Monday, April 26, 2010

Kansas City Chiefs Final Draft Analysis

1st Round: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

On paper: The only argument against the pick is that it's too high for a Safety. I'm not buying that. Along with Center, Safety is the most undervalued position in the NFL. Best player at my second biggest need, which is tough to beat.

On the field: Will be starting at Safety from Day 1. Gives the defense some versatility with his ability to cover the Slot Receiver. Brings the reputation of a playmaker, which our defense is currently void of. Hopefully can take on a leadership role that our defense desperately needs. And hopefully he ain't done thumpin' Knowshon.

Grade: A-

2nd Round: Dexter McCluster, WR, Mississippi

On paper: Yes, I listed him as a receiver, because that's what he'll be. I could hear the collective gasp from the city when they read Running Back listed next to his name. He fills the need of a Slot Receiver/playmaker on the offensive side, and also a possible returner.

On the field: I personally guarantee he's better than Lance Long. I envision us throwing a handful of swings/screens to him each game to give him some opportunities in space. Also, imagining him and JamaAL Charles in the same Shotgun backfield has me downright giddy. He should be a 3rd and 5 nightmare for opposing teams, something we sorely lacked last year. I think he'll also get a shot as the Kick Returner.

Grade: B+

2nd Round: Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama

On paper: At first, I was none too happy with this selection. But, upon reassessment, I think I overlooked the need of a Nickel Cornerback, which should be valued equally as a Slot Receiver, while we plain don't have one. Taken way above where the experts had him rated, but I can't really figure out why he was rated so low.

On the field: A playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, and in the return game. Should win the Punt Returner job undoubtedly, with his seven career punt returns for touchdowns being the proof in the pudding (Boom!). His two biggest positives as a Cornerback are his instinctive play, and his unique knack for blitzing from the Corner position. His only negative seems to be a lack of straight-line speed.

Grade: C+

3rd Round: Jon Asamoah, G, Illinois

On paper: The value here seemed to be universally applauded. The only problem would be that Guard was one of our more talented positions, while there were plenty of other well-defined needs ignored. Although, the third round is borderline area for just taking the best player available, regardless of need.

On the field: Saw the same characteristic come up in nearly every description- nasty. I'll take it! He provides depth, a safety net for Ryan Lilja, and the protege for Brian Waters. His grade goes up a full letter if the rumors of him being able to play Center are true.

Grade: B

3rd Round: Tony Moeaki, TE, Iowa

On paper: Hey, a Tight End named Tony, alright! We felt obligated to trade up and fill the void of the annual, mandatory, Patriot Way Tight End selection. You can never have too many. I'd feel better about this pick if it didn't paint the obvious picture that Brad Cottam sucks. Or if we would've gone with Florida Tight End, Aaron Hernandez.

On the field: Have read conflicting reports about his blocking. Have read very unanimously that he gets injured ALOT, missing games in each of his four collegiate seasons. Has the talent to come in and start right away if he stays healthy. Will be split out wide alot to force mismatches.

Grade: D+

5th Round: Kendrick Lewis, S, Mississippi

On paper: Showed up in my random thoughts I had on the 2009 College Football season as a player of interest. Not very good value, but I like the readdressing of Safety.

On the field: Will be the steal of the 2010 Chiefs Draft. Would not be surprised to see him starting midway through this year, or at the start of 2011. His fearless attacking of ball carriers is what created his noteworthiness. Should help on Special Teams immediately.

Grade: A

5th Round: Cameron Sheffield, OLB, Troy

On paper: Finally, my biggest need gets addressed, albeit 2-3 rounds too late. Not very good value here either, but love the position selection. The same size, position, and school as DeMarcus Ware.

On the field: 2-time All-Sun Belt performer, credited with 12.5 sacks the last two years. Hopefully can develop into a desperately needed pass rusher, because the Chiefs currently employ only one pass rusher of mediocre talent (Hali).

Grade: B-

Final GPA: 2.90 (B/B-)

Final Notes: The draft class improves immensely if John Henderson and/or any other potential impact Free Agents sign on after today. My biggest problem with the draft was ignoring huge needs, but I liked most all of the players. If those positions are addressed in other ways, that increases the value of this draft to me. My biggest worry, as hopefully I've hammered home hard enough, is the lack of pass rushers, which speaks directly to the OLB position, which wasn't really addressed. The other biggest need is now a Nose Tackle, which John Henderson would fulfill in a big, mean, face-slapping way. My closing thought wanders just why the Patriots like drafting Tight Ends so much?

His Draftness

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 20 Draft Board ~ 2nd/3rd Round

1. Golden Taint, WR, Notre Dame- Love his go up and get it skills. Love that he can return. Love his name.
2. Jimmer Clausen, QB, Notre Dame- Don't like him personally, but if Weis wants him, then I want him. Don't pass up a chance to get a quarterback you think will be a stud, even if you like the one you have. Slide could be embarrassing enough to provide what it takes to succeed at Quarterback. I feel we'd have to trade up to get him, and I wouldn't be against it.
3. Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina- Will be there with our second 2nd Round pick (#50). Fits my biggest need for the team.
4. Carlos Dunlap, OLB, Florida- Fell under my radar, but could be a freakish rush Linebacker if he wants to be. Showed up big in the Gators' bowl victories from the past two years, winning Defensive MVP honors from their 2008 BCS Championship victory.
5. Terrence Cody, NT, Alabama- We know what he does, we know what he doesn't do. We need somebody like him.
6. Damian Williams, WR, USC- At #50 if we don't pick Tate.
7. Everson Griffen, OLB, USC- My main man, Bill, likes him, which is good enough for me.
8. Koa Misi, OLB, Utah- WE NEED AN OUTSIDE LINEBACKER!!! I hope that point is getting across. Would love adding a Samoan to our team.
9. Linval Joseph, NT, East Carolina- People like him.
10. Charles Brown, OT, USC- 1st Team All-American. Sounds good to me.
11. Taylor Mays, S, USC- Yes, we already took a safety, but Mays has freaky athleticism, and I kind of like the idea of two safeties growing into the position together. Would only take him at #50, but don't think he'll still be there.
12. Cam Thomas, NT, North Carolina- The last of the Nose Tackles that could be taken in the 2nd Round.
13. Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida- Would provide more leadership to the defense. And he's been known to gauge eyes, which I don't like out of my friends, but I like out of my defensive players. Would make a great 3rd Rounder.
14. Vladimir Ducasse, OT, Massachusetts- Project at Right Tackle.
15. Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas- Seems to fit the 3-4 perfectly, but has major injury concerns with his knees. He wasn't productive enough for my taste.
16. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati- Fiesty lil' slot receiver and returner that could be around in the 3rd Round.
17. Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida- Love him as a 3rd Round pick, only if we don't pick up a Wide Receiver in the 2nd Round.
18. Justin Saffold, OT, Indiana- They tell me he's good.
19. Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois- Great in 2008, but struggled with injuries in 2009.
20. Navorro Bowman, LB, Penn St- Produced in college at Linebacker U, but I'm not sure where he projects in the NFL.
AND 1. Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson- Ran the fastest 40 time at the NFL Combine. Would be a fun little slot receiver and returner. 3rd or maybe even 4th Rounder.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

NFL Draft ~ 2nd Round Edition

While it's somewhat possible to project the first round of the NFL Draft, the second round is more like trying to control Ben Roethlisberger at a party.

(Speaking of which...the Steelers are contacting teams with Top 10 NFL Draft picks about possibly trading Big Ben. If I'm in charge, I make this deal in a heartbeat. You've got to have a top-flight quarterback to win a Super Bowl. R-berger is a top 5 quarterback in this league. He is 28 years old. That's atleast six years of a star quarterback's prime. You don't pass up a chance to secure a quarterback of such stature. Sure, he invites ladies to the pants party a little too often. So did Tiger Woods, and who remembers that? Err. He can take classes for that. And I think the weight of public embarassment will have a powerful, eye-opening effect on him. I think the odds of him turning around his personal life equate to the odds that Eric Berry fulfills his draft position. High. So would you rather have a good, possibly great, safety for 12 years or a premier quarterback with a 60-26 career record and two Super Bowls to his credit for six years? Not only would I trade the first round pick for him, I would trade our top three picks for him (hoping he keeps Lil' Ben in Pittsburgh.)

Back to the second round. The beginning of the second round on Friday night is going to be crazy. Teams are going to have 20 hours to digest the first round, reorganize their draft boards, and swap offers with teams at the top of the round. Teams will get aggressive. I expect three or four of the top five picks at the top of the round to be traded. I think it'll be the best part of the Draft's new format, and will be filled with action and drama for both teams and fans. So enjoy the fact that we are at the top of it. And feel confident in the fact that we should have one of the smartest suits in the league.

Let's go back to the positions of need list before I throw down names that I would love to hear called come Friday night.

1. Outside Linebacker- Draft will be a failure if they don't come away with one.
2. Safety- Projecting to be addressed in first round.
3. Wide Receiver- The most likely selection due to second round depth.
4. Nose Tackle- Terrence Cody is more known than Cam Thomas or Linval Joseph, but all are possible.
5. Center- Pouncey or possibly Weis' former center, Eric Olsen, in the later rounds.

6. Middle Linebacker- I'm guessing will be addressed in a later round.
7. Right Tackle- I'm sticking with Albert at Left Tackle.
8. Tight End- I like Aaron Hernandez (Florida, 3rd round) as a tight end/receiver mix to create matchup problems.

2nd Round Best Case Scenarios (assuming the following players, who would make the list, are off the board: Brandon Graham, Dan Williams, Sergio Kindle):

1. Jerry Hughes, OLB, TCU- Want him bad enough, that if we traded down in the first round I would consider drafting him then. Or I would be in favor of trading up to the bottom of the first to take him. He would be worth it. Mike Vrabel is done and most people haven't realized it yet. Hughes plays mean. Almost every analysis on him uses the word "relentless." He had 26.5 sacks the last two years and forced eight fumbles. He fits the 3-4 perfectly. I love this draft if we get him.

2. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida- One of the surest picks in the draft will most likely be off the board come the second round, but we should snag him if he slides. Niswanger is below average at an underrated position, and I don't think Wiegmann is the answer either, who gets pushed around by bigger defensive tackles from 3-4 defenses, which the AFC West is filled with. Pouncey won the Dave Rimington award for the best center in the country. He snapped out of the shotgun primarily at Florida, which is important for our offense. He is all but guaranteed to be good in my eyes.

3. Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama- Taking players from the best defense in college is always a good strategy. There's no hiding Cody's strengths and weaknesses. He is immovable, which is great in stuffing the run, but doesn't help much in pass rush situations. Seems comparable to Vince Wilfork, who Pioli and the Patriots drafted in the first round in 2004. The Chiefs have nobody close to his size, so he would fit a position of need.

4. Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame- We know Todd Haley wants another receiver. We know Charlie Weis coached Tate at Notre Dame. Seems like a no-brainer if he is on the board at 36. Seems like a natural fit in the slot. Would provide a deep threat. He can go up and get jump balls despite only being 5'10. On top of all this, he has return experience, which became a need once JamaAL Charles started toting the rock, son. He should be respected for this act alone...

5. Jared Gaither, T, Baltimore Ravens- Reportedly being shopped for a top-40 pick. It is possible that all four of the previously listed players are off the board when we get to pick at 36. If that's the case, I would do my best to work out a trade for Gaither. He stands a monstrous 6'9. Played well at Left Tackle in 2008, starting 15 games. He started 11 games in 2009, while a freakish neck injury sidelined him for five. Could seemingly play the left or the right side. He is already proven and well worth a second round pick.

6. Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina- Would rather snag him with the second of the second round picks (if Hughes isn't already chosen), but would be my choice if none of the first five happened. Reminds me a lot of Elvis Dumervil, who I also loved coming out of college, and who enjoyed a breakout year in 2009. Very quick burst off the line and around the edge. Made first team All-SEC the last three years with 29 career sacks. Would love to see one of my top five combined with him in the second round.

Other Possibilities:
-Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech- Love him. Good size. Can you be too tall to play the slot?
- Vladimir Ducasse, OT, Massachusetts- Huge Right Tackle prospect from a small school.
-Nate Allen, S, South Florida- meh.
-Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech- I dig his braids.
-Chad Jones, S, LSU- Would be my top safety choice if Berry isn't the first round selection.
-Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois- Mediocre.
-Damian Williams, WR, USC- Like him, don't love him.
-Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina- next best Nose Tackle on the board.

Dirkness' Best Case Scenario: Eric Berry, Jerry Hughes, and Terrence Cody

Final Prediction: Eric Berry, Golden Tate, and Vladimir Ducasse.

Monday, April 19, 2010

NFL Draft ~ 1st Round Edition

After much debate, I've elected to break down the upcoming NFL Draft in a round-by-round basis. I have a lot of thoughts to try and formulate before the extravaganza begins, and have my own little war room set up to properly capture the atmosphere. The Draft is always so hard to predict or preview in any way due to the numerous variables. I will be trying to separate what I think we will do, what I think we should do, and what I wouldn't like to see us do.

Overall Draft Philosophy- Looking at what the Chiefs have going into next year, I will mostly be looking at the second half of the 2009 season. The offense was much improved once they gained comfort in the system, while the defense remained pretty porous throughout the year. This screams a lack of talent. On top of this, most of the free agents acquired this offseason were on the offensive side. The defense must be addressed in this draft. I believe three of the top four picks (Top 68 overall) need to be spent on defense. I also believe that the top four picks should all come from the following eight positions.

My Position Needs List:

Big 5
1. Outside Linebacker- Most important position (in the 3-4) besides Quarterback. Need to find someone in the second round.
2. Safety- Jarrad Page (don't forget him) and nobody else. Could be Eric Berry in the first or someone else in the second round.
3. Wide Receiver (Returner)- A rookie combined with Free Agent Jerheme Urban would be sufficient. Second round is chalk full of receivers.
4. Nose Tackle- Free Agent Shaun Smith and Ron Edwards form a decent duo. Terrence Cody is the most likely potential draft pick in the second round.
5. Center- Not sold on Casey Wiegmann or Rudy Niswanger. Possibly Maurkice Pouncey if he slides to the second (which he shouldn't) but not too much else.

Secondary 3
1. Middle Linebacker- Decent talent that could use upgrade, meaning draft someone if you like them.
2. Offensive Tackle- All comes down to Branden Albert decision (more on that later). Right Tackle could use an upgrade.
3. Tight End- Do we have one?

First Round Possibilities assuming first 4 picks go according to plan, like so: 1. Sam Bradford, 2. Ndamukong Suh (sorry KC Star), 3. Gerald McCoy, 4. Russell Okung:

Eric Berry- The best player filling the biggest need. Makes the most sense. Would take a disliking for his game, or a lack of appreciation for his position to not make him the selection. He is the only player that equals proper value and fits a top position of need. Could become the face of the defense. Great safeties and great defenses go hand and hand. The two best defensive teams of the last ten years have been the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The two best safeties of the last ten years are Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed. Boom. Grade: A-

Bryan Bulaga- His name has come out of nowhere due to people being fond of a so-called Scott Pioli-Kirk Ferentz relationship. His late rising up draft boards discourages me. It almost seems similar to Tyson Jackson last year. I tend to like players that are rated highest at the conclusion of the season because that's when they're actually playing games. I'm not sure if the Offensive Tackle projectors see Branden Albert staying at Left Tackle or sliding over to Right Tackle, but that will be the biggest decision the Chiefs face this offseason, and we will know the answer immediately following the Draft. Grade: D

(Branden Albert)- Facts: Played mostly guard in college. Was very good Left Tackle his rookie season in 2008. Lost a lot of weight in 2009 Training Camp. Severely struggled the first half of 2009. His play improved as 2009 went on. I don't see enough there to warrant a position change. Neither does Brian Waters, "I think Branden's got the worst wrap out of anyone on our football team in the last two years," he said. "Without a shadow of a doubt he's a left tackle." I would trust Brian Waters. He is extremely smart and has been a major part of terrific offensive lines. The argument for sliding him over and drafting a new Left Tackle in the first round is that the offensive line, as a whole, would presumably become a strength. This is making assumptions that Albert would adjust to the right side, and that the draft pick would be better than Albert. It doesn't add up to me. Not when the team's other needs are so clearly defined.

Trent Williams- Much of the same argument for Bulaga applies to Williams, although I like Williams a little bit more. I feel like he will make a few Pro Bowls, while Baluga will be a bust, and Okung will be somewhere in the middle. And with nothing more interesting to say, a look at the NFL Lineman from Iowa and Oklahoma who played in the league last year:

G Robert Gallery, 1st Round, 75 Career Starts
G Seth Olsen, 4th Round, 0 Career Starts (2nd year)
G Eric Steinbach, 2nd Round, 92 Career Starts
C Casey Wiegmann- Undrafted, 168 Career Starts (Not under Kirk Ferentz- Erroneous)
G Marshal Yanda, 3rd Round, 26 Career Starts (4th year)

T Jammal Brown, 1st Round, 58 Career Starts, 2 Pro Bowls
C Chris Chester, 2nd Round, 9 Career Starts
G Davin Joseph, 1st Round, 54 Career Starts, 1 Pro Bowl
T Phil Loadholt, 2nd Round, 9 Career Starts (1st year)
G Duke Robinson, 5th Round, 0 Career Starts (2nd year)

Two things pop out at me from this list, both negatives about Iowa's history. Robert Gallery was a top pick and a bust, but has gone on to become a decent guard since. Also, there are no current NFL Tackles from Iowa. I have watched the potential linemen draftees play very little, so I'm going with what I do know, and that seems to favor Williams of the two. Grade: C+

Jimmer Clausen- If we pass on Clausen and are bad again this year, then we will have had four terrible seasons in a row with a new quarterback search likely under way. We will have had three Top 5 picks in a row, with no effort made at drafting a "Franchise Quarterback." Can we go on with never taking that chance? We'd be all but locked in to selecting one in the Top 5 next year, which isn't a terrible thing, but it does push you back yet another year. So, the question is how much do you trust Matt Cassel? I do, but (there's definitely a but) I wouldn't try to change Charlie Weis' mind if he was convinced. Grade: B-

What will happen- It seems to me the selection is Eric Berry unless we find someone aggressively trying to trade up, which is very possible. There are teams that will covet Berry and/or Clausen. With a trade down, almost anything is possible. We could go Rolando McClain (LB, Bama, Grade: A) or Dan Williams (NT, Tenn, Grade: C), both of whom I'd rather draft than a Tackle. Or you take Berry or Clausen if they remain, or even whatever Tackle is left. But, when it comes down to it, our card on the way up, the name on it will read Eric Berry. We know Knowshon is excited...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

2010 NBA Playoff First Round Predictions

The Dirkness is back after a prolonged absence caused by a post-KU depression, the increasingly nice weather outside, and a sudden lack of creativity (causes unknown). So, before I dive in head first to the Draft next week, I thought I'd throw down some predictions on the REAL NBA season, you know the one where they actually try, most of the time anyways. The playoffs always go down the same way: I start out really excited, then I see a few games that the refs ruin and a few others that the refs decide the outcome, I debate whether the whole thing is fixed, and I end up half-heartedly watching the Finals. The over/under for the date that I question the legitimacy is May 11th, so place your bets now. I'll be breaking down each series with a few interesting tidbits including my rooting interest, my favorite player in the series, who the NBA wants to win, and a prediction that is guaranteed to be correct.

On to the picks...

Lets start in the East (which in this case is least):

Cleveland Cavaliers~Chicago Bulls: If LeBron really wants to win an NBA Title he should refrain from shooting any 3-pointers. Or just grow an afro.

Favorite Player: Joakim Noah- Rebounds like the big woman he looks like.

Rooting Interest: Da Bulls. I like D-Rose too (funny how a missed free throw is the difference between love and hatred for him).

NBA's pick: The LeBrons- Quick and painless.

Prediction: Cavs in 5.

Boston Celtics~Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade vs. Paul Pierce.

Favorite Player: Paul Pierce- The most underrated crunch time scorer in the NBA.

Rooting Interest: Celtics- Can't and won't ever get over the Heat's lame white-outs.

NBA's pick: Celtics- Deep into the series and filled with D-Wade free throws.

Prediction: Heat in 6. I'll take a Top 3 player over a team filled with grandpas.

Atlanta Hawks~Milwaukee Bucks: The most hotly contested first round series.

Favorite Player: Would be Andrew Bogut for his creation of a crazy section of fans that is free to them as long as they stand and cheer all game, but he is hurt. Lets go Brandon Jennings, first time I'll get to see him.

Rooting interest: The Milwaukee Bucks- Favorite team in the East while they last.

NBA's pick: To look the other way...

Prediction: Hawks in 7. My sleeper team in the East.

Orlando Magic~Charlotte Bobcats: The Magic's quest to validate choosing Vince Carter over Hedo Turkoglu (while everybody knows they were wrong).

Favorite Player: Mickael Pietrus- Can't stop the black frenchmen, although this Gerald Wallace character intrigues me.

Rooting interest: The Hornets, er, wait...the Bobcats? What?!?!

NBA's pick: Magic.

Prediction: Magic in 5.


Los Angeles Lakers~Oklahoma City Thunder: These playoffs will be defined by one thing and one thing only to me, if the Lakers win the title or not.

Favorite Player: The Durantula- The best player I have ever seen live. Immediately stated that he would be the best NBA player in 5 years...he still has two years left.

Rooting Interest: The oKC Thunder x 1000. If you cheer for the Lakers then I don't like you.

NBA's Pick: They want the Lakers to win, but they want to establish Durant as a star.

Prediction: Lakers in 6. Durant outplays Kobe.

Denver Nuggets~Utah Jazz: The Nugs don't have their mother bud. The Jazz won't have their AK47 or possibly even their Booze.

Favorite Player: Carlos Boozer- Exactly how I'd play if I were a 6'9 black man.

Rooting Interest: Whoever has the better chance of beating the Lakers, I'll say the Jazz.

NBA's pick: Kobe vs. Carmelo would whet their whistle.

Prediction: Jazz in 7. Nuggets haven't been the same since George Karl's been out with a cancer.

Phoenix Suns~Portland Trailblazers: The Blazers' unfortunate string of events continue with Brandon Roy missing this series.

Favorite Player: I love Roy's game but I'll go with Steve Nash- I have a feeling this might be his year, as long as they can avoid the Spurs, who own them.

Rooting Interest: Suns- I like the Blazers a lot, but would rather see a threat to the Lakers emerge.

NBA's pick: Close series.

Prediction: Suns in 5. Sleeper team in the West. I really see either a Cavs-Suns or a Lakers-Hawks Finals matchup.

Dallas Mavericks~San Antonio Spurs: They seemingly meet every postseason with the Mavs owning them ever since Dirk's And-1 Game 7 winner in 2006.

Favorite Player: Like you have to ask...Dirk fact- He is 27th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. If he averages 20 points a game and 80 games a season for the next five years, he will find himself in the Top 5. Bing, bang, boom.

Rooting Interest: The Dirks. He has fallen under the radar with the huge Free Agent class coming this offseason, but it'll be interesting to see if Cuban parts ways with Dirk if they fall short yet again. I want a Dirk-Nash reunion in New York. With LeBron as the third option.

NBA's pick: Should be for the Mavs. They owe them a title. Dirk Fact- Nowitzki's crunch-time performance this season, according to (46.7 points per 48 minutes, 45.2% FG, 14.0 FTM, +98) was more efficient than anyone except LeBron (66.1 points per 48, 48.8 FG%, 21.0 FTM, +116). Yep, he's not clutch...

Prediction: Mavericks in 7. I think The Big Fundamental is 'Done'can. The Mavericks have much improved since the trade for Butler, Haywood, and DeShawn. I feel like they have a run in them, but also wouldn't be shocked to see them go down here due to the Spurs incredibly boring effectiveness.

Go Dirks!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010 NCAA Final Four

Every few years, the NCAA Tournament sees the overall favorite go out early, which leads to other favorites taking notice, playing tight, and bowing out themselves. The ultimate example of this came in 2006, with George Mason in the Final Four, and the yet to be known Florida team winning the first of their two titles. This year is similar to that year, based on the facts that it's wide open amongst the teams, and that the winner will be unexpected. The thing is, all National Championships are recorded the same, which makes these years very intriguing. Next year, the Tournament will most likely be handed back to the chalky elitists because everybody will be on upset alert after this year. It's all cyclical.

Before we get on to my predictions for tonight's Final Four clashes, let me get a few things off my chest about a sore subject. Cue rant: The NCAA is one of the most poorly run organizations I have ever come across. Point blank, they are a bunch of greedy bastards. Does anybody realize they are on the brink of possibly ruining the most perfect thing in sports, and it's all because of money? Of course, I am speaking of their what now seems inevitable decision to expand the Tournament to 96 teams. I, for one, sure was pissed that Texas Tech wasn't given the opportunity to chase the title this year. Their extremely mediocre brand of basketball sure could've put a scare into 9th seeded Wake Forest this year. Nobody wants an NIT first round of games. Now we'll have teams playing an uneven amount of games, with 32 teams getting a bye. Kids will be missing more classes now (their excuse for not creating a College Football playoff). It will make filling out brackets more difficult (a wildly underrated part of March Madness). And, it greatly enhances the biggest flaw of College Basketball, the pointlessness of the regular season. But, hey, now they can add a few million on to their television contracts, so lets just accept this. I've heard people speak out against this, but I want serious action to be taken against the people in charge. End rant.

On to the picks...

Butler-Michigan State: One of the unlikeliest Final Four games that I can remember. Butler upsets Syracuse and Kansas State (more heartbreaking then KSU fans want to admit-they will NEVER have an easier game to reach the Final Four) to get here. Michigan State loses its best player in the second round and seemingly gets better without him. The Spartans bring the experience gained from last year's title game run. The Bulldogs bring a know-how to win, evidenced by a 24-game victorious streak. Things I love about Butler: Lil' Gordo Hayward's smoothness (yes I'm aware he's 6'9, doesn't change the fact that he's lil), Matt Howard's amazing moustache (the baddest stache this side of the Ladd household), Ronald Nored's on the ball D, and the do everything Willie Veasley. Things I love about Michigan State: Tom Izzo's Tournament dominance, Durrell Summers' dunk on my boy Stanley Robinson last year (Youtube it), Phat Magic, and Korie Lucious' stepupability. This game wasn't too tough for me to pick. There are rarely upsets in the Final Four, and despite what my bookie tells me, Butler winning would be an upset. I think the Spartans try to speed things up and overpower them with their rebounding and athleticism. Also, Michigan State has played something like twelve dome games in the last few years, while Butler has played none. Different depths, lots of people, too bright of lights.

Michigan State 71, Butler 60

Duke-West Virginia: The classic matchup of evil versus evil. Hard to find people that like Duke. Hard to find people that like Bob Huggins. This is the matchup many of us wanted in a regional final, including Huggy Bear and myself. The 'Neers bring a juco style team made up of all wing players. The Blue Devils bring the All-American lame-o attitude. Things I love about Duke: Zoubek's constant Wilhelm screams, Zoubek's beard, the ability to do the Zoltan sign from Dude Where's My Car for Zoubek's name, and for the fact that my brother called Duke-Purdue the worst college basketball game he's ever seen. Things I love about West Virginia: They are playing Duke, Da'Sean Butler's straight hardness, the size of Huggins' head (physically and symbolically), and the ability to type 'Neers. Unfortunately, I feel like this game will depend heavily on the officiating. I think the 'Neers have the ability to beat them up down low, but only if the game isn't called tight. If Duke is shooting to their capabilities, then they will be very difficult to beat. I always trust a tough team over a shooting team though, and consider West Virginia the favorite to win it all.

West Virginia 67, Duke 62

Dis Hirkness