Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wisconsin Badgers Extend Coach Bo Ryan Through 2016

The University Of Wisconsin has extended coach Bo Ryan's contract through the 2015-2016 season.

Ten years ago, Wisconsin basketball was a joke, like Indiana football. Then, the Badgers hired Bo Ryan, the coach of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Right away, Ryan turned the team around, and is now not only a top coach in the Big Ten conference, but in the whole country.

After much success at the University of Wisconsin, the Badgers decided to extend Ryan through 2016. The 63 year old has been coaching the Badgers for ten years now, and hasn't had a disappointing season yet.

Since hiring Ryan, the Badgers have had a winning record each year, and have made it to the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Overall the team is 272-118 with Ryan leading the Badgers. Wisconsin has also won the Big Ten regular season title three times, and the tournament twice.

Ryan is a spectacular coach and perfect for the Badger's system. Ryan teaches that defensive and hustle comes first. Wisconsin is always one of the hardest teams to score against, especially at home. Wisconsin has the 5th best winning record at home under Ryan, at 136-11.

Another thing Ryan preaches to his players, is to be efficient with the ball. If you ever watch a Wisconsin Badgers game, you realize that they aren't very exciting, but they get the job done. Wisconsin always uses the full shot clock, another reason why other teams don't score much on them (time of possession). The Badgers offense, consists of many screens, cuts, and passes, before getting a high quality shot.

Wisconsin also usually has one of the highest assists to turnover ratio. Under Ryan, the Badgers have been one of the most efficient teams in the country.

Wisconsin never produces stars in the NBA, but that is because everyone gets a little bit of the wealth. The team is a family under Ryan, and all of the players wouldn't mind giving that extra pass to guarantee a basket.

At Wisconsin, Ryan has a 73% winning percentage. His winning percentage all time, ranks only second to active coaches. The only coach ahead of Ryan, is North Carolina's coach Roy Williams. Also Ryan has the best all time winning percentage against the Big Ten.

This year the Badgers again had a solid season finishing with a 25-9 record. They advanced to the Sweet 16, but finally lost to Butler, who eventually made it to the title game. The Badgers defeated Belmont and Kansas State in order to reach the Sweet 16.

Next year with floor general Jordan Taylor back, the Badgers and Ryan look to have another successful season in the Big Ten.

Memphis Grizzlies Upset Spurs For First Series Win In Franchise History

Zach Randolph has been the Heart and Soul of this Memphis Team. Can he
Lead them to another series victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Memphis Grizzlies have come a long way since upsetting the Spurs last night in Memphis. The Grizzlies, originally hailing from Vancouver, moved to Memphis in 2001. After trading for Spanish star Pau Gasol, in his rookie year in 2001, the Grizzlies would become an average team in the Western Conference. In that time though, until Pau got traded in 2008, the Grizzlies made three playoff appearances, only to be swept every time.

 After Gasol left for the Lakers, the Grizzlies had three miserable years. They drafted Hasheem Thabeet, who was sent down to the D-League after not performing well in the NBA. They also signed Allen Iverson, but just after six games, AI quit the team for personal reasons.

Now, three years later, the Grizzlies are back in the playoffs, and have made franchise history.In the past, the Grizzlies have only had three playoff wins in Vancouver and Memphis combined. After upsetting the top seed San Antonio Spurs, the Grizzlies now have seven playoff wins, four coming from this year.

 The Grizzlies are a young team led by a veteran leader. Some of the young stars of the Grizzlies include, Pau's brother, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley Jr, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur, OJ Mayo, and rookie Xavier Henry. The leader of this team though is Zach Randolph. With Rudy Gay out for the season, it was Randolph who kept the Grizzlies in the playoffs towards the end of the season, and eventually helped them upset the Spurs.

 The Grizzlies were 46-36 this season.  Randolph led the team in points and rebounds, averaging 20.1 and 12.2 respectively. Mike Conley Jr ledMemphis in assists with 6.5 per game. Rudy Gay, averaged 19.8 points per game and six rebounds. With Gay out for the season, many players are stepping up in his absence.

 Now in the playoffs, Randolph is averaging 21.5 points per game, his 29 points last night helped cap off a first round series victory over the Spurs. Marc Gasol has stepped it up in the playoffs, and has averaged 12.3 rebounds per game. The two big men, overpower the Spurs who do not have that much height.

 The Grizzlies are much younger, and have much more energy then this aging Spurs team. Mike Conley and Darrell Arthur both sped by defenders throughout the series. The Spurs just could not keep up. Even when Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker would try to help the Spurs win the game, it would be Randolph who would also clinch the win for the Grizzlies.

 The Grizzlies got up to a 3-1 lead in the series. They were in position to win game five, but Gary Neal hit a three pointer to tie the game with only one second left. The Spurs would end up to win that game in OT.

 In game six, the Grizzlies knew they had to finish off the Spurs, because if not, game seven would be played in San Antonio. The Spurs hadn't beat the Grizzlies in Memphis all season long (0-4). The Grizzlies got off to an early lead, and kept it throughout most of the game. Then with only a few minutes left in the fourth, the Spurs took a 81-80 lead. Then the Grizzlies went to Zach Randolph for the next five possessions, and by the time the clock struck 0:00, the Grizzlies were advancing to the next round.

The Grizzlies now face the Oklahoma City Thunder. Also a young and energetic team, the Thunder are led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Grizzlies still have a great chance to win this series as well. The Thunder do not have the height or strength to hold off Randolph and Gasol on the post. The most important matchup though will be Kevin Durant vs whoever steps up to guard him. If the Grizzlies can shut down Durant, and force Westbrook to shoot 30 shots again, they might find themselves playing in the Western Conference Finals.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New York Giants Draft Preview

Like many picks in the draft this year, the Giants pick is not totally decided or obvious,
but there are definitely some players who stand out.

Last year, despite not making the playoffs, the New York Giants had a very good season. Overall they finished 10-6, which in most years is good enough to qualify for the playoffs. The Giants also were ahead the majority of the season, but after a few bad losses down the stretch, and a very bad punt, the Giants found themselves out of the playoffs.

In this draft preview, you can find where the Giants need players, who the Giants should take in the first round, and who are some late sleepers.

Right away when you look at the Giants team, you think they are fine. They have a somewhat young quarterback in Eli Manning, a balanced running game, and a young group of wide receivers led by Hakeem Nicks. On defense you have a solid front four led by Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, and also have a good secondary with Corey Webster and Antrel Rolle.

So what positions were not named?

That would be the offensive line, the tight end, the linebacker core, and the special teams.

The Giants have a very experienced offensive line, and a good line too, having racked up numerous pro bowls. The problem with the offensive line though is that they are old! The youngest player on the line is Chris Snee who is still 29. The rest of the line is over thirty and although they are still good, they are aging.

As for the tight end, the Giants found a late round steal in Kevin Boss a few years ago. Boss has showed some signs of improvement, bit in a draft with some great tight ends including  Kyle Rudolph, the Giants can look into upgrading that position.

The Giants have a very bad offensive line, and i would think they draft multiple linebackers in this draft. The current linebackers in the 4-3 defense are Jonathan Goff, Keith Bullock, and Michael Boley. As many Giants fans painfully watched, wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks like Michael Vick on a Monday Night Game, burned the Giants linebackers all season. Bullock is aging and with Mathias Kiwanuka as a free agent, the Giants should look to resigning Mathias and even drafting a linebacker.

Now by far the worst part of the giants lineup: the special teams.

Oh where to start.

The punter, or should i say, the season ender, Matt Dodge, has to go. One name i keep hearing pop up, is former Florida Punter, and Ray Guy winner Chas Henry. I would love for the Giants to snag Henry in the late rounds.

The kicker, Lawrence Tynes, has been on the Giants for a few years now, and I don't know why we keep bringing him back. I do not know how many times i have heard how bad and unclutch Tynes is. The Kicking class is also a good one, but I don't think the Giants should draft a kicker and punter. Just one would be fine, but the Giants definitely need to make changes.

One thing I have always said about the Giants is how they have never had a spark plug or speed demon to return kicks or punts. This year we had Darius Reynaud and DJ Ware returning kicks and punts. It wouldn't matter if the Giants even sent Matt Dodge out there to return, because either way the return game was terrible. A big reason why the Giants didn't make the playoffs was because of field position. The Giants never had big returns to propel them on important drives. The Giants definitely should bring in  a guy who can both return kicks and punts, but also play offense or defense.

Right now the Giants have the 19th pick in the draft.

If Florida offensive linemen Mike Pouncey is still available at this pick, it should be a no brainer. His brother had an immediate impact on the Steelers, and helped lead them to the Super Bowl. Wouldn't be too shabby if brother Mike can do that for the Giants.

Realistically though, other linemen the Giants should consider getting are Anthony Costanzo out of Boston Collge or Gabe Carimi, who to me looks like Joe Thomas Jr. It could just be the fact that both went to Wisconsin, but Carimi definitely has the skill and work load to have a successful NFL career.

On the defensive side, the Giants should definitely look into Mark Herzlich out of Boston College. Herzlich hasn't had that big of an impact the last few years, but that is because he had cancer, and fortunately survived. Herzlich is a great player, leader, and effort to definitely be a good NFL player.

If Akeem Ayers or Derek Sherrod, or Nate Soldier, slip into the second round, the Giants should definitely consider drafting them. All three had great senior years, at UCLA, Mississippi State, and Colorado respectively.

As for the later rounds, the Giants should look to draft a tight end, more help to the offensive line and linebackers, and to work on the special teams.

Looking into next season (yes the lockout was lifted today), the Giants will definitely be in good shape to possibly win the division. Like most years, it will be a coin flip between them Dallas and Philadelphia for the title.

Any draft or other sports questions, feel free to email me!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ray Allen's Late Three Gives Celtics Win Over Knicks In Game 1

Ray Allen points the finger at Rondo, after assisting Allen on one of his three pointers.

In a game where the Knicks controlled all aspects of the game, offense and defense, something they usually don't bring to their game, it came down to the NBA's all time best 3 point shooter, who when it mattered the most, hits the big shot for the win.

When it came down to the rebuttal after Allen's big shot, Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks general not only during the game, but the whole regular season, did not touch the ball once. He didn't even touch the ball on the last three team possessions. It was Carmelo Anthony, the new guy who eventually took the last shot, a low percentaged one too, that ended the Knicks chance of upsetting the Celtics. Anthony on the  previous offensive possession, was called for an offensive foul, which ended up giving the Celtics back the ball. It would be on that drive by the Celtics, where Ray Allen, the NBA's all time leading three point shooter, would knock down his third three of the game to give the Celtics a 87-85 lead.

Going into the series, nobody though the Knicks would have a chance. They were swept in the regular season by the Celtics, and many though that they were mismatched against the Celtics. The Knickerbockers came out strong though at the TD Garden last night, and by the end of the first half, were up by 12.

All season long everyone knew how good the Knicks offense was. Amar'e Stoudemire is one of the most explosive players in the game, and the addition of Carmelo Anthony, should have made the offense even stronger. It was the defense, that in the beginning, helped out the Knicks the most. They only gave up 39 points in the first half, including a 15 point 2nd quarter. At times in the seasons, the Knicks have given up more than 39 points in a quarter alone.

Amar'e had a pair of blocks, and Ronny Turiaf had 4. Jared Jeffries off the bench helped out and grabbed nine rebounds. Turiaf wasn't just good on defense though, he was perfect from the field, until late in the game when he missed a highly contested lay-up.

It was Carmelo, the new guy who really threw the Knicks off. Anthony was awful down the stretch and only had three points in the second half. He was 5-18 from the field and missed a free throw as well.

More bad news for the Knicks is that veteran guard, Chauncey Billups will be out for game two, after injuring himself late in game one.

As for the Celtics, it wasn't Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, or Rajon Rondo, who really stepped it up and helped spark a comeback. It wasn't Shaquille O'Neal either, who sat out of game 1, but it was Jermaine O'Neal who helped the Celtics knock off the Knicks.

O'Neal was a perfect 6-6 from the field, and had four blocks. He wasn't the leading scorer, but O'Neal's presence on the floor was a key contributor to the C's comeback.

Rajon Rondo also played a great game. He was one assist and one rebound away from a triple double. Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who has been one of the most improved players in the NBA, and one of the best 6th men in the league, was ineffective in the game. He shot an atrocious 1-8 from the field, had a pair of turnover, and only grabbed four rebounds in 25 minutes of play.

It was Ray Allen though, who was the hero for the men in green. Allen led the Celtics with 24 points, which was more then a fourth of the team's total points. Allen was 2-3 from beyond the arc, and was perfect from the free throw line. If the Knicks want to have a chance in this series, not only do they need Carmelo Anthony to step up, but they need Ray Allen to step down.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chris Paul And The Hornets Defeat The Lakers To Take Lead Of Series 1-0

Chris Paul scores on a layup over Andrew Bynum. This layup was just 2 of Paul's 33 points in today's game.

Chris Paul, or CP3 as many call him, is a basketball machine, and when he gets programming he cannot be stopped. Paul showed the basketball world today, that even when a team is mismatched, or in general worse then the team they are playing, if their best player is ON, they can beat any team.

The Hornets, a team lucky to even make the playoffs, after a shaky end to the season, couldn't believe they just beat the two time defending champs in game one. Paul after the game said "I know for us, we didn’t finish the season as strong as we would’ve liked to, so in all of our practices we were focusing on us. We’re not good enough to judge who we want to play. We just had to make sure we would be ready no matter who it was. And that’s the thing about our team, since day one everyone has had a chip on their shoulder. We lost [David West], we’ve just been through all different kinds of circumstances".

It wasn't even the fact that the Lakers played bad. They put up 100 points in front of a very loud home crowd, and Kobe Bryant even had 34 points. Overall the team shot 46% from the team, and even out rebounded the Hornets 41-33.

The Lakers simply got out-hustled by this New Orleans team. Led by CP3, who has led the NBA in steals almost every year he has been in the league, the Hornets had more steals, more forced turnovers, and less fouls then the Lakers.

Chris Paul dazzled the Los Angeles Lakers, putting up 33 points, 16 assists, and even grabbing seven rebounds. Of course, he also collected four steals as well. Overall shooting he was 11-18 from the field, including 2-3 from downtown. He was very efficient from the free throw line (9-12) which was important down the stretch, icing the game. One huge stat for Paul though was that he only had two turnovers, making his assist to turnover ratio 7:1.

The Los Angeles Lakers big men, just could not take advantage of the undersized Hornets. With all-star David West out for the Hornets, they had to go deep into their roster even creating time for former Laker D.J. Mbenga to get some minutes.

The Hornets pulled to an early lead, in the first quarter, increased the lead eight at halftime, and never looked back. The Lakers tried to make a run late in the third and fourth quarters, but just as the game got close, Paul took over the game.

Paul got a lot of help, from a lesser known Hornets bench. Aaron Gray, a former Purdue big man attributed 12 points, and was 5-5 from the field. Jarrett Jack was 5-6 from the field and had 15 points. While Emeka Okafor played limited minutes and eventually fouled out, it was Carl Landry, another former Purdue big man, who helped out Paul the most. Landry scored 17 points on 6-13 shooting and was perfect from the line. In addition he grabbed five rebounds.

Paul was very proud of his bench after the game and was quoted saying, "It was very important. That’s why we were able to win this game. AG [Aaron Gray] was outstanding, just his presence on the boys, not really letting those guys get deep post positions. [Jarrett Jack], he’s been outstanding after All-Star break, leading our team, he was good for us tonight."

The Lakers look to rebound, in game two. The game will also be played in the Staples Center. Kobe Bryant said that in order to win games, the team needs to find the energy they had in previous playoffs runs. The Hornets are a good team, but the Lakers definitely have the skill and ability to knock them off.

Rangers Defeat Caps In Emotional Win At Home

Brandon Dubinsky celebrates after giving the Rangers a 3-2 lead with only two minutes to play.

Going into today's game vs the Capitals, the Rangers were not yet nervous, but another loss would almost ruin their chances of advancing to the next round, and upsetting the #1 seed Washington Capitals. Good thing the Rangers weren't nervous because in front of a packed Garden the Rangers defeated the Caps 3-2 in a nail biter.

Previously in the last two games, the Rangers had lost both games in Washington, to go down 2-0 in the series. The first loss was a tough one, that was ended in OT when the Rangers turned the puck over in their own zone. They were up 1-0 for most of the third period, but a late goal by Alex Ovechkin sent the game to OT. In the second game, it was all about Capitals goalie Michael Neuvirth. Neuvirth stopped every shot his way, and helped Washington defeat the Rangers 2-0.

Henrik Lundqvist was doing the best he could to keep the Rangers in the series. The offense just wasn't there, combining for only one goal in two games. That goal was by defenseman Matt Gilroy in the first game.

In game three, in front of 18,000 blueshirts fans, the offense came out. After a scoreless and intense first period with plenty of bone bruising hits, Erik Christensen scored on a power-play goal to give the Rangers a  1-0 lead. The Rangers would keep up the pressure and looked good for the majority of the game at that point, until Alex Ovechkin scored on a redirection goal with only a minute left in the 2nd.
The Rangers were unlucky to give up that goal, because going into the 3rd period with a lead this season, the Rangers were 29-0-0.

The hitting and bruising continued into the third period. The Rangers and Capitals both had great scoring opportunities. Vinny Prospal ended the stalemate though when he slapped one past Neuvirth with about 12 minutes to play. The Rangers looked in position to give themselves the win, and narrow the deficit against the Capitals, but just when it looked perfect, Marian Gaborik took a two minute penalty for cross checking.

It would be on that power-play where Mike Knuble tied up the game with about five minutes to play. The Rangers and fans could not belive that their lead once again had been tied up by the Capitals. The Rangers were out shooting, out hustling, and overall out playing Washington.

With about two minutes to play though, Brandon Dubinsky, who had been the Rangers best skater all season, gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead when he faked out Neuvirth for the winning goal. Dubinsky looked like he was going to wrap around the net, but spun in front of the net instead, and put one over Neuvirth's shoulder to give the Blueshirts the lead.

The Rangers outshot the Capitals 35-25 during the game.

Prospal, who scored in the game was quoted after saying, "We knew this game was huge. We reminded ourselves not to look at the big picture and just focus on this one game. They did what they were supposed to do at home, so it was up to us to do the same. We were resilient and got the job done today."

Lundqvist was also quoted after the game, "The great part (in a series) is that one game can change a lot. Our focus was to come in here and get a win, try to change the momentum of the series a little bit. It was great to see the finish we had tonight. We kept fighting. We have a great feeling in here". Henk sounded very relieved too, knowing he helped give the Rangers the win.

The Rangers next game is Wednesday, also at MSG. The Rangers look to tie up the series at 2-2. If the offense could show up again, with a very loyal crowd around them, the Rangers have a great shot of coming back against the Capitals, a team known for not living up to high expectations.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Josh Hamilton Hurts Arm After Home Plate Collision

Josh Hamilton will be on the DL for the next eight weeks after breaking his arm in a slide at home plate

The Texas Rangers made it to the World Series last year, but fell short to the San Francisco Giants. After losing Cliff Lee in the offseason to Philadelphia, the Rangers are still continuing their success and have jumped out to a 9-3, which is good enough to lead their division and the whole American League. Also the Rangers have scored the most runs in the American League, with 66, and much of that is due to Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton was the 2010 American League MVP, as well as the ALCS MVP, and a Silver Slugger. Hamilton started off this season on the same note that he left off last year. Hamilton is batting .333 with seven runs batted in. He also has a .409 on base percentage which is also in the top half of the league.

Hamilton hit a rough patch though, when on a game vs the Tigers on April 12, Hamilton was sent home by 3rd base coach, Dave Anderson, although the ball was a fly ball pop out that didn't even reach the outfield. The reason Anderson sent Hamilton, was because the catcher wasn't at home, and went to go catch the ball.

Once the ball was caught Hamilton sprinted his 90 feet, and had a head first slide trying to avoid the tag. Not only was he tagged and called out, but Hamilton apparently hurt his arm on the play. After getting it checked out, Hamilton was diagnosed with a small fracture in his humerus bone, in his right arm. Josh will now miss 6-8 weeks healing his arm.

After the game, Hamilton caused some sparks to fly, after calling his coaches decision "stupid".

The Rangers already showed signs of missing their big slugger. Texas was defeated by the Tigers the next day 3-2. Hamilton has apologized to his coach for his remarks. "I was just frustrated, more for getting injured". Said the reigning AL MVP.

Hamilton has been a great story in the MLB. He was a former #1 overall pick in the draft, but faded away from the game for a few years after a struggle with drugs or alcohol. Hamilton came back just a few years ago to play for the Reds. After a comeback season with the Reds in 2008, in only 90 games he had 47 RBI's and 19 home runs, Hamilton signed with the Texas Rangers, where he would get voted to three straight all star games.

Hopefully for Josh, and the Rangers, he can recover from his injury very quickly. He is one of the best players in the game right now, and although the Rangers will probably be able to hold their lead on the Mariners, Angels, and A's, they would love to have Josh Hamilton back as soon as they can.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New York Rangers Make Playoffs In The Last Game Of The Season

Ryan Mcdonagh celebrates his 1st NHL goal that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead over the Devils.

Last Year, the Rangers lost to the Flyers in overtime on the last day of the season and were eliminated from the playoffs. This year, the Rangers weren't going to allow the same thing to happen. The Rangers were tied with the Carolina Hurricanes going into the last game from each team.

The Rangers played the New Jersey Devils, while the Hurricanes played the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even though the Rangers won, it was up to the Hurricanes whether who would get the final spot, because a win for the 'Canes meant playoffs and a loss meant elimination.

Many of the Rangers players were confident that they would at least win their game against the Devils. Although the Hurricanes game wasn't in their hands, they still went out there to have a chance. Brandon Dubinsky, who leads the team in goals, assists, and points was quoted before the game saying,  "We are going to take care of our game and get the win".

That is exactly what the Rangers did on Saturday.

The Rangers' captain, Chris Drury, returned to the ice after missing nearly three months of hockey due to surgery. Drury right away made impact, and on his first shift, tied up the game only a minute after the Devils scored their first goal, which was only two minutes into the game. The Devils would then score a late goal with only 30 seconds remaining in the first period.

The Rangers started off the second period with a bang. Instantly they tied up the game, and by the end of the second it was 4-2 New York. Ryan McDonagh would score his first career NHL goal, to give the rangers  a 3-2 lead. They would score two more unanswered goals to give themselves a 4-2 lead.

The beating wouldn't stop though because Vinny Prospal scored the final goal in the third period to give the Rangers the 5-2 win. The Rangers had 14 different skaters record points, and Prospal was the only skater who recorded two. McDonagh said after the game, "It made it sweeter that we got the win.. it was exciting and a lot of fun (to get it)".

The Garden was shaking, the Rangers final game was a win which put them in position to advance to the playoffs. Like most years, the Rangers gave away their game worn jerseys and equipment to lucky fans. It was a good afternoon for most fans.

Then the nerves came back in the night, as the players and fans watched the Lightning take on the Hurricanes, in Carolina. King Henrik said it best, "It was do or die today and we did what we had to do... we played a great game.. we got the points, but don't know if it's enough"

Things got underway at around 7 PM in Raleigh, Carolina. The Lightning quickly scorched the Hurricanes for three straight goals in the first period. By the end of the second period it was 4-1. After a power play goal by the Hurricanes, and two empty net goals by Tampa Bay, the season was over for Carolina.

The New York Rangers could not be happier. All the stress and tension was over, and the Rangers are returning to the playoffs after a short hiatus.

Captain Drury was quoted saying," I never want to be watching a game with Henk again.. He's intense!"

Although the Rangers will be the #8 seed in the East, they like their chances of advancing to the next round because of their success vs the #1 seed Washington Capitals this season. The Rangers are 3-1 against the Caps this season, with big wins like 7-0 and 6-1. Although the Rangers will be without assistant captain Ryan Callahan due to a broken ankle, the Capitals will be without their start defenseman Mike Green.

With the New York Knicks also making the playoffs for the first time in a while, both the Rangers and Knicks will be busy in April. Along with the New York Yankees, the Knicks and Rangers can make New York proud, something they haven't done in a long time. The last time both teams made the playoffs was over ten years ago.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New York Yankees Starting Off The Season Hot

Mark Teixeira Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 8, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira has hit a bunch of "Tex Messages" out of the Ball Park this season,
and looks to continue as the Yankees face off against the Red Sox.

After two series against the Tigers and Twins, and a series going on now vs their long time rivals, the Red Sox, the New York Yankees have looked once again, like one of the best teams in the league. The offense has been great, the pitching (for the most part) has been solid, and with the Red Sox at a 1-6 record, who could be upset? The Yankees are 4-3 this season and look to add on  another win today when Ivan Nova (1-0) takes the mound against Clay Buchholz (0-1).

One reason the Yankees have found success earlier in the season, is because Mark Teixeira, a star who is known for late starts, has been the hottest player in the league so far. Teixeira already has four homeruns and 10 RBI's in just seven games. He leads the whole MLB in both categories.

Teixeira isn't the only Yankee who has been hot so far this season. Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both have three home runs, and are in the top five, along with Teixeira in the AL. A-Rod also has a great batting average at .304.

Two newcomers to the Bronx, Russell Martin and Andruw Jones have also been solid. Jones is batting .400 in a couple of pinch hit situations and even has a home run. Russell, who has been catching with Posada at DH, has a healthy .292 batting average and has also knocked out a home run.

And to finish out the rest of the lineup, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, and last years star Robinson Cano have all been solid too. Out of these players, Granderson is the only one who has a batting average under .200, but also knocked in a run in the opening game to give the Yankees the lead.

Now for the Yankees pitching.

The Yankees rotation and bullpen have had some tweaks to them since last year. The first, and most notable of the moves, was Yankee great, Andy Pettitte retiring. The Yankees did bring in, Rafael Soriano, a great closer who previously pitched for the Rays and Braves, and will now set up Mariano Rivera. The Yankees also signed Bartolo Colon, a previous Cy Young Winner, to pitch in the bullpen.

CC Sabathia has been great this season. Although he has not recorded a win due to blown set up opportunities by Soriano and Boone Logan, Sabathia has an incredible 1.38 ERA.

AJ Burnett has rebounded from an off year and is 2-0 this season, giving the Yankees two out of their four wins so far. Burnett also has 11 strikeouts which is second, to CC's 13.

Phil Hughes may be last year's AJ Burnett. Hughes was expected to come out this season and be an ace for the Yankees. The Bombers wanted Hughes to potentially be the #2 guys behind Sabathia. So far this season, Hughes is 0-1 in two starts, and has a 16.50 ERA.

Coming into the season, I wasn't big on Ivan Nova, but he has really changed my mind. Nova is 1-0 and gave up only three runs in his first start this season. Nova will take the mound today and look to give the Yankees a win over the Red Sox.

The bullpen for the Yankees, are the only part of the team not doing well. The only reliever who has been great this season, is long time Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera. Rivera has a 0.00 ERA and has saved all four of the Yankees wins. Joba Chamberlain also hasn't been too bad, and i think the Yankees might even add him into the rotation mid year.

As for  Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Luis Ayala, they all need to step up. Each of them have blown games so far and have terrible ERA's. Boone Logan has been the worst out of the three though. Logan hasn't blown one, but TWO games this season. If he wants to see himself wearing pinstripes by the end of the season, he must step up.

The Yankees have looked great so far this season. Their offense is in the top five, and their pitching for the most part has been solid. Hopefully, they can keep it up and win the division, even with 75% of baseball analyst picking the Red Sox to win the division and the World Series. Go Bombers!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

UCONN Wins The Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament

The Connecticut Huskies won their 3rd title yestday, defeating Butler by a score of 53-41

The Connecticut Huskies did it, it wasn't pretty, but still they defeated the Butler Bulldogs to win the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament. The Huskies finished with an overall  32-9 record, and ended the season winning 11 straight games, throughout the Big East and NCAA tournaments. Connecticut also never lost to a team outside of the Big East all season. The Huskies this season won three tournaments this year, a rare feat that not many teams have accomplished. In addition to the Big East and NCAA tournament, the Connecticut won the preseason Maui Invitational.

Throughout the season, the Huskies were led by Junior guard, and scoring sensation, Kemba Walker. Walker was an absolute beasts this year, averaging 23.5 points per game, 4.5 assists per game, and 5.4 rebounds per game. Although he was a little rusty in the championship game, Walker throughout the season led UCONN to important wins.

So everyone knows how good Kemba Walker is but who else stepped up and helped the Huskies win their 3rd title. Walker got much of his help from some very talented underclassmen.

Jeremy Lamb, the dual flex guard and forward, stepped it up not only in the title game but throughout the season. Lamb averaged 11 points and five rebounds per game.

Alex Oriakhi also was a big help to Kemba. The Big guy averaged close to ten points and nine rebounds per game, cleaning up Kemba's misses. He also averaged a block and a half per game. Oriakhi was the only player in the championship game to record a double double this year.

Another huge help to Walker and the Huskies was Roscoe Smith, the freshman forward who along with Oriakhi shut down opponents big men and also grabbed rebounds down low. Smith averaged six points and five rebounds per game.

Of course, head coach Jim Calhoun deserves a bunch of credit. A year ago, Calhoun was contemplating retirement. He had broke a NCAA violation and was serving a suspension, was physically sick, and the Huskies were an inexperienced wild team. Calhoun settled them down this year, brought in a great freshman class and led the Huskies to their third national title. All three titles have come under Calhoun. The 1999 team was led by Rip Hamilton, the 2004 was led by Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, and this year was led by Kemba Walker. With this year's title, Calhoun becomes the oldest coach (68) to ever win the championship.

The Butler Bulldogs. What another heartbreak story. The team loses their star Gordon Hayward, just to prove the world wrong again, but returning to the title game just to lose. Just the look on their faces said it all, the tears running down their faces. Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, the two leaders of the team this year were in disbelief, once again coming so close to winning it all. Coach Brad Stevens also was in awe, and could not believe what had happened.

Going into the half Butler did have a 22-19 lead, but both teams were shooting terribly. The Huskies turned that around in the second half, and the Bulldogs were never able to find their touch outside or inside. The Huskies would end up cutting the nets down with a score of 53-41.

In the rankings, Uconn was one vote short of a unanimous decision for the #1 ranking. The rest of the top five was finished out by Butler, Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio State.

So with the underclassmen definitely staying for at least another year, will Kemba also return for his senior year, and possibly win another. Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger said he would be back in Columbus, and reports are saying that Harrison Barnes along with John Henson and Tyler Zeller of North Carolina might all be back too.