July 30, 2008 at 6:15 PM
Just because it's July doesn't mean there isn't any basketball news to report. I know its been a while since I've touched this blog, but today was a rather big news day for the Penn State basketball program.
First and foremost, the 2008-09 non-conference basketball schedule was released, and it looks to be a solid, if unspectacular, slate.
The season kicks off with a pretty tough matchup, with William and Mary coming to the Bryce Jordan Center on Nov. 14. Roundball junkies probably remember the Tribe as the team that made a Cinderella run to the finals of last season's CAA tournament, only to bow out to George Mason. Bill and Mary figures to be back strong next year, with double-digit scorers Danny Sumner and David Schneider returning. Watching Sumner holds particular interest for me, as he and I graduated from the same high school class at Paul VI Catholic in Fairfax, VA.
After three home games with New Jersey Tech (which went winless last year), Hartford (which nearly beat Penn State two years ago) and New Hampshire, the Nittany Lions will travel to the Palestra to play Penn, and then to play in the Philly Hoops Classic (also at the Palestra) on Nov. 28 and 29. The entire field for the event has yet to be announced.
As most probably know, the Lions will travel to Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC challenge on Dec. 3. That game will tip at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.
Temple will travel to the Bryce Jordan Center on Dec. 6 and the non-conference schedule will round itself out with Army, Mount St. Mary's, Lafayette and Sacred Heart.
The Lions will also play four exhibition games in Canada over Labor Day weekend, and will be allowed to practice 10 days before those games. However, the Lions must return to the normal practice schedule when they return, which allows for the first practice on Oct. 17.
Obviously, to make a fair assessment of this schedule we need to know the field in the Philly Classic, but on the surface this looks like a typical Penn State schedule. William and Mary, Temple and Georgia Tech all figure to add beef to the RPI, but New Jersey Tech, Army and Lafayette will probably all bring the RPI down come March, even if Penn State wins those games by 50 points.
Unless Temple or Georgia Tech can be considered marquee opponents, then this schedule lacks a big-name game. Of course the Philly Classic could end up providing that, but the biggest names from last year's field were Virginia and Seton Hall, two teams that missed the NCAA tournament last year.
It does appear that most of these games are winnable for Penn State, and that's good because I think the Lions will need to post a pretty impressive record through that slate to put themselves into NCAA tournament-bid contention.
In alumni news, Jan Jagla will be playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman with Germany in next month's Olympics.
Jagla, who is currently playing pro ball with Joventut Badalona of Spain, played at Penn State from 2002-04, so he is a little before my time, but I am excited to watch him play next month.
- Steve Comments
July 17, 2008 at 12:17 AM
The world's greatest sporting event begins today on the shores of the Irish Sea in Southport, England.
It may not be the World Series or the Super Bowl, but golf's oldest major transcends sport and takes the game back to where golf belongs.
It's not the British Open; it's simply The Open Championship. As unpatriotic as it may seem, nothing can compare to watching the world's best battle a links golf course while being beaten by sideways rain and swirling winds. Sorry U.S. Open and The Masters.
The 137th playing of the legendary tournament may not boast Tiger Woods, but it still has one of the strongest fields in golf, including Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.
To the winner, the most coveted trophy in the world; the Claret Jug.
First presented to Tom Kidd in 1873, the Claret Jug marks The Open Champion golfer of the year, and the champion of golf for that year. Period.
The Open is how golf was meant to be played. On the shoreline, battling fierce conditions on a links golf course. No trees, no problem.
If you want water on the course, there are burns, not ponds, rivers or creeks.
British Open golf is the epitome of sport. The greatest game on Earth, being played like it was 1860. Comments
July 9, 2008 at 3:27 PM
This Monday marks Major League baseball's annual Home Run Derby presented by 21st Century Homes. For fans of America's pastime, it's an evening of fun, family, and steroid skepticism. It's a time when all of the game's most talented stars gather in one ballpark, and litter the baselines with small children and video cameras (two guesses as to which one most players would cover up if a foul ball came howling their direction).
Now that I've got the majority of my witty banter out of my system, let's get to the contestants. Each slugger has been given odds on winning the competition and an over/under as to how many home runs they'll smack over the outfield wall at Yankee Stadium. As of now there are only six people signed up, so two entries won't show up here, but that's their loss. So without much further adieu...
Representing the National League
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros
Berkman is about the only bright spot on the Astros this season. Houston is dead last in the NL Central, and with the recent acquisition frenzy among the top teams in the division, the Astros have been sent even further down the ladder. Berkman has 22 home runs, and 70 RBI, and is hitting a smoking .347. He is a switch hitter, which in a park that gives lefties a considerable advantage, Berkman has a good chance.
Odds of winning: 5-1, Over/Under:20
Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers
In just his second season in the majors, Braun is already feared as one of the NL's top hitters. He is the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, but is sometimes overlooked in a lineup which includes power hitters Prince Fielder, and Bill Hall. Braun also has 22 home runs, but trails Berkman in RBI with 66, and batting average at .284. The fact that he's a right-handed hitter is a bit of a concern, and like the other participants representing the NL, stepping into Yankee Stadium will be unfamiliar territory.
Odds of winning: 9-1, Over/Under: 18
Dan Uggla, 2B, Florida Marlins
This guy is really something special. One of the biggest reasons the Florida Marlins are flirting with yet another NL East division crown, Uggla has become the anchor in the Marlins' lineup. Uggla is another righty in the competition, and is a good pick for a darkhorse in the Derby. The second baseman has blasted 23 home runs, and 58 RBI, while hitting .289.
Odds of winning: 8-1. Over/Under: 22
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
If it weren't for this guy, Uggla would be a shoe-in as the starting 2B for the NL. But, apologies to Mr. Uggla, because Chase Utley is having a phenomenal season. Utley already has 25 home runs and 68 RBI, and is hitting .294 in another powerful lineup. He is an easy pick to win the Derby, with the fact he is a left-handed hitter giving him a considerable advantage against all of the righties.
Odds of winning: 4-1, Over/Under: 25
And now for your American League contestants...
Josh Hamilton, CF, Texas Rangers
Where in the hell did this kid come from? Ohhh that's right, rehab. The former first overall selection back in 1999 battled a cocaine addiction, and has turned in his crack pipe for a baseball bat, in one of the most sensational stories this year. Hamilton leads the major leagues with an astounding 87 RBI, and has 19 home runs to complement his.309 batting average. It'll be interesting to see what this kid can do in his first All-Star appearance.
Odds of winning: 7-1, Over/Under: 21
Grady Sizemore, CF, Cleveland Indians
I'm not totally sold on Sizemore, which probably means he'll end up winning the whole thing. Sizemore has more power in a leadoff man than I've seen in a while, and leads the American League with 22 HR. 50 RBI isn't too impressive, but thankfully for Sizemore, the name of the game is HOME RUN derby.
Odds of winning: 10-1, Over/Under: 18
So, you've managed to get through all of the above ranting? I'm impressed. Well, not really, but as far as you know I am. I'll bet you're asking yourself 'hey? How do you guys think this thing will turn out?' Well here is how we think it'll all go down in the Bronx...
Contestants making to the 2nd round..
Player to be named
Contestants to the final round...
2008 Home Run Derby presented by 21st Century champion...
Well there you have it. That's the home run derby in a nutshell. Let the bidding begin.
Disclaimer: No actual money or prizes will be awarded. Comments
July 7, 2008 at 4:13 PM
Yesterday at 9 a.m. I rolled out of bed and poured myself a glass of orange juice and sat down on my couch to enjoy "Breakfast at Wimbledon," as I have for the past 10 years. My hope was that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could somehow try and match the greatness of their five-set battle in last year's final.
Seven hours later, glued to our television set in the newsroom, I sat still holding my breath on every defensive slice, forehand down the line and backhand winner at an impossible angle.
What many of us witnessed yesterday was the greatest match in tennis history.
Don't believe a 21-year-old from Western Pennsylvania? Take the word of John McEnroe or Bud Collins. McEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon champion and now tennis commentator, and Collins, a tennis broadcaster and journalist for over 35 years, both agreed that they had watched the greatest match of their lives.
Even ESPN has decided to reshow the match in its entirety tonight on ESPN Classic, and you can watch the match anytime online.
The Federer-Nadal rivalry is the most underrated spectacle in sport today. They have now met in a Grand Slam Final six times, a record that has a great chance of growing, considering the stranglehold they hold on the sport.
When the two meet on court they are able to take their game to a level unsurpassed by men who have come before them. Shots that seem impossible quickly become reality as each player has to hit two or three should-be winners just to get a point.
While tennis doesn't get the same national attention as many other sports, it may hold some of the greatest athletes of this generation.
Federer has dominated the tennis world for the past five years, amassing 12 Grand Slam Titles, including five Wimbledon Championships. Many in the sport say he could be the greatest of all-time.
Federer has been the world's No. 1 player for over 200 straight weeks and his success is comparable to Tiger Woods, except for one major difference. Federer has a rival that can step up his game to compete with and beat him.
Nadal, who may now be the No. 1 player in the world even if the rankings don't say so, gives tennis a quality that every sport desperately needs. He brings the greatest challenge to a player some deem unbeatable.
Yesterday, Nadal dethroned the king and gave people around the world a taste of why tennis is the most fascinating sport around.
When Federer's final forehand failed to get over the net, the two men had finished in 4 hours and 48 minutes, a Championship match record. 4 hours and 48 minutes of the greatest tennis match ever played, and possibly 4 hours and 48 minutes of the greatest championship match ever, in any sport. Comments