Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Mizzou Exchange: Graham Watson (Part 1)

Just in case you were thinking this had turned into a Portland Trailblazers blog, it’s time for another Mizzou Exchange!

Graham Watson is the Mizzou beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The one-time Mizzou goalkeeper agreed to take part in the ongoing Mizzou Exchange experiment. In Part 1, we focus on the upcoming Big XII football season. Enjoy!

(You can find previous Exchanges

The Boy: In the last decade or so, you've gone from goalkeeping for Mizzou to covering Mizzou for the state's largest paper. Which one was more fun?

Graham Watson: Well, I can honestly say there was less pressure being the goalkeeper of the Missouri soccer team than the Mizzou beat reporter even though we were No. 12 in the country when I played my junior year. But being a beat reporter has a lot less running (though there has been some on this beat). I like the challenge of covering all the facets of Mizzou sports and even some of the drama that has come along with it. There has yet to be a boring day. It's hard not having fun covering your alma mater. I'd also be lying if I said there weren't times when I miss the simplicity of being a non-revenue sport athlete. Mizzou fans are as demanding of their reporters as they are of their players. That can be trying sometimes, but I appreciate the enthusiasm for the perfection of the school from all angles.
TB: I grew up a Mizzou fan in western Oklahoma (I was born in Columbia, then my parents moved to OK)...meaning I was the only Mizzou fan I knew. I had no idea what to expect when I came up here. I was a bit taken aback by the lingering bitterness here. I mean...I can't really blame anybody--my fifth ever home football game was the '97 MU/Nebraska game...I still have the scars. I just think that, whereas Mizzou fans are just like everybody else's in a lot of ways (every school has its "____ can do no wrong" fans, its "____ can do no right" fans, and its "I'm smarter than everybody else" fans), there's a hunger here that differentiates Mizzou from other schools. Certain schools expect to win in certain sports, and it makes other losses at least slightly easier to take. OSU fans can always fall back on golf and wrestling (and until the last few years, baseball). OU fans have football. Nebraska fans have...well...every female sport. Texas fans have everything, period. Mizzou fans want to win in something, anything.

You saw that hunger a couple of weeks ago when Mizzou lost to Louisville in the Baseball Regionals. Fans who had only jumped on the baseball bandwagon the week before were crushed by the loss and lashed out at anybody they could (mostly Tim Jamieson). Mizzou had choked, blown it, squandered yet another opportunity, and proven once again that "We're Mizzou." I'm all for a little self-pity (I'm great at it...have you seen my "What If...?" posts??), but the anger there had me taken aback.

Moving on to football...I'll ask you the same question I asked Dave Matter: what can we reasonably expect out of Mizzou this coming season? Barring an early loss, Mizzou could actually be favored in 11 of 12 games this year. The schedule is set up perfectly--of the four conference teams they lost to last year, they only have to face one on the road this season. Daniel will have the maximum number of weapons available to him this season (before Franklin, Rucker, probably Temple, and maybe Coffman all depart). Will the offense make up for an inexperienced-but-fast defense?

GW: I understand a lot of what you're saying. It does, at times, seem like this school is cursed when it comes to athletics. I'm originally from California and for much, if not all, of my young life, the world revolved around pro sports. Now, of course, USC is the city's pro sport. I was always a big UCLA fan growing up. Yeah, I saw that Tyus Edney game. And to be honest, at the time, I was elated. But that was then...

On to your question...

I like what the football team can do on offense this year. Chase Daniel is going to assert himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He has a ton of playmakers and an urgency to get things done. With that said, it's going to be on the offense to carry this team, and that might not be enough to win it a conference title. I liken the early looks of this team to Texas Tech a few years ago. You know, when they had the best offense and the worst defense. It got the Red Raiders a bowl game, but they never were a title contender.

If you look at the top offenses from a year ago, the bulk of them were not in the national title picture. I mean, teams such as New Mexico State and Hawaii. Great offenses, great quarterbacks, but incomplete teams.

That's what Mizzou will have to overcome. I am going to be one of the few media folk to like the Tigers over Nebraska for the North. I think Nebraska is going to have a rough non-conference go and possibly enter the Big 12 season 2-2. Also, the Tigers have a more favorable conference schedule. Nebraska is going to have a hard time playing at Mizzou and Texas. And the fact that the Mizzou/Nebraska game is early plays into the hands of the Tigers, who should be undefeated by that point.

Overall, I think 9-3 is likely and 10-2 is possible (with a bowl game waiting in the wings). Could this team win 11 regular season games? I don't think so. I think Oklahoma is a loss, and there is going to be a weekend where the offense can't put up enough points to compensate for the defense, maybe against Texas Tech. But who knows? In 2004, the offense was supposed to be the juggernaut and the defense was suppose to be the weak link. It ended up just opposite. So for scenario like that to happen this year, or even for both sides to be spectacular, would be utterly Mizzou.
TB: It does seem like every Missouri fan and pundit who picked huge things in 2004 is still a bit scarred by that, and they're worried about Missouri being underwhelming once again. I'm trying to ignore 2004 because, despite the same coaching staff, this team couldn't be any more different.

Big things were predicted in 2004 because of Brad Smith and a strong D-line. In 2003, teams were slowly catching on as to how to shut down #16. Pinkel saw this and attempted to make some adjustments in the off-season ( i.e. making Brad more pocket-based), and they just didn't take...either because Pinkel and Yost didn't do it right or because Brad was simply limited in his instincts. Everybody always blames Pinkel for 'changing' Brad, but that misses the point to me. He saw that in '03 teams like Kansas and (to a lesser extent) Colorado were starting to figure out how to slow Brad down, and he knew something proactive needed to happen. He was right, too--every team we played in '04 was ready to stop that QB option play that got Brad about 90% of his yards in '03...seriously, I can't remember it working until the Iowa State game. Of course, he could have added different packages and figured out different ways to get Brad in open space (kind of like what eventually happened in '05), but he wanted Brad to be an NFL quarterback...and Brad wanted Brad to be an NFL quarterback, so their adjustments were made with that in mind.

Of course, they didn't work. Brad thought too much when he stayed in the pocket, and playing like an NFL-style QB just never became instinctive for him. Brad was one of the most unique players in recent history--nobody had more distinctive strengths and debilitating weaknesses in one package. In '05, new adjustments were made with that in mind, and things started looking up again (to an extent...6-5 was still a bit disappointing).

That was a really long way of illustrating that I don't think '04 has anything to do with '07. The offense does not run through one person anymore, and there's no single adjustment that defenses can make to slow things down. Of course, the D-line that was a strength in '04 is possibly the biggest question mark on the team in '07...the defensive end position, at least.

I am curious, though, how much it will affect the defense if the offense is as successful as it could be. At some point, an efficient offense can become too efficient when it starts wearing its own defense down. It doesn't matter that you can score 40 points if your defense is too tired to stop the other team from scoring 40 too. I think Missouri's '07 defense will be at best a squad of playmakers--guys William Moore, Ziggy Hood, Lorenzo Williams, and Sean Weatherspoon might not be amazingly consistent, but when they come up with something, they come up with something huge--but at worst it will be another version of the bend-but-don't-break defenses to which Mizzou fans have become quite accustomed. It will still be better than the typical Texas Tech defense, especially this year's Texas Tech defense, which I'm pretty sure has all of two healthy scholarship defensive tackles. (Missouri, of course, has another advantage over the typical Texas Tech team--they play in the North.)

So here's my next question: acknowledging that the offense will be huge and the defense will be iffy, who is the most important player for Mizzou in '07? In other words, whose performance could potentially make the difference between an 8-4 seaon and 11-1? My initial opinion was Stryker Sulak, then Ziggy Hood...but a case can be made for about 12 different guys.

GW: Are we talking defensive player or any player? Because if it's any player, then Chase Daniel has to be the most important guy on the field.
TB: Yeah, but we know what he's going to bring to the table, just like we know about guys like Franklin, Coffman, and Rucker. My thought was, who's the wildcard? Meaning, if this person ends up taking his game to the next level, it could make a substantial difference. Offensively, my pick is Tony Temple. We know what he can do, but he still has to hold onto the ball. That wasn't a problem in the last two games of the year, when he was absolutely torching Kansas and Oregon State, but that's a pretty small sample size.

Defensively, I waver between Sulak and Hood and maybe Sean Weatherspoon or Van Alexander. You know what you're getting from guys like Lorenzo Williams and Brock Christopher. If one more playmaker emerges from the front 7, the defense really could surprise (I'm really confident in the secondary). But who will that be?

GW: Well, you kinda took a couple of my answers there. I agree that this has to be the year Tony Temple silences his critics. He's bigger than he was a year ago and continues to buy into the program. Now, we have to see whether that translates into something positive on the field. If it does, it could make Missouri a very scary team. I have a feeling Chase isn't going to want to run as much this year (call it a hunch), so that will make the roll of Temple and his backup (perhaps Derrick Washington) even more important.

Defensively, one of Missouri's ends has to prove it's a threat to get to the quarterback. That's it. If Big 12 quarterbacks have time to go through their progressions, they will pick Mizzou's defense apart, no matter how good the secondary might be. And yes, the linebackers are going to have to prove they can play. So much has been made of Van Alexander, but injuries have made him almost irrelevant. In all honesty, the linebacker I think is going to make a difference on this defense is Luke Lambert. I know people want Michael Keck to be this amazing player, but I think Lambert is going to come along first and make the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time.

Overall, it's going to be consistency by these defensive guys. That was something that was missing a year ago. And yes, there was fatigue, but you know what? Get used to it. The defensive players should be training harder in anticipation of playing more. They saw it last year and should learn from it. That comes from the strength and conditioning staff on down to the captains and the younger players. Guys like Lorenzo Williams and ZIggy Hood should be leaders in encouraging the rest of their defensive teammates to train harder than they have in their lives. They will play twice as much as the offensive players, and they should be ready for that physical strain. I think that also plays to the defensive reserves and whether there's enough depth to sustain this defense. I think there is, but it's young, inexperienced depth. Perhaps, getting up big on some of the non-conference opponents can help Mizzou alleviate that inexperience.
TB: I'd actually half-forgotten about Derrick Washington. Between Washington and Gilbert Moye, I'm hoping that one of them can turn into an immediate upgrade at the kick returner position. Earl Goldsmith has decent instincts, but he just doesn't have the speed; for Greg Bracey, vice versa.

I'm thinking Big XII offenses as a whole might have a huge season...I wrote profiles of all the Big XII teams during Spring Football, and I started noticing that almost every team in the conference lost their DE's from last year. First of all, 9 Big XII DE's were drafted in April. Second of all, there was one non-senior on the All-Big XII 1st and 2nd teams. And finally, just look at Phil Steele's All-Big XII DE's (1st-4th teams):

1st: Ian Campbell (KSU) - the only non-senior on the All-Big XII list last year, and the only proven stud at the DE position.
1st: Chris Harrington (ATM) - solid, dependable, relatively unspectacular...and apparently the 2nd-best returning DE.

2nd: Drew Hudgins (CU) - JUCO transfer
2nd: Nathan Peterson (OSU) - talented and explosive, but so injury-prone that he's only started 8 games in three years.

3rd: Jake Ratliff (TT) - uhh...yeah...had 3.5 sacks last year. That's decent for Texas Tech, but not necessarily the Big XII.
3rd: Brian Orakpo (UT) - I'd actually have him on the 2nd-team, but he really hasn't proven a ton either.

4th: Stryker Sulak (MU) - with 12 career starts, he's somehow one of the most experienced DE's in the league.
4th: Barry Turner (NU) - strong freshman year in '05, but did almost nothing last year...kind of like Sulak (though Sulak did more than Turner).

Everybody is going to be trying to piece together a new pass rush. Granted, that will be a bigger issue for the Missouri's of the world than the OU's and Texas's, but it's still an issue for everybody. That can't be a bad thing for Mizzou.

So the top 2 in both the North and South are almost unanimously agreed upon in some order (MU and NU in the North, OU and UT in the South). Who do you see having the best chance to crash the party in each division? Most seem to say KSU in the North and ATM in the South. I'm not sure agree, but I'll let you take the first stab at it. :-)

GW: In the South, I think it's a toss-up between A&M and Oklahoma State. I think there is a lot of talent on both teams. A&M might be the more rounded of the two, but Oklahoma State possess the ability to score quickly and score in bunches. Even with Woods gone from the receiver position, it still return most of its key players from a team that surprised a lot of people a year ago.

In the North, I'd look for Colorado to be an obstacle. The Buffs are going to get beat up in the non-conference (they play Arizona State, Florida State and Miami), but I think they are going to come out a better team for it. Quarterback Cody Hawkins has shown talent and it seems like young quarterbacks tend to thrive in this conference. I think the longer the season goes, the better Colorado will be. Will they challenge for first or second? Maybe, but I think the push will come too late.
TB: You pretty much nailed the teams I was going to choose. In the North, I think Colorado is the wildcard simply because they're going to have so much new blood at so many new positions. That, however, doesn't usually lead to immediate success. I don't think they have a prayer of winning the division, but I definitely think they'll play a considerable role in determining the North champion, as they host both Nebraska and Missouri.

As for the South...have you seen ATM's schedule? It's murderous. They could be a much better team than they were last year and go 8-4. Their conference road games are against Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Nebraska, and they will host an angry Texas team itching for revenge. If they can threaten in the South with that schedule, power to them.

I think Oklahoma State is the sleeper in the South. They have a manageable schedule--they host Tech and Texas and have a super-winnable road game against Baylor, though they do have to travel to Norman, College Station and Lincoln--and the most explosive offense in the conference. Their defense is made up of a lot of playmakers, though they'll be playing with a heavily retooled D-line. They probably don't have enough to threaten OU or UT in the South, but it wouldn't be a complete surprise to me if they did.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week!)


Friday, June 29, 2007

"Bigger than Slava Medvedenko"


Mizzou Links, 6-29-07

Okay, I probably shouldn't call these Mizzou Links, really...

  • Well, Kevin Pritchard didn't quite live up to my expectations, making only four trades last night instead of the six he pulled off last year. And he appeared to get taken pretty badly by the Knicks. But instead of complaining about the one trade (and why they had to give up Fred Jones and a 2nd-round pick along with Randolph for a backup PF and one of the Knicks' 12 shoot-first PG's), let's look at the big picture:

    What the Blazers got on draft night:
    #1 pick: Greg Oden (C) - maybe you've heard of him?
    #24 pick: Rudy Fernandez (SG) - Spanish guard who's been highly regarded for a few years now...will be overseas at least one more season
    #30 pick: Petteri Koponen (PG/SG) - Finnish guard who apparently wowed the Blazers in individual workouts
    #37 pick: Josh McRoberts (PF/C) - apparently Oden's best friend outside of Ohio State
    #52 pick: Taurean Green (PG) - pretty decent late pick...can't tell whether he'll stick on the team or not, but it's worth a 2nd round pick to find out
    Channing Frye (PF) - will be a strong backup to Aldridge/Oden
    Stevie Franchise (PG/SG) - BLEH
    James Jones (SF) - not bad since they had to just give up cash for him

    What the Blazers gave up on draft night:
    Zach Randolph (PF) - the biased fan in me thought they'd get more for him
    Dan Dickau (PG) - never seemed to fit with Nate McMillan
    Fred Jones (SG) - I was looking forward to him being a decent backup
    #42 pick: Derrick Byars - eh
    #53 pick: Demetris Nichols - eh
    Cash - make it rain!
    In all, that's not bad. I actually wanted them to take Fernandez in last year's draft, and apparently Koponen had an unbelievable workout for them recently, so it didn't surprise me to see them trade for him (though I expected them to have to give up more than cash). I absolutely loved Fernandez's game film--he makes pull-up 3's like a mid-range jumper--but I guess he has an insane buyout clause that will probably keep him overseas another year. Frye will be a lovely backup for Aldridge/Oden (though I'd have obviously preferred David Lee), and James Jones is a sharp-shooting small forward--Oden's presence should give Jones and Martell Webster lots of open looks, which is a lovely thought.

    I do like that they got a couple of European risks (can you tell that Pritchard cut his teeth with the Spurs?) and balanced them with a couple of steady college players in McRoberts and Green. McRoberts does not in any way light my fire--and I thought all the NCAA hoops experts ESPN insists on trotting out there had him significantly overrated--but a) I like him much better as a 2nd-round pick than a late lottery pick like he was being projected for a while, and b) he and Oden are really, really tight. I could see him doing decent things in the 10-15 mpg that could probably be allotted to him backing up Oden/Aldridge and Frye/Przybilla. Green's got a lot of decent skills--and the Blazers loved him during workouts--but I still can't tell if he'll stick. There are lots of guys out there with his skill set.

    Now...they still appeared to give up way too much to the Knicks. I don't like the thought of Stevie Franchise sitting at the end of the bench with Darius Miles, grousing and poisoning the clubhouse, but maybe they'll just buy out his contract or something. And I expected the Blazers to be in possession of a better SF than James Jones at the end of the night. But in the end, though, there's no doubting that the Blazers are infinitely better today than they were yesterday morning, so I won't complain. Yet. Pritchard has earned an infinite amount of good will from me in the last 12 months, so I'll cut him some slack for what appears to be one bad trade among many decent ones.

  • Note to Stephen A. Smith: talking louder does not make you smarter. Just so you know.
  • Note to ESPN: you're not scoring points with me by putting him on my television more and more each day. Lucky for you, Mike Tirico is fantastic.
  • Note to Sprite: your new commercials really creep me out.
  • Note to the Sonics: next time you're planning on moving your team out of town, try to make it a little less obvious.
  • Note to TNT: I really really really miss your draft coverage.
  • I must say, I did enjoy Jay Bilas comparing Big Baby Davis to Oprah. That one caught Tirico a bit off-guard.
That's all for now. Will probably post a link to Simmons' annual draft diary when it's posted...

UPDATE, 9:15am: As promised. And here's his note on the Randolph/Francis trade:

6:14: Good God, Isiah finally made a good trade! It happened! Somehow, he just landed Zach Randolph for Channing Frye and Stevie Francis! I'm shocked! What's happening to this league? Even Isiah is doing the right thing! I can't stop using exclamation points! How was that the best Portland could do for Randolph??? He's good for a 25-10 in the East! And if it doesn't work out, who cares? They gave up a bad contract and a half-decent forward to take a $50 million flier on a dominant low-post player. Great move. I stand by these thoughts even if Zach starts an international incident at Scores within the next nine months.

(Follow-up note: I think Portland GM Kevin Pritchard spent an hour thinking about it and decided, "You know what? Just to be safe, maybe it's best that Oden and Randolph never, ever, ever meet. Call Isiah and tell him we say yes to the crappy Francis-Frye offer. We can't mess around.")
Makes as much sense as anything else.

Oh, and a bonus note. Note to Joakim Noah: next time you're getting drafted on national TV, don't hire Bone Thugs 'N Harmony as your personal fashion consultants. Thanks.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-28-07

  • has a nice update on former Mizzou setter Lindsey Hunter and her progress with the USA Volleyball team.
  • Speaking of nice profiles, the Trib has one on Mizzou decathlete Nick Adcock.
  • Meanwhile, Indoor Track All-American Tyler Dailey can add "ESPN the Magazine CoSIDA Academic All-American" to his awards list.
  • Ben Askren is campaigning for ESPY votes...
  • The Post-Dispatch has an interesting story about sickle cell collapse. Nine athletes--including our own Aaron O'Neal--had the sickle cell trait and collapsed and died during workouts in the last seven years.
  • And finally, no great way to segway into this, but former Mizzou gymnast and All-Big XII balance beamer Miranda Boeckman died on June 9 at 22. Here's a discussion about her on Tigerboard. I guess I'm old enough now that I look back with regret on any life that ends that early...bad deal...


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

If the math in my head is right...

...if you have 16 and the dealer's showing 10, you should hit. You're probably going to lose either way, but your odds of losing are at least slightly smaller if you hit. I know this. Well...I think I know this. I know this as well as one can calculate odds in their head. When I'm playing blackjack on my phone, I hit everytime in that scenario.

However, when I'm sitting at a $10 blackjack table, I stay. Every time. I get scared.

Now...leading up to last month's NBA Draft Lottery, I was all about Kevin Durant. I mean, Greg Oden never posted 37 points and 23 rebounds in one college game (against an NCAA tournament team, no less). Greg Oden made the NCAA finals, but he had fellow lottery pick Mike Conley on his team. Oden's great, but the game's getting faster and Durant's the future of the league.

I really did think all of these things.

And then Portland--my team--got the #1 pick. And the first thing I thought was, "I hope they take Oden."

Am I just getting scared again? Am I staying on 16? I mean, Oden's great, but Durant's the future, right? And since I consider myself a major numbers nerd, surely Hollinger's numbers were enough to sway me, right?


Okay. If Kevin Pritchard goes against the grain and takes Durant, I won't complain one bit. Not one bit. Durant's fantastic. But I'd still prefer Oden.

Hollinger’s numbers are great, and I love that the league is going in the direction of using crap like that...but is there anywhere in his ‘machine’ that accounts for effect on team defense? I mean, he takes blocks and rebound into account, but that's not enough.

In a chat with Chad Ford today, good old Bill Simmons once again took the opportunity to rail on anybody who thought Oden should go #1.

If I'm Portland's GM, I just spent the last five weeks wondering about Greg Oden. What's his ceiling? Can he be better than Patrick Ewing? Alonzo Mourning? Can he become as dominant as Tim Duncan? Should I be worried about his surgically repaired wrist, or the fact that he might suffer back problems some day because his legs are different sizes? What about the fact that he likes basketball, but doesn't love it? The thing is, all these franchise centers are basically the same -- it just comes down to their inherent will to dominate a game. Hakeem had that will, Duncan has it, Moses had it, Shaq had it in 2000 and 2001 ... for whatever reason, Ewing didn't have it, and neither did Mourning or Robinson. Can you see Oden stepping onto a basketball court and saying, "There's no way we're losing this f-ing game. I'm destroying the other team tonight." For some reason, I can't.

Well, Durant plays that way every game. He's a cold-blooded killer.
He goes on to call Oden (again) the Next Pat Ewing.

Look, Simmons. Durant will obviously be the best offensive player in the draft, but Oden is the best defensive player. And if Patrick Ewing had a Brandon Roy alongside him for 10 years, he might have won a title too. Oden doesn’t have to carry the team. He just has to carry the defense and get a lot of dunks. Roy will run the offense. Ewing didn't have it in him to be his team's Jordan on both ends of the court, but Oden won't have to.

Meanwhile, Durant rebounds well but plays average-at-best defense. Having a 2-3-4 of Roy-Durant-Randolph in Portland would be high-scoring and exciting and all, but a) how well will Randolph share the ball, b) how well will Durant share the ball (he did average like 1 assist a game at UT), c) Durant’s an up-tempo player, while Randolph most certainly is not, and d) where’s the defense?

Trading Randolph for a 3 (I’m still relatively confident this will happen) and having Aldridge/Oden in the post gives you a stiff defense for years to come. And being that Nate McMillan is a defensive-minded coach...well...

Oh, and Kevin Durant and his “There’s no way we’re losing this f-ing game” attitude carried a freshman-laden team to the 2nd round of the NCAA’s. Greg Oden and his “I play basketball because I'm bigger than everybody else” attitude carried a freshman-laden team to the NCAA finals. Yes, Oden had Conley, and yes, Ron Whatshisname bailed OSU out in the second round against Xavier, but still...Texas was average a good % of the year, and it wasn’t simply because Rick Barnes is a crappy coach.

Oh, and it sounds like Durant is leaning toward a major Adidas shoe deal. Portland = Nikeville. How’s THAT supposed to work??

Again, I'll be satisfied either way, and if Kevin Pritchard is so married to statistical analysis that he picks Durant, then I'll trust him (even though he's a Jayhawk) in that judgement--this kind of thinking is exactly what I want to see in a GM.

Have I mentioned how excited I am about tomorrow night, by the way? I look forward to the draft every year anyway, but this is something new. My team has the #1 pick and is looking to trade for another lottery pick (and he's willing to make jokes like "I want to break the record", in reference to the six draft day trades he made last year)...we've got HUGE names rumored to be moving (KG, Amare, maybe Marion, hell, maybe Kobe)...gonna be a fun night. Gonna be a REAL fun night. And after the draft, I get to start mentally preparing for the 2010 NBA Title.

I told you, I'm trying something new this year: optimism.


Could it be Durant?

With the NBA draft just a day away,'s John Hollinger has unveiled a mathematical formula that he claims is a useful predictor of success for collegians entering the league. I'm usually all over stuff like this because I prefer my evidence to be statistical, not anecdotal, objective, not subjective. I'm very much on the Moneyball side of the argument, believing that there are objective measures that are more trustworthy than our eyes. Still, I haven't quite wrapped my mind around Hollinger's formula. His greatest claim for the efficacy of his method is based on the 2002 draft, and there's no denying that the results were impressive. Carlos Boozer, who has been the most productive pro chosen that year, was selected with the 26th pick, but he was the clear number one in Hollinger's system. And Udonis Haslem, another solid pro who has been a starter since late in his rookie campaign, ranked eighth under the formula despite the fact that he went undrafted.

Still, I'm not sure that there's enough evidence yet to claim that the thing works. Hollinger has run numbers for only the past five drafts, and it's a little early to make judgments about players selected the past two years. But for 2003, the numbers have Mike Sweetney projected ahead of the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kirk Hinrich and Josh Howard. Pity the GM who would have made that move. And Tyrus Thomas, who absolutely mopped the floor with the competition last year (his score was 756.8; number two was 583.1), hardly tore it up in his rookie season (four starts on the year, 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game).

That said, the formula is an intriguing idea, and one thing jumps out of this year's projections: Kevin Durant crushes the competition. Durant's score (870.7) dwarfs the previous high in the five-year span (Carmelo's 781.3 in 2003), and totally eclipses second place finisher Greg Oden (667.9), the draft's presumptive top pick. In fact, the difference between Durant and Oden is as great as the difference between Oden and D.J. Strawberry, who ranks number 21.

Apparently, Durant had a sensational individual workout for the Trailblazers, who own the top pick, while Oden's effort was comparatively lackluster. And Portland GM Kevin Pritchard is a believer in SABRmetric-style analysis. He's using an algorithim designed by an MIT alum to assist him in the process.

Will the numbers be enough to overcome to temptation to draft a dominant center? Kevin Pritchard has the toughest job in the NBA today. Seattle GM Sam Presti, who'll be picking second, has the easiest.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-26-07

How in the world is it already June 26???

  • Ben Askren has been nominated for the "Best Male College Athlete" ESPY. I've never even once watched the ESPYs, and there's no way in hell he beats out Oden, Durant, or Troy Smith (not if fans are voting online), but that's pretty awesome if you ask me. Vote here.
  • Not surprisingly, Chase Daniel has made the Maxwell Award Watch List. He and half the QB's in Division 1.
  • Dave Matter peers a little further into Big XII nonconference schedules.
  • In case you were wondering (and I'm sure you were), Martin Rucker is faster than Chase Coffman.
  • Bill Simmons takes a day off from calling the Blazers chickens to write an epically (yes, I just made that word up) good and for-the-hell-of-it NHL Draft Diary. My favorite entry: "5:54: Bettman announces another trade: Anaheim deals the No. 16 to Minnesota for the No. 19 and No. 42. Also, he announces new corporate sponsorships for the NHL with Enron, Betamax, CMGI, Conseco, Free FM, Pan Am Airlines and ESPN Mobile."
  • I took yesterday off as a sort of "high school reunion recovery day", and can I just say...Wimbledon looks amazing in HD. Now if only the US had more than 2 good tennis players...
  • And finally, I feel weird mentioning pro wrestling here, but I should note that a decade ago, when I was entering college at Mizzou, I bonded with some dormmates by watching WCW Nitro each week...we even ordered some Pay-Per-Views and attended a Nitro in Kansas City. It was fun. I haven't watched a wrestling event in probably 7 years, but the one wrestler who still stands out in my memory is Chris Benoit. He was amazing. He wrestled like it was real. He lacked the Hogan-esque charisma, but he was just so technically sound and dedicated to his craft that he enjoyed top-notch success in WCW, ECW, and WWF/WWE. He was great to watch, but it's sounding like he succumbed to the same thing that so many other pro wrestlers and former pro wrestlers have. The more you injure yourself to further your career, and the more pain-killers you end up having to take to get through the day, the less you find yourself relating to reality, and eventually you revolt against it. My condolences to his family.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-25-07

I was intending to post when I was in OK...all I had going was shopping with the wife and going to my 10-year high school reunion...but my parents went and got themselves a corgi puppy...which killed any free time I thought I was going to have...but now I'm back, whether you like it or not!

  • Amidst the packing and driving and trying not to get struck by lightning, I forgot to give my take on a recent PowerMizzou piece that forecasts the second half of Mizzou's '08 football recruiting class. Honestly, this is shaping up to be the typical, unheralded-but-more-athletic-every-year class to which we're starting to get accustomed. The one difference is, we've missed out on two stud MO QB's in the last two classes, and we really, really need to nail down a Chase Daniel successor right here. Without a strong QB, this class will be seen as a failure, period. I'd love to see Mizzou take Rock Bridge's Jake Morse, but I'd prefer it if they took him along with a more proven commodity like Braden Hanson or Tyler Wilson.
  • Actually, I also forgot to mention that the film on Gahn McGaffie was fantastic. Am loving this kid already. He definitely doesn't have a thick frame by any means, but it doesn't really matter if nobody can get a hand on him.
  • Dave Matter continues to produce quality work this's his analysis of this year's football scheduling...
  • I love Bill Simmons. I'm pretty sure my sense of humor has slowly morphed into his over the last few years. But he and his "VP of Common Sense," with whom I normally agree, are overstepping the bounds a little here, suggesting that the only reason Oden will go over Durant is because GM's are chickens. Durant does indeed have a higher upside and a lower downside--there's never been a player like him, so it's hard to project what he's capable of. But if (IF) the Blazers can turn Zach Randolph into a decent SF or another lottery pick (and it sounds like that's what's going to happen), then picking Oden is a perfectly acceptable, brave move. They can start a lineup of 1) Jarrett Jack, Spanish Chocolate, or Mike Conley Jr. (they're trying to see if they can trade up and get him), 2) Brandon Roy, 3) ?, 4) LaMarcus Aldridge, and 5) Oden, and become a team that's both steady offensively (with Roy carrying the load) and fantastic defensively (with Aldridge and Oden doing their Duncan-Robinson impersonation). And they'd pretty much be set like that for the next decade. I'm not going to complain if they take Durant (and it sounds like he absolutely amazed Blazer officials with his workout last week), but let's not pretend like the case is so cut-and-dried, and only Bill Simmons sees the truth.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-24-07

It's been four days since we've heard from The Boy, leading to fears that he may be lost in the Oklahoma wilderness. Before organizing a search party, though, I thought I'd pick up the slack and post some links.

  • In addition to being the next great prospect at Tight End U., Mizzou football signee Andrew Jones is also a beast on the hardwood.
  • Speaking of hardwood and signees, incoming Tiger frosh Justin Safford is already on campus, and last night he showed his all-around game, knocking down some threes and throwing down some dunks in a St. Louis high school all-star game.
  • The Cantwell Curse continues.
  • You say you've never heard of Mizzou freshman decathlete Nick Adcock? Well, take the time to read this.
  • And finally, the chronically interesting Dave Matter compares the productivity of the Tigers' two tremendous tight ends.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-20-07

I post this from beautiful Oklahoma in super-late last night...apparently when the Weather Channel predicted "partly cloudy" yesterday, they meant 55-mph winds and 5-inches-an-hour rain. If I'd known that were coming, we'd have left this morning. Boo. But we made it.

  • Looks like the good recruiting news of the last couple of weeks couldn't sway Travis Releford from the dark side. Congrats for getting the commit, KU. And by 'congrats', I mean 'screw you.'
  • The preseason football rankings are rolling in...Phil Steele has Mizzou #19, and now Street & Smith has them #18. One of these years, we'll learn to live up to expectations, right? Ri...right?
  • In his latest blog post, Dave Matter discusses Terry Hoeppner's death and its strange proximity to the 2006 death of another Big Ten coach, Randy Walker.
  • Here's a nice Missourian story about former Mizzou track stud, Derrick Peterson.
  • And finally, it's an annual tradition...the Bill Simmons Vegas column. This one's shorter than most. Honestly, now that I've actually been to Vegas and can picture where everything is, I should go back and read the others again...


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

MU Softball 2007 Season Wrap-Up the season ended awhile ago and I am just getting to it....get over's been a busy couple of months for me.

The 2006 season began with the Mizzou Tigers ranked 18th in the country, but ended for them on May 12, as they fell to OU 4-0 in the finals of the Big XII Championship game. The upstart Tigers put together a nice run to make the finals, but their regular season record would show them at a disappointing one game under .500 at 26-27.

About three months later, then-coach Ty Singleton bolted for the perceived (by him anyway) greener pastures of University of New Mexico (parlayed a 23-31 team into a 20-25 team there in his first year) A few days later, Mike Alden announced that Georgia Tech head coach and Missouri native Ehren Earleywine would become the new Tiger skipper. Earleywine, a Jeff City Jay and Westminster grad seemed very excited to be coming home, but would have his work cut out for him, as star and pretty much only returning pitcher Jen Bruck would be coming off of the most unique of She just gave birth to her first child.

Jen Bruck was nothing short of inspirational in her comeback as the season got going, and the young Tigers under a new head coach had a couple of nice wins over ranked opponents in the non-conference to show for it. However, reaching the Big XII season at 22-17, not much was expected of Mizzou. After all, they had been pre-season ranked #8 in the league.

Once the league season picked up, so did Mizzou. Charting up win after win, Mizzou slowly began to gain some national recognition, cracking the polls on April 25 in 21st place. When all was said and done, Mizzou was playing for the regular season title on the last weekend, coming up just short in the race and finishing a wonderful 3rd overall. Mizzou finished disappointed in the Big XII Championship, and made a regional final game before falling to eventual CWS participant Depaul, finishing the season ranked 19th in the nation with a 40-24 record (which made for an amazing 18-7 run through the amazingly tough conference season and postseason) For his effort, Coach Earleywine was voted Big XII Coach of the Year.

So now....what does Mizzou lose going into next year?


  • Leanne Bowers: Outfielder batted .299 on the year with 4 HR's. She played and started in every single game Mizzou played this season (one of only three to do that) She worked a good amount of walks on the season, and lead the team in stolen bases, but also in strikeouts. Only one error in the outfield means she was quite good out there, and will be missed next season.
  • Kathy Masterson: Primarily the catcher for Mizzou this season, Kathy started 56 games and batted .277 for Mizzou. Very solid behind the plate with only 3 errors, Kathy brought good stability, and with her graduation, along with seniors Alyson Tobyne and A.J. White, Mizzou will only have one returning catcher to the roster next year in RS Soph Katie Miles (along with a true frosh)
  • Sarah Stringer: 2B for Mizzou this season, starting in 57 games for the Tigers and batting a solid .270 with 4 HR's to her name. Decent in the field, but was third on the team in errors with nine (light hitting senior Ally Kennewell had 11 and Jen Bruck had...well...16)

So....Mizzou will lose three, pretty much everyday elements to their lineup, but let's take a look at what is returning in 2008.


  • Jen Bruck: Everyday pitcher for Mizzou will be a senior next season, and one must believe she will have an even stronger season in 2008. Bruck got into a good groove during conference play, but I think ran out of gas a bit down the stretch as the Tigers really had to lean on her come tournament play. Bruck started 32 games on the season, going 21-10 with a 2.47 ERA and 193 hits in 190 innings. At the plate, Bruck put up the second most HR's on the team with 7, while batting .244. Hopefully her fielding woes will be examined in the off-season, as 16 errors, and some of them at REALLY bad times did hurt the Tigers down the stretch
  • Micaela Minner: The senior-to-be leader in almost all offensive categories for Mizzou this season, Micaela batted a team high .367, but did see her power numbers fall off to only 6, down from 9 in 2006 and 17 in 2005. Minner worked 33 walks on the season with only 12 K's, showing clearly good patience given she likely does not see a lot of pitches these days. Benefiting from that would be....
  • Amanda Renth: Another senior next season, the Tiger's first baseman put up a team leading 14 HR's while batting at a .324 clip. She lead the team in RBI's and slugging as well, and was solid in the field with only 4 errors at first base. Renth, along with Minner are the two Tigers returning who played and started in every single game on the season.
  • Andee Allen: Allen will be a junior next year, and has played both second base and shortstop. Allen hit .276 and was speedy on the bases with 13 steals, likely needing to take over the roll from Bowers as some top of the lineup speed. She played in 61 games this season, and was solid with only 6 errors on the season in the infield.
  • Julie Silver: Had a great first season a frosh on the squad, hitting .298 and stealing 10 bases while playing the outfield. Silver showed some good pop with the bat, hitting 3 HR's. Mizzou will need further development from her next season, but she certainly showed a tremendous start and potential with three more seasons to play.

Incoming Class

  • The class features five signees, two of which are reported as catchers. The others are a left-handed pitcher, an outfielder with tremendous speed (stole seven bases in ONE GAME in high school) and a utility player/infielder. My guess is that the team will look for production from the pitcher, one of the catchers and the outfielder this season.

Thoughts for 2008

Coach Earleywine was quoted towards the end of the season when Mizzou was garnering all of it's attention that he was surprised how well and how quickly some of his players had picked up his batting instruction, stating his plan was really a two year plan for that instruction to come around. Well, 2008 looks like a perfect year for that plan to hit. With top batters and top power coming back, Mizzou should not be short on runs. Decent speed and defense will also be in abundance for the Tigers. We all know how good Bruck can be, but we really need for either junior to be Megan Dennis (9-3), soph to be Jana Hainey (7-5) or the true frosh to come along in a big way.

The secret will be out on Mizzou this year, and they will not be able to sneak up on anyone come conference season like they were able to this year. Next season will be a very important year with all the key seniors on the team, Mizzou's goals must be two-fold. They must keep the momentum of an NCAA tourney berth going on the field, as well as off while Earleywine gets his first full season of recruiting under his belt. The Tigers should again expect to contend in the usually loaded Big XII and should expect to return to the NCAA's come May 2008.


R.I.P Terry Hoepnner

As I am sure the entire sports online community will do today, I wanted to give my brief thoughts on this loss. My only exposure to Coach Hoeppner was the Iowa/Indiana game this past year on ESPN on October 14th when his upstart team upset the then #15 Hawkeyes. His energy celebrating with his players and running off of the field clearly and unfortunately gave anyone who saw it a fall sense he had beaten his awful affliction, but was extremely uplifting and exciting to see, almost one of those moments when you cannot blame an annoucer for "rooting" for a team during a broadcast.

RIP Coach and my thoughts to all Hoosiers.


Mizzou Links, 6-19-07

I'm running late today, so here are a couple quickies...

  • First up, yet another 2008 football commitment...good-sized kid, that's for sure.
  • Next, after destroying the California League, Max Scherzer has already been moved to AA...just 3 starts into his Arizona Diamondbacks career.
  • And finally...don't automatically assume Greg Oden is going to Portland. Kevin Pritchard is a number-cruncher (which I absolutely love), and at this point it sounds like he trusts the numbers more than his own gut. And after last year's draft, I trust the guy more than I've ever trusted a GM. I need to remind myself that he's also a former Jayhawk, so he's probably just setting me up for massive disappointment...


Monday, June 18, 2007

I’ll say this for Jason Whitlock...

When he’s wrong, he’s horribly, horribly wrong. But when he’s right, nobody nails it better.

I wanted to bring up a column he wrote in the KC Star today, in which he discusses the NBA’s ills and and their causes. He makes enough good points here that I want to address them one by one.

It’s going to take more than tweaking the playoff format to fix what is ailing the NBA.

The league that just 15 years ago thought it was on the cusp of catching the NFL in terms of U.S. and global relevance has now spiraled below baseball and could once again find itself a very distant third behind the NFL and MLB.

The just-completed NBA finals was the most-ignored championship series in the post-Magic-Larry-and-Michael era. The Spurs vs. the Cavaliers sparked little discussion, little drama and little television interest.

There are lots of theories about why this happened, including the one-sidedness of the series, the Spurs’ boring style of play, the weakness of the Cavaliers and the Eastern Conference, “The Sopranos” series finale, the overall number of cable viewing options. There is more than a kernel of truth in all of the theories.
There’s no doubting that all of those things had an impact. There really were a lot of different factors conspiring against this year’s NBA Finals—the worst of all was probably the way the Spurs absolutely crushed Cleveland the first two games in SA. You just knew that, even if Cleveland picked off a game or two at home, there was absolutely no way they were winning on the road...and that kind of kills the motivation to watch. That’s my excuse, anyway.

Now’s as good a time as any, however, to mention something that quite a few columnists have caught onto by now: the Spurs aren’t boring anymore. Yes, they can beat you 79-77, but they can also beat you 109-107. Even if Tim Duncan is the most bland superstar in the history of the world, Tony Parker is amazing to watch, and Manu Ginobli makes for a phenomenal villain (seriously, with his flops and his amazing ability to make his body go completely limp at the first instance of contact, going down like he was shot on every other possession, he’s single-handedly—with help from guys like Andersen Varejao—turning basketball into soccer).

And as even more columnists have mentioned at this point, the Spurs have everything the typical “NBA is boring because it’s just 1-on-1, the teams don’t pass, and nobody plays defense” complainer should want to see. They move the ball amazingly well, they play the best defense in the league, and even though they have Tim Duncan, the Spurs’ world doesn’t just orbit around him (case in point: Tony Parker was Finals MVP).

Now, I hate the Spurs as much as anybody—I watched probably about a total of 48 minutes over the course of the four games—but I think this does illustrate a problem that might render the rest of Whitlock’s excellent column moot: TV watchers, and sports fans in particular, are fickle excuse-makers. I know—I count myself as one of them. And even if Whilock’s points below are addressed, I really don’t know how you counter this.

But I think there is a bigger truth that is not being widely discussed on a consistent basis.

Basketball in the United States is in poor health. Our entire system needs to be overhauled to improve play and increase the passion of fans.

What has happened to American basketball is a prime example that freedom without vision is a dangerous thing. You can have too much freedom, and clearly the NBA is suffering the consequences of the freedom overload granted our players.

The good thing is that eventually the rank-and-file NBA players will begin to suffer financially, too. The current TV ratings are going to damage David Stern’s ability to negotiate the kind of TV contracts necessary to support the salaries of the average NBA player.

Yeah, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan will always get their money. The shoe companies will see to that. It’s the non-superstar — most of the league — who is going to get hurt, and that will force the NBA players association to work with Stern and the owners to fix basketball.
I don’t think the rank-and-file NBA players will suffer enough to make them sympathetic to the general public in any way—there’s no way the NBA’s financial situation gets that bad. To make people care, their salaries would have to dip to about $50K/year or worse...and that’s just not going to happen.

There are two major things, in my opinion, killing basketball right now: 1. AAU basketball; 2. early entry into the draft.

See, you can’t fix the NBA without first fixing college basketball. The players and David Stern must realize the healthier college basketball is the easier it will be for the NBA to regain its $ignificance.

Basketball fans are losing passion for the NBA because they haven’t been properly introduced to the league’s players.

LeBron James, allegedly, is a big star. He has a huge shoe contract. He’s featured in clever commercials. His face is recognized around the world. So why didn’t people tune in to see him play in the NBA finals?

Because basketball fans in Lawrence and Bloomington, Ind., and Durham, N.C., and all the other little basketball hotbeds don’t care about LeBron James. He didn’t play their game. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan built gigantic college followings and brought those passionate fans with them to the NBA.
And because the Spurs absolutely decimated them. And because everybody knew it was going to happen.

Today’s players bring posses. The NBA players who visited a college campus for one or two years leave their disappointed fan bases behind.

Many college basketball fans hate the NBA. They see the league as an institution that undermines the college game by stealing its underdeveloped players. There are people who want to see the NBA fail. That’s not good. It’s not healthy for basketball.

Rather than whining that an age limit is racist, NBA players need to understand that requiring players to go to college is good for the league and will put money in everyone’s pockets down the road.

This year’s NBA draft has created more excitement and more discussion than any NBA draft since Patrick Ewing came out of Georgetown. Why?

Because the Florida Gators — Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah and Al Horford — stayed in college and won back-to-back titles before jumping to the NBA. Because Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were forced to spend one year in college.

We’re actually familiar with many of the players who will be in this year’s draft. We’ve seen them play. We listened to Dick Vitale overhype them for five straight months. Durant and Olden will help drive TV ratings when they hit the league.
Durant and Oden are extreme outliers. I’m very curious what kind of impact the age limit will have on a year-to-year basis. It definitely can’t hurt, but I’m thinking that Michael Beasley at K-State and OJ Mayo at USC and Kevin Love at UCLA won’t make the same type of Oden/Durant-esque impact.

Without a doubt, though, the age limit was a fantastic idea. I do wish it had been in place when LeBron graduated high school—just for the fantasy of him attending Akron and taking them to a Final Four! (I realize that wouldn’t have happened, but it’s hindsight now, so I can say whatever I want.)

The NBA needs an age limit of 21 and/or a rule requiring three years of college participation.
Wow, does this seem extreme to me. I wouldn’t complain if it happened, but a lot of people would. I’m fine with the current age limit, at least until we see how much of a year-to-year impact it will have.

The league and the players association also should work with the NCAA on doing something to eliminate AAU basketball. Our players are too raw and too difficult to coach because AAU basketball — and its undisciplined style of play — has become more important and influential than high school basketball.
Aside from the 'eliminate' part (it's simply not going to happen), I agree.

I hate to keep using LeBron James as the example because I absolutely love his mental maturity and willingness to be coached, but he is an AAU player. AAU is the reason he doesn’t have a jump shot. AAU is the reason he’s so unskilled in the low post.

AAU is the reason Carmelo Anthony is one of the worst teammates you could have. Yes, he got lucky and won a national championship in college. Trust me, it was luck. His game isn’t about winning. It’s about putting up numbers. He can’t see the floor and what his teammates are doing because that’s not necessary in AAU ball.

Anyway, the NBA — players, owners and Stern — should think big picture when trying to fix what ails the league.
I wish Whitlock would have focused more than three paragraphs on AAU. The NBA age limit is an easier topic to discuss, but AAU is where the heart of the problem lies. It’s a complete traveshamockery that LeBron has the weaknesses he has. Rick Barry ranted about LeBron’s weaknesses last week, and even though it smacked of curmudgeonry, he was basically right. LeBron has a horrid-looking jumpshot that really does look different with every shot, and he really doesn’t have a clue how to come off screens. And I’m worried that it’s too late to fix that. I mean, he made the conference finals despite such debilitating weaknesses—and he probably will again a few more times. Just think about what he could accomplish with just above-average skills from the 3-point line and the pick-and-roll and the low post. Wow.

But that shot and intuition should have evolved about 5-10 years ago. Instead, the AAU-centric high school (and junior high) system in which he grew and thrived spends more time propping up what you do have instead of addressing what you don’t.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t have a damn clue how to fix this. AAU is big business now, and “eliminating” it isn’t even a 1% feasible option. So what is? I honestly don’t know. Thoughts?


Mizzou Links, 6-18-07

  • Well, the second day of the US Open didn't work out quite as well for John Kelly. He shot an 84 on Friday, moving to +18 for the tournament and missing the cut by a healthy margin. More importantly he lost ground on the other amateurs. He was tied for first among amateurs heading into Friday, but he ended up 5th behind Mark Harrell (+11), Richard Ramsay (+12), Jason Kokrak (+16), and the eeeeeeevil Rhys Davies (+17). I do, however, find it very satisfying that he finished tied with Colin Montgomerie. Here's the write-up. And here's the greatest quote ever, from the running blog of ESPN's Jason Sobel:

    6:21 p.m.: One of my fellow scribes just eloquently put this tournament -- and this sport -- into perspective:

    Tiger wearing his faux Under Armour special shirt and looking like a male model. And he can't beat the fat chain smoker. Golf rocks. It flat-out rocks.
  • In former Tiger news, here's a nice article about Brad Smith from the AP; meanwhile, Dave Matter sits down for a Sunday Q&A with sack master Brian Smith.
  • Louisville's Chris Dominguez hit TWO MORE homeruns yesterday to help the Cardinals stay alive at the College World Series yesterday, giving him 8 HR's in his last 8 games. That kid's starting to get on my nerves...
  • Here's the Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon talking about the job the area's new coaches--Mike Anderson and Rick Majerus--are handling themselves on the recruiting trail. In other basketball news, the Trib's Steve Walentik discusses what it means to the Big XII's pecking order that ATM's Joseph Jones is returning to campus.
  • And finally...that Carl Edwards guy is pretty good.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Truman's Tiger

There's a nice profile on Truman High's Steve Moore, Mizzou's first basketball commitment for the class of 2008, in the Jackson County Examiner (free registration required). I knew that Moore was Mike Anderson's kind of player when I read that he runs five miles a day on a cross country course of his own design. That, friends, is dedication.

The Internet chatter around Moore's commitment has been laced with puzzlement, largely because his name hasn't been bandied about nearly as much as high-profile targets like Scott Suggs and Travis Releford, and because he doesn't have a sky-high ranking from the recruiting services. But I feel awfully good about Moore for a couple of reasons (in addition to his aforementioned work ethic):

1) At 6-feet-9 and 235 pounds, he already has a Division I body that's likely to improve with another year of maturity and some time with Mizzou's strength and conditioning staff; and

2) If Mike Anderson's staff was willing to take his commitment in the June before his senior year, they must really like him.

With at least five more scholarships to give for 2008, this class figures to be the foundation for Mizzou's hoops success over the next few years. Hopefully, we'll be able to look back at Steve Moore as the guy who got the ball rolling.


Poor Matthew Goggin

To kick off the 3rd round of the U.S. Open, Austrailian Matthew Goggin teed off at 10:05 a.m. local time....BY HIMSELF. And in less than three hours, his round was done, with a decent +4 showing.

Why was Goggin playing by himself? He was simply the odd man out. But what a strange experience that must have been, finishing the round almost before the next group behind him had made the turn.

Oh yeah...and NO HOLE at the US Open is playing at par or under par.

Some other statistical anomalies I am enjoying about the course this year.

  • The difference in yards between the shortest and longest par 3 is over 100 yards. (183 yard #13 to the 288 yard #8)
  • The difference in yards between the shortest and longest par 4 is 187 yards (313 yard #17 to the 500 yard #15)
  • The difference in yards between the shortest and longest par 5 is 58 not as big...but both are over 600 yards.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Man oh man...

...Louisville is just CRUSHING the ball right now in the CWS. Rice had given up 8 runs in 5 postseason games, and Louisville has scored 10 in 5 innings at this point...

...I should also mention that I'm starting to feel EXTREMELY bitter about losing to them right now...I should probably just switch back to the US Open. Watching professionals score double bogey after double bogey always makes me feel better.


Summertime, and the reading is lengthy

If you're reading this, odds are good that you're a baseball fan in addition to a Mizzou supporter. And if you enjoy the kind of minutiae that can provoke never-ending arguments, you need to be reading Kansas City Star sports columnist Joe Posnanski's blog, The Soul of Baseball, which ostensibly exists to promote Joe's book of the same name, but really serves as a jumping-off point for the author's wide-ranging thoughts on America's pastime.

I'm an unabashed Posnanski fan. He's an elegant technician who never resorts to the easy, cheap ridicule and half-analysis that plagues so much sports writing. He's also, quite clearly, insane. Joe Po's posts, to put it mildly, are long. My last post here was 23 words. The one before that was 84 words. Posnanski's most recent effort: 6,032 words. It came four days after a post that checked in at 2,621 words, which, in turn, followed by three days a 5,272-word offering.

To put this in perspective, the typical newspaper sports column runs 900 words. My book, which chronicled an entire century of Missouri basketball, year by year, checked in at around 107,000 words. I forwarded Posanski's blog to a good friend who is a sportswriter at a major daily paper (and who was with Joe in a McDonald's in Turin when an international curling incident was narrowly averted). His response was hilarious and unprintable, except for the observation that Posnanski's posts aren't just ramblings; they're remarkably coherent and meticulously researched ramblings. In essence, Joe Po is writing a book every eight weeks in his spare time. If you can spare the time, you should read it.


So I'm at the grocery store...

...and I pass by the news stand and see that the Sporting News football preview is out. Now, last year I opened up the TSN preview at the exact same grocery store and started to buy it until I noticed that they had picked Ole Miss to win at Missouri...presumably because Brent Schaeffer was a 5-star QB, therefore he had to be good enough to win at lowly Missouri. I put the magazine back on the shelf. This year, I decided to give them another shot. Now, I'm a major Phil Steele snob--nobody's more accurate, more detailed, or more interesting. But I'm also a nerd, so I still buy multiple mags.

Anyway, I opened up this year's TSN and skimmed it just long enough to see that their 1st-team All-Big XII TE was Martellus Bennett. And I put the magazine back on the shelf.

Some 2006 stats:

Chase Coffman - 58 catches, 639 yards, 9 TD's
Martin Rucker - 53 catches, 511 yards, 5 TD's
Martellus Bennett - 38 catches, 497 yards, 3 TD's
And for that matter...

Brandon Pettigrew (OSU) - 24 catches, 310 yards, 4 TD's
Some career stats:

Chase Coffman (2 yrs) - 105 catches, 1141 yards, 13 TD's
Martin Rucker (3 yrs) - 119 catches, 1341 yards, 10 TD's
Martellus Bennett (2 yrs) - 56 catches, 659 yards, 6 TD's (almost exactly Coffman's 2006 numbers)
Brandon Pettigrew (2 yrs) - 35 catches, 438 yards, 5 TD's
Now...I know what you're going to say--Missouri plays in a pass-oriented offense, and ATM does not. But a) Martin Rucker played two seasons with Brad Smith--not exactly a big-time passer--and Chase Coffman played one, and b) have you seen Martin Rucker block?

Look. Pick Colt McCoy or Graham Harrell (or both) over Chase Daniel on the QB's list. Pick Nebraska to win the North over Missouri. Hell, decide that Will Franklin isn't on the league's top WR's list. All of those are up for debate. What is not up for debate is who the best two TE's in the conference are. The only thing Bennett has that Rucker/Coffman don't are 5 stars from Rivals. But these guys are all upperclassmen now. Recruiting rankings for these guys expired a while back. Brandon Pettigrew is as close (or closer) to Martellus Bennett as Bennett is to Coffman and Rucker. There is no debate here. And the surest way to assure that I never purchase your magazine again is to pretend there is.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drown my anger in a Sub Shop sausage & kraut sandwich...something else nobody in the Big XII can match.

UPDATE, 5:54pm: A buddy of mine who owns the TSN preview called and told me that once again, Ole Miss over Mizzou is one of their upset specials. Just keep picking it till it comes true, guys.


John Kelly at the US Open... completely and totally slipped my mind (and apparently everybody else's) that with his finish at the US Amateur last year, not only did Mizzou Golfer John Kelly qualify for the Masters, he also qualified for the US Open at Oakmont. As I said yesterday, I love the US Open because of all the black scores on the board (after one day in perfect conditions, only two players are under par...fantastic), so I was pretty excited to see Kelly only 6 back after Day One. He's +4. Let's see what details we can dig up on his round...

  • After Round One, he's tied for Low Amateur with the hated (by me...for now) Welshman, Rhys Davies. I know nothing about Davies, but his picture really makes him kinda look like the evil, heavily-accented version of ESPN's Rece Davis. Which is unfortunate, since I was picturing a cross between this guy...

    ...and the the Welsh version of this guy*.

  • Kelly was all over the place with his drives, hitting only 6 of 14 fairways (43%, tied for 118th) and only 9 of 18 greens in regulation (50%, tied for 94th). However, his putting was fantastic. His 28 putts placed him tied for 7th in that category.
  • He averaged 307.0 on drives. Not too shabby.
  • With his driving struggles and strong putting, it's not altogether surprising that, looking at his scoring on each hole, he went a bit backwards from the norm--he was E on Par 3's, +3 on Par 4's, and +1 on Par 5's. Usually it's somewhat the opposite.
  • In both the Front 9 and Back 9, he struggled out of the gates, then settled down. His round featured 4 bogies--#2 and #3 on the Front 9 and #11 and #12 (a 667-yard Par 5...seriously, it would take me 5 shots just to find the green...if I'm lucky) on the Back 9.
  • He did par the insane, 288-yard #8, a Par 3, so power to him for that. It would take me a 4-iron and a 9-iron to find the green there.
Other, non-Kelly thoughts on Day One...

  • Jose-Maria Olazabal is still getting it done at 41 (though not in a Tony Kornheiser, "Tina Turner is still getting it done" sort of way). I love that he is still a 10x bigger threat at majors than Sergio Garcia. Granted, he's also 50x more boring, but...oh well. It looked like Sergio was going to make quite the Ballesteros-like villain character, but...well...Seve occasionally won something. Sergio, not so much.
  • Lefty did better than I thought he would do yesterday. Between an iffy wrist and a few weeks' worth of rust, I didn't expect much. Phil was shaky at first, +4 after 11, but he parred the last 8 holes and has started off reasonably well today. Go Lefty!
  • Defending Open champ, Geoff Ogilvy, is cruising steadily along at +1. I'd love it if he stuck around and gave himself a shot at Title #2. He'd easily be the most non-descript back-to-back major champ since Curtis Strange.
  • If I had to pick a winner right now, I'd really have no choice but to cop out and go with Tiger. Any time he's within 3-4 after the first day, you have to like his chances. Now that I've said that, he'll go out and shoot a 79 today. Oh well.

I should mention that I got all of the information above from Fantastic site.

* I'm really not being fair to the Welsh. For all I know, every woman in Wales looks like this:


Follow up to Weiberg leaving

This quote comes from the article, written by their staff....and if this does not tick off EVERY single fan of a Big XII school and show you we got the crappy end of the stick with this guy, well...then nothing does.

"I believe in the idea of the Big Ten Network and believe it will be extremely successful," Weiberg said in a statement released by the network. "It's a tremendous opportunity for me to be associated with a venture that has such a great future."

wow.....WOW...really? Sure am glad you did not work too hard getting something similar for us then :-)


Mizzou Links, 6-15-07

  • Another day, another commitment...seriously, at this rate, we'll be out of scholarships (for football, basketball, and next year's football) in the next month or two. And meanwhile, a StL kid unleashes an extremely telling quote: "I didn't expect Missouri to be that nice and I was overwhelmed with how great everything was there. People in St. Louis think about Missouri as they were before coach Pinkel got there." Yup.
  • Six Mizzou football players threw out the first pitch for the Cards/Royals game the other day...Tony Temple, Martin Rucker, and Chase Coffman representing KC, and Darnell Terrell, Hardy Ricks, and Will Franklin representing StL.
  • News from Dave Matter: looks like the intra-state rivalry to end all intra-state rivalries will come to fruition in '08...that's right...SEMO/MU!!!
  • Also from Matter, and discussed elsewhere too: Big 12 commish Kevin Weiberg is resigning to accept a lesser (but probably waaaay higher-paying) position in the Big Ten. He will be the new Vice President of University Planning and Development with the Big Ten Network...whatever that is. As I said before, I still don't necessarily want to move to the Big Ten, but...yeah, the whole 'Big Ten Network' thing makes me jealous enough to consider it. A buddy of mine half-jokingly asked if Mike Alden would apply for the commish job now. I doubt it, but I don't doubt that he'd probably get us a better TV deal...


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-14-07

Earlier in the week, I mentioned that it was going to be harder to produce actual Mizzou-related links on a daily basis, but recruiting seems to have bailed me out every day this week...not too shabby...

  • Mizzou Basketball has its first commitment for 2008...and he's a Truman Patriot?? I had some friends that went there...I was under the impression that they didn't actually produce athletes...just debaters and substitute teachers. Anyway, let Gabe tell you all about it...and then, let Gabe's dad tell you about Isaac Miles' visit to Columbia...
  • Meanwhile, football has its first 2009 commit, a mere 19 months before Signing Day.
  • And then in non-Mizzou related favorite golf tournament of the year begins today! Nothing makes me happier than watching highly-paid professionals struggle horribly...I realize the winning score probably won't be +5 like last year, but it. Being a lefty myself, Mickelson's been my favorite golfer for a decade (knowing my history of picking favorites, it figures...though he has won 3 majors just wouldn't know from hearing the coverage of him...Winged Foot Winged Foot Winged Foot Winged Foot), but I can't imagine he's able to compete well this weekend with his arm injury...the rough at the US Open is so thick that it seems like you could break your wrist swinging through it anyway...
  • And finally, Bill Simmons says it's time to fix the NBA playoffs. While I agree with him that the offseason seems to be more exciting than the playoffs (my favorite NBA moment is the lottery, followed by #2, the draft), I'm hesitant to blow up the whole Western/Eastern conference thing. Yes, the West has been better every year since Jordan retired (the second time), but that's not geography's fault. I dunno...having read tons about the Blazers for 15 years now, I understand how much their fans dislike the Jazz, Sonics, and Lakers--that's 30% because of geography and 70% because of previous playoff series...which is indirectly about geography. Plus, seeing the reaction from Portland and Seattle fans about the potential for Oden/Durant playoff matchups (at least until the Sonics move to OKC...or KC...or Vegas) was impressive...and it was mostly because of geography.

    Then again, Big XII teams don't start off the NCAA Tournament by playing each other, so maybe Portland playing New Jersey in the playoffs instead of Utah wouldn't be that big a deal...maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about. Like most arguments (just wait until you see what I have to say about the College Football Playoff idea), I talk a big game, but if the change is made I won't cry one bit.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fathers Day

Wright Thompson, a Mizzou alum and one of the truly gifted young sportswriters working today, offers this remembrance of his father at


Mizzou Links, 6-13-07

  • Interesting thread over at Dave Matter's blog. Not interesting for the post itself, but interesting for the comments to the post and for Dave's responses. Dave tackles the issue of recruiting and why Mizzou is still lacking much success in StL, among other topics.
  • Mizzou wrestler Tyler McCormick picked up his second Academic All-American award this week...congrats!
  • In non-Mizzou news...Greg Oden blogs!
  • And in non-NCAA news...US Soccer wins again! They move to the next round of the 2007 Gold Cup. I'm sure this interests only me, but they've been doing pretty well lately under Bob Bradley, the former interim coach who was recently given the job full-time. If they're ever going to move to the next level at the World Cup, it's looking like 2010 is going to be the year. Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and Oguchi Onyewu will be 28, Eddie Johnson 26, Tim Howard 31, et cetera. They'll all be at peak age, so hopefully they'll put it together.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-12-07

We've reached the point in the summer where 'Mizzou Links' will start to turn into just 'Links'. Not too many Mizzou-related goings-on for the next two months...

  • Isaac Miles really really wants to transfer to Mizzou (from Creighton). It's not everyday that a kid who started as a freshman on an NCAA tourney team wants to transfer to your school, so I'm pretty sure the Mizzou coaches are giving this a long, hard thought. It probably doesn't hurt that his good friend and former teammate is '08 stud Travis Releford. And he likes Mizzou so much he might be willing to walk on. Interesting.
  • And speaking of '08 studs, PowerMizzou has a story up about Scott Suggs' recent visit to Columbia.
  • Meanwhile, the NCAA threw a live blogger out of the Louisville-OSU game on Sunday. Stupid. The world is changing whether the NCAA wants it to or not, and they really need to change arcane policies like this.
  • Here's a decent Andy Katz story about underclassmen in the NCAA draft and the importance of accurate information given to them. Meanwhile, ATM's Joseph Jones has removed his name from the draft pool. Honestly, I didn't know he had put his name into the draft pool.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Mizzou Links, 6-11-07

  • Mizzou gets a Texas commitment in football...visit PowerMizzou for the rest...
  • The Trib's Steve Walentik reports on the Missouri Elite Basketball camp. If you're a PowerMizzou member, head on over and read The Chamber see what Gabe thinks about Mizzou's chances for various recruits.
  • If it's football you're interested in, check out Dave Matter's ranking of Big XII WR/TE's.
  • The Bomber from Barbados is an All-American! Congrats! Meanwhile, sophomore Krishna Lee finished 12th in the hammer throw.
  • Evan Frey (10th round) and Brock Bond (24th) were the only two Tigers selected in the MLB draft last week. Jacob Priday was not selected...bad news for him, great news for the 2008 Tigers. And speaking of college baseball, what's with the increased media exposure?
  • And I guess I can't mention college baseball without noting that Louisville absolutely destroyed OSU to advance to the CWS yesterday. The Pokes showed up on Saturday, winning 3-2, but on Friday and Sunday, they were outscored 29-2. Ggh. Other teams to advance: #2 seed Rice (swept ATM), #3 North Carolina (defeated #14 South Carolina), #5 Arizona State (swept #12 Ole Miss), Mississippi State (swept Clemson), UC-Irvine (swept #13 Wichita State), and CS-Fullerton (defeated UCLA). The final spot is up for grabs between Oregon State and Michigan. In an extreme pitcher's duel yesterday, Oregon State won Game One, 1-0.


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Just for fun...

...I just stumbled across this...felt it was time for some late-night fun...


Super Regional Coverage...

...for those who are looking for a good place for Super Regional coverage, has a pretty good page set up...if you can find it. They hide it away pretty good, but it's got a schedule of all the games on one page, which is nice. Anyway, here it is.

I'm sure everybody already saw that OSU got whomped by Louisville yesterday (a nice twist of the knife there), but in case you didn't notice, it looks like ATM blew a golden opportunity against Rice, giving up the tying run in the bottom of the 9th and the winning run in the bottom of the 10th.


Friday, June 8, 2007

2007 "Tip of the Cap" Awards, part 2

The annual "Tip of the Cap" awards are awarded every year at the end of the Mizzou Baseball season, named in honor of John "Hi" Simmons' signature gesture. Read more at

Our annual award for the best performance against the Kansas Jayhawks was really no contest this season.

"How do you like your Jayhawks cooked? Evan Frey’d," quipped Matt Nestor in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

The Chickenhawks came to Simmons field on a rainy weekend at the end of March this year, and left having given up the series to the Tigers, 2-1.

The hero of the weekend was centerfielder Evan Frey. Frey had been hot for most of March and carried this streak into the MU-KU series.

Frey hit at a .438 clip for the weekend, with 4 runs, 9 RBI, 1 double and two home runs.

Both homeruns were big ones. The first, in the Saturday victory, was Frey's first homerun as a Tiger.

Frey's second career homer came a day later in the bottom of the ninth inning, with 2 outs and Brock Bond on base, Frey connected. The ball over the wall, the Tiger players and fans went crazy, and the poor Jayhawks went home with a series loss.

A quote from KU Coatch Ritch Price: “That’s about as tough of a loss as I’ve ever had,” coach Ritch Price said. “Especially when you’re down 8-0 and you play that hard to get back in the thing. We had some huge clutch hits along the way. Obviously it isn’t over until the final guy’s out.”

Comments from about the April 1st, 2007 game:

bolivartiger: Just wow. Probably the most exciting college baseball game that I have ever seen.

kegger: The look on Smith's face as the Tigers celebrated at home plate after his pitch wound up on the other side of the fence was one I will remember for quite some time. The way their whole team stayed at their positions as if the homer was going to be waved off or something was quite as enjoyable as well.

Our Tigers beat Kansas in the most cruel way possible. Not only taking the Friday night game and reversing it, but to do so with a deserving celebration at home plate after the one in the top of the inning... That had to be the baseball equivalent of ripping someone's heart out and showing it to them while it was still beating. meets
The award for the Easiest Player to Heckle goes to A.J. Ramos, Texas Tech's "Ace" pitcher. He made himself an easy target for heckling by failing to protect his MySpace page from the non-"friends".

That page revealed lots of information about A.J., including "Occupation: student/part time stripper". It also revealed his nickname for himself, "Papi Chulo Baby" (Puerto Rican for "pimp daddy").
Armed with this info, the Simmons Field fans greeted the pitcher on Friday night with near constant cries of "Papi Chulo!" as well as a few other choice heckles based on his MySpace bio.

Poor Papi Chulo didn't do very well in that game, lasting just 2-1/3 innings, surrendering seven earned runs on 5 hits, 5 walks, 2 wild pitches and a hit batsman.

I suppose his coach thought he would be fresh on Sunday, having spent so little time on the mound Friday night, so with the game on the line in the 9th inning, Ramos was brought in to close the game.

The moment I saw him exit the bullpen, I knew the Tigers had the game won. As he approached the mound, the hecklers in the crowd went wild, chanting "Papi Culo! Papi Chulo!".

Ramos intentionally walked Priday, unintentionally walked Coleman, struck out Senne, then threw a trio of wild pitches that moved the runners around the bases, finally allowing Lollis to score from third.

And so, a tip of the cap goes to Papi Chulo for entertaining the animals in the Zou.

Hot Streaks & Hot Tempers
Boo-ing is a practice not heard often at all at Simmons Field. Heckling - sure. But a Boo is reserved for the worst offenders.

An all-or-nothing third baseman from Los Angeles by way of Louisville, Dominguez had compiled a lowly .250 average with only 9 home runs during the course of his season.

Through the first two days of the Regional, he was noticed most when he stood next to (or, during one play, ran into) Louisville shortstop Chris Cates. Cates, generously listed on the roster at 5'3" was over a foot shorter than the 6'4" Dominguez.

Dominguez made himself known in the Sunday Missouri-Louisville game, though, when he hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning that went on to be the game-winner. (He would hit two more home runs on Monday to help the Cardinals win the championship game).

But it was what happened AFTER the homer that really grabbed attention. After standing and admiring his homer, he mouthed some unidentified trash-talk in the direction of MU Catcher Trevor Coleman, then proceed to run the bases, tossing more trash, grins and finger-pointing at the Tiger infielders as he passed.

This created quite an uproar on the field, with MU players and coaches demanding the umpires discipline Dominguez, the U of L coach doing a lot of shoulder shrugging, and a large percentage of the 3,400 fans shouting and screaming and Boo-ing.

I'd like to give a tip of the cap to the umpires for following through on the guidelines laid down by the NCAA before the tournament began, to the effect that no sort of trash talk or disrespectful actions would be tolerated.

I'd like to give a tip of the cap to Dan McDonnell, the Louisville head coach, for removing Dominguez from the game and voluntarily sitting him out of the next game.

Instead, I'll keep my cap on this time.

Bad Call of the Year
While Bill Speck did everything he possibly could to earn this award by refusing to exercise his authority in reagrd to Chris Dominguez of Louisville, even that see-no-evil approach leaves him a distant second.

The worst call of the year took place in Austin, TX, when Jim Garman called Evan Frey out at first base. In the 6th inning, Garman ended a Tiger rally prematurely by disagreeing with nearly everyone in the ballpark, all of whom saw clearly that Frey beat the throw by a Texas mile.