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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    



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Wizards-Bulls Game 1 Recap
by
Apr 20, 2014 -- 10:33pm

The Wizards won a Game 1in a 7-game playoff series for the first time since the 1979 NBA Finals.  The good, bad, and more from the 102-93 win in Chicago.

Good:

1.  Nene.  He made it a point with a backcourt of playoff newcomers to be the aggressor early and often, taking the pressure off of Wall and Beal early.  His offense was spectacular and efficient the entire game but his defense was as important as anything he did all night.  He made it so difficult for Noah to facilitate Chicago's offense from the high post and/or via the pick and roll.  At least in this game, he was better than Noah and that as much as anything else determined who's team won the game.

2.  Down-the-stretch defense.  The Wizards held Chicago to 2-11 from the floor over the final 5 minutes with 3 blocked shots.  One of the made shots was a Noah tip-in which should have been waived off for offensive goaltending.  Nene was the major defensive force but Ariza, Wall, Gortat, and Beal all got it done on the defensive end where it mattered the most down the stretch.

3.  Andre Miller.  His 10 points on 5-7 shooting over a 7-minute stretch spanning late 3rd into the early 4th was huge.  Wittman had a tough decision in that 4th quarter about pulling Miller for Wall's normal 4th quarter minutes.  Miller played 14 minutes tonight....I'd be suprised if he doesn't get more as the series goes on.  He's a great option when they need good halfcourt basketball with a good low-post mismatch for him to take advantage of.  Augustin couldn't guard him.  

4.  2nd-half free throw shooting & rebounding.  After allowing 9 offensive rebounds while shooting just 12-21 from the free throw line in the first half, the Wizards bounced back by going a perfect 14-14 from the line while allowing just 4 Chicago offensive rebounds in the 2nd-half. 

5.  Interior passing.  Nene and Gortat are excellent passers and regardless of whether their passes lead directly to a bucket, they almost always make the right play.

6.  Leadership from Nene yes, but Ariza too.  Nene was clearly the Wizards MVP in Game 1 but Trevor Ariza hit some huge shots when they fell behind by 12 early in the 3rd and really seemed to be the other vocal leader all night long.

Bad:

1.  1st-half free throw shooting and rebounding.  Missing 9 free throws while allowing 9 offensive Chicago rebounds was the reason they were down 6 at the half.  Noah and Gibson were toying with the Wizards in that 2nd qtr.  Booker in particular struggled during that stretch.  Rebounding may be the key stat in this series.

2.  Rough shooting night for Wall & Beal.  They combined to go 7-25 from the floor although they did go 15-17 from the line.  Beal missed some really good looks especially late.  I didn't think Wall took too many bad shots either but he missed badly on a few of em.  The encouraging news...they won a game on an off-night for both.

More:

1.  There were 13 players in the game that finished in double figures.  Chicago had 7, the Wizards 6. 

2.  Chicago's 54 points in the first half were a ton for them but they got those points on just 5 assists.  Their offensive rebounding was the key.

3.  Wall had some sloppy turnovers and didn't look totally comfortable with the ball at times when he came back in for Miller in the 4th.  Still, his defense was solid and he didn't force much which usually for him means even more turnovers.

4.  The Wizards have a size and skill advantage down low with Nene and Gortat.  Noah is an incredible defender but Nene appears to be one of the few that can match if not exceed Noah's strength. 

5.  Wittman's sub pattern a little different than the regular season.  The rotation was essentially down to 8 players with Harrington and Gooden getting just 5 minutes combined.

 



Pay College Athletes...With What?
by
Apr 10, 2014 -- 8:54pm

Oklahoma State's football team has finished in the top 10 in 3 of the last five seasons.  Its basketball team has been pretty good too.  The Cowboys have made the NCAA Tournament the last two years. 

Thanks mostly to the success of its football and basketball teams over the last few years; Oklahoma State's athletic department generated $87,270,598 in total revenue in 2013.  Not too bad.  It's the kind of money that has so many people screaming "pay the players"! 

Paying the players is a cute theoretical sentiment if not battle-cry but it's not real-world practical.  See, Oklahoma State's athletic department expenses in 2013 totaled $96,782,619.  Let me do the math for you.  Oak State lost $9,512,021 in 2013. 

Now, fortunately for the athletes in Stillwater, the athletic department received $6,234,934 in subsidies to keep it close to afloat.  Subsidies in college sports usually mean some student fees, government funds, and lots of borrowing from the academic side of campus.  That's right.  The hard work and commitment of the student-only students (with the help of their parents) help fuel chartered flights and purchase new basketballs and football helmets.

Truth is, most major college sports programs lose money.  It ruins the myth doesn't it.  According to data in USA Today from the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, only eight programs at public universities broke even or had net operating income from athletics each year from 2005-2009.  Over the last five years, there are a few more than those eight that make money but roughly 90% either break even or lose. 

Sure college football and basketball generates gobs of cash thanks to ticket sales, donations, marketing fees, sponsorships, bowl and tournament revenue, concessions/merchandise, and distributions from lucrative television contracts. 

But the college sports business model doesn't end with the "gross revenue" line.  This is the part the theoretical white-board drawing screamers always miss.  College sports are a low-margin business.  Supermarkets generate lots of cash too but expenses are high therefore profit margins are low.  Same goes for college sports. 

The costs are high.  Equipment (and there's a lot of it), travel, coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, training facilities, doctors, special dining halls, specialty food, ticket sales staffs,  marketing and merchandising staffs, and the list keeps going.  It's pricey to run a college sports program. 

One of the biggest direct cost line items is "other sports".  You know the story.  Football and mens basketball pays the freight for everybody else.  The swim team, track team, lacrosse team, and womens' basketball team don't compete without football and mens hoops.   

Now, can Oklahoma State's athletic department spend less?  Yes, but nowhere near enough to give the players a better deal than the one they currently have.

All of the above addresses why most college football and basketball teams can't pay players but it doesn't address how much the players already get for free.

Currently, a college football player at South Carolina gets a scholarship that roughly equates to $30,000 a year for tuition, room/board, books, and meals.  That's an average of the in-state vs. out-of-state costs for that public university. 

That same player also receives free access to a training facility, a personal trainer, a personal dietician, a personal medical staff including internist and orthopedist, and oh by the way, free coaching.  No small thing.  Try not playing at Duke and hiring Uncle Phil instead of Coach K to work on your pick and roll defense.  If not for this little thing called an athletic scholarship, the player or more likely the players' parents or guardians would have to write a few checks totaling an estimated $30,000 a year for just those services alone. 

Oh and by the way.  For those that think Texas A&M made a ton of money off Johnny Manziel so "pay him", would anybody have any idea who Johnny Manziel was if he had just shown up at a Houston Texans open-tryout in the Woodlands instead of playing in the SEC in front of the "12th man"?  Texas A&M, the SEC, college football on ESPN and ABC and Fox....that was Johnny Manziel's personal marketing platform and it didn't cost him anything.  Without A&M, the SEC, and college football, "Johnny Football" would still be available to be trademarked.

If I were the NCAA, I'd deliver this message to the parents of athletes who think their sons should be paid.  "Sure we can pay your son Mrs. Johnson.  Not sure how much though.  The starting QB is likely going to get a lot more than the backup right guard but regardless what position your son plays or how much he earns here Mrs. Johnson, we'll need your address so we can send you our $30,000 annual tuition invoice and your son's W-2 tax form.  Also Mrs. Johnson, your son will have access to our wonderful trainers but they cost $100/hr.  Welcome to the U Mrs. Johnson...please sign here."



Jackson Deal Is A Worthwhile Risk
by
Apr 02, 2014 -- 11:52am

Like any business deal, the signing of an NFL player is a risk-reward proposition.  The risk-reward game in the NFL is tough because the league is designed for equality, not capitalism.  Each team is equal when it comes to spending limits on players so spending poorly or taking too much risk can cripple a team if the player busts.  There's no tax write-off ability.  See Albert Haynesworth as example #1 of too much risk.

DeSean Jackson is a Redskin this morning.  Was he worth it?

The potential upside reward seems obvious.  Add Jackson to an offense that already has Pierre Garcon, a healthy Jordan Reed, a hopefully maturing "franchise" QB in RG3, and a big-time back in Morris, and the offense could become a juggernaut.  Even with a questionable O-line in spots, the offense was top 10 the last two years.  Jackson's ability to truly stretch the field and defense unlike any player the Skins have had in 20+ years will allow Garcon, Reed, Roberts, and Morris to thrive without the need of tricky schemes.  Reed on a linebacker....laughable.  Garcon consistently on a team's #2 corner....please.  Morris vs. 7 in the box....5.8 yards per carry.  The reward is they could become the one of the best offenses in the NFL.

The risk in the NFL when signing a player is mostly about the "guaranteed" money.  How much are you "required" to pay the player and how much does he count against your future salary cap even if he's a bust is where most of the risk lies.  Sure, some of the risk is the possibility that the team is bringing in a locker room disruption or worse, a disruption to the community, but shelling out a ton of money and tying up a ton of future cap space for a guy that doesn't pan out equals roster disaster. 

Based on early reports, the Redskins will pay a guaranteed $16 million over 3 years.  I wouldn't be surprised if we find out at some point that the $16 million isn't "fully" guaranteed meaning that the Skins have some contractual protection for certain personal conduct situations. 

Bottom line, the deal is a bargain compared to the $30 million in guarantees the Dolphins shelled out last year for Mike Wallace.  It's much less than what Percy Harvin got in Seattle ($25 million guaranteed) and the 'Hawks had to give up picks to get Harvin.  Jackson got barely more than what Eric Decker got from the Jets and less than what Greg Jennings got from the Vikings last year.  He's better than all of the above.  A league-source told me earlier this morning that the deal is as "team-friendly as you can get" for a guy like Jackson.  The Skins got Jackson at a discount and keep in mind, the Redskins didn't lose one player or draft pick to get him.

Bruce Allen did well.  He's done well in this area since he got here.  The Skins aren't the place to come and get paid anymore.  They haven't been that place for several years.  This Jackson deal has Allen's fingerprints all over it.  Snyder/Cerrato would've traded two picks, torn up his contract, and given him a new deal worth $50 million with $30 million guaranteed.  And then of course, he wouldn't have shown up for mini-camp. 

Allen understands NFL risk-reward.  He clearly thinks that the risk/profit ratio on Jackson is worth it and he's right.  Jackson is in his prime, not past it.  He's the best playmaker the Skins have had at wide receiver in more than 20 years.  They have weapons like Garcon and Reed who have the talent to make teams pay for blanketing Jackson.  RG3's progress is still the most crucial offseason question needing an answer but Jackson might accelerate Griffin's improvement.  And the best part, unlike the past, even if Jackson blows up in a bad way, his contract won't ruin the roster.  If he blows up in a good way, it's one of the best deals the NFL has seen in years.  Sounds like low risk/high reward to me.


Skins Playing in Shallow End
by
Mar 13, 2014 -- 9:49am

So far, it's been the shallow end for the Skins in free agency.  Armed with a ton of cap space and roster holes galore, Bruce Allen has dipped his toes instead of diving in for a real swim.  The possible reasons for it are numerous.  Here are a few.

1.  Allen likes his 3-13 roster more than most.  Of the eight "free agency" moves made so far, five have been decisions to bring back part of last year.  Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Baker, Perry Riley, and Santana Moss are back off a 3-13 team.  Did anyone think two days ago that the new Redskins additions thus far would be Roberts, Hayward, and Lauvao?  Maybe Allen has been cautious because he believes a guy like David Amerson is a star in the making while guys like Josh LeRibus, Phillip Thomas, Keenan Robinson, Adam Gettis, Richard Crawford, Chris Thompson, Bacarri Rambo will shine when they finally get their chance.

2.  Allen is counting on the return of "2012 RG3".  If RG3 returns to 2012 form, he'll mask a lot of deficiencies as he did during that 10-6 playoff season.  Allen may believe that a healthy, happy, and braceless RG3 makes spending gobs of money on everyone else pointless. 

3.  The Orakpo deal was too big of a hit to the budget.  Allen put a ton of his 2014 eggs into the Brian Orakpo basket. Orakpo's deal for now eats up $11.455 million of next year's cap.  While it's a lot, truth is if the Skins had wanted to spend big on someone like Byrd or even less on someone like Mitchell, they could've easily made it work.

4.  Allen blames 2013 on Special Teams more than anything else.  Perhaps he thinks the horrific Special Teams' performance was the runaway #1 reason for the 3-13 season.  He wouldn't be that far off with that thinking.  Maybe his top offseason priority was to upgrade a unit that was historically bad.  Remember, Allen comes from Special Teams stock.  He must have been sick at times last year thinking about what his father would say about the Skins' punt coverage unit.  Maybe adding Hayward and Roberts while keeping Riley and Moss is just the beginning of a free agency plan to add the best Special Teamers he can find.

5.  Allen is cheap.  I don't think there's any doubt that Allen is a cost-conscience administrator.  I applaud the work he and Mike Shanahan did over the last four years restoring order to a culture that took pride in paying 15-20% above retail for everything.  With that said, this was the first year in the last four where teams could afford to splurge a bit, particularly if an exceptional player met an exceptional need.  There were exceptional corners and safeties in this free agency class and the Skins had needs at both spots.  With the cap space they had combined with the expected huge increases to the cap moving forward, the play should've been to forego frugal and pay the price for at least one impact defensive player.

6.  Players weren't interested in the Redskins.  There was a time when the Skins got what they wanted.  That was a result of money, irrational enthusiasm for aging players, and good recruitment.  Let's be honest.  Snyder-Gibbs and Snyder-Shanahan are likely better sales-duos than Allen-Jay Gruden.  Gibbs and Shanahan were big names with huge reputations.  Shanahan was one of the more respected coaches in the game outside of this town which is part of the reason players like Garcon and Cofield came here and guys like Hall re-upped for a discount.  The Redskins don't have a compelling pitch right now.  Many of you will hate the thought of this but Mike Mitchell and Corey Graham might be Redskins right now if Shanahan were still here.

7.  Allen didn't like what he saw.  The answer for the Redskins relative inactivity at the high-end of free agency may be a simple one.  Despite all of their needs, maybe Allen and his staff just didn't love any of the players who were available.  Perhaps he viewed Talib, Byrd, Ward, Ware, etc. as guys that weren't worth the money.

8.  Allen likes the draft better.  Allen may believe that he can better fill his needs in the draft.  Even without a first, this is a perceived deep draft and who knows, they may end up with a few more picks if they decide to move Cousins.

Whatever the reasons for not making a big free agency splash, this offseason was the first legitimate "clean-slate" offseason the Skins have had in several years.  They had few obstacles in their effort to improve the roster.  There's plenty of time to do more but the time for doing something really big has pretty much passed.  Only time will tell us if the shallow end was the right end for Allen and the Redskins.



Goodbye ACC
by
Mar 09, 2014 -- 9:37am

Maryland's 61 years as a member of the ACC in basketball ends today.  The ACC has been part of the Maryland fan identity for so long that it seems so wrong to be leaving.  So much about this move has been sad but the countdown to this day has gotten long and anger has turned into acceptance.  Ready or not Big 10, here we come.  Before we go, a few goodbyes. 

Goodbye Cameron Indoor.  Long-time ACC fans can roll the names of venerable buildings off their lips quickly and there are memorable moments for all of those places.  Cole, Reynolds, Carmichael, Little John, Dean Dome….all of them hold special memories for league fans but Cameron has always been extra special.  Every Maryland game there was a treasure for Terp fans but none was better than Shane Battier's senior night.

Goodbye ACC Tournament.  It isn't what it used to be courtesy of expansion but the annual gathering in Greensboro or elsewhere was very much like a family reunion.  There was something cool about the pre-expansion Friday quarterfinals with the fans of eight schools slicing the Coliseum into sections of red (MD and State), two shades of blue (Carolina & Duke), two black and yellows (Wake and Tech), one orange (Clemson), and one orange & blue (UVA).  I left out Florida State because, well, they’re Florida State. 

Four Friday games with an equally divided arena turned into two huge Saturday semifinal games, one of which usually included Carolina and all their fans that had scooped up tickets from the Friday losers. 

The ACC Tournament was an incredible pressure-cooker back in the day.  #1 N.C. State's overtime win over #4 Maryland in the epic 1974 Final was a win or go home game.  Simply put, it was the greatest ACC game ever and arguably the best college basketball game of all-time.  Thompson, Burleson, Towe and Sloan went on to a national title.  McMillan, Elmore, Lucas, and Lefty sat and watched.  That game resulted in an NCAA rule ("The Maryland Rule") allowing more than one team per conference to get an NCAA bid. 

Those of us that have loved this tournament over the years only need a name or a circumstance to wander down memory lane.  Here are a few....Phil Ford, Wally Walker, UNC Four-Corners Ralph, Dennard undercuts Buck, Jimmy V, Len Bias & Lefty, Mark Price, Randolph Childress, Carolina vs. Duke/pick one, JJ Redick, John Gilchrist, Thacker and Packer.

Goodbye season-enders against Virginia.  Almost every year during my lifetime, Maryland finished up its season against Virginia.  A season-ender in Piscataway against Rutgers won't feel quite the same....all due respect.  Senior day/night in both Charlottesville and College Park often included a memorable game. 

After rolling out the portraits of Ralph, McMillan, Lucas, Lamp, Buck, Bias, Stith, Staples, Singletary, Dixon, Blake, Vasquez, there was a game.  Almost all of them included big stakes for at least one of the teams.  Ralph's rebound of a missed a free throw and put-back in his final game at U-Hall was an all-timer.  That one came a year after Branch's shot shocked the #1 Cavs at Cole.  Bias' senior day included a vicious beat down of Olden Polynice.  Wow was his senior day an electric day at Cole.  The final game ever at Cole in 2002 was a 30-point win over UVA.  Virginia rallied from 13-down to win in overtime and dealt a blow to Maryland's NCAA hopes in last year's season-closer.  So long Virginia in early March.

Goodbye Tobacco Road.  Maryland was always the Yankee outsider but it thrived in that role.  No team in league history was more of a consistent threat to Tobacco Road supremacy than Maryland was.  Both Lefty and Gary won big games on the road against all four Carolina schools.   Ask both of them and they'll probably tell you that wins at Carolina, Duke, State and Wake were bigger than many of the wins they got in College Park.  There was something so satisfying when the Terps went into Cameron Indoor or the Dean Dome and won.  They seemed to understand more than anyone else in the league that you don't win decisions on Tobacco Road, you needed a knockout.  And when they got one, it was thrilling.

Goodbye Carolina.  Playing North Carolina was always big.  It didn't matter where it was or when it was, when the schedule came out, you looked for the Carolina games.  Maryland's history with Carolina is special for Maryland fans.  Lefty vs. Dean was always a big deal.  There were pros galore in those matchups back in the day.  Worthy, Jordan, Perkins, Buck, Albert, Bias, Branch.  Gary owned Roy.  Dean owned Lefty.  McMillan beat McAdoo.  Ford and Lucas were even.  Jordan beat Bias on the regular but when Jordan was gone, Bias went for 35 in Dean Dome's first defeat.  Jimmy Black's steal won the '81 Tourney Final over the Terps in Landover.  Antawn Jamsion's put-back at the horn silenced a roaring 14,500 at Cole.  Joe Smith's first big game against Carolina was a win on one of the loudest nights in Cole history.  Greivis Vasquez's triple-double in 2009 bested Hansbrough and Lawson.  Maryland has beaten more #1 teams than any in the history of the league and many of them were against the Heels.

Goodbye State.  Maryland's rivalry with the Pack in the '70's was the best in college basketball for nearly a decade.  It was so big that one of their two games for 5 straight years was televised nationally on NBC right before the Super Bowl.  N.C. State and Maryland are the only other ACC schools other than Carolina and Duke that have won National Championships.  There's always been a certain "us-against-them" kinship that the fan bases have shared as both spent a ton of time looking up at Carolina and Duke.   John Feinstein wrote in his book on ACC basketball several years ago that Norm Sloan and Lefty would talk once a week and the conversation usually started with one of them asking...."do you know what that damn Dean did today?"

Goodbye Duke-Carolina.  You didn't have to be a fan of either school to know how important the two Duke/UNC games were every year for the entirety of the conference.  While those two played on a Wednesday night in February or a season-closing Saturday or Sunday in early March, the rest of the league watched and understood that this is good for all of us.

Goodbye Maryland-Duke games in College Park.  With little debate, the annual MD-Duke game at Cole or Comcast has been the most raucous atmosphere for any sporting event in the DC/Baltimore area for years.  Skins-Cowboys and Ravens-Steelers are close, but the scene in College Park for Duke was unique.

Goodbye Coach K.  Maryland faithful rarely extended pleasantries when he came for his annual visit but most of us admit a great deal of respect for one of the great coaches in the history of the sport.  The legendary coaches have been a huge part of the league over the years.  That legendary list in my lifetime doesn't need last names....Dean, Norm, Lefty, Jimmy V., Gary, Roy, and K.  That's the list from the 70's on.

Goodbye ACC Chants.  Not the sarcastic chants towards Maryland this year but the prideful A-C-C chants made after beating a Big East or Big 10 team, especially when it happened in the NCAA Tournament.  Maryland fans wore the ACC badge with great pleasure and honor as a charter member for 61 years.

Goodbye College Park as the place the rest of the league hated to visit.  There was a certain joy taken by Maryland in being the place the rest of the league thumbed their noses at.  Games at Cole and Comcast were loud, crass, and borderline offensive to visitors.  There’s no doubt that families and friends of Duke, Carolina, and UVA didn’t look forward to the trip up north and many times avoided it.  There weren’t many blazers in the crowd.  The mix was Baltimore, DC, with a big help from NY and Philly.  Oh, and don’t forget the necks from the Eastern Shore.  The atmosphere for a big ACC game was unlike any other in the conference.  Cameron Indoor was loud mixed with clever.  Cole and/or Comcast was twice as big, twice as loud, and clever was replaced with confrontational.  I know the rest of the league gathered in private circles and spoke snobbishly about College Park.  Stories of batteries being thrown and vulgar chants were somewhat exaggerated but believe it or not, the fear factor of an ACC game in College Park will be missed by everyone.

Goodbye ACC.  Maryland will miss you.



Maryland-Duke; The End Seemed Fitting
by
Feb 16, 2014 -- 2:30pm

The final Maryland-Duke game seemed fitting.  Everyone involved did what they've always done.

Maryland did their part.  They fought Duke tooth and nail like they usually do.  The Terps were gunning for their 14th win over Duke in as many seasons.  No other team has won that much against Duke during that span.  There was no fear of Cameron.  The Terps swung back at Duke.  It's what they've always done.

Duke did their part.  They dug down for that something extra that they rarely have needed against most of the other ACC teams.  They got a key stop on defense and big-time drive and dunk for the game-winner.

The Cameron Crazies did their part.  They serenaded the Terps with A-C-C chants and then for old time sake, chanted "Sweat Gary sweat".  Gary hasn't been there for 3 years but it was a nice gesture.  When it became obvious to the Crazies that per usual, Maryland came to win rather than fold, it got loud....real loud.  Coach K said after the game, "that was vintage Cameron man, that was one for the ages."

And of course, the referees did their part.  They whistled 12 fouls on Maryland during the first 13 minutes of the game despite the fact Duke was shooting threes while the Terps were attacking the rim.  At that point, Maryland was on pace for 37 fouls for the game.  They finished with a mere 25 for the game....still 7 more than the home team.  Other than that, not much except a simple case of oops on the possession arrow.  Yes, the held ball with just over 7 minutes left in the game was indeed supposed to be Maryland's possession but somehow (I'm sure innocently??) the refs gave it to Duke.  It wasn't a big deal or anything.  The Terps had a 2-pt lead and would've had a chance to extend it but instead, Amile Jefferson took the possession gift and tied the game with a runner in the lane.

Lastly, it was another in a long line of Maryland-Duke thrillers which seemed fitting and this time, final.



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