Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jeremy and Curt Talk Hoops 1/31...

Final Four predictions on 1/31

Jeremy goes with these four teams on this Tuesday.
Ohio State
Michigan State

Curt goes with these four teams on this Tuesday.
Michigan State

Anyone want to predict their four??


Reds Pre Spring (Rotation)

Let's be honest, February is the worst month of the year when it comes to sports.  Other than the Super Bowl, which is just one game, there are no playoffs in any sport, no tournaments, no majors, nothing.  So I was thinking during this week I would breakdown the Reds.  I'll write four posts on different aspects of the team.  Starting rotation, bullpen, outfield, and infield.  Obviously these things are going to change once spring training starts with injuries, hot players, and Dustyisms.  So here is where I think we stand with the rotation going into February and only three weeks before these players report for Spring Training.

Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey

Travis Wood

Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Francis

Sam LeCure

Lots and lots of positives for everyone in this rotation.  But yes, you could look negatively at every player also.  Let's see what could happen this year based on their pasts.

At first glance you see Johnny Cueto coming off his best year as a major leaguer.  He had the league lead in ERA for most of the year.  He pitched seven innings almost every game.  He had an uncanny ability to get the big pitch and to get out of jams.  You have to think he's just going to get better.  And why wouldn't you think that?  His heater is explosive, his changeup is knee buckling, and his curve falls off the table.  Thank God the Reds locked him up for three more years.  He is the ace of the staff and he will carry them this year.  What could the negative be?  Well, Johnny seems to get injured every year.  Ya it's only usually a game or two, but the chances of him pitching 35 games doesn't seem too likely.  Also, like I said earlier, he gets out of a lot of jams.  Well, that means he gets into a lot of jams.  Hope that doesn't become more and more of the norm.

You can say mostly the same things about Leake, except for the types of pitches.  Leake had a great year last year.  He came out in the second half after being sent down to Louisville and just dominated.  He is a smart pitcher, he reminds me of Greg Maddux.  The more he gets to know the hitters he faces, he'll be able to handle them even better.  I really don't see how he won't continue to get better since he is such a smart pitcher.  The negative could come from the same type of idea.  Opposing hitters could figure out his pattern if he doesn't make the proper adjustments.  If a hitter starts guessing correctly, Leake can be beat since he isn't overpowering.  He also likes to steal things, sooooooo.

Bronson Arroyo is coming off of an awful season.  He had bouts with Mono and Carpal Tunnel.  He just didn't seem strong.  His fastball was slower, his curveball looked like a hanger almost every pitch.  He has been declining off the field stuff this winter because he said he is dedicating this offseason to getting stronger.  If this is true, he should be able to get back to his oldself.  He doesn't need to be the ace of the staff, just a middle of the rotation guy.  He still hasn't missed a game in five years and he continues to throw over 200 innings a year.  No reason to believe this won't continue.  Negatively though, he could be way on the bad end of the mountain.  If he doesn't get his strength back and opponents don't have to respect his fastball, he could be a major achilles heel to this rotation.  And since he is being paid so handsomely and has a good reputation with the team, it'll be hard for Dusty to take him out of the rotation.

Homer Bailey has improved every year.  Yeah it hasn't been loads and loads of improvement but improvement nonetheless.  He had more strikeouts, innings pitched, and wins then he had in any previous season.  Homer had a handful of games last year that were one inning away from being masterful.  If he can get away from that one bad inning, he could be a very very good pitcher for this rotation.  But, maybe he won't be able to meet the expectations that he has had since 2007.  He hasn't been able to put a full season together or not get injured in any season.  So why would this season be any different.  I think he is going to have a breakout year, but I seem to be in the minority there.

I have never been a Travis Wood fan.  But, if one guy in that Marshall trade could come back to haunt the Reds, it'll be Wood.  Reds can't seem to hit lefties and Wood does have some talent.  It'll be interesting to see how his career unfolds.

First off, I loved the trade to get Latos to the Reds. I didn't like it at first when I saw the names we gave up, but it's just that, names. When you have a chance to get a top of the line starter, who is under control for four years, you just do it, you don't ask questions.  Latos is a strikeout pitcher.  Yeah he pitched in a pitcher friendly park in San Diego, but it's not like he was a flyball pitcher that was lucky to have the big park.  He strikes out guys at a really good rate.  He also knows that he is a couple years away from getting a monster contract, and from what I've heard, his only critique is his lack of motivation at times.  Nothing like millions of dollars to motivate an emotional guy.  But yes, you could say that lack of motivation could hurt him.  What if the team struggles, he gets hurt, or he doesn't like the city?  He shuts it down mentally and goes through the motions?  Well, this could be the biggest failure of a trade in Reds history.

How did you feel when you heard Chapman was going to the starting rotation?  Well, I wasn't so sure how well it would go, but then I started thinking, what if he gets his control figured out?  What if he develops a third pitch?  What if he turns into the next Randy Johnson?  Yes, that is how the optimists will think, however I'm not too optimistic on him.  He only has two pitches and he doesn't have a lot of control.   He can be unhittable, or he can be remarkably wild.  If he faces a patient team, it'll be hard for him to get through seven innnings.  I just don't see it happening for him.  I hope I'm wrong though.

Jeff Francis had a good year or two a few years back.  He hasn't had a good year in a few years.  He lost 16 games last year for the Royals.  I'm not too psyched about this pickup, but it comes with no risk, and no team ever goes through the season with only five starters so he may be needed if Chapman can't answer the bell.

Sam LeCure will be the glue guy if a spot start is needed.  He's a good pitcher, I like the guy, he may become a big part of this season.  I hope he doesn't because if he does, that means a few guys are seriously failing.

How do I think the rotation will shape up going into Opening Day?  I think it'll be Cueto on the hill for Opening Day.  After him will be Latos in the two hole with Arroyo following him.  Bailey will be the fourth starter and Leake the fifth.  The number in the rotation doesn't mean anything, it's more about styles.  Cueto and Latos will bring the power followed by Arroyo's offspeed act.  Bailey comes back with the power and Leake will follow him with his picking apart style.  The scary part of that is we all know that Arroyo is prone to bounce before the third a couple times each year, and so is Bailey.  If they do that back to back, LeCure better be ready.

Well, that may not have given you too much insight but at least we are talking about the Reds.  I think the rotation will be the biggest bright spot on the team this year.  Can't wait for this season to start. 

Johnny Cueto - Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Curt and Jeremy Talk Hoops 1/28/12...

With less than 40 days left in the regular season, how do you see the Big 12 and the Big 10 shaping up?


Big Ten – Even after Indiana’s free fall from the top of the league, the conference still has 4 teams (Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin) that legitimately could win the conference.  I still like Ohio State – though 3 of their next 4 games are going to be tough.  How OSU plays at Wisconsin on Feb. 4th will say a lot about how their season will end out.

Big Twelve – I like Kansas.  Allen Fieldhouse can be an intimidating 6th man for any team, so they should keep rolling at home.  They travel to Baylor and Missouri coming up, which will present challenges, but those teams both have two league losses already, whereas Kansas is still unbeaten in league play.  As long as Kansas keeps winning at home, they can afford to lose one of those games.

First off I agree with you on the Big Ten.  I don’t think anyone has a chance except for those four teams you mentioned.  Indiana just isn’t a good team if you ask me.  They had some really good wins so they’ll be in the tourney and they are dangerous, but there is no way they are consistent enough to make any kind of noise in the conference.   As far as the team that is going to come out on top?  I really have no idea.  I went through a little exercise, wrote down how many wins I thought each of those four teams would end up with.  And somehow, I got 13 for each team, ha.  So the tiebreaker for me will be the team that has the whole package, and that is still Ohio State.  They have height, shooters, post play, quickness, etc.  The other teams are all missing something.  Wisconsin doesn’t have a go to play or any post presence.  Michigan has no post play.  Michigan State doesn’t seem to have a go to guard that every team needs to have.  This will be a great race until the end.

The Big 12 to me is a little more predictable.  I don’t see any team having a chance other than Kansas or Missouri.  Baylor is a good team but they also have really inconsistent play that won’t allow them to be in the hunt.  Now could Baylor make a run and get to the Final Four?  Yes, they have that kind of talent, just inconsistent.  Kansas obviously has the lead in the division, having not lost a game.  But I think Missouri and Kansas will tie.  I think Kansas loses today at Iowa State also.  Iowa State is an underrated team, I think them and Kansas State will battle Baylor for third place in the conference.  One team that doesn’t have a chance is Texas Tech, man they are bad, probably top five worst teams in any major conference.

Enjoy your Saturday games….

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

College Basketball Wrap 1/25...

Another great college basketball Wednesday.  Wacky day in the A10.  Big upsets in the top ten.  OU continues on their roll that should last a couple more weeks.  And ya, it's only January.

Let's start with Bobcats of Ohio University.  Tonight was win three in a row on the third of four straight home games.  Tough game this coming Saturday at home against Ball State, but after that are four games against really bad teams.  I said last week they would win eight in a row, and I still think they will.  But before we get too excited, they still aren't playing well.  Western Michigan isn't a good team, they were missing one of their best players, their best player got hurt in the first half, and they still had a chance down the stretch to beat an OU team at home.  Not good for the Bobcats.  Even worse is that I watched the game on ESPN3 and it was really dead there.  What else are the students doing on Wednesday night in January?  You should be at that game, no questions asked.  Anyway, 11AM Saturday, home, on ESPNU, watch it.

Like I said before, wacky day in the A10.  I would say there were some upsets, but it's hard to call games upsets this early in conference since we aren't totally sure how good each team is.  Is it an upset that Dayton lost on the road at St. Joe's?  If you look at the standings, yes.  If you think about where you thought these teams would be before the season started, then no.  Either way, it's the Dayton team we are use to, win a big game, lose a road game.  It's just what they do. 

Xavier loses at home to St. Louis.  I would call that an upset, but the way these teams are playing right now, it's not totally surprising. 

Temple hasn't won at Charlotte before.  So, I was a little worried about this game.  Well, they were up 33 at one point in the second half.  Charlotte didn't make a field goal until 9 minutes left in the game.  Temple finally got Michael Eric back on Saturday.  We are starting to see what he means to this team.  They are going to take off now, lookout.  And their wins versus Duke, Wichita State, Maryland, and at St. Louis are going to continue to boost their resume.  Oh, and 9-0 on weekdays this year, ha. 

St. Bonaventure pulled out a road win at Rhodey in OT.  Good thing they won that game because I was about to never take them seriously ever again if they lost to this awful Rhodey team. 

So after the dust settled tonight, the standings are tighter than you could even imagine.  Six teams tied in first with two losses.  Five teams next with three losses.  It's going to be a great race this year, even greater because Xavier shouldn't end up at the top. 

A few good games on Saturday.  St. Joes at Temple is the biggest.  Rivalry game.

Big upset in the Big12 today.  A weak Oklahoma State team took out #2 Missouri.  A definite courtstorming, and a deserving one.  It's amazing how college kids either get up for big games, or have such letdowns after their own big wins.  It just never ceases to amaze me. 

(Duke game pending)

And real quick, Ohio State.  Ya, another smashing by them, but pardon me for not getting too excited yet.  Sure, they beat Indiana last week, but look at their other conference wins.  Nebraska twice, Northwestern, Iowa, and Penn State.  They have Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin twice the rest of the year.  Along with Illinois, and Purdue at home.  So we'll see how they do the rest of the year.  I said they were one of the top three teams in the nation though, so I'm not saying they aren't good.  I'm just saying I don't want to hear people gushing over them for beating teams that shouldn't even be on the floor with them.


Khalif Wyatt

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saturday Recap

We had five ranked teams go down Saturday, including number one Syracuse.  Tough loss for them since they were without their seven footer Fab Melo.  They are saying it is academic but wouldn't expand on that.  It'll be interesting to see how long he is out.  This could be a major hit for them. 

Murray State remained unbeaten, and is now the only unbeaten team left.  No one directly in front of them lost however so I doubt they'll move up in the standings.  I can't wait until they are number one, it's going to be so funny.  You know how the voters work, if someone in front of you loses, you move up.  So when all these teams from big conferences keep losing and Murray State keeps winning, I wonder how far they move up.  5, 4, 3?  They aren't a top five team, but that's not what the rankings will say.  Oh well, unlike that college football, rankings don't matter one bit.

How great was that Duke loss?  Im sorry, but Austin Rivers is the best player on the other team every night.  I'm not stupid, I see the guys skills, he's going to be a good one someday, but right now, he is out of control and takes some awful shots.  It seems like when the other team is on a run, he tries to do it himself and just ends up giving the ball back to the opponent to make the run worse.  Coach K has to be so frustrated with that.

Back to Syracuse real quick.  I watched the whole second half of that game, and their players are real whiners.  Granted they were undefeated and I'm sure it's tough to take your first loss, but own your mistakes sometimes.  A few times they took ill advised shots, dribbled the ball off their own feet, fouled guys at midcourt, and every time they turn to the ref and make it a huge deal.  Hey, if you didn't screw up, the refs wouldn't have to make the call.  It's not always their fault, grow up a little.

Ohio Bobcats pull out a huge win.  It was only huge because you can't lose at home on Gary Trent Day, on Dad's Weekend, to a 5-11 rival.  Well, that's what almost happened.  They were down as many as 12 in the game and 8 in the second half.  They pulled it out though to right the ship at 3-2 in league.  Now I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I don't think it is too far-fetched.  The Bobcats are going to win their next seven in a row and be sitting at 21-4 and 10-2 in the MAC.  They have four of those at home, and the three roadies are against Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Eastern.  Only Ball State at home is against a team with a winning record.  Yeah, I know, the Bobcats always let us down, but I believe they'll handle this.

A little A10 wrap.  Obviously, huge win by Dayton.  They are a team to be reckoned with, but before we get ahead of ourselves, as we all know, they usually take care of business at home, let's see how they do in a few big road games before we get too excited.  As it is though, they are first in the A10 after three weeks, so good for them.  Xavier now has too losses and still needs to travel to Temple and St. Louis, this may be the year they don't win the A10.  Nice win by Temple over Maryland.  2-0 against the ACC this year.  Surprise team in the league this year might be UMASS.  They haven't won any big games so far, but winning at Richmond isn't an easy thing to do.  I have my eye on them.  Right now, Dayton, UMASS, Xavier, and St. Louis would have the byes in the tourney.  Fordham and Rhode Island would be out.

The Owls again come away with a good resume win.  To me though, they won't be a team that can win consistently until they cut down on stupid turnovers and out of control drives.  They go as their guards go, it's totally obvious, but they need to play smarter.  But as dumb as they play at times, each guard is willing to take the big shot.  No matter what the score or situation, none of them shy away from the big moment.  That will be a big factor later in the year and tourney time.

Ok, let's watch some football today.


Pat Connaughton

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Curt and Jeremy Talk Hoops 1/21/12

From time to time until the end of the college basketball season, Curt and Jeremy will have various discussions on the college basketball season. Please feel free to add your own thoughts. This will be interactive and opinionated. So far the season has been a good watch, but we all know things start picking up this time of year. Enjoy.

Jeremy Fiser: Curt, first, thanks for inviting me to your blog. It’s great to be in the presence of your tens of readers. Let me throw out the first question on our first blog. Rankings aside, who is the best team in college basketball right now? We've seen a lot of movement in and out of the top ten throughout the season, and Syracuse there have been a lot of upsets of teams lodged particularly in the top five. Are voters just not picking the top 10 right or is there that much balance that any given night a top team might get knocked off?
Curt: Well, first off, you’re welcome. Second, the biggest thing to remember is that these are college kids; every team is going to have an off night. These teams in the top ten are all the cream of the crop, but you can't expect them to show up every game. I mean as a coach, you want to expect it, but we all know it won't happen. Obviously I'm not including Murray State in this, but hey, they've earned their ranking. But to answer your question on the best team, right now I would have to go with Syracuse. I say this because they have the whole package. They have a big guy, quick guards, good shooters, the zone that teams have a hard time with, a hall of fame coach, they just don't have a weakness right now. The teams I see right behind them are Ohio State and Missouri. OSU kind of has the same makeup as Syracuse, with having positives in every aspect; they just need to put it all together in each game. And Mizzou has the thing that carries teams every March, great scoring guards. They have three of them and they'll be a tough out come March.

Some big games coming up on Saturday. Let's look at three of them and see who should come out victorious...

#5 Missouri at #3 Baylor
Well I just said above that I thought Mizzou was one of the better teams in the nation. This is true, but Baylor is right there in the conversation too. Baylor is coming off a tough loss at Kansas, I think they come out and take this game at home. Mizzou could steal the game however if they get hot from outside, which they are very capable of doing. In the end though, Perry Jones is too much, he'll take over. But if he is in foul trouble....

Florida State at #4 Duke
Duke is the better team, but they haven't played a great game in about a month. Florida State on the other hand has been on fire. FSU's biggest problem is that they can't play on the road. Duke obviously is unbeatable at home. So this is either an easy pick, or eventually something has to change right? I doubt it, Duke in a route.

Xavier at Dayton
Everyone knew Xavier would be at the top of the A10 but no one thought Dayton would be in second. Ya, it's only been two weeks, but hey, the standing don't lie. Dayton is thin on the bench and doesn't really have a guy that can take over, so this will be a tough game for them to win. However, as we all know rivalry games can go each way. Lyons plays better for Xavier when there is animosity, he thrives on talking with other team, I see him playing big. In the end, it'll probably be Xavier taking this one, but I wouldn't put a wager on it.

What do you think Jeremy?

Jeremy Fiser: If there is one thing I love, it’s when people ask me what I think. I generally agree on Syracuse being the best team. They haven't had the trip up losses that some other teams have had (Duke at Temple, Ohio State at Illinois, etc). They certainly had enough distractions at the beginning of the season for some early losses, but were fortunate to play some easier opponents all at home and built some momentum. That said, there schedule is about to get a lot tougher, and they are about to have to play some games away from home. Good teams are losing on the road this year to unranked teams (see my previous two examples of losses, and add in UNC getting creamed at Florida and Kentucky getting stunned at Indiana). Aside from at Providence, Cuse really hasn’t had a road challenge yet this season. That all changes soon when they play 6 of their last 11 on the road, including at UConn, at Louisville, and at a very dangerous Cincinnati team that is coming off wins at Georgetown and at UConn. Syracuse is about to have to play really hard to keep that number one ranking. I would put Ohio State as probably the second best team. Incredibly talented team that is unusually deep considering how Thad Matta usually likes to play. They still have to play Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin twice this season, and at Northwestern at the end of February will not be easy. With the way the Big Ten is this year, OSU could probably lose 2 games the rest of the way out and still win the conference regular season.

For the Pick 3:

#5 Missouri at #3 Baylor
A classic matchup of two top 5 powerhouses. I think this is going to pretty close, but I'm going with Baylor here, even though they just got thumped by a pretty solid Kansas team. Both teams are in the top 15 in the nation in terms of field goal percentage - Mizzou is second best shooting 50%. However in their one loss, at Kansas State, they shot only 30% from the field. If Baylor can use the home court advantage to throw Missouri off a little bit and get them to miss shots, Baylor should be able to capitalize and pull off a big W.

Florida State at #4 Duke
After watching Duke get absolutely pummeled by Ohio State earlier this year, I was certain that they were overrated. Then after watching them get beat at Temple, I was convinced they were overrated. And now Duke is playing this weekend as the fourth ranked team at a Florida State that embarrassed UNC last weekend. I still think Duke is overrated, but I don't think they are losing at home this weekend, where they have won 46 in a row. I don't think Florida State can reproduce what they did last weekend at home against UNC in Cameron. Duke is benefited by the Crazies this weekend and gets the win.

Xavier at Dayton
Andy Katz called this one of the nations most underrated in conference rivalries, and you don't disagree with Andy Katz (aka the man with the best job ever). Xavier's season has been in a tail spin since playing Cincinnati. It looks like they might have finally righted the ship after their free fall, but this will certainly be there biggest test since getting their core team members all back on the court at the same time. I heard someone say recently that this is not your Brian Gregory Flyers, and I would agree. Archie Miller has done a good job so far in his first year and the Flyers have vaulted themselves into the thick of the A-10 race. I’m keeping with my theme of the advantage of the home team and picking Dayton. However, if I’m wrong and Xavier is fully back, they are going to be tough to beat in the A10 and could take some teams by surprise in March.

Curt: One correction. Temple game versus Duke wasn't on their home court. Duke won't play Temple there.

Check back in a day or two for some more banter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A10 Opening Night...

What a way to start it off.  Two overtime games.  A big nonconference win.  A loss by the favorite.  Going to be a great ten weeks. 

Is Xavier going to get it back together?

Is Temple for real?

Is St. Louis a little too overrated right now?

Is St. Joes back?

Has Richmond fallen back to earth after a couple good years?

These are questions that will be answered during this season, I'll answer how I think they'll play out.  Not tonight though, tomorrow.