The week started out so promising.  The then-14th ranked Indiana Hoosiers descended on the Maui Jim Invitational after a 86-65 victory over Creighton, and most of us who made the trip were eyeing a potential championship match-up with Kansas on the last day of the tournament.  Hoosier Nation came out to Hawaii in full force evidenced by the overwhelming amount of cream and crimson everywhere at the team hotel.  In fact, if you weren’t wearing cream and crimson, you stood out.

By the end of the week, however, after the Hoosiers had dropped two out of three games and finished with a 69-72 loss to UNLV, many fans on social media and reporters in the mainstream media were, well, disgruntled to say the least.  After all, the fans had paid thousands of dollars and traveled extraordinary miles to watch the Hoosiers play, and Hoosier Nation expected nothing less than victory (or least a close defeat) from their players and coaches.  So was the trip worth it?

As we consider that question, let’s remember where this tournament was played: Maui.  Yes, Maui.   So after the heart-breaking loss to Wake Forest on the first day of the tournament, although everyone was miserable, it could not be lost on you that you were in Hawaii.  What better place to be to nurse your team’s loss!  The beach, pool, spa, pool bar, or any one of several activities and excursions available on a moment’s notice were there to distract you and remind you how lucky you were to be on a tropical island while the rest of the Midwest dealt with the first real winter storm.  In fact, I would strongly recommend to the NCAA tournament committee that they consider having every Final Four in Hawaii for the fans’ sakes!

As for whether or not going to the basketball games were worth it, I will say this:  Not since college, have I had the opportunity to be able to sit so close to the court and observe the team.  The Lahina Civic Center is smaller than some high school gyms in Indiana.  You really had the opportunity to see the team up-close, hear the coaches barking out instructions, and watch the team from a view point that only a few get to see on a regular basis.  Even though it’s early in the season and line-ups and schemes will evolve, being able to see your team play three days in a row courtside is amazing for a college basketball fan.  In fact, I feel like I had a three day crash course in Indiana basketball that I wouldn’t have gotten from just watching the games at home (we need to fix our defense, and…ahem…turnovers!)

I had also forgotten how physically intense the game of basketball is – something that you just cannot appreciate on TV.  The speed at which the players move, and sometimes collide with each other – and the hardcourt – is extreme.  Anyone who says basketball is not a contact sport has not watched a game courtside.  And watching plays develop and defensive schemes turn on a dime as the players see it, is remarkably different from the bird’s eye view that we have on our couches.

So was the trip worth it?  For me, the answer is a resounding, Yes.  And that includes the basketball.  As I settle back into my routine, fighting off jet lag and getting ready for the holiday season, the one thing I know for sure – It’s going to be awfully hard to go back to my seats in the balcony after these last three games.




Two of the NFL’s oldest franchises, the Chicago Bears (4-6) and the Green Bay Packers (7-3) will play in an epic Thanksgiving showdown this evening.

This match-up is the league’s most played rivalry; they have played each other twice a season for over 80 years. Green Bay has won the last four meetings and with a potential victory tonight, the Packers can even the all-time series. The Packers are currently 91-92-6 against the Bears.

The Bears-Packers rivalry also has featured some of the best moments by some of the greatest players in NFL history. A total of 52 Pro Football Hall of Fame members (28 for the Bears and 24 for the Packers) have participated in the series (via Green Back Packers website).

While the match-up is always competitive and exciting, here’s some keys to what the Bears need to land an improbable victory.

Notes for Tonight’s Game:

Better Play out of Jay: It has been five years since Cutler landed his only victory over the Packers.  Earlier this season, Cutler played miserably against the Packers with 18-36 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Even if Jay has seemed to improve and played his best under Offensive Coach, Adam Gase, if he plays like he normally does against the Packers, the Bears don’t stand a chance.

Stop Eddie Lacy: Lacy has been slightly inconsistent on his run game, but last week the Minnesota Vikings allowed Lacy to get in the groove and he ran all over them .  Lacy totaled 100 rushing yards on 22 carries last week. The Bears must block up his running lanes to give themselves an opportunity to win .

Injury Update: Chicago has ruled out Tight End, Martellus Bennett out for the game with a rib injury and Wide Receiver Eddie Royal is also out with a knee injury. However, Running Back Matt Forte is among six of the Bears listed questionable for tonight’s game. When he was asked about taking on Green Bay, Forte said that he was “good to go”.

Fun Fact:

Former Green Bay Packers Quarterback Brett Favre’s retired jersey number (4) will be unveiled during a big halftime celebration at Lambeau Field tonight.

My Prediction?

I’m not going to sugar-coat this: the Bears will lose tonight. I cannot argue that a 4-6 team will defeat one of the best QBs in the league. However, the game should be decent to watch because Chicago has improved greatly since the last time the two teams met earlier in the season. So stuff your faces, settle in your sofas and BEAR DOWN Chicago.


On paper the Chicago Bulls have started the season just fine.  They’ve got a new head coach, they’re 8-4 and sitting pretty at third in the Eastern Conference – no sweat right? I beg to differ. This Bulls roster isn’t necessarily star-studded like some of their competitors, but rather stocked with plenty of seven-foot monsters. What’s the problem you ask? The Bulls either have failed to use their size advantage against opponents all while some big guys are struggling to find themselves all together. It’s a BIG mess.

My biggest concern is Joakim Noah who honestly seems like he needs a hug.  Jo-No spoke out after the Bulls’ loss to Golden State, his fifth scoreless game of the season,

“I’ve got to be more aggressive offensively and look for my opportunities. Right now I’m not really sure where I can get them, but when they come I have to be ready and I have to be ready to score.”

Noah’s stats are at an all-time career low. His offense is just straight up missing currently averaging 2.5 points a game. It’s almost like he’s afraid to take shots he’s made a million times before. Let’s not even talk about rebounding, blocks and minutes played. With such poor offense, he hasn’t earned a spot in the starting rotation yet this season either. Coming off the bench is an obstacle in itself for Jo who’s always been a starter with the Bulls, but he’s normally such a force to be reckoned with it’s heartbreaking to see him so somber. Jo-No needs a serious confidence boost, otherwise we may never see the Defensive Player Year of seasons past.

NBA-vet Pau Gasol also has some concerns. His stats are far less tragic than Noah’s, but he isn’t moving and grooving like he’s used to either. As of right now, Gasol’s stats are similar to 2012-2013 when he missed 33 games due to injury. He isn’t a spring chicken in his rookie season, but he’s healthy at the moment and averaging fewer than 30 minutes a game (a career low). Gasol spoke out after the Bulls loss to the warriors as well,

“Sometimes we go one way and sometimes we go another. Especially when they go small they’ve got an advantage on the other end because they are going to spread the floor. But then you have to punish them on offense, make them pay for going small. That’s what we didn’t do; we don’t do enough. That’s the balance between our outside game and our inside game.”

Gasol knows he’s crucial to any team he’s a part of and he wants more opportunities to score. Derrick Rose is scheduled to come back against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and hopefully he’ll be able to set up some pick-n-rolls for Gasol.

It’s tough to see such prominent players struggling to find their place on this Bulls team – especially Noah who’s been the heart and soul of Chicago basketball for the last nine years. These guys both need big bowl of confidence for breakfast and they should be fine. It’s still too early to send in the cavalry.


With two weeks to go in the regular season, there are several great match-ups that have the potential to shake-up the CFB playoff picture.  None is bigger, however, than the match-up of the B1G season between the Buckeyes and the Spartans on Saturday.  In fact, ESPN College GameDay is headed to Columbus for the first time since 2010 for the big showdown.  The Buckeyes beat out a valiant effort by Virginia Tech who tried to entice College GameDay to come to their campus to honor retiring head coach Frank Beamer one last time.  But alas, the OSU v. MSU match-up was just too big to turn down. So what will the fans of both the Spartans and Buckeyes be in store for when their two teams hit the field?

Honestly, one can only reason a guess at this point in the season. But one thing looks for sure: Whichever team loses will most likely end their hopes of being in the playoff consideration.  Whoever wins, probably just put themselves in the hunt for the CFP.  Some argue that MSU will be primed for a win after losing a heartbreaker to Nebraska last week.  And some believe that OSU has had a cupcake schedule this year and this is their first legitimate challenge.

While the match-up between these two powerhouses on the field is certainly attracting well-deserved attention, the one story that really caught my eye this week was much more personal in nature. It was the feature ESPN did on the relationship between Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo – a football coach and a basketball coach that have fed off of each other, enjoyed each other’s success, and been there for each other during times of struggle.  And that was important last week after MSU lost its chance at an undefeated season.

“We just talked about how to deal with the media and the fans and players. I asked him how he addressed his players Sunday when he got back,” Izzo said. “Mostly, I was just checking up on a friend.” – Tom Izzo via ESPN.

Being a head coach of a Division I college sport, especially a revenue generating sport that is constantly in the national media must be awfully lonely.  You are either a hero who can do “no wrong” or the fans are calling for your job if the season is not going according to plan.  Let’s face it – we are in a “Win Now, Win Often” era of sports, both at the collegiate level and professionally. A college coach who is guiding young men through the bright lights of the wins and the devastation of the losses have to be able to be motivators, comforters, supporters, and to some extent, fathers.

But where do they turn for their own advice and support?  While I’m sure family and close friends provide a much needed support system, no one but another coach in similar situation can really understand. For Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, they turn to each other.

It probably is not a coincidence that for almost the past ten years that they have been at the helm of the football and basketball programs, MSU has seen a resurgence of success.  If you don’t know a lot about these two coaches, I would highly recommend reading the story.  And for other colleges out there – this is a blueprint waiting to be followed.

Category: NCAA

This is the time of year I like to call “Cirque du Bulls.” Don’t worry the Bulls players aren’t quitting the game and running away to the Circus, but rather the Circus claims the United Center each year so the Bulls jet-set to face-off with their West Coast opponents. It just so happens the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors are next on the Bulls’ schedule and a true test of just how good Chicago is this season.

Wednesday kicked-off the trip against the Phoenix Suns and it was all about Jimmy Butler. Derrick Rose was out with an ankle injury and all eyes were on Jimmy Buckets to lead the way to victory. Butler scored a season-high 32 points, completely dominating the 4th quarter, which pushed the Bulls to their 103-97 win over the Suns. Jimmy was working on his MVP resume most definitely. It was beautiful.

Now the Bulls’ set their sights on reigning MVP Stephen Curry and the Champion Golden State Warriors on Friday. Just a lot of “Champion” happening in GS. Did I mention the Warriors are currently 12-0? Yes, just a perfect start to the season, no big deal. Golden State faces their division rival Los Angeles Clippers tonight, where they’ll put their undefeated season on the line. My prediction, Steph Curry comes up big and torches the Clippers.

Let’s talk about Steph Curry, who unlike Lebron James, is seemingly impossible to hate. Maybe it’s his adorable daughter Riley Curry who took the NBA finals by storm last season, or maybe it’s Curry’s soft spoken self, but I love the guy (and I know I’m not alone). He won his first MVP title last season and seems to have transformed from the best player in the league in 2014-2015 to a Super-Shooting MVP. However possible, he’s gotten better improving from 24 points a game to 34. He’s also averaging 5 three-pointers a game and making it look so stinkin’ easy. His supporting cast of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes are also good, which adds fuel to GS fire.

The Western Conference has been full of talent and generally more competitive than the Eastern Conference for the last three years. Friday’s game against the Warriors is going to be the Bulls toughest and truest test yet. Can Chicago’s defense pull through and defend Golden State’s big men all while watching out for Curry on the perimeter? Will Jimmy Butler be able to drum up another All-Star performance and produce significant points for the Bulls? We’ll need all our guys to step up and produce some points as Golden State has no trouble scoring.


We’ve got a lot of #TBT happening today. There’s been some chatter about the 1996 Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, Rodman big three) beating a simulated 2015 Warriors team. I’m all for the fun and games, but I prefer to live in the present and I’m pumped for the 2015 Bulls to take on the 2015 Warriors. You can catch all the action on WGN at 9:30 PM CST Friday.


We’re 11 games into the NBA season and we have our first firing.  And in a shocking twist, it wasn’t by the Kings.  The Houston Rockets have fired Kevin McHale after limping to a 4-7 start to tip off a season with Championship expectations.

On the surface this seems premature.  McHale has been the Rockets coach since 2011 and holds the highest win percentage in Rockets history.  4-7 isn’t the biggest hole to climb out of and the Rockets had topped two of the Western Conference’s best teams – OKC and the Clippers. McHale was signed to a 3 year $13 million extension less than a year ago, and drew buzz in the Coach of the Year conversation in June.

So how did he end up out of a job in mid-November?  In reality, it wasn’t a total overreaction by the Rockets front office.  The team is in disarray.  The Rockets lost 3 games to mediocre teams by 20+ points before picking up their first win this season.  Dwight Howard has been in and out of the lineup and unable to set the tone for a group of players who seem unaware of what it takes to get to the Finals.  James Harden has shot particularly poorly to start off a season following one in which he believed he was the MVP, on top of his awful defensive effort and alleged general aloofness. It goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway that the Kardashian effect is way more than a coincidence at this point.

The word is that McHale had lost the locker room to a point of no return, in which case it makes sense to make a quick change.  The talent is there for the Rockets but clearly the chemistry is not.  You can’t fire players on guaranteed contracts, so McHale is the logical target.  There has been buzz about tension between the old school coaching staff and the analytical front office (Bulls fans have seen this movie before), and it came to brighter light during the losing stretch.  Rockets owner Leslie Alexander went as far as to say that this season, he knew his team was going to lose. An awful feeling most fans can relate to, but tough to hear from an owner.

“I’m watching the games, I’m watching us lose by huge amounts and not playing hard. Then I watched the Boston game, and before the game starts, I know we’re going to lose. I knew I was going to lose to Dallas, and I thought we’d lose the game before that. Then we played Boston, and I was 100% sure we’d lose even when we were up, I knew we were going to lose…I didn’t watch the fourth quarter. First time I never watched a quarter of my team’s play, I knew we were going to lose. I don’t like to watch losing. It’s no fun losing.”

Zero. Fun. Sir. So what’s next next for the Rockets?  Alexander named assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff as Interim Head coach and announced that he would stay on for the remainder of this season before the Rockets topped the hot Blazers in overtime last night. A question Chicago fans may be asking – will we see Thibs barking at players from 3 feet in front of the Rockets bench next year?  My opinion?  Highly doubtful.  Thibs strict and demanding system with scripted offense is in sharp contrast to GM Daryl Morey’s poster boy status for analytics and progression.  I don’t see Thibs resting Dwight Howard and saving him for the playoffs, or dealing well with such poor defensive effort from the team’s star player.

No matter who is coaching this season or next, it’s pretty clear that there are issues beyond the head coach in Houston.  Whether it’s Dwight Howard’s leadership, James Harden’s effort, Ty Lawson’s fit, or the true effectiveness of analytics in the NBA, it was high time for some non-Clippers or Kings related drama, so bring it on.

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