Saturday, April 30, 2011

Round II

No NBA playoff games today for the first time in a while. But alas, I learned long ago that questioning the National Basketball Association's scheduling decisions can only result in a headache. With the second round of games right around the corner, here are my round II picks.

#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks
-The Bulls seemed to struggle in almost every single first round game, but luckily for Chicago, Derrick Rose helped the East 1 seed avoid "Spurring" in the conference quarterfinals. The Hawks made doubters (myself included) look foolish behind strong play by Jamal Crawford, of all people.

Atlanta Hawks in 6. Maybe it's because I feel stupid about picking the Magic in round one, or maybe it's because Joakim Noah is the most annoying man on Earth. Either way, I like the Hawks to win this series because the Bulls looked so bad against Indiana.

#2 Miami Heat vs. #3 Boston Celtics
- Both Miami and Boston made relatively quick work of their first round opponents. Boston surprised a lot of critics by completing the sweep against the Knicks, while Miami surprised no one by playing adequately and with an arrogent demeanor.

- Boston Celtics in 5. The Heat were 1-3 against the Celtics this season and are too annoying to go any further in the playoffs. Erik Spoelstra will once again be exposed as an unremarkable coach.

#8 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #4 Oklahoma City Thunder
-Yesterday, Memphis completed the first round stunner by becoming only the second #8 seed to win a first round series since the playoffs took their current format. Kevin Durant and company downed Denver quickly, in just 5 games.

Memphis Grizzlies in 7. What the hell.

#2 L.A. Lakers vs. #3 Dallas Mavericks
-Neither first round series tells us that much. Dallas and L.A. each dropped 2 games against good but not great teams, but had a fairly strong grasp on each of the other games.

L.A. Lakers  in 5. Because the NBA wants one more year of Celtics-Lakers.

Well, Now There's Just So Much Going On

It's been a crazy week in sports. How on earth are we all supposed to keep up? There's more than enough to watch every night, with the NHL and NBA going deeper into the playoffs, the NFL draft taking place in NYC, and baseball...trying.

Today, NHL picks. Tomorrow, NBA picks. Sunday, a breakdown of all 254 NFL draft picks.

NHL Playoffs

Eastern Conference Semifinals

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
-The backstory: Washington managed to avoid a repeat of last year's disappointment by putting a 4-1 drubbing on the NY Rangers. Tampa Bay escaped a 2-3 hole against the Penguins behind hot goaltending from Dwayne Roloson.
-The pick: Tampa Bay in 6. Tampa Bay's superior goalie and better forwards carry the Lightning into the conference finals

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs.  #3 Boston Bruins 
-The backstory: Philadelphia holds the edge, 1 to 0, in recent 0-3 comebacks. Boston, however, is leading the "least number of starting goalies" category, with a 1 to 3 edge.
-The pick: Boston in 7. The Bruins fall into an 0-3 hole and then climb out of it.

Western Conference Semifinals

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #5 Nashville Predators
-The backstory: The best team in the NHL almost landed a spot in the history books for all the wrong reasons, but managed to escape against the Blackhawks with an OT winner in game 7. Nashville surprised many critics by handling the Ducks with impressively little difficulty.
-The pick: Vancouver in 5. Nashville is a good team, and Pekka Rinne has a chance to keep them in the series. Vancouver, however, learned some important lessons from round 1 and it's hard to see them letting up this time around.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #3 Detroit Red Wings
-The backstory: Both Detroit and San Jose had relatively easy times in the first round, which is surprising giving Detroit's age/injury troubles and San Jose's propensity for choking. This matchup puts two of the most consistently dominant Western Conference teams against each other.
-The pickSan Jose in 6. It seems like things are finally coming together for the Sharks. Home ice will help San Jose sneak by the Red Wings.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cleveland Rocks

Congratulations to Peyton Hillis, the official Madden '12 cover boy. Hillis made a surprise run through the first 4 rounds of the ESPN / SportsNation voting, defeating Ray Rice, Matt Ryan, Jamal Charles, and #1 seed Aaron Rogers en route to the finals. Today, Hillis beat Michael Vick in the championship to claim his place on the new cover.

Just a few years ago, the RB was five or six spots down on the Denver Broncos' depth chart. After being traded to Cleveland for Brady Quinn (oops), Hillis got a fresh start. He made the most of it, rushing for 1,177 yards and turning himself into a local superhero.

I'm very glad to see Michael Vick lose. Aside from the fact that he's already enjoyed a season on the cover, the fact a good portion of the public is still struggling to embrace Vick could have spelled problems for EA Sports.

There may not be football next season, but there certainly will be Madden. And Peyton Hillis will be taking his talents to cyberspace.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Breaking News: Sacramento Kings Move to the Moon

In yet another brilliant commissioning move, David Stern of the NBA announced today that the Sacramento Kings franchise will indeed be moving. Although many league officials believed that the franchise would relocate to Anaheim, Stern threw everyone a curveball today when he announced that the team would be heading to the moon.

"We believe that the NBA is a global league," Stern said in a statement released this morning. "So now it is time to expand beyond the globe. There are lots of untapped revenue streams on the moon, and people will be more than willing to spend their lunar dollars on NBA games and merchandise."

Players such as Yao Ming, who spent years crumpling under earth's gravity, are excited about the opportunity to resurrect injury-plagued careers. Team doctors agree that the moon's low gravity will minimize the risk of nasty injuries.

Americans everywhere are rejoicing, as the United States has narrowly managed to beat out the USSR in the race to put the first professional sports team on the moon. The Russians were hoping to put a hockey franchise in space but hit a snag trying to convert Dippin' Dots to ice.

League officials expect that in the next few days, the team will formally announce the hiring of Jackie Moon as head coach and unveil the team's new name, the Monstars.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NBA Playoff Predictions: Western Conference

#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies

Prediction: San Antonio in 6.
-The Grizzlies aren't a bad team, but the Spurs are too skilled and too experienced to mess this one up.

#2 L.A. Lakers vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets

Prediction: New Orleans in 7
-The Hornets return to their early-season form, and Kobe Bryant is so preoccupied with name calling that he forgets to put the team on his back.

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers

Prediction: Dallas in 5.
- Mark Cuban wears Shape-Ups. The Dallas Mavericks are shaping up to win this series easily.

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #5 Denver Nuggets

Prediction: Oklahoma City in 7.
-The Nuggets are playing great basketball right now. But I just can't pick against Kevin Durant. He'll take over games late and find a way to get it done.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NBA Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference

The NBA Playoffs tip off today. Just six months from now, we'll crown the league's 2010-2011 champions. Here are my picks for the East.

#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Indiana Pacers

Prediction: Chicago in 4.
-By the time game 4 rolls around, the Bulls are starting Derek Rose and four AAU kids.

#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Philadelphia 76ers

Prediction: Philadelphia in 6.
-A confused Miami heat team is forced to give back the NBA trophy that the media awarded them in July. There is lots of crying in the locker room.

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 New York Knicks

Prediction: Boston in 5.
-The Celtics' starters have a little left in the tank before they send for their AARP memberships. Carmello Anthony continues his tenure as the most hyped but least impressive NBA superstar. Knickerbockers is a silly word.

#4 Orlando Magic vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks

Prediction: Orlando in 5
-Dwight Howard has enormous arms. The Atlanta Hawks are enormously mediocre.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NHL PLayoffs: Western Conference

#1 Vancouver Canucks vs. #8 Chicago Blackhawks

What to expect: A decent series between the best team in the NHL and the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Buzz Killington: The Blackhawks aren't what they used to be. Destroyed by the salary cap after last season, Chicago is missing Dustin Byfuglien, the most important player of their 2010 cup run, among others.

X-Factor: Corey Crawford. If this guy stands on his head, we could have a series on our hands.

Prediction: Vancouver in 5 games. The Canucks are just too good. Vancouver led the league in goals per game and goals against per game, has 2 of the top 5 point scorers on its first line, and has all-star Luongo between the pipes.

#2 San Jose Sharks vs. #7 Los Angeles Kings

What to expect: A defensive struggle between perennial playoff disappointers and an up and coming young team.

Buzz Killington: Joe Thornton's career playoff stats. 15 goals in 91 games? Ew.

X-Factor: Dustin Brown. If the low-scoring Kings want to pull off the upset, they're going to need team-leading goal scorer Brown to net 4+ this series.

Prediction: Los Angeles in 6 games. The San Jose Sharks lose early again because Jonathan Quick > Antti Niemi. 

#3 Detroit Red Wings vs. #6 Phoenix Coyotes

What to expect: A surprisingly close series. Detroit is fighting through some injuries, while Phoenix has several extremely talented young players.

Buzz Killington: No Phoenix players will be wearing these jerseys.

X-Factor: Iron man Nicklas Lidstrom. Is he too old for playoff hockey? No. No he is not.

Prediction: Detroit in 7 games. Phoenix will give the Red Wings a great series, but in the end, Detroit is Detroit. (As opposed to Cleveland, which is not Detroit).

#4 Anaheim Ducks vs. #5 Nashville Predators

What to expect: Some very compelling, hard-hitting, high-scoring games. A few OTs as well. Everything you'd hope for from a 4 vs. 5 matchup.

Buzz Killington: No one will be watching. It's Anaheim vs. Nashville. Do they even have ice?

X-Factor: Pekka Rinne. He's one of the best goalies in the league. As in the Chicago series, a team that's overmatched can't pull off the upset without some stellar netminding.

Prediction: Anaheim in 6 games. Anaheim channels some of that Mighty Ducks magic to dispose of the Predators. Corey Perry averages over 1 point per game.

Monday, April 11, 2011

NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers
Notes: After being denied a playoff birth on the very last day of the season in 2010, the New York Rangers clinched the 8 seed during their final game this year. The Washington Capitals got off to a slow start this season, but quietly surged over the last half of the season to win the conference for the second year in a row.

Excitement Factor: 8
-This is sure to be an excellent series. Even after a "down" year with 85 points, it's always worth tuning in any time Alexander Ovechkin takes the ice. And if last year is any indication, Washington is quite capable of losing an opening round series as a 1 seed. We'll see some good hockey in this one.

Nasty Factor: 4
-This series doesn't have the history that other matchups boast. Plus, neither team was among the top 10 most penalized during the regular season.

Prediction: New York in 7 games.
-This is a closer matchup than you might think. During the regular season, Washington ranked 4th and New York was 5th in goals allowed per game, separated by a margin of only 0.05.  New York actually scored more. In a series this close, I give the edge to the better goaltender. Even though D.C. really really needs this, the Capitals fail to make up for the woes of the Nationals, Wizards, and Redskins.

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Buffalo Sabres

Notes: The Flyers are the defending conference champions, but go into the playoffs only 3-4-3 in their last 10 games. Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is coming back from an injury that kept him sidelined for much of the season.

Excitement Factor: 3
-This series shouldn't be close. Expect some remarkably unremarkable games.

Nasty Factor: 5
-Both teams have some hard hitting defensemen. Expect some big checks and lots of penalties, but not too many scuffles or fights.

Prediction: Philadelphia in 5 games
-The Flyers are without a doubt the better team, and the Sabres lack the firepower to turn this into a real series. This one should be business as usual for Philadelphia.

#3 Boston Bruins vs. #6 Montreal Canadians

Notes: Boston hopes to replace images of their 2010 playoff collapse with some new 2011 memories, while the Canadians are looking for another surprise run deep into the playoffs.

Excitement Factor: 9
-Every time these two teams meet, we wind up with great hockey. 

Nasty Factor: 10
-These teams hate each other. And I'm sure no one has forgotten the infamous Chara hit that happened in March. There will be penalties and scraps galore. 

Prediction: Boston in 6 games.
-Tim Thomas is too much for Montreal, and Boston's increased scoring-power finds ways to get the puck past Carey Price.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs.  #5 Tampa Bay Lightning

NotesSidney Crosby has not yet been cleared for contact and most likely will not play, adding to the injury woes of the already Malkin-less Penguins. Tampa Bay enters the playoffs with the #2 (St. Louis, 99) and #5 (Stamkos, 91) top scorers of the regular season.

Excitement Factor: 10
-What a matchup we're in for. Only 3 points separated Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the regular season standings.

Nasty Factor: 6
-Pittsburgh was the second most penalized team this season, while Tampa Bay was close to the other end of the spectrum. Still, when a playoff series is close, as this one should be, things tend to get a bit nasty.

Prediction: Tampa Bay in 7 games
-Pittsburgh has done well to overcome its injuries, but playoff hockey requires superstars. Tampa Bay has theirs; the Penguins don't.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Inside The Genius

Today we have a special guest article from James, champion of the Sports Casual NCAA March Madness Challenge. Congratulations James; you're welcome as a contributor any time.

*Disclaimer: Sports Casual is not responsible for the vulgarity of any guest writers* 

Possible Pts
212212161632 (Connecticut)119119
I know what I'm doing...
2418128160 (Notre Dame)7878
Bieber for 3
211812800 (Kansas)5959
Boomshackalacka *
26128800 (Pittsburgh)5454
Gators bitches be usin Jimmers
251612000 (Duke)5353
Sen Ditin Je Rome
22148800 (Kansas)5252
please scrowe me
21208000 (Kansas)4949
22188000 (Duke)4848
12-5 Upset special
25184000 (Kansas)4747
The Saskatoon Totem Pole
22108000 (Michigan)4040
Lowest Scoring Bracket Ever?
1000000 (Boston U.)1010

    For the first time in my life I won my March Madness bracket pool….and I am giving an exclusive look into the genius behind my picks.
    Inspired by George Costanza , I did the opposite of what my instincts told me to do every other year when I was coming dead-last behind girls who go to uconn picking their homeschool to win and my senile grandfather who probably thinks NCAA basketball is some sort of vintage negro-league.  For starters I moved to Italy in January.  Seriously.  On top of the fact that the apartment I live in here doesn’t have internet, American college hoops isn’t exactly what people are watching or talking about at bars here.  They actually might be but my Italian sucks so that wouldn’t really help anyways.  

    I think what helped the most is that I haven’t watched a single college basketball game this season and I haven’t watched SportsCenter since January.  Normally my instincts would tell me that would be a bad idea for trying to predict who is going to win the national championship. Wrong.  Every other year I waste hours changing my picks around until I finally think I’ve got it.  This year I filled my bracket out in a single sitting and didn’t change it once.  I couldn’t even watch the games that I picked because again, there aren’t many Kemba Walker fans in the small medieval style Italian city that I currently call home.  And it all worked.  My bracket didn’t just win, it dominated. It raped. Literally forced itself upon your bracket pretending it didn’t here its cries of no.

    So there you have it. If you want to win next years bracket there’s only one way to do it. Flee the country.  Don’t watch college basketball games or look to SportsCenter for help. Put minimal time into your picks and don’t give them a second thought. Don’t even watch the games because it’s a waste. You already know you won.  Remember, go with the exact opposite of what your instincts have always told you.

    And P.S. I also usually do a bracket for money which is bullshit because this win literally means nothing.  Don’t tell me I won pride and bragging rights.  I gave up on having pride a while ago and who the fuck am I supposed to brag to in Italy they don’t even know what a basketball is here.