SportsNet - April 2013
For the second time in four years, divisional realignment is coming to the Big Ten.
In preparation for the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten has announced a new divisional format that will kick in for the 2014 season. Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers form the Eastern Division, while Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin make up the Western division.
The new alignment emphasizes geography over historic balance, and it also does a fairly good job of preserving the conference’s many historic rivalries. The league will also transition to a nine-game league schedule in 2016, and with the exception of Indiana-Purdue, all of the permanent cross-divisional rivalries have been eliminated.
Some thoughts on the Big Ten’s realignment plan:
1. No more Legends and Leaders Divisions.
Injuries have often adversely affected teams with a realistic chance of winning an NBA championship. Most notably in recent history, between 2009 and 2012 the Boston Celtics suffered injuries to key players that greatly decreased their probability of winning championships. Likewise the Chicago Bulls lost Derrick Rose to injury in Game one of their 2012 Eastern Conference Quarter-final series against the Philadelphia 76ers which essentially killed any chance they had of winning a title last season.
This trend has continued in the 2013 postseason, with the Golden State Warriors losing All-Star forward David Lee and the Oklahoma City Thunder losing All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook for the duration of the year. Granted, even with Lee the Warriors were not considered a serious contender to win this year’s championship. But, should they be able to defeat the Denver Nuggets in the first round, losing Lee will make it extremely difficult for them to defeat the Spurs in the second round or any opponent in the Conference or NBA Finals.
We’re almost a month into the 2013 MLB season, but it’s never too early to make award predictions. With that said, here are my top three candidates to win NL MVP.
Buster Posey C-SF
Posey is the reigning NL MVP. And since he’s healthy, he earns an automatic entry to this party. Posey is the heart of the Giants’ lineup, and should be primed for another great offensive year. With three guys that can get on base hitting in front of him (Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Pablo Sandoval), Posey will have plenty of RBI opportunities as long as they stay healthy. And if Hunter Pence can provide quality support hitting behind Posey, Buster should see more driveable pitches.
Projected season line: .320/ 23 hr/ 105rbi/ 80runs/ 2 SB
Justin Upton OF-ATL
Best Team Draft
For the first time in years, Jacksonville had a weekend where just about everything went their way.
First, the Kansas City Chiefs decided that Eric Fisher was a better offensive tackle than Luke Joeckel, allowing the player many felt was the best overall prospect in the draft to fall right into the Jaguars’ laps with the 2nd overall pick.
The Jags then wisely resisted the temptation to draft Geno Smith with the first overall selection in the second round, instead opting for FIU’s Johnathan Cyprien, who many feel will be the best safety of this year’s draft.
From there, Jacksonville concentrated on adding speed and sizzle to their roster, highlighted by receivers Ace Sanders (also a star return man) and Denard Robinson in the fourth and fifth rounds. The Jags did not land a quarterback (Robinson notwithstanding), but the front office took major steps to improve the team in all three facets of the game.
Most Surprising Pick
The 2013 NFL Draft is in the books, and the Chicago Bears’ choices over the weekend raised a lot of eyebrows. GM Phil Emery didn’t add the pass-catching tight end many analysts expected, and the first player he did bring in was one of the most unlikely choices of the first round.
Here’s a look at every pick the Bears made and how successful each move is likely to be (corrected for lower expectations in the later rounds):
Round 1 (Pick 20): OG Kyle Long, Oregon
The second son of former Raider Howie Long to wind up in the NFL, Kyle Long may wind up blocking older brother Chris when the Bears play the Rams in November.
Kyle is a phenomenal athlete at 6’6”, 313 lbs, and he can play multiple positions on the line (a major need for Chicago). However, he’s also immensely raw, with just one season of college experience, and the Bears had plenty of chances to address other needs with more proven players here.
Round 2 (Pick 50): LB Jon Bostic, Florida