AL Teams that benefit from expanded playoffs

Detroit Tigers

Most overlooked the Tigers in 2021.  After a brutal start to the season the young Tigers squad actually put together a respectable season finishing 77-85, finishing third in the division.  Detroit went into the offseason looking to fill out their rotation with some veteran arms and find some pop to add to the middle of the lineup.  They were successful in both. 

The Tigers added veterans Micheal Pineda and Eduardo Rodriguez to a rotation that was highlighted with young arms.  Former first overall pick Casey Mize should still be looked at as the ace of the staff but the addition of Rodriguez is an under the radar move that could make the Tigers a serious threat in the Central Division.  Rodriguez was 13-8 last year with an ERA of 4.74, his expected ERA was actually just 3.50, he was a victim of the short porches of Fenway Park on multiple occasions.  He should thrive in a much more pitcher friendly park in Detroit.  The Tigers also feature two young arms, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal, both project to make huge strides in 2022.  The rotation will also get a huge boost with the addition of gold glover Tucker Barnhart behind the plate.  

The offense needed to add more pop in the offseason, they ranked in the bottom of baseball in isolated power. They added power hitter Javy Baez as well as announced that Spencer Torkelson will start the season on the MLB roster.  Baez brings some baggage, he is a strikeout machine that can be his own worst enemy at times but his speed and gap power should play well in Comerica Park.  Detroit still has the veteran presence of Miggy Cabrera and Jonathon Schoop in the middle of the lineup and a litany of speed throughout the lineup that puts pressure on the opposing defense.  AJ Hinch allows his team to play to their strengths and it paid off last year and should help them get to the next level in 2022.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners were supposed to be a few years away from contention.  Top level prospects Logan Gilbert, Julio Rodriguez and Jared Kelenic were “eventually” going to find their way to the show. Rather than wait the Mariners exceeded expectations and put together an unfathomable 90 win season. Now the prospects are ready and the expectations are as high as they have ever been in Seattle.  

The Mariners won 90 games with one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, they were 30th in batting average, 28th in OBP and 22nd in isolated power.  Basically the offense needed improvement.  For the on-base percentage, they added Adam Frazier, coming off an all-star season where he featured an OBP of .368. For the power they added Jesse Winker, coming off a season where he slugged .558 and a .251 ISO, Winker can also get on base a little big with a .398 OBP.  A fully healthy Mitch Haniger will be huge for the middle of the order.  Seattle will rely on their youth to take a step forward but they have done more than enough to fill in a lineup that was loaded with holes. 

The Mariners also bolstered their rotation by adding Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray.  Ray was lights out for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021, he will now have been playing in a much more pitcher friendly ballpark.  Despite his success last season Robbie Ray still has question marks about consistency.  Ray’s overall success can be attributed to his ability to finally throw strikes consistently.  In the disaster that was 2020, Ray’s BB/9 reached as high as 7, in 2021 he had a career best 2.42.  Behind Ray the Mariners feature the top prospect Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzalez and Chris Flexen who are as solid as any 3-4 starters in the entire league.  They have question marks for the 5th spot but overall this is a solid rotation that can compete with any inside of the division.

The Mariner’s bullpen has Paul Sewald, Ken Giles, Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo.  All interchangeable parts that can close, go multiple innings or maybe even start if needed.  It’s solid and I didn’t even name everyone.

Sweet Sixteen Bets

St. Peter’s Peacocks vs. Purdue Boilermakers

The Peacocks are a great story.  They beat Kentucky, they beat Murray State but they will not beat Purdue.  The Boilermakers are loaded including star guard Jaden Ivey,7’ 4” Zach Edey, forward Trevion Williams and underrated role players Eric Hunter, Mason Gillis and Stefan Stefanovic.  The Peacocks will not have an answer for the size of Edey, even if the Peacocks star KC NDefo is able to slow down Jaden Ivey they won’t be able to stop the post game of the Boilermakers.

The St. Peters offense has been playing above their level over the last two games, but ultimately they are a below average offense and they foul a lot on the defensive end.  We know after Sunday that Purdue knows how to get to the line. They will do that a lot and they will dominate the interior.  This fun is over for St. Peters, Purdue will win by twenty.

Pick: Purdue Boilermakers  -12.5

Michigan Wolverines vs. Villanova Wildcats

Michigan was left for dead after their 4-3 start.  If it wasn’t for their victories within conference the Wolverines may be playing in the NIT. Nevertheless the Wolverines find themselves in the Sweet 16 led by their All-American Hunter Dickinson. His 27 points and 11 rebounds led the charge in the upset versus Tennessee in the second round, his ability to control the paint while being able to shoot the three when needed makes him a matchup nightmare. 

Villanova has the experience needed to go all the way.  Collin Gillespie and company have been efficient on offense in week one of the tournament and should be able to take advantage of the inconsistent defense of Michigan. The Wolverines rank 170th in effective field goal percentage during the regular season, the Wildcat offense will try to slow them down and take advantage of open shots.  

Michigan has top ten talent all through the roster. They have picked up their intensity on the defensive end especially holding down three point shooters.  The Wolverines size will be a problem for Nova, they will not be able to get inside and that will cause them problems trying to connect from deep.  Nova needs the three to drop consistently because Michigan will be able to control the boards with Dickinson and Freshman Moussa Diabete. The length and advantage on the glass will allow Michigan to keep this close.  I would still take the points but I can see them pulling out the outright upset.

Pick: Michigan Wolverines +5

Houston Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats

Elite defense vs. elite offense.  Quick pace vs slow pace.  The matchup between Houstona and Arizona is a complete mismatch of styles. 

 The Houston Cougars will look to grind it out and limit possessions. They have the 338th ranked tempo in all of college basketball.  Despite their slow pace they are still a very efficient offense, ranking 9th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Houston is able to put themselves in great position to get the shot they want or at the very least grind down a defense which they take advantage of on the offensive glass.  Houston is merciless on the glass, snagging offensive rebounds on 37% of possessions. This is going to be a problem for Arizona, coming off of a game where TCU was able to dominate the glass and put a scare into the #1 seed in the South.  

Arizona found a way to get by TCU, whether it was a bad call or not the Wildcats still found a way to win behind their star Bennidict Mathurin and Cristain Koloko.  The Wildcats are deep, they have multiple weapons that come off the bench and produce, if they can get the ball moving they will be able to wear out Houston. The key will be to make sure they clean up the defensive glass. When they get the ball they need to let Mathurin loose 

The Houston defense has not  given up over 68 points just once in their last ten games. They have not had to put up the numbers on the offensive end to keep up with teams. They rely too much on dominating the offensive glass.  Arizona has the length and athletes to neutralize Houston’s biggest asset. 

Pick: Arizona ML

A quick look at the South Region

Best first round game- Houston vs UAB

Houston had big aspirations heading into the season.  Last year’s final four team was looking for a repeat performance in 2022.  Injuries to Tramon Mark and more importantly Marcus Sasser put a halt to the Cougars momentum.  Houston was still able to win the American Conference regular season and tournament title’s but they were not able to pick up a lot of trademark wins throughout the season.  They will matchup with the UAB Blazers high powered offense led by Jelly Walker.  The Blazers average 79 ppg and will look to run early and often. 

Houston will do all it can to dictate the pace, if they fall behind early they don’t have the firepower to overcome a deficit.  Kelvin Sampsons squad are in for a fight.

Sleeper- Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines pre-season hype may have been overblown but the talent they possess is real.  All-American Hunter Dickinson leads a team that entered the season in the top ten and owns wins over Purdue, at Iowa and at Ohio State.  The Wolverines seem to lose focus on the defensive end, but if they can find a way to lock in they have the offensive stars to make a run.  

They have a great big man, a senior guad and NBA level talent in Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate.  

Final- Tennessee vs. Arizona

The Volunteers got screwed in the seeding. They likely should have earned themselves a 2nd seed after winning the SEC tournament.  Despite that they find themselves in a good spot to make it to the Elite Eight.  Potential Sweet Sixteen matchups are the injured Buckeyes, an overrated mid-major Loyola and an underwhelming Villanova squad.  The Vols can shut you down on the defensive end and have gotten great guard play from Santiago Vescovi, Kennedy Chandleer and Zakai Ziegler. 

If the Vols continue their hot streak they will likely take on the extremely talented Arizona Wildcats.  The Cats are loaded, they are a top five offense with multiple bigs that can control the glass.  Christian Kokolo can dominate a game without the ball by controlling the paint, he allows the guards to play with a controlled chaos that is tough to guard. They also have a stud in Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona has everything but experience.  Sometimes talent is all you need, they have proven that all year.

Winner- Arizona

Bid Stealers- Teams that can break the bubble

ACC: Virginia Tech Hokies

The ACC is having a down year.  With likely only Duke being a complete lock for the tournament, every win is important.  Virginia Tech is currently 10-8 in conference and an unimpressive 18-11 overall.  Of those 18 victories none of them are quad 1 wins. The best win of the season was at home against Notre Dame.  

Virginia Tech will enter the ACC tournament, playing for their tournament lives.  With the ACC not having the depth of previous seasons, the Hokies could play their way into the tournament.  Tech features one of the best defensive teams in the country, they rank 17th in the country in points against giving up just 61 ppg.  They are loaded with veteran players, starting three seniors and two juniors and a coach who knows how to win big games in Mike Young.  Virginia Tech is not an offensive juggernaut, they are however very efficient on the offensive end.  They are 22nd in the nation in shooting efficiency, they are led by Kevin Aluma, a Senior that can score from the inside or mid range.  Along with Aluma, they feature some sharp shooting guards Storm Murphy and Hunter Catoor.

Virginia Tech as a team shooting 39% from deep and play hard nosed defense.  Their record doesn’t show how good they are, they could easily make a run in the ACC tournament knocking another bubble team out of the big dance.

Big East: St. John’s Red Storm

The Big East was extremely underrated heading into the season.  Most thought it was just Villanova or nobody, instead the Big East has been a breeding ground for tournament sleepers. Mike Anderson’s fast paced offensive attack could help the St. John’s Red Storm find themselves playing deep into March. 

The Red Storm play at a pace that is hard to match.  Led by Julian Champagnie who is averaging 23 ppg in Big East play, St. Johns can score with any team in the conference.  They have already proven they can score against great defensive competition, putting up 84 against Seton Hall, 86 against Xavier and 94 against Butler. They lead the conference averaging 84 ppg, with a healthy Posh Alexander running the show the Red Storm can beat you in multiple ways. If they can carry their offense into the tournament they are going to be a problem for the opposition and anyone sitting on the bubble.  

A-10: SLU Billikens

The Atlantic 10 will likely get at least two teams in the tourney.  Davidson is a near lock, but VCU, Dayton and St Bonaventrue are knocking on the door, very quietly.  With Davidson being a near lock, them losing in the A-10 tournament could be the downfall for a bubble squad needing the extra spot.  In steps the St. Louis Billikens, Travis Ford’s Bills lost their best player before the season even tipped off but they still have put together a solid resume that while not tournament worthy shows that they can be very dangerous in a single elimination tournament.  Much like the Red Storm SLU has set themselves a part on the offensive end, averaging a conference best 77 ppg.  PG, Yuri Collins has become a conference player of the year candidate and likely will be a pre-season player of the year candidate in his junior  year.  Collins is an assist machine, averaging 8 per game on the season, he leads an offense that has multiple tools to thrash opposing defenses. 

St. Louis had some bad losses, but played well against power house Auburn and beat Boston College and MTN West standout Boise State.  The Bills are not great on defense but it isnt a liability.  They rank middle of the pack in most categories and have a great rim protector in Francis Okoro controlling the paint.  The Bills offense and ability to protect the rim without fouling will put them in great position to potentially win the A-10 tournament that outside of Davidson has not been elite teams. 

CBB Play of the Day: Feb 17 2022

Colorado State Rams at New Mexico Lobos

I love the Mountain West.  Every night is unpredictable.  Any team can lose to anyone.  Most recently New Mexico pulled off the upset over Wyoming, who at the time was the top of the conference.  That same New Mexico team will host the preseason favorite Colorado State Rams . 

New Mexico has been elite against the spread this season with a 15-6-2 record, 9-2-2 at home.  The Lobos are led by their trio of guards, Jamal Mashburn Jr, Jaelen House and KJ Jenkins, all average double digits, they combined for 48 points in the first matchup at Colorado State..  The Lobos like to move fast, ranking 17th in tempo nationally.  They utilize their three dynamic guards to keep opposing defenses on their heels.  They will look to force Colorado State to play their game.  

Colorado St.  does a lot right.  They are an efficient offenseinside and outside.  They do however have a problem adjusting to the flow of the game when things are not going their way.  The speed of the Lobos will make it tough for Colorado State to get into a rhythm.  In their first meeting back in January the Lobos lost by six, mostly due to the fact that the Rams shot 24 more free throws than the opposition.  The New Mexico home court advantage should help to balance out the attempts at the charity stripe.  

New Mexico is great at home and they should be able to keep this one close.  The outright upset will be tough but they have NBA level guards that will be a tough matchup for Colorado State.  The Lobos don’t have an answer for David Roddy, he will be a problem, but New Mexico at home getting this many points is too hard to pass up.

Pick: New Mexico +7

CBB Play of the Day Feb. 16, 2022

Jacksonville has quietly been the best ATS team in college hoops, they are currently  17-4 ATS on the season including covering  six straight games in conference. Jacksonville is coming off of a huge victory of ASUN leader Liberty, putting them right into contention for the top of the conference.  The Dolphins dominate on the defensive end giving up just 59 ppg, allowing teams to shoot just 47% on the season. When Jacksonville needs offense they turn to Kevion Nolan, the redshirt junior that averages 14 ppg.  

The Hatters have not had a great season, they are at the bottom of the ASUN with a 11-14 overall record, they are however 4-1 ATS in their last five.  The question will be, how does Stetson score against the Jacksonville defense?  The Hatters 70 ppg on the season, while shooting just 42.4% from the field.  They are the 304th ranked team in offensive efficiency, in their previous matchup with Jacksonville the Hatters were only able to put up 50 points, losing by 7.  Jacksonville covered the four point spread in that game and should be able to do the same in their second meeting.  

Both of these teams can struggle to score. Jacksonville has a major advantage on the boards and they are much better at shooting the three, if this game is close down the stretch they also have an advantage from the charity stripe.  Stetson is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country (Jacksonville isn’t much better).  In the end it will be the team with the better upside on the offensive end that wins this game and that is the Dolphins.

Pick: Jacksonville Dolphins -2

CBB Play of Day- Feb 4

Western Carolina Catamounts at VMI Keydets

VMI has been one of the better offenses in college basketball all season. They average 76 ppg, they are 34th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 13th in effective field goal percentage (55%), 24th in 3-pt percentage 37%.  They are a well oiled machine on the offensive end.  Their offense has gotten them victories over Southern League power houses Furman and Wofford.  They traveled to ACC power Wake Forest, got a cover and challenged a very good Demon Deacon team. The Keydets like to play fast and they have three players that average double digits led by big man Jake Stevens, averaging 18 per game. 

Western Carolina ended their five game losing streak in their last game versus ETSU.  The Catamounts rely on shooting the three to create their offense.  They are #2 in the country in 3PA per game but they are outside of the top 250 in 3-point percentage. There will not be many second chances for the Catamounts as VMI is very good at cleaning up the glass on the defensive end.  If they are not hitting their shots their offense will not be able to keep up with a VMI team that will be able to do whatever they want. 

Both of these teams are terrible on the defensive end.  The difference is, VMI is an elite level team on the offensive end.  The Catamounts will not have an answer for the uptempo attack VMI is going to bring to them. Statistically Western Carolinais one of the worst defenses in the country.  They are going up against one of the best offenses in the country. While it’s hard to trust the defense of VMI, I am going to bank on the offense being too much to handle on the road.  

Pick: VMI -11

CBB Play of the Day- Feb. 2

Missouri State Bears at Southern Illinois Salukis

Missouri State has one of the most prolific offenses in the MVC, averaging 78 ppg.  They got a signature win on the road when they took down league powerhouse Loyola. The Bears have Isaiah Mosely who averages 21 ppg while shooting 51% from the field .  He attributes to a team effective field goal percentage that ranks top 15 in the nation (56%).  They can score in the paint as well as hit the three, both ranking top 25 in the nation in percentages.  

The Salukis are just 2-6 in their last eight games.  The offense has been a problem, they rank 326th in the nation averaging just 63 ppg.  Most of their scoring comes from Marcus Domask who averages 14.7 ppg.  To take down the Bears they will have to slow the pace down and not let the volume shooters of Missouri State get into a rhythm. 

The Bears were able to hang 81 points on Southern Illinois in their first matchup. The slower pace of the Salukis wasn’t able to dictate the game. Missouri State has been great against the spread on the road and should be able to control the boards with Gaige Prim and Donovan Clay.  Missouri State is 13-3-2 ATS over their last 18 road games.  Their offense should feast, if they break 70 points, Southern Illinois does not have enough to keep up.  The Bears should cruise.

Pick: Missouri State -2

Erasing a Legend

There are always going to be strong feelings one way or the other about the “steroid” era in baseball.  While some say the boost of power saved baseball, others will tell you that it is a .  Every player will forever be followed by a question, Did you cheat?  It’s like their shadow, always following them.  They will never be able to escape it.  Yesterday the greatest star of that era felt the effects of the mistakes of many.  Barry Bonds will officially be removed from the Hall of Fame ballot.  His legacy will not be enshrined with the greatest the sport has ever seen.  Time will erase him from America’s pastime.  He is now just a name in the records books that the greats of the future will be chasing. 

Barry Bonds Resume

14-time all-star

Single season homerun champion

All time homerun champion

8-time gold glover

12-time silver slugger

2-time batting champion

7-time NL MVP

Bonds resume speaks for itself.  He could do anything on a baseball field, run, hit, throw, defend.  The definition of a  five tool player.  In a time where power was king he wore the crown and there was no one that could challenge him.  Even in his final season at the age of 43 Bonds was able to make an impact by leading the league in walks (132).  When his career ended there was little doubt that he was in the argument to be the greatest baseball player of all time.  The decision to leave him out of the hall of fame is not only wrong but it continues baseball’s unwillingness to grow.  Baseball would rather hide its history than face it.  By leaving him out they are hoping that he will be forgotten.  They cast aside the Black Sox in 1919, they cut all ties they could with Pete Rose and now they are dismissing their home run champion.  

I am not here to say Barry Bonds is a model citizen. He was disliked by the media and his teammates throughout his career. He rubbed the fanbase the wrong way on more than one occasion.  He was found guilty of perjury by a grand jury. Did he take steroids?  Yes, I think he did, but he was playing in a time where that was the norm.  He did what he had to do to stay on top of the game.  It was wrong and he was punished by the court of public opinion as well as the actual courts.  If you want to put an asterix on his plaque then do it, but to leave him out is wrong. Cooperstown is supposed to be the place where legends are immortalized.  Baseball’s entire history is supposed to be enshrined there.  If you leave out Bonds you are ignoring a whole decade of dominance. 

Erasing history is never the right decision. The MLB needs to step in and do something about this.  Bonds will forever be tarnished, but his impact on the game is undoubtable.  His legacy will be imprinted in their record books. He deserves to have his name imprinted on a plaque.  It would show growth, put him, use an asterix, just put him in.

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers ATS

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers -6

The Packers are unbeaten at home this season. Perhaps even more impressive they are 7-1 ATS the spread at Lambeau, averaging 30 ppg.  Green Bay will enter this game fully healthy with the return of David Bakhitari on offense, Jaire Alexander and Whitney ZaDarius Smith on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive goal will be to limit the big plays of the versatile Deebo Samuel. Samuel averages 18.2 yards per catch and 6.2 yards per carry.  He is the spark that lights the fire for the San Francisco offense.  

The 49ers have already pulled off an upset in these playoffs.  They defeated the Dallas Cowboys in AT&T Stadium.  The 49ers were able to jump out to a lead early and coast their way to victory.  The game got interesting downt he stretch because the San Francisco defense lost two key players, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. To hold down Aaron Rodgers and company they will need their defense at full force. 

The Packers defeated the 49ers on a late field goal in San Francisco in week three of the regular season. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were able to connect for 12 catches, 132 yards and a touchdown.  Aaron Jones ran the ball effectively, going for 82 yards and a touchdown.  The Packers have been in a grove all season, if you take away the abomanation of week one.  The 49ers will have to be able to create pressure to be able to slow down the Green Bay offense.  If Bosa can’t go, they will be in a lot of trouble.  

Green Bay will be able to score early and put the pressure of Jimmy G who is still not playing at 100%.  When Green Bay grabs the lead the 49ers will have to throw and when the pressure is on the San Fran QB tends to make mistakes. 

Pick: Green Bay Packers -6