March Madness is coming!

Only a few weeks away until March 1st… so you all know what that means: MARCH MADNESS IS UPON US! One of the most exciting sports weekends of the year. A weekend that starts on Thursday and goes until Sunday. The first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament. Last year, they even extended the first weekend to a plus 4 play in round to make it a field of 68 teams. One of those  play in teams, VCU, made it all the way to the Final 4! So every game needs to be observed and shown appreciation. If you’re into that sort of thing.

So I’m here to write about some projections. I know we are still about a month away from the tournament actually starting, but might as well try to project the field. I am not going to pretend like I know everything about college hoops, or that I know all 68 teams that will make it. I won’t even try to predict that. I will just give you might thoughts on some of the seeds and some of the teams to look out for this year. All of this is opinion of course, so feel free to chime in and disagree or agree with me. Don’t take what I say with you to Vegas.

The #1 seeds:

Right now, my number 1 seeds are: Kentucky, Syracuse, Missouri, and Duke.

This could obviously change in the next few weeks. I think Kansas could slip past either Mizzou or Duke depending on how they finish the season. If Kansas wins out, I would expect them to get a #1 seed. That would mean a win over Missouri, and possibly 2 wins over Mizzou if they meet again in the Big 12 tourney. There is also a possibility Missouri and Kansas both steal #1 seeds, depending on how Duke finishes their season. Michigan State, Ohio State and North Carolina could sneak in there, but not likely.

The #2 seeds: Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Ohio State.

As I said before, all of these teams have a chance to jump into a #1 seed role, but Kansas is most likely of them all with game(s) against Missouri coming up.

The # 3 seeds: Baylor, Georgetown, Florida, Murray State.

All of these teams are solid, but are lacking the quality wins. They have the talent to make a push in the tourney. I haven’t seen Murray State with a projection this high, but they only have 1 loss and are deserving up to this point.

The #4 seeds: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Wichita State.

The Big 10 will get all of their teams in separate regions if these seeds play out. Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin all have quality wins, but also have some silly losses as well. Wichita State is putting together a very nice season. Blowout wins over UNLV at home, and on the road against Creighton and Davidson show this team has some spunk in them.

The #5 seeds: UNLV, Marquette, San Diego State, Louisville.

All of these teams have quality wins as well, but these teams have all lost to the “elites” as well. The biggest win in this group is UNLV over UNC early in the season. I think UNC wins a re-match between those teams if they meet again in the tourney this year.

The #6 seeds: Florida State, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Gonzaga.

Florida State has a couple of marquee victories against UNC and Duke. Notre Dame is the only team to beat Syracuse all year. These are teams you can’t sleep on come tourney time.

That is about as far as I will go for seeding guesses. After that we get into the mid-majors and that is when I would need some help from my friend Nathan Beck who follows those mid-majors closer than anyone I know. Of course you’ll get some bigger teams that get in late like Kansas State, who got a signature road win today over Baylor. It’s hard to say the exact place they will fall. Here are a few teams I think you should look out for in the tournament this year:

Wichita State: They are a team that can run or they can slow it down. They can play tough defense. They can play with anyone in the country. This makes them a dangerous tourney team. Look out for them come March!

Florida State: Ever since they blew North Carolina out of the water, they’ve been a team i’ve been looking out for. If they can do that to North Carolina, they have the ability to be streaky and make a run through the tourney. At the same time, a team like that could get bounced early. It will depend on what team shows up come tourney time, but I think they will be a lower seed to look out for in March.

Notre Dame: Ever since they beat Syracuse, they have been on a roll. They haven’t lost a game in over a month. When a team gets hot, they can go far in the tourney. Just look at what UCONN did last year. They got hot at the end of the season, won the Big East tourney, and went on to win the National Championship. Notre Dame could be a lower seeded team from the Big East to look out for this year in March.

Temple: Temple is a team that isn’t in my top 6 seeds, but they are a team that could be dangerous out of the A10 conference. They are another team who haven’t tasted a loss in over a month. When you’re hot, you’re hot. They can ride a hot hand into the tourney and make some noise.

Iowa State: The Cyclones have a tough stretch the last couple weeks of the regular season. They play at Kansas State and Missouri and get Baylor at home. It will be very interesting to see how this team closes the season out. Their signature victory is at home against Kansas, but it seems like they have a tough time playing outside of Ames, Iowa. If they can get a couple of upsets down the stretch, look for them to gain some confidence going into the tournament.

Washington: They were my team to look out for last year and they made it to the sweet 16. This year, they are a very young team, but seem to be gelling as the season has progressed. A couple of close early losses on the road to Marquette and Duke showed me that this team could be competitive if they got better as the season went along, and they have shown they can compete. Like Florida State, this could be a streaky team that could make some noise, but could also be bounced early due to the youth on the team.

Keep an eye out for those teams come March Madness. I can’t wait to see how everything falls into place over the next couple of weeks. It’s always an exciting time of the year. As Dicky V would say: “IT’S MARCH MADNESS BABY!”

Nebraska vs Wisconsin

Hey Nebraska, welcome to the Big 10! The first in conference game for the Huskers will be on the road against the defending Big 10 champs and current highest rated team in the conference, Wisconsin Badgers. Nebraska isn’t too far behind, as the match up will be the feature game of the week in prime time on ABC and will also be the home of ESPN’s Gameday show. Needless to say, the crowd up in Madison will be riled up and ready to go for this game.

There are several keys to this game.

1) Can Nebraska’s D stop the Wisconsin running game? This will be the Huskers toughest test yet. Washington featured running back Chris Polk who will no doubt play on an NFL team next year, but the Huskies didn’t have the offensive line that Wisconsin boasts. They also have a two headed monster in Monte Ball and James White. Jared Crick, who sat out last week’s game against Wyoming, will be back and in full force. This will help out a ton. The Huskers also have Lavonte David back, who has missed a couple games this year. David led the team in tackles last year with 152.

2) Can Nebraska stop Russell Wilson? So far Wilson has had his way with the opposing defenses, but he hasn’t played a team like Nebraska. The blackshirts will have to put the pressure on early and keep the pressure on all game to try and fluster Wilson and force him into making some questionable decisions. The Huskers safeties can’t bite on the play action. If they stay at home and let the linebackers do the dirty work, the Huskers could have a solid game against this Wisconsin offense.

3) Can Nebraska hang onto the ball? Nebraska has fumbled more than any team (other than South Carolina) in the country. On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin has not fumbled once this season. For Nebraska to have a real shot at winning this game, they need to hang onto the football and not be -3 in the turnover category.

4) Can Taylor Martinez pass the ball? He’s shown consistency, albeit, not good consistency, in the passing game. He usually completes about 11 or 12 passes in 21 or 22 attempts, around 50%. He has hit the big play on several occasions this year, as teams try to cheat and bring their safeties up in case Martinez is gonna take off running. But Martinez needs to hit on more than just the big play. He needs to be able to complete a pass on 3rd and 8 to move the chains and keep a drive alive. He needs to have a game much like the one in last year’s game against Oklahoma State. Martinez proved that he could step up and make plays in the passing game down in Stillwater. That was also a big road game against a top 10 opponent in which the Huskers were an underdog. Maybe Martinez knows how to pick it up in big games.

5) Can Wisconsin stop Taylor Martinez and the Huskers rushing game? So far, the Huskers have been dominant in the ground game. Martinez and senior RB Rex Burkhead are both averaging over 100 yards per game. Nebraska also has several freshman RB’s who are very capable playmakers. Freshman RB Aaron Green had 2 touchdowns in the win vs Washington. Nebraska needs to stick to what they do best and run the ball. Early on against Wyoming, Nebraska tried to pass the ball more than run it. That resulted in a close game at halftime. After the half, Nebraska chose to run the ball over and over again, wearing down the defense and winning big in the second half. Nebraska needs to take a running approach into this game. If they can get the run going early, it will open up for some play action plays which makes the Nebraska offense so dangerous. If Wisconsin can slow the running game down, they have a great chance to win the game.

I think this will be a very close, well fought game. The atmosphere will be intense and Nebraska is young on the offensive side of the ball. Nebraska will need to play mistake free football if they are going to win this game. At this point in the season, I think Wisconsin has the edge, especially with the home field advantage during a night game. Like I said in my pre-season predicitions, I think the Badgers will take this game in a close one, but I think by the end of the season Nebraska will be more experienced and get revenge in the inaugural Big 10 championship game in December.

Wisconsin 31
Nebraska 27

College Football 2011

College football season is already into full swing with several big games having already been played. Sorry I am late to posting my pre-season thoughts but I have been busy working with my friends on our new NFL website. You can check that out at http://www.wewatchfootball.com if you want. But I am back on here for the first time in a while and I am already fully engaged into the college football season! Here are my early thoughts and also some of my pre-season predictions that I didn’t get a chance to post before the season started.

Pre-Season Predictions:

National Championship Game: Oklahoma vs Boise State

Yes, I have one team that many predicted as the favorite and pre-season #1 in Oklahoma. But I went with a wild card for my second team in Boise State. This is a team led by one of the best QB minds in college football in Kellen Moore. I thought if they could get by Georgia (a ranked SEC team) in week 1, then they could go undefeated the rest of the way. Yes, their schedule isn’t as tough as most others in the top 25, but if they can run the tables, I don’t think there is a team (other than Oklahoma) that will go through this season without a loss on their schedule. This gives Boise State the advantage. This would also be intriguing in the last time these two met in a BCS bowl game (Fiesta Bowl) Boise State won on the statue of liberty two point conversion. This time, I don’t think Oklahoma will be over looking them.

Winner and National Champ: Oklahoma

Rose Bowl: Nebraska vs Oregon

This is a bit of a homer pick with both teams, but I think they both have the talent and ability to make it to the grandaddy of them all. This is the first year of the Pac 12 and the first year of the Big 10 with 12 teams. Both teams will have to play in a championship game and win it in order to get there. I could see Oregon slipping at Stanford, but if they can get by them, they will represent the North division from the Pac-12 and win the first ever Pac-12 title. Nebraska has a tough road as well, playing all the Big 10 teams who went to bowl games last year. They get to open their Big 10 season on the road at Wisconsin, one of the toughest places to play in America. I think Nebraska will lose that game. However, I think they will win the rest of their games en route to a re-match against Wisconsin in the first ever Big 10 Championship game in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium. They will take the re-match and make it to the Rose Bowl. I think Nebraska will have the advantage in this game. They have a great defense and have the speed to keep up with and contain Oregon’s explosive offense. The Pelini brothers will have over a month to plan and prepare a way to stop the Oregon attack. I think it will be a close game, but Nebraska will win a close one.

Winner: Nebraska

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Virginia Tech

I think Alabama has a very good team, but they have a very tough schedule. If they can make it through undefeated, they will definitely be in the national championship game. I just don’t think they can do it. I think they are the best team in the SEC though and they will be in a BCS bowl this year. Virginia Tech is always an interesting team. They have a very favorable schedule this year, and if they don’t slip up early (like they have the last few years) I think they will make a run into a BCS bowl this year. In a match up of these two teams, I think Alabama’s defense will be the difference.

Winner: Alabama

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs LSU

This would be a great battle. Both teams have solid defense and Florida State is trying to become nationally relevant again. I think the pre-season poll that has Florida State #5 is a bit high, but I think they will be good enough to make a run at the ACC title and a BCS berth. In the end, I think LSU’s team is stronger than Florida State this year, and I would go with the Tigers.

Winner: LSU

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs Stanford

Oklahoma State has the chance to have a very solid season. This offense is explosive and have several NFL caliber players. On the other side, Stanford has the most likely #1 overall pick in next year’s draft in QB Andrew Luck. Both teams will know how to move the ball and will have good seasons. I think if Stanford can get by Oregon, they might even be in the national title discussion at year’s end. If they don’t beat Oregon, I think they will win the rest of their games and still make a BCS bowl, just like last year. This one would be fun to watch and a high scoring affair. In the end, I think I’d pick the team with Andrew Luck.

Winner: Stanford

Those are my pre-season big bowl predictions and how I think some of the top teams will do this year. Some sleepers: Arizona State, Michigan State, South Carolina, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Baylor. Not saying these teams will make the BCS, but they could make some noise and pull off some upsets in tough conferences.

Hope you all enjoy the season as much as I am planning on it!

Chiefs Schedule… BRUTAL!

Well, the good news is the Chiefs could have a winning record before their bye week for the second consecutive season. The bad news comes after the bye week when they will be facing both superbowl teams, both runners up from the AFC and NFC and the Patriots too. Here is the schedule. Bold is a home game, non bold is away. I will put a W or L next to each game for win or loss.

CHIEFS 2011 SCHEDULE

September

11 BUFFALO W
18 at DETROIT W
25 at SAN DIEGO L

October

MINNESOTA W
9 at INDIANAPOLIS L
16 Open Date
23 at OAKLAND L
31 SAN DIEGO W

November

MIAMI W
13 DENVER W
21 at NEW ENGLAND  L
27 PITTSBURGH L

December

4 at CHICAGO L
11 at NEW YORK JETS L
18 GREEN BAY L
24 OAKLAND W

January

1 at DENVER W

As you can see, I have the Chiefs finishing 8-8. When all is said and done with this schedule, I think 8-8 would be a pretty good season. Yes, not as good as last season, but staying at .500 would be a positive for this team in my mind. I could see this team being 6-10, and I think their ceiling this year is probably 9-7. The month long stretch of games from mid November to late December are tough. Not only do the Chiefs have to play all of those playoff teams from last year, but they play them ALL IN A ROW! This team will need some serious resolve after those games to get back on track and win against Oakland and Denver, as I am predicting. If the Chiefs can pull off an upset in 1-2 of those games, I would be very happy. After the bye week, a win at Oakland is possible, but the Raiders swept the Chiefs last year, so I don’t want to take anything away from the Raiders at this point. That will be a key game though, coming out of a bye and against your most hated rival. A win there would be huge for the Chiefs before they get a 3 game home stand.

In the end, if the Chiefs can get to 8-8 and keep a .500 record, I think that would be keeping pace with what they did last year. I know they had a 10-6 record last year, but they had a pretty easy schedule. With a tougher schedule comes more losses. However, this will make them a tougher team and if they happen to get back to the playoffs, they will be more battle tested. You never know how things will go in the AFC west, and who knows, an 8-8 record could win the division (see NFC west last year… Seahawks won their division with a losing record). If the Chiefs can split with the Chargers, split with Oakland, and sweep the Broncos, it could happen.

I will probably update this with another prediction as the season gets closer and after all of the lock out nonsense is over. Be on the look out for a draft recap in the coming weeks as well. Stay tuned…

Chiefs and the Draft

With all of the lock out speculation, I haven’t been paying much attention to what is going on with the NFL. I’ve been ignoring it until they get things figured out. But then I remembered the draft is coming up, and the Chiefs are looking to improve on their best season in years. They have a much tougher schedule coming up this year and in order to stay around the .500 mark or better, they will have to improve.

First pick (21 overall)- A lot of people are speculating taking an offensive lineman here. I would be ok with that, helping to protect Cassel who was progressing well last year until the last couple of games. It also will help keep their running game, one of the best in the league, doing what it is capable of doing. Some think Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi could slip down to the Chiefs pick. If he is still there at 21, the Chiefs should jump all over him. A 6’7″ 315 pound tackle would be great to have on your team. On the defensive side, if Adrian Clayborn from Iowa or Nick Fairly from Auburn are around at the Chiefs spot, they would be solid picks to help out on the D-Line/D-End spot.

Second round would be wise to go with another Linebacker that could help Tamba Hali out with the pass rush. Casey Matthews (Clay Matthews brother) out of Oregon could be a good choice, but he may slip to the third round, which is where the Chiefs may decide to go with a LB.

I think the Chiefs could get a steal in a QB in the mid-rounds in this draft. There are some decent quarterbacks that aren’t quite ready for the starting spot that could sit behind Cassel for a few years before taking over. If Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, or Ryan Mallet are available between the 3rd-5th round, I would jump on one of those guys. We have seen over the years that Brodie Croyle is not the answer, even as a back up. His 0-11 record as a starter is a testament to that.  When he came in for one start after Cassel went down with an appendectomy, the Chiefs lost 35-0 to the Chargers. The back up quarterback position is key for the Chiefs in this draft, and they could also snag a possible quarterback of the future if they can work someone into it slowly (IE Aaron Rodgers style).

Other than that, I think the Chiefs could use some depth in the secondary. It showed last year that when our starting corners/safeties go down, the team is in trouble. Tyler Sash from Iowa could be a good middle round pick at the safety spot.

It will be interesting to see which direction the Chiefs go in this draft. Last year, they took some risks with McCluster and Arenas. Both helped out a bit in the return game, but not as much as people would have liked. Arenas got a little action in the secondary as well as doing returns. McCluster showed some explosiveness on offense, but was hurt for about a month during the season, something many people were skeptical of due to his size. If he can stay healthy, he will remain a threat on offense. Eric Berry had some rookie bumps early on, but progressed nicely as the season went along. The Chiefs got some decent use out of their later draft picks as well and made the 2010 draft class a decent success in their first year. If those guys can continue to progress and if the 2011 draft class can be just as productive out of the gate, the Chiefs could be looking to hang onto another AFC championship. If they get around to playing.

Hey Everyone,

Jon Foreman from Switchfoot decided to write a song called “Tomorrow’s Song” and encouraged anyone else who wanted to write a song with that same title to do so. So in almost 24 hours, there have been about 200 people who have done this. I took part in this, first, because I thought it sounded like fun. Second, because I have written a song in a while. Third, I had some free time when I got off work. So, here are the lyrics from my version.

“Tomorrow’s Song”

Snow is falling unexpectedly,
Thought that this was supposed to be
Spring in the air, not going anywhere.
When will tomorrow get here?

This is a song for tomorrow,
And hoping things get better.
This is a song for tomorrow.
This is a song for tomorrow,
And hoping things get better.
Hold onto hope and tomorrow’s song’s for you.

Another disaster has just arrived
But at least i know that you’re alive.
Don’t give up on hope just yet.
It’s another thing you’ll regret.

Chorus

Don’t give up hope,
This song’s for you.

Chorus

ENJOY!

http://www.markvansickle.bandcamp.com/

And then there were 12…

Warning: Spoiler Alerts, if you have not watched this week and don’t want the surprise to be ruined, don’t read this!

We have our first cast off of American Idol season 10. Ashton Jones is out! Yeah, it’s kinda sad when you see people go home, and when you see how close this group of 13 is then it does make it a little bit more emotional, but I think America made the correct choice. Personally, I didn’t think Ashton should have made it into the top 13. I thought her performance on Wednesday night was so-so. She didn’t show great control on her low notes and just wasn’t as solid as the judges remembered her from auditions and Hollywood week. I felt like the judges were always a bit high on her and I wasn’t sure why. I mean, she can sing, but she wasn’t the best in this competition.

I actually called who the bottom 3 would be. I didn’t think any of the guys would be in the bottom 3, and the other 2 that joined Ashton were Hailey and Karen. I thought Hailey had a decent performance, but I wasn’t really familiar with that song, so I wasn’t a huge fan of it. Karen chose a song she loved, but didn’t really put the emotional connection to it like I thought she would. She claimed monitor issues and that she couldn’t hear herself throughout the performance. I liked Karen last week, so I was glad to see her stay to get a second chance. Ashton already got her second chance when the judges brought her into the Top 13, so I was glad she was sent home this week.

The judges, wisely, chose not to “save” Ashton again. For those who don’t  know, the Judges get one week where they can “save” someone if they think America chose the wrong person to send home. They can do this up until there are 5 contestants left I believe. It is definitely more interesting when there is a save later in the season and I think the judges made a good choice to let Ashton go this week.

A few side notes, Casey Abrams did a fantastic job with his song this week. Definitely a fan favorite and still a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, he was hospitalized before the show last night, so he wasn’t able to be there for the elimination show. Hopefully he gets better soon. Lauren Alaina, my girl favorite, was a bit underwhelming. She even admitted during the elimination show that she didn’t do very well and that she was “sorry” for her performance. It was kinda a sad moment when she did that, but it was honest and I think it made people like her even more. Pia may be my new girl favorite. She killed it again and showed that she is definitely a front runner in this competition. I also really enjoyed James Durbin’s song he did. He covered a Paul McCartney tune and showed us a new, softer side of himself. I think this will help him in the long run of the competition and could help him be a contender.

At first, I thought the girls were the strength in this year’s group. A couple weeks in, and I may have to change my mind. The guys have been doing very well, and by the show of 3 girls in the bottom 3, that could be a sign that the guys could be dominating again this year. I think the girls have a couple of stand outs in Pia and Lauren, but they have some very stiff competition on the guys side. Right now, it’s tough to call a favorite, but I still like Casey if he can stay healthy. It will be very interesting to see what happens next week!