Day 1 Of the NCAA Tournament

March 16, 2012

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After one day of the NCAA tournament, I stand at 13-3.  That’s not great, since “chalk” picks would have gone 14-2.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 27:  Head coach Shaka ...

My best pick was #12 VCU over #5 Wichita State.  (Note: numbers used in this article are seeds, and not rankings).  Personally, I didn’t even consider this to be an upset.  This is a team that made a Final Four run last year.  Regardless of player turnover, coach Shaka Smart  remains with the team.  I’m not yet anointing VCU as this decade’s Gonzaga, but I’d like to point out the fact that Smart is 10-1 all-time in post-season tournaments.  In addition to the success last year, he led the 2010 team to the CBI tournament championship.  Sure, the CBI is a far less prestigious tournament, but it would seem that Smart does well with the one-and-done philosophy of tournament play.  Whether Smart can continue to turn down opportunities to earn more money at other schools remains to be seen – but it would be nice to see him stick around VCU and turn them into a perennial power.

My worst pick was Davidson over Louisville.  Even worse, I picked Davidson to advance to the Sweet 16.  One of these years, I’m going to do a chalk bracket, I swear.

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Royce White #30 of...

UConn became the first defending champ to get bounced in the first round since UCLA in 1996.  My Iowa State Cyclones roared out to a 22 point lead early in the game and fended off some late charges by the Huskies.  Iowa State now faces #1 overall seed Kentucky.  However, if the team can manage to play as well as they did early in last night’s game, I think they have a chance to win the game an advance.  I do have the concerns that Royce White may have punched his ticket to the NBA and will leave after this year.  I’d really prefer that he return for at least another year.  The 6’8″ power forward led the Cyclones in five statistical categories and is quick to exploit mismatches.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Fab Melo #51 of the ...

The biggest story of the day was #1 seed Syracuse needing a second half rally to beat 16 seed UNC Asheville.  Although coach Jim Boeheim didn’t thing that the Orange were the beneficiaries of any luck in the game, I would disagree.  This is a game that was hotly contested in the final minute, and could easily have gone either way – especially if a controversial call had gone UNC Asheville’s way.  I initially had Syracuse as a Final Four team in my bracket, but pulled them back to be just a Sweet 16 team upon the news that Fab Melo would not be allowed to play in any tournament games.  I think this was a wise decision.

Personally, I thought the biggest surprise in the Thursday session was the Pac 12 getting a win from Colorado.  The Pac 12 was a very mediocre (bad) conference this year, and was fortunate to get two teams into the 68 team field (Cal was bounced in the opening round).

Personally, I don’t find it that surprising that some of the teams from smaller schools play well in the tournaments.  The standard mantra from the analysts is that it’s all about having a team peak at tournament time.  For teams that come from one-bid conference, they are in the tournament because they won their conference tournament.  That’s the definition of peaking. 

OK, day 2 is about to begin.  Enjoy!

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A Cyclone Hits Austin

October 24, 2010

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My alma mater notched their biggest win of the season on Saturday, as Iowa State held off Texas for a 28-21 win in Austin, Texas.  Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw three interceptions, and Cyclone defenders had their hands on several other passes.  A guy who really caught my attention was ISU punter Kirby Van Der Kamp, who blasted a 74 yard punt and had several other good efforts.

After a surprisingly good 7-6 season in Paul Rhoads’ first season as coach last year, there were plenty of reasons for pessimism going into this year.  The 2010 season featured some great opponents that were missing from the 2009 schedule – conference games against Oklahoma and Texas and the non-conference tilt against Utah.  The game against in-state rival Iowa would be in Iowa City instead of Ames.

Eight games into the season, the squad stands at 4-4.  In addition to losses to big guns Iowa, Oklahoma, and Utah, the Cyclones lost a heartbreaker against a good Kansas State team.  On the plus side, Iowa State also knocked off  Texas Tech 52-38.

At the beginning of the season, I was hard pressed to find a scenario that would lead to a bowl for Iowa State.  I’m a pretty optimistic person, but generally temper things with a bit of realism, and my scenarios kept topping out at 5-7.  However, with four games left in the season, a bowl game is a real possibility.  We have games left against Kansas and Colorado, who have combined for zero conference wins this year.  The two toughest games – Nebraska and Missouri – are both home games.  Running the table is probably out of the question, but the Cyclones should definitely get to six games if they continue to “hit that line and hit it hard”.

Who sits atop the Big 12 South standings at the moment?  Yeah, you guessed it.  Baylor.

Another happy result from Saturday was Navy’s 35-17 win over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.  I have no real reason to cheer for Navy, but I do like to see Notre Dame take a beating.  The 4-4 Irish will face tough tests in at least two of their remaining games, against Utah and USC.  The Notre Dame – USC game always puts me in the awkward position of wanting both teams to lose.

In the “where the #$*^ did that come from” department, the Oakland Raiders put the smack down on longtime rivals the Denver Broncos, 59-14.  For at least a day, fans had to stop bashing Al Davis and stand in awe of that which the Raiders wrought.

Flipping the page to baseball … The Texas Rangers knocked off the “best” team that money could buy, sending the Yankees packing.  The Rangers raced out to a 3 games to 1 lead before finishing off the Yankees in six games.  On the opposite side of the bracket, the Giants put an end to the Phillies reign of terror, halting their run of NL pennants at three.  The NLCS was the only series I have picked incorrectly in my pool, but it ended up clinching a victory for me.  I have Texas picked to win it all, and my other guy had the Phillies.

An interesting note … the Rangers scored at least six runs in all four of their wins against the Yankees.  The Giants scored no more than six runs in any of the NLCS games.  What to expect in the World Series?  Some really good starting pitching.

Kosmo’s Favorite Sports Moments

January 27, 2010

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I’ve been a sports fan nearly all my life.  Here are my favorite sports moments.  I’ve included an “embezzler’s dozen” – my 11 favorite moments.

1. Holliday Slides Into Playoffs – You seen the play a million times.  Matt Holliday slides toward home, Michael Barrett drops the ball.  The ump calls Holliday safe.  The one thing that you can definitely say is that Holliday was not out on the play – he was not tagged before being ruled safe.  Further, even if he had been called out, all would not have been lost.  The Rockies would have been tied 8-8 with two outs, Todd Helton on base, Brad Hawpe (.926 OPS that year) at the plate, and a very shaky Trevor Hoffman on the mound.  Then there’s the can of worms about Garrett Atkins’ “double” in the 7th inning.  If that is properly called a homer, the Rockies would have won the game 8-6 in 9 innings.

I was chatting online with Bob Inferapels during much of the game.  When the Padres scored twice in the top of the 13th to take an 8-6 lead (and ace closer Hoffman was on the way in from the pen) Bob offered his sympathy.  My response was (paraphrased) “Yeah, Hoffman’s good, so it will be hard to rally – but we do have the heart of the lineup coming up, so you never know.”  Indeed.

2. Kosmo Races Three Miles in One Day, Lives to Tell About It – During my final two years of high school, I was a member of the track team.  I ran the mile with a lot of heart, but not a great deal of skill.  At the final meet of my senior year, I asked my coach if I could also run the two mile.  We have a tiny track team, so he said “sure”.  Mind you, I had never trained for this distance.

How did I do?  Not very well – but I did finish the race, and I did beat one person.  Later in the meet, I ran the mile.  I was completely gassed from the two mile earlier in the meet, and ran one of the slowest miles in my career.  Nonetheless, it was a great feeling of accomplishment.  The kicker?  It was the only meet my parents were able to attend.

3. Helton’s Hat Trick – I have been to two Rockies games in my life.  The first was at Wrigley Field when I was living in Illinois.  The second was during a trip to Colorado with my girlfriend at the time (now my wife).  We had seats a half dozen rows back of third base.  Lovely seats (and pretty reasonably priced).

The game was on May 29, 2003.  The Rockies were playing their hated rivals, the LA Dodgers.

In the first inning, Todd Helton – my favorite Rockie at the time – hit a homer.  In the third inning, he picked up a single.  In the fourth, Helton homered again.  In the fifth, he made an out.  In the eight, he capped off the scoring with another homer.  Total damage for the day – 4 hits in 5 at bats, 3 homers, 4 runs scored, 4 runs batted in a 12-5 romp.  It was one of only two times in his career that Helton had three homers in a game.

4. Matsui’s Slam – Kaz Matsui hit 4 homers during the 2007 regular season.  So when he came to the plate in the 4th inning of game of game two of the 2007 NLDS with the bases loaded and the Rockies down 3-2, Kyle Lohse probably wasn’t particularly worried.  But Kaz Mat launched a grand slam that propelled the Rockies to a 10-5 win en route a sweep of the Phillies.

5. Blythe Beats Nebraska – My all-time favorite Iowa State football player is former wide receiver Todd Blythe.  On November 6, 2004, he lit up the Nebraska Cornhuskers for 188 yards on 8 catches – in the first half.  Unfortunately, he went into half time with an injury and was unable to pad his stats in the second half as the Cyclones held on fora 34-27 win.

6. Cyclones Beat Hawks, Cold – In 2001, I bought season tickets to Iowa State football (at a discount for recent alums) and sold off all but one ticket – holding on to the ticket to the September 15th game against in-state rival Iowa.  Then the September 11th attacks happened, and the game was delayed until November 24th.  It was cold.  The Cyclones took a 14-0 lead into half time and hung on for a 17-14 win.  This was the only time I’ve been in the crowd for a win against Iowa.  It was awesome.

7. Wallace Goes Long Distance for TD – In a 2002 game against Texas Tech, Cyclone quarterback Seneca Wallace scored on a 12 yard run.  Well, officially a 12 yard run.  Wallace actually ran about 120 yards on the play, traversing the field as he tried to find a clear route to pay dirt.  The win against Texas Tech pushed Iowa State’s record to 6-1 (the only loss being a controversial one to Florida State in the first game on the season).  Iowa State was in the top 10 (for the first time EVER) and  Wallace was routinely receiving this sort of praise.  The ‘Clones would unfortunately lose 6 of the final 7 games (not helped by games against four teams in the top 15 during that span, all on the road).  But it was a lot of fun while it lasted.

8. Sanderson Caps off a Perfect Career – Cael Sanderson put the entire sports of wrestling on the map during his unblemished college career.  In the 2002 finals, he beat Jon Trenge of Lehigh 12-4 to finish his career 159-0 with 4 national titles.  Trenge was no slouch – although he never won an NCAA title, he finished in the top three on three occasions.

Fittingly, as I listened to Cael’s final bout on the radio, I was pulling into Ames for a visit (see next item).

9. Kosmo on ESPN – In the late 90s and early 00s, I was a regular at women’s NCAA tournaments.  Ames (home to my alma mater, Iowa State) often hosted games.  Tickets were relatively cheap, the games were entertaining, and it was a good excuse to go back and visit Ames.  On March 25, 2002, I was in the stands to see Tennessee knock off Vanderbilt in the regional final.

During the game, some of the lower seats became vacant.  I was at the game with The Crunchy Conservative‘s brother, and we decided to sneak down into the good seats.  We scored some serious camera time on ESPN (cross “be featured on ESPN” off the bucket list), including this shot which makes it appear as if I am coaching Vanderbilt (in actuality, their coach is stooped over, out of sight of the camera).  That’s me between #21 and #13 and Crunchy’s brother in the white hat to my left.

10. Hawks Beat Michigan – For the first part of my life, I was actually a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes.  My wife jokingly (??) calls me a traitor for changing to Iowa State, even though I’ve been an Iowa State fan for more than 17 years now.

The defining football moment of my youth was on October 19, 1985.  As the rest of the family was going into the house to get ready for church, I was standing atop a five gallon bucket in the barn (the only place where I could hear the radio very well).  With two seconds remaining in the game, #2 Michigan held a 10-9 lead over #1 Iowa.  Iowa kicker Rob Houghtlin lined up for a 35 yard field goal – and drilled it!

Alas, the Hawkeyes would not finish the season undefeated, suffering a defeat to Ohio State in Columbus two weeks later (and then a dismantling by UCLA in the Rose Bowl).  If you’re wondering why I hate Ohio State, look no further.

11. Karlis Kicks Vikes to Victory – This one is a favorite just because it is so quirky.  On the surface, a 23-21 football game doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.  But this game, on November 5, 1989 between the Vikings and Rams (then still in LA) was not ordinary.  At the end of regulation, the score was 21-21.  The Rams had scored on a Jim Everett touchdown pass and two short runs by Greg Bell.

Rich Karlis had provided all of the fireworks for the Vikings.

Rich Karlis was the kicker.  He had belted a record-tying 7 field goals in the game (including 5 of fewer than 30 yards).

Think it couldn’t get any crazier?  The Vikings won the game when Mike Merriweather blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety.  Merriweather obviously didn’t understand the rule about punts being blocked out of the end zone (I guess he thought it would be a touchback and go back to the Rams on the 20?) as he was visibly distraught after the play.


Those are my favorite sports moments – what are yours?

September Callups

September 1, 2009

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With Johnny Goodman out on assignment, I’m jumping in to bounce around the world of sports.

September Callup Time

Today marks the day when Major League Baseball teams can expand their rosters from 25 players to 40. Not all teams will call up an extra 15 players, though. Calling a player up to the major league starts his service time “clock”, which affects when they will become a free agent. Thus, the short term benefit of having the players in the major leagues for one month can be outweighed by the long term financial benefit of keeping him away from free agency for a full extra year.

However, September typically features the debut of a lot of players who are expected to contribute the following year. The teams get to see how the players adjust to playing major league competition, and the players get to play though a bit of the rookie “yips” in games that often don’t count for a whole lot.

For teams that are in playoff contention, the situation is much different. The expansion of rosters allows teams to add extra hitters to their bench and extra arms to the bullpen – making it possible for the bullpen to pitch more innings than normal in the throes of a pennant race.

On a related note, players acquired before midnight last night are eligible for postseason rosters.  (Confused about the fact that the trade deadline was a month ago?  Players acquired after July 31 must clear waivers first; players acquired earlier do not need to clear waivers.)  The NL West leading Dodgers acquired slugger Jim Thome from the White Sox and starting pitcher John Garland from the Snakes.  The Rockies countered by picking up pitcher Jose Contreras from the White Sox in exchange for prospect Brandon Hynick (a casual Facebook friend of mine).  Advantage to the Dodgers.

Rockies Update

My beloved Rockies just finished what I considered to be a critically important stretch that included seven games against the Giants and three against the division leading Giants. After taking three of four against the Giants, the Rockies took the first game from the Dodgers – pulling to within two games of the division lead in the process. Unfortunately, they lost the final two games of that series before being swept against the Giants in a series in the bay. The Rockies have fallen into a wild card tie with the Giants, setting up the potential for a great September race.

As for my favorite player, Troy Tulowitzki pushed his OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) over 1.000 for August on the strength of a homer and double in his August finale. After a dreadful start to the year, Tulo has record three straight months with a 1.000+ OPS.

Former Rockie Matt Holliday (now with the Cardinals) finished August with “only” a .963 OPS for the month, on the heels of a 1.150 OPS in July. Hidden by the arbitrary nature of the months of the calendar is a 24 game stretch beginning July 20 and ending August 15 in which Holliday posted a 1.355 OPS. While Holliday did manage to hit 7 homers during that stretch, it was the .474 batting average that was a major factor. The tricky thing for the Cardinals is whether or not they will be able to hammer out a new deal with Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras – or whether Holliday will test the free agent waters with a strong non-Coors season under his belt.


Fantasy Draft season is in full swing. This is a good sign that the NFL season in just around the corner.

On the positive side, we face a year without the “insight” of John Madden.

On the down side, my Minnesota Vikings gave $25 million to sign Brett Favre for two years. I’ve never been a fan of Favre, and his recent off-field antics have served to sour me on him even more. My plan is simply to ignore the NFL until it has been purged of Favre. I have really been focusing on baseball 365 days a year in recently years, anyway, so this should not be a major sacrifice.

College Football

College football also kicks off this weekend, highlighted by Iowa State’s Thursday night game against North Dakota State. I’m hopefully that Thursday’s game will be but the first step in a season that will end with a BCS Championship for my Cyclones.

Or maybe just a bowl.

The University of Michigan is making news for possible NCAA violations. Anonymous current and former players allege that the amount of time Wolverine players spent on football activities exceeded the limits set down by the NCAA. Michigan suffered their first losing season in more than 40 years in 2008, and this news can only be a distraction as they get ready to face Western Michigan in their maiden 2009 contest.