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Monday, March 16, 2015

North Florida Ospreys, Your New Favorite Underdog in the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament begins Tuesday with the “First Four” games (Manhattan/Hampton get it started followed by BYU/Old Miss). No random team is deserving of your support more than the North Florida Ospreys, making their first tourney appearance ever, who play Robert Morris University in a 16-seed battle on Wednesday at about 6:40pm Eastern (3:40pm Pacific, 10:30pm at Westminster Abbey and 6:30am Wednesday morning if you’re in Perth). These games are mostly gratifying because it lets a 16-seed win a game.

I knew nothing about the Ospreys until they won the Atlantic Sun tournament more than a week ago, becoming one of the first teams in the field of 68. Just the name “North Florida Ospreys” seems like something you’d make up for a movie or TV show. Like their non-conference opponents would be Western University and UC-Sunnydale, and they’d be in the same conference as the Texas State Armadillos.

The University itself opened in 1972, meaning it started admitting students two years after the Beatles broke up and is younger than Kid Rock, Nathan Fillion, Amy Poehler, Ewan McGregor, Missy Elliott and Corey Feldman. It didn’t field teams until 1983, which means the athletics program is younger than Dwyane Wade, Danica Patrick, Seth Rogan, Anne Hathaway and Nicki Minaj.

It seems almost impossible in this day and age that a team can lead a DI basketball conference from day one, win the regular season and earn the right to host the conference tourney, then win said conference tourney. But that’s North Florida for you. You may have heard of them already if you’re a Purdue fan, because North Florida’s best win this year was beating the Boilermakers in West Lafayette, 73-70. As I’m not a fan of Purdue, I find this enjoyable.

The Ospreys have had the same coach since first transitioning to D-I ball in 2009, a fellow by the name of Matt Driscoll. I really don’t know why colleges bother going to D-I. Would you rather get pummeled by Duke (NFLA’s best-case scenario) or would you like to compete for national titles at a lower level? It’s a matter of what size fish in what size pond you’d rather be in. It almost makes sense for basketball because with smaller roster sizes there’s a chance to be competitive, sort of. Fortunately the Ospreys do not have a football team, although there is talk of adding one.

Here’s some unsolicited advice for NFLA. Uh, are those the approved initials? Are they actually NFL? Because that would be weird. Anyway. Don’t add a football team. It is a waste of time and money to add football these days. You will be terrible forever. Again, your best-case basketball scenario is losing to Duke. As it is you're going to make some bank just from being in the tournament. Ask fellow A-Sun Conference member Florida Gulf Coast University about that

Here are four things you need to know about the Ospreys heading into Tuesday:

"UNF Osprey Statue" by The222 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UNF_Osprey_Statue.JPG#/media/File:UNF_Osprey_Statue.JPG

The school is located in Jacksonville.

"What do you expect? I'm a golfer!"
Most famous alum is former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley (now with the Steelers), who lettered in golf for the Ospreys and helped them win a D-II championship. The golf team that year is in the school’s Hall of Fame, Haley isn’t there as an individual. He didn’t make All-America that year, but five of his teammates did. And the Chiefs once made him head coach. It all makes sense now.

Add caption

The best player is Dallas Moore. The sophomore led the team in scoring and assists, shooting 48.8% from the floor. He was recruited by the “second-tier” Florida schools and his uncle, who he considers the man who taught him to strive for greatness, passed away from kidney disease just before the A-Sun tourney began.

"UNF Student Union pic" by The222. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UNF_Student_Union_pic.jpg#/media/File:UNF_Student_Union_pic.jpg
 The Student Union cost $50 million and is LEED-certified.

After the Tournament, what say we go to North Florida for a spell? The only $50 million dollar student union I’ve seen is at the University of Oregon and reserved for athletes.

photos courtesy: wikipedia.org,wikipedia.org,cbssports.com, onebidwonders.com, wikipedia.org

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pac 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview: Day Two

Entering Day Two at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, the top four seeds in the Pac 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament still seem a bit puzzling, except for the top-seed Arizona Wildcats. The Utah Utes are the only other ranked team in the conference, yet the Oregon Ducks got the two-seed by virtue of a big-time upset at Matt Knight Arena in their only meeting this season. The UCLA Bruins were left for dead several times during the season by many people (including myself), and since there’s no reason to pull any punches, Steve Alford’s tenure in Westwood isn’t very secure.

Yet they are your top four seeds, and here are some predictions for Thursday’s action.

Team most likely to lose: #4 UCLA (vs #12 USC, 2:30pm PT, Pac-12 Network)

Sorry, Steve. The Bruins aren’t even at 20 wins and only got the bye because Stanford lost seven of ten to end the season. The Bruins are also going to face USC, who somehow came back from a second half double-digit deficit to beat Arizona State in round one. No matter how bad USC looks, UCLA occasionally looks worse.

Team with the most to prove: #3 Utah (vs #6 Stanford/#11 Washington winner, 8:30pm PT, ESPN)

Since the loss at Oregon bumped the Utes to the three-seed, the wonder-team story has taken a dip. Utah lost three of their last five, including the game at Oregon. Also, in the regular season finale with the two-seed still for their taking, the Utes got stunned by #11-seed Washington in the Huskies best game in two months. Utah’s gone from an Elite Eight dark horse to another team that could fall victim to a 5-12 upset in the big dance. Unless they make a run here. It starts with the 6-11 winner- and yes, that could very well mean a rematch with Washington.

Not going to matter much in NCAA tourney seeding: #2 Oregon (vs #7 Oregon State/#10 Colorado winner, 6:00pm PT, P12N)

The Ducks enter the conference tourney at 23-8 and 13-5 with the win over Utah and ranked 29th in the RPI, better than several ranked teams. They’re in the Big Dance as 7, 8, or 9 seed right now. A win over OSU/CU and a loss in the semis to Utah isn’t going to change that. Neither will a loss to OSU (my predicted winner on Wednesday). Yes, it’s good to keep winning. It would be nice to beat OSU for the third time this season. But the Ducks aren’t getting a 6 seed or higher unless they beat Utah in the semis and Arizona in the final. Even then it might not do much.

The conference equivalent of The Mountain: #1 Arizona (vs #8 Cal, noon, P12N)

Yes, I’m ready for Game of Thrones to return. I was originally confused because Arizona got the first game slot on Thursday instead of the prime-time ESPN matchup. Then I realized that by playing at noon on Thursday and the 6pm game on Friday UA gets more than 24 hours between games, the longest break of any club in the conference tourney. Then they would get 24 hours between the semi and the final on Saturday night (an 8:30pm PT start). Every other team gets 22 hours or less for all of their games. Sure, an extra two hours doesn’t seem like much. But that’s an extra two hours to walk through the defense one more time. Its two more hours of film study for the coaches. It makes a difference. Doesn’t really matter, though. The ‘Cats will still squeeze the head of whoever they play like The Mountain did.

photos courtesy: my last trip to Vegas, uclabruins.com, utahutes.com, goducks.com, arizonawildcats.com and aggressivecomix.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pac 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview For Day One

They didn't copy the World Cup Trophy at all.
When the college basketball season began, I expected Arizona to be the one-seed heading into the Pac 12 Men's Basketball Tournament. That’s about the only thing I’ve been right on this college hoops season. Even a month ago I didn’t expect Oregon to be the two-seed or UCLA the four-seed and earn byes, but by golly that’s what happened. Utah somehow lost to Washington on the last day of the regular season, giving the Ducks the two because Oregon beat the Utes. UCLA climbed ahead of a slumping Stanford and surprising Arizona State team (after starting 0-4 and looking just awful, the Sun Devils went 9-5 to finish at .500 in conference).

The games start Wednesday at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas (four conferences have their tourneys in Vegas- the Pac-12, WCC, WAC and MWC… and I realized this too late to do anything). Arizona, Oregon, Utah and UCLA don’t play till Thursday, so here are some thoughts for day one.

How does a guy look like he's hitting a window when there's no window to hit?

Team most likely to stay out all night at the tables and forget to play the game: #12-seed USC (vs ASU, 2:30pm PT, Pac-12 Network)

The Trojans lost nine straight conference games at one point. 

Best chance for a Wednesday upset: #11 Washington over #6 Stanford (8:30pm PT, P12N)

In a span of six days, Washington lost to USC but then beat Utah. That’s about as wide a pendulum swing as you can get, but it fits perfectly with UW’s season. The Huskies started the season 11-0 and then lost 13 conference games, including seven in a row. On the other side, the Cardinal started the season 13-4 and finished 18-12, losing seven of their final ten games. Both these teams should have been better. The pick: Washington

The Wednesday “these teams should be better than this” matchup: #10 Colorado vs #7 Oregon State (6pm PT, P12N)

The Buffs never really got it into gear, and at one point the Beavs looked like world-beaters, especially the stranglehold they put on Arizona during the upset at Gill. Curiously, OSU’s only win in their last seven games was against Colorado. The pick: Dem Beavs

The Wednesday “this makes sense, given the season they’ve had” matchup: #9 Washington State vs #8 Cal (Noon PT, P12N)

The Cougs already have 13 wins, three more than last season, and at one point were in line for a first-round bye in the conference tourney. Thar point was four games into the season, but still. The Bears have been up and down throughout the year. The pick: The Cougs

Dark-horse contender: #5 Arizona State (vs USC, 2:30pm PT, P12N)

Mentioned earlier, but worth repeating. After starting the conference 0-4, ASU finished up 9-5, including a phenomenal win over Arizona at home. They have a chance to make the semis because they have #4-seed UCLA if (when) they beat USC. The Wednesday (and Thursday) pick: ASU

Coming Wednesday (if all goes well): Day Two Preview

photos courtesy: thepostgamereport.com, usctrojans.com, gohuskies.com, osubeavers.com, wsucougars.com, thesundevils.com, Pac12 Networks

Monday, March 9, 2015

The 49ers Continue To Make Fans Wonder What’s Going On

Kiss it goodbye?
First Jim Harbaugh, then…. Well, seems like the entire San Francisco 49ers roster is going, going, gone. Within the last week: Frank Gore announced intentions to head for Philadelphia, Colin Kaepernick is said to be on the trading block (a story that Jed York has already denied), defensive stalwarts Patrick Willis and Justin Smith rumored to retire, and the latest, offensive lineman Mike Iupati to sign with division-rival Arizona (note: that may seem like old news by the time you read this). That’s after completely overhauling the coaching staff. The 49ers are the team of confusion.

In a mild defense of the “Kaep on the block” story, the truth is that anyone on any roster on any team is available to be traded for the right price, even if that price is exceedingly extravagant. Herschel Walker was a sure-fire Hall of Famer and there was no way the Dallas Cowboys would ever trade him. Except they did, got a boatload of picks, and won three Super Bowls within six years. The Los Angeles Dodgers traded slugger Matt Kemp within their own division. The Eagles just traded Shady McCoy, a top back by anyone’s definition. If the price is right, anyone can go. Kaep is on the block, just like Vernon Davis, just like Andrew Luck, just like Mike Trout, just like anybody. Anybody is tradeable for a price.

"Later, Gator.... uh, Hurricane."
There is no direct connection with Jim Harbaugh leaving and then all these moves. But that all these things are happening after Harbaugh left makes a fan wonder what is a-going on here. Mass hysteria? Not quite. Not yet.

The nearest comparison to the 49ers is the baseball team in the East Bay, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s have 16 new key players. While many A’s fans wonder what’s going on, they are placated somewhat because this is what Trader Billy Beane does. Guys come and go. The truth is that every teams roster is very different from its roster five years ago. When it happens this quickly, it makes you wonder if the team is in disarray.

The difference is that Beane has been a GM for more than a decade. He’s been successful at doing this for more than a decade. Trent Baalke has been 49ers GM four seasons. Jed York has no track record of being successful on his own. Actually, he is very successful at being seen as an ungrateful entitled punk. (Which makes this article all the more hilarious in retrospect.) He has already tried to distance himself from the Jerome Simpson signing, which is another strike in his "win with class" speech.

If all these moves work, then York will become a genius. That’s just how the world works. Everyone’s a failure until proved a success. The issue is getting rid of people that have made a team a success and replacing them with…. Who knows? New head coach Jim Tomsula could be the next Vince Lombardi. But he could also be the next Mike Singletary. Singletary was also a 49ers defensive line coach who became head coach without being a defensive coordinator first (Lombardi was a long-time coordinator who finally became head coach). Singletary was in over his head from day one. Fortunately, Jim Harbaugh was available and cleaned up the mess.

This time, Harbaugh leaving was the first spill in a mess that seems to get bigger and bigger every day. It doesn’t seem like anyone in the 49ers organization has the stomach to clean it up right now. So far, no 49ers off-season move has seemed like the right one to me and countless other 49er fans.

Jed York thinks they’ve all been the right moves. And for me, that’s problem number one. 

photos courtesy: NFL.com, 49ers.com

The Drude Approves: Concerto for Typewriter

As any old-school journalist or office worker with a musician's ear will tell you, there's something very musical about a typewriter. This just proves it. Doesn't matter that the pre-performance patter is in Spanish.

Let's see Tom Hanks come up with an app for this!

video still capture courtesy: cheezburger.com (and it is not a fail!)

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Drude Approves: "Oilfield Dodge" Promo

No four-wheel drive or roads needed! And nowadays people won't take their Land Rovers into the gravel turnouts.

Still capture from film

 video still capture courtesy: independentfilmnewsandmedia.com

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hunter Pence Breaks Arm, Maybe Spirit of San Francisco Giants Clubhouse As Well

Bleccchhh, indeed.

Distressing news out of spring training on Thursday afternoon for the San Francisco Giants when the left arm of right fielder and portable funhouse Hunter Pence was broken when he was hit by a pitch. He’s expected to be out six to eight weeks.

The immediate problem is that nobody on the Giants knows how to play right field at Phone Company Park like Pence does. He hates to take days off, which means that no one else has had a chance to learn the position, which means there is no comfortable secondary option to patrol Triples Alley. I’m pretty sure that Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers has played right field in San Francisco more often than anybody currently on the Giants roster. So that’s an issue.

The secondary problem is the incalculable “clubhouse chemistry” portion of Hunter Pence. Nobody gives better  NSFW clubhouse and SFW on-field speeches. Nobody else will photobomb live shots on a scooter. Nobody pumps up the team better than Hunter Pence.

Sure, he’ll be there most of the time, at least during home games. I would suspect he’ll insist on making the road trips even though he won’t be able to play for the first month of the season or so unless it interferes with rehab. Since the Giants open the season in Arizona I suspect he won’t be around for the exhibition games in the Bay Area against the Oakland A’s, but you never know.

But it’s one thing to be there and another thing to be part of the action. Anyone who’s been sidelined with an injury but still part of a team knows this. You can make rousing speeches and yell “Attaboy” and be part of the home run celebrations as much as you want, but without the ability to step on the field, you’re just a cheerleader in a uniform.

With the departure of Pablo Sandoval plus the injury to Pence it means a void in on-field fun for the next two months of the Giants season. I would hope that somebody else steps it up, be it new addition Casey McGehee (highly doubtful) or somebody that we don’t expect it to be, like Tim Lincecum (don’t think so) or Matt Cain (has he smiled since 2012?) or Brandon Belt (depends on his slugging percentage) or Brandon Crawford (no chance) or the Face of MLB, Buster Posey (waayyyy too serious).

It would be great if the on-field fun guy is Joe Panik. It would be a perfect second act as he begins his first full season in the bigs. But it would be tough to come up with a better meme.

But let’s be clear: There’s only one Hunter Pence. He’s got the championship belt to prove it. Don’t ride any scooters during rehab, fella.  

Rally time indeed!

photos courtesy: radioalice.cbslocal.com, that time I went to a World Series Parade