29 October 2007

Stetson Men's Basketball Preview

After another disappointing season, the Stetson University men's basketball team will look to rebound in 2007-08.

The Hatters return all but one of their players after an 11-20 campaign, having lost only PG Gabe McMillen (graduated, now playing for ADT Taragona in Spain).

McMillen will be difficult to replace; he led the team in minutes played, steals, and assists, and was second in scoring. A.J. Smith, who played 15.4 minutes per game in 06-07, will probably be called upon to fill McMillen's shoes.

If any improvement is to occur, the Hatters will need to improve their efficiency both offensively and defensively. Stetson shot only 41.5% from the field (and only 33% from three-point range) last season, while they let opponents shoot 47%.

Sophomore SG/SF Garfield Blair will look to lead Stetson towards the top of their division; he averaged 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds with more than a steal per game as a freshman. Blair's accurate shooting (49.5%) is welcome, but he must look to cut down on his turnovers (2.6 per game) if he wants to become a more significant threat.

In the post, junior C Tim Lang's improvement will be crucial to the team's success. The 6'9", 250-lb Australian showed flashes of talent at times last season, blocking almost a shot per game and coming seond on the team in rebounding, but foul troubles and inexperience limited him to less than 20 minutes per game.

Congratulations, Red Sox

Congratulations, Red Sox.
You won your second World Series in four years, but your fans still see you as the lovable underdogs who are trying to reverse history.

Congratulations, Red Sox.
Your lineup is one of the more potent in recent memory, your defense sucks, your pitching is a little iffy, but you get saluted as a team that does things the old fashioned way.

Congratulations, Red Sox.
You have the second-highest payroll in all of MLB. You pay your players six times as much as the Devil Rays. But ESPN commentators pay homage to you as a team that is consistently good despite parity.

Congratulations, Red Sox.
I mean that. I really do.

25 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 25/10/07

It's been a crazy week in the life of this 90% (now verging on 100%) Mental blogger. Was a time, once, when some straightforward multiple regression analysis wouldn't have thrown me off my game like this. Don't you just love statistics?

On to the picks, though, trying to rebound after a tough week. Odds from USA Today.

Kentucky -13.5 against Misissippi State
How do you favour (look! British spellings!) any SEC team by almost two touchdowns against any other SEC team this year? Here's how: Kentucky is coming off of an emotional loss against a bitter-ish rival, and will be looking to bounce back. Mississippi State has assumed Vanderbilt's former position as conference whipping boy.

Arkansas -39 against Florida International
Arkansas is not a great team. But this is FIU we're talking about here.

Florida -9 against Georgia
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to The Afternoon Formerly Known As The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Just doesn't have the same ring as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, does it? The pants are just as tight, though - and the beatdown the Gators will lay on the Bulldogs will make Doves Cry... almost as badly as the sight of Prince, naked, crawling across the floor.

Ole Miss +17.5 against Auburn
Another big number - one too big for the offensively-challenged Tigers to top.

Tennessee -3 against South Carolina
This has the feeling of a trap game for the Gamecocks... the Vols, Spurrier's traditional nemesis, are coming off a humiliating beatdown.

Out-of-Conference Special
Virginia Tech -3 against Boston College
It's tough to pick against an unbeaten team ranked second in the country. It's even tougher to pick for a team that LSU beat by 41. But I'm going to do it. This season, pick against the unbeatens and you won't do too badly, it seems.

Out-of-Conference Special pt. 2
Oregon -2.5 against Southern Cal
Oregon is a very, very good team that has been consistently exceeding expectations this year. Southern Cal is a very, very good team that has been struggling this year, capped off with an inexplicable loss to Stanford. I'll take the overachievers.

Last Week: 3-4
Season: 22-16-1

18 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 18/10/07

Picks for this weekend's games; odds from USA Today.

Vanderbilt +13.5 against South Carolina
I'm not saying that the Commodores will win, but the Gamecocks may have a bit of trouble with this matchup. South Carolina beat the Tarheels by 6 last week, so they'll be looking to win big (of course, Spurrier always does), but Vandy is good enough to keep it within 10.

Tennessee straight up against Alabama
Here I go with the Vols again, for the third time in a row... they came through with a 12-point win last week. This time, they should win by 4 (I'm guessing 21-17), behind Ainge's arm, overwhelming the Saban-led Tide.

Ole Miss +5.5 against Arkansas
The Razorbacks have perhaps the best running back tandem in the country. Running and defense wins championships, right? So why are they only 3-3? Unfortunately, there's another part of the formula - the second variable (defense), at which Arkansas really sucks.

Florida -7 against Kentucky
The Gators have had a very tough couple of weeks; now, they get to play against an excellent Wildcats team with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Kentucky, on the other hand, is coming off of a gigantic win. Sound like a trap to you? Yeah, me too.

Mississippi State +23 against West Virginia
The Bulldogs aren't a very good SEC team. The Mountaineers are a pretty solid Big East team. But a 23-point spread? That's a bit much.

Auburn +10.5 against LSU
The margins from the last 3 Auburn-LSU games: 1 point, 3 points, 4 points. 10.5 > 4. Isn't math lovely? Alternatively, the Tigers are better than they have been in a while... ah, forget it. LSU wins by 5.

Out-of-conference Pick
South Florida -3 against Rutgers
Unfortunately, my picking them probably guarantees that the Bulls, they of Grothe and Selvie, will lose this week. Then again, my acknowledging the jinx may reverse the effect (in a sort of postmodernist meta-jinx). You can't fool me - it's just turtles, turtles, turtles all the way down.

Last week: 3-3-1 (disappointing, but not disastrous)
Season: 19-12-1

16 October 2007

Mile High Club (a non-football post)

Scanning the baseball headlines this week:

A-Rod, Boras Meet in California
hmm... an overpaid superstar wanting more money? I don't think that's ever happened before...

Westbrook, Indians Dump Red Sox
Seems like the 1990s again, no? A powerful lineup and a couple of aces leading Cleveland through the AL?

Another Steroids Hearing Possible
Politicans poking their greasy, pointed heads into the world of sports? Seems like it's been a recurring theme since what, 1919?

Rockies Earn First World Series Berth
Ecclesiastes was wrong! It's a breath of fresh air - something we legitimately haven't seen before. On a down note, it makes me think of what the Devil Rays could have become by now, if they had been under good ownership - the Rockies were created in 1993, the Diamondbacks in 1998 - but the story is good enough to make me smile. This is baseball as it should be, evidence that parity is working.

12 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 12/10/07

Here are my picks for this week's SEC games. Odds from USA Today.

Alabama -6.5 against Ole Miss
The Prince of Lies leads his team against the Bulldogs this week. They'll win easily.

Tennessee -7.5 against Mississippi State
I don't like Tennessee. Fat Phil gets on my nerves, and Rocky Top has got to be one of the more annoying songs in all of college football. But the oddsmakers seem to underrate them on a consistent basis.

LSU -9 against Kentucky
The Tigers had trouble with UF last week - no great surprise there. This week, they get a (slightly) easier opponent, and show their quality.

South Carolina -6 against North Carolina
Does it seem like I'm picking a lot of favorites? Or, rather, all the favorites? I don't usually do this, but, in the SEC this week, the favorites (in the early games) seem like the sounder picks. Spurrier vs. the Tarheels... hmm...

Vanderbilt +7 against Georgia
And here's one that isn't the favorite... The tide starts to turn here. Vanderbilt is a solid team, I think; Georgia is solid, too, but not 7 points more solid. This will be a close game.

Auburn +3 against Arkansas
The Razorbacks have the better offense. Auburn has the better defense, special teams, and coaching. I'll go with the better defense, special teams, and coaching.

Out-of-Conference Special
Missouri +9 against Oklahoma
This is two weeks in a row that I've involved Oklahoma in my out-of-conference pick. Last week, they fell 3.5 short of the spread against Texas; this week, coming off of a big win and playing against an undefeated Missouri team with a Heisman-candidate quarterback, they very well could lose straight up.

Last week: 4-2
Season: 16-9

11 October 2007

Schuerholz and Schreiber

The big news today: Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz won't be the team's GM anymore. He's been making personnel decisions for the team since 1990 - coincidentally (or not), the same year the Braves began their ascent to 14 consecutive division titles.

At least he isn't completely gone, though - he'll still be the team president. Call it a promotion if you like; I'm sorry to see his hands taken (or to see him take his hands) from the reins. We'll see what happens to the Braves in the future, as Andy Wren is reportedly set to take the challenge of developing the team's large pool of young talent.

In meta-news, Le Anne Schreiber (AKA ESPN's Ombudsman) made an argument that I (and many, many others) have been making for a long time: that opinion is overriding fact in sports reporting. Her article is definitely worth a read.

05 October 2007

NCAAF Picks 5/10/07

Here are this weekend's SEC football picks. Unfortunately, the Kentucky-South Carolina game is already over, so I can't make a pick on that one. Odds, as usual, are from USA Today.

Vanderbilt +8 against Auburn
This one has all the markings of a trap game - Auburn is coming off of a big victory (over Florida, in case you've been comatose for the last week or so), and playing an underrated Vandy team that has a good deal of talent.

Mississippi State -16.5 against UAB
Don't overlook UAB - they're hardly a patsy. But MSU isn't as terrible as they used to be, and should win this one pretty easily.

Houston +11.5 against Alabama
I've got a feeling about this game. Alabama will escape, but the Cougars will put up a lot of points and keep it close.

Tennessee -2 against Georgia
Given that oddsmakers usually give the home team a 3-point boost in the line, Georgia is considered to be slightly the better team, according to these odds. Make sense to you? Me neither.

Florida +8 against LSU
Do I think the Gators will pull off the upset? As much as I hope they do, I don't see it. But they will keep it within a touchdown.

Out-of-conference Pick:
Oklahoma -10.5 against Texas
The Sooners have got to be angry after losing to lowly Colorado last week. They'll take it out on the Longhorns.

Last Week: 3-4 (ouch)
Season: 12-7

04 October 2007

Purity

There's a certain idea that I'm starting to get, as I blog from this side of the Atlantic, that the analysis I conduct while I'm here is in some ways more pure than that which I do when I'm at home.

Why is that? I have no ability to actually watch the games- I can't be swayed by subjective impressions (my own, at least - I do read columns on ESPN.com, sportsillustrated.com, and other sites). I have to look at numbers.

Statistical analysis lends itself, I think, particularly well to baseball. Why? (oh, the repetitive rhetorical questions! But I have only five minutes before I must leave for my next class.) There's a larger sample size - 162 games, as compared to 16 for the NFL or 82 for the NBA.

So what do the statistics I've chosen to look at say?

Red Sox over Angels in 4
Yankees over Indians in 3
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5
Phillies over Rockies in 5

Have a great day.