2021 NCAA Tournament Previews: Friday, Early Evening Games

#4 Oklahoma State (-8.5) vs. #13 Liberty
6:25 pm, TBS
Only Loyola-Chicago was more criminally underseeded than the Cowboys of Ok State.  Hard to imagine what The Committee was thinking here as a 4-seed over West Virginia, but that’s what happened.  And, now they have to endure the pure pain of playing Liberty here.

Oklahoma State
Cade Cunningham will very likely be only the 4th Big XII player since 1960 to be the Top Pick in the NBA Draft (Danny Manning in 1988, Blake Griffin in 2009, and Andrew Wiggins in 2014).  Cunningham is averaging 19.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.9 bpg, with shooting percentages of 46/43/86% and has been as good as advertised.  Cunningham is flanked by a legit Number Two in 6’5” JR Ice Likelele (9.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.1 spg, 50% FG, 41% from three), but they have both missed games down the stretch, allowing others to step up, most notably 6’3” SO Avery Anderson (11.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 48% FG, 85% FT), 6’9″ SO Kalib Boone (9.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 65% FG), and 6’7″ Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (9.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 53% FG), who have all really stepped up when Cunningham out.  This is not a one-man show, like many people thought.  And, it’s not a two-man show, like I definitely thought.  This team is legit.  They’ve only lost 3 of their last 13 games – one at Kansas, one at Baylor, and the Big XII title game against Texas.

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2021 NCAA Tournament Preview – Friday, Late Afternoon Games

#2 Ohio State (-16) vs #15 Oral Roberts
3:00 pm, CBS
Contrary to popular belief, the 15/2 upset is not very common.  People think that it is because of 2012, when TWO 15-seeds won, including Lehigh shocking Duke, and then the very next year was Dunk City making the Sweet 16.  But, there has only been one since 2013 and there were only 4 before 2012.  In all, 15-seeds are 8-132 in the first round.  However, if it is gonna happen this year…this might be the one (for the record, I am not picking this or even considering picking it – just saying).

Ohio State
When the Buckeyes beat Penn State on Feb 18, they were 18-4, ranked 4th in the country and were sitting as a projected 1-seed in pretty much all bracketologies.  But, they lost their last 4 reg season games and looked to be sliding.  Until the B1G Tournament, when they beat Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan before losing in OT to Illinois in the title game.  They look to be back in midseason form.  6’7” SO E.J. Liddell (16.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 49% FG, 37% from three) has become a superstar, and 6’3” JR Duane Washington (15.3 ppg, 2.9 apg, 37% from three) is so fun to watch because he’s so smooth with a soft touch.  He and his awesome “no f’s to give” attitude dropped a 30-spot on the Illini  6’1” SR PG C.J. Walker (9.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) is about as rock solid as they come, and 6’7” JR Justice Sueing (10.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), a Hawaiian who started his career at Cal, has really become a nice player to go with his great judicial name.  One issue with the Buckeyes is the tallest guy on their roster is only 6’8” and that’s SR Kyle Young (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who is dealing with a high ankle sprain and will not be 100%.  But, if they are up late, they can finish the game because their two primary ballhandlers are RIDICULOUS FT shooters – Washington (90%) and Walker (95%).

Oral Roberts
Now, I’m not going to “mid-major shame” anyone here because I don’t expect everyone – even people who cover college hoops for a living – to pay attention to the little leagues.  They don’t really matter, I get it.  And, that’s fine.  But, don’t pretend to follow them.  Don’t pretend that reading a kenpom page makes you an expert on that team.  And, there are a LOT of professional college basketball writers who act as if they care about mid-major hoops, but don’t pay the least bit of attention.  And, do you know how I know that?  Because I have heard countless people, in the last week, talk about ORU as a threat to OSU.  That is true.  But, they do so while referencing how great of a scorer Max Abmas is.  And, that is also true.  But, when you hear them say “Max Ab-miss,” you know that they’ve never actually seen an ORU game.  The dude plays 37 minutes a game for the Golden Eagles…and his name is clearly pronounced “Ace-miss.”  I have no idea why it’s spelled Abmas, but it’s pronounced “Ace-miss.”  And, Mr. Abmas is the only player in the country who averages more points per game than Luka Garza.  The 6’1″ SO Max Abmas is averaging 24.7 ppg on the strength of 84 three-pointers with ridiculous percentages of 49/46/90%.  WOWOWOWOW!  Abmas also averages 3.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, and 1.5 spg.  And, all of this usage and he only averages 2.0 TO per game.  You will not see a better pure shooter on any team in any tournament in America over the next two weeks plus he averages 3.5 assists per game.  And, yet…he still might not even be the best all-around player on his own team.  6’8″ JR Kevin Obanor (18.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 50/46/88%) is an absolute monster!  These two are unbelievable on the mid-major level and lead a top-70 offense.  They are not good at all defensively, but they can score with anyone.

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2021 NCAA Tournament Preview: Friday, Early Afternoon Games

After a year without the Tournament, this is awesome!  So, let’s get right to the games…

#7 Florida (-1) vs. #10 Virginia Tech
12:15 pm, CBS
I love the first game of the Tournament.  It’s always interesting to think of what two teams are gonna tip us off.  And, this year, it’s a pretty good one.  Or, at least a competitive one.

Florida
The Gators come stumbling into this Tournament and, I think, are one of the few major seeding mistakes that the Committee made in what was a rather well-seeded tournament, in general.  This team is not a 7-seed especially after losing 3 of their last 4 with that only win a close one over a bad Vandy team in the SEC Tournament that they easily could have lost.  The big story of the UF season is the loss of Keyontae Johnson after he had a TERRIFYING collapse in a game at FSU in November.  Johnson, the preseason SEC POY, was the best and most important player on this team, and their ceiling is definitely lowered without him.  But, most importantly, it looks like he’s going to be okay.  Before the recent swoon, the Gators had been pretty good considering they lost their best player.  They are top-40 in both offense and defense, and have one of the most unsung stars of the SEC in the 6’5” SO Tre Mann (15.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 45/39/84%), who is a stud on both ends.  He is probably the best player that no one ever talks about.  They also have former McDonald’s All-American in 6’5″ SO Scottie Lewis (7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 spg), but he has been surprisingly slow to emerge in now his sophomore year in Gainesville.  They have a couple of decent wings in Reisterstown’s own 6’3” JR sharpshooter Noah Locke (10.5 ppg, 41% from three) and 6’1” JR transfer from Cleve State Tyree Appleby (11.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg),.  And, losing Johnson has forced Mike White to go big and allowed for 6’11” JR transfer from Michigan Colin Castleton (12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 59% FG) to emerge as a really good SEC big.  The Gators are 8-0 this year when Castleton scores 14 or more.

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2021 NCAA Tournament: First Four Preview

So, BSB might actually be back this time.   Doogan and I started this as an alternative to sending each other overly wordy, unabridged emails about sports.  And, since it’s been a long, hard winter for all of us, Doogan and I and our master admin, J, are in need of an outlet for “thoughts.”  So, let’s fire up the BSB machine again and even if it’s just a glorified email exchange, it will be cathartic for the three of us.

And,  is there a better time of year to start back up?  The NCAA Tournament, a Sixers playoff chase, the start of an interesting Phillies season…and, a ton of tennis tournaments and the Summer Olympics for me to write really long posts about to no one but myself!!!

So, let’s get this started with a preview of Thursday night’s First Four games.  I’ll get another one up tomorrow previewing Friday’s First Round games and then we’ll go from there.

#16 Mount Saint Mary’s (+1) vs. #16 Texas-Southern
 5:10 pm, truTV
Alright, alright, I recognize that these 16v16 games are kind of like tennis or the biathalon in that I care about and enjoy them WAYYY more than most of even the most ardent sports fans.  So, I’ll try and be short on them…I will probably fail at that attempt.  This game is one of those classic First Four games (if that phrase even means anything) with a (SWAC/MEAC) team vs. a non-champion from a bad league.  The winner of this game gets to get destroyed on national TV by Michigan on Saturday.

Mount Saint Mary’s
The best story from this game is the 5’7″ point guard on Mount St. Mary’s, Damian Chong-Qui.  Chong-Qui, who turned into the go-to guy just 6 games into the season when they lost Jalen Gibbs for the season, has a ridiculous backstory.  The Sun article is really good, but in summary, when Qui was 4, his family was the victim of a home invasion where his dad was shot once and stabbed five times and lost the use of his left hand.  Just TWO MONTHS LATER, his mother was randomly murdered, being mistaken for someone else.  When he was twelve, Qui’s dad dropped Qui off and went to get dinner for them.  While waiting for food, someone fired shots into a crowd and one of the random bullets struck the older Qui in the back and he is now paralyzed from the waist down.  And, a just year later, his son Damian, won the starting point guard job for powerhouse McDonough despite being only a freshman and standing a mere 4-feet-9-inches tall.  Qui, who says he “doesn’t believe in height” is now a budding star for MSM, averaging 14.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg (again, at 5’7”), and 5.6 apg.  He’s incredible!  They also have a strong, athletic frontline of 6’9″ JR Nana Opuku (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg), 6’9″ JR Malik Jefferson (8.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 58% FG), and 6’8″ JR Mazie Offurum (9.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.0 apg).

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Documentation of the All-Time Greatest Edition of Our Nation’s Greatest Sporting Event

Like Puccinelli before me and Herodotus before him, I am but a humble scribe simply tasked with the documentation of the historical events unfolding before my eyes.  This year’s NCAA Tournament is only 1/3 of the way to crowning a champion, but it is already the best edition of this legendary sporting event.  So, let’s go through all of the MADNESS of what just happened, pod by pod, shall we?  I’ll indicate the pod by the team that survived.

Kansas
The overall #1-seeded Jayhawks are through in one of the less interesting pods of the weekend.  Led by Perry Ellis and a host of other good “college players,” KU romped 16-seeded Austin Peay and then handled a game UConn team.  Freshmen Chieck Diallo and Carlton Bragg barely got off the bench for a deep, veteran-laden KU team.  We did get drama in the 8/9 game, as Josh Scott and Colorado led most of the way, only to see UConn – and the ridiculous free-throw shooting of Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs – come all the way back to win.

Maryland
The Terps took a big lead against #12 South Dakota State only to see it slowly slip away and slip away, but they held on.  The other first-round game gave us some MADNESS as #13 Hawai’i – with a slew of skilled athletes like Roderick Bobbitt and Stefan Jonkovic – pretty much handled a 4th-seeded Cal team that was red-hot and featured several future first-round NBA draft picks, including Jaylen Brown. who is likely to be a household name at some point, and Ivan Rabb.  The kicker here is that their leading scorer, Tyrone Wallace, broke his arm in practice the day before the game.  Then, in the Second Round, this fun Hawai’i team led for about 30 minutes before Maryland turned on the jets.  Now, the Terps, who I still believe have the best five starting players (not the best lineup because they don’t really fit) in the country in Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jake Layman, Robert Carter, and Diamond Stone, are moving on to the Sweet 16.

Miami
Sheldon McClellan barely led the 3rd-seeded Hurricanes past a pretty gritty Buffalo team, who was making their second straight tournament appearance despite losing Coach Bobby Hurley to Arizona State last season in the First Round, but that was the least interesting game of a great pod.  The other First Round game saw Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet continue their incredible careers by upsetting #6 Arizona just two days after dismantling Wade Baldwin, Damion Jones, and Vandy in the First Four in Dayton.  Two days after that, the Shockers were given a noon tip against Miami and fell down by 25 early.  But, Baker and Van Vleet still had a little magic in them, as they stormed back and took the lead, only to see Angel Rodriguez just throw daggers at them to close out the game and two insanely historic careers in Wichita.  Think about this – Baker and Van Vleet both arrived on campus four years ago to a school that was a good mid-major program, but nothing remarkable.  But, four years later, the two of them graduate with a Final Four, an undefeated regular season, and 4 years where the only year that they did not win MULTIPLE TOURNAMENT GAMES was when they ended their season with only one loss all year – to the eventual national runners-up.  Wow!

Villanova
Jay Wright’s ‘Cats get the monkey off their backs of 6 years of total disappointment in this tournament.  Freshman Jalen Brunson and senior Ryan Arcidiacono led the way, along with unsung superstar, Josh Hart, as #2 ‘Nova romped UNC-Asheville in the First Round and absolutely destroyed #7 Iowa in the Second Round.  Pretty lackluster madness, right?  Nope!  The other game in this pod was Iowa versus #10 Temple.  The Hawkeyes – led by the sharp-shooting of Peter Jok and Jarrod Uthoff – were up most of the way, but the Owls made a furious comeback and actually sent the game to overtime on three INCREDIBLY clutch free throws by senior star, Quentin DeCosey.  Then, the overtime went back and forth until all-around d-bag, Adam Woodbury hit the winning putback at the buzzer thanks to a blatant two-handed shove in the back that wasn’t called.  Had that been called, there would have been free throws for Obi Enechionya on the other end, and we would have all been treated to an NCAA Tournament game between two BIG FIVE TEAMS!  We were robbed by the MADNESS.

North Carolina
The MADNESS here came in the First Round.  There was a hint of some MADNESS even in the First Round game for top-seeded UNC.  #16 Florida Gulf Coast (not exactly strangers to MADNESS, themselves) played toe-to-toe with the big, bad Tar Heels for the entire first half and entered the locker room down just 1 at 41-40.  The Heels came out and flexed their muscles in the second half, but it was fun for 20 minutes.  The other First Round game was fun for all 40.  Providence and USC went up and down and back and forth all night before Kris Dunn hit a couple ENORMOUS shots down the stretch to erase a pretty sizeable USC lead that was built by their relatively unknown stars, Julian Jacobs, Jordan McLaughlin, and Bennie “Buckets” Boatwright.  And, then it happened – MADNESS!!!  USC, up 1 with :01.5 seconds left was so focused on stopping either Dunn – the two-time Big East Player of the Year – or Ben Bentil – the 2016 Big East scoring champ – that they forgot to cover little ole Rodney Bullock, who took the inbounds pass and scored a wide-open layup to win it.  Wow!!!  The Friars moved on to the Second Round and got pummeled by Carolina, but they had already contributed to the MADNESS.

Indiana
Maybe not true MADNESS, but probably the best actual basketball game of the tournament so far came from this pod.  When Indiana rolled Chattanooga and Kentucky rolled Stony Brook in the First Round, we were guaranteed this great matchup between two ultimate college hoops heavyweights who were the respective champs of the Big Ten and SEC.  Star PG Tyler Ulis versus star PG Yogi Ferrell.  Everyone’s favorite one-and-done, Jamal Murray, versus the completely unknown future star, O.G. Anunoby.  In what was just a terrific basketball game that was no befitting the Second Round, the Hoosiers eliminated Calipari’s ‘Cats and sent Ulis, Murray, and Skal Labissiere to their next stops in the Association.

Notre Dame
MADNESS lives and his name is Austin, Stephen F. Austin.  The 14th-seeded Lumberjacks simply dominated #3-seed and sleeper Final Four pick, West Virginia, in the First Round winning by 14 in a game that wasn’t even that close.  The other First Round game saw Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste come back from a huge deficit to lead #6 Notre Dame past #11 Michigan.  That set up some MADNESS.  Stephen F. Austin, who best player, Thomas Walkup, actually might be a lumberjack, outplayed Notre Dame, but the Irish took every punch and eventually got the game-winning tip-in at the buzzer turning a one-point loss into a one-point win.  And, who scored that monumental basket?  But, of course – Rex Pflueger.  I mean that makes sense, considering he hadn’t scored since March 5th, and only scored more than 2 points in SEVEN of ND’s 34 games.  MADNESS!!!

Wisconsin
On January 12th, the Badgers were 9-9 and 1-4 in Big Ten play.  They had lost to Western Illinois, Milwaukee, and Marquette at home.  They had lost their Hall of Fame head coach.  So, why wouldn’t they be in the Sweet 16?!?  They won a First Round game that was the lowest-scoring game in Tournament history, 47-43 against Pitt, and then took on #2 Xavier, led by Jalen Reynolds, Trevon Blueitt, Myles Davis, and freshman star Edmond Sumner.  This is the best Xavier team ever assembled and a legit championship contender.  Then Bronson Koenig happened.  The junior hit a 26-footer with :15 seconds left to tie the game at 60.  Then Sumner committed a charge on the other end with :05 seconds left, setting up Koenig’s heroics, as he took an inbounds pass in the corner and calmly DRILLED a ridiculous game-winner.  MADNESS!!!

Oregon
Let’s start in the First Round with some MADNESS.  #8 St. Joe’s took on #9 Cincy in a true East Coast style brawl out in Spokane.  Isaiah Miles hit a 3 with :20 seconds left to put St. Joe’s up 78-76.  Cincy comes down, Troy Caupain drives the lane, draws about 4 Hawks defenders, lets go of an incredible wrap-around pass to Octavius Ellis, who does exactly what you’re supposed to do and DUNKS THE BALL.  The problem?  When the red light goes on, the ball is through the basket, but he is still touching it.  Basket waved off, St. Joe’s survives, MADNESS wins…as always.  The Hawks and superstar, DeAndre Bembry, then move on to face #1 Oregon, who dispatched Bill Carmody’s 14-19 Holy Cross team that won their first 4 road games of the year in the Patriot League Tournament to win the thing.  Oregon, led by Pac-12 POY Dillon Brooks and Pac-12 Newcomer of the Year Chris Boucher, actually struggled most of the way against the Hawks, but hit some monster shots down the stretch to squeak out a victory.

Duke
MADNESS!!!  #5 Baylor got manhandled by #12 Yale in the First Round.  Yep, you read that right.  Yale manhandled Baylor.  They outrebounded Baylor.  How do a bunch of Ivy League kids outrebound big, bad Baylor?  Well, some awful reporter asked Taurean Prince that question in an even more ignorant, condescending way than I just did.  And, Prince’s deadpan answer was phenomenal:  You see when someone takes a shot and misses, anyone on the court can go up and grab the ball with two hands.  When that happens, it’s called a “rebound.”  Ya, they got more of those.  But, anyway, MADNESS struck with a little white guy named Makai Mason dropping 31 on Baylor and eliminating a sleeper Final Four pick before the sun went down on Thursday.  The first game of the tournament had the potential for Madness, but Brandon Ingram, Grayson Allen, and the last Plumlee put the Dookies on their backs and carried them past a good UNC-Wilmington team.  Then, Duke ambushed Yale from the start in the Second Round, but Yale came storming back, cutting a 27-point lead to just 3, but couldn’t finish the job, and Duke and their 6 useable players move on to the Sweet 16.

Texas A&M
Obviously, there were a lot of pods with a LOT OF MADNESS.  But, nothing can top the MADNESS that ensued in this little pod.  Let’s get this out of the way first – #3 Texas A&M ran over #14 Green Bay in an easy First Round win.  Jalen Jones, Danuel House, College Station’s own Alex Caruso all were too much for the Phoenix.  But, that is where the non-MADNESS ends in this pod.  First Round, late Friday night:  11th-seeded Northern Iowa (who got into the Dance on a crazy buzzer-beater by Wes Washpun to beat Evansville in the MVC final) led #6 Texas almost the whole way, but the ‘Horns made a great comeback and tied it on an Isaiah Taylor runner with :02 seconds left.  Overtime, right?  Nope…MADNESS!  The incredibly well-coached Panthers had an inbounds play ready to go without even using a timeout.  They threw the ball to Paul Jesperson, who took two dribble and shot a one-footed shot from half-court.  GOOOOOOOOODDDDD!!!!!  You gotta be kidding me.  One of the best moments that’s ever happened to this program (at least from a guy not named Faroukmanesh), right?  Well, yes…and no.  It sent the Panthers to the second round, which is great, right?  Well, yes…and no.  In an evil twist of fate, the greatest buzzer-beater in NCAA Tournament history enabled the worst collapse in COLLEGE BASKETBALL HISTORY.  I still don’t believe that this happened, but UNI had a TWELVE-POINT LEAD WITH :44 SECONDS LEFT.  WHAT?!?!?!?!?  But, they didn’t have their “designated inbounds passer,” who was struggling with cramps.  What?  Not having an inbounder costs you 12 freaking points in :44 seconds???  Good grief…  Yes, A&M went on to win in double-OT.  Absolute incredible and total MADNESS – no other word for it.

Oklahoma
The MADNESS here is pretty much confined to how freaking awesome one dude is.  The guy known simply as “Buddy” was an absolute force in two games so far, scoring 53 points in a pair of OU wins to reach the Sweet 16.  The games weren’t without their fun, though, as the 2nd-seeded Sooners were pushed by both #15 CS-Bakersfield (with Dewayne Durham) and #10 VCU, but survived in both of them.  The other game in this pod was a decent game where VCU’s Melvin Johnson outdueled Gary Payton III and Oregon State, who was playing without their second-best player, Tres Tinkle.

Virginia
UVA looked pretty good in validating their #1 seed, as future U.S. Senator, Malcolm Brogdon and, especially, Anthony Gill and London Perrantes, rolled over Hampton and then survived a REALLY tough test from Kellen Dunham, the immortal Rosie Jones, and the rest of the Butler Bulldogs, who looked very upset-ready.  The ‘Dogs had knocked out Tubby Smith’s Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 8/9 game in the First Round.

Iowa State
The MADNESS in this pod came from two teams that are no longer around.  #5 Purdue, with the ridiculous frontline of AJ Hammonds, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan, were cruising past a 29-win AR-Little Rock team, up 13 at the under-4 timeout.  But, then their glaring hole at point guard reared its ugly head and Little Rock came storming back including an INSANE 3 to force overtime by Josh Hagins.  The Trojans finished the job in double OT, knocking out yet another sleeper Final Four pick before their tournament even got started.  The Cyclones of Iowa State, led by 56 points in two games by Georges Niang, ran away from AJ English and Iona and then took care of Little Rock to reach the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga
MADNESS!!!  An 11-seed in the Sweet 16 is always crazy, but it’s starting to be less so with the ‘Zags.  They have now made – get this – FOUR Sweet 16s as a double-digit seed.  No other program has ever done that more than twice.  Cinderella stops being Cinderella when it’s always the same team.  But, the ‘Zags, who were a 2-seed last year and a 1-seed the year before that, looked very much like the best team in this pod, as they crushed #6 Seton Hall and an exhausted Isaiah Whitehead in the First Round and then absolutely pummeled Jakob Poeltl and #3 Utah in the Second Round.  Utah had nearly blown a lead to Marvelle Harris and #14 Fresno State in the First Round, but survived.

Syracuse
And, after all of this, we STILL haven’t mentioned the craziest thing that happened.  THE BIGGEST UPSET IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY.  Ya, that happened, too.  There are good arguments about whether or not the Middle Tennessee upset of #2 Michigan State really was the biggest upset ever, they are all based in the fact that MTSU isn’t all that bad and were criminally underseeded as a 15-seed.  But, NO ONE is arguing that this Michigan State team is the best team in the history of the tournament to lose in the First Round.  They were – along with Kansas – the Vegas favorites to WIN THE WHOLE F’ING THING.  The other 2-seeds to lose to 15-seeds were very vulnerable and overrated 2-seeds like Missouri, South Carolina, and Georgetown.  Or, they happened in years with prohibitive favorites, like ’91 Syracuse in a year when UNLV and Duke were LOADED, ’93 Arizona when the Fab Five were all back as sophomores and UNC was loaded.  Or, 2001 Iowa State, in a year with a 1-loss Stanford team and a Duke team that had an NBA starting lineup of Jay Williams, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Shane Battier, and Carlos Boozer.  But, this Michigan State team was one of two odds-on favorites to win the whole thing, had one of the two best players in the country, and a coach that is going to be elected into the Hall of Fame this year.  You’ve got to be kidding.  Giddy Potts just hit ANOTHER THREE.  And, in under-the-radar MADNESS, 10th-seeded Syracuse, who shouldn’t have even been in the tournament, cruised past Dayton and Middle Tennessee for a spot in the Sweet 16, where they will wear home whites as the higher-seeded team against #11 Gonzaga.  Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinijie are laughing all the way to Chicago.

An Overly Analytical Look at the Eagles Schedule

 ORIGINAL ANALYSIS:  11.0 wins
WEEK ONE UPDATE:  Loss at Atlanta…10.35 wins
WEEK TWO UPDATE:  Loss vs Dallas…9.75 wins
WEEK THREE UPDATE:  Win at Jets…10.05 wins
WEEK FOUR UPDATE:  Loss at Washington…9.30 wins
WEEK FIVE UPDATE:  Win vs New Orleans…9.50 wins
WEEK SIX UPDATE:  Win vs Giants…9.70 wins
WEEK SEVEN UPDATE:  Loss at Carolina…9.15 wins
WEEK EIGHT UPDATE:  Bye…9.15 wins
WEEK NINE UPDATE:  Win at Dallas…9.55 wins
WEEK TEN UPDATE:  Loss vs Miami…8.85 wins

Because of the brevity of the NFL season and, therefore, the intense pressure placed on each and every game, no other sport places such an importance on the schedule.  Think about the difference between 10-6 and 8-8 – that is just two games, in actuality, but an effective mountain of difference between how a season turns out.  But, we all know this, which is why we love to talk about “can the Eagles win 10 games or are they just an 8- or 9-win team?”  Which leads to the inevitable prediction machine.

One of the best parts of sports is forecasting.  Trying to figure out just how good your team is.  And, these predictions have steadily gotten more and more refined.  It started with simple questions like “who’s going to win the Super Bowl?”  Then, it became “Who are your 12 playoff teams?”  Eventually, people got ambitious and started picking win totals for every team (which drove me nuts because the aggregate of these win totals would inevitably be higher than the assumed losses, so the league, in total, would have like 280 wins and 232 losses, even though they were all playing each other).  Then, people figured out that there were 256 NFL games each year, so your aggregate win totals had to sum to 256.

Finally, dorks with far too much time on their hands (like me, before the kids took all my “free” time away) started looking at the schedule and picking every game and Continue reading “An Overly Analytical Look at the Eagles Schedule”

The 2015 Philadelphia Eagles – New and Improved?

I honestly (and only partially tongue-in-cheek) can’t wait for the inevitable 30 for 30 documentary on the 2015 Eagles offseason.  To be honest, if the Birds had traded up for Marcus Mariota in the draft, you could make a really good case for it being docu-worthy. But, in the end, we had just a run-of-the-mill offseason that consisted of a front office coup d’etat, a complete roster shake-up, racist-accusation-eliciting trades, standing ovations for a Our Lord and Savior disguised as a 4th-string H-back…I mean, quarterback…, and a couple of head-turning preseason performances. Are you ready for some football?!?

So, let us try and leave all the noise of the offseason behind us and focus on what we have on our football team right now. And, with the bottom line simply being wins and losses – what can we expect from this team this year?  I think one of the best references is to look at what they had last year and the circumstances surrounding that season and compare it to what they have right now.  Last year’s team was a 10-win team, so an improved roster/circumstances would lend one to think that 10 wins is the floor. Right?  So, I wanted to analyze each position group as they compare to last year’s and how deep they are.  But I also wanted to throw in an “upside” factor. In other words, I (like Chip and Sam Hinkie) believe that if you ain’t winning championships, you ain’t winning anything.  So, I want to look at this team in that light – the championship or bust mentality. Let’s call it an elite factor.

So, here we go – position by position.  The differences will be analyzed Continue reading “The 2015 Philadelphia Eagles – New and Improved?”

BSB’s 2015 Sixers Draft Guide

I started this last year with a list of the players I liked or didn’t like in the draft, and it seemed to turn out pretty well. But, I must give the caveat that I am a MUCH bigger fan of the college game than the pro game, and the two games are very different. So, all of these opinions are based upon what I saw in college and what I have read since. So, all of these takes will be seen through the prism of the college game (or what I have heard in the case of the international players). While I cannot claim an extensive track record on predicting who can make the jump, I did pretty well last year – picking out sleepers like K.J. McDaniels and Jordan Clarkson and calling for the struggles of Doug McDermott, Gary Harris, and Tyler Ennis. And, since the Sixers own basically the entire second round, it should be really interesting to see how they play it. Anyway, here goes my takes on the potential draft choices tonight.

POSSIBLY IN PLAY FOR THE SIXERS AT #3

Karl-Anthony Towns
I have to admit, I was an Okafor guy for a very long time. I thought that Towns was terrific, but Okafor was better. I was WRONG. Towns is a TOTAL stud and well worth the #1 pick – which he will be tonight. He can do everything you need. He has no weaknesses and plenty of strengths. All that said, I do not see him being a top-10 NBA player, but he is well worth the #1 pick because he is 6’11” with a good handle, a great shooting touch (including almost 80% from the line), excellent passing ability, and elite rebounding and shotblocking instincts. Just writing this paragraph makes me depressed that the Sixers didn’t get the #1 pick. He’s that good.

Jahlil Okafor
People have really soured on Okafor recently, and I get it. He is not a great rebounder; he is pretty bad from the free throw line; and, he could be scary bad defensively at times. But, is all of that enough to completely discount the fact that this is – arguably – the best low-post scorer to enter the league, maybe since Hakeem? He is agile and quick. He has terrific hands and a very soft touch around the basket. And, at 19 years old, he already has a full arsenal of low-post moves. He is also an excellent passer, a smart player, and seemingly a really good guy. Yes, there are some things to be scared of about him, but I would take the over on 22 for his career scoring average. And, the other argument about how the NBA is going small and quick may have some validity, but let’s pump the brakes on that for a second. People say that Golden State forced Cleveland to “go small.” What does that mean – they were forced to take Timofey Mozgov off the floor? Wow – really forced their hands on that one. If Cleveland had Okafor, the narrative would have been about how the Cavs “forced Golden State to go big.”

D’Angelo Russell
I have to be honest here – I watched a TON of D’Angelo Russell at Ohio State, and I have question marks about his game translating to quite the level some think it might. That does not mean that I do not want him in a Sixers uniform (if Towns isn’t there, I think he’s the one I want them to draft). And, it does not mean that I do not think he has a chance to really, really good. I am just saying that everyone out there who is saying that Russell is a sure-fire superstar at the next level is choosing to ignore some of the legitimate question marks about his game. First and foremost, he is not – by any stretch – an elite athlete. Now, that is clearly not a deal-breaker, and I usually hate when that torpedos someone’s draft stock because we have recently seen several examples of marginal athletes becoming superstars on the wing (James Harden, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, etc.), but lacking elite athleticism certainly lowers your floor. Guys like Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Derrick Rose have a lot more margin for error and can still be great despite lacking some seemingly requisite skills. I also – and this is partially-related to a lack of elite athleticism – have always had some serious question marks about Russell’s ability on the defensive end, and I think this is being overlooked at every turn (and why I believe the reports that Hinkie is not sold on Russell at #3). And, one more question mark – as good as he was at Ohio State (and he was AWESOME), he never seemed to have that “killer instinct” to me. And, maybe I am just looking at his smoothness and relatively quiet demeanor as an indication of inconsistency (which is what I hated that people did to Wiggins last year), and if so, then forgive me. Now, on to the good things (I guess this has to be the longest paragraph, since he’s most likely going to be our new favorite Sixer). Only a freshman (and a relatively lightly-recruited one at that) and yet this dude had some of the best court vision, poise, and on-court leadership that I have seen in all my years of basketball fandom. It honestly looked, at times, like the game was in slow motion for Russell. He saw plays happening before anyone else on the court and, combined with a natural passing ability, was an incredible playmaker. He also has a really good jumpshot. I have heard several people, including the great Fran Fraschilla, compare his jumper to that of Steph Curry. That seems like a ridiculous comparison to me, but Franny has forgotten more basketball than I will ever know, so maybe it is true. Either way, the dude can shoot. And, that isn’t his only way to score the ball. He is an excellent driver with a solid mid-range game of runners and floaters. He is also a willing and able rebounder with good size. People say he might translate as a 2-guard at the NBA, but I completely disagree. I think he is a point guard through and through, and I would love to hitch my wagon to his offensive game. I just worry about the other end of the floor a little bit. Alright, now I know I have to shorten the rest of these…sorry, folks.

Emmanuel Mudiay
The point guard battle at the top of this draft is fascinating because they are both so incredibly different (caveat: I have not seen a lot of Mudiay, as he went overseas to play this year, but I have seen him some and have a pretty good sense of who he is). Also at 6’5″, think of Mudiay as the polar opposite of Russell in just about every other way. While Russell is a bit slight and not remarkably athletic, Mudiay is big, strong, and insanely athletic. Russell may struggle to guard on the perimeter, but Mudiay will get up in people’s faces and lock them down. Both are decent in the open court, but Russell as more of a heady playmaker, while Mudiay is a jet. He goes to the basket hard, jumps through the roof, and finishes well around the hoop. However, he is nowhere near the shooter Russell is and is nowhere near as secure with the ball. That said, he is, by all accounts, a terrific kid with a strong work ethic. Both are good rebounders, but for different reasons. Russell seems to know where to be, while Mudiay just seems to go up and over people. If Russell has the ceiling of James Harden, Mudiay has the ceiling of Russell Westbrook. I think I have come around in the Russell vs. Mudiay debate to actually favor Russell for the Sixers at this point, I am still holding firm to my love of Mudiay and think he is going to be very good in the Association.

Kristaps Porzingis
Man, I wish the Sixers were able to get that #6 pick in this draft because I am salivating over what they could have done with two top-6 picks this year. Oh well, I guess we have to settle for #3 this year and FOUR first-rounders next year. Anyway, the Porzingis rumors are coming hot and heavy, and for good reason. The upside on this guy is incredible. They just don’t make humans like Kristaps Porzingis very often. He is quick and agile with a good handle and jumpshot. Oh, and by the way, he is 7’2″. Yep…SEVEN-TWO. He blocks shots on one end and hits threes on the other. I have never seen the dude play, but the scouting reports are absolutely sensational. On offense, he is great in transition and off the dribble with the potential to be an elite outside shooter. And, on defense, he can guard multiple positions with the potential to be an elite shotblocker. Really the only question is – can we really believe any of this?!? And, then the additional question for the Sixers is – do you believe that he does not want to play in Philly? And, if not, to what lengths is he willing to go to avoid it? Will he simply stay overseas if the Sixers draft him? That is quite a risk…

Mario Hezonja
I think it is incredibly unlikely – even for the unpredictable Hinkie – that he reaches for Hezonja, but he does have an affinity for internationals, so there is a chance. I know very little about Hezonja, but he sounds like he could be really good. Apparently, he’s a very good athlete with legitmate range on his jumpshot. He also sounds like he is insanely cocky and just a bad dude. I hope they don’t get cute and take him.

Justise Winslow
Like Hezonja, it is hard to imagine Hinkie reaching for Winslow at #3, but I do think there is a very outside chance that he is in play here. No one else is in play at all. Winslow is a do-it-all kind of player, who is going to make some NBA fanbase VERY happy. And, even though his stock is skyrocketing right now, I might still be higher on him than most. People talk about Okafor and Tyus Jones (for good reason) as carrying Duke to the title, but Winslow had just as much an impact on that team – if not more – than either of the other two more celebrated freshmen. His jumper is a little shaky, but still solid, and he can get to the basket. He also is a willing passer and a strong rebounder. But, his real strength is on the defensive end. If you forced me to pick who, from this draft, would be the NBA defender in five years not named Willie Cauley-Stein, I would say Justise Winslow.

NOT REALLY IN PLAY UNLESS THE SIXERS TRADE WAY UP (or down…ugh)

Stanley Johnson
I am shocked that Stanley Johnson is not in play for the Sixers, but it is pretty clear that Johnson may be slipping out of the Top 10. Now, to be fair, there is no way that he is one of the three best players in the draft, so he should not be in play for the Sixers at #3, but I really don’t understand all the criticism of Johnson. Everything I saw from him at Arizona tells me that he will be a really solid player at the next level. He plays incredibly hard and is easily one of the best all-around defenders in this draft. He isn’t a great athlete, but all the criticisms of his athleticism seem to go way overboard to me. He looked like a pretty good athlete to me in the Pac-12. He is not a great shooter, but not a terrible one either. He will likely never be an NBA All-Star, but it would not surprise me in the least to see Johnson as a major contributor to a very good NBA team. Someone will be happy with this pick tonight.

Myles Turner
The NBA is littered with the carcasses of the careers of guys like Myles Turner. He has such tantalizing size and skills that it is hard for anyone to look at him and not see a superstar. But, then you look at his production and, other than the 2.6 blocks per game, nothing jumps off the page. And, even further, you look and you see injury concerns. I think this guy could be special, but doubts about heart or health should raise serious concerns, and I have doubts about both of them for Turner.

Willie Cauley-Stein
I love Cauley-Stein and think he is going to make a pretty solid pro. He’s a weird dude with almost no offensive game, but he might be, literally, the best defensive player I have ever seen on the college level. Literally. He is an elite shotblocker right now, and he can go out and guard the perimeter or run the floor. He is fun to watch, and I am gonna miss him at the college level.

Devin Booker
Talk about a quick-riser up the charts, Devin Booker arrived in the NBA draft at the perfect time. Watching the Warriors shoot their way to 67 wins and an NBA title did wonders for guys like Booker, who are basically pure jumpshooters. He is also a smart player (son of one of my all-time favorite college players, Melvin Booker from Missouri), who is a pretty solid defender. As the best shooter in the draft, he only needed to show adequate athleticism to be considered a mid-first rounder, but he tested a lot better than you would think in watching him, so I think he’s a bonafied lottery pick. I am rooting for him – he is a fun player to watch.

Trey Lyles
Might as well continue with that RIDICULOUS Kentucky team that, somehow, did not win the national championship. And, what is interesting is that I knew I was a fan of that UK team (normally, I am NOT), but I didn’t know why. Now, in looking at each individual player, I realize why. They had a bunch of likeable guys, who were really fun to watch. Lyles is another one. All year, as I watched that team, I kept thinking that Lyles was the one whose “stock” was most affected by the lack of playing time and exposure. If Lyles had gone to Louisville (his second choice) or Indiana (his home school), he would have been a featured part of the team – possibly either team’s best player – and could be looking at some sort of national awards or top-5 lottery status. Maybe not, but he certainly has that ability. He is 6’10” with really strong perimeter skills, including a solid jumpshot, smart passing skills, and good handle. I think he has the ability to really guard on the other end, though the scouts seem to disagree with that assessment. I like Lyles a lot and think he’s a bit of a sleeper (if that’s possible for the lottery pick).

Kelly Oubre
I am not in love with Oubre, but if he falls to the mid-teens, he should be scooped up pretty quickly and that team should be happy with the upside that he has. He is a scorer, who is a capable defender, though could use a few more pounds on his frame. The only real concern – and it’s a big one – is just how INCREDIBLY bad he was for about a month or so at Kansas. Like, really, really bad. Like couldn’t-stay-on-the-court bad. That makes me very concerned about him between the ears, but the physical ability it there.

Sam Dekker
I feel like I am liking a lot more guys than I did last year, but I think that just goes to the depth of this draft. Well, here is someone that I do NOT love, at all. Everyone seems to be falling in love with Dekker, and I have no idea why. I have watched a LOT of Dekker over the past three years, and I just don’t see why everyone is in love with this kid. Yes, he is incredibly athletic and plays hard, but was somehow still a pretty poor defender both on the perimeter and on the block and a below-average rebounder. How is that possible when a guy with elite athleticism plays hard? I also think that people saw him hit like 87 threes against Kentucky and think that he was this great shooter. Well, that is not true. He was a streaky shooter – at best. While he has decent ball skills, he is not all that great of a passer. And, then there is the issue of position – what is he? A three, I guess, but is he guarding threes in the NBA? Is he scoring on threes in the NBA? I am just at a loss as to what Dekker actually can do.

Frank Kaminsky
As much as I dislike Dekker, I do not feel at all the same about his Badger teammate, Frank Kaminsky. I think Kaminsky does have transferrable skills to the next level, and I think he will make a decent NBA player. First of all, he is 7 feet tall. Second of all, he is a decent outside shooter who can also create his own shot off the dribble. And, everyone just thinks he was this 7-foot shooter. That is so untrue. He lived in the paint and developed a wide array of post moves that are highly successful (and transferrable) because of his great footwork and soft touch. He will really struggle to guard in the NBA, which might limit his playing time (and career longevity), but he can score at any level of basketball.

LATE FIRST ROUND POSSIBILITIES IF THE SIXERS TRADE UP
The Sixers actually have 5 second-round picks – 1/6 of the entire round. They are #35, 37, 47, 58, and 60. I can’t imagine that they will bring in 6 players to the roster this year. Some of these second-rounders could be trade chips or international stashes. But, there is some talent down here in the second round

Cameron Payne
My biggest sleeper in this draft is not really a sleeper any more because the word is getting out that Cam Payne can flat-out play. A couple months ago, I actually advocated that my perfect situation would be for the Sixers to take the best player available in the first even if it was a big man and then grab Payne in the second. But, that dream is over because (a) the Sixers have the 3rd pick and the two bigs will likely be gone and (b) the league has found out about Payne. But, this skinny, baby-faced point guard from the Ohio Valley Conference can do it all. And, my favorite part is that he combines an incredible basketball intelligence with the heart of a lion. He is my favorite player in this draft, and it’s a shame that he won’t be a Sixer.

Montrezl Harrell
While the stock of Payne and Portis are is rising, Harrell’s is slipping a bit. Earlier, I would have said that there is no way he slips into the second round, but his lack of size for a big and skill for a wing seems to be turning NBA GMs away. I still think he has a lot to offer. He is built like a tank with incredible athletic ability, and he plays insanely hard on every possession, but there are legitimate questions as to where he fits at the next level. 6’8″ power forwards without much of a perimeter game are an endangered species these days.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
It is hard for me to judge RHJ objectively because he spurned Temple in recruiting, but it is hard to fault him for going to Arizona. He is a sensational athlete, who could be an elite defender at the next leve. He won’t be a go-to scorer at any point, but the Sixers should run, not walk, to the podium if he is still there at 35 (which is HIGHLY unlikely).

POSSIBLE CHANCE OF BEING AVAILABLE EARLY IN THE 2ND

Bobby Portis
Maybe my second-favorite player in this draft, after Cam Payne, Portis was sensational at Arkansas. He is fun to watch with his size and skill and absolutely incredible energy with which he plays. If you believe in college play having any translation, then you believe that Bobby Portis is going to be a solid NBA rotation player. I don’t think he’s going to slip, but if the Sixers could somehow grab him for a relatively affordable price, I would be a very, VERY happy man.

Terry Rozier
No thanks. I know that he is an elite athlete and a solid defender, but I don’t like guards who aren’t “smart.” The same reason I didn’t like Elfrid Payton last year (though, I look wrong about that, so take it for what it’s worth) is why I don’t like Rozier this year. He turns the ball over a LOT and commits silly fouls on the defensive end. He is just not the kind of guy I want on my team.

R.J. Hunter
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE mid- and low-major college basketball, so you would think that I would be in love Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter. And, I do like him, but I don’t love him. People will just look at his numbers and see him in the NCAA Tournament (he had “The Shot” of the tournament this year when his dad fell off his stool) and think he’s a total stud. Then they will see that he’s 6’6″ with a 6″11″ wingspan and think that he can totally translate to the next level like another small-school shooter that happened to win the NBA MVP this year. But, as someone who actually watched some of his regular season Sun Belt games over the past three years, let me tell you that I am not sure about him. He was pretty much everything for GA State, but also disappeared at times. He didn’t look like a guy who was just so much better than everyone else in that league. He looked like a guy how took a LOT OF SHOTS. I mean he is 6’6″ and plays on the perimeter. Do you know how many Sun Belt guards are even bigger than 6’2″? Not many. Which means he was facing a smaller guy every single night and still shot 39% from the floor and 30% from three-point range. He also committed 77 turnovers this year and was not the primary ballhandler (the point position was held down by former Kentucky starter Ryan Harrow and former Louisville 6th-man, Kevin Ware). So, while I think Hunter may be a decent shooter, I saw a lot more of his warts than the people who just look at the numbers and watched the NCAA Tournament. He was a bit of an underwhelming superstar.

Tyus Jones
You should probably just skip my evaluation of Tyus Jones because I am a college hoops junkie, and this guy was the perfect college point guard. He was smart and poised. He always made the right pass and would drain jumpers if left alone. He was lights-out from the free throw line and completely bought-in on defense. And, he is that proverbial “winner,” which has become a cliche, but I don’t care, I still think it is a good way to describe someone when it applies. I really hope that there is a place for a guy that in the NBA, but he also appears to be the exact spot where the divide between the college game and NBA game hits the hardest, so I will withhold any more praise for a great college point guard.

Jerian Grant
I am not a huge fan of Grant’s potential at the next level. If the Sixers land a PG at #3, then I would look elsewhere from Grant even if he happens to slip all the way to #35. As the older brother of the Sixers Jerami Grant, Jerian is essentially a finished product – and that product looks like a borderline NBA player, at best.

Delon Wright
Grant and Wright are pretty much connected in a lot of ways. They both have NBA bloodlines. They are both seniors (though Wright played two years at a Junior College) and fully-developed 23-year olds. They both were the heart and souls of really good college teams this year. But, to me, I like one a LOT better than the other. As you can read above, I am only lukewarm on Grant, but I LOVE Delon Wright’s game. He is a pretty poor shooter and only a so-so athlete, which will probably make my praise for him look silly in a couple years, but anyone who has played the game or just enjoys the nuances of basketball, will love the way he goes about his business. He is quick, smart, and has incredible court awareness. While he did look to score at Utah (and succeed), he is an incredible passer. And, what I love about his offensive game is that he draws a TON of fouls and makes his free throws. He made 303 free throws in two years at Utah. That is incredible. He is also a really solid and aggressive defender who loves to pressure the ball. I know the NBA needs shooters – and Wright isn’t one – but I do love the rest of his game.

Kevon Looney
I see the NBA’s fascination with the very raw big man from UCLA, but I have some serious questions. The talent is there, for sure, but he is so raw and appeared to me to be rather meek at UCLA. Apparently, he has been showing scouts a really versatile game in workouts (outside shooting, ballhandling, and passing), but to be honest, I saw him play quite a bit in college and never really saw any of that. It’s certainly possible that I missed it, and if so, he’s a better prospect than I give him credit for, but I can only say what I saw. I did see a VERY instictual rebounder with clear physical traits. Another year in college probably would have done wonders for his readiness for the next level, but right now, he seems to me to be a rather risky gamble for only moderate reward potential. In other words, there is a greater chance of him being out of the league in five years than ever making an All-Star team.

Rashad Vaughn
Like Looney, Vaughn is another freshman who could have VERY MUCH benefitted from another year in school. And, like Looney, he is immensely gifted from a physical standpoint. But, again like Looney, he is a pretty big gamble, from what I can tell. But, completely unlike Looney, no one has probably ever described Vaughn as “meek.” The dude is a flat-out volume scorer. He is quick and aggressive and fearless. And, at 6’5″ with elite quickness and athleticism, he is a handful to guard. The problem is that I saw a TON of turnovers, poor defensive effort, and not exactly those intangible “leadership” qualities. He was on a UNLV team that wasn’t supposed to be that bad, but were terrible, and he didn’t seem to care all that much. Personally, I would pass on Vaughn unless he slipped to the Sixers and a lot of these other nice pieces were off the board.

Justin Anderson
I like Anderson and think that he has pretty much everything you might want in a basketball player. He has size, strength, leaping ability, and is a really smart dude who knows the game. He also has a decent jumpshot (when open) and good footwork in the paint. He is a strong rebounder and defender. He’s quicker than he looks, which isn’t saying much because he doesn’t look quick at all. But, for some reason he never really “popped” at UVA. Maybe it was the slowwwwww offensive pace. Maybe it was the total focus on defense. Maybe it was his constant array of injuries (which is a concern, by the way). But, Anderson just never seemed like a star in college, and while you aren’t looking for an NBA star in the late-first, early-second, I am a little concerned about him even producing all that much. That said, he certainly has a TON of ability and could be really good, so it wouldn’t be the worst roll of the dice.

COULD DEFINITELY BE IN PLAY WITH ONE OF THE SIXERS 97 EARLY SECOND-ROUND PICKS
Chris McCullough
McCullough SCREAMS Sam Hinkie. Not only has our man taken Syracuse players in each of his first two drafts (MCW two years ago and Jerami Grant last year), but he also is not afraid at all of risking a total waste of a pick (particularly those with injury concerns) for a potential franchise-changer. And, we ALL know that he is not clearly not afraid of picking a guy who might miss a whole year due to injury. Well, that is the likely story with McCullough. He tore his ACL in January is likely won’t play at all this year. BUT…he has lottery talent, for sure. I have serious concerns about his “want-to,” but I have absolutely NO concerns about his “can.” The dude is a flat-out stud. He moves like a guard, but is comfortable in the post on either end of the floor. He stands at 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan and is incredibly athletic. From what we saw in 3 months of college ball, he looked like an incredible shotblocker from the PF position as well as a plus-rebounder. I would LOVE it if the Sixers were able to nab him at some point tonight because there’s a chance he is a total bust, but a chance that he is a legit starting PF in the NBA. And, you rarely get those as late as he is going to go.

Joseph Young
Young is one of those already-finished-products. He was the Player of the Year in the Pac-12 last year and completely deserved it. While I have some questions about his ability on the defensive end, there is no question that the dude can flat-out score. He has decent size (listed at 6’2″, but I swear he seems to play bigger than that) and a lights-out shooting stroke. He can also beat you off the dribble. I am not sure he will ever do enough other things to warrant starter’s minutes in the NBA, but there’s no doubt that he can be a double-digit scorer tomorrow.

Jarell Martin
Stay in school, big boy. I am not going to pretend to know everyone’s personal situations and the reasons for which they make these major life decisions, but simply in a basketball sense, Jarell Martin would have been MUCH better suited with another year in the SEC. He is a beast on the defensive end and on the glass, but he is so incredibly raw offensively (with a TON of potential) that could have been refined at the college level. Now, he’s probably destined to be a bit of a liability offensively for his career because why would anyone give him chances to score in the NBA. He could have been a go-to guy at LSU again this year (even with a strong returning frontcourt and next year’s #1 pick coming in). He has the ability to be a good inside/outside offensive player, but he needs to work at it. But, in the end, he will be paid by some NBA team next year because he is a ridiculous athlete who is really fun to watch and salivating from a development standpoint. I doubt he’ll slip to the Sixers in the second round, and I’m not sure I would trade up for him, but if he’s still sitting there at #35, I wouldn’t mind taking a shot at all on him. He does have serious upside.

Anthony Brown
I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not gonna say I watched a ton of Stanford this year, but I did see them maybe a half-dozen times, and I know I watched them a lot over the past 4 years. And, yet, I am not sure I ever remember thinking – man, that Anthony Brown is good. I sure remember Chasson Randle, who was CLEARLY the best player on that team, but apparently, he’s nowhere to be found in any of these mock drafts. So, I don’t really know what to say about Anthony Brown here. If the scouts like him, then maybe he was just overshadowed. But, I can tell you, as a college hoops fan, there is only one player on Stanford that I would even think had a shot at the NBA, and it ain’t Brown.

Christian Wood
I have seen mock drafts with him in the mid-first round, and I have NO IDEA why. I mean he is a ridiculously good shotblocker, but is that all we need to be to make an NBA roster any more? The answer is probably yes, and if the Sixers get him at #35 or later, I guess it’s a good pick, but coming from a fan of the college game, this guy was not really a very good college player.

WILL LIKELY BE AVAILABLE WHENEVER…

Olivier Hanlon
Now, he WAS a very good college player. I was surprised when he declared for the draft, but he was pretty awesome for 3 years at BC. He doesn’t seem like he would have a very translatable game (and a pretty poor defender), but the dude can FLAT-OUT score.

Dakari Johnson
Who knows? We didn’t get to see all that much of Johnson against first-line opponents or for extended periods because of the limited minutes of the Kentucky roster. But, he’s pretty talented and a complete LOAD in the middle at both ends. He’s a solid defender and decent rebounder with agile feet and good hands. Sounds like an NBA player to me, but what do I know?

Rakeem Christmas
Another Syracuse player, so Hinkie might be eyeing him up. He’s got great size and athletic ability. He’s a very good low-post defender, so there’s probably a place for him in the NBA. But, honestly, as a fan of the college game, he was remarkably unremarkable at the ‘Cuse, so I don’t know…

Cliff Alexander
A total bust at Kansas, as he was supposed to do for Kansas what Okafor and Towns did at Duke and Kentucky this year. But, he just never got it going and was then shutdown due to eligibility issues. He may have stayed at Kansas another year if everything was on the up and up (which could have REALLY helped him), but now he’s just a huge, stud athlete with a very raw game (and seemingly very little desire to get better). This situation kind of reminds me of when they first started opening the floodgates for high schoolers to enter the draft and teams had to draft the Kwame Browns just in case they were passing on Dwight Howard. But, while Kwame Brown at #1 is terrible, Dwight Howard at #37 isn’t. So, I guess he’s worth a shot in the second, right?

J.P. Tokoto
I am very surprised that he left early because he never seemed all that good at UNC. But, he certainly has some transferrable traits – particularly, the ability to guard multiple positions at a very high level. But, his offensive game wasn’t even good in the ACC, so he’s going to be a career liability on the offensive end.

The Harrison Twins
They suck.

GUYS WHOM I REALLY LIKE AND SHOULD BE AVAILABLE WHENEVER

Vince Hunter
Chad Ford has Hunter going to the Sixers at #37, which made me incredibly excited. This dude was a total STUD at UTEP. He’s one of those guys that is going to leave me scratching my head when he never makes it. I know he’s probably simply too small to play PF in the NBA and not skilled enough to play SF. I get that, but seriously, this dude was incredible in Conference USA. I guess it just shows how big of a jump it really is.

Jordan Mickey
Another guy whom I just LOVED at the college level. This dude was so dominant that it is hard to understand how he’s a second-round draft prospect. Again, I get it. I know that all these dudes that shock me are the same – they are just too small to dominant underneath like they did in college, but this was the SEC! He is an absolute animal on the glass and as a shotblocker. He’s not a great offensive player, but he’s not terrible either. He’s just a monster around the rim – and those guys are fun to watch.

Norman Powell
Looked like a professional basketball player at UCLA. Did all the little things, stepped up when you needed a basket, defended whomever you needed him to defend. A real “glue guy” and I think he can be that at the next level, too. The problem is that he’s not really all that good at anything in particular, so he might not be long for the league if he can’t develop something to hang his hat on.

Tyler Harvey
When you lead the nation in scoring, you’re doing something right. Yes, that Eastern Washington team ran a ridiculously fast (and fun) tempo, but Harvey was a lights-out bomber who runs the floor really well. I honestly don’t see his game translating (he plays no defense, doesn’t rebound at all, and is a mediocre passer, at best). But, I hope he makes it because he’s fun to watch.

A Defense of Ruben Amaro, Jr.

albeit maybe a pretty back-handed one…

First of all, let us get two things straight before I embark on a potentially ill-fated defense of our embattled GM.  One, I think Ruben seems like a pretty good guy, and I have a lot of respect for him, personally.  Two, I think Ruben is – and always has been – a pretty terrible GM.  I think it is long past the time when we should be finding a replacement, and the fact that he is still guiding this ship is terrifying to me.  HOWEVER…

I think that the current accusations and frustrations with Ruben are totally off-base and inconsistent.  And, it is the second part that bothers me the most.  Because the same people that seem to question Sam Hinkie and Chip Kelly are ripping Ruben.  It seems to me that the most often-cited wishes of the Hinkie/Kelly regimes are exactly how Ruben has been operating for years.  Let me explain…

COMPLAINT:  Sam Hinkie and Chip Kelly Do Not Talk Enough to the Fans
Ruben is always available.  He has a weekly spot on Angelo’s morning show.  He is on with Gargano and even Missinelli (who has absolutely no qualms about ripping him up cross-examination style).  He gives written journalists pretty extensive access and candid remarks.  In fact, the most recent remarks about the “fans not getting it” is probably the exact reason why Hinkie and Kelly avoid the media.  Because sometimes you are forced to tell the truth (and, let’s be honest – anyone who thinks that Ruben is dumb for leaving Aaron Nola in the minors after 20 starts really doesn’t “get it,” so Ruben is right), and telling the truth sometimes is the worst thing you can do.

COMPLAINT:  Hinkie and Kelly Are Too Quick to Unload Home-Grown Stars
What do we keep hearing over and over about why people are sour on Hinkie and Kelly?  It always comes back to Michael Carter-Williams, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy.  Hinkie thought MCW’s upside was limited, and Kelly thought that Jackson and McCoy were overpaid and not “on board.”  If you think they’re crazy, then obviously you love the fact that RAJ decided to keep Howard, Utley, and Rollins around for so long, right?  I mean we have to keep our stars, right?

So, if you don’t like what Hinkie and Kelly are doing, then you are intellectually dishonest with yourself if you don’t, at least, respect the job Ruben is doing.

And, then there are the unfair complaints about Ruben himself.

COMPLAINT:  Why Hasn’t Ruben Traded Cole Hamels Yet?
Ruben is out there, looking for offers.  Now, this isn’t a Marlon Byrd situation at last year’s trade deadline, which was a total debacle.  This is an ELITE pitcher in his prime with an expensive, but not outlandish and controllable contract.  I am happy that Ruben is waiting to get the best return.  What he is risking is a potential injury, but that risk, in my opinion, WELL worth taking if the alternative is getting 60 cents on the dollar.  Remember the Cliff Lee trade?  That was probably Ruben’s second-biggest blunder (slightly behind the Ryan Howard contract extension and well ahead of the Hunter Pence trade and Jonathan Papelbon signing).  Ruben traded away an elite left-handed pitcher in his prime for a pile of nothing.  If that happens with Hamels, then this rebuilding won’t be a phase, it could be an era.  This whole rebuild is counting on maximizing the value of a guy like Hamels.  He has to hold out.

COMPLAINT:  Why Isn’t Ruben Bringing Up Guys Like Nola?
This is the most recent one – and, frankly, I don’t get it.  What the hell is the point in bringing up a guy who was pitching for LSU this time LAST YEAR.  He has 20 – yes, TWENTY – professional starts.  Why in the world should he be up in the majors for a team that’s going to lose 90+ games.  If the argument is that the team is going nowhere this year, then they should ABSOLUTELY NOT bring him up.  If you told me that they were a mid-rotation starter away from contending, then maybe you take the chance.  But, why chance stunting the growth (and add service time) to your most promising pitching prospect just because “the fans want to see him pitch.”  Buy an f’ing Reading ticket, then, people – come on!  If you are one of the people that want Nola up here now, then Ruben was talking about you when he said “you don’t get it.”  And, he was right.

COMPLAINT:  How Did Ruben Lead a Fall This Far This Fast?
This one is fair and relevant.  Amaro took the reins of a franchise that was in the incredible position of having great home-grown talent, a rabid fanbase that was selling out every night, and owners who were making money hand-over-fist and willing to spend it to stay at the top.  He had a core of position players that had already won and built a pitching staff that could rival any in the history of the game.  How did he screw this up so bad?  Now, again, I think a lot of it was his fault (giving Howard the HUGE extension 2.5 years before he had to…trading Cliff Lee for next to nothing…COMPLETELY ignoring any analytics – this is my biggest gripe, actually), but a lot of it was not his fault.  First of all, they had the best team in baseball – and the best team in franchise history – in 2011.  They could have – and maybe should have – won the World Series in any of 2009, 2010, or 2011.  They built a team around relatively young and durable starting pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who got old very fast and missed a lot more time than their track records would have indicated.  In fact, look at the core of those teams and how unpredictable the falls were.  Who would have thought that Brad Lidge would go from perfect closer in 2008 to a 7.21 ERA in 2009 to out of baseball in 2012?  Who would have thought that Ryan Howard would go from 6 straight years of top-10 MVP finishes, averaging 44 HRs per season, including 58 in a single season.  To hitting a TOTAL of 48 HRs from 2012 through 2014?  Who would have known that, in order to keep former platoon OF, Jayson Werth, the Phillies would have had to top a $123 M contract offer from the Nationals?  Who have known that the #2 pitcher on the 2008 championship team (who was actually the ace before the Cole Hamels breakout postseason) would only win 4 more games for the Phils after that and be working on his budding country music career before his 33rd birthday?

Now, to be fair, Ruben did not exactly help the cause, but there were a lot of occurrences – out of his control – that led to this historic fall.  Again, I do not think that Ruben is a good GM – in fact, I think he is pretty bad and should not be the Phillies GM for one more day.  But, I also got bothered by what gets thrown at him.  If you hate Hinkie for never talking or Chip for jettisoning not only D-Jax and Shady, but the Trent Coles and Todd Herremans of the world, then you can’t also rip Ruben for keeping Chase Utley or Ryan Howard too long.  If you hate Ruben’s awful haul when he traded away Cliff Lee (which I do), then you can’t fault him for waiting out a better deal for Hamels.  And, if you are one of these people who think that the Phils should call up their AA starter after 20 professional starts just because you “want to see him pitch” then, as the eloquent Ruben Amaro, Jr., so aptly put it yesterday, “you just don’t get it.”

The Mariota What-Ifs

No matter how good Nelson Agholor and Eric Rowe turn out to be, the Eagles 2015 draft will always be the “didn’t get Mariota draft.” Now, I am not saying that – historically-speaking – that will always be a bad thing. In fact, we may look back and think, “whew, did we dodge a bullet.” The reported insane package of multiple #1s plus elite-caliber players like Mychal Kendricks and, particularly, Fletcher Cox, that never happened may haunt Tennessee fans down the road a whole lot more than the ghost of Mariota haunts us. However, whether the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner is a boom or bust in Tennessee, we will absolutely never know just what the Chip Kelly-Marcus Mariota marriage would have turned out to be in the NFL. And, by all accounts, we were very close to finding out.

Ahh…what could have been

This happens in sports all the time – particularly in drafts. What if the Phillies took Frank Thomas over Jeff Jackson? What if the Sixers took Paul Pierce over Larry Hughes? What if the Eagles took Earl Thomas instead of Brandon Graham, like everyone thought they were going to? And, while the draft is the most obvious place for this, there are a million others every day in sports. Injuries, play calls, referee decisions, etc. are all easy examples of small occurrences that may lead to monumental events in the sporting world.

But, there is something really interesting about this Mariota-Kelly “what-if” that seems different. Because it was so obvious and because of the potentially historic ramifications, I feel a little robbed, if nothing else, of the immense intrigue that this combination would provide. So, what turned the tide? How did this not happen? There are many factors – obviously – some of which have been talked about ad nauseum, some of which have barely been mentioned, if at all. But, since this seems like an important flagpost moment in Philadelphia sports, I wanted to try and document some of the butterfly wing-flappings that resulted in the hurricane of Mariota ending up a Titan.

Mariota’s Pre-Draft Performance

The bottom line is that, come draft day, the Birds had no chance because the Titans, with the #2-pick, decided that they wanted Mariota to be their quarterback. Whether it was a football decision or an ownership decision (more on that below), they clearly came to that decision late in the process and was almost certainly a result of the pretty incredible performance that Mariota put on – both on the field and in interviews – in the pre-draft process. Teams fell in love with Marcus, himself, and they seemed to see enough about his physical abilities to override the concerns about never taking a ball from center or ever calling a single play in a huddle. When the college football season ended (and meaningful GAMES were finished being played), the experts were united about the football acumen of the two top QBs – Winston was far and away a better on-the-field prospect than Mariota (off-field concerns notwithstanding). But, by the time the draft rolled around, despite no gamefilm being added to either resume, Mariota had earned himself a large portion of the experts’ opinions of who was the best QB on the field. That didn’t exactly help the Eagles chances of either Mariota dropping or Tennessee accepting any deal for him.

Nor did Chip’s incredibly open pining for the guy…

The “Publicness” of the Chase

Personally, I think this is where Chip and the Eagles missed the boat the most. Now, it’s probably unfair to blame Chip for this since the media saw the obvious marriage and would probably have run with it anyway, but I definitely believe that the Eagles could have done a MUCH better job hiding their intentions. Despite never saying anything to the media (which I have no problem with, by the way, but that’s a topic for another post), there was absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Eagles were going all-in for Mariota. They flat-out lost the poker game to Ruston Webster and the Titans front office. While I do believe that all teams do a good job making up their minds in a vacuum, but comments like “this guy’s going to win multiple Super Bowls” probably didn’t hurt the opinion of him in front offices around the league. And, I also think the Eagles refusal to downplay their interest in Mariota also added to the “publicness” of the Bradford camp that they will not sign an extension anywhere else.

So, would you make the case that we should have held on to Mr. Foles?  Many have…

The Nick Foles Trade

This is probably the one that is most cited as a potential factor. Would the Eagles have been able to “sell” Nick Foles to Tennessee or someone else in order to get Tennessee value in return for Mariota? It is at least worth a discussion on whether or not Foles was actually more valuable than Bradford on the open market, even though the Foles for Bradford trade actually required the Eagles ponying up a second-round pick in 2016. But, the clear indication of the Bradford camp that he will not be signing an extension with anyone other than the Eagles potentially made him actually harder to move than Foles would have been. Oh, ya, that and the whole $12.5 million MORE owed to Bradford than Foles. I am not saying that Chip was wrong in making the Foles-for-Bradford trade because I think, given the current situation, I think I am happier having Bradford than Foles right now. What I am saying is that there is a good chance that the trade actually negatively affected the Eagles chances of landing Chip’s dream QB.

Bradford > Foles? On the field – yes. In trade talks – probably not.

Then again, maybe Tennessee just wasn’t willing to fall all the way to #20, and the Eagles had no way to getting anything higher…

Eagles-Giants, Week 17

But, what if they had played Matt Barkley and, inevitably, lost that Week 17 against the hated Giants instead of winning a meaningless game? What if they were 9-7 instead of 10-6? They would have been about four spots higher and picking at #16. It is unlikely that #16 would have carried much more weight than #20 with Tennessee, but what about other teams in the top 10? It was widely reported that many GMs (including Tennessee’s Ruston Webster, who flat-out said it) thought there were only about 15 or 16 players with “first round talent” in this year’s draft. So, going to #20 was seen as a move to the second round, by some. But, #16 would have been a first round pick. Who knows how that would have changed things?

Then again, it’s not like any pick is a sure thing. Just ask the Titans about the last QB they took in the first round…

Jake Locker

Jake freaking Locker may have cost the city of Philadelphia Marcus Mariota. Who would have guessed that? But, if Locker was anywhere near what he was supposed to be, the Titans wouldn’t have any need for a QB (and, realistically, probably wouldn’t have been picking #2 in the draft, either, but that’s another discussion). But, Locker stunk…and then “retired”…even after going 8th in the draft just four years ago. You could even argue that Locker showed just enough potential that the Titans passed on other QBs in more recent drafts because they still thought there was hope for Locker. Admittedly, this argument kind of falls a little short when you examine those drafts. They picked Locker at #8 in 2011. The next two QBs off the board were Blaine Gabbert at #10 and Christian Ponder at #12, so it’s not like they missed the boat in that draft. Then, in 2012 the Titans first pick was WR Kendall Wright at #20. The next QB off the board?  Brandon Weeden. In 2013, they used their first pick on G Chance Warmack.  The next QB that they “missed out on” was E.J. Manuel. And, then last year, the Titans took OT Laylor Lewan at #11. Thirteen picks later was the next QB taken, and his name was Johnny Football, or something like that. So, the argument that Tennessee could have drafted someone else to fill the franchise QB role falls a little flat, but we can still blame Jake freaking Locker’s awfulness for us not having Mariota right now. And, in the end, the Titans entered this year with the #2 pick in a 2-QB draft with Zach Mettenberger at the top of their depth chart.

How did this guy have anything to do with MY football team?

And, possibly, for other non-football reasons, that was a big concern…

Bud Adams’ Health/Succession Planning

While this angle has been incredibly underreported, I am of the firm belief that this is the main reason why the Eagles pro shops are not selling #8 Mariota jerseys right now. I believe that it was a management decision in Nashville to draft a franchise quarterback because they are planning on putting the team up for sale in the next year or so. Bud Adams passed away in 2013 just two months shy of his 91st birthday. Adams, a co-founder of the old AFL, and the longest-tenured NFL owner at the time of his death, left rather sparse directions on who would assume ownership of the Titans, leading to a lot of in-fighting and eventually a consortium being created that consisted of Adams’ two living daughters and the only son of his deceased son. It is one of the more precarious ownership situations in the NFL and will almost certainly lead to some sort of sale or buy-out or legal rangling in the coming years, or even months. And, prior to Thursday night, what could a potential buyer see in this franchise that is of any value? Nothing. It is – almost inarguably – the most boring team in the league in a second-rate media market. While Leonard Williams or Dante Fowler may have made the Titans a better football team in the long-run, they sure as hell were not increasing an asking price in the short-term. Nor was Sam Bradford or Fletcher Cox or Mychal Kendricks or the Eagles 2017 first-round pick. BUT…if they had a young, exciting franchise QB right now, then maybe the value of this team goes up. So, the bottom line is that I think that the management overruled the “football” people and told them to take a QB – period. And, because of that, once it was clear that the Bucs and Titans would be the two teams picking at the top of the draft this year, the fate was sealed.

But, what if that wasn’t the ultimate 2015 draft order…?

The Tiebreaker

Tennessee lost the tiebreaker (strength of schedule) to the Bucs for the #1 pick, and it was awfully close. If a few of those hundreds of other games went the other way, then Tennessee could have taken their franchise QB (Jameis Winston) at #1, and the Eagles could have been dealing with the Bucs instead. Presumably, the Bucs would have just taken Mariota at #2 like the Titans did, but they have a stable ownership group and a coach who has made the Super Bowl with Rex freaking Grossman, so who knows? But, they were both only one game “ahead” of both the Jags and Raiders, who are more than content with their QB situations and clearly would have passed on Mariota at #1 or #2 – or, more likely, taken the king’s ransom that the Eagles were offering.

So, there are any number of games that could have decided this fate – many of which took place in one fateful weekend in December…

Week 16 and The Curse of Jordan Todman

DECEMBER 20, 2014 – The Eagles lost that stomach-punch game against Washington on Saturday night. Not only did it eliminate the Birds from the playoffs, but it gave the Skins (another team who may have passed on Mariota) another W and moved them out of contention for a top-2 pick. But, in the long run, while it cost the Eagles a shot at a 2015 playoff berth, it may not have been the most impactful game that week on the future of our Birds.

DECEMBER 21, 2015 – The Raiders, a team with a decent young QB in place in Derek Carr, beat the Bills for their 3rd win in the past five weeks. They finished the season 3-13 and earned the #4 pick in the draft. But, this team started 0-10. How are they only picking 4th? I firmly believe that if the Raiders held picks #1 or #2, that Marcus Mariota would be an Eagle today. And, this still was not even the most important game of the day for the Eagles future.

DECEMBER 21, 2015 – The Jacksonville Jaguars – the doormat of the league – actually have a QB. #3 overall pick in 2014, Blake Bortles. They have their wagon hitched to Bortles. They have a TON of needs and would be dying for a bowl-them-over package to move down. Well, they had a shot at that in Week 16 last year. Entering the game at 2-12, the Jags got a late incredible TD from Jordan Todman to beat the also 2-12 Tennessee Titans. That “win” by the Jags meant that the Titans would have a top-2 pick and Jacksonville would be picking 3rd. It meant that the 2015 NFL draft would net the Titans Marcus Mariota and the Eagles Nelson Agholor.

How a backup RB ruined my life…

And, it meant that there was no chance for Chip to reunite with his star pupil…in 2015……

Mariota Staying in School

Finally, I have to mention one other thing that is often forgotten in this whole process. Mariota entered the draft this year as a redshirt junior, which means he was eligible for the draft in 2014. And, he actually strongly considered coming out. Now, at the time, it didn’t really hit the radar of the Eagles because their QB had just finished the BEST QUARTERBACK SEASON IN NFL HISTORY, and Mariota had yet to win any Heismans or anything. In fact, before deciding to return to school, Mel Kiper had Mariota at #33 on his “Big Board.” But, do you really think that, even with Foles’ incredible season, that Chip would have passed on a chance to draft Mariota? I sure don’t. So, the Eagles could have just sat at #22, kept their mouths shut, and taken Mariota with their own first round pick last year. And, all it would have cost them was all the air time they will inevitably have to spend explaining the inexplicable Marcus Smith pick. Actually, I wish I had never brought this up…now, I’m depressed again.

…But, It Ain’t Over

In the end, the marriage of Chip and Marcus wasn’t meant to be…yet. Call me crazy, but I still believe that this dream isn’t over quite yet. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not this year or next. But, unless Mariota lights the world on fire in Tennessee, he may be available down the road. And, it’s not like we’re tied to anyone under center…ugh.  In Chip We Trust!