Saturday, April 29, 2006

Redskins Select Rocky McIntosh

In a move that surprises no one, the Redskins fill a defensive hole with outside linebacker Roger "Rocky" McIntosh of the "U."

The Skins were sitting at the 53rd pick of the draft, but traded up in a deal with the NY Jets to the 35th pick. So Rocky comes at the cost of our original second round pick, plus this year's fifth round and next year's second round pick. Is McIntosh that good? Or, did a run on ACC defenders drive the Skins to move up in the draft to get one of the names on their list before the talent pool dried up?

The Skins appear to have gone completely away from the draft as a way to build a team. So what are the football minds at Redskins Park saying? That the next few college classes have no class!

"The future is now." -- George Allen

Football: The Gulf Between College and the Pros

The Wall Street Journal published two articles in Friday's edition that focused on college prospects for the NFL draft. "Why the NFL is Drafting Benchwarmers" (Sam Walker, Friday, April 28, 2006 p. W1, p. W6) describes how general managers focus more on player's raw athleticism than on game results. Size, speed, vertical leap sway scouts more than game performance. The pros look for "specialists" with the raw potential to fit into their game schemes. Walker's article implies that these attributes are not necessarily on display at the college level.

Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian is quoted as "The distance between the college and pro game has never been greater." Why the difference? For one thing, colleges face more restrictions. They are limited to 20 hours of practice per week in season and only fifteen formal practice days in the off season. With more players leaving school early, college coaches have less time to teach technique or install complex game plans. The article goes on to say "Once these players get to the NFL, the learning curve is even steeper than before. Many NFL Teams have switched to the 3-4 defensive alignment . . . that requires players with specific combinations of quickness, bulk and intelligence that most college systems don't cultivate. On offense, most college teams are using a scheme where a super-mobile quarterback takes snaps from the shotgun formation with as many as five receivers and creates chaos by improvising. Meanwhile, the NFL is more interested in tall, stationary passers who can take snaps from center, drop back efficiently, read mismatches and deliver crisp passes with an efficient arm motion."

ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge was heard on the radio describing the difference between college and pro pass coverage. In college, he said, a receiver might be open by eight feet. In the pros, he might be open by only eight inches. He was illustrating the value of quarterback passing accuracy at the pro level.

A related article by Allen St. John ("Picking Playcallers," April 28, 2006, p. W6) presents a backward analysis of the stats of college quarterbacks who found success in the NFL, comparing it to those who did not. One statistic he found telling was yards-per-pass-attempt (YPA), especially the difference in YPA in the player's junior and senior year. The idea being that higher averages show greater passing efficiency. Successful NFL quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Ben Roethlisberger) were found to have a minimal difference in the stat in their last two college years, an indication of consistent performance. Other QBs whose YPA was significantly higher in their senior than junior year struggled when they got to the NFL (Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Brian Greise, Phil Rivers). Basically, they were college one-year wonders.

A second indicator of future success is the more familiar touchdown-to-interception ratio. Manning, McNabb, Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady and Daunte Culpepper all had a ratio better than 3:1 in their last college season.

Of the three prominent college QBs in this year's draft, Matt Leinart, Vince Young and Jay Cutler, Leinart has the best stats by St. John's measure, with a minimal junior-senior difference in his YPA and a TD/interception ratio of 3.86. Vince Young showed the greatest difference in his soph-junior YPAs, while his TD/interception ratio of 2.6 is lower than was Kyle Boller's number. Cutler's TD/interception ration was lowest at 2.3.

And what does all this mean? For one thing, college and pro football are the same sport, but are not the same game! College players are still school boys and boys are assessed differntly when they get to the pro level. A stellar college career does not necessarily predict succeess in the NFL. When playing with men, it's better to have raw athleticism than a blue chip resume (but best to have both).

Second, it's probably a waste to pick a quarterback in the first round. A prospect selected in a later round, like Tom Brady, can be as effective as a first rounder, like Alex Smith. Even good college quarterbacks taken in the first round need a season or three to develope into pro signal callers. Owners, GMs and fans would be wise to allow that time. Usually, they don't! Of this year's quarterback first rounders, Matt Leinart's appears to have the best prospects as a pro based on his college numbers. Check this space in three years.

Friday, April 28, 2006

ESPN Draft Preview: NFC East

Its the eve of the NFL draft. ESPN Magazine published team by team assessments by Mel Kiper, Jr. and Scouts, Inc. to preview the big event (April 24, 2006, pp 76-84). Here is a summary of their comments on NFC East teams showing needs and likely first picks.

Needs: Free safety, connerback, nose tackle
First Pick: Jason Allen, CB, Tennessee

Needs: Outside linebacker**, wide receiver, defensive tackle
First Pick: Kelly Jennings, CB, Miami, or Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Ohio State

Philadelphia EAGLES
Needs: Outside linebacker, offensive line, wide receiver
First Pick: Winston Justice, OT, USC, or Ernie Sims, LB, Florida State, or Chad Jackson, WR, Florida State, or Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State

Washington REDSKINS
Needs: Outside linebacker, offensive guard, cornerback
First Pick: David Pittman, CB, Northwestern State, or Cedric Griffin, CB, Texas

** The ESPN article was published before the Giants signed Lavar Arrington.

After its splashy free agent signings of skill players, it makes sense that the Redskins would focus on the offensive and defensive fronts. I believe the Skins will use their second round pick on an outside linebacker or defensive lineman before taking a corner. The Redskins in the Gibbs II era use free agency, rather than the draft, to stock the team. George Allen would smile at that.

Philadelphia has been low key in the free agency period. This team has always focused on the o-line and defensive front seven, rather than skill positions; Donovan McNabb is a notable exception. Terrell Owens was the splashiest free agent the Iggles ever signed. At that, Owens came to them. They did not seek him out. Perhaps the whole experience left the organization traumatized. Philadelphia has been singularly unaggressive in the free agent market despite plenty of cap room. The draft will reveal a lot about this team.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lavar Arrington: I'll see you again.

So, Lavar "I'll get even with you" Arrington pulled it off. The disgruntled linebacker wanted to play where he could face the Redskins twice each season. He got his wish when he signed with the New York Giants. As Tony Kornheiser points out, his and Terrell Owens presence in the NFC East will make this division the most intriging for its soap opera drama.

Here is why this move should not worry Redskins fans. The Lavar of April 2006 is a backup backer. The best linebacker on the team is Marcus Washington. Arrington's slow recovery from injury and alledged failure to adapt to the Redskins defensive schemes raise concerns, as it should. His $6.5 million contract dispute with the owner and personality clashes with his coaches made for a poisonous atmosphere, where my sentiments were more with Arrington than the team. I do think the Redskins would be better off keeping than losing him, but the Redskins defense will be tough regardless.

Antonio Pierce's move to the Giants last season was a bigger loss. Yet, the Skins made the playoff last year. The thought of ex-Redskins Pierce and Arrington together on the same field is more a concern than Arrington's move alone.

That gets to the point. Lavar was not as a good fit in Gregg Williams' defense as he once was in Steve Spurrier's. Spurrier didn't care much about defense, so he left defensive schemes to his inexperienced coaches who let Lavar be Lavar -- an individual contributor who could take over a game now and again. Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams -- and Tom Coughlin -- develop schemes where a squad plays as an integrated unit. Every cog must be in its place. Lavar tried, but his coaches felt there were better cogs for the money. In the end, they just weren't using him much.

What's more, the give back of his bonus money enabled the Redskins to make some serious upgrades on offense. Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle-El for Arrington are exchanges I would make any day, any time. Even in leaving, Lavar helped the Redskins.

Phil Jackson said of Kobe Bryant "the kid needed a break." That's true for Lavar, too. Although I believe Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins would have been the best fit for Arrington, the G-men can use his abilities. The very average Giants defense are potentially the most disruptive in the division. Before he could make this move, he had to make the lonely sojourn through the NFL to guage his true worth. I'm guessing the Giants guaranteed less than the $18 million money he was asking.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who could use a pass rushing linebacker, made no play for Arrington. That surprises me. All of the Eagles' off season moves surprise me.

Lavar's move to a divison opponent is one of those things that can spice up this ancient rivalry. He's coming with an attitude. The Redskins O-line had best be ready. I can't wait.

Sunday, October 8, 2006 - Redskins @ Giants
Saturday, December 30, 2006 - Giants @ Redskins

Soap Opera Sunday in the NFC East is October 8, when the Skins visit Lavar and the Giants and when TO and his Cowboy posse visit the Iggles. Good football. Good entertainment. One of those games should have been on Monday night.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Of Courtillet, Carroll, Collins and the Great 10-10 Tie

Back in the olden days, one would occasionally ask “what ever happened to _____?” Usually, the random thought would evaporate unanswered. Today, the Internet and especially Google provides unlimited opportunity to snoop.

Marcel Courtillet
While doing some quick online look-ups, when I should have been doing more important things, I googled the names of some of my high school classmates from Washington, DC Archbishop Carroll class of 19 long-ago. One of my hits was on Marcel Courtillet, the star halfback of John Carroll's 1966 football team. I found his name on the web site Greatest College Football Finishes. Here is their description of his role in the 1969 Duke – North Carolina game:

“At the end of the 3rd quarter, with the score tied, Duke's Coach Harp called for the quarterback Leo Hart to run to the Duke sideline, placing the ball on the right hash mark for the next play. This was on second and 10 at the Duke 46. Now 3rd and 9 on the 47, without a huddle, Hart feigned tying his shoelace while split end Marcel Courtillet went up to the ball, and the entire rest of the team lined up to the left of the ball, apparently waiting for Hart. Courtillet suddenly hiked the ball and flipped it to wideout Wes Chesson, who ran left behind a wave of Duke players. The UNC players, still in defensive huddle, were taken by surprise and Chesson went untouched into the endzone. Duke then later stopped Carolina on 4th and goal from the 4 to seal the game. Duke 17, UNC 13.”

That’s one of those stories that makes you go “hey, I went to school with that guy!”

Google found another Marcel Courtillet who attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland in 2001 and later James Madison University. Young Courtillet apparently was a good athlete. It would be too much of a coincidence for this person not to be related to the Marcel I once knew.

Carroll, Collins and the Catholic League
One line of thought leads to another. Thinking of Courtillet and Carroll High reminds that Carroll in the early sixties was not a prominent sports power, but the school was on the verge of great success. Maus Collins signed on as Carroll's football coach in 1960. By 1965, the team started to make some noise. They (we) beat arch-nemesis top-ranked St. John’s College High School 7–0. The deed was all the more memorable because Marcel, our star halfback, was out for the season for a medical reason I no longer recall. We won that day without our marquee player. The Carroll Lions went on to win the first of many Catholic League championships and were ranked number one that year in some local polls. (Montgomery Blair, led by quarterback Claude Prather, was the other number one team. That was notable because Prather was Black and leading a white team. Rare for the days before the Titans were remembered.)

Maurice "Maus" Collins went on to legendary status at Carroll and in the 1990s at Gonzaga High. He was inducted in the Montgomery College Hall of Fame in 1989 and ended his coaching career in 2000 with an overall record of 322-74-9.

Luis Grillo was a star basketball player at Carroll. He went on to a career as a NBA game official. Carroll with Grillo was getting better, but not the championship caliber that was Mackin High with Austin Carr or DeMatha High with Sid Catlett and coached by Morgan Wooten, the other Catholic League coach then coming into prominence.

DeMatha won the league basketball championship in 1966, as they would do many times under Wooten. Carroll lost both regular season games to them, but Grillo and Lacy Brown, with whom I am still acquainted, managed to upset Carr’s Mackin team, surprising everyone, including the Carroll student body, most of whom skipped the game expecting a loss.

Austin Carr and Sid Catlett played for Digger Phelps at Notre Dame. I attended Michigan State, a football and hockey power at the time. It galled me to see these DC kids playing for the Irish and beating us. Both Carr and Catlett went on to pro careers.

The Great Tie of 1966: Notre Dame @ Michigan State
Thinking of Notre Dame, I am reminded that Coley O’Brien, who was St. John’s star quarterback the year Maus Collins’ Carroll team upset them, went on to play for Notre Dame. He backed up Terry Hanratty of “Hanratty & Seymore” fame. In November 1966 the top ranked, undefeated Notre Dame travelled to East Lansing to square off with second ranked, unbeaten Michigan State. I was in the freshman section of Spartan Stadium fully expecting a replay of Carroll’s upset of O’Brien’s St. John team. O’Brien stepped into the breech to quarterback the Fighting Irish after Bubba Smith put a monster hit on Terry Hanratty, knocking him out of the game. The Spartans jumped to a ten point lead, but O'Brien led the Irish back to tie it up. Thereafter, the game turned into a defensive struggle, albeit of titanic proportion. The true excitement came at the end when Fighting Irish coach Ara Parseghian, with possession of the ball and less than two minutes remaining, decided to run out the clock to preserve the 10-10 tie.

The Spartans and Irish flip-flopped the number one ranking through the season. Both were undefeated coming into this game. The winner would cement its claim for the national championship. In a move both cynical and astute, Parseghian figured a tie would freeze the ranking until Notre Dame played easier to beat Southern Cal the following week. The Irish walloped the Trojans 51-0 or some such ridiculous score, while the Spartans, the only team who could match them, were idle for the rest of the season. Spartan coach Duffy Daugherty famously said "a tie is like kissing your sister."

The Notre Dame game was the season finale for the 9-0-1 Spartans. Big Ten rules at the time prevented the league champion from playing in consecutive Rose Bowls and Michigan State was defending its 1965 title. They never had a chance to throttle some hapless team 56-0 to press a claim for undisputed number one.

It was Notre Dame policy at the time to eschew post season bowl games. So Parseghian was smart not to risk a loss at State and go on to victimize Southern Cal, knowing the sporting press would vote the Fighting Irish number one even if they only beat the Trojans 5-0. Rocky Blier wrote about the game in his book FIGHTING BACK with an excerpt shown here.

Although Michigan State won a share of the national title and despite the tie, casual fans recollect that the Spartans lost that game. My intense dislike of Notre Dame athletics was born then. But, I lost more respect for them when the Fighting Irish boosters seemed to drive the great Parseghian out of coaching, despite all he had done for the program.

Southern Cal's rivalry with Notre Dame went up ten notches after that season when John McKay took umbrage with Parseghian running up the score on them. In 1967, the OJ Simpson-led, national champion Trojans dominated the Irish 24-7 in South Bend. OJ and the Trojans beat the snot out of the Spartans when they visited East Lansing earlier that season.

O'Brien never cemented the quarterback role for Notre Dame. When Hanratty graduated, Coach Parseghian named sophomore Joe Theesman, later "Theisman, rhymes with Heisman," as starting quarterback.

Those 1965-66 football Spartans were the greatest to wear the green and white and the last to challenge for a national title. Today, when you connect the terms "Michigan State" to "national title," you think of Tom Izzo's basketball program.

The 1966 season was the high point of Duffy Daugherty's career. He went 27-34-1 in the six seasons following the "game of the century." Blame the Civil Rights movement for confounding Daugherty. Major schools in the deep south excluded Black athletes, making the region a ripe recruiting ground for MSU and other northern colleges. Daugherty was especially successful in Texas, where he recruited Charles "Bubba" Smith, Clinton Jones, Gene Washington, among others. By the late sixties, southern coaches like Darryl Royal and Bear Bryant had had enough. They opened their doors to their citizen athletes of color. The sight of black men teamed with white men working toward a common goal for revered Southern institutions helped create, in a small but important way, a shift in cultural attitudes about race.

One rare thing Duagherty and MSU did in the sixties was to have Negro quarterbacks (we were all Negroes, then). Jimmie Raye, a Texas recruit, quarterbacked the Spartans in 1965 - 67. Bill Triplett, Charlie Baggett and Tony Banks also quarterbacked the Spartans in the years following. They weren't the only Big Ten school with Black quarterbacks. Tony Dungy was a star QB at the University of Minnesota in the early seventies. Both Dungy and Raye built long coaching careers in the NFL.

It's important to note that Daugherty's welcoming of Black athletes did not carry over the Michigan State as a whole. When I arrived on campus in 1966, I was one of only 400 "Negro" students out of a total population of 44,000. Not that I experienced open hostility, but there were stereotypes. I frequently had to explain that "no, I was not attending on an athletic scholarship." The kids from Michigan, even those from Detroit, had little to no direct exposure to black people. They seem to think we were white people with dark skins. They never quite "got" all the civil rights agitation. Even with that, I was more welcome at MSU than I would have been at the University of Maryland at the time.

Memories. One thought leads to another. One sentence leads to a thousand word essay! This essay grew from a random thought about Marcel Courtillet.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Don't Fret, Brett


TO: Brett Favre, GB Packers

FROM: Master4caster

RE: Next Career Move

Indecision is usually a clue not to take an action in question. In this case, the question is your return to Green Bay. Do not do it. Your heart is not in it. Don't fret. You owe it to yourself and to Packer/Favre fans everywhere to follow another path.

Your greatness is proven. Your legacy assured. If you are not one hundred percent committed to rejoin a rebuilding team, it will show in your play and be a source of frustration that will haunt for a lifetime. True Packer fans will not deny you your options. They will resent being left to twist until training camp.


TO: Green Bay Packers

FROM: Master4caster

RE: You Need to Fret Brett

You are at risk of a Ricky Williams moment. In 2004, the mercurial back retired from football two days before the start of training camp. Caught by surprise, the Dolphins could not backfill the critical position in their offense. The season was ruined and careers ended before the opening kickoff.

There is no comparison between Williams and Brett Favre, except for their impact to the team. To avoid being placed in the same position as the hapless Dolphins, you must act. Specifically, you must act on the presumption that Mr. Favre will not return. That means that, by trade or draft, you must secure a reasonable alternative. Granted, free agent choices are thin at this point, but the draft is an option.

You have a duty of loyalty to one who has contributed as much to your organization as Brett Favre. That duty may be well served by finding him a better situation for the close of his career -- in return for appropriate consideration from your trade partner, of course. And don't worry, even if Favre led another team to the Super Bowl, he would enter the Hall of Fame as a Packer.

This is a business. Make an executive decision.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

How to boil an Easter egg

Life can be confusing, but only a physicist can make the simple complex. The smart people at Newton offer the mathematic formula for boiling an egg.

A Formula for Soft-Boiling Eggs
The Derivation
"To obtain a simple formula the problem must be idealised somewhat, so the egg will be treated as a spherical homogeneous object of mass M and initial temperature Tegg. If the egg is placed straight into a pan of boiling water at Twater, it will be ready when the temperature at the boundary of the yolk has risen to Tyolk~63°C. With these assumptions, the cooking time t can be deduced by solving a heat diffusion equation.

The Result
"The full derivation (PDF, 19kB), which can be viewed with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, is quite complicated but the final result is relatively simple:

tcooked = [M2/3 cp1/3 /Kpiesq(4pie/3) 2/3] loge[0.76x (T egg - T water) / (T yolk - T water)]

where ρ is density, c the specific heat capacity, and K thermal conductivity of 'egg'. According to this formula, a medium egg (M~57 g) straight from the fridge (Tegg=4°C) takes four and a half minutes to cook, but the same egg would take three and a half minutes if it had been stored at room temperature (Tegg=21°C). If all the eggs are stored in the fridge, then a small (size 6, 47 g) egg will require four minutes to cook, and a large egg (size 2, 67 g) will take five minutes."

What can I add to that, except to wish you and your family a Blessed and Happy Easter. As with Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Nationals Senators, I've seen this before!

We are only eleven games into the baseball season and the Nationals are already seven games back. They feel a lot like the old Washington Senators to me!

I'll stick to football.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


I never knew that Hines Ward was Korean-African-American; just that he looked different (but, not in any way unattractive). That makes him a CABLINASIAN like Tiger Woods, whose heritage is Thai-African-American.

CABLINASIAN is the ACRONYM Woods made up as a child to describe his Caucasian-Black-Indian-Asian heritage. Homogeneity is prized in Asia, actually prized everywhere, and mixed race Korean children are made to suffer. It seems those of African descent are everywhere held in the lowest regard by my observation. Ward's visit to Korea to connect to that side of his heritage seems to have struck a cultural nerve that may be doing a little to relieve the stigma.

Another MVP move, Hines!

Personally, I find mixed-race people very attractive. Perhaps they combine the best physical attributes of their gene pool. Woods, Ward, Joakim Noah, Ann Curry (who should have been named Today Show host replacing Katie Couric) and Carol Channing all have characteristic good looks. And no, I am not biracial. I am Black and proud of it. However, I do have at least two biracial ancestors.

George Gwynn, a paternal great-great grandfather, was an enslaved tobacco farmer in Bryant town, Charles County, Maryland. As a widower, he moved with his family to the District of Columbia in the late 1890s where he became a pillar of St. Augustin's Catholic Church. He married his second wife, 19 year old Veronica Coakley, in 1913 and died late that same year. (Well, he was 76 at the time!!!) I do not know his parantage, but by his picture, I know he was biracial. The last surnamed Gwynn from his line passed away in Washington, DC, in 1964.

My maternal grandfather, Monroe Miller of Greenwood County, South Carolina, had a mysterious past. He is suspected of being biracial, but in the nineteenth century, one did not speak of such things in polite company. His parentage was a mystery even to his children. That, or they just are not talking.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Philly Cheese Dog: TO Back In Town

The NFL released its 2006 schedule today. Terrell Owens and his Dallas Cowboys visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, October 8. That game has such marquee value that I'm shocked that ESPN didn't insist on it for an early season Monday night. Instead, they serve up Baltimore at Denver that Monday. That's their showcase game? Big whoop de doo! Sooner or later someone will squawk about the loss of the potential audience.

Cowboys - Eagles is the doubleheader game that Sunday. At least it's nationally televised. The Redskins visit the Giants, so it will be an NFC East Sunday.

Philadelphia visits Dallas on Christmas night, Monday, December 25 at 5:00 PM EST. It won't be the same hype. The first Iggles-Cowboys match-up will steal all the thunder. Broadcasting a game during the Christmas dinner hour is poor scheduling. It's the first game that should appear on Monday night.

The Manning brothers open the season when the Colts visit the Giants on Thursday, September 10. Brothers Ronde and Tiki Barber face-off when the Buccaneers visit the Giants Sunday, October 29.

Fred Smoot and Brad Johnson return to FedEx when the Vikings visit the Redskins Monday night, September 11. "Nine-eleven" may have played a role in the NFL's scheduling the game here on that date.

Joe Gibbs once declared Fred Smoot a "core Redskin." Then the team declined to match the Vikings' offer for his services. Charges against Daunte Culpepper for the "love boat" incident have been dropped, but Fred must still stand trial. He's denied any involvement. I wonder if Fred prefers to be here in DC rather than Minnesota?

The Skins also declined to retain Brad Johnson. Then they lacked quarterback stability until the arrival of Mark Brunell, who is a pocket quarterback much like Johnson.

The irony of life.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

NCAA Final Four: Seminole Crown

That wasn't a contest. That was a coronation!
Florida - 73
UCLA - 57

Monday, April 03, 2006

NCAA: The Women

Speaking of the NCAA, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins slams the grand poobahs of women's basketball for leadership inadequacy. The athleticism of women's basket ball has gone way up, but the NCAA tournament selection committee has no background in the sport and it shows, she says. In comparison, the men's selection committee is made up of those who played or coached the sport. With that knowledge, they put together a fabulous tournament and are expert at marketing the game. Poor leadership and uneven officiating frustrates the coaches and hinders fan acceptance of the distaff game, according to Jenkins. She suggests that the NCAA clean house and get a group with the hands on experience and moxie to equal to the product.

A sportswriter named Greg Wyshynski wrote in his Sports Central blog that the media gives the women's tournament more coverage than justified by fan interest. He calls it media guilt.

The same article, "Dirty Little Secrets of the NCAA," boldly asserts that George Mason's mens team did not deserve a tournament slot. More accurately, he says that Mason's performance shows that Hofstra (26-7), who twice beat George Mason, was more worthy of an at-large bid than Air Force or some other selectees. I'm glad he didn't take a shot at the Big Ten. (Hide in shame, Big Ten)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

NCAA Final Four: Florida

This weekend shows once and for all time why I am a football analyst. My final four picks were blown to heck as George Mason and LSU were soundly beaten Friday night. I'll still go with the underdog and pick Florida over UCLA for the championship.

Tournament picks have been tough on everybody, supporting the notion that the NCAA did a good job selecting at-large teams for the playoffs. Did I say good? Great is the word for it. This tournament is sharply competitive. All of the final four teams are underdogs in a fashion. All are surprises. All play good ball.

George Mason taking it all would have been the feel good story of the year. Even in Washington, Georgetown and George Washington got more press during the regular season than GMU. Florida and UCLA offer their own intriguing story lines. The title game pits UCLA's formidable defense against Florida's offensive firepower.

How is it that so many upstarts overran power teams? USAToday argues that the talent level between the majors and the mid-majors have been narrowing for years. The loss to the pros of great college players and the reduction of basketball scholarships from 15 to 13 have had their effect on the major conferences. The big programs can't hoard players like they once did and they lose their blue chip players before they jell as a team. Thus, they can be had by good teams that sweep up the untapped talent. How long the effect lasts is an open question, but the mid-majors will be seen in a new light by scholarship prospects. If they can cement their position with more TV exposure, watch out!

The majors are well led and won't just sit still for this. They will adapt. They will change recruiting tactics. Billy Donovan at Florida, for example, changed his recruiting focus to the high schoolers ranked 25th to 100th in their position in the hope that they will stay with the program for four years.

For the complete article, look here.