Monday, November 17, 2014

Cleveland Cavaliers Already Swooning Over Joe Harris

When my favorite NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, drafted former Virginia Cavalier Joe Harris in June, I was ecstatic.  Not only was I excited that the star of the UVa team that won an ACC title for the first time in 30 years was being drafted into the NBA, but he was going to Cleveland as well. After the Cavaliers added Lebron James, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and James Jones, Cleveland became a title contender and I figured Joe Harris would relegated to the D League or only get playing time during blowouts. Last year only half of the second round picks even played in the NBA and only one of them had more than 40 minutes of total playing time and 15 points at this point of the season.

Luckily Joe Harris made the opening day roster, and even got some last minute playing time in three of Cleveland’s first five games. Then starting shooting guard Dion Waiters injured his back in the fifth game, allowing Harris to get extended minutes against New Orleans last week. The 23 year old rookie has not looked back since.

In the past three games, Harris has played an average of 20 minutes a game, hit 6 three pointers and has led the All-Star stacked team with a +/- of +65. In a close game against the Celtics, the second round pick played in the closing minutes including hitting a 3-pointer with 3 minutes to go.  Against Atlanta over the weekend, Harris entered in the first quarter and drained two 3-pointers igniting the rout of the Hawks. Only two players chosen #25 or later in this year's draft have more minutes or points than Harris.

Here is some of the praise from the Cavaliers' coach David Blatt so far:

"He's a very, very positive worker, nose to the grindstone, doesn't say a whole lot, listens to the veteran guys, fits in with what we're doing and he plays as hard as he possibly can regardless of the situation. That's what you want. Joe brought energy; he brought commitment to both ends. Our scouting department did a heckuva job getting Joe with that pick"

Even the best player in the world is on the Joe Harris bandwagon:

"He was huge," Lebron James said. "Joe Harris is going to be a big piece for our team.”

Now there are reports that the former Virginia Cavalier star could be in the Cleveland Cavalier’s starting lineup soon.

“With the way he is progressing and as well as he is playing, Joe Harris will be the starting shooting guard sooner rather than later. Much sooner. As in within a couple of weeks (or less), one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said. At least one member of the Cavs’ brain trust is already in favor of the switch.”

It has been quite the rise for a player who only people in Charlottesville were swooning about last year.  I already have my jersey:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are The Nationals World Series Favorites?

For the second time in three years the Washington Nationals are in the playoffs! Two seasons ago, Washington was a team happy to be there and lost in the first round in heart breaking fashion. Now they are more experienced and are one of the favorites to win the World Series. Here are some reasons why the Nationals could bring DC its first baseball title in 90 years.

  • They lead the majors in team ERA, starting pitcher ERA, and are second in bullpen ERA
  • They set an all-time record for strikeout to walk ratio at 3.66-1
  • They are in the top four in the NL in runs scored, home runs and on base percentage
  • They are coming into the playoffs peaking at the right time, having won 15 of 20 and 21 of 30, both tops in the MLB, and ended the season on their first ever no-hitter
  • Drew Storen reclaimed his closer role in early September and converted 10 consecutive save opportunities and hasn’t given up an earned run in 23 appearances
  • Even the experts are picking the Nat’s to win it all. (11 of 15 on ESPN and 2 of 5 on Fox)

What’s preventing the Nationals from cruising all the way to a title? Oh yea, there are other teams in the playoffs.

  • The Nats are only 17-20 against the teams that made the playoffs, a .459 winning percentage which is second to worst of the 10 teams
  • They have been outscored 159-131 against playoff teams, a -28 margin that is third worst

So while Washington has put up great stats and look like the favorite on paper, I am a little hesitant to crown them champs already.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lebron James and Peyton Manning Are One in the Same

ESPN posted an interesting article about Lebron James’s photographic memory:
    "LeBron will take one look at it the tv and know what game it is. He'll be like, 'Oh, that's Game 2 of the '97 Finals,' before they even put it on the screen."

This sounded very similar to an ESPN article about Peyton Manning’s memory last week:
     "Sometimes I can't remember if I checked a door at my house to see if it's locked or not," he said. "But I can remember a seam route to Marvin Harrison in 1999."

They must be long lost cousins or something! All joking aside, the two great players’ careers have strikingly a lot common: 
  • Peyton has struggled in the big game, going 1-2 in the Super Bowl, while Lebron is only 2-3 in the NBA Finals
  • Lebron was crushed in the most lopsided NBA Finals ever, while Peyton was blown out of the Super Bowl 43-8
  • Peyton has led both the Heat and Cavs to the Finals, while Peyton has taken both the Colts and Broncos to the Super Bowl
  • Lebron’s former boss is Hall of Famer Pat Riley who has six rings, while Peyton’s boss is Hall of Famer John Elway, who has two titles
  • Peyton appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he was drafted #1 overall in 1998, same with Lebron in 2003
  • Lebron has been thwarted and compared many times to future Hall of Fame player and coach Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, while Peyton struggled and is contrasted with future Hall of Fame player and coach Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
  • Lebron finally won his first title in his ninth season, same with Peyton
  • Peyton’s free agency was the hot topic of the summer of 2012, while Lebron’s free agency decisions of 2010 and 2014 were national news 
Or you could go even deeper, outside of their careers:
  • Both have receding hairlines
  • Peyton's "Achilles Heel" is his neck, while Lebron suffers from leg cramps
  • Both met their wives while in high school
  • Both have appeared on SNL and the Simpsons
  • Peyton's success in Indianapolis helped the city get a new stadium, while Cleveland's economy is half-jokingly based on Lebron 
Lastly, they both better turn their title fortunes around these coming seasons, or else I’ll be in for some more heartache.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Return of the King: Lebron James is coming back to Cleveland!

After ripping out Cleveland fans’ hearts four years ago in “The Decision,” Lebron James decided today to come back to the Cavaliers. Instead of a television ESPN show, Lebron wrote an essay with Sports Illustrated which seemed heartfelt.  “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now.” Much better than taking your talents to South Beach.

Three months ago, Cleveland missed the playoffs while Lebron and the Heat were headed into the playoffs looking to defend their title. It appeared that there was zero percent Lebron would be returning to the Cavaliers. How did this change?

  • 0% - At end of the regular season the Cavs finished a disappointing season at 33-49.
  • 1% - Despite only a 1.7% chance, Cleveland won the draft lottery for the third time in four years. Not only could the Cavaliers draft another top draft pick, but they could trade it for a proven star to entice Lebron to return. 
  • 5% - In the NBA Finals, the Heat got crushed in the last three games, which exposed Miami as an aging team whose championship window was closing. 
  • 10% - Lebron and his Heat teammates opted out of their contracts, making him a free agent. While it was still believed it was just a salary cap move to bring in more players, Lebron was no longer employed by Miami. 
  • 15% - The Cavs resigned their All-Star point guard, Kyrie Irving, which showed that the franchise’s current building block was in place for the future.
  • 25% - A week after opting out, Lebron’s agent only met with a handful of teams, including the Cavaliers. 
  • 50% - This morning after all the meetings, moves, and rumors, it appeared there was a 50/50 chance Lebron would come to Cleveland. 

Leading up to his announcement, there were all sorts of crazy rumors and signs that Lebron was coming back to Cleveland.  Cavalier fans, bloggers, and reporters obsessed over any minute detail as if they were solving a crime.

  • Bloggers tracked Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s plane as it went to Florida and back.
  • There were pictures of moving trucks outside Lebron’s Miami home.
  • Former Heat teammate Mike Miller posted a picture of himself working out with a Lebron Cleveland jersey in the background.
  • There were random changes to Lebron’s website and twitter bio, and the site even crashed when it was rumored he would announce via his site.
  • The Akron police department was given a heads up to be prepared, therefore huge crowds gathered by Lebron’s Akron home.

All this obsession shows how much Cleveland fans are passionate about their sports and how dearly they want a championship. It has been much discussed how Cleveland has not won a title in any sport since 1965, but they got a lot closer today. While I doubt the Cavaliers are going to go to four straight NBA Finals or win a title right away, having the best player in the world certainly helps.

On a personal note, I was crushed when Lebron left four years ago. I stopped watching the NBA Playoffs and I took down my pictures in front of the “Witness” billboard. However, I did not burn or throw away my Lebron jerseys or “Witness” shirt. While I am still pissed at “The Decision”, being closer to winning a championship is better than winning the draft lottery, so I welcome him back.

If that was not enough, the Cavaliers drafted UVa star Joe Harris in the second round two weeks ago as well. I was going to follow him and root for whatever team he was going to be on anyways. Now, the player I cheered for as he brought the Virginia Cavaliers an ACC title for the first time in 30 years will be hitting threes for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Oh, and don’t forget about Johnny Football.

Cleveland sports just got a lot more exciting.

Friday, June 27, 2014

USA Soccer vs The World

Every four years during the World Cup, there is the inevitable debate about why the United States is not more successful in international soccer. Considering the size of the country and our sports-obsessed culture, we would figure to be dominant in soccer as well. The common answer is that the most popular sport in the world is not the most popular sport in the USA and that our best athletes play in other sports. However, if all our best athletes played one sport, we would decline in other sports.  What is the tradeoff?  What are the other sports?

Looking at several rankings, the most popular sports in the world are:

Ping Pong/Table Tennis
American Football

Using international governing bodies rankings (like FIFA and FIBA) as well as various individual rankings (like ATP and PGA players countries of origin), below is how countries rank in the ten sports above (click to enlarge):

The United States has the most top ten rankings with seven. Also, the USA has the top ranked team in four sports, no other country has more than one. We have six teams in the top five, no other country has more than three.

What about the more all-encompassing world sporting event, the Olympics? Well, when looking at the total medal count in the past three winter and summer games, we have not been too shabby either:

Therefore, before we get all bent out of shape that USA Soccer is only ranked #13 and backed into being one of the 16 teams remaining in the World Cup, keep in mind our overall sports dominance.

Well, except cricket. According to the USA Cricket team’s Wikipedia page, “There are only five official cricket pitches in the United States and only three of the players on the cricket team are born in the United States.” That’s not a wicked googly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Could Johnny Football become Johnny Cleveland?

As the NFL Draft on Thursday nears, I thought it was a good time to assess the Brown’s options. Once again, Cleveland is coming off of a disappointing year and will draft fourth overall.  Luckily the Browns have seven picks in the first four rounds to help improve the team. Cleveland filled some of their team needs by signing Ben Tate (RB), Karlos Dansby (LB), and Donte Whitner (CB) during the offseason, but still have a glaring hole at QB. While Brian Hoyer showed some flashes last season, the Browns could draft a QB for the long term future.

Drafting in the first round has not been Cleveland’s strong suit recently since their return in 1999. If you take a quick glance at the players below, you can see why the Browns might be best served by trading down in the first round while still getting a QB later in the draft.

Given this putrid history, there is no guarantee a non-QB will be successful anyways, so why not go for the polarizing QB Johnny “Football” Manziel? While WR Sammy Watkins is another rumored pick, who is going to throw the ball to him and All-Pro Josh Gordon? Drafting the former Heisman winner will certainly boost interest and sales for a franchise that has averaged 24th in attendance the past five years and has not had a player in the top 25 in jersey sales in three years. There are certainly plenty of positives to his game, including making/extending plays with his feet, while still throwing 63 TDs/22 Ints with 69% completion % in the SEC. His detractors point out his 6’1” height and the increased abilities of NFL defenders to track him down and cause turnovers. Will he be the next Russell Wilson or the next Tim Tebow? Only time will tell. He certainly will join an exclusive club:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NCAA March Madness Time!

Tomorrow is one of the best sports days of the year as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins. Usually I just focus on upsets, good games, picking the best bracket, etc. However, this year this year there is an extra incentive, as UVa capped off their ACC regular season championship with an ACC tournament title, earning a #1 seed in the East region. It was the first ACC regular season championship outright and #1 seed for the Cavs in over 30 years, and the first Tournament title since 1976. Now, do I follow my heart and pick the Hoo’s to win it all or do I listen to the experts and try to be more accurate with my bracket predictions?

First let’s take look at the trends from the past 28 seasons by round.

First round:

  • #12 seeds upset the #5 seeds 36% of the time (last year it was 75% with #12 seeds Mississippi, California, and Oregon pulling off the upsets) 
  • 21% of #4 seeds go down (#4 Kansas State went home early last year) 
  • Meanwhile only 14% of #3 seeds lose their first game (last year #3 New Mexico was upset though)

Second round:

  • Only 12% of #1 seeds were upset (#1 Gonzaga was upset by eventual Final Four team Wichita St, who happen to be undefeated this year)
  • Meanwhile 36% of #2 seeds have been upset by the #7/#10 winner (#2 Georgetown was upset by the #15 last year, not even getting to the #7/#10) 
  • Only 12% of the time has a region gone #1, #2, #3, #4 (which actually did happen once last year)

Sweet 16:

  • 70% of #1 seeds make the elite eight (was 25% last year with only champion Louisville advancing) 
  • On the other side of the region, 72% are either #2 or #3 seeds (100% last year)

Elite Eight:

  • Only one time in 33 years of the 64 team bracket has all four #1 seeds made the Final Four (which was no exception last year) 
  • 41% of #1 seeds make the Final Four (only one #1 seed made it last year) 
  • #2 seeds make it 21% of the time (no #2 seeds made it last year)

If you add up all the seeds that make the final four, the average total is 10. Meaning if you pick all #1 seeds, that’s less than half the average, or if you throw in a #11 George Mason with a #3, #2, and #1, that’s double the average. (Last year’s total of 18 (#1, #4, #4, #9) was way above average.)

If those are the yearly trends, then who did the experts pick this year? Here is a breakdown of 22 “expert” brackets.


  • 32% of the experts chose #1 seed Florida to win the entire thing (compared to 75% for eventual champ Louisville last year)
  • UVa was the only #1 seed not picked of the six different teams
  • 27% picked #4 Michigan State with 8 losses while only 9% picked undefeated #1 Wichita State

Runner Up:

  • 7 different teams were chosen to lose the title game
  • 31% #4 Louisville was the highest
  • 22% have Florida over Louisville

Final Four:

  • 86% picked #4 Michigan State to reach the Final Four, while only 1 expert picked UVa
  • Only 27% picked #1 Wichita State, while 55% picked #4 Louisville, out of the Midwest Region
  • #1 Florida 68%, #2 Kansas 32% in what looks an entertaining South regional Final
  • Sorry Wildcats fans, Villanova was the only #2 seed not picked
  • No teams outside of the top #4 seeds were picked, how boring

Elite Eight:

  • 100% of brackets picked Florida in the Elite Eight
  • 90% have #4 MSU facing #3 Iowa State, which is absurd considering only 16% of #4 seeds and 26% of #3 seeds even make the Elite Eight
  • #4 Louisville and #1 Wichita State are split 60/40
  • Only 9% picked UVa, the lowest #1 seed, and 0% for #2 seed Villanova

Sweet Sixteen:

  • 23% have Kentucky beating #1 Wichita State, but only one bracket had #4 MSU or #3 Iowa State losing
  • All 20 experts picked #4 Louisville to make the Sweet 16, stunning considering half the #4 seeds do not make it there
  • #2 Kansas 55% vs. #7 New Mexico 45% looks like a great game
  • Same with #2 Villanova 55% vs. #7 UConn 40%


  • Since 30% of #1 seeds do not make the Elite 8, UVa or Wichita St. are the choices to falter. 
  • Since 54% of #2 seeds do not make the Elite 8 either, Villanova and Kansas have the toughest opponents.
  • Only 52% of #3 seeds make it out of the first two rounds, so experts pick against Creighton as a #3 seed to continue this trend. 
  • Since only one time out of 34 has a Final Four been all #1 seeds, experts think UVa and Wichita St. look the most vulnerable. 

After looking at the trends and expert picks I am even more inclined to pick UVa to win it all. If the entire pool picks MSU, Louisville, etc, I gain an advantage by picking UVa if they win, while not gaining anything by picking against Virginia.  The consensus of the expert picks is staggering though. Using the Ken Pomeroy rankings (the en vogue college basketball sabermetrics rankings), UVa is the #4th best team in the country while MSU is #10. Granted Michigan State is now fully healthy and coming off a BIG 10 tournament title and they may be underseeded as a #4. However, they have gone 8-7 in their past 15 games, while UVa has only one loss in a meaningful game since New Year’s.  Historic trends have #1 seeds advancing 70% of the time in this matchup, while only 16% of #4 seeds, but the 22 experts picked 9% #1 seed/91% #4 seed.

Meanwhile on the other side of the region, which team do you think got 95% of the picks to make the elite eight? The #7 ranked team or the #22, #25, or #26 ranked teams? Iowa State, the #22 ranked team, was predicted to win in 21 of the 22 brackets, while #7 Villanova got zero.

Either the experts or on to something that I do not know about, or maybe I found out a key to who I am picking this week.  That’s why they play the games.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

UVa’s Men’s Basketball’s Historic Season Reaches New Heights This Weekend Against Syracuse

Last night, #12 UVa’s men’s basketball team cruised to their 12th straight victory and 15th in the last 16 games. The Cavaliers now have a 15-1 ACC record and are in first place by 1.5 games over #4 Syracuse, which comes into Charlottesville on Saturday. The Wahoo’s can extend their magical season by claiming their 2nd outright ACC title ever with a win. Here are some stats on how historic this season has been for Virginia:

  • The last time they won an ACC title outright was in 1981, over 30 years ago
  • It’s the first time the program has won 12 straight ACC games since 1981-82
  • UVa also improved to 19 games above .500 for the first time since 1982-83
  • They won a program-record 11th ACC game by double figures.
  • The Hoos have won 17 straight home ACC games, a new school record
  • They have led by 19 or more in 12 of 16 ACC games

How has a team that did not make the NCAA tournament last year and was not ranked until three weeks ago able to run rampant over the toughest conference in the country? It all starts with the defense:

  • The Cavaliers have the #1 defense in the country in points per game and #8 in defensive FG%
  • They have held 16 straight teams below their season average for points
  • The offense is balanced as well, since seven different players have led the team in scoring

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN with Dickie V doing the commentary.  It has been sold out for months with the cheapest nosebleed ticket currently going for $268 on Stubhub.  ESPN already has video breaking down the match-up:

The basketball game is not the only sports action in Charlottesville on Saturday though. After the game, across the street, the #4 men’s lacrosse team hosts the #6 team in the country. What rival successful lacrosse team warrants the night time matchup? You guessed it, Syracuse. Earlier in the day, UVa’s top #5 ranked baseball, tennis, and women's lacrosse teams are in action as well.  Hopefully the Hoo’s can pull out the upset to continue their historic season and confirm my prophetic tweet from last March:

Monday, January 27, 2014

How do you beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl?

MVP Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are the favorite in this week’s Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. While Denver has had a record breaking season, they have been beaten three times. A little analysis below reveals how the Broncos have performed in their 15 wins and 3 losses:

In the wins: Plus 2 in the turnover margin
In the losses: Minus 4

In the wins: Only 30% of their drives ended in punts
In the losses: Up to 50%

In the wins: 40% of their drives ended with touchdowns
In the losses: Only 20%

In the wins: Three times more touchdowns than 3 & outs
In the losses: Had more 3 & outs than touchdowns

In the wins: Averaged 28 first downs on offense and gave up 20 on defense
In the losses: Averaged 23 first downs on offense and gave up 23 on defense

In the wins: Gave up 89 rushing yards on average
In the losses: Gave up 138 rushing yards on average

Therefore, in order for the Seahawks to prevent Peyton Manning from winning his second Super Bowl, they need to run the ball for first downs, while limiting the record setting Broncos offense to turnovers and 3 & outs on defense. Good luck.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady is Upon Us

This Sunday, the biggest individual rivalry in professional sports repeats itself when Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. The two hall of fame bound quarterbacks face off for the 15th time and fourth time in the playoffs.  In case you are not fed up with the non-stop coverage on ESPN, here are some different takes on the rivalry:

Here is a Sporcle quiz comparing their stats:

Here are some fun facts on the matchup:

  • 6 of the last 7 Manning-Brady meetings have been decided by 7 points or less
  • 7 of the last 12 Super Bowls have included either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning
  • The last time the Patriots played a road playoff game? The 2006 AFC Championship Game against the Colts
  • Peyton Manning & Tom Brady's combined age of 74.3 is the oldest ever between opposing starting QBs in a Conference Championship Game
  • Manning and Brady will be the 1st QBs to meet in playoff games 10 seasons apart in the Super Bowl era (2003 & 2013 AFC Championship games).

Both Manning and Brady have appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated over a dozen times:













Meanwhile, as pitchmen, they are completely different as this article details. Brady is married to a supermodel wife and endorses Ugg boots and Movado watches, while Manning and his “aww shucks” “down to earth” personality pitches Papa John’s and Mastercard.

I know what I’ll be watching at 3pm on Sunday… with my Papa John’s pizza.