Saturday, November 23, 2013

Making a case for Adreian Payne as a NBA Lottery pick

Who does Adreian Payne have to screw to be considered a NBA Draft Lottery pick? I mean Jesus, many draftnicks like ESPN's Chad Ford don't even have Payne projected as a first rounder.

Hopefully Payne's performance to start the 2013-2014 season will help dispel several myths:
1) That Tom Izzo doesn't produce NBA talent; 
2) That Michigan State doesn't develop big men; and
3) That four year seniors can't become upper echelon NBA Lottery picks.

With his ability to shoot the three point shot, pick and pop, post up, put the ball on the floor and block shots, Payne has the ability to play either the four or the five at the next level and is one of the more complete big men I've seen in college basketball in recent years.

And while Kentucky's Julius Randle is the poster child for the NBA Draft, Payne outperformed him in the first half of the Michigan State - Kentucky game before some soft foul calls sent him to the bench and allowed Randle to go off.

Unfortunately for Payne, the NBA is about 25 years behind the NFL when it comes to drafting collegiate players.

Instead of drafting players based upon well researched analysis of their athleticism/measurables, basketball IQ, and psychological profile, NBA executives seem to draft players based upon one thing and one thing alone...Their perceived upside.

How else can you explain Chad Ford rating a walking piece of shit like Willie Cauley-Stein of Kentucky #21 while he excludes Payne from his top thirty altogether?

I live in Lexington, and I pretty much watch all of the UK games...Apparently Chad Ford doesn't.

Cauley-Stein doesn't post up hard, he can't shoot, can't play defense, and seems about a second late on every rebound that he goes after.

Fortunately, he makes up for all of that by appearing as if he doesn't give a shit, being 7'0, and having been recruited by John Calipari. Quite frankly, Willie Cauley-Stein is the anti-Adreian Payne.

For reasons that only Ed Martin, Jalen Rose and Steve Fisher can understand, Chad Ford has Mitch McGary ranked as his #19 NBA Draft prospect. 

McGary has no outside shot, no real post moves, and no proven track record aside from a brief flash during the NCAA Tournament. Granted, the kid can rebound like a Mongoloid, but then again, so could Jerod Ward.

It's amazing how far out of touch from reality that NBA Draft evaluators have become.

As much as I hate to admit it, if Adreian Payne was playing the way he is right now for John Calipari at Kentucky, he'd probably have half of the NBA and ESPN in line to suck him off right now.

But instead of being viewed as a potential superstar, he's almost viewed as damaged goods despite having developed a complete NBA skill set that players rated above him haven't, and likely never will acquire.

Payne and Michigan State have the rest of the season to change some perceptions and schools of thought concerning the NBA Draft.

Fortunately, Payne seems like an even better person than he is a player...Not that it matters to the NBA.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Michigan State vs. Kentucky - Because the Spartans are going to run the Widcats out of the United Center

As the #2 Michigan State Spartans prepare to meet the #1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in this Tuesday's Champions Classic in Chicago, these two programs couldn't go about their success more differently.
-Tom Izzo takes an "anybody, any place, any time" mentality when it comes to scheduling, even though his teams are notorious slow starters. 

-John Calipari effortlessly recruits a new class of "one and done" players every year, but is complaining about having to face a veteran team like the Spartans this early in the season.

-Tom Izzo backed off of blue chip recruits like Cliff Alexander, James Young and Tyler Ulis when middlemen and other shady elements start to emerge.

-John Calipari embraces shady figures like "World Wide Wes" and ignored red flags on recruits like Marcus Camby, Derrick Rose and Enes Kanter, only to claim ignorance when they were ultimately declared ineligible by the NCAA.
-Tom Izzo utilized a state law in occasionally using state owned planes while on recruiting trips, yet that use resulted in a FAA investigation (that turned out to be completely legal).
-John Calipari once recruited Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne by landing a helicopter on his high school football field, yet nobody even raised an eyebrow.
Hell, even their campuses are polar opposites.

Michigan State tries to sell recruits on one of the most beautiful and lively campuses in the nation, while Kentucky somehow convinces blue chip prospects to come to the horse, chain restaurant, and jean short capital of the world.

And before the Wildcat fans start screaming at me for being a damn Yankee, I know all of these things...I actually live in Lexington, having attended both MSU and UK.

I've sat next to Demarcus Cousins as he got a two hour lap dance at Camelot West.

I've  been touched by Tim Couch's Playboy Playmate wife as she sat next to me at Drake's.

Hell, I've even bought Kenny "Sky" Walker a drink at Camelot East as he gushed about how Kentucky dropped the ball by not pursuing Tom Izzo harder to become their coach when they had the chance (sorry Kenny, UK never had a chance with Izzo).

Ultimately, Tuesday's game means nothing in the grand scheme of this season aside from pride and a potential boost to each school's national reputation.

And while the Spartans certainly aren't lacking in pride, they could use some love when it comes to the national media, who mistakenly thinks that the Spartans are a grind it out half court offensive team.

On the other hand, UK's team is certainly talented, but they're very young, and an early season victory over the #2 ranked team in the country would be a major boost to their egos and give them confidence going forward. 

So how does this game play out?

First off, Michigan State will dispel the perception that they're a slow paced, half court based team. Look for the Spartans to run the young Wildcats out of the United Center on Tuesday.

If the 2013-2014 Kentucky basketball team is nicknamed the "Kiddie Cats," does that make the 2012-2013 Kentucky team the "NITtie Cats?"

Julius Randle has been a beast thus far for Kentucky, but also has not been matched up with the size or athleticism of someone like Michigan State's Adrieon Payne.

Payne is also the key to Michigan State's offense, presenting match-up problems of his own with a pick and pop game that he can also move down low into the post.

This game probably comes down to foul trouble and how the new extra stringent hand-check rules will be enforced, as Payne demonstrated a propensity to get into foul trouble at the Junior Olympics this summer, in which less lenient International Rules were enforced.

In the event that Payne does get in foul trouble, Michigan State does have some bodies to throw at Randle, but not anybody who can match him in terms of athleticism.

Likewise, Kentucky can't afford to lose Randle, as Willie Cauley-Stein is perhaps the most overrated player in all of America. Maybe this guy convinces some crappy NBA team to draft him in the first round, but I doubt he ever plays any meaningful minutes outside of the D-League.

In the back court, Kentucky's heralded "Harrison Twins" seem overrated, particularly Aaron at shooting guard. Meanwhile, Michigan State has potentially the best back court in the nation with Sr. Keith Appling at the point and All-American Gary Harris at shooting guard.

Throw in Michigan State's versatility at the hybrid "three" spot with Denzel Valentine and Brandon Dawson against an underachieving Alex Poythress and super raw James Young, and Michigan State should win this game going away.

Prediction: Michigan State 73 - Kentucky 59

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Drew Sharp is not a journalist, he's just a character, and needs to stripped of his AP vote

In other parts of the country, in SEC land for instance, colleges and universities have sports writers who take notice of and support deserving local teams when voting for the AP Top 25.

In the State of Michigan, we get Drew Sharp.

You may know Drew Sharp as the "Commentary/Criticism" writer for the Detroit Free Press, who took over as the Detroit area rabble-rouser after Rob Parker parlayed his hack journalism and a lack of integrity into a cushy gig at ESPN.

Not that Drew Sharp has similar aspirations or anything...

The problem with giving shock writers like Sharp an AP top 25 vote is that they lack the ability to be objective, which is instrumental for any sports writer who is handed the privilege of casting votes that can play a role in match-ups that may ultimately define a school or player's spot in history.

Contrary to his own belief, Drew Sharp is not a journalist, he's a character. He's the "bad guy" that the Free Press needs to sell papers...The man local sports fans love to hate.

And in order to live up to that character, Drew Sharp hates on local sports teams.

He hates on the B1G...He hates on Detroit...He hates on the whole state of Michigan. Hell, he'd probably hate on his own mother if he thought that a majority of his readers liked her.

Look, I understand that it isn't a sports writer's job to only report about sunshine, rainbows and Trans-Am's, but that doesn't mean he has to go around shitting in everyone's Easter basket either.

In playing this character, "The Great Boodini," Drew Sharp has lost his objectivity as a writer. By stubbornly hating on the B1G, he's locked himself into a position that he has to justify week in and week out, especially when it comes to casting his top 25 ballot for the AP.

Here are some of his quotes from just the past two weeks:
"For better or worse, college football is a national sport. And Michigan State-Michigan doesn’t measure up. The real college football rivalries aren’t between specific teams but between conferences."
"So I will leave you with this question: What do you call an All-Star team comprised of Michigan and Michigan State players?
Answer: SEC water boys."
 "It’s more than reasonable that the champions of far better conferences such as the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC could be 12-1, and two of those teams would be more deserving of a berth in the final BCS championship game than the Buckeyes."
"All records aren’t equal. That’s difficult for the delusional Big Ten apologists to accept. But an undefeated or one-loss Big Ten — or a Big 12 team this year — simply isn’t as credible as those other three conferences in which ranked opponents face off on a regular basis."
"Sorry, Sparty.The lack of schedule strength and national credibility in the overall body work once again keeps the Spartans off my weekly Associated Press ballot."
"The Spartans are no better than 25th on my ballot. Why should I be impressed with what they did to Michigan when I was the lone national voter arguing the Wolverines’ fraudulence since the start of the season? That was as unimpressive of a 29-6 win as you’ll ever see considering the extraordinary field position the Spartans enjoyed all day. 
A good team would’ve stamped 50 points on Michigan’s forehead with that kind of advantage.
They move into my rankings solely because my previous No. 25 – Oregon State – lost for the second straight week."
"The Big Ten won’t get overvalued on my ballot because (cue the orchestra) ... OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, the Big Ten sucks. The Big Ten sucks."

As it turns out, Michigan State has developed into a pretty damn good football team, as anyone who watches college football can attest.

They have one of the better defenses college football has seen in recent memory. They also control the clock, punt and kick the ball exceedingly well, and rarely turn the ball over.
The terrible offense?

Well, after a slow start the Spartans are still averaging nearly 30 points a game. Not great, but not all that bad either considering how strong they are when it comes to defense and special teams. 

The weak schedule that Drew Sharp shouts about?

Yes, Michigan State's B1G schedule is favorable for the first time in years, but he can't penalize them for that...At least not when the Spartans have taken care of their business while several schools he ranks ahead of them have played schedules that were much weaker than theirs.

For example:
-He has Louisville ranked #16 even though they lost to Central Florida and their best win came against an awful Kentucky team (and Drew can quit squawking about Kentucky being a SEC team. I went to UK for grad school and currently live in Lexington...They'd lose to EVERY team in the B1G).

-He has Central Florida ranked #17 even though their two signature victories were 3 point wins over both Louisville and Penn State, coupled with a loss to South Carolina.

-He has Northern Illinois ranked #19 even though their only notable victories were a 3 point win over Iowa and a victory over Purdue. The rest of their schedule has been garbage

-He has Fresno State ranked #22 even though their only meaningful win was an overtime victory over Rutgers while playing in a weak conference.

-Finally, he ranked a two loss BYU team #23 even though they lost to an awful Virginia squad, and who's best victory was over a Texas team that was in turmoil when they met early in the season.

Simply put, Drew Sharp makes a living hating on the Big Ten, and in doing so he has become biased and lost any objectivity that he once may have had.

On one hand, he devalues teams in the Big Ten because of their schedule. On the other, he ignores that same logic when he ranks schools from lesser conferences ahead of B1G schools like Michigan State even when they have played weaker schedules themselves.

The only reason Drew Sharp has for not ranking Michigan State higher than #25 in his most recent AP ballot is because he refuses to admit that he was wrong about them, because doing that would destroy the character that he's created for himself.

Drew Sharp may be an opinion writer, but he completely ignores facts and disregards logic. And when you're an opinion writer who's opinions are devoid of fact and based upon flawed logic, you're not a journalist anymore, you're just a blowhard.

And blowhards don't need to have a voice in selecting college football's BCS teams, they need to be in bars somewhere in Alabama chanting "S-E-C! S-E-C!"

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fuck Michigan

As the the 23rd ranked Wolverines travel to East Lansing to take on the 24th ranked Spartans, look for U of M fans across the state to bathe, log off of their neighbor's Wi-Fi, and leave their mothers' basements in an attempt to invade Spartan Stadium.

Okay, maybe I was a little too optimistic about the whole "bathing" thing.

In order to keep all of the Michigan trolls out, we may even need the "Spartan Guard" to set up on the outskirts of campus along "Troll"Bridge Road to see if those seeking to enter are worthy to do so by correctly answering the following question:

 - What are the two things you get from Ann Arbor?
1. Year after year the most overrated football team in America;
2. Ugly chicks. 
This U of M girl is: a) drunk, b) sad, c) Corky's sister, d) all of the above.

For some reason, Michigan still has America convinced that they are a football power even though Michigan State has long since passed them as the better program.

Not only have the Spartans boasted better talent, coach and now facilities (aside from the Big House itself) than the Wolverines in the Mark Dantonio/Mark Hollis era, but as winners of four of the last five games in the rivalry, they've had the better results to back it up.

Of course, the arrogant folks down in Ann Arbor refuse to even acknowledge Michigan State as one of their rivals...But then again, the team on the ass-end of things doesn't exactly get to choose who their rivals are.

Chad Earl Atcheson:
 It doesn't take a kinesiology major to figure out which one of these right wing Michigan Militia members actually attended U of M...The correct answer is, "none of them."

In fact, even if Mike Hart and Fitz Toussaint are correct in their belief that MSU is U of M's "Little Brother," at some point every "Big Brother" eventually comes to the realization that "Little Brother" grew up to become bigger, stronger and more personable than his older sibling.

Hot Michigan State chicks: And to top things off, "Little Brother" wound up with the better looking girlfriend.

Don't look for things to change come Saturday. Michigan State has the best defense in the nation, and should be able to shut down the Wolverines' running game and make them a one dimensional passing team.

And if that holds true, look for the Spartans to come out on top 23-13, sending the corn and blue fans back to South Gate or wherever the hell it is that their mom lives, so they can resume trolling Michigan State boards in anonymity while praying that the ghost of Ed Martin comes back and buys them another winner.

Fuck Michigan

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State mirrors that of Kirk Ferentz at Iowa...and that could be a problem.

While Kirk Ferentz wasn't an option when Michigan State was looking for a new football coach in 2002, at the time I longed for the Spartans to model their program after his Iowa Hawkeyes. 

After all, if Ferentz could parlay Iowa's past legacy as a football power into becoming a BCS contender in corn town based upon a stout defense and a solid running game, surely somebody like minded could make the same thing happen in East Lansing.

Sparty Said Knock You Out!

Michigan State was just three years removed from the Nick Saban era, and while Bobby Williams had maintained the Spartans talent level through his recruiting, he had lost control of his program, on and off the field.

The Spartans had one chance to make an impact coaching hire or risk losing the momentum their program had built under Saban.

Unfortunately, Ron Mason, Michigan State's Athletic Director at the time went for a "big name" hire in Louisville Cardinal head coach, John. L. Smith.

Living in Kentucky, I knew that the John L. Smith hire would be a disaster from day one, but Ron Mason was in water above his head as a first time Athletic Director, and John L. Smith was a snake oil salesman.

Never mind the fact that Urban Meyer practically begged Michigan State for an interview after kicking off half the Bowling Green roster he inherited and still managed to turn their program around in just one year, but John L.'s Louisville teams were marred by the same type of behavior problems that he was being hired to clean up.

However, that cowboy could sell some oil, and he was able to convince Mason that he needed to buy some.

Fast forward four years, and Kirk Ferentz success at Iowa continued. In fact, he was frequently rumored to be a candidate for many NFL head coaching vacancies.

Meanwhile, Michigan State was once again looking for a new head coach after John L. Smith coached and slapped his way out of East Lansing.

This time Michigan State had a new rising star in Athletic Director Mark Hollis, who went with a Ferentz clone in Mark Dantonio as his new hire.

Dantonio immediately brought his Spartans back to respectability, making them bowl eligible in his first season as head coach. By his fourth season he had brought Michigan State their first Big Ten title in 22 years, based largely upon a solid running game and a strong defense.

However, college football was beginning to change, and Kirk Ferentz and his Hawkeyes were starting to get left behind based upon a lack of playmaker at the quarterback position and an insistence on running the ball at all costs. 

Not only did Iowa begin to lag in the Big Ten standings, but you could all but pencil their once Big Ten championship caliber teams in for a loss to either Iowa State or a MAC school each and every year.

And while Michigan State Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi has gone on to build what is perhaps the best defense in America, Dantonio risks wasting it after failing to develop another NFL caliber "pro style" quarterback after the graduation of Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins.

Much like Iowa, Michigan State has gone conservative, and now runs a predictable and conservative run orientated attack, rarely even attempting to throw the ball vertically down field.

Unlike Iowa, I do think Dantonio realizes the need to evolve, as he's expressed a desire to base his offense around a more mobile quarterback going forward.

Unfortunately, his upperclassmen do not have the requisite skill set to run such an offense, and his more mobile underclassmen are apparently not yet ready.

Hopefully Dantonio makes the correct call going forward, or his Spartans may find themselves more similar to the Iowa Hawkeyes than they would like.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Yes the Offense Sucks, but Mark Dantonio Still Has Swag with a Capital "S"

After a 2-0 start to the 2013 season, USA Today college football analyst Dan Wolken has ranked the Spartans fan base No. 5 on "The Misery Index.'' 

While Wolken astutely characterizes Michigan State's offense as "a dumpster fire," he takes a shot at head coach Mark Dantonio, characterizing him as "a humorless coach void of any semblance of personality.''

Actually, I've heard that complaint before, and I find it absurd. Maybe I'm just partial to a dry sense of humor, but let's not mistake a dry wit with a lack of personality.

Mark Dantonio may not be Steve Spurrier or Bobby Bowden when it comes to making an ass of himself in front of the camera, but the dude has swag with a capital "S."

This is the same coach who routinely ignores questions from sideline reporters and just slyly smiles and talks about whatever the Hell he wants to talk about, such as when he smugly reminded a shocked national audience that the name of game winning fake field goal against Notre Dame was "Little Giants."

Or that Northwestern "took the cheese" in biting on the fake punt called "Mouse Trap" that helped his Spartans come back from a 17-0 deficit one month later.

Of course, who can forget Dantonio putting Mike Hart and every Michigan fan in their place by saying, "Pride comes before the fall," and, "It's not over, and it will never be over here. It's just started," before rattling off four straight wins against their in-state rivals when Michigan players taunted him after narrowly defeating his Spartans in his first season as their head coach.

Does Dan Wolken actually think that Michigan State fans complained about Mark Dantonio's "lack of personality" when he put an arrogant Michigan assistant coach in Jeff Hecklinski his place?

Or how about when he reminded the national media and Wolverine fan base that "Little Brother" had grown up to become bigger and stronger than "Big Brother" and even landed a better looking girlfriend by asking, "We've beat Michigan the last four years, so where's the threat?"

Mark Dantonio "owning" University of Michigan assistant coach Jeff Hecklinski by comparing him to former Wolverine RB Mike Hart.

Wolken may be correct that the current state of Michigan State's offense rhymes with "flaming bag of dog shit," but that assessment could change as quickly as you can say "Damion Terry."

One thing that you cannot and do not want to do is attack is Mark Dantonio's swag and personality...Just ask the University of Michigan.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Taking a Look at Michigan State's 2013 Quarterback Situation

"I don't think either quarterback played poorly, both quarterbacks played well enough to generate more points than we got from our offense.'' - Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, following Michigan State's 26-13 win over Western Michigan on 8/30/13. 

No, Michigan State's quarterbacks did not play poorly against Western Michigan. They were flat out awful.

Despite several drops from their receivers, Michigan State's quarterbacks, fifth year Senior Andrew Maxwell and redshirt Sophomore Connor Cook did not put the team in a position to score with their arms.

In fact, the best the Spartans' offense looked all game was probably when running back Jeremy Langford was taking snaps in the "Wildcat" formation. Sadly, the mere thought of Andrew Maxwell splitting out wide in the "Wildcat" made me laugh and cry at the same time...Kind of like any Paul Walker movie.

Connor Cook also had his moments moving the offense using his legs with quarterback draws from the shotgun and running the read-option when lined up in the pistol.

Connor Cook: Unfortunately, his arm was about as accurate as your order from Pancero's at 2:00 a.m. when you try to explain what you'd like in your burrito after a dozen Milwaukee's Bests and a few keg stands.

While Andrew Maxwell does seem to be more accurate than Cook, the word "vertical" is simply not in his vocabulary.

Much like former Detroit Lions quarterback, Joey "Blue-Skies" Harrington, Maxwell frequently goes through his progressions and checks down, electing to throw "long," at least when it comes to how far the ball travels horizontally, three and four yard outs instead of trying to push the ball down field.

Worse yet, the way Maxwell delivers the ball rarely puts his receivers, phalangically challenged or not, in a position to make any yardage after the catch.

Sadly, Andrew Maxwell is even less effective when pressure necessitates him to either step up in the pocket or scramble.

Quite simply, part of a quarterback's job is to put his receivers in a position to make a play, and Andrew Maxwell has never proven to be able to do that.

While Connor Cook may not be as accurate as Andrew Maxwell, at least when he does complete a pass they tend to go down field and hit his receivers in stride or coming out of their breaks before the defenders have time to close.

I don't want to be a Maxwell basher. He went to my high school, so having him as the starting quarterback at my alma mater is a tremendous source of pride to me. Unfortunately, despite all of his Elite 11 credentials, he just doesn't seem to have the intangibles to be a successful quarterback at the collegiate level.

What the fuck is a Chemic? Andrew Maxwell at Midland High School.

I don't overreact either, I save that for Michigan fans.

Damion Terry is a true Freshman who doesn't have command of MSU's pro style offense yet, so he probably isn't the answer either this year...Not unless you are going to run an offense entirely based on the "read option," and that just doesn't fit Mark Dantonio's philosophy.

Is Connor Cook the answer?

I'm not sure of that yet either, but of the two Spartan quarterbacks that have any game experience, Cook is the one that seems to be capable of moving the offense vertically down the field.

Connor Cook kind of reminds me of a poor man's version of former Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton with his "drunken sailor" style of moving the football.

Michigan State needs somebody at the quarterback position to step up and take this team to a new level by the Notre Dame game and Big Ten play, or this will quickly become another disappointing season.

Right now Andrew Maxwell is not the answer to the Spartans' quarterback conundrum.

It's time to give one of the younger kids a chance to lead this team or Mark Dantonio and company risk wasting one of the best defenses in team history.

Perhaps letting Cook split reps in games with redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor, who's highly mobile and also has a talented arm, is the answer.

If Cook and O'Connor both struggle in games, then the Spartans can always go back to the known commodity in Maxwell as a back-up option, but at this point he appears to have reached his ceiling, and that ceiling's not nearly high enough to cut it going forward if this team wants to contend for a Rose Bowl.