June 30, 2009

Would LSU (or any other big time program) have tossed Joseph Fauria??

Lots of rumors out there on this Joseph Fauria transfer, but what would this site be without rumors, innuendo, over-generalizations, stereotypes, and sweeping conclusions based on nothing more than a little hearsay! That's the foundation for this site. If this site had existed when Paul Hornung said that "Notre Dame doesn't recruit the black athlete" line, I think I would have spent the next month breaking that down. So these Fauria rumors seem to be right in our wheelhouse.

Anyway, the word on the street is that Fauria got tossed from ND for getting a little too carried away during a Zahm Hall bun run. I'm guessing that he may have flashed his business at another student who didn't care for that type of behavior and reported it to Res Life. Yada, yada, yada, and now he's gone from ND for the football season and has decided to transfer.

Here's my question for our readers. If this type of incident had occurred at a football factor like LSU or Ohio State or Auburn, would Fauria have been thrown out of school??

I think the answer is pretty obvious here. NO!! Are you kidding me?? Not only would Fauria not have been thrown out of school, the girl who reported him probably would have been expelled for even trying to get him in trouble!! Something along the lines of "conduct unbecoming of an LSU football fan." You don't just throw an LSU football player under the bus without suffering the consequences!

In all seriousness, I have no doubt that this type of incident would have merited nothing more than a slap on the wrist at almost any other big time football school. There is a guy currently on the Ohio State roster who has a FELONY DRUG POSSESSION case pending, and I don't even think he's going to get suspended. Fauria didn't even get arrested. No academic issues either. For a bun run, he got tossed from school. He wouldn't have even missed a down of playing time at any other big time football school. It would have been swept under the rug like it never even happened.

Is this what our fanbase wants?? Do we want our athletes constantly getting tripped up by these administrators in the Dome?? Do we want the Res Life types handing out suspensions left and right for offenses that would be considered minor infractions at any other school??

This type of stuff is one of the reasons why I firmly believe that the problems with Notre Dame football go much higher than the head coach position. It's hard for me to get all bent out of shape about Charlie Weis when the school practically goes out of its way to hold the program back. At every other school, the focus is on FOOTBALL. Recruits go to LSU or Bama or Florida to play football, work out, watch film, and win games. The administration isn't going to get in your way as long as you win games and players aren't out there doing lines of coke on the field and beating up their women after the game.

At ND, the focus seems to be on everything other than football. In loco parentis. ND is breathing down the necks of our athletes, and they have proven time and time again that they will hammer them for every little thing that goes wrong. Why can't the football coaches handle these issues internally?? Why does everything have to be sent up to the adminstrative types that can't wait to come down hard on an athlete?? Couldn't Charlie Weis have made Fauria do some running or miss a couple games as a punishment?? Why does this type of infraction have to lead to him getting thrown out of school??

We've now had two tight ends (Fauria and Yeatman) kicked off the team and out of school for relatively minor infractions. And both these guys may have contributed to the team this year. As we have seen in Weis' four years at ND, he likes to use the tight end in his offense. He goes two tight ends quite a bit, and now we're basically down to two scholarship tight ends on the roster. If someone gets hurt or Ragone doesn't hold up, Weis can't use that type of formation for his offense this year. That would be extremely unfortunate and unfair to Coach Weis. And it's not like he didn't recruit enough TEs. Based on what he has recruited to campus, we shouldn't even have to worry about having enough tight ends on the roster.

This kind of stuff is just really annoying to me. We've got a head coach with his job on the line who is scraping and clawing just to keep his head above water, and the administration is tossing his players off the team for a freaking bun run. Is there any doubt that this stuff is holding back the program?? And I'm guessing it's just the tip of the iceberg. I'd be willing to bet that there are administrators who are constantly on Weis' back about every little thing that has nothing to do with football. When was the last time you ever heard about any other school tossing a player for something as dumb as what Fauria supposedly did?? Imagine if Nick Saban had to deal with players getting thrown out at Alabama for bun runs. What if he had to take his players to mass two hours before the game and if he had "academic advisors" breathing down his neck at every other turn?? Wouldn't that negatively affect their program?? Why couldn't the same be said about the ND program?? If the other big time programs aren't doing this stuff, why are we??

I don't necessarily think Weis is the second coming of Ara Parseghian or Lou Holtz, but these types of incidents make me wonder if any coach could turn ND into an elite program again working under the parameters of the current administration. Are we a big time football program or are we going the academic route and joining the Ivy League?? If we're going to try to be a big time football program, we need to let the football program breathe a little bit.

June 26, 2009

NBA Draft Recap: Thoughts and Observations

Ok, the NBA Draft is one of my favorite sporting events of the summer, so let's break this thing down with some thoughts on the players involved last night.

Blake Griffin - As strange as this sounds, I actually think Blake Griffin is a little underrated coming out of this draft. With all of the NBA types like Simmons lamenting the fact that he's going to the Clippers, I think there's a perception out there from some folks that Griffin is going to be a bust in the NBA. No chance. Griffin will be a good pro and probably a very good pro. The guy was DOMINANT in college and took his game to another level in the NCAAs. He's your classic NBA power forward in every way and will be a 20-10 lock barring injury. He's not going to the Clippers and putting up 5ppg and dropping out of the league in three years. If he had played college ball at UNC or Duke and was going to Phoenix in the draft instead of the Clippers, people would be a lot more excited about Blake Griffin.

He's not Barkley or Malone or Tim Duncan, but he's got at least an Elton Brand type career in him. The guy that I keep thinking of when I watch Griffin is Antwan Jamison. It's nothing pretty, but you look up at the scoreboard and they have 22 points and 11 rebounds. And they both do it with relative ease. Get Griffin a little 15 foot jumper to go with his post game, and he's going to be a real good power forward in the NBA.

For all the criticism of the 2009 NBA Draft, I think Griffin is a better prospect than Michael Beasley and Bargnani and Bogut and Marvin Williams and a lot of the other big men that have gone early in the last few years. Heck, he's a much safer bet than Greg Oden at this point.

Hasheem Thabeet - Uh oh, I guess that's where the draft drops off. I've been discussing Thabeet all year on this blog, and I just can't get on board with this guy as the #2 pick in the Draft. Are there things I like about him?? Yea, I love his size and the possibility that he could be a Mutumbo type defensive presence. He seems like a pretty good guy who will probably work on his game to become a better pro.

But he can't play basketball!!! Thabeet played three years of college ball, and AT BEST, he's still a huge project. When was the last time a guy with almost zero basketball skills coming out of college just magically turned into an All Star once he got to the NBA?? Don't you need to have some level of basketball skill?? It's not like Thabeet is one of these string bean power forwards with a ton of ability who just needs to add some bulk. Thabeet has an NBA body already but has high school ability to go with it.

I watched this guy probably twenty times over the last three years (if not more), and here's what I had to say about him at the NCAA Tournament:

TERRIBLE hands - You can't be a good offensive big man unless you have good hands and reflexes in the paint. Thabeet cannot catch the ball!! How many times would you see AJ Price drive to the bucket and dump it to Thabeet, and then he'd fumble the pass before collecting it?? You can't get away with that in the NBA. My feeling on hands is that you either have good hands or you don't. Thabeet has bad hands. Maybe they'll get a little better, but it's never going to be a strength for him. He'll certainly never have hands like Blake Griffin.

Bad instincts - The other thing for Thabeet offensively is that he has almost zero offensive skills or instincts. How many times does he grab a rebound two feet from the basket and try to put it on the floor?? Why would you do that?? You're 7'3"!!! Catch the ball and go up with it. Thabeet has no offensive moves either even though he played close to a hundred games at UConn. How does he not have any real moves??

Relies too much on the shotblock - For all the fuss about Thabeet as a defender (some of the praise is obviously deserved), how many times did we see him unnecessarily go for the block and then leave the weak side wide open for someone to sneak in and steal an offensive rebound?? It seems like UConn gives up a ton of cheap putbacks simply because Thabeet wasn't there to block out and clean the glass. And Thabeet seems to pick bad times to take a chance on a block when all he really should be doing is staying home and grabbing the board.

So what is his ceiling as a pro?? Dikembe Mutumbo?? Dalembert?? Couldn't he easily turn out to be Desagna Diop?? If so, is that really worth the #2 pick in the draft?? If he turns out to be Mutombo, I would say yes. But I don't think he's a lock to get to that level by any stretch. Thabeet will get better of course and probably can stay in the NBA a long time with his size and athletic ability, but you think of a #2 pick as a guy who can be a big time difference maker. I don't think of Thabeet at that level.

Bottom line, I think Thabeet is a huge reach at #2 and questionable to ever even be a starter in the league. He has backup center written all over him. Memphis needed a big man, but I don't think they'll solve that problem with Thabeet.

James Harden -- Another guy I've already commented on, so I'll just go with that again.

I had been hearing about how spectacular this guy was all year, so I was curious to see him play at some point this season. I was picturing like a Dwayne Wade type player with explosive moves who could take over a game at any moment. I first watched Harden during the Pac 10 tournament, and my initial impression was that he was one of those Chris Douglas-Roberts guys who isn't an athletic beast but seems to find ways to score even though he's not a pure shooter. But after watching him play against Syracuse, I don't really see what this guy brings to the table. Did he just play horribly or is really not that good?? Are there any Sun Devil fans who read this blog?? I saw a guy who looked disinterested, can't shoot, turned the ball over, and seemed perfectly content to defer to the other guys on his team. He gave off a vibe like he didn't care. If a guy can't get fired up for the NCAA tournament, what is he going to be like for 82 games in an NBA season?? He's not even Chris Douglas-Roberts. He's like the homeless man's CDR. That sentence alone should scare the heck out of an NBA team.

I'll clarify what I said there by saying that I have watched five games out of a two year career from James Harden. And by all accounts, he played the worst basketball of his career during that stretch. Until the Pac 10/NCAA Tournament, he was carrying that team and averaging 20+ points a game. There seem to be a lot of people who really like him and think of him as a glue guy with great character who could blend into a team and play unselfishly while also bringing a lot to the table.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I saw what I saw. When the stakes were high in tournament play, he folded. I thought ASU looked better when Harden was on the bench. He'd go to the bench and they'd be flying around and playing great, unselfish basketball. When he'd come back in, they'd get real lethargic again while they tried to work everything through him. And that's a college team.

I like what OKC is doing with their franchise, but I'm leery of Harden. I think he's a huge reach at #3, and I would have taken Curry if I was them.

Tyreke Evans - Another guy I'm thinking could be a disappointment. I'm never high on shooting guards who plan to play the point in the NBA. This guy just feels like a DeJuan Wagner/Larry Hughes redux to me. 6'5" combo guards who don't like to get their teammates involved and aren't deadly shooters aren't all that valuable in the NBA. In fact, I'm guaranteeing that Evans bounces around the league about five times in the next ten years.

Could he end up scoring 15-20 ppg for a couple years on some bad Kings' teams?? Yea, I could see that with his size and strength, but I don't see him ever being a lead guard on a playoff team.
If I was Evans, I would make myself valuable by becoming an elite defender. Maybe he could turn himself into a Ron Artest type guy who teams want because of his defensive skills.

Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio -- Seems like a lot of people are ripping the Twolves, but I sort of like what they did. In a weak draft like this one, why not take two cracks at the apple to make sure you get a good point guard?? These drafts are crapshoots, and every other pick is a bust. By taking the top two point guard prospects, you increase your odds of getting a good one. Get them both into camp and see how they look. Maybe one of them never pans out. If that happens, at least you have another option (instead of going back into the lottery looking for a point guard yet again). What else would they have done with that #6 pick that would have made them that much better anyway??

If you get them both in camp and both look great, then you move one of them for a haul of picks in 2010 or 2011.

Heck, I don't even think it's the worst idea to keep both of them. Maybe you don't play them together all the time, but you could have an intriguinglineup by playing both of them on the court at the same time.

People overanalyze "value" in drafts. At the end of the day, the goal is to get a good player no matter where you take him. There are too many busts out there to assign "value" on a pick. If you get good "value" on a guy who ends up being a bust, does that still make him a good value?? No, of course not. Maybe the TWolves could have gotten more value out of their #6 pick, but the goal for them was to come out of the draft with a good point guard. By taking two, they put themselves in good position to get at least one good one.

Demarr DeRozan -- Of all the guys in this draft, I think DeRozan might have the most upside of anyone. Honestly, I said on multiple occasions during the NCAA Tournament that I would have considered taking him with the #2 overall pick. DeRozan has SKILLS. He's strong and athletic and extremely smooth out there. He was the best player in the Pac 10 tournament (yes, that includes James Harden), and I thought he was the best player on the floor when USC played Michigan State in the NCAAs. Get him in the right offense (something like what the Orlando Magic do with Pietrus and Lewis), and he could be really good.

If he didn't come out after his freshman year, he would have had a legit shot to be the #1 overall pick next year. That's how I look at him. If he had stuck around for 3 years, he would have been one of those Ray Allen/Vince Carter types in college.

Jordan Hill -- YIKES. New York fans are going to be killing this guy in February when he's averaging 4ppg and 3rpg. I wrote this about him in March.

Ok, maybe he won't be a huge bust, but a top 5 pick?? My god, how weak is this draft?? Is this the weakest draft of all time?? I watched this guy intently in Indy, and there's nothing all that special about him. I thought he got outplayed badly by Samardo Samuels.

Plus, he's a junior. For some reason, I thought he was only a freshman, and now I'm seeing that he's actually a junior. For a junior, he's really not all that polished.

The guy that came to mind for me is Anderson Varejao. He seems like he can be an energy guy who does things around the bucket, but not a go-to-guy. I like Varejao, but is that the guy I want if I have a top 5 pick?? Not going to lie, I'd hope to get more than that out of that pick.

A soft big man in New York?? I don't see this ending up well. Bilas likes him apparently though, so he's got that going for him. Yea, he's got size, but I've seen enough 6'10 guys cycle in and out of the league in 4-5 years to fall in love with his size. It was a shaky pick, but the Knicks also got unlucky. They were praying for one of those point guards to drop down to them, and nobody was left. Now they're stuck with an unpolished Pac 10 big man who screams out "energy guy" at best.

BJ Mullens -- Part of me feels bad about BJ Mullens because he has had a really tough childhood, but I can't say that I was too bummed out to see him drop down into the lower part of the first round. Mullens did what he had to do for his family, but he did nothing to distinguish himself in his one year at Ohio State.

I can't see BJ Mullens ever materializing into a quality pro player. His size is nice, but Mullens is soft. And his athleticism is overstated. The words "for a white guy" should always be included with any mention of Mullens being athletic. There are white big man busts littered all over the league. What is so special about Mullens that differentiates him from any other white big man who hasn't panned out??

If I had to make a choice between Mullens and Kosta Koufos, I would take Koufos in a second. Koufos at least showed some legitimate NBA skills during his time at Ohio State. He had post moves, great touch around the bucket and also could knock down shots from the perimeter. I've never seen Mullens connect on anything besides a dunk or a wide open layup. He's about as raw as you can get for an NBA prospect. A complete blank slate. Maybe he develops into a Brad Miller type player, but I wouldn't bet on it.

One final note on Thad Matta. Apparently Matta did no favors for BJ Mullens with NBA scouts. He openly admits that he told scouts that he couldnt' give a proper evaluation on Mullens because he only played one year at Ohio State.

HUH?? Dear Thad, you recruited Mullens!! Why are you so bitter about this?? Did you really think he wasn't leaving after one year?? Heck, I could have told you that he was leaving after one year, and I've never even met the guy. This is what happens when you recruit "one and dones." They leave after one year, and there's nothing you can do during the year to convince them otherweise. I don't know what Matta thought when he recruited Mullens and Koufos, but he's acted like a complete baby when both of them decided to leave. If he actually thought either of those guys was staying more than one year, then he's not very bright.

Memo to Thad, if you can't handle the world of "one and dones" and AAU coaches and agents, then don't recruit those guys. There are plenty of 3-4 star types out there from the Midwest who would give you four years at Ohio State. All you gotta do is take a look up to East Lansing and see what Tom Izzo has done up there. Stop whining about players leaving for the pros. You have no one to blame but yourself for your roster problems.

Tyler Hansborough -- Without a doubt, the funniest pick of the draft. Are you kidding me Larry Bird??!? I literally spit out my drink when that pick got announced. Nobody loves a white power forward like Larry Bird!!

And then almost on cue, there's Dick Vitale on ESPN screaming about how Tyler Hansborough was the "steal of the draft" and even predicted that Hansborough will be the rookie of the year in the NBA. Hahahahah. Was there even a doubt??! I swear, you could just run a tape of Dickie V every year for the last 20 years, insert the name of the gritty senior veteran from UNC or Duke in there, and you could run the same clip every year. Death, taxes, and Dickie V singing the praises of some four year guy who probably will be nothing better than a role player in the NBA.

Can Hansborough play in the league?? Of course!! I'm driving the bus for the "Luke Harangody is having a 12 year NBA career" bandwagon, so I can support the idea of Hansborough finding a niche. Energy and effort are huge in the league, and you know Hansborough will bring it every night. He'll get his points and rebounds on sheer effort alone. When he's going up against a hungover Zach Randolph in the middle of February, he'll get those loose balls and easy buckets that Randolph won't bother to chase.

I don't think he's the 12th best prospect in this draft, but Hansborough will be all right. He'll hang around and earn a living in the league for a long time. Maybe Indiana just wanted to make sure they got a guy that they trusted to be a top 8 guy on their roster. With all of the potential busts out there in this draft, it's probably not the worst strategy.

With that said, it's the equivalent of the guy who loads up on mediocre veterans in your fantasy baseball draft and finishes in 8th place. If you want to get to the top, you kind of need to take some risks on some guys with upside.

Terrance Williams and Earl Clark -- The Louisville guys are wildcards to me. I could see both of them being productive, but I could see both of them being busts. Earl Clark is talented, but he disappears at times. For a junior, he's too inconsistent. In today's world, a junior should be a dominant player in college, but Clark wasn't really that dominant.

Some quick thoughts on the rest of the draft:

--Love what the Philly 76ers did. Holliday didn't do much at UCLA as a freshman, but you can't ignore that upside. For all we know, he would have come back to UCLA next year and dominated. Definitely worth the gamble. If it pays off, they got a lottery talent at point guard.

--I can't believe how many good values there were in the 2nd round of the draft. I think the 2nd round of this draft was one of the deepest in recent years.

Love some of these guys:

DeJuan Blair - Cmon, Blair got jobbed here. How did he not go in the first round?? He was the best player in the Big East. He DOMINATED Thabeet every time he went up against him. Look at what he did in the NCAAs. He was unguardable. Blair is a warrior. Maybe he doesn't have much height, but he can score and rebound in the NBA. These undersized beefy guys always end up being underrated in the pros. If Jason Maxiell can do it at 6'6", DeJuan Blair can do it. He's got the type of attitude that you want on an NBA roster. He'll be one of the top 15 players in this draft. Mark that down in pen.

Best of all, he ends up on the Spurs!! That is an absolute steal for San Antonio.

Dante Cunningham - Maybe he's a little undersized, but Cunningham was one of the most improved players in America last year. He pretty much carried the load on the interior for Nova all year. I'm biased toward the Big East, but I would be shocked if Cunningham can't play in the league. The only question for him will be staying healthy.

Sam Young -- Are you kidding me?? How he did drop all the way to #36?? I would not have been stunned to see him go somewhere in the top 15. Sam Young can play, and he's a winner. I've watched this guy for four years. He can score, he's tough, and he's versatile. He's the Chris Douglas-Roberts of this draft. The age thing is silly. So what if he's 24?? Does that mean he can't play?? It's not like any of these guys play their whole NBA careers for one team. Heck, I would rather have him as a mature 24 year old who can play than some 20 year old kid who isn't ready for another five years and may not ever pan out.

The Cavs missed the boat by not taking Sam Young. He's the kind of glue guy who could have done some real nice things off the bench for them right away. Instead, they'll be trotting Daniel Gibson out there again next year.

Derrick Brown - Gotta throw some love for the Xavier guy here. This pick might turn out to be a steal for Charlotte. Brown has the ability to be a good swingman in the league. Big fan of Charlotte's draft. Henderson was a nice pick as well. I didn't realize his dad played in the NBA. If your dad played in the NBA, chances are that you'll probably know how to act like a professional.
Dajuan Summers - I know this guy has some attitude issues, but he has always performed well when I've watched him play. The talent is there. I think he was worth the risk in the second round.

Chase Budinger - Could be another gem in the late second round. Budinger really impressed me in the Louisville game. I like his size for a guard, and he's got some athletic ability. I thought he was the best player on the floor in the Louisville-Zona game. If Luke Walton can make it in the league, Budinger can as well.

Also could see guys like AJ Price and Pendergraph and Brockman and Calathes contributing to a roster. This draft is not as bad as people are making it out to be.

--Finally, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Doesn't last night's pick pretty much sum up the Danny Ferry era?? The guy had all kinds of options for ready-made pros who could come in and give them something off the bench next year, and he ends up taking a project from the Congo. Yo Danny, you got a team that is ready to make the leap into the Finals. Why not get a player who can come in right away and play?? Even if Eyenga actually pans out, it will be 3-4 years before he's even ready to contribute. By then, Lebron might be playing in New York.

Why not take a Sam Young or DeJuan Blair type guy right there?? If you get Young, he immediately becomes the best forward on the team not named LeBron James. Wouldn't he be a great guy to have next year when you're trying to guard Pietrus and Turkoglu and Lewis and now Vince Carter?? Who is going to guard those guys??

If you take DeJuan Blair, he can immediately come in and give you a lift off the bench as a rebounder and low post scorer. The Cavs are going to be trotting out Joe Smith and JJ Hickson off the bench next year. Not exactly a deadly combo inside.

Ferry just doesn't get it. He's one of those guys who means well but never does a good job with the execution part. Take free agency. He had a bunch of money to spend a few offseasons ago and one goal in mind. Find a second banana for LeBron James. Ok, that's fine. But who does he sign with all that money?? Larry Hughes!! It was a good plan but bad execution.

Same with the last two drafts. Ferry has embraced the Spurs model of drafting projects late in the first round with the hope that they'll be real good down the road. Not a bad idea in theory, but he misses the fact that his CURRENT ROSTER has too many needs for him to be doing that. You can only go the project route when you already have a loaded roster. Those projects would just be the icing on the cake. But when you have glaring needs on your bench, you can't take a bunch of fliers on wildcard type guys. Ferry hasn't drafted one decent player since Lebron. Their bench is among the worst in the league because they haven't drafted anyone of quality to contribute.

That's the problem with the Danny Ferry era in a nutshell. He has some good thoughts, but he has no sense of how to build a roster around Lebron. We're in year 6 or 7 of the Lebron James era, and Ferry still hasn't put much around him.

I don't understand why there aren't more people questioning Danny Ferry's credibility to build a championship team. As far as I'm concerned, the Cavs cannot win a championship with Danny Ferry as their GM or Mike Brown as their head coach. Neither of them can give Lebron what he needs.

June 25, 2009

ND Football Update: Hendrix is Irish, Fauria is out, and Chris Martin is taking visits?

Man, when it rains, it pours in the world of ND football. In the span of 24 hours, we have all kinds of things going on.

A quick rundown of yesterday's events.

1) First, Andrew Hendrix has committed to ND for 2010. I didn't necessarily think a quarterback was a necessity in the 2010 class, but it's always nice to get one. I'm presuming that he'll redshirt in 2010 and then serve as the backup to Crist in 2011. He could conceivably compete for the starting job in 2013 as a redshirt junior (true senior).

I've watched a few of his highlight videos, and you can see why he's a D-I prospect.
He's definitely got the size at 6'3, 220 pounds and the athletic ability to play major college ball. Honestly, for all the fuss about Nick Montana, I'm more intrigued by Hendrix as a prospect. Nick Montana weighs 175 pounds! There's no way he's going to be physically ready to compete in the Pac 10 unless he puts on a bunch of weight. Hendrix already has the size that you want and could easily get bigger and stronger up in South Bend. And if you watch him move around in the pocket, he's not exactly a statue. He could be the type of quarterback that we use more on the run like we did with Brady Quinn. I'm always a fan of having a mobile quarterback in college football.

Hendrix seems to be running a pretty sophisticated offense at Moeller in this video. They basically run that Pistol formation with a lot of shotgun stuff and a lot of precision passing. Isn't that pretty close to what Weis does at the end of the day?? It seems like he'll be a pretty good fit in this offense.

Hendrix reminds me of the type of quarterback that Michigan always used to get in the Lloyd Carr/Gary Moeller days. A big guy with a big frame who can stand back there and make the throws but also can take a hit. Kind of a Chad Henne/John Navarre/Todd Collins type guy. I wonder if Hendrix would have looked at Michigan if they hadn't switched offenses.

Plus, he's a Cincy guy! My god, South Bend is turning into Cincy North all of the sudden. Rudolph, Welch, and now Hendrix. Plus, it sounds like we are the frontrunner for the offensive lineman from Cincinnati St. Xavier, Matt James. All of these guys are 4-5 star type players, so it definitely appears that we're getting some quality players out of Cincinnati lately. Definitely a good sign on the recruiting front.

Anyway, Hendrix is a good get for this program. With Clausen and Crist on board, it was an uphill battle just to land anyone, let alone a 4 star player who had offers from Ohio State and a host of other major D-I schools. At the very least, Hendrix is a quality backup to have in the program from 2010-2014, he adds depth to the position, and he has the potential to compete for the starting job in 2013-14.

2) Unfortunately, the good news on the Hendrix front is tempered a bit by some bad news regarding Joseph Fauria. Kind of a bummer to find out that he's not going to be playing this upcoming season. Rumors are already circulating that it's some sort of dorm-related matter. God forbid someone have a little too much to drink and do something dumb. Is that really a reason to kick a player out of school?? And if this suspension is because he broke parietals, I'm going to lose my mind. Give me a break!

What happened to the idea of handling things internally?? Why couldn't you make Fauria go through some alcohol education classes while also keeping him as a student?? Do they really need to throw him out of school for a year?? Look at what is going on at Ohio State with their freshmen recruit, Jamaal Berry. That guy just got charged with felony drug possession, and he's on campus as we speak!

These guys are 19-20 years old. They're young guys who might not always use their best judgment. It's one thing to punish them, but kicking them out of school is not the answer unless they've done something egregious (major crime, academic scandal, etc).

The Kyle McAlarney thing was an abomination and something that I will never get over. To throw a kid out of school for one marijuana incident was completely absurd, and it completely screwed Mike Brey and the Notre Dame basketball team. For anyone who has seen McAlarney speak in interviews or carry himself on the court, you couldn't ask for a better representative of the school than him.

As for the football team, I honestly don't think Fauria is a very big loss for this year. I like Fauria a lot and have been high on him ever since watching his high school highlights video. Here's what I said about him before the spring game.

If you are looking for a MAJOR sleeper on this ND roster, I'll toss out Joseph Fauria as a possibility. I first watched this guy in the Blue Gold incoming recruits video, and was absolutely blown away by him. He came in with Kyle Rudolph, and I actually came away from that video feeling like Fauria was better than Rudolph and had more potential. Other than Michael Floyd, Fauria was the most impressive player on that tape. Obviously he didn't play a down last year, but I am still intrigued by this guy and have read great things about him all spring.

I'm not even kidding in saying that Fauria is a Tony Gonzalez-type athlete. Ok, maybe that's a stretch, but this kid is going to be a star if he puts on some weight and continues to mature. His combination of athleticism and height and hands are very rare at the college level. Some of the catches that he made in high school in full stride were remarkable for a guy as tall as he is.

But after watching him again at the spring game, here were some of my thoughts:

Fauria is a string bean!! He is the skinniest football player I've ever seen. He's listed at 245, but I don't see how he could possibly weigh that much. When he runs out on the field, it looks like the wind is going to blow him over. I cannot see him getting a ton of playing time this year with that body. He'll get killed.

The ND strength coaches need to get Fauria on some sort of insane high calorie diet or something to put some meat on those bones. Get him some extra helpings of Blazing Sea Nuggets and Yo Creme at the South Dining Hall to pack on an extra 20 pounds.

I don't see any way that Fauria could have played that much. He's a great athlete, but his legs are like twigs. How can you be a good blocker in the running game with that body?? A good d-linemen would just get underneath him and blow him up. Point is, if Fauria was getting a ton of minutes next year, our running game would be in trouble anyway.

The other thing is that we have two really good tight ends already on the roster. How many tight ends do you really need?? Were we really going to play three tight ends all the much next year? Rudolph is an All-American caliber player, and I thought Mike Ragone was one of the most impressive players at the spring game. He has the potential to be a breakout player in this offense, and his body is much more mature than Fauria's body. Ragone reminds me a ton of Anthony Fasano.

Our tight ends will be as good as anyone in America even without Fauria. Both Rudolph and Ragone were elite recruits. Fauria had a lot of potential to add depth to the position, but I didn't really see him getting a ton of minutes anyway this year. Hopefully he will be back in the fall of 2010 and ready to compete for playing time by 2011.

3) The other big news coming out of the ND circles has been this Chris Martin story. Let the hand-wringing begin. It wouldn't be an ND offseason without a bunch of people out on the ledge worried about every little thing. Then again, Chris Martin is a huge recruit for us next year, so I can understand to some degree why people are freaking out a little bit about losing him to a school like USC.

With that said, I think this whole thing is a lot of fretting over nothing. Is he taking visits?? Who knows!?! All we know is that he's CONSIDERING the idea of taking visits. It's not even a definite that he'll actually take any visits to other schools.

Plus, there could be any number of reasons why he would visit another school. His dad and others are saying that he wants to have a chance to participate in other camps to test himself against other players. That' s a good sign to me that he's a competitor. Maybe he just wants to get some free tickets to some other college games this fall. Maybe he just wants to soak up as much football as he can from other college coaches. If anything, I encourage him to visit other schools. I think he's going to find that there's no school like ND.

All I know is that Chris Martin has been about as rock solid as any recruit we've had in recent years. He committed to ND immediately after the 2009 signing day and has been telling anyone who will listen about how excited he is to be Irish. There's plenty of playing time available at defensive end when he arrives on campus. If he's as good as he looks in his videos, he has a chance to be the best defensive end we've had since Justin Tuck.

I'm going on the record here with a GUARANTEE. Someone feel free to rub this in my face if I'm wrong, but I'm guaranteeing that Chris Martin signs with ND in 2010. If you want to look up this post next February when Chris Martin has signed with USC, by all means do so and call me out on it. But I think Chris Martin is lock city for the Irish, and I think his commitment will only be strengthened when the team gets off to a good start in 2009.

June 24, 2009

Is Urban Meyer abandoning the spread offense??

Interesting article here on the evolution of Urban Meyer's offense down at Florida. When you think of Urban Meyer, you usually think of the spread option offense. That's his bread and butter ever since he's been at Bowling Green. Dink passes, option reads, little gimmick plays designed to get the ball to playmakers in space. I'm pretty sure every defensive coordinator in the SEC still has nightmares about a middle screen to Percy Harvin that he takes for 60 yards.

It's an exciting offense to watch and obviously has been incredibly successful with two national titles in the last three years, but it is very much a college offense. You don't see any NFL teams running the spread option as a base offense, and a lot of the principles that make it successful in college (discipline and superior athleticism) will not cut it in the NFL where every NFL defense has incredible speed and unlimited time to practice. In other words, it doesn't work in the NFL.

And that's where Urban Meyer appears to be realizing that he might run into some problems if he keeps the spread option as his base offense. The perception is now out there in the recruiting world that you aren't as marketable to the NFL if you play in the spread option offense in college. If you aren't learning the pro style offense, then you come into the league at a disadvantage and essentially have to learn an entirely new offense. Here's another article about the adjustments that high school players have to go through in a new offense. Once recruits start balking about your offense (even if it is a very productive offense), it's probably time to reevaluate things.

Is the new perception of the spread a fair one?? Tough to say. On the one hand, football is football, and things like athleticism and instincts and speed can pretty much translate to whatever offense you are running. On the other hand, the NFL is such a competitive league that you don't want to have to come into the league three steps behind everyone else. Coaches might get scared off by the spread option players because they don't know for sure that these guys can translate to an NFL offense. It's a bigger risk for an NFL GM/coach to draft a guy like that, and it's understandable why that might hurt their value.

A perfect example would be Alex Smith. That guy was a superstar at Utah, but I thought it was insanity to make him the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. A spread option guy?? I still can't believe that happened. He was a great fit in a college offense, but his game didn't translate at all to the pros. That might have been the dumbest draft pick in the last ten years. The Alex Smith debacle has probably scarred every NFL gm for life, and I don't think you'll be seeing a spread option QB going in the top 10 any time soon.

The recruiting angle is very interesting though. If you're a superstar pro style linemen or wide receiver or running back or quarterback, why would you go to a spread option offense?? You can easily play ball at Georgia or LSU or USC where they run a pro style offense that has put tons of offensive players into the pros. You don't have that same guarantee at a place like Florida. I know they've put plenty of players into the pros, but the Florida offense is not exactly a showcase for NFL type offenses. Urban Meyer wants linemen who can execute his offense, so he's going to teach them how to block in a spread and not the pro style. Wide receivers are going to run routes that are conducive to the spread option. Quick hitters and misdirections instead of the typical down the field stuff that you'd see in a pro offense. The Florida offense doesn't use tailbacks in a straight I formation where they pound the ball off tackle. If you're a stud back like Knowshon Moreno or Beanie Wells or Joe McKnight, why would you go to Florida and play in that offense??

I've always wondered when recruits would eventually catch on and get spooked by the spread option. If I was a Michigan fan, I'd be freaking out about this article. Urban Meyer appears to be getting ahead of the trend and going to a pro style offense while Rich Rodriguez is plowing right ahead with the spread option up at Michigan. What happens if recruits start avoiding Ann Arbor en masse because they're afraid that they won't succeed in the league by playing in Rich Rodriguez's offense??

Urban Meyer has obviously had a lot more success at Florida than Rich Rodriguez has had at Michigan thus far, so I don't think the recruiting well is suddenly going to dry up if he sticks with the spread option. Recruits want to play for winners no matter what offense they run, and there's no denying that Florida is the reigning king of college football these days. However, it doesn't take much to lose your status in the football world, so it's interesting to see that Urban Meyer is trying to adapt to stay ahead of the curve.

So where does Florida's offense go from here?? Will their offense be as effective?? I could see people making a big deal of this change, but I think Florida's offense will end up being just fine. I don't think the style of your offense is that big of a deal in college football. I think it comes down to execution. You can run a Wing T, and it will be successful if you execute well. Look at what Georgia Tech did last year. They ran the triple option and had an outstanding year. The key to Florida's offense is that they execute really well and find ways to get the ball to their playmakers. If they adapt to more of a pro style offense, their success will come down to whether or not they can execute it.

Judging by the way Urban Meyer runs his teams, I would guess that they're offense will remain potent. If you watch his teams play, the key to their success is not their scheme. It's that they run everything with precision and discipline. You could say the same about Lou Holtz's teams. We ran a basic option offense at ND under Holtz, but he made it work because we were the most physical and disciplined team in the country. I've heard stories that we would often run the same play over and over, and nobody could stop it.

I wonder how this move will affect Tim Tebow. As great as he has been in college football, it's kind of his make or break year to prove if he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. You have to think that part of the reason Urban Meyer is remaking the offense is to give Tebow a showcase for the NFL scouts. How is he going to perform in a pro style offense?? Can he be a drop back passer?? It would definitely be good for his stock if he runs it well, but what if he struggles?? Is Tebow fully on board with this change?? I know Tebow wants to become an NFL quarterback, but he also wants to win another championship. Interesting dynamic there.

From an ND angle, I also think this move is interesting if he ever gets on the radar for the ND head coaching position. Whether it's next year or ten years down the road, I do think that Urban Meyer will someday be the head coach at Notre Dame. With the pro style personnel that we tend to attract (Qbs, tight ends, big linemen), we sort of need a coach who can tailor his offense around the typical ND type recruits. The spread option is not going to work for a big armed pro style QB like Clausen or Crist or Hendrix. If Meyer can effectively teach a pro style offense with a quarterback under center, he might feel more confident about going to ND someday.

One of the things that I've heard through the years from ND fans is that they are leery of Urban Meyer's offense and think of it as "gimmicky." I actually agree with that sentiment to some degree even though I think Meyer is a fabulous coach. You don't want to be a one trick pony in the coaching world. If that spread goes out of style or recruits start balking about it, suddenly you've got nothing and your momentum dries up. I think it's a good sign that Meyer has already recognized some of the potential problems that might come down the road if he continues to focus on the spread. It's better to adapt now than to wait until it's too late.

Anyway, should be something to keep an eye on. I don't anticipate a full-fledged switch to the pro style in Tebow's senior year, but I think they'll show some of that at times (probably in the less important games). Scott Loeffler is a pro style quarterbacks coach who has already brought a new offensive philosophy to Gainesville. With this John Brantley guy in the fold for next year as more of a pro style guy, we might see a whole new brand of offense at Florida in 2010.

June 22, 2009

The Hangover

Figured I would put in the obligatory plug for "The Hangover." An instant classic if I've ever seen one. Anyway, I know we're a sports blog and all, but it's not often that a pantheon comedy comes along (I wonder if Hollywood will ever get the message that Americans are starving for some better adult comedies). Gotta put this one right up there with Old School and Wedding Crashers for funniest movies of the decade. I'm already looking forward to The Hangover 2.

What is Zach Galifianakis' ceiling in terms of popularity?? I know he was getting kinda big as a comedian, but he's turned into a superstar practically overnight. Can he get into the Ferrell/Farley stratosphere or is he going to just settle into more of a niche cult status??

Anyway, great movie. It's not often that someone sings a song about a guy named Doug, and how many times are you going to see Mike Tyson sing Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight" in your life??

Speaking of Phil Collins, I wonder what he thinks about all the love for "In the Air Tonight" these days. Between The Hangover and Mike Tomlin saying that he plays "In the Air Tonight" to get the Steelers pumped up, that song is having one heckuva year.

June 18, 2009

The post NBA Draft Deadline College Hoops Preview

Yesterday’s discussion about Luke Harangody’s return to college basketball had me wondering where ND stood alongside the rest of the Big East. I did a little fishing around on some of the major websites and found a couple top 25 lists to peek at for the upcoming season. Now that the draft is over, the rosters are set, and we can start to take a look at who looks strong and who is facing a major rebuilding project. I like to take a look at these lists after the draft deadline because it's tough to really gauge teams until we know who is going to be on the rosters.

First, a quick national overview. The consensus top three teams coming back next year are Kentucky, Kansas, and Michigan State. No big surprises there. For my money, Kansas is the clear favorite heading into next year. When you are bringing back two All-American type players, a slew of talented wings, and a monster recruiting class, you’re in pretty good shape. Kansas hit the jackpot with Collins and Aldrich—two elite college players who don’t quite have the “measurables” to be lured into the NBA after a year or two.

It’s amazing how quickly Bill Self went from a perceived “choker” to a guy who is now universally regarded as one of the elite coaches in the game. They were an eyelash from going to the Final Four last year in a rebuilding year, and now he’s stockpiled even more talent to go with that group.

Kentucky is going to be a very interesting story next year. Even without Jodie Meeks, they are going to be as talented as anyone on paper. Patterson, Wall, Cousins, Bledsoe, Orton. There are probably 4-5 NBA players on the roster. Still, there’s a lot of things that need to be sorted out in that program before they get it rolling, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kentucky is a bit of a “disappointment” next year. It’s never easy to have everyone on the same page with a brand new coach. Unfortunately for Calipari, his transition year is going to come when he already has a loaded roster in place, and guys like Wall and Patterson will not be around in 2010 when Calipari has full control of his program.

Michigan State is a borderline lock for the Final Four in my mind. In fact, I’ll bet anyone who reads this post that Sparty is playing in Indy in the Final Four next year. I have that much faith in Tom Izzo. With an experienced roster coming back and plenty of depth, they’re definitely a contender to win it all. MSU is sort of like the Pittsburgh Steelers of college basketball. You know what you’re getting, and they are always going to be a contender.

Anyway, that brings me to the Big East and how the league is shaping up as we stand today. The league is going to be down, but the Big East is like the SEC these days. A lot of these teams just reload.

I looked at a couple top twenty five polls, and here’s how the Big East teams fared.

Nova – 6, 4
Uconn – 8, 17
WVU – 10, 9
Louisville – 15, 23
Georgetown – 24, 24

Five teams ranked in each poll, and two teams that appear to be consensus top 10 teams. I agree with the Nova pick. As far as I’m concerned, they are the clear favorites in the Big East next year. The lose Dante Cunningham and Shane Clark, but they have far and away the best backcourt in the league next year (if not the nation) with Reynolds, Fisher, Redding, and Stokes. I’m a huge Scottie Reynolds fan. So smooth, great defender, good team player. He’s not a classic point guard (which seems to hurt his NBA value), but he can handle the role of being a lead guard in a college offense. Interesting that he decided to come back to college. Maybe I’m wrong on these early entries. Maybe these guys figure that they’re going to be a second rounder anyway, so they might as well stick around in college, hang out with the fellas, and try to make a run at the Final Four one last time.

The only concern for Nova is going to be on the interior. Guess we’ll see what Antonio Pena can do as the go to guy inside. They also have a top five recruiting class coming in next year. Jay Wright is really turning Nova into a powerhouse.

If there’s one team I could see being a little overrated out of the Big East next year, it’s probably West Virginia. I think they'll be good, but top 10 good?? Wow. Butler is great, Ebanks is great, I like Truck Bryant, even Mazzulla. But I think Ruoff will be a pretty big loss as their main perimeter threat. Either way, if WVU is the second best team in the Big East next year, it's not going to be a very strong league. I think WVU will settle in somewhere around 3rd-4th in the league.

The two wildcards are probably going to be UConn and Louisville. On paper, UConn probably has the most raw talent in the league. They have Kemba Walker back as a five star point guard, Dyson will be back, and they have Stanley Robinson back after his monster performance in the NCAA Tournament. Who else has that type of personnel?? Plus, UConn has brought in multiple stud recruits in the last couple years. I could see them being much better than talked about at this point.

Louisville lost a ton last year with Earl Clark, T-Will, and Andre McGee all moving on, but let's be honest. Richard Pitino is pacing that sideline, and it's not like Louisville isn't recruiting well. That frontcourt with Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings will be as talented as any in the league, and they still have Jerry Smith and Ed Sosa in the backcourt. I'm guessing that Louisville will be a factor again next year.

Georgetown is the other team that has been getting some preseason top 25 buzz. Interesting. I could see it. Everyone sort of forgot about them, but it's still Georgetown. I'd be shocked to see JTIII put up another subpar year. Between Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman, and Chris Wright, the Hoyas have a nucleus to get right back toward the top of the Big East in a hurry. Getting Monroe to come back next year could be huge. We'll have to see if last year was a blip on the radar or a sign of bigger problems at Georgetown. My gut instinct tells me that Gtown will be back next year.

So those are the five teams from the Big East that are considered top 25 teams going into next year, and I think all of them look like safe bets to be NCAA teams. Joe Lunardi is predicting right now that there will be 9 teams from the Big East in the Big Dance next year, so that leaves four others. Lunardi includes ND among that group.

Of the remaining teams, I'd actually say that ND has a chance to be the "best of the rest." Pitt loses Blair, Young, and Fields and doesn't have many returning guys back. The Cuse got bludgeoned by the early entry draft with Flynn, Devendorf, and Harris all leaving. Who do they have left?? Rautins and Onganaet?? Doesn't look like the Orange brought in a monster recruiting class or anything, so I see them taking a step back to the NIT this year.

Marquette also got crushed by graduation. McNeal, Matthews, and James all are gone. They're basically going with Hayward and young guys next year. Should be interesting to see what Buzz Williams does next year now that he doesn't have a bunch of seniors. Is he Tom Crean, Jr. or Larry Coker??

Of the teams that stunk last year, I'd say that Cincy has the best shot to move up toward NCAA contention. They basically have their whole team back next year. They imploded down the stretch last year, but it's pretty much make or break for Mick Cronin next year. If he can't make the NCAA Tournament with a team full of juniors and seniors, he's probably not going make it at Cincinnati.

After looking through all of these teams, I think ND is in much better shape going into next year and definitely looking like an NCAA Tournament team. The talent is way down in the Big East, and there's only one team next year that I would characterize as "elite" going into the season: Villanova. Everyone else is either raw or decimated by graduation. The powerhouses of the league (UConn and Louisville) each lost their three best players, and two of the other two premier programs (Syracuse and Pitt) are returning NIT type talent next year.

Our talent and recruiting deficiencies will not be as problematic when everyone else in the league is either young or inexperienced. Harangody and Jackson are four year starters, and Hansborough and Martin have started for BCS schools. That's good enough to be a top 6 team in this league next year (if not better).

Here's how I would rank the Big East teams as I see them three days after the early entry deadline (obviously this is a very rough guess at this point):

1) Villanova
2) UConn
3) West Virginia
4) Louisville
5) Georgetown
6) Notre Dame
7) Pitt
8) Cincy
9) Syracuse
10) Marquette
11) Seton Hall
12) St. Johns
13) Providence
14) South Florida
15) Rutgers
16) DePaul

Should be interesting to see where the Irish end up in the standings next year. If we get the right schedule, maybe we end up cracking the top 5. With Harangody back, I think Mike Brey has a great shot to lead this team back to the NCAA Tournament.

June 16, 2009

Harangody Returns: Implications for the 2009 ND Hoops Team

Great news yesterday coming out of the ND basketball program with Luke Harangody’s decision to return to ND for his senior year. I gotta admit that I was sweating this decision. When I got back from court, it hit me that Harangody hadn’t yet made up his mind on whether to stay in the NBA Draft. Sweaty palms! I spent the next two hours scouring the internet for any clues as we got closer to the 4pm deadline.

Let me stop there for a second. I never really thought Harangody was going to leave ND early, but I will say that I got a little nervous as the predraft process went along. By all accounts, Harangody blew away the scouts with his skills and competitiveness and sneaky athleticism. Andy Katz had a lot of interesting stuff on Harangody throughout the process, and I think the consensus that came out of tryouts is that Harangody could play and contribute off the bench in the NBA as soon as next year. As we got closer to the draft deadline, I started to wonder if some NBA team had either promised to take him in the first round or had guaranteed him a roster spot as a second round pick.

So with that in mind, I was a little nervous as 4pm started to get close. A lot of people on NDNation were saying cryptic things, and it seemed like the public opinion was shifting toward the possibility that Harangody might leave. And then came the Twitter post (Tweet?) heard ‘round the world (ok, maybe that’s a stretch):

Gody to return to the Irish!!

Michael Brey is a regular Ric Bucher! Breaking news on his Twitter site before any of the media outlets got word.

So that’s where we are today. Harangody is back, and ND fans are relieved. I would have been happy for him no matter what he had decided, but I’m extremely pleased that he’s coming back next year. For what it’s worth, I definitely think Harangody could play in the NBA next year. Look around the league. There are all kinds of mediocre big men playing in the NBA right now who have half the skill set that Gody brings to the table. He wouldn’t start or anything, but you’re telling me he couldn’t come off the bench on an NBA roster next year?? Look at some of the dogs that the Cavs were trotting out there off the bench in the postseason. And that’s one of the best teams in the league. Imagine who teams like Charlotte and Oklahoma City and Memphis are playing off the bench. Harangody can score, and he gives you max effort. He is going to have a nice NBA career as a backup someday.

In terms of his career, Harangody is probably better off leaving for the league, but I think he enjoys college and wanted to have one last year as a student before he goes off and tries to make a living as a basketball player. Brey probably passed out with relief when he heard the news. Talk about a job saver!

For Harangody, it will be interesting to see how his game evolves next year. Is he going to be the same type of player, or is he going to try to show a new side of his game to impress scouts?? I will be curious to not only see how Harangody’s game has changed but also the effect that it will have on the team. I’ve heard Bob Valvano say on ESPN telecasts a few times that seniors can either be the greatest thing in the world or a complete nightmare. Harangody is a team-oriented player, but he also has had stretches where he falls in love with his offensive game a little too much and becomes a black hole. I hope he's highly motivated to do whatever it takes to get his team back in the NCAA Tournament while also enhancing his draft prospects.

I have two hopes for Harangody going into next year:

1) Improves defensively to the point where he can guard a big man effectively by himself
2) Becomes a better and more instinctive passer

As great as Harangody is offensively (he’s the best scorer to put on an ND uniform since I’ve been a fan of the team), he is almost equally bad on the defensive end. Harangody is a turrrrrrrrrrrible defender. For a guy his size, it’s amazing that he can’t seem to stay between his man and the bucket. How many times in the last couple years has he gotten absolutely abused by his man in the paint?? Last year, it stood out even more because Kurz wasn’t around to take on the heavy lifting defensively.

If I was Harangody, I would spend all offseason watching tape of that guy Jon Brockman from the University of Washington. They have almost identical builds, but Brockman is about a hundred times the defender that Harangody is. Brockman sticks his wide body in the way, blocks his man out, and clears the defensive rebound. I watched him a few times in the PAC 10 tournament and during the NCAA Tournament, and came away impressed with his performance on the defensive end. This stuff really makes a difference between winning and losing games.

Even if Harangody never becomes an elite defender, he can certainly put out more effort. It almost seems like he takes a breather on defense to conserve his energy for offense. Having Ty Nash around next year will help, but Harangody has to be able to hold his own weight as well. Defense is what wins in the postseason. It's been proven time and time again. If we don't commit to guarding people, we aren't going anywhere in the postseason.

The other thing I’d like to see out of Harangody is more of a commitment to team play on the offensive end. I’m hesitant to say that he should reign himself in, but I think the offense would be more effective if Harangody wasn’t ALWAYS looking to score as soon as he touches the ball. If the ball goes in to Harangody, he shoots about 95% of the time (or at least it feels that way). A lot of those shots are bad shots. A good big man like Harangody should be shooting at least 50% from the floor. Case in point, Jeff Adrian shot just over 50% last year. Harangody shot 46%. I think it would be nice if he became a little more efficient from the floor and made the extra pass on occasion.

In Harangody’s defense, there weren’t a lot of guys to pass the ball to last year. If the decision is hoisting up a bad turnaround shot or dishing off to Ryan Ayers, he probably figured he’d just put up the shot. Next year, Scott Martin might give him some better options inside and outside.

As for the rest of the roster, here’s how things are shaking out in terms of a depth chart.

PG – Tory Jackson
SG – Ben Hansborough
SF – Scott Martin
PF – Tyrone Nash
C - Luke Harangody

Bench: Jon Peoples, Carl Scott, Tim Abromaitis, Mike Broghammer, Joey Brooks, Jack Cooley, Tom Knight

Quick plea here to Coach Brey. Can you PLEASE spread out those minutes during nonconference play when we’re playing the Furmans and Delaware States of the world?? If you’re going to insist on playing a slate of those teams to begin the season, why would anyone on the roster play more than 25 minutes in any of those games?? I would be sprinkling in every guy on the roster for those games.

I would even do it during the conference season. Look at what Michigan State does. Izzo goes to his bench early and often throughout the year, and then those guys are ready when he calls on them later in the year. Plus, it keeps your team fresh, and he can go with multiple different looks in big ballgames. It seemed like Izzo was just as comfortable with his 8th and 9th men as he was with his starters.

I’ll point out a couple early conference games that we played last year against lesser opponents. DePaul and Seton Hall. Two lousy opponents that we played early in the year. Here’s how many minutes Tyrone Nash and Carl Scott played in both those games:

Tyrone Nash – 0 minutes
Carl Scott – 0 minutes

Are you kidding me?? We have two promising young players on the roster, and neither of them even sees one minute of playing time in conference games early in the year against bad teams?? That’s ABSURD!! Meanwhile, we have guys like Hillesland and Ayers and McAlarney playing 35+ minutes in those games. Is there any wonder why those guys are completely gassed by the end of the year?? Honestly, I would rather lose a game early in the conference season but get my bench a ton of minutes and experience than the other way around. The goal is to be peaking AT THE END OF THE SEASON, not in January.

This team has six big bodies (including Gody) to throw out there. There is no reason that we shouldn’t be playing at least 4-5 of those guys every night. Get them in the game, let them get minutes, and they’ll eventually start to contribute. It’s a process, but you have to commit to it early in the year. The added bonus is that guys like Harangody and Martin will be fresher down the stretch. Brey seems determined to play 5-6 guys for 30+ minutes a night, and then he wonders why our team runs out of gas every year.

Figure out in practice who can contribute between Knight, Brog, and Cooley. Take 1-2 of those guys along with Gody and Nash and Abromaitis, and tell them that they are all getting minutes. It will keep those guys hungry. Brey's handling of Nash last year was disastrous. By the time he started getting minutes, it was too late and the season was already in the tank.

As for the guards, I’d probably say the same thing. There is no reason for Tory Jackson to play 35+ minutes every night. We’ve watched this guy for three years now, and it has been proven beyond a doubt that he wears down from playing too many minutes. Look at what happened after that overtime game at Louisville last year. It seemed like he was never the same after that.

Is there any doubt that Hansborough will be playing 35 minutes a night right from the start next year?? Just go ahead and put that in pen. If I was Brey, I would avoid that situation. Get Peoples in the game for 15+ minutes every night, get Carl Scott in there, and even throw Joey Brooks in for 5-10 minutes if he looks like he can play.

As for Mike Brey, talk about a critical moment for his program. If Harangody had left for the pros after this year, we’d be staring down the barrel of the NIT again next year. A second straight NIT would probably put Mike Brey in very hot water (if he even survived), and I think the fanbase would have really started mobilizing against him. Harangody’s decision to come back to ND amounts to a life preserver for the Mike Brey era.

Needless to say, the 2009-10 basketball season is going to be a big one for Mike Brey. My support for him has wavered significantly in the last year, and another NIT bid for this team next year would probably be the nail in the coffin for Mike Brey in my eyes. Whether or not Swarbrick makes the same decision is up for debate. I do think he’s having a decent spring on the recruiting trail, so I am not giving up on Mike Brey just yet. I’ve always believed that he was a good basketball coach, but his management of the program and small time thinking has kept him from taking the program to the next level comparable to the Pitts and Villanovas of the world.

So where does this move leave the ND basketball program for 2009?? We’re going to take a closer look at the NCAA Top 25 later in the week, but my gut feeling is that Harangody + Martin + Tory Jackson + Hansborough=NCAA Tournament. With the Big East projected to be not quite as strong as last year, I would think we have enough quality veterans to land somewhere in the top five in the league. It will be good to have some new blood on the roster. This team got stale last year with teams keying in on guys like Ayers and McAlarney to the point where they were no longer effective. Guys like Hansborough and Martin give us a little different look offensively that might allow us to sneak up on some people.

Luke Harangody is one of my favorite ND athletes of all time. He's been a star since the first day he's been on campus. I'm relieved to see him back, and I'd like to see him go out on a high note as a senior with a trip to the Sweet 16.

June 11, 2009

Huggins being Huggins

Ok, it's entirely possible that Bob Huggins' explanation for why he showed up in public with two black eyes is legitimate, but do I buy it for a second?? Not a chance. Here's his explanation from this article about it.

The West Virginia University coach kept his sense of humor as he sported two black eyes and a welt at the conclusion of his annual fantasy basketball camp Sunday night. He says he stepped into the edge of his bathroom door late one night.

Judging by all the stories I've heard about the Huggy Bear through the years, I'm going to guess there was a little more to it than that. Perhaps he forgot to mention that bottle of Jack Daniels that he had polished off earlier in the evening.

You get what you get when you hire Bob Huggins. This is the second time he's "fell" and shown up with a black eye since he's been hired by WVU. It's not some secret that Huggins has a pretty significant drinking problem and has had one for a long time (I know, I know, those in glass houses..........). I heard a story about him getting carried out of a bar by Jay Wright at the Final Four last year, and didn't doubt it for a second. He's got the bug real bad. The guy will coach his face off and probably make your teams tougher and stronger and more athletic, but just know that he'll probably also show up at sports banquets with two black eyes after "falling" the night before.

The good thing for Huggins is that he's sort of protected in Morgantown with a press that probably doesn't get on his case a whole lot. Just look at the article. It basically glosses over the explanation and leaves it as is. If this had happened while he was at the University of Cincinnati, that picture would have started a riot. There would be a solid month of wall-to-wall coverage on radio, tv, internet, and newspapers with that picture as the lead story, and everyone in town would have their own theory on the picture and use it to justify their agenda on Huggins (whether positive or negative).

In many ways, I actually miss that from the Huggins era. Love him or hate him, Huggins was one of the most divisive sports figures in the history of Cincinnati sports, and only Huggins would have people talking about UC basketball in the middle of June. Now, no one even cares DURING THE SEASON. The decline of UC basketball since he left has really been a huge blow to the Cincy sports scene. There's only so many times you can hear about Chad Johnson and whether or not Homer Bailey should be on the big league roster.

June 10, 2009

Nick Montana commits to Washington. People are bent out of shape about this? Really?

With the news that Nick Montana has committed to Steve Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies, I'll start by saying that I wish him the best of luck. Any time Joe Montana's kid is going somewhere to play college football, he'll have a fan in me. I think he made a good decision to go up to Washington to help build their program. Locker is going to be a junior this year I believe, so Montana probably will have an opportunity to be the guy in Seattle as soon as 2011 for the next three years. Sarkisian is a pretty darn good young quarterback coach who was a standout player at BYU and learned at the knee of Norm Chow. Just look at what he did with Mark Sanchez last year.

If Montana is any good, he's going to come out of Washington with three years of starting experience in the Pac 10. Washington is probably going to start stockpiling some talent in the next few years (partially because there will be tons of playing time available), so Montana might actually become the point man for a little Huskies renaissance. Maybe he leads them back to a bowl game and maybe even gets them to a Rose Bowl someday. If all those things happen for him, he'll probably have a great chance to play in the NFL. In terms of tradition and playing time and location and quality of competition, he made a great decision for himself.

Here's the only question I have about Nick Montana though. Is he any good?? I've watched all of his highlight tapes, and I can't say that I'm blown away by him. He has pretty good mobility and probably has the smarts to pick up an offense, but he's got a very light arm and is rail thin. When you compare his arm coming out of high school to someone like Clausen or Crist or even Andrew Hendrix, the difference is noticeable. Look at how many balls his receivers have to slow up on to catch. I'm not some guy who falls in love with arm strength (it's the most overrated quality for an NFL quarterback), but I also don't want a rag arm back there.

Then you get to the level of competition that he's playing against. Oaks Christian is a tiny school in California. For the most part, they are running roughshod over a bunch of DIII patsies. Has Nick Montana ever been hit?? Look at the DBs and linebackers when you watch highlights of Montana. It's a bunch of tiny white guys. I know Oaks Christian has a bunch of talent on their roster, but they run around these other DIII teams like they are playing against air.

Would I have been happy to land Nick Montana?? Of course. He's a legacy with some level of potential, and it would be cool to see a Montana run out of that tunnel someday as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame. However, the impression that I've gotten from people who really watch a lot of high school football in that region is that Nick Montana is not an elite quarterback prospect. The USC people didn't really seem to even be interested in him.

That brings me to ND fans. Ahhhhh, the ND fanbase. No fanbase gets more worked up over nothing than our fanbase. I log onto NDNation to get some reaction to the Montana decision, and of course there are people on there ready to jump off a building. PANIC!! Oh no! Montana is going to UW! Everything is falling apart! We've lost out on 10 quarterbacks in a row! We might be starting a walk-on in 2012! We're doomed! Fire Weis!

Are people really serious with this stuff or are they just using it as a way to take some potshots at Charlie Weis?? How is the sky falling because we lost out on Nick Montana??

Newsflash: WE HAVE TWO FIVE STAR QUARTERBACKS ON THE ROSTER!! Jimmy Clausen is a true junior who is 99% likely to be back in 2010. Even if Nick Montana was the second coming of Peyton Manning, he wouldn't be seeing the field until 2011 at the earliest.

And that's before you get to Dayne Crist. Remember the five star quarterback that we already have on the roster with four years of eligibility left?? Dayne Crist is going to be the starting quarterback for Notre Dame in 2011 and probably 2012 as well.

Nick Montana isn't dumb. He sees the depth chart working against him. If he arrived at ND in 2010, he would obviously not be seeing the field in 2010 or 2011. Unless Dayne Crist went pro with a year of eligibility left, Montana probably wouldn't be starting in 2012 either. That means that he'd be just getting on the field in 2013, and that's assuming that we didn't recruit someone better than him in the class of 2011. If we found some Crist/Clausen type stud in that class, it's entirely possible that Montana would go his entire career at ND without seeing the field. Why go through all that when you can go to Washington and be virtually guaranteed to start by 2011??

The bottom line is that teams with two five star quarterbacks already on the roster with multiple years of eligibility are not going to be able to attract big time quarterback talent every single year. These recruits want to play. If they are going to sit the bench at ND for four years, they are probably going to look around at other options. Quarterback is a unique position for recruiting in the sense that only one quarterback is going to play. It's not like Montana could get worked into the game. Unless you're starting, you're not going to play.

For a big time recruit, it's hard to willingly go to a school where you are going to sit on the bench for 3-4 years before getting your chance. The USC situation of bringing in five star QBs every year is a very unique situation. They are the only school in the country that can pull that off. Heck, look at Ohio State's qb situation. They have Terrelle Pryor for the next two years and absolutely no clue who will be starting after that. They don't have a legit backup on the roster and certainly no one of the quality of Dayne Crist lingering in the background on the depth chart. When you are recruiting QBs, it's hard to attract elite talent unless you have available playing time for them within the first couple years of them getting onto campus.

And besides, ND is currently recruiting a four star quarterback named Andrew Hendrix. I've watched his highlight tapes, and he looks better than Montana. He's 6'3, 220 with a good arm and athletic ability and has played at Moeller in the one of the best high school football leagues in the Midwest. There are DI prospects all over the Greater Catholic League. Just looking at ND alone, we've landed Kyle Rudolph, Alex Welch, and Rocky Boiman all out of the GCL in the last decade or so. Any time we can bring in a Cincy guy, I'm always happy about that.

If ND lands Hendrix, I'd be very pleased. It's not like he's some walk-on. He's getting recruiting by a lot of heavy hitters lately. Tennessee, Miami, etc. He seems like a real solid kid who sounds like he was blown away by his visit to ND. With his size and athletic ability, he could be the type of guy who takes the torch from Dayne Crist in 2013 and holds down the fort for a year or two.

I honestly wouldn't even be that bent out of shape if we don't land a quarterback at all in this class. It sounds like the 2011 recruiting class is loaded with stud QB prospects, so maybe it would make sense for us to wait and reel in a heavy hitter for that class. The depth chart seems to give us room to do that down the road.

2009 - Clausen (true junior), Crist (redshirt freshman, true sophomore)
2010 - Clausen (true senior), Crist (redshirt sophomore, true junior)
2011 - Crist (redshirt junior, true senior), stud 5 star freshman
2012 - Crist (redshirt senior, 5th year senior), stud 5 star (sophomore)
2013 - Stud 5 star (junior)

In other words, even if we stand pat this year and wait until next year to bring in a stud QB, we still would have a logical line of succession for 2013 and beyond. We have Crist until at least 2011 and probably 2012. I don't see why there's so much urgency. An absolute worst case scenario would be that Crist leaves for the NFL after one season as starter in 2011 (unlikely) and we're forced to start the new QB as a sophomore in 2012. That's really reason enough for all this handwringing?? The remote possibility that we might be starting a sophomore QB in 2012?? I mean, come on. That's silly.

I know you need some level of depth, but my feeling on QB depth goes like this. If your starter goes down, you're screwed anyway. I don't care who the backup is, and I'm certainly not worried about having a freshman QB as the backup in 2011.

Bottom line, ND is still in great shape in terms of the QB situation. We're set at QB for the next four seasons, and have plenty of time to land good QBs in either this 2010 class or the 2011 class.

For those of you who are using this Nick Montana commitment to Washington as some sort of opportunity to rip Weis for his recruiting, give me a break. How can anyone possibly question Weis' ability as a recruiter at this point?? The guy has been a recruiting machine ever since he walked on the ND campus, and he's somehow been able to bring in back to back high quality classes even with poor performance on the field. Weis can recruit, and he'll probably always be a great recruiter as long as he's at ND. Look at what Hendrix said about Weis. He said Weis has done an amazing job recruiting him.

Assuming that ND wins 9+ games this year (which is probably what Weis needs to do to give himself some job security), I have no doubt that Weis will bring in a top 10 recruiting class. Considering all of the obstacles of recruiting at ND (cultural fit, academic restrictions, no instate recruiting base), Weis is doing about as well as any ND coach could possibly do. Weis may not ultimately be the long term answer at head coach for ND, but I don't think it's fair to rip him for recruiting when his recruiting has practically saved the program.

So can we please get off Weis' back about every little thing? "Losing" Nick Montana to Washington should not be some black mark on Charlie Weis' record. If you want to criticize Charlie Weis for losing to Syracuse, fine by me. If you want to call him out for losing BACK TO BACK HOME GAMES TO NAVY AND AIR FORCE in 2007 (that Air Force loss is the most underrated horrific loss of the Weis era considering that we should have been looking for revenge and yet we got blown out on our home field by a team with a 5'8" white running back), I'm right there with you. If you still can't believe that Weis treated the 2007 offseason like it was some NFL minicamp to the point where we did almost no hitting before the season, I think you have every right to rip Weis endlessly for that. There are plenty of things for which you can take issue with Charlie Weis and how he has managed this program. I've been as critical of Weis as anyone for a number of egregious errors, but to call him out Nick Montana's decision to go to Washington is silly.

The only recruit that I consider a big loss at this point is Seantrel Henderson. Now that guy is a difference-making type of prospect in the Orlando Pace mold. He probably would have come in to ND and started next year. Any time you miss a chance to get one of the most dominating left tackle prospects of the last five years, it's a bummer to hear him say that he's not interested in ND. Of all the guys I wanted in this upcoming class, he was at the top of the list. It will make matters even worse if he ends up at Michigan or USC.

But you can't get everyone, and we are still in great shape for recruiting this year. Chris Martin is a five star stud, Lombard and Welch are quality commits, and we've added some WR depth. It sounds like we are in on a bunch of good players, and I think the class will really start to take off if we start off well in 2009.

One final recruiting thought: BARRY SANDERS, JR. Wow. Those are some sick moves and very reminiscent of his dad. This is quite a highlight, and some of the other videos on him are impressive. I don't know if he'd be interested or if he has his sights set on Stillwater, but if I was Weis, I'd be telling this guy that he'd be starting in South Bend from day one. Does he rock the mini fro like his dad??

June 02, 2009

Why is the Notre Dame scoreboard for sale?? Should I be concerned??

When I first heard about this story that Notre Dame is trying to sell the football stadium scoreboard on an auction site (Steiner Auctions), I didn't really think much of it. I saw the story, laughed for a second at the thought of bidding on the ND football scoreboard and installing it in my backyard, and then completely forgot about the idea.

Then it hit me today. Wait, Notre Dame is trying to sell the football scoreboard?? If we're selling the scoreboard, does that mean there will be a new scoreboard in the stadium next year?? What kind of scoreboard are we talking about?? Are we talking about a similar scoreboard with score and time and some very basic statistical info, or are we talking about a big jumbotron with replay screens and commercials and jock jams and all the bells and whistles?? Are we going to walk into Notre Dame Stadium on September 5 and get blindsided by a jumbotron with AC/DC blaring at us instead of the Notre Dame Marching Band??

Ummm, isn't this sort of a big deal?? Why has this gotten so little attention?? We're talking about Notre Dame Stadium. The most sacred stadium in all of college football, and the best venue in all of sports. There is NO PLACE like Notre Dame Stadium when it comes to live college football. I still get goosebumps when I walk through that tunnel and get my first glimpse at the field. Even for the spring game!! The grass field (even if it is an abomination when it gets torn up late in the year and possibly even a competitive disadvantage), the simple white lines in the end zone, the golden dome gleaming in the background, the band of the Fighting Irish firing off the fight song....you can't beat it! I love that the only voice I hear over the loudspeaker in the stadium is the voice of PA announcer, Mike Collins. I feel like I've been watching games with Mike Collins by my side forever, and I don't want him to be drowned out by some commercial for Basney Honda on the big screen.

The ND atmosphere is special because it's so simple. There's no nonsense, no jumbotrons, no over the top intros, no musical montages, no AC/DC intros, no commercials, no signs. Nothing! Go to any other sports venue in the country these days (including college games now--see Ohio State University, The), and the whole production is a joke. The Jumbotron/entertainment takes over the entire atmosphere. You can't go five minutes at a Reds game or a Buckeyes game without some fan cam or kiss cam that sucks all the eyes in the stadium toward it. Instead of watching the game, you're waiting for the next commercial break to be "entertained" by the next promotional gimmick. When the game is over, you walk out of the stadium feeling like you spent three hours watching a giant tv. It dumbs down your fanbase and turns the game into a gimmick instead of a game.

I'm not a fan of jumbotrons. In fact, I think more teams will eventually wisen up and get rid of the jumbotron to create what ND/Wrigley/Fenway have in terms of atmosphere. I know that there are a lot of Buckeye fans who are sick and tired of having all this Jumbotron crap shoved down their throats every game. When the Jumbotron is imploring the fans to say stuff like "And that's another Buckeye FIRST DOWN!," you know it's gone too far.

I really really really hope ND doesn't cave in to the potential dollars and ad revenue that comes with a jumbotron. Just keep things the way they are. Once you go to a jumbotron, there's no turning back. The atmosphere would never be the same again, and part of the magic of attending a Notre Dame football game would die for me. The ND scoreboard is very simple, but it's all you need. If anything, I wouldn't mind seeing ND go retro with this new scoreboard and adopt a new hand operated model like you see at Wrigley and Fenway. I read that idea on NDNation. That would be very cool.

Honestly, I don't even want a replay screen at ND. I kind of like the uncertainty of not knowing for sure what happened. Instead of everyone staring at the replay board for the next five minutes, you talk about the play and wonder what happened. When I go to a game, I don't need to know exactly what happened on every play. Part of the appeal of the live experience for me is that I'm soaking in the game instead of breaking it down. When they are showing the replay after every play, you're naturally going to be staring at the screen instead of discussing the game.

If there's any talk of the scoreboard being replaced, doesn't ND have some sort of a responsibility to inform us of what the plan is?? This scoreboard story has been out there for a couple days. How has ND not put out a statement yet to explain to the fans what they're planning to do with this apparent empty spot where a scoreboard once stood?? If ND was suddenly considering the idea of putting in field turf next year, wouldn't that be front page news?? Why is this scoreboard thing flying under the radar?? Any change to Notre Dame Stadium is big news in my eyes.

The good news here is that Jack Swarbrick seems like the kind of old school ND alum who would rather see a mural of Bo Schembechler in Notre Dame Stadium than a Jumbotron. Swarbrick knows a lot about ND's history. He doesn't seem like the kinda guy who would want a Jumbotron installed on his watch. ND fans want ND Stadium to be left alone. As the caretaker of this program, Swarbrick has to honor that.

With that said, nothing surprises me anymore about ND sports, so that's why I'm on high alert until I hear from the athletic department that we are not installing a Jumbotron. I know there are a lot of folks up there who will do just about anything to generate revenue, and a Jumbotron is a big opportunity to generate revenue. We are already installing video screens at the basketball arena, so maybe the administration thinks they can slide a Jumbotron into the football stadium without anyone noticing until the Nevada game.

One of my favorite things to do at ND games is to look up at the scoreboard one last time as I walk out. Just seeing that final score with nothing else up there captures the moment and brings a certain finality to what you just watched. It's very simple and yet it's all I need. Here's the perfect example of what I'm talking about. I hope this never changes.

June 01, 2009

Fun Times in Cleveland Again! A WITNESS to a handshake problem

Well, I guess it was inevitable that the seeds for a Lebron James backlash would be planted, and this handshake thing seems like the moment that has done it. While I don't personally care that he didn't shake hands with Dwight Howard after a very intense and grueling series, it doesn't surprise me that everyone is all bent out of shape about it. And in many ways, I can understand why people are using this incident as a catalyst for a Lebron James backlash. As soon as I heard about the handshake thing, you knew the Jason Whitlocks of the world would be taking shots at Lebron.

I'll preface by saying that I'm a fan of Lebron James. He's one of the few extremely hyped guys in the ESPN era who has actually lived up to the hype. I have never seen anyone with his combination of size and speed and strength on any level of basketball. He couldn't have possibly played any better in the Orlando series. He AVERAGED 38 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists in the entire series plus he hit one of the best buzzer beaters I've ever seen. Absurd! I don't think it's even debatable that he's already the best player in the NBA and still has room to grow. No one else is even close as far as I'm concerned. If he had even one half decent second option on this team, they would have won the title this year.

But I will say that I can at least understand why there would be a backlash against Lebron James. There has been so much attention and so much hype surrounding this guy, and some of it has admittedly been shoved down our throats. All these "WITNESS" commercials and the Nike puppets and the fawning articles, and yet Lebron has never been on a team that seriously threatened to win a championship. He's had a couple teams that went to the Eastern Conference Finals and one team that snuck into the Finals and got swept. I think there are a people out there who think that we should hold off on the Lebron coronation until he's actually won something of consequence in the NBA.

So the stage was set to some degree for a Lebron slip-up that members of the media and fans of other teams could pounce on and use to hammer him. It almost seems like there are people out there who are giddy to have something juicy to rip Lebron for. This handshake thing is a perfect vehicle for a "Lebron doesn't know how to be a champion" angle. When you storm off the court and blow off the media, you come off as a poor sport. On the surface, it's an easy opportunity to take a shot at him and start the momentum for a backlash against Lebron as a spoiled, overhyped player who has never won anything.

Personally, I don't think that's the case. I don't think Lebron is a sore loser or anything like that. I really just think that Lebron was so dialed in and competitive during this series that he didn't know how to react when it was over. The guy carried the team on his back for the entire series and didn't get a lick of help from his teammates, his coaching staff, or his front office. When the series was over, he freaked out and couldn't bring himself to stand there and do some halfhearted handshake. If anything, I actually think it's kind of refreshing that he didn't do the corporate, politically correct thing for a change. Even when he had a chance to apologize and admit he was wrong for not shaking hands with Dwight Howard, he still didn't do it. That sort of convinces me that he GENUINELY doesn't like the idea of doing the postgame handshake and thinks the whole thing would have been a phony move.

Should he have shook hands?? Yes. I'm a golfer, so I think good sportsmanship is always a good thing. But I also am not going to call Lebron a "sore loser" or a poor sport because he didn't do it. He stands by what he did, and I don't really have a problem with it.

As for the future of the Cavs, I still don't see how they can win a title with Mike Brown as the head coach and Danny Ferry as the GM. What have either of those guys done to warrant holding the keys to the Lebron James era?? Mike Brown was so badly outcoached by Stan Van Gundy in this series that it's not even funny. How did Mike Brown never figure out a way to get some bodies out on those three point shooters on the Magic?? Their entire defensive game plan was a joke. If you're going to guard Howard one on one and let him get his points, fine. But at least get out on Lewis and Turkoglu and contest their shots. Offensively, the Mike Brown playoff offense consists of one play. Give it to Lebron and get out of the way. Lebron is good enough to carry a team by himself for long stretches, but at some point it would have been nice to see them create some offense for some other guys.

As far as Danny Ferry is concerned, how could anyone possibly talk about him as one of the better GMs in the NBA?? Are you kidding me?? Has he brought in even one impact guy to build around Lebron in his six years as GM?? He's singlehandedly holding back that franchise. Look at their roster. They don't have one quality big man or low post defender, they don't have a true point guard, and they don't have any other 6'8" type wings who can knock down a shot from the perimeter.

All Ferry has done is work around the margins with over-the-hill journeyman and long term contracts for guys like Pavlovic and Larry Hughes who didn't produce. To make matters worse, Ferry STOOD PAT at the trade deadline!! I don't care about team chemistry. You got Lebron James in his prime, and you're content with Delonte West and Anderson Varajeo as your 3rd and 4th scoring options?? What kind of message does that send to your team?? Why not go make a bold move at the deadline to get a horse?? When you have a chance to win a title, you gotta go all in to get it done.

One look at the Orlando and Cleveland rosters tells you all you need to know about how little Danny Ferry has done in Cleveland. If you were choosing sides for a pickup game between the Cavs and Magic, obviously Lebron goes #1. But #2-5 would probably be Dwight Howard, Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Pietrus in some order. Turkoglu is a blast to watch, and Rashard Lewis is an absolute stud. Anyone who is 6'10" with that kind of shot is just about unstoppable from the perimeter. Other than Dwight Howard, the Magic found all these guys in free agency. That's how you build a roster.

The Cavs don't have one guy who can do what any of those guys can do on the floor. Difference makers. Mo Williams is a decent player, but he's one of those guys who should be a #3-4 option on a really good team. Like a BJ Armstrong type.

The rest of their roster is a 25 win type roster. Their bench is comical compared to the Magic. Boobie Gibson and Pavlovic are basically 10th man type guys, and Ben Wallace and Szczerbiak are corpses. You gotta cut your losses with all those guys and figure out a way to rebuild the bench. Same with Big Z. If he's a free agent, move on.

As for the rest of the team, Ferry has to find a way to go all in and bring in at least 1-2 impact players. Rashard Lewis types. I don't know who's available, but I gotta think there a couple forwards out there that they could make a play for in free agency or through a trade.

Isn't Lamar Odom a free agent?? Why not go after him?? The guy is one of the most talented players in the league and pretty much exactly what the Cavs need.

Go get one stud wing and a low post defender and the Cavs are bringing a title back to Cleveland next year. When you have a once in a generation player like Lebron James, you better be doing everything possible to win a championship.

Anyway, if I was Lebron, I'd be wearing my Yankees hat all over Cleveland all summer to subtly send the message to the Cavs that he has other options if they don't seriously upgrade this roster. If Danny Ferry stands pat again this year, I wouldn't blame Lebron is he ends up leaving.

Oh well, at least they make great videos! Seriously, who does use a pay phone??