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NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Who Do I Like?

Posted by sportsmaven on April 6, 2009

Tonight’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game kicks off a week of solid sports events, both inside and outside Chicago.  If you are even a basketball neophyte, the question everyone is asking is who do you like in tonight’s game?  Remember, it’s either the Michigan State Spartans or the North Carolina Tar Heels.  I’ll tell you who I like and I think it will be a surprise to some:

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

I like Michigan State by 6 points.  The latest Las Vegas lines have North Carolina favored by 7 1/2 points against Michigan State, with an over/under of 153 points.  See for yourself, the Las Vegas Sun has the betting line on any kind of bet you can imagine for tonight’s game.

So your next question may be: Why do you like Michigan State so much?  Who would pick them to beat the heavily favored North Carolina Tar Heels?  Below are my reasons why:

1.  Playing at Ford Field is essentially a home game for Michigan State.  Not essentially, it IS a home game for the Spartans.  Home court advantage is typically worth a few extra points in hype and comfort to start any game.  In a tournament game, it’s worth even more.  In a championship game?  It’s worth it’s weight in gold.  Championship games are played at neutral sites to avoid the appearance of giving the home team a distinct advantage.  In this case, Michigan State is playing their biggest game of the season in front of what appears to be a very strong home court advantage.  Don’t think for a moment that Spartans coach Tom Izzo isn’t pulling out all the stops in the motivation department tonight.

2.  The rematch factor — North Carolina and Michigan State played each other on this very same court in the very same venue earlier this season (December 3rd, 2008).  The game was a blowout – the Tar Heels won by 35 points.  My rabid North Carolina basketball fans will say this shows a clear and distinct advantage for the Tar Heels.   Not so.  It’s very difficult to beat a team twice in a season, especially if the teams are close to each other in terms of talent/skill.  In December, Michigan State was playing their 4th game of the week and it showed.  They were also missing F Goran Suton, who has been playing his best basketball at the right time.  He’ll be needed to joust with Tar Heels F Tyler Hansborough.  North Carolina played it’s best ball in December.  Michigan State is peaking exactly at the right time.

3.  Championships come down to defense.  Ask University of Connecticut.  Ask any team that has played Michigan State.  Their defense is on fire right now. Michigan State made it their mission to shut down UConn’s front court on Saturday, which they did quite effectively.  UConn helped by missing 12 of 33 free throws, something I don’t expect the Tar Heels to do if they were in the same position.  Michigan State knows how to play an open style of offense.  They did it to beat UConn.  They also know how to play lock down defense as well as to play against lockdown defense, as they did it all season in the Big 10 in conference play.  The team that plays as though it’s on a mission on defense will win the game.  I believe that will be Michigan State.

There you go.  The prediction?  Michigan State 83, North Carolina 77 (yes, that would mean I am taking the over on the total points as well.)

Posted in Fighting Illini | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Super Bowl XLI Predictions

Posted by sportsmaven on February 3, 2007

The Super Bowl brings the good, the bad, and the ugly in predictions from almost everybody who is somebody on the planet. From athletes, to the media, and celebrities, everyone is an expert when it comes to their Super Bowl picks. In an attempt to consolidate as many Super Bowl predictions as I could find and hear this week, the following lists are the “expert” opinions on who wins Super Bowl XLI on Sunday:

NFL Players, Coaches, Analysts Picks:

    • ESPN Analysts

      Len Pasquarelli – Colts 27-23

      John Clayton – Colts 27-17

      Chris Mortensen – Colts 27-20

      Gene Wojciechowski – Bears 27-26

      Gary Horton – Colts 31-24

      Jeremy Green – Bears 26-23

      Bill Simmons – Bears 33-30

      Jemele Hill – Bears 34-31

      Scoop Jackson – Bears 31-28

      Ron Jaworski – Colts 31-21

      Sal Paolantonio – Colts 31-20

      Eric Allen – Bears 21-17

      Mike Golic – Colts 31-23

      Greg Garber – Colts 30-21

      KC Joyner – Bears 31-27

      John Banks, Deputy Editor – Colts 31-14

      Peter Lawrence-Riddell – Colts 28-17

      Joe Wojciechowski – Colts 27-20

      Chris Berman – Colts 30-20

      Joe Theismann – Colts

      Merril Hoge – Colts

      HBO’s Inside the NFL Team

      Bob Costas – Colts

      Cris Carter – Colts

      Dan Marino – Colts

      Cris Collinsworth – Bears

      ESPN’s Around the Horn Team

      Tim Cowlishaw – Bears

      Tony Reali – Colts

      Jay Mariotti – Bears

      Woody Paige – Colts

      Jackie MacMullen – Colts

      Kevin Blackistone – Colts

      ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption Team

      Michael Wilbon – Bears

      Tony Kornheiser – Colts

      Other ESPN Personalities

      Jim Rome – Colts 24-17

      Andrew Siciliano – Bears

      Ray Ratto – Colts 31-16

      Fox’s The Best Damn Sports Show Period

      Chris Rose – Colts

      Rodney Peete – Bears

      Leann Tweeden – Colts

      Rob Dibble – Bears

      John Salley – Colts

      Chicago Tribune Reporters

      Terry Bannon – Colts 27-23

      Mike Downey – Bears 28-26

      Brian Hamilton – Colts 27-23

      Ed Sherman – Colts 31-20

      Bob Foltman – Colts 24-21

      John Mullin – Bears 21-20

      Rick Morrissey – Bears 28-17

      Fred Mitchell – Bears 27-23

      Dan McGrath – Colts 30-21

      Melissa Issacson – Bears 28-24

      David Haugh – Bears 31-28

      Don Pierson – Colts 30-24

      Skip Myslinski – Colts 34-21

      Paul Sullivan – Bears 30-27

      Lew Freedman – Bears 27-21

      Mark Gonzales – Colts 31-27

      Teddy Greenstein – Bears 27-23

      Philip Hersh – Bears 30-27

      Ed Hinton – Bears 24-9

      Michael Hirsley – Bears 28-21

      KC Johnson – Bears 28-14

      Barry Temkin – Bears 31-27

      Dave Van Dyck – Bears 23-20

      Actors/Celebrities/Athletes/Politicians

      David Letterman – Colts 34-27

      Tom Dreesen – Bears 30-27

      Craig Ferguson – Colts

      Morgan Freeman – Colts

      William H. Macy – Colts

      Dennis Farina – Bears 23-17

      Joe Mantegna – Bears 31-21

      Gary Sinise – Bears 24-21

      Dennis Franz – Bears 24-13

      Bernie Mac – Bears 33-31

      Ashton Kutcher – Bears 24-20

      Paul Newman – Bears 21-20

      Dwayne Wade – Bears 28-24

      Sylvester Stallone – Colts 38-30

      Jack Nicklaus – Colts 34-24

      Arnold Palmer – Colts 31-24

      Serena Williams – Colts 17-13

      Sen. John McCain – Colts by 6

      Sen. John Kerry – Colts 34-27

      Al Franken – Bears 21-20

      Bill O’Reilly – Colts 31-10

      Larry King – Colts 21-7

      Charlie Sheen – Colts 37-33

      Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR – Colts 31-28

      William Shatner – Colts 24-17

      Haley Joel Osment – Colts 31-24

      Mickey Rooney – Bears 24-14

      Tony Sirico – Colts 21-14

      Pat Robertson – Colts 17-14

      Jerry Falwell – Colts by 14

      Duane “Dog” Chapman – Bears 35-28

      John Wooden – Colts

      Bobby Thomson – Colts 24-17

      Ralph Branca – Colts 41-24

      Jennie Finch – Colts 34-27

      Danica Patrick – Bears 31-27

      Molly Sims – Colts 31-24

      Kendra Wilkinson (Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend) – Colts 27-13

      Dick Vitale – Colts 28-21

      Tony Parker – Colts 25-20

      Phil Jackson – Bears 20-15

      Bob Cousy – Colts 37-12

      Leroy Nieman – Colts 24-10

      Ed Asner – Bears 27-24

      Elisabeth Shue – Colts 35-21

      Dionne Warwick – Colts 28-21

      Wayne Newton – Bears 21-7

      Dick Van Patten – Colts 31-21

      Connie Stevens – Bears 32-23

      Jack Valenti – Colts 28-27

      Tobin Bell – Colts 31-6

      Robert Loggia – Colts 35-29

      Buzz Aldrin – Colts 28-17

      Chuck Yeager – Colts 21-14

      Sen. Richard Lugar – Colts

      Richard M. Daley – Bears

      Mike Eruzione – Colts 31-21

      Michael Phelps – Colts 28-17

      Jermain Taylor – Colts 30-24

      Jeremy Wariner – Bears 27-10

      Kerri Walsh – Colts 27-18

      Ian MacShane – Bears 38-35

      William Sanderson – Colts 31-17

      Leah Remini – Colts 34-23

      Jesse L. Martin – Colts 31-24

      James Denton – Colts 26-16

      Jim Caviezel – Colts 31-20

      John Amos – Bears 24-17

      Marisol Nichols – Bears 24-20

      Stephen Root – Colts 27-21

      Robert Iler, Jr. – Bears 28-24

      Dawn Wells – Colts 24-14

      Barry Williams – Colts 27-17

      Florence Henderson – Colts 24-14

      Adam West – Colts 28-24

      Sam Hornish – Colts 41-14

      Matt Kenseth – Colts 34-17

      Jeff Burton – Colts 28-24

      Susan Anton – Colts 31-24

      L. Scott Turow – Bears 24-20

      Vince Neil – Colts 31-24

      Joan Jett – Colts 28-14

      Carrot Top – Colts 31-17

      Penn & Teller – Colts 28-17

      James Blake – Colts 27-17

      Reggie Miller – Colts

      Steve Kerr – Bears

      LeBron James – Colts

      Andy Roddick – Colts

      Bill Bellamy – Bears

      Anna Kournikova – Bears

      Enrique Iglesias – Bears

      Stewart Cink – Colts

      John Daly – Colts

      Davis Love III – Colts

      Brad Faxon – Colts

      Charles Howell III – Colts

      David Toms – Colts

      Justin Leonard – Colts

      Jeff Sluman – Bears

      Aaron Baddeley – Colts

      Fred Couples – Colts

      Camilo Villegas – Bears

      Tom Glavine – Colts

      David Wright – Bears

      John Maine – Colts

      Jose Reyes – Colts

      Vernon Wells – Colts

      NBC Staff – 3 of 5 pick the Colts

      USA Today – 5 of 6 pick the Colts

  • Zach Thomas, LB, Dolphins – Bears

    Roy Williams, S, Cowboys – Bears

    Drew Brees, QB, Saings – Colts

    Sean Payton, Head Coach, Saints – Colts

    Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals – Colts

    Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks – Bears

    TJ Houshmanzadeh, WR, Bengals – Bears

    Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – Colts by 14

    Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins – Colts

    Joe Montana – Colts

    Mike Ditka – Bears 28-24

    Jack Del Rio, Head Coach, Jaguars – Colts

    Curtis Martin, RB, Jets – Colts

    LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers – Colts

    Steve Mariucci – Colts

    Michael Strahan, DE, Giants – Colts

    Jarrett Payton, RB, Titans – Bears

    Troy Aikman – Colts

    Michael Irvin – Colts

    Media

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Chicago Bears Get To Work Today

Posted by sportsmaven on February 1, 2007

With all the expanded media coverage the last two weeks, it was easy to forget that there was a football game to prepare for today. The Chicago Bears began their serious preparation for Super Bowl XLI. The Bears were in pads, helmets and shorts today and reports said that practice went very well. Ron Turner, the Bears offensive coordinator stated that the Bears offense worked on their first and second down play packages today, which is the Bears routine for Wednesday throughout the season. Briggs - Urlacher in SB Practice

According to Rich Eisen from the NFL Network, reports have it that the Bears looked relaxed, yet ready to go, ready to play this game. I agree, as the Bears seem to be using the “Play Angry” motto plus the underdog role to forge an us against the world bond. I feel good that this plays into the Bears hands perfectly. I am excited to see the Bears come out and prove to the world not only do they belong in the Super Bowl, but they can compete and are more than capable of winning this game.

Bears Playoff Mantra

The more time I spend breaking down the analysis, the picks by the experts, the comments, the more the keys to this game become simpler and simpler. Right now, Super Bowl XLI comes down the Peyton Manning vs. The Bears. It will obviously be more than that, but from the media perspective and slant, it is all about the X-Factor and aura of Peyton Manning vs. the underdog, bonding closer and tighter as every day goes by Chicago Bears football team. The Bears have no Peyton Mannings on their roster. Brian Urlacher is as close as it gets and he’s a middle linebacker.

As each day goes by, the Bears sit and stew, are asked the same questions about being second fiddle to the Colts, listen to how it’s finally Peyton Manning’s year, how it is his time and that he is the chosen one. Peyton Manning, the friendly, likable guy in the boy next door commercials, it’s his coronation, his time to rise and beat the demons that have held him back. All about how the Bears are the better team defensively, special teams and are quite competent offensively, but yet have no chance to win because of the ‘Peyton Manning effect”. I think the pressure is squarely on the broad shoulders of Peyton Manning and the Bears will enter Dolphin Stadium on Sunday night loose, but quietly motivated, letting all the perceived disrespect stew into their performance on the field of play. Many a statement has been made that the QB position is where half the Super Bowl MVP’s come from and that this is Peyton Manning’s right to claim, his coronation. Lets see what the experts say on Monday morning….

Back to the “expert” picks. Clearly in the experts eyes, the Bears are underdogs in every way possible for this game. The most hardened and experienced of analysts just can’t bring themselves to pick the Bears. You name it, you will be hard pressed to find an analyst worth his salt picking the Bears to beat the Colts. This is what I’ve seen so far this week:

Gil Brandt – NFL.com Analyst – Colts 27, Bears 17.
Dr. Z – CNNSI.com – Colts 34, Bears 24
Experts at CBS Sportsline – 4 of 6 pick the Colts to win the Super Bowl
Vinnie Iyer – SportingNews.com – Colts 34, Bears 24
ESPN Scouts Inc. Pick – Colts 28, Bears 24
ESPN Analyst Mark Schlereth’s pick – Colts (no score)
ESPN Analyst Chris Mortensen’s pick – Colts by 4 points
ESPN Around the Horn’s Woody Paige – Colts (“here’s no way in hell or Miami that Chicago can beat Indianapolis.”)

NFL Network Picks from today:
– Rich Eisen – shocking that the Bears are as big an underdog, Bears looked relaxed and appear to be a team ready to play this game, no pick.
– Terrell Davis – everybody is picking the Colts, so the pressure is on the Colts, Bears getting extra motivation from being underdog, no pick.
– Trent Dilfer – Bears look ready to work, no pick.
– Steve Mariucci – Bears have the best team, but picking the Colts because of one player, Peyton Manning
– Drew Brees, NO – Colts
– Carson Palmer, CIN – Colts
– Sean Payton, coach, NO – Colts
– Hines Ward, PIT – Bears
– Matt Hasselbeck, SEA – no pick
– Holly Robinson Peete – Colts
– Zach Thomas, MIA – Bears
– Roy Williams, DAL – Bears
– Brian Baldinger, analyst – Bears
– Donovan McNabb, PHI – Bears (and he’s a Cubs fan too!)

Other expert picks:
– Jimmy Johnson, Fox NFL Analyst on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Boomer Esiason, NFL.com Analyst on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Emmitt Smith on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Al Harris, Packer’s CB on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts
– Chad Johnson, CIN WR on WSCR Chicago Sports Radio – Colts

Bears can’t even get a break in video games. The Madden ’07 forecast from ESPN – Colts 38, Bears 27

ESPN Cold Pizza’s Skip Bayless’ Pick – Bears

Ogunleye SB Press Conference

No wonder Adawale Ogunleye looks like he is over the media sessions, interviews and all the Super Bowl fluff. If you were listening for two straight weeks about how much the Colts were better than you, i’m sure you would have the same expression on your face…..

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Chicago Bears Have No Chance, So Say The Experts

Posted by sportsmaven on January 19, 2007

So the experts say that the Chicago Bears have little to no chance to beat the New Orleans Saints this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.  I was watching Inside the NFL on HBO this evening and the panel was making their picks for the Bears/Saints game this Sunday.  Bob Costas was the only one to pick the Bears and he only picked them because he is 2 picks behind Cris Carter for the season and Carter chose the Saints.  Dan Marino chose the Saints. Cris Collinsworth chose the Saints.  Costas wanted the Saints but very reluctantly chose the Bears.

ESPN was worse…..every single analyst, with the exception of Merrill Hoge chose the Saints.  Hoge didn’t even make his picks.  Five of seven analysts at CNN-SI pick the Saints.  The list goes on.  You name it, they are picking the Saints.  This is why I like the Bears.  The Bears feel as though they have been disrespected this entire season.  From Roy Williams “guaranteed victory” prediction to Dennis Green’s “Crown their asses” speech, the disrespect has flowed freely and openly.  When they were the only undefeated team left in the NFL, there was still talk about the Bears still not being the #1 team ranked in the NFL.  All this perceived disrespect has done is grow a pretty wide mean streak in the players and bringing this team even closer together.  How does that translate for Sunday?

The Bears will show up mean.  The Bears will play angry and physical.  If you’ve watched any interviews this week with Bears players, especially Rex Grossman’s Comcast Sports Net interview, you will note a testy, irratible tone in their responses.  This is nothing but good for the Bears.  NFL playoff football is all about emotion.  Emotion is what allows teams to step up to that next level and emotion is what makes playoff football so tremendous.  Emotion and heart, as much as talent and skill is what drives teams to victory in the playoffs, just ask Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

So keep picking the Saints, keep disrespecting the Bears, for the team which brings it on with the most emotion, heart, and passion will be holding the George Halas Trophy on Sunday evening.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »