Daily Chuck-N-Duck

Admittedly, this pic is only here to sucker you Detroit folks into reading this post

Some random thoughts, insults, and insights from the day…

More Melodrama

Melo went from Messiah to Marbury in less than 2 weeks. The waffling from myself and my friends alone has been staggering. For months before the trade we didn’t want him. When it became apparent that it was a forgone conclusion that we were going to get him, we spent weeks rationalizing the deal and convincing ourselves we really DID want him. He got here. He was Jesus in Blue and Orange for a week or so…then he proceeded to meltdown, mope, complain, pot-call, coast, slack, chuck, and matador his way to the NYC doghouse. My wife can’t even keep up. She witnessed me go all junior-high school-girl-at-a-Bieber concert when he made his Knicks debut. Then she witnessed me bashing him during his PUTRID outing against the Bucks this past weekend and was totally confused.

“I thought you loved him?!?”

“Once upon a time, baby…once upon a time.”

Nameology

As I was pondering the greatest all-time sports names today (post coming soon), it occurred to me that one of the great names of all time never came to fruition…If Henry and Virginia Bibby had named their son Bobby instead of Mike, we would have been treated to, arguably, the greatest NBA name of the last few decades:

BOBBY BIBBY.

C’mon. How could they have missed this? That is irresponsible sports-parenting. It’s probably a little late to call Child Protective Services but maybe I’ll hand-write the Bibby’s a letter expressing my concerns.

Barry Bail Bonds

The sports-journalism world was abuzz this morning with news of the commencement of jury selection in Bonds’ steroid trial. SportsCenter ran a piece that showed some old footage of Barry in a Pirates uniform, weighing less than Oliver Perez’s confidence, running around the bases like a gazelle. All I could think was…HOW DID HE THINK THAT EARRING WAS OKAY??

And just in one ear too...awful

Thanks for listening people.

-by Max Joice

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Top 5 MLB Rookies To Watch In 2011

Note From The Editors: It has come to our attention that this blog has been extremely basketball-centric of late and we strive to provide you with more balance than that. Sorry. We got caught up in all the basketball-madness. We’re sending you an apology cookie, via carrier pigeon, and it could arrive at any moment. Eyes to the sky, people. Anyway, In the middle of this crazy NBA season, and this already-nerve-rattling, bracket-demolishing NCAA Tournament, there’s also been this whole Spring Training thing that has been conspiciously absent from this space…no longer. Since I love top 5 lists, that’s how we’ll throw out our first pitch of the Outsider baseball season…

The 2010 MLB season was a banner year for the rookie class. Several highly touted prospects came up to the majors and made an impact, most notably Jason Heyward (who is basically a young-Daryl Strawberry minus the cocaine & booze), Buster Posey, Neftail Feliz, and Elvis Andrus. Each of those guys not only shined, but were major contributors to playoff teams.

The 2011 rookie crop is poised for more of the same. Here are 5 guys you should expect impact performances from.

5) Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals

I feel for Royals fans, I really do. A once-proud franchise reduced to rubble by big-market money, a declining fan base, and several failed draft picks (has Alex Gordon hung up the spikes yet? Enough already). Might Mike Moustakas, who’s been highly touted for what seems like a decade, be the one to kick-start the turnaround? If last season’s minor league performance was any indication, he just might be. In 118 games, split between AA and AAA, Moustakas hit .322 with 36 HRs and 124 RBIs. That’s a MONSTER season on any level and came on the heels of a disappointing 2009 season, which saw him fall from his top-prospect perch. He’s a big kid and he should hit for power immediately, even if his average isn’t stellar as a rookie. Royals fans…enjoy.

4) Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds

We got to see a little of Chapman’s 100 mph-heat last season but, barring injury, we should be in for a full season of it this year. Expect more of the same: ridiculous fastball, filthy slider, & some control issues. He probably won’t be much of a fantasy-play in standard roto formats as he will most likely be used in middle relief/setup situations, but he will be fun to watch as he is groomed as the eventual replacement to the over-paid and over-fed, Fransisco Cordero.

3) Jeremy Hellickson, P, Rays

Hellickson should step right into the rotation slot opened up by the Matt Garza trade (Cubs), and the Rays won’t experience much of a drop-off as a result. Hellickson’s combination of stuff and command is remarkable, even though his nickname is definitely not. It’s Hellboy, in case you were wondering. Hellboy (blech) can run his fastball up to 94, but usually sits at 91-92 with great sink and great control. His changeup is his out pitch and he can move it inside and out. He has the weapons to thrive in the offensive terrordome that is the AL East.

2) J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays

Arenciba is a guy who will not only start right away, but will put up good enough numbers to warrant a late-round fantasy pick. He may not have the pure-hitter contact ability that Posey has, but he certainly has the power. 20-25 homers and 75-80 RBIs are not out the question for this kid if he stays healthy and handles the pitching staff well enough to warrant getting the bulk of the starts. If Jose Bautista is for real (I’m still not buying it), the Jays will have a nice middle-of-the-order trio in Bautista, Arenciba, and Adam Lind. With Travis Snider continuing to develop and Kyle Drabek (another good rookie to watch) and his top-of-the-rotation potential, the Jays have a nice young core to build around.

1) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves

After parting ways with in-season acquisition, Derek Lee, the Braves handed Freeman the 1B gig without so much as a thought to acquiring a veteran to be a stop-gap. That shows how highly they think of the sweet-swinging, slick-fielding, 6’5″ left-hander. Last year, at AAA, he hit .319 with 18 HRs and 87 RBIs. It wouldn’t be a shock to see similr power numbers in his rookie season. The Braves farm system has been tremendous throughout recent years and this kid should help maintain the status-quo and combine with Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, and Bryan McCann to form a potent lineup for years to come…plus his name is Freddie Freeman. There’s a nickname there and it’s eluding me. If you can think of one, post it as a comment and we’ll publish the best one. Goodluck and godspeed.  

Honorable Mention

Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays, Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies, Kyle Drabek, RHP, Blue Jays, Matt Dominguez, 3B, Marlins, Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants, Jesus Montero, C, Yankees

-by Max Joice

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Tournament Day-1 Quick Hits

Well, that didn’t disappoint.

Fans around the country are still trying to catch their breath after a thrilling day one. If this is any indication of what this tournament is going to be like, we’re in for an epic few weeks.

Let’s get right to it…

As the immortal Dick Vitale would say, “PTPers BABY!!”

The big names didn’t fail to disappoint. Jimmer Fredette poured in 32 points (on a very Carmelo-like, 10-25) and dropped 7 dimes in a blowout of Wofford. No surprise there.

“The Bridge Over The River” Kawhi Leonard (too obscure for you? See here) had an excellent game (21 points, 10 boards) in leading SDSU over the pesky lilliputian, Devon Beitzel and No. Colorado. Beitzel put up 25 in a losing effort.

Jacob Pullen didn’t disappoint either, scoring 22 in a win over Utah State, a game which many analysts had picked as an upset special.

The performance of the night, however, probably belongs to Kemba Walker who nearly put up a triple-double, notching 18 points, 12 assists, and 8 boards in an undressing of Bucknell. This is just the beginning for Kemba, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him just get better and better as the tournament rolls on.

Upset Specials & Buzzer Beaters

There were a few big upsets yesterday that blew up a lot of brackets (and a couple that didn’t happen that blew up my bracket…I drank the Izzo-Kool-Aid and it led me to ruin), and more than a few scintillating buzzer beaters.

Richmond stunned Vanderbilt with a big shot by guard Kevin Anderson (25 points), a floater with 18.7 seconds left that proved to be the game winner.

Butler beat ODU at the buzzer thanks to a great hustle play and an enormous amount of luck.

Michigan State was down big to UCLA before mounting a furious comeback on a barrage of threes and a cavalcade of missed free throws from the Bruins (a putrid 30-47 from the charity stripe). The comeback eventually fell short but it was a valiant effort from a tourney-tested team that simply dug themselves too deep of a hole.

Kentucky narrowly avoided an upset at the hands of Princeton, saved by a buzzer beating layup by stud freshman (as if Kentucky actually had any non-freshman in the Coach Cal Era) Brandon Knight. Knight had played poorly up until that point but redeemed himself with a tough scoop in traffic as time expired.

The upset of the day, however, was Kenneth Faried and 13-seed Morehead State downing Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals, the 4-seed. Faried played a monster game putting up 13 points, ripping down 17 boards, and the game saving blocked shot on a last second 3-point attempt. If you read my “Top 5 Under-The-Radar…” piece yesterday, then you know how excited I am to get to watch Faried do work yet again. I love his game and so do NBA scouts. I can’t fail to mention Faried’s teammate, Demonte Harper, who, with ice-water in his veins, nailed the game winning 3 with just over 4 seconds left to play.

In all, a GREAT first day of action. Enjoy day 2.

-by Max Joice

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Melo’s Mouth Bigger than his Game

Before Carmelo Anthony came to New York, we’d all heard rumors about his questionable reputation, more so on the court than off it over the last few years. And before Carmelo Anthony came to New York, the Knicks fielded a team of all-around “good guys” who would NEVER criticize the coach or their teammates through the media. Melo, no more than three weeks after his arrival, has now criticized BOTH the coach AND his teammates in the media after two feeble performances against the mediocre Indiana Pacers. 

“I’m thinking go for whatever is open,” Anthony said after the Knicks lost their third straight. “I really don’t know what everyone else was thinking. I’m thinking if I see somebody that’s backing off me like that, get it to me and let’s see what happens from there.”

Obviously Melo was calling out Jared Jeffries for not getting him the ball with .03 seconds left against Indiana, and he has a point (arguably, anyway. Although the Trent Tucker rule deems it possible to get a true shot off, is it really possible?), but again, three weeks and you’re talking to the media about your displeasure with your teammate? That’s just not what good teammates – “good guys,” if you will – do. If a player goes after his teammates publicly over effort and out of frustration, that’s one thing. But to say something like, “I really don’t know what everyone else was thinking,” is just a massive waste of accusatory energy which he needs to expend on actually playing defense rather than talking to reporters.

Oh, but he wasn’t done. When asked about Tyler Hansbrough’s two titanic performances against the Knicks, Melo said, “I don’t think we made adjustments to him at the top of the key, especially after the game he had in the Garden,” Anthony said in the visitor’s locker room Tuesday. “I’d think we’d have made adjustments after that.”

Of D’Antoni’s defensive schemes in general he said, “[We have to] come up with a scheme or a couple of schemes we’re going to stick with and do better at,” Anthony said yesterday. “Right now, one game we come in with one scheme. Another game we come in with a different scheme. I think it’s a bit confusing at times.”

Again, everything he said may be true, but does this grown man really still not understand that you can broach these issues with the team, the coach, whomever, in private? Is there really any purpose served here except to take blame off himself and put it onto the coaching staff? Wow. Really? Yesterday I was all positive, today I’m all realistic: Carmelo Anthony has A LOT of work to do if ever intends to lead this team to anything. He can start by being more professional on the defensive end and in the locker room.

-by Jamie Fedorko

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Top 5 Under-the-Radar Guys In The Tourney

We’ve covered the 5 biggest stars in the tournament, now we’re identifying 5 guys who are flying under the radar, but should make for must-see-TV.

5) Cam Long, G, George Mason

It should be fun to watch this guy play, even if his run lasts only one game (I have them losing to Nova in round-1). He’s a lights out shooter (43% from behind the arc this season) and he can get hot and put up big numbers. He’s also a hard-worker who rebounds well for a guy his size (nearly 5 boards per game).

4) Josh Smith, C, UCLA

This. Man. Is. HUGE. It looks like he ate Eddy Curry. Like Cam Long and the Patriots, I have Smith and the Bruins losing their first round game but you don’t want to miss that game. Smith, a freshman, is a legit 6’10” and he weighs in at a cool (and conservative?) 305 lbs. He’s a load down on the low block and that might be an understatement. Michigan St. is going to get out and run on this Bruin team, but in the half-court set, Smith should be able to dominate.

3) Kalin Lucas, G, Michigan State

Lucas is the perfect Izzo guy; tough, gritty, and smart. The senior has amassed a ton of tournament experience in his 4 years (3 straight Sweet 16 appearances), and he has become an extension of his head coach on the court. I have Michigan State making a big run in the tournament due largely to the relative weakness of the high seeds in the Southeast region. The Spartans love to get out on the break and push the tempo and Lucas is great in transition. Keep an eye on this kid.

2) Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State

There are 2 main reasons to pay attention to The Wildcats in this tournament: Head Coach Frank Martin’s INSANE facial expressions and Jacob Pullen’s basketball ability (and creepy chinstrap-beard). Pullen averaged over 19 ppg this season and is the kind of tough-minded, high-energy, lights-out shooter that  thrives in big moments. Pullen is not surrounded by a ton of talent so look for him to put The Wildcats on his back and take over a couple of games before their run ends. 

1) Kenneth Faried, F, Morehead State

Dennis Rodman v.2.0. That’s what coaches, scouts, and opposing players have been saying after they’ve watched this Newark, NJ product play.  This guy is an absolute MONSTER on the glass. He has averaged at least 13 boards per game in his last 3 seasons, including 14.5 this season. The hyper-athletic senior has the kind of rebounding instincts that have rarely been seen before. This kid has a great future in the NBA and you can bet that there will be quite a few pro-scouts keeping their eyes on him. You should too. You might see something like this. Or this. Enjoy.

-by Max Joice

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Top 5 Stars To Watch In The Tournament

The Big Dance is upon us and I’m starting to feel giddy and excited like a school girl on the morning of her quinceanera. Try and pretend that I never said that. You can’t, can you? Some things just can’t be undone. Anyway…

This tournament is loaded with impact players primed for superlative performances. Here are 5 guys that should have you glued to your TV sets, computer screens, and smart phones.

 

5) Nolan Smith, G, Duke

My Tar Heel friends are gonna kill me for throwing a Dukie on this list but it had to be done. Nolan is such a classic Coach K guy that it almost makes me sick, but it also makes him a tremendous basketball player and the kind of guy you want leading your team into the tournament. Like all Coach K disciples, Nolan is a heady ballplayer with a high basketball I.Q. and a fundamentally sound game. Originally the starting shooting guard, he’s done a terriffic job of running the point since freshman star Kyrie Irving went down with a definition-defying toe injury, averaging 21 points per game and finishing 2nd in the ACC in dishing. The kid deserves a lot of credit for re-working his game on the fly. In fact, Irving’s injury may prove to be a blessing for Smith as it has shown NBA scouts that he is capable of operating as a playmaker and not just a shooter. This should significantly increase his draft stock as he’s undersized for an NBA 2. Look for Nolan to have some big games and lead Duke on a deep run.

 

4) Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State

I am not in love with this Ohio State team (in fact, I’m not really in love with any of the #1 seeds but that’s another post entirely). I think they are overrated and I can easily see them losing to Syracuse. That said, there’s no question that Jared Sullinger is a beast. He put up big numbers this year (17 pts, 10 boards per) and was clearly one of the best freshman in the country. He’s a mobile mountain-of-a-man with quick feet and great hands. He also has a soft touch and can shoot from distance, but he seems to like playing inside and doesn’t spend too much time trying to be a perimeter player, like so many other bigs who are blessed with shooting range (ahem, Chris “Down Pillow” Bosh). Sullinger should put up some big numbers in the first couple of rounds.

 

3) Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU

There are 3 important questions when it comes to The Chaste One: How many points is he going to put up? How many chucks is it going to take for him to get those points? And, most importantly, how many wives is this dude going to have down the line? In all seriousness, this kid can light it up. By now, everyone knows that. During last seasons tournament he put up 37 in a win over Florida. This year, he had games of 47 and 52 (which came during the Mountain West Conf. Tournament, no less). I have BYU losing to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 so that should give Jimmer, the nation’s leading scorer, a chance to put up some gaudy statistics and mind-boggling shot totals (he’s like a short, white, Carmelo Anthony).

 

2) Kawhi Leonard, F, San Diego State

Kawhi (pronounced Kah-Why) might be my favorite player in the country. The 6’7″ sophmore is a joy to watch. He has a non-stop motor, he’s a tremendous rebounder (11 per game this season), and he’s an active and effective defender, capable of defending multiple positions on the floor. He’s also one of the best pure athletes in the tournament. This guy is only going to get better as he adds more polish to his offensive game and gains a more-consistent jump shot. I have SDSU making a deep run in the tourney so Kawhi should have plenty of chances to showcase his game. If you haven’t seen this kid play yet, he’s a must watch.

 

1) Kemba Walker, G, UCONN

This kid is BIG TIME. I usually hate on undersized 2 guards coming into the NBA draft but Kemba’s got me believing that he’s going to be an impact player for a long time. His offensive game has evolved so much from his freshman year to this, his junior season, and he’s shown the ability to knock down big shots, as we saw in the Big East Tournament. Kemba might be the quickest guard I’ve seen since Allen Iverson and, actually, their games are very similar. They are both explosive athletes with tremendous lateral quickness. They both have great handle and utilize the crossover dribble (although, AI’s crossover may never be equalled) to create space for their excellent mid-range jumpers. I’m not saying that Kemba is going to be as good as The Answer, but he has a chance to be something special. I expect him to lead The Huskies on a run to, at the very least, The Sweet 16, and possibly even further. He’s the kind of player that seems to love the spotlight and is at his best when it matters most. This should be fun to watch.

-by Max Joice

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UPSET ALERT: Top-5 Round-1 Upsets to Watch

Upset Special?

Oakland v. Texas
Oakland has an NBA-ready-center, an excellent point-guard, tournament experience, and a far superior coach.  In theory, they have what it takes to pull off the upset.  That said, Texas is playing well coming into Friday and they are obviously a much deeper team.  This will come into play towards the final 4-6 minutes of the game.  If Oakland can stay out of foul trouble and keep from turning it over, they can pull this off.  Greg Kampe (the Grizzlie’s coach) mentioned, after watching film on Texas, that he noticed many similarities to Tennessee.  Oakland defeated the Vols in Tennessee in December.  One thing is for certain, this Oakland team will not be intimidated off the floor.

Utah State v. Kansas State
Kansas State has one of the best guards in the country in Jacob “Chinstrap” Pullen, but his supporting cast is laughable.  Utah State has been dancing for a few years now but hasn’t gotten over the hump.  They are an experienced team with enough talent to contain Pullen and keep this close.  Look for a great game from the tip as I don’t see either team pulling away.

Michigan State v. UCLA
This UCLA team is getting more love than I thought they would.  They aren’t tough, they can’t run, and they are sub-par shooters.  I don’t like this Bruin team at all.  The Spartans, however, are one of only two teams in the country that have been to the Sweet 16 in each of the past three years. (Xavier is the other).  They are as experienced as they come, we know Tom Izzo will get 120% out of his talent, Kalin Lucas is coming off of a thirty-point performance, and they have the best (easiest) draw of any 10-seed in the tournament.  This isn’t much of an upset (sportsbooks have State favored) but its one to watch.

St Johns v. Gonzaga
I love that the Zags’ come in as the underdog here.  They aren’t America’s sweethearts anymore.  They quietly enter the tourney as the 11-seed to find themselves matched up against a wounded St. John’s team on the down-swing.  Without the help of some of the worst officiating anyone can remember, the Johnnies would have lost to Rutgers!  Lavin and the 90 seniors he inherited have given us a great story, but I think the Zags cut it short.

Belmont v. Wisconsin
I’ve been hearing too much talk about some other potential upsets and I want to put one in particular to sleep now.  Belmont, a 30-win team, is seemingly every one’s first round upset-lock.  Yes, I am completely aware that Wisconsin threw up 33 points in a post-season game….but they only allowed 39!  Bo Ryan is a brilliant game-manager and he hasn’t forgotten this overnight. Wisconsin, a far superior team, will take this in a blowout from the tip. Don’t believe the hype!

-by Lowell Ahee

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