Sunday, April 29, 2012

Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III: NFL Edition

(AP Photo/Rod Aydelotte and Paul Connors)
Now that everything's official, The Andrew Luck vs. RG3 NFL rivalry has begun.
For the rest of their careers, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will always be compared to each other, so why don't we start off the great quarterback debate now?

The top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft have tough tasks ahead of them. Luck, who was drafted #1 by the Colts, will have to lead his franchise back to being one of the best teams in the league. RG3, who was drafted #2 by the Redskins, will have to make his franchise relevant for the first time in over a decade.

The two have a ton of traits in common, but also a whole lot of differences.

Both Luck and Griffin III are tremendous athletes who led two of the most dynamic offenses in college football last season. Luck led Stanford to an 11-2 record, and threw for over 3,500 yards and 37 touchdowns. Griffin III led Baylor to a 10-3 record, and threw for nearly 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Both quarterbacks can get it done with their arms, but also with their feet, a talent not every quarterback has.

Ironically, despite being the most talked about college football player since Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck never won a Heisman. Instead, it was the quietly talked about Robert Griffin III who won the prestigious college football award.

How could it be that the most "NFL ready" quarterback never dominated in college? Sure he led his team to an 11-2 record and threw for 3,500 yards, but why couldn't he lead them to a 13-0 record, with over 4,000 passing yards? Why is it that the sports world declared Andrew Luck, and not Robert Griffin III the next Peyton Manning?

There is no doubt that the 22-year old quarterback can throw the ball better than most, but why is it that we automatically can assume he will be a 10-time Pro-Bowler?

The expectations for Luck have been set extremely high. Ever since his sophomore year at Stanford, NFL analysts have declared him as the next superstar. While all the attention has been on Luck, other quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III have had equal, if not more success.

On top of the already high expectations, comes the fact that Luck will have to replace the man that everyone is expecting him to be. Not only will Andrew Luck be compared to RG3, but he will be compared to his predecessor, Peyton Manning.

While Luck's pressure to succeed is ridiculously high, RG3 is flying under the radar when it comes to expectations.

Unlike Luck, the quarterbacks before Griffin III were nothing special in Washington. Unlike Luck, the team RG3 is playing for hasn't won a Super Bowl in over 15 years. If Griffin III has immediate success in Washington, he will be hailed as the Redskins' hero. If not, too bad, the Redskins are used to it.

Will Griffin's unique playing style transfer over well in the NFL, or is he better off playing in a standard  pocket style? Will Luck's traditional play help him in the NFL, or will it make him fit in with the rest? Andrew Luck has the DNA to be the better NFL player, but RG3 has the raw athletic ability to outshine his rival.

Both the Colts and Redskins cut ties with many players, and will have completely new offenses in 2012. Luck and RG3 will struggle early on with the tools they have to work with, and will have to adjust accordingly. In addition, Luck and RG3 will have to adjust to the ball-hawking cornerbacks in the NFL, since they won't have the pleasure of throwing against college-level cornerbacks anymore.

While their roles and expectations are completely different, their goals are identical: To be the best NFL quarterback they could be.

Both Luck and RG3 are very well spoken, and know the situations they are in. Both are very hard workers, and will put in the effort to become stars at the next level. The two will take very different paths in the NFL, but in the end, will both try to accomplish the same goal.

Andrew Luck vs. Robert Griffin III to be continued...

Reigning MVP Derrick Rose Out For Postseason With Torn ACL

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Derrick Rose's heartbreaking injury will sideline him for the rest of the postseason. Rose, who had
already missed 27 regular season games, tore his ACL with a little more than a minute to play in Game 1.

The Chicago Bulls' worst nightmare became a reality Saturday, when Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL and MCL with just a minute left to play in a 103-91 win against the Philadelphia 76'ers.

Rose came down awkwardly on his left leg after trying to hop past Lavoy Allen. Although there was no contact, Rose seemed to land funny on his leg, and instantly jumped to his right leg to take away pressure.  Rose then fell to the floor, and grabbed his left knee in pain. When he didn't jump back up moments later, everyone inside the United Center knew something was wrong.

MRI results would eventually confirm that the 2011 MVP would be out for the remainder of the playoffs.

ACL tears are athletes' worst nightmare. Knee injuries usually keep athletes out for the longest periods of time. Doctors say Rose will be sidelined for 6-8 months. That means that he will miss the postseason, the Olympic games in London, and possibly the start of next season.

This injury wasn't Rose's first of the season. The all-star guard actually missed 27 games this season with toe, ankle, back and groin injuries. His past injuries, combined with the shortened season likely had an impact on his season-ending injury.

Who is to blame for Rose's gruesome injury?

Is it coach Tom Thibodeau, who allowed the star to stay in the game despite leading by double-digits? Is it the NBA's fault for creating such a compressed season that has caused fatigue and injury issues for multiple players in the league? Is it just really bad luck? The answer is a terrible combination of the three.

Coach Thibodeau's reasoning was that he wanted Rose to get as many reps as he could in real game situations to make up for the 27 games he missed in the regular season. Although the team has backed Thib's decision to keep Rose in the game, it probably wasn't the greatest idea. 

Many athletes and NBA stars have reached out on Twitter to wish Rose and Knicks guard Iman Shumpert (who also tore his ACL Saturday) speedy recoveries.

Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) tweeted, "Prayers up for Derrick Rose and Iman Shumpert! Hope u guys have a speedy recovery!" while Kevin Love (@kevinlove) added, "Let's keep the rest of the NBA playoffs healthy. D Rose and Shump, speedy recoveries".

The Bulls were 7/2 favorites to win it all this year, but are now just 15/2 favorites to win the 2012 NBA Finals.

Chicago was 18-9 this season without Rose in the lineup. 

For the rest of the Bulls, their postseason continues on Tuesday for Game 2. The Bulls still may be the favorites to beat the Sixers, but their road to the NBA Finals doesn't look too bright from there.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top Ten Picks: Hits And Misses.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Kuechly is a popular name on NFL team's draft lists. The linebacker out of
Boston College is the top linebacker prospect in the draft, and should fall in the top ten.

This post was written by Hall Of Fame Sports Blog featured columnist Jared Weiss.

Luke Kuechly: Is a top ten guy really a sleeper? Probably not. However, this is a guy that is simply incredible at the linebacker position. He broke many tackle records at Boston College, where he was dominant. He also has the ability to be a captain, as he was a great team leader for BC. To go along with this, he is a very good athlete. Not the strongest guy, but he is strong enough. He also has great speed and quickness to go along with his NFL-ready build. Expect him to go number nine to the Carolina Panthers, another talented guy to join into their rotation of talented, yet injury prone LBs.

Matt Kalil: Matt Kalil is the most talented player is this draft. However, right now it looks as if he might fall outside of the top five, which is ridiculous. This OT made Matt Barkley one of the most dominant QBs in all of CFB last year. He dominated every team he faced, allowing 0 sacks all season. He has an NFL ready physique. Noted for his excellent footwork, he also showcased his strength at the combine, finishing as one of the top guys in the bench press. He is the type of guy that any QB would love to have protecting their blindside. He will go fifth overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a great pick for a team in need of almost every position. He will be able to work with veteran Donald Penn to become a Pro Bowler in years to come.


Ryan Tannehill: Ryan Tannehill is a guy who has taken advantage of the belief that to get a great QB you need to pick one in the top ten. He is not someone who is ready to come in and lead a team. He was pretty good at Texas A&M, but there was not much dominance seen in his game. He was a WR in his earlier years, which could serve as an advantage in some ways (wildcat package?). However, he lacks the experience and the consistency to be able to lead an NFL team at this point. He has a lot of pro potential, but at this point he is not ready. He should go number 8 to Miami, with the potential to start right out of the gate. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem ready for the job.

Trent Richardson: Finding busts inside of the top ten is not the easiest thing in the world. This is a guy that I think has the potential to be a solid NFL RB for a decade. However, there are two big red flags with his game: his work ethic and his durability. Both were major problems when he was playing at Alabama. If he is going to be a guy that is getting 250+ carries a year, he needs to be able to keep his head in the game and he must stay healthy. If he doesn’t do this, his career could end pretty quickly. He also lacks the true explosive style of play to dominate in the NFL. He has solid strength and decent speed, but neither of those characteristics will be enough for him to dominate at the next level. Expect him to go number four to the Cleveland Browns, which has been the consensus pick.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Saints Offseason Troubles Continue

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
If the allegations are true, GM Mickey Loomis might be in some serious trouble
with the league and the federal law. 
In what has already been a horrendous and forgettable offseason for the New Orleans Saints, more troubling news is headed their way.

In early March, ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news that the Saints have been running a bounty program - a malicious program where players are rewarded for injuring offensive players - for the past three seasons.

Now, the latest accusations are that the Saints implemented a system in their stadium that allowed them to listen in on opposing coaches' radio communications. Supposedly GM Mickey Loomis' press booth could wiretap the radios and headsets used by opponents inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints have denied the claims reported by an ESPN source, calling them "absolutely ludicrous" and "1,000% false".

Loomis was already suspended by the league for the first eight games of the regular season for his role in the bounty scandal. He could face further disciplinary actions, and could even be found guilty of a federal crime.

Also suspended for their roles in the bounty scandal were defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely by the league, and head coach Sean Payton, who was suspended for the entire upcoming season. Also, several players, including Jonathan Vilma, could face possible suspensions or fines from the league.

The Saints' miserable offseason started off on the wrong note instantly, when the Saints refused to offer  six-time Pro-Bowler, and starting quarterback Drew Bres a new contract. Instead they gave him a slap in the face, or what is known in the NFL as a franchise tag.

Brees says he wasn't that upset, and that he is ready to go in 2012, but we all know how offended he was by the Saints' stingy move.

The next bad sign for the Saints was Bountygate, which made headlines when filmaker Sean Pamphilon released tapes of Gregg Williams telling players to go after Michael Crabtree's ACL, and Frank Gore's head. Pamphilon was making a documentary on former Saints safety Steve Gleason who was recently diagnosed with ALS.

The program began in 2009, the same year the Saints won the Super Bowl, and was active up until the end of last season.

With the Saints already on thin ice, the recent wiretapping allegations really puts them in a bad situation. Although the Saints deny it, and the league says they were unaware of any such situation, investigations are underway.

Hopefully for the Saints, this wiretapping accusation is nonsense. It would be a shame to see a top team like the Saints go down with a terrible legacy, after working so hard to rebuild their franchise after Hurricane Katrina.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Heat, Lakers Claim Sunday's Star-Studded Double Header

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
It wasn't easy, but the Heat escaped a packed Madison Square Garden with a win Sunday afternoon.

Two of the hottest teams in basketball, the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, continued their dominance in wins over the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks respectively. Both matchups were potential playoff previews

The Knicks found themselves in a hole in the first quarter, with the Heat doubling them in points halfway through the quarter. While the Knicks were bricking free throws and turning over the ball, Miami was shooting over 50%, and had no turnovers. Tyson Chandler's foul trouble didn't help the situation either.

Despite everything Carmelo Anthony had going for him in the first quarter, Dwyane Wade had an answer for him. Wade had 12 points in only eight minutes in the first quarter, while Carmelo had finished the quarter with 14 points.

The Knicks came marching back in the second quarter though. A Steve Novak three, followed by another Anthony layup cut the lead to only two points with six minutes to play. Then, on the next possession following a Heat timeout, JR Smith sunk a three to give the Knicks their first lead of the day.

MSG played a major factor in the east coast matinee in the first half. Knicks fans made sure LeBron James heard it every time he touched the ball. When Woodson told Novak to enter the game, Knicks fans probably had their loudest cheer of the first half. The World's Most Famous Arena definitely gave the Heat issues early on, but they adjusted.

Nonetheless, a pair of LeBron James free throws gave Miami a 46-44 lead at the half. Anthony finished the first half with 20, while James and Wade had 14 each. Miami had the advantage on the glass, out-rebounding the Knicks by double-digits.

Two minutes into the third quarter, James went down with an apparent ankle injury. Replay showed he stepped awkwardly on a spectator's foot, causing him to fall back in pain. No worries for James though, as he returned to the game following a timeout by the Heat.

The third quarter was an exchange of back and forth buckets, with the Heat leading by three heading into the final quarter.

Despite an early late run by the Knicks to put themselves up four, the Heat eventually pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter. A 12-1 run would give them a seven point lead with four minutes to play. The Big Three combined for more than 75% of Miami's point production. James and Wade couldn't be stopped late in the fourth, while New York struggled to make anything.

Although the game finished in an eight point loss for the Knicks, it was much closer than the final score showed. Carmelo Anthony shined with 42 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on great shooting numbers. The rest of the team just wasn't on his level, as the rest of the Knicks shot 17-46.

As for the Heat, this game showed they can win tough games on the road, after struggling in the past few weeks. Wade started off the game strong for the Heat, while LeBron finished it off, for a change.

(AP Photo/Bret Hartman)
The Lakers improved to 4-1 without Kobe Bryant in the lineup, following an OT win against the Mavs.

With the first game fully living up to expectations, round two in Los Angeles had a lot to live up to. Would a surprisingly impressive Kobe-less Lakers team continue to strive against the Mavs, or would Dirk show them who's boss?

The Mavs jumped out to an early lead, led by Jason Kidd's strong shooting. The future Hall of Famer is only averaging five points per game this season, but he already had eight points in only five minutes. The quarter started off strange with Nowitzki, Gasol, and Bynum all scoreless on a combined 0-9 shooting.

Despite being severely outshot by Dallas, the Lakers were only down five after the first quarter.

Unlike the first game of the double header, the pace of this game was very slow at first. With Kobe out the past five games, Metta World Peace has stepped up in his spot, averaging 17 points per game, but he started off the game weak on 1-6 shooting. Instead, the Lakers were led early on by Ramon Sessions, who had 10 points in the first quarter.

With 2:26 left in the second quarter, Dirk Nowitzki hit his first shot of the game, ending a 0-6 slump. Pau was 1-4 at this point while Bynum was 3-10. But despite Dirk's woeful shooting, the Mavs as a team shot over 50% from the field while the Lakers shot under 40%. In spite of their poor shooting, the Lakers only trailed the Mavericks 54-48 at the half.

The Lakers would come back in the third though and take a brief lead, behind Metta World Peace's eight third quarter points. Bynum and Gasol also came back strong in the third quarter, and both were in double figures by mid third quarter.

Following two Andrew Bynum free throws and a three by Matt Barnes, the Lakers entered the fourth quarter up one.

The Mavs came back strong in the third quarter, and led the Lakers by as much as seven with about six minutes to play. The Lakers would respond to the Mavs' run with a run of their own, causing the Mavs to call timeout up by only one. Not one player on the Mavs was having an "on" day, but instead five different players were in double-figures.

The timeout by the Mavs seemed to do nothing, as the Lakers continued to pound the ball inside and continue to score. Not only did Metta World Peace and Andrew Bynum pick up their play in the second half, but Ramon Sessions continued to ball. In arguably his best game as a Laker, Sessions finished with 22 points and 5 assists.

The Mavs never gave up though, and tied the game up in the final minute, sending the game to overtime. This game definitely lived up to the expectations that Game 1 set. By mid fourth quarter, the tempo picked up, and shots were falling every possession.

Down 110-108 with 15 seconds left in OT, Dallas called timeout with one last chance to tie up the game, or go for the win.

Jason Terry slalomed through defenders and got a great chance to tie up the game with a layup, but his angle was altered by Matt Barnes, resulting in a missed shot at the bottom of the rim. After Pau Gasol iced up the game with two free throws, the Lakers took home the win, 112-108.

The Mavs shooting cooled down in the second half, and Dirk never got in rhythm. He ended the day on 9-28 shooting.

This game showed that the Lakers are tough enough to battle with elite teams, even without Kobe. It also showed that they can play comfortable at their tempo, and at their opponents' tempo. An all-around team effort, the Lakers had four players with 18+ points (Bynum, Sessions, Gasol, and World Peace).

Both games were exciting and gave us a good tease of what May and June basketball will look like. If it's anything close to what we watched today, we are all in for a treat.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kentucky Overpowers Kansas To Win Eighth National Championship

 (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
On a night where Anthony Davis shot 1-10, Doron Lamb rose to the occasion
and sparked Kentucky's offense with a game-high 22 points.

John Calipari's philosophy of scouting one-and-dones has finally paid off, after the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 67-59 in the Men's National Championship. From the get-go it was all Big Blue Nation, as the Wildcats jumped to an early ten point lead minutes into the game.

Even on a night where Anthony Davis shot 10% from the field, Kentucky had no problem fending off one of the best teams in the country. Sophomore Doron Lamb led the team with 22 points on 58% shooting. Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Terrence Jones followed with 14, 11, and nine points respectively.

What made this Kentucky team so special was their distribution on offense. One night it could be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 25 points, another night it could be Terrence Jones with 22 points, or it could be Anthony Davis with 20 points. A perfect box score for John Calipari would be to have all eight players in double figures, and not just one guy with 30 points.

It's crazy to think how much Anthony Davis can impact a game on both ends of the court. He knows he is having a bad night offensively, so he boosts his defensive game even higher, and focuses more on getting his teammates the ball. Not only did he lead the team in blocks and rebounds last night, but he also led them in assists, with five!

As for Kansas, Kentucky's uptempo style was too much for them to handle. Right from the beginning, an Anthony Davis rebound would lead to a fastbreak bucket or an in transition basket for the Wildcats.

The Jayhawks played their best basketball this season when they were ahead, but unfortunately, they never got that opportunity last night. Kansas' defense usually propelled them to first half leads, but last night, they trailed from the opening possession. This put the Jayhawks in an uncomfortable position because they had to keep up with Kentucky's explosive offense.

Kansas made a run late in the game to cut the lead to six, but Kentucky just couldn't be stopped on offense. Kansas' offensive production wasn't helping either They shot 33% from the field, as Robinson and Taylor combined for a 14-34 effort. The clutch factor just was not in Kansas' favor.

This game did not mean more to anyone other than Coach Cal. After losing to Self and the Jayhawks just four years ago, he was able to get revenge, but this time with a new team. Although Coach Cal is one of the most prolific coaches in the game today, he had actually never won a championship before, even with stars like Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose, and John Wall on the court.

With speculation that Coach Cal might become the new coach of the New York Knicks, he downplayed the situation by saying he wasn't done with college basketball. According to Coach himself, he has a lot left to achieve. "Before I leave coaching, I would like to coach an undefeated team," Calipari told ESPN's Andy Katz. He followed that up by saying that he'd then like to go undefeated and win every game by 25 points.

High expectations, but if anyone could do it, it's Calipari.

As for Kansas and Kentucky, the two perennial universities will likely have different players suiting up next season. For Kentucky, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Jones, Lamb, Teague, all might enter the draft, in addition to Darius Miller who is a senior. For Kansas, it's likely that Robinson and Taylor will depart for the NBA Draft.

The Kentucky win could encourage top recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel to finally make their decisions. Muhammad is stuck between Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA while Noel is pondering between Kentucky, Syracuse, and Georgetown. The two could become the next best tagteam in college basketball.

In the end though, this Kentucky team could go down in the books as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time. Their unselfishness and willingness to make everyone else better really transformed them from a young, inexperienced team, to a team that ended up cutting down the nets in New Orleans.