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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thoughts on the WNBA's new Atlanta expansion team

  • I remember happening upon a web site a while back that was heavily campaigning for the WNBA to put an expansion team in Atlanta. At the time, I thought it might have been a bit of a long shot, mainly because I didn't think of Atlanta as a hub of women's basketball (certainly not in the South), but at least was interesting.
  • The team fills a hole left open by the folding of the Charlotte Sting, evening out the Eastern and Western conferences at 7 teams each. Before the Sting's folding, the addition of the Chicago Sky had a similar effect. The new Atlanta team serves as a replacement for the Sting in another way, serving as the WNBA's team for the South. However, its placement in the "Queen City of the South" is probably a preferable placement to smaller Charlotte.
  • That said, there's a reason I was skeptical about the WNBA-in-Atlanta drive. Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, the Bay Area (discounting the Monarchs), and Boston are all larger Nielsen markets without WNBA teams. But that says more about the WNBA in general than about the decision to put a team in the No. 8 media market. Remember, the WNBA was ten years old before they put a team in Chicago and thus triangulated. (In my parlance, a league "triangulates" when it has a team in each of the Big Three markets - New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. That's a major barometer of the health of a smaller league. Of course, the NFL gets by just fine without triangulation - it has no team in LA.)
  • By the 2000 Census, the largest metro area without a WNBA team is the Bay Area, followed by Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and (formerly) Atlanta. Right behind Atlanta is an ominous sign of the potential health of an Atlanta team: Miami, former home to the Sol. That team started playing in 2000 and lasted only three seasons before folding. Of course, that's not so much a sign for the South as much as it is for Florida. Both the WNBA and MLS have had two teams each in Florida, the WNBA in Miami and Orlando, MLS in Miami and Tampa Bay (the largest Nielsen market behind Atlanta without a WNBA team). In all four cases, the teams either folded or moved elsewhere. Florida can't even hold a major league team in places it should, as the story of the Florida Marlins and the continued suckitude of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays show. Still, it's worth noting that Atlanta also lacks an MLS team... and once the San Jose Earthquakes return to the Bay Area, Philadelphia will be the only larger market and 2000-definition metro area without an MLS team, meaning Atlanta will be the largest market and 2000-definition metro area to have a WNBA team but no MLS team, replacing Detroit (on the list of markets) and Seattle (on the list of metro areas). Well, at least the Shock and Storm have had some success, even if the Storm might be about to take off for greener pastures.

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

NBC's Sunday Night Football package gives it flexible scheduling. For the last seven weeks of the season, the games are determined on 12-day notice, 6-day notice for Week 17.

Last year, no game was listed in the Sunday Night slot, only a notation that one game could move there. CBS and Fox were able to protect one game every week each but had to leave one week each unprotected and had to submit their protections after only four weeks.

Now, NBC lists the game it "tentatively" schedules for each night, and by all appearances, CBS and Fox can't protect anything. However, the NFL is in charge of moving games to prime time.

Here are the rules from the NFL web site:

  • Begins Sunday of Week 11
  • In effect during Weeks 11-17
  • Only Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window.
  • The game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night during flex weeks will be listed at 8:15 p.m. ET.
  • The majority of games on Sundays will be listed at 1:00 p.m. ET during flex weeks except for games played in Pacific or Mountain Time zones which will be listed at 4:05 or 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • No impact on Thursday, Saturday or Monday night games.
  • The NFL will decide (after consultation with CBS, FOX, NBC) and announce as early as possible the game being played at 8:15 p.m. ET. The announcement will come no later than 12 days prior to the game. The NFL may also announce games moving to 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:15 p.m. ET.
  • Week 17 start time changes could be decided on 6 days notice to ensure a game with playoff implications.
  • The NBC Sunday night time slot in "flex" weeks will list the game that has been tentatively scheduled for Sunday night.
  • Fans and ticket holders must be aware that NFL games in flex weeks are subject to change 12 days in advance (6 days in Week 17) and should plan accordingly.
  • NFL schedules all games.
  • Teams will be informed as soon as they are no longer under consideration or eligible for a move to Sunday night.
(Note: I have reason to believe the above rules are very incomplete.) Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 18):
  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Seattle
  • Prospects: In big trouble. Seattle is 3-3 and Da Bears are 2-4.
  • Other possible games: Redskins @ Cowboys; Panthers @ Packers. That the NFL's biggest rivalry did not merit a preliminary pick on Sunday night does not bode well; however, either could prove a very, very significant matchup. Panthers-Packers is currently riding on how the Panthers do the next few games. Chargers-Jaguars could look very appealing if the Chargers can build off their recent win. Look out for dark horses like Steelers-Jets and Browns-Ravens. A bit cloudy at the moment with only a few weeks before Selection Day.

Week 12 (November 25):

  • Tentative game: Philadelphia @ New England
  • Prospects: In trouble. The Eagles need to keep up the pace of their recent win.
  • Other possible games: Bucs-Redskins remains strong after a Redskins loss. Too many teams have other commitments on Thanksgiving or Monday night to really endorse any other games, although Texans-Browns is a very dark horse. If either or both the Bucs or the Redskins start sliding, Chargers-Ravens might be picked.

Week 13 (December 2):

  • Tentative game: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
  • Prospects: Very much in trouble. The Steelers may be in the top four teams in the NFL, but unless the Bungles pick up the pace this will be flexed out.
  • Other possible games: Jaguars-Colts is the overwhelming favorite. Texans-Titans has started fading. Seahawks-Eagles is still fading as well. Giants-Bears has a fighting chance if the Bears can come back, but that's unlikely.

Week 14 (December 9):

  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ Baltimore
  • Prospects: Would seem to be a good enough matchup to withstand any challenges. However...
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Patriots will give this game a lot of competition. Cowboys-Lions still has some time to come back but has a big hill to climb. Bucs-Texans and Cardinals-Seahawks both have big problems. Chargers-Titans may be the biggest dark horse.

Week 15 (December 16):

  • Tentative game: Washington @ NY Giants
  • Prospects: Starting to look decent. Being in the same division as the Cowboys hurts, but these are two teams on fire and the thrilling finish of their last meeting will help write the storyline.
  • Other possible games: Eagles-Cowboys is in big trouble. Jaguars-Steelers now looks to be the favorite. Seahawks-Panthers is also in trouble.

Week 16 (December 23):

  • Tentative game: Tampa Bay @ San Francisco
  • Prospects: Very problematic, even with the Bucs' success, which just makes it look lopsided.
  • Other possible games: Texans-Colts (in trouble), Packers-Bears (also in trouble but an appealing matchup regardless of respective records), Ravens-Seahawks (could fall off if the Seahawks keep struggling). There aren't a lot of attractive matchups this week.

Week 17 (December 30):

  • Tentative game: Kansas City @ NY Jets
  • Prospects: Awful.
  • Other possible games: Steelers-Ravens, Titans-Colts, Cowboys-Redskins, with Panthers-Bucs a dark horse. Lions-Packers, Jags-Texans fading. Playoff positioning watch begins after Week 9.

Superpower Rankings and a Life Update

Can someone take over the Consensus Power Rankings for me? Not right away, maybe next year. I still like the concept and value the Consensus Rankings far more than any individual ranking when making out my picks of the week, but it's so time-consuming. Ideally, looking at and plugging in a ranking for a team doesn't take much time, but with nine rankings and 32 teams, I'm looking at nearly 300 rankings I have to add in, and some rankings are easier to do than others. Then I hand-reorder the rankings, and then comes the really long part: the little blurbs I stick next to each team. Those really take time.

Starting next week, I will probably move all the Power Rankings into an Excel file and just do the rankings on there from now on, unless someone else volunteers to take over by next Wednesday. And I'll probably ditch this experiment next year.

That I spend so much time on the consensus power rankings is a problem, considering I am back to being a college student. And especially since I'm in one class where three is the norm. Last week, after an incident that happened the Thursday before, I was removed from one of the two classes I started the year in. I spent the weekend fretting that I might be kicked out of school entirely. I wrote the following during that time:
I don't like the direction my life is heading, and I don't know what I can do to
stop it. I'm about to be kicked out of school, but that's only going to solve
the problem for them, not for me. This path has the chance to end with me in
jail. I could move on to another college, but without some changes the same
thing is probably going to happen. Especially since Mom says I would have to get
a job and basically have no fun whatsoever between school and work. And I don't
have much of a work ethic, which might be an even bigger problem than the
behavior stuff. I would like to write a lot, I'd like to write a novel about
what I have to go through, but I started thinking about it as a seinor in high
school and I've barely made it out of the first chapter. I could enter the
working world but I could get kicked out there too. And there's the work ethic
too. I could become a nonworking househusband but I'd be wasting my talents, I'm
too timid to meet any girls, and that would end badly too.

The things I spend my time working on are so trivial that I'm not sure I would want them even as jobs. That's the real reason I want to unload the Superpower Rankings: I'm not even enjoying them. It's too much work.

With the Patriots' demolition of the Cowboys, only the true diehards who keep saying "I won't drop the defending SB champs from #1 until they lose" (namely, Fox) keep the Patriots from being a unanimous No. 1. In other news, I think we need to call an intervention on Yahoo's Charles Robinson, and gently let him know that the team he keeps ranking at #14 is 0-3 in their last 3 and their two wins came on last-second field goals against teams he ranks 26th and 28th. And the Eagles are 2-0 in games where the home team wears bad throwbacks. I'm picking Jacksonville over Indianapolis to win the Lineal Title as my upset special only because I wasn't moved to pick any other real blockbuster upsets.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What a long, strange trip it's been

What a wild, wacky college football season it's been. The raft of upsetitis has now spread to the top teams. USC is the best team in the country? Whoops, they just lost to Stanford, the dregs of the Pac-10. LSU is the best team? Whoops, they just lost to Kentucky. Now Ohio State is the best team. Maybe that's good news for Michigan State, who they play this week.

A lot of people say it's all because of increased parity. If so, that's a wonderful argument for a playoff. Well, if you want a playoff, here's what you're going to have to get for it to be logical: 16 teams. Every conference champion gets a spot, even in the Sun Belt. That leaves five at-large bids. If you're a good team, you better win your conference championship, or you're fighting for fewer at-large bids than there are BCS conferences. I'd be willing to consider a 24-team format as well, about one-third the size of the NCAA Basketball tournament, which scales about right. That has the added bonus of increased competition at the top to nab one of the eight byes, as well as allowing us to preserve most of the existing bowls while adding some logic and order to it as well.

At the end of the season, I'm going to simulate a playoff format like this, using the following criteria. I seed the field 1-16 and assign each pod of four to a BCS bowl site for the second round. The first round will be held at higher-seed home sites, and the last two rounds will be held at whatever site the real-life BCS Championship Game is being held.

I seed the field and choose the at-larges using the same criteria the NCAA uses to pick its basketball tournament. For my purposes, that is: pure record, RPI, record in conference and out, road record, record in last 5 games, and individual RPI ranking, and status in playoff, of all teams played. I don't weight the RPI the way the NCAA does for home and road and I choose the at-larges before seeding anyone. I also don't use the BCS, my college football rankings, or any poll.

Once I have that down, I'll start the simulated playoff. I determine who moves on based on polling visitors to Da Blog, despite having a piss-poor track record of people actually voting in my polls.

One downside to a playoff: It loses a lot of the justification for the I-A/I-AA split to exist. Just look at the Orwellian names the NCAA gave them: the existence of a playoff or not is the whole basis for the divisions' identity.

The college football rankings will be here shortly. The lineal titles will also be updated to reflect the Kentucky upset.