NEW: Keeping it Loose Podcast 1/17/17

Getting back in the game this semester. JT and Ryan talk about some NBA spreads for Wednesday and the upcoming NFL games. Warning extreme looseness.

NBA Enters Slippery Slope with Ads on Jerseys

(Photo via bloomberg.com)

People fall in love with sports for many reasons; some are drawn to the big lights and the entertainment presented in front of them, and others crave that intense roller-coaster ride of emotions. But I would think many of us can agree on a common attribute that we all love in our games – well, that it’s just a game. We appreciate all these things because we consciously allow ourselves to take time out of our long, strenuous days, and simply just watch a game. That is why sometimes it pains us to see when that game that we love gets overly-influenced by the powers that too often corrupt the world we live in: Money. When I heard that the NBA had accepted the proposal to put advertisements on their jerseys, I was disappointed in them; falling prey to the money game, once again.

While it’s no secret that sports are a multi-billion dollar industry, and players are probably making more money than they should be, because of the capitalistic society that we live in, we must accept their right to exist and operate freely. But, we have to start thinking about how far we want money and profits taking over the game that we love.

When the league puts ads on their NBA jerseys, die-hard sports fans, and casual fans too, will lose that connection and playfulness that they value in a game because now it just becomes another constant reminder that their favorite game is being controlled by the money machine. And the league must like it that way, so much so that they favor stitching it on their chest. I hope the NBA would understand that the reason we like the game so much isn’t because it makes them lot of money. But instead, we appreciate the raw, live action that it brings us every day, away from the outside world, even if it’s only for a few hours. We shouldn’t have to be reminded of the constant stresses of the outside world when we enter the sports realm.

Now, we know this is a great business opportunity for the league. When asked about the three-year pilot program, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, “People are watching less live television outside of sports. People are watching fewer commercials. This will become an important opportunity for companies for connecting directly with their consumers,” (ESPN.com). Clearly, Silver understands, and is definitely excited by this opportunity to bring in more money for their ever expanding business. Furthermore, according to Daren Rovell in his recent ESPN article on the deal, he noted that Silver projected the deal to bring about $100 million dollars per year in revenue. Seems like a large number, however Rovell says, “It’s a small opportunity relative to the league’s overall revenues, which Silver said are projected to be $7 billion in the 2017-18 season.” (ESPN.com)

If it’s such a small opportunity, then why must the league always take the side where the money is and not the side that we wished they would go? They should make more efforts to de-monetize the game and preserve the aspects of sports that we value so much. Does distracting the fan with advertisements placed on the game jerseys really reinforce their love of the game? Of course not. So, what’s the point?

I may be overthinking this, but I am sure people can all agree that the games are more exhilarating and captivating when we are not thinking of the profit motive behind it. Sure, FIFA has had ads on their jerseys for some time now, but it’s pretty evident they have large problems of their own. It’s time to rethink where we want sports to go in the future.

– J. Yellin

ACC: Who’s coming out on top?

(Photo via post-gazette.com)

This past weekend, we saw yet another “upset” in the ACC. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame showed how competitive the ACC is this year by beating the mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina, who were ranked #2 in the country and at the time  were sitting atop the ACC. Notre Dame has been bouncing in and out of the top 25 rankings this year, and showed that they can compete with the bigger boys of the ACC.

With the help of all 5 starters scoring in the double digits, Demetrius Jackson led with 19 points and Zack Auguste added a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. Mike Brey preaches defense again and again for the Irish and it clearly paid off the other night. Notre Dame wasn’t a big underdog due to the game being in South Bend and their plethora of experience throughout their lineup. The size of the Irish matches up well with almost anyone in the country, with Zack Auguste and Bonzie Colson’s big bodies banging around down low.

Demetrius Jackson is one of the top point guards in the country and has the experience with Mike Brey at the helm to do some special things once March comes around. Do we say the Tar Heels aren’t as good as advertised? Absolutely not. Marcus Paige is as polished of a point guard as any in the country and Brice Johnson is a force not to be reckoned with, no matter who they play. And how tough is it to go to Tobacco Road and beat UNC on their own court? Oh, and not to forget, that old guy with some grey hair roaming the sidelines has had a pretty damn good career at UNC.

“Upsets” have been the common theme of the 2015-2016 season, especially in the ACC with Duke having a below average year and Virginia losing to teams like VA Tech and Georgia Tech. So who wants to win the ACC? I don’t see a sure fire winner yet this season with how well everyone is playing and the good amount of parity in college basketball this season in general. I guess we’ll just have to wait until March, right?

– M. Gress

2016 Recruits Bring New Hope to UMass Basketball

DeJon Jarreau and Brison Gresham, high school teammates, join forces to headline the 2016 UMass recruiting class. (Photo via masslive.com)

This year has not been one of the best for the UMass Minutemen basketball team, who currently have a 9-12 record through February and are 12th in the Atlantic 10 conference. While most of their struggles have come on the defensive side (ranked 300th in the nation in points allowed per game), it is evident that this team simply lacks the high-end talent needed to compete with the rest of the big schools in the country. Since their lone NCAA appearance in 2014 after a 15-year absence, the team has managed to hover around the .500 mark over the last two seasons. So, as you might guess, many Minutemen fans are anxious for some basketball success, and 2016 might make those wishes come true.

Near the end of September 2015, it was announced that two 4-star recruits had signed on to join the Minutemen squad for the 2016 college basketball season. This is incredibly special for a UMass team that has usually struggled to bring in big-name, high school talent for some time now. One of these recruits is shooting guard DeJon Jarreau, who is currently ranked 61st in ESPN’s top 100 recruits for 2016. He will be joined by his former high school teammate, Brison Gresham, whom he played alongside in New Orleans. The chemistry between the two players should work really well in adjusting to the college game for these incoming freshman. The other 4-star recruit joining the team is 6’8”, 230lb power-forward from Springfield Mass, Chris Baldwin. These commitments have put their 2016 recruiting class at 26th in the nation, according to ESPN. To add to this influx of talent, the Minutemen are also expecting their 2015 4-star recruit, point-guard Luwane Pipkins, to contribute to the team after missing all of this year due to academic ineligibility.

All of these players will surely add a boost to the roster at all positions. Jarreau should project to be the prime scoring option next year, who, at 6’5”, possesses good size and versatility, having the ability to play both guard positions. Chris Baldwin will be able to provide strength and athleticism on the low block, as well as being able to step out comfortably for a 12-15 foot jump shot.

It will be very exciting to see how good this UMass team can be next season, as it seems like their roster will be as strong as it’s been in at least 4 years. If these players develop the way we expect them to, we can see this young core propelling the Minutemen up the Atlantic-10 conference standings, as well as a strong push for the NCAA tournament in March.

– J. Yellin

Is LeBron James a Coach Killer?

(Photo via fansided.com)

A Coaching Injustice

With the recent firing of Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, many are left to wonder why a coach sitting atop the eastern conference halfway through the season is being handed a “pink-slip”.  After coming off an NBA Finals appearance in just his first year as head coach, Blatt had to game plan against the league’s MVP, Steph Curry, and an extremely talented Golden State Warriors roster.  Without his own all-star point guard, Kyrie Irving, and power forward, Kevin Love, the Cavs went 6 games with the Warriors, eventually losing the NBA Finals game 6 on their home floor.  Reason for firing?  Not yet.

After opening the 2015-2016 season with 30 wins and 11 losses, Cleveland believed that it was somehow time for a coaching change.  How does a coach with a winning percentage above .500, and in first place in the Eastern Conference, get fired after a year and a half.  Multiple media outlets suggest that coach Blatt did not have the ear of LeBron James and therefore was not fit to coach “his” team.  The Cavaliers promoted their associate head coach and two time NBA champion, Tyronn Lue, to take over for Blatt.  Some may not be able to read between the lines, but to me, if Blatt was indeed African American and shared the brotherhood of the NBA with LeBron, Blatt would not be standing in the unemployment line.

For example, Blatt played his college basketball in the Ivy League, at Princeton, and did most of his coaching overseas. He does not have more than a year and a half of NBA coaching experience, and was hired well before LeBron was a part of the Cavaliers. When Blatt was hired by the Cavaliers, he was handed a roster with many young players, like Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennet, and already had a star player in Kyrie Irving. By the time his first season was starting, LeBron James and Kevin Love had been added to the team, while getting rid of one of the best looking young guards in the game, Andrew Wiggins. Blatt’s job was completely reconstructed when LeBron announced he would be returning to Cleveland, as now Blatt would become more of a puppet in LeBron’s bigger picture for this Cleveland team.

While taking to social media, James calls the criticism of him being a coach killer unfair and has had nothing but respect for his coaches. He denies having anything to do with Blatt being fired, but I struggle to believe that Cleveland made the decision to fire their 30-11 head coach, without consulting the greatest player in the world. After all, wherever there is smoke, there is fire.  In the words of Ryan Ilardi, “a guilty bird sings.”

– J. Tennent

 

Curry Ruining the Game?

(Photo via cbssports.com)

Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP of the NBA, is playing at an unprecedented level. His consistency in making shots with such high level of difficulty has made him one of the stars of the league. With great teammates around him, such as Draymond Green having a breakout year of his own, Stephen Curry is following up his MVP season with quite possibly an even better one. Through 44 games, Curry has made over 200 3-pointers, while still being top 5 in 3-point percentage.

During Curry’s MVP season last year, former Golden State Warrior coach Mark Jackson brought up an interesting thought, suggesting that Curry may be “hurting” the game of basketball with his new play style. Jackson explained his thought, saying that younger generations of basketball players are running straight to the 3-point line and not appreciating everything that basketball has to offer. Jackson also said, “You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he’s just a knockdown shooter. That’s not why he’s the MVP. He’s a complete basketball player.”

While I understand the point Jackson is making, I completely disagree. Basketball continues to change over time, and Stephen Curry is not the only player influencing the change in basketball that is going on today. Forty years ago, you wouldn’t even see a 3-point line on a basketball court. But nowadays, 3-pointers are one of the biggest aspects of the game. Being able to make 3-pointers consistently is important as a player, but even more important for a team as a whole.

Curry is playing better than any player in the league right now, and it isn’t a hard case to argue. His high paced, run-and-gun play style is fun for any fan to watch. Not only is Curry playing at a high level, but his team mates are also playing exceptionally well, as they see their team sitting at 40-4 just over halfway through the regular season. With a San Antonio Spurs team that has plenty of talent and years of playoff experience sitting just a few games behind the Warriors, Golden State needs to continue to play at this high level to get out of the stacked western conference, let alone win another championship.

While winning back-to-back championships is a very hard thing to do, I believe the Warriors are poised two win their second title in as many years. With the emergence of Draymond Green who has become one of the best all-around players in the league, I believe the Warriors are playing better than ever, and may not even be at their best yet. As Klay Thompson continues to have another strong scoring year, and key role players like Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes continue their strong play, the Warriors are the most complete team in the NBA, and the only one that nobody has found a way to stop.

– J. Horrigan

Big East Showdown

(photo via madduxsports.com)

Tuesday night brought forth a Big East battle between the 16th ranked Providence Friars and the 18th ranked Butler Bulldogs. This was the second meeting between the two teams this season. In their first match-up, the Friars trailed 36-25 at the half, but rallied to win by a final score of 81-73. This time, however, the game was much closer, as the Friars led at the half 36-33, with Kyron Cartwright leading the way with 13 points. This set up a nail biting finish that resulted in a Friars win with the final score being 71-68.

Aside from Cartwright, the Friars had a couple of players step up in a game where they really needed it. Those players were Ben Bentil and Rodney Bullock. Bentil has really stepped his game up so far this season, and entered Tuesday night averaging 19.2 points per game. He put up twenty points, along with seven rebounds. Bentil also continued his solid free throw shooting by going eight for ten from the stripe. Bullock started hot and had a quick six points before running into slight foul trouble. However, he would finish with sixteen points and eight rebounds. The Friars star player, Kris Dunn, had a poor game, but still managed to finish with 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and hit two threes late in the game that helped seal the deal.

With this win, the Friars now move to 16-3 on the season and 4-2 in Big East play. The Friars next game will be a true test as they hit the road and take on the 4th ranked Wildcats of Villanova. Villanova is currently sitting atop the Big East, and have not lost to the Friars since February of 2013. Tip off for Saturday’s game is 12 pm.

– K. Troy