Monday, April 30, 2012

Playoff Hopes Dashed with Rose Injury

Through the first 46.5 minutes of Game 1 of the Bulls first round series against Philadelphia, it was looking like this Bulls team had what it took to make a serious run in the playoffs. You could tell they were an experienced team firing on most cylinders, unlike their Game 1 against Indiana last year where they struggled much of the game. Derrick Rose looked like he had his legs back, even making some solid drives to the basket that looked like the D Rose we all know and love. At that point, he was even on the verge of a triple double, piling up 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. The Bulls had gotten a great effort off the bench from Kyle Korver. Luol Deng was his usual consistent self. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer controlled the rebounding from the frontcourt. And Rip Hamilton, a guy I said would be the X factor for the Bulls this postseason, had begun the 2012 playoffs in strong fashion with 19 points in only 27 minutes. But more than that, the Bulls had controlled the tempo the entire game. In this year's playoffs, the Bulls were dictating terms like a seasoned veteran team, ready to pounce on an overeager 76ers team that had perhaps come in a little cocky. Things were looking good going forward. And then it happened.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chicago Bulls 2012 Playoff Preview: Only One Goal in MInd

The Bulls ended the regular season in top form last night with a decisive victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The victory sealed their second straight season as the number 1 overall seed not only in the Eastern Conference, but the entire NBA. More importantly for the Bulls, however, is the way they finished the season. For a team that struggled with injuries all year, the Bulls had a healthy team together for the final two games and it showed, with a big win over the Indiana Pacers as well as last night's win. I don't think we can understate the importance of two good team wins, by a fully healthy Bulls team, going forward into the playoffs.

Beckman Lands Major Recruiting Coup in Bailey

Bailey is a dynamic player
It's been an interesting few months for Tim Beckman as the new coach for Illinois' football team. He came in, had a decent, but not great finish to the 2012 recruiting class, but more importantly took charge of the program. He went out and hired some excellent assistant coaches; guys who not only can recruit well but know how to coach too. He invigorated the program with needed changes, instilling tempo, competitiveness, and work ethic into everything the football team does on and off the field. He guided the team through it's first real chance to get to know each other, spring practice, and came out the other end knowing the direction the team can head in. Beckman and his staff were even off to a decent, although not spectacular, start to the 2013 recruiting class. But something was missing. It was a spark, some source of momentum that would carry the staff through the rough summer football-less months. And it came yesterday in the form of quarterback prospect Aaron Bailey, who could potentially be the Robert Griffin III for Beckman's program.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hawks Fall as Rollercoaster Season Comes to a Close

If, or when, the Hawks were going to fall, this was the way you figured they'd do it. In a game that fluctuated in a way that served as a microcosm of their season, the Hawks dropped Game 6 in embarrassing fashion to end a season that certainly wasn't for the faint of heart. The game, like the season, was up and down; the Hawks started fast, slowed down, then plummeted towards the earth in startling fashion. It was a game that both frustrated fans hoping for a miracle comeback in the series and yet probably, once the emotion and hurt from the loss wears off, comes as a surprise to no one who closely followed the team this season. The loss exposed all the weaknesses of the team right now, so perhaps can serve as a moment to use going forward this summer. And still, above all, it just hurts to see the Hawks go down. It means there's no more Chicago hockey for months.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hawks Stay Alive with Epic Overtime Winner

For the first 40 minutes of last night's Game 5, the Hawks looked like a team that was ready for the offseason. They looked ready to trade in their sticks for golf clubs and move on to next year. The team, outside the first 5-10 minutes of the game, had no hop in their step, no pacing, no sense of urgency - nothing. It was alarming to watch the team in a game of this magnitude - IT WAS POTENTIALLY THE LAST OF THE SEASON - look so listless, apathetic, and slow. And then, the old Hawks were back. The Hawks hit the third period rejuvenated, pressuring the Coyote defense, keeping up the forecheck and pace, and making Coyotes' goaltender Mike Smith's life miserable. This culminated in the deflected slapper from Nick Leddy to equalize the game, and then the epic moment from Jonathan Toews in overtime:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hawks on the Brink After Another Overtime Loss

If there's one thing that binds all Chicago sports fans together, it's optimism. Hope springs eternal is probably a more accurate way to describe it given the tumultuous history of Chicago sports. We will believe, with all evidence to the contrary, that something good will turn out for our teams. Nowhere is this more true than with the Blackhawks this year. We saw an 82 game season twist and turn more often than a rollercoaster at Six Flags. We saw a defense collapse but other times hold strong. We saw a goaltender ride the waves of his own confidence, with many highs and lows along the way. And we saw an offense, loaded with talent and designed to be the strength of the team, either fail to show up or act like a force to be reckoned with. Above all, what we saw made us believe that this Hawks team, starting right now, would put it all together and make some noise in the playoffs. Boy, were we blinded by our old friend, optimism.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hawks Fall Amidst Vicious Hit by Torres

Torres is a dirty goon who doesn't belong in the NHL
It's been an interesting playoffs for the NHL. This is the first year that they've enjoyed a national television audience for each of their playoff games, allowing them to showcase what, to me, is the best playoffs of any major sport. But that showcase has coincided with a stark rise, or perhaps just a reminder, of how dirty and vicious the game has become, with cheap shots, dirty hits, and suspensions on the rise. It was with this kind of atmosphere that the Hawks took on the Coyotes in Game 3 of their first round series tonight, and it only took about midway through the first period to see the worst example we've seen of the dirty side of the NHL.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bulls' Bench Mobs Heat to Move Closer to Number 1 Seed

The stage was set last night for an epic showdown of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. Rose v. James, Chicago vs. Miami - next on TNT! Derrick Rose was fresh off an ankle injury, one that he got when he was fresh off his groin injury. The NBA couldn't have hoped for a more marquee matchup, with the two best teams facing off with some of its biggest superstars. And yet, at the end of the day, it was guys named Watson, Gibson, and Korver who sealed a huge win over Miami and made the number 1 seed in the East the Bulls' to lose.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blackhawks Playoff Preview: First Round a Clash of Styles

This isn't your typical 6th vs 3rd seed matchup. Because of the NHL's playoff formatting setup, where the division winners automatically receive the top three seeds, the Hawks actually enter their first round playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes as favorites, even though they hold the 6th seed. But really, seeding doesn't matter once the playoffs start, especially in the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs, where lower seeded teams advance far into the playoffs every year. Regardless of seeding, however, it's going to be an intriguing matchup between the two teams, mostly due to the fact that they represent vastly different styles of play. Who will come out in the end? Well, that depends on several different factors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bulls Win as Rose Sits Again

The win by the Bulls last night over the Knicks epitomizes the enigma that this season has been. The game was close for the first quarter, but the Bulls utilized their traditional methods of success - defense, rebounding, effort, depth, and team cohesiveness - to pull away and eventually own the game. Those skills, against a Knicks team they had already played Sunday, show why the Bulls are such a dangerous team in a playoff series. No team adjusts like the Bulls, making it tough to beat them not only in consecutive games, but taking 4 out of 7 in a series against them. And they did this all without Derrick Rose, who sat again with a new injury. Now, think back to Sunday. The Bulls had Rose back for the first time in a month, and the team looked out of sorts, struggling to an awful first half before rebounding to make the game close. What gives?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Meyer Again Shows the Darkside of College Football

Meyer represents all that is wrong with the game
College football has so many things going for it. It gives people a chance to share pride (or anger) in their undergraduate institutions, uniting large masses of people together under one common goal. You get to enjoy it the best while at that school, ensuring that you can engage in some epic tailgating while in your prime partying years. And it even allows you to forge a deep hatred for another academic institution just because they're rivals with your particular team. Yet, above all that, one of the best things about college football is that it is supposed to be the last reflection of amateur football, a true representation of the student-athlete. We get to watch these athletes excel on the field with the supposed notion that they do it for the love of the game. Now, we know this isn't completely true, given that all of the top athletes are gunning for the NFL. But the fact remains that one of the more appealing aspects of college football is the fact that the vast majority of the players are playing their last years of football. From that, comes the sort of innocence and authenticity that makes the sport what it is.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Chicago Cubs Preview: The Rebuilding Begins

We've heard and been through all of this before. We've heard all the positives of countless previous general managers and managers. All of those previous managers were "the guy" who was going to institute a culture change on the North Side. All of those managers were curse-breakers, i.e., guys who can actually end the long, embarrassing drought from World Series titles that encompasses every fabric of the Cubs organization and Cubs history. And even more than that, we've been through it all. As Cubs fans we've lived through generations of characters who come to Clark and Addison with every intention of changing the way its done and bringing home a championship. And time and time again, we're left empty handed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What's Behind this Bulls Funk?

The problem with the Bulls right now, who just lost consecutive games for the first time in the regular season since February of 2011, is more than just missing Derrick Rose. It's more than just missing Rip Hamilton. No, the problems behind the Bulls' recent funk are deficiencies in the very traits that make them such a successful team - defense, energy, depth, and effort. The sources of the problem could have come from a multitude of areas, from the compressed schedule of a lockout season to the comfort of being on top of the standings all year. Regardless of the source, however, the Bulls will need to get it together to make a stretch run until the playoffs start in three weeks.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hawks Clicking at Right Time as Playoffs Approach

Over the past few weeks, the Hawks have started to resemble that dangerous offensive team that we know so well from a couple years ago. Their loss last night notwithstanding, the Hawks have put forth consistent offensive efforts seemingly every game. Even the loss last night was a game riddled with offense. It's great to see the Hawks starting to click, but even more important that that is the timing of the matter. For a team that's starting to get hot on the eve of the playoffs, the timing couldn't be much better. The NHL hosts arguably the best playoffs in professional sports, one where the hottest team could end up being the champion, regardless of seeding. It is within this framework that the Hawks find themselves, and they've done it without their best player.