A few thoughts on the NFL Draft

April 28, 2008

Mel Kiper I’m not. I don’t think I’d want to be, either, with that hairstyle. In a draft filled with surprises, including a record 34 trades, nothing was predictable. Well, except for Miami taking Jake Long with the first overall pick.

By the way, I know the Dolphins had a lot of problems last season, but really? An offensive lineman with the first overall pick? You can develop a good OL from a later round and have it work out just as well. The problem was that, with no clear number one-type player on the board, Miami couldn’t find any takers for a trade.

One year after taking a draft class that helped propel them to a Super Bowl victory, the New York Giants addressed some key holes on draft day. Their first two picks, FS Kenny Phillips (Miami) and CB Terrell Thomas (USC), should help shore up what became a banged-up secondary, also weakened by the departure of Gibril Wilson to Oakland. WR Mario Manningham (Michigan) could prove to be a great 3rd round pick and help contribute to the Giants’ youth movement at the position. Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress won’t be around forever.

The Giants’ late-round picks were mostly aimed at improving the defense. Two LBs, Bryan Kehl (BYU) and Jonathan Goff (Vanderbilt), were taken, as well as DE Robert Henderson (Southern Miss). The Giants also took QB Andre Woodson (Kentucky) to improve the team’s depth, but he shouldn’t compete for anything higher than the backup job anytime soon. Overall, it was a good draft for the G-Men, as they successfully addressed their biggest holes with some good talent. I give them an A-.

The New York Jets had many holes to address after a disappointing 4-12 season. They drafted 4 offensive players (most notably Purdue’s TE Dustin Keller) and 2 defensive players (headlined by Ohio State’s DE Vernon Gholston). Many Jets fans wanted to see the Jets draft a QB in the first round, but Atlanta selected BC’s Matt Ryan before they had a chance, leaving no talent worthy of their 6 pick. The Jets will rely on Kellen Clemens this season, with Chad Pennington and 5th round choice Erik Ainge (Tennessee) backing up. The Jets get a C.

Behind the Scenes of the NCAA Tourney

April 10, 2008

Yes, we all know that Kansas won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, thoroughly ruining my chances at a successful bracket this year despite choosing the correct Final Four. You could make the argument that Memphis would’ve won in regulation if they could just hit a few free throws. But regardless of what happens on the court, what does this all mean? What does the NCAA tournament accomplish, and how? I spoke with UAlbany Athletic Director Lee McElroy, who has been to every Final Four since 1990, about the ins and outs of the NCAA Tournament and what he likes to call “March Mania.”

Eyes on the Ball: What stood out to you at this year’s Final Four?

Lee McElroy: I was amazed with the turnout at events outside of the games, like the Fanfests. Many of the people there had no intent of going to the game. I also found that each institution had its own identity. North Carolina had more of a swagger than, say, Memphis, who hasn’t really been here before.

EOTB: Who organizes the tournament?

LM: Everything that has to do with broadcasting is coordinated by CBS, including practice times and game schedules. They tend to put the higher-ranked teams in primetime. They have paid the NCAA over $6 billion over the past ten years, but they make the money back from advertising revenue. The NCAA is in charge of selection of teams and venues.

EOTB: How are teams and seedings chosen?

LM: They are chosen statistically by five measures. Teams that win their conference are given an automatic bid. Then, a team’s win-loss record against top teams is factored in, along with RPI (ratings percentage index). Head-to-head records with top 25 teams play a role. The last 10-12 games of the season are also important to catch teams that got hot and to weed out teams that have fizzled or had a major injury. The last factor is wins at home versus wins on the road. All of these statistics are put into a computer, which fills out the bracket.

EOTB: Where do the teams stay and who pays for it?

LM: Hotels are assigned by seeds. For example, in the South Region, the number 1-seed Memphis stayed at the Four Seasons. The 16-seed stayed in the least expensive hotel. The NCAA pays for the hotels.

EOTB: UAlbany has played in the tournament in the two years prior to this year. What effect has this had on the program and on the school?

LM: I think exposure is the most important thing that comes out of it. I still have people come up to me and say, “You should’ve beat UConn.” (Note: in 2006 16-seeded UAlbany almost pulled off a first-round upset of 1-seeded UConn.) In addition to that, our other sports teams gain some confidence. Our Men’s Lacrosse team was ranked number two in the country for several weeks last year. Finally, it helps current students hear about the University when they search for colleges. Applications have increased to over 20,000 each of the three years since we first made the tournament.

EOTB: What does a tournament win mean for Kansas?

LM: First off, Kansas will receive several million dollars from merchandising. Recruiting, which for them is already very good, will be even better. They’re already sold out so it won’t help attendance much. The win will help other parts of the University by associating athletic success with academic success. On a side note, Albany is scheduled to play Kansas this December.

EOTB: The tournament gains more popularity every year. What should we look for in future tournaments as a result?

LM: You’re going to see continued use of larger venues for the Final Four. Next year it will be held in Detroit at Ford Field which holds over 72,000 people. You also begin to see a greater online presence with the younger generation. People are checking scores on portable devices like cell phones and MP3 players. More people are getting involved with bracketology, trying to fill out their brackets, even people who aren’t usually sports fans.

EOTB: Finally, would you rather see an underdog go all the way, or watch the powerhouses duke it out for the title?

LM: I would say it’s good to have an underdog, like Davidson this year and George Mason a couple years ago. It gives hope to the lower seeds that they have a real chance to advance. It also creates more intrigue for the fans.

How’s that bracket?

March 23, 2008

Mine’s still ok. Not great, but ok. I don’t think anyone saw Duke going out that early (I had them in the Elite Eight). I still have seven of my Elite Eight alive. Siena, Western Kentucky, Davidson, Villanova, Vanderbilt, and San Diego all did their part in busting the brackets of millions of college hoops fans nationwide, luckily not too terribly for me.

From the start I had UNC, and I think the first two rounds helped back up my decision. All of the other number one seeds were in trouble at some point in their first two games before taking control. UNC has led every minute of both their games, and is the first team to score over 100 points in back-to-back NCAA tournament games in over ten years. They haven’t broken a nervous sweat.

As Dick Vitale would say, TAR HEELS ALL THE WAY BABYYYY!!!

NCAA Brackets

March 17, 2008

Instead of going through all of my picks for this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, here is my bracket. I’ll admit that I don’t follow NCAA Basketball very closely, so don’t take my picks as expert bracket-saving advice. If anything, they will likely bust your bracket. Feel free to disagree, because chances are you know more than I do.

Rob’s 2008 Men’s BB Tourney Bracket