Friday, October 19, 2007

GSC Preseason Release...Released

It never really feels like basketball season's ready to start until I see the GSC Preseason Release. This year, the coaches have tabbed Montevallo as the GSC East and Conference champion, with Christian Brothers as the GSC West favorite. That's a pretty safe bet.

Here are the predicted GSC West standings (total votes and first place votes in parentheses, with votes on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale):
  1. Christian Brothers (48, 6)
  2. Harding (42, 2)
  3. Delta State (33)
  4. Ouachita Baptist (33)
  5. Henderson State (22)
  6. Arkansas-Monticello (17)
  7. Southern Arkansas (15)
  8. Arkansas Tech (14)

Harding received two first-place votes, four second-place votes, and a fourth-place vote.

The All-GSC-West team:

  • Terrance Whiters (G-ATU)
  • Kevin Weybright (F-CBU)
  • Johnny Hodge (F-DSU)
  • Matt Hall (F-HU)
  • Antoine Vinson (G-HSU)
  • Jaranimo Marks (G-OBU)

I'll be doing my own predictions at some point, but this isn't a bad list.

You can download the complete .pdf release here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Basketball: State of the Blog

Even though I'm still on Blogger for now, I thought I'd lay out my schedule for GSC basketball this year. The regular season begins on November 15th, and by then I plan to have all eight GSC West teams previewed. Here's a tentative schedule:

Mon 10/22: Harding
Wed 10/24: Arkansas Tech
Fri 10/26: Arkansas-Monticello
Mon 10/29: Christian Brothers
Wed 10/31: Delta State
Fri 11/2: Henderson State
Mon 11/5: Ouachita Baptist
Wed 11/7: Southern Arkansas
Mon 11/12: Overview of Statistical Resources
Wed 11/14: Season Predictions

My goal is to be back on WordPress at the old location, at least in some form, by Monday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

First look at Basketball Prospectus

Last month, I mentioned that Ken Pomeroy (of and John Gasaway (of Big Ten Wonk) were going to be collaborating on a new effort to bring basketbal statistics closer to the mainstream. Their method: a spin-off of Baseball Prospectus with the same look, feel, and (effectively) name: Basketball Prospectus. The site made its debut last week, and I want to give you a quick overview of what they're doing and how it relates to my site.

For a while now, Pomeroy has run the most comprehensive college basketball stat site, where he has his own power rankings and efficiency stats based on several core principles of (for lack of a better term) sabermetric basketball analysis. Some call it APBRmetrics after the Association for Professional Basketball Research, which you might consider basketball's SABR.

At any rate, he will be shifting all of that over to the new Basketball Prospectus site, and from the look of it, he'll be writing a whole lot more. I encourage you to check it out.

Right now, BaskP (they'll need a different acronym from BP, I guess) is previewing each conference, giving a fairly detailed look at each team. It's all worth reading, and I'll probably use the same format for my upcoming GSC previews. They also have a few introductory articles that are among the best I've read if you're still confused by the concept of possession-based stats, offensive efficiency, and the like.

Put them in your feed will be interesting to see what they have in store for the new season.

Nickel Creek at the Tivoli: October 14, 2007

Just eight years ago, I probably would have admitted to just about anyone that my favorite recording artist was Britney Spears. I was a sophomore in high school, and I'm still of the opinion that high school sophomores should be afforded such ridiculous musical tastes. I thought she had a good voice and her songs were catchy.

Since then, my musical tastes have understandably evolved. I made friends who liked "good" music, where "good" means "displaying talented musicianship on a musical instrument." I also came to the realization that looks alone do not make someone talented at music. The sound you hear is apparently quite important. Believe it or not, that was a new concept for me not very long ago.

Still, despite all this supposed maturity that I've developed, I still fail to appreciate most "good" music out there. For one thing, I'm busy, and I have a lot of other interests. I also don't spend most of my free time sitting in front of the computer at home, listening to music, like I did in college. Throw in the fact that I still don't sing in tune most of the time, and you can probably feel free to dismiss my musical tastes. That won't stop me from giving my opinions, though.
I moved along to rock music as my taste for sugary popular tunes waned. My favorite bands between my senior year of high school and my first 2-3 years of college were probably Sister Hazel, Fuel, Collective Soul (yes, still them), Evanescence, Linkin Park, and even Hoobastank. I still like mostly rock, though not necessarily all of those groups.

I mention all of these things to explain that the deck was stacked against one of my current favorite groups: Nickel Creek. Their style is probably best categorized as "newgrass" or "progressive acoustic," although some would probably classify them as simply "country." Most of their radio airplay probably comes on country radio (I wouldn't really know), so I guess that's fair. Were it not for a music-loving friend of mine and an opportunity to see them live while I was at Harding, I probably wouldn't have given them a chance.

Luckily for me, I gave them that chance, and I'm still reaping the benefits. Nickel Creek put on an amazing live show one night during my sophomore year at Harding, and I started listening to my buddy's CDs. To this day, they only have three full-length traditional albums, but they're three absolute gems.

Nickel Creek, viewed from my current musical tastes, epitomize several things I like about music. All three members (Chris Thile on mandolin, Sean Watkins on acoustic guitar, Sara Watkins on fiddle) are exceptionally talented at their instruments. This fact alone is basically the reason Nickel Creek will cease to exist (for now) after their current tour, as each member has the potential to succeed as a solo artist. Second, all three members can sing. They have good range, unique voices, and they harmonize well. Third, they're remarkably creative, both instrumentally and lyrically. Fourth, their lyrical content (as well as their instrumental content) has remarkable depth. Fifth, they're fun to watch, from Thile's almost comical gestures and appearance to Sara Watkins' incessant foot-stomping.

At this point, it should be quite clear that I've come to enjoy and appreciate what Nickel Creek offers. They are arguably my favorite musical group in existence at this point, which is remarkable for them, given where my musical tastes stood just four years ago. Needless to say, I was quite excited when they scheduled a stop on their "Farewell For Now" tour in Chattanooga at the Tivoli theater for this past Sunday night.

Knowing most of their songs this time around, I felt like I could really appreciate a Nickel Creek show. Since they were bringing along the accomplished Bela Fleck, I knew I was in for a treat. However, with Fleck in tow, they played fewer of their staple songs ("Green and Gray" and "I Should've Known Better" were among the glaring omissions, to me, and they also left out "Speak," "Beauty and the Mess," and "Spit on a Stranger"). I wasn't disappointed, per se, since it was a 3+ hour show, but I guess when you like a group too much, you're bound to be disappointed when they don't play one or two of your favorites.

The band was on target all evening, displaying their exceptional instrumental talent, harmonizing, and having fun all at the same time. The highlights for me were "The Fox" (much better live than on the recording), "Reasons Why" (with Fleck), and an extended version of "The Lighthouse's Tale" (the closer, and possibly my favorite Nickel Creek song). It was a phenomenally entertaining show, and I came to the realization toward the end that I may never see a more accomplished group perform live.

If you aren't familiar with Nickel Creek, give them a chance. If you're fortunate enough, go see them in one of their final shows. I hear they'll be releasing a live DVD based on their final two shows at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, so I encourage you to grab that as well.


I'm determined to stick to some kind of schedule of posts even if my regular site continues not to function. Here's what I have planned:

Today (Tuesday): Nickel Creek concert review
Wednesday: First look at Basketball Prospectus
Thursday: State of the basketball blog, including a schedule of basketball posts
Friday: Notes and NCAA/NFL power rankings

Keep checking back here, but hopefully I'll have the old site up and running again by the end of the week. If you use a feed reader like me, just add this feed, and (unlike me) you shouldn't miss a beat.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

NCAA Basketball Top 25

While I'm in ranking mode, I'll present my preseason NCAA basketball top 25. MVN is doing a top 25 poll this year, and since I'll be participating, I decided to do some research on the teams. As a rule, I follow D-II more closely, but I also can't avoid hearing plenty about D-I. There are also plenty of great resources, like,, and (presumably) the forthcoming Basketball Prospectus site.

So, here's my list:
  1. North Carolina
  2. Memphis
  3. UCLA
  4. Kansas
  5. Georgetown
  6. Tennessee
  7. Louisville
  8. Michigan State
  9. Duke
  10. Indiana
  11. Arizona
  12. Texas
  13. Oregon
  14. Mississippi State
  15. Washington State
  16. UConn
  17. Marquette
  18. USC
  19. NC State
  20. Southern Illinois
  21. Butler
  22. Arkansas
  23. Clemson
  24. Kentucky
  25. Kansas State

Football Notes + Still working on the site

This is taking much longer than I expected. I have a Braves Check ready, but I want it to be on the old site. I'll be doing a clean new installation pretty soon if I can't get the bugs worked out this week. For now, I'll share just a few football thoughts, note-style:

  • The 49ers have zero offense, especially with Alex Smith on the sidelines. Mike Nolan was already very conservative with his playcalling, and the defense just can't stop opposing offenses often enough to give this bumbling O a chance to win games. Still, in spite of the 2-3 record (and 3 straight losses), they could still win the NFC West, which again looks like one of the worst divisions in the NFL.
  • Tennessee controls its own destiny in the SEC East? I didn't expect to be saying that a few weeks ago after the 1-2 start, but that was a truly impressive win over Georgia. South Carolina and Kentucky won't be easy wins, and the Vols still have all three SEC West games remaining (at Miss St, at Alabama, vs Arkansas), but at least there is hope.
  • Thinking along those lines, a 2-loss SEC title-winning season would still be considered great. There are too many undefeated and one-loss teams for any reasonable shot at a national title, but I would be satisfied with just two losses. Cal and Florida are great teams, anyway. Below are the teams who are conceivably "ahead" of the Vols, by conference.

Undefeated and one-loss FBS teams:

  • ACC: Boston College 6-0, Virginia and VT 5-1, Florida State 4-1
  • Big East: Cincinnati 6-0, UConn and USF 5-0, West Virginia 5-1
  • Big Ten: Ohio State 6-0, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue 5-1
  • Big 12: Missouri and Kansas 5-0, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma 5-1
  • Pac-10: Arizona State 6-0, Cal 5-0, USC and Oregon 4-1
  • SEC: LSU 6-0, South Carolina and Kentucky 5-1, Florida 4-2 (?)
  • WAC: Hawaii 6-0
  • MWC: Wyoming 4-1

My college football top 10:

  1. LSU
  2. California
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma
  5. South Carolina
  6. South Florida
  7. Missouri
  8. West Virginia
  9. Oregon
  10. Florida

Bubble teams: Arizona State, Auburn, Tennessee

NFL Power Rankings:

  1. New England
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Dallas
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Green Bay
  6. Jacksonville
  7. Washington
  8. Tampa Bay
  9. Tennessee
  10. Houston