31 August 2008

Been a while

So it's been a week since my last post, and as my brother Josh told me, "Post something already."

Thing is, I was going to post about the upcoming BYU game, but we were in Utah all week running around buying stuff and playing football in the backyard and watching The Dark Knight on IMAX (which was awesome) and I didn't get around to posting at all.

So here are my thoughts on BYU vs. Northern Iowa.

1. I don't consider the game to be the start of BYU's season. It was nice to see the team and all, and Northern Iowa is a great FCS team, but let's be honest: this was an extended scrimmage for the Cougars. The season starts Saturday vs. Washington.

2. Max passed for a lot of yards, but I'm still not sold that he's a complete quarterback. His long ball is very suspect, though his midrange and short throws were generally lasers, which was nice. But it seems he over- or underthrows anything farther than 25 yards out.

3. Unga was okay. I'll be honest, I've never been super impressed with the kid. He's strong, yes, and relatively fast, but he doesn't have great moves or great speed. He's a servicable back, but I don't see him ever rushing for 2000 yards in a season or anything.

4. Pitta is the man. His size and speed are outstanding. I'm not sure many linebackers can stay with him.

5. Our corners are pathetic, again. Lining up 10 yards off FCS receivers is just sad. Are they going to line up 20 yards off Washington this week?

6. I like the look of O'Neill Chambers. The kid has serious potential. He made a few boneheaded mistakes, but he's fast and smooth and has good hands. I'd like to see him line up at wideout this season.

7. Michael Reed looked really good before Max hung him out to dry with that overthrown ball in the second quarter. I look forward watching him.

8. Collie's communication and/or timing with Max was off. Not to mention the fact that Northern Iowa's corners were staying with him most of the game. Maybe he wasn't going 100% due to the stress fracture. I hope that's what it was.

9. If BYU's offensive line can't open holes for the running backs against Northern Iowa, I fear we're in for long games against Washington and UCLA.

10. I wish Max had been born with the ability to sense blindside hits, but he wasn't. We've just got to get used to it.

In all, I'm glad all the warts came out in this game, because the game was a win before the season started. Hopefully BYU makes a better showing in the next two weeks. Wins and Washington and home against UCLA means an undefeated BYU meets up with a likely undefeated Utah this season.

23 August 2008

Graph Jam

A couple weeks ago I noticed a poster on cougarboard.com was putting some interesting graphs into his signature line. Most were highly entertaining, such as the following:

After following a link, I discovered graphjam.com The site is essentially a showcase for humorous user-submitted graphs of all kinds: pie charts, line graphs, bar charts, etc. So after perusing about 40 pages of awesomeness, I decided to create my own submission. Here it is:

Graph Jam asks you to explain your inspiration for your submissions, as most are based on popular songs or movies. Mine is inspired by personal experience.

Fun site. It's like a smarter icanhazcheezeburger.com.

John Stockton tribute

For this week's Saturday NBA highlight, we've got John Stockton dishing 24 assists in a single game, May 5th, 1988. Enjoy.

Note that this is against the Lakers. Beautiful.

How amazing is it that just a couple years after losing the best pure point guard of all time, the Jazz manage to draft Deron Williams? As much as I loved Stockton, I haven't lamented his retirement since early in Deron's second season.

Oh, and the Redeem Team (sick of that name) is one win away from winning the gold at these Olympics. Despite my pessimism, Team USA hasn't been seriously threatened by anyone since that game against Australia.

I was partly correct in my doom-and-gloom attitude; these guys can't shoot from deep worth beans. Outside of LeBron (44%, 11-25)and Prince (something of a surprise at 55%, 6-11), the 3-point percentages are just sad.

Kobe the Chucker leads the way, shooting 14-45 from deep, or an embarrassing 31% for a "shooter" working with a 3-point line over three feet closer to the rim that it is in the NBA.

Even Redd's been terrible, going 5-18, or 27% from 3.

Basically, Team USA is playing terrific defense and creating turnovers, which means their poor outside shooting isn't hurting them. Also they lucked out in facing an Argentina team without Ginobili.

On a related note, did you see Luis Scola torch the U.S. for 26 and 11? Made me feel a little better that he was so effective against the Jazz in the first round last spring.

So the Redeem Team should destroy Spain in the gold medal game tonight at 12:30 a.m. and everyone will be happy. I'm glad Deron will get a gold medal, but other than that, I don't care much about the game.

20 August 2008

BYU love of the week

BYU's status as the most likely BCS-buster of 2008 continues to draw media attention. An article published today at si.com is fairly glowing in its discussion of the Cougars.
BYU's offense will be among the most experienced -- and explosive -- in the nation. It returns eight starters led by junior quarterback Max Hall, who passed for 3,848 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first year as the starter after transferring from Arizona State. BYU also brings back its leading rusher (Harvey Unga, 1,227 yards and 13 scores as a freshman) its top receiver (tight end Dennis Pitta, who had a team-high 59 catches), a legitimate deep threat (WR Austin Collie) and four starting linemen.
Every word of it true. I don't worry much about beating Northern Iowa or anyone in the Mountain West outside of Utah, but those games against Washington and UCLA concern me. BYU has historically struggled to run against teams from BCS conferences, even middle-of-the-pack ones like the Bruins, and any team a team can make you largely one-dimensional, they've got a big advantage.

Less than 10 days to go!

BYU football highlight of the week, Wednesday edition

The year is 1996. The date, August 24. It's early for college football, but Texas A&M is visiting Provo to play in the Pigskin Classic, the first of 15 games BYU would play over the next three months.

A&M was a good team, going 10-0-1 in 1994 and 9-3 in 1995. And this was the first meeting between the teams since the 1990 Holiday Bowl, where A&M destroyed Heisman winner Ty Detmer's Cougars 65-14.

Returning quarterback Steve Sarkisian passed for 3,437 yards, 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 1995. Not world-beating numbers, and not enough that fans expected him to torch the Aggies like he did in this game.

Sark threw for 536 yards, six touchdowns and only one pick in the 41-37 win, finding Chad Lewis, Kaipo McGuire, Itula Mili, James Dye and K.O. Kealaluhi for strikes through the air. As you watch the highlight, note the precision on Sark's throws. Many, many times Aggie secondary players are playing the Cougar receivers well, but the ball is placed perfectly.

It'd be nice to see the same kind of offseason jump by Max Hall this season. If he can be lights out against Washington and UCLA, 2008 and 2009 are going to be big, big years for BYU.

13 August 2008

No posts for a few days

I'm up in northern Idaho visiting some in-law family for a few days, and I'm sharing a dial-up connection for now. No new posts until probably Monday.

10 August 2008

NCAA football preseason rankings

Preseason rankings in any sport are pointless. They exist to give the sports media something to talk about during the offseason, but can anyone really say for sure how well Brett Favre will do with the Jets or if Derrick Rose will be able to succeed at the professional level?

Nope. And even when there aren't major trades or draft picks involved, teams change way too much from season to season for anyone to accurately predict anything about them for the upcoming year.

But in general, preseason polls are harmless. It doesn't matter if San Francisco is picked as the best team in the NFL in August, because their performance on the field in September and October dictates where they finish in the end and what opportunities for glory they get.

But in college football, preseason polls matter, and they matter a lot. A team that starts the season ranked 56th in the nation has a zero percent chance of making it to a BCS bowl that year. Zero. They can go undefeated and clobber their opponents by 20 points per game, but in the end, they'll probably be ranked in the top 20 somewhere and go to the same type of bowl game a 6-6 team gets invited to.

Meanwhile, a team that starts the season ranked #1 can lose as many as two games and still make it to a BCS bowl. It's ridiculous.

A team like BYU or Utah has to have at least two consecutive dominant years to earn an outside shot at going to the Orange or Sugar Bowl. In a world where non-BCS teams have a tough time recruiting high-caliber athletes, that's tough to do.

I'd like to see preseason polling begin after week four. By that point we at least know who's looking good and who's looking terrible. We'll have seen Michigan get beat by Appalachian State. We'll notice that California is 4-0. We'll have tons of game film on running backs, quarterbacks, offensive lines, linebackers... the better to judge who should be #10 and who should be #11.

Of course, I've heard that coaches don't bother putting any time into their rankings, anyway, and journalists aren't much better, so maybe there wouldn't even be a difference.

The BCS poll doesn't come out until the fourth week, but is mostly influenced by human polling, so again, not much of a difference.

If there was a playoff in college football, the preseason poll would become meaningless as it is in the other major U.S. sports. An undefeated Troy could win the Sun Belt Conference championship and be given a shot at a national title. Would they beat an Ohio State or USC? Probably not. But at least we'd have it proven on the field instead of in the minds of voters.

Take each of the 11 conference champions at the end of the regular season, throw in a wild car slot, and make a 12-team playoff. It'll bring in gazillions of dollars to TV stations, the NCAA, each of the schools involved, etc. etc. It wouldn't affect the student athlete's studies any more than March Madness does. It would be awesome.

But of course, the current BCS members are obsessed with retaining as much money for themselves as they can, never mind the chance that they could make even more in a playoff. Until they suddenly get a clue, we're stuck with the imperfect system of all-powerful voting that rules the beautiful game of college football with an iron fist.

08 August 2008

Hooray, it's the Olympics!

So the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing took place today at 8:08 p.m., Beijing time, or 6:08 a.m. Mountain Time.

Which means they went down about 10 hours ago. Did you enjoy watching them on NBC?

Yeah, me neither. Apparently NBC has decided to tape-delay the broadcast for the ceremonies at 5:30 p.m., Mountain Time.

That's almost 12 hours after the ceremonies originally aired.

Touchdown, NBC. I realize you want to get the best ratings possible, but why not air them live on 6 a.m. and then rebroadcast at 6 p.m.? I doubt this morning's episode of The Today Show was so scintillating it couldn't be replaced by a singularly unique event that we'll never see again.

Anyway, I might blog about some of the events along the way. Right now I'm not too interested in anything outside of the basketball, but I could get sucked into something like swimming or track and field.

06 August 2008

Favre to the Jets

You may have noticed a lack of Favre talk on this blog.

That's because I've avoided talking about this whole Favre unretirement thing until something actually, you know, happened.

This is in direct contrast with ESPN, who has spent hours on the "story" every day, despite the fact that no one outside of Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago cared that Favre was "having talks with Packers management," and "flying into Green Bay," absolutely meaningless facts.

But finally, the long and boring saga appears to be over. Foxsports.com broke the story, and now ESPN is reporting that Favre has been traded to the New York Jets.

Praises be to news that is actually news.

I'll now go back to ignoring Favre and his indecision.

05 August 2008

USA Olympic basketball

I must admit, I'm underwhelmed by the current edition of the U.S. Olympic basketball squad.

Sure, the mantra from everyone involved has been "This time, we've got it right!" After the embarrassment that was 2004, we've been waiting for the chance to reclaim what we believe is rightfully ours.

But you know what?

Things have changed since 1992.

Other national teams have gotten better. Specifically, they've gotten better at the international game, which is much different from the NBA.

The international game is all about good ball rotation and outside shooting. In the four exhibition games I've watched so far, none of the teams have even really attempted to establish a low-post game. Big men from other countries are spot-up, mid-range shooters (Okur, Nowitski, Yao).

Essentially, other teams are built around one or two big guys who can pass and shoot jumpers, a couple facilitators (point guards, usually) and a ton of shooters.

Meanwhile, the current makeup of the U.S. Olympic basketball team is as follows:

1. LeBron: dunker extraordinaire, not so good at the outside shot. Sure, he's come a long ways, but he's far from automatic.

2. Wade: Getting-to-the-hoop-guy extraordinaire. Not a consistent outside shooter.

3. Carmelo Anthony: More consistent with his jump shot, but not out to the 3-point line.

4. Kobe: Threat from anywhere on the court.

5. Jason Kidd: Can't shoot to save his life.

6. Chris Paul: Great from 10 feet, not a shooter otherwise.

7. Deron: Threat from anywhere on the court.

8. Dwight Howard: post-up guy, can't hit a jumper worth beans.

9. Bosh: Decent mid-range shot.

10. Boozer: great shooter until April of last year.

11. Prince: Decent shooter, but not great from the 3.

12. Redd: Great outside shooter. Excellent addition to the team.

See the problem? This team, the team that was supposed to be built for the Olympics, is built like an NBA All-Star team. Sure, at least this year's team has legitimate point guards (sorry, Marbury, sorry A.I.), but we're short on great outside shooters.

If I were in charge of making the roster, I'd get rid of Dwight, Kidd and Boozer and replace them with Kyle Korver, Raja Bell and Jason Kapono.

That would be a team ready for the international game. Imagine the wide-open looks the shooters (six now, instead of three) would consistently get from Deron, Paul, Kidd, LeBron, etc. And once these zone-busters started raining 3-pointers, opposing defenses wouldn't be able to play zone and clog the lane. LeBron, Wade, Paul, etc. would have a clear path to the hoop.

As it stands, Redd and Kobe are the only real threats to hit from deep at the shooting guard position. Deron can bomb it, but more often than not he's running the offense. And lately Kobe has been jacking terrible 25-footers instead of taking shots within the offense, so that means Redd is the only threat, which means defenses can key in on him, limiting his effectiveness.

So we'll have to see how our guys do in Beijing. The squad squeaked past a Bogut-less Australia this morning, 87-76. Why was it so close? Because Team USA went 3-for-18 from the 3-point line. Live by the three, die by the three. That's the international game. Australia packed the lane with a zone defense that the US couldn't break, as drives by Wade, LeBron, etc. led to turnover after turnover. It was a perfect blueprint on how to slow down the Americans.

You think other nations were paying attention?

04 August 2008

BYU Football highlight of the week

November 24, 2000. Lavell Edward's last game as BYU's head coach. The game is in Salt Lake City, against the Utah Utes. Starting quarterback Brandon Doman is a virtual unknown for the Cougars. Sure, he led BYU to win over New Mexico in Lavell's final home game ever the week before, but could the scrappy option QB succeed at the pass-happy Brigham Young University?

Doman aquitted himself well, passing for 284 yards and one touchdown. The run game struggled, however, as BYU gained 100 yards on 42 attempts, for 2.3 yards per carry.

But in the end, it was an option run for a touchdown by Doman from inside the 10 that gave BYU the 34-27 win.

And the other classic moment in this game: a 4th-and-13 completion from Doman to Pittman with under a minute left in the game and BYU down. Utah's secondary seems to have a tradition of allowing that kind of thing.

Owen Pochman made four field goals in the win. Oh, that we had that kind of consistency last year from the kicker position.

One last thing... holy cow do I not miss those uniforms. Thanks for bringing back the classic colors and design, Bronco.

Here's the highlight.

03 August 2008

Kaman for Boozer?

In a previous post's comments, something of a consensus was reached on what the Jazz should do with Boozer.

Trade him for Chris Kaman.

Why, you ask? The salaries match up, Kaman's interior defense is sorely needed in Utah, and after this season, the Jazz lose Carlos anyway, so they might as well get something for him if they can.

I was on the phone with Clippers GM Elgin Baylor when a friend of mine expressed sincere doubts as to the validity of this trade idea.

Concerns such as "Boozer will keep getting better, he's only 26," and "Kaman is a stiff!" were mentioned.

I was unable to combat these statements with actual statistics, so I decided to get on nba.com and do some work.

Ages: Boozer 26, Kaman 26.
Years pro: Boozer 6, Kaman 5
Regular season ppg: Boozer 21.1, Kaman 15.7.
Regular season rpg: Boozer 10.4, Kaman 12.7
Regular season FG%: Boozer 54.7, Kaman 48.3.
Regular season blocks per game: Boozer .5, Kaman 2.8.

As far as I can see, Boozer's edge here is slight. Yes, he scores more, but the Jazz need defense far more than they need the six more points per game Booz gives them compared to Kaman. Blocks are huge, too, as we all know Boozer can't jump worth beans, and apparently the Caveman can.

What surprised me were Kaman's rebounding numbers. which were actually third best in the NBA last season behind Camby and Dwight Howard.

I also think playing with Deron would up the Caveman's scoring a little. Last year his point guards were Brevin Knight, Smush Parker and uh... Dan Dikau? I can't imagine he got too many easy buckets. Could Kaman be Deron's Tyson Chandler?

To be fair, Kaman's shooting percentage was a little low for a center, but again, I think getting easy baskets thanks to Deron would remedy that.

And he actually has less experience in the NBA than Booz.

ESPN's Trade Machine says it'd work according to the NBA's rules.

So in short, this trade would mean the Jazz lose hardly any scoring, get more rebounding, enjoy much-improved interior defense and get something in exchange for Boozer.

Hey, Elgin, what do you say? You just lost a 20-10 guy, want a replacement?

More embarrassment

I think this speaks to itself.

I honestly wonder if my conservative beliefs will hurt my chances at finding a job in this industry.

UPDATE: Demands for context and a source are pouring in. The information is from Investor's Business Daily, as they dug it up from federal campaign contribution records.

An analysis of federal records shows that the amount of money journalists contributed so far this election cycle favors Democrats by a 15:1 ratio over Republicans, with $225,563 going to Democrats, only $16,298 to Republicans .

Two-hundred thirty-five journalists donated to Democrats, just 20 gave to Republicans — a margin greater than 10-to-1. An even greater disparity, 20-to-1, exists between the number of journalists who donated to Barack Obama and John McCain.

Searches for other newsroom categories (reporters, correspondents, news editors, anchors, newspaper editors and publishers) produces 311 donors to Democrats to 30 donors to Republicans, a ratio of just over 10-to-1. In terms of money, $279,266 went to Dems, $20,709 to Republicans, a 14-to-1 ratio.

02 August 2008

Austin Collie injured

The Salt Lake Tribune reports Austin Collie has a stress fracture in his lower leg.

Stress fractures are tricky. It is possible that with rest, he could be fine after four or five weeks, which would mean he would sit out for Northern Iowa and be ready for Washington.

But the problem is that no treatment really exists for stress fractures. I should know, as I've had them in both lower legs for several months now. I've rested them for several weeks at a time previously and then, once I played basketball again, reinjured them.

From what I've read, it depends on lot on exactly which bone in Collie's leg is injured. I assume there is more information coming.

Here's hoping Collie can be back by Washington. Otherwise, I see BYU dropping at least two or three games they wouldn't otherwise.

01 August 2008

NBA news

The Rockets are reportedly close to trading for Ron Artest. While the trade can't officially go down until August 14 due to NBA trade laws, everyone seems to be assuming it's a done deal, so here we are. In exchange for Artest, the Rockets give up Bobby Jackson and rookie forward Donte Green.

This is a big move for the Rockets, in my opinion. Artest can score (20 ppg last season) and play defense (2.3 steals per), so he'll help Houston where they need it and yet not take anything away from their strengths. Sure, he's insane, but I think he's got at least a year before his next meltdown. In the meantime, the Rockets just got quite a bit better. And if you remember, Utah barely squeaked past a Yao-less Houston last spring. I don't know if the Jazz can beat the trio of Yao, McGrady and Artest.

Meanwhile, the Jazz are pretty much done making moves this offseason. Apparently adding Brevin Knight is enough to get the Jazz past L.A. or San Antonio. Or New Orleans. Not to mention the fact that now they're stuck with Boozer... either they have to pay Carlos the max next summer, or they lose him to another team that is willing to pay him the max.

I suppose I can hold out hope that Boozer will decide he wants to play defense over the next couple months. I can also hope he learns how to score in the playoffs. But absent of these two things magically happening, next summer is going to be a bad time for the Jazz.

Possible Jazz improvements on this season compared to last season:

1. Brevin Knight performing better at backup point guard than Jason Knight (almost a given).

2. C.J. Miles being given more minutes and scoring around 16 ppg (60% chance).

3. Deron being quicker, faster, and overall more dominant than he was in 2007-2008 (85% chance).

4. Boozer moving away from his matador defense and developing lateral quickness (10%).

5. Boozer learning (or remembering?) how to score in the playoffs (50%).

Any others I'm missing? Let me know what possible improvements we could see from the Jazz in 2008.