The Kelly File

If there’s one thing that connects gamers and football, it’s the Madden franchise of videogames. I grew up on it; everything from Madden 64 (N64) to Madden 96 (SNES) to Madden 98 (PS1) to Madden 2002 (PS2). But it was Madden 2003 that took up more of my time than all of those combined.

It started in my freshman year of college back in 2011. My dorm mate supplied the game, I supplied the PS2. From the time Madden games came out for PS2 up until Madden 06 (I think), the gameplay and graphics didn’t change much from year to year. It was simpler to play, but also more realistic in terms of real-life scenarios. For example, the wide receivers in the game would actually get some separation from the cornerbacks. Start playing Madden 12 (for example), and those corners are able to magically stick to the receivers as well as beat them to the route before the receiver gets there. Unbelievable.

On to the point.

At my age, I think I knew better, but I still enjoyed just running up the score and padding stats. My team was the Philadelphia Eagles. Donovan McNabb was my QB, Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook were my RBs, James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, and Freddie Mitchell were my main WRs, and a defense headlined by Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard, and Quintin Mikell. Sounds like a pretty good team.

But that’s still not the point.

This was the team from Philadelphia. My team came 5, 6 and 7 years down the road from that. McNabb actually stuck around for that whole duration; everyone else gradually fizzled away, retired, or got cut. My team consisted of guys that I acquired from the draft, trades, and more importantly, free agency. For me, there was only one trait that I looked for: speed. I already had a great, mobile QB. If I found an RB or a WR that had a speed rating of 96 or higher, I snagged them no matter how bad their overall rating was. As long as I could burn the defense, I was set. I didn’t care how short or tall they were, their ability to break tackles, their injury-proneness, or anything else. just speed. I played the game long enough to know which routes and plays would set my players into open space, so nothing else mattered. Mind you, this was all for my offensive playmakers.

Defense was another story. Since no one person on defense can be controlled in a videogame the same way that a QB controls, defensive players was what all of my cap space was invested into. I had two good players in Dawkins and Sheppard that stuck around for awhile, but if any good players hit free agency, I scooped them up. I remember getting the likes of Champ Bailey one year, and an assortment of other high quality defenders. But since I could only control one player on a defense of eleven, I needed to make sure the other ten were good enough to be left on an island.

That’s the point.

This is exactly what Chip Kelly is doing this year; he’s playing to his strengths, and compensating for his weaknesses. It’s not necessarily speed as it was in my game, but it’s a combination of many things to make the system work.

His current QBs are Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, and Matt Barkley. Tebow is obviously the most mobile, while Bradford and Sanchez are mostly pocket passers with the ability to take off for a modest gain. I’m not saying that Tebow will start, it’s just worth noting. Bradford doesn’t turn the ball over, and has good accuracy; either he’s not durable, or just very, very unlucky.

Demarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and even Kenjon Barner in the backfield…a little bit of everything. Murray is an all-around great back, Mathews is a good change of pace back, Sproles is the infamous shifty, low-center-of-gravity back that can make everyone miss, and Barner is a pure north-south track runner.

Take a look at the receivers: Jordan Matthews, Miles Austin, and Riley Cooper. Are any of them great? No. Super fast? By no means. Above average at being elusive, route-running, or contesting for the deep pass? Not really. Tall? Bingo. Each of them is 6′-2” or taller. Does a tall receiver make them better? Of course not. But by having a couple inch advantage on the defender, it increases the window that the QB can safely drop the pass in. None of Kelly’s current QBs are elite, but by making his WRs more accessible, it could offset a slightly inaccurate pass to an otherwise WR that didn’t have that height.

Kelly’s strength is offense. He took an Oregon Ducks program and put it on the map with players that no one remembers. I remember three of their RBs, only because of how much I was amazed at their burning speed at Oregon. LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas, and the aforementioned Barner. Unfortunately, running straight north-south rarely happens in the NFL, so their skill sets are better suited for returning punts and kicks.

At Oregon, Kelly would out-run you, and out-score you. His defense wasn’t very good because it didn’t have to be. That’s why he shelled out for Byron Maxwell, and also why he valued Kiko Alonso more than he wanted LeSean McCoy. It’s why even after the draft, he’ll still be making moves.

Think about this for a minute. Chip Kelly has gone 10-6 the last two years with Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez as his QBs. No one else can do that unless you have the right system. And to do that with two different subpar QBs has proved the system can work.

He’s assembling his team how he wants to. Will it work out this year? Maybe. Maybe not. But I wouldn’t bet against him. I honestly believe that Chip Kelly shares company with Belichick, Harbaugh, and Carroll as the smartest coaches and strategists in the league. Philadelphia is on the verge of something great, I just don’t think they or most of the country knows it yet.

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2015 Tourney Wrap Up

Hello friends,

As far as the Tournament goes, this one was pretty good. Maybe it’s because I was a little more invested in it this year, but it managed to keep my attention. Just a few observations until next year.

  • I think I’ve said this in a previous post, but teams like Virginia are KILLING the NCAA. They make it unwatchable. 41-40 final scores are pathetic and those teams will never make it far because there will always be a better offense out there that beats your defense. When a defense-based team beats four Top 25 teams in a row to win the title, give me a call.
  • For the most part, I’m very happy how the final four played out. A couple things go differently, and we could’ve been watching a Notre Dame vs Wisconsin final four game, followed by a Notre Dame vs Michigan St final. *eerily thinking about purchasing a noose* But since Kentucky knocked off the Irish, none of that had to come to fruition. *shelving those noose-thoughts for another time*
  • There were six teams that had offensive and defensive efficiencies in the top 25 by the end of the tournament. Wisconsin was not one of them. Duke was. I could’ve told you (and probably did) who was going to win the final after Saturday’s semifinals ended.
  • Hats off to Duke’s defense…they got it done last night. They got out to the perimeter very quickly to prevent the open looks that Kentucky and Arizona gave up. Dekker was broke and Kaminsky was held in check all game, even with Okafor getting in foul trouble.
  • Frank Kaminsky is a bust. He can’t play defense, he’s a twig, and he’s going to end up in the D-League, playing overseas with Badger-and-St-John’s-Northwestern-Military-Academy-alum Trevon Hughes, or renting out cars at Enterprise.
  • Sam Dekker has potential; his ceiling is the Chandler Parsons from two years ago…so not terrible.
  • Gonzaga, Arizona, and Villanova are always overrated. No matter how high of a seed they get, they’re gonna get bounced sooner or later.
  • Despite getting to the final, Wisconsin is on that list as well.
  • Michigan State, North Carolina, and Louisville are usually underrated. No matter who’s on the team, you have a chance with Izzo, Roy, or Pitino.
  • Even though “One Shining Moment” is a terribly written song, right below “Insert Kanye West song here” and right above “Insert Pitbull song here”, I wish that montage of the tourney would go on for 10 minutes longer.
  • I’m relieved that instead of every commercial, it’ll be every other commercial that I see a Buick, Coke Zero, Quicken Loans, Buffalo Wild Wings, Christian Laettner, or any other of those ads that run on a continuous loop. For fuck’s sake, we get that your Buick gets fucking wifi!
  • The Masters start on Thursday

Til’ next year.

Sweet 16 – Part 2

I stuck around to watch the ending of all the games, except UK/WVU because that one got out of hand very early. When Kentucky is up 18-2 only 9 minutes into the first half, it’s time to throw in the towel, Huggins. On to the picks from last night’s and tonight’s game…

Wichita St (-2.0) vs Notre Dame (+2.0) ~ O/U = 137.5

Final Score = Wichita St 70 / Notre Dame 81

I only caught the last 5 minutes of this one, but from what I saw, the Irish could not miss. Apparently this game was a lot closer at the beginning of the 2nd half, but Notre Dame just went into another mode and cruised. I thought the Shockers had a real shot to win this one, but Notre Dame was just too much.

UNC (+6.5) vs Wisconsin (-6.5) ~ O/U = 145

Final Score = UNC 72 / Wisconsin 79

In all honesty, I loved watching the final 10 minutes of this game; one of the best, hardest fought endings I’ve seen this year. The score definitely doesn’t lend itself to just how close this game really was. Wisconsin was grinding out some tough shots, and Marcus Paige splashed two big 3s to keep it within 1. Ultimately, free throws won it at the end for Wisconsin. With the 5 guys on the floor inside 2 minutes, their worst free throw shooter was still above 70%. It was a good run for an underrated UNC team.

WVU (+13.5) vs Kentucky (-13.5) ~ O/U = 136.5

Final Score = WVU 39 / Kentucky 78

I noted yesterday that if WVU got down early, it would pretty much be over. It was. Kentucky got up 18-2 by the 11 minute mark in the first. It’s hard to see just how big Kentucky is until you really see them stand next to someone else. I don’t think any of their starters are less than 6’7”. That’s a serious advantage. Good luck, Notre Dame.

Xavier (+10.5) vs Arizona (-10.5) ~ O/U = 136

Final Score = Xavier 60 / Arizona 68

Xavier had this one, but down the stretch, Arizona went on a 19-7 run and both McConnell and Johnson stepped up big. Arizona exposed Stainbrook’s weaknesses and that went a long way to keeping them in it. Their game against Wisconsin should be another tight one.

ATS: 0-4 ~ O/U: 3-1

UCLA (+8.5) vs Gonzaga (-8.5) ~ O/U = 144.5

Gonzaga is a tough out. They’ve got some length, they can play defense, but I like their offense a lot better. They’ve lost 2 games in the regular season by a combined 6 points. I honestly have not seen UCLA play, and I don’t think they’re going to win this game. So I’m not going to pretend I know anything about them.

Verdict: Gonzaga (-8.5) , Over 144.5

NC State (+2.5) vs Louisville (-2.5) ~ O/U = 129.5

Honestly, I don’t know much about either of these teams. I didn’t have either of them getting this far in the tournament. Both of them can play defense, and I think that’s the kind of matchup we’re going to get tonight. NC State handily held off a very good Villanova team, which shows a lot. I think NC State covers this one.

Verdict: NC State (+2.5) , Under 129.5

Utah (+5.0) vs Duke (-5.0) ~ O/U = 134.5

I’m kicking myself for not having Utah in this game in my bracket. This is a real team with some real defense. However, I think Jahlil Okafor is going to give them fits in the post. Duke is solid on both sides of the ball, and can come back if they get down. After seeing Arizona barely eek one out, I think Duke might be the only team that stands a chance against Kentucky.

Verdict: Duke (-5.0) , Over 134.5

Michigan St (-1.5) vs Oklahoma (+1.5) ~ O/U = 135.5

Another defensive-dominant game is in store for this one. People don’t know much about Oklahoma, but they match up very well with Michigan St. The Spartans get more recognition because of Izzo, but the Sooners only allow 63 points per game. And even though the Spartans are riding a lot of momentum, I like Oklahoma to cover.

Verdict: Oklahoma (+1.5) , Under 135.5

Sweet 16 – Part 1

The only betting I do is at the blackjack and 3-card poker table. Occasionally when I’m in a drunken stupor or a under the effect of some other substance, I’ll make a small prop bet with one of my buddies along the lines of ‘Crosby will hook this field goal attempt’ or ‘Big Papi is gonna mash this one over the right field fence’ or ‘Derrick Rose is not gonna have a career ending injury before the All-Star break’. That last one hasn’t panned out for me or Chicago.

The great thing about betting, though, is that it makes games [more] watchable. One of my quoted lines is, “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, it’s whether they cover the spread.”

Like most people, I don’t pay attention to college basketball until February or later. So here are my picks.

Wichita St (-2.0) vs Notre Dame (+2.0) ~ O/U = 137.5

What I’ve noticed about Wichita St is that they aren’t really great at any one thing; they’re very balanced. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, have a very effective offense: great 3 point shooters, outstanding free throw percentage, and win if they can make you play their game. However, after winning the ACC Championship by taking down UNC and Duke, they survived the weekend by beating both Northeastern and Butler by a combined 7 points. If Wichita St can rattle Notre Dame’s shooters, I think VanVleet can take over, as well as drain a few 3s of their own. I’ll take the Shockers to cover in a decently high scoring matchup.

Verdict: Wichita St (-2.0) , Over 137.5

UNC (+6.5) vs Wisconsin (-6.5) ~ O/U = 145

It’s tough. With Kennedy Meeks likely sidelined for this one, it’ll be Kaminsky and Brice Johnson in the post. UNC is the hotter team, and has the better backcourt. Even though Joseph Young took over Oregon’s offense (despite a pretty bad shooting percentage), I think the Ducks exposed Wisconsin’s defense and Roy Williams will certainly take advantage. I think the game could go either way, but I’ll definitely take UNC to cover. Wisconsin has respectable defense, but I think this one’s gonna be a shootout.

Verdict: UNC (+6.5) , Over 145

West Virginia (+13.5) vs Kentucky (-13.5) ~ O/U = 136.5

This will be a big test for Kentucky. The Mountaineers have a very good defense, as did the Wildcats’ previous opponent, Cincinnati. The difference is that WVU is a little more well rounded, and have a nice 1-2 punch with Juwan Staten and Devin Williams. I don’t think I need to delve into Kentucky’s resume. Bottom line, I think WVU could make a game out of it. But if they get down by 15 or so, they’ll never relinquish it. They’re good enough to keep it close, but no one is good enough to take down the Cats. I’ll take WVU to cover, but still lose in a fairly low-scoring affair.

Verdict: West Virginia (+13.5) , Under 136.5

Xavier (+10.5) vs Arizona (-10.5) ~ O/U = 136

Some would peg Arizona as the best team in the country. I have them as 2nd between Kentucky and Duke. They’re great on both sides of the ball, they have NBA-type talent, and they’re just the better team. For Xavier, they lost to Villanova in the Big East championship despite being the 6th best team in the conference. They’re also the last Big East team in the tournament out of 6 bids. I like them, just not against Arizona. Pretty much the same way I felt about Ohio State. And Arizona held D’angelo Russell in check the whole game. I’ll take Arizona to cover, and I’ll take the under.

Verdict: Arizona (-10.5) , Under 136

Results + Friday’s picks tomorrow

Bo Doesn’t Know

A little background on Bo Ryan…

His first 15 years of collegiate coaching were for UW Platteville. The team went 39-39 in the first 3 years. The team did not lose more than 5 games in a given year after that, and they acquired 4 championships in the process with 2 of those being on the back of undefeated seasons.

He coached at UW Milwaukee for 2 years and went 30-27.

He was hired by the Badgers in 2001, and has made the tournament every year. That has come with multiple regular season and conference championships. The farthest they’ve gotten was a Final Four appearance last year, where they were bounced by Kentucky by 1 point.

On to current times – 7:04 PM. Sunday. March 22, 2015. CenturyLink Center. Omaha, Nebraska.

As expected by most of the nation, the UW Badgers defeated the Oregon Ducks, which pushed Wisconsin on to the Sweet 16 where they’ll match up with the Tar Heels.

I actually watched the second half of this game because of how close the score was down the stretch. I’m not sure exactly what time it ended, but somewhere around 9 – 9:30 is a safe bet.

The most surprising thing to me is that after the game, Bo Ryan was cited with concerns about how he thinks his team was slighted by the committee for having their game on a Sunday night, then having to take a day off and fly out to Los Angeles on Monday night for the regional games later this week. Mind you, the team still has class that will obviously have to be made up on the road, in addition to prep and practice for Thursday’s game.

I understand where Bo is coming from, but if you want to be a national headliner, this is how it works. If you’re ‘Directional State University’ or ‘Insert Mid-Major Team Here’, then you’ll have the most convenient schedule. If you want to hang with the Kentuckys and the Dukes of the world, you’ve got to be able to handle primetime, in addition to playing on primetime. No one tunes in to games in the middle of the day. You want an audience? You play at 7PM on a Sunday night.

I’ve never heard Coach Calipari or Coach K complain about scheduling. They can handle it, and they’ve trained their players to handle it. That’s why they are national powerhouses, and the Badgers are just another team in a small town in the middle of a cornfield.

You get the spotlight, you get the national attention, and you get the recognition when you can play outside of your local fans and farmers.

Bo Knows, huh?

I don’t think he has a clue.

One and Done

Have you ever heard of Jack Andraka? You probably haven’t. He’s just a guy that has developed a method to detect the early stages of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer. With these, as with any type of cancer (or disease for that matter), early detection gives one the best chance of defeating it.

How about Eesha Khare? She developed a super capacitor prototype that can be fully charged in 20 seconds, and it holds the charge longer than other similar devices. Think that can’t be applied to cell phones, vehicles, or tablets?

What’s more baffling is that Jack is 18, and Eesha is 19. They’ve both won their fair share of awards, been on talk shows, and are just beginning their college careers. How many companies out there do you think have an open seat for these two?

So why is it that society embraces young entrepreneurs like these, and can’t wait to get them in the real world, yet NCAA basketball players are being discouraged from pulling a one-and-done?

The argument is that it’s bad for college basketball; nobody watches it because there are no stars’ careers to follow for four years. But unless you go to a certain school, nobody is following college basketball until February. The tournament is the only thing that matters.

The NBA rakes in relatively low numbers if you put the NFL in the conversation, but it’s still the more refined and polished game. It’s somewhat watchable. College basketball is largely unwatchable. Nobody wants to watch a mid-major team play against their Kentucky or Duke powerhouse. Nobody wants to sit around picking shit out of their asses while they wait for the 35 second shot clock to trickle down. Nobody wants to watch defensive-minded teams like Virginia slow down the game and end up with final scores similar to last year’s Super Bowl. That is what is really killing college basketball.

An audience desires a faster game, more action, more offense, and less stoppages. You stop the game, you stop momentum, and your audience is no longer captivated.

Think about it. Each team gets five timeouts per game, plus there is a game stoppage after every four minutes of each half. That’s 18 breaks minimum before fouls (20 per game), turnovers out of bounds, etc.

Yes, the NBA also has some work to do, but the game is more mature. When a team is down by 9 with 30 seconds left, they understand that the game is over, and don’t delay the inevitable by fouling. Many people don’t understand that college athletes see no revenue from playing sports. All the tv time, commercials, and advertisements go straight to the university. I saw a commercial awhile back advocating that the NCAA is on the students’ side. At the end of the day, it’s a business. The NCAA and students couldn’t be further apart.

Yes, not everyone who does a one-and-done pans out. But what has been the downside to Anthony Davis, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Kevin Durant leaving college early to play professionally? They’ve put the New Orleans, Washington, Sacramento, and Oklahoma City teams, respectively, on the map. Without them, all four of those teams would be absolutely terrible. Similarly, but not the same as Lebron, those four players help the economy more than people know. Crowds will show up only if they have someone to watch. Philadelphia and Detroit are terrible…their arenas are ghost towns on game nights.

I just don’t understand why we can encourage young adults like Jack and Eesha to make it to the top, yet Jahlil Okafor and others will be ripped apart for their plans to go pro.

2015 NCAA Men’s Hoops Bracket

The very first year I filled out a bracket was in 2002, and I knew nothing about college basketball. And after 12 years of having my bracket busted, I could argue that I haven’t learned a thing. Picking Georgia Tech in 2004 was my only correctly picked champion. Unbelievable.

The difference between those other horrid years and this one is not measuring teams solely with an eye test, a team’s respective records, or any other stats that one could easily find on ESPN.

I now have started to measure teams in terms of their efficiency, both on offense and defense. A team’s offensive efficiency is how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. And defensive is how many are allowed per 100 possessions. Understandably, a team with the best offensive efficiency will likely have the best offense. This isn’t always the case because different teams in different conferences play at faster and slower paces…which in turn, affects how many possessions a team will have. But it’s almost always right.

Not sold yet?

Since 2002, only one team has won a championship that did not have both an offensive and defensive efficiency better than 25. That team was last year’s champion, Connecticut. Were they great in the regular season? Hell, no! They had 9 losses to their name going into the tourney. They won because Shabazz Napier took over and put the rest of the field to shame. A phenomenon that is henceforth known as the ‘Shabazz Napier Effect’.

Still need convincing?

Between 2002-2013, if one or multiple teams had efficiencies in the top 10, that one (or the best, if multiple) team has won the championship every year.

On to the picks…

Only one team this year has both a top 10 offensive and defensive efficiency. Kentucky will win it all. You’re welcome.

The hardest part about picking the rest of the field comes down to two things.

1) Upsets happen. A team with both a worse offensive and defensive efficiency can, but not often, win. There’s usually a couple. It’s what puts the ‘madness’ in March.

2) Picking between two team with similar, but opposite efficiencies. A good example will follow…

(From here on out, the teams will be listed as so, with O=Offensive Efficiency and D=Defensive Efficiency

(#) Team A O/D vs (#) Team B O/D

(1) Kentucky 5/2 vs (16) Hampton 301/141 – Kentucky

(8) Cincinnati 76/18 vs (9) Purdue 57/69 – These are the types of matchups that I previously referred to that can be difficult. However, I calculated an aggregate median average of all 8v9 teams, and Cincinnati came out on top

(5) West Virginia 33/47 vs (12) Buffalo 47/94 – This was one of my upset picks for a few reasons, but mostly because Buffalo won their conference, and West Virginia was 5th in theirs.

(4) Maryland 56/36 vs (13) Valparaiso 129/31 – Maryland

(6) Butler 67/10 vs (11) Texas 42/19 – I took Texas in this one because they averaged out a little better, they’re better in offense (which usually is the predominant of the two efficiencies), and because I’ve seen Butler play.

(3) Notre Dame 2/112 vs (14) Northeastern 90/171 – The 112 for Notre Dame is very deceiving, Northeastern is only in a mid-major conference. Notre Dame also won the ACC title beating UNC and Duke back to back. Kudos!

(7) Wichita State 20/15 vs (10) Indiana 10/216 – Wichita State

(2) Kansas 37/7 vs (15) New Mexico St 120/87 – Kansas

Going through the entire bracket would take many, weary hours. I’m just going to sum up the rest of my picks here. If you’d like to know the efficiency ratings of all the teams in the field, go to http://www.kenpom.com

Midwest

Round of 32 – Kentucky, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Maryland, Texas, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Kansas

Sweet 16 – Kentucky, Maryland, Notre Dame, Wichita State

Elite 8 – Kentucky, Notre Dame

Final 4 – Kentucky

West

Round of 32 – Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Harvard, Xavier, Baylor, Ohio State, Arizona

Sweet 16 – Wisconsin, Arkansas, Baylor, Arizona

Elite 8 – Wisconsin, Arizona

Final 4 – Arizona

East

Round of 32 – Villanova, LSU, Northern Iowa, UC Irvine, Providence, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia

Sweet 16 – Villanova, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan State

Elite 8 – Villanova, Michigan State

Final 4 – Villanova

South

Round of 32 – Duke, St Johns, Stephen F Austin, Georgetown, SMU, Iowa St, Iowa, Gonzaga

Sweet 16 – Duke, Stephen F Austin, Iowa St, Gonzaga

Elite 8 – Duke, Gonzaga

Final 4 – Duke

Final 4

Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Duke

Championship

Kentucky, Duke

Champion

Kentucky

Notes

There are a few really tough matchups that I struggled with, and that you may want to go the other direction on.

Michigan St vs Virginia – Virginia has the best defensive efficiency, but I just can’t go against Tom Izzo. He’s too good. Unfortunately, Michigan State WILL lose at some point. With Villanova having a 3/14 O/D, I think that’ll end the Spartans’ run.

Iowa St vs Gonzaga – Iowa St won a better conference, but Gonzaga is 6/20 O/D. However, Gonzaga never makes it too far in the tourney, and they’re almost always ranked very high because they play in a relatively non-competitive conference.

Wisconsin vs Arizona – I already have been hearing it from Wisconsin fans about picking Arizona. Even though the Badgers have a 1/30 O/D, I believe they are a one-man ship that solely runs through Frank Kaminsky. If he gets in foul trouble, it’s over. Arizona also has some bigs of their own, and can splash from behind the arc.

In most tourneys, at least 3 of the 4 teams in the Final Four have at least 1 efficiency in the top 25.

Good Luck