Monday, August 27, 2012

2012 US Open Men's Predictions

Since the US Open starts today, we must make our annual predictions. This year  field is as open as ever. For the first time in a while, we could have someone outside of Federer, Djokovic, or Nadal win the tournament on the men's side. Now that Rafael Nadal won't be playing, this makes for a very interesting tournament. With that, here's the predictions:

Winner: Novak Djokovic

Even though he's ranked #2 in the world, the draw is set up very well for him. Without Nadal, Djokovic won't face anybody of great concern until the final. I see him making the final easily. I believe he will face Roger Federer and defeat him as he has done the past two years in the semifinals. Granted, Djokovic hasn't played his greatest tennis since the French Open, but he won the title in Toronto and reached the final in Cincinnati. Playing best of 5 sets favors him since Federer has a tougher draw and is older. While he may not be the better player, I believe Djokovic can win this tournament. 

Finals Matchup: Djokovic vs. Federer

I think Federer will have the power to beat Andy Murray in the semifinals. While Murray is on a bit of a high after reaching his first Wimbledon final and winning the Olympic gold over Federer, I still feel Federer is too much for Murray, especially on the hard courts. Murray is also coming off a minor knee injury, so we don't know how that will play in. 

Surprise Player: John Isner

My big prediction is that American John Isner will reach the semifinals. This is a bit of an odd year for him. With Nadal out, David Ferrer is the #4 seed and the highest ranked player in that part of the draw. While Ferrer has reached the semifinals before, he lost last year to Andy Roddick in 4 sets. He doesn't have as consistent a game on the hard courts. Evidenced by losing in the 1st round at Cincinnati. This is a big opportunity for John Isner. He just won the Winston Salem Open over Berdych. He made the quarterfinals last year at the US Open and I believe he will advance farther this year. He's set up for a quarterfinals matchup against David Ferrer and assuming his game is on, I predict he will beat Ferrer.

Sleeper: Janko Tipsarevic

Again, another guy who benefits from Nadal not being in the draw. The Ferrer section is wide open. When Tipsarevic is on, he can beat top players like Ferrer and Isner. He could make it to the semifinals if all is perfect. He's someone who could lose anywhere from the 4th round to the semifinals. He has the game, he just has to be consistent. 

Early Exit Prediction: Andy Roddick

Maybe not much of a surpise, but as the 22nd ranked player in the world, you would expect much more from him. He has played poorly in the Grand Slams this season and is in danger of not making the quarterfinals, which he has done so consistently in at least one major a year since his career began in 2001. He could easily lose in the 1st or 2nd round. Part of the problem is fitness. He's at that point in his career where playing best of 5 sets is difficult and hard to rebound from. Who knows, he could also be nearing the end of his career as well.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Can the Devils Make the Ultimate Comeback?

The Devils began this series down 3-0 to the LA Kings. The won Game 4 in Los Angeles. The only time in history an NHL team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series was the Philadelphia Flyers a couple years ago.

Now facing a 3-1 deficit, the Devils have an uphill battle. They have to get past Jonathan Quick three games in a row, which is not easy. With that being said, hockey is a different beast. Unlike other major sports, coming back from a 3-0 deficit isn't out of the realm of possibility. Even though it has only been done once, the Devils just need to take it game by game.

Now, will the Devils make the comeback? Unlikely. If the Devils were able to win the next three games, that would be an absolute miracle. Maybe the best effort in NHL history since we're in the Stanley Cup Finals. Something tells me Jonathan Quick won't let enough goals past him to make this possible.

Where will Chad Ochocinco Go from Here?

The Patriots just released WR Chad Ochocinco. This move was long overdue. The Patriots signed Jabar Gaffney this offseason and the feeling was that Ochocinco was going to be the fifth receiver at best. No use in keeping him. He didn't pick up the playbook well and there weren't any signs that was going to change. Now let's look to the future for Chad Ochocinco:

He's got talent. The question is will teams be fearful after his terrible performance last year. I believe some team will take a chance on him. It could be because of injury or a player getting cut, but he should be on a roster before the regular season begins. There's not that many teams in the market for him, but one is all it takes. The Raiders, 49ers, Chargers, Seahawks, Rams, and Broncos are possibilities. These teams all have needs at receiver and could all use a nice complementary receiver with experience. I don't think this is the end of the ride for Chad Ochocinco.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Celtics vs. Heat Game 7 Who Wins?

The Celtics had their chance in Game 6. Just when the Heat seem to be written off, they find a way to claw back with their backs against the wall. The perception is that Dwayne Wade is the leader of the team, but LeBron James is really the catalyst. Even if Wade plays well, they need a great game from LeBron to win this game.

Paul Pierce was uncharacteristically bad in Game 6. He was 4-18 from the field and only had 9 points. Naturally, the Celtics need him to step up in order to win Game 7. They also lost the rebounding battle and Rajon Rondo had 7 turnovers. He needs to be spectacular in this game. Unfortunately, if LeBron James goes off for 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists, the Celtics have no chance in this game. The key will be to contain LeBron getting to the basket.

Prediction: Heat win. They have the added advantage of being at home. The Celtics outplayed them for four out of the first five games, but when LeBron James plays as the primary scorer, that's when the Heat are at their best. I expect Coach Spoelstra to do the same and let LeBron take control. This may be the last game for the Celtics Big 3.

Sharapova vs. Errani Who Wins the French Open?

Easy choice: Sharapova. She's only dropped one set the entire tournament and it looks like she'll complete the career slam. Errani is a formidable opponent, as she's played incredibly well over the past two weeks, but Sharapova will simply overpower her. I see this as an easy straight sets win for Sharapova. Errani hits decent shots, but lacks anything powerful to beat Sharapova. 

Errani has faced some trouble at the French Open. There's no room for error against Sharapova. Her shots are too good right now and the serve has been great. While Errani's run has been remarkable, I see this tournament as sort of having been a fluke for her. She just won the women's doubles title today and is now in the single's final. She came out of nowhere. This tournament will boost Errani's ranking to #10 in the world, but Sharapova is playing like a #1 right now. 

Was Rob Gronkowski Deal Worth it

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski signed a 6-year $53 contract extension today making it the biggest deal for a tight end in league history. No doubt the extension was worth the money. He's arguably the best tight end in the league and is Tom Brady's favorite target over the middle, not just in the red zone. He led all tight ends in receiving with 1,327 yards and had 17 touchdowns. Those numbers make him the best tight end.

Yet, his value isn't just through the numbers. Over the last couple years, Tom Brady has relied more and more on his tight ends. The Patriots aside from Wes Welker have a pretty mediocre receiving corps, which is why the tight ends are so critical. With 90 receptions last season, Gronkowski was a favorite of Brady's. The Patriots made a surprising, but logical move today. If Gronkowski continues to play at this high level, he will be a future Hall of Fame tight end.

Euro 2012 Predictions

This should be a great tournament. A lot of competition, especially in Groups B and C with Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, and Spain. These countries are definitely the frontrunners to win the tournament. They've had the most success in international play and have the most talent. Here's who will likely come out of each group:

Group A:

Russia and Poland. By far the weakest group in the Euro 2012. With the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and Greece, there really isn't any threat of these teams going deep into the tournament. With that being said, I like Russia and Poland to come out of this group. These teams haven't had a lot of international success, especially in the Euro tournaments, but this year is different. Russia and Poland have more talent this year and with weak competition in their group, I expect these teams to come out into the knockout stage.

Group B:

Germany and the Netherlands. Many aren't picking the Netherlands to advance, but they seem to forget that this team was in the finals of the World Cup two years ago. Portugal has some ability and you can never discount a team with Christiano Ronaldo playing on it, but Germany and the Netherlands are more well-rounded with better defenses and scoring threats. Denmark shouldn't pose much of a problem either.

Group C:

Italy and Spain. This is the easiest group to predict. Italy and Spain are proven teams with boatloads of talent. Spain just won the World Cup two years ago and their forwards looks terrific. Italy isn't as stacked as Spain, but they make up for it with good coaching and great game planning. Ireland and Croatia have never been international players and still lack the talent to go far in tournaments.

Group D:

England and France. This group will probably be the most competitive. England and France are great teams, but won't totally overpower Sweden and Ukraine. England and France have been in transition for the last few years. They have a new generation of players. The one wild-card here could be experience. Many players on England and France only have a limited number of international caps under their belts. I expect the superstars on England like John Terry and Steven Gerrard to take charge though. France doesn't have a superstar, but a group of more than capable players who can defend well and stretch the field.

Nadal vs. Djokovic Who Wins?

Very intriguing matchup. On paper, the logical pick would be Rafael Nadal based on his dominance on clay. He hasn't lost a set the entire French Open and just came off winning two big clay court tournaments in Monte Carlo and the Italian Open. But Djokovic cannot be taken lightly.

He just finished off Roger Federer in straight sets pretty easily and not has a little time to rest. Djokovic is looking to become the first man since Rod Laver to win four straight Grand Slam tournaments. He saved four match points against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals, so he's definitely going to fight until the end, even if he is two sets down.

Prediction: I like Nadal in four sets. He's just playing out of his mind right now demolishing #13 ranked Juan Monaco, #12 ranked Nicolas Almagro, and maybe his best effort against #6 ranked David Ferrer. The fact that he hasn't given up a set yet can't be overlooked. I'd have to say he's the best clay-court player in the history of the game. This is his time and despite how good Djokovic is, I don't think he can stop Nadal this time around.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is Albert Pujols Back?

After starting the season off terribly, Albert Pujols is doing much better. He's hit 3 HR in his last 7 games. He only has 4 HR this season and is hitting a measly .213, but it's only May. If he keeps up the power streak, he could turn it around and put the Angels in contention.

He had a very bad April, hitting below .200, and at one point his average dipped to .194. While his OBP is still only .258, if his batting mechanics remain steady, all those numbers could dramatically increase by year's end. We could end up seeing the old Albert Pujols by season's end.

Devils Take 3-2 Series Lead Over Rangers

The Devils defeated the Rangers 5-3 in Game 5. All of a sudden it seems the momentum has shifted to the Devils side. Many predicted the Rangers would win this series and we'd have a Rangers vs. Kings final.

The Devils look more polished on offense. They seem to be taking more chances on defense, but I like the strategy. I think the Devils will pull the series out in six games. They're at home on Friday. With the way they're playing on offense, it's hard to not take the Devils.

Physical Play in Pacers Heat Series Results in Suspensions

After seeing Tyler Hansbrough take a two-handed flush from Udonis Haslem and Lance Stephenson take a thug-like elbow from Dexter Pittman, the league came down on the Heat.

Pittman will miss 3 games and Haslem will miss Game 6 vs. the Pacers. Looking back at the replays, I think Haslem's one game suspension was warranted. But I thought the league went soft on Pittman. After banning Metta World Peace for 7 games for an elbow on James Harden that was more questionable that Pittman's, the league should have suspended Pittman for 7 games or more. It was an absolute thug shot.

What iced the motive was Pittman's wink after the matter. He was only going after Stephenson. Now this leaves the Heat thin in their front court for Game 6. No Haslem, Pittman, or Chris Bosh.

The Pacers have to throw the ball down low to Roy Hibbert and David West. I can see the Pacers winning this game even if they don't have Danny Granger. The Heat are depleted in the front court.

Shaq as a GM?

Reports are surfacing that Shaquille O'Neal may be interested in the vacant Magic GM position. Some are speculating the Magic's ulterior motive is to potentially use Shaq to try and convince Dwight Howard to stay in Orlando.

The idea of Shaq as a GM just doesn't gel right. Watching him as an analyst on TNT, his input has been average to say the least. He appears to need a lot more time analyzing the game of basketball rather than simply going off his past knowledge as a player. Considering he has no prior management or operations experience, making the jump to GM seems hasty.

This move makes the Magic look laughable. You wouldn't risk jeopardizing your franchise just to keep one player. Look towards the future. Shaq could make some quick, horrible trades that he would regret. At this point, Shaq should just stick to the analyst booth.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is the U.S.A Soccer Team Poised for a Run

Under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann, US soccer started slow, but now seems to be gaining traction. Led by Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, the US team has been gaining more and more talented players. Some notable players on the US team include forward Jozy Altidore, goalkeeper Tim Howard, and midfielder Jermaine Jones. After a good performance at the 2010 World Cup, where the US advanced to the knockout rounds, they've put themselves in good position to potentially go further.

After some tough losses under former coach Bob Bradley including blowing a 2-0 lead vs. Mexico and losing to 67th ranked Panama, it's critical for the US to bounce back.

Will Kevin Durant Get a Title Before LeBron James

Kevin Durant has to be looked at as the second best player in the NBA only to LeBron James. Yet, that doesn't LeBron's team is better. I do think Kevin Durant will get a title before LeBron James. Whether it's this year or in the future, the Thunder seem more prepared and equipped for a title run.

Unless LeBron and Dwyane Wade average 35 points apiece, I don't see the Heat winning the title this year. I have the Thunder as the favorites to win right now over the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat have absolutely no front court presence. With Chris Bosh out, LeBron has to act as everything from the center to the point guard. Their bench has not played well either. Until those things get fixed, I give Kevin Durant the edge.

Should the Lakers Trade Kobe Bryant

This discussion has come up recently due to the Lakers' shortfalls. Frankly, the Lakers were outmatched by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Some point to the Lakers inability to win the close games, but the reality is that they did not have a shot in a best-of-7 series.

Of course, their most valuable asset is Kobe Bryant. Most wouldn't even dare think of trading Kobe Bryant. He finished second in the league in scoring with 27.9 ppg, has one five championships with the Lakers, and is unquestionably the leader of the team. Unfortunately, the supporting cast didn't do enough to bail Kobe out. Pau Gasol was in and out of games, Andrew Bynum's focus was inconsistent, and the bench was susceptible.

In short, will Kobe be traded this year? Probably not. It would take a lot of guts and preparation of backlash to do that. I don't think it's the right decision either. Bryant is one of the top three players in the league. Unless the Lakers were to receive an incredible trade proposal, I don't even think this will be a long-lived discussion. No question, after LA's performance this year, nobody will escape being on the trading block.