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March Madness Final Four, Darkhorses and Champion Predictions

March 15, 2012 Comments off

The SOUTH: Kentucky

Looking at everyone’s brackets, Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite. Though they enter the tournament losing the SEC Championship game to a rising Vanderbilt team, few teams have managed to contain Anthony Davis. If they get matched up with IU in the Sweet 16, it’s hard to see the Hoosiers beating them twice in the same year.

Darkhorse: Duke

The No. 2 seed, Duke, is the only team that could, at will, give Kentucky a run. The Plumlee brothers could contain Davis and have guards to match up with Kentucky’s quick play.

The WEST: Michigan St.

Watching the Big Ten Championship game was enough proof to say the Spartans are Final Four bound. MSU has an all around game that many teams have a hard time defending. When MSU makes runs it is when they are most dangerous as they have streaky shooters along with Green and Nix who can run the floor and play down low.

Darkhorse: Louisville, Missouri

Louisville comes in red hot winning the elusive Big East Tournament and look to keep the momentum going. The team matches up well against MSU with their quick guard, Peyton Siva, and with 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, the lesser-known Anthony Davis, defending down low that boasts one of the best defenses in the country.

Missouri also comes in winning their conference tournament in the Big 12. The Tigers have three players that can knock down the 3 and play fast paced basketball that doesn’t turn the ball over much. They are the safest “live and die by the 3” team out there.

The EAST: Ohio St.

The Buckeyes have a good clear shot at making the Final Four with the absence of Syracuse’s Fab Melo. OSU had a strong showing against the best playing team in America at the time: Michigan St. Sullinger and Thomas come into the tourney playing some of their best basketball. I’m a big fan of a player like Craft who can be a pain to reckon with. He pushes the pace and is in your face, which is a great attribute to have in the tournament setting.

Darkhorse: Florida St.

A team that can beat Duke then North Carolina is no team to underestimate. It was difficult deciding between Florida State and Ohio State because the ‘Noles are the real deal. Both teams are similar, but the edge is to OSU because they create less turnovers and have more consistent offensive threats.

The MIDWEST: North Carolina

The North Carolina story is similar to when they won the whole thing in 2009. A star is hurt and a team’s success is swayed by a player’s health. It was Ty Lawson then, now it’s John Henson. Expecting him to be at least 80% is enough give them the green light to the Final Four. Zeller is playing the best basketball of his career and protects the bucket well. North Carolina always brings their A-game to the Big Dance.

Darkhorse: None

North Carolina will win this Regional.

National Championship Pick: Kentucky

Kentucky has been the team to beat all year, as they are the complete package that can play D, score, and control a game’s tempo, doing it better than any team in the nation. Team-wise, the Wildcats own the best front seven out there; stopping Anthony Davis will not be enough as they have five other scorers than can drop double-digits in any given game.

Kentucky over N. Carolina 66-62

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The ins and outs of the Manning situation

January 30, 2012 Comments off

If Colts fans were told a year ago there’d be a good chance the Colts would trade/release Peyton Manning, the man who literally put the Colts on the map for 13 years, most fans would laugh or call it an absurd proposal. A year later and what a situation the Colts stare at. Those times when Irsay was thinking ‘what would we ever do without Peyton?’ are the present.

What Jim Irsay is facing is likely one of the most difficult and chain-reacting decisions for not only the Colts and NFL, but for American sports in its entirety. Do you cut your Hall of Fame quarterback because of three malign neck injuries? Or opt to keep Peyton – foreseeing a few high-level quarterbacking years from the man who took “ailing franchise” to “Super Bowl contender” in a short time?

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (18) talks with owner Jim Irsay before their game in November. (Sam Riche/MCT)

Positives of Keeping Manning:
A healthy Peyton Manning is a security blanket for any NFL team. Manning is one of the most consistent quarterbacks the league has ever seen. The last time the Colts didn’t have a double-digit winning season or make the playoffs with Manning at the helm was 2001—both NFL records.

It’s respectable to keep a healthy Peyton Manning because he is a proven commodity, but only for a few seasons (I’ll give him three seasons at the most if he stays).

If the Colts keep Manning, it’s also likely that they’ll pick Andrew Luck with the first pick of the NFL Draft. The optimistic outcome of the master-apprentice combo the Colts could sport is the Montana-Young and Favre-Rodgers instances, where the proven Hall of Fame quarterback mentors the upcoming talent. It would be a stretch to see Manning and Luck coexist on the same team, but it’s doable.

It may be out of the question, but imagine seeing Manning play one more sensational year with the Colts winning the Super Bowl, handing the keys to Luck and watch him win a Super Bowl in the next three years. “Luck” would have to be on the Colts’ side, obviously, but that’s the big picture.

Keeping Manning would also be great for the fan base. Paying respect to Manning would seem natural and compassionate for any player who has given so much to a franchise. A disgruntled and unhappy franchise would pressure an organization to make unreliable moves.

Take the Denver Broncos, for instance. When their fans were begging for Tebow to go in to start for Kyle Orton, the staff and organization were surprised. Weeks later, the organization gave in to the fan base’s desire and started Tebow and released Kyle Orton.

For starters, Tebow is inconsistent with his passing and suspect at times with his decision-making. It’d be hard to fully convince anyone that Tebow is the man of the future in Denver. Seeing Tebow start the next season 2-7 isn’t out of the question, either. The possible root of this happening is the unsatisfied fan base.

Keeping a healthy Manning would ensure a couple more good seasons with the franchise and could possibly guide Andrew Luck in a similar direction.

Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson have one of the NFL's best franchises future in their hands on the decision of Peyton Manning. (IndyStar)

Positives of Releasing/Trading Manning:
It hurts to say this, but this is probably what the Colts should do and what they are telling us they are going to do — oust Manning. They’ve cleaned the organization out and have brought in new pieces and looks like they are starting to rebuild.

Cutting Manning by his bonus pay date would save the Colts $28 million. The new defensive-minded head coach, Chuck Pagano, could use that money to help an ailing defense that gave up 62 points at New Orleans. A franchise can do many things with that kind of money, but the slacking defense is what probably the money will used mostly for (and an offensive line).

Cutting Manning would help determine what’s better for the franchise much sooner.

Last year, the absence of Manning was 80 percent of the reason the Colts couldn’t post at least 10 wins. Holes were exposed: the offensive line, the defense and its horrendous secondary. Patching up those holes and optimistically starting Luck for years to come is the option the Colts are most likely eyeing. We all saw what kind of caliber of a team the Colts are with and without Peyton. Cutting him now may not be the solution in the short-term, but will benefit the franchise in the long run.

The Colts would also get the media off their backs as well. Hopefully this isn’t going to end in a dramatic Favre-Packers breakup. Everyone cringed when ESPN brought up a Favre story, in fact, they are still doing it today.

Saying goodbye to Manning would possibly ensure positive outcomes for the future of the Colts, given, that Andrew Luck is proven to be the next Elway or anywhere close to that talent.

Peyton Manning may be on his way out - right decision by Jim Irsay? (IndyStar)

Negative outcomes:
On either side of the keep/release coin are possible negatives that could haunt the Colts franchise for years to come. Tweet-happy Jim Irsay probably wouldn’t be too fond of reading his feed if the wrong move is made.

Let’s say the Colts release Manning and give Luck the call to be the No. 1 draft pick making him the starting quarterback. Boy does he have some shoes to fill. If Andrew Luck turns out to be a Matt Leinart or an injury prone Carson Palmer, the Colts will receive a lot of flack from the fan base.

A bad situation would be for first three seasons the Colts have Luck they go: 5-11, 7-9, and 6-10, not making the playoffs any of those years. While the Colts struggle with that, a jubilant Manning is slinging it to God-knows-who and wins a Super Bowl in that span. How idiotic would the Colts look?

On the other hand, let’s say the Colts keep Manning and proves that he is past his prime and plays for the Colts for two seasons, doesn’t attain 10 wins in either year and doesn’t record a playoff win. In a likely situation, the Colts would release him after those seasons and hand over the keys to Luck, who does a decent job but lacks the offensive line, defense and overall team support necessary to be a top AFC team because of the $28 million Manning was given. In some contract situations, the Colts would be in a hole trying to find pieces to patch up the holes respectively that could take years to build up.

Conclusion:
Try and find a person that could give any solid, convincing advice to Jim Irsay on the Manning situation. Never in the history of sports has one player meant so much to a franchise. A mistake made by Irsay could lead to years of reform by the Colts franchise. Just don’t do anything stupid, Jim.

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