Sep. 23, 2016
Three Brief Thoughts
This is a semi-frequent segment on my blog, where I make attempts on trying to cover broader topics than just the Wisconsin sports teams, and here I am doing three brief thoughts. First, I will be discussing the Big Ten's NCAA tournament resume, and how high I think any of them can soar. Second, I will be questioning some of the trade chatter surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. Finally, I will be apologizing to the Atlanta Falcons, as they are among the teams I was most wrong about going into this NFL season.
First, I will be doing the Big Ten and its' resumes for the NCAA tournament. As of right now, the Big Ten still has eight teams in the NCAA tournament, including Wisconsin (4), Maryland (5), Purdue (5), Northwestern (7), Minnesota (7), Michigan State (10), Indiana (11) and Michigan (11) according to Jerry Palm of CBS sports. Somehow, the Illinois Fighting Illini are in the first four out as well. The five that aren't listed (Iowa, Penn State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Rutgers) are virtually done, as all but Ohio State has 10+ losses and look to be falling apart. I only see Ohio State and maybe Penn State being able to climb back into the mix.
As far as the top of the conference goes, Wisconsin is a near lock along with Maryland and Northwestern, and Purdue should be too despite losing at Nebraska. The other five teams are fighting for dear life, and are all two losses away from at least being on very thin ice. Illinois has a huge game with Wisconsin coming to town, and if they can pull that one off they could very well find their way in. Indiana is also in serious danger after losing OG Anunoby and now James Blackmon Jr., and could very well lose out without those two. Michigan State is very weird this season, and I think that a hot streak is what they need to ensure a tournament berth. Michigan is part of the "first four", but could easily fall out too. As for Minnesota, they are the safest after the top four, but they are still 3-6 in conference play at the moment and going 6-12 won't get them in the tournament.
As far as seeding goes, I think the highest anyone in the conference can reasonably climb is up to a number two seed, and Wisconsin or Maryland are the only teams that still have that opportunity. I also think that two of these five: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan State are going to fall out, with Michigan State probably being the safest left. It's possible that even three of them fall out, and Ohio State might climb back in if they get red hot.
Next, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls are both being really disjointed franchises right now, with Cleveland losing six of their last ten and the Bulls struggling on the offensive end of the floor and in the locker room. As far as what is going on with the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is the main problem in the locker room as he has been benched and is now criticizing Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. I thought that the fit of a Rondo-Wade backcourt was a curious move by general manager Gar Forman, and so far it hasn't been working well. Rondo should be traded, but I don't know of any team that would be willing to take him since he has had problems everywhere since leaving Boston. The Bulls would definitely have to sweeten the pot if they want to get rid of him.
As far as what is going on in Cleveland, I don't understand why people can't seem to realize that LeBron is being an arrogant and spoiled right now, and taking it out on his team. He has gotten everything he has ever wanted from Cleveland, and is a member of the highest payroll in the NBA. In fact, he's the reason they have the highest payroll. That said, the money that guys like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, JR Smith, and Kyle Korver are making is enormous as well, and committing that amount of money can't mean that the Cavs aren't trying to win. LeBron, you are the best player in the NBA, and Kyrie Irving is the best point guard in the East, so I don't understand why you are blaming the rest of the team for losing 14 games out of 50? You crave this pressure, this hype around your name, all of this attention, and then you blame everybody else, right?
Speaking of which, why the Hawks traded Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers is incomprehensible to me. The Hawks are one of the teams that year after year lose to the Cavaliers in the playoffs, and here they are trading away their best shooter for an older version of Thabo Sefolosha. I understand wanting to cut payroll and get rid of Korver, but trade him to the Western Conference, not to the team you are trying to get past in the playoffs. If you are a contender in the East, trading away your better players to a team that is already clearly the best team in your conference can't possibly help you in the short term. And in the long term, unless Cleveland trades you Kyrie Irving, they don't have any assets worth anything to give you. In other words, stop helping the bully of your conference.
Finally, this is Super Bowl week, and I won't be watching partially due to having to work, but also because I don't like the Patriots and don't like watching games that don't have the Packers. With that said, I would like to apologize to the Atlanta Falcons, as I had them finishing third in the NFC South behind New Orleans and Carolina, going with the belief that that offense is just Julio Jones and a decent running game. A belief that Julio Jones is what makes Matt Ryan go, and not the other way around.
Sure, if Julio were in Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, or a Peyton Manning led team in the past, he might have had an even better career to this point, because let's be honest, Matt Ryan was about as good as Philip Rivers or Carson Palmer prior to this season. Most fantasy leagues didn't take Ryan in the top five quarterbacks, and his track record shows that they are correct. He had a good running duo and Julio Jones, but Mohamed Sanu had no touchdowns with the Bengals the year before, and Taylor Gabriel was in Cleveland. Tight ends Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper were all below average or unproven, and Justin Hardy wouldn't start for the 49ers. However, they all came through at the same time, and part of that is due to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, part of that is due to the Julio Jones effect of making those around him better, and part of that is because Matt Ryan really stepped up this year. To the MVP of the league and his team around him, I apologize for the mistake I made not putting you in the postseason, but I don't think anybody outside of Georgia had you going to Houston with an MVP quarterback.