Friday, May 10, 2013

SEC Dominance?.... Or Propaganda?

(Disclaimer: Due to confusion amongst readers, this isn't a comparison of the SEC to other conferences but rather to their own godlike reputation upheld by the media.) Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, had an interesting quote this week. Stoops basically said (paraphrasing of course) that the SEC is the beneficiary of media propaganda. I couldn't wait for a knowledgeable opinion to finally say what I've long held to be true. Before you think that I hold a bias against the SEC, I've always stated that I think the SEC is the best conference, but also the most overrated. I know what you are thinking, that how can a conference that just won its 7th straight BCS National Championship be overrated. Trust me, I will touch on this subject in detail. Before you read the rest, keep in mind that I am coming from the viewpoint that I still believe it is the best conference, but even the best at anything isn't above propaganda.

I won't waste any time and jump right into the main argument against possible propaganda, the 7 straight BCS titles. That is a very impressive streak, and one that I doubt any other conference will come close to ever. The most impressive thing about it is the fact that Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Auburn have all won the title in this span (Tennessee won the first ever BCS title and LSU also won in 2003). I think that it speaks volumes of the depth of the conference. With all that said, I think people forget what is the hardest thing about actually winning a BCS title, and it's access to the game. The SEC has been able to rack up titles for one, because they've actually been allowed to play in the game. This isn't NCAA basketball, the NFL and NBA playoffs, or even 1AA football where teams have to go through some sort of bracket system to prove they are the best. The biggest obstacle to winning a BCS title game is whether you are actually picked to go to the game.

In 2000, 1-loss Florida State was picked to go to the title game over 1-loss and #2 ranked Miami who beat them but also lost to 1-loss Washington. Miami and Washington couldn't win the championship because they didn't have a chance to even play in the game. #1 ranked USC was denied a spot in the game in 2003, as well as 2011 Big-10 Champion Oklahoma State, and Oregon and Boise State what seems like every year. There are numerous others as well. Outside of undefeated Auburn being denied a spot in 2005, SEC teams have generally been given great access to the title game. This includes 2-loss LSU in 2007, and 2011 Alabama who finished 2nd in its Division (not conference). For people saying that they still had to win the game, I agree but in order to win a game you have to be in it. Let's pretend for a minute that college basketball used the same system. Carolina or Duke would have had an opportunity to automatically appear in the title game about 7 times in the past 10 years (some years ranked #3 with a much stronger resume). How many of those could they have won probably 5 at least, but as it stands they have only combined for 3 titles in that amount of time because they didn't have guaranteed access to the championship game.

I think the biggest reason for the propaganda for the SEC is pre-season rankings. It artificially puts all the top SEC teams at the top without them playing a game. If they win against another top team, we anoint them as favorites for beating a top-10 ranked team (usually undeserving at that point), and if they lose the media writes that at least they lost to a top ranked team (also usually undeserving at that point). That leads to a system where SEC teams can win and climb back up the charts swiftly or lose and suffer a minimal drop at best. Whenever it's possible look at how far Bama or LSU drops after a loss, and climbs after a win compared to other good teams in different conferences. You'll notice a huge disparity. All this does is reinforce the propaganda we were given at the beginning of the season based on preseason rankings and recruiting rankings (another equally bias system, but that blog post is for another day).

Also, the media tells us that the SEC teams are better and more deserving of their rankings because they beat up on each other week in and week out. More propaganda as well, SEC teams only play 8 conference games, and 4 scrimmages (ok not really scrimmages), while Big 10 and Pac-10 teams play 9 conference games (some play Notre Dame too), and the ACC plays 8 conference games with 5 teams playing Notre Dame. Take a closer look at each team schedule to see whether they really beat up on one another every week. Bama played LSU, and Texas A&M who are both divisional foes and that was it. Georgia played South Carolina and Florida, also divisional foes, and that was it.  Both teams split the games. Florida who probably had the hardest schedule actually played LSU, A&M, South Carolina, and Georgia and went 3-1 (along with beating FSU). A&M played LSU, Bama, and Florida and went 1-2 in those games, and South Carolina played LSU, Florida, and Georgia and went 1-2 as well. LSU played South Carolina, Bama, A&M, and Florida, and went 2-2. Outside of Florida any SEC team that played 2 or more games versus other top teams didn't have a winning record. In reality, those teams beat up on Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Auburn, Arkansas, and Ole Miss, and pretenders Miss State and Vanderbilt (no top conference wins between them). But because of media propaganda and bias we rarely ever get the true story.

With all that said, I still believe Alabama had the best team in the nation but that does not mean that the SEC as a whole hasn't benefited from bias that college football has used to increase its own revenue. So SEC teams make sure to thank the media and your great respective fan bases (die hard fans willing to pay money, travel well, big boosters, etc.) for your reign over College Football.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Did Marc Gasol Steal LeBron's DPOY award?

There's been a lot of debate on whether Marc Gasol should have won Defensive Player Of the Year, with the NBA's best and most popular player having a very strong candidacy. LeBron was deserving of the award and you would have heard no complaints from me had he won, but I think Marc Gasol was very deserving as well. I think the nature of defense makes deciding this award hard. On offense we generally regard someone as better by scoring more and doing it more efficiently, while on defense there's more variables at play. Honestly, I believe that some people didn't think Gasol should win by what I like to call the "ESPN dumbing down effect" which in short, is an emphasis on viewer driven content such as highlight plays, star players, etc. More highlights, more exposure, and more popularity does not necessarily mean better. No matter where you live in the United States, you could have watched LeBron play at least 30 times (on either NBATV, ESPN, TNT, ABC). A reason he's a favorite for DPOY is simply because more people have seen him play more often. On the other hand, if you have managed to watch Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies play 5 times then you are considered an expert on the matter. First I'll give you my opinion on why LeBron didn't win.

LeBron had a great defensive season, but it is wise to remember that in the past 15 years Metta World Peace (The artist formerly known as Ron Artest) has been the only perimeter player to win the award. No disrespect to LeBron but he didn't play defense at the same level of intensity as Ron Artest did for 48 minutes a game, 82 games a year. He had stretches where he did, but not as consistently or as often as Artest. It's relevant that Scottie Pippen also never won the award. DPOY seems to go to big men on defensive minded teams. Maybe it's not fair but neither is the fact that MVP's (NFL &NBA) go to offensive players or the fact that the Heisman, which is supposed to be given to the best college football player, is generally given to the quarterback who puts up the most video game-ish numbers regardless of scheme or other variables. The Miami Heat led the NBA in points per possession, effective field goal percentage (accounts for the fact that 3's are more valuable than 2's), and true shooting percentage (factors in free throws as well). In short, they are an offensive juggernaut. Most voters historically haven't felt comfortable giving DPOY to a player on the best offensive team in the league. This leads to my rationale on why Marc Gasol did deserve the award.

Honestly plenty of people think Marc Gasol shouldn't have won the award, because he's not a very popular player, neither is his team. Some say that he's not the best defensive player on his team, that it's Tony Allen. Tony Allen is automatically eliminated by the fact that he plays 26.7 minutes per game. No player has ever won a major award playing so little. I think that we get so caught up on highlights we forget the other things involved with defense. There's more to defense than highlight reel chase down blocks, playing the passing lane perfectly for a steal and getting a nice dunk on the other end. Every NBA team averages between 92 and 100 possessions per game, and some fans want to crown players great defenders because they make 2 or 3 steals/blocks, while forgetting there is still over 90 more plays. Playing great defense involves proper rotations, defending the paint area, properly showing on the pick & roll and then timing your recovery back to your man, and rebounding. Marc Gasol does all those things very well. Watching him guard the pick & roll (most effective and used play in basketball) is a masterpiece. His team gives up an NBA low 89.3 points a game. The Grizzlies were 6.8 points better defensively (per 100 possessions) when Marc Gasol was in the game. On a team that already does not give up many points that is remarkable. So while he may not necessarily be the best defender (is MVP always given to the best player?), Gasol is more valuable to his team's defense than LeBron (might have something to do with Battier, Chalmers, Wade, also being elite defenders).

Great defense unlike its offensive counterpart requires 5 players all playing well and together, it really is a team concept. Simply put, Marc Gasol was the best defensive player on the best defensive team. That is more than enough reason to why he is deserving of being DPOY.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Should Derrick Rose Return For The Playoffs?

The topic of this blog entry is pretty straightforward. One of the top 2013 NBA playoffs stories has been whether Derrick Rose should come back to aid his team's quest for a title. This question has been hotly debated over the past few weeks, especially with Rose himself saying that he could potentially comeback at any time as long as he felt ready. Before I express my viewpoint, I want it to be known that my opinion on whether he should play or not has nothing to do with Derrick Rose's character. Quite a few people like D.Rose so much as a person, that they're not able to bring themselves to dislike his decisions as a professional athlete. This blog is not written by one of them. So should Derrick Rose return? I think he should, and that he should have returned already.

Why do I think he should have returned already? It's quite simple. Contrary to popular belief, I believe that as a professional athlete, Rose does have certain obligations. These obligations are to the NBA, the Chicago Bulls organization, his teammates, and to the fans. As a professional athlete (Someone who is paid to play a sport) the simple obligation is that he should play in every game that he can play in. Derrick Rose has been cleared for full contact practice since January. If it was a matter of him being 85-90% then I would agree that he shouldn't play, but he's been given a clean bill of health, and has been going through full practices for over 3 months. Over the past two years Derrick Rose has played in 39 out of a possible 148 games. Not blaming him for being injured, but the fact that he has already missed so many games should entice him to return as soon as possible. Any casual fan can tell you that the NBA already has an issue of some players signing long-term fully guaranteed contracts and not giving the effort that they did to earn the contract. Not the production, but the effort. I would hate to see another precedent of guys taking longer than they should to return from injuries, just because they can.

The NBA is a product just like an iPad, Range Rover, Galaxy III, etc. The difference is that consumers (fans) are paying high prices for a product with little to no long-term value. If you disagree, try to sell your tickets from the past Super Bowl and see what you get for them. Without long-term value it is important for consumers to get the best product possible. That's why I'm against rebuilding or giving up years. It's the equivalent of paying high prices for a bad product. Imagine paying for an iPad that couldn't store music. While the NBA (all sport leagues, and companies do) uses it's athletes for it's own monetary gain, it also allows it's players to make a decent living in return for their skills. That's as fair as the world gets. The Bulls organization is paying Rose $16.4 million this year. If he can play, which has been proven to be the case, then he should. Lets not forget what a professional athlete is, someone who is paid to play. Another belief is that the amount of money he makes shouldn't matter. I disagree with that as well. When you accept the big contract numbers, you are accepting the responsibility that comes with it.

Some people say he shouldn't play because his team can't win the title, and again I disagree. First his team finished 45-37, good for 5th place in the Eastern Conference without him playing a single minute. If he's the top-5 player that he is given credit as being, then his presence should in fact allow his team to make a serious run at a title. Look at the past 10-15 years, very few teams were good enough that you could take their superstar off and they'd still make the playoffs. That alone already means that Derrick Rose is playing with a better team than Iverson had in Philly, T-Mac had in Orlando, Dirk had in Dallas, Lebron had in Cleveland, KG had in Minnesota, Pierce had in Boston, Melo had in Denver, etc. You couldn't take those stars off of those team and think the team would win games. It might seem as if I'm being hard on Derrick Rose, but Rose wanted this responsibility. He's the same guy that had the infamous "Why Not Me?" quote which became a catalyst for his MVP season. Despite his age, when he accepted 30% of his team's salary cap and the MVP trophy, his peers became Jordan, Bird, Magic, Lebron, Kobe instead of Kevin Love, OJ Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday. I can't see any of them not playing in this situation. Next year when Kobe is rounding into shape from his Achilles injury, do you know how excited he would be to join a team that remained in the top-5 in the conference without him. He'd probably say they were serious title contenders, because he believes in his own ability along with a team that has been able to win without him. This brings me to my last argument on why he should play which I think is one of the most important, his obligation to his teammates.

Derrick Rose is without a doubt the best player on the Chicago Bulls, the face of the franchise, the leading scorer, and the highest paid player. With that comes the responsibility to deliver greatness, fair or not. I think by not playing even though he's been cleared for months, Derrick Rose is letting down his teammates effort. His teammates battled through injuries, lost some great role players from last year's team (Korver, Asik, Watson, Lucas, Brewer) and still managed to stay competitive and deliver a playoff appearance. Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, both all-stars in their own right, have fought injuries over the years and played at less than a 100% to give Rose a chance at a title. They understand that nothing is guaranteed, and even though the future looks bright this could very well be their best team ever with D.Rose playing of course. If you don't believe me, look at the 2006-07 Golden State Warriors roster, a team full of very good players just entering their prime. After finishing 16-5 and upsetting the #1 seed Mavericks, that team seemed destined to compete for titles for years, but never made it back to the playoffs until this year. The great part about the Bulls is that this team was constructed around Derrick Rose being able to make a comeback and giving him a good chance once he did. They lived up to their end of the deal, and I think Rose is selling his teammates effort short by not returning. With all that said, Rose is a great player and person, so I'll be still rooting for him whenever he does decide to return.

Well that is my opinion on why Rose should have returned. Feel free to leave comments and feedback. Thank you for reading.