Monday, September 03, 2012

2012 NFL Season Preview

Last year broke my four year streak of predicting at least one of the two Super Bowl team as both Green Bay and Baltimore missed the big game. In my defense, I should get partial credit for Baltimore seen as they were a Lee Evans dropped touchdown in the end zone from going. But, I digress and look to get back on the right track here in 2012.

New England 13-3
Buffalo 9-7
NY Jets 6-10
Miami 3-13

Analysis: As long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are in Foxboro, why predict anything else. I like the addition of Brandon Lloyd and expect him to have a huge year. The tight end combo in New England makes Brady as dangerous as ever. The Bills defense is much improved and believe it or not, they may have the best defensive line in football. The offense should rely on Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller with some big plays from Stevie Johnson. The Jets are a bit confusing. They have a solid defense, maybe a top five defense, but the offense is awful. Mark Sanchez will continue his regression as the fans and media call for Tim Tebow. Sadly, the best QB on the roster, Greg McElroy will probably never see the field. Miami looks like a franchise lost and will be tough to watch. If they win any games this year, it will because Reggie Bush has put them on his back.

Baltimore 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6
Pittsburgh 9-7
Cleveland 4-12

Analysis: This will once again be one of the top two divisions in football. The Ravens are a bit older on defense and losing Terrell Suggs will hurt. But, Ray Lewis should never be counted out. He got leaner this year so he can be faster. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice have some good young compliments at WR. The Bengals were a surprise team last year and will continue to grow. They have a nice young nucleus on offense behind Andy Dalton. The defense is underrated. The Steelers are getting long in the tooth on defense like Baltimore, but they don’t seem to have developed any young talent on that side of the ball. Ben Roethlisberger has a new offensive coordinator who already seems to be making too many changes which will lead to some struggles. The Browns have 15 rookies on the team, but they do have talent. How well they take their lumps this year will determine who good they can be in the future.

Houston 11-5
Indianapolis 6-10
Tennessee 6-10
Jacksonville 3-13

Analysis: The Texans should have the division wrapped up by Thanksgiving. Andrew Luck and the Colts will be better than expected. The Jake Locker era is underway and it will help if Chris Johnson decides he wants to be an elite back again. The Jags got Maurice Jones-Drew back and that is already the best highlight of the season.

Denver 11-5
Kansas City 9-7
San Diego 9-7
Oakland 6-10

Analysis: Yes, my love for Peyton Manning has clouded my judgment on the Broncos. But, since 1999, when Peyton Manning plays a whole season, his team wins 10 games every year. I’m not sold on Matt Cassel in KC, but the defense and skill offensive players make them a team to look out for. Maybe this year will finally be the year Norv Turner gets axed from the underachieving Chargers. No Al Davis for the Raiders this year. A second season with Carson Palmer may show Raider Nation some signs of life.
NY Giants 10-6
Dallas 9-7
Philadelphia 9-7
Washington 7-9

Analysis: Its time to start showing Eli Manning some respect. Questions at WR are the only thing holding back the G-Men from a repeat. The Cowboys once again show promise but can all the individual personalities finally come together? The Eagles will probably not get a whole season from Michael Vick and will struggle down the stretch. RGIII will be the most exciting player in football this year. If only he had more talent around him.

Green Bay 12-4
Chicago 10-6
Detroit 8-8
Minnesota 5-11

Analysis: The Packers defense is much improved an Aaron Rodgers will have another MVP-type season. How well James Starks and Cedric Benson do in the backfield will determine how far they can go. Chicago improved their WR corps with Brandon Marshall, but the mental part of the game of Jay Cutler is always a question. The Lions will not be as strong as last season without a running game and the missing defensive players lost due to off the field issues. A healthy Adrian Peterson will help Christian Ponder, but other than Percy Harvin, they are thin at WR.

New Orleans 11-5
Atlanta 9-7
Tampa Bay 8-8
Carolina 7-9

Analysis: This will be the most competitive division in the league. All four teams have a legitimate chance at the playoffs. The Saints will be strong and it will be interesting to see how they do without Sean Peyton. The Falcons will be good again and the offense will put up a lot of points. The Bucs underachieved with Greg Schiano when their were much better coaching options. The big question is can Cam Newton repeat his stellar rookie year.

San Francisco 12-4
Seattle 9-7
St. Louis 5-11
Arizona 4-12

Analysis: San Francisco got better in the off-season and should be as good as last season. Hopefully, Randy Moss will not ruin a great team. The Seahawks will be surprisingly good under Russell Wilson who may be the best all-around QB of this past draft. The Rams will be better under Jeff Fisher, but still need more talent. The Cardinals will fight the Dolphins for worst team in the NFL. Don’t be shocked if Neil Lomax comes out of retirement to be QB.

1- New England
2- Houston
3- Baltimore
4- Denver
5- Cincinnati
 6- Buffalo

1- Green Bay
2- San Francisco
3- New Orleans
4- NY Giants
5- Chicago
6- Seattle

Denver 24, Houston 20

San Francisco 20, Green Bay 17

Denver 31, San Francisco 23

Analysis: Manning has more offensive talent in Denver this year than most of his year’s in Indianapolis. The compliment in a strong running game with Willis McGahee will make Manning even more dangerous. The Broncos defense was the real reason they made the playoffs last season. Elite QB, solid running game, good young WRs, top five defense equals a Lombardi Trophy for the Mile High city.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who will draft Andrew Nicholson?

In about 24 hours, St. Bonaventure fans will know the answer to the question that has been on their minds for months now. What National Basketball Association team will Andrew Nicholson begin his professional career with? Nicholson is projected to be drafted in the first round anywhere between picks #15 and #25. If he is selected in the first round, he will be the first Bonnie drafted in the first round since Bob Lanier was the number one overall pick of the 1970 draft by the Detroit Pistons. Regardless, when Nicholson’s name is called, he will be the first player from St. Bonaventure to be drafted since Barry Mungar in 1986 by the Washington Bullets.
It is difficult to know exactly where Nicholson will end up, but we do have some clues of which teams are the most interested.

Nicholson was watched by NBA scouts at just about everyone of his games this past season. In fact, 27 of the 30 NBA teams, came to see him at least once. Only the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings did not attend a game. Oklahoma City led the way watching Nicholson eight times. San Antonio saw him seven times, while Memphis, Golden State, and Charlotte each attended four games.

Twelve teams brought Nicholson in for a workout. They are listed below by their draft position.
#4 and #24 Cleveland Cavaliers
#13 Phoenix Suns
#12, #16, and #18 Houston Rockets
#15 Philadelphia 76ers
#19 Orlando Magic
#20 Denver Nuggets
#21 and #22 Boston Celtics
#23 Atlanta Hawks
#26 Indiana Pacers
#27 Miami Heat
#28 Oklahoma City Thunder
#29 Chicago Bulls

According to analysts mock drafts, the most talked about destination is Boston at pick #21 or #22. Nicholson has shot up many draft boards and so many people have slotted him in at #22 to back up Kevin Garnett, but his stock continues to rise and it seems he may not even be there after pick #20 which is the Denver Nuggets.

Although it may seem to be a stretch, don’t rule out the Phoenix Suns at #13.  Don’t be shocked if Nicholson goes this high. Phoenix can use a versatile big man and Suns free agent point guard Steve Nash, who is also the GM of the Canadian National Team, has spoke highly of Nicholson telling reporters this week, "He’s a terrific player, I really like his game. If I were a GM, I would look really hard at him, even in the low-teens, he’s that good." Phoenix hopes to re-sign Nash and his endorsement may sway the Suns front office.

The focus for Nicholson will start around pick #15. He worked out in Philadelphia over the weekend and he was the most spotlighted player of the eight who attended the workout. He got high praise from the Philadelphia Daily News as well. There has also been a lot of talk of teams moving into the high teens to trump Boston or Cleveland who are both interested in the early 20’s.

While you watch the ESPN telecast, the commentators will say this regardless of who drafts him: “Andrew Nicholson is the sleeper in this draft. He has great range as a shooter for a big man and had a very productive career at St. Bonaventure. He was impressive at the draft combine and shot up a lot of team’s boards. Once he adds some bulk to his frame, he will have a solid NBA career.”

Over/under on the times he is called a sleeper on the ESPN broadcast: 4.5

Ok, so where will Andrew Nicholson’s new home be when the draft is over? Here are my three projected scenario's:

(1) Nicholson is drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers at #15. Philadelphia is a good young team in need of depth in the front court. He was one of the last players they worked out and he left Philly on a high note in the minds of the Sixers front office. If Perry Jones III of Baylor and Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State are off the board at this point, Nicholson is the pick.

(2) The Houston Rockets trade the #18 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for PG Eric Maynor and the rights to OKC’s pick at #28. Then, OKC selects Nicholson at #18. OKC has coveted Nicholson for some time and have been rumored to want to move up from #28 to either take Nicholson or another big man in the mid-1st round. They came to watch him the most of any team in the league and with former Bonnie David Vanterpool a key member of the front office, this makes sense.

(3) If Philly takes Jones or Moultrie at #15 and Houston keeps the #18 pick, then Nicholson is selected by the Orlando Magic with the #19 pick. Orlando will definitely be the destination if you see a draft day trade between the Magic and the Rockets where Dwight Howard is swapped for a package of players, cash and Houston’s #12, #16, and #18 1st round draft picks. If Orlando gets multiple 1st round picks on Thursday night, start ordering your Magic Nicholson #44 jersey’s. New Orlando GM Rob Hennigan was the Thunder Assistant GM up until last week and is very high on Nicholson from his workouts in OKC. Hennigan has also fired the longtime Magic Assistant GM and all six of the team’s scouts, so Hennigan is most likely going off of his already compiled OKC draft board to use for his first draft with the Magic.

It is really anyone’s guess how any draft breaks down. Whatever happens, look for Nicholson to be gone by the time the Celtics and Cavs select. I can’t see him getting by Denver at #20 if he is still on the board at that point. Enjoy the draft!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bonnies in the NBA

On Thursday night, St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson looks to become the 33rd player and first since 1986 in Bonnies basketball history to be drafted by a National Basketball Association franchise. Nicholson is a projected first round pick. If he is drafted in the first round, he will be the fourth Bona player to be drafted in the first round. NBA Hall of Famer, Bob Lanier, was the number one overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Tom Stith was selected as the second overall pick in the 1961 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks and Brendan McCann was the fifth overall selection in the 1957 NBA Draft by the Knicks.

The last Bonnie to suit up in the NBA was J.R. Bremer. He was a second-team All-rookie team member in 2002-03 with the Boston Celtics as an undrafted free agent. He played in 2003-04 with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Since then, he is one of the highest paid point guards in Europe.

Prior to Bremer, David Vanterpool had a 22 game cameo with the Washington Wizards in 2000. He has been pro scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder for the last few years and is rumored to be promoted to assistant general manager of the Thunder in the coming days.

While Bob Lanier is the only St. Bonaventure alum in the Naismith Hall of Famer, he is not the only one in Springfield with a connection to the Bonnies. Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly, who led the famous Pistons “Bad Boys” to two NBA titles and was the head coach of the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics, played freshman basketball at St. Bonaventure in 1948-49 before transferring to Bloomsburg University.

In all, 15 Bonnies have suited up in the NBA. Here are the top five NBA players from St. Bonaventure:

Bob Lanier was one of the dominant centers of the 1970s. He averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field in his 14-year career with the Detroit Pistons (1970-80) and the Milwaukee Bucks (1980-84). He played in eight NBA All-Star Games and was named Most Valuable Player of the game in 1974.Lanier had his #16 jersey retired by both the Pistons and the Bucks.

Billy Kenville played six seasons (1953–1958; 1959–1960) with the Syracuse Nationals and Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons. He averaged 7.1 points per game and won a league title with Syracuse in 1955.

George Carter was selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1967 and was also selected by the New Orleans Buccaneers in the 1967 American Basketball Association draft. Carter played only game for the Pistons and then joined the Washington Caps of the rival ABA. He went on to play seven seasons in the ABA, spending time with eight teams: the Caps, the Virginia Squires, the Carolina Cougars, the Pittsburgh Condors, the New York Nets, the Memphis Sounds, the Baltimore Claws, and the Utah Stars. Carter represented the Squires in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game and retired from basketball in 1976 with 8,863 combined ABA/NBA career points.

Fred Crawford spent five years in the NBA. He was drafted in the fourth round in 1964 by the New York Knicks. Previously, he had been drafted by the Knicks in the 1963 NBA Draft. He would eventually play with the Knicks in the NBA in 1967. The following year, he was sold to the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1969, he was again sold, this time to the Milwaukee Bucks. Later, Crawford was selected by the Buffalo Braves in the 1970 NBA Expansion Draft and finished his career with the Philadelphia 76ers later that year. Crawford had his best season in the NBA in 1968 with the Lakers when he averaged 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game as a part of the west's representative in the NBA Finals.

Ken Murray was the first ever NBA player from St. Bonaventure. In 1950-51, he averaged 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game as one of the NBA's top rookies for the Baltimore Bullets and Fort Wayne Pistons. He played three seasons in the league with the Bullets, Pistons and Philadelphia Warriors totaling 1,471 points, 599 rebounds, and 482 assists.

Other notable NBA Bonnies:
Tom Stith was selected by the Knicks in the 1961 NBA draft and gave him a two-year contract.  But five weeks after he was drafted, Stith had a physical examination to determine why he had lost 15 pounds during his senior season. He was found to have pulmonary tuberculosis.  Stith recuperated in a sanitarium for several months. After his hospitalization, he began working out with his brother Sam, who was in his rookie season with the Knicks. Tom made the Knicks’ 1962-63 team, coached by Eddie Donovan, who had coached him at St. Bonaventure. The crowd at Madison Square Garden gave Stith an ovation when he made his Knicks debut against the Boston Celtics in mid-November, but he played in only 25 games that season and averaged 3.1 points a game. The Knicks released him at the beginning of the next season.

Whitey Martin and Sam Stith each played one season in the NBA, both for the Knicks in 1961-62. Martin played 66 games, while Stith appeared in 32 games.

Essie Hollis played 25 games for the Pistons in 1978-79 as a teammate of Bob Lanier.

Since 1950, there have been a total of 33 NBA draft picks (32 players) to come out of St. Bonaventure. Six picks have been in the top two rounds. Note: Fred Crawford was drafted twice.

1986    Rd 4, 82nd      Barry Mungar             Washington Bullets

1983    Rd 4, 82nd      Mark Jones                New York Knicks

1981    Rd 4, 87th       Earl Belcher                San Antonio Spurs

1979    Rd 7, 141st     Tim Waterman            Atlanta Hawks

1978    Rd 2, 43rd       Glenn Hagan              Philadelphia 76ers
1978    Rd 10, 162nd   Greg Sanders            New York Knicks

1977    Rd 2, 44th       Essie Hollis                 New Orleans Jazz

1976    Rd 9, 153rd     Bob Rozyczko           Buffalo Braves

1974    Rd 8, 135th     Glenn Price                 Buffalo Braves

1973    Rd 8, 122nd    Carl Jackson               Buffalo Braves

1972    Rd 4, 59th       Matt Gantt                  Phoenix Suns
1972    Rd 15, 189th   Paul Hoffman              Buffalo Braves

1971    Rd 4, 59th       Greg Gary                  San Francisco Warriors

1970    Rd 1, 1st         Bob Lanier                 Detroit Pistons

1969    Rd 9, 115th     Jim Satalin                  Milwaukee Bucks

1968    Rd 9, 116th     Bill Butler                   Boston Celtics

1967    Rd 8, 81st       George Carter            Detroit Pistons

1965    Rd 8, 65th       Bob Bamek                Philadelphia 76ers

1964    Rd 4, 26th       Fred Crawford           New York Knicks

1963    Rd 8, 63rd       Fred Crawford           New York Knicks

1962    Rd 4, N/A       Bob McCully             Syracuse Nationals

1961    Rd 1, 2nd        Tom Stith                   New York Knicks
1961    Rd 2, 10th       Whitey Martin            New York Knicks

1960    Rd 8, 56th       Sam Stith                   Cincinnati Royals

1957    Rd 1, 5th         Brendan McCann       New York Knicks

1955    Rd 5, 39th        Mal Duffy                  Syracuse Nationals

1953    Rd 3, 25th        Billy Kenville             Syracuse Nationals
1953    Rd 5, 43rd        Mike Bodnar            Fort Wayne Pistons
1953    Rd 10, 82nd     Bob Sassone             Philadelphia Warriors
1953    Rd 11, 92nd     Bill Edwards              Rochester Royals

1952    Rd 4, 43rd        Leo Corkery             Fort Wayne Pistons

1951    Rd 3, 28th        Fred Duite                   Rochester Royals

1950    Rd 4, 41st        Ken Murray                 Chicago Stags

PART II (post on 7 p.m. Wednesday): Who will select Andrew Nicholson Thursday Night.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sports Shorts May 16, 2012

Checking my (sports) shorts wondering whatever happened to Vince Ferragamo….

* Reaction to the Buffalo Bills signing of Vince Young seems to be mixed. I think this is an intelligent signing for the Bills for a few reasons. There is probably not a better coach in the NFL than Chan Gailey in getting the best out of mobile quarterbacks. Also, the Bills run a similar offense, quick strike spread the field, to the one Young ran in Texas when we carried the Longhorns on his back to the National Championship. Buddy Nix talked about upgrading each position and adding depth. Young does both as he should easily beat out Tyler Thigpen for the #2 QB spot. More importantly, if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets injured or struggles, Young has a proven track record of success. He is 31-19 as a starter in the NFL and been to two Pro Bowls. I discount his time in Philadelphia because he was in an offense that did not fit his skill set. The key to all of this is his maturity. After listening to his press conference, it sounds like someone has been in his ear to tell him its time to be a big boy and become a mature football player. He's not going to find a better opportunity than this one. This is his third team in three seasons so he is running out chances so I expect him to make the most of this chance. This is a nice, low-risk move by the Bills, a team that needed more stability behind Fitz. Plus, it is only a $2 million commitment by the Bills. Thigpen is scheduled to make $2.5 million this season if he makes the team. Now, you have a QB in Young who has been successful in the league and the Bills are getting him at a cheaper price.

* Prior to the season, I thought the San Antonio Spurs had too much tread on the tires to compete for a championship. But, head coach Gregg Popovich did a masterful job of keeping his veterans fresh during the regular season by giving them games off. Now, they look unbeatable and are my pick to win the NBA title. I think Oklahoma City will give them a great matchup in the Western Finals, but they will be schooled by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and company. On the East side, the only team that has been impressive so far is the Indiana Pacers. I think they will push the Miami Heat to seven games, but don’t see them advancing. Boston may be able to upend the Heat in the Eastern Finals if Chris Bosh doesn’t come back. Even if he does, Miami doesn’t have the depth to go deep in any series.

* Speaking of Finals, I will pat myself on the back as being the only media-type who follows the National Lacrosse League to pick the Rochester Knighthawks in the finals prior to this season in my NLL Preview for Buffalo Stuff . I did not envision the Edmonton Rush making a run with all the turnover, but they were able to gel at the right time led ironically by a bunch of former Knighthawks. The game will be played Saturday night in Rochester and will be the first meeting between the two teams this season. The Knighthawks young guns will prove too much for the Rush as Rochester will win its third Champions Cup 14-11.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sports Shorts..May 5, 2012

Checking my (sports) shorts wondering whatever happened to Spud Webb...

- I'm thinking either one of two things will happen to the Boston Celtics after this season. They get rid of the immature Rajon Rando or dismantle the Big 3. After Rando's latest look at me moment, I can't see guys like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce being on board with that kind of nonsense. Avery Bradley has shown he is capable of running the point and possibly helping these aging veterans win one more ring. If Rando stays, Allen will be sure to leave via free agency and I would not be surprised if KG or Pierce ask out.

- During the NLL preseason, I picked the Calgary Roughnecks to defeat the Rochester Knighthawks for the Champions Cup. The playoffs start tonight and while I still (kinda) like my picks, I think the more realistic approach is to look at a Colorado Mammoth v. Toronto Rock final. The East is as weak as it has been in years, but the potential West final between Calgary and Colorado may remind us of the NFC Championship games between the Cowboys and 49ers when it seemed like those were always the actual Super Bowl.

- While it is ridiculous to grade a draft when guys have never suited up for a team, I think Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey have made the right moves. Stocking up on CBs and LBs in the draft after a significant upgrade on the defensive line through free agency makes Buffalo look like a legit playoff contender for the first time in a decade. If RB Fred Jackson comes back 100% from his season ending injury, Buffalo will be a team to watch in 2012.

- I'm not sure if it is becoming a little league coach or returning to pro baseball (see below), but I have a new found rejuvenation for baseball. Already, I have watched more baseball on TV this season than I have in the last three seasons combined. Maybe it is the kid coming back out of me again or that being around the game again as once again made me a fan.

- Job news #1: I am excited to be returning to Major League Lacrosse this season. I worked the Long Island Lizards v. Chesapeake Bayhawks game at Hofstra for the MLL on ESPN3 last week and have the Rochester Rattlers games vs. the Ohio Machine and Denver Outlaws later this summer. I missed the league after working the TV broadcasts for the original Rattlers for three years before they left town after winning the championship in 2008. Even though I am still waiting for my championship (not really), my first game back was like I never left!

- Job news #2: I will return to pro baseball on May 31 as the Buffalo Bisons take on the Columbus Clippers at 10:35 a.m. I will be filling in for my good friend Ben Wagner on the Bisons Radio Network as he and Duke McGuire move up to handle the TV call on MLB TV. I was the on-field host for the Bisons in 2008 when they were part of the Cleveland Indians organization.