Dubs Demise Greatly Exaggerated

 

They are coming out of the woodwork now. You can hear them on the Mothership (ESPN.) You can hear them on Mad Dog Sports Radio. You can hear them on the Sirius-XM NBA channel.  The talking points are in line. The Warriors have never done it before. The Warriors are getting tired. The Warriors shoot too many jump shots to seriously contend. Oklahoma City will beat them in the first round. Blah blah blah blah…….

It’s as if these prognosticators are completely discounting the Warriors season. Are they not watching the games ? Golden State leads the league in field goal percentage offense AND field goal percentage defense.  In laymen’s terms the Dubs have the best offensive and defensive efficiency in the NBA.

These so-called “experts” continue to tout Oklahoma City and Houston. Oklahoma City has the two-men wrecking crew of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But, Durant has had nagging leg and feet injuries all season and is on the shelf again with a toe issue. It seems for every game he plays he misses two. Most of these experts a la ESPN’s Chris Broussard assume Durant will be healthy. They pick the Thunder in a head-to-head match-up with Golden State with the caveat that the Dubs would win if Durant isn’t healthy.

I contend the Warriors are a better team than Oklahoma City even if Durant is healthy. I give credit to the Thunder for some savvy trade deadline moves. They picked up center Enes Kanter to man the middle, and nice complementary pieces Kyle Singler and DJ Augustin. I still don’t believe those acquisitions give them the same depth as the Warriors. Former All-Stars Andre Iguodala and David Lee are coming of the bench and producing. Shaun Livingston is exactly what the Dubs envisioned when they signed him as a free agent. A defense first point guard with length and ability to take the ball to the basket and hit the mid-range jumper. Festus Ezeli is more than a serviceable back-up center. He is a high energy and is a defensive presence. I believe a healthy Durant makes Oklahoma City formidable but to call them the “favorites’ against the Warriors is being blinded to the Warriors 2014-2015 accomplishments and instead, focusing on the flash of the Thunder’s dynamic duo.

I have no idea where these analysts and experts can say the Rockets are a threat to win the Western Conference. Have you seen Houston play defense ? I know, they don’t.

James Harden is spectacular, but the Warriors have stifled The Beard with the combo of Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. The Warriors have played Houston four times this season. The Dubs are 4-0 with three convincing blow-out wins. Three of those  games were all played with Dwight Howard. It doesn’t matter if Howard plays. His impact on a game against the Warriors is negligible. Howard stands around on defense, waits to try to block a shot and on offense does nothing but clog up the middle for Houston’s array of rim attackers. He is a 6’10 non-factor and is clearly the most over-rated player in the game.

I don’t understand how anyone who knows the game can say the Rockets will beat the Warriors in the playoffs. Is it possible ? Sure. Plausible ? Yeah, if you have a wild imagination. If I’m the Warriors I salivate at the thought of playing the Rockets.

The Warriors will have their hands full when they hit the post-season. All bets are off if Andrew Bogut isn’t healthy. The health of Steph Curry and Bogut are imperative to Warriors post-season success. The Dubs face great challenges when the second season begins, especially if they face San Antonio or Memphis.  But, to say they would and should be underdogs if they face Oklahoma City or Houston is laughable.

 

Dodgers owe it to Andre; Trade him

 

He played good soldier during the 2014 season. He has been a good Dodger. Andrew Freidman and the Dodgers brass should trade Andre Ethier and let him play for someone else.

It’s clear that Ethier is not part of the Dodgers long-term plans. Far be it from me to feel sorry for a guy making 55 million dollars over the next three years. But, the Dodgers should reward Ethier’s loyalty and trade him so he can get some playing time.

Ethier emerged from a meeting with Don Mattingly this week saying “most” of the right things. He said that he wanted to play, adding that he doesn’t foresee himself as an everyday center-fielder. He said he is best suited to be a corner outfielder.  Sadly for Andre none are available……at the moment.

Phenom Joc Pederson is being given every opportunity to win the center-field job. Yasiel Puig is locked into right field (Ethier’s best position.) and the Dodgers are penciling in Carl Crawford in at left.

The problem with this scenario is that Pederson is unproven and Crawford is brittle. So, the Dodgers are hedging their bets by keeping Ethier just in case Crawford breaks down or Joc flames out. In my opinion that isn’t doing right by Ethier. I know the retort will be, “hey, the dude is making 17.5 million a year whether he plays or not, he should keep his trap shut and do what he is told.” That is nice in theory but unrealistic. Ethier is competitive. He wants to play. I don’t blame him. Plus, he has been a real good Dodger. Not only with his play on the field but his demeanor. Last year he could have thrown a fit when he was benched. Instead he  took his seat on the bench and cheered for his mates. But now, the guy wants to play. The Dodgers should let him. If not for them, for someone else. The Boys in Blue already acquired their outfield insurance plan when they brought in Chris Heisey. He is a capable back-up, and I feel comfortable with Heisey and Scott Van Slyke as the reserves.

My only caveat to the “trade Ethier plan” is do not trade him to an NL West team. We are already paying a big-time former Dodger 30 million dollars to play AGAINST us. I don’t want to pay another Dodger in the same division. An American League team would be ideal. The Dodgers would have to pay a significant amount of Ethier’s salary, heck it might just be a salary dump. But, trading him accomplishes two things. It clears up the log-jam in the outfield and it shows that loyalty does have a place in this game. Ethier has been a good Dodger and if he isn’t going to play everyday in Los Angeles, I hope he gets a chance to play somewhere else.

CCAA Men’s Basketball Blog: First D-II West Region Poll-No Surprises

 

NCAA DIVISION II WEST REGION RANKINGS

1 Azusa Pacific                        19-4 19-4
2 California Baptist             19-4 19-3
3 Western Ore.                      18-3 18-3
4 BYU-Hawaii                         18-4 16-4
5 Cal Poly Pomona               15-5 15-5
6 Dixie St.                                  17-6 17-5
7 Chico St.                                 15-6 15-6
8 Point Loma                           18-6 18-6
9 UC San Diego                     13-9 13-9
10 Seattle Pacific                 15-7 13-7

A fellow blogger who follows the Great Northwest Conference writes a blog that can be accessed here

https://gnacmbb.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/west-region-rankings-1/

He has some great insights and comes at the region from a Great Northwest perspective and its always good to get insights on teams we don’t get to see that often…….

 

With the first region poll in the books the reality and the plight of California Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball teams becomes abundantly clear. The Pacific West conference is STACKED.

With only Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona garnering enough votes to be in the Top-8, it’s clear that neither team has clinched a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The specter of the regular season conference champion not making it to the NCAA Tournament is a distinct possibility, making the CCAA Conference Championship Tournament vital for teams that want to punch their ticket.

The first West Region poll is dominated by teams from the Pacific West Conference. Azusa Pacific (1) California Baptist (2) BYU Hawaii (4) Dixie State (6) and Point Loma (8) would all make the tournament if the season ended today. That would be an amazing five teams from one conference. When looking at the resumes of the teams you can not argue with the committee’s reasoning. The Pac-West has dominated inter-league and cross conference play in the West Region. They have earned the respect the West Region committee is giving them.

The power center of men’s Division II West Region basketball used to lie in the Great Northwest Conference. That is no longer the case. There is one clear-cut team that has the resume to get into the tournament and that is the Western Oregon Wolves. They have had a fantastic regular season and sit at number 3 in the first regional poll. Regardless of whether they win their post-season conference tournament I think Western Oregon is a deserving entrant. Seattle-Pacific is on the outside looking in at the moment, but this is team full of veterans that do have post-season experience. Do not be surprised if the Falcons must the mo-jo for a strong final push into their conference tournament. Currently the Falcons sit at number 10 in the region.

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As the voice of the Chico State Wildcats I am most familiar with teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA.) Cal Poly Pomona sits at number 5 in the region. They have a very nice body of work. They have a huge early season win against the top team in the region Azusa Pacific. The Broncos beat them 81-78 on November 15th. The Broncos also beat UCSD on the road. A quality win considering the Tritons sit at number 9 in the region. The Broncos also staged a miracle comeback, coupled with a Humboldt State meltdown to beat the Lumberjacks on the road. They have also beaten Cal State Stanislaus twice. Pomona has a strong case for getting in the tournament, but I don’t think you can write their name down in INK on your bracket just yet. They have some work to do, including a huge game in two weeks in Arcata against a surging Humboldt State squad. The Jacks haven’t lost at home in more than two months.

The Chico State Wildcats sit at number 7 in the region. I almost immediately got messages from Chico State’s faithful lamenting the Wildcats’ spot in the region. I believe it’s a fair ranking, here is why.

Chico State has a 15-6 Division II and West Region record. If you look at the teams ranked in the top eight in the region it’s the worst record of the bunch. Chico State loyalists will say, “hey, we are 17-6.” Um, “No, you aren’t.” For post-season purposes the Wildcats are 15-6. Two of their early season wins were against NAIA schools. Those games do not count. Sure, they count in a teams’ overall record but games against Division III and NAIA schools do not count when your post-season resume is considered. It prevents teams from putting a bunch of cupcakes on their schedule and having those wins against inferior programs count for the post-season. So, the Wildcats are really only 15-6.

The Wildcats have some really nice wins. The biggest wins they have is a regular season sweep of Cal Poly Pomona. That is big. I think it’s the primary reason they are ranked in the top eight. They won at Stanislaus. They beat Alaska Anchorage on a neutral floor. They have swept Cal State San Bernardino, dealing the Coyotes their only home loss of the year. Nice resume, but not as good as Pomona at this point, even with the sweep.

Teams that go to the NCAA Tournament can usually sustain one or even two bad losses as long as those losses are balanced with good wins. The Wildcats have a bad loss. Chico State lost at home to Dominican University 67-61 on November 28th. The Penguins are a solid squad, but playing in the tough Pacific West Conference they are only 11-13. So, losing at home to a sub .500 team really hurts. The Wildcats would be helped if Dominican could get that record over .500 by the end of the season. If not, it’s a blemish the Wildcats will have to overcome.

People need to remember that when people say this is a “body of work” issue, they aren’t joking. Games played on November 15th matter just as much as games played in mid-February. Just ask Humboldt State. The Lumberjacks are 11-7 in CCAA play. They have won 11 of their last 14. They are playing great basketball. But, odds are Humboldt State will only make the regional if they run the table in the CCAA Tournament. They have some bad losses when you really crunch the numbers. They lost to San Francisco State who has a record of 9-13. They lost to Sonoma who is 11-11. And, they lost two weeks ago to 6-18 Dominguez Hills. When you add all of those losses up, and you analyze the regional criteria. I don’t think there is any way Humboldt gets in unless they get the automatic qualifier and win the CCAA Tournament in two weeks. All games matter, even in early November.

With two weeks left in the regular season I can’t remember a year where the final three or four spots in the regional rankings are so unsettled. Both UC San Diego sitting and number 9 and Seattle Pacific sitting at number 10 are both very much in the mix. They are hoping Chico State and Point Loma stumble so they could possibly  move up. There is so much on the line over these final few weeks and then we get ready for one of the most tension-filled three days of basketball in recent memory, when teams from the CCAA, GNAC and Pac-West play for that automatic qualifier to try to get into the NCAA Tournament. It’s only February, but it already feels like MARCH MADNESS

 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS @CHICOWILDCATS.COM 

Kenley injury highlights Dodgers swing and miss in off-season

 

With word that Kenley Jansen will miss the first three months of the season after having  surgery to remove a growth on his left foot the Dodgers find themselves in a rough spot, that I believe could have been avoided.

Jansen along with lefty J.P. Howell were the only reliable arms out of the Dodgers bullpen last year and now the Dodgers lynch-pin at the back-end of their bullpen will be lost for several months. The Dodgers have options to close in the short-term and none of them are very good. Howell is a left-handed set up man and  should not be your man to close. Brandon League is on the roster but we have all seen that movie and know how that will turn out. While League has struggled in the closer’s role, I like his power sinker as a right-handed set up man. I just don’t want to see him trying to hold down a one-run lead in the 9th. New acquisitions Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher are possibilities, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing the ball to these guys and expecting them to get the final three outs.

This all adds up to one big swing and miss for President Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi. These analytics gurus and tacticians were brought in to bring their special kind of expertise to the table. I do not doubt they are making long-term decisions that are designed to best serve the organization, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what they are trying to do with this Dodgers bullpen. The pen was the weakest of links on the Dodgers team last year and this need was left to abscess during the off-season

The Friedman-Zaidi answer to the Dodgers bullpen woes was to trade for Hatcher and Peralta and to pick up Sergio Santos. So, with the Dodgers most reliable arm is on the shelf, the cupboard is rife with unproven arms that either aren’t closers, or are looking to revitalize their careers. This does not make sense.

One has to believe the Dodgers are now in the market for another arm and there are some pretty proven closers still available, but it will be costly. Considering the Dodgers are backing up the Brinks truck to bring in Cuban infielders Hector Olivera and 19 year-old phenom Yoan Moncada, the Guggenheim Group may have to dig even deeper to solidify this 2015 bullpen.

Still on the market are closer Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. Rodriguez is looking for a two-year deal which teams are reluctant to give him. K-Rod  has a lot of mileage on that arm. He was still effective last year with 44 saves but there are signs his skills may be eroding. He gave up 14 home runs in 68 innings.  He did strike out 73 batters. He no longer throws as hard as he used to, but he relishes the big spot and has more than a decade of experience in the role. I don’t see the Dodgers giving him a two-year deal, but I do see an incentive-laden one year contract.

Soriano lost his job in Washington to Drew Storen and seemed to lose all confidence in his abilities. It would be a huge gamble, but it might be worth it if Soriano can rediscover his old form.

Another option may be Joba Chamberlain…….don’t laugh. This isn’t a laughing matter. The Dodgers bullpen, in my estimation is just desperate enough to bring in Joba. He could fill in for Kenley until he gets back, and then could give the Dodgers a right-handed power arm in a set-up role. Additionally he wouldn’t be reluctant to giving up the closers role to Kenley when Jansen came back, unlike K-Rod and Soriano who have been closers for most of their careers.

In closing, I wasn’t convinced that the Dodgers had done enough to strengthen this bullpen before the Kenley injury, now I am more certain than ever that the Dodgers missed a chance to add some arms through free agency or trades. It’s desperation time in Dodger-land. Unless Friedman and Zaidi see something in this group I don’t see, the Dodgers may be forced to bring in an old veteran to shore this thing up until Kenley returns. This bullpen was an albatross last year, its weighing even heavier now  just days before spring training.

 

RE-POST from August of 2013: If watching kids cry and have their hearts broken, then televised Little League Baseball is for you

 

BITOBACA: In the wake of the Chicago Little League scandal, it seems as good a time as any to re-visit the failings of turning little kids into entertainment and fodder for profit and amusement

RE-POST FROM AUGUST of 2013

LLWS Pennsylvania Georgia Baseball

The great national nightmare known as the Little League World Series is finally over….Thank you Baby Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Little League baseball. I love kids getting out on ball fields all over the country and playing America’s game. I love that kids get out of the house and play such a great game. I just have a problem with ESPN’s glorification of 11-12 year-olds and the picture they paint of these kids.

Television ratings show I am in the minority when it comes to the televising and promotion of LIttle League baseball. Baseball fans eat this stuff up. But, as I watch the idolatry of 11-12 year-olds by ESPN, I have to think, no wonder we have a nation of children who feel entitled with egos the size of the Grand Tetons. I just don’t get why this is so popular.

Proponents say it is great seeing kids play the game on such a big stage. They also cite the purity with which the game is played compared to their big league brethren. All fine arguments. I just believe my argument against trumps that contention.

kidscrying

I think it is a horrible precedent to set when you have adolescents who are playing on a national stage when the games should be for the simple love of the game. There is a huge difference between playing baseball competitively at the age of 14 and playing it at 12. At 14, you are in high school, you are playing on a diamond that is 60’6 and 90 feet between bases. Its real baseball. Little League is where you learn the game, its not where you have possible life-altering moments. I am not naive. I remember the days when the networks would televise the Championship Game. I have no problem with broadcasting JUST the title match-up. But, now we have ESPN televising the Little League Regionals. Think about that for a moment. A major network televising regional games from around the country for the right to play in the World Series. Its horrible. While the kids may have a blast with the television coverage I fear for that first child who has a Donnie Moore or Buckner-like moment and costs his team a chance to go to the World Series or costs his team a Championship. Picture it, a ball dribbles up the first base line and goes through little Johnny’s legs allowing the tying and winning runs to score and his team is eliminated. Little Johnny will not only have that memory, which is part of the game. But, he will also have it frozen in time, for all to see. It could be a life defining moment, and here he is at the ripe old age of 11.

I have called the broadcasting of Little League baseball on the networks a veiled form a child abuse, and I am sticking by this take. I think it is so wrong to put kids in this position. Let them live, have fun and enjoy the game without the bright lights and former major leaguers pontificating on how if little Harvey works on his slider he will be the ace of the Mets rotation in ten years. It’s just unfair to the kids.

I would venture not many people love baseball more than I do. Having broadcast Chico State baseball for the past 16 years and eating and sleeping the game, it is my passion. Let anyone who knows me tell you about my life’s obsession. But, what the mothership (ESPN) does to these kids is shameful. I always feel relief when a Little League World Series has come and gone without a little kid having been fitted with goat horns, and having to live that down for the rest of his life. All because a bunch of suits in New York saw market share and an advertising fiscal bonanza.

The long national nightmare is over……The Little League World Series is over.

Chico State Wildcats Men’s Hoops Must Buck the Trend to make History

WILDCATS CHASE HISTORY ON ROAD-TRIP

The Chico State men’s basketball team has gone one full month and hasn’t lost a game. 9 games 9 wins. The school record for most consecutive wins is 11 set in 1953-54 and duplicated in the 2013-2014 campaign. To make history the Wildcats must win games in two of the toughest venues on the West Coast. This historic run will be tested this week as the Wildcats venture on the most arduous road-trip on the CCAA schedule.

On Thursday the Wildcats venture to Cal State San Bernardino. Chico was pushed to the limit by the Coyotes in early January. The Wildcats survived 30 points from Jacob Thomas and knocked off the Yotes 75-73 in overtime. For a Chico team that prides itself on defense, San Bernardino had their way from beyond the arc knocking down 11-three pointers in making the Cats sweat.

On Saturday the Wildcats make the trek to Arcata to play the arch-rival Humboldt State Lumberjacks. The last time the Wildcats tasted the bitter pill of defeat was against the nemesis Jacks’. Allan Guei’s 18 footer with a tenth-of-a-second left gave the Jacks a 74-73 win on January 9th.

The Wildcats have allowed under 60 points in seven of their last eight games, all victories. The last time teams’ put over 70 on Chico State was at Acker Gym on January 9th against Humboldt and January 10th against San Bernardino. This will be a huge test for Chico State’s attacking and relentless defense. Both teams have highly skilled offensive players that can score even against good defenders. This means not only will Chico need to be at their best on the defensive end, but offensively their pacing, ball movement and togetherness will be vital. Being stagnant and having the ball “stick” as Head Coach Greg Clink likes to say, will not work this weekend.

Chico State sits at 16-5 overall and 13-3 in the CCAA. They are one game clear of Cal Poly Pomona, two clear of Cal State Stanislaus and three games ahead of UC San Diego. How have they won 9 straight ? How are they in first place after most prognosticators had them pegged for a 4th or 5th place finish ? Let’s take a look……

DEFENSE WINS

The Chico State Wildcats are defending the “heck” out of teams. I would use more vociferous terms, but this is a family blog. Suffocating, swarming,  and relentless. At times, Chico State has been flawless defensively this year. This team defends better than last year’s Elite Eight team. They are bigger, more agile and create match-up problems. Their size inside makes them tough to navigate in the paint, while their ball-hawking tenacity on the perimeter makes it difficult for opponents to get into a rhythm offensively. There have been times this year where the Wildcats have been dis-jointed and stunted on the offensive end.  In these instances they have won games solely because they defend. The best thing about this team defensively…..they love getting after it. During this 9-game winning streak the Cats have been at their best on the defensive end holding opponents to fewer than 60 points in seven of those games. In 16 CCAA games the Wildcats are giving up an average of 58 points a contest.

GOTTA LOVE THOSE KIDS

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The Chico State youngsters have been incredible. It’s clear these red-shirt freshman were paying attention to the Amir Carraway’s, Rashad Parker’s, Gio Estrada’s and Sean Park’s last year. These young freshman have stepped right in and given the Wildcats a jolt of exuberance, passion and hunger the program needed on the heels of their first Elite Eight in history. Sophomore Robert Duncan and red-shirt freshmen Corey Silverstrom (injured now), Isaiah Ellis and Tyler Harris have played great giving the Wildcats a boost. True freshman point guard Jalen McFerren is fearless. He is an absolute treasure, who never backs down. Sophomore Trevor Priest has given the Cats valuable defensive minutes off the bench. While Wildcat faithful may like to say the “future is bright.” These youngsters say the “future is now.”

Duncan has just garnered his second straight CCAA Player of the Week honor as he had back-to-back 19 point efforts in the Wildcats two wins versus UCSD and Pomona. Two weeks ago, Duncan had the now famous post-game chat with Greg Clink telling his coach, “I think I can take most these guys who are trying to check me.” To which Clink responded, “then do it then.”  Four games and two Player of the Week honors later, we may be seeing an emerging star in Wildcat Cardinal and White.

SIMPLY SEMPLE

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We are running out of superlatives for the Arcata product. Jordan Semple leads the conference in rebounding and blocked shots and ranks in the top-20 in scoring, assists and steals. He simply does it all. His defensive prowess was on display on Saturday night against Cal Poly Pomona’s supremely talented forward Terrence Drisdom. While Drisdom scored 16 points, he could have had an even better offensive night. Semple was able contain the Broncos versatile forward. Semple played 13 minutes in the first half against the Broncos on Saturday and did not attempt a shot. His length and stellar defensive play on ball and in help was a big reason why the Wildcats held the Broncos to 19 points and forced 12 turnovers in the game’s first half.

Semple is averaging 11 points and nearly 9 rebounds and close to two blocks a game. His silky smooth touch around the bucket and his ability against smaller and even bigger players makes him as valuable as anyone on any team in this conference and maybe in this region.

One of Semple’s biggest weapons can also be his kryptonite…..emotion. Semple has a tendency to get a little over-zealous in his celebratory exultations. He has been whistled for three technicals on the season. This weekend will be a highly emotional home-coming for Semple. He returns to the hometown school (Humboldt State) he spurned for Chico State. The fans always give him the business when he gets to Lumberjack Arena, and it will be at a fever pitch this Saturday. It is imperative Semple keep his emotions in check. I don’t worry about Semple getting frustrated. No, I worry about the supremely confident Semple. I worry about that “chip” he carries each and every time he does something so silky smooth that he elicits a Jammal Wilkes reference from yours’ truly. No smiles, no finger-wags. Semple is at his best when he simply cold-blooded. I expect him to play great. A win for the Cats and Semple in Arcata on Saturday night would make three wins in four tries for Semp and the Cats in the last four years at Lumberjack Arena.

WE WILL TAKE COMPLEMENTS

Other schools may see Tanner Giddings, Mike Rosaroso  Chris Magalotti and Drew Kitchens as complementary pieces. Chico State fans know better. The 6’10 Giddings has been steadily getting better since the first game. When Chico goes into their 2-3 zone defense, Giddings usually plays on one of the low blocks. At his size he is nightmare for offenses. His ability to clog the middle, rotate and close-out on shooters isn’t seen at his size in this conference. He is an active defender who really makes Chico’s defense work.

Rosaroso is exactly what a Greg Clink coached team needs at point guard. He makes good decisions and doesn’t turn the ball over. In 555 minutes of basketball this season Rosaroso has committed 32 turnovers. That is 1 turnover for every 17 minutes and 34 seconds played. When you consider that Clink has handed the keys to the  car for Rosaroso to drive, he has done it with aplomb. Rosaroso also has the penchant to hit a big shot. While he is only shooting 33 percent, he finds himself with the ball in big moments and is asked to make the dagger jumper. He has been knocking it down. And, for a team that hasn’t shot their free throws that well this season, Rosaroso is the exception shooting them at an 83% clip.

Drew Kitchens has been starting for the last several weeks. His performance has been a key to the Cats success. He has greatly improved as a defender over the last few years and now the Wildcats can confidently expect Kitchens to make the right decision when it comes to their team defensive principles. Kitchens has also been getting loose from three point range and gives the Cats some punch from beyond the arch. He has also improved his game off-the-dribble.

While Chris Magalotti no longer starts, he is vital to what the Wildcats want to do on the defensive end. Magalotti is a space eater. When the Cats have the 6’10 Magalotti and Giddings on the floor together when playing zone it is nearly impossible to get to the rim for opponents. Magalotti will be asked to continue being that defensive presence when the match-ups call for it.

BUCK THE TREND

The six CCAA teams that have gone to Coussoulis Arena in San Bernardino and Lumberjack Arena in Arcata have all made the trip and lost. Both Humboldt and San Bernardino are a combined 17-1 at home this year. The task is clear and it’s not easy. The only loss suffered by either squad this year was when San Bernardino beat Humboldt on November 22nd in Arcata. With that said the Wildcats are undaunted by road challenges. They are 6-1 away from home this year and are an amazing 17-3 away from home over the last 20 CCAA games away from Acker Gym.

On the surface perennial power San Bernardino is having a down year but don’t be fooled. This is still an explosive,  talented team that is on quite a roll. They have won four straight games and are undefeated at home (6-0.) The Coyotes have been the road warriors this year playing 13 of their 19 games away from their home arena.

When looking at Humboldt I have to scratch my head. How is this team 9-7 in the CCAA ? How ? They are one of the most talented teams I have ever seen in this league. I don’t get how this team is languishing in sixth place. Austin Bryan is as pure a shooter you can get with great size. David Howard is a 6’7 stud with a sweet left-handed stroke and the size to take anyone off the dribble. Why he isn’t averaging at least 15 points a game, minimum is beyond me. Allan Guei is a tremendous slasher/scorer and baller. He has put the Jacks’ on his shoulders and led them to victory numerous times this year including the Chico game earlier this season. He is also a tenacious perimeter defender that can wreak havoc with his ball pressure. When you throw into the mix talented freshman point guard Malik Morgan, who figures to be a star in this league for years to come………..personally I think this is one of the biggest under-achieving teams I have ever seen in 15 years of watching CCAA hoops. This team is too good to have lost 7 league games.

Allen Guei game-winning shot against Chico State on January 9th…

This promises to be a fun, nerve-wracking and thoroughly entertaining weekend of basketball. You can hear the games on Newstalk 1290-KPAY beginning on Thursday. The women play at 5:30 on both Thursday and Saturday nights. The men play at 7:30 on both nights. You can also hear the games on KPAY.com, the KPAY mobile app and ChicoWildcats.com

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASON HALLEY OF CHICO STATE AND CHICO STATE ATHLETICS…..

Super Bowl XLIX: Pete Carroll with the WORST play call in the history of team sport

Call me over-dramatic if you will, but I believe we just witnessed the worst play call in the history of team sport. Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the ball on 2nd and Goal from the 1-yard line will go down in the annals of athletics as one of the worst decisions ever emanating from a sideline.

Carroll apologists and defenders will mimic his reasoning that the Patriots had a personnel package on the field not conducive to a run play. They will claim as Pete did, that they were “just playing for 3rd down.” Don’t believe it. It should fall on deaf ears. Carroll’s decision to throw a slant with the Super Bowl title and immortality as back-to-back champions as the prize is one of the great “yips” in the history of coaching.

The Seahawks had the human battering ram in Marshawn Lynch ready to run it in. Everyone knew “BEAST MODE” was getting the ball. Hell, even the kids in Ethiopia were being fitted for their “Patriots win Super Bowl title” shirts. Then, inexplicably Carroll and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decide to throw a slant at the goal line ?

Let’s be done with the pontificating, the speculation and the reasons being given for throwing the ball. Here are the facts. The Seahawks are at the 1-yard line. They have THREE downs to punch it in. They have one time-out. And, they have a guy who is  one of the best running backs in football who had been punishing the Patriots all night.

Let’s assume Lynch runs on 2nd down and doesn’t make it. That’s OK. Seattle calls their final timeout and then with roughly 20 seconds left has two shots to punch it in. They could throw it on 3rd down, and save the run for a possible 4th down. They could be so bold to run it on both 2nd and 3rd down and dare the Patriots “average” run defense to stop them twice from the 1-yard line.  But, a slant ? On 2nd down ? With football immortality hanging in the balance ? Inexcusable.

The play call was horrible, but we also should mention the play by rookie Malcolm Butler. He shot the gap, jumped the route with a lightning fast bolt to the ball. It was an amazing play. But, Butler does not have a chance to be a hero unless the Seattle coaches don’t have a brain-lock.

Sometimes coaches over think a situation. The only way you wouldn’t run Lynch on 2nd down is if you were to over-analyze the situation. Carroll mentioned personnel groupings in his post-game presser. Who cares who the Patriots have on the field in that spot ? Purple People Eaters, Steel Curtain, I don’t care. Your best player is Marshawn Lynch. Give the ball to Lynch and let him win the Super Bowl for you.

It will go down as one of the biggest coaching blunders in the history of sport. There is no if’s and’s or but’s about it. The Seattle Seahawks had a Ferrari in the garage, instead they hopped in their Pinto and hoped it would get them to the Promised Land.

Teeth-gnashing, frustration and criticism will commence in the Emerald City. And, in this case it is well-deserved. The greatest of missed opportunities to repeat as champions.

Patriots are an Embarrassment

When I first heard about Deflate-Gate I thought it was much ado about nothing. New England waxed Indianapolis 45-7 and the game wasn’t even that close. Who cares if a few footballs were not inflated to specifications.

As I learned more about the ramifications and effects of a deflated football I quickly changed my tune. The game may not have had a different outcome, but the intention behind the malfeasance is what draws my ire.

This is not new for the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick. He has skirted the rules before. We all remember the Spy-Gate fiasco in 2007 when the Patriots and Belichick admitted to taping the defensive signals of the New York Jets during a September 2007 game. They taped them from their very own sideline. During the investigation it was revealed the Patriots had been taping opponents since the year 2000.  Belichick was fined an NFL record 500 thousand dollars. The Patriots were dinged with a 250 thousand dollar fine and New England lost their first-round draft pick in 2008.

The actions were widely criticized by those in the NFL. Not just for the action, but also the “surprise” Belichick showed upon “learning” that taping opponents coaches’ signals was illegal. Belichick’s peers and those who had covered him for more than two decades saw his feign of surprise as utterly disingenuous. Analysts believed Belichick knew exactly what he was doing and just happened to get caught. And now,  the hooded head man is in the cross-hairs again.

I did not know that each team playing in an NFL game was responsible for bringing their own footballs to use during that game. So, in Sunday’s match-up the Patriots brought 12 balls and the Colts brought 12 balls. The allegation is that someone affiliated with the Patriots deflated 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots offense by nearly 2 pounds for each football during the first half. The 12 footballs that the Colts brought to the AFC Championship Game were all found to be within the 12.5 to 13.5 pound standard.

Two-and-a-half hours before the contest the officials for the game measure the pressure inside each football. That was done on Sunday and all the footballs were found to be within the 12.5 to 13.5 pound standard. But, something strange happened near the tail end of the first half.

When Colts Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the 2nd quarter he noticed that the ball felt different. He took his concerns to the Colts sideline where they notified NFL and members of the officiating crew. At halftime the referees measured all 24 footballs again. This time 11 of the 12 footballs the Patriots were using in the first half were found to be considerably altered. The Colts footballs were all within specifications. In the second half all footballs were inflated to standard specs.

Renowned quarterbacks have taken to the airwaves over the last 24 hours to state their disgust at the Patriots shenanigans. From Mark Brunell to Steve Young to Dan Marino, to a man they have all said that during inclimate weather it is easier to handle, hold, possess and pass a deflated football. The weather was cold and wet in Sunday’s AFC Championship game on Sunday. The football world is abuzz with this latest scandal involving the Patriots as it is becoming increasingly clear their organization is willing to win at all costs, even if that means playing fast and loose with the rules.

Let me be clear, I still think the Patriots win the game if the football’s pressure isn’t called into question. That is not the point, though. The point is, why do the Patriots continue cheating ? Why do they feel it is OK to skirt the rules ? There are not degrees of rules in football. You are either playing by the rules OR you are cheating. PERIOD. The New England Patriots are cheaters. It can’t be inferred. There isn’t any supposition. This is fact. They cheat.

There is a ton of blame to go around. First, Belichick deserves the lions share. This guy pushes and pushes and pushes. But, it appears he is now pushing to the point where he is finding tiny, hidden loop-holes in the rules where he might be able to gain an advantage. There is being competitive, and then there is being unsportsmanlike and shady.

Tom Brady looks real bad here. Sure, his defenders will claim, “it was cold, how was he to know the air pressure in the football ? Ah, you are just all haters.” Brady makes his living throwing a football. Ask any tradesman. He knows the tools of the trade and Brady knows what a regulation football and, what a deflated and lighter football feels like. He certainly knows what a regulation ball should feel like when it is raining and cold. For him not to recognize the different “feel” of the ball shows willful dis-regard for the spirit of competition and the game. He will claim he didn’t know the balls were under-inflated. In fact on WEEI radio this week he laughed off the controversy claiming “its always something” with the Patriot haters. The shine is off the stone. Brady may not be as ruthless as his head-coach, but in my mind he is just as culpable.

And lastly Patriots owner Robert Kraft. This guy is the ultimate enabler. He has won three championships and his franchise has been the model of consistency. But, when you allow Belichick to do as he pleases; with his record of disrepute, you get what you deserve. Kraft shoulders some of the blame for allowing Belichick to run rampant and throw the NFL rule book out the window.

Before Deflate-Gate there were those who felt the Patriots titles were tarnished.  The Patriots taped opponents for seven years before they were caught. During that time they brought home Super Bowl titles and were the class of the NFL. Now they will be facing a fire-storm leading up to Super Bowl XXXXVIIII.

The NFL says they are still investigating but ESPN is standing behind their report. The Patriots cheated. Belichick, Brady and Patriots players will not be able to hide behind the hometown media in Glendale. The national media is going to hammer away at the Patriots. Their players will be forced to answer the tough questions leading up to the game. Belichick and Brady will not be able to hide and they will get grilled. More importantly, the NFL will continue to weed through the investigation. If they find Belichick knew about this deflation he should be suspended for the Super Bowl and the Patriots should lose multiple picks in the 2015 Draft. New England should also get hit on their salary cap. They should get a 7-10 million dollar hit to their cap, making it very difficult to sign free agents or resign their own players.

Harsh penalties, “yes.” But, as a repeat offender they deserve the harshest of penalties. Belichick, Brady and Kraft should be thankful the Three Strikes Law isn’t applicable in the NFL.

Mark Jackson Trying to Stay Relevant……..

There has been no bigger supporter of Mark Jackson than me. I was not happy when the Warriors let him go. I think Warriors owner Joe Lacob has piled on the former Warriors coach needlessly with some off-the-cuff remarks that were not warranted. And, I feel the Warriors wouldn’t be the team they are today if it weren’t for Jackson. When he took the Warriors job several years ago, he was the right guy at the right time.

With that said, a little of Jackson is going a long way these days and he needs to back off. His insinuations that he knows what’s best for the Warriors is not needed. Jackson was part of the broadcast crew on Friday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers visited the Oracle to take on the Golden State Warriors. During the game, MJax was given a rousing ovation by the Warriors faithful for a job well done in his three years as head coach. Then, he opened his mouth.

Dubs
Courtesy fanshare.com

“I think Steve Kerr has done a great job. He’s sitting with the best team in basketball right now. He deserves a lot of credit. And I think while giving him credit, there’s no need to take credit away from the past. You cannot disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”

Huh ?

Really ? Who is disrespecting the butterfly ? Certainly not the Warriors fans I converse with on a daily basis. Jackson deserves credit for changing the Warriors culture and instituting a defensive mind-set that helped propel the Dubs to 51 wins last year. But, Jackson’s caterpillar also had some deficiencies that have held this team back.

No longer do we fans have to endure the incessant isolation offense that was Jackson’s bread and butter. He loved isolating his best players against “perceived” mis-matches. While this makes for one-on-one advantages, it also lends itself to players standing around watching each other. It’s not conducive to team basketball and clearly stunted the growth of several Warriors players.

Under Steve Kerr the ball moves. The offense relies on constant motion and constant movement. This engages all five players, while also taking advantage of the mis-matches based on this entertaining brand of team basketball. Harrison Barnes has flourished under this system as he is no longer asked to play the game on an island and create himself. Now, that he has become more part of the flow, he has become more creative and that has expanded his game. Andrew Bogut was simply a defensive presence under Jackson. What a waste ! Bogut is one of the supreme passing big men in the game. And, despite his numerous injuries, when healthy he is instrumental to the Warriors success because of his ability to pass, set screens and create for his mates. Bogut “feels” more part of the team now that he is a piece of their offense. He is also a dynamic rim protector who gives the Dubs a much needed enforcer. Jackson said on the Friday night broadcast, “the Warriors don’t need a rim protector. Rim protectors are over-rated.” Um, with Bogut the Warriors beat the Clippers in last year’s entertaining seven game first round series. Draymond Green was good under Jackson. He is an All-Star caliber player under Kerr. His talents have exploded, turning him into one of the most sought after free agents at the end of the year.

For Jackson to infer that he is not getting enough credit for the Warriors 29-5 start shows that he is still hurt and bothered by his ouster from the head coaching job. His comments about giving credit to the caterpillar show that he is looking to stay relevant in the Warriors discussion. He will always have a place in Warriors lore. Hopefully we look back and see him as the Paul Westhead of the Warriors run of success. Westhead who helped lead the Lakers to the 1980 NBA Title while Magic Johnson was a rookie was let go after Jerry Buss did not deem him to be the long-term solution despite the successful campaign. Jackson is a solid basketball man but was simply not the right guy to lead the Warriors to long-term and sustained success.

I will always be a Jackson fan, but his comments on Friday night reeked of desperation to stay relevant. In my mind, his pride is getting in the way. Caterpillar comments were not needed. Graciousness would have gone a long way in making Lacob look worse than he did in the whole coaching drama. Instead, Jackson’s dig made Lacob’s move all the more understandable.

Jed York taking 49ers down a dark, empty valley

 

JIM HARBAUGH’S FINAL PRESSER AS 49ERS COACH

How did we get here ? Four years ago the San Francisco 49ers were looking for a dynamic, confident proven leader who could mold the talented pieces into a thriving team. They found it. Jim Harbaugh had turned around the University of San Diego and Stanford. Now he was going to return the 49ers to football glory. He did, leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl and two conference championship games. This year doesn’t count. This year lies at the feet of the Niners entitled owner Jed York.

Like a boil on a leg left untreated, York let personality clashes in his very own front office fester. He let it fester to the point where no longer could that boil be lanced. Instead he is having to cut off the leg. He thinks it will save the host, but instead, he is taking its’ heart and soul.

We have arrived at this point of decision because York refused to address this personality clash head-on. Instead of acting like his uncle, Eddie D, he sat back like a silver-spoon fed rich kid and hoped it would work itself out. Jed York will never be mistaken for his more popular and infamous uncle who was the guardian of the franchise during their glory years. Instead the “Little General” has run this hallowed franchise into an abyss. Who are the 49ers going to hire that is better than Jim Harbaugh ? This franchise is not in an abyss yet. You don’t actually you know you are in an abyss until you finally stop sinking. The 49ers are still falling. When you hear the “thud” you will know they have hit bottom.

When Harbaugh was asked in the post-game presser whose decision it was that he was leaving the team, he responded with, “I serve at the pleasure of ownership.” That is clear. York and his minions didn’t want him back. Unless Vince Lombardi is walking through that door, the 49ers will be hard pressed to find a better leader.

The 49ers recent run of success had everything to do with the player’s belief in their coach. When those players sensed Harbaugh’s influence was waning, they could see the writing on the wall. The 49ers weren’t a bad football team this year, but they lacked that “edge” that made them a Harbaugh team. Those players could feel this coming all along. As soon as little-boy Jed let that boil fester, the players knew.

Eddie DeBartolo would not have allowed this to happen. He would have brought Harbaugh and General Manager Trent Baalke into a room. Eddie would sit at the head of the table. He would utter three words, “FIGURE IT OUT.” He would not have allowed the future of his head coach to be played out in the media. Eddie would have been front and center behind the scenes to make sure it didn’t get to this point.

We are going to hear a lot of excuses in Monday mornings press conference. York and Baalke will be meeting with the media and spinning this move. They will say this is a “mutual decision” and that “Jim and the organization” were on the same page with this decision. Don’t believe it. It’s a half-truth. Harbaugh expected and deserved a contract extension and raise with what he had accomplished with the 49ers. None was forth-coming. He felt marginalized, and when Harbaugh learned Baalke had York’s ear and Jim didn’t, that was it. That was all Harbaugh needed to know. He knew where he stood.

For 49ers fans this is bittersweet. This was a tremendous run of success and fun team to follow. Even though they didn’t win the big one under Harbaugh, and boy were they close, you felt eventually they would win it under him. Now the problems of the 49ers roster no longer belong to Harbaugh. He won’t have to worry about an over-paid quarterback who didn’t throw a 4th-quarter touchdown all year. He won’t have to worry about an aging defense that clearly lost a step and has several pieces to replace. He won’t have to worry about whether the institution of Frank Gore is resigned. Harbaugh probably has an even tougher task now in returning Big Blue Michigan to glory. He may need more than a 6-year contract to make that happen.

49ers fans were regaled with the familiar Harbaugh locker-room phrase “Who’s got it better than us?” To which all of his enthusiastic players would scream “NOOOOOOOBODY.” Today, I ask, “Who has it better than the 49ers?” I can hear the football landscape preening, “roughly 15 franchises Baca, roughly 15 franchises.”