Sunday, 29 September 2013

NFL Week Four Tips

Greetings all, it's time for Week Four of the NFL tipping season, which should be a good indicator of whether I've had bad luck or am just plain bad this season. After changing my pick at the last mind to San Fran last week (thanks Grantland...), I stuck with them for the Thursday game, and it certainly helped, with an easy cover starting the week off strong.

Here's the bad part: I'm not particularly confident this week. Let's just rip into the picks, and the categories they fall into:

"I'm not meant to take road favourites, right??":

Baltimore (-3) over Buffalo

Cincinnati (-3) over Cleveland

Indianapolis (-7.5) over Jacksonville

Seattle (-2) over Houston

Washington (-3.5) over Oakland

"Home teams who will now lose":

San Diego (+2) over Dallas

"I've changed my mind, this won't end well":

Pittsburgh (-3) over Minnesota 

Arizona (+2.5) over Tampa Bay

"I really don't love it":

Tennessee (-3.5) over New York Jets. 

Philadelphia (+12) over Denver  

"Surprisingly confident":

Kansas City (-4) over New York Giants

Atlanta (-2.5) over NE

Chicago (+3) over Detroit

New Orleans (-6.5) over Miami

Back tomorrow with some NBA talk.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Player Ratings: Wellington Phoenix v New Zealand A

The Wellington Phoenix and New Zealand A played out a 1-1 draw in Rotorua today, with both teams taking this encounter as a crucial hitout and chance to tinker and evaluate players before their respective upcoming matches.

As such, the result was largely academic, with player evaluation and sorting out who is fit for higher honours the bigger priority for coaches Ernie Merrick and Ricki Herbert respectively.

I took a close look at proceedings and determined which players were the most likely to have put their hand up for a bigger role in both the All Whites and Phoenix squads in the near future.

Wellington Phoenix:

Jacob Spoonley

The new Team Wellington gloveman started shakily but recovered as the game went along, coming out of his box well to clear on occasion and also pulling off a superb save from Jeremy Brockie, tipping it over the bar late in the game. Will have put himself in the box seat for starting in Week One with Moss and Italiano likely to be unavailable.

Rating: 7

Reece Caira

Didn’t do anything to assure Phoenix fans that he’s their left back of the future, struggling at times to assert him against the tricky Matthew Ridenton and roaming Brockie.

Rating: 5.5

Ben Sigmund

Strong in the tackle as ever, and sound at the back, Sigmund was predictably the strongest defender on display for the Phoenix. Exploited the lack of elite pace on the opposition to bully his way into winning possession.

Rating: 8

Michael Boxall

Struggled a bit with the all-round talents of Jeremy Brockie, missed a guilt-edged diving chance for the lead. Not an overly convincing option, showed signs of versatility with a move to left back late in the game.

Rating: 6.5

Louis Fenton

After a promising start, Fenton went down after aggressively, yet innocuously challenging his former teammate Tony Lochhead, landing heavily on his shoulder and immediately writhing in pain. With coach Ernie Merrick confirming the injury as a dislocated shoulder after the game, Fenton will be on the sidelines for at least six weeks.

Rating: N/A

Manny Muscat

While his trademark defensive hustle was present throughout, Muscat’s passing petered off a bit in the second half, after a promising opening with strong ball retention. He showed more than Jake Butler, Vince Lia or Cole Peverley, but will be disappointed with the amount of ball New Zealand A’s midfield received.

Rating: 7

Vince Lia

As always, Lia was caught up in the midfield battle, putting in tackles and sideways passes but providing very little go forward. First came to fruition with a foul, and didn’t provide much else.

Rating: 5

Alex Rufer

The 17-year old looked comfortable in the Phoenix element, providing a tidy creative foil for Carlos Hernandez. The son of Shane got into some productive areas and came very close to scoring, having a strong effort saved by Glen Moss.

Rating: 7

Carlos Hernandez

Excellent striving forward, comfortable in possession, and possessing a rare Phoenix ability of being able to actually cross past the first man, Hernandez looked very adept in his comeback from a quad strain. An audacious attempt at goal nearly came off, and the Costa Rican had some quality outside of the foot passes, and impressed with his vision and creativity.

Rating: 8

Hamish Watson

After some very nice displays in pre-season, this was likely the first pre-season match where he offered little in attack. Although he was reasonably strong in the air, I have to disagree with Merrick’s assertion of “a terrific game”. Then again, Ernie knows a lot more about football than me.

Rating: 6

Stein Huysegems

An excellent target man, Huysegems showed off the full range of his talents in front of the Rotorua crowd. An excellent diagonal run combined with excellent control embarrassed Moss for the opening goal, as he waltzed it into the empty net. The former Belgian international provided some good deliveries from out wide, including a quick-thinking cross from a short free-kick that Boxall agonisingly couldn’t finish at the back post.

Rating: 9

Substitutes:

Justin Gulley (22nd minute)

Gulley hugely impressed with his workrate and speed. A combative tackler, Gulley also got down the wing well, a trait Merrick will enjoy. The Phoenix youth product could benefit from the unfortunate Fenton injury, with a spot having opened up at right back for the opening few games of the season.

Rating: 8

Josh Brindell-South (59th minute)

The recently signed Australian got put onto the wing for his sixty minute spell. He was active, but couldn’t harness the final product in an un-preferred position.

Rating: 6

Luke Adams (66th minute)

Sound but largely unnoticeable.

Rating: 5.5

Tobias Bertsch (66th minute)

Put in some handy work in the midfield, possessed tricky feet but couldn’t find the final ball.

Rating: 5.5

Tyler Boyd (83rd minute)

First game back from a wrist injury, set up Muscat for a good chance but the Maltese international’s touch was just a bit too heavy.

Rating: 5.5

James McPeake (83rd minute)

Had nothing to do except for drawing comparisons to Jens Lehmann for his straggly hair.

Rating: N/A

New Zealand A:

Glen Moss

After some early unconvincing moments, Moss initially recovered with a nice save from Rufer. However, Huysegems made him look silly when he didn’t commit himself to a through ball, and was eventually stranded in no-mans land as he was rounded by the Belgian. Finished strongly before being replaced late.

Rating: 6

Leo Bertos

Could still be an option for Merrick at right back after a strong performance. Bertos got forward well throughout the game, and was sound at the back. He turned provider for the only goal for his side, after playing in Ridenton he continued his run, received the return pass before crossing it in for Clapham to finish.

Rating: 7.5

Ivan Vicelich


Competent as ever, Vicelich dealt fairly well with all that was thrown at him. The All Whites veteran defies his girly haircut with some tough challenges, and today was no different.

Rating: 7

Andrew Durante


Some blame was laid at Durante’s feet for the first first goal, with Huysegems sliding in behind him and beating the offside trap. However, the recent convert made up for it with a superb sliding challenge to stop a likely off-side Watson from scoring.

Rating: 6.5

Tony Lochhead


In an encounter where he had a chance to prove to Merrick that he’s a much better player than the Phoenix’s left back options, Lochhead’s only real contribution was the unfortunate collision with Fenton.

Rating: 5.5

Matthew Ridenton


The talented Ridenton was everywhere for NZ A, with the youngster having a near-complete game. After showing nice skill on the wing in the first half, Ridenton combined with Bertos to set up Clapham’s goal, before moving into a more central role to create more chances. The Phoenix trialist showed some superb touches and turns, as well as an eye for a tackle, and received high praise from both coaches after the match.

Rating: 9

Jake Butler


Waitakere’s Chatham Cup final scorer, Butler worked hard defensively without shining like in prior NZ A encounters, and played a back seat to Clapham in the quest for an All Whites berth.

Rating: 6

Aaron Clapham


One of the game’s best, Clapham had a superb game. Dangerous from set pieces, he also battled hard to win possession in the midfield and strung together some very tidy phases. Managed to get on the scoresheet after a strong run forward to be in the perfect position to touch home Bertos’ cross, finishing off a near-perfect day for the Canterbury stalwart.

Rating: 9.5

Cole Peverley


Played some decent passes without any penetration, offering more fouls than production in a defensive midfield role. Peverley has had some nice games recently, but today was not his finest.

Rating: 5

Jason Hicks


A fantastic player in the ASB Premiership, Hicks will be disappointed not to have made a stronger claim for higher honours in this encounter. Tidy in a slightly unfamiliar role, he was missing his usual dose of creativity.

Rating: 5.5

Jeremy Brockie


Brockie’s work rate was immense as lone target man, a promising sign considering he copped some criticism for his lack of workrate in Phoenix colours last season. Had some good efforts saved as he continues to work his way back into the Phoenix fray after time away in Toronto.

Rating: 7.5

Substitutes:


Ian Hogg (59th minute)

Didn’t do much to separate himself from Lochhead as the battle for the All Whites left back spot continues.

Rating: 5.5

Aaron Scott (70th minute)


Got forward well with an adept header to set up a Brockie chance. Battled hard with former Melville teammate Tyler Boyd on the wing.

Rating: 5.5

Tamati Williams (70th minute)


Wasn’t given too much to deal with in his 20 minute spell.

Rating: N/A

Stuart Holthusen (83rd minute)


Not given enough time to make an impact

Rating: N/A

Adam Mitchell (83rd minute)


Covered potential attacks well in his short time on the field.
Rating: N/A

Saturday, 21 September 2013

NFL: Week Three Tips

Before we get into the Week Three Tips, I would just like to take up the 20 seconds of your time you spend scrolling over this for a thank you. 

As you may notice, this is the 100th post on From The Carpark, and how fitting that fate will have it take the form of terrible NFL tipping advice. With work cutting into time I can spend writing on the blog, it'll mostly be tipping or nonsensical sports stuff on here in future, as well as anything I write in other places which I decide I can post here also - there are some good things planned.

In short, I really do appreciate everyone reading this, long may it continue, and hopefully we got some more people on board.

Now, onto the Week 3 picks. I went 9-7 last week, and it was a bit of an unlucky 9-7 too, but hopefully that will even out over time. Unfortunately, I got too cute with yesterday's pick, talking myself into a non-existent home advantage when I rate the Chiefs more highly than the Eagles. Ah, well.

Here are my plays for this week:

Green Bay (-2.5) over Cincinnati

Dallas (-3.5) over Saint Louis

San Diego (+3) over Tennessee

Minnesota (-6.5) over Cleveland

Tampa Bay (+8.5) over New England

New Orleans (-7) over Arizona

Detroit (+1) over Washington

New York Giants (Pick) over Carolina

Houston (Pick) over Baltimore

Atlanta (+3) over Miami

New York Jets (-1) over Buffalo

San Fransisco (-9.5) over Indianapolis

Jacksonville (+20) over Seattle

Chicago (-1) over Pittsburgh

Denver (-15) over Oakland

I thought about giving analysis for each pick, but it would only range between these explanations:

"I still believe in them!!!" (Detroit and Tampa)

"Screw home advantage, I'm taking the better team" (Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay)

"I really have no clue" (New York Giants, New Orleans, San Diego)

"I can't justify taking a team with this big a spread" (Jacksonville)

"Oh, wait, it's the Raiders" (The Raiders)

100 posts in the book, and the quality seemingly hasn't gotten any stronger. 

Good luck in Week Three


Friday, 13 September 2013

NFL Week 2 Tips: Back To Basics

Gidday everyone, hope your well. Before I begin this Week 2 NFL Tipping post, here is a list of things I've sworn not to talk about in this week's column:


  • Tampa Bay blowing an extremely winnable game against the Jets, not helping my season over/unders in the slightest.
  • The Colts being so incompetent that they needed a late interception to beat the freaking Raiders
  • Pittsburgh being laughably bad, which in one sense was good, but made my tip suffer.
  • Saint Louis and Houston winning but somehow not covering their tiny spreads.
  • Every late game proving to be a shocker for me.
  • This tweet from Chad Millman: "Reality check of betting on #NFL: 8 of 12 games today were within a score of going either way ATS in last five minutes of 4th quarter."

Here's what I will talk about - my superb tip on the Jets v Patriots game! Anybody who follows me on Twitter would have seen me tip out the Jets (+13), and it pulled through, with Tom Brady's lack of receiving options causing to be problematic for the Patriots offence.

And with that, I go to 1-0 on the week, which will hopefully be a bounce-back week after my shocking efforts last week. It was a poor week for most on the spread (I went 11-5 H2H strangely), but it wasn't totally unexpected, with Week One always being tough to pick.

Research has gone back out the window after the bad experiment last week, I'm going with my old tried and trusted method this week - lets start with the picks I like the most, and see if it makes any difference to my success ratio.

Jacksonville (+6) over Oakland

Oakland are still woeful. This is a fact. They don't deserve to be favoured by three points over anyone, let alone six. Plus, I believe in Chad Henne!

New York Giants (+5.5) over Denver

Sure, the Giants are an erratic team, but would it really be a surprise to anyone if Eli upended Peyton here, especially at home? I think this is a slight week one over-reaction.

Tampa Bay (+4) over New Orleans

Another home underdog (this is how smart people tip, right?), I still believe in Tampa despite their very underwhelming performance last weekend.

Detroit (Pick) over Arizona

Detroit were unlucky not to totally crush Minnesota, with their offence being extremely productive in Week One. While Arizona were solid too, I was very impressed with Detroit and feel they should be able to steal this one on the road.

And the rest....

Seattle (-1) over San Francisco

This is going to be one of the games of the year, and although I was very impressed of what I saw out of Colin Kaepernick in Week One, I just can't pick against Seattle at home, especially when I think they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. I shopped around to get the -1 line, if you can get San Francisco at a nice price heads-up, then by all means jump on it.

Atlanta (-6.5) over Saint Louis

Atlanta aren't going 0-2, and I think they'll have enough fire-power to cover the spread even without Roddy White. Not confident however.

Carolina (-1.5) over Buffalo

Carolina are a legitimately excellent defensive team, especially against the run - Buffalo's major weapon. I see this one as close and potentially low scoring, but I believe Cam Newton can outplay EJ Manuel and get the Panthers back onto a .500 pegging.

Chicago (-5.5) over Minnesota

I was talked into backing the Vikings last weekend and it didn't work out, whilst I continue to believe in the Bears this season. The spread is a slight concern but I'll stick with my guns.

Green Bay (-7.5) over Washington

Ugh. I really don't like how many points are on the table here. I nearly grabbed the points with Washington (+9) at 5Dimes.eu, but in the end I couldn't see how their defence is stopping Aaron Rodgers. A stay away for me.

Indianapolis (-2.5) over Miami

Another tough one to call, with Miami's defence being a fairly strong unit. The key to this one will be whether Lamar Miller can take advantage of the Colts' poor run defence, or whether he runs for 3 yards on 10 carries again. Taking the home team here, it's as simple-minded as that.

Kansas City (-2.5) over Dallas

Arrowhead! I loved the Chiefs in Week One, admittedly it was the Jaguars, but the Cowboys weren't too flash themselves despite an eventual victory first up. If Kansas City are to be believed as a playoff team this year, they go and win this encounter.

Seven favourites in a row.... This isn't good....

San Diego (+9) over Philadelphia

I liked the Eagles in this encounter all week. The Chargers, fresh off over-achieving, are having to travel to face a team with a wacky, hard-to-scout offence who were the major talking points of Week One. 

Then I saw the line. I just can't bring myself to back the Eagles as nine point favourites against a team not named the Raiders. Consider this a "Prove It" game before I can start backing them regularly.

Baltimore (-6.5) over Cleveland

Again - Ugh. If my Ravens lose this one, we are pretty much done for. However, I'm not overreacting to a Week One loss, regardless of how brutal it was. Remember - we're playing Brandon Weeden. Isn't there a "Don't back Brandon Weeden on the road" rule? I feel there should be.

Tennessee (+10.5) over Houston

Wow, people really don't rate the Steelers all of a sudden. I don't think the Titans defence is thaaaat good, but what if they are, and that means 10.5 points is crazy high? I'll take the points and hide in my Jake Locker bunker.

Cincinnati (-7) over Pittsburgh

Wow, people REALLY don't rate the Steelers! After last week I can't bring myself to back the odious Steelers again. Hopefully the Bengals do us all a favour and crush them.

So, there we have it! I'm more confident in these tips then last week's lot, let's hope we drag ourselves back out of the mire this weekend, so the 100th post is something to celebrate about!

Until then!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

ANBL Import Dossier: Part Two

NFL tips: coming tomorrow. Check my twitter - @NiallGunner - if you're desperate enough for a Friday night tip. Otherwise, here's Part Two of my ANBL coverage recently posted on NZHoops.


In case you missed Part One of our all-encompassing coverage of this year’s crop of ANBL imports, just scroll down a little. Otherwise, here’s Part Two, detailing everything you need to know about the remaining imports.

NZ Breakers

Kerron Johnson

Bio:

Height: 6’1’’

Position: Point Guard

Age: 22

College: Belmont

Last Team: Belmont

I wrote a piece weighing up the signing of Kerron Johnson at the time, but it could be worth recapping his talents, and what he will bring to the Breaker organisation, via a quick scouting report.

Scoring: An excellent off-the-bounce creator, Johnson has the speed to create opportunities for himself at the hoop, while he is also very effective at pushing the ball in transition on fast breaks. Three-point shooting isn’t his forte, but that could be made irrelevant if his defenders can stay in front of him.

Passing: Johnson averaged five dimes per game in the slow-it-down confines of college basketball, so he should be able to manufacture scoring opportunities against stingy defences such as Wollongong. He also has good vision, meaning there could be plenty of fast break three-point opportunities for the likes of Daryl Corletto and Corey Webster. His turnover rate is a concern (20% in college), but his 29.2% assist rate is also fairly impressive.

Defence: Here we could find a problem, and it really isn’t Johnson’s fault. His six-foot stature means that he is never going to be superb defensively, and bigger guards such as Shawn Dennis will be able to create his own shot against Johnson time and time again. However, he averaged just under two steals per game throughout his college career, and his predecessor, Cedric Jackson, showed that hedging and gambling for steals can work to an extent in the ANBL. So while you may see opposing guards have big days offensively against Johnson, they may also be committing far too many turnovers, negating that advantage.

Overall: Like most college seniors, Johnson is a fairly polished product, and somebody who should fit into the Breaker system quite well. His speed will naturally create him plenty of scoring opportunities, but the level of his success will most likely be determined by the quality of his decision-making.

Darnell Lazare

Bio:

Height: 6’8’’

Position: Power Forward

Age: 28

College: LSU

Last Team: Sydney Kings

The Breakers put their stock in youth with signing Johnson, but consolidated that gamble with the ANBL experience of Lazare with their second import slot.

An underrated contributor with the Kings last season, Lazare put up very strong numbers on a consistent basis, ending the season with averages of 11 points and seven rebounds a game.

Essentially, Lazare replaces the energetic Will Hudson on the Breakers squad, which with all things considered will most likely be a positive move. Lazare brings more facets to his game than Hudson, being a better shot creator and having more range to his shooting repertoire. While he is a lesser defender and offensive rebounder, Lazare is able to knock down a mid-range shot with prolific success, shooting 49% from above the free-throw line.

While Hudson was a never-ending source of energy and offensive rebounding, that’s something Mika Vukona can provide, meaning the import spot can be better utilised on Lazare’s multi-dimensional talents.

A big man rotation of Pledger, Vukona, Lazare and potentially Jack Salt could be a very handy asset for the Breakers this season.

Sydney Kings

Jesse Sanders

Bio:

Height: 6’3’’

Position: Point Guard

Age: 24

College: Liberty

Last Team: Fileni BPA Jesi (Italy)

Jesse Sanders has had a record-breaking past, and he now has some new accomplishments in his line of sight.

Sanders had a remarkable college career at Liberty, becoming the first ever Division One college player to record a triple double in four different seasons. If that’s not impressive enough, he was also the first ever Division One player to have 1,000 points, 800 rebounds, and 700 assists in his career.

If you’ll allow me a paragraph where I go all statistical on you, Sanders had some incredible advanced college statistics also. During his time at Liberty, Sanders recorded a True Shooting Percentage of 62%, while also averaging nine rebounds and nine assists per 40 minutes, ultimately resulting in a win share per 40 minutes figure of 9.85. Sanders is fifth all-time in rebounds for Liberty, despite the fact that he is a point guard.

Despite the fact that he nearly averaged a triple double in college, Sanders went undrafted, instead spending a year playing in Italy, where he showed good efficiency with shooting splits of 53/34/76. “The Colonel” doesn’t shoot the three-ball much, and, much like the Crocodiles’ Josh Pace – we’ll get to him soon – knows his limitations. Sanders isn’t the quickest or best athlete in the league, making him defensive suspect, but his insane all-round production should make Sydney fans very pleased.

Charles Carmouche

Bio:

Height: 6’4’’

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 22

College: UNO/Memphis/LSU

Last Team: LSU

Charles Carmouche doesn’t quite have the name-recognition or impressive credentials coming out college as the likes of Johnson and McCamey, but there are still signs that he can be a strong contributor in the ANBL.

A very potent outside shooter, Carmouche will offer a bit of everything for the Kings. The LSU product averaged 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in his final collegiate year, and will be counted on for similar production and efficiency in Sydney.

Like Cairns, it seems Sydney are going down the path of having two imported guards, at least until Ben Magden comes back from injury. We’ll see if Carmouche manages to stick around for the length of the season.


Townsville Crocodiles

Brian Conklin

Bio:

Height: 6’6’’

Position: Power Forward

Age: 23

College: Saint Louis

Last Team: Southland Sharks

I’m going to start with some frank honesty: I am not the right person to talk about Brian Conklin.

As the first non-Southlander to jump aboard the Conklin bandwagon, he lived up to all the hype I was giving him with a superb NBL season with the Southland Sharks, being named the most outstanding forward and winning a title in his first pro experience.

An extremely consistent performer, Conklin could do it all in the NBL, with his superb athleticism and hands being miles above most other big men in the league. Additionally, he was a great person to interview, leading to him being mentioned in 20 articles on NZHoops, the majority of which came from yours truly.

Conklin’s attributes are well suited to the ANBL, where he will likely be playing as a traditional power forward. Superbly efficient, the energetic big man brings great touch and speed for someone his size, as well as quick hands on defence. Big men can’t stay in front of him, and smaller players get posted up with ease as Conklin muscles his way to the hoop (where he shoots an incredibly high percentage).

So, of course, having seen Conklin play so much this year and written so many words about him, I’m firmly of the belief that he’ll be a great pick-up for the Crocs. I may be a little biased.

Josh Pace

Bio:

Height: 6’5’’

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 30

College: Syracuse

Last Team: Nelson Giants

A consistently excellent performer in for the Giants and the Hawks in the NBL, Pace finally makes the step up to the ANBL at the age of 30. The question is – will he succeed?

A former NBL MVP, Pace brings a vastly different skill-set to the jettisoned Gary Ervin for the Crocodiles. The former Syracuse title winner is an excellent scorer inside the paint, and also rebounds excellently for his position, crossing into double-digit territory several times this season, and leading his Nelson side in rebounds.

Despite these excellent abilities – do these core skills translate to the quicker, bigger, ANBL level?

It’s a fair question, as Pace’s strengths will be somewhat negated by faster defenders in front of him, as well as bigger bodies to deal with in the paint.

The Crocs won’t get much three-point shooting or passing wizardry from him, but they’ll be hoping the 30 year old can use his experience, tactical nous and bag of tricks to step up to the ANBL level late in his career.

Wollongong Hawks

Rotnei Clarke

Bio:

Height: 6’0’’

Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Age: 24

College: Arkansas/Butler

Last Team: Butler

It has been a weird offseason for the Wollongong Hawks , having to adjust to having a new GM, 11 outgoing free agents and a reported tighter budget.

With that in mind, their signing of Rotnei Clarke was a superb acquisition.

A combo guard, Clarke played for Butler last season, and was superb, averaging 17 points, three rebounds and three assists per game whilst shooting 41% from deep. Clarke led the Bulldogs in scoring, three-point field goals (115), free throw shooting (.886) and minutes played (33.3), showing why he received more than 2,500 scholarship letters when coming out of high school.

Clarke’s main role on the Hawks will be to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, meaning he could legitimately have a 30 point game and also win several “Stop Shooting” weekly awards. As you can probably tell, he’s not a pass-first player, with Hawks coach Gordie McLeod likely to play him at shooting guard.

Clarke’s shooting ability is near unprecedented in the ANBL. The 115 made three-pointers were the second most ever by a Butler player, while he also makes his free throws at a very high rate. As a sophomore at Arknasas, Clarke hit 13 threes in a game, while his lowest ever seasonal three point percentage is 41%.

If the Hawks offence can get Clarke the ball in space, then the kid from Butler may just well take the league by storm.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

ANBL Import Dossier: Part One


In the ANBL, it’s well known that the quality of your imports is the main key to success. Complementing your imports with star locals like Kirk Penney, Mark Worthington and Ben Magden is helpful, but in the end, an elite import will push a good squad into the realms of title contention.

Recruit Awvee Storey, and you’re not going far. However, snare a gem like Cedric Jackson to add to various role players and highly skilled local talent, and there’s a title winner waiting to be unleashed. Over the past four years, the quality of import talent has increased, with highly-credentialed imports winning the MVP award for the past four years running.

Put simply, scouting overseas talent has never been more important in the ANBL, and due to that, I’ve decided to put together a dossier on all the import talent confirmed to be playing in the ANBL, compiling all you need to know about the league’s newest personalities.

Some will be jettisoned after six games; while it’s highly likely you’ll be seeing one of these names striding up to receive the MVP award come the end of the season. Let’s start with one of the biggest offseason movers, the Adelaide 36ers.

Adelaide 36ers

Gary Ervin

Bio:

Height: 6’0’’

Position: Point Guard

Age: 30

College: Mississippi State, Arkansas

Last Team: Townsville Crocodiles

There’s a reason why the Adelaide 36ers are receiving so much contender hype, and is name is Gary Ervin.

Ervin is a well-known quantity to even the most sporadic ANBL followers, having won the 2011 MVP when playing for Wollongong Hawks, before joining the Townville Crocodiles for the 2012 season where he again finished in the top three in MVP voting.

Ervin is a solid volume shooter, possessing splits of 43/30/78 during his time in the ANBL, but last year he became more controlled, shooting a brilliant 50% on the season.

Although at times Ervin becomes a gunner (he shoots far too many threes for his ability), the American’s ability to attack off the dribble and get to rim are near unparalleled in the ANBL. He also dishes out 4.4 assists per game, and can be devastating at dumping passes off to his big men inside after attacking the hoop.

At 30, Ervin’s best days are behind him, but he’s still a proven top player at this level, and one who the 36ers should hugely benefit from signing.

Jarrid Frye

Bio:

Height: 6’5’’

Position: Small Forward

Age: 28

College: Sacred Heart

Last Team: Stjarnan (Iceland)

If you take a quick look at his stats, Jarrid Frye is the undoubted leading MVP candidate this season.

Frye averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals per game on a phenomenal 60% shooting last season, leading his team to the finals.

Here’s the catch: He played in Iceland.

You may not know this, but anyone with a speck of talent and athleticism can destroy the Icelandic League, and I’m sure I’m not alone in picturing Frye dunking all over 6’8” white dudes named Eidur.

While the ANBL will be a massive step up from the Sacred Heart product, Frye can get to the rim with ease, is excellent in transition, and has an acceptable three-point shot – one which will have to be relied on a bit more if he is going to get his buckets at the ANBL level.

If Frye can prove that his game can handle the step up, then the 36ers could be a very dangerous outfit next season. If not, well, at least he’s not Scott Christopherson.


Cairns Taipans

Demetri McCamey

Bio:

Height: 6’3’’

Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Age: 24

College: Illinois

Last Team: Fort Wayne Mad Ants (D-League)

I could be wrong (I usually am), but McCamey could quite possibly be the best import of this whole crop, which is saying something as I rate several new imports very highly.

The Illinois standout can flat out shoot the ball, with his senior year at Illinois being something to behold, shooting a staggering 45% from deep while averaging 15 points and six assists per game.

Extremely efficient off an on-ball screen, McCamey also has superb passing skills, leading the Big Ten in assists during his junior year. Part of that is because of his extremely high usage rates, and his decision-making can be slightly questionable at times, but they are minor scratches on a polished product.

A finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, McCamey has played professionally in the NBA’s D-League, as well as the very well-regarded pro leagues in Turkey and Israel. Additionally, he played quite well in this year’s Summer League, a feat which ANBL stars have failed to accomplish in the past.

The Taipans have had some notable recruits in the past, but McCamey could well turn out to be one of the best.

Jamar Wilson

Bio:

Height: 6’1’’

Position: Point Guard

Age: 29

College: Albany

Last Team: Cairns Taipans

A much more familiar name to ANBL followers, Wilson is back in Cairns after a productive season for the Taipans last season.

After a very strong middle of the season, Wilson fell off a bit towards the end of last year’s campaign, failing to crack the 20 point mark in his final nine games of the season.

A fairly efficient scorer, Wilson rebounds well for his position, but is a reluctant three-point shooter, making it tough to predict how the new two- import back-court will go. As mentioned above, McCamey is a talented passer, but is also a much better deep threat than Wilson, giving Taipans coach Aaron Fearne a positional headache to work out before the beginning of the season.

Unless new rules are introduced meaning teams can play with two balls, Wilson’s workload will be reduced this coming season, which could possibly be a good thing – we will have to see how he fares with less playmaking stress forced upon him.

Finally, do you think Wilson misses his time playing in Finland with the Espoon Honka Playboys? Or did I just bring that up so I could mention the Espoon Honka Playboys? Moving on…

Melbourne Tigers

Stephen Dennis

Bio:

Height: 6’6’’

Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Age: 25

College: Kutztown

Last Team: Bakersfield Jam (D-League)

Dennis is an odd player to evaluate is many senses. A 6’6” point guard, Dennis didn’t even play top-level college ball, instead breaking every single record at his Div II school of – say it carefully – Kutztown.

Unsurprisingly, he went undrafted, with several teams sceptical of his ability to make the huge step up from Div II, where he was the National Player of the Year.

Despite this, Dennis showed his abilities with some rather impressive D-League performances. In his 93 D-League games – a fairly reputable sample – he averaged 10 points, three boards and four dimes a game, on a relatively underwhelming 44% shooting.

He should find getting to the rim easier in the ANBL than he did in the D-League, but his 27% success rate from deep is something that will either need to be improved, or avoided all together if he wants to find success with Melbourne.

In some ways, Dennis shapes out to be a poor man’s Cedric Jackson, a comparison Melbourne will hope he lives up to.

Scott Morrison

Bio:

Height: 7’0’’

Position: Centre

Age: 27

College: Portland State

Last Team: Bremerhaven (Germany)

In a league where most teams are trying to go small, the Tigers are bucking the trend, pairing their big point guard – Dennis – with seven-foot Canadian centre Scott Morrison.

Morrison has spent several years playing in Eastern Europe, but Melbourne provided a steep change of climate for the big man for Portland State.

Questions surround the Tigers signing a seven-foot import, a move which hasn’t been made since Kevin Owens in 2007, but Morrison should have enough skill to fit in well with the other big men prominent in Australia.

While big men like Morrison tend to be less valuable in today’s ANBL, Morrison’s ability to protect the rim and block shots was something desired by Melbourne, and his added scoring and mid-range game gives him the all-round qualities needed to succeed in the ANBL.

He’ll team up alongside Mark Worthington in what will be an intimidating frontcourt for Melbourne, with the Tigers hoping that the likes Dennis and Chris Goulding can provide a respectable scoring punch from the perimeter, while Worthington and Morrison clean up the glass and mid-range opportunities.

Morrison will quite possibly end the season with an underwhelming statistical line, but if the Tigers defend well, he’ll be the key reason why.

Perth Wildcats

James Ennis

Bio:

Height: 6’7’’

Position: Small Forward

Age: 23

College: Ventura/Long Beach State

Last Team: Long Beach State

We’re eschewing the alphabetical order in favour of balance right now, as, like Wollongong, Perth currently only have one import.

But what a reaction that one import has caused.

To be honest, it could have been any NBA-associated player and the hype would have started, but by getting a player from the Miami Heat, Perth have won themselves a ton of publicity – and, most likely, a very productive small forward.

In James Ennis, the Wildcats have recruited last season’s Big West Player of the Year, an athletic player who can score from both inside and outside, and gets plenty of rebounds for his position.

A versatile player, Ennis’ athleticism alone could put him above the ANBL pack, and almost certainly will on the Wildcats, who over the years have been committed to a WNBA-like highlight free zone. A

Ennis racked up above-average shooting splits in college (48/36/85), and contributed a bit of everything to his Long Beach State side. There’s no reason to believe this all-round production won’t continue into the ANBL.

That’s Part One of the go-to guide on this season’s ANBL imports in the book, check back later for Part Two, where I’ll cover the new faces on the Breakers, Kings, Crocodiles and Hawks.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

NFL: The Mega Week One Picks

Well, that wasn't an ideal start.

It was a triple whammy for my Friday afternoon - A hefty Ravens loss, a bad tip, and facing Peyton Manning in fantasy. Obviously, I wasn't in a great mood after the game.

However, that has all dissipated, and I'm ready to go for the rest of Week One. A glance at last year's archives revealed that I went 96-73-3 for the entire NFL season, a record that is pretty decent, and also hard to repeat.

A few disclaimers before I begin: As part of my weekly coverage, I shall be picking every game, meaning every week there are several games I don't have strong feelings on. If you have strong feelings on certain picks, then go for them, otherwise - back them all! If I can keep at a 55-60% rate, then it does turn out to be profitable.

But that's the big question - can I do that? Week One is always notoriously tough to get a gauge on sides, and my guessing of the lines was scarily on-point, so strong opinions are in short demand. 

The good news is - that didn't stop me last season. All sorts of unconventional tactics prevailed - taking favourites on the road and taking terrible teams at large odds being two well-trod paths. I've actually did some deep research for some of these encounters, which could go badly, opposed to my winging-it strategy of last year. 

Lets crack into the Week One tips. Hopefully they'll fare better than the Ravens did.

New England (-9.5) over Buffalo

It seems like this game goes one of two ways - either New England coast to a high scoring annihilation, or the Bills manage to keep it very close. It's been well documented that the Patriots, are worse this year, while the Bills are more potent than before.

However, Tom Brady is 10-1 in openers, with an average margin of victory of 10 points. The Patriots are 8-1 against the spread in their last nine games against Buffalo, while Brady is 20-2 in his career against the Bills, throwing TD's at will.
No Gronk, Hernandez or Welker, but I still think the Patriots are a class above.

Seattle (-3.5) over Carolina

I've seen plenty of experts (actual experts, not former NFL player "experts") claim this is going to be a tough encounter for Seattle, and I'm in agreement. The Panthers are a tough defence, and will cause Russell Wilson problems. However, I think their offence has been given a fantasy-boost, there really isn't too much there on the offensive side of the ball, with Cam Newton still only really having one top-notch receiving option, and the run game being underwhelming.

I think Seattle are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and contenders shouldn't lose to Carolina in Week One.

Minnesota (+6) over Detroit

On the surface, this line is ridiculous. A 10-6 team last year going up against a 4-12 squad, and getting six points in the process.

Obviously, Detroit are going to be far superior this season than they were last. I'm totally on board with the addition of Reggie Bush, while they received a ton of bad luck last season. On the opposite hand, the Vikings were one of the luckiest teams in the league last year.

Despite this, I think the pendulum has swung too far in Detroit's favour. Christian Ponder is a much better quarterback indoors than outdoors, for whatever reason, while Detroit's defence is still rather poor, meaning Adrian Peterson could be in for a field day.

Pick Detroit heads up, but I'll happily take the points on the spread.

Kansas City (-4) over Jacksonville

A battle between two sides who were awful last season, but also two sides who are likely heading in opposite directions. The Chiefs are a very popular team to improve this year, and an offensive core of Aelx Smith, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe is very nice, while their offensive line has also improved over the offseason.

The Jaguars are pretty stagnant, still relying far too heavily on the worst starting QB in the NFL. Because of this, I like the Chiefs in this one, in what should be a good test of whether they'll be a playoff threat this season.
Tampa Bay (-3) over New York Jets

As you've seen in my season over/unders I'm all-in on Tampa this season, and not so much of the Jets. I've somewhat softened my stance on the Jets, with their defence and home advantage being far more than what the Raiders possess. Despite this, only three point underdogs, even given the home advantage?

I've got a nice seat on the Tampa Bay bandwagon, so I'll keep my spot thanks.

Cleveland (Pick) over Miami

There has been a ton of Browns hype this offseason, and I'm not really sure why. Brandon Weeden is their quarterback, that's all that needs to be said.

There has also been a bunch of Dolphins hype. Ryan Tannehill is their quarterback, that's all that needs to be said.

Tannehill and Mike Wallace are a better combination than Weeden and say, Greg Little, but the Browns are a stingy defence, and play tough at home. They're 4-0 straight up and against the spread in their past four meetings against the Dolphins, so that seals the deal in what is the most uninspiring match of the round. 
Chicago (-3) over Cincinnati

Two teams who are decent playoff contenders, and also the most obvious line of the year. However, I believe in the Bears this season, and I don't really have any more analysis than that.

Indianapolis (-10) over Oakland

Oakland must prove they aren't awful before I back them at any margin less than 13 points. The Colts aren't the greatest squad, but Oakland's offensive line is atrocious, as is their quarterbacking and receiving scenarios. The Colts can score the ball, and I expect them to rack up enough to cover this spread.

New Orleans (-3) over Atlanta

Remember last year, when I went against the grain and continually backed the Falcons to beat the Saints despite lines which suggested otherwise? Yeahhh, I've been sucked back into the Saints.

I'm not sure the Falcons are going to be as good as they were last year, for a multitude of reasons - but mainly their below-average defence. The Saints defence is also shocking, but they are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 home games, and could quite easily be in "Eff-You Mode" with Sean Payton back. 

I'll be honest, I don't love this pick and am thiiiis close to flipping it around and backing the Falcons. Atlanta are good value at $2.45 if you reckon they can win, or want to hedge.
Pittsburgh (-7) over Tennessee

Tennessee are just so mediocre and uninspiring. As you know, I am not a Steelers fan in the slightest, they also aren't very good, but they are at home, and should be able to score against this rather ugly Titans defence.

Either way, if I get this tip wrong I'll still be stoked if the Titans pull out the win, Pittsburgh fans are already getting cocky before the season has begun.

San Francisco (-4.5) over Green Bay

I just can't scratch the memory of the playoffs from my mind, where Colin Kaepernick ran all over the Packers shocking defence. I'm not that high on the 49ers this year, mainly due to a lack of offensive options, but their defence is still elite, and gets to mathc up against a below-average Packer offensive line. Home advantage pushes this one across the line in my eyes, in what should be the game of the week.

Saint Louis (-4.5) over Arizona

Meh. Both teams have some decent pieces without being great, so I'm going to back the home team and hope Sam Bradford out-competent's Carson Palmer. 

New York Giants (+3.5) over Dallas

Disclaimer: I was shocking at picking the Giants last year, due to their extreme inconsistency. Speaking of inconsistent teams - we have the Cowboys! Weirdly enough, the Giants haven't lost at Dallas since 09. With Eli Manning and Tony Romo both being impossible to predict on a week-to-week basis, I'll take the points and run.

Washington (-3) over Philadelphia

Seriously, screw you NFC East. Why do you have to be so tough to call?? 

I'm not high on the Redskins (can I still call them that?) this season, but I'm not buying the Eagles as a particularly good team either. This encounter really shapes up as being completely even all around the field, with two wacky offences going up against two average defences. Which wacky offence will prevail? I'm taking the home team, and the side who I think will be slightly better out of the blocks.

Houston (-3.5) over San Diego 

I talked myself out of backing San Diego to win under 7.5 games, and I kinda wish I didn't. This game will be a dire, low-scoring affair, and the line has been moved down with the potential absence or limited workload of Arian Foster. Can Ben Tate fill in to a decent level? Yes. Does Matt Schaub has more weapons to be competent than Phillip Rivers? Yes. How much fun will JJ Watt have against the Chargers offensive line? Plenty.

So, a new season, but my unorthodox picking style hasn't changed. Back those road favourites if you dare. Back next week, hopefully with a winning record in the bag.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Ravens v Broncos - Reminiscing and Previewing

It was one of the greatest moments of my NFL fandom.

With just under two minutes remaining and the Broncos about to start their drive, up seven, I arranged a ride home from a mates place, resigned to the fact the Ravens were about to get bounced from the playoffs.

I think we all know what happened next.

The Ravens got a quick three and out, and then this play made me leap out of my seat.

Even with my ride being forced to wait in the car for the resulting overtime periods, I didn't feel any remorse as Justin Tucker showed ice-cool nerves, completing one of the most awesome comebacks and finishes in NFL playoff history, and the best one I've ever watched. As they say, the rest was history, with an equally insane Super Bowl leaving my Ravens as champions.

Not that you'd think that from the line which is being offered on this encounter, which has the Broncos has -7.5 favourites. Of course, this is a reasonably fair line, with all the respective offseason activity for both squads, but it is one which is fairly insulting to the Ravens.

Now, I'm not going to go all biased on you and claim that the Ravens are a better squad than the Broncos. It's most likely they are not, especially on offence. On defence, I think the switching of Elvis Dumervil to the good side is important, as is the suspension of Von Miller. 

Can John Harbaugh play the "Nobody Believes in Us!" card to it's full extent? How much of a difference will Wes Welker and Monte Ball make? How healthy is Lardarius Webb? How great is it that the incompetent Cam Cameron is gone?

These are the big questions which will be answered tomorrow. Personally, I think the Ravens will keep it close, but ultimately lose. So, despite a strong feeling, I have to support my team, and back the Ravens to cover the spread. 

I may be a little biased.

The Pick: Ravens (+7.5) over Broncos

Bonus Pick: UNDER 49.5 points

So, that's the first pick in the book for the new NFL season. Check back in over the next two days for a full recap of last season's performance, and the brand new picks column for the 2013-2014 year!


Monday, 2 September 2013

2013 NFL Over/Unders - Five Big Plays

It's that time again - NFL over/under predictions time! 

As long-time readers of the blog will know, I did superbly with all aspects of NFL tipping last year. Fluke or skill? We'll see regression awaits me this season. Handily, regression is a popular topic coming into this season for several NFL teams, as we shall see in these predictions.

Anyway, here's who I backed last year, and how they went.

Chicago over 8.5 (win, ended 10-6)
Dallas over 8.5 (loss, ended 8-8)
Seattle over 7 (win, ended 11-5)  
Philly under 10 (win, ended 4-12)
New Orleans under 10 (win, ended 7-9)
Washington over 6.5 (win, ended 10-6)
Kansas City under 7.5 (win, ended 2-14)

So, 6-1, I doubt I'll be able to repeat that again, but in what I think will become somewhat of a catchphrase for this upcoming season - I'm aiming to end over .500 once again.

Here are my favourite over/under props for this season:

Tampa Bay OVER 7.5 wins ($1.68)

The Buccaneers ended 7-9 last year, and simply, I've jumped fully upon the bandwagon. The Bucs get back their two best guards for a hopefully healthy full season (Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph), while making their biggest weakness (the secondary) a strength by adding Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis. 

While they have a tough division, arguably the toughest in all of football, I think that the Bucs could come out with a very healthy record, providing quarterback Josh Freeman is competent. I reckon he will be.

Pittsburgh Steelers UNDER 9 wins ($1.97)

Another year older for the increasingly-fragile Ben Roethlisberger, a loss of Mike Wallace, not too many big incoming free agents and the fact that I'm a Ravens fan - all of these add up to me backing the under. 

The Steelers could legitimately win the AFC North, but so could three sides. I think 8-8 or 7-9 is a far more likely option than 9-7.

Oakland Raiders UNDER 5.5 wins ($1.56)

Oakland won four games last year with Carson Palmer under centre. Now he's gone, and they've had a massive downgrade to either Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor ,without adding much quality at any other position.

The Raiders are my pick for the worst team in football this year, and although luck with fumbles and close games could see them reach six wins, I'm willing to bank on their terrible squad not reaching that figure.

New York Jets UNDER 6.5 wins ($1.47)

I don't like this play as much as I do the Raiders one, but I see this season playing out similarly to last season's for the Jets, just with less talent on board. Their defence could take them to 5-11 or 6-10, but luck or a Geno Smith surge would be needed for them to jump to seven wins.

Chicago Bears OVER 8.5 wins ($1.69)

The Bears easily came through on this pick last season, and I have faith they can do it again. I believe it'll be a more productive offence under Marc Trestman, and although their defence will likely fall off from the high interception rates of last season, I still have faith in the Bears talent to pull out another winning season.

I'm stopping at five "favourite plays" for the year, but for full transparency and ability to claim these later, here are the plays who just missed the cut (If you like them, go ahead):

Toughest cuts:

Washington Redskins UNDER 8 wins

Dallas Cowboys UNDER 8.5 wins

Indianapolis Colts UNDER 8.5 wins

There were a few other unders in the mix (I'm very negative in these plays this year), such as San Diego, Philly and Miami, but take a look at the five highlighted plays - hopefully I can persuade you enough on the merits of these picks.

Back soon with a Ravens/Broncos tip to start off the season, followed by the other 15 games to see whether we can keep our good NFL tipping form going into the 2013-2014 season.

Until then!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

NFL Preseason Power Rankings

The NFL season kicks off in under a week's time, and we're leading up to the return of NFL picks and plays with a quick pre-season power ranking for your enjoyment. Coming tomorrow - NFL over/under season plays, so get your money ready - hopefully it won't be wasted.

Tier One (The Biggest Contenders):

1. Denver Broncos
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Green Bay Packers
4. San Francisco 49ers

It really is tough to call who deserves pre-season favouritism this year, with every team having their flaws. Can the Seahawks and 49ers overcome potential second-year quarterback syndromes, as well as key personal losses to their core of receivers  How much will the loss of Elvis Dumervil and, for a few games, Von Miller, hurt the Broncos? Can the Packers ever run the ball and protect Aaron Rodgers?

The Broncos get the nod due to the addition of Welker over the offseason, as well as their easy divisional schedule.

Tier Two (Likely Playoff Squads):

5. Atlanta Falcons
6. New England Patriots
7. Houston Texans

The Texans are the least exciting 12-4 team of all time, and will in all likelihood make the playoffs, last one round, then submit weakly. In a weird twist, the Falcons offence is now more potent than the Patriots', but a shaky defence means I see regression in the cards for Atlanta this season.


Tier Three (Not Sexy, But Always In Contention):

8. Chicago Bears
9. Cincinnati Bengals
10. Baltimore Ravens
11. New York Giants

I'm a big fan of the Bears chances this year under new head coach Marc Trestman, as you'll see in my over/under plays tomorrow. The Bengals are probably favourites to win the AFC North, but I still have my Ravens as a legitimate playoff contender. The Giants? Who knows.

Tier Four (Boom Or Bust):

12. New Orleans Saints 
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Washington Redskins
15. Indianapolis Colts
16. Minnesota Vikings


Three teams tipped for regression, and two tipped for significant improvements. You'll find out which ones are which in my eyes in tomorrow's post.


Tier Five (Wildcard Prospects):

17. Dallas Cowboys
18. Kansas City Chiefs
19. Pittsburgh Steelers
20. Detroit Lions
21. Buffalo Bills
22. Miami Dolphins


Each of these squads have legitimate chances at a wild-card berth, with two (Kansas City and Detroit) having become very trendy sleepers over the past few weeks. The Cowboys and Steelers have the same supposed upside as ever, while the Dolphins and Bills will have to fight quarterbacking issues as they race for the second spot in the AFC East.

Tier Six (Maybe Next Year):

23. Carolina Panthers
24. Philadelphia Eagles
25. Saint Louis Rams
26. Tennessee Titans
27. Cleveland Browns
28. San Diego Chargers
29. Arizona Cardinals

Some of these squads (The Rams, Eagles and Panthers) could conceivably crack the 8-8 mark if all goes well. Unfortunately for the Rams, that would probably still have them as third in their division, meaning I have to drop them a few spots. In all likelihood, one of these seven teams will ease into the playoffs at a surprising 10-6 record. If you can pick which one it will be, you're a genius, and I want you to join my syndicate.

Tier Seven (Five Wins? Good Luck...):

30. New York Jets
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
32. Oakland Raiders

Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith, and Terrelle Pryor. That's all you need to know.

Keep coming back to the site this week, where I shall hope to continue my excellent NFL tipping success from last year.