"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Monday, March 27, 2017

MONDAY MUSINGS: MARCH MADNESS REVIEW, DUSTIN JOHNSON BETTERS TIGER, US MENS SOCCER ROUT

South Carolina Surprise: The program had never advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but that didn't stop Frank Martin and his Gamecock team from believing they could get to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. They're now headed to Phoenix with a lot of confidence and a defense that can pretty much stop anyone, including a pretty complete Gonzaga team. In defeating seeds two, three and four, South Carolina gave up an average of 67 points a game to teams familiar with scoring a lot more than that. At the end of the season, the 'Cocks limped into the SEC tournament and lost their first game in ugly fashion to Alabama. Many believed their seven seed was somewhat of a gift, but they proceeded to prove their naysayers wrong with a convincing twenty point win over Marquette in the first round. Although they were 19 - 4 at one point in the season, they only won three of their last nine and I doubt anyone but the staunchest Gamecock supporters believed they could make the kind of run they did, especially in a region with Villanova and Duke. Can they go all the way? Absolutely, especially if you believe that Duke is at least as good as anyone left in the field, and they blasted the Blue Devils back to Durham with a scorching second half after trailing  by five at the break.

DJ With a WGC Slam: Okay, it's not exactly the Tiger Slam or even a career Grand Slam, but when Dustin Johnson parred the eighteenth hole on Sunday to win the WGC Match Play, he accomplished something Tiger Woods never did. Even though Woods was dominant in World Golf Championship events, winning a total of 18, he has thus far failed to win the WGC - HSBC championship. After all of the talk of Tiger's crown being taken by Jordan Speith, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and more recently Justin Thomas and Hidecki Matsuyama, DJ appears to be in the process of making a case as the heir to the former number one player in the world. Since his U.S. Open win at Oakmont, Johnson has won five times, including his last three tournaments. He's on quite a roll, not unlike a basketball team from his native state of South Carolina. In the past, DJ was generally regarded as a long hitter that lacked the short game to consistently win on tour. But in the past couple of seasons, his play around the greens and his putting have dramatically improved. Add some increased confidence, and it creates a pretty tough guy to beat heading to Augusta National and the Masters in two weeks. Something that isn't widely discussed, but is a notable accomplishment, is that he has won at least tournament every season he's been on tour, now his tenth year. His fifteen total wins is also significant and if he starts to add some majors, there's a chance he'll make a case for being the best player of his generation, even if he is getting a bit of late start at age 32.

Bruce Arena Finds Magic: The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team entered Friday night's match with Honduras in San Jose on a very hot seat. After an embarrassing 4 - 0 loss to Costa Rica in November that resulted in the firing of coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. found themselves at the bottom of the standings in the last stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. What made matters worse was the five goal differential they had accumulated, making a win Friday night almost mandatory if they were to climb back into qualifying contention. New coach Bruce Arenas made some lineup changes, including the addition of midfielder Sebastian Lletget of the LA Galaxy, with whom Arenas is particularly familiar with as the Galaxy coach. The move immediately paid dividends as Lletget scored on a rebound of a Christian Pulisic shot in the fourth minute to give the Americans a much needed lead. Forward Clint Dempsey, back on the field after a heart condition kept him sidelined, added a hat trick as the Hondurans got run over by a U.S. freight train. Stalwart captain Michael Bradley and eighteen year-old phenom Pulisic also scored in the 6 - 0 win that not only gave the U.S. some momentum headed to Panama for Tuesday night's matchup, but it also erased their entire goal differential, an important tie breaker. I'm a little of a late comer to soccer, but the team I saw on the field in San Jose looked remarkably different than the one that virtually gave up against Costa Rica. They were aggressive, sharp and appeared to be playing very well together. Pulisic is an absolute superstar in the making. His assist on Clint Dempsey's first goal was a thing of beauty, flicking the ball over a Honduras defender and onto the shoulder of Dempsey, who then buried the shot past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The Americans, not content to sit on a 3 - 0 halftime lead, scored on a Pulisic run and shot just 15 seconds into the second stanza. At that point, it was pretty much game over and the only drama would be how much they would win by and whether the shutout could be preserved. Can the momentum be sustained in Panama? We'll see Tuesday night, but my guess is they won't be giving up, even if they can't pull out a victory.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MARCH MADNESS: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SWEET SIXTEEN SINCE 2010

When top seeded Villanova was stunned by Wisconsin and second seeded Duke was surprised by South Carolina in the east region of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, one may have been led to believe that Bracket Armageddon had occurred. However, I looked back, starting in 2010, at the composition of the Sweet Sixteen and found some surprising and revealing facts.

Top Four Seeds: This year, twelve of the top sixteen teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen. That's the most of any year in my sample. The year with the least of the top seeds advancing was 2010, when only half of them advanced to the second week. But what is really interesting, in terms of consistency, is that when the fifth seeds are included, the numbers are very similar from season to season. The most of the top five seeds to get to the Sweet Sixteen is still twelve, but at least ten have advance every year since 2010.

Eleventh Seeds: Teams seeded in this spot have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen an astounding nine times in the past eight seasons. That's more than any other spot outside the top four seeds. This leaves me wondering if for some reason, the committee is missing the boat on this particular seed line. But what it really tells me is that despite us feeling like there are more upsets in any particular year, it's actually pretty constant from season to season.

The Bottom of the Field: I commented during my last couple of appearances on the "Lou in the Morning" program that I generally spend a lot more time analyzing the top seeds than I do looking at who might squeak into the field. To my point, no seed lower than an eleven has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since 2013, when a twelve, thirteen and fifteen all made it. That's half of the total from that group to advance that far in the last eight years. So while an improbable run by a Florida Gulf Coast stays in our memory, it's primarily because of its rarity.

Number One Seeds: Only twice in the last eight years has every top seed made it through the first two rounds, and not once has more than one fallen in the same season. Again, that's an extremely consistent and interesting statistic. Therefore, Villanova's loss to Wisconsin was more the norm than the exception, with the Wildcats joining five others since 2010 to watch the second weekend from home.

 Number Two and Three Seeds: All of the two seeds have never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, likewise with the number three's. In fact, those two seeds are more vulnerable, albeit barely, than the fours since 2010. No more than two seconds seeds have advanced since 2013 and in the last eight years, an average of just two third seeds have gotten past the second round. Whether this demonstrates parity, or a flaw in the seeding, I suspect a case could be made either way.

Number Four Seeds: Despite having to play, at least theoretically, tougher teams, the fours have more success in getting to the Sweet Sixteen than the seeds above them. All of the number fours have advance twice, the same number as the top seeds, both instances occurring in the last four years. Over that time, only one less four has advanced than the top seeds. My point is that even though a lot is made about being a top seed, it hasn't been that big an advantage in the most recent tournaments.

The challenge going forward of course is to determine that single number one that's going to get knocked out by an eight or nine, and trying to predict the couple of twos or threes that will advance. As you can see from these numbers, Warren Buffett is no fool when it comes to offering a hefty bounty for anyone that can successfully predict the first 48 games. It's no easy task, and virtually impossible from a statistical perspective.

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Monday, March 13, 2017

MARCH MADNESS IN FULL SWING: SOME INTERESTING TAKES ON THE BRACKET

Sunday night saw the unveiling of yet another March Madness bracket, otherwise known as the  schedule for the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. As I reviewed the match-ups, some interesting, and occasionally strange thoughts entered my mind.

Tulsa: A Presbyterian school is hosting the regional where the Methodists, Baptists and very possibly the Catholics will have teams in attendance. That's right, all eight teams are the guests of Tulsa, and among them are SMU and Baylor, with a chance for Providence if they get by USC in Dayton. I'll be at this regional and fully expect a multi-denominational church service to break out between games. Let's not forget that Oral Roberts University is also in the city, so even though they have no official role on the tournament, I'm sure they'll be there in spirit.

Orlando: The NCAA selection committee is either really lucky, or they're just looking for sold out venues. Florida, Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast will play at the home town of Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. For residents of the state that have tired of trips to Orlando, the presence of three of the five Florida teams in the tournament at a single venue should get them to make the drive up or down I-4. Compare that with Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Notre Dame having to shuffle off to Buffalo for their first round games.

Salt Lake City: In the SAT/ACT bracket, Northwestern makes its first NCAA tournament appearance against Vanderbilt. With the number of sports media members that are graduates of the Evanston, IL school, I'd expect there to be a large contingent of them in attendance. They'll either be there to cheer on their Wildcats, or if we can believe the reports of impending layoffs at ESPN, to hand out resumes.

Buffalo: Notre Dame and Villanova could be joined by a third Catholic school, Mount St. Mary's to make it an unfair fight against Princeton, founded by Presbyterians a few years before Dick Vitale began annoying college basketball fans. I'm surprised they didn't move this regional after Syracuse was shocked to be left out of the field with a stellar mark of 18 - 15, with only two of those wins coming away from their beloved Carrier Dome.

Greenville: When the NCAA decided to punish the State of North Carolina for their controversial LGBT law, they must have been left with a difficult task of finding another city that started with Green and an arena that could host basketball games. The State of Arkansas sent in a couple of candidates: Greenland and Green Forest. With a combined population of a little over 4,000, the reasoning was that there would plenty of room for the fans. But ultimately, in what I understand was a tight vote, the committee decided on the South Carolina town a couple hours from Greensboro. Unfortunately, North Carolinians attempting to make the trip will be stopped at the border and sent north. Hey, I don't make the rules. I'm just the messenger.

Indianapolis: In a rare move, all residents of the city will exchange places with those living in Lexington and Louisville for the weekend. That way all of those University of Kentucky and University of Louisville fans will have a place to stay, and the Indiana fans won't have to drive around trying to figure out where the Hoosiers aren't playing. In an unprecedented show of flexibility, the NCAA has also included Cincinnati as an alternative destination, as there will probably be some Northern Kentucky University fans making the trip, as long as they can edge their gold and black vehicles into the long line of blue and red heading to Indiana.


Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Thursday, March 9, 2017

MARCH MADNESS IN FULL SWING ALREADY: DOWN GOES KANSAS

Hear my recent interview with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, where we discussed his agency, concussions, franchise relocation and philanthropy at http://thechtonsports.com/cold-hard-truth-sports-radio-show-1242017/

Also listen to our conversation with author and sports journalist Mike Carey, as we discussed his latest book "Bad News" about Marvin Barnes and reminisced about Mike's coverage of the Boston Celtics during their glory years with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/golongmedia/2017/02/08/the-cold-hard-truth-on-sports-radio-show

TCU on the Rise? There have been relatively few upsets so far in the conference tournaments, but TCU's 85 -82 defeat of Kansas was the biggest to date. Jamie Dixon left a relatively healthy Pittsburgh team to coach at his alma mater and try to bring them some basketball success, something they've had very little of in the past. To put things in perspective, the Horned Frogs' six league wins are the most since joining the conference. So even though Kansas was playing without suspended guard Josh Jackson and his 16 point scoring average, it's still a huge win for the TCU and Dixon. What does the Jayhawks' loss mean to their NCAA Tournament seeding? Likely very litte. They'll still be seeded first in the Midwest and likely play the first two rounds in Tulsa. A fall from the first overall seed to two or three is probable, but that may not make that big of a difference. If they get through their first two games in Tulsa, then they get the regional in Kansas City, a distinct advantage for the team and its fans. I don't see the committee significantly punishing them, particularly since it was a close loss and Jackson was out. The big victim here is the Big 12 tournament, also being held in Kansas City. There were over 18,000 at the TCU - Kansas game, but with the Jayhawks ousted, it's doubtful their fans will see much point in attending the rest of the tourney.

Bracketology: What's the Point? I certainly understand the various sports media outlets, particularly ESPN, Fox, CBS and Sports Illustrated attempting to predict who will get in the tournament, where they'll be seeded and even what venue they'll be playing in. But it all seems like a waste of time, especially since so much depends on what happens in not the power conference tournaments, but in the mid-majors and others. In addition, the selection committee has a lot of rules that govern the seeding and regional placements of teams, particularly those from the same conference. While the pod structure has certainly aided the committee in creating more regional balance, it forces the committee to reward the higher seeded teams by keeping them closer to home. This can have ramifications farther down the line. For instance, the Tulsa sub-region would appear to be locked into having both Kansas, a projected top seed, and Baylor, a projected number two seed at the moment, at that venue. Of course that means that by default, the committee has to send sixteen, fifteen, eight,  nine, seven and ten seeds to Tulsa. Given that Kansas is pretty much a lock for the Midwest region, that means Baylor will be placed in a different region, and so on and so on. And that's just one of eight sites. It helps somewhat that many conferences have already completed their tournaments, or will by Friday night. But you still have the power conferences and a handful of others, like the Atlantic 10 that won't be completed until Saturday night or even, in the case of the Big Ten and the SEC, on Sunday, shortly before the field is announced. It's obviously fun to speculate and prognosticate, but for me, we'll all know soon enough without wasting a lot of time on something very few people can predict.

How Many Teams Have a Chance? The NCAA field is comprised of 68 teams, all with at least a slim mathematical chance to cut down the nets in Phoenix. But how realistic is it for most of them to believe it could actually happen? Not very, if history tells us anything. Sure, we've seen some spectacular surprises, like NC State and Villanova in the 80's. We've even seen Butler make it to back to back Final Fours. But even NC State, Cinderellas as they were, came from, at the time, the top two conferences in the country. George Mason and VCU have cracked the Final Four in recent years as well, neither one making it out of the semifinals. And even last season, Syracuse got hot and made it all the way through as a regional champ. But those cases are rare, and if you're filling in brackets, it's probably wise to stay primarily with favorites. The last couple of seasons, I've finished in the top 3.5% of the ESPN bracket challenge, and that's submitting a single bracket. It's generally wise to stay with the top two seeds in a region, unless for some reason one feels the committee really missed the boat. Historically, the winners come from the Power Five conferences, and the Big East, evidenced by Villanova's and UConn's recent successes. Early upsets are fun, but you rarely see a team that can truly contend for the national championship go out before the Sweet Sixteen. So my belief is that there are probably twelve to fourteen teams with a legitimate shot to win it all. They will all be at least a four seed, and most likely a three or higher. Is there potentially more depth than normal this year because of a lot of parity in the major conferences? I don't think so. In fact, there are probably less really good teams than normal, with the SEC a great example. Kentucky is at the top of the league, but they're young and vulnerable. Florida is second, and I wouldn't count them as a powerhouse. The real strength lies out west, with Gonzaga, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon virtually unknown east of the Mississippi, but all of which I would have to count as teams with a good shot at the. One thing's for certain, a perfect bracket is hard to come by, but a perfect Final Four pick is possible.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. Also check out www.thechtonsports.com for our podcasts and live broadcast on Tuesday's at 8:30 pm EST. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.