09 February 2011

The Future of USF Athletics...and the University

After reading this post, I found that I also had similar feelings about the state of USF athletics. It seems the passion that came with the 2007 football season, along with the surge of the soccer team in recent years, has somewhat deteriorated. I am not sure if this is because we are fed up with a lack of championships, no recent big-time wins, displeased with current coaching situations, or the number of other reasons that cause fans to become frustrated. Just know, that after my experiences two weekends ago, my hope-and-love fire for both the University of South Florida and its athletics was rekindled.
Two Saturdays ago, a group of friends and I participated in the Warrior Dash held in Lake Wales, FL. If you have not heard of this, or unsure of what it entails, check out the link. As is customary of this particular group of friends (the group I have my football tickets with), we are always sporting USF gear when attending giant social events. Normally we are outnumbered by Gators, Noles, Canes, and sometimes even UCF fans. When we get the occasional "Go Bulls" with the horns, it is a tiny victory for the community. Lack of Bulls fans was not the case that weeked at The Dash. In fact, there were so many people sporting Bulls gear that I was getting annoyed with having to respond to the multitude of "Go Bulls" thrown my way. There were literally hundreds of Bulls there, and we far out numbered by any other Florida school fans/alum in attendance. It was great to finally be somewhere that was not "Gator Nation." 
The next day, after sleeping off my demoralized (yet accomplished) soul, my wife and I started our journey back to Sarasota. Since both of us are USF alumni ('07/'08), we decided to stop in Tampa at Mr. Dunderbak's for lunch. Since we had eaten breakfast only a couple hours earlier, we were not quite hungry yet. I proposed that we stop by campus and take a long walk around to see all that has changed. I was there earlier this year, but it was only at the bookstore for a few minutes prior to a football game. I had a good idea of what the new Marshall Center entailed, but not much else beyond that. We parked at the bookstore parking lot, and began our trek through campus. We took a good walk through all the floors of the Marshall Center, and could not believe how great it looked on the inside. The upgrades that were made to the Food Court area and the Top of the Palms restaurant were incredible. It is definitely a place to be proud of. There were several students sitting throughout the center doing research/work, and it was SUNDAY. You could tell there is much more pride in being on campus.
As we continued walking around, reminiscing on the great times we had, we eventually came across the construction of the new baseball stadium and football practice facilities. The new athletics complex is going to be amazing. We are finally going to have the tools we need to bring in the type of recruits and students that will take both the teams, and the university as a whole, to the next level. It was right at that moment I became so damn proud of my school. There was never a doubt in my mind that I was a Bull for life. Just then, my wife looked over at me and asked why I was smiling. My response was something along the lines of..."Look at what OUR school is becoming. Just look at these improvements. I used to think we were spoiled, but this is incredible. We are going to be BIG on the map soon." Shortly after, we discussed how much we want to push our kids to go to USF, and build a family legacy.
If you have not made it out to the school recently, you really need to. USF is on the right track, and the fan support will start to grow soon. I have no doubt in my mind about that.

26 October 2010

2010-2011 NBA Preseason Predictions

So it has been over a year since I last posted on this blog. In fact, I had almost given up on it completely. However, I realized that I really do enjoy writing, then looking back on what I have done, and receiving comments from the few people that actually do read my stuff. Therefore, I have had to go back and fix the settings on my Facebook profile, so these posts will be linked to the social networking site that has taken over the lives of...well...pretty much the human race. This time I will be making every effort to stay on top of the "oh so necessary happenings in my life," and keep you loyal followers updated on my sports opinions, some political thoughts, and kitchen happenings.

To start it off (again), as promised on Facebook, I will be giving you my preseason predictions for the NBA season (it starts today. GO HEAT!). So, without further ado, let's get started.


Atlantic: Boston Celtics
Last year's NBA Finals runner-up should have no problem capturing their division. In fact, like last year, it really will not be close. Rajon Rondo is an incredible basketball player, and even though Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce are getting old, no other team in the division has the talent to match them. I also really like the way Kendrick Perkins plays, and keep in mind that new addition, Shaquille O'Neal will be able to come off the bench and contribute at the center position. I think the New York Knicks will be much improved with Amar'e Stoudemire back under coach Mike D'Antoni, and with the upgrade at the point guard position in Raymond Felton. Still, an easy division title for the Celtics.

Central: Chicago Bulls
This was a really tough call for me, because I can also see Milwaukee taking the crown in the Central. Both teams have young, outstanding point guards in Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings, along with some really good players up front. Milwaukee went out and picked up Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette, but the addition of Carlos Boozer to the Bulls sealed it for me. And despite my hatred for Joakim Noah, the guy just knows how to get his job done. Should be a fun one to watch.

Southeast: Miami Heat
Yes, I realize this is my favorite team. I also realize this may be the obvious pick given the incredible off-season acquisitions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and re-signing Dwayne Wade. But who can blame me? The Heat now have 3 of the top 4 PER players from last year, a point guard in Mario Chalmers that is quickly improving, and some great depth off the bench. The injury sustained by Mike Miller will hurt their outside shooting , but this team should have no problem putting points on the board. I also feel they have one of the best defenses in the league. The Orlando Magic will be hot on their toes all season. Dwight Howard continues to improve every year, Jameer Nelson is a real solid player, and Vince Cater and Rashard Lewis will do their thing. However, I do feel the Magic bench is not that deep, and the starters will being to tire out as the season progresses. In the end, the Heat take it.

Northwest: Oklahoma City Thunder
Oh, how I love watching you play basketball, Kevin Durant. It is up to you to help lead your team to winning what will be the most hotly contested division race this season. I could just as easily give it to the Utah Jazz or Portland Trail Blazers, but with the help of Russel Westbrook and Jeff Green, it is yours to lose. The Jazz did lose Boozer, but were able to replace him with Al Jefferson, so I do not feel there will be much drop in production. However, they do have a glaring weakness with Raja Bell starting at the two-guard. I would have chosen Portland if not for their proneness to injury. They have good depth, and Brandon Roy is still one of the most underrated players in the league. Could this be the year Greg Oden stays healthy? If so, the Blazers will be pretty damn good.

Pacific: Los Angeles Lakers
Just like the Atlantic Division, this race will not even be close. The Phoenix Suns no longer have Amar'e, and no other team in the division had more than 29 wins last season. The Los Angeles Clippers will be much improved if Blake Griffin lives up to his potential, but ain't no one catchin' them Lakers.

Southwest: Dallas Mavericks
I think the Mavs will win this division pretty easily. They have a great trio in Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler, and Jason Kidd. They are solid up front with Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler, and they still have Jason Terry coming off the bench. The San Antonio Spurs are aging, but as long as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are on the same team, you can never count them out of a title hunt. I also feel the other teams in this division are better than the media has been giving them credit. If Yao Ming can stay healthy, look for the Houston Rockets to be much improved. The New Orleans Hornets, and a healthy Chris Paul, will rebound in a big way from last season's unfortunate turn of events.


Eastern Conference
Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, and Washington Wizards

Western Conference
Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and Utah Jazz


Eastern Conference Finals: Miami over Boston
This could also be Miami over Orlando if the the Magic end up with a better record than the Celtics. Most experts believe the Heat cannot win the East in their first year together. I do not see it. As long as they go into the playoffs as the #1 seed, they will get to play a Celtics team that has gotten beaten up by the Magic in the second round. Miami wins it 4-2.

Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles over Dallas
The Lakers will win the West again, but I think it will be much harder for them than the past couple years. Lakers take the series in 7.

The Finals: Miami over Los Angeles
So sue me. I realize it may be a homer pick, but that is why we are fans. This team, on paper, is too good not to win it all. They also have much more depth than the Lakers. It will not be easy, since Kobe Bryant is trying get his (Jordan tying) 6th ring. I say forget what everyone says about needing a couple years to gel. The dynasty starts this year with Miami taking it in 7. It will be the best Finals since...last year.


Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant
This could honestly be a number of players, but without Kevin Durant the Thunder may not even see the playoffs. He will also lead the league in scoring, PER, and his defense continues to get better. LeBron is still the best player in the league on the planet, but his numbers will take a dip with Wade and Bosh by his side.

Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin
If only true first year players were eligible to receive this award, then John Wall would get the nod. But since Griffin is considered a rooke, there is no denying a year with an NBA team will give him an advantage. Keep an eye on DeMarcus Cousins, he is very NBA ready. I think this will be a very close race all season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Gerald Wallace
I really love watching Gerald Wallace play defense. He can block, steal, cover any position...he does it all. Dwight Howard could easily get this award, but I love the hustle of Wallace. Howard would not be able to cover a point guard like Wallace can. However, do not dismiss Ron Artest here.

Most Improved Player: Michael Beasley
A change of scenery will really help Beasley. He is also on a team without any star power, and has Darko Milicic penciled as a starter...yes...that Darko Milicic.

Sixth Man of the Year: Antawn Jamison
The most difficult award to predict. I chose Jamison, simply because J.J. Hickson is listed as the starter over him. Really Cleveland? Do you really want Harrison Barnes that bad? Other possibilities here are Jamal Crawford, Udonis Haslem, James Harden, and Greg Oden.

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
There are not too many times you will see a first year coach taking a team to the playoffs, and it is almost guaranteed the Bulls make it. Although, if they win the division (as I have predicted), he deserves it.

So there you have it. Tune into the games throughout the season. It should be really fun to watch. I will reassess these picks after the All-Star break.

22 October 2009

College Football Thoughts (Week 7)

I am hoping not, but it is looking like it has begun. That's right, the annual collapse of my beloved South Florida Bulls. After climbing to #21 in the polls, USF dropped last Thursday's game to #8 Cincinnati 34-17. BJ Daniels put up a hell of an effort. The kid is pretty much unsackable, as he was running for his life all night (thanks O-Line). I never saw a single player evade so many tackles. Unfortunately one of his scrambles led to an interception returned for 90 yards and set up a Cincinnati touchdown. The Bulls also did a good job of not letting Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike throw all over them. Unfortunately, Pike went down with an injury and the coaches did a terrible job of adjusting to Cincinnati's new game plan. The back up was a runner, and the Bulls have had a tough time defending running QBs all year. The Bulls have a tough match up Saturday in Pittsburgh, and will face the best defensive line they have seen all year. After watching what the Cincy d-line did to us, I feel very nervous about this. Give credit to the Bearcats for going into hostile territory and taking care of business. This team looks for real. Brian Kelly is an outstanding coach.

As expected, the Miami Hurricanes went out and took care of business against Central Florida with a 27-7 victory. The Canes face Clemson this week in a match up many believe could be a trap game. I do not see that happening as I feel Miami will win out and head to the Orange Bowl.

This was quite an entertaining week outside of my favorite teams. In addition, the first BCS standings were released with the top 5 being Florida, Alabama, Texas, Boise State, and Cinicinnati.

#5 Boise State escaped an upset loss to Tulsa, winning 28-21. I said earlier that Tulsa was the only team I saw remaining on Boise State's schedule with a chance to beat the Broncos. Unfortunately they will probably go undefeated and get in to BCS due to their cowardly scheduling. Maybe Idaho can pull it off November 14.

#3 Texas remained undefeated taking down #20 Oklahoma 16-13 in the Red River Shooutout. The Sooners took a big blow after Sam Bradford reinjured his shoulder in the first quarter. This was a great defensive battle which Oklahoma seemed to dominate most of. However, they were unable to hold on to the win, and their shot at a BCS game is all but gone.

In the biggest upset of the week, #7 Ohio State lost to unranked Purdue 26-18. Many do not feel Jim Tressel is properly utilizing quarterback Terrelle Pryor. My response to that is it serves Pryor right for not going to a school that runs the offense he is best suited for. Michigan looks pretty tempting now, huh Terrelle?

Biggest scandal of the year goes to #1 Florida's robbing of Arkansas 23-20. Now if the terrible officiating did not happen, I'm not saying Arkansas would have won for sure. But you do have to feel something is not morally right with Urban Meyer. Gainesville would have not been happy losing on homecoming to a 24 point underdog. I call scandal FAIL. The Gators will get there's in due time.

#25 Notre Dame gave #6 USC all the could, losing 34-27. I have not been on the Jimmy Clausen bandwagon, but I now believe he is legit. He kept his team in the game down to the last play, even after they appeared to be out of it.

#15 Nebraska failed in handling two decent opponents back-to-back. They were killed, at home, by unranked Texas Tech 31-10. The score was 24-3 heading into the 4th quarter. Nebraska can still win the Big 12 North, but I am certain that if they make it that far, they will lose to the winner of the South division.

#19 Georgia Tech took down #4 Virginia Tech 28-23 in the battle of the engineers. The Coastal Division of the ACC is now wide open, with Virginia currently in first. That ends this week, as I feel they will lose to Georgia Tech. Which in turn will put Miami atop of the division.

#2 (but my #1) Alabama took care of business against #22 South Carolina. It was not the prettiest offensive performance by the Tide, but the defense looked dominant only giving up six points. I really want Alabama to stick i to Florida in the SEC championship. I hope both are undefeated until then. Never mind, I will be happy with any Florida loss.

Games of note this week:
#12 Georgia Tech at Virginia
South Florida at #20 Pittsburgh
Clemson at #10 Miami
#13 Penn State at Michigan
Oklahoma at #25 Kansas
#8 TCU at #16 BYU

Here is my Top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. USC
5. Cincinnati
6. Miami (FL)
7. Boise State
8. LSU
9. Iowa
10. TCU
11. Georgia Tech
12. Oregon
13. Penn State
14. Virginia Tech
15. Oklahoma State
16. Pittsburgh
17. Houston
18. Utah
19. West Virginia
20. BYU
21. Ohio State
22. Kansas
23. Texas Tech
24. Boston College
25. South Florida

13 October 2009

College Football Thoughts (Week 6)

As promised, I have returned. Hopefully this will not be temporary. I do enjoy writing, but have found my laziness tends to get the best of me. Maybe we will just call it writer's block.

Anyways, to the football. I will first start (as I normally do) discussing the teams important to me. My Alma mater, the University of South Florida, is heading in to a huge game this Thursday against Big East foe Cincinnati. Both teams are 5-0, and have been quite impressive this year. Cincinnati is ranked #9 and boast an impressive offense led by quarterback Tony Pike. A kid whom many have on their Heisman Trophy watch list. However, Cincinnati has not been truly tested this season, with their toughest game thus far being at Oregon State (no disrespect to the Beavers, but they are not the same as last year). #21 USF has not been tested too much either. In week 4 we went up to Tallahassee, and beat then #18 Florida State 17-7. As the weeks go by this win looks less and less impressive since FSU is now 2-4 with what seems as the worst having yet to come. More on them later. Hopefully the people of Tampa will unite and come together for this big game. A full Raymond James Stadium is tough for the opposition, and I will be there full force screaming my head off for my beloved Bulls. I expect this to be a close game, and too tough for me to call. My heart says the Bulls, but I have not had a great feeling about this one since the end of the first half against Syracuse two Saturdays ago. The defensive line will need to repeat the performance they had against FSU, and BJ Daniels will have to put the offense in a position to score. Our running game has been less than stellar, so it is going to lie on the freshman signal caller's arm and legs.

My other team, the Miami Hurricanes, are off to a more than impressive start. If anyone would have told me at the beginning of the season, they would be 4-1 after playing Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, and Florida A&M, I might have considered them clinically insane. FAMU was the only sure lock in my book, with them most likely losing the rest. Jacory Harris has looked very poised, and the offense has been great under Mark Whipple thus far (with the exception of the VaTech game). The defense has been great as well. Allen Bailey is the best player you never heard of. No doubt in my mind he should be a first round pick in the 2011 draft. The Canes handled FAMU quite easily, winning 48-16. Miami travels to Orlando to take on Central Florida this Saturday, and I fully expect the Canes to be 5-1 after that game and continue to their ascent up the polls.

In other recaps, #21 Nebraska won 27-12 over #24 Missouri last Thursday. I have been skeptical of Nebraska all season, but with this win and losing only 16-15 to Virignia Tech, I am becoming a bit more of a believer in them as a Big 12 favorite. Their game against Texas Tech will be a good measuring tool. Let's see how they handle two decent opponents back-to-back.

The big contest Saturday saw #1 Florida head into Death Valley to take on #4 LSU. The big story of the game was if Florida's Tim Tebow would be able to play after suffering a pretty severe concussion two weeks earlier. Sure enough, Tebow was out on the field and led his team to a 13-3 victory, ending LSU's 30+ (I believe 32) game winning streak at home during night games. Florida's defense was dominant, but their offense was less than stellar. In my opinion this was due to Tebow coming off the injury, and because LSU's defense is underrated. No one gave the Tigers a chance, but they killed themselves with several stupid offside penalties. Florida is definitely beatable, and at the moment they are not looking like the the number 1 team in the nation.

That title should go to Alabama. The Tide rolled into Oxford and beat #20 Mississippi 22-3. Jevan Snead is very overrated as his offense was only able to muster a field goal. And love him or hate him (I'm on the hate side), you have to respect Alabama coach Nick Saban. The man has returned that program to glory in only a couple seasons.

The only unbeaten team that went down was #17 Auburn, losing 44-23 to unranked Arkansas. I feel Arkansas is a lot better than advertised, and their quarterback Ryan Mallett is a first rounder in my opinion. Florida may have a tough time with Arkansas this week.

Sam Bradford made his return from his shoulder injury and #19 Oklahoma handled Baylor easily, 33-7. This was a good warm up for Bradford as they will take on #2 Texas this week in the Red River Shootout. Texas defeated Colorado 38-14, surviving a rough first half in which Texas was down 14-10.

#12 Iowa is still undefeated after a thrilling 30-28 win over Michigan. The Hawkeyes are looking pretty good, but I do not see them winning out. They have to play at Ohio State in November.

#22 Georgia Tech defeated Florida State 49-44, in what was the worst display of defense I have ever seen. You have to feel bad for FSU quarterback Christian Ponder whom has done everything he can for this team. If his defense was not so bad, he could be the front runner for the Heisman. Unfortunately that award has become more about team rather than individual performance. The end of Bobby Bowden is near, but since that has been all over the news, I will not discuss that situation anymore. Just know that he should be gone after this year, and all Bobby apologists (seasoned FSU fans in particular) do not care about that program getting better.

Games of note for the coming weekend:
#8 Cincinnati at #21 South Florida
#20 Oklahoma vs. #2 Texas
Arkansas at #1 Florida
#6 USC at #25 Notre Dame
#4 Virginia Tech at #19 Georgia Tech
#22 South Carolina at #2 Alabama

Here is my Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Virginia Tech
5. USC
6. Boise State
7. Miami (FL)
8. Cincinnati
9. LSU
10. Ohio State
11. Iowa
12. Oregon
13. Penn State
14. TCU
15. Georgia Tech
16. Nebraska
17. Kansas
18. Oklahoma State
19. South Florida
20. Oklahoma
21. South Carolina
22. Houston
23. BYU
24. Notre Dame
25. Utah

11 October 2009

The Return of the Blog

This is just a quick notice that I will finally be back to blogging on a weekly basis. It will begin this week with my thoughts on the College Football season thus far. The focus will be on South Florida's big match up this week against Cincinnati. Stay tuned, and I apologize for the six month hiatus.