forums and prepare for the Arsenal fixture.

    I savoured the result, the silence and another pint of Brill. Falcao played pretty well but, unfortunately, didn’t score 5 times.

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  • 2015-05-07T02:31:19Z via Spigot To: Public

    Doug’s May 2015 FIFA 14 Check-In and Comprehensive Top-Level Card List http://sportazine.com/football/soccer/toplevelcards/

    By replacing Cesc with Schweinsteiger in the starting lineup, I was able to increase my team chemistry to 99, so I still need to make some modifications for the Ultimate tournament. I do have a plan for going forward, but I’m not going to tell you yet because I don’t want people buying up the cards I want!

    STARTERS

    1. GK Castillas 86 (LOYALTY)
    2. RCB Ramos 86 (LOYALTY)
    3. CB Pique 86 (LOYALTY)
    4. LCB Thiago Silva 87 (LOYALTY)
    5. RM Müller IF 90 (LOYALTY)
    6. RCM Schweinsteiger 88 (LOYALTY)
    7. LCM Xavi 89 (LOYALTY)
    8. LM Lavezzi 85 (LOYALTY)
    9. CAM Iniesta 89 (LOYALTY)
    10. ST Suarez 88 (LOYALTY)
    11. ST Cavani 87 (LOYALTY)

    BENCH

    1. CB Chiellini 86 (LOYALTY)
    2. RB Lahm 87 (LOYALTY)
    3. LWB Ashley Cole 85 (Chelsea version) (LOYALTY)
    4. CM Fabregas 86 (Barca version) (LOYALTY)
    5. RM Di Maria 86 (Real Madrid version) (LOYALTY)
    6. ST Defoe 88 (TFC IF) (LOYALTY)
    7. ST Agüero 88 (LOYALTY)

     

    I finally took the time to go through all the IF cards and see what would actually help my squad. At the risk of raising the price on these cards, I present the list to you:

    Klose

    Robben

    T. Silva

    Scheinsteiger

    Rodridguez

    Godin

    Suarez

    Terry

    Hazard

    Lewandawski

    Reus

    Toure

    Rooney

    Chiellini

    Diego Costa

    Hummels

    Lahm

    Modric

    Sergio Ramos

    Pepe

    Griezmann

    Tevez

    Vidal

    Kroos

    Cech

    Kompany

    David Silva

    Aguero

    Baines

    Danny

    Cesc

    Götze

    Iniesta

    Lavezzi

    Pique

    Carzola

    Pedro

    van Persie

    Neymar

     

    I left off the cards that I know I’ll never get like Ribery, Messi, Ronaldo, and Ibrahimovic. Off the top of my head, I think those are it. Of course, I’m unlikely to get many of those IF cards as well.

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  • 2015-04-22T22:21:11Z via Spigot To: Public

    April 2015 FIFA 14 Check In http://sportazine.com/football/soccer/april-2015-fifa-14-check/

    Significantly re-tooled the side and I’m glad I did. I won the Division 3 title after only holding the first two times. I am on pace to win Division 2 as well.

    As for the re-tooling, Lahm was worth too much to have on the bench and I could always move Ramos over to RWB if I move to a 5-3-2. Defoe has been a solid pick up. I’m not sold on Agüero at CAM just yet, but I’ll give it some more time. I’m loath to break up the Suarez/Cavani partnership, but I could have Sergio come off the bench as a striker. Müller has also been excellent.

    I have not yet repurchased with the Mata money, both his assists and goals were pretty poor in comparison to the other players

    STARTERS

    1. GK Castillas 86 (LOYALTY)
    2. RCB Ramos 86 (LOYALTY)
    3. CB Pique 86 (LOYALTY)
    4. LCB Thiago Silva 87 (LOYALTY)
    5. RM Müller IF 90 (LOYALTY)
    6. RCM Xavi 89 (LOYALTY)
    7. LCM Fabregas 86 (Barca version) (LOYALTY)
    8. LM Lavezzi 85 (LOYALTY)
    9. CAM Iniesta 89 (LOYALTY) (he’s actually a CAM, which I may eventually resolve)
    10. ST Suarez 88 (LOYALTY)
    11. ST Cavani 87 (LOYALTY)

    BENCH

    1. CB Chiellini 86 (LOYALTY)
    2. LWB Ashley Cole 85 (Chelsea version) (LOYALTY)
    3. CM van der Vaart
    4. RM Di Maria 86 (Real Madrid version) (LOYALTY)
    5. CAM Agüero 88 (LOYALTY)
    6. ST Defoe 88 (TFC IF) (LOYALTY)
    7. ST Llorente 82 (LOYALTY)

    I have to say I’m really disappointed that the price ranges didn’t come to 14…especially since they took down the service during that upgrade to 15. I’ll never be able to afford a Messi or Ronaldo and it seems unlikely I’ll ever get a Ribery either. It looks like IF cards the way forward, but my chemistry was already suffering. That was one reason for bring Cesc off the bench.

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  • 2015-04-17T19:01:08Z via Spigot To: Public

    If You’re Not Watching the NBA Playoffs, You’re Missing Out http://sportazine.com/basketball/watching-nba-playoffs-missing/

    By Joseph Glorioso Washington, DC, USA (NBA) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Flickr

    By Joseph Glorioso Washington, DC, USA (NBA) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Flickr

    Look I get it… March Madness is amazing. I tuned into every single game just like you have.  I jumped off my couch when RJ Hunter of Georgia State hit that 3 point shot to eliminate Baylor.  I silently said a prayer for Cincinatti when Willie Cauley-Stein dunked on the whole team.  I gleefully filled out a bracket and then tearfully ripped it up when Villanova lost to NC State.  I get why people feel that the NCAA Tournament is awesome.  I hated Duke just as much as anyone else when they won another championship.  But let’s be honest… The quality of play is terrible.  Do you really want to watch a plethora of 61-57 basketball games that feature 12423594609 offensive foul calls and the last 2 minutes of every game seems to last an hour?

    Look I get it…. We are obsessed with football in America.  From the Friday Nights of high school to the primetime lights of the Super Bowl, football is AWESOME.  Large men built like Greek gods (well except for the offensive linemen and Peyton and Eli Manning) running around in armor and hitting each other?  SIGN ME UP!!  Who is going to go first in the draft, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? What the hell is Chip Kelly doing?  I get why people feel that the NFL is awesome.  But let’s be honest…. Now that the dust of free agency has settled, there won’t be any ACTUAL football games until August.

    Look I get it….. Baseball is America’s past time.  Chicks dig the homeruns.  I’m into Spring Training and hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks just as much as the next guy.  Why would you not be into a sport where even the MANAGERS HAVE TO WEAR UNIFORMS?  I get why people feel that MLB is awesome.  But, let’s be honest…. How excited is the casual sports fan getting about DEFENSIVE SHIFTS or if Alex Rodriguez can play more 1st base this year?

    I completely understand why you would think that any of the sports I just mentioned are great, awesome….AMAZING.  But I am also here to tell you that unfortunately you are completely wrong.  If you’re spending time paying attention to any of these other sports you’re missing one of the greatest NBA regular seasons in recently memory.  Now I am completely aware that that statement makes me look like a crazy person but hear me out.  Out of the major professional sports here in America, the NBA without a doubt has the most recognizable and marketable superstar players, and every single one of them is in the midst of an incredible year.  Think about it.  LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis all are having MVP caliber years.  Then you have guy like Demarcus Cousins doing THIS, Kyrie Irving doing THIS, and Klay Thompson doing THIS. But if you need some more concrete reason to tune in I have thought of a couple.

    Reason #1: The Golden State Warriors

    The 1996 Chicago Bulls won 72 games in a regular season and ran through a league that featured an Orlando Magic team with Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway (Chicago swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals) and Seattle Supersonics team that had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp (The Bulls beat them in the NBA Finals in 6 games).  72 wins is the most recorded in NBA regular season history.  The last team to get close was the 2007 Dallas Mavericks with 67 wins.  The Warriors are also finished the season with 67 wins and tie for the sixth best win percentage (.824%) in the NBA history.  They score the most points in the league and also have the league’s best defensive rating.  They have a team that legitimately goes 11 deep and can play any style of basketball.  Oh, you want to play big and try and go in the paint?  They have a healthy Andrew Bogut who can match up with the other team’s center.  Oh you want to play small ball against them?  Draymond Green can also match up with anyone on the court.  Historically they have one of the best backcourts OF ALL TIME.  Klay Thompson was an All-Star for the first time this year and has never shot under 40% from the 3PT line his entire career.  Steph Curry is a top-5 player in the NBA, THE LEAGUE’S MOST UNGUARDABLE PLAYER (but more on Chef Curry later).  When you look at the Warriors don’t just chalk it up and say “Oh yea they’re having a pretty good year.  No, this is one of the 6 or 7 best regular seasons in NBA history, treat it as such!

     

    Reason #2 Fun Times in Cleveland

    On the surface anything should be going very well in Cleveland.  Since LeBron James returned from that random sabbatical in Miami back in January the Cavaliers have gone 34-10 and comfortably hold the 2 seed in the Eastern conference.  LeBron has gone looking like a shell of himself back in December, to putting up MVP caliber numbers.  Kyrie Irving has scored 50+ points in a game not ONCE…but TWICE, and other than Dwyane Wade in 2011 is probably the best player LeBron has EVER played with.  The midseason acquisitions of Timofey Mosgov, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert (and losing the awfulness of Dion Waiters) have without a doubt taken this team from potential disaster to championship contender.  This team should have good vibes around it.  Instead it’s probably the biggest soap opera in the NBA.  Kevin Love and LeBron keep subtweeting each other, the head coach David Blatt may only be a CO-head coach?  Is Kevin Love even going to be on the Cavs next year??  If you actually have some time to spare I would implore you to listen to the BS REPORT podcast featuring noted NBA tea-spiller Brian Windhorst who mentions:

    • In the Cavs huddles it seems that LeBron and assistant coach Tyron Lue do most of the talking and not HEAD COACH DAVID BLATT
    • Before a game against Atlanta in December, LeBron apparently told the Cavs he didn’t want to play that night and didn’t even come out to sit on the bench during the game. Naturally the Cavs management was freaked out and the next day he took his two week break.
    • The Princeton-based offense that David Blatt installed was thrown out by LeBron in November!! Also, LeBron decided to play more of the point guard position without consulting his Head Coach

    All this is going to be magnified X10 once the Playoffs roll around and god forbid they go down 3-2 in the eastern conference finals to a team like Atlanta or Chicago.

    Reason #3 Incredible MVP Race

    By this time last year Kevin Durant had pretty much locked up the MVP trophy, and the only thing most of us wanted to know was how many 1st place votes he would get.  This year? It’s pretty much a toss-up.  Here are the list of guys who are SERIOUS CONTENDERS.

    Candidate #1 Steph Curry- PPG 23.8, APG 7.7, RPG 4.3, PER 28.06

    Reasons he should win: Best player on a historically good basketball team, in a loaded Western conference.  You can say that a lot of players in the league are ‘unguardable’ but Steph Curry really is UNGUARDABLE.  Like no one can stay in front of him UNGUARDABLE……Like how did he even get that shot off UNGUARDABLE……The guy was shooting 50% in March…..FROM THE 3 POINT LINE!! At least twice a game he does something that just makes you shake your head and feel better that you stopped playing basketball competitively in middle school.

    Candidate #2 James Harden- PPG 27.4, APG 7.0, RPG 5.7, PER 26.76

    Reasons he should win: Truly the player who is the most valuable to his team.  The Rockets came into this season clearly a worst team than the one that lost in the 1st round to Portland last year.  They had lost Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik in order to get either Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony and then they didn’t get either of those guys.  The Rockets other superstar Dwight Howard has been sidelined since January and now plays on a minute’s restriction.  Basically, James Harden has been carrying this team and the main reason that Houston is the #2 seed

    Candidate #3 Russell Westbrook- PPG 28.1, APG 8.6, RPG 7.3, PER 29.12

    Reasons he should win: The guy putting up the craziest and probably the guy you WANT to win.  Russell Westbrook is an enigma.  On the one hand his athletic ability is unmatched by anyone in the league.  He can get any shot he wants at any time.  He is a top 10 player in the NBA and WOULD probably be the #1 guy on any team that doesn’t have LeBron James or Kevin Durant.  Unfortunately, his entire career Russell Westbrook has actually been on the same team as Kevin Durant and has therefore been one of the most criticized players in the league because people feel like he doesn’t defer enough to Kevin Durant.  Well this season we have gotten to see what happens when Russell Westbrook is truly turned loose.  Since the All-Star break he has had 9 triple doubles (11 for the season), averaged 31 point, 9 rebounds and 8 assists and singlehandedly almost dragged a Thunder team without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka into the playoffs.

    Candidate #4 LeBron James- PPG 25.3, APG 7.4, RPG 6.0, PER 26.01

    Reasons he should win: He’s still the best player on the planet.  It was obviously a rough start for the Cavs.  Integrating the new pieces and finally finding a core group of players kept the Cavs in a state of constant flux and LeBron didn’t look like the same guy who had won 4 of the last 6 MVP trophies.  But since he returned from his two week ‘break’ the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone 34-10 and have looked downright dominant at times.

    Reason #4 Anthony Davis in the Playoffs

    Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years you might have missed Anthony Davis being tabbed as the next superstar.  This season he absolutely earned that title and he JUST turned 22 back in March.  At 21 years old he averaged more points (24.3) per game than Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan when they were 21, and a higher PER (a ridiculous 31.0) than Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant when they were 21.  Basically what I’m saying is this.  If a time machine randomly crash landed in front of me, and a man hopped out and told me he was from 20 years in the future and that Anthony Davis had won 10 straight NBA championships and Kim Kardashian won an Oscar I would be shocked………That Mrs. Kanye West won an Oscar.  The best part about it is…HE MADE THE PLAYOFFS.  Going up against a Spurs team that was fighting for the #2 seed and had won 10 straight games he put up 31 points and 13 rebounds and got the Hornets Pelicans into the Playoffs.  Now while as the #8 seed they have no shot in beating the Warriors, but is there a chance that he’ll have a game or two where he scores 35 points, 14 rebounds and has a couple ridiculous dunks?? Yea, and I think any real NBA fan will definitely want to tune in to see.

    Reason #5 Did Somebody Say PLAYOFFS!?!?

    It’s finally that time of year where NBA games actually matter! Despite the fact that this is the 2nd year in a row that the Lakers won’t be in the playoffs, this NBA postseason is going to be fun to watch.  Look at some of the matchups in the Western Conference!

    #2 Houston Rockets vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

    This series has the most upset potential and the Rockets should be legitimately worried.  No Patrick Beverely, Dwight Howard on a minute’s restriction, no shot creators other than James Harden, and you’re going up a great coach in Rick Carlisle who once again has fielded a competitive Dallas Mavericks team that is going to be extremely prepared.  Despite the fact that these two teams have only met twice in the playoffs there is definitely a real dislike and tension between the Texas rivals.  Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Rockets GM Daryl Morey have competed for the past few years over free agents like Dwight Howard (who the Rockets got) and Chandler Parsons (who the Mavericks got) and continue to take small jabs at each other through the media.  Add in the potential for ‘Playoff Rondo’ coming back, James Harden taking 12+ free throws a game and Rick Carlisle using the Hack-A-Dwight strategy on the Rockets, this could be a drama filled series.

    #2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Boston Celtics

    See the Cavs section above if you need to know why every Cavaliers playoff game is must watch TV

    #3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 San Antonio Spurs

    Both of these teams should rightfully feel like they have a shot to win the NBA championship and one of them is going home after round 1.  The Spurs are probably the hottest team in the league and are peaking at exactly the right time.  Kawhi Leonard looks like the guy who won the Finals MVP, Tony Parker is finally healthy, and Tim Duncan is still capable of throwing up 29 points-10 rebound games every once in a while.  This is probably the best Clippers team of the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin era.  DeAndre Jordan has emerged this year as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and Chris Paul has had another strong MVP candidate worthy season averaging 21 points and dishing out 11 assists post-All Star break when the Clippers were without Blake Griffin for 15 games.  Speaking of Blake Griffin, he has returned from a staph infection in his elbow and will hopefully have some fresh legs going into the postseason.  Another quick note on the Spurs… Because they lost to the Pelicans on Tuesday the Spurs fell to the 6 seed.  So if the Spurs win another championship they’ll probably have to go on the road in every round.  Quick note on the Clippers.  DeAndre Jordan is a free agent after this year, Chris Paul (who is widely considered the best PG of this generation) has never been to a conference final and his prickly on the court demeanor seems to rub his teammates the WRONG WAY.  Who knows if the nucleus of CP3, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan can stay together?

    So tomorrow afternoon the playoffs are going to officially kick off.  Hopefully you have enough reasons now to lock yourself in a room for a month or so and watch it all unfold.

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  • 2015-04-16T04:21:09Z via Spigot To: Public

    Twins notes: A safety bet and a long shot http://sportazine.com/baseball/twins-notes-safety-bet-long-shot/

    Baseball has returned to us after its long slumber, and like most of you, I’ve spent the last six months doing the 21st century equivalent of “staring out the window and waiting for spring,” namely, refreshing baseball news sites all winter long until the paint started to wear off the F5 key on my keyboard. I’ve meditated over 40-man roster moves and lost sleep considering the ramifications of non-roster invites to spring training. With the hot stove now long since cooled and the dawn of the 2015 season finally at hand, we can put speculation aside and get down to the serious business of watching some baseball. Thank you Jesus.

    With that in mind, every year I like to pick one or two players on my hometown Minnesota Twins roster, just to be “my guys.” It’s almost never a star, and often it’s not even someone I’d actually bet money on (see below), it’s just the guy I want to succeed, the guy I’m sticking with, at least this year. My record has been mixed: In 2006, to much derision, I picked Justin Morneau, who barely hit .220 in April but went on to win the American League MVP for the AL Central champion Twins. In 2011, I picked Tsuyoshi Nishioka. We all remember how that went.

    Now that your opinion of my prognosticative powers has been suitably tempered, here are my two picks for the 2015 Twins, tentatively subtitled “The Hater-Proof Edition.”

    The Safety Pick: Joe Mauer returns to drink milk and kick ass

    The last couple years have been cruel to the Twins in general, but probably no one has been as disappointed, and as much of a disappointment, as the face of the franchise, Joe Mauer. After a 2013 season shortened by concussion, Mauer moved out from behind the plate he’d guarded for ten seasons to take over the first base job from the departing Justin Morneau. Hopes that freeing Joe from the daily grind of catching would hasten his recovery and lead to an immediate offensive resurgence were dashed last year, when Mauer, still working through the linger effects of his concussion, had the worst year of his career, batting .277 with only a .371 slugging percentage in 120 games.

    Naturally, this has led to calls from the talk radio crowd to have Joe traded, fired, and/or burned at the stake, and certainly his production last year wasn’t what the team had in mind when they signed him in 2010 to an eight year, $184 million contract. But I don’t think I’m going on too much of a limb to suggest that perhaps the reports of Joe Mauer’s death have been somewhat exaggerated.

    In 2013, before he was shelved late in the year with concussion symptoms, Mauer was an All Star and was having one of the better years of his career, hitting .324 with a .476 slugging percentage, the latter of which ranks quite highly alongside his career numbers. It’s impossible to say how much the concussion, the move to first base, the bad press, the fourth straight losing season for the only team he’s ever played for, and the events leading up to the departure of the only manager he’s ever played for in the majors, affected Mauer’s 2014 slide. But to look at last year in a vacuum and declare Joe Mauer’s career over is ridiculous.

    Joe turns 32 this month, which has further fueled speculation regarding his decline. But although the early thirties are an age where athleticism begins to ebb and the old bastard Time begins to take his toll, it’s also an age where the truly great hitters of history have had their renaissance years. Tony Gwynn, whose batting numbers actually track very closely with Mauer’s through their respective twenties, hit .317 when he was 32, and that was the lowest average he would record for the rest of his career, which lasted for another decade.

    It’s still a bit premature to be calling Joe Mauer the next Tony Gwynn, but seriously, Mauer’s one of the greatest pure contact hitters of our generation. Before the concussion and the move to first base, people were already talking about his possible Hall of Fame credentials. Have no doubt, Joe Mauer will be back. If the Twins can succeed in surrounding him with capable bats in the lineup, there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t be in the thick of the batting title race well into the back half of the year. And if you think I’m crazy, at least I’m in good company.

    The Long Shot: Mike Pelfrey gets good and pissed

    MLB: Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins

    Mike Pelfrey has been nothing short of a train wreck in his two calendar years with the club, going a combined 5-13 in one full season in 2013 and 0-3 in five disastrous starts in 2014 before being sent to the disabled list with a laundry list of injuries to his groin, shoulder, and elbow (when the Twins signed him prior to 2013, Pelfrey was just coming back from Tommy John surgery).

    Pelfrey has been a lightning rod for criticism and probably the most reviled man on the Twins roster. He was considered among the top pitching prospects in the 2005 draft, but the last time he put together a solid season was in 2010, when he went 15-9 with the Mets. It must be hard for Mike, who from everything I’ve ever seen of him seems to be a real gamer and from all reports is the nicest guy in the Twins clubhouse.

    Pelfrey reported to spring training this year healthy and ready to pitch for the first time since he signed with the Twins, and pitched well in Fort Myers, only giving up 2 earned runs in 14.2 innings, although he got roughed up in his last outing of the spring, giving up 4 home runs . But it wasn’t enough to overcome his previous track record of futility, and the Twins announced near the end of spring training that Pelfrey would start the season in the bullpen.

    Mike was pissed. Mike doesn’t really get pissed, at least not in front of reporters, but Mike was pissed.

    In the end, it was all for naught, as new Twins acquisition Ervin Santana was suspended for half the year for a drug violation and Pelfrey was returned to the rotation, if on a short leash.

    After watching him get kicked around Target Field for the last years, I couldn’t bring myself to put money on a miraculous turnaround for Mike Pelfrey, but dammit, I really want it to happen. He pitched his ass off in spring training, and I think he’s earned a chance to try and come back and show that he’s a better pitcher than we’ve seen in his two ineffective, injury-ridden seasons. The Twins don’t exactly have a horde of candidates beating down the door for the fifth slot in the rotation, although hopefully that’ll change as the season shapes up, but for the moment, I don’t think it hurts the team to give Pelfrey one more shot.

    Week one update because I can’t get articles out in time

    As of April 15, in eight games the Twins are a dismal 2-6. Mauer leads the team in average (.286) and on base percentage (.375), but has yet to record an extra base hit. Pelfrey got hit hard in his first start, giving up four runs and two homers in five innings on April 11. About the best that can be said for the outing is that he left the game tied (although the Twins would lose it in the 8th anyway).

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  • 2015-04-08T02:21:19Z via Spigot To: Public

    Opening Day link dump http://sportazine.com/baseball/opening-day-links/

    Welcome back to baseball, everyone. It’s been a long winter. Real life issues have necessitated my absence from this space for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back to regularly scheduled programming now that the season’s begun to get underway. But first, here’s a short and kind of random list of items from the offseason that I would have written about had I been writing about them.

    Twins manager Paul Molitor

    • My hometown Minnesota Twins released longtime manager Ron Gardenhire after thirteen years, hired Hall of Famer and Minnesota native Paul Molitor as his replacement, and completely overhauled the on-field coaching staff. I’m cautiously optimistic about the change in direction that I hope this represents for the Twins, who have gone a miserable 265-383 over the last four years. This is one item that I surely will be discussing in the future, so stay tuned.
    • Okay, one more thing on that note for now: Molitor has reportedly banned headphones and smart phones from the Twins locker room on game days. I think I’m gonna like this guy.
    • Although he was ultimately sent down to AAA late in spring training, the Twins’ Mark Hamburger will likely see at least some time on the big club this year. Hamburger, who went undrafted after high school, was signed by the Twins in 2007 after impressing scouts at an open try-out. He had a cup of coffee with the Rangers in 2011 and bounced around the minors until being suspended for testing positive for a “drug of abuse” (this means pot) in 2012 and released by the Houston Astros organization. After spending 2013 with the independent St. Paul Saints (American Association), the Twins re-signed Hamburger to a minor league deal and invited him to Fort Meyers for spring training. He’ll start the season in AAA Rochester. I’m rooting for him. I’m a sucker for a comeback story.
    • Speaking of our own St. Paul Saints, their new park opens this year in downtown St. Paul. It’s about seven blocks from my work. Opening day is May 21. I’m pretty stoked.
    • At age 56, the immortal Julio Franco has signed a contract with the semi-pro Ishikawa Million Stars (Challenge League) in Japan. In his 23 years in Major League Baseball, Franco was a three-time All Star and five-time Silver Slugger. He left MLB in 2007 with a .298/.365/.417 batting slash, but not before becoming the oldest player in history to hit a grand slam (47), hit a home run (48), and appear in a game as a non-pitcher (48). After taking a few years off from 2008 to 2013, but returned to baseball last year as a player/manager of the independent Fort Worth Cats (United League). He will fill the same role with Million Stars. He’s been playing baseball for a living since before I was born. As Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra said after the signing, “They’ll take the bat away from Julio Franco when they pry it from his cold, dead hands.”

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  • 2015-04-04T17:01:08Z via Spigot To: Public

    FCSS: Formula for Success in March/April Madness

    It is finally time for the Final Four. Today is the day.
    What happened to all of the upsets? All of the madness? What happened to the days of #1 seeds getting knocked off before the Final Four?
    Only 3 other times has three #1 seeds made the Final Four (1993, 1997, and 1999). It hasn’t happened in 16 years.
    2008 was the only year since expansion to 40 teams (1979) that the Final Four was all #1 seeds.
    In 2011, the highest seed to reach the Final Four was a 3 seed.
    3 times (1980, 2006, 2011) not a single number one seed made the Final Four.
    Only 6 times since the field has expanded to 64 teams has two #1 seeds met in the championship game.  We are ensured at least one #1 seed, and Duke should beat Michigan State, so it will happened this year too.
    Only one other 7 seed (since 1979) has made the final four. Virginia in 1984.
    So is this year just an anomaly?  Perhaps.
    As stated last week, I think that the top 6-8 teams in the nation were much MUCH better than the rest of the teams, which is not usually the case.
    There were 8 teams that entered the tournament with 4 losses or fewer. I would have to go back and check, but that seems like an unusually high number. However, 2 seed Kansas and 3 seed Iowa State had 8 losses and No 3 Oklahoma had 10 losses. UNC had 11 losses.
    There are only two reasons why a team would have few losses. They are actually really good, or play in a weak conference. So lets take a look.
    Records are based on when the tournament started. Order based on AP top 25.
    1Kentucky 34-0 – Good conference, best team.
    2Villanova 32-2 – Weak conference, record due to weak conference.
    3Wisconsin 31-3 – Tough conference, good team.
    4Duke 29-4 – Tough conference, good team.
    5Arizona 31-3 – Good conference, best team in conference by far.
    6Virginia 29-3 – Tough Conference, playing style wins games in season, but not in tournament.
    7Gonzaga 32-2 – Weak conference, Record due to conference and how good they were.
    8Notre Dame 29-5 – Tough conference, good team.
    9Iowa State 25-8 – Good conference, but still had 8 losses?
    10Kansas 26-8 – Good conference, but sill had 8 losses?
    11Northern Iowa 30-3 – Weaker conference, still a good team.
    12Maryland 27-6 – Tough conference, decent team but had only PG injured.
    13Oklahoma 22-10 – Good conference, but 10 losses?
    14Wichita St 28-4 – Weaker conference, still a good team.
    15North Carolina 24-11 – Tough conference, but 11 losses? 
    23Michigan State – Don’t bet against Tom Izzo in the NCAA tournament.
    So the teams that won most of their conference games in good or tough conferences were able to win games in the tournament.  Teams from weaker conferences or with worse records were not able to win games.
    Let use compare to the 2011 tournament. The year the highest seed in the Final Four was a 3. The seeds of the Final 4 were #3 UConn, #4 Kentucky, #8 Butler, and #11 VCU.
    #1 Seeds: Ohio State (32-2), Duke (30-4), Kansas (32-2), and Pittsburgh (27-5)
    #2 Seeks: UNC (26-7), San Diego St (32-2), Notre Dame (26-6) and Florida (26-7)
    So to tonight’s games.  No surprise who I am cheering for. UK should beat Wisconsin, but having the most efficient offensive team versus the most efficient defensive team is going to be a great watch.
    Duke is going to beat Michigan State sadly. Duke has DRAMATICALLY improved its defense from the regular season. I did not see that coming, which is why I thought Gonzaga would be able to beat Duke.
    Championship Game: Kentucky over Duke. I’m setting the over under on the amount of Laettner references at 4.5.  It will be well over if the game is close and tied in the last few minutes.

     

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  • 2015-03-30T23:31:09Z via Spigot To: Public

    FCSS: Sweet Sixteen Roundup

     It has been a crazy couple of weeks in sports.  From the Cowboys signing Greg Hardy, to Stephen Gerrard making a 45 second appearance before getting a Red Card against Man U, to all of March Madness, to Kevin Durant being sidelined for the rest of the season.
    The NBA season is coming to a close, and Charlotte (my local team) is only 1.5 games out of 8th place with approximately 10 games left for each team.  However, they have gone 2-8 in there last ten. At least we will have a chance at the No. 1 pick thanks to the lottery.
    But let’s get to what most people are excited about in March. The March Madness of the NCAA tournament. Except, outside of the first day, there hasn’t been a whole lot of madness.
    6 of the 8 best teams in the nation are still in the tournament: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, and Notre Dame. Yes, I include Notre Dame over Kansas and perhaps even Villanova.
    The East region is the only region that does not have 1 of the top teams with Louisville defeating NC State and Michigan State beating Oklahoma last night. But more about that in a bit.
    Let’s start with Thursday night’s games.
    Of course I am upset about the UNC-Wisconsin game. Unc had a 4 or 5 point lead with about 6 minutes to go and blew it the rest of the way. I’m not sure what Roy Williams is/was trying to accomplish with any shooting guards, but it isn’t working. There are times when there would be 3 point guards on the court with 2 forwards, or 1 point guard on the court with 4 forwards. Justin Jackson could maybe be considered a shooting guard, but he was only a consistent shooter in a few games.  UNC needs that “DO NOT LEAVE HIM OPEN” threat from 3, and the only one they had was Marcus Paige.
    Wisconsin was the better team, so they deserve to move on. However, I am still picking Arizona to beat them in the elite 8.
    Arizona got past Xavier, but I didn’t really get to see much of the game.  It was tied at halftime, but I think Xavier had some tough players to play against, especially their Center. Arizona is now the favorite to beat Kentucky (if they make it past Wisconsin).
    Notre Dame and Wichita State went back and forth, but the whole time you could see that Notre Dame was the better team.  It just took a late 2nd half run to seperate themselves from Wichita State.
    Now for the game everyone was talking about, Kentucky dismantling WVU.  This is my honest opinion. Every game Kentucky plays from now on, people are going to talk about how the other team has a chance to beat them until they actually start to believe that it is possible. All I heard this week was that WVU was scrappy and going to turn Kentucky over and wasn’t going to back down.  And then Kentucky took the court and it was game over.
    Next it will be about how Notre Dame’s floor spacing and three point shooting are going to give Kentucky trouble. How Notre Dame will be the perfect team to beat Kentucky because of the 3-point threat from every player. Kentucky has held every good team they faced to shooting percentages in the 20-30% range or lower (with the exception of UNC). Notre Dame will be no different.
    Friday’s recap. Didn’t get to see much of these games. I was out of town and didn’t get in until about 11, but nothing surprised me.
    Gonzaga handled UCLA to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1999.  I keep wanting to pick against the Zags, but now that they are playing Duke, I must cheer for them.
    Duke had a surprisingly close game with Utah.  I thought Duke would have won this game easily, but credit to Utah for hanging close. They held Okafor to only 6 points, but Winslow stepped up and scored 21 to put Duke over the top.
    Tom Izzo continued his winning ways against Oklahoma.  I was really pulling for the Sooners here.  I just don’t like Michigan State. I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it is that they are always making the Elite Eight and the Final Four. I don’t know. I just like to cheer against the Spartans.
    And then finally Lousville made it past NC State.  Everyone wanted to jump on the NC State bandwagon after beating Villanova and seeing how east the rest of the East region was going to be. But NC State did what NC State does; showed you that you can NEVER trust NC State to do what you expect them to do.
    My picks for the Final Four.
    Kentucky over Notre Dame. No brainer.
    Arizona over Wisconsin. Arizona is the second best team in the nation in my opinion.
    Michigan State over Louisville. Izzo does it again.
    Gonzaga over Duke. Zags can guard the perimeter and can guard Okafor in the middle without needing to double too much. 

     

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    Doug Whitfield , Doug Whitfield shared this.

    This looks good. You might want to clean up or remove that html stuff at the very bottom.

    Benjamin Cook at 2015-03-31T12:40:09Z

  • 2015-03-18T09:11:19Z via Spigot To: Public

    FCSS: Conference Tournament Roundup

    March Madness has oficially begun. As of right now, there are 12 teams that punched their tickets. With over 10 more being punched today (including ACC and Big 12).
    Automatic Bids
    Belmont Bruins
    Conference: Ohio Valley
    Record: 22-10
    Ticket-clincher: Belmont 88, Murray State 87
    Leading scorer: Craig Bradshaw (18.1 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: seventh (first since 2013)
    Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
    Conference: Big South
    Record: 24-9
    Ticket-clincher: Coastal Carolina 81, Winthrop 70
    Leading scorer: Josh Cameron (12.9 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: fourth (first since 2014)
    Gonzaga Bulldogs
    Conference: West Coast
    Record: 32-2
    Ticket-clincher: Gonzaga 91, BYU 75
    Leading scorer: Kyle Wiltjer (16.6 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: 18th (first since 2014)
    Lafayette Leopards
    Conference: Patriot League
    Record: 20-12
    Ticket-clincher: Lafayette 65, American 63
    Leading scorer: Dan Trist (17.6 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: fourth (first since 2000)
    Manhattan Jaspers
    Conference: Metro Atlantic
    Record: 19-13
    Ticket-clincher: Manhattan 79, Iona 69
    Leading scorer: Emmy Andujar (16.5 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: eighth (first since 2014)
    Northeastern Huskies
    Conference: Colonial
    Record: 23-11
    Ticket-clincher: Northeastern 72, William & Mary 61
    Leading scorer: Scott Eatherton (14.6 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: eighth (first since 1991)
    Northern Iowa Panthers
    Conference: Missouri Valley
    Record: 30-3
    Ticket-clincher: Northern Iowa 69, Illinois State 60
    Leading scorer: Seth Tuttle (15.3 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: seventh (first since 2010) When they knocked off Kansas.
    North Dakota State Bison
    Conference: Summit
    Record: 23-9
    Ticket-clincher: North Dakota State 57, South Dakota State 56
    Leading scorer: Lawrence Alexander (18.7 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: third (first since 2014)
    North Florida Ospreys
    Conference: Atlantic Sun
    Record: 23-11
    Ticket-clincher: North Florida 63, South Carolina Upstate 57
    Leading scorer: Dallas Moore (15.9 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: first
    Robert Morris Colonials
    Conference: Northeast
    Record: 19-14
    Ticket-clincher: Robert Morris 66, St. Francis (Brooklyn) 63
    Leading scorer: Rodney Pryor (15.2 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: eighth (first since 2010)
    Valparaiso Crusaders
    Conference: Horizon
    Record: 28-5
    Ticket-clincher: Valparaiso 54, Green Bay 44
    Leading scorer: Alec Peters (17.0 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: ninth (first since 2013)
    Wofford Terriers
    Conference: Southern
    Record: 28-6
    Ticket-clincher: Wofford 67, Furman 64
    Leading scorer: Karl Cochran (14.8 PPG)
    Tournament appearance: fourth (first since 2014)
    Last week, we may have put a curse on a few teams. Local Gardner-Webb lost to Coastal Carolina in the Big South Semis, and Murray State lost to Belmont in the Ohio Valley Finals.
    Lots of basketball commentators and analysts say that Murray State still deserves to get into the Big Dance, but with a strength of schedule below 200, it is going to be hard to make a strong case for them.  The Committee has done some crazy things before, so our fingers are still crossed.
    Meanwhile, Kentucky continued its winning ways. Still undefeated.  Honestly, I don’t think there is a team that can beat Kentucky as long as they stay healthy.  Virginia and Duke just lost, which lowers my belief that they can beat Kentucky.  Only a hot, hot, hot team (shoot wise) is going to have a chance.
    Speaking of Virgina’s and Duke’s losses.  Who are the #1 seeds? Kentucky is a lock. If Arizona and Wisconsin win their tournaments are they going to be a #1? I still believe Virginia and Duke deserve it over the long run of the season, but I could see Arizona sneaking in over one of the two (as long as they beat Oregon tonight). Villanova will win their conference title today, and they should be the fourth #1.
    Bubble Watch:
    ACC Final – UNC v. Notre Dame
    SEC Semi-Finals:  Kentucky v. Auburn and Georgia v. Arkansas
    Big 12 Final:  Kansas v. Iowa State
    Big 10 Semis:  Wisconsin v. Purdue and Mich St. v. Maryland all the teams are solidly in except for Purdue, who needs a win against Wisconsin to solidify their position
    Pac 12 Final:  Oregon vs. Arizona both teams are in
    A10:  VCU v. Davidson (both in) and Rhode Island vs. Dayton (Dayton in)
    Selection Sunday is tomorrow.  Next week, at this time, it will be time to start the round of 32. I’m already excited.
    Thanks for joining us, this has been the Free Culture Sports Show.

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  • 2015-03-18T07:31:12Z via Spigot To: Public

    FCSS: Prelude to March Madness

    Basketball season regular season ends on Sunday.  What has surprised you about the season?

    Dad:  Small things like UK going undefeated all 30 games so far. Some teams not doing as well as predicted.
    Kentucky – undefeated. Have you seen either Virginia, Duke, or Wisconsin play? Those seem to be the favorites to have a chance to beat Kentucky.
    Dad:  Virigina would give Kentucky more problems than Duke. You don’t want to get in a scoring contest with Kentucky.
    Villanova has only lost 2 games, but seems to get no plubicity. Why do you think that is? Is it just the conference they are in now?
    Conference just isn’t what it used to be. Only marquee game is Georgetown-Villanova
    Wisconsin:  Old-school, drag you out philosophy. Outside of Big 10, they will run into trouble.
    Arizona has only lost 3 games by a combined nine points. They have four wins against ranked teams and 0 losses. Why aren’t they getting any more love?
    PAC 12 only has 3 teams projeted in the tournament.  ACC and SEC have 6. 
    Murray State has 25 straight wins. Last loss was on Nov. 29th. Strength of Schedule is 277th. Need to win tonight.
    Gardner Webb beat High Point last night. They get Coastal Carolina in the next round. GW has beat them twice this year, including a 15 point win AT Coastal. Can they do it again?
    Follow-Up: Longwood knocked off Charleston Southern. If GWU gets past Coastal, can they finally make it to the big dance?
    They can. Anything can happen in the Big South tournament.

     

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  • 2015-03-18T05:41:12Z via Spigot To: Public

    March 2015 FIFA 14 Check In

    Rafael_van_der_Vaart_2014

    Rafael van der Vaart 2014” by Kathi Rudminat. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    This may be my last FIFA 14 article. What is the point of building a better squad if you aren’t able to move up the divisions? I’m currently in division 3 of against the computer and division 9 against humans. I held in division 3 my first go. I think I will be able to get promoted, but not win the league. Will I be able to get promoted again? I don’t know. The money from winning is not enough to build a squad.

    I do have plenty to report this time though.  I sold Rooney and bought Falcao. Rooney I mentioned before and Falcao was the one I was talking about last time. Suarez and Cavani are such a better pair than Falcao and RVP.

    I sold RVP and have not yet reinvested that money. Again though, how much is reinvesting that money going to matter? I guess I’ll find out!

    STARTERS

    1. GK Castillas 86 (LOYALTY)
    2. RCB Ramos 86 (LOYALTY)
    3. CB Pique 86 (LOYALTY)
    4. LCB Thiago Silva 87 (LOYALTY)
    5. RM Di Maria 86 (Real Madrid version) (LOYALTY)
    6. RCM Xavi 89 (LOYALTY)
    7. LCM Iniesta 89 (LOYALTY) (he’s actually a CAM, which I may eventually resolve)
    8. LM Lavezzi 85 (I sold my old one at a high price and bought one at a lower price after trying a couple of games with Turan. I like Lavezzi’s pace)
    9. CAM Mata 87 (United version) (LOYALTY)
    10. ST Suarez 88 (LOYALTY)
    11. ST Cavani 87 (LOYALTY)

     

    BENCH

    1. RWB Lahm 87 (LOYALTY)
    2. LWB Ashley Cole 85 (Chelsea version) (LOYALTY)
    3. CM Fabregas 86 (Barca version) (LOYALTY)
    4. CM van der Vaart 83 (LOYALTY)
    5. RM Feghouli 81 (LOYALTY)
    6. ST Falcao 90 (United version) (LOYALTY)
    7. ST Llorente 82 (LOYALTY)

    My overall is 86 and my chemistry is 100 with a BPL or Spanish manager (might just need to be La Liga…hard to know since my Spanish manager is also La Liga).

    On my list of players that would help me out, I left out Hazard because the system says he is an 85. However, he got an upgrade card to 88, so he is also an option. There are also several options at IF cards, though those may prove prohibitively expensive. Off the top of my head, Akineev’s blue card would be an upgrade at GK, and Defoe’s blue card would be a worthy sub.

    Unfortunately, my next move is likely to cause a decrease in chemistry. How big is the difference between 9x chemistry and 100 though?

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  • 2015-03-18T03:51:26Z via Spigot To: Public

    February 2015 Malmö FF Additions and Subtractions

    Tobias_Sana_2012-10-10

    Tobias Sana 2012-10-10“. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    The Swedish transfer window doesn’t close until March 31, so there could still be tons of changes. In fact, I’m so unimpressed with the additions so far that I’m not doing predictions. Despite my apathetic mood toward the additions, the reality is that the transfer dealings are not that different than the last couple of years. There are two major differences. First, I was excited for Molins and Mehmeti to come back to the club. Second, the money MFF got from selling players this winter has been much higher than in the past.

    2015 Additions So Far

    By way of comparison to previous transfers, the Eikrem transfer is a bit like the Hammar transfer in 2013, though Hammar did come through the MFF youth system. Eikrem is a name I remember from his Manchester United days, but he never made a first team appearance for United. In fact, he only made 3 in the first part of the season for Cardiff City. Hammar was even more of a no name, having only made 6 appearances for Stockport County – who played in Conference North in 2013.

    2013 saw many more youth team players promoted than thus far have been promoted, but often these guys get promoted during the season, so I’m not going to say MFF has lost their way with youth development.

    Tobias Sana seems like an impressive signing at first, but then you realize he was playing for Ajax reserves, not Ajax. Of course, if they can flip in like they did Thelin, then it will be good business. Also, Sana may well be a good Allsvenskan player, but Ajax did not qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. Sure, they qualified for the Europa League and MFF did not, but surely their reserve team players are not the route to Europa League qualification.

    Yoshimar Yotún has been playing for Peru and while they aren’t great, they did beat Bolivia and Paraguay in World Cup qualification. He even scored in a World Cup qualification match, though by that point it was already certain that Peru was not going to the World Cup.

    2015 Subtractions So Far

    While the additions are not inspiring, the subtractions are downright depressing.

    Ricardinho is leaving it seems. He just became a Swedish citizen in October 2014, so why leave in December 2014? He doesn’t have a club yet, so maybe he can be persuaded. It sounds pretty done though.

    At least Halsti joined my local club, DC United. It’s good business for DCU to get him on a free, but surely Malmö should have tried harder to get something.

    Again, I am bummed about Simon Thern, especially since it was a free.

    It looks like MFF got decent prices for Forsberg and Thelin. I’m not impressed with the Eriksson money though.

    Concha (retirement), Malm (no team currently), Nilsson (Malta), and Petter Thelin (Swedish 3rd Division side) don’t warrant more than this mention. Blomqvist, Fadi, and Mohlin were all loaned to Swedish sides.

    Who else?

    While it’s typical for MFF to not reinvest all of their money in players, so far this season seems particularly low. Last year they spent ~5.0M SEK on Adu and this year they haven’t spent more than ~1.5M SEK for a player and the money from transfers out is higher than usual. Now, some players might be in for wage increases, but you’d have thought some of those guys are now out the door. This makes me think they have something big in the works.

    MFF has a habit of bringing back old players. Daniel Larsson would be a top pick of mine. He’s currently on loan though, so that might be tough. Rantie would be another consideration.

    Sebastian Larsson might be tempted by champions league, particularly if Sunderland ends up getting relegated, but considering the amount of time left on his contract, he is probably prohibitively expensive.

    MFF also has a history of bringing in players from the Allsvenskan. Ricardo Santos might be a good pickup. Åtvidabergs FF is not a rival, so for the right price they might sell. MFF is losing the 5th highest scorer in the Allsvenskan (2nd leading scorer on the team). They are also losing the two players tied for third in scoring on the team, so they’ve got to find someone up front. Alhassan Kamara might also be an option since Örebro SK is not a rival.

    While they will need something up front, Ricardinho and Halsti leave some holes in the back. Of course, Johannson, Hammar, and Helander can all play CB and Johannson can fill in Halsti’s role in the midfield. Yotún looks to be a direct replacement for Ricardinho. Basically, CB and midfield depth are the only real issues outside of scoring.

    It’s possible someone could step up from the youth team and that would be enough to retain the Allsvenskan title. If they want another run in the Champions League, they’ll need to bring in reinforcements.

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  • 2015-03-18T02:01:11Z via Spigot To: Public

    Sports in Space: An Interlude in the Sports on Mars Series

    480px-Astronaut-EVA

    Astronaut-EVA” by NASA. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

    My first article about sports in space contained a section titled “Could these games be played somewhere in between?” This produced an off-site challenge, which I wanted to address.

    First, the whole series suffers somewhat from being ambiguous in time, but we’re certainly talking a long way off. In my head I’m targeting life early on Mars, but not so early that there are only scientists on Mars. There are many unanswered questions about that future. Will FIFA still exist as a corrupt entity? Will other intelligent life forms discover us? Will we discover them? Will we take our petty human wars to space? Aside from spy satellites, space has been a peaceful place so far…but will it hold?

    These questions can change things. For example, if space is a war zone, then there won’t be games there.

    If we begin to interact with extraterrestrials in a friendly way, it seems to me the most likely that individual competition will be impossible. Either they will be super-fast, super-strong, super-tall, super-intelligent, or…something. Likewise, we likely will possess some useful trait. What that is, who knows.

    It is possible our games could find a place for them, though if they are too different in size, this will be difficult. Other hybrid games could emerge from our current games. This would be nothing new. Gridiron, rugby, and football were all once the same sport.

    So, I’m intentionally leaving some questions unanswered, though keep the questions and critiques coming! I’ll keep writing in the series as long as people are interested.

    To more precisely address the issue at hand though, the major reason I cited for not hosting Olympic and other “global” games between Mars and Earth is that there would be no room for spectators. The one thing that could really change this from a “no” to a “yes” would be if we built a large, city-sized space station between Earth and Mars. Even then, we are talking ~75-150 days for both sides, though with improvements in travel (the subject of my next article) less time. That is still at least 2 and a half months. It still seems unlikely that thousands of people from Earth would want to travel that far for what is probably going to be a single Martian team. No, I think the Martians are the ones that are going to have to travel if they want to attend.

    Which brings us to another question…

    Would the games even take place on Mars?

    I didn’t really examine the likelihood that event take place on Mars. It’s not likely to happen for some time after there is a Martian colony. It wasn’t until 2002 that the World Cup was held in Asia. It wasn’t until 2010 that the World Cup was held in Africa. The World Cup still hasn’t been in Australia, and there are no plans for it to be. The World Cup still hasn’t been in the Middle East and there is some chance the 2022 Qatar bid will be moved (though I’m not optimistic about a revote – I have no real problem with Qatar hosting the tournament, but it was handled poorly and I think there should be a revote).

    Mars probably won’t have the safety concerns Africa and the Middle East have. I don’t want to get bogged down in a separate issue about Africa in the Middle East, but I feel like I need to address that comment before moving on. Both the African Cup of Nations and Egyptian league football recently had violence problems. Despite that, Brazil is still the leader in football-related deaths. Not a ton of people were concerned about Brazil getting awarded the World Cup, were they? Sure, there were protests about the way the tournament was handled, but the idea of Brazil isn’t a problem. Where racisms comes into play in that, I’ll let you decide.

    While Mars won’t have the same types of concerns, there will be safety concerns for some time. For one, it is possible there will be space pirates. Space travel is likely to look a lot like ship travel for a long time, except there isn’t a trade reason to go anywhere…yet. That lack of trade probably means no space pirates for a while, but once shipments go on a regular basis, the shipments could be held hostage.

    For a long time, I think the safety concerns of space travel will keep the games not only off of some place between (except perhaps earth orbit), but also off of Mars.

    Zero Gravity Games

    As with meeting extraterrestrials, being in space is likely to create new games. These games could happen in places off Earth. As mentioned in the first article, the series is focusing on the FIFA World Cup and IOC Olympics. The IOC could add games, and as not all of the events actually took place in Sochi last year, maybe some sports will just use a host city as a launch site. Time will tell!

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  • 2015-03-18T00:11:31Z via Spigot To: Public

    Sports on Mars: Part 1 – Non-Travel Logistics

    IDL TIFF file

    Mars Hubble” by NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

    This is not the place for a debate on space (one of my friends has a new project where that would be more appropriate), so let’s start with the assumption that Mars is the most likely place for a future human colony. In this first article I want to discuss international competitions and how (human) Martians might compete. I will follow up with Part 2, where I will discuss how travel improvements could change the games and Part 3, where I will discuss the physics of training and training facilities. While there are international competitions in every sport, I am going to focus on the FIFA World Cup with occasional commentary about IOC Olympic sports. I’m open to writing about specific sports or addressing different aspects. Just let me know!

    Countries

    My suspicion is that eventually some sort of treaty like the one that covers Antarctica will cover Mars, but the people that do research on Antarctica all have a country. They aren’t Antarcticans. You can see a colony wanting independence, but that will take time. It seems like the most likely scenario would be for them to play as Martians as Puerto Ricans play as Puerto Ricans. It’s also possible different colonies will operate differently. By way of comparison with Puerto Rico, players from Guadeloupe are eligible to play for France. The French-type situation would require either moving permanently or massive progress in travel.

    Qualifying

    This is going to depend on how the countries work out. It seems unlikely anything but qualifying from Mars would be possible.

    Could these games be played somewhere in between?

    The short answer is no. These are huge events that will require things like hotels. While we may eventually have outposts on asteroids that are treated like islands, archipelagos don’t tend to host major tournaments. When Indonesia hosted the 2007 Asian Cup, it did so with Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. We don’t gain a ton by having the games on any of the moons and it seems more likely we’ll colonize Mars before the Moon since Mars has an atmosphere, and the Moon basically does not. Again Mars has water, while the Moon basically does not.

    Could athletes travel on cargo ships?

    Technically, this is travel, but I don’t think this requires too much technology we don’t already have. There is just no reason for investing in a massive ship. To be clear, I am not thinking about these ships actually landing on Earth and Mars. Rather, they would stay in orbit, and individuals would debark.

    If we have massive city-sized ships going back and forth between the two planets, athletes could train on those. For this to be realistic for 4-year tournaments, they essentially need to be full-time residents of the ship. I suppose the crew of the ship will need some entertainment, but space will be at a premium. We did invent scheduling systems long ago. The kids would just need to use the same field as the professionals. Of course, would virtual reality and just regular gym equipment be a better use of space for exercise? It probably is and the first ships that go between the two planets will not be luxury machines. However, I see no reason why eventually there couldn’t be a field.

    This presents even more problems about countries, but I choose not to address those now.

    Athletic Virtual Reality/E-Sports

    Athletic virtual reality is not going to work without controlled environments. It takes light 3 minutes to go from Mars to Earth, so holodeck type stuff is not going to work. Turn-based competitions could work, whether athletic or otherwise. Archery would work. Curling could work (though it would need more than a controlled environment). Bowling could work.

    E-sports would be the obvious way to deal with the distance, except we still have the problem that it takes light 3 minutes. Of course, e-sports have the benefit that the environment is controlled.

     

    Stick this one in the time capsule. Maybe we’ll get to open it up while we’re still alive, though I’m not optimistic.

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  • 2015-03-17T22:21:23Z via Spigot To: Public

    2015 NBA Predictions

    640px-Gasol_Brothers_at_the_2012_Summer_Olympics

    Gasol Brothers at the 2012 Summer Olympics” by Christopher Johnson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

    EASTERN CONFERENCE

    1. Atlanta Hawks
    2. Cleveland Cavaliers
    3. Chicago Bulls
    4. Toronto Raptors (as division winner)
    5. Washington Wizards
    6. Milwaukee Bucks
    7. Miami Heat
    8. Brooklyn Nets

    I hope I’m wrong about the Hornets, but I’ve been a fan of Carolina sports too long to expect much from anything other than college teams. Sure, the Panthers made the Super Bowl and the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup, but too many years they are on the cusp, rather than actually getting much done. Even if the Hornets do make the playoffs, they aren’t going far.

    WESTERN CONFERENCE

    1. Golden State Warriors
    2. Memphis Grizzlies
    3. L.A. Clippers
    4. Portland Trail Blazers (as division winner)
    5. Dallas Mavericks
    6. Houston Rockets
    7. San Antonio Spurs
    8. Phoenix Suns

     

    PLAYOFFS

    For those thinking the Hawks have no playoff experience, they actually have made the playoffs every year since 2007. That said, they haven’t made it out of the first round since 2011, and only made it to the second round then. The Hawks haven’t changed a lot of pieces since last year, so there should be some cohesion. Also, they haven’t had any bad injuries. Shelvin Mack is still out, which costs them almost 14 minutes a game, but he’s started zero games this year. Basically, I don’t see them winning the NBA Finals.

    East

    1. Atlanta Hawks vs. Nets – Hawks
    2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Heat – Cavs -
    3. Chicago Bulls vs. Bucks – Bulls
    4. Washington Wizards vs. Raptors – Wizards

    Hawks v Wizards – Hawks

    Cavs v Bulls – Bulls

    Bulls v Hawks – Bulls

    The Bulls have made it to the conference finals 2 of the last four years. With Miami broken up, they make it back after a long drought. Basically, this is going to come down to the Cavs not having experience together and the Hawks having a lack of playoff success. Either the Cavs or the Hawks could end up taking this spot though – particularly if Rose can’t stay healthy.

    West

    1. Golden State Warriors vs. Suns – Warriors
    2. Memphis Grizzlies vs. Spurs – Spurs — One last hurrah for Duncan.
    3. L.A. Clippers vs. Rockets – Clippers
    4. Dallas Mavericks vs. Blazers – Mavericks

    Warriors v Mavericks – Warriors

    Spurs v Clippers – Clippers

    Warriors v Clippers – Clippers

    The Warriors don’t have a ton of post-season experience, but they did make the conference finals in 2013. Kerr has had an impressive first season, and obviously has gotten the team to gel. I don’t know that he translates his post-season success as a player into that of a coach – yet. The West is wide open. I don’t think the Thunder are going to get it together enough to even make the playoffs, but they have the post-season experience to make waves if they do and their record at the end of the season is not going to indicate how good they are when healthy.

     

    Finals

    Clippers vs. Bulls – Bulls

    Pippen never got it done without Jordan (nor Jordan without Pippen), but Gasol gets it done without Kobe, just like Shaq did. This is not a dig at Kobe, just a reality.

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  • 2015-03-17T20:31:29Z via Spigot To: Public

    West Ham’s Winter Transfer Report

    Mauro_Zarate_at_AuronzoMauro Zarate at Auronzo” by Mario Rossi. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

     

    Somehow, it is not Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, or City, but rather West Ham that brings the most traffic to the site (after LFC and MUFC). Give the people what they want, I say.

    IN:

    Doneil Henry

    Henry seems like a decent enough pickup. The question on these undisclosed transfers is always the price. He’s not going to be the difference in them winning something and not at this point, but he’s only 21. They’ll need some depth for a deep cup run and they’ll need more depth if they make it to Europe next year.

    OUT:

    Mauro Zárate, Paul McCallum, Ricardo Vaz Tê, Sean Maguire, Jamie Harney, Danny Whitehead, Blair Turgott, and Kieran Sadlier.

    Zárate is one that makes no sense to me. They just bought him in May 2014. He’s 27. He was once a €20 million striker, with a €60 million buy-out clause.  Now he’s on loan to another EPL side? I guess it makes some sense as he’s 5th out of 5 in scoring from their forwards. What if they have a couple injuries though? At that point, seems like FA Cup is out of the question. I suppose they could always recall him from his loan and QPR isn’t exactly a rival for a European spot, so maybe it makes sense. I wonder if it really has more to do with balancing the books.

     

    As I mentioned, depth could end up being an issue. If injuries don’t come into play, uou would think West Ham, like Liverpool, have a decent shot at the FA Cup. LFC may be distracted by the Europa League. MUFC may be distracted by trying to finish 3rd or 4th. Likewise, Arsenal will be fighting for those 3rd and 4th EPL spots. West Ham are comfortable in 8th in the EPL, and outside of a Cup victory, probably have no realistic chance at a European spot (though the wheels could come off for some of the teams in front of them).

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  • 2015-03-17T18:51:10Z via Spigot To: Public

    Liverpool’s Winter Transfers Barely Worth an Article

    649px-Oussama_Assaidi_2011

    Oussama Assaidi 2011” by [2]Flickr: [1]. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

    If you thought Manchester United’s winter transfer dealings were a snoozefest, wait until you see Liverpool’s. Assaidi out. Suso out. Ojo loaned out. That’s it.

    Assaidi does look like a nice piece of business at £4.7 million, especially since LFC bought him for £2.4 million.

    Suso had been much hyped. FIFA 13 had him reach an unlofty 79, but FIFA 14 has him reach 89. FIFA 15 has him back down to 83, but £1,000,000 still seems pretty low. The reason for the low fee is that Suso’s contract was set to expire in July.

    Maybe Liverpool is saving their money for big summer signings, but LFC needs to focus on now if they want to be in Europe next year.

    Liverpool really needs to win the FA Cup to get into Europe, though winning the Europa League would get them a Champions League spot. Beşiktaş is not a great draw, but the fact that they are distracted by fighting for the Turkish League title certainly gives Liverpool some hope. Certainly Liverpool would seem to have more to gain from the Europa League than Beşiktaş. Aside from that, there are more teams in the Europa League that can reasonably knock Liverpool out than there are in the FA Cup. Only 9 of the 16 teams left in the FA Cup are top tier teams. Two of those teams are third tier, though you would expect Manchester United and even Sunderland, to deal with their League 1 competition at this point in the competition. Unfortunately for LFC, they do have to travel to Crystal Palace for their FA Cup tie.

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  • 2015-03-17T17:01:11Z via Spigot To: Public

    Manchester United’s Winter Moves Good, Not Exciting

    Darren_Fletcher_vs_Everton_(cropped)

    Darren Fletcher vs Everton (cropped)” by Gordon Flood. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    It goes without saying that Manchester United’s winter moves were not exciting. Anderson and Fletcher departures, or Valdés’ arrival being the biggest news. That said, getting Anderson off the books is great, and if Fletcher isn’t going to return to his former level, then that’s a good move too.

    I go into more depth below, but the big reason why this was a good window is United is 3rd in the table and didn’t need to waste money. There’s no legitimate shot at the title this year. Maybe next year!

     

    IN

    Víctor Valdés

    How can this be anything but good?

    Well, if it turns out this is a long-term replacement for De Gea, that’s how. It’s hard to see how losing De Gea under just about any circumstance is good. Sure, a straight swap for Ronaldo or Messi would work. Is Bale really worth it with the current attacking force? It is true that there is not a true left-sided attacker other than Ashley Young, but then how much is it going to cost to replace De Gea?

     

    Sadiq El Fitouri

    Salford City is the club owned by several members of the Class of ‘92. There’s really nothing more to say about this.

     

    OUT

    Michael Keane & Marnick Vermijl

    It’s always sad to see academy products not come through, but aside from that, as long as the fees were decent, there’s not much to be concerned about here.

     

    Darren Fletcher

    I certainly would have preferred him not going to an EPL side. West Brom is not a threat by themselves, but we do have to play them on May 2. Fletcher could end up costing us a top 4 spot if we drop points in that game. It is at Old Trafford.

    Some money would have been nice too, particularly considering the destination.

     

    Anderson

    Anderson’s departure has been on the cards for some time. He never really recovered from his injuries – or he kept telling himself that and never got back to fitness. Regardless, it’s promise unfulfilled, but I doubt anyone is really sad to see him go.

     

    LOAN IN

    Andy Kellett

    The only thing I can see is that United wanted Janko out on loan and Bolton needed to get someone off their books to make it happen. If that’s the case, hard to argue with this.

     

    LOAN OUT

    Ben Pearson & Will Keane & Jesse Lingard & Saidy Janko & Joe Rothwell

    Lingard is the biggest name here, and you have to think his time is running out.

     

    Sam Johnstone & Ben Amos

    Valdes coming in allows both of these guys to go out on loan.

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