Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 NCAA Tournament Preview (Running Blog)

I'm just going to throw everything into buckets, and then we'll try to apply it to the actual bracket. Let's start the way I always start NCAA basketball previews.

Teams That Rely On Three Pointers
6. Davidson (41.9% of their points come from three point field goals)
13. UMBC (40.7%)
20. Villanova (39.3%)
26. Missouri (39.0%)
37. South Dakota St (37.5%)
42. Kansas (37.4%)
45. Georgia St (37.2%)
48. Creighton (37.0%)
55. Michigan (36.5%)
72. Florida (36.0%)
82. Purdue (35.4%)
84. Auburn (35.1%)
86. Nevada (35.0%)

Teams That Defend Well Against Three Pointers
2. Penn (29.7% opponent three point field goal percentage)
3. Kentucky (29.9%)
6. Virginia (30.3%)
7. Murray St (30.8%)
8. New Mexico St (30.8%)
10. Cincinnati (30.9%)
12. Nevada (31.2%)
14. NC State (31.6%)
18. Alabama (31.9%)
19. Tennessee (31.9%)
22. Providence (32.1%)
23. St. Bonaventure (32.1%)
24. Duke (32.1%)
29. Missouri (32.3%)
33. Texas A&M (32.4%)
40. Miami (32.6%)
41. Kansas (32.7%)
42. LIU Brooklyn (32.7%)
45. Villanova (32.8%)
46. Houston (32.8%)
47. Texas Tech (32.8%)
50. Syracuse (32.8%)

Some notes on that: Virginia and Kentucky are going to THROTTLE Maryland-Baltimore County and Davidson - parlay it, hammer it, lock it up. Cincinnati is probably going to beat the shit out of Georgia State too. You might be tempted to flirt with Penn against Kansas, and maybe a huge point spread would make that okay.

Teams That Rely On Free Throws To Score
9. Syracuse (24.0% of their points come from free throws)
14. Auburn (23.2%)
26. Kentucky (22.4%)
27. Lipscomb (22.3%)
28. St. Bonaventure (22.3%)
29. Arizona State (22.3%)
37. Xavier (22.2%)
39. Bucknell (22.0%)
45. Providence (21.7%)
53. Tennessee (21.4%)
56. Alabama (21.3%)
57. Montana (21.1%)
60. Texas Tech (21.1%)

Teams That Don't Allow Their Opponent Many Free Throws
1. Duke (0.171 opponent free throws attempted per offensive play)
5. Purdue (.181)
8. Creighton (.187)
11. Kansas (.188)
13. Loyola Chicago (.190)
14. Virginia (.190)
15. Xavier (.191)
17. Villanova (.192)
21. Oklahoma (.195)
23. Texas (.195)
24. North Carolina (.196)
25. Cincinnati (.196)
29. South Dakota St (.199)
34. Clemson (.202)
45. Miami (.209)

Notes: UNC should handle Lipscomb pretty easily.

The Tuesday Play-In Games

*Please note that rankings are out of the 351 Division 1 teams, via TeamRankings.com

Long Island vs. Radford (-4.5)

LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds

  • 76.7 points for (77th), 76.8 points against (275th)
  • Pace: 121.3 total, 58.4 FGA for (156th), 62.9 FGA against (331st)
  • For: 52.3 2FG% (75th), 34.8 3FG% (177th), 22.5 FTA/game (47th)
  • Against: 50.4 2FG% (198th), 32.7 3FG% (42nd),  20.2 FTA/game (220th)
  • 28.2% offensive rebounding (127th), 72.5% defensive rebounding (209th)
  • 5.0% blocks (229th)
  • Leading scorers: G Joel Hernandez (20.9 pts, 46.5 FG%, 38.0 3FG% on 4.4 attempts/game, 66.5 FT% on 6.5 attempts/game); G Raiquan Clark (17.4 pts, 55.7 FG%, 22.4 3FG% on 0.8 attempts/game, 75.2 FT% on 6.9 attempts/game)

Radford Highlanders

  • 66.9 points for (303rd), 64.9 points against (18th)
  • Pace: 107.6 total, 54.8 FGA for (299th), 52.8 FGA against (17th)
  • For: 47.3% 2FG (227th), 35.1% 3FG (166th), 17.3 FTA/game (274th)
  • Against: 48.4% 2FG (110th), 34.2% 3FG (127th), 16.6 FTA/game (52nd)
  • 30.5% offensive rebounding (64th), 73.9% defensive rebounding (149th)
  • 5.5% blocks (190th)
  • Leading scorers: F Ed Polite (13.5 pts, 48.5 FG%, 28.6 3FG% on 2.3 attempts/game, 72.0 FT% on 4.8 attempts per game); G Carlik Jones (11.8 pts, 41.8 FG%, 31.9 3FG% on 3.3 attempts/game, 77.0 FT% on 3.6 attempts/game)

The most obvious discrepancy is the pace. Radford wants to play painfully slow, and LIU wants to play a more average kind of game. Even if LIU were to turn up the pace a bit, Radford's decent advantage on the glass is a definite point in their favor. Where LIU can bridge the gap is their decided shooting advantage, primarily in terms of two-point completion percentage and free throw attempts. However, that LIU FTA/game stat is kind of misleading because it's impacted by pace. If you adjust it to FTA/FGA, LIU's 0.385 is around the nationwide average, but Radford's defense only allows 0.314 FTA/FGA. Bovada presently has the over/under set at a measly 139 points, which means they think it'll be more Radford's style of game. I tend to agree, and I like Radford -4 or -4.5. At the very least, throw it in your teaser bag.

St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA (-3.5)

St. Bonaventure Bonnies
  • 77.9 points for (59th), 71.0 points against (130th)
  • Pace: 114.1 total, 57.8 FGA for (180th), 56.3 FGA against (106th)
  • For: 48.6 2FG% (224th), 39.8 3FG% (19th), 0.399 FTA/FGA (37th)
  • Against: 49.6 2FG% (162nd), 32.1% 3FG (23rd), 0.393 FTA/FGA (294th)
  • 29.0% offensive rebounding (109th), 73.7% defensive rebounding (161st)
  • 6.4% blocks (112th)
  • Leading scorers: G Jaylen Adams (19.8 pts, 45.4 FG%, 45.7 3FG% on 6.3 attempts/game, 85.6 FT% on 6.4 attempts/game; G Matt Mobley (18.5 pts, 42.7 FG%, 38.3 3FG% on 8.3 attempts/game, 86.1 FT% on 4.7 attempts/game)
UCLA Bruins
  • 81.9 points for (22nd), 76.3 points against (259th)
  • Pace: 125.3 total, 61.4 FGA for (39th), 63.9 FGA against (339th)
  • For: 51.3 2FG% (122nd), 38.3 3FG% (42nd), 0.359 FTA/FGA (107th)
  • Against: 47.4 2FG% (72nd), 34.9 3FG% (169th), 0.295 FTA/FGA (80th)
  • 27.9% offensive rebounding (139th), 74.6% defensive rebounding (111th)
  • 6.1% blocks (130th)
  • Leading scorer: G Aaron Holiday (20.3 pts, 46.3 FG%, 43.3 3FG% on 6.1 attempts/game, 82.6 FT% on 5.9 attempts/game)
Similar to the early game, this one features two teams who differ in pace by more than ten total possessions per game. Even considering that UCLA's Pac-12 schedule is generally more difficult than St. Bona's A10 schedule, I have a hard time picking against Adams and Mobley. They're efficient with their shots and they are both among the nation's best at the free throw line, which will help as the game comes down to the wire.

The primary worry I would have with that, though, is UCLA's 7-footer, Thomas Welsh. He takes 10.5 shots a game (though 3.4 are from three-point range) and averages 10.7 rebounds. The Bonnies' tallest players are 6'10" Amadi Ikpeze (14.2 mins, 4.7 pts, 3.1 rebs, 0.5 blks) and 6'8" Josh Ayeni (14.6 mins, 5.3 pts, 2.8 rebs, 0.1 blks). I would bank on the Bruins running a lot of their offense through Welsh, even though he's only averaged 1.4 assists per game this season.

To really fall off a cliff, here's who St. Bonaventure has faced this year with a similar profile to Welsh:

  • UCLA's Welsh (for reference): 7'0", avg 13.0 pts/10.7 rebs/0.9 blks
  • Davidson's Peyton Aldridge: 6'8", avg 21.5 pts/7.8 rebs/0.6 blks, had lines of 25/9/0, then 45/12/2, then 24/7/0 in his three games against St. Bonaventure this year
  • Richmond's Grant Golden: 6'10", avg 15.6 pts/6.7 rebs/1.2 blks, put up 24/6/1 and 9/9/0 in his two games
  • SLU's Hasahn French: 6'7", avg 9.3 pts/7.1 rebs/1.8 blks, totaled 9/5/2 and 6/16/3 in his two games
  • VCU's Justin Tillman: 6'8", avg 18.9 pts/9.9 rebs/1.0 blks, finished with 20/10/2
  • URI's Cyril Langevine: 6'8", avg 5.9 pts/5.7 rebs/1.2 blks, finished with 2/9/2 and 10/10/3
  • SJU's Pierfrancesco Oliva: 6'8", avg 6.6 pts/6.7 rebs/0.7 blks, totaled 9/8/2 and 7/7/1
  • Cuse's Oshae Brissett: 6'8", avg 14.7 pts/8.8 rebs/0/7 blks, finished with 15/13/0
  • UB's Nick Perkins: 6'9", avg 16.6 pts/6.2 rebs/0.7 blks, put up 21/8/1
What does that tell us? Well, for starters, St. Bonaventure won 10 of the 14 games against the players listed above (the losses were to SJU once, tournament-bound URI once, and tournament-bound Davidson twice). I tend to lean toward discounting Davidson and Aldridge because he's undoubtedly their best player, whereas Welsh is undoubtedly a role player for UCLA. Everyone else seems to have put up numbers in line with their season averages (both in terms of points and rebounds), and the Bonnies won the vast majority of those games. My worry about Welsh is basically mitigated - I don't know how they do it, but St. Bonaventure has been able to overcome their size disadvantage. Especially considering that Bovada has the total at 155 points (right in their usual range), I like the Bonnies. 



points for, points against
Pace: total, FGA for, FGA against
For: 2FG%, 3FG%, FTA/FGA
Against: 2FG%, 3FG%, FTA/FGA
offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding
blocks
Leading scorer

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Winter 2018 Flyers Top 25 Under 25 Ballot



For reference, here's where I landed this past summer:
1. Sean Couturier
2. Ivan Provorov
3. Shayne Gostisbehere
4. Travis Konecny
5. Scott Laughton
6. Travis Sanheim
7. Sam Morin
8. Phil Myers
9. Robert Hagg
10. Oskar Lindblom
11. Nolan Patrick
12. Mike Vecchione
13. Taylor Leier
14. Mikhail Vorobyov
15. Radel Fazleev
16. German Rubtsov
17. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
18. Mark Friedman
19. Wade Allison
20. Pascal Laberge
21. Isaac Ratcliffe
22. Anthony Stolarz
23. Alex Lyon
24. Carter Hart
25. Felix Sandstrom
26. David Kase
27. Kirill Ustimenko
28. Morgan Frost

I also cheated and made a second one based on slightly different criteria:
1. Ivan Provorov
2. Sean Couturier
3. Shayne Gostisbehere
4. Nolan Patrick
5. Travis Konecny
6. Oskar Lindblom
7. Travis Sanheim
8. Sam Morin
9. Robert Hagg
10. Philippe Myers
11. Scott Laughton
12. Carter Hart
13. Felix Sandstrom
14. Taylor Leier
15. Mike Vecchione
16. Wade Allison
17. Isaac Ratcliffe
18. German Rubtsov
19. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
20. Anthony Stolarz
21. Pascal Laberge
22. Mikhail Vorobyov
23. Morgan Frost
24. Matt Strome
25. Alex Lyon

I was at least a little bit wrong on Lindblom and Allison, and I was SUPER fucking wrong on Frost. But, overall, I don't hate that list. We'll lose Couturier and Lyon to the age limit this time around, so let's jump right in.

1. Ivan Provorov
2. Shayne Gostisbehere
These two are going to anchor the blueline for a very long time. Perhaps more importantly, though, the fact that the front office hit home runs with this pair means the rest of the blueline prospect pool is expendable if the right deal comes along. We can afford to lose Hagg, Morin, Myers, or even (gulp) Sanheim to improve the team in other areas if we need it. Although that might not even be necessary because....

3. Nolan Patrick
4. Travis Konecny
5. Scott Laughton
6. Oskar Lindblom
7. Morgan Frost
8. Wade Allison...the Flyers have a SHIT TON of high-end forward prospects. That group of six projects to be a top-six center, a top-six winger, a middle-six center, a middle-six winger, and two additional pieces that could range from elite, All-Star caliber talents to "just okay" NHLers. Consider the fact that Taylor Leier was once our second-best forward prospect, and I'm certainly okay with this upgrade. 

9. Carter Hart
For a few editions of this list, there was a legitimate battle for the spot of Top Goalie Prospect between Hart, Felix Sandstrom, Anthony Stolarz, and maybe even Alex Lyon. That competition has ended, and Carter Hart walked out of the ring after Stone Cold Stunnering everyone in his path. The only reason I don't put him right behind Provorov-Gostisbehere-Patrick-Konecny is because goalies are weird. 

10. Travis Sanheim
11. Phil Myers
12. Robert Hagg
13. Sam Morin
I rank the second tier of d-man prospects like this, though I would understand if your ordering of the four was different. Sanheim is the best and most complete, and I think the most frustrating part of this season so far is the coaching staff's criminal misuse of him. I prefer Myers next because of his handedness and his complete skill set. Hagg obviously has the trust of the coaches, which bumps him above Morin in my book. Though, to reference what I said in the Provorov/Ghost paragraph, if we had to trade a blueliner I'd be happiest to see Hagg go. 

12. Mike Vecchione
13. Taylor Leier
14. Mikhail Vorobyev
15. German Rubtsov
16. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Simply put, I have no doubt that any of this group of five could slot into one of Scott Laughton's wing spots on a nightly basis and at least hold their own at the NHL level. That Valtteri Filppula, Jori Lehtera, and Dale Weise combine to make more than $12 million this season makes me want to die. 

17. Anthony Stolarz
18. Felix Sandstrom
I'm putting the goalies ahead of the rest of the babies, just because goalies are weird. Stolarz and Sandstrom have both fallen off the radar screen due to injuries and due to Carter Hart's otherworldly performance, but they are both still very highly-rated prospects. I dread the day we trade them both, end up getting nothing in return, and then have to watch them anchor their new teams in the Stanley Cup Final. 

19. Mark Friedman
The forgotten member of the defensive prospects, it's a real credit to the organization that he is this far down the list. He's small but that has yet to stop him, and I imagine he'll see time as an injury call-up once Myers and Morin make the jump from the AHL to the NHL rotation. 

20. Tyrell Goulbourne
He's on the NHL team already, so that's good? To be honest I completely forgot about him until I looked up the salary figures for the three overpaid vets. This 20 spot feels right for him.

21. Isaac Ratcliffe
22. Radel Fazleev
23. Matt Strome
24. Pascal Laberge
I am sad to see Laberge fall off as much as he has. He was primed to have a Frost-like breakout season, and then his skull was obliterated on a cheapshot and he hasn't been the same since. Concussions are wonky, and you never know how an individual brain is going to respond. But here's hoping that he stabilizes and gets back to the high-end prospect he was two years ago. 

25. Kirill Ustimenko
He was the Rinaldo pick, so he's going to lock up this 25th spot until his 25th birthday in January 2024.

Players I left off/completely forgot about:
  • Terrance Amorosa - No qualms. 
  • Cole Bardreau - Not a big deal. 
  • David Bernhardt - Feels like he's probably in the 25-30 range. 
  • Connor Bunnaman - Damn, should have had him in that 20-24 group of forwards.
  • Noah Cates - He's really young, right?
  • David Drake - No qualms. 
  • Ivan Fedotov - We have too many goalies. 
  • Linus Hogberg - He continued the annual tradition of WJC coaches under-utilizing Flyers prospects, which sadly probably hurt my opinion of him. 
  • Wyatt Kalynuk - No qualms. 
  • David Kase - He's another guy that probably belongs in that last tier of forwards.
  • Tanner Laczynski - Shit. He's probably done enough to fall just behind that Vecchione-Rubtsov tier. 
  • Ollie Lycksell - Good try BSH, that's a fake name. 
  • Cooper Marody - Whoops! Toss him in the Ratcliff-Strome range.
  • Danick Marter - Crap, I did a terrible job. He's in that 12-16 range for sure. 
  • Anthony Salinitri - Meh, no qualms. 
  • Maksim Sushko - I literally just followed him on Twitter this morning because I like him so much. He's gotta go in that 20-ish range. 
  • Carsen Twarynski - We have too many damn prospects. 
  • Brendan Warren - No qualms. 
  • Reese Willcox - No qualms. 
My Final Corrected Updated Ranking:
1. Ivan Provorov
2. Shayne Gostisbehere
3. Nolan Patrick
4. Travis Konecny
5. Scott Laughton
6. Oskar Lindblom
7. Morgan Frost
8. Wade Allison
9. Carter Hart
10. Travis Sanheim
11. Phil Myers
12. Robert Hagg
13. Sam Morin
14. Danick Martel
15. Mike Vecchione
16. Taylor Leier
17. Mikhail Vorobyev
18. German Rubtsov
19. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
20. Tanner Laczynski
21. Anthony Stolarz
22. Felix Sandstrom
23. Mark Friedman
24. Maksim Sushko
25. Isaac Ratcliffe
Honorable Mention (in order from 26-33)
Tyrell Goulbourne
Radel Fazleev
Connor Bunnaman
Matt Strome
David Kase
Pascal Laberge
Cooper Marody
Kirill Ustimenko

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Let's Make Some Money On The B1G/ACC Challenge Tonight

College basketball is the best. It's better than NBA because the players are just bad enough to be entertaining and they can play a much more physical game. It's better than any kind of football because football is a stupid sport. It's better than the ice sport because the Flyers have drained all of the fun out of hockey for everyone in Philadelphia.

The only negative about college basketball is the fact that quite literally everything about it is a money grab for the NCAA and its partners. Take, for example, the currently-ongoing Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Nobody gives a shit about the rivalry between these two conferences, but they can throw half a dozen decent teams on the ESPN family of networks and sheep like us will gobble it up. I can't wait to Experience The Childlike Excitement Of The Holidays With Lexus every 12 minutes for four hours tonight!

But if the NCAA and ESPN can make a bunch of money off of hokey 'challenges' like this one, we might as well try to make some too. There are five games tonight:

  • Florida State (-5) at Rutgers, 7pm
  • Northwestern (-1.5) at Georgia Tech, 7pm
  • #17 Louisville at Purdue (-8), 8pm
  • Illinois at Wake Forest (-2.5), 9pm
  • Iowa at Virginia Tech (-9.5), 9pm
I would think they probably hoped to have more than one ranked team playing tonight, but this whole challenge is really just the undercard for #5 Notre Dame at #3 Michigan State on Thursday. 

We will start by looking at a matchup of undefeated teams who haven't been making too much noise nationally.

Florida State at Rutgers

As I usually do, we'll start by looking at how teams score. TeamRankings has a great selection of stats to reference, and I like to compare percentage of points that teams get from two-point shots, three-point shots, and free throws. 

Florida State scores their points via:
  • 56.7% from two-pointers (39th-most) out of 351 teams)
  • 31.0% from three-pointers (173rd-most)
  • 12.3% from free throws (343rd-most)
So we have a Seminoles team that is extremely reliant on two-point shots and extremely Not Reliant on free throws. They're almost directly in the middle of the road on three-point reliance. How does Rutgers defend these different types of shots?

Rutgers' opponents shoot:
  • 38.8% on two-pointers (8th-lowest)
  • 29.3% on three-pointers (44th-lowest)
  • 9.4 free throw attempts per game (lowest in the country)
It is extremely important to remember that neither of these teams have played anybody good yet, but that tends to be the case for most teams at this point in the season. Rutgers' defense on two-point shots is going to be an issue for FSU, and Rutgers' discipline might mean FSU only shoots ten free throws tonight. Relatively speaking, Rutgers' weakness is its three point defense - but FSU is shooting just 35.6% from three this season (151st in the country). 

I would be willing to be that Florida State will finish the game with considerably less than their season average 91.0 points per game. But what about the other side?

Rutgers scores their points via:
  • 59.0% from two-pointers (16th-most)
  • 22.3% from three-pointers (323rd-most)
  • 18.1% from free throws (234th-most)
And Florida State's opponents shoot:
  • 41.2% on two-pointers (22nd-lowest)
  • 30.5% on three-pointers (61st-lowest)
  • 18.6 free throw attempts per game (118th-lowest)
So I would also be willing to bet that Rutgers will finish below their season average, which is a paltry 69.8 points. I expect both teams to miss their numbers, but the million dollar question is by how much each will miss. Bovada has the team lines set as follows:
  • FSU: over/under 72.5 points, 18.5 points below their season average
  • Rutgers: over/under 67.5 points, 2.3 points below their season average
Without breaking down all six of the teams that FSU has played and all five of the teams that Rutgers has played, we can't know why the discrepancy there is so big. The largest difference, to my eye, is Rutgers not allowing free throws. But Florida State isn't reliant on them that much, certainly not 18.5 points worth. 

The Play: FSU -5 and FSU team total over 72.5

Louisville at Purdue & Iowa at Virginia Tech

I'm lumping these two together because Purdue is favored by 8.5, Virginia Tech is favored by 9.5, and I am as addicted to teasers as I am to the Oxford comma. 

The first game is a great illustration of why early season rankings don't mean a goddamn thing. Purdue is unranked, but they beat a decent Marquette team, lost to decent Tennessee and Western Kentucky teams, and beat (what was supposed to be) a great Arizona team. Louisville is ranked #17 due to their 4-0 run through George Mason, Omaha, Southern Illinois, and St. Francis (PA). 

Those schedule discrepancies basically means we can't really analyze season statistics for this matchup. Purdue is going to look worse because they've played four actual games, and Louisville is going to look great because they've been beating up on fraternity intramural teams. 

This is exactly why I'm addicted to teasers. I don't know anything, and I'm actively not going to learn anything before I bet, but Vegas says Purdue is 8.5 points better so we'll tease away half of that and get a nice easy spread to cover. 

You know what? I'm going to do the same exact thing for the second game. I'm not even going to look up the ESPN schedules for Iowa and Virginia Tech to see who they have played so far. Just throw the favorite right into the goddamn tease bag baby!

The Play: Five Point Teaser (-120) - Purdue -3 & Va Tech -4.5

Monday, October 30, 2017

Are The 2017 Eagles Better Than The 2004 Eagles?

Looks like we're headed for a... breakdown! (RIP Tom Petty)

Quarterback: Donovan McNabb vs. Carson Wentz

Look man, I don't want to disparage McNabb's career. He gets way too much shit from Eagles fans because he never led us all the way to a Lombardi Trophy, but he's the most accomplished Eagles quarterback since Norm Van Brocklin.

That said, I think we really might have something special on our hands with Carson Wentz. Throw out the physical tools - which he obviously has - because what really excites me about Wentz is his attitude.

His Players Tribune piece is a great example of his demeanor as a player. He welcomes contact, he doesn't expect to be treated special because he's a quarterback, and I don't think I've seen him complain on the field during his entire career.

The other obvious aspect of Wentz that we need to address is his religion. I'm not a very religious person, and it generally annoys me if athletes are especially in-your-face about their beliefs. Wentz is, unquestionably, a religious person - but I never feel like he's forcing it on anybody. I think he genuinely just wants to believe what he believes, and so far that has manifested itself in a team without distraction or controversy. That type of locker room leadership, especially as this magical soon-to-be-25-year-old ages, should draw comparisons to another NFL locker room with a steady leader at the helm.

Running Backs: Brian Westbrook, Dorsey Levens, Reno Mahe vs. LeGarrette Blount, Weldell Smallwood, Corey Clement

I love Brian Westbrook. It's probably a little bit of a Villanova thing, but he's probably my favorite Eagle from that early-2000's team. But I think the overall talent level of Blount-Smallwood-Clement is just too much for Dorsey Levens and Reno Mahe to match up with.

Maybe that 2003 team with Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley could match up, but not the 2004 version.

Receivers: Terrell Owens, Todd Pinkston, LJ Smith, Chad Lewis, Freddie Mitchell, Greg Lewis vs. Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffeey, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, Mack Hollins

TO was fifth in the league in receiving yards per game in 2004 and third in the league in receiving touchdowns. Pinkston was third in the league with 18.8 yards per reception. LJ Smith scored five touchdowns. Freddie Mitchell.. uh... well okay let's move on to this year's team.

Ertz is seventh among all players (not just tight ends) in receptions, eighth in receiving yards, and third in receiving touchdowns. Agholor is tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns. The other four from this year's team group nicely into two categories: veterans who will be asked to come up big down the stretch (Jeffery and Smith) and rookies young guys who will be expected contribute for years to come.

Even as dominant as TO was, I think Ertz is going to match his 77 catches, 1200 yards, and 14 touchdowns. If you double his line from the first eight games, he's on pace for 86 catches, 1056 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Even if TO maintains a slight edge, the 2017 Eagles are extremely deep from spots 2-6 - the 2004 Eagles were.... not.

Kicker: David Akers vs. Jake Elliott

We all love David Akers, and rightfully so. In his 12 years as an Eagle, he was 441 for 447 on extra points and 294 for 357 on field goals (including 93.1% on attempts within 40 yards). BUT (and this is a big one) he didn't kick his 63-yard career-long until he was with the 49ers.

Jake Elliott kicked his 61-yard bomb right at home at Lincoln Financial Field, and Joel Embiid was there to witness it.

I'm going to call this one a tie for now, but if Elliott hits another bomb with a game on the line - or, dear lord, in the playoffs - I'm reserving my right to swing in his favor.

Defensive Line: Corey Simon, Hugh Douglas, Jevon Kearse, Sam Rayburn, Darwin Walker,  Hollis Thomas, Derrick Burgess,  vs. Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Beau Allen

It's this year's team and I'm sure there is plenty of material for you to read if you don't believe me. Perhaps you might like this preseason USA Today article where the Birds' d-line was ranked third-best in the league. Or there's this Jeff McLane piece after the season opener. You might even like this piece from Dave Zangaro following yesterday's trouncing of the 49ers. 

Yeah, it's the 2017 version.

Linebackers: Jeremiah Trotter, Dhani Jones, Ike Reese, Keith Adams, Mark Simoneau vs. Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill
Defensive Backs: Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis, Roderick Hood vs. Malcolm Jenkins, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Rodney McLeod

I'm going to lump these two groups together because I essentially feel exactly the same about both. This year's units are certainly fine. I really like Jalen Mills, and the linebackers and defensive backs have been solid (at least) to my eyes basically all season. They certainly get passing grades, especially considering the losses of presumed starters Ronald Darby and Jordan Hicks.

But man, those 2004 units were incredible. Trotter and Jones were two of the best (and most likable) Eagles linebackers ever. That secondary is insane, and the only reason they don't get remembered more vividly is because they followed the team that lined up Dawkins-Sheppard-Lewis-Brown-Troy Vincent-Bobby Taylor, which is quite possibly the best defensive backfield of all time.

Final Verdict

Both teams are very good, and they are both chock full of likable players who are also extremely talented. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Idea: The NHL Young Guns All Star Game

Despite the fact that we are not all that far into this NHL season, today's post Down Goes Brown (link here) focused on the mid-season All Star game. Specifically, he provided ten suggestions for revamping the ASG (and the weekend as a whole) to make it more interesting.

His final suggestion, and to my eyes the one he prefers the most, is a callback to everyone's favorite team from last Fall's World Cup of Hockey:
The idea: A “Young Guns” all-star game 
You remember the Young Guns, a.k.a. Team North America from last year’s World Cup? Bunch of 23-and-under kids, stole the show by being ridiculously fun, and ended up as basically the only thing anyone remembers from that tournament? Let’s turn the all-star weekend over to them. 
Pros: Connor McDavid vs. Auston Matthews. Jack Eichel on a line with Nolan Patrick. And unlike the World Cup, you’d get all the young European stars, too, so Patrik Laine, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl and friends get to join in the fun. 
The World Cup young guns were all skill and speed, exactly the sort of game that the NHL should want to showcase at a marquee event. You wouldn’t get the same effort level in an all-star game, of course, but these guys are young enough that they’d probably want to put on a show. And since most of them are still on entry-level contracts, the cash bonus the NHL offers to the winning team might actually matter to them. 
Cons: I’m not completely sure there is one. Sure, you’d lose out on the Crosbys and Ovechkins, but those guys don’t want to play in these things, anyway. The veterans have earned their weekend off. Let the kids have the spotlight, and spend a few days really selling the future of the sport. 
Bottom line: Make it happen, NHL.
I think there is a lot to like with the Young Guns All Star Game. You could still include the older (or "in their prime") stars as part of the Skills Competition, as coach(es) for each youth team, or as announcers or interviewers. We are also probably going to have to dip into that pool to get some goalies. But the actual game seems like it'd benefit from this format in two ways:

  • Maybe I'm just talking out of my ass, but I think the notion is kids have fresher legs and more energy than grizzled vets. And a great performance on a national stage does a lot more for a player like Nolan Patrick than it would for last year's ASG MVP Wayne Simmonds. One key issue with any league's All Star Game is a lack of effort, and the youth movement should help with that.
  • Similar to the national exposure point in that last bullet, a piece of a $1 million prize pool means more to a kid making (at most) $925,000 in salary than it does to a guy who has been making $5 million or $7 million or $10.5 million for almost a decade. 
One issue that would arise here, if we're banking on the fact that a full-year's-salary-sized performance bonus would be a key reason for effort, is 22- and 23-year-old players who have signed real NHL contracts. Think Shayne Gostisbehere's new $4.5 million deal or the $12.5 million behemoth that Connor McDavid is going to start next season. Those guys have shined, and are getting paid for it. 

I want my Young Gun All Star Game to be guys who are hungry for the Discover Card Grand Prize (TM). I want these games to mean a new car for the player and his mom, and a Caribbean vacation for him and his friend and/or girlfriend. I want every goal allowed by a lazy backcheck to be met with a furious wrath on the bench. And so, I think we have to limit these rosters to guys who are playing on entry-level contracts during the season in which the ASG takes place. 

Without further ado (you knew I was going here, right?) let's see who'd make up each division's roster. Oh and by the way we're keeping the 3-on-3 format because it fuckin' ROCKS. That means we need 6-7 forwards, 3-4 defensemen, and a goalie per team - plus an All Star Coach (and Assistant Coach), which I will determine based on a hypothetical NHL.com fan vote. 

Metropolitan Division

Forwards:
Sonny Milano, Columbus Blue Jackets
Nico Hischier, New Jersey Devils
Matthew Barzal, New York Islanders
Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers
Nolan Patrick, Philadelphia Flyers
Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jakub Vrana, Washington Capitals

Defensemen:
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils
Ivan Provorov, Philadelphia Flyers
Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes

Honorable Mention:
Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
Brett Pesce, Carolina Hurricanes
Jacob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Columbus Blue Jackets
Miles Wood, New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils
Joshua Ho-Sang, New York Islanders
Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers
Brady Skjei, New York Rangers
Travis Konecny, Philadelphia Flyers

Some notes:
  • That Carolina blue line is crazy. You could make the case for any one of Hanifin/Pesce/Slavin, but I went with Hanifin because he leads that trio in points, and because I think he's going to end up being the best of the bunch. 
  • On the other end up the spectrum, Washington's only two potential selections were Vrana and Madison Bowey. Unrelated but kind of related, Filip Forsberg would not qualify for this tournament because he recently earned a contract worth $6 million per year. 
  • The Penguins, like the Capitals, do not have a ton of options for this ELC tournament. But Guentzel is a slam-dunk selection. 
  • For the Blue Jackets (Milano-Bjorkstrand), Islanders (Barzal-Ho-Sang), and Rangers (Buchnevich-Vesey), I had to make a choice between two deserving candidates. I tried to roll a bunch of quick research into each pick, and I focused primarily on scoring and usage. 
  • Coach: Wayne Simmonds, as voted by NHL fans
  • Assistant Coach: Alex Ovechkin (substitute for Sidney Crosby, who was voted second behind Simmonds by fans but declined the position due to a lower body injury (full diaper))
Atlantic Division

Forwards
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Jared McCann, Florida Panthers
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs

Defensemen
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
Victor Mete, Montreal Canadiens
Colin White, Ottawa Senators
Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning

Honorable Mention
Anders Bjork, Boston Bruins
Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins
Sam Reinhart, Buffalo Sabres
Justin Bailey, Buffalo Sabres
Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings
Logan Brown, Ottawa Senators
Artturi Lehkonen, Montreal Canadiens

Some notes:
  • For Ottawa, your options are White (who is currently injured and was just able to start practicing without a non-contact jersey this week) or Brown (who has one assist in three games this year). Not great!
  • You can't possibly make this Atlantic roster without including all three Leafs boys. You just can't. 
Western Conference coming tomorrow. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Hockeyviz Recap - Flyers vs. Predators

For whatever reason, the Hockeyviz charts and visuals for last night's abysmal Flyers game really got me juiced up this morning. There are a couple of quick thoughts that I have that I believe can be accurately illustrated by Micah's work. Let's jump in.

Player Usage



  • The Lehtera-Filppula line and the MacDonald pair were on the ice for a goal against? Color me shocked. To be fair, it was an offensive zone turnover and then a goal on the rush, but MacDonald played the rush worse than my girlfriend playing NHL18 and Lehtera was still on Nashville's side of the ice when the puck entered the net. 
  • Dale Weise played on the power play! Our pets heads are falling off and we are only on the second bullet point. 
  • MacDonald played the fewest 5-on-5 (and total) minutes out of all the defensemen. I take that as an unquestionably good sign. 
Zone Deployment
  • Why in the fucking shitting heck are we burying the Giroux-Couturier-Voracek line like this? They should be given EVERY offensive zone draw following a whistle. Literally every single time one of the shittier lines can force the opposing goalie to cover the puck, Hakstol should send out 28-14-93 with Ghost and Hagg (or Sanheim) so we can try to score some freakin' goals. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

'Who Should We Bet On In College Basketball?' Week - Part One, Most Talented Duos

As college basketball season approaches, we have two things to really research.

The first question is extremely easy to answer: Is Villanova going to be good? The answer is yes, they'll win the Big East (again) and their tournament run will depend on how good Super Freshman Omari Spellman ends up being.

The second questions is arguably even more important, though: Who should we be betting on? With college basketball, it always seems to be a 'shoot from the hip' situation. You can dig deep into advanced metrics on https://www.teamrankings.com/ncb/stats/, but really the most fun way to gamble is just to know which teams are good and then win money on them.

With that in mind, this week happens to be "Week of College Basketball Lists" on Barstool, hosted by your boy Reags. Yesterday's entry was the 50 best players in the country, which will allow us to cherry pick teams with two (and even three) elite players. Throw them in your memory bank and file them under "Good", and let's ride.

(Note: I'm pulling the Honorable Mentions from Reags' Twitter replies to people who asked him about certain players.)

Duke - #4 Marvin Bagley, #9 Grayson Allen, #25 Trevon Duval, #50 Wendell Carter

This is just plain unfair. Duke is returning Allen (a National Player of the Year contender) and surrounding him with:

  • Duval (the top point guard in this year's freshman class)
  • Carter (the second-best power forward and fifth overall recruit in the class), 
  • Bagley (the top power forward and top overall player in the entire class)
And that doesn't even include Gary Trent, who is the highest-ranked shooting guard in this year's incoming freshman class. Duke has the potential to be fucking sick this year.

Arizona - #6 Allonzo Trier, #15 DeAndre Ayton

Michigan State - #1 Miles Bridges, #31 Nick Ward

Villanova - #2 Jalen Brunson, #43 Donte Divincenzo

Seton Hall - #5 Angel Delgado, #42 Khadeen Carrington

Notre Dame - #10 Bonzie Colson, #28 Matt Farrell

Xavier - #7 Trevon Bluiett, #44 JP Macura

Kentucky - #19 Hami Diallo, #29 Kevin Knox

USC - #24 Chime Metu, #27 Bennie Boatwright

Cincinnati - #30 Jacob Evans, HM Gary Clark

Maryland - #35 Justin Jackson, HM Kevin Huerter

Providence - HM Kyron Cartwright, HM Rodney Bullock