Thursday, November 29, 2007

Putting First Things First

I don't know who is the author of this email that has been circulating the web, but thanks whoever it is. This really puts things in perspective and hopefully it will touch you the way it touched me.

Putting 1st Things 1st


A man came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 10-year old son waiting for him at the door.


SON : "Daddy, may I ask you a question?"

DAD: "Yeah sure, what is it?"

SON : "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?"

DAD: "That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?"

SON : "I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?"

DAD: "If you must know, I make $100 an hour."

SON : "Oh!" (with his head down).

SON : "Daddy, may I please borrow $50?"


The father was furious.


DAD: "If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I work hard everyday for such childish behavior."


The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door. The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy's questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?


After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to
think:

Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $ 50 and he really didn't ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy's room and opened the door.


DAD: "Are you asleep, son?"

SON : "No daddy, I'm awake".

DAD: "I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here's the $50 you asked for." The little boy sat straight up, smiling.

SON : "Oh, thank you daddy! "


Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills.


The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.


DAD: "Why do you want more money if you already have some?"

SON : "Because I didn't have enough, but now I do. Daddy, I have $100 now.
Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you."

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness.


It's just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts.


Do remember to share that $100 worth of your time with someone you love?


If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family and friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

College Hoops Final Four Predictions

I like to wait until after Thanksgiving tournaments (now pegged "Feast Week" by ESPN) to make Final Four predictions. This gives me a chance to see the top teams against other top talent, so they are theoretically more informed predictions. I watched a lot of basketball during the first two weeks and the competition has been very good so far. Lots of exciting games and juicy upsets. Last night was no different with both #7 Tennessee falling to #15 Texas and #8 Indiana falling to unranked Xavier.

So with further adieu, here are my predictions for this year's final four teams.

North Carolina Tar Heels Zephyr Graphics DHS Z-Fit

North Carolina
Assuming Ty Lawson's ankle injury is not serious, this team should ride into the Final Four without a scare. They are loaded from top to bottom. Most of the scoring from last year returned and they arguably have the best Forward and Point Guard in the country in Tyler Hansborough and Lawson, respectively.

They have gotten great guard/wing play this season from Wayne Ellington, Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green. They have other solid front court players in Deon Thompson and Alex Stephenson. And finally they have outstanding depth at all positions. Barring major injury problems, this team seems a lock for the FF.

UCLA Bruins Top of the World Blindside

UCLA
Stacked team number 2! The Bruins have looked outstanding early this season and have been playing without Darren Collison, their team leader and PG. Collison is a Junior with playing experience in two Final Fours. They are 6-0, but with one scare from Michigan State which was leading for nearly the entire game against UCLA. However, with the return of Collison this team should be easily earn a #1 seed and a trip to the Final Four.

Freshman Kevin Love is outstanding and has exceeded incredibly high expectations averaging 19.3 ppg and 10.5 rpg. Several of the Bruins have been on two Final Four teams, including starters Josh Shipp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya. Soph. Russell Westbrook (with the basketball and flames carved into his hairline) has been very good filling in for Collison and should see playing time at both guard spots with Collison's return.

Okay those were the easy ones, now it gets a bit more uncertain. However, I am going off the main prediction trail for my two other Final Four teams:

Michigan State Spartans Top of the World Cement Mixer

Michigan State
MSU returns all 5 starters and get great senior leadership at Guard in Drew Neitzel. For Final Four runs, experienced leadership at guard is critical and you will see that leadership in all four of my FF teams. Neitzel averaged over 18 ppg last year and has averaged just under 15 so far this year. The real standout so far this year has been sophomore wing Raymar Morgan, who has averaged over 17 ppg and 8 rpg. He had a very good freshman campaign and has started an outstanding sophomore campaign. I don't think we will see a Junior redux for Morgan as the NBA comes calling.

The front court is very solid rotation with Sr center Naymick and junior forwards Goran Suton and Marquise Gray. Travis Walton and two freshman, Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen have rotated at the guard positions and are averaging a combined 17 ppg and 7.8 apg. They played very well against UCLA and led most of the game before losing the lead down the stretch. However, this should be a confidence booster that they can play with anyone. The key with this team will be to maintain the intensity against weaker teams, which hurt them in several losses last year.

Duke Blue Devils Top of the World NCAA Prodigy

Duke
This may be a surprising choice given the teams flaws in the front court, however they played outstanding in Maui and I think they are set to surprise come tourney time. Duke is loaded with talent with 8 McDonald's All American's on the roster. Freshman sensation and leading scorer, Kyle Singler, is the real deal averaging 15.8 ppg and 6.6 rpg over 5 games. Only Brian Randle, the outstanding Illini defender, has been able to hold Singler under 10 points in a game.

The team has experienced guard play with both Greg Paulus and DeMarcus Nelson starting or playing significant minutes over the past three years. Add in standout sophomores Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer and the guard/wing spots for this team are outstanding. It will be tough for teams to keep the three starting players, Nelson, Henderson and Singler, in check. They all drive to the basket well, they can all shoot from outside or mid range. You will have to pick your poison to stop and hope the other two do not blow up.

Given the lack of a great Center/Forward at the 5 spot, Coach K has decided to play an uptempo game and use his depth to stay in transition as much as possible. This should prevent teams from beating them up inside. However, one could see in the Illinois game that they will have to improve inside play as Illinois outrebounded them 41-31 and got 22 offensive boards. They need the sophomore combination of Lance Thomas and 7'1" Brian Zoubek to step up by tourney time.


There are several top teams that I did not select and this is a brief explanation of why they were not included:

Memphis
Memphis is undefeated at 6-0 but has not played any Top 25 teams yet. This team is loaded with talent and Derrick Rose is a very good offensive freshman. However, Calipari's "driving motion" offense resembles streetball to me. I think this team plays out of control and a well coached team with strong defenders should take advantage of their lack of discipline.

Because their schedule is weak, they should get a #1 seed and likely make the Elite Eight again because of their seeding. However, I do not see them beating any of my FF teams or several other well coached teams.

Kansas

Every year Bill Self has more talent than 99% of the other college teams, but like clockwork they miss the Final Four. I am not sure why, but I do not think this team will break precedent.

Marquette

I think Marquette has a serious shot at making the Final Four. I would call Marquette my 5th team for the FF. They return their backcourt including the outstanding Dominic James. James could put the team on his back during tourney time and carry them to the FF. Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews are also outstanding guards.

The only potential weaknesses I see with Marquette is their intense defensive pressure. While this will win a lot of games against weaker teams, the top teams will be able to handle the pressure. But they play so "in your face" that they get called for a lot of cheap fouls. They bump and hand check too much and you could see it in the Duke game where the Eagles were called for 27 fouls to Duke's 15. Some might see that a Duke foul bias, but the reality is they were just too close to players all the time and very jumpy (reaching and grabbing) - yes it causes some turnovers but at the expense of a lot of fouls.

Georgetown
Not enough information in here. They have only played 3 games against weaker teams. They have some good returning talent, but it is yet to be seen if they can replace the scoring from last year's leading scorer, Jeff Green.


Clearly the season is shaping up to be a lot of fun. There are a couple teams that standout near the top but any of 5-8 teams could win it all. Should be fun!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm Loving Feast Week

I plan to make my Final Four predictions at the end of Feast Week on Sunday. But can everyone agree this has been one of the most exciting November's in memory? Last nights MSU vs Mizzou game was a barnburner. Kudos to Coach Mike Anderson at Missouri. I love your the pressing fast action style you have brought to Mizzou. Should make for some renewed rivalries in the Midwest.

If anyone doesn't believe senior leadership is important in this new "diaper dandy dominated" college hoops era, did not watch that game last night. MSU kept their poise despite a late onslaught by the Tigers. They hit their free throws and did not make stupid mistakes. With five returning starters, senior leadership and Coach Izzo, MSU definitely deserves to be in the Final Four discussion.

UCLA has been outstanding this young season, but they have not truly been tested yet. Tonight's game against MSU will be a doozy. The winner of this game definitely will have sealed a spot in my Final Four selections.

Another intriguing match-up tonight is the Duke-Illinois game in Maui. Both teams are incredibly athletic and play up-tempo offense and unrelenting defense. Should be a fun one to watch. This will be Duke's first real test of the year and it will be interesting to see how the 8 McD AAs on this team gel. If Illinois can pull off the upset, it will likely catapult this under-rated team into the Top 25.

Oh yeah and let's not forget Marquette vs. Oklahoma State, the other game in Maui. Marquette is looking to prove that its #13 ranking is deserved. After a minor scare against last night Marquette takes Oklahoma State tonight. Okie State was already upset this young season by North Texas, so it is a question mark how good this team is. I expect to win this one fairly easily but if anything is clear this young season...you just never know!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Excluda-Bull!!

While the official statement is the "Kobe deal with the Bulls" is dead, we all know it can quickly be revived. Jack McCallum's does a nice piece on this drama in the latest SI and concludes that extended losing by either or both of these clubs could stoke the fire of these talks.

Story here

I have been in favor of a potential trade as long as it excluded Luol Deng, who is the Untoucha-Bull on this team. Deng has the potential to be special, he is blessed with a great length for a 6'9" guy (long arms). His stats have improved nicely over his first 3 seasons and he averaged 18.8 pts, 7 rebs and 2.5 assists per game last year.

I was not aware that Kobe was also aware of Deng's special abilities. Apparently Kobe also made Deng remaining with Chicago as a part of any deal. That is great news for Bulls fans. Paxson has also made it clear that he has no interest in trading Deng.

Hopefully, a deal will arise that gets Kobe to Chicago. It would be very fun to watch Kobe and Deng become a "new edition" of Michael and Scotty.

Fill in some pieces around them (several of which would remain after a deal) and I think the Bulls might have something special again. Here's to hoping that they pull it off.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Don't be Surprised if the Illini far Exceed Expectations

So far this young season, I have seen six exhibition games (all Big Ten on BTN) and two of those were Illinois games. The Illini were ranked 52 in the Coaches Preseason Poll, but I can tell you definitively that there are not 51 better teams in the country. In fact, I predict the Illini will surprise this season and end the year ranked in the Top 25. And don't be surprised if they win the Maui Classic later this month.

First of all, let's get last year out of the memory banks. Over the past 5 years, the Illini are one of Top 3 winningest programs in college basketball which is a testament to Bruce Weber and his staff. Last year was an aberration in which they only won 23 games (most teams would kill for that kind of failure). They were plagued with injuries, inexperienced guard play and very poor free throw shooting.

Flash forward to this year, Weber and staff have 7 newcomers on the roster and 3-4 of them have the potential to be big time contributors this year. But given the unknowns of so many newcomers and with only 2 Seniors on the roster, the media has overlooked the Illini.

What I have been most impressed with from the Illini is their athleticism and deep depth. These guys are fast and they can jump. It appears that the coaching staff is going to use that depth to play an uptempo game to wear down opponents.

The two seniors and four juniors will be key to the Illini's success. Shaun Pruitt looked very good in two exhibition games and has been successful passing out of double teams which has been a knock in the past. He starts the year as a first team all Big Ten selection at Center.

Brian Randle is one of the most athletic forwards in the nation but he has been plagued by injuries his first 4 years (including a redshirt year) at Illinois. He can play the 3 or the 4 position and creates huge matchup problems at either position because of his athleticism and ball handling abilities.

Chester Frazier
is the starting point guard and arguably the best defensive point guard in the Big Ten. He is very quick and plays all out for the entire 40 minutes of games. He was asked to play too many minutes last year because of injuries, but his minutes should come down this year with freshman Demetri McCamey joining the team.

With the absence of Jamar Smith for the year due to disciplinary action from his DUI car accident, three Juniors, Calvin Brock and two walk-on transfers, Trent Meachum and Steve Holdren, are expected to pick up the slack at the 2 spot. Brock is very athletic with a good mid-range jumper, while Meachum and Holdren are shooting specialists that will improve Illini's outside shooting. Meachum played about 17 minutes a games last year and shot .400 from 3 point range while Holdren sat last year as a transfer from South Dakota St.

While the recruiting class was not considered a Top 25 class, Weber and staff have proven an uncanny ability to judge talent and get the most out of players that others passed up. This class will be no different.

Rodney Alexander is a JUCO transfer that came in as one of the top 10 rated JUCO transfers. He appears to be the newcomer that is most prepared to play at the Big Ten level. He can play the 3 or 4 position and is a shooter without conscience. He rarely missed a shot in the 2 games I have seen him play. The Illini desperately need a fearless gunslinger on this team which experienced uncomfortable scoring droughts throughout last year, including in the first round loss to Virginia Tech in the NCAA tournament.

Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale are the two most likely immediate impact players from the freshman class. McCamey was a 4 star PG that is very fast and with good court vision. He will share PG duties and may also play some 2 guard in certain sets with Frazier at point. Both Frazier and McCamey have looked very good executing in the fast break and they both have looked to drive an uptempo game.

Tisdale is 7'1" Center/Forward with a very good all around game. Based on what I have seen, I would say he is going to be special. He can put the ball on the floor, play with his back to or facing the basket, he can knock down 3 pointers and has a very good mid-range jumper. He was clearly under-rated as a 3 star center coming out of high school and should be fun to watch develop.

Bill Cole (6'9") and Mike Davis (6'9") are athletic freshman forwards that likely will play more at the 4 spot than the 3. While originally Weber indicate either or both of them might redshirt, more recently Weber has indicated that both of them have exceeded expectations and should play this year.

The Illini also have two returning underclassmen, Brian Carlwell and Richard Semrau (redshirt freshman). They both sustained traumatic injuries last year and have spent the summer recovering. They will both likely continue to recover in the first part of the season and contribute more minutes later in the year.

Lastly, during the summer the Illini added Jeff Jordan, Micheal's oldest son, to the roster as a preferred status walkon. Jeff is a 6'1" guard that can play either the 1 or 2 position. Jordan is extremely athletic with the team's highest vertical leap. While he will not likely see a lot of minutes his freshman year, he should be a solid contributor for 3 years thereafter.

One of the most intriguing aspects to this team will be the some of lineups they can field that will produce huge matchup problems for opponents. One of those would include 6'10" 245 pound Pruitt playing alongside 7'1" Tisdale (or 6'11" Carlwell) in the front court, with Randle or Alexander at the 3, Frazier at the point and a combination of McCamey, Meachum and Holdren at the 2 spot.

There are few teams in the country that would be able to cover that front court. Then you would likely have a guard covering the 3 which is a brutal matchup against the taller leapers in Randle and Alexander. With Alexander at 3 and either Meachum/Holdren at the 2, teams would have to provide perimeter defense because of their 3 point shooting abilities.

The Shooting Guard is clearly the weakest position on the team. Weber's best shooters, Meachum and Holdren, are not going to be as athletic as the top 2 guards in the conference. And his most athletic guards, Brock and McCamey, are not as good at outside shooting.

If Weber can solve the 2 guard riddle, this Illini team can make waves in the Big Ten and the NCAA tournament.

Check out this Bruce Weber DVD on Mastering the 5 Man Motion Offense.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Season's Here! Get those Ankles Taped and check out these stories from the Blogosphere

First, you have got to check out Cody run. I know it is not basketball, but this is incredible. Thebiglead.com uncovers an amazing video of an 8 year old football player with silky smooth moves. You have never seen anything like this from an 8 year old, maybe not even from a high schooler.

Okay to basketball -- Does anyone remember Ronnie Fields? If you are from Chicagoland you might. He was the 3rd highest scorer in the Chicago Public Leagues, he was a teammate of Kevin Garnett but averaged more points per game than KG. He had an unreal vertical leap and was a constant highlight reel of drives and dunks. Unfortunately he never played a game in the NBA, learn about the tragic story (and more importantly watch the video) at fromcourtside.com

Get excited about the upcoming college hoops season with a Preseason Primer from STF.

Or for another approach to getting pumped up about hoops, learn more about the coaching elements of college basketball. Coach bruchu tells you all you need to know about UNC's secondary post in his latest thread.

Lastly, rushthecourt.com provides a nice overview of the ESPN Full Package for college hoops this season and helps you analyze whether you should purchase the package.

Monday, November 5, 2007

If you weren't ready for the season yet, the Crazy Aggies from NC A&T will get you there!!

This has to be the craziest arena in the US. After every opposing player fouls out, the crowd erupts in dancing and singing to "Go Sit Down" by Maceo. Then during timeouts they rock the house to "Walk it Out" by UnK. You will laugh 'til you cry on this one.

And the best part of the video is the frustration on the opposing coaches faces at the end of the video.

Too bad we don't get to see any BCS teams venture into the Dawg Pound, it would make for some great television. GO Aggies!!!

North Carolina A&T Aggies Zephyr Graphics DH Z-Fit



props to Bornthrilla who posted this video on youtube.

Friday, November 2, 2007

So you Want to be a College Hoops Coach

If you are a crazy college hoops fan like me, you probably have secretly fantasized about coaching a college team; recruiting, practice regimens, offensive and defensive sets, making a run to the NCAA tournament...then your office phone rings and you snap back to reality. Ouch I'm still here in Dilbert's world grinding it out.

Maybe you have tried fantasy sports, but it's not the same. You aren't really coaching - fantasy sports is just a statistical analysis with unbelievable teams of all-stars and no basis in reality.

But if you want to get a taste for the cerebral side of coaching college basketball, there is a place for you at Hoops Dynasty. HD is an web-based strategy simulation game in which you coach a college basketball team for multiple seasons. You start in Division III and try to work your way up to a power conference team in DI.

Seasons are condensed to about 45 days from the recruiting period through season (1 sim game per night) and the National Tournament (a Turbo league is also available that plays 2 sim games per day - and lasts about 30 days per season).

During the offseason before a new season starts, there is a recruiting period and you are provided a recruiting budget based upon the number of slots you need to fill and the success your conference had in the NT the previous year. Recruits are scattered around the World (mainly US) and they are each carry an overall rating which is comprised of scores in 12 categories. You target recruits that meet the criteria you need for your offense or defense sets. For instance, if you run a Full Court Press defense you need to recruit guards with higher skill ratings than for a Zone defense.

Recruiting lasts about 5 actual days. Then the season begins and you can play two exhibition games to work on your lineup and try out different tempo and defensive position strategies. In Gameplanning you select the offense and defense you are going to run, the tempo (fast, normal or slow), defensive positioning (+ to play spot up on perimeter players or - to condense down into the paint), your depth chart, allocate % of offense for each player (who will shoot), 3 point frequency and double teams.

Throughout the season, you tweak your lineup and other variables to optimize your playing strategies. Each team plays 10 non-conference games and 16 conference games during a season, then an end of the year Conference Tournament and invitees then play in one of two post-season tournaments. The National Tournament is the biggie and a lesser tournament called the PIT that is similar to the NIT in real life.

During the year teams are ranked and their rankings change based upon an RPI and SOS formulation. At the end of the year conference and national awards are handed out based upon the years performance. All of the game play, RPIs, SOS and awards are all simulated by the computer based upon a very complex simulation engine that takes into account: ratings of players on each team, the offense and defense run by each team, the coaching variables set prior to the game, fatigue factors, RPIs, etc.

After the season there is a 4 day period for coaching job changes. Coaching selections are based upon Coaching Prestige (record in last 4 years and lifetime), Loyalty (how long you stayed and current school), availability, competition for the job, etc.

Then the entire cycle starts again. The game is so addicting that most managers end up having several teams (I currently manage 3 teams - a DI, DII and DIII team). There are 8 different worlds that you can join that are all playing at different places in a season. Each world has all of the DI, DII and DIII schools available in real life.

The game is not free, but the cost is reasonable at $12.95 per season (or $99 for a 10 season pack).

If you are into college hoops, you should give the game a try. I no longer play fantasy sports because they just can't compare to the excitement and cerebral nature of Hoops Dynasty.

Check it out here

If you do play then join then send me a sitemail on the site (I play under weirdrash) and I can send you some pointers and tips to help you strategize. Although the site has a very good informational base of data with a lot of the base data. Hope to see you on the virtual hardcourt.


If you would rather play Football or Nascar, there are also Dynasty variations for those sports.





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