Crossroads

It’s October?! Wow, that snuck up on me. I blame September for only having 30 days after those prolonged months of July and August. Nevertheless, seasons are changing, which means sports of focus become a bit blurred for me. I’ve been all golf since April, and that will stay the same through the end of this month. From there, time to start thinking hoops!

So, here I am this week prepping for the Presidents Cup (catch me as part of the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio coverage on Saturday), while filling out my Horizon League preseason basketball ballot at the same time. I like to think I am in the “now” business as a play-by-play guy, but the world of sports is in the prediction/reaction business. Okay, I’ll bite…

Presidents Cup
There is something about putting the colors of your country (or region, or continental combination) on that brings out the best in anybody. My men’s club has a Ryder Cup type event every summer that is the highlight of my “competitive” year. We eat up the ability to chant ‘USA USA USA’ or bellow “ole, ole ole ole… ole, ole” at the top of our lungs. (I don’t know which of those chants I like more, honestly). But, will the Prez Cup 2013 be interesting? I don’t know.

When the competition was started as I was starting to cling to golf tighter than Kuchar and Lefty to their ping-pong paddles this week, I honestly thought the US was doomed. Between South Africa, Australia and Asia, it seemed like the pool of potential players was greater than anything Europe could even throw together in the Ryder Cup. Boy was I wrong! (Cut me some slack, I was 13-years-old)
Since then (outside of an International rout in 1998 – transitional time for US golf), it has been a red, white and blue beatdown. Simultaneously, Europe has rain-gripped its hands to the Ryder Cup. If you had to Power Rank the three international professional groups, it would be 1) Europe 2) USA and 3) International – no debate.

Why? Because of team unity. I am totally convinced. Europe views itself as the underdog even when they are not. They take career-defining joy in winning the Ryder Cup. I think it is impossible every-other year for the United States to ever match the emotional level of a European Ryder Cup team. Combine it all together and you have ridiculously good golf to watch. A year later, normally licking their wounds, several members of that US team gather again to take on a team comprised of guys who live dozens of time zones away from each other. It’s more laid back (advantage US), spread out (advantage US, deeper) and carries less pressure (advantage US).

Having said all of that, and given that the good ol’ USofA is a favorite this weekend in Muirfield, who knows what to expect. I can’t, in good conscience, make predictions, but you have to like where the US is coming in. Its hottest players (Strick, Spieth and Zach) aren’t named Tiger or Phil. There is a TON of familiarity in that USA locker room. In the other room, a Presidents Cup record 7 rookies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if not for the fact that the veteran international players aren’t exactly in top form. Plus, the United States has the top 4 players ranked on Tour in all-around. It’s going to be a fun weekend, but I hope it has some drama.

Horizon League
If you read everything above hoping to get my Horizon League preseason men’s basketball picks, good for you! (Sorry to make you wait this long)

It looks like my first broadcast of a Horizon League game will be on January 2nd in Valparaiso when the Crusaders host UIC on ESPN3. Between now and then, all I have is two pieces of paper I just filed with the league office, giving (the country’s best league communication director) Bill Potter my best guess at what will take place between now and early March. I hate filling these out! This year, it was really tough. More than half of the all-league teams from a year ago are gone. The top 2 teams from a year ago (Valpo and Detroit) lost about 32 players and 267% of their total scoring, by my calculations. On top of that, we lose a team (Loyola – I didn’t get the move for either side, but I digress) and gain another (Oakland, howdy).

How did I vote? Here you go:

Individuals

PoY – Kendrick Perry (Sr. Youngstown State)
I picked him over Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes because he is taller. Well, not really, but that makes me feel better in justification. No, it doesn’t. I saw both players in person a lot last year. I like Sykes heart and motor a bit more, but think Perry’s defense and surgical approach to the scoring-point position is amazing to watch. He won’t have as much around him this year, and it’s time for him to lead, and I think he will.

PoY Runner-Up – Keifer Sykes (Jr. Green Bay)
Look, he does it all from a diminutive frame. And, he’s got the tools around him to lead the Phoenix to a league championship. You can’t lose with either choice, and he will be the preseason player of the year next year (and could very well be defending his postseason PoY award)

Rest of my 1st team – Alec Brown (Sr. Green Bay), Cole Darling (Sr. Wright State), Travis Bader (Sr. Oakland)
Brown isn’t a surprise to anybody. He should be player of the year, but he needs to put it all together. Darling is here because he does a lot for a deep Wright State team and deserves the attention. Bader can shoot, and then make deeper shots after he shoots. The first-teamer from the Summit League last year should have no trouble scoring in the Horizon League this year

We vote on an additional five players, but there were more than five worthy of that, so I won’t disclose out of fear of retaliation.

Teams

I like the Big Ten’s way of disclosing its preseason poll. Just the top 3. Works for me…

1. Green Bay – Based on talent, it’s a no-brainer. Best big man. (Arguably) best point guard. Glue guy (Fouse). Super Athlete (Mays). A little offseason drama to internalize the focus and drive of a coach and team. Why not Green Bay?…

2. Wright State – … that’s why. Best “team”? Quite possibly. Best coaching? Hard to argue. Added scoring? (Chrishawn Hopkins is eligible after sitting out a year)

3. Cleveland State – Biggest gainer with some of the top teams losing so many guys. Anton Grady is back from injury to pair with Bryn Forbes. I’m not big on recruiting classes, but I heard Gary Waters pulled in a solid class. And back to my question above about best coaching: if there is an argument, it probably starts with Waters.

Please tip off soon so this blog is forgotten!

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