Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs - Conference Semifinals

Ringer's Record
Playoffs: 7-1

The Conference Semifinals get started tomorrow when an old school rivalry is renewed between Boston and Montreal. My three year string of picking the Cup winner before the season begins ended when the Blues were bounced by the defending champion Blackhawks. That was my lone series loss so far, as I correctly picked the winner of the other seven Conference Quarterfinals matchups. Most of the league's best teams are still alive, meaning we should be in for some very good hockey in the next couple weeks. Here is how I expect the rest of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs to play out.

Eastern Conference

Boston (-255) vs. Montreal (+215)

The Montreal Canadiens handled Tampa Bay decisively in the opening round. Carey Price was terrific in net, leading to a series sweep. Now they run up against the most well-rounded team in all of hockey. Boston is capable of shutting down anyone, so Montreal will need to find some offense. These bitter rivals are both playing great hockey and it should be a battle. Boston has had the better season, and they will extend it by knocking off the Canadiens.

Prediction - Boston over Montreal 4-2

Pittsburgh (-145) vs. NY Rangers (+125)

The Penguins and Rangers both had to fight extremely hard to survive the East Quarterfinals. Their Pens showed their prowess in Games 5 and 6 of their opening round matchup to overcome the gritty Blue Jackets. The Rangers went the distance to eventually outlast the Flyers. Both teams were thought to have Stanley Cup potential when the season began. In the end, I don't think that the Rangers possess enough firepower to get past the Pens.

Prediction - Pittsburgh over NY Rangers 4-1

Western Conference

Anaheim (-110) vs. Los Angeles (-110)

The playoffs are all about getting hot at the right time. It did not appear that the Kings were playing very good hockey at all, as they fell behind the Sharks 3-0 in their Conference Quarterfinals series. Then something clicked, and the Kings rattled off four straight wins to complete a historic comeback. LA definitely has their mojo back. It is the Ducks that were the best team in SoCal and all of the Western Conference this season though. The Kings could be gassed after such a comeback. They could be in trouble if this series goes a long way.

Prediction - Anaheim over Los Angeles 4-3

Chicago (-340) vs. Minnesota (+270)

As the regular season ended, not many people were talking about the Blackhawks being able to repeat. That has suddenly become a real possibility. Chicago rebounded from the injury bug, and dint miss a beat in rattling off four consecutive wins over my pick for the Cup, St. Louis. They are heavy favorites to get past Minnesota and back to the Conference Finals. Minnesota's win over Colorado was viewed as an upset, but not by me. I had the Wild advancing and believed they had the better roster. I don't believe their roster can compete with Chicago's over the course of a 7-game series.

Prediction - Chicago over Minnesota 4-1





Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft

4/22/14

*This is the third edition of my 2014 NFL Mock Draft. The combine is long over, pro days have been had, and free agency is all but over. There is only one major event remaining in the offseason, and that is the NFL Draft itself. A lot of things have changed in the past month and a half when I posted my second NFL Mock Draft (http://ringersports.blogspot.com/2014/03/2014-nfl-mock-draft.html). As the rumor mill heats up, these projections are sure to change again. Please note that these picks are simply who I think each team will select without projecting trades.

Round 1
1. Houston - Jadeveon Clowney  DE/South Carolina
2. St. Louis - Greg Robinson  OT/Auburn
3. Jacksonville - Blake Bortles  QB/UCF
4. Cleveland - Sammy Watkins  WR/Clemson
5. Oakland - Johnny Manziel  QB/Texas A&M
6. Atlanta - Khalil Mack  LB/Buffalo
7. Tampa Bay - Mike Evans  WR/Texas A&M
8. Minnesota - Haha Clinton-Dix  S/Alabama
9. Buffalo - Jake Matthews  OT/Texas A&M
10. Detroit - Justin Gilbert  CB/Oklahoma State
11. Tennessee - Anthony Barr  LB/UCLA
12. NY Giants - Aaron Donald  DT/Pittsburgh
13. St. Louis - Darqueze Dennard  CB/Michigan State
14. Chicago - Calvin Pryor  S/Louisville
15. Pittsburgh - Eric Ebron  TE/North Carolina
16. Dallas - Taylor Lewan  OT/Michigan
17. Baltimore - Zack Martin  OT/Notre Dame
18. NY Jets - Brandin Cooks  WR/Oregon State
19. Miami - CJ Mosley  LB/Alabama
20. Arizona - Kony Ealy  DE/Missouri
21. Green Bay - Louis Nix  DE/Notre Dame
22. Philadelphia - Odell Beckham  WR/LSU
23. Kansas City - Xavier Su'a-Filo  G/UCLA
24. Cincinnati - Dee Ford  DE/Auburn
25. San Diego - Jason Verrett  CB/TCU
26. Cleveland - Teddy Bridgewater  QB/Louisville
27. New Orleans - Kyle Fuller  CB/Virginia Tech
28. Carolina - Marquise Lee  WR/USC
29. New England - Ra'Shede Hageman  DT/Minnesota
30. San Francisco - Kelvin Banjamin  WR/Foorida State
31. Denver - Bradley Roby  CB/Ohio State
32. Seattle - Ryan Shazier  LB/Ohio State

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs

The 2014 NBA Playoffs are underway! Many of the same teams return, eyeing a shot at ending the Heat's bid for a 3-peat. The Heat and Pacers appeared to be on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals all season. That doesn't seem like such a sure bet anymore. Both teams stumbled down the stretch, but managed to finish as the rope seeds in the East. With that said, Miami is still the favorite to win the East for a fourth consecutive season. The West is much more competitive, with all eight teams winning at least 49 games. The Spurs are favored to come out of the West for the second straight year. The Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets should be the biggest challengers to San Antonio. Let's take a look at how I expect the NBA Playoffs to unfold.

For the opening round, I have listed all of the individual matchups in each series with the player I give the advantage to listed in bold.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

1 Indiana (-625) vs. 8 Atlanta (+460)

PG - George Hill vs. Jeff Teague
SG - Lance Stephenson vs. Kyle Korver
SF - Paul George vs. Cartier Martin
PF - David West vs. Paul Millsap
C - Roy Hibbert vs. Pero Antic
Bench - Indiana vs. Atlanta
Coach - Frank Vogel vs. Mike Budenholzer

The Pacers were dominant in the first half of the season, but the wheels fell off the wagon heading down the stretch. Despite their poor play of late, they managed to secure home court advantage. Atlanta played Indiana tough in the regular season. The Pavers are fragile right now, so expect the Hawks to be competitive. At the end of the day, Indiana should be able to advance.

Prediction - Indiana over Atlanta 4-2

4 Chicago (-200) vs. 5 Washington (+170)

PG - Kirk Hinrich vs. John Wall
SG - Jimmy Butler vs. Bradley Beal
SF - Mike Dunleavy vs. Trevor Ariza
PF - Carlos Boozer vs. Michael Booker
C - Joakim Noah vs. Marcin Gortat
Bench - Chicago vs. Washington
Coach - Tom Thibodeau vs. Randy Wittman

The Chicago Bulls have overachieved more than any team in the NBA over the last couple seasons. The Bulls simply out work teams. The Wizards probably have more individual talent than the Bulls, but do they have the spirit needed to win a 7-game series against a team as hard-nosed as Chicago? There is very little playoff experience for Washington, so his could be a tough draw for the.

Prediction - Chicago over Washington 4-3

3 Toronto (-105) vs. 6 Brooklyn (-115)

PG - Kyle Lowry vs. Derron Williams
SG - Terrance Ross vs. Shaun Livingston
SF - DeMar DeRozan vs. Joe Johnson
PF - Amir Johnson vs. Paul Pierce
C - Jonas Valenciunas vs. Kevin Garnett
Bench - Toronto vs. Brooklyn
Coach - Dwayne Casey vs. Jason Kidd

This isn't a sexy series. Primarily because of the Raptors. The average basketball fan has no idea how good Toronto is this season. They have a number of players having career years, and play very well
together. Since a 7-12 start, the Raptors have the best record in the East. The Nets underachieved all season long, but this team was built to win the playoffs. They will have a tough go of it.

Prediction - Toronto vs Brooklyn 4-3

2 Miami (-3400) vs. 7 Charlotte (+1600)

PG - Mario Chalmers vs. Kemba Walker
SG - Dwayne Wade vs. Gerald Henderson
SF - LeBron James vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
PF - Shane Battier vs. Josh McRoberts
C - Chris Bosh vs. Al Jefferson
Bench - Miami vs. Charlotte
Coach - Erik Spoelstra vs. Steve Clifford

There is always a lot of attention drawn to the Heat regardless of who their opponent is. The Bobcats don't come with a lot of fan fare, but that doesn't mean that this series will not get attention. This is a battle of two teams heading in opposite directions. Miami did not play at a a championship level for much of the year. Charlotte was one of the most improved teams in the league. The Bobcats will learn from the playoff experience, but they have no chance to advance.

Prediction - Miami over Charlotte 4-1

Western Conference Quarterfinals

1 San Antonio (-1000) vs. 8 Dallas (+650)

PG - Tony Parker vs. Jose Calderon
SG - Danny Green vs. Monta Ellis
SF - Kawhi Leonard vs. Shawn Marion
PF - Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzki
C - Tiago Splitter vs. Samuel Dalembert
Bench - San Antonio vs. Dallas
Coach - Gregg Popovich vs. Randy Carlisle

San Antonio and Dallas have been battling it out for Texan supremacy for over a decade now. Even as their core players get long in the tooth, they find themselves in the postseason year after year. After the Spurs lost the NBA Finals in heartbreaking fashion last season, meny questioned whether they had had their last run. But here they are with the best record in the NBA. The Mavs are a talented team, unfortunately for them, the Spurs have that pep in their step again.

Prediction - San Antonio over Dallas 4-1

4 Houston (-220) vs. 5 Portland (+185)

PG - Patrick Beverley vs. Damian Lillard
SG - James Harden vs. Wesley Matthews
SF - Chandler Parsons vs. Nicolas Batum
PF - Terrence Jones vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
C - Dwight Howard vs. Robin Lopez
Bench - Houston vs. Portland
Coach - Kevin McHale vs. Terry Stotts

This could be the most entertaining series of the opening round. It has the potential to be first team to score 120 wins. The Rockets are one of those teams that are capable of beating anyone, but could also lose to just about anyone. The Blazers came of age this year as Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge blossomed into stars. This will be their first playoff experience though. That gives Houston the advantage.

Prediction - Houston over Portland 4-2

3 LA Clippers (-360) vs. 6 Golden State (+280)

PG - Chris Paul vs. Stephen Curry
SG - JJ Redick vs. Klay Thompson
SF - Matt Barnes vs. Andre Iguodala
PF - Blake Griffin vs. David Lee
C - DeAndre Jordan vs. Jermaine O'Neal
Bench - LA Clippers vs. Golden State
Coach - Doc Rivers vs. Mark Jackson

The Clippers and Warriors have enveloped a dislike for one another and have a budding rivalry. Now that both teams are relevant and meeting in the postseason, the drama will be at an all time high. Klay Thompson and Blake Griffin have already began to jaw. The play on the court is what really matters though. The Clippes have more talent and should March on.

Prediction - LA Clippers over Golden State 4-2

2 Oklahoma City (-460) vs. 7 Memphis (+360)

PG - Russell Westbrook vs. Mike Conley
SG - Thabo Sefolosha vs. Courtney Lee
SF - Kevin Durant vs. Tayshaun Prince
PF - Serge Ibaka vs. Zach Randolph
C - Steven Adams vs. Marc Gasol
Bench - Oklahoma City vs. Memphis
Coach - Scott Brooks vs. David Joerger

The West is just brutal. You win 59 games and get the 2 seed and your reward is playing a 50-win team that made it to the Conference Finals last year. That is what faces the Oklahoma City Thunder as they prepare to face the Memphis Grizzlies. This seems a bit unfair, but at least it provides a compelling matchup for the fans. In the end, Durant has had way too good of a year for him to go home early.

Prediction - Oklahoma City over Memphis 4-3


And here are my picks for the rest of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
1 Indiana over 4 Chicago 4-2
2 Miami over 3 Toronto 4-1

Western Conference Semifinals
1 San Antonio over 4 Houston 4-3
3 LA Clippers over 2 Oklahoma City 4-2

Eastern Conference Finals
2 Miami over 1 Indiana 4-3

Western Conference Finals
1 San Antonio over 3 LA Clippers 4-3

NBA Finals
2 Miami over 1 San Antonio 4-2

For the third straight year the Miami Heat will win the Larry O'Brien trophy, and for the second straight year it will be against the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron and D-Wade will join the likes of Jordan and Pippen, and Shaq and Kobe, as terrific tandems that accomplished a 3-peat.







Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

It's time for playoff hockey. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are as grueling and intense as any playoffs you can find.the action officially gets going tonight. The Boston Bruins are the favorite to hoist the Cup this season. The Bruins were dominant in the second half of the regular season, and look to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive season. The Bruins edged out the Anaheim Ducks to claim the President's Trophy. The best team in the NHL for much of the season was the St. Louis Blues. The Blues were my preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup, but a recent streak of injuries and poor play has them skidding into the playoffs. The Blues will need to regain some of their health and have Ryan Miller elevate his game for that pick to come to fruition. Here is how I expect the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs to play out.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Boston (-320) vs. Detroit (+260)

The Boston Bruins had the best record in the NHL this season. Their reward? Drawing the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round. The Red Wings defeated the Bruins three out of four times they played this season. Boston has the talent and experience to withstand their regular season woes against Detroit. I expect the Bruins to advance.

Prediction - Boston over Detroit 4-2

Tampa Bay (-105) vs. Montreal (-115)

The Tampa Bay Lightning played great hockey at the beginning of the season. They faded late, but were able to hang on to 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and earn home ice for this series. That could be crucial in such an even matchup. Carey Price will need to come up big against the offensive firepower of Tampa. I think he will.

Prediction - Montreal over Tampa Bay 4-3

Pittsburgh (-295) vs. Columbus (+245)

Pittsburgh has been the most disappointing playoff team of the last few seasons. They will play the up and coming Columbus Blue Jackets in the Quarterfinals. Many will view this as an easy matchup for the Penguins, but the Blue Jackets are a young and hungry bunch. Pittsburgh needs to win now or face major changes to the team that it is currently constructed.

Prediction - Pittsburgh over Columbus 4-1


NY Rangers (-150) vs. Philadelphia (+130)

This has the potential to be an outstanding series. The Rangers and Flyers both played their best hockey in the second half of the season, and have the confidence to make a playoff run. Steve Mason is battling injury for Philly. If he misses any games in net, as it appears he will, that will swing the momentum in the Rangers' favor in a big way.

Prediction - NY Rangers over Philadelphia 4-3

Western Conference Quarterfinals

Anaheim (-185) vs. Dallas (+160)

The Anaheim Ducks were consistently good all season long. They wound up clinching home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs. They have been great throughout the last couple regular seasons, but they have had a history of underachieving in the postseason. Dallas is capable of winning this series. But it all begins with the goaltending. They must win that battle to have a fighting chance.

Prediction - Anaheim over Dallas 4-1

San Jose (-145) vs. Los Angeles (+125)

San Jose and Los Angeles are making it a habit of playing playoff hockey against one another. This will be the third time in four years that they meet when it matters most. The Kings won the Stanley Cup as recently as 2012. The Sharks are still chasing that elusive Cup. They are making their 10th consecutive playoff appearance and expect it to end differently from the previous nine. Will this be the year? I'm taking the Kings.

Prediction - Los Angeles over San Jose 4-3

Colorado (-140) vs. Minnesota (+120)

Patrick Roy has completely changed this Colorado team around. The Avs have not been relevant in years. They were expected to be that way this year as well. Enter Patrick Roy as head coach, and they win the Central Division. Will that translate into postseason success? Minnesota may very well have a more talented roster than Colorado, despite the way the standings look.

Prediction - Minnesota over Colorado 4-2

St. Louis (-105) vs. Chicago (-115)

This is as good as you will see for a Quarterfinal matchup. Unfortunately, the matchup has lost some of its luster because of the mounting injuries on both sides. I picked the Blackhawks to win the Cup last season and they didn't disappoint. I picked the Blues to win it this year. I'm not feeling nearly as confident. I need the Blues to right themselves if I want to correctly pick the Cup winner for a fourth consecutive year.

Prediction - St. Louis over Chicago 4-3

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Boston over Montreal 4-1
Pittsburgh over NY Rangers 4-2

Western Conference Semifinals
Los Angeles over Anaheim 4-2
St. Louis over Minnesota 4-1

Eastern Conference Finals
Boston over Pittsburgh 4-2

Western Conference Finals
St. Louis over Los Angeles 4-2

Stanley Cup Finals
St. Louis over Boston