Links of the Day 6/29/15

HEYYYYYY I’M BACK. You might not be as excited about that as I am.

The Timberwolves drafted Karl Anthony Towns, but the bigger deal to many Minnesotans is that they also traded for Tyus Jones.

Kevin Love opted out of his deal, as with Lebron, but both are expected to re-sign. 

Wimbledon is getting started. 

We’ve been away for so long. Here is a week of scores.
Minnesota 13, Chicago 2 – John Daks is the best.
Chicago 6, Minnesota 2 – Rough, the Twins can’t win every game against the White Sox. Alas, it is not a perfect world.
Minnesota 6, Chicago 1 – Close though. Pretty darn close.
Chicago 8, Detroit 7 – The White Sox do in the Tigers helping the Twins as well. I’m coming around on them.
Detroit 5, Chicago 4 – Well, this is more like it.
Milwaukee 10, Minnesota 4 – All of the Brewers hit home runs. All of them.
Rosenborg 1, Molde 1 – A tie in perhaps the biggest game of the year. Not a bad result
Minnesota 5, Milwaukee 2 – Despite all the bashing I give him for being a complete jerk, Torii Hunter keeps kicking ass in games I watch.
Detroit 5, Chicago 4 – This wasn’t nearly as bad for the White Sox as the Twins series was. Nice!
Milwaulee 5, Minnesota 3 – The Twins were close to tying this at the end, but those 5 run innings are killer.

Introducing the College Basketball Champions League

Over the past few years, both Ryan and Steve have run a college football simulation that utilizes the Promotion and Relegation system that is seen with soccer over in Europe. In that line of thought, I would like to apply a different aspect of European soccer to another American sport- college basketball.

Currently, with college basketball, the season format is simple- non-conference play, conference play, and finally the postseason. However, in the given format, other than an isolated game here or there, college basketball is pushed to the side until January at the absolute earliest. And more often than not, it is really only February and March that college basketball has the collective attention of the general sports watching public. Now, the NCAA Tournament is a fantastic event, and makes up one of the best three weeks in sports, but with that said, the regular season itself is not all that relevant. But with a reworking of the system, this could change, and at the same time, produce an even more enjoyable tournament to produce a national champion.

I give you, the NCAA Champions League.

This was introduced a couple years ago by John Infante, who ran the NCAA Bylaw Blog at the time, but was discontinued. The concept is simple, even if the application of it is a little more complicated. In this solution, college basketball would take the concept of the FA Cup as well as the Champions League from English and European soccer. There would be an NCAA Cup that starts the year, which would essentially take the place of the non-conference schedule. This would be a single elimination tournament with all 351 teams, similar to that of England’s FA Cup. Next would be conference play, in which every conference would play a full round robin in league play. This would be used to qualify for the Champions League Tournament, which would take the place of the NCAA Tournament.

Before going in to the details, I’d like to explain the advantages to this setup. First of all, as the NCAA Cup would take place in the fall, it would draw attention to the sport that really isn’t all that present in November with the current system. Another positive with this setup would be an increase in marquee games taking place on campus. There has been a recent trend of most high profile non-conference games taking place in neutral sites, whether they are in the influx of non-conference tournaments or events such as the Champions Classic. They can be fun, but the atmosphere just isn’t the same. What would you rather see: Kentucky vs. Duke being played in Chicago, or Kentucky vs. Duke being played at Rupp Arena? With the FA Cup and the Champions League, the amount of neutral site games would be drastically limited.

Another positive is that the each game in conference play becomes more crucial. Unlike now, where a team could finish 8th in the Big Ten and still be in the NCAA Tournament, the most bids a conference is may earn is four, and bids will be determined solely on where you finish in conference. Because of the full round robin schedule, teams will see each team in their conference at home and on the road, so there won’t be any teams receiving an advantage of facing an easier schedule.

As is the case with Ryan’s and Steve’s football simulations, this simulation will utilize for every match.

Here is how each of the two tournaments would break down. The NCAA Cup, as mentioned earlier, would be a single elimination tournament involving all 351 Division 1 teams. As this would be the first set of games to start the year, the seeding of the 351 teams would be determined from how the team did last year. Different ratings can be used to do this, but in this simulation, I will be using Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. So for the 2014-2015 FA Cup, for example, the seedings would be based on the final 2013-2014 KenPom ratings. The team’s seeding reflects what round that team enters in to the tournament. This is the schedule for the first few rounds:

Round 1: Teams 250-351 (102 teams): 51 teams advance
Round 2: 51 winners + Teams 165-249 (85 teams): 68 teams advance
Round 3: 68 winners: 34 teams advance
Round 4: 34 winners + Teams 91-164 (74 teams): 54 teams advance
Round 5: 54 winners + Teams 61-90 (30 teams): 42 teams advance
Round 6: 42 winners + Teams 27-60 (34 teams): 38 teams advance
Round 7: 38 winners + Team 1-26: 64 total teams. 64 team tournament from this time forward, with random draws each round…

Each round would start with a random draw, where any team could be matched with any other in that group. So, theoretically, when Round 7 begins, the top two teams could theoretically play each other. It’s also possible to play a team in their conference at any given time. Every game until the semifinals and the finals would be played on campus, with home team also randomly determined. Only the semis and the finals would be played on a neutral site, and in the NCAA Cup, this would be held at the same site each year- Indianapolis (much like the FA Cup Final is held at Wembley Stadium every year).

The more prestigious of the two tournaments, and the one that would determine the year-end national champion, would be the Champions League Tournament. Spots in the Champions League Tournament would be determined by how a team finishes in their respective league. The Champions League Tournament would be a 32 team tournament that is set up somewhat similarly to the World Cup. 22 teams would qualify directly into the Group Stage, while the last ten spots would be determined by two separate qualifying tournaments (one called the ‘League’, and the other called the ‘Champ’). Each would deliver five teams to the Group Stage.

The number of spots given to each conference will be determined by how teams in those conferences perform in the Champions League, both in qualifying and the actual tournament, but to begin with, the conferences are ranked by a two year average of the top five teams in each conference per KenPom. It’s somewhat arbitrary, but it produced ratings that made sense to start with. This is how the conferences break down, and the number of bids each conference receives:

Top 3 leagues (1-3): 3 group, 1 league playoff (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12)
Next 3 leagues (4-6): 2 group, 1 league playoff (Pac 12, SEC, Big East)
Next 7 leagues (7-13): 1 group, 1 league playoff (AAC, A10, MWC, WCC, MVC, CUSA, MAC)
Next 2 leagues (14-15): 1 champ playoff bye, 1 league qualify (Horizon, Ivy)
2 lowest rated leagues (31-32): 1 champ playoff (WAC, SWAC)
Other leagues (16-30): 1 champ quailfy

These will be the bids per conference the first two years, but beginning the third year, a point system will determine where the conferences stand. Conferences that perform well in the Tournament will have the ability to gain more bids in the future, while those that don’t perform well could potentially lose bids. This is how the point system will be set up:

League Playoff:
Making qualification round: 1
Making second round: 2
Making third round: 3

Champ Playoff:
Making qualification round: 0
Making second round: 1
Making third round: 2

Group qualification: 5
Round of 16: 7.5
Round of 8: 10
Round of 4: 12.5
Round of 2: 15
Champion: 20

So if, for example, the Big 12 had a year where Kansas made it to the Round of 8 (10 points), Iowa St. and Baylor made it to the Group Stage (5 points each), and Oklahoma St. made it to the second round of the league playoff (3 points), the Big 12 would earn 23 points for that year. The results would be weighted over a 4 year period, with Year 1 weighted 100%, Year 2 weighted 75%, Year 3 weighted 50%, and year 4 weighted 25%.

Now, we’ll take a more detailed look at the qualifying tournaments, starting with the League Playoff, which represents the playoff for the higher rated conferences. There are three rounds of home-and-home series. Should the teams split the two games, point differential will be the tie breaker. The first round, called the Qualification round, pits the 2nd place teams of conferences rated 14th and 15th. These will be the Ivy and the Horizon to start with. The winner advances to the second round, where it joins one team from each of the top 13 conferences. At that point, teams are organized by their current year KenPom rating (unlike the NCAA Cup, which uses the prior year’s rating). The six highest rated teams get a bye to the third round, while the four highest remaining teams play a series against one of the four lowest remaining teams. Finally, the third round will take the remaining ten teams and play one more series, with the five highest rated teams playing the five lowest remaining teams. Those five winners advance to the Group Stage.

The Champ Playoff, which represents the smaller leagues, has a similar process- three rounds of home-and-home series, with point differential the tie breaker. The first round, also called the Qualification round, will have the winners of the two worst conferences facing each other- to start with, this will be the SWAC and the WAC. That winner advances to the second round, joining the fifteen winners of leagues rated 16 through 30. These teams will be sorted by their KenPom rating, with the top eight rated teams playing a series against the eight lowest rated teams. Those eight winners advance to third round, where the winners of the 14th and 15th rated teams join the fray. Once again, the top five rated teams play the lowest five rated teams in a series to determine five schools to advance into the Group Stage.

Once teams reach the Group Stage, teams are put into four pots and drawn into eight groups, just as it is done in the World Cup. The teams in each pot are determined by their KenPom rating, so if the top eight teams in the nation per KenPom all made it to the Group Stage, those would be placed into Pot A, and so on and so forth. The only rule with drawing the groups is that no more than one team from a conference can be placed into a given group. I could imagine this becoming just as big, if not bigger, than Selection Sunday currently is.

After the draw, each four team group would play a home-and-home series against the rest of their group. (Just a side note- another fun thing about this setup is that you have the potential for powerhouse programs playing on the road against low-major schools. Imagine Coach K bringing Duke in for a road game against a program like Stephen F. Austin.) The top two teams from each group would advance to the knockout rounds, which at that point becomes a single elimination tournament until a champion is determined. Teams that win their group get an advantage in the Round of 16, as they are rewarded with a home game against a team who finished second in another group. The Round of 8, the Semifinals, and the Finals will all take place at a neutral site, which would move around the country each year.

So, that is the NCAA Champions League in a nutshell. I’ll be back later this week to show the results of the first season.

The NBA draft is coming up


So, this is going to be my last post for a week, but I did want to mention one thing that will be happening during the interim. n Thursday night, we get to find out which teams our favorite college players (as well as Kirstaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja) will start their NBA career with.

There isn’t much drama for the Timberwolves, as it is widely speculated that they will take Karl Anthony Towns — most notably by Towns himself. If they go another route, the only other route they go would be the one that takes them to Jahlil Okafor. Either way, the Timberwoves are drafting a center.

In their previous two chances at the number 1 pick, they barely missed out on on Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning in 1992, and Kyrie Irving in 2011, but now they have the pick of the litter in 2015.

Naturally, it appears that somehow, they are going to be too late with their pick despite having the first overall selection. The Warriors won the NBA title this year with a smallish lineup. Sure, they had a decent center in Andrew Bogut, but really, the team was driven by guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, with no small help from forwards Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. They played small and were successful. You don’t need bigs to win if your guard play is strong enough.

Now seems like a good time to point out that the Timberwolves passed on selecting Curry in 2009. Catching on too late again.


Have a great week, everyone. Steve and Eric will take good care of you.

Links of the Day 6/22/15

Good morning! Thunderstorms get you up today? Just wait until what happens in Wisconsin tonight.

The Europa and Champions leagues drew their qualifying rounds today. Rosenborg will play Vikingur of the Faeroe Islands. Here are a few other notable pairings.

Jordan Spieth won the US Open. The golf one.

Well, this should be interesting. Diego Maradona is running for FIFA president. That should end corruption.

Nothing last night, as it was all in the afternoon

Where does Bill Simmons land?


I think Steve and I can both say with some confidence that the author that first got us into writing on the internet was Bill Simmons. Page 2, when it began, was a unique take on sports and sports writing, and Simmons was the one who catered most to our demographic. That is to say, he heavily referenced the Real World, movies and modern music. Simmons was the star of the site, and he brought me back to Page 2. Eventually, I discovered Bat-Girl, which led me to Deadspin, and ultimately opened my eyes to what was then referred to as the blogosphere.

Admittedly, I have followed Simmons less as his star has grown. The biggest reason for this was his tilt towards the self indulgent, as well as a narrower focus on the NBA. It became fairly clear that he just wasn’t interested in other sports, and just didn’t bring the same knowledge with his unique perspective any longer.

Still, now that he is being kicked out of ESPN, and his contract ends in August, allowing him to work elsewhere in September. Many are thinking that he could end up going to a major network like NBC or Fox, or perhaps a large website like Yahoo, but I don’t think that suits Simmons.

Simmons started from the bottom and built his own legacy through his writing before he was brought aboard at ESPN. That was part of his original appeal, and I think that may appeal to him again: more control and greater independence. He’s been on TV, and a more independent role would allow him to freelance wherever he pleases. That’s why my prediction is this.

Bill Simmons will sign on with a smaller or more independent site like Sports on Earth, or perhaps start his own site, and during basketball season, work with TNT. We’ll see how it plays out.

Links of the day 6/21/15

What a gorgeous day for a weekend. I hope you are reading these after luxuriating outside for a while, preferably celebrating Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day, dads!

The Twins may be getting Aaron Hicks’ bat back in the lineup sooner rather than later. Who could have thought that would be a good thing?

The Diamondbacks made a super weird trade last night. 

Oh, and by the way… Max Scherzer nearly threw a perfect game, and is pretty good at baseball.

Chicago White Sox 3, Texas 2 – The White Sox did it! They won a game!
Chicago Cubs 4, Minnesota 1 – The Cubs lost the opener. They woudn’t let it happen a second time.
Rosenborg 2, Sarpsborg 0 – RBK Comes out of the international break looking pretty good.
Chicago White Sox 3, Texas 2 – Is this a rerun?
Chicago Cubs 8, Minnesota 0 – Dexter Fowler hit a grand slam off the Twins, if you were wondering how bad Minnesota looked.

2015 Tiger Woods in a visual metaphor

Not only has Tiger Woods completely upended his personal life, but he also looks hapless on the golf course. And not just like a bad golfer, but literally incapable of basic function. It’s getting close to the point that I feel bad for him.

Links of the Day 6/20/15

Hey. Just a reminder, starting on Tuesday, I will be on a quick hiatus as I move and go on vacation. Don’t miss me too much.

Herschel Walker believes he could play in the NFL. Some Minnesota fans would say that he couldn’t play even when he was in the NFL.

Alex Rodriguez is the latest member of the 3000 hit club.

Golfer Jason Day collapsed at the US Open. Fortunately, it sounds like his OK.

Texas 2, Chicago White Sox 1 – The White Sox ship is listing to the side, soon to be completely submerged.
Minnesota 7, Chicago Cubs 2 – Buxton > Bryant

Friday’s happy thought: The Future is here


Remember all that conversation about how there were so many mediocre veterans on the roster at the expense of younger players who could help the team make the next step? How there were so many mediocre players on the roster that weren’t going to excite anyone? Well, here we are, a few months into the season, and things are getting decidedly more interesting.

The Twins have jettisoned Jordan Schafer now, and with 5 outfielders on the roster (Torii Hunter, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks and Shane Robinson) I have to believe that Robinson’s time is drawing short with the Twins. With a full outfield already, and the potential of either Oswaldo Arcia and/or Miguel Sano needing to occupy a spot in the very near future, it seems incredibly unlikely that Hunter will be back next year either. At that point, Hicks (probably a 4th outfielder, or maybe platooning with Rosario) would be the oldest player in the outfield. And it would be a good outfield too, with at least one big bat (be it Sano or Arica) and two good defenders (Buxton, Hicks or Rosario) depending on the orientation.

The pitching staff may take a little time to work itself out, thanks to some contract issues, but we can look at the outfield, see that the Twins have a lot of talent available out there and feel good about the future.

Links of the Day 6/19/15

I don’t know why I remember this, but when I was between 4th and 5th grade, on June 19th, I fell, hit my head and got 5 stitches. Anyways, here’s hoping today goes better.

Jordan Schafer was released, which is a good baseball decision.

The Twins won in a walkoff yesterday. 

Tiger Woods was really bad in the first round of the US Open.

Minnesota 2, St. Louis 1 – The Twins scored their two runs with two homers. Just like you expected.
Pittsburgh 3, Chicago 2 – The Pirates had a 4 game sweep of the White Sox. Not optimal.