PLAYOFF PICKS FOR DIVISIONAL WEEKEND JAN 12-13 2013
 
Last Week
Well, last week went pretty well as we got 3 out of 4 right. That wasn’t looking so good until Mike Shanahan, who I savaged in last week’s column, decided, after going up 14-0 on Seattle, to leave RG3 out there on one leg and see how injured the guy could get facing the best defense in the NFC.
 
We discussed last week Shanahan’s history of abusing QB’s and going one and done with guys not named Elway.  Last week was a classic batch of evidence of this.  Up 14-0, Shanahan only had to do one thing–sit RG3 on the bench and go with his competent backup and sit on the lead.  Instead, he left a hobbled, injured QB out there too long–who by the time they actually needed him to come back and get the lead in the 4th Quarter, was way too banged up to play.  Had Shanahan rested him for two and one half quarters, RG3 might have had enough for one last drive–or his backup could have gotten it going enough to keep the ‘Skins in the game.  
 
RGIII was left in last weeks game way too long by Mike Shanahan
 
Now the Seahawks march on, Pete Carroll is a genius, Shanahan is a ninny, RG3 may be out for 1/2 of next year, RG3 has LCL and possibly ACL damage that is severe to the same knee he destroyed once already in college, and Shanahan is directly responsible for aggravating the injury for leaving in the  kid in there after the kid worked hard in the first quarter to get a two TD lead.   If I’m a tort lawyer, I’m suing Shanahan for negligence.  I mean, c’mon.  
 
Oh, and by the way, another one and done for Shanahan.  See?  And another playoff win on the road for Carroll, who continues to show his playoff genius.  And makes my pick of last week look like brilliance.  Since I analyzed it as a case of Shanahan will beat himself and Carroll will take advantage.
 
Cincinnati was lackluster in losing to the Texans in the playoffs for the second year in a row (though I have to give a shoutout to our high school QB, Haverford School/Boston College and former NY Giant Michael Mayock, who was broadcasting that game and actually made it interesting).  Mayock does all of the draft analysis for NFL Network and is one of the best prepared and best NFL and college broadcasters in the game, and one of the greatest athletes I ever saw play high school football (he once dropped 26 points in a 12 year old hoops game that was about five minutes long).  Greatest line from Mayock:  the other broadcaster mentions that Arrian Foster runs like Marcus Allen, and Mayock immediately says “Hey, I played against Marcus Allen” and goes on to note the similarities and differences.
 
Marcus Allen, OJ, Jim Brown & Walter Peyton v. Adrian Peterson & Eric Dickerson
Thirty years ago this month I was living in LA, and my good friend E.N. was visiting from NYC, and we scored fifty yard line seats for the LA Raiders-NY Jets playoff game in balmy 70 degree weather.  You may remember that this was the game won by the Jets (barely) using Richard Todd at QB, and with their famous defensive combo of Gastineau and Temple’s own Joe Klecko.  Famous for the fact that until Rex Ryan came along, the Jets had not won a playoff game since that 1983 contest for a long, long time.  
 
Anyhow, Marcus Allen was in that game as a rookie, and not ten rows ahead of us was sitting then world famous actor and sports commentator Orenthal James “OJ” Simpson, a white Bronco ride still ten years away in his future, sitting with his beautiful blonde wife and an equally beautiful blonde on the other side of him.  During the entire game we (meaning the whole crowd) were peppering him with cries of “Juice, Juice”.  After all, we were in the LA Coliseum, the very place he had played college ball for USC, and he was watching his good friend Marcus Allen play ball.  
 
Marcus Allen USC and LA Raider HOF RB
 
 
It seems a long time ago, but this year some running back made an assault on Eric Dickerson’s 16 game rushing record of 2105 yards achieved in 1973 (Adrian Peterson with 2,097).  The only problem being, both Peterson & Dickerson did it in sixteen games, whereas OJ Simpson’s record of 2,003 yards, set in 1973, was achieved in fourteen games.  OJ averaged more than 143 yards per game, whereas Dickerson, in the longer season, averaged only 132 yards per game.  Meaning that had OJ played two more games, it’s pretty safe to say that OJ would have gained 2,289 yards in a sixteen game season.
 
No one since OJ has gained 2,000 yards in 14 games or less, and if OJ were playing today, he’s probably have already broken the 2,500 yard mark for a running back in a sixteen game season with a bye.  Remember, too, he set that record playing in Buffalo, outside, in the snow, without a bye week.  
 
OJ Simpson – the greatest RB of them all?
 
 
OJ had another year two years later in 1975 where he gained 1817 yards in a 14 games season and averaged 130 yards per game.  If he had played 16 games that year, he’d have rushed for 2,017 yards that year.  That would still be 5th on the all-time list today ahead of all but Dickerson, Peterson, and the famous 2000 yard seasons of Jamal Lewis & Barry Sanders.  
 
This was probably the OJ look that launched his “Naked Gun” film career
 
 
Lest we neglect the greatest RB of them all, Jim Brown played 1/2 of his career in a twelve game NFL season.  In 118 games he rushed for 12,312 yards and averaged over his career 104.3 yards per game.  In 1963, Brown rushed for 1863 yards and averages 133.1 yards per game, which means if he had played 16 games in 1963, he would have rushed for 2,129 yards.  
 
Needless to say, Jim Brown would have been the all-time rushing leader and the first to break the 2,000 yard barrier if he had played a 16 game season.  Moreover, Brown’s retrospective 2,129 yards he would have gained in 16 games played with a bye in 1963 would rank first in the NFL overall today, and would only rank behind OJ’s retrospective 2,289 yards which OJ would have carried in 1973 given sixteen games and a bye.
 
Consequently, let’s forget about Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson, who are great HOF backs, and concentrate on who were the greatest NFL running backs in history.  That list comes down to three–Jim Brown, OJ Simpson, and Barry Sanders.   And of course, the late Walter Peyton, whose 1977 season rushing for 1852 yards with a pace of 132 yards per carry in a fourteen game season would have propelled him to a total of 2,116 yards in a sixteen game, bye week season.  That would have ranked him third all time in NFL history.  
 
the late Walter Payton – perhaps the most beloved football player of all time
 
 
And I’d take Marcus Allen after them and before Eric Dickerson or Adrian Peterson.  Allen was as good a receiving back as he was a running back, and in his NFL career rushed for 12,000 plus yards as well as caught passes receiving for another nearly 5,500 yards at a nearly 10 yards per reception clip.  If you split him into two he’d be two HOFers, but as a single back, he was a wrecking crew.  In 1985 he totalled 2314 yards from scrimmage, 1780 on the ground and another 555 in reception yards.  Yikes.  Not even Sanders, Peyton, Simpson or Brown were that versatile.  Peyton could catch and run with the ball more than the others–and Sweetness was truly great–but at his peak, Marcus Allen literally destroyed defenses.  
 
In the Super Bowl of January 1984 between the LA Raiders and the Washington Redskins, wherein the Raiders destroyed the Redskins 38-9, Marcus Allen rushed for 191 yards on 20 rushing attempts.  John Riggins on the other side only gained 64 yards on 26 attempts.  The combination of Marcus Allen and Jim Plunkett was, literally, unstoppable, and the Raiders crushed a Washington Redskins team that had won the Super Bowl the very previous year over Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins.  They didn’t just beat the Redskins–they destroyed, humiliated and made a laughingstock of them, so much so that everyone forgot that the Redskins had ever been champions the year before.  
 
Marcus Allen’s 9.55 yards per carry Super Bowl rushing average is second all time in Super Bowl history–to the immortal Tom Matte of Baltimore, who averages 10.55 yards per carry back in Super Bowl III (which the Jets, not the Colts won).  Matte rushed for 116 yards on 11 attempts in that game, but that was in a losing effort.  Matte and Unitas were usually a terrific pair, but Namath and his teammates were just better that day–a lot better.  
 
That was how good Marcus Allen was.  And as good as OJ, Peyton, Jim Brown, and all the rest were, only Walter Peyton won a Super Bowl, and Jim Brown an NFL championship.  Marcus Allen didn’t just win a Super Bowl–he dominated it.  
 
PICKS FOR THIS WEEKEND
 
Saturday’s Games:
 
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos:
 
I’m getting this out a little late, so really I shouldn’t be picking so late on this one, but I’m going with the conventional wisdom and picking Denver, at home, over Baltimore.  Ave atque value, Ray Lewis.  Those about to do NFL combat for the last time salute you, you are a true warrior.  
 
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers:
 
This is a very close matchup.  Green Bay has a better offense with Aaron Rodgers, but SF has a superior defense, and one has to like the Niner’s coaching scheme.  Also, the Niners have the home field, which is a big difference from playing on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  I like the 49ers in a close game.  
 
Sunday’s Games:
 
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons:
 
On paper, you’d have to like the Seahawks.  However, Atlanta is very tough at home, they have the bye week, and Matt Ryan is a much more veteran and savvy QB than rookie RGIII, and will play for the long haul.  Atlanta has a good rushing attack with Turner and Rodgers to go with the passing attack of Ryan, and Atlanta also has an excellent defense.  Think about Atlanta’s 34-0 smackdown of the NY Giants in the Dome, and you get the idea of how good Atlanta can play at home, and their 13-3 record is nothing to sneeze about.  I pick Atlanta.
 
Houston Texans at NE Patriots:
 
This is a rematch of last year’s playoff game, wherein the Patriots pretty much destroyed the Texans.  As much as one would like to see a different result, the fact is that Tom Brady and the Pats are really good at home, they scored the most points of any team in the league, and their defense is pretty darn good also.  And their QB is very good.  The Texans won last week, but in one of the most boring games ever, and other than Arrian Foster, they just don’t have the offensive weapons to keep up with the Patriots, and their defense will not shut down Tom Brady for an entire game–the Patriots scored 557 points this season.  
 
Footnote:
 
The Canton Bulldogs, which featured Jim Thorpe, and played in the NFL only during the 1920s (my late grandfather lived in Canton OH for two years and watched Jim Thorpe play football), won two NFL championship.  That is more NFL championships than the Seattle Seahawks, the Houston Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Minnesota Vikings (all of which have zero NFL or Super Bowl championships), and more than the Baltimore Ravens, the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Bucs, the NY Jets or the San Diego Chargers (all of which have one Super Bowl or NFL/AFL championship).  The Broncos, Bills, Chiefs, Titans, Dolphins and most embarassingly, since they’ve been in the league since 1920, the Chicago/St Louis/Arizona Cardinals, are all tied with Canton with two championships.   So much for NFL parity.  18 teams have won the same number or fewer NFL championships as the Canton Bulldogs, a team that last played during the Coolidge Administration.  Even the Philadelphia Eagles have three NFL championships (1948, 1949 and 1960).  
 
Art Kyriazis, Philly
http://arthurjohnkyriazisgoogleblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/playoff-picks-for-divisional-weekend.html

 

NFL Playoff Picks Wild Card Round Jan 2013
 
Well, we’ve arrived at the NFL Wild Card Round for Jan 2013.

Eagles Chuck Bednarik Penn Grad and last of the Sixty Minute Men levels Frank Gifford in November of 1960 on the Eagles path to an NFL Championship win over the Green Bay Packers.  The hit occurred fifty years ago this past November, and this was the fiftieth anniversary of the Eagles championship this past December.


Chuck Bednarik – A Short Documentary with Footage of the Famous Hit on Frank Gifford of the NY Giants.  The Eagles-Giants rivalry is the oldest in the NFL dating back to 1933.
 
By the way, there is no National Hockey League action, so if you want to watch real hockey, I suggest you make the trek up to University of New Hampshire (UNH) or Hahvahd or U Minnesota or some real hockey college (or go see the American Hockey League, featuring the New Haven Nighthawks).   Or just rent “SlapShot”, Paul Newman’s finest cinematic work. 

SLAPSHOT (1977) DIRECTED BY GEORGE ROY HILL STARRING PAUL NEWMAN – THE HANSON BROTHERS ARRIVE IN JOHNSTOWN


JOE WILLIE NAMATH THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL WITH HIS DAUGHTER JESSICA NAMATH AT THE PREMIERE OF THE HBO DOCUMENTARY “NAMATH” ABOUT AFL FOOTBALL THE PRECURSOR TO THE PASS-HAPPY LEAGUE WE NOW CALL THE NFL (WHICH USED TO BE RUNNING AND DEFENSE LEAGUE).


 
Making football playoffs all the more important, since the NBA (National BigMan Association) playoffs will not start until we are all at the beach and don’t care anymore about hoops.  Also, this year, in a novel approach, the NBA has decided it might be a good idea if the Los Angeles Lakers, who play in a city which has no water, let alone any natural lakes, actually stunk and let some of the other teams get to the Finals.   I mean, last night, the Sixers marched into the Staples Center and WHUPPED the Lakers.  And it wasn’t close.  The entire payroll of the Sixers wouldn’t pay for even one of Kobe’s regular sushi meals.

By Eric Pincus

January 2, 2013, 12:00 p.m.
The Lakers lost Tuesday night to the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-99, at Staples Center.
Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday was a difficult cover for the Lakers all night, finishing with 26 points and 10 assists in 39 minutes of play.
The 22-year old point guard from UCLA is midway through his fourth season, averaging 18.9 points and 8.9 assists for the Sixers.
Lakers guard Steve Nash said Holiday’s play gave the Sixers a big lift.
“Obviously they’re a different team with him. We beat them at their place by 20 without him,” Nash said (the margin was actually 13 points in the December meeting, 111-98). “I think he gives them obviously a very talented players but he also makes guys around him better.  He makes it more difficult for you to guard [Evan] Turner[Jason] Richardson and the other guys on the perimeter.”
The Lakers were within four points with about 32 seconds left when Metta World Peace missed a three-point shot.  Holiday took it right to the rack with a thunderous dunk to put the Sixers up 103-97, all but extinguishing the Lakers’ chances.
“He’s a terrific player,” Nash said.  “He’s an All-Star this year.”

Steve Nash and Jrue Holiday chase the ball yesterday, courtesy Lakers Now cited supra.



For some reason, the NBA now includes Oklahoma City, which by all accounts is the 505th largest metropolitan area in the United States, but has one of the 30 odd NBA franchises.  
 
This makes as much sense as when Bob Irsay moved the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of the night, as highlighted in a recent ESPN 30-30 documentary. 
 
Ok, so here are the matchups and here are the picks:

Wild Card Round:  

Saturday Jan 5th, 2013:  Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) v. Houston Texans (12-4) 4:30 pm.  PICK: BENGALS.  Close match but Bengals finished very strong, Texans didn’t.   This is probably a very tight matchup and could go either way, but the Bengals defeated three good teams down the stretch while the Texans wilted away the #1 seed down the stretch.
 
Saturday Jan 5th, 2013:  Minnesota Vikings (10-6) v. Green Bay Packers (11-5) 8:00 pm.  PICK:  PACKERS.  The teams split the two regulars season meetings, but the Pack is back and is much stronger than their record indicates.  It will be a hard fought game but one has to like the Packers’ superior offensive capabilities and QB Aaron Rodgers, a proven winner, over the wonderful Adrian Peterson, who assaulted Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing mark this past season.  However, if the Vikings are down by ten points or more, then their running game will not prove useful, and they will need to go to the air.  Neither team has a very tight defense, so it’s hard to see the Vikings containing the Pack.  Only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan had higher QBRs than Aaron Rodgers this year with the Packers.  Rodgers still holds the all-time QBR mark.  However, Rodgers led the NFL in Passer Rating in 2012.  
 
Sunday, Jan 6th, 2013:  Indianapolis Colts (11-5) v. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) 1:00 pm.  PICK:RAVENS. Everyone loves Bruce Arians, but am I the only person who remembers that he once was the head coach of Temple Football, where he was 21-45 over six seasons from 1983-88?  including 1986, when Temple went 6-5, but was later forced to forfeit all six of its wins due to the use of Paul Palmer, a fantastic RB who later was shown to have signed with a player agent, and was thus ineligible to play (see, the NCAA will take away wins from any university playing football in Pennsylvania).    At any rate, the Colts are the luckiest 11-5 team in the history of the NFL–they gave up 387 points while scoring 357 points.  The Ravens look more normal–their defense is still good, though they gave up more points than usual.  Joe Flacco won’t thrill anyone, but he gets the job done.  Andrew Luck–well, he’ll need it against the likes of Ray Lewis, who had 44 tackles in just six games.  Not everyday you have to look into the eyes of a middle linebacker who has done hard time for felony murder conspiracy, knowing that fellow is hell-bent on coming after YOU.  And sending your receivers across midfield into his path.  Good LUCK.  I pick the Ravens.  
 
Sunday Jan 6th, 2013:  Seattle Seahawks (11-5) v. Washington DC Redskins (10-6) 4:30 pm.  PICK:  SEAHAWKS.  The most underrated coach in the league has to be Pete Carroll of Seattle, who not only snuck into the playoffs two years ago with a 7-9 team, but then proceeded to win the mother of all upsets by upending the Super Bowl champion Saints in the Wild Card round and then proceeded to give the Bears a contest before falling in the second round.  This year, the Seahawks allowed only 245 points–one of the very lowest totals in the NFL–while scoring 412 points.  The Redskins by contrast allowed 388 points while scoring 436 points.  Among the tough teams the Seahawks beat this year were the Cowboys, the Packers, the Patriots, the Vikings, the Bears and the 49ers, and they didn’t give a whole lot of points in beating those teams either.  The total allowed in those six games was 92 points–or @15.33 points per game to six of the highest scoring opponents with some of the best running backs and QBs in the NFL.  In fact, based on point differentials, the Seahawks should have gone 13-3, while the Redskins should have gone 9-7.  And while many enthuse over the inestimable talents of Robert Griffin III, the QB rating of Russell Wilson of Seattle was right behind RG3–Wilson had a rating of 100, RG3 102.4, Peyton Manning 105.6, and Aaron Rodgers topped out the NFL at 108.  So RG3 is the third best QB in the league, but Russell Wilson is the fourth best QB in the league–so it’s a wash there.  Marshawn Lynch ran for more than 1500 yards for Seattle and Wilson added nearly 500 yards to that total.  Not only do I pick Seattle, but the game will not actually be close.  Seattle will win comfortably, and Pete Carroll will be revealed as the genius he is.  It’s worth noting also, that while Mike Shanahan does have two Super Bowl wins, his overall record with QBs not named John Elway is 112-87 in the regular season; Shanahan has had four one and done playoff runs, including three since he last had John Elway as his QB; that Shanahan has only won one playoff game in his coaching career since the 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl runs with Elway and Elway’s retirement, that sole playoff win coming way back in 2005 with Jake “the Snake” Plummer against the powerful NE Patriots, but at home in Denver, and possessing a powerful Denver defense that year.  Denver in 2006 got off to a powerful 7-2 start, then cratered with a 2-5 finished to end up 9-7 and out of the playoffs; Mike Shanahan never got back to the playoffs again with Denver, and it took him three years to get back to the playoffs with the Redskins, and seven years overall since 2005 to get back to the promised land.   Shanahan’s playoff record post-Elway is one and done, 2000, one and done 2003, one and done, 2004, won one and lost one, 2005, and out of the money, 2006-08, and 2010-11, five seasons.  Except for the one win against the Pats in 2005, Shanahan has not won a playoff game of any importance since 1999 and 1998 with John Elway in the two Super Bowl runs.  Whereas by contrast, Pete Carroll won a critical playoff game in the face of derision, skepticism and outright ridicule, on the road, against the NFL’s premier offense, against the New Orleans Saints, in 2010, and two years later, has his team not only in the hunt, but with one of the NFL’s premier defenses, and best young offenses.  While it’s true Shanahan gets some credit for developing RG3, were their roles reversed and Carroll had RG3 and Shanahan had Wilson, I’d bet at least a gold eagle from the 1880s that Carroll would have won 14 games with RG3, while Shanahan would have missed the dance altogether with Wilson.  Based on their track records, it seems to me that it’s Carroll, not Shanahan that is the superior QB developer and teacher of young men—Shanahan has never been able to really develop a QB since Elway, which means, essentially, unless the QB is already a great QB, Shanahan can’t develop one.  RG3 is already great—Shanahan has not been the key to his development.  RG3 is like another Elway–a truly great QB who thrives in spite of, and not because of, Shanahan.  My pick is the Seahawks.
–art kyriazis, philly
Jeremy Lin doing his thing for Hahvahd Hoops 2006-2010

Jeremy Lin doing his thing for Hahvahd Hoops 2006-2010

Jeremy Lin is only the 3d player from Harvard to play in the NBA.

He was a terrific player not only at Harvard, but in the Ivies.  He established a line of records unmatched in Ivy League history, and along the way, the Harvard basketball team, which had never amounted to a bucket of warm spit until Lin and Coach Amaker arrived, found its way to the Ivy League title and the NCAA tournament.

My sons and I watched these guys, led by Lin, play a ferocious contest in the Palestra against their arch-rivals Penn in 2010, which was a double overtime contest, and as Harvard finally won, largely due to the intensity and refusal to lose of Lin, who kept penetrating, dishing off, shooting jumpers, and doing whatever it took to win, it seemed like a passing of the guard.

DP made pun of Lin's name back in 2009 at Penn

The Daily Pennsylvanian made pun of Lin's name back in 2009 at Penn, showing once again Philly was three years ahead of NYC media.

So it’s no secret why Lin is the 2d best player on the knicks in win shares per 48 minutes at .187 after Tyson Chandler’s .248; or why his PER approaching 25 leads the team.  Lin plays defense, doesn’t turnover the ball, and is efficient both on offense and defense.  Also, he hustles.  In the Ivy League, he led across a large number of categories, including points, steals, rebounds, assists, assist to turnover ration, etc. and established benchmarks for a guard across many such categories–in fact, all time records for a guard to have such all-around abilities.

What we saw, watching him two years ago, was a guy who refused to lose.  He could penetrate and score; penetrate and dish out to the three line; penetrate and dish to the man beside him after drawing the double-team;  penetrate and dish to the open man; had amazing peripheral vision; could drop the three or the jumper if left unattended; always could run the ball and locate the open man on the run; could play defense; could steal the ball; could rebound and start the break the other way; in short, he was a complete player.

And Lin never stopped to breath.  He was always in continuous motion.  Harvard had a lot of talented players, but they looked kind of confused unless Lin got them the ball and he was coordinating the offense.  He was, in short, a terrific and talented point guard who had game.

A lot of Penn players have played in the NBA, but not so much Harvard.  Hockey has always been the winter sport at Harvard, along with playing the stock market and inventing new financial instruments the SEC can’t regulate.

Three players including Lin played in the NBA:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/friv/colleges.cgi?college=harvard#stats::none

first was

Saul Mariaschin

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/m/mariasa01.html

who was a 5 foot 11 inch player on the 1947-48 Boston Celtics.  The Celtics were in a predecessor league to the NBA, but who cares?

Here were Saul Mariaschin’s teammates on the Boston Celtics of 1947-48:

riebe_spector_sadowski_garfinkel_mariaschin_1948

riebe, spector, sadowski, garfinkel with Saul Mariaschin Harvard Grad on 1948 Boston Celtics

http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/BOS/1948.html

Here’s another of his teammates from that legendary Celts team:

CHUCK CONNORS.  Yes, the guy who later played the RIFLEMAN on TV.  Lucas McCain himself.  And a 6’5″ grad of Seton Hall, which in 1947-48 would have made him a giant player.  And he was a CELTIC.  You can look it up.

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/c/connoch01.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Connors

Chuck Connors was a Celtic and played with Harvard Grad Saul Mariaschin in 1947-48

Chuck Connors was a Celtic and played with Harvard Grad Saul Mariaschin in 1947-48

Chuck Connors also played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers!

And he was a TV Star!

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain the Rifleman

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain the Rifleman

Chuck Connors was a Boston Celtic and and Brooklyn Dodger

Chuck Connors was a Boston Celtic and and Brooklyn Dodger

The second player that went to Harvard and played in the NBA was

Ed Smith

Edward Bernard Smith (Ed)

Ed Smith was a New York Knick in 1953-54.  On that Knicks team, Ed played with Vince “Moose” Boryla, Nate “Sweetwater” Clifton, Al McGuire and Dick McGuire, and the famous Ernie Vandeweghe, and others well-noted.

That 1953-54 Knicks team finished 1st in the Eastern Division, going 44-28 under the helm of the legendary Joe Lapchick.  And they played in the old Madison Square Garden, which many hold in as high esteem as the old Boston Garden.

Nate "Nat" "Sweetwater" Clifton of the 1953-54 NY Knicks played with Harvard's Ed Smith

Nate "Nat" "Sweetwater" Clifton of the 1953-54 NY Knicks played with Harvard's Ed Smith

and here’s ernie vandewege v bob cousy:

Bob Cousy and Ernie Vandeweghe Reaching For Ball

Bob Cousy and Ernie Vandeweghe Reaching For Ball

Of course, Ernie has some bloodlines. Kiki Vanderweghe was a great NBA player, and now his granddaughter is a professional tennis player:

CoCo Vandeweghe professional tennis player and granddaugher of Ernie Vandeweghe who played on the NY Knicks with Ed Smith in 1953-54.  Ed was the last Harvard alum to play for the NY Knicks, nearly fifty years ago

CoCo Vandeweghe professional tennis player and granddaugher of Ernie Vandeweghe who played on the NY Knicks with Ed Smith in 1953-54. Ed was the last Harvard alum to play for the NY Knicks, nearly fifty years ago

Collectively, the Big Five of Temple, LaSalle, Penn, Villanova and St Joes have made more than a dozen final four appearances since the NCAAs began in 1939; Villanova was in the first NCAA tourney back in 1939, and in every decade of the NCAAs, one or more of the big Five has had an impact on the tournament each and every decade the Tournament has been running, whether it was Temple getting to the Final Four twice in the fifties, St. Joe’s to the Final Four in the sixties, Villanova and Penn to the Final Four in the seventies, Villanova winning the NCAA in the 80s, Temple dominating and getting #1 rankings and seedings in the 80s and 90s and getting to the elite 8 three times, and Villanova getting #1 seeds and reaching the elite 8 in recent years, and St. Joes getting to the final four in the last decade and getting a #1 seed.

Folks, we have the best college basketball in the country, bar none. Collectively, the Big Five does better in NCAA than almost any other region or school, excepting possibly Duke, UCLA, Kentucky and a handful of other such bigtime programs–and yet Duke has only won three NCAA titles in 14 Final Four trips, etc. The Big Five is not doing so badly.

I really like the underdogs of the NCAA–Marquette in 1977 with Al McGuire, the late Jimmy Valvano and North Caroline State (who can forget the triple overtime opening round win over Pepperdine?) in 1983, Rollie Massimino and the Villanova Wildcats upending Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in 1986, and so on.

My personal favorite big five upset of all time has to be St. Joe’s beating #1 seed and #1 in the country DePaul and Mark Aguire in 1981 in the first round of the NCAA (maybe it was the 2d round).

This brings us to 2009. Villanova and Temple are in. Villanova had a very good season, but lost to Louisville in the semis of the Big East tournament. Nova’ had a good RPI and a good strength of schedule, but still, they got a #3 seed, which I thought was pretty generous for a team that really hadn’t won anything–they were third or fourth in their conference, and finished third/fourth in the tournament of their conference. Even if it’s the best conference in basketball, does finishing fourth in that conference make you the 12th best team in all of college basketball? I think a #4 seed would have been more appropriate. The NCAA worships the big east a little too much.

Next, Temple. Temple got an #11 seed, which puts them against Arizona State, a #6 seed. Now Temple actually won something–they won the A-10 Tournament. Second year in a row, in fact. Also, best player in the conference, Dionte Christmas, plays for Temple. Also, Temple has by far the toughest non-conference schedule of any A-10 team. But they beat all of those teams too, except maybe Villanova, and they gave them a tough time. Maybe if Nova’ didn’t insist on playing at the Pavilion, but at the Palestra, it would be a fair game.

Temple’s RPI is very good, and their strength of schedule is very good. In fact, if you look at most of the teams seeded from around #7-#10, Temple’s RPI and strength of schedule are BETTER than most of those 7-10 seeds. Take Michigan for example, a team that didn’t win anything, lost 13, won only 20, and was an at-large from the big 10. Michigan has a higher seed than Temple but why? Michigan’s RPI is worse, their strength of schedule much worse, and they have a much worse record than Temple.

I could pick out many more examples (UCLA?) of this, but the point is that Temple plays a big-time schedule, has been in the elite eight in three of the last twenty years, and has been ranked #1 more than once in the last twenty years, including most of 1987-88. They’re a good ballclub, and deserved at least an 8-9 seed matchup in the first round.

Frankly, i would have given Temple about the same seeding as Xavier, and higher than Dayton, a team Temple dominated during the season.

I believe Temple and Villanova will both win. Arizona State is a fine team and that game could go either way, but Temple will win this year. Villanova has a ridiculously easy first round game. Their second round matchup will be much tougher

Also, I really like the fact that the new President offered his own “bracketology” on ESPN. that was pretty cool. I don’t think we’ve had this sports minded a president since Jack Kennedy, an old football player, was going to the harvard-yale and army-navy games. A lot like Teddy Roosevelt, too.

–art kyriazis philly/south jersey
home of the world champion phillies

The Horrible BCS

January 12, 2009

Florida defeated Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS National Championship Game last week to win the BCS National Championship for this past 2008-2009 season. The game was pretty even for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, Tim Tebow and the Gators pretty much took control of the game as did the Gators’ defense. I’m certainly happy for Florida and for the good people of Gator Country.

Which reminds me of a funny story. I was interviewing for some positions early in my career in the Jacksonville, Florida region. This was a while back. I was I had flown in from the North that very morning. I was pretty young and naïve. Everywhere I went, I noticed that everyone had a certain lapel pin on. Finally, my third or fourth interview through, I asked, pretty stupidly, what is that pin y’all have on?

“Why son, THIS HEAH IS A GATAH PIN. WE HEAH ARE ALL GATAHS!!!”
In other words, they all were wearing Florida Gator pins. I knew right then and there, I was toast. There was no way they were hiring a Northerner in that or any other related office. Just to complete the story, I ran into some friends of friends some years later in LA who were Gator alums, and they assured me that U Florida was one of the best universities ever, both in terms of courses and in terms of social fun, ever. Apparently a lot of celebrities and actors send their kids there. But they, too, were Gators.

I’m actually happy for Florida and the Gators. Maybe it took Steve Spurrier leaving for them to get a national championship, or maybe just a Tim Tebow to put them over the top. Whatever, they’ve now won two BCS national championships in three years, which is a signal accomplishment.

But this is about the horrible BCS, which this year served up a couple of one loss teams in Florida and Oklahoma in the BCS Bowl. This year, other schools which have a reasonable claim to the national championship include Utah, which finished undefeated, won a BCS Bowl and destroyed their BCS opponent in that Bowl. Why wasn’t Utah in the BCS Final? Frankly, they looked pretty compelling in destroying Alabama.

Then you have the USC Trojans—who did a pretty good job of destroying the Penn State Nittany Lions, and a very good Nittany Lion team at that, one which was a one point loss from being undefeated. It’s hard to believe that USC lost a game to anyone this season. Even so, watching them in the Rose Bowl, USC certainly looked like a national champion. Why wasn’t USC playing Florida in the BCS final bowl?

Then you have Texas, which defeated Ohio State in another BCS Bowl, though it was a close game and not a decisive win. Texas didn’t really make out the case for a national championship, but certainly they belong in the mix of elite teams. Why wasn’t Texas playing Florida in the BCS final bowl?

So what this controversy builds up to is the compelling need for a national playoff system in BCS/NCAA football. Why this is so difficult escapes me. The top eight ranked teams in the BCS should be eligible for the playoffs, and should be seeded in the BCS bowls; in fact, to be REALLY fair, the BCS/NCAA should put in the top sixteen teams and seed them accordingly. They certainly have enough teams. After all, if you’re ranked first, you should have a creampuff first round opponent, eh? Meanwhile, you can get some interesting 8-9 matchups, etc.

Sixteen playoff teams will result in eight bowls in the first round, four bowls in the second round, two bowls in the third round and a final championship bowl in the penultimate round. That makes fifteen bowl games over four weeks to decide a national champion. There would be plenty of advertising money and plenty of TV rights all around. As for the remainder of the bowl games, obviously there should be a pool to allow all of the bowls to be playoff/BCS bowls from year to year—but due to regional and conference matchups other bowls will still have appeal, e.g. Penn State, Notre Dame, the service academies, even if they’re not for the playoffs or national championship.

Many, many persons have spoken out for a national playoff system in NCAA/BCS football, including our President-Elect, who is in favor. The team that has been most hurt by the lack of a national playoff system in NCAA football, without any doubt, has been Penn State. Four times in NCAA history, Penn State has had an undefeated system without being ranked #1 or having an opportunity to play for the #1 ranking in a bowl game at the end of the season. By my reckoning, Joe Paterno and Penn State should have six, not two national championships. Paterno and Penn State have been shamelessly deprived of numerous national championships by both the polling systems and by the lack of a national championship playoff system, starting in 1969 and most recently in 1993.

The other team that has been systematically discriminated against even with the BCS system is Utah, which the BCS/NCAA feels for some reason can’t play football, even though Utah churns out pro quarterbacks and pro coaches with astounding regularity. I don’t even know who the Utah quarterback is, but I bet even now he’s more likely to end up on an NFL roster than Bradford the so-called cant miss prospect from Oklahoma (who looked hopelessly confused during the fourth quarter of the BCS bowl).

Meanwhile, Tebow, who the NFL scouts say won’t make it in the NFL, there’s a guy I’d certainly draft if I was GM for an NFL team. Tebow is a born leader. I’ve only ever seen one guy do that jump pass thing—the star quarterback of our prep school football team—and all he did was play for BC four years and play for the Giants until he messed up his ankle. He’s a professional sports announcer now. I say Tebow can play pro—he’s got the desire.

But the horrible BCS has to be overhauled. We need a playoff system. I’m pretty sure Tebow and Florida would still win such a system, and the final game would probably be Florida and USC. But what a game that would be.

–Art Kyriazis Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Happy New Year 2009