The Southbound Sports Show
This show is focused on the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is a tournament in the vein of the World Cup. Teams from countries around the world compete in a baseball tournament. The tournament takes place during spring training every few years. This year the tournament was shown exclusively on MLB.tv. This may be the reason behind the lack of awareness of the tournament.
Even though baseball is America’s pastime, the United States has never won the World Baseball Classic. Well, that changed this year as the United States is the World Baseball Classic champion. It didn’t look like the United States had a chance in this tournament but the team really didn’t have a weakness. Ian Kinsler came under fire for his comments on the makeup of the United States team. He said something about the United States team not being focused on celebrating as they are there to play baseball. These comments came after one of the teams in the tournament were celebrating throughout their game.
The media shouldn’t call out Kinsler for his comments as it wasn’t that long ago that the media was pushing the NFL to remove celebrations from their games. Now, the same media members are calling sports boring after their original comments pushed celebrations out of sports. It seems to be coming full circle as there are rumors that the NFL is going to add full celebrations back into their games. Baseball could use celebrations, but they also need to speed up the game. It is very hard to watch baseball on television unless you are at a bar or a place to casually watch a game. A World Baseball Classic championship isn’t going to lure new fans to baseball.
The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament have been completed. Just like every other year, there are no perfect brackets left. Countless hours and shows about bracket selections are broadcast each year and no one has every been able to pick the winning teams correctly. It has gone so far as to have websites offer round by round picks in hopes of drawing additional interest into the later rounds of the tournament.
Now onto the games, the officiating has been horrible in the tournament. The end of the North Carolina and Arkansas game was an atrocious way to start what is generally a great tournament. At this point, it seems like the NCAA actually wants the Tar Heels to win and advance to the later rounds. It makes sense from a matchup perspective. They are lined up to play some other teams with big basketball brands in the later rounds if they keep winning.
Another matchup that had a huge missed call was the Northwestern and Gonzaga game. Northwestern drives the ball to try to close the gap with what looks like an easy basket. Gonzaga has a defender reach his hand up through the hoop and knocks the ball away. If you are unfamiliar with the rules of basketball, this is an illegal move.
This goal tending call is not reviewable by the rules of the NCAA. At this point in time, there is no reason that call should not be able to be reviewed. Every NCAA tournament game has the same camera angles covering the court. The goal of replay and refs should be to make sure the game is as fair as possible. That is not happening in this tournament.
The solution would be to add another ref that sits in the booth and watches the television angles. Technology has improved to the point where multiple cameras capture every angle and that footage can be recalled at the press of a button. This gives the refs a chance to get every call right. The players deserve it. The coaches deserve. The fans deserve it. So make it happen.
The NCAA bracket was released Sunday night during a shortened CBS broadcast. Last year, the network tried to stretch the show into a two-hour nightmare by extending the release of the bracket as long as possible to drive ratings. This tactic failed miserably when the full bracket was leaked on Twitter minutes into the show. This year CBS took a different approach. The show started promptly and regions were released in a timely fashion. This marked a positive change by the network but the bracket itself was puzzling.
I do not like the set up of the first four play in bracket. Automatic qualifiers should not be forced to play in the first four bracket. The first four bracket should consist of only teams that made the tournament by at large selections. The Big Ten champion would never be forced to play in the first four bracket and that should go for all of the other conferences as well. The problem with the bracket extends into the number of teams they let in the tournament. Advertisers still want the tournament to expand but at some point you have to say enough is enough. The regular season has to count for something.
This debate is sure to carry over to the College Football Playoffs. The NCAA needs to step in and set up regulations that are consistent for all sports. They need to set a limit on the amount of teams that can make a post season tournament. This can be set as a percentage so that it is consistent across all sports. There are 351 Division 1 schools that play basketball across 32 conferences. Since 68 teams can make the NCAA tournament, 19.37% of schools can play in the postseason for a chance at a national championship.
There are 128 schools that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Using the same percentage, an equivalent playoff for football would consist of 24 teams. I think everyone can agree that 24 teams is too much for a football playoff. The same should be said of the NCAA tournament. It should not expand.
As for the seeding, the Big Ten is vastly under-seeded and their top teams have been placed in the same region. This does not allow the Big Ten conference to show its depth in the tournament. It looks like they prioritized matchups based on television ratings potential. With this, the regions worked out so that there are two overpowered regions and two that look like cake walks for the top teams.
This leaves the tournament unbalanced and slighted towards the teams that are perceived to be top basketball schools. To add some madness to March, I would like to see a more balanced bracket in the future. This would remove any doubts or questions by coaches or teams that feel they got a bad seed or should have made the tournament. Teams should have the regular season highlight their accomplishments to the point that no committee is needed to select or seed teams for the tournament. I would almost like to see some computer component added to the selection criteria. Almost.
In this episode of our podcast, we go longer than we typically do. We are talking about the NFL free agency period. This period takes the center stage before the draft as teams are trying to solidify their current rosters with proven NFL talent. Picking up talent in the draft is a much cheaper option, but draft picks take time to develop. Signing free agents is a quicker way to build roster depth.
During this time period, teams need to decide if they are going to try to sign free agents to help them complete or try to rebuild through the draft. Some teams have been slowly signing free agents over the years to backfill their roster in hopes of another deep playoff run. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the teams using this strategy.
They know they have a proven winning quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger. He is just entering the twilight stage of his career. They need to press into win now mode by signing free agents and hoping Ben does not retire. They already have talent on offense and they made sure to keep it by signing a big front loaded contract with Antonio Brown. This means they will have cap space in a few years when they will have to rebuild after Ben Roethlisberger retires. Their main needs now are on defense. The Steelers can make an attempt to lure in a big time defensive player or wait and try to fill in their talent gaps in the draft. Waiting for the draft is a bigger risk, but in a few years they may be able to avoid a full rebuild year if they are able to build around a young and hungry defense.
Moving away from the Steelers, running backs are in a rare position of high availability this year. It is scary to think that a contender could bolster their running attack by signing a veteran running back like Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles. These are premier names in the NFL and would make a great second or third option for a playoff contender. With running backs having a short shelf life, a team could pick up a great free agent running back for cheap.
We end the podcast by talking about the NCAA once again. Last week, the NCAA stepped in and suspended five University of Richmond baseball players for participating in a fantasy football league. The irony is that this suspension comes during March Madness, where the NCAA promotes false gambling like fantasy football by advertising bracket picks directly on their own website.
This podcast is a continuation of our last one. I am once again talking with Jeffrey Meier about the NFL combine. When talking about the fastest 40 times, I mistakenly refer to Chris Johnson as Charles Johnson. I don’t think the bench press is a good measurement of actual football strength and I feel it would benefit the NFL if they invested in better exercises to measure players with.
They make a ton of money off of athletes in the draft and the majority of the picks are busts. Every year the NFL draft consists of 256 picks. That equates to around 15% of the total number of roster slots in the entire league. That leaves teams to decide on roster slots every year with an over abundance of players. Most of the players taken in later rounds never actually make it into an NFL game. NFL teams have to decide to cut players that have been in their system for a few years or draft picks based on potential and what they observed in practice.
We also dive into the invitation process of the NFL draft as it seems more and more like an exclusive club every year. The league picks and chooses who they want to punish and who they want to stay in the league. This means that some players are targeted by NFL rules officials while others seem to skate by without a second glance by the league. Basic science disproved the league’s stance on football deflation but they still ruled in favor of punishment anyway. Meanwhile, their old golden boy Peyton Manning was able to have HGH shipped to his house without any further investigation. It seems like these transparency issues could be a prominent reason why the league is struggling with dropping television ratings.
There are rumors swirling around the Michigan State athletic department. Their athletic director missed an NCAA tournament selection debriefing to stay in East Lansing to attend to some of the issues they have been facing on campus.
Some of the problems are related to the US women’s gymnastics coach that is under investigation. There was also a video posted online that showed students looting the pockets of another student that was knocked out on the ground. It was under investigation to see if anyone could be identified from the video. There are also early reports that it is possible three players will be removed from the Michigan State football team due to their involvement in some other type of investigation.
The NFL combine is coming up and I get a call from Jeffrey Meier for the first time. He has appeared on the podcast before, but we haven’t had a segment together yet. We talk about the combine set up and touch on the drills that take place. Our conversation is so long that we have to split it into our first two part podcast.
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