Happy New Year.
Hope you all have enjoyed the holidays and all of the sporting events.
What a great time of the year. The NFL is gearing up for the playoffs, college bowl season is fantastic, out-door hockey, and college basketball has started conference play. Plus international soccer leagues are about to open transfer season and the NBA has been strong since the season started.
The Vikings beat-up a tired, ready-to-be-done New York Giants, 44-7. Yes - we are back on track! I would be very careful about getting to comfortable with a win against a team that had a 0% chance of making the playoffs.
After the Vikings started 10-1 and gave a win away to the Steelers, they lost 3 of their last 5 games and really showed flaws – but we will not getting to that now.
Let’s look at their schedule.
- Of the thirteen different teams the Purple played in the year, only five had winning records. The Packers (11-5), Steelers and Ravens (9-7), Cardinals (10-6), and Bengals(10-6).
- Twelve wins were against teams with a combined record of 66-94, highlighted by wins against Green Bay (2 wins), Baltimore, Cincinnati, and two 8-8 teams in the 49ers and the Giants.
- Four losses to Arizona, Chicago (7-9), Carolina (8-8) and Pittsburgh with a combined record of 34-30.
- Total combined record of all opponents = 93-115*.
*Some of the numbers may look off – but I only used the records of conference opponents once.
I know you can only play the teams on your schedule, but there has to be more concern about a team that has played so inconsistently against poorer teams. The Vikings have weapons all over the field – yet there now is an uncertainty that was not there in the first half of the year.
Losing E.J. Henderson was huge, Antoine Winfield missed a good deal fo the season, and Bernard Berrian is finally healthy. Bryannt McKinnie is playing better of late, but was awful for a while. The offensive line as a whole needs to give Brett Favre time. Jared Allen looks like every other defensive end in the league, not like Allen who was an MVP candidate. That falls on the defensive cordinator for not scheming enough to get Allen away from double and triple teams, because you know Allen’s motor is not problem.
We still have Favre, AP, Percy and Rice – the Sydney Edition – and very good defense. Yet, I have this feeling that the Cowboys or Eagles are going to come to the Dome and blow it up.
The thought of the Vikings woes have not kept me up at night – I have a six-week-old baby girl to do that for me – but there has to be concern running through this organization. Head Coach Brad Childress has never been in this situation – a first round bye. A lot will be said about what kind of coach he really is with this much time to prepare. Childress – prove you are worthy of the contract extension. Because I don’t think you deserved it.
Best College Basketball Program Of The 2000′s
I started this around Christmas, and totally forgot about it. But this decade has been quite the decade for College Basketball powerhouses to reestablish themselves and new ones to appear.
So here the suspects: Michigan State (Champs in ’00), Duke(’01) UConn (’04), UNC (’05 and ’09), Florida (’06 and ’07), and Kansas(’08). I did not include the ’02 Maryland and ’03 Syracuse – no real reason to explain.
And here are the Top Five.
Honorable Mention: UConn - The Huskies have been monsters in the Big East and had a great team in ’04. But they were a George Mason run away from their second title of the decade in ’06. Can you imagine that game Florida Vs. UConn? Just to get to the Championship game. So much NBA talent – head – going – to – explode.
5. Duke – Winning in 2001 with arguable the best team of the decade - Jason Williams, Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Nate James and Chris Duhon. Had more wins in the 2000′s than any other program with 291, won 7 ACC Tourney Championships and four regular season Championships. But played in only two Final Fours and came up very short later in the decade – by Duke standards.
4. Florida - I know what you are thinking how can the only back-to-backers in the decade be 4th. A couple of reasons. The “What have you done for me lately“ mentality kicks in hard since the last title. Only won three SEC tourney championships, but only one outright SEC regular season championship and two co-championships.
3. Kansas - Consistency kills. From Roy Williams to Bill Self, the Jayhawks never slipped. Never fell into the funk that Florida did. One very good team with Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison that played in two Final Fours and then one great team in the 2008 Jayhawks, led by Bradon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Darrel Arthur, and Darnell Jackson. They also dominated the Big 12, like no other powerhouse dominated their conference with seven total regular season Championships.
2. Michigan State - One National Championship, four Final Four’s (with the ’99 Final Four, they made three appearances in a row. Only other team to do that is UCLA in the last ten years). Fall victim to the fact that they never dominated a conference that was very weak for most of the decade, winning only three regular season Championships and only one tourney crown in 2000. The 2005 team is one of my favorite teams of the decade with Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager, and Drew Neitzel which beat Adam Morrison’s 43 points and Gonzaga in triple-overtime in the Maui Invitational.
1. North Carolina - Two National Championships, four Final Fours, and probably has built the biggest and best recruiting/NBA pipeline ever. UNC does not rebuild – they “reload”. But then you have the Matt Doherty fail. Doherty took the team from No. 1 in the country in his first season to 8-20 in his second to 17-15 in his third. He had players, the same players the Williams won with in 2005. We can not forget Tyler Hansbrough. Without him, 2006 would have been difficult. This program has returned to dominance and there is not end in sight.
Coach of the Decade Award - Tom Izzo. Roy Williams would be a very close second, but Izzo just wins. And like many of the top coaches, his passion is obvious. Izzo has also become such a part of the community like that make the fans love him even more.
College Basketball Mini Hits
- Evan Turner is expect to be back tonight against Indiana, earlier than first thought. And all is right in the Buckeye nation.
- No. 4 Purdue beat the Gophers pretty handily, 79-60. The first half was close only because the Boilermakers could not shot the ball. That changed in the second half.
- No. 2 Texas was pushed by Arkansas 96-85. Even with foul trouble, Damion James won the game with a couple big jump shots to seal the game.
- UNC lost to Charleston 79-82. While it is big for Charleston, it is still early January. Everything will be OK. UNC will be just fine, they just need to get healthy.
The US Soccer golden boy is set to begin his 10-week loan with Everton which is a soccer club in the English Premier League.
“I am ready to enjoy it and I want to personally get myself sharp while I am here,” Donovan said Tuesday. “Tim Howard has had nothing but great things to say about this team so I am excited. Going into a World Cup year this experience will keep me sharp.”
The loan is great for Donovan as he has come into his own as a player. With his showing with the US in the Confederations Cup and with the LA Galaxy, Donovan is looking to replace the issues he has had in Europe with a good spell with Everton.
This loan also increase the amount of attention surrounding the US National Team’s opening group stage match against England in South Africa this summer. SideNote: ESPN will be showing World Cup games in 3-D. WHAT?
Donovan will need sometime to get back into shape, but this is a great situation for him. Donovan is a very sensitive person, and his play fluctuates with his emotions. So having Howard there is key. A fellow American who has seen Donovan play to the best of his ability and can be there to give guidance if needed.