Tuesday, July 5, 2016

2006 NBA Draft

The recent announcement that the Toronto Raptors won the 2006 NBA Draft lottery comes as relief to the beleaguered fans in the Great White North. After countless poor NBA campaigns, the Raptors may be on track to do their best work since Vince Carter was a young pup. The problem with the 2006 NBA Draft, however, is that there is no clear number one selection. In this case, it is not a race to the top to see who is the best player but more of a race to a resting spot near the top of the 2006 NBA Draft. Unless the first pick in the 2006 NBA Draft ends up being Michael Jordan or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they will be counted among the pantheon of poor NBA Draft selections, while their counterparts in the top five of the draft will get an increasing amount of benefit of the doubt for not being selected number one. The first overall selection in the 2006 NBA Draft and the following picks are going to be based on need rather than potential more than any draft over the last decade, now that high school players cannot enter the NBA Draft. The following is a mock draft of the top five picks in the 2006 NBA Draft.

1. Toronto Raptors: LaMarcus Aldridge (Center, University of Texas)- The Toronto Raptors get the burden in the 2006 NBA Draft of picking the first of a group of solid, but not overwhelmingly talented, players. The pick of center Aldridge makes sense for the Raptors, considering they need a big force in the center to complete a young, talented front court that includes last year’s NBA Draft pick, Charlie Villanueva, and talented power forward Chris Bosh. While Aldridge may have questions about how good he will be as a pro player, there is no question that this is the best combination of talent and fulfilling a need in the 2006 NBA Draft.

2. Chicago Bulls: Adam Morrison (PF, Gonzaga University)- The athletic Bulls want to run and shoot and Morrison will fall to them at number two in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Bulls, who made a deal with the Knicks earlier this season for the pick in exchange for Eddie Curry, are thanking their stars that they not only made the 2006 NBA playoffs but showed promise in taking on the Miami Heat. Morrison is a versatile player, who can park outside or slash to the lane and gives the Bulls back court some relief in transition.

3. Charlotte Bobcats: Tyrus Thomas (PF, LSU)- The Charlotte Bobcats may have Okefor in the front court but Thomas may be too talented to pass on in the 2006 NBA Draft. Only a sophomore at LSU, he helped the Tigers go deep into the tournament and showed flashes of brilliance in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. A combination of Emeka Okefor and Tyrus Thomas in the Bobcats’ front court, along with Tarheels Shawn May and Raymond Felton, could provide some spark in the 2007 NBA campaign.

4. Portland Trailblazers: Andrea Borgnani (PG)- The Trailblazers have been blessed with the decision by the NBA to eliminate eligibility for high school players in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Blazers have been burned over the last few years by selecting young and volatile talent that has not panned out and a new draft means a new opportunity for the Blazers brain trust. They would be wise to use the 2006 NBA Draft to go after a mature young player like Borgnani, who is ready to play in the NBA this season and is a seasoned player for man in his early 20s. Borgnani is a solid point guard who has the smarts necessary to lead the Blazers franchise for the decade to come.

5. Atlanta Hawks: Patrick O’Bryant (Center, Bradley University)- The Atlanta Hawks are in trouble as a franchise and the smart move would be to move out of this pick and maybe get another low first or high second round pick. However, Patrick O’Bryant made his mark in the 2006 NCAA Tournament and hopes to go high in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Hawks have some exceptional talent in Josh Childress and Marvin Williams and Patrick O’Bryant may give them a strong middle presence to take the pressure off their young team. This draft is difficult to gauge, however, and the Hawks might make the mistake of going after the rash of shooting guards who are expected to go in the 2006 NBA Draft. They have enough shooters on this team and putting a strong man in the middle may give them a chance at avoiding another wasted NBA campaign.

Tags:2006 NBA Draft

2006 Children's Horror, Monster House

Monsters under the bed are bad enough, but what happens when an entire house is out to get you? In this animated adventure, three teens go up against a rundown neighboring home and unlock its frightening secrets.

This is a good Halloween movie for kids that’s totally computer-generated, or looks to be anyway. I wasn’t sure what to think upon entering this film. After the Corpse Bride travesty (no offense to fans of that film), I was a tad reluctant to see this film but since it deals with Halloween I figured that I should see it, even though it was released in July (some stupid marketing idea). I was pleasantly surprised to find a fairly good and entertaining film.

While the scope of the non-musical animated film is not anywhere near the grandeur of the musicals “The Corpse Bride” or “Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Monster House” deals with a much simpler idea just that of a house possessed by the spirit of a long dead person and house no steals any property left by kids on its lawn. Three kids enter the house to try to stop the house and kill its heart. It’s very simple for a 91 minute film but the 3D art, music and dialogue make for a very fun film and I didn’t watch the clock, waiting for it to end like I did with “The Corpse Bride”.

The art is great! It’s done in 3D and the character animation is perfect, everything flows smoothly. Very vibrant colors, perfectly toned for the fall make it pleasant on the eyes.

The dialogue is just terrific. Tons of cute one-liners really added another layer of fun to the movie, without which I wouldn’t have liked this movie as much as I did. All of the voice actors did a great job. However, Chowder, voiced by Sam Lerner, is definitely my favorite character in this film. Everything from his appearance, voice and dialogue remind me of that of Chunk in “The Goonies”, sarcastic & whiny yet somehow you can’t help but like him.

The scare factor is there but it is very mild, barely noticeable by adults but just enough to send a slight chill up and down the spine of your little ones without giving them nightmares.

Overall, this is a good, fun entertainment for the kids or adults who enjoy films such as this. It’s nothing great but still not a bad way to spend 91 minutes.

Tags:2006 Children’s Horror, Monster House

2006 NBA Preview

The NBA season is just around the corner, with training camps starting soon and the preseason starting up in October. With the veteran Miami Heat the defending champions, the Eastern Conference has proven itself again as a formidable opposing force to the more talented Western Conference. The standings below are based on my assessments of not only the talent level on each of these teams but the intangibles that lead many teams to the playoffs and championship contention.

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division
1. New Jersey Nets- The Nets have one of the most talented starting lineups in the league and Jason Kidd is gradually sliding out of his prime into a leadership (rather than a scoring) role.

2. Boston Celtics- The Celtics have had an erratic personnel plan under Danny Ainge’s tutelage, but they still have Paul Pierce and the supporting talent has improved over the last couple of years. Expect the Boston Celtics to stick around the second spot in the Atlantic Division for much of the season, as the Raptors are too young to push them and the Nets too good to have a let down.

3. Toronto Raptors- The Raptors will be one of the most improved teams in the NBA in 2006, with Chris Bosh taking the leadership role of the franchise and young foreign players like Andrea Bargnani will start to bring a new, solid shooting feel to the only NBA club in Canada. Look for the addition of point guard T.J. Ford to be the tipping point between another basement dwelling season and a chance at getting back into the playoffs.

4. Philadelphia 76ers- With no help in the free agent market or the draft for Allen Iverson, the Sixers will sink further in the Eastern Conference that is rapidly improving. Iverson may be shipped out by mid-season, meaning that the New York Knicks could push them to stay out of the Atlantic division cellar.

5. New York Knicks- Isaiah Thomas is like many other basketball greats (i.e. Michael Jordan) who have tried to enter NBA coaching and team management with dismal results. Thomas has certainly overturned the Knicks clubs of only three years ago and brought in talents like Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis to bring back credibility to the club. However, most of the talent, outside of Channing Frye and Jared Jeffries, is temperamental or underachieving and Thomas may be on his way out by the end of the 2006 NBA season.

Central Division
1. Chicago Bulls- The Bulls are young, athletic, and gave the Miami Heat their toughest challenge in the 2005 NBA playoffs. Look for Scott Skiles’ team to step it up in 2006, with Ben Gordon and Kirk Heinrich pushing for consideration as one of the best back courts in the league.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers- LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas form one of the better front courts in the league, but the search for a decent back court in Cleveland continues. If the Cavaliers can get some good performances out of Larry Hughes and Eric Snow, they may push the Chicago Bulls for the Central Division lead.

3. Detroit Pistons- The Pistons should not underestimate the loss of Ben Wallace to the Chicago Bulls and Detroit has become complacent following their success under former coach Larry Brown. Detroit Pistons fans need to be considered about the level of big game ability Flip Saunders has, whether the Pistons can replace Wallace in the middle, and whether they can overcome questions about their basketball talent with their vast playoff experience.

4. Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks made some interesting moves in the off season, bringing in Charlie Villanueva and Reuben Patterson via trade along with draft pick David Noel. These three players, along with Michael Redd, give the Bucks more athleticism and the ability to move up and down the court on slower teams. However, without a ball handler like Ford and with several players without a real position, the Bucks are going to remain near the middle of the Eastern Conference until they find their identity.

5. Indiana Pacers- The Pacers have a good deal of talent, but Rick Carlisle and Larry Bird have conflicting coaching philosophies and the Pacers seem to be slowly sliding down the Eastern Conference hierarchy. While Jermaine O’Neal and Danny Granger offer some solid performances on the Pacers interior, the Pacers are looking to retool their back court and possibly deal away oft-injured point guard Jamaal Tinsley.

Southeastern Division
1. Miami Heat- While the Heat are aging quickly, Shaq is good enough to carry the team in close games and Dwayne Wade is quickly taking the leadership role in Miami to heart. Wade will be an MVP candidate and will top both the stat sheets and All Star voting in 2006, as he begins to use the credibility gained as an NBA champion to keep the Heat on top of the NBA.

2. Orlando Magic- Dwight Howard will be the league’s MVP and his inside scoring game will continue to develop as he polishes his defensive skills. If the Magic can get anything out of Grant Hill this season and if point guard Jameer Nelson continues his development into a NBA All Star, they will be able to establish themselves as a championship threat in the Eastern Conference.

3. Washington Wizards- Coach Eddie Jordan will be able to get his over achieving Wizards back into the playoffs, continuing to motivate Gilbert Arenas to make plays and getting his front court to play well enough to stop lower and middle-level interior players. To replace Jared Jeffries, guard DeShawn Stevenson could be one of the better players on the Washington squad in 2006. Stevenson is a decent defender and is a slashing scorer, giving Jordan a good back court addition.

4. Atlanta Hawks- The addition of Shelden Williams was great for the Hawks, but they still lack the point guard that could direct traffic for the talented Atlanta roster. Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, and Marvin Williams are athletic scorers, but without someone better than Speedy Claxton at the point, the Hawks will continue to languish at the bottom of the conference.

5. Charlotte Bobcats- The Bobcats are three to four years away from prime, though if they can keep their core talent together that long they will reap the benefits in terms of playoff appearances and championship contention. Adam Morrison will give Charlotte instant offense and if Sean May and Emeka Okafor can stay on the court for a majority of the season, the Bobcats will improve greatly. Michael Jordan’s role as the final arbiter of talent in Charlotte means that the Bobcats need him to develop a better eye for talent or the repercussions will be felt for decades.

Western Conference
Southwestern Division
1. San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs are similar to the Pistons in that they are a solid, steady team that plays consistently well. However, they suffer a bit from their inability to run up and down the court as well as their lack of a truly electric player. Tim Duncan is a great center and a good leader, but is about as exciting as an empty room. Duncan needs his supporting cast to do more to get up and down the floor or they will lose the division to the more athletic Mavericks.

2. Dallas Mavericks- Avery Johnson has to be excited about his team’s potential in 2006. Without fully embracing his defensive scheme in 2005, Dallas got to the NBA Finals and pushed the Miami Heat to the brink before losing it to the more experienced Pat Riley and Company. The Mavericks will win the championship in 2006, with Dirk Nowitski leading the way again and the entire squad going all out on defense to fulfill Johnson’s vision.

3. New Orleans Hornets- The Hornets have a potential Hall of Famer in point guard Chris Paul, a solid shooting guard in Desmond Mason, and a high priced free agent addition in Peja Stojakovic. Stojakovic gives Paul another talented player to pass to and another gunner from beyond the arc. The real question is whether New Orleans can get anything out of Tyson Chandler at center. Despite criticisms of the former Bull, I think Chandler will benefit from young forwards Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons, as well as Paul’s ability to pass it to the interior.

4. Houston Rockets- For the combination of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, it is put up or shut up time in Houston. McGrady and Ming need to stay on the court and show toughness in order for the Rockets to have a chance at the playoffs in the 2006 NBA season. However, don’t expect both of them to spend the entire season on the court and odds are both will continue to miss time due to injury. Without this combination, Houston is one of the worst teams in the league.

5. Memphis Grizzlies- While Pau Gasol is a talented player, the Grizzlies just don’t have the talent to compete in an extremely tough division. If the Grizzlies can somehow figure out how to win the big game and to get more scoring from players not named Pau Gasol, they may be able to leapfrog the Rockets for fourth in the Southwestern Division.

Northwestern Division
1. Seattle Supersonics- Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis give the Sonics enough firepower to pass up the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets. Coach Bob Hill gets a full season to work with young players like Saer Sene, Johan Petro, and Robert Swift in the front court, giving Seattle some solid defensive performances while Allen and Lewis run the offense. Hill has the full confidence of his team and Allen is a quiet leader for this Sonics squad that will return to the playoff form it had in 2004.

2. Utah Jazz- The Jazz have quietly become a talented team once again, with a young and outstanding front court trio of Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur. Jerry Sloan is an NBA coaching institution and his years with Stockton and Malone gives him the credibility and authority in the Jazz locker room to win games.

3. Denver Nuggets- Carmelo Anthony and Nene received big contracts in the off season but George Karl needed more talent to turn the Nuggets into the promising team of 2004. Denver needs guard Andre Miller to perform well on a regular basis or Anthony will be left to make all the big plays on his own. Even though he is a great player in the making, Anthony is not experienced enough to make those kinds of consistent plays. Look for Karl to move on after this season and Anthony to pressure the Nuggets into getting more back court help or he will begin pressing for a trade.

4. Portland Trailblazers- The Blazers made the most noise in the 2006 NBA Draft and the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy gives them a potential inside-outside combination for the next decade. Aldridge will be starting at center by mid-season and Roy will be moving in right away to give the Blazers immediately relief at the guard position. Look for Nate McMillan to use the influx of new talent to implement an energetic offensive game and really push for better defense from his young players.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves- Kevin Garnett is good, but not good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of the Western Conference cellar. If Kevin McHale doesn’t find a complementary piece by mid-season, Garnett may be gone and McHale may be fired. Wolves fans have to be holding their breath at the beginning of the 2006 NBA season, with the hope that the roster they have can win games and keep the popular Garnett in Minnesota.

Pacific Division
1. Phoenix Suns- The Suns will once again dominate the Pacific Division and be near the top of the Western conference playoff seeds, changing little from a team that scored prolifically and started to play defense. Steve Nash will be in the running for another MVP title in 2006, with a young team around him that is improving by the day.

2. Los Angeles Clippers- The Clippers will continue to improve and will beat out the Lakers for dominance in Los Angeles. Considering where the team has been and the tough competition for playoff spots in the West, the Clippers’ continued success may be somewhat surprising. However, the Pacific features a few teams that are tough to read and the Clippers have the talent and a bit of playoff experience to guide them in 2006.

3. Los Angeles Lakers- Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom are a good one-two punch for the Lakers and Phil Jackson has seen enough out of Kwame Brown to consider him a solid center to go up against the likes of Yao Ming and Tim Duncan. The Lakers will push the Clippers for second in the division and will be competitive to the final week in the playoff hunt.

4. Sacramento Kings- The change of the guard came this summer when long time coach Rick Adelman was replaced with young coach Eric Musselman. Despite the support of players like Ron Artest, the time had come for Adelman to leave the Kings’ sidelines. Musselman has some talent coming off the bench and in the starting lineup, but the Suns and the Clippers are entrenched at number one and two in the division and the Lakers will be a strong third place team in the division this season. The Kings need to over achieve in 2006 to be considered a factor.

5. Golden State Warriors- The Warriors’ fall from an early strong start in 2005 continues, with new coach Don Nelson scrambling to figure out how to win without a presence on the interior. Point guard Baron Davis needs to prove he can win the big game and be a consistent performer, otherwise the Warriors are in trouble in 2006 and beyond.

Eastern Conference Finals- Miami Heat versus Chicago Bulls- The Chicago Bulls will be able to weasel their way into the Eastern Conference Finals, perhaps two to three years ahead of schedule, based on their athletic ability and the performances of a few key free agents. However, the Miami Heat are just too good and too experienced not to advance to the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat win against the Chicago Bulls in six games.

Western Conference Finals- Dallas Mavericks versus New Orleans Hornets- The Hornets are similar to the Chicago Bulls this season in that they will get to the Finals ahead of schedule, though their run will be much more improbable. The Hornets have an athletic team that will be able to settle down in Oklahoma City this season while New Orleans continues to recover. However, they run up against a Dallas Mavericks team that is too talented not to win the Western Conference. The Mavericks will run up and down the floor with the Hornets and will also be able to shut the running game down when they want to run off some clock. The Mavericks will defeat the Hornets in five games.

NBA Finals- Miami versus Dallas- The Miami Heat won last year on the back of Dwayne Wade and the fact that the Mavericks could not put together big game performances against a more experienced team. However, coach Avery Johnson gets another swing at the NBA Finals with a more experienced team with the same athletic ability as last season. While it would be the safe pick to go with the Heat once again, the Mavericks will be able to run up and down on a team that is going from prime to aging in a hurry. The Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in six games.

Most Improved Team- Seattle- Coach Bob Hill has an extremely talented team, headlined by Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen, and a wealth of coaching experience to import on some of his less polished players. After a disappointing 2005 campaign, look for the SuperSonics to get back into the playoffs and make it interesting for the new ownership team that is considering moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

NBA Coach of the Year- Nate McMillan, Portland- Portland can’t get much worse and it looks like Nate McMillan has some stand up rookies to infuse some discipline (or, at least, innocence) into a squad that has a history of misbehaving. McMillan will finally be able to put his kind of players on the floor while trying to navigate around high priced troublemakers like Zach Randolph. While the Trailblazers will be on the outside looking for the playoffs, they should push for 33-37 wins this season, a testament to McMillan’s resilience.

NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP)-Dwight Howard, Orlando- While perennial MVP candidates like Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant may be more obvious choices, Howard is still very young and has already made his mark on the league as one of the Eastern Conference’s dominating players. Look for Howard to get a significant number of double-doubles and lead the team again in points. His performance in 2006 will be able to elevate the Magic into the playoffs, showing how special a talent Dwight Howard is.

Tags:2006 NBA Preview

2006 Eagles Should Return to Past Success

Even though I was born and raised in the “City of Brotherly Love” and know from firsthand experience exactly how passionate Philadelphians can be about their professional sports teams, I have to admit that I am amazed at the overall consensus of ominous dread that most fans think is surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles.

My personal feeling is that the Eagles will return to being one of the elite teams in all of football and although I’m not prepared to make any bold predictions concerning what they may or may not accomplish, I expect them, at the very least, to regain the franchise-wide tranquility that helped them reach four consecutive NFC championship games and one Super Bowl.

I can see the Eagles’ detractors’ point of view to a certain extent. All three of the Eagles’ division foes, the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and New York Giants all appear as if they are headed in the right direction and will be better than the competitive teams that closed out the 2005 season.

However, as a coach myself, I am a firm believer in not worrying about what anyone else is doing. If the Birds take care of their own business – which they have done almost without peer for the last half-decade, I think they will bounce back better than a 1970s “Super Ball.”

Let’s review the debacle that was the 2005 season before previewing the upcoming draft, free agency and the 2006 season.

First of all, I firmly believe that the 2005 season was a case of Murphy’s Law for the Eagles. Nearly every possible thing that could go wrong for a professional football team went wrong for the Eagles.

The ongoing Terrell Owens saga was an albatross hanging around the Eagles’ necks before the regular season ever began. Combine that with the fact the starting quarterback Donovan McNabb got hurt early on and head coach Andy Reid seemed to be calling his offensive plays like he had never been a head coach before, and what you end up with is team that couldn’t reach the playoffs after five consecutive trips to the postseason party.

However, I fully believe the Eagles will bounce back in 2006 almost as if 2005 never happened – although it most certainly did.

First of all, let me say that, although I’m not a big fan of some of the Eagles’ front office bargaining tactics (Once a player hits the age of 30, watch out) I have to admit that they have been successful with their age-induced strategy.

Why any knowledgeable Eagles fan would worry is beyond me. Capologist – or whatever his title is these days – Joe Banner has been absolutely masterful at managing the Eagles salary cap.

Before this offseason began, the Eagles were a little over $14 million under the projected cap of $94 million and change, which is actually now, $102 million. The Birds will also create another $5 million-plus in cap room when they finally get around to releasing head case wide receiver Terrell Owens.

In other words, the Eagles will have big money to spend on the free agents of their choice.

Now on to the free agents the Eagles will possibly entertain.

One free agent that the Eagles were reportedly interested in has already signed with another team. Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley signed with his hometown Cleveland Browns before the Birds even had a chance to get a viable offer to him.

What the Eagles do with their offensive line – a huge problem during the regular season – is anybody’s guess. Various scenarios within the offensive line exist right now.

Tra Thomas and Shawn Andrews look like they’ll both be starters in ’06, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. It doesn’t look as though the Birds are real interested in bringing back tackle Jon Runyan, although I’m not necessarily sure why since he didn’t play really bad in ’05, but whatever the case, the offensive line is an area the Eagles had better shore up with the quickness.

Everyone knows the Eagles also need a “big” running back to pair with the explosive Brian Westbrook. Although I’m not sure whom the Birds will sign at this point or whether they will address this need through the draft, this is another position the Eagles had better address correctly.

I won’t even get into the wide receiver position, but I will say that if the Eagles don’t sign a number one receiver (Eric Moulds) to lead their band of young pass catchers, they will be in some serious trouble.

Defensively, I think a lot of people have forgotten that not only do the Birds have one of the best defensive coordinators in the business in Jim Johnson, but a plethora of young, mobile, hostile and agile defenders (at least in the secondary) who were Pro Bowl players in 2004.

The linebacking and defensive lines need to be addressed, but in reality, how many teams have a better secondary than the Eagles? Not many!

The Eagles will say goodbye to Hollis Thomas and hello to Jerome McDougle (again) but need to really address their inside tackle positions.

Bringing back linebacker Shawn Barber (whom they never should have let leave) was an excellent move that needs to be followed up by a few more shrewd decisions.

However, I have to agree 100 percent with Reid’s analysis on building a team for the long haul.

“You don’t build your team through free agency. You do that through the draft. But you can add a guy here and there that can help you out. That’s what we’ve done in the past,” Reid said. “We’re pretty selective about who we bring in, and our success rate is pretty good compared to the general success ratio amongst the rest of the league.”

What the Eagles see in former New Orleans Saints defensive end Darren Howard, whom they gave a six-year, $30 million contract to, is beyond me.

It’s not that I don’t like Howard; I just don’t think he was worth the kind of money the Eagles gave him – especially coming off several injury-ravaged seasons.

No matter what happens between now and the beginning of the regular season, I fully expect the Eagles to return to their winning ways in ’06, but then again, that is why they play the games isn’t it?

Tags:2006 Eagles Should Return to Past Success

2007-08 ACC Women's Basketball Preview

The 2007-08 Women’s college basketball season is upon us and the ACC has several teams that are capable of making an impact. With six teams playing in the tournament last season, this year will likely be an encore of sorts. Many of the top teams in the ACC will return to the big dance and the ACC might even provide a couple of newcomers. The following is a team by team overview, and they are listed in the order of predicted finish.

North Carolina — When a team loses a talent like Ivory Latta, the team undergoes a transformation that can go two different directions. Either the team picks up the slack by distributing the loss throughout the team, or they accept the loss as a weakness. The Tarheels are expected to share the loss, and compete once again for a national title. The Heels also lost forward Camille Little who was a key player for the final four team of a year ago.

The Heels so still have the ACC’s top forward in Eriana Larkins. This senior will be asked to take on a much heavier load now that Latta is gone, and she should be up to the task. A tough scorer inside as well as outside, Larkins is an preseason favorite for ACC player of the year. The Heels also have a number of other scoring options such as Rashanda McCants and Jessica Breland. Center LaToya Pringle will lead the defense with her shot blocking ability.

The Heels also have a fine freshman class coming in lead by Italee Lucas. Lucas is an energizer bunny that will lay it all on the floor. Once she learns to harness that energy, she will be tough to handle. She will need to work her way into the rotation and contribute early to the Heels for Head Coach Sylvia Hatchel to get the depth that she needs.

North Carolina looks to have another banner season and if the freshmen step up and contribute and the team pulls together, the Heels may be cutting down the nets in 2008.

Maryland — The Lady Terrapins are a team that has been a mystery all year long. Last season the Terps were expected to be the ACC power house but it just never materialized. A large reason for that was the fact that the fantastic duo of Laura Harper and Crystal Langhorne simply did not get the ball inside enough. Way to many perimeter shots were put up without need, as this powerful inside team went without touches. For the Terps to improve, they must use this inside presence, and feed it often.

The Terps are returning the entire core of a wonderfully talented squad and should be in even better shape with a great freshman class. Particularly incoming freshman Marah Strickland. Strickland is going to be a superstar and has WNBA talent written all over her. Expect her to be in the running for freshman of the year this season.

The upper class loaded Terps will certainly be in the running for ACC and national prominence this season, and if they gel as the did a couple of seasons ago, they just might win it all. They have the talent and the parts but it remains to be seen whether they can put those parts together correctly.

Duke — What a season Duke had in 2007. First, they come out of nowhere to win every regular season game. Then they flop in the big tournament. Then they change head coaches. Drama was all around in Durham. Fortunately, the drama seems to have settled and the Blue Devils are loaded with some pretty awesome talent. Losing player of the year Lindsey Harding is a tough order for any team to fill, but Duke has done a great job of circling the wagons and reloading. The core of the team will remain the same with a few freshmen mixed in for good measure.

Jasmine Thomas will be a freshman to watch this season as she is an awesome talent. Her performance in the Mcdonalds All Star Game was unreal. She will step in and be a star right away and just might make the Blue Devils forget about Harding. She must show that her defense is as good as her offense to step to the top rung of ACC players, but the sky is the limit for this young lady.

The Blue Devils return several key players and have one of the best freshmen classes in recent memory. There is every reason to believe that Duke will compete for ACC and national honors this season, and if they line everything up right they might just cut down the nets as well.

Florida State — FSU really grew as a team last year, and the win over Stanford sort of galvanized this team. The top tier of the ACC is clearly UNC, Maryland, and Duke but FSU could crack that group by season’s end. Blessed with all the key parts to a national power, the Seminoles will need to use their depth and improve defensively to get there.

The only loss for the Seminoles from 07 is team leader Alicia Gladden. Gladden will be missed primarily on the outside as her defense was key to the Seminole’s success. Gladden was one of those rare players that did everything well, and particularly on defense. The Seminoles will try to fill that void with a number of players, and their success in doing so is key. Outside of that the Noles have all the pieces in place to have a fantastic year.

Expect the Seminoles to finish fourth in the ACC, but to do very well in post season play. They should go deep into the NCAA tourney as the young players will then have time to gel and fill some needed gaps. It will be a big year for FSU women’s basketball this year.

Georgia Tech — Four Seniors will lead the way for the Yellow Jackets in 08 and that could mean even bigger success than 07. That is big news in Georgia as the Yellow Jackets got the first NCAA tourney win in team history last year. They will be missing only high scoring guard Stephanie Higgs from last years squad and they have help on the way as well.

The Jackets are a team that will scrap and dig to win, and that is a great formula when you mix in the senior leadership the Jackets have this season. Chioma Nnamaka and Janie Mitchell will lead the Jackets to even bigger success this season as the core of a group of players that will not lay down for anyone. This is a team that you do not want to face come tourney time. They will sneak up on you.

Expect the experience to pay off with a trip to the sweet sixteen this season for the Jackets.

Virginia — This team is all Monica Wrights and she should have a huge season. She will be the clear leader on a team that is sorely lacking on the inside. Virginia has some freshmen help coming to shore up this area, but they are probably a year away from being a real threat. Aisha Mohammad and Kelly Hartig will be two key players to Virginia’s success this season and both will need to step up to the plate to give them the offense they will need in the tough ACC.

Expect this to be an up and down year for the Cavaliers as they adjust to new talent, and a lack of inside presence. They will be vastly improved by season’s end and the Cavs should be ready to contend in 09.

Clemson — Size and experience was the Tiger’s problem in 07 and since the young Tigers got a good dose of experience last season they now only suffer from the former. Size is something that cannot be learned, and this will trouble the Tigers again this season. The good part is that they return all of the team that did better than expected in 07 and they will be better.

The Tigers will rely heavily again on freshmen and sophomores and they are loaded with some talented ones. Lele Hardy is one of the best wing players in the league and can play with anyone. She will lead the team, and get help from a number of sources. Clemson will actually have decent depth this year to draw on, which is a benefit that the TIgers are not used to.

Expect Clemson to be up and down throughout the year, but to ultimately secure a bid to the dance. They are quite talented and are still a player or two away from going to far in the tourney.

NC State — The Wolfpack will be playing this season with inspiration once again from Head Coach Kay Yow, who is coaching in spite of her Cancer and chemotherapy treatments. It is amazing that she is able to do so, and is inspiring to us all. The Wolfpack as a team was hit hard with the loss of six seniors from 07, and they will feel that in 08.

Shayla Fields will be called upon to lead the team with her shooting ability and leadership. This team was absolutely decimated by graduation, and the team will not even resemble the one from 07. Yow is a magician on the defensive end of the floor, so expect her to be competitive. The Wolfpack are in for a long season however.

Expect the Wolfpack to win a few you do not expect due to the defensive presence that Yow demands, but the Wolfpack will not make the Tourney.

Wake Forest — The Deacons are a team on the rise after returning every single player from 07. They should be improved right away, as the freshmen coming in will contribute. The problem is that Wake was not very good at all last year, and the same team returns. To be fair, the Deacons were a very young team last season, and have a year under their belts. They will show strides this season, but the talent level is very high in ACC country and another tough year is ahead.

Expect the Deacons to waver throughout the season but to show signs of improvement near the end of the year. They will be a much better team in 09.

Boston College — Boston College is in for a tough year as the Eagles are very young. They have a decent nucleus with Mickel Picco and Ayla Brown providing some punch, but he Eagles simply do not have the players to compete with the upper level of the ACC this season. They will be well coached as always, but I would not expect them to reach the NCAA Tournament this season.

Miami Hurricanes — The one bright spot for Katie Meiers Hurricanes will be Latoya Drake. Drake is a forward that can step in and have an impact down low on both ends of the floor. The rest of the Hurricanes are a mix of average and newbies that she will have to try to mix together into a team. The Hurricanes are clearly in a rebuilding year.

Virginia Tech — In a year where the Hokies nearly made the NCAA tourney, 07 was a surprise year for them. 08 is going to very hard on Hokie fans as they will really have only one established scorer. Brittany Cook will have to score in record amounts to give the Hokies a decent chance to compete in the top heavy ACC. They are simply to small and have no depth at all.

The ACC will be a power house in women’s basketball yet again this season, so the rest of the country needs to be ready. The talent level is astounding and the ACC should be well represented again in ’08.

Tags:2007-08 ACC Women’s Basketball Preview

2006 NFL Preview: The Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback- The Cardinals had fortune on their side in the 2006 NFL Draft, as USC senior quarterback Matt Leinart dropped from a top three pick to Arizona’s lap at the tenth pick in the first round. Leinart, while lacking the potential of Vince Young or Jay Cutler, is polished and has a good head on his shoulders. Dennis Green has a veteran in Kurt Warner who will start out the season as starter and mentor Leinart over the course of the 2006 and 2007 NFL seasons. Leinart does not have to rush, but Cardinals fans and football observers will be clamoring to see if the tenth pick was too high or too low for someone like Leinart. At the third quarterback spot, John Navarre will beat out Rohan Davey and continue his development as a solid backup quarterback.
2006 NFL Grade: B+

Running Back/Full Back- Edgerrin James was the first coup of the Cardinals’ off-season, with the drafting of Leinart the second coup. James was pried away from the Indianapolis Colts with the promise of great stability and lots of money and the versatile back will provide some flash to the Cardinals’ backfield. The Cardinals have had talent at the running back position for a few years, but in 2006 it looks like its going to come together for Dennis Green. James will be supported by veteran fullback James Hodgins and young third down back J.J. Arrington and solid grinder Marcel Shipp. Instead of relying on their corps of solid receivers, they can now work from a position of advantage in 2006 from the backfield. Look for Arrington to be used more as a receiving back to relieve James.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Wide Receiver/Tight End- After drafting Matt Leinart in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals went after another big target for Kurt Warner and Leinart by taking tight end Leonard Pope. Pope has an impressive body and will develop his receiving game enough in this offseason to become a viable threat in the middle of the field. Pope may benefit from a healthy trio of outstanding receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald, Bryant Johnson, and Anquan Boldin. If these three receivers stay healthy for the entire season, they will give the Cardinals a great chance of getting into the playoffs and will help make plays for whoever is at quarterback.
2006 NFL Grade: A-

Offensive Line- The Cardinals have some concerns at the offensive line, though it has nothing to do with a dearth of talent. Center Alex Stepanovich is looking to prove himself a consistent centerpiece of the Cardinals offensive line for 2006 and beyond, but he is only as good as the pieces around him and he is still young. Leonard Davis is holding down the left tackle spot and should be great as long as he stays on the field. Oliver Ross will start at the other tackle spot in 2006 but the Cardinals are hoping he proves himself adequate at that spot or may look elsewhere.At the guard spots, the Cardinals will put out Reggie Wells and Elton Brown to start in the middle of the line in 2006, but they are still relatively unproven talents heading into the 2006 NFL season. The Cardinals need the offensive line to gel in 2006 but count on at least one injury throwing a wrench in the machine.
2006 NFL Grade: C+

Defensive Line- Much like the receivers, the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive line has a lot of talent but hasn’t been healthy or performing well enough to all stay in the lineup at the same time. While veteran Bertrand Berry performed well last season, the Cardinals need Calvin Pace to step up in 2006 as a book end to Berry. Berry is getting older and slower, which means Pace has to carry his weight or give way to another player. Look for Pace to have a solid year and make enough headway to solidify his position for 2007. In the middle, the Cardinals are pretty well set with Darnell Dockett and Kendrick Clancy in 2006. Running up the middle will be tough with James Darling behind Dockett and Clancy, but look for teams to run outside and hope to get to the second level on the Cardinals in 2006.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Linebacker- Middle linebacker James Darling will provide an veteran interior presence for the Cardinals in 2006, with outside linebacker Karlos Dansby still developing as a starting linebacker and Orlando Huff trying to step up his game from contributor to full time starter. While the Cardinals linebacker group is not overwhelming, they will be good enough to keep the Cardinals in the middle of the pack in run yards allowed and make a few big plays during the 2006 NFL season.
2006 NFL Grade: B-

Defensive Back- Antrel Rolle and David Macklin will start at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 NFL season, with Rolle attempting to prove that he has developed from a potential star to a solid player and Macklin hoping to hold down the number two receiver on the opposing team and perhaps benefit from Rolle’s improved coverage. At safety, veterans Adrian Wilson and Robert Griffith will hold down the fort in 2006, giving support to a young defense and attempting to prevent the big plays that kill young teams.
2006 NFL grade- B

Kicker/Punter- The Cardinals are set in the 2006 NFL season at kicker and punter, with outstanding kicker Neil Rackers and veteran punter Scott Player holding down the fort at the specialist positions. Coach Dennis Green has to be thrilled that his team is coming together and unlike a lot of teams with at least one competitive specialist position, he can work on developing his young talent instead of delving too deeply into special teams problems in the 2006 NFL season.
2006 NFL Grade- B+

2006 NFL Projection- The Arizona Cardinals are going to push towards the wild card in the NFC, with a 9-7 record giving Arizona fans something to look forward to after the 2006 NFL seaosn.

Tags:2006 NFL Preview: The Arizona Cardinals

2007 Absolute Memorabilia Football Card Boxes: A Lot of Value Inside

It’s 2007 Football Season, and that means it’s time for card collectors to start to look for this year’s releases. Over sixteen sets were already released by the time the first game started this year. Absolute Memorabilia is a good high level choice. One thing to keep in mind though is that this is not a set for beginning collectors. In general this is a box of cards that more experienced collectors who are seeking the top value cards will purchase.

What You Get In The Box

In the box of cards you only get four packs of four cards each, for a total of sixteen cards. The great news for collectors looking for high value cards is that each pack includes a special card. Out of the four packs in a box, one will have an autograph, one will have a Rookie Premiere Materials rookie card, one with a jumbo/combo/or prime swatch, and one other type of special card. When you consider these boxes have been selling on Ebay for about $90, this proves that this is not a box for people looking to collect an entire set or rookie collectors. On average you are paying close to $6 per card.

What Is In The Set

The complete set of 2007 Absolute Memorabilia Football cards has 150 commons, and you will only receive 12 of these in a box, which restates the point that this is not a set you will be able to collect in it’s entirety. There are also 134 rookie cards. They are broken down as follows: 50 with just the word “rookie” on them, 50 that are numbered to 349, and then 34 higher value cards which are called Rookie Premiere Materials cards. These cards are numbered to 849 and have three swatches of material each.

There are also parallel cards of the set called Spectrum cards. These are produced in sets of anywhere from 1 to 100 in each set numbered accordingly. The commons and the first 50 rookies (which are the lesser known rookies) also have autographed cards randomly inserted.

What about Memorabilia Cards?

Every box will have one memorabilia card. The thing is you have no idea what type of memorabilia card you will get consider the huge amount of sets of these. There are actually 17 different types of memorabilia cards! Some include larger swatches than usual, others multiple swatches, some with an autograph and swatch, and others with special types of swatches.

How About Autographs?

There are no special subsets just for autographed cards in this set. In reality you can do better if you want autograph cards by purchasing other sets of cards. The nice thing about this set though is that in the 2007 Absolute Memorabilia Football card set you can get cards that have both swatches and autographs on the same card.

The End Zone

As noted above the 2007 Absolute Memorabilia Football card set is not one for collectors that want to complete entire sets of cards, or ones who are looking for value purchases. Purchasing boxes of 2007 Absolute Memorabilia Football cards is sort of like the lottery. You are purchasing 16 lottery tickets for about $6-7 each hoping to get lucky and get a high value card.

Tags:2007 Absolute Memorabilia Football Card Boxes: A Lot of Value Inside

2007 Alleged Cheshire Rapist, Murderer Steven Hayes Heading to Trial

2007 alleged Cheshire, Connecticut rapist and murderer, 46-year-old Steven Hayes, is heading to trial.

On July 23, 2007 at 3 a.m. two men broke into the home of Dr. William Petit and his wife, Jennifer in Cheshire, Connecticut. The Petit’s had two daughters; Michaela aged 11 and Haley, aged 17. Before the seven-hour ordeal was over two of the females would be raped and three deaths would occur.

The two men that are accused–Steven Hayes and 29-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky–will stand trial separately. Steven, in September in New Haven, and the younger man, Joshua, in an undetermined location at an undetermined time, presently.

Crime Details of Home Invasion Include Arson

Although gag orders were in place, media reports have stated that Dr. Petit was beaten severely and tied up. The alleged perpetrators left him tied up in the home basement as they proceeded to rape his wife and his youngest daughter, 11-year-old Michaela.

After approximately six hours of holding the family in the home, one of the attackers drove Dr. Petit’s wife Jennifer to a local Bank of America branch at 9 a.m.

Jennifer alerted the teller of her family’s predicament somehow, prompting the teller to route police to the home immediately. Unfortunately, Jennifer and her attacker arrived home first and Jennifer was then strangled to death.

The Cheshire-located home was set on fire next in order to destroy evidence and eliminate the three remaining witnesses. But while both daughters, Michaela and Hayley, died of smoke inhalation as a result of the arson; their father survived the fire in the home.

Dr. Petit was in the basement and managed to live through the blaze, and he was eventually rescued. But his rescue, I am sure, has come at great cost to his own tormented soul; likely provoking survivor’s guilt.

Prior Convictions of the Alleged Attackers

It should be noted that criminals, as in this case, sometimes use arson to “Conceal other crimes committed” and to destroy evidence and witnesses from such prior crimes.

But neither Steven nor Joshua had criminal records (priors) for arson or violent offenses before their arrest in this case; however, they did have arrests for burglary.

According to CNN.com, controversy surrounds the parole for Steven’s and Joshua’s burglary ‘priors’, and information came to light after their arrest that suggested that they were paroled without the paroling authorities first accessing–or reviewing–preparole investigation reports, police records and other documentation that would have prohibited their release.

How the Men Were Caught

As the two men fled the scene of the crime at around 10 a.m. that fateful morning, they crashed right into a police cruiser barricade meant to stop them in their tracks. And it did.

Criminal Convictions Being Faced

Although both men have only served time previously for burglary, they now each face potential convictions for felony murder, assault, kidnapping, and arson.

Connecticut does have the death penalty in the state, which they could receive, but it rarely uses it. However, controversy over the lack of its use is an issue that Dr. Petit has attempted to address since his family’s tragic victimization.

In fact, even though he has not found enough support for a bill he attempted to champion that would address this issue definitively in favor of the death penalty always being carried out; a poll conducted did show that citizens–73 percent of them–would support upholding the death penalty for these particular two criminals if they are convicted in court for this heinous crime.

In a city of approximately 30,000 residents, this brutal home invasion is the worst crime to date, in the eyes of many citizens in Cheshire and sparked stronger criminal justice standards in the entire state of Connecticut as a result.

Both accused men were residents of Connecticut, themselves, with Joshua actually living in Cheshire, at the time of the crime.

Related Stories
Arson crimes committed to conceal other crimes
What does an arsonist look like?
Why do some people commit arson?

CNN.com: Trial stirs painful memories of brutal home invasion

Tags:2007 Alleged Cheshire Rapist, Murderer Steven Hayes Heading to Trial

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