Blackhawks

Rhymes with Mess

Rhymes with Mess

Friday, October 23rd

In case you missed it due to the fact that you were mesmerized by the hot topic of the last week, the NFL trade deadline (LOL), the first BCS (Bowl Championship Series) rankings of the year were announced. Yawn. I dont know if its the fact that where I live is not necessarily a hot-bed for college football these days (The Big Ten is awful! is a familiar refrain.) or understanding how frustrating following college football rankings can be, it wasnt really a topic at the bar. The few conversations Ive had were fairly animated and I guess thats the point. When a system is flawed, hard to understand and subject to many interpretations, of course everyone, including yours truly, is going to have an opinion and think theyre right. (And why should my opinion on this be any different than on other topics?!) Its an argument thats had every year at the bar, the only things that change are the names: I cant believe that Small Town U. is ranked behind Established Moneymaker State! This is an outrage! They should be able to settle it on the field, we need a playoff. Been there, done that, with this discussion. Is there really any new ground to be covered? It becomes mind-numbing.

Then I look at the paper and see my boy Orrin Hatch has better things to think about than healthcare reform. Still ticked off that his undefeated Utah Utes (Did you say, Ute?) got left out of the national championship last year, hes picking up on President Obamas well received line that he would like to see a playoff in college football. In fact, he was part of a Senate Antitrust Subcommittee that hosted a hearing on the BCS in July. To get his desired result, hes following the thing thats most important to the BCS, the money, and wondering out loud if its legal. This because there is a LOT of money involved, and he wants to make sure the right thing is being done, and did I mention what happened to his Utes last year?!! Coincidentally he sent a letter to the President this week calling for an antitrust probe of the BCS. This guy is one angry Ute! What Id like to say to him is: Good luck, pal! While youve been busy filibustering and entertaining moneyed interests, we college football fans have been enduring this farce forever!

I guess hes new here, since controversy and college football rankings (and subsequently bowl pairings) go together like, controversy and Dennis Rodman. (Does this mean that Dennis Rodman = BCS?) Without the controversy are people talking about them? The thing to remember is that college football is first and foremost about making money. College football fights for the headlines in the national spotlight with the NFL, its not going to get attention in the larger cities (those with NFL teams) or the larger populated areas without a hook. What better a hook than to drive those who do follow you insane, while protecting your business model? Genius!

Now I dont want to beat this to death, again, but does he understand the game thats being played here? This system is well oiled and time tested. Even if, due to some public outcry, they have to offer an insignificant tweak now and then, the good old boys do what they want. Then again, he is a POLITICIAN! It starts like this: Each year at the end of summer, theres a little thing in the paper thats called the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. Thats right, before a game is even played, the teams are arranged in an order that the coaches think they will finish. (Again, part of the beauty of this is that I could spend an hour typing about the coaches part of the process alone.) It could also be called, stacking the deck. What you do is put the various favorites of the power conferences in the top 15 or so, (check out this years, the names are very familiar) and then sprinkle the rest of the top 25 with those pesky good teams from the lesser conferences. Like say putting LSU, coming off an 8-5 season and unranked at the end of the year, at 9, ahead of Boise State, TCU, and Utah, which all finished in the top 13 last year. I wont even get started on the fact that Notre Dame coming off their stellar 7-6 campaign of a year last year was ranked a preseason 23! (I will admit, that right now LSU is 10, but thats the roll of the dice that they take, 8 of the pre-season top 25 are no longer in the polls, including a fall from grace of 3 Oklahoma which is now one of the dreaded others receiving votes even with a 3-3 record. (Its hard to let go!)

Why have this pre-season poll? Why not wait until say October 1st? What it does is make sure that it is harder for a team to move up past ALL of the teams from the bigger conferences. And the computer polls? While they give you generics about their formulas, they have to have a starting point dont they? I wonder what that is? I will give them this though, they average out to have Iowa, Cincinnati and Boise State ahead of Texas, which since they all are undefeated is not entirely far-fetched. But as long as there are voter polls, and the perception is that the SEC and Big 12 are the stronger conferences, those teams will stay where they are as long as the records are the same, because the voters still control 67 of the vote. So, if youre Iowa, even if you run the table, good luck getting into a title game if Texas and Florida are undefeated. And, what do you think the odds are that an undefeated Boise State or Cincinnati could make it to the title game over a ONE LOSS Florida squad? How about nada?

I dont know if its a coincidence, but it seems with all of the better programs in the south, theres not as much interest in the bowl games around the bar. Dont get me wrong, as long as you can bet, people will watch, and everyone was excited for that Illinois Rose Bowl a couple of years ago. But its not consistent, the games dont have the level of anticipation that they used to. Although I know what youre thinking: that last years Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Orange Bowl was must-see-TV. Not! (Now imagine if the winner had to play the winner of the Rose Bowl in a national semi-final? Think it would have gotten some interest then?) Plus theres the fact that there are 34 of them. What do you think? Too many without meaning? Not to mention, thats a lot of travel for student athletes around finals time. (Kidding! Only are students!)

So whether the distinguished gentleman from Utah is looking out for his own interest or not, Im rooting for him. As one who watches what the NCAA basketball tournament does for the bar, I think one involving football would be just as big, if not bigger, and could be done while still incorporating the 34 bowl system. Theres enough money for everyone, as long as the big conferences realize that its in their best interest to share it. What? Did I just type that? Have I lost my mind? The presidents of the schools with the most to lose will never let that happen. Institutions of higher learning have definitely learned one thing: Protect the nest egg! (The Desert Inn doesnt have heart!) Good luck Orrin!

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Bulls take sober approach in draft, satisfied with steady roster growth  

Bulls take sober approach in draft, satisfied with steady roster growth  

It wasn’t an exciting night at the Advocate Center but it was a successful one in the eyes of the rebuilding Chicago Bulls.

And a telling one, from their inaction as they stayed put to select Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. and Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison with their two first round picks.

They’re not looking to press the fast-forward button on this methodical process, placing unrealistic expectations on themselves that they’re nowhere near ready to embrace.

But perhaps, it was necessary.

Trade offers were around, and the Bulls were enamored with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marvin Bagley III in addition to their interest in Mohamed Bamba. But the price of swapping picks, along with giving up the 22nd spot and a future first-rounder was too rich for the Bulls, according to sources.

“We’re always looking and probing for opportunity. How close we got, we don’t know,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “We looked into some things. We thought it was more than a six-player draft. And Wendell is a guy we’ve been high on for quite awhile.”

They believe they’ve opted for prudence instead of panic on a night where bold, confident steps are expected.

After a painful march to the end of an unsatisfying season and dropping a spot in the lottery, a trade would’ve been a do-good when many felt the Bulls should’ve been at the top of the draft order.

After all, so much was made of their scouts and staff spending so much time during the year to assess the top talent—nobody wanted to see all that unspoken promise result in a mid-lottery seventh selection.

“We feel we’re in a situation at this time of our rebuild that to give up assets, important draft assets to move up a spot or two, that didn’t make sense to us and the way we’re planning,” Paxson said. “We continue to talk about being patient and disciplined in how we make decisions.”

One can look at it as the Bulls being unwilling to embrace what comes with taking a top-four talent—especially with Jackson being viewed as a long play as opposed to an instant impact prospect—the word “playoffs” would’ve been swirling all around Madison and Wood for the next several months.

Or one can view it as a sober approach, that Paxson and Forman know there’s far too many unanswered questions about their core, that a slightly better-than-expected regular season wasn’t going to seduce them down a costly road.

They don’t seem to be completely sold on Kris Dunn as the unequivocal point guard of the future, unafraid to take Trae Young if he fell into their lap.

Zach LaVine didn’t play to his expectations, the franchise’s expectations and he didn’t look comfortable playing with the Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, in part because they didn’t have the opportunity.

He enters restricted free agency and nobody will know how much the Bulls value him until they put an initial offer in front of him, likely on the eve of free agency a week from now.

As much as the last 12 months were about hitting the reset button and trading Jimmy Butler to put themselves in this spot, the months of October to April didn’t shed as much light as many anticipated—hence the talk from Paxson about patience and not being in a rush with the rebuild right now.

Because honestly, there’s nothing to rush—the last thing this distrusting fan base wants to hear.

Carter can be exactly what the Bulls need—some ways immediately, other ways in time provided the roster construction is competent and not done at a snail’s pace, the biggest fear from this jaded fan base.

Having to sacrifice at Duke once Bagley III reclassified to get to college, his offensive game didn’t develop as much as it could have—and it’s not like he’ll be featured early on in Chicago with Markkanen and LaVine penciled in as main scoring options.

“As much as you wanna talk about the game getting away from bigs, big guys and their ability to score, the way the game’s going,” Paxson said. “He wants to set screens for guys. This is a young man who’s gonna fit into the team concept that we want to have. And Chandler will do the same.”

Carter had to submerge his talents and gifts during the one season he had to showcase it for the greater good. It speaks to a certain emotional maturity the 19-year old has, a sober approach to look at the bigger picture while still making the most of his not-so-plentiful opportunities.

“Wendell is still a young guy,” Paxson said. “Very few draft picks are finished product, especially in our game where we’re drafting so young. He’s got a lot of room to grow. Defensively as a rim protector, he’ll do really well. Verticality at the rim, he’s been taught really well. Smart kid, we think he’s gonna be really good.”

Hutchison isn’t the high-upside talent Carter is, having played four years of college ball, improving each year to the point that the Bulls supposedly made him a promise very early on in the draft process.

Their unwillingness to give up the 22nd pick, whether they like the perception or not, stems from their belief Hutchison can be an impact player.

“We like Chandler a lot,” Paxson said. “We scouted him early, scouted him often. He knew we liked him. He addresses a position of need. We had debates on wings and players at his position. His ability to rebound and take it off the board, those things are really valuable, especially the way we want to play.”

Paxson alluded to tense discussions leading to the draft, where one can surmise there was serious consideration about not just going with the status quo—their reported interest in point guard Collin Sexton should be proof of that—and that should come as a positive sign for Bulls fans, who feel the front office is satisfied with a slow-rolling, low-accountability approach since they aren’t saddling themselves with high expectations.

To paraphrase Forman, the Bulls are “still building up our asset base” and subtly saying they expect to be in a similar position next June.

Soberly saying winning and contention isn’t on the horizon can be refreshing to hear, but they walk a fine line of expressing too much comfort in things staying the way they are.