Locking it up

Conference realignment:

Trips Right wrapped up the conclusion (for now) of the drama and the final result of Texas remaining in the Big 12. Now you can expect only 2 columns a day here explaining what that means for the future and how the conference will mix things up for the future.

As I understand it Beebe made the following offer to Powers and co.:

1). 10 million in an offshore account every year until Iowa St. wins the conference title.

2). Texas is allowed to continue to build the Longhorn network for which Beebe will work as a grip.

3). The Big 12 will be remained the Don't mess with Texas League. (in reality what will it be called? Can we be more creative now than Big 12?)

4). Bill Byrne will be required to wear a pink UT t-shirt for every year that Texas wins the Thanksgiving game.

Now, the word is that OU moves to the North and the conference resumes like this:

South:

Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, OSU, Texas Tech

North:

OU, Iowa St., KSU, Kansas, Missouri.

I'm not sure that OU will lose a division game ever again while the rivalry futures remain unclear. Will Texas and OU continue the big money game at the Cotton bowl or rely on the certainty of a conference championship game every year in JerryWorld? Will the NCAA allow the conference to keep a title game with only 10 schools? Will OU and OSU play every year? Doesn't the resuming of a Texas-OU game make 2 contests every season a near certainty?

Such are my questions. The other hot rumour is that Arkansas might rejoin the Texas league, which would beg the question of who to add to bring the number back to 12. Considering the imbalance of the divisions as I just drew them up it would make the most sense to add Arkansas to the North but I have no idea who joins the south. If the league could draw Notre Dame, which would probably never happen, you could place Arkansas in the South. I suppose an 11 school system divisions would be fine but that's not what's currently on the table.

At any rate, we may not have received exciting new matchups with USC and Oregon or pushed the NCAA in a direction that we're all hoping results in a playoff but at least we can be sure that Texas' strong financial and competitive position is preserved.

You can also be sure that my personal favorite Texas preseason football mag is on its way.

World Cup:

The Pitchmen had a reflective piece on the US-England contest and a day of international importance in a US athletic competition we don't usually see on that level save for perhaps the cumulative importance here of the Olympics. It wasn't "Miracle" vs. the Soviet Union but it sure was sweet for the US to approximately match their War of 1812 achievement.

That war was a US victory in the same sense that the Vietnam war was a victory for the NVA. England agreed to stop burning US cities and flaming up the Native Americans to burn frontier settlements and the US was able to withdraw from the fetal position. In a similar sense, the US national soccer team prevented the English team from running over them on the pitch.

Given the lack of failure against England the Americans are in a strong position to secure at least the 2nd bid from the pool and likely face Germany in the round of 16. Given how the Germans look early I don't much there. A victory there would probably draw a contest with Argentina. In other words, enjoy what you see from group play.

NBA Finals:

Given that Boston could win the championship tonight I thought I would overview how they have done in completing the Nickel Rover keys to beating LA.

1). Handle the Laker Size: Lamar Odom has done his typical disappearing act and utterly failed to make a mark in games where Bynum was less than effective. When Bynum is healthy enough to play close to his ability the Lakers are far and beyond the Celtics. Perkins has been totally useless against him while Gasol has outplayed Garnett in most of the contests. When Bynum is out though, Perkins has manhandled Gasol while Garnett has been far better than Odom.

If Bynum can put it together for one strong effort in LA the Lakers should emerge on top but the Celtics have done well in the other 2 keys.

2). Exploit Derek Fisher: This one has been unsteady as Rondo has clearly (at least in my mind) been the best Celtic but hasn't consistently played to the level that brought Boston here. He looked healthier in game 5 though which could be the difference. Another triple-double in a game 6 victory should lock up the MVP for Rondo and would certainly insure that said victory occured.

The discussion of finals MVP brings up an important point but we'll get there in Key #3.

3). Draw Kobe into an inefficient alpha dog display:

There is some talk of Kobe joining Jerry West as players to win the Finals MVP despite playing for the losing team. I think that awarding the trophy to a losing player is a very reasonable proposition that defies the typical nonsense of believing that the top scorer for the champion is the best player. Of course, I also think that awarding the trophy to Kobe would be about as ridiculous now as it would have been in 2004.

His scoring has ranged in effectiveness with games 4 and 5 seeing lots of conversions but accompanied by 22 and 27 attempts and 7 and 4 turnovers. The Lakers are at their best when they exercise strong ball movement and get Odom, Gasol, and the whole team involved. When Kobe is shooting mid-range jumpers off the dribble and the rest of the team stands around it breeds a lack of involvement on both sides of the court.

It's obviously great for the Lakers if Kobe scores 30 points but a 25 point game where he is joined in double figures by Odom, Gasol, and Bynum would blow out the Celtics.

Fisher has had a few strong games but the overall impact from him and Ron Artest has not been impressive. The defensive job done by Artest on Paul Pierce has not offset the lack of production Ron-Ron has brought for LA.

While the Lakers move the ball better and defend better at home I don't think they can overcome the trends in 2 games and win the title. The rising confidence from Boston paired with Rondo's possible return to brilliance should be enough to lock down one of these games, even game 7 I think is possible. The uncertainty of Bynum's knee plus Kobe's assumption of all scoring responsibility puts the Lakers behind before the games even start.

I'm guessing the Mamba realizes what he needs to do to turn this around but who is betting on D'artagnan and the 3 Musketeers blowing 2 chances to win a title?

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