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February 20th, 2012

11:46 pm - Taking a Number Two
Russell Westbrook's 40-point performance and Serge Ibaka's triple-double were side notes in the Thunder's 10th straight home win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, 124-118. (After tonight's win over the Hornets, that home winning streak is at 11 games.) In what is the midseason front-runner for NBA game of the year, Kevin Durant put up a career high 51 points against a Nuggets team with more questions than answers on defense. If there were any doubters left from Durant's pre-draft concerns, they were silenced once and for all.

Going into the 2007 NBA Draft, Kevin Durant made headlines when he was unable to bench 225 pounds during a pre-draft workout. According to most experts, the 2007 Draft was Greg Oden and everybody else. But honestly, what does anybody know going into a draft? In the past five years, KD has proven all of his doubters wrong and turned the former Seattle Supersonics into the top small market team in the NBA. Not bad for the #2 overall pick.

In recent history, the #2 overall pick has been infamous in the NBA. Ohio State's own Evan Turner, taken #2 by the 76ers in 2010, is still struggling to find his place in the rotation of the surging team. K-State's Michael Beasley, taken #2 by Miami in 2008, was famously traded to lowly Minnesota when LeBron James and Chris Bosh came on as free agents. Though, there is still plenty of time for Beasley to avoid bust status. Darko Milicic is one of the biggest busts in recent memory. The Serbian was drafted by Detroit between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. While both have gone on to have Hall of Fame careers, Darko has fallen into obscurity, shuffled between five different teams in his career. In 2000, the Vancouver Grizzlies selected Stromile Swift from LSU with the 2nd overall pick. In his sophomore season, Swift started only 26 games and that would turn out to be his career high as he was moved around to 5 total franchises during his NBA career.

That being said, many players have been taken with the #2 pick and have gone on to not become star players, All-NBA selections, and future Hall of Famer. It's widely believed that Kevin Durant, when it's all said and done, will be on the list. So with apologies to Bailey Howell, Wes Unseld, Rik Barry, and Terry Cummings, let's look at the Top 5 #2 picks whose careers are looked by on with pride and praise.

#5 - Jason Kidd: After two years at Cal-Berkeley, Kidd declared for the 1994 NBA Draft. Many don't remember that he was drafted by his current team, the Dallas Mavericks, with the 2nd overall pick. Kidd, along with Grant Hill, won the NBA Rookie of the Year, becoming the only bright spot on a lowly Mavs team. In 1996, Kidd was traded to the Suns and became a regular in the NBA playoffs. Kidd started for playoff teams for 11 straight seasons while being named to the All-NBA First Team five teams. In 2011, Kidd proved third time is a charm, winning his first NBA Championship on his 3rd trip to the NBA Finals.

#4 - Bob Pettit: The Milwaukee Hawks took a risk when they made Bob Pettit the 2nd overall pick in the 1954 NBA Draft. There were questions as to how well the two-time All-American's game would transition to the NBA. It didn't take long for Pettit to make an impact in the NBA, winning the Rookie of the Year in 1955, then won the league's scoring title and named league MVP as a sophomore in 1955-56. The next season, Pettit led all players in playoffs scoring, averaging 29.8 points per game. Finally, in 1958, the Hawks and Pettit won their first ever NBA Championship. Pettit would go on to win another MVP in 1959, be named to the All-NBA First Team 10 straight seasons, and never miss an NBA All-Star Game.

#3 - Gary Payton: The Thunder franchise has only had the 2nd overall pick twice is franchise history. In both cases, they used the pick well. Payton didn't develop as quickly as Kidd and Pettit, but his longetivity puts him above both in this list. Payton is #8 in career assists, one of a handful of point guards with over 20,000 points scored, and the Sonics' career leader in minutes, points, 3-pointers, assists, and steals. But what Payton is best known for is his rivalry with Michael Jordan as two of the best defenders in NBA history, meeting in the 1996 NBA Finals which went to the Bulls in 6 games. Though 10 years later, Payton would finally win his NBA Championship with the Miami Heat.

#2 - Jerry West: There is absolutely no doubt about these final two players. Simply put, you know you had a great career when your silhouette is used to make the league's logo. The Lakers took West with the 2nd overall pick in 1960. He would take part in the All-Star Game in his rookie season in 1961. That was the 1st of 14 All-Star appearances during his 14 years in the league. But West's success with the Lakers spans beyond his playing years. He went from coach, to scout, to GM, all within the Lakers organization, leading up to their dynasty throughout the 80s, winning 5 NBA Championships in that decade. West has since won the NBA Executive of the Year award twice, once with the Lakers and once with the Grizzlies.

#1 - Bill Russell: Everyone else on this list has won an NBA Championship. So how does Bill Russell set himself apart from numbers two through five? Win 11 NBA Championships. Two years after the Hawks took Bob Pettit with the 2nd overall, they used their 2nd overall pick in 1956 to take Bill Russell. However, Celtics head coach Red Auerbach worked with the Hawks to make a trade for the San Francisco Dons star. This trade would define the Celtics for decades to come. 12 All-Star appearances, 5 MVPs, and 11 NBA Championships later, Bill Russell is the greatest #2 in the history of the NBA.

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February 16th, 2012

02:59 pm - Second-Tier Dilemma
With a little over three weeks until Selection Sunday, teams across the country are trying to play their way into the tournament, improve their seed, or in cases like Penn State, pull off a string of miracles in Indianapolis to get the automatic bid. Looking at more bracketology sites, it's becoming clearer that Kentucky and Syracuse will get the top two national seeds and be the #1 seeds in the Atlanta and Boston regionals respectively. But what about the St. Louis regional and does anyone really want to be the #1 seed in Phoenix? Or, would a Big Ten or Big 12 team rather stay closer to home as a #2 seed? That, my friends, is the second tier dilemma and a question for Matta's Buckeyes in these final weeks.

For decades, the NCAA Selection Committee has worked to get the top at-large teams into the tournament and keep teams fairly close to home. Sometimes that just doesn't work out. Just ask Duke, who entered the tournament as a #1 seed, but was shipped to Anaheim for the Sweet 16. There, Duke was massacred by the Arizona Wildcats from the lowly Pac-10 Conference. But earlier that night, UConn provided a counterargument, knocking off San Diego State. 2,525 miles separate the campus is Storrs from Anaheim. San Diego State? A mere 89-mile difference. So, is there really a difference or is this a much ado about nothing?

One possible way to look at this is comparing the tournament performances of the #1 seed who had to travel the furthest alongside the #2 seed who had the shortest distance to travel. In the past six tournaments, only once has the #1 seed farthest away from home advanced further into the tournament than the #2 seed closest to campus. In fact, four times in the past six teams, the #2 seed closest to home advanced all the way to the Final Four. San Diego State's regional semifinal exit last season was the worst performance by such a #2 seed since the UConn Huskies didn't make it past the second round in 2005, losing to #10 seed N.C. State in Worchester, Massachusetts.

YearFarthest #1RegionalDistance (mi)Lost InClosest #2RegionalDistance (mi)Lost In
2011DukeAnaheim2203Sweet 16San Diego St.Anaheim89Sweet 16
2010SyracuseSalt Lake City1833Sweet 16West VirginiaSyracuse, N.Y.308Final Four
2009UConnGlendale, Ariz.2238Final FourMichigan St.Indianapolis223Nat'l Runner-Up
2008KansasDetroit680Nat'l ChampionTexasHouston146Elite Eight
2007KansasSan Jose1449Elite EightGeorgetownE. Rutherford, N.J.206Final Four
2006MemphisOakland1793Elite EightUCLAOakland344Nat'l Runner-Up

Here is Ohio State's dilemma going into the final weeks of the season. After their first home loss in 40 games last week to Michigan State, they fell to a #2 seed in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology this past Monday. There is no need for Buckeye fans to panic yet because they still have one more game vs. Michigan State and a possible date with them in Indianapolis. However, if the Buckeyes fall short against Sparty again, they may be heading someplace other than St. Louis for the regionals. In fact, it's very likely they will go someplace other than St. Louis.

Right now, Kentucky and Syracuse are going to Atlanta and Boston respectively. The third #1 seed, whether they're from the Big Ten, Big 12, or ACC, will probably go to St. Louis. Finally, the fourth #1 seed will get shipped off to Phoenix, whether they want to or not. This means that for OSU to be a #1 in St. Louis, they will have to climb back over everybody, including Kansas and Michigan State, two teams that have added to the Buckeyes' loss column this season.

How about a #2 seed in St. Louis? To be forward, the Buckeyes need to knock off Sparty on the road, which they've done 3 of their last 5 times in East Lansing. On top of that, OSU needs to outlast Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament. If the Buckeyes can do this, they will get the nod to go to St. Louis over Michigan State. This is especially probable if the #1 seed in St. Louis goes to a team from the Big 12, which is very likely with Kansas and Missouri playing some of the best basketball in the country right now.

There is still the chance of the Buckeyes going to Atlanta or Boston. However, it's almost a guarantee that Ohio State would have a date with Kentucky or Syracuse in the Elite Eight. On top of that, there is a good chance that if North Carolina goes on a run in the final weeks, something everybody knows they are capable of, they will move themselves into a favorable position and get the nod for the #2 in Atlanta if they avoid getting that dreaded Phoenix #1 seed.

There are some teams that don't have a problem with playing a long way from home in the NCAA Tournament. UConn had to go through the regional in Anaheim to win the national championship last season. Before that, their trip to the 2004 national championship took the Huskies through Phoenix. That's without mentioning their 2009 run to the Final Four through Glendale, Arizona. In 2010, Butler, the famous mid-major from Indianapolis, had to go through San Jose and Salt Lake City to make it to the national championship game in which they were a 3-pointer away from the most improbable run in NCAA Tournament history.

Come March 11, after the Big Ten Tournament, after all the games have been played, when the Committee makes their announcement, will the Buckeyes get a short trip to St. Louis or Atlanta? Or, will the Buckeyes have to travel west of the Rockies for the first time since J.J. Sullinger was a sophomore?

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January 17th, 2012

02:42 pm - FCN Dance Competition
Hey dancin' fuzzies!

Now that FC has passed, it is time to start thinking about your next dance competition, or in some cases, your first dance competition. I'm happy to inform you that for the first time ever, FCN will be hosting its own fursuit dance competition. Now, how will this be different than the other dance competitions out there?

First, do you have a dancing partner or four that you would love to share the stage with? Perfect! We invite several different kinds of acts, not just solo dance routines. You can compete individually, as a couple, or in a crew of up to 5 people if you wish.

Also, "crowd reaction" will be included in your final score. Simply put, the louder your audience cheers for you, the better your final score will be! How cool is that?

FCN Dance Competition RulesCollapse )

If you have any questions regarding the dance competition, please e-mail me at huscoon(at)gmail(dot)com. I'm also available on Yahoo Messenger, AIM, and Twitter under the username "huscoon."

Thank you and good luck!


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October 6th, 2011

06:32 pm - 2011-12 NHL Preview
NHL RkAtlanticComments
4 Philadelphia Nobody has been as active this offseason as the Broad Street Bullies. The Flyers lost a big scoring threat in Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets in the biggest trade of the summer. However, they acquired Ilya Bryzaglov from Phoenix in the second biggest trade of the summer, shoring up their goaltender situation. Even with all the personnel changes, don't expect the Flyers to fall off any this coming season.
7 Pittsburgh Despite losing Sidney Crosby to a concussion and Evgeni Malkin to a knee injury, the Penguins finished the season with the same number of points as the Flyers on top of the Atlantic. Malkin will be back in 2011-12, but no one knows when Sid the Kid will return. The sooner he returns, the better his team's chances are of winning the Atlantic. It's simple, but truer words have never been spoken.
13 New Jersey The tale of two halves in Newark has given hope to many fans that their team will never be out of playoff contention until they are mathematically out of playoff contention. But which Devils team will show up this year? Scoring will be a problem, no doubt. However, by adding 1st round pick Adam Larsson to an already outstanding core of defensemen, it'll be very difficult for opposing teams to score on Brodeur and company.
14 N.Y. Rangers In New York fashion, the Rangers will try to spend their way back into the playoffs in 2012. Brad Richards to Gaborik could be one of the best lines in the East by the end of the season. However, the Rangers have a very young core of defensemen who will create plenty of work for Henrik Lundqvist. The only question is: can Lundqvist and his legendary durability survive another 70-game season without fatigue?
27 N.Y. Islanders In 2007, Garth Snow was named the Sports Illustrated NHL Executive of the Year. Since then, the Islanders have been buried under their Atlantic rivals, finishing in last each season. This season will be no different. The goaltender situation is a mess, their biggest acquisition was an over-the-hill Brian Rolston, and the defensemen, aside from Mark Streit, have much to be desired. Just another typical season on Long Island.

NHL RkNortheastComments
1 Boston Boston fans have quickly forgotten about their baseball team's historic collapse in September and are now ready for their Bruins to defend their Cup. Peter Chiarelli took a "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach to offseason moves this summer. Yes, the Bruins do give up a lot of shots on goal, but Tim Thomas is as proven as any netminder in hockey and is more than capable of leading this team to a Cup repeat.
6 Buffalo However, there's a team in upstate New York that cannot be ignored when talking about Northeast favorites. The Sabres signed talented defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and a very underrated forward in Ville Leino on back-to-back days this summer. Plus with Ryan Miller between the pipes, the sky is the limit for this team. But, the predicted regular season success will mean nothing if the Sabres can't find their way out of the first round of the playoffs this year.
17 Montreal To be competitive in the Northeast, a team needs an all-world netminder. The Habs definitely have that in Carey Price. The talented workhorse put up a .923 save percentage while starting 72 regular season games last year. But around him, the Habs simply don't measure up to their top tier competition. Gionta leads an above average first line, Andrei Markov is a great offensive defenseman, but the depth issues in Montreal will be difficult to overcome.
25 Toronto The Leafs are one of two teams who have not made the playoffs since the lockout, the other being the lowly Panthers. After a hot finish last season, there is some hope that Ron Wilson's team will change that. Tim Connolly was a great sign after the Leafs failed to ink Brad Richards. But does Connolly have enough talent around him to make a run at the playoffs? That is the $64,000 question.
28 Ottawa The Sens are in complete rebuilding mode, but unlike their intraprovince rival, they know this. Bobby Butler will be the cornerstone of this rebuilding project in Ottawa and hockey fans should take notice as he will be a future All-Star and a major contributor to the USA hockey team in 2014. Add new head coach Paul MacLean from Detroit, and you have a team who could be very dangerous come 2013-14.

NHL RkSoutheastComments
5 Washington Like their hated rivals in Philly, the Caps have had years of goalie issues since Olaf Kolzig's skills disappeared into thin air. Enter veteran Tomas Vokoun who disappeared in South Beach and could very likely see an resurgence in the nation's capital. Vokoun's postseason play is shady at best, but he's never had as much talent around him as he will in DC.
16 Carolina Cam Ward went from the most overrated goalie after the Hurricanes 2006 Stanley Cup Championship and is now one of the more underrated. Unfortunately for him, the poor play of his defensemen forced him to see over 33 shots-per-game last season. If the Hurricanes make the postseason, it'll be because of Ward and a great platoon of young forwards, led by Eric Staal, and featuring former Buckeye Zac Dalpe.
18 Tampa Bay Every 3 or 4 postseasons, Dwayne Roloson plays way above his skill level for a couple of weeks, then returns to earth the following season. So forget that magical playoff run, Roloson simply is not that good. Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and a core of underrated defensemen on the other hand will keep the always exciting Lightning in the race for the postseason.
22 Winnipeg After 15 years of waiting, fans in Manitoba are ecstatic to have NHL hockey returning to Winnipeg. However, keep in mind, this is still the Atlanta Thrashers, repackaged and given a real fan base who will actually attend their games. Andrew Ladd and Manitoba-native Eric Fehr come to Winnipeg from Cup contenders. They will be the face of this franchise who is looking to find a new direction in their new home.
26 Florida The Panthers are the most unpredictable team in the East heading into this season. After 10 sasons without a playoff appearance, the Panthers cleaned house, Tomas Fleischmann being the biggest of many names signed. However, none of the names signed stand out as franchise-caliber players. So it looks like no matter the name on the back, it's still the same feline on the front of the jerseys.

NHL RkCentralComments
3 Chicago In 2010-11, the Blackhawks outscored their opponents by a stunning 33 goals, 3rd best in the West. However, losing a ton of one-goal games sent them to 8th place, pitting them against the eventual Western Conference Champs in the first round. This year, the same key players all return from last year including a healthy Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, not to mention Jonathan Toews. The Hawks are simply the team to beat in the Central.
10 St. Louis How are the lowly Blues a top 10 team in the NHL? First, no team in the West gave up fewer shots on goal than the Blues last year. Second, Jaroslav Halak will be a strong asset between the pipes if he takes care of his consistency issues. Andy McDonald leads a solid group of forwards while the depth at every position is impressive. The Blues are a playoff team, without question.
11 Detroit Many experts were expecting the aging Red Wings to take a step back last year as the roster continues to grow older. The team from Motown proved them all wrong by winning the Central yet again. However, Lidstrom has very little help on the blue line and is aging poorly himself. Then there is Jimmy Howard, whose play would get him benched on many other teams. This year will be the year the Wings take a step back.
15 Nashville This ranking for Nashville is based of the belief that Pekka Rinne may have issues duplicating his career season. If Rinne can put together another Vezina worthy season, the Predators can ride him to and through the playoffs. However, if a major regression takes place, the Predators will struggle mightily in the most difficult division in hockey.
20 Columbus After finishing 14th and 13rd in the West the last two seasons, the Blue Jackets are poised for a resurgence. The addition of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski has brought hope once again to Ohio's capital city. But the inconsistency of Steve Mason is cause for concern, not to mention the fact the Jackets are still in the Central Division (for now). The playoffs aren't out of the question, but they'll have to overachieve to get it.

NHL RkNorthwestComments
2 Vancouver Forget about his collapse in the Cup Finals, Roberto Luongo is still one of the best goaltenders in the world right now. The Canucks still have the Sedin twins, former Buckeye Ryan Kesler, plenty of depth among their forwards, and the superb core of defensemen. These are the reasons the Canucks are the favorites in Vegas to win the Stanley Cup.
19 Calgary After the Canucks, the talent drops off greatly in the Northwest Division. Even at age 34, Jarome Iginla is still one of the premier forwards in the world, but that isn't the question. The question is the talent around him. The Flames are loaded with underachieving prospects, mid-level free agents, and a former Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff who stats are heading in the wrong direction.
24 Minnesota Niklas Backstrom took over as the #1 goaltender in St. Paul back in 2006 and his numbers have been sliding downhill ever since. Losing Andrew Brunette to free agency also does not help one of the worst offenses in hockey. The Wild have plenty of young talent, but how quickly they mature will determine their chances for a postseason appearance.
29 Colorado The good news in Denver is that Matt Duchene is as good as the Avs could've hoped when they drafted him 2 years ago. The bad news, the 20-year-old may be the best player on the roster this season. Not best prospect, best player. Fans in Denver will have another "rocky" season ahead. But thankfully, they're in the same division as...
30 Edmonton The Edmonton Oilers. Dead last in hockey the last two seasons and there is no reason to believe things will change any time soon. Optimistic fans will point to the amount of youth of their roster and proclaim the team is building for the future. But, the sad truth is that the youth on the Oilers NHL roster isn't as good as the youth on some franchise's AHL rosters.

NHL RkPacificComments
8 Los Angeles Is there really a better 1-2 punch between the pipes than Quick and Bernier? Absolutely not. But the talent extends past them. Mike Richards comes from Philly to join the most underrated forward in hockey, Anze Kopitar. And that's all without mentioning Simon Gagne, Dustin Penner, and a solid core of defensemen. Come April, LA fans will be saying, "Kobe who?"
9 Anaheim Did the idea of playing with Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry have a role in Teemu Selanne's decision to return to the Ducks? Most likely. Add in the NHL's best defensive line in Toni Lydman and Lubomir Visnovsky and you have a team that has as good of a chance as any to win the Pacific.
12 San Jose Are fans in the Bay area getting sick of the constant failure in the playoffs by their beloved Sharks? Absolutely. It's reminiscent of the Blues' impressive 25 playoff appearance streak that never resulted in a Cup. However, the Sharks are going to have to work to make the playoffs this year. The downturn can be blamed on, not the lack of stars, but the lack of depth at several key positions.
21 Dallas The Stars were much better than their last place finish suggested last year. However, there was a guy named Brad Richards on the team. Mike Ribeiro is very capable of replacing Richards as the team's top playmaker, but the Stars simply did not do enough this summer for anyone to believe they will improve, let alone make the postseason.
23 Phoenix If the Coyotes management was trying to use this summer to encourage fans to attend their regular season games, they did a terrible job. Exit Ilya Bryzgalov, enter Mike Smith. Exit Ed Jovanovski, enter Raffi Torres. It simply hasn't been a very promising offseason in Arizona, or Hamilton, or Quebec, or Kansas City, or wherever the Coyotes end up in 2012-13.

Eastern Quarterfinals
#1 Boston over #8 Carolina in 4
#2 Philadelphia over #7 N.Y. Rangers in 5
#3 Washington over #6 New Jersey in 6
#4 Buffalo over #5 Pittsburgh in 6

Western Quarterfinals
#1 Vancouver over #8 Nashville in 5
#2 Chicago over #7 San Jose in 6
#3 Los Angeles over #6 Detroit in 7
#4 Anaheim over #5 St. Louis in 7

Eastern Semifinals
#1 Boston over #4 Buffalo in 6
#2 Philadelphia over #3 Washington in 7

Western Semifinals
#1 Vancouver over #4 Anaheim in 5
#2 Chicago over #3 Los Angeles in 6

Eastern Finals
#1 Boston over #2 Philadelphia in 5

Western Finals
#1 Vancouver over #2 Chicago in 7

Stanley Cup Finals
Boston over Vancouver in 6

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September 13th, 2011

04:53 pm - Week 1 NFL Rankings
My bottom 5 preseason teams all won on Week 1. To add insult to injury, my AFC Champs lost in embarrassing fashion to the Ravens. Looks like several bad calls on my part, right? Hold on.

I warned that Chicago was better than advertised, and they took care of business at home against the Falcons, who SI picked to win the Super Bowl. I had San Fran winning the NFC West, and they had, by far, the best week of any of those 4 teams. I called the Raiders' win over the hapless Broncos. That all being said, let's go down the new list.

1(LW: 1) Green Bay (1-0)
2(4) New England (1-0)
3(6) Baltimore (1-0)
4(5) San Diego (1-0)
5(3) New Orleans (0-1)
6(2) Pittsburgh (0-1)
7(8) Philadelphia (1-0)
8(7) N.Y. Jets (1-0)
9(11) Houston (1-0)
10(12) Chicago (1-0)
11(13) San Francisco (1-0)
12(10) N.Y. Giants (0-1)
13(15) Detroit (1-0)
14(9) Atlanta (0-1)
15(16) Tampa Bay (0-1)
16(19) Oakland (1-0)
17(17) St. Louis (0-1)
18(14) Indianapolis (0-1)
19(18) Tennessee (0-1)
20(21) Dallas (0-1)
21(18) Kansas City (0-1)
22(22) Miami (0-1)
23(23) Cleveland (0-1)
24(24) Minnesota (0-1)
25(25) Denver (0-1)
26(28) Arizona (1-0)
27(29) Washington (1-0)
28(30) Cincinnati (1-0)
29(31) Buffalo (1-0)
30(32) Jacksonville (1-0)
31(26) Carolina (0-1)
32(27) Seattle (0-1)

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September 8th, 2011

05:32 pm - NFL Preview
Quick note before we begin. The teams are listed in order of projected finish. The ranking is how they compare to other teams, strength of schedule ignored. Astericks are for the playoff teams. Enjoy :)

NFL RkAFC EastComments
4 New England* Tom Brady is back. Bill Belicheck is still running the defense. All in well in the state of Massachusetts. Add to that the best platoon of running backs in the Belicheck era, led by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. A division is almost a sure thing in New England. The playoffs are a lock. However, the goals are much, much higher than those. As they should be.
7 N.Y. Jets* The Jets will actually have a better defense in 2011 than division rival New England. However, their offense will prevent them from winning the AFC East this season. Mark Sanchez hasn't matured well and Shonn Greene is a one-trick pony out of the backfield. And without a pass-catching threat at tight end, Sanchez's options will be very limited.
22 Miami Speaking of offensive issues, the Dolphins enter 2011 with plenty of them. Chad Henne will have a rookie running back, Daniel Thomas, and a psuedo-bust, Reggie Bush, in his backfield. Brandon Marshall is the offense's biggest asset when he's not incurring delay-of-game penalties and being a locker room cancer. Sadly, this is a make-or-break year for a team whose progress is stuck in neutral.
32 Buffalo If the Bills are trying to disenfranchise their fan base in Buffalo, this upcoming season will be a step in the right direction. No sign of a defense. No sign of a quarterback. No running game, except for their quarterback. But they do have Stevie Johnson at wide receiver.

NFL RkAFC NorthComments
2 Pittsburgh* As with years past, the play of Ben Roethlisberger will decide the feat of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense. The Steel Curtain defense is predictably superb, so let's look at Big Ben. His numbers were well above average last year in only 12 starts after his suspension. And with a wife now, his night life and off-field distractions may take a hit. This is great news for the defending AFC Champions.
6 Baltimore* The Ravens are the clear choice for 2nd in the North. Why? They don't have the offense to compete with the Steelers. The two teams from Ohio are embarrassments. And, they have the entire NFC West on their schedule. And with Joe Flacco getting better, slowly but surely, the Ravens are a safe bet for the playoffs in 2011.
23 Cleveland The Dawg Pound and Colt McCoy fantasy owners will have high hopes come November. The Browns' schedule for the first two months is the softest in the league. However, November and December will be their demise. Nonetheless, the Browns franchise is moving in the right direction. Unlike...
30 Cincinnati The Bengals franchise. Carson Palmer, Terrelle Owens, Chad Ochocinco. All gone. Enter rookie Andy Dalton, rookie A.J. Green, and Jerome Simpson. What's scary is that the rookie out of TCU will have to learn the NFL playing under these conditions, which are as much worse than what Cam Newton will have to deal with in Carolina.

NFL RkAFC SouthComments
11 Houston* For the past 2 or 3 years, pundits have talked about how "this is the year for the Texans." Each year, they were wrong. They will not be wrong this year. Schaub is a reliable QB, Andre Johnson is the best wide out in the AFC. Arian Foster will be solid for years to come. Anything short of a division title is inexcuseable for the NFL's youngest franchise.
14 Indianapolis Peyton Manning's consecutive start streak will come to an end on Sunday. Plus, with news breaking that Peyton had surgery Thursday morning, the playoff hopes of Indy rest of the shoulders of Kerry Collins. Collins is a fantasy sleeper now, but #18 was the heart and soul of the Colts team. They won't fall below .500, but the playoffs may be out of reach for the first time in almost a decade.
20 Tennessee Chris Johnson getting a new contract was a big plus for the Titans in recent weeks. New QB Matt Hasselbeck has enough skill players around him to make him effective. Oh, and did we mention, the Titans have the best defense in the South? The playoffs are a long shot for Tennessee, but the grooming of Jake Locker should not be a total disaster in December.
31 Jacksonville What keeps the woeful Jaguars out of the bottom of the league is the presence of Maurice Jones-Drew. Luke McCown is the worst starting QB in the league. Add to that the fact that he has no one to throw to downfield, and it's just a horrid situation all around in Jacksonville. And that's all without mentioning the worst defense in the NFL.

NFL RkAFC WestComments
5 San Diego* In recent years, there has not be a better November/December team than the Chargers. Sadly for those in southern Cal, the Bolts' horrid start prevented a late season run from putting them in the playoffs. They won't make the same mistake this year. With Rivers, a maturing Ryan Mathews, and the rest of their Madden NFL 12 offense, the Bolts will be back on top.
19 Oakland Really? Who else are you going to put in 2nd in the West? The Chiefs? No. The Raiders have a respectable defense even without Nnamdi Asomugha. Jason Campbell is a smart QB who doesn't make many mistakes. The running game is solid with McFadden and Michael Bush. The Raiders are a very unrated team coming into the 2011 season.
18 Kansas City Yes, the Chiefs are a better team than the Raiders. However, they have a 1st place schedule while the Raiders get a 3rd place schedule after going 8-8 in 2010. The Chiefs are as good as they were last season, but they did overachieve last year. So, when they finish 6-10 or thereabouts, don't blame Todd Haley, blame statistical regression.
25 Denver Kyle Orton is a much better quarterback than Tim Tebow. That being said, there are very few quarterbacks who could win with the lack of supporting cast not named Lloyd that KO has to work with in 2011. Expect Tebow to get some starts late in the season as the Broncos franchise believes he is their future. Also, expect those starts to be a total disaster.

NFL RkNFC EastComments
8 Philadelphia* There's a major difference between the Miami Heat of the NBA and the "Miami Heat" of the NFL: this dream team has won numerous division titles under head coach Andy Reid. This season will be no different as Michael Vick has all the weapons a QB could ever want. The linebackers and special teams are major question marks on a team filled with attractive big name players.
10 N.Y. Giants* The battle for the two NFL wild card spots will be brutal in 2011. But, with the divisional rotation pitting the East vs the West, expect one of the wild cards to come out of the East. Tom Coughlin has been on the hot seat ever since Eli hit Burress to upset the 18-0 Patriots. But, if the Giants can't make the playoffs with this cupcake schedule, Coughlin won't have a leg to stand on.
21 Dallas Why all the talking heads of sports are calling the Cowboys Super Bowl contenders is beyond me. The team gave up 400+ points last year and have no running game (unless they convince Emmitt Smith to come out of retirement). The 'Boys will improve, but let's take this whole rebuilding thing one step at a time.
29 Washington Fans in DC are screaming, wondering how there are 3 teams in the NFL who are worse than the Redskins. The 'Skins are in Year 0 of their rebuilding project. I say that because they have nobody with whom you can build a championship team around. Old man Moss, Beck, Grossman, Hightower, Armstrong, none of them should be around in 2012: Year 1 of their rebuilding project.

NFL RkNFC NorthComments
1 Green Bay* The Packers sure are garnering a lot of hype for a team who didn't even win their division last season. However, with Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, and nearly a dozen other starters returning from IR, there is plenty to like about the Packers. In fact, anything short of back-to-back Super Bowl titles will be a disappointment in the Badger State.
12 Chicago The Bears defense is just that: The Bears defense. Anchored by Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers, offenses won't be moving the ball well on this team. However, questions surround the entire offense, all 11 positions. If Mike Martz can work the same magic in Chicago that he did in St. Louis though, the Bears will be a dangerous playoff team.
15 Detroit The Lions will improve on their 6-10 mark from 2010. Matthew Stafford is healthy and lit up defenses in his 4 preseason games. Jahvid Best is a strong running back. Calvin Johnson is the best WR in the NFC (sorry Larry). However, is the Lions' defense ready to support a solid offense in such a tough division?
24 Minnesota The Brett Favre experiment is over and ended with mixed results. The mixed results being 2009 Brett vs. 2010 Brett. Now, enter Donovan McNabb. But with Sidney Rice bolting for Seattle and a paper thin defense, this is a total rebuilding year for the Vikings. Expect Christian Ponder to be getting the starts by Thanksgiving.

NFL RkNFC SouthComments
3 New Orleans* Sean Payton has turned the Aints franchise into the most respected team in the NFL South. And even with the loss of Reggie Bush to Miami, the Saints are in line to win another division crown. Not to be lost in the shadows of the Drew Brees video game offense is one of the most underrated defenses in all of football. It's a good time to be a Saints fan.
16 Tampa Bay* The Buccaneers were one game away from the playoffs last year. This year's team gets a soft 3rd place schedule and has a future Pro Bowler, Josh Freeman, leading their offense. However, the defense is mediocre at best in Tampa Bay, and with Drew Brees and Matt Ryan in your division, how much will Freeman have to mature and how quickly to put them in the playoffs?
9 Atlanta The Falcons, by winning their division in 2010, have earned the toughest schedule in football for 2011. They will play everyone from the AFC South and NFC North, as well as the Eagles and Seahawks. Plus, with Michael Turner getting up there in age for this run-first team, this may be a year where the Falcons step back.
26 Carolina The Panthers get the honor of being the minnows of the toughest division in football. Cam Newton will have his hands full as he learns how to play in the NFL. His biggest asset will be two very capable running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. That being said, this is a throwaway season in Charlotte as their Panthers rebuild.

NFL RkNFC WestComments
13 San Francisco* The 49ers are the division winners by default in the woeful NFC West. Alex Smith will never pan out to be the QB the franchise thought he would be. Frank Gore is getting older and his health is questionable. The wideouts are solid. And the defense is stellar compared to the rest of the West. Just pay more attention to their games against the Steelers and Eagles and not against the other West doormats.
17 St. Louis Sam Bradford is going to be a great QB someday. However, in only his 2nd year, we can't expect too much improvement from the Oklahoma product. Steven Jackson is getting older as well. Their wide out corps are arguably the worst in the NFC. And the Rams defense? Yeah. Rams. Defense. They can compete with the Niners, but look for a lot of the same as last year.
27 Seattle The Seahawks have taken a major step back, replacing Matt Hasselbeck with proven failure Taravis Jackson. The running backs are a laughing stock while the offensive line will insure that Jackson leads the NFL in sacks this year. It's going to be a long season for one of the best fan bases in the NFL.
28 Arizona I have no faith in Kevin Kolb. Hopefully, I'm making that clear by ranking the Cardinals dead last in the worst division in football. To make matters worse, the Cardinals defense didn't improve much at all in the offseason, ranking them at the bottom of the NFL. The Kurt Warner days are long gone and we welcome back the days of the good ol' Cards we know and love.

Wild Card Playoffs
Baltimore over Houston
San Diego over N.Y. Jets
San Francisco over N.Y. Giants
Philadelphia over Tampa Bay

Divisional Playoffs
Pittsburgh over Baltimore
New England over San Diego
Green Bay over San Francisco
New Orleans over Philadelphia

Conference Championships
Pittsburgh over New England
Green Bay over New Orleans

Super Bowl 46
Green Bay over Pittsburgh.

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June 30th, 2011

02:06 am - Another life update #1
I haven't been in a classroom for 3 weeks now. It feels amazing. My cumulative GPA is standing at a 3.25 after an A, 2 B's, and a C this spring. But, one big accomplishment this spring was passing Exam 1/P a month ago, which will look great on my resume when the hiring season starts up in a few months. One more year of school left. :)

On the work side of things, I had a meeting with my boss at the Ohio State athletic department last month. With my co-worker Zack all graduated, I'm going to be the student head of our department for the 2012-13 school year. It comes with more responsibility, a meager pay increase, and a nice addition to my resume.

One thing I'm going to work toward is getting to announce more games for Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio, the student radio website for OSU athletics as well as Big Ten Network Student U Programming. I had a lot of fun with that last year and want to do even more this final school year.

And as if my ego wasn't big enough, I won an award as one of the top directors/producers for Big Ten Network Student U Programming. Yet ANOTHER resume booster. ...what's my major again? LOL

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June 1st, 2011

11:57 pm - NHL Realignment
Winnipeg will be in the Southeast Division for the 2011-12 NHL season. After that, who knows? Who knows which division the "Jets" will be in. Who knows who will jump to the Eastern Conference, if anybody. Who knows if the Coyotes will even stay in Phoenix. But, speculating the numerous possibilities is the fun part.

The most obvious solution is to keep a 2-conference format, separating east and west. I toyed with the idea of keeping the 15 oldest teams in the same conference and putting the 15 newest teams in the other conference. This would result in some very interesting rivalries, but the "old" conference would be in all of the big markets (NY, LA, Chi, Philly, Detroit), potentially relegating the "new" conference to feeder status between the NHL and AHL.

By keeping the East-West format, throwing Winnipeg into the West would be obvious, but who do you replace them with? Detroit is out of the picture because of the Columbus factor. Columbus has all the same issues that Detroit does and is closer to more Eastern teams than Detroit.

However, I would pick Nashville over Columbus for a couple of reasons. First, they fit in perfectly with the Southeast Division. A team from Tennessee in the Southeast Division makes more sense than a team from Pennsylvania. On top of that, unlike Detroit, the Predators have zero ties to the Western Conference while the Red Wings have the rivalry with the Blackhawks and Avs.

So, my quick solution would be to put Nashville in the Eastern Conference, Southeast Division. Put Winnipeg in the Western Conference, Northwest Division with Colorado and the other 3 western Canadian clubs. Move Minnesota to the Central Division to replace Nashville. Pretty simple.

However, I think there is a better, though possibly unpopular solution that would eliminate many of the issues created by an east coast heavy league like the NHL: a 3-conference alignment. Here is what it would look like:

Northwest - Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Vancouver, Winnipeg
Southwest - Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix

Midwest - Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Pittsburgh
Southeast - Carolina, Florida, Nashville, St Louis, Tampa Bay

Atlantic - New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Washington
Northeast - Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto

For the Stanley Cup Playoffs, teams would be seeded 1-16 instead of 1-8. The 6 division winners would get the 1st 6 seeeds while the 10 wild cards would get the last 10 seeds. The only issue I could see is cross country travel for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but doesn't the NHL already have that problem with Detroit in the West?

You could possibly eliminate that by doing a 6-6-4 format where 6 teams get in from 2 conferences and 4 teams get in from the 3rd conference. This could be decided by allowing the 2 best 5th place teams in, leaving the worst 5th place and the 6th place team from their conference out in the cold. From there, 1-vs-6, 2-vs-5, 3-vs-4 in the two 6-team conferences and 1-vs-4, 2-vs-3 in the 4-team conference, then re-seed as needed.

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May 30th, 2011

12:02 am - Are overtime goals more really frequent than regulation goals in the NHL?
Fair warning. There will be a ton of mathy nerd talk ahead. So, for those without a strong background in mathematics, statistics, and probability, it may be best to skip this entry.

Now, as a sports fan, I know that despite new rules that have come into place since the lockout, goals in the NHL are still a rare commodity. During the first season after the lockout, goals skyrocketed to a still-meager 6.2/game. Since there, teams have become more defensive minded, reducing the number of goals scored throughout the course of a season. In the past two seasons, goals have hovered between the pre-lockout era of 5.1/game and the 2005-06 season average.

One of the major changes was the new overtime rules during the regular season. If the two teams were tied after the first 60 minutes of play, they would play in a 5-minute overtime in which each team would have 4 skaters on the ice as opposed to the 5 skaters per team used in regulation. If the teams were still tied, a shootout would take place between the two teams.

Being down a skater changes a lot about a hockey game including the speed of the game itself and the chemistry of the players on the ice. But, does this result in a difference in goals scored? Since most teams sacrifice a forward during overtime, some would say a team is less likely to score in overtime. However, with more open ice and a faster pace, some would say a team is more likely to score in overtime. But is either of these really true? Let's find out.

First off, we need to find not only the average number of goals scored in regulation but the frequency of them. Hopefully, the two are closely related.

Over the last two seasons, 13,632 goals have been scored in 2,460 regular season games in the NHL. But, if we use 5.5 goals/game, we are misrepresenting the number of goals scored in regulation since those 13,632 goals include overtime and the "plus-one" goals added to the final after a shootout.

Now, all overtime award one goal and always one goal to the total for a game. So, all we have to do is find the number of games that went into overtime, and subtract that from the total number of goals. With 698 overtime games in the past two seasons, the math is easy: 13,632 - 698 = 13,034 regulation goals. This changes the average number of regulation goals to 5.3 goals/game.

As stated earlier in this entry, goals in the NHL are rare. There is a probability designed for situations in which occurrences are rare, but must be at least 0 and can be any non-negative integer. This distribution is called a Poisson distribution, or the Poisson law of small numbers. But first, we have to test this distribution to see if the number of goals scored in the 60 minutes of regulation fits this distribution.

Now, I don't have the time to go thru all 1,230 games this past season. However, we can look at games that went into overtime tied at 0-0. According to Poisson distribution, the probability of any given game going into overtime tied at 0-0 is e^(-5.3), better read as 0.5% or 1/200. Using this information, we can expect 6.14 games will be scoreless after 60 minutes each season. Let's test this.

Our null hypothesis is that 0.5% of games will be scoreless after 60 minutes. Our alternative hypothesis is that our null hypothesis is incorrect. To reject the null hypothesis, we will use an alpha of 5%, which translates into a 95% confidence interval.

During the 2010-11 season, 1,230 regular season games were played. 8 of them went into overtime tied 0-0.

New Jersey at Buffalo (Oct 13, 2010)
Calgary at Nashville (Oct 19, 2010)
Pittsburgh at St. Louis (Oct 23, 2010)
Buffalo at Ottawa (Dec 4, 2010)
Tampa Bay at Washington (Jan 4, 2011)
Los Angeles at Minnesota (Feb 1, 2011)
Ottawa at Toronto (Feb 19, 2011)
New Jersey at Pittsburgh (Mar 25, 2011)

Using normal approximation, let's test to see if our difference is enough to reject the idea.

z = (8 - 6.14) / sqrt[(1230)(.005)(.995)] = 1.86/2.46 = 0.76. This result converts into a p-value of 44.72% which is much greater than our 5% alpha. With this information, we accept the idea that regulation goals per NHL game follow a Poisson distribution.

Note: A Goodness of Fit test would be a better measure of whether regulation goals per NHL game follow a Poisson distribution. However, that would require gathering the number of regulation goals scored in all 1,230 games which I frankly do not have time for.

Using this knowledge that the number of regulation goals scored follows a Poisson distribution, we can assume that the first regulation goal scored in a game will follow an exponential distribution. In this case, it assumes that on average, fans will have to wait until there is 8:41 left in the 1st period to see the first goal of the game. Exponential distribution is also "memoryless", so if a goal is not scored in the first period, exponential distribution assumes that on average, the first goal will be scored with 8:41 left in the 2nd period.

To see if there won't be goal scored in the first 60 minutes of a game, we just do some simple integration using an exponential distribution with a mean of 11.32 (60/5.3) from a range of t=60 to t=infinity. This is measuring the probability that the first goal of a game is scored after 60 minutes. The result is e^(-5.3), better read as 0.5% or 1/200. Does this look familiar? It should, it's the same result we got using Poisson distribution.

Since an exponential distribution is "memoryless", we can use it to measure the probability of scoring a goal in the first 5 minutes of a game or in the first 5 minutes of overtime. But, does the frequency of scoring change in overtime with the fatigue factor and the fact that both teams are minus one skater?

Our null hypothesis is that no, it doesn't change. Our 1st alternative hypothesis is that the fatigue and reduced number of skaters lead to more goals. Our 2nd alternative hypothesis is that the fatigue and reduced number of skated lead to fewer goals. Our alpha is set to 5%, which translates to a 95% confidence interval.

Using our average of 5.3 goals per 60 minutes of regulation, we find the probability of the first goal being scored in the first 5 minutes of overtime. The final result is 1 - e^(-5/11.32), better read as 35.7%. So, our null hypothesis states that 35.7% of games that go into overtime will also go into a shootout.

This past season, the NHL started keeping track of wins obtained in regulation as opposed to overtime and shootouts. This information was used as one of the tiebreakers for seeding the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But we can use it to see how many games result in overtime and how many result in a shootout. Using data from the 2010-11 season, we see that 297 games went into overtime while 149 of those games went into a shootout.

According to the null hypothesis, the expected number of those 297 overtime games going into a shootout is 191. The fact that in reality, only 149 went into a shootout sets off warning lights. But is the difference significant enough? Let figure out the z-score.

z = (191 - 149) / sqrt[(297)(.357)(.643)] = 42/8.25 = 5.09. This result converts into a p-value of 0.000018% which is much, much, MUCH less than our 5% alpha. With this information, we reject the idea fatigue and 4-on-4 skaters results in the same number of goals, accepting our first alternative hypothesis that MORE goals are scored because of the overtime format.

Now, for some fun, if regulation was played with 4 skaters on each side, how would that change the number of goals scored per game? Granted, we only have information for the first 5 minutes of 4-on-4 hockey, so how accurate this will be may be debated. But, let's find out anyway.

Our information was taken assuming that half of the time, a goal will be scored in the first 5 minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. We have all but one of our parameters needed to find how many goals would be scored in 60 minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. Plugging these numbers into an exponential distribution with an unknown mean, have -e^(5x) + 1 = 149/297 in which x^-1 is the new mean. Simple algebra from this point on results in the answer we were looking for. If the NHL switched to 4-on-4 hockey in regulation, the average number of regulation goals per game would greatly increase from the current 5.3/game to a new 8.4/game.

Whether or not a change like this would be good or bad for the NHL is a whole new debate entirely.

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May 26th, 2011

10:40 am - Summer Project
On June 7th at 7:18pm, my summer will officially begin. Between then and September 21, I won't have any homework or any classes to deal with for over 3 months. It's going to be amazing!

As of right now, I'm hoping to get this actuarial internship in Pepper Pike, just east of Cleveland. If that happens, all bets are off.

Another goal of this summer, with or without that internship, is studying for and passing Exam FM, which I will take in mid-August if all goes according to plan. By going according to plan, I mean that I will pass Exam P next Tuesday. This stupid exam has been running my life for the past 4 weeks when school and work haven't been. So, I better pass it or that will be hundreds of hours of studying wasted and $200 down the drain. Ah, the joys of actuarial science.

Now, if I don't get this internship, I have a backup plan that involves a lot of baseball umpiring and possibly a side job as well. But, those have been common for the past several summers are of no interest to you, the reader. The question I pose is: What else should I do with my time this summer?

In general, I'm usually bored during the summer. I get to see my friends more, I get to go outside more, but without school and Big Ten Network stuff to occupy two-thirds of my life, I have a hard time finding ways to keep my body and mind occupied. So, I was thinking about using the past 3 years of calculus, statistics, linear algebra (maybe not so much this one), and probability theory do some sports-related research.

So, I ask, what kind of project should I take on? I have a couple of ideas.

Team Rating Algorithm - Simplest idea. Come up with a way to rate teams based on their performance up to a specific point in the season, usually being that day. It would revolve around the thought process of which team's accomplishments would be the most difficult for an average team to accomplishment? This formula would be strongly based on probability theory.

Golfer Rating - Another simple idea, this one would involve less probability theory and more statistics. Taking a player's average score can help determine how well he plays the sport. However, course difficulty and comparisons against his fellow golfers may be more important.

Golfer Odds - This takes the Golfer Rating idea one step further. But looking at the consistency of a golfer's play, the effects of specific courses and how golfers age, it's possible to come up with better probability to win golf tournaments, then compare those odds with the Vegas lines to see which are better predictors.

Fantasy Football Rankings - I don't know if any of these could be profitable, but this idea has the most potential to be. Analyze the performance of veteran players and the draft status of younger players along with the effects of age, experience, and changes in coaching style to determine who to pick in fantasy football drafts this August (assuming there is even a season). Add in one more factor for auction drafts to know how much specific players are really worth.

Fantasy Baseball Rankings - Fantasy baseball isn't a lucrative as fantasy football, but it's a lot more involved for those who own teams. With baseball, you need to win more stat categories than your opponents, but which stats are the most predictable and which stats are the most important? How does a player's performance change over his time in the majors? And how much of a correlation is there because your basic baseball stats to advance sabermetrics? And again, add in a factor for auction drafts. Yes, I'm very fascinated by auction drafts.

Baseball Player Rankings - Very different from rating a batter or pitcher as a fantasy player is the idea of rating how they help their real life team. Granted, this idea has been done to death, but it's still an interesting idea. If you don't believe me, read Moneyball.

There are several more ways to apply mathematics, statistics, and probability theory to sports. The inexact science of scouting and recruiting is great example. Sadly, I don't have access to the data to do make a useful algorithm for various sports. I could also look at player rankings for football, basketball, or hockey. Look for correlations between college basketball success and NBA success, or by the same token, college football success and NFL success. There are so many different directions one can go with this. But alas, I'm only one man.

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