Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

Biggest Shinning Moment in Detroit: A Must needed Final Four

July 27th, 2010

This is a classic article of 2009

Thank goodness General Motors still managed to buy advertisement time with the NCAA tournament, after bailing out on the Super Bowl. That meant there weren’t GMCs anywhere near Tampa Bay. But, of course, at the Final Four there are plenty of Pontiacs, to give out nominations for this year’s game-changing performers.

With economic downturns continuing to depress a myriad of dispirited citizens, a chance to host the Final Four at home is a gratifying moment Detroit needed. The deprival populace gets to root for Michigan State, the home state team representing green pride, which unexpectedly advanced to the Final Four and placed a smile on sad faces.

Lately, news from Detroit is mind-blogging and startling, sadly most of the news is related to homicides, foreclosures, higher unemployment rates and higher suicides rates. It’s tragic and devastating to hear people receive pink slips, or families who can’t afford to pay mortgages and angry people starting charity frauds as well.

Times are hard everywhere, but in Detroit it’s tough, and people everyday are either committing suicide or committing murders. Well now hopefully there will be less murders and suicide rates, and just good spirit, along with Michigan State pride. When the Spartans, stunningly beat Louisville, the top overall seed in the tournament, in the Midwest Regional Finals on Sunday, a despairing Detroit wore a smile.

And once again felt a rejoicing moment that hasn’t been felt for a long-time. It’s something the people of Michigan needs, to relish the NCAA festivities and embrace their Spartans. It’s a community long overdue in major championships.

Perhaps, mostly everywhere across the nation, have out shadowed the underrated Spartans, as mostly everybody over hyped the Detroit Tigers, who overspent a year ago, when they acquired slugger Miguel Cabrera or the Detroit Pistons, when their moronic trade for Allen Iverson sent their poise leader Chauncey Billups to Denver.

Or yet, worst the Lions 0-16 season, to become the first team in NFL history, finishing a season winless. Yes this is a dismay town that seen everything, from economic failures to sports failures. After all they’ve lived up to their name Hockeytown as the Red Wings are the closest to winning a major championship. But now, we can put Michigan State in that equation as the nearest dominant team in the state faced with much turmoil.

More than ever, the Spartans drifted through the tournament, surprising everyone. Heck, they busted my bracket. Come to think about it, I didn’t even have Michigan State getting past West Virginia. Yes that sounds a bit awkward, but I just felt the Mountaineers had enough firepower to upset the Spartans.

Oh, don’t listen to me. Well, I think it’s acceptable to just admit that Michigan State has a great advantage to upset Connecticut. In the contest, the Huskies will miss the guard play of injured Jerome Dyson. And in this battle of the Bigs (Big Ten versus Big East), the nation will witness an underrated Kalin Lucas. As tip off approaches, the Spartans are heavily favorites to win, in front of mainly their home crowd, a factor for momentum and confidence level.

A portion of Ford Field will be filled with lathers of green, to remove themselves from tumult reality and embrace Tom Izzo, an excellent speech teller, which perpetuated an upset of the Cardinals. Standing at 5-foot-10 really doesn’t say too much, instead it just says Izzo has the loudest voice among his players, though all of them are taller than their self-motivated coach.

By bringing back and sporting the “Izzone T-shirts”, is a sign of encouragement and support for a coach who believed in the Big Ten conference for an entire season, unlike Dick Vitale, who anointed the Big East as the powerhouses of college basketball. Oh, some of it is true.

But there are always two sides to a story, so some of that is false. Look, it’s no mirage the Spartans are as good or maybe better than UConn, Villanova, or even more powerful than the ACC dominators North Carolina. Natives of Michigan or enormous fans of Michigan couldn’t careless about the horrific unemployment rates.

And they probably couldn’t careless about General Motors and Chrysler argument with President Barack Obama. This is a shining moment that Michigan needed and this is a moment for them to win the title by surprise, when most picked Louisville or North Carolina to win the title. Putting Izzo’s boys under the radar wasn’t such a brilliant notion.

The Spartans dominance, in the tourney tells the nation that just because there isn’t a much-dominant Indiana or Illinois, doesn’t mean the Big Ten is a horrible conference. Apparently, it’s good enough, just from the looks of Michigan State, a team made of green, and a team that has delighted a city facing tough crisis. No fluke, just a talented Spartan team that has prepared for battle. Izzo gives speeches on mental toughness and defensive balance, to a dangerous team that’s fundamentally sound, with penalty of weapons that are propitious.

  The Spartans specialty is guards, explosive guard Lucas is their floor general. Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet will have his hands full, dealing with the 6-foot-10 center Goran Suton, a native of Bosnia who has a nice outside jumper, which will force Thabeet outside often. Surely, coach Jim Calhoun has done his homework in the past week, as Suton will probably be defended tight by a physical Jeff Adrien or Stanley Robinson. Their heights are suitable enough to defend Suton from being a dangerous inside disturbance. 

But the sensational guard matchups should be intriguing, to see A.J. Price fair against Lucas, as both are very versatile and can drill them from outside. So Detroit will be buzzing, as their will be lathers of green everywhere.

And more jubilant faces in a city that’s in need of sanity. Though, the Huskies have shown they can play through adversity, the Spartans have shown they aren’t a fluke, just a team that has a large chance upsetting UConn. Then, everyone in the Motor City will erupt into endless joy. It’s great for a city that has downtrend during a miserable recession.

This big shining moment is big in Detroit.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Miami Hurricanes: Why That Second Game Is So Big

July 26th, 2010

Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) As last year's season came to an end there were two things you could be sure of. You haven't seen the last of Alabama for a while and you better get ready to start thinking about Ohio State going back to a championship game.

Not only were they my early pick to play for it all next year but by the time others starting picking, it seemed to be the consensus of most of the top writers.

While I won't pretend to go into other's minds, the Ohio pick to be was based on many things, with one overriding word that kept coming into my mind, confidence.

Every year Ohio State is picked to finish in the top ten, but for years it has been far from a top team.

If you ask why, I think it's confidence, and I think it's the reason they will use it their advantage this year instead of it costing them silly losses to teams like Purdue and  Illinois and give them the confidence to play in tough games like Penn State and Iowa.

When Ohio State has a good season, as it did in 2006, it all started out with a quality win against a tough out of conference foe, and for fans who think OSU may play in a weak conference, their willingness to always schedule a tough out conference opponent each year silences the "easy schedule" debate.

In 2006 they took on and clobbered a good Texas team 24-7 and they didn't have but one close game until a 17-10 win against Illinois. They may have taken a beating in a game still to this day makes many Southern fans believe they all hype, a 41-14 drubbing by Florida in the championship game, but that early win propelled them into that championship game.

In 2007, the early game against a good out of conference team wound up being Washington, but that year, the Huskies were a nine loss team and it was hard to gain much confidence beating them.

Later that year, they lost a game they should have won against Illinois and was again thumped by another SEC team in the bowl game.

2008 saw them totally manhandled early by USC 35-3 and that season was filled with close wins over bad opponents a loss to Penn State and another bowl loss to yet another Southern team, this time Texas.

2009 saw a close early season game with USC end in a loss, but at least it was hard fought. The 18-15 loss hardly threw them into panic, and except for another freakish loss to really bad Purdue team five games later, they fought well the rest of the year.

Beating a tough Penn State, rated eleventh at the time and perhaps an even tougher Iowa, rated tenth at the time, gave them the confidence to swagger into the Rose Bowl and soundly defeat the number seven team in the nation, Oregon.

They are still riding that confidence high to start this season.

This could be the easiest schedule in some time for Ohio State as some usual rivals, like Penn State are rebuilding, and that early season out of conference game is against Miami (Florida) and not a USC at a peak.

This is not to say that Miami is not a quality opponent, as I fully expect them to finish in the top 20 this season, but it's not the tough game that they've faced in the past.

However, that win will give them the early season confidence to feel that all the pieces are finally in place for another legitimate title run and should inspire them to finish the regular season in fine shape to claim one of the two spots there.

With both an easier than usual schedule, confidence riding high coming into the season, a bevy of now experienced play makers at their disposal and one of the better coaches leading the Buckeyes, there is no reason not to expect them here.

Clearly the Miami game is just as important if not more so than the late season meeting with Iowa, which should determine more than just the Rose Bowl.

A stumble against Miami would doom the OSU season and open the door for more losses due to lack of confidence. A win would do just the opposite, except for the Hurricanes, as that might give them the confidence to make a BCS Bowl appearance of their own.

September 11th, 2010 is a date which may let the rest of the nation know what's in store for OSU this year and to me, that's why it's the most important game of the year, until bowl time that is.

Listen to The Bell: Tyler Bell Ready To Rise

July 26th, 2010

First impressions are always important. Tyler Bell, shown in this photo, has made a noticeable one, dressed in a shirt and tie meaning one thing: ready for business.

This young man out of Bloomington, Illinois is a 6'2," 165-pound point guard headed to play basketball at Illinois Central College and, from there, he's ready to make the next step and join whatever school will give him the best opportunity to showcase his talents. 

Talents? He has those. His playing style is a crazy resemblance of Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, using his speed and size to his advantage. If he's anything like Brandon Jennings, which I know he is, he'll have plenty of people ready to watch his game.

If you do find yourself following and watching Tyler Bell's game, he'll be sure to not only entertain you while watching him, but he'll bring a smile to your face as well. Tyler is a kid who loves making people laugh and loves sending positive messages to youth around the community. He simply enjoys where he's at and doesn't take anything for granted.

When I say he doesn't take anything for granted, I mean it. Tyler gives the ultimate credit to his personal trainer, Chad Hobbs, and the complete coaching staff at ICC, and of course he knows that God is really who put him here. His mother is a minister, so positivity is in his blood.

Tyler Bell's story, like the others, is going to be filled with positive news, notes, and happenings as Tyler begins his college basketball career. I will follow and report everything, but more importantly, become friends with Tyler, and you should as well. He'll bring smiles to your faces and his game will inspire you.

Tyler Bell: Story of a student athlete, entering the college game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2010: Fantasy Football Preview

July 25th, 2010

The Rooneys are none too thrilled that Big Ben has been leading a lifestyle that could get him cast in Old School Two.

It's obvious the 28-year-old accomplished signal caller has serious maturity issues, namely that he has no maturity and no class.  He also  appears more dedicated to improving his beer bong talent in the offseason than his leadership or football skills.  

Commish Goodell rules with an iron fist and leveled a six game suspension to Roethlisberger that many expect will be reduced to four games for good behavior (memo to Ben, that doesn't include buying kegs for sorority mixers). 

This has to be embarrassing for a franchise that has prided itself on being a clean team dedicated to making its honest, working class fans proud.  

Regardless of his indiscretions,  fantasy owners should not forget that the Steelers QB had a fine season in 2009, finishing as the ninth best fantasy QB, with 4,300 yards, 26 TDs and 12 interceptions.  

The loss of leading WR and fellow knucklehead-blight-on-the-Steelers-good-name Santonio Holmes is cause for concern. Mike Wallace, however, seems prepared to step into a starting role.  He led the league in yards per catch (19.4) and should be able to fill much of the void left by the former Super Bowl MVP.  

Hines Ward, roughly 84 years of age—but that is unsubstantiated—enters his 12th NFL season.  I caution owners not to sleep on him because of his age.  Ward has topped 1,000 yards the past two seasons and will be a reliable safety valve for Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon during the first month of the season.  Ward may be slowing, but he makes up for any sign of a lost step with wisdom that comes with being a hard working student of the game.

Many are expecting a breakout season for RB Rashard Mendenhall in 2010.

With formerly fast Willie Parker now in Washington as part of the three-headed washed up monster the Skins call a backfield and we call a geriatric ward, Mendenhall will have little competition for carries and receptions out of the backfield.  

Furthermore,  a backup QB will be under center for at least the first month the season, and the organization is making noise about returning to a more Steeler-like smash mouth brand of football.  All signs point to Mendenhall as the focal point of the offense for at least the early going.  If that Mendenhall-centric offense equates to success (perhaps making a starting QB like Roethisberger less necessary), the former Illinois back could be a top six fantasy football back.  

After taking over the starting  job in Week Four, Mendenhall averaged an impressive 4.6 yards per carry with eight all-purpose TDs and a grand total of 1,369 yards.  His current ADP has him as the eighth RB (13th overall) and he could see 20-25 carries a game with limited competition.  

The talented back is in an ideal situation to produce as a fantasy RB1 in his third season in the NFL.  One word of caution is the offensive line recently lost RT Willie Colon for the year due to an Achilles injury.  The line was not a great one prior to the injury and could pose problems.

From a fantasy perspective, the Steelers defense was disappointing in 2009 as it played shorthanded following major injuries to Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith.  The former fixture at the top of fantasy defensive rankings finished outside the top 15 in fantasy points scored after posting 46 sacks, 12 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries and only three touchdowns.

A bounce-back season is in order for the Steel Curtain and as an added bonus they upgraded their special teams with the offseason additions of Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle.





WR Hines Ward (ADP 66 / WR26) - Hines has been as reliable as they come but the upside is limited as he enters his 12th NFL season.  The loss of Santonio Holmes could result in defenses deciding to roll their No. 1 CB to Ward until second year WR Mike Wallace proves himself.  

In 2009, Ward played in all 16 games and caught an impressive 95 passes for 1,167 yards.  The Steelers will likely focus more on the running game in 2010, which will limit Ward's upside as he won't be able to rack up enough receptions to produce the same yardage totals that he enjoyed in 2008/2009.  Ward should be a good WR3 but based on his 2009 stats and name recognition another owner will likely reach for him too early.




WR Mike Wallace (ADP 76 / WR30) - Which receiver led the league in yards per catch?   That's right, it was the Steelers receiver that shares a name with the former host of 60 Minutes . 

In his rookie season, Wallace produced an impressive stat line while lining up primarily in the slot.  He hauled in 39 catches for 756 yards and six touchdowns, and remains one of the league's most promising emerging downfield threats. 

The University of Mississippi speedster should see his catch totals soar in his second season, as he'll become an integral part of the passing game as the Steelers No. 2 WR.  Wallace amassed impressive yardage totals while only topping four catches once in 16 games.  

He has the skill set to become as a low end WR2/high end WR3 based on his ability to score from anywhere on the field.

Fantasy Strategy:

Ben Roethlisberger (ADP 120/QB16) - Without a suspension Big Ben would be drafted well before this spot and in leagues of 12 teams or larger he would be drafted as a starter.  

You are in the unique situation where you can get him in the 10th round or later.  One strategy that I am considering is loading up on running backs and wide receivers and taking two quarterbacks between the ninth and 11th rounds.  You could come out of the draft with Ben and Alex Smith (ADP 131) or Matt Staford (128).  

This strategy may give you a leg up over opponents taking Kevin Kolb or Brett Favre in the sixth round since you can land a player that could be a starter (like Ward) or give you depth (like Marion Barber, ADP 70).

Heath Miller (ADP 157/TE17) - The veteran TE is entering his sixth season and coming off his best season by far.  If you miss out on the top tier tight ends (generally going in the fifth and sixth rounds) Miller might be a nice option in the 12th or 13th round.  

He is unlikely to duplicate his 2009 production of 76 receptions, 789 yards, and six TDs, but we are high on Miller as a No. 2 TE and having him as a No. 1 would not be a disaster considering he has upside.  

Additionally, if he has very little production over the first few weeks playing with a backup QB, take advantage of his low value to acquire him in a trade expecting that Ben will utilize him more.

Illinois Lands Joliet Catholic Running Back Josh Ferguson

July 24th, 2010

Josh Ferguson, a senior running back from Joliet Catholic, has committed to the University of Illinois.

Ferguson, who is 5’8", 169 pounds, is the 23-ranked player in the state of Illinois and is among the best running backs in the state.

During his junior year, he rushed for 1,596 yards and 20 touchdowns on 178 carries, averaging 10 yards-per-rush. He had an outstanding 5A State Championship game, rushing for 107 yards.

Ferguson is a below average sized running back, but his size is misleading, because he is a well built, strong back.

With a 40-yard dash time lower than 4.5, he is known primarily for his speed and ability to change direction quickly and fluently.

Ferguson has the potential to play many positions for the Illini including RB, slot WR, or even kick returner.

He is the fifth in-state recruit for the Illini and ninth overall.

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