March 15, 2010

Thoughts on ND's seed, the Brady Quinn trade, Jeremiah Masoli's troubles, spring exhibition college football games, and why I miss Billy Packer

6) Not sure I could ask for a better seed for ND. I'll admit that I was fully prepared for an 8 or 9 seed, and had resigned myself to hoping for a 10 seed to avoid that 8/1 second round matchup. I did not see this 6 seed coming. Guess we should thank two ND alums, Mike Bobinski (Xavier AD) and "Mean" Gene Smith (Ohio State AD), for maybe giving us a nudge up to that 6 line.

First round matchup looks tricky, but certainly manageable. From what I'm reading about Old Dominion, they are sort of a homeless man's West Virginia. Very deliberate, very good on the boards, but not a knockdown shooting team with great guards. They will create some problems for us, but that's a matchup I can live with. Our new defensive alignment and pace of play should keep things bottled up and under our control.

Don't know much about Baylor, but I'll take my chances with Baylor instead of Kentucky or Kansas or Duke. At the very least, we know Baylor has not been on the big stage, and I doubt they have the overwhelming talent that the big boys have. There are a handful of teams that could just "out-talent" us, and Baylor is not one of them as far as I'm concerned.

Looking forward to getting it all started on Thursday at noon. Man, those early Thursday games are going to have America's eyeballs. Hopefully we are up to the task and play well. I really don't want the egg on our face from another first round upset loss. Brey will have us ready to go.

One general thought on the field. Other than ND being in the dance this year, I'm not all that crazy about makeup of this field. Don't get me wrong, I love the NCAA Tournament and will watch every minute, but this has all the makings of a wacky tourney that will be awesome in rounds 1 and 2 and subpar from the Sweet 16 on. Sort of like the 2006 tournament where you had chaos in the first weekend and then suddenly George Mason was in the Final Four and the stretch run was anticlimactic. I think the tv ratings were an all-time low for that Final Four.

As much as I enjoy the upsets and thrillers, I sort of like seeing those heavyweight matchups in the the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. The Kentuckys and Carolinas and UCLAs and Dukes and Kansases and Syracuses and Georgetowns. We've been lucky the last couple years with relatively clean draws that led to great matchups on the second weekend and the Final Four. Lots of 1 and 2 seeds and traditional heavyweight powers.

This year, there's no Indiana, no Carolina, no UConn, no UCLA, and no Arizona. Nothing against Temple or New Mexico or Kansas State or some of these other schools, but they don't excite me.

I'm prepared for a slew of 1st and 2nd round upsets. The carnage will be fun, but then we'll be staring at a bunch of goofy Sweet 16 matchups. I'm sure I'll fall in love with some new programs and teams, but I can't really say I'm crazy about some Duke-Siena Sweet 16 matchup if those are the types of games we get in the second weekend.

Then again, if ND is the wacky underdog pulling off the "upset" against Baylor, then this tournament will be a whole lot more fun. I'll cross that bridge if/when we beat Old Dominion and Baylor.

4) Love this Brady Quinn trade to Denver. Good move for Brady's career. He'll have a realistic chance to compete with Kyle Orton, he's still young, and he'll be familiar with that offense. Couldn't ask for a better situation.

Terrible trade for the Browns. They basically got nothing for him. Should be interesting to see what Holmgren does in the draft. He's a good coach, but I'm not that impressed with him as a GM. He was a bust in Seattle and didn't really start winning until he fired himself as GM and limited himself to coaching duties.

Now I can go back to hating the Browns. I was conflicted about them as a Bengals fan once they drafted Brady, but they can go 0-16 next year for all I care now. And with Jake Delhomme at QB and Mangini coaching, that's probably not all that far off.

3) Color me intrigued about this spring game exhibitions idea that Dabo Swinney has been talking up. We've heard Rich Rodriguez talking about a preseason game in August, and now Swinney is saying he wants to play Georgia in a spring game exhibition. He suggests doing a home and home thing where you play at your place one year and the other place the next year. Maybe charge a little higher ticket prices than a typical spring game ($30-40) and get it on ESPN or something.

You're telling me there isn't a market for this?? I think this is a fantastic idea and would give the game a little more juice. I mean, I've been to like 10 out of the last 12 ND spring games or something ridiculous like that, but the spring game is relatively meaningless. It's basically an excuse to be outside and watch football for a couple hours in the spring. One of these days, I'll probably be more excited to line up a tee time at Warren after the game than I am about the game itself.

I mean, I still love going up to South Bend and talking myself into Hafis Williams as a stud interior DT based on a couple nice tackles at the spring game, but you don't really learn a lot about your team by watching it. It would be fun to see how we match up with someone like Wisconsin or Iowa or somebody like that. Maybe it would even convince Swarbrick and company that good home and homes are worthwhile on the real schedule.

In fact, I would like to see the ability to play two spring games. You play one spring game at home and one on the road. That way, every team lets their fans see the team at home.

It would be beneficial for coaches as well because you get to see how your team looks against other competition. When you are only going up against your guys, you can't really tell how good you are. How embarrassing was it that we read all these great articles before last year about how good our defense looked and then it was horrible all year?? We read about all these dudes like Brandon Newman and Hafis Williams, and they never sniffed the field. I think Weis deluded himself into thinking he had the goods going into every year, and he probably would have benefited from seeing his team going up against someone else in the spring.

Sign me up for this. Get NBC on board, get a good opponent, and let's do it. If we're having revenue problems, this would help. Maybe we could even do a couple neutral site games in Chicago or New York.

2) What a mess this Jeremiah Masoli thing is for Oregon. He's gone for the entire season! Are you kidding me?? He was a Heisman frontrunner. This is pretty huge story if you ask me.

Then again, how could Chip Kelly not suspend him for the year?? At some point, you have to figure that the school president got in his ear and said enough is enough. That program is turning into Florida State West. Just one legal problem after another, and it seems like they have accepted a lot of shady characters into the program in recent years.

General rule of thumb: It's never a good idea to have too many guys with "Le" before their first names. It's a dangerous mix. Once you get a couple LeMarcuses and LeMichaels and LeGarrettes, trouble almost immediately follows. Michael=good. LeMichael=trouble. Garrett=choir boy. LeGarrette=fighting fans in the stands.

Anyway, what does this mean for Oregon?? Where do they go from here?? You almost wonder if they're going to have to revisit their stance on all these JUCOs, but those guys have been a big source of talent. Oregon is not exactly a high school football hotbed, and in terms of population, Oregon is the 28th biggest state in the union with 3.4 million people. Mike Riley once said that there are maybe 10-12 Division-I prospects in the whole state from year to year. Assuming that Oregon gets half of them, they have to go outside the state for the bulk of their talent.

If Oregon takes a step back in the next couple years, that might open the door wide open for one of the other Pac 10 schools to make a surge. Between Oregon's issues and USC's transition, couldn't you see someone like Washington or UCLA making a move in the next few years??

In fact, I'll go ahead and say it right now. Washington wins a Pac 10 title in the next three years. The Nick Montana era! I'm really high on Steve Sarkisian. He seems like a really good young coach and a pretty good guy. I'd like to maybe see ND get Washington back on the schedule in the next 5-7 years.

1) Finally, if I have to stand alone on this bandwagon, so be it. BRING BACK BILLY PACKER! For the love of god, I don't know if I can take another Final Four with Nantz and Clark Kellogg. Maybe the most boring pairing of all time. I mean, I love Jim Nantz, but he is just not into college hoops anymore. I can't blame him. They bring him in for March after the NFL season even though he probably hasn't watched a game all year. You can just tell that his heart is not in it, and that he'd much rather be cozying up to the Doral tournament and gearing up for those dogwoods and pines at Augusta. Nantz is a football and golf guy these days. That's what he knows. Putting him in the mix of the hoops scene when there is a guy like Gus Johnson or Verne Lundquist who could do that job much better is a mistake.

And Kellogg is brutal. He's not funny, and I don't think I've ever heard him say anything interesting or insightful as an analyst. It's as if he speaks entirely in cliche. I find him to be completely boring. He's a good guy and lives in Columbus, but he doesn't do anything for me as an analyst.

Ideally, Jay Bilas would be the guy. He's the best there is, and it's not even close. He watches more hoops than anyone, he has great insight, and he's not afraid to express a tough opinion. I'd love to see the Raftery/Bilas combo in the Final Four. Heck, match them up with Nantz. He would probably enjoy working with those guys.

Otherwise, bring back Packer. Say what you want about Packer, but at least you listened to him. At least he made you think even if you didn't always agree with him. Packer had some annoying tendencies and was never funny, but at least he cared. Vitale spends half the game talking about Ben Roethlisberger or the Yankees. I think Packer was just so intense and dialed into the game that he couldn't help but come off as abrasive.


Anonymous said...

Excellent blog... again.

However, don't agree about Billy Packer OR Jay Bilas. Don't like either of them none too much. I understand the sentiment towards Packer, but his time is gone, thankfully, and a better replacement can be found for Kellogg than exhuming a figure like Billy Packer. He's just an unappealing dude to me.

As for Bilas? Ew, no. That guy is probably more annoying that even Billy Packer was. He may make more insightful comments than some other color guys do, but at what cost? Having to listen to his unpleasant, halfway-whining tone of voice, just waiting for him to very stubbornly and awkwardly stick to some stupid little nothing, until his on-air cohorts finally defer to whatever observation he's insisting be acknowledged? No thanks. Bilas fancies himself some sort of guru, or "serious" commentator, as compared to good-time Charlies like his co-color guy Bill Rafferty, but all he mainly does put me off and cause tension at various points throughout a broadcast. I'll take someone like Rafferty.

And I for one don't really want actual spring football games versus other programs. Too much, IMO. Are we going to start televising all the practices and intra-squad scrimmages too? I'd be happy if they simply broadcast our spring game like Texas and some other programs do. Although we're certainly a football-mad society, there are limits, IMO.

Great blog. My favorite ND blog hands down.

Matt said...

I agree with the above commenter. Billy Packer's time has come and gone. They should have put him out to pasture years ago.

Bilas and Raff have kind of jumped the shark a little too. They have this shtick now where they just joke around with each other and McDonough eggs them on, and IMO it's become a little old. Just announce the game, get excited at the right moments, and give me some insights that aren't painfully obvious as a viewer. That's why my favorite broadcasting tandem has become Gus Johnson and Len Elmore. Gus gets excited, Elmore knows his role and they complement each other well.

As for ND, I don't really have any expectations going into the tournament. They should beat ODU, but this is still the team that lost to Rutgers and St. John's. Nothing is a given. And Doug, while I agree that we could beat Baylor, they have been stockpiling talent in recent years including McDonald's All Americans. They may not have the talent across the board that the big boys have, but they are not far behind. I've seen them play a little bit and they kind of remind me of a UConn type team that is super athletic, but a little undisciplined at times. We'll see, they obviously haven't been on the big stage like this before. Maybe our "burn" offense will frustrate them if/when ND plays them.