Tag Archives: sports

This Week in the Big Ten wants better basketball

Welcome to the first week of the year college basketball gets dramatic enough a large portion of the population can stomach watching a whole game in one sitting!

OK, maybe that was a little over-the-top, but I am somewhat amused at the growing sentiment that college basketball has a big problem as far as entertainment value. Where have y’all been? Do you not watch the NBA at all, because it’s practically a different sport when guys can, you know, make shots on a consistent basis.

A representation of Ohio State's game plan last week
The state of basketball play in college

It’s been going this way for a long time, and the one-and-down thing ain’t the biggest problem. It’s just the extreme example of the larger issue that not enough guys stick around long enough for teams to learn how to play together or become recognizable and marketable. Going to two-and-done would only be a slight improvement for this overall. I’d trace the decline back to when guys like Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury started making skipping more than one year of college more the norm.

I don’t blame guys for going pro when they can. They’ve got to do what’s best for them — or at least what they think is best, which sometimes turns out to be not the case. But the fact teams are harder to get to know makes following the sport more difficult. That’s generally a bad business prospect, but the decline of the product’s watchability has larger implications.

And based on a lot of what I’ve been reading lately, I’m not sure there’s much reason to expect it to get better.

Exhibit A would be a piece from Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated that presents two critical issues as “myths” then goes on to provide more evidence for their veracity than anything else.  Continue reading This Week in the Big Ten wants better basketball

Protecting Jordan legacy motivating LeBron criticism? Yes, but….

Much of this suggestion (see below) LeBron James faces undue criticism because of the legacy of Michael Jordan is accurate, but it oversimplifies the situation as well. Why? Because sometimes the criticism is warranted.

If Jordan fans (of which I am one) are too quick to jump on James for every little thing he does (I try to avoid this,  as I gave him the benefit of the doubt on the cramping issue in Game 1), it is at least in part due to a tendency of those on the other side to crown James prematurely.

When LeBron came into the league, I looked forward to a chance to see someone new, someone truly from my generation who I saw play in high school, challenge the legacy of Jordan, who retired from the Bulls when I was 16. As much as I cherish the memories of watching him play during my formative years as a sports fan, there is also an appeal to having such a stud in my generation and watching him from nearly the very beginning.

Even when James’ last season with the Cavaliers was over, he was still was on track as far as I was concerned given his age, and I thought The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s cover shot noting no rings on his finger was a cheap one. Of course, “The Decision” changed the course, and I thought that took LeBron out of the running to really equal Jordan’s greatness because it involved trying to build a super team rather than going through the rigors of building one from scratch.

However, that has not proven to be the case as a result of James’ continued improvement, the decline of Dwyane Wade and how natural former high-scorer Chris Bosh looks as a role player. There is no doubt it is James’ team as much as the Bulls were Jordan’s, and I would say he has won the past two titles with a worse supporting cast than Jordan had for his first three-peat.

But the game has changed, and there are still plenty of variables that must be determined before James’ legacy is complete. If the Heat win this series, he will take another huge step forward in the race to unseat Jordan as the greatest player of all time, but he will also be only halfway there. I’m also going to suggest James’ claim to the top spot won’t be null and void forever even if the Spurs win this series, but it won’t help him when all is said and done to have at least two more Finals series defeats than Jordan because Jordan’s indomitableness was a big part of his legacy. He won the championship in each of his last six full seasons with the Bulls, and he won the scoring title in the last nine years he played in Chicago. Everyone talks about going out on your own terms, and no one ever did it better than Jordan.

Ultimately, James is going to be regarded as one of the all-time greats, and it is a shame we spend as much time debating his legacy as we do admiring what he does. His career is not going to neatly match Jordan’s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compare now — for better or for worse.

I agree with the notion James is probably the subject of too much criticism in the present, but I also think often nowadays we are too guilty of overanalyzing not only every action in every game but also the reaction to that analyzation. The pushback is sometimes greater than the initial wave of opinions these days, and too often I think we forget that what we say today can change tomorrow as long as there are still games to be played. Much of it is just noise to pass the time, you know? Especially before they pass out the trophy and the rings every year.

Bottom line? It’s OK to criticize LeBron because he’s not Jordan yet as long as we’re willing to concede he could still be.

Much of Lebron’s Criticism | FOX Sports on MSN.

Ohio State Football Week 11 (Part 2): Red House

This week’s column comes from Jim Hendrix, if for no other reason than no song has more versions in my iTunes playlist than Red House.

What we learned last week: Indiana is not ready for prime time. The Hoosiers’ game against Wisconsin started at noon on Saturday, but they left little doubt about that with how they performed. As such, they won’t be in the Big Ten championship game a couple Saturday nights from now.

The final numbers say Wisconsin dominated in every way, but Indiana missed some chances especially early on to put together some drives. The quarterbacks did not execute opportunities with open receivers to keep the chains moving.

Of course, Wisconsin’s success on the ground came as no surprise. Indiana had already shown it can’t stop the run, and Wisconsin had already shown it can run all over bad defenses. What we don’t know yet – even with 10 games down – is if Wisconsin can run on a good defense. Or if Wisconsin can stop good passing offenses. I hoped to learn about the latter this past week, but Indiana seemed to leave a lot of opportunities on the field.

I would say there’s no doubt Indiana still has a lot of work to do from a cultural standpoint, too. Head coach Kevin Wilson seems to have the program moving in the right direction, but there is something to be said for expecting to win, in feeling like you can compete with the teams at the top of the standings. Wisconsin has thoroughly dominated Indiana the past few years, and Indiana looked somewhat intimidated. That probably had something to do with the lack of execution in the hurry-up spread offense. Of course, there is hardly a better example than the Badgers themselves for an example of how things can change over the years (See: Wisconsin football, 1963-92).

Wisconsin (2012 edition) does get credit, though, for turning things around based on all the negative momentum the Badgers seemed to have through the first month of the season. The Big Ten is not all that formidable this year, but you’ve still got to take care of business. Wisconsin has been doing that, at least against the lesser teams in the league. It’s no coincidence to me that they have lost to Michigan State and Nebraska, two teams along with Ohio State and Michigan that are better than the rest, whatever that might mean this year.

Of course, it is fair to wonder about Ohio State’s level of competition. The Buckeyes’ best win would be against Nebraska, followed then I suppose by Penn State and the disappointing Spartans.

I’m not sure Indiana will ever be able to put together a defense that will scare anyone (you can’t hide subpar athletes on that side of the ball), but the other Big Ten school in the Hoosier State already enjoyed a pretty nice decade (including a conference championship, something Indiana hasn’t won since 1967) with a throw-centric, spread offense.

Stranger things have happened – Like Wisconsin winning all or part of five of the last 20 Big Ten titles after winning none of the 31 before that.


What we can expect to learn this week: Which is more “back” – the Wisconsin offense or the Ohio State defense?

OK, that is sort of over simplistic, but the trip to Madison definitely provides some interesting matchups this week as Ohio State’s strength – physically running the football – faces an improved Wisconsin front seven. However, I think Ohio State’s ability to spread the field presents some problems for Wisconsin, whose athleticism I’m still not sold on.

With a much less coherent plan on offense and more raw players in key spots, Ohio State ran all over the Badgers last season. Wisconsin looks better up front this time around – some seasoning on the line has helped – but Ohio State is much, much better on all fronts on offense.

Wisconsin’s pass defense is untested, but Ohio State’s passing offense is still searching for consistency. This could be a week for Braxton Miller to make hay with his arm, but he will have to do a better job of controlling his emotions than when he went to Penn State. There are now proven threats on the outside if the sophomore signal caller can get them the ball.

Miller’s talent eventually showed through in Happy Valley, but he was fortunate some early miscues were not exploited by the Nittany Lions. Recent history has already shown us what happens when an Ohio State team goes to Camp Randall Stadium and lets the Badgers get off to a hot start.

Like the Wisconsin offense, the Ohio State defense has spent a fair amount of this season looking for ways to rekindle past successes. The Buckeyes are trending upward in that area, however, and more of their problems have come against the pass than the run.

What success Wisconsin has had moving the ball through the air this season came with Joel Stave at the helm, and he is out for the season. With Danny O’Brien ineffective in relief of Stave, Bret Bielema turned to Curt Phillips last week but revealed little about what the oft-injured upperclassman can do with his arm. Phillips was considered a guy with enough athleticism to hurt teams outside the pocket before injuries derailed his career, and he flashed a little bit of that in Bloomington despite all that time on the shelf. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada draws up more things to take advantage of Phillips’ legs this week considering the Buckeyes have had some problems with dual-threat quarterbacks. I thought he did a good job varying his running game against the Hoosiers as he avoided putting much on Phillips, who threw only seven passes in Bloomington.

One also wonders if Ohio State will have any problems preparing for a quarterback for whom there is very little scouting report.

The Buckeye defense will have a definite advantage on the outside, where Wisconsin has not found anyone to complement Jared Abbrederis at wide receiver now that Nick Toon has moved on to the NFL. The Badgers do have a few interesting athletes at tight end/fullback who can provide matchup problems, but can they take advantage with Phillips at quarterback?

Overall, this has to be considered a good matchup for the Ohio State on both sides of the ball, but getting a win in Madison is never a sure thing.