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Friday, December 30, 2011

Must See Sports - Fifth Weekend of December 2011

The final weekend (final Saturday, anyway) of 2011 couldn't be loaded with more exciting and critical action. What a way to ring in the new year!

Friday, December 30


Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Clippers

Derrick Rose and last season's Eastern Conference runner ups visit Chris Paul and Lob City for an evening of stars. Also on the marquis are Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups of the Clippers along with Joakim Noah and Luol Deng of the Bulls. Chicago is coming off of a recent, last second, come from behind Christmas Day victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The San Antonio Spurs reminded the young and improving Clippers of the value of championship experience.

Quite simply, the Bulls are battle tested while the Clippers are cutting their big boy teeth.

Advantage: Bulls

Saturday, December 31

NCAA Basketball

#4 Louisville Cardinals at #3 Kentucky Wildcats

BIG in state rivalry between two current and traditional college basketball powers and two of college basketball's greatest coaches of their times - (former Kentucky coach) Rick Pitino of Louisville and John Calipari of Kentucky. Both teams are off to fast starts. Both schools are 12-1. Louisville dropped one to #16 Georgetown earlier this week. Kentucky's lone loss was a minor upset at the hands of Indiana on December 10.

These two teams may be in the same state, but their styles of play are opposite. Louisville is physical and strong underneath the basket. Kentucky lights up the scoreboard. Doron Lamb (16 PPG, 4 RPG), who came on strong late last season, is leading the Wildcats in scoring this year. Terrence Jones (12 PPG, 6 RPG), who was often "1" and "1a" with Brandon Knight (now in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons) for Kentucky's leading scorer last season, is now third on the team in scoring, behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 PPG, 7 RPG). Jones, however, had missed two games prior to Wednesday's game with Lamar, giving others an opportunity to make some baskets.

Louisville is far less prolific on the offensive end. Their "everyman", Kyle Kuric (14 PPG, 5 RPG) is the focal point of the Cardinals' game plan, but Pitino's scheme relies on all five men not giving up easy or second chance baskets. I have to question, though, if they can hold Kentucky down to the 60 point threshold that the Cardinals have held most of their opponents to this season.

The Cards don't shoot the ball well, either, making only 44% from the field as a team. That would be an impressive three point percentage. For a team that plays more in the paint than the perimeter, that does not bode well against an opponent that scores from everywhere.

Advantage: Kentucky

Sunday, January 1


Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) at Denver Broncos (8-7)

I actually saw this game labeled the "Orton Bowl' on ESPN. As we are aware, Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton was the Broncos' starting QB at the beginning of this season, replaced by Tim Tebow. Orton was released mid-year to have an opportunity to join another team. The Chiefs claimed his off of waivers the following day, one-upping the Chicago Bears (who reportedly planned to claim or sign Orton), Orton's old team that traded him to Denver for the now injured Jay Cutler.

I am rather amused that ESPN, the best in the business at sports entertainment, chose to call this game the "Orton Bowl" instead of working popular and polarizing Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow into the title.  Whether you are rooting for Orton, against Tebow, or for Tebow, I don't think that quarterback play is going to decide this one (you'd have to be kind of a sadistic jerk to root against Kyle Orton, who has demonstrated the kind of Christ-like patience and fortitude that Tebow would surely admire).

This game is going to come down to four factors: defense, running the ball, stopping the run, and turnovers. All of those favor the Broncos, especially at home. Throw in the "Tebow factor" and the fact that the Broncos' backs are against the wall, possibly needing this win to reach the playoffs, and I think Orton's homecoming will be a sour one.

Advantage: Broncos

Baltimore Ravens (11-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

The Bengals, reportedly, were running two-for-one specials on tickets in an effort to sell out Paul Brown stadium for this win-and-you're-in game for the home team. That tells me all I need to know about the lack of goodwill for the Bengals in Cincinnati relative to other NFL teams. The Ravens need to win this game to lock up the division and a first round bye. 

Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton and rookie WR A.J. Green have played well and are a big part (along with the Bengals defense) of putting the improved Bengals in this position. however, they face a hungry, veteran Ravens team that looks every bit the Super Bowl contender (as opposed to an up and comer) that they are. The Ravens beat Cincinnati in a competitive game in November and I expect the same to ring in the new year.

Advantage: Ravens 

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at New York Giants (8-7)

Um...let me say that while this game is, without question, the game of the week, with the winner winning the NFC East and advancing to the playoffs and the losers being eliminated, part of the buildup is due to the inconsistency and occasional incompetence of these teams throughout the year.

The least inconsistency and the most competence, for both of these teams, have come from their quarterbacks. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been the target of criticism by fans and in the media when the Cowboys have lost. However, I think a chunk to that blame should go to his head coach, Jason Garrett, and lapses in execution by the Cowboys defense.

Eli Manning has received his own share of criticism an, frankly, it defies logic from my point of view. Manning is a Super Bowl winning quarterback on a team with no running attack and no run defense having the best year of his career. The very reason the Giants are in this (effective) play-in game is because of Manning. Of the two quarterbacks, Romo has been good this season, but Manning has been great in my opinion. I am sure some of you disagree. Get you own blog! (No...just kidding...keep reading mine!)

Advantage: Giants

Monday, January 2

NCAA Football

Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio

#10 Wisconsin Badgers vs #5 Oregon Ducks

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (1759 yds., 32 TD, 6.4 avg.) will likely be making his swan song in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile LaMichael James of the Ducks (1646 yds., 17 TD, 7.4 avg.) will do the same. This is going to be a fine matchup between the Big Ten champion Badgers and the Pac-12 champion Ducks.

Oregon allowed some attainable opportunities to play for the national championship slip through their fingers and I am sure they plan to atone for this shortcoming. I have often said that the Ducks were the most sympathetic two loss team to be shut out of the BCS Championship picture. I also think that Wisconsin is the most underrated BCS automatic qualifier conference champion in the nation.

Nonetheless, Oregon has been thoroughly tested by some very tough opponents, including LSU, Stanford, and USC. I think this preparation will translate on to the field and be difficult for the Badgers to handle. The Badgers have a solid defense, but have not faced opponents with the variety of offensive weapons possessed by Oregon.

Advantage: Oregon

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

#4 Stanford Cardinal vs #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys

Both of these teams had opportunities to play for the crystal football in New Orleans slip through their hands. Both teams have high profile quarterbacks. Andrew Luck (3170 yds., 35 TD, 9 INT, 70% comp.), all but guaranteed to be the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, will make his final performance as a college football player. Twenty-eight year old Brandon Weeden (4328 yds., 34 TD, 12 INT, 73% comp.) of OSU lights up box scores and scoreboards like a pinball machine.

Oklahoma State faced a lot of questions about its ability to handle a tougher opponent, especially after losing to Iowa State, eliminating them from the BCS championship race. They answered those questions by thrashing Oklahoma in the regular season finale. Still, Stanford's lone loss was to #5 Oregon, the eventual Pac-12 champion.

Advantage: Stanford

Tuesday, January 3

NCAA Football

AllState Sugar Bowl

#13 Michigan Wolverines vs #11 Virginia Tech Hokies

Advantage: Michigan

Wednesday, January 4

NCAA Football

Discover Orange Bowl

#23 West Virginia Mountaineers at #15 Clemson Tigers

Advantage: West Virginia

1 comment:

  1. This is a great read! Really enjoy all your blog posts!