The Cup Tips!

For a majority of the world, this is one of the biggest sporting days of the past four years – the opening day of the 2006 World Cup. I’m pumped!
There are two games today, host
Germany takes on Costa Rica at noon and Poland faces Ecuador at 3 (EST).
Having the host team open things up is a new tradition. In years past, the defending champion got the honor. They may have stopped that after France was knocked off in their first game in 2002. Germany of course is a traditional soccer power, but they’ve slipped since the last World Cup. But, they are the home squad and the host nation tends to do well in these large competitions. Costa Rica qualified third out of the United State’s qualifying group, CONCACAF and probably was picked to face the Germans first because most expect the Ticos to lose. But don’t sleep on them. Costa Rica is not a bad team and nearly advanced to the knockout round in 2002.
In the other matchup, Poland is a slight favorite against the South American squad. The knock on Ecuador is that the can only win when they are at high elevation like in their home stadium in Quito. Ecuador has not fared well in recent friendlies, going 0-3-1 in their last four. Look for Poland to take advantage of a likely friendly crowd and get the win.

Closing The Mills

The NCAA is finally starting to do something about the nasty trend of artificial high schools for basketball players, by
disallowing credits from 15 “schools.” Of course, being the NCAA, they pretty much whiffed on the actual diploma mills (none of the 15 schools still have teams and some never did), but it looks like they are headed in the right direction.
If you aren’t aware of the trend, what happens is that some coach, usually an AAU snake, decides that he really wants to run an elite high school team. So he finds a group of top players who aren’t doing well in regular high schools and he founds a school where they are the only students. Usually they have only a couple (if that) teachers, and those are rarely real teachers with certificates. The schools then give out pretty much all A’s to their players. The attraction for the players is easy to see – a good basketball team, no actual schoolwork and instant college eligibility (if they can just manage a minimal SAT score). It’s disgusting and I’m glad the NCAA is finally acting.

Continue reading “Closing The Mills”

Diff’rent Stokes

I love Terry Holland and I have a soft spot for Ricky Stokes too, but this just isn’t right. Ricky Stokes, once the spunky point guard who helped take Virginia to the 1984 Final Four, is now the coach at ECU. Stokes had a rough first year, going 8-20 and has responded by revoking the scholarships of eight players. Eight! Most of those guys were recruited by his predecessor, Bill Herrion, but at least one player was recruited by Stokes.
Now, I understand that a coach’s job is to win and to win you need talent. I also understand that I don’t know the whole story here. There are hints that many of these players were unhappy and threatening to transfer. But this whole thing stinks. These eight players now must all find another place to play with very short notice. While ECU can cut them loose with no warning, the players can’t just transfer somewhere else and play right away. They have to sit out a year even though it wasn’t their choice to leave.
That sucks. You’re better than that, Ricky Stokes.

ACC Players Win NBA Titles

You want to win an NBA title? You better get yourself some ACC players, pronto! Draft them, trade for them, sign them – just get them.
Why?
I’ll tell you why – since 1990, there have been 16 NBA Finals. In twelve of those years, one team had more players from the ACC than the other team. Of those twelve teams, eleven won the title. Eleven out of twelve! That’s a nearly 92% win rate.
Wanna know who’s going to win the NBA Championship this year? The Dallas Mavericks. With Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Josh Powell, they sport three ACC veterans. The Miami Heat? None. Zilch. Nada. And that’s about their chance of winning too. The four other NBA teams since 1990 to manage to reach the finals without an ACC player combined to win 6 games between them. They all lost in six games or less.
The Dallas Mavericks – your 2006 NBA Champs.

Year Western Champion

ACC Players

Result Eastern Champion

ACC Players

1990 Portland Trailblazers

1

1–4 Detroit Pistons

1

1991 Los Angeles Lakers

3

1–4 Chicago Bulls

3

1992 Portland Trail Blazers

2

2–4 Chicago Bulls

3

1993 Phoenix Suns

1

2–4 Chicago Bulls

3

1994 Houston Rockets

2

4–3 New York Knicks

1

1995 Houston Rockets

4

4–0 Orlando Magic

3

1996 Seattle SuperSonics

1

2–4 Chicago Bulls

2

1997 Utah Jazz

0

2–4 Chicago Bulls

1

1998 Utah Jazz

0

2–4 Chicago Bulls

2

1999 San Antonio Spurs

1

4–1 New York Knicks

2

2000 Los Angeles Lakers

2

4–2 Indiana Pacers

3

2001 Los Angeles Lakers

2

4–1 Philadelphia 76ers

2

2002 Los Angeles Lakers

1

4–0 New Jersey Nets

0

2003 San Antonio Spurs

2

4–2 New Jersey Nets

0

2004 Los Angeles Lakers

2

1–4 Detroit Pistons

3

2005 San Antonio Spurs

2

4–3 Detroit Pistons

2

2006 Dallas Mavericks

3

0–0 Miami Heat

0

Update: Obviously I can’t even read my own charts. The pattern held 10 times out of 12 previously, not 11 out of 12. Of course, now that Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat knocked off the Mavs in six games, it’s 10 out of 13.

Best Soccer Players Ever

With the World Cup coming up and given that most Americans don’t really know the game’s history that well, I figured I’d do my part to help out.
AskMen.com has a nice article running down their picks for the 20 best soccer players of all time. Give it a read. It’s a nice primer on not just the great players, but also some of the great teams of all time and some past World Cup champions.
Along with that, how about revisiting that great video of some great soccer goals?
And, thanks to the awesome site that is YouTube.com, some cool vids of some of those great players.
George Best didn’t make that list of top 20 players, but any Brit would claim that he was robbed. This video makes a great argument on their behalf.
Of course, you know Pele, but his prime was long ago. I had actually seen very few clips of his game action, so this video really opened my eyes. Incredible. Seriously, don’t skip that one.
And speaking of flashy South Americans, you can’t forget Maradona. Unfortunately, no clips are quite as well done as the Pele one, but I’ll make it up with two good ones. The first is just an amazing clip of him juggling a ball while warming up for a game. Check the stuff he does while seemingly not even trying. And now some clips of him actually playing, including one the most famous goals of all time, his 2/3 field run against England in the ’86 World Cup.
How about a modern player who will likely crack the top-20 list when he’s done? Brazil’s Ronaldinho is not a handsome man, but damn can he do some things with the ball. The flat-footed goal is just sick. This Nike commercial is pretty cool too.
Enjoy.

Glenn Breaks Down The APR

David Glenn did a little reading and put together a couple of table showing how each of the major men’s ACC programs fared in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rates (APR) report. As Glenn reports, these numbers came out in February, but no one seemed to write much about them. I remember looking for the full charts when they came out, but couldn’t find them (after a rigorous minute with Google, I’m sure) and forgot.
A few observations about the charts:
The basketball list looks surprisingly like recent standings, with UNC, Duke and Wake at the top and Clemson at the bottom.
Duke and Wake ranked in the top three in the ACC in both basketball and football.
FSU shocked me by coming in fourth in both sports. Fourth! If it were arrest rates, I would have expected the Noles to shine, but I didn’t think I’d see them near the top of an academic ranking. Good for them.
It appears that NC State’s excuse that they struggle because they have so much more emphasis on academics than their rivals doesn’t really hold up here (or elsewhere, really). The Pack was 10th in hoops and dead last in football.

Open, Says Wie?

I don’t do a lot of breaking story-type articles here – I mean it is a blog – but this one is too good to ignore. 16-year-old Michelle Wie is playing in a US Open – the men’s US Open – qualifier today and after 28 holes, she is apparently
only one shot out of making it.
The qualifier has 153 players competing for 18 spots. It is a one-day tournament and they play 36 holes. To put the difficulty in perspective, there are 48 PGA Tour pros in the field.
Wie is sitting at -2 right now, tied for 20th. That means that a birdie puts her in (right now) and if two or more guys ahead of her bogey holes, she’s in a playoff.
Did I mention that she’s a 16-year-old girl? Incredible. If she makes the top 18 to qualify for the US Open, I think it might just be the greatest accomplishment ever for a female athlete competing against men.
Let’s go Michelle!

World Cup Looms

My main focus on this site is discussion of ACC sports, mostly basketball in football – in that order. While I love those sports, and many others, there is no doubt in my mind what the greatest sporting event in the world is – soccer’s World Cup. The NCAA basketball tournament is great, nearly perfect, but it just doesn’t have the magnitude of soccer’s biggest event. College basketball players are NOT the best players in the world, and you just can’t compare the excitement of a single university’s fans to those of an entire nation.
The World Cup is most like the Olympics in scope, but it’s even better for one key reason – the Olympics consist mainly of sports that few play or are interested in when the Olympics aren’t in progress, while soccer is without question the most popular sport in the world. Literally billions of people play or follow the game. If you consider the sheer size of the sport, combined with the lack of need for abnormal size to play (unlike basketball, for example), you can easily argue that elite soccer has the best athletes in the world.

Continue reading “World Cup Looms”

The Seminole Way

Florida State crime stories – they never grow tired, do they? And this one may be the best yet.
According to Tallahassee police, two former Noles – guys who played this year – linebacker A.J. Nicholson and receiver Fred Rouse broke into current player Lorenzo Booker’s home and stole $1,700 worth of stereo equipment. At first, I thought that maybe this was just an altercation gone wrong, but nope, they broke in a back window like common thieves.
Now, if breaking into homes to steal stereos doesn’t sound stupid enough and if doing it to your own teammate doesn’t up the ante enough, how about this – Nicholson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals just a few weeks ago! The man is a professional athlete!
Oh, but wait, it gets better. You know how the police knew to look for Rouse? Evidently he was clever enough to think to wear gloves during the break-in, you know to avoid leaving fingerprints. But instead of using some generic plastic gloves, he wore his FSU receiver gloves – ones with his number sewn into them … and he left one in the home!
Now I’m wondering if maybe they weren’t wearing their jerseys with their names on the back too.
Of course now that I’ve written all of this, I’m feeling a bit apprehensive. Maybe I’m being a bit hard on these guys. Maybe I should wait a bit and see if there’s a perfectly acceptable explanation. Maybe they both have Lyme disease.