Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Women's World Cup! US wins early

How on Earth did I miss that this was starting?

The US women beat down a surprisingly sharp-passing North Korea, 2-0. This women's squad appears to be a much better spread-it-around-on-the-ground-attacking side than the disappointing version that showed up 8 years ago that just booted the ball up to Abby Wambach every time. Wambach, along with the always-entertaining Hope Solo in goal, is back,but outside of Heather Mitts there aren't many well-known names here. I'm glad to see old guard members Carli Lloyd & Shannon Boxx playing, as well as the really-old-guard Christie Rampone (the oldest member and a pine-sitter in 1999). However, the toothsome Alex Morgan looks like she has the skills and the attacking attitude make opponents pay for concentrating too much on Wambach. Morgan is the youngest member of the squad, and was born when I was in high school. Amazing how one gets so old so fast. Point being, though, that she only has 16 caps and 7 goals to her credit to date. It's a young squad for the US overall, even while Wambach, Rampone (over 200!), Lloyd, Boxx, and Heather O'Reilly have over 100 caps, only Solo, Amy Rodriguez, and Rachel Buehler (who scored against NK) have over 50 caps. Still you put those players together with Morgan & Lauren Cheney up front and Megan Rapinoe's moxie in the midfield, and you've got a pretty good shot at the Championship. The US has a tough first group, but it would seem like a safe bet to think that they'll be in the round of 16 without too much worry.

In the elimination rounds, however, Brazil still looks pretty awesome again, and like their star Marta they always play seemingly tougher than the Men's side, who like most men's teams, tumbles every time a stiff wind blows and then complains passionately to the refs and cameras. And host Germany, with star Birgit Prinz and young talent Alxendra Popp, has got to be the odds-on favorites, although I'm skeptical that the defending champs will actually win this one - I thought they were a bit lucky to win the last one and karma has a way of coming around. Norway and France could well get hot and win it all whereas Japan, England, and Sweden are probably more in the longshot category.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Early Top 50 (55) + autobids

I've been chewing on this, but let's just get it out the way. I think this will be the 2012 field of 68 for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Just a side note, the first four out included Indiana, but also Arkansas & South Carolina from the SEC as well as Georgetown. I also think any of the top three are defensible #1's. I'm not picking a Calipari team #1 until he earns it (every year- so much talent, so much turnover), but I do think "Jorts" big presence will be missed in the paint for UK. I love UNC's frontcourt, but I'm very dubious about their backcourt being championship caliber. Ohio State loses some great shooting (Diebler) and defense (Lighty & Lauderdale) to graduation, but picks up a great recruiting class including two McDonald All-Americans who probably won't even start, and adds talented transfer Evan Ravenel to boot. Ultimately, I like balanced teams, and OSU has the best balance of any of the top three.

1. Ohio State (Big Ten)
2. North Carolina (ACC)
3. Kentucky (SEC)
4. Syracuse (Big East)
5. Duke
6. Connecticut
7. Vanderbilt
8. Pittsburgh
9. Purdue
10. Kansas (Big XII)
11. Louisville
12. Temple (A-10)
13. Alabama
14. Texas A&M
15. West Virginia
16. Wichita State (MVC)
17. Missouri
18. UNLV (MWC)
19. Washington (Pac-10)
20. Wisconsin
21. Gonzaga (WCC)
22. Memphis (C-USA)
23. Michigan State
24. Clemson
25. Belmont (A-Sun)
26. Villanova
27. Arizona
28. Xavier
29. Cincinnati
30. UCLA
31. Saint Mary's
32. New Mexico
33. Florida
34. Baylor
35. Creighton
36. Texas
37. Florida State
38. Iona (MAAC)
39. Kent State (MAC)
40. Drexel (CAA)
41. Indiana State
42. Miami (FL)
43. Detroit (HOR)
44. Harvard (Ivy)
45. Oregon
46. Northwestern
47. Marquette
48. Virginia Tech
49. George Mason
50. Butler
51. Mississippi
52. Iowa State
53. Marshall
54. Nevada (WAC)
55. California

Auto [13]
Boston University (AmEast)
Bucknell (Patriot)
Coppin State (MEAC)
Davidson (SoCon)
Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt)
Long Beach State (Big West)
Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)
Montana (Big Sky)
Austin Peay (OVC)
Oral Roberts (Summitt)
Robert Morris (NEC)
UNC-Asheville (Big South)
Sam Houston State (Southland)