Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trivia, RGIII, and Duke; aka the three best things ever

So I had big plans to write a really detailed article today.  Then I did computer science homework for ¼ of an eternity.  Here are some quick thoughts on the NFL and college basketball and then some recent sports trivia.  

This just in, RGIII is really good.  Well, not Andre Luck good, but maybe Cam Newton good and probably better than Sam Bradford good.  With the second pick in the draft, the Rams are in a position that I fail to recall any other team having in recent history.  Assuming St. Louis chooses to hold onto their rookie-of-the-year-turned-bottom-five-quarterback, they will be in a position to offer 30 other teams in the league the rights to a player who may be the number one overall pick in most other drafts.  If you assume that Peyton Manning will be a free agent as well, which is not a given, the stage is set for a riveting pre-draft period.

RGIII's 4.41s-40 may have cemented him as the number 2 selection
It’s pretty obvious which teams have a legitimate shot and/or interest in making moves for either Griffin or Manning.  The qualification: your quarterback sucks.    Here are three trades that make sense but are probably way too much like a Madden-franchise-mode-superstar-heavy-mega-trade to actually happen.  What a pity.

Option 1
Washington is a pretty empty looking shell-of-a-team nowadays, but there is no denying their talent at the linebacker position.  Fletcher is a veteran but is on his way out.  Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are young stars on their way up.  Option 1 is a three-team deal that is largely dependent on Washington’s recognition of this fact.  With four solid linebackers next season they would be in a position to have a legitimate defensive unit and they’d also be doomsday prepping for the departure of Fletcher. 

The Browns, who may be in need of a quarterback more than any other NFL team, have little to give away in terms of players and will probably need to dish out several picks to join in on the sweepstakes.  They have two first round picks (4,22) to offer.

St. Louis is obviously the organization driving any trade and will probably want to trade the second pick in the draft and only the second pick in the draft.  However, the addition of a third team makes this a horse of a different color. 

Official Trade
--Give: First round pick, DeAngelo Hall
--Get: James Laurinaitis
--Give: First round pick, first round pick, second round pick, third round pick
--Get: DeAngelo Hall, first round pick (STL)
St. Louis
--Give: First round pick, James Laurinaitis
--Get: First round pick (4 overall CLE), first round pick (22 overall CLE), first round pick (WAS), third round pick (CLE)
Option 2
The Jets head into the offseason with a quarterback many rightfully doubt.  Maybe even worse, they have a wide receiver they probably only re-signed to save face and prove there is no locker room issue.  The major problem here is, of course, there is a locker room issue.  This trade expels both these problems for New York.  If St. Louis is not afraid of Holmes’ contract or personality, they could certainly agree to this.  Additionally, NYJ linebacker, Bart Scott, has been cleared to seek a trade and would pair well with Laurinaitis.
Official Trade
New York
--Give: First round pick, fourth round pick, Santonio Holmes, Bart Scott
--Get: First round pick (STL)
St. Louis
--Give: First round pick
--Get: First round pick, fourth round pick, Santonio Holmes, Bart Scott

Option 3
Probably the most unlikely and certainly the most extreme, this trade would combine both Manning and RGIII in a sign and trade, multi-team scenario.  Cut that meat! 
Official Trade
St. Louis
--Give: Justin Blackmon (use their second overall pick)
--Get: First round pick (MIA), second round pick (MIA), third round pick (IND), fourth round pick (IND), fourth round pick (MIA) 
--Give: Peyton Manning, third round pick, fourth round pick
--Get: Justin Blackmon
--Give: First round pick, second round pick, fourth round pick,
--Get: Peyton Manning

College Basketball
As a Duke fan, I spent most of this year’s season convincing myself that they lack a consistent playmaker (offensively or defensively), rely too heavily on the three-ball, and have had far too many head-scratching moments to be a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender.  The nearly season-long top 5 ranking has been due to (A) Duke bias, (B) Coach K (this one makes sense), and (C) early victories over Kansas and Michigan St. before the two teams achieved midseason form.  Yet, since the stunning come-from-behind victory over UNC in Chapel Hill, each passing game pollutes my mind and has slowly begun to dissolve my I’m-trying-to-avoid-heartbreak pessimism.  This is a problem (or maybe not?). 

There’s multiple areas of Duke’s game one needs to observe to understand why they have been successful at times and unimpressive at others.  Mainly, as has been the case for the last few seasons, Duke needs to hit three-point shots to win.  They’re ranked 21st in the country in overall three-point percentage (39%).  Perhaps even more so this year than others, Duke has achieved this success through a variety of players.  Four Dukies rank in the top 10 in the ACC in 3P% (Kelly, Dawkins, Rivers, Curry). 
Once a defensive specialist, Kelly has made great strides on the
offensive side of the ball this season.
Rivers is clearly the school’s most talented player and Curry has been flashing Curry-family-skills more now than ever before.  Yet, looking ahead, I think Duke’s success will hinge on some of its less heralded players. 

Of the guys mentioned above, Ryan Kelly has the highest percentage of the four but, as a more defensive-minded player, shoots the ball the least, averaging just over 3-½ three-point attempts/game.  At 6-foot-11, he is by far the tallest of the bunch and flashed Dirk-like awkward brilliance in the Blue Devil’s last game against Virginia in which he scored a career-high 23 points.  Duke has never lost a game in which he scored over 10 points – he’s averaging 12.2 per. 

The ex-factors for Duke are certainly the Plumlee brothers.  Younger brother Mason has made significant improvements to his game this year and, at 10.8 PPG, is one of four Duke players to average double-digit points.  John Henson of UNC is the only player in the conference averaging more than Mason’s 9-and-1/2 rebounds.  While the older Plumlee, Miles, is not as imposing offensively, he too has upped his average scoring.  In total, the Plumlee brothers have averaged 14.6 PPG in Duke’s victories and 12.1 PPG in their loses over the last two seasons. 

The central question moving forward then becomes, what combination of guards and forwards works best for the team?  Duke’s defense has been uncharacteristically porous in 2012 and, at times, downright tragic.  If Duke plans on making moves in March, don’t they need to get back to their defensive ways?  Then again, isn’t the one advantage they seem to have over most teams their three-point shot?  Loading the court with the Plumlee-wall somewhat eliminates this.  Still, having a dual-Plumlee, Kelly lineup gives them great length over almost any other team in the country.  If these three can elevate their scoring, which will naturally happen with more time together on the court, they can open things up for what can become a carousel of lively, well-rested perimeter guards.  This could be a formidable combination in March. 

Then again, they’re not really that good.

A few nights ago some friends and I were looking at various sports statistics from the early 2000’s.  It’s amazing how long ago some of the achievements seemed.   

Sports trivia is often impossible for people under the age of 40.  All you elders love to restrict yourselves to the grainy, recorded-on-Mars-looking era.  This seems inherently unfair to those of us who spent out childhood rejecting Casablanca because it was a blank and white film.  In fact, once modernity becomes the focus of trivia, we are suddenly reminded as to why we think you’re senile. 

So, it is my pleasure to present the first installment of a barrage of trivia from 1995-present.  Depending on how dedicated I am to researching recent statistics and accomplishments, as well as how much of a response I get, this may become a regular thing. 

Stay tuned for the answers tomorrow.  In the meantime, feel free to leave your answers as comments.  
Suck on it Trebek.  
1. Who set the record for most intentional walks (44) by a right-handed hitter in 2009?  Difficulty: 1/10

2. Who is the only player in MLB history to win both the all-star game MVP award and World Series MVP award in the same season? Difficulty: 2.5/10

3.  In 1999, this player finished the season with a .379 batting average.  Who was it?  Difficulty: 3/10

4. The 2007 NFL draft produced one of the greatest busts in recent memory: JaMarcus Russell.  Oakland should feel even more disappointed when you consider the six first-round draft choices who have been elected to the first-team AP all-pro roster.  Who are they? Difficulty: 4/10

5. Allen Iverson finished the 2000-01 regular season with 31.1 PPG – the best in the league.  Who was second in points per game?  HINT: He also led the league in total points scored.  Difficulty: 4/10

6. Also in 1999, this player made MBL history by recording eight RBI’s in a single inning via two grand slams (both single inning records).  Difficulty: 5/10

7. The three highest passing yard totals in a single Super Bowl are 414, 377, and 365.  Name the quarterback responsible for each total.  Difficulty: 2/10


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