The Duke "traveling not called" videos keep rolling in. Here's one from today's Duke-Virginia Tech game.
Thank you, sir, may I have another?
The Duke "traveling not called" videos keep rolling in. Here's one from today's Duke-Virginia Tech game.
Thank you, sir, may I have another?
This is going to be a busy night here at The Beacon News. Hinckley-Big Rock won the girls Class 1A state championship this afternoon. Our congratulations go out to coach Greg Burks and the Lady Royals. Yorkville is wrestling for the Class 2A state wrestling title tonight against Montini.
So, I don't have time to blog about much of anything. You'll have to settle for this hilarious TV news blooper:
With about 10 days remaining in the regular season, it's a good time to take a look at where all the Big Ten teams stand in terms of NCAA tournament hopes. The guess here is the conference will get seven teams in, but right now only three can feel comfortable.
For purposes of this exercise, we will divide the 11 conference schools into four categories:
1. Mortal locks
2. On the verge, but not in yet
3. Bubble trouble
4. Don't Dream It's Over
Category 1: Mortal locks
1. Michigan State
Overall record: 22-5
Conference record: 12-3
Strength of schedule: 6
Key wins: Kansas, at Texas, Illinois
Key losses: Northwestern, Penn State, Maryland
JB's take: The Spartans are a legitimate Final Four contender -- if they start defending more consistently. Mental lapses have led to a couple foolish homecourt losses in league play. Still, this is the best team in the Big Ten. Key games remain with Illinois and Purdue, but MSU should wrap up its first conference title since 2001.
Overall record: 23-6
Conference record: 11-5
Strength of schedule: 32
Key wins: Missouri, at Purdue, at Ohio State
Key losses: Penn State, at Michigan, at Minnesota
JB's take: The Illini have been lampooned at times for their offensive limitations, but they are the best defensive team in the conference. They rank second nationally behind Washington State for fewest points allowed. Illinois has not lost consecutive games yet this season -- a sure sign of a tournament-worthy team.
Overall record: 21-7
Conference record: 10-5
Strength of schedule: 42
Key wins: Michigan State, Boston College, at Wisconsin
Key losses: at Penn State, at Michigan, Illinois
JB's take: The Boilers' Robbie Hummel was the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year, but he has started only six of Purdue's 15 conference games due to a stress fracture in his back. You have to give this team credit for staying in the top third of the league while its best player missed significant time with an injury.
Category 2: On the verge, but not in yet
Overall record: 16-10
Conference record: 8-7
Strength of schedule: 4
Key wins: Illinois, at Virginia Tech, at Michigan
Key losses: at Northwestern, at Iowa, Minnesota
JB's take: This has been the streakiest team in the Big Ten this year. First, they won three in a row. Then, they lost six in a row. Now, they've won five out of six. A strong RPI and SOS combined with a hot finish should impress the selection committee enough to let the Badgers in, provided they continue on their current hot streak.
5. Ohio State
Overall record: 18-8
Conference record: 8-7
Strength of schedule: 27
Key wins: Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Butler
Key losses: at Northwestern, West Virginia, at Wisconsin
JB's take: Some non-conference wins over bubble teams from other leagues have put Ohio State in good standing. A win at Purdue Saturday would make the Buckeyes a lock. If not, the final two games are winnable against Iowa and Northwestern. If Ohio State gets to 10 conference wins, it is in.
Overall record: 20-8
Conference record: 8-8
Strength of schedule: 40
Key wins: Louisville, Illinois, at Wisconsin
Key losses: at Northwestern, at Penn State, at Michigan
JB's take: The Gophers haven't won on the road in forever, having dropped their last five away from Williams Arena. The selection committee won't like that, but the final two regular-season games are at home against decent competition (Wisconsin, Michigan). Two wins there will probably be enough to get this team in.
Category 3: Bubble trouble
Overall record: 17-11
Conference record: 8-8
Strength of schedule: 11
Key wins: Duke, UCLA, Illinois
Key losses: at Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin
JB's take: This team has both quality wins and foolish losses to its credit. The Wolverines finish with road games at Wisconsin and at Minnesota. That's not real favorable. They better win at least one, because they probably won't get in with a sub-.500 conference record.
8. Penn State
Overall record: 19-9
Conference record: 8-7
Strength of schedule: 84
Key wins: at Michigan State, at Illinois, Purdue
Key losses: Rhode Island, Temple, Wisconsin
JB's take: This is the only team to beat Illinois in Champaign so far this year, and the Nittany Lions also won in East Lansing. That's impressive. That strength of schedule ranking is not. Penn State needs to win its final three regular-season games to get in, the most difficult of which is a rematch with Illinois.
Category 4: Don't Dream It's Over
Overall record: 15-11
Conference record: 6-9
Strength of schedule: 51
Key wins: at Michigan State, Florida State, Minnesota
Key losses: Purdue, Illinois, at Iowa
JB's take: The Wildcats made significant strides over last year's 1-17 conference campaign, but blowing double-digit leads in the second halves of games against Purdue and Illinois robbed them of a chance to add quality wins to their resume. As a result, this team is headed to the NIT.
Overall record: 14-14
Conference record: 4-11
Strength of schedule: 46
Key wins: Kansas State, Wisconsin, Michigan
Key losses: at Drake, at Indiana, at Boston College
JB's take: The Hawkeyes lacked scoring punch coming into the season, and an injury to Cyrus Tate took away their lone presence in the paint. Iowa needs to win two out of its last three games and win at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament just to get over .500 and qualify for an NIT bid.
Overall record: 6-21
Conference record: 1-14
Strength of schedule: 8
Key wins: Iowa
Key losses: Northeastern, Lipscomb, St. Joseph's
JB's take: Hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over!
Here's some Crowded House to take us home:
Just to get the weekend off to a good start, here's another video of a Duke player getting away with traveling.
This time, we have Josh McBobs moonwalking across the floor. Props to my good friend Chris Francisco, Kansas fan and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Oklahoma State University, for bringing this one to my attention.
Former Bulls great and Comcast SportsNet commentator Norm Van Lier was found dead at his home on Chicago's West Side Thursday. He was 61.
People of my age don't remember Van Lier as a player, but he was a three-time All-Star who teamed with Jerry Sloan to form a strong backcourt on some successful Bulls teams in the 1970s.
I will miss Van Lier's candid analysis on Comcast SportsNet. His insights on the Bulls during the championship era of the 1990s were always informative and worth a listen. And for a time during the post-Jordan era, Norm's remarks on the pre- and post-game shows were the only reason to tune into a Bulls game.
When the Bulls really sucked (even worse than they do this year), Van Lier wasn't shy about saying they sucked. He had a tremendous passion for basketball. That came through in his commentary, and he pulled that off without resorting to the hyperbole that is so commonplace in today's sports media.
Judging some of the comments collected by the Sun-Times reporters today (click on the link above), Van Lier will be missed by everyone in the Chicago basketball community. Basketball fans will miss him, too.
While we're on the topic of making fun of Duke, here's another atrocious call that went in the Blue Devils favor.
Beacon News designer Michael Lush brought this one to my attention:
I always say Duke gets favorable treatment from the officials. ESPN analysts always insist it does not. I have video evidence that they are wrong and I am right.
I have to admit, spring training starts a little early and runs a little long this year. Is it really necessary to have guys report Feb. 13 when the season doesn't start until April 6?
Do teams really need 38 spring training games to determine the roster? I'd say about 20 games would suffice.
At least the White Sox are having some fun while they're stuck in Arizona for seven weeks. This week, the joke was on Gordon Beckham, the Sox first-round pick in last June's draft.
Beckham apparently let it slip during a conversation with A.J. Pierzynski that he does not know Harold Baines, one of the Sox coaches and one of the great players in the history of the franchise.
Beckham was mocked in a team meeting Monday and presented with a photo of Harold Baines posing next to his statue at U.S. Cellular Field, a photo much like the one posted here.
Joe Cowley's blog has more details on the prank.
You'll also note that Joe is reporting that Brian Anderson is a lock to make the Sox roster this year. This should cause much rejoicing among the FOBA (Friends of Brian Anderson).
See, the Minnesota Twins are already indoctrinating Joe Crede into their bitty-ball way of doing things.
That's Crede, the former White Sox third baseman, pictured at left. Crede is known for his extra-base power and slick defense, but perhaps Minnesota is planning on using Joe's bunting skills and blinding speed to its advantage this season.
OK, maybe not.
At any rate, I agree with Ozzie Guillen's comments on Crede. It was time for both parties to move on.
Crede was a good player for the Sox. He had a great postseason in 2005. I wouldn't have all that World Series memorabilia hanging on my apartment wall without Crede. I wouldn't have any World Series T-Shirts or hats either.
But time marches on, and the fact is Crede hasn't been healthy for two years. Crede's back injuries limited him to 47 games in 2007. He played in 97 games last year before those same back issues flared up again. His once Gold Glove-caliber defense regressed significantly in 2008, as he committed a whopping 20 errors in those 97 games.
I have no doubt that Crede can still be a productive player when healthy. I just don't trust that he can stay healthy any longer.
For that reason, I agreed with the Sox decision not to try to resign Crede. It doesn't matter how good a player a guy is while he's sitting on the disabled list.
I don't wish Crede well because he plays for a rival team now. But I do thank him for the memories.
I was dismayed this morning when I read in the Chicago Tribune that Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells (left) disappointed scouts by running a 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Actually, I wasn't dismayed at all. I didn't give a crap and neither should you. I've been amazed by the number of column inches and TV reports I've seen devoted to the Combine this week.
Obviously, it is important for NFL teams to do their due diligence on all these prospects. After all, they'll be investing millions of dollars in whomever they select in this year's draft.
I just wonder why the public would care so much. The Sporting News devoted several pages to the Scouting Combine in its most recent edition. I skipped right over it. The Tribune is giving its readers daily updates.
Thank goodness for that, because I'm not sure if I could go on without the knowledge that UConn running back Donald Brown impressed with his 11.30-second 60-yard shuttle on Sunday.
I don't get the NFL Network at my apartment, but if I did, I could have watched defensive linemen go through their workouts at the Combine today. Thrilling.
Now, let's think about this. Why would I want to watch a bunch of morbidly obese future NFL linemen waddle through the 40-yard dash? Anyone who cares about this stuff really needs to find a hobby.
I've been to my fair share of football practices from my days as a reporter, and let me tell you, it's some of the most boring stuff imaginable. I can't imagine actually choosing to use some of my valuable free time to watch the NFL Scouting Combine.
Interesting remarks from recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons on Taylor Bell's blog today.
"(Illinois coach Bruce) Weber is painted as a bad recruiter by Illini Nation and other people read the Internet, including college coaches, recruits, fans and alumni," Gibbons said. "That negativity fuels the fire and hurts the program. Other kids are made aware of what people are saying about Illinois. It can have a lot to do with how they deal with the recruiting process."
I can't say I agree with that. Weber's recruiting was subpar by any standard his first three years at Illinois. He brought in his first good class in 2007. That group of Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis - now sophomores - has been instrumental in returning Illinois to respectability in the Big Ten this year. Weber has a good class signed for 2009 and some impressive verbals for 2010.
I can say with great confidence the Internet fans are just as idiotic now as they were four or five years ago when Weber couldn't get anyone to take his scholarships. The fans haven't changed at all, but Weber's recruiting success has changed for the better. I'm having trouble making a correlation there.
Overall, I'm really skeptical that fan attitudes have that much say in where kids go for college.
This is a big weekend for mid-major college basketball teams: It's BracketBuster time.
BracketBusters was created as a way to match up mid-major teams late in the season and give them some exposure a few weeks ahead of the NCAA tournament. It is also a chance for college basketball fans to see some teams they normally wouldn't see on TV, as several of these games are televised on ESPN and its family of networks.
There are 27 total games that are part of BracketBuster weekend, and judging by the slate of matchups, it looks like this event has overexpanded a bit.
Don't get me wrong: There are some good games that are going to be played over the course of the next 24 hours. Champ Oguchi (left) and Illinois State (22-5) play at Niagara (21-7) at 6 o'clock tonight on ESPN2.
That's the ideal BracketBuster game. The third-place team in the MVC is playing the second-place team in the MAAC. Both have over 20 wins. Both are trying to get into the NCAA tournament. Both could conceivably give a big conference school fits in a tournament game come March.
But there's a flip side to this event. Some of these BracketBuster games are real crap. Who in the hell decided Northern Illinois (7-17, 3-9 MAC) should get a chance to play? If you've seen the Huskies this year, you know they suck. They might be able to bust a bracket in a rec league at the local Y, but methinks they won't be doing anything in the postseason this March.
Here's the funny thing: I'll bet NIU wins tomorrow. Look at its opponent -- Southeast Missouri State is 3-24 overall, 0-16 in the Ohio Valley. Dead last place, terrible, barely even Division I. BracketBuster? I think not.
I'd like to see the scheduling for this event become a little more selective. Reward the good mid-majors. Reward the traditionally strong mid-majors. Kick schools like Southeast Missouri State to the curb. Given that 3-24 record, I doubt those guys really want the exposure this year anyway.
We've been hearing for quite awhile now that White Sox pitcher Jose Contreras is way ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last August.
Originally, no one expected Contreras to be back before the All-Star break. Now, we're hearing the veteran right-hander could be on the Sox roster when the season opens.
"He is in the mix, yes," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told the Sun-Times. "We are not going to rush him to get back. He will dictate what move we're going to make. Of course he's in the mix, and that's good news."
I saw video of Contreras working out on Comcast Sportsnet the other night. He looks like he's in great shape. I believe it when people say he has lost 30 pounds. He used to look like he was 50 years old. Now, he looks like he's 40. The Sox need him to pitch like he's 30.
Obviously, Contreras will not be the Sox starter on Opening Day. Barring something unforeseen, Mark Buehrle will get the ball April 6 against the Kansas City Royals. But for the fourth or fifth game of the season, I'd much rather see Contreras on the mound than Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez, Lance Broadway, et al.
If the Sox are going to repeat as AL Central champs, I think they'll have to get a significant contribution from either Contreras or Fatolo Colon at the back of the rotation.
There's been a lot of talk this week about the Cubs possibly moving Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot. Surprisingly, manager Lou Piniella said he's going to consider the lineup switch during spring training.
I have a lot of empathy for Piniella. The media who follow the Cubs daily are some of the most idiotic people on the face of the planet. Piniella has to deal with more stupid questions than any other coach or manager in Chicago. For two years, the Cubbie media have been relentless in asking Piniella to move Soriano down in the lineup. It seems like the Cubs fans agree with the media.
As usual, I disagree with Cubs fans. Soriano should stay in the leadoff spot.
First of all, the Cubs have won back-to-back NL Central titles with Soriano as the primary leadoff hitter. Last year, they won 97 games. That kind of success is almost unprecedented in the history of the Cubs. That's the kind of success you don't want to mess with.
Sure, the Cubs choked in the playoffs, and Soriano played terrible. But you can't let one bad week cause you to overreact.
And, it isn't like the Cubs have a host of other glowing leadoff options. If Jim Hendry had gone out and acquired Brian Roberts to play second base, then, yeah, you move Soriano down. But that didn't happen. Do people really think Piniella's other options for the leadoff spot are all that great?
Mike Fontenot? The guy had a nice year in a part-time role last season, but he's yet to prove he can play everyday in the big leagues. Ryan Theriot? Talk about the ideal No. 2 hitter. His inside-out approach is perfect for hitting behind runners. He batted second last year, and that's exactly where he belongs. Kosuke Fukudome? That guy is good for two things: Selling T-shirts and selling Japanese headbands.
So, if I were Lou Piniella, I'd tinker around this spring just to get the Chicago media to stop asking stupid questions about Soriano. Then, I'd bat Soriano first. And if I were a Cubs fan, I'd leave Sori alone. You're lucky he's willing to perform for you.
And just to drive my point home, here's a video of that creepy "Leave Britney Alone" guy:
Leave Sori alone!
I don't make a habit of writing about steroids on this blog because, frankly, I'm sick of hearing about it. But I'm going to break from tradition here to make a couple remarks about Alex Rodriguez.
Here's his comment that caught my attention from yesterday's press conference:
"My cousin started talking to me about something that was available for purchase in the streets of the (Dominican Republic)," Rodriguez said. "He said it was called 'boli' or 'bole.' We decided it would be a good idea, and my cousin started administering it to me. ... We consulted no one. ... It was pretty evident we didn't know what we were doing."
This is the thing that really amazes me about these steroid confessions - how they always plead ignorance about what the drug is and how it works.
I'm a 32-year-old newspaper hack, not athletic at all at this stage of my life, and I don't put any drugs, supplements or medications in my body unless I know what they are and what purpose they serve. Yet professional athletes, who rely on their health and physical abilities to make a living, are willing to shoot unknown drugs into their body with no understanding of the possible effects.
That's baffling to me. A-Rod is an idiot. Or maybe he thinks we are big enough idiots to buy into his crap. Ridiculous.
Did anyone catch last night's basketball game between Michigan State and Purdue on ESPN? I was watching the Blackhawks game, but I was flipping over to the basketball game during commercials.
Purdue beat Michigan State 72-54, but the real story was courtside. Dick Vitale was doing the color commentary, and he sounded rather hoarse. It was like he had laryngitis or a frog in his throat or something.
Vitale didn't sound the best, but the funny thing was he seemed to be doing a far better job of broadcasting than he usually does. He was trying to save his voice, so he was limiting his remarks to the game at hand. No tangents about North Carolina and Duke. No 25-minute rants about how much he hates the alternate possession rule. Just some remarks on the game between Purdue and Michigan State.
How refreshing. Maybe we should give Dickie V. laryngitis all the time. He used to be a reasonable, knowledgeable commentator, before he became a screaming caricature of himself. If you don't believe me, check him out during the last 20 seconds or so of this video here:
Hard to believe it's the same guy, isn't it?
Computers never seem to work properly. Sometimes, I think we have the worst computer system in the world here at Fox Valley Publications. If it wasn't so frustrating, it would be comedic. Moments ago, our sports department came to a grinding halt due to a computer meltdown that affected one half of the newsroom. (But only half, go figure).
Of course, if you work in an office in your line of work, your computer system probably sucks too. Around here, it's a circus just trying to get the newspaper out the door each night.
So, here's my tribute to crashing computers in offices everywhere.
This news comes as a relief for Blackhawk fans, many of whom feared Sharp would be lost for the season. No word yet on whether the Hawks will recall anyone from Rockford. For the time being, it sounds like veteran Craig Adams will take Sharp's place in the lineup.
The Hawks (31-15-8) begin a three-game road swing Tuesday night in Tampa Bay.
The Blackhawks lost their leading goal-scorer, Patrick Sharp, to the dreaded "lower body injury" during Saturday's 6-2 victory over the Dallas Stars at the United Center.
Dallas goon Steve Ott took a run at Sharp and hit him knee-to-knee. As you can see, Sharp had to be helped off the ice by teammate Jonathan Toews and a trainer. There hasn't been any indication yet of how long Sharp will be out, but he won't travel with the team on this week's 3-game road trip.
It was only a matter of time until something like this happened. Goons from opposing teams have been taking runs at the Hawks' top scorers for awhile. Just Friday, Barret Jackman of the Blues took a run at Patrick Kane and delivered a questionable hit. Nothing was done about it. And the Hawks really didn't do too much about Ott's hit on Sharp.
There's been a healthy debate on the Blackhawks message board today over whether Ott's hit was clean or dirty. That's immaterial, in my view. The point is the guy got away with it, and he didn't have to eat anyone's fist or anyone's stick. There has to be retaliation, or else these fourth-line hacks are going to keep taking liberties with the Hawks' top scorers.
The Dallas coach did not put Ott on the ice much (if at all) during last night's third period. At one point, the Blackhawks had a 5-0 lead, and I would like to think they had something planned for Ott if he had stepped out on the ice. But it didn't happen, and I was disappointed.
Eye-for-an-eye justice is needed in the NHL. The Hawks play at Dallas next Saturday. Someone needs to give Ott a shot during that game. Failing that, it's time for someone to give one of the Stars' better players a high stick or a high elbow.
I wouldn't take this crap from players like Steve Ott, and the Blackhawks need to stop tolerating it as well.
And neither do I.
Keller, seen here blocking a shot by IU's Tom Pritchard, had the following to say after the Illini's 65-52 win over the Hoosiers on Sunday.
"I've only been in this rivalry for one year, and I can tell you right now, I do not like this school," Keller said. "I don't like the coach, and I don't like the fans. As a matter of fact, I don't like the gym. It's just something about Indiana I just don't like. You can quote me on that."
Right on. With Sunday's win, Illinois moves one step closer to evening up the all-time series with Indiana. The Hoosiers are now 82-80 against the Illini. If you listen to the Indiana fans talk, you would think they are 152-10. Hopefully, they will be humbled a bit this year, given that they are 6-18 and well on their way to a 20-loss campaign.
The Illini have swept the season series from Indiana and are now 4-0 against their three biggest rivals (IU, Iowa, Missouri) this year.
Depending on your perspective, either Illinois had an amazing comeback last night, or Northwestern was guilty of a monumental choke.
One way or another, Illinois closed the game on a 17-2 run over the final five minutes, erased a 57-43 deficit and came away with a 60-59 victory.
I give myself all the credit for the Illinois win. With about 11 minutes remaining, I was so furious with the Illini's lackluster play that I turned the game off. I was using way too much profanity in the newsroom and generally distracting my co-workers, so I decided the best course of action would be to quit watching and follow the rest of the game on my computer.
Once I did that, the Illini started coming back. For superstitious reasons, there was no way in hell I was going to turn the TV back on. I wasn't going to jinx it. Sure enough, Northwestern blew it. Demetri McCamey (pictured) netted the game-winning shot for the Illini with 2.9 seconds left.
I can't say Illinois deserved to win this game. The Illini were outhustled by Northwestern throughout the first half. They made only 2-of-12 from the foul line. For awhile, they were even getting outrebounded by a Wildcats team that is the worst on the boards in the Big Ten.
But Illinois came back and stole it in the final minutes. For us Illini fans, it was the perfect crime. The team stays in second place in the Big Ten with an 8-4 conference record, two games back of Michigan State with six games to play.
Next up, a Sunday afternoon game at Indiana. The Hoosiers are in last place, but I'm certain they'll be ready to play against Illinois. It's a big rivalry, and the teams and fan bases can't stand each other. We'll find out whether the Illini have the mental fortitude to get another win in a tough road environment.
The 76-year-old received the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame at halftime of the Bulls 107-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Several speakers paid tribute to Kerr's various accomplishments.
Kerr, who is battling cancer and may not have too much time left, deserved the honor. He is one of the all-time great players in the history of the University of Illinois. He won the Big Ten MVP award and led the school to the Final Four in 1952. He was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1955, helping the Syracuse Nationals to the championship. He became the first head coach in the history of the Bulls in 1966, and he is still the only coach to lead a first-year expansion franchise to the playoffs. Younger generations know Kerr as a TV/radio announcer and ambassador for both the Bulls and the NBA.
But here's what was really funny about the ceremony: When Michael Jordan got up to speak, Comcast Sportsnet felt the need to post a graphic on screen identifying Jordan as a "former Bulls guard."
When that happened, everyone in our newsroom laughed out loud. One of my colleagues said, "Oh, that's who that is. I didn't know."
As if they really needed to let us know that was, in fact, Michael Jordan. A quick Google search for the terms "Michael Jordan" and "most recognizable athlete" yields 52,200 hits. I'm pretty sure there are people in Bangladesh who know who Michael Jordan is.
Just in case you didn't know, that guy in the photo clapping the talcum powder in Red Kerr's face is "former Bulls guard Michael Jordan."
John Supinie from Gatehouse News Service reports that former West Aurora and Illinois center Shaun Pruitt has been released from his team over in the Czech Republic.
Pruitt was let go despite averaging 16.4 points per game and a league-leading 9.9 rebounds per game.
It isn't too often you see a guy released while putting up numbers like that. You have to figure that some of the attitude problems Pruitt had at Illinois have surfaced again.
One would think, though, that some other European team will take a chance on Pruitt despite his miserable free-throw shooting and reluctance to pass the ball. Sixteen points per game is still pretty decent.
The various MLB message boards are heating up this week, as Baseball Prospectus has released its annual preseason projections.
As usual, BP predicted the White Sox to do absolutely terrible. The South Siders are projected to finish dead last in the AL Central with a miserable record of 74-88.
My response? I'm blocking off vacation time in October and getting ready for playoff baseball at U.S. Cellular Field!
BP's track record of forecasting White Sox baseball is horribly poor. This will be the fourth time in the last five years they've predicted the team will finish with fewer than 75 wins. Of course, they were right once when the Sox imploded in 2007 and finished 72-90.
But they were very wrong in 2005, when they infamously predicted a 72-90 season on the South Side. Instead, we got a 99-63 campaign and a world championship. Last year's BP prediction of 70-92 didn't work out so well either, as the Sox went 89-74 and won the AL Central.
Personally, I enjoy it when experts predict the Sox will suck. The franchise has won three divisional titles this decade (2000, 2005, 2008), all in years where most people had them finishing third, fourth or fifth. The years where the Sox have been expected to be good (2003, 2006) have turned out to be the most disappointing.
Some people get really pissed off about the "lack of respect" coming from these stat geeks. I prefer to just laugh it off and get ready for the season. Anything can happen, especially this year in what I expect to be a wide-open AL Central race.
Would you believe it? If the season ended today, Illinois would be the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Of course, the season does not end today. But given the low expectations coming into the year and the recent slump the Illini endured, I'm astonished they are still right in the mix for the conference title as we enter the second week in February.
A brutal stretch of three games that included an ugly loss at Minnesota, a lackluster win over Iowa and another ugly loss at Wisconsin did little to damage the Illini's position in the standings, as Big Ten teams continue to beat each other up. Behind 14 points and 16 rebounds from Mike Davis (left), Illinois broke out of its rut with a 66-48 thumping of Purdue on Sunday.
Here's a look at the Big Ten standings, with seven games to play.
My official prediction for Illinois (19-5, 7-4) at the start of the season was 19-12. So, barring an catastrophic collapse, the Illini will exceed my expectations.
Now, the question becomes whether they can steal a conference title away from Michigan State (which leads by two games). If not, can they secure a top three finish in the Big Ten?
The Illini are going to have to start doing something on the road. They are just 2-4 in true road games this season, and they've lost four in a row after early-season wins at Vanderbilt and at Purdue.
This next week will tell us a lot -- road games await at Northwestern on Thursday and at Indiana on Sunday. Illinois will be favored to win both games. Can the Illini execute as well as they do at home, where they are 13-1 overall and 6-0 in conference play? Or will they choke again like they did at Wisconsin? Contenders or pretenders? We'll find out this week.
Two wins here gets Illinois to 9-4, and a home game with Michigan State awaits down the road on March 1. Two losses here would drop Illinois to 7-6, and the fight would be on just to make the NCAA tournament. This is a critical week indeed....
I've worked eight consecutive nights, and I am tired. Blogging will resume Monday.
The wheels are turning for White Sox fans today after the New York Daily News reported the Sox have offered Bobby Abreu (left) a one-year deal worth $8 million.
That certainly is interesting because Abreu has been a right fielder his whole career, and the Sox do not have a hole at that position. Incumbent Jermaine Dye is under contract for one more season, although trade rumors have surrounded the veteran slugger all offseason.
The Sox don't have openings in left field (Carlos Quentin) or at DH (Jim Thome) either, so it's hard to figure out where Abreu would fit.
The Sox have a question mark in center field, but clearly Abreu is not the answer there. Perhaps GM Kenny Williams is trying to sign Abreu so that he can trade Dye for someone else.
Here's a rarity in Chicago: A column defending White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
The author is Sun-Times White Sox beat reporter Joe Cowley.
Cowley points out that The Chairman (left) received some applause when he was introduced by Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson over the weekend at Sox Fest. Some people stood, while others remained seated.
Reinsdorf has presided over seven world championships as an owner -- six with the Bulls and one with the White Sox. Cowley argues that perhaps ol' Reinsy deserves a little more love from the fans in the city.
Well, I'll agree with Cowley on this much: Reinsdorf is the best owner in Chicago. The McCaskey family (Bears) is clueless. The Tribune Company (Cubs) sucked. Things are getting much better for the Blackhawks now that Rocky Wirtz is in charge, but after years of terror under Bill Wirtz I don't think we can tout the Hawks as the team with the best ownership in Chicago.
So, Reinsdorf definitely gets the nod over that group. But you also have to remember that Reinsdorf is the guy who nearly moved the White Sox to St. Petersburg, Fla., back in the late 1980s. It will take more than just one World Series title for people to completely forgive him for that.
Given the choice, I would gladly take Reinsdorf over the Tribune Company and I would take him over whoever that dope is who just bought the Cubs. When you compare the Sox accomplishments to the Cubs accomplishments (are there any?), it is always a great day to be a White Sox fan.
But Reinsdorf is no saint. I've disagreed with him many, many times through the years. But he's not Satan Incarnate either. That title is reserved for Bill Wirtz, who ESPN The Magazine once named the worst owner in professional sports.
Thus, I think polite applause is the perfect response for any introduction of Jerry Reinsdorf. He's not great. He's not terrible. He's OK.
It seems that every time I see a member of the Blackhawks getting interviewed by someone from the Chicago media, the inevitable question is, "Are you guys an elite team yet?"
And, inevitably, whatever Blackhawk player is being interviewed replies, "No, because we haven't beaten the elite teams yet."
In truth, we won't know whether the Blackhawks are elite or not until the playoffs roll around. That's where the contenders are separated from the pretenders.
But it has to help the Blackhawks that they finally beat the San Jose Sharks last night, 4-2 at the Shark Tank in San Jose.
Previously, the Hawks had been 0-3-3 in six contests against San Jose and Detroit, the two top teams in the Western Conference.
The Sharks have the best record in the West, 36-7-5 for a total of 77 points. The Hawks have had frustrations against San Jose earlier this year, dropping a 6-5 decision at home on Nov. 16 and a 3-2 OT game in San Jose on Nov. 26.
The Hawks had plenty of opportunities to win each of those games. They didn't finish, allowing late goals each time. On Saturday night, they finished San Jose off.
All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell (left), a former Shark, still gets booed everytime he touches the puck in San Jose. Last night, he had an assist and was a plus-1. I thought he had one of his best games, so hopefully the San Jose fans will keep on booing him if the Hawks and Sharks happen to meet in the playoffs. It seems to bring out the best in Campbell.
The Blackhawks became just the second team to earn a regulation win in San Jose this season. (Calgary is the other.) We'll see if they can build upon this as the eight-game road trip continues Tuesday night in Edmonton.