|Those Sports Guys||
Happy Tuesday guys, and thanks for checking in as always. I usually try to stick to 1 topic per post, but I am going to double up to some degree today, because this is a big sports week.
Part 1: NCAA Tournament
I am proud of how well represented both IN and the Big10 are in this tournament. I think this could be a very interesting year in the tournament, because there is no clear favorite among the experts. A lot of people have a lot of different proposed final 4's and the great thing is they are all reasonable. That being said, as I mentioned to a friend a few weeks ago, watch, this will be the one year with next to no upsets. I have heard a lot of people hating on the big 10 teams in the past week or so, because all of them have a fair amount of losses and nobody played particularly well down the stretch. I know these guys are experts, so I respect their opinion, but its wrong. I expect a very strong showing from the Big10 in the dance this year. As Coach Tom Izzo of Michigan State put it "I am really looking forward to playing somebody else, and I think all the Big Ten teams are, and deservedly so. We've beaten the hell out of each other, and we really, really, really have, and I think it's going to help all of us in the end...". I think that is the perfect quote. The Big10 teams have beat the hell out of each other for the past 3 months, every game was a losable one. Penn State, by far the worst team in the conference, even notched a win against Michigan. It is really difficult for a team to be "on" every night for 3 months. It is as much a physical battle as it is a mental one. One of the teams that the commentators are hating on most is Michigan. They same team they couldn't get enough of for the first 3 months of the season, its been a full on abandon ship for the last week and a half. Yes, they lost 6 of their last 12, but after having a bullseye on your back for as long as they did, it had to catch up with them to a point. With the exception to the loss at Penn State, all of their losses came to tourney teams ( 2 to IU, 2 to Wisc, 1 to MSU). That's 5 more truly challenging games than Gonzaga played all year (no disrespect to Butler or Illinois). Now, Michigan isn't in my final 4, but I definitely have them winning a few games in the tourney.
Part 2: USA Soccer vs. Costa Rica and Mexico
As Benton eluded to on Friday, the USA men's national team has 2 key qualifying matches coming up this weekend, the first is friday in Denver against Costa Rica, the second is Sunday vs. Mexico at the dreaded Stadio Azteca. The US dropped its first match against a very sound Honduras team in Honduras(Honduras is considered the 3rd best team in the region, and a favorite to make the World Cup), Costa Rica is considered the 4th best team in the CONCACAF region and Mexico is considered by most as the best. So this has been a rough draw to start for the US. The USA also has 8 regular players out due to injury for this round of qualifying... again a tough break. Former Captain Carlos Bocanegra was also left off the roster, because he hasn't made an appearance for his club in over 2 months. What does this mean? Well it means the US is not fielding its best roster and this weekend could get interesting. Now I will be the first one to say, don't try to get cute and try something crazy when the games really matter, but this might be a good time to try a formation change for Jurgen Klinnsman. The USA has 6 defensive players on its 23 man roster, and none of them have ever played in a world cup, and the most experience player has played in less than 20 games with the national team. Playing 4 guys (which klinnsman has done in nearly every game the US has played with him at the helm) in the back is a lot of inexperience in one place. I would almost suggest moving to a 3 man defense and adding and extra midfielder, which is generally a position the US has a great deal of depth (this roster included) with a lot more international experience. The USA has several Midfielders on the roster who are Holding/Defensive midfielders for their club. They excel at defending and can not press quite as far forward in the attack, but can be more aggressive than the defenders. Also an extra mid would potentially help the USA control the middle of the field possession wise, which has been an issue throughout qualifying. Will Klinnsman do this? Only time will tell, but it might be a better option than starting a guy with 1 national team performance under their belt. For the record, DeMarcus Beasley who is on the record is an Indiana native, an also a veteran of 3 world cups, it would be great te