Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Robbins Rants: Putting Golden State's Historic Start in Perspective

Treat yourself or someone else to a great holiday treat:  my Live Album of Poetry!  Click HERE to check it out on iTunes today!!!

The Golden State Warriors are off to a phenomenal start to the season, the type of start that has rarely been seen in NBA history.  In addition to having won their last 16 games in a row, the Warriors own the NBA’s best record at 21-2 (good for a .913 win percentage).

Coming into the season the Warriors were projected to be a fan favorite, with their high-octane offence led by Splash Brothers Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, and a revamped offense and defense under the guidance of new head coach Steve Kerr.  While they were expected to be competitive in an incredibly deep Western Conference that saw the eighth seed win 49 (of 82) games during the regular season last year, nobody expected this start from the Warriors—or any other team for that matter.

So how good are they?  Does their record lie?  Do the stats support what the Warriors are doing?  As we near tip-off for the Warriors’ matchup with the second-best-team-in-the-NBA Memphis Grizzlies (19-4 record), let’s take a deeper look and find out just how good these Warriors actually are 23 games into the regular season…

  • The Warriors are leading the NBA in Field Goal Percentage at a whopping 48.2% from the field.  By comparison, the league average is 45.1% from the field.
  • The Warriors average the second-most points per game in the NBA at 107.6 points per contest.
  • The Warriors are the least-blocked team in the league.  They may miss 51.8% of the shots they take, but it is not because the other team is swatting them away.
  • The Warriors have the seventh-best offensive rating in the NBA.
  • The Warriors are the fifth-most efficient offensive team in the NBA.
  • The Warriors have the second best pace in the NBA, meaning they average the second-most possessions per 48 minutes (the length of a regulation NBA game).  When you have the most possessions and lead the league in field goal percentage, you are going to score a lot of points (see above points per game statistic).
  • Unsurprisingly, and befitting of their “Splash Brothers” nickname, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have combined for the most three-pointers out of any backcourt in the NBA.
  • The Warriors were always thought to be an offensively gifted team under Marc Jackson because of their talent.  However, metrics and statistics show that the offense was often stagnant and not very efficient over the past few years.  The Warriors hit three pointers and were exciting on offense, but they didn’t move the ball well or execute to their potential.  Under Steve Kerr, the Warriors have actually become the offense every casual NBA fan thought they were over the past two seasons.

  • The Warriors have the best defensive rating in the NBA, meaning they allow the fewest points in the NBA per 100 possessions.
  • The Warriors also have the best defensive efficiency ranking in the NBA.  (The Warriors were third in this category last season.  In addition to improving offensively, they have continued to work on and improve the defensive feats they accomplished under Marc Jackson).
  • The Warriors allow the seventh-fewest points per game in the NBA, holding opponents to 96.8 points per game.  The league average is 100.
  • The Warriors have the best opponent field goal percentage in the NBA, holding their opponents to a measly 41.1% shooting per game.  The league average is 45.1%.
  • The Warriors lead the league in blocked shots at just over 6.5 blocks per game.  The league average is 4.75 blocks per game.
  • In 23 games, the Warriors have not allowed an opponent to shoot 50% from the field a single time.  Because it’s worth repeating:  no team has hit half of its shots against the Warriors in a game yet this season.

Overall (Offense + Defense)
  • The Warriors are one of two teams—with the Memphis Grizzlies squad they face in primetime this evening being the other—to rank in the top-25% of the NBA in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • The Warriors have a point differential or margin of victory (points per game for the Warriors minus points per game for their opponents) of 10.78.  This means that on average, they win by double-digits.  This is the best point differential in the NBA by far.  The next best belongs to the Toronto Raptors—currently the top-team in the Eastern Conference with a 19-6 record—who post a differential of 8.28 points.

The Streak
Coming into this season, the Warriors’ franchise record winning streak was 11 games in the 1971-1972 season, ultimately snapped by the Chicago Bulls.  The Warriors set a franchise-record by defeating the Bulls in Chicago this season to extend their winning streak to 12 games, on December 6th.  Since then, the Warriors are 4-0, and have extended the win streak to 16 games.

The last three wins came against the Houston Rockets in Oakland, the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, and the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans.  While the Rockets were missing All-Star big man Dwight Howard, the Warriors were also missing star big man and defensive stud Andrew Bogut.  The game was close until late in the fourth quarter, when the Warriors blew it open on the offensive end—and continued their strong defensive play—with a 17-3 run that saw the Warriors score on nine-straight possessions.  The Warriors won 105-93, holding the Rockets well under their season average of 99.6 points per game, while scoring 10 points more than what the Rockets allow on average.

Against the Mavericks, the Warriors used a 39-18 first quarter to blow the game open.  While the Mavericks fought hard in the second half and closed the gap to seven within the waning minutes of the game, the Warriors—still without Bogut—held on to win 105-98, again holding their opponent under the century mark while topping it themselves.

On Sunday the Warriors had a “trap game” (a game that seems easy on paper and is easy to overlook, but easily could have caught them by surprise and ended the streak).  They faced a .500 New Orleans squad playing without its star player—and the only person leading Steph Curry in the early MVP race—Anthony Davis.  It was also the second day of the road back-to-back that began in Dallas against the tough Mavericks team that fought until the end.  The Warriors easily could have acted tired and overlooked the Pelicans en route to a New Orleans win.  However, they came from six down in the final minutes to force overtime and blitz the Pelicans in overtime en route to a 128-122 win.  While it was not an offensively efficient game with the Warriors committing 19 turnovers, or a good defensive win with the Warriors giving up 122 points, they fought hard and willed themselves to victory to keep the streak alive.

Historically Good
It is not often in the NBA that a 16-game winning streak is overlooked.  After all, the Warriors are now tied for the 20th-longest winning streak in NBA history.  If you take out the teams that played fewer than 82 games in a season, only 21 teams in league history have won as many games in a row as the Warriors, and only 14 teams have longer winning streaks.  And yet, the streak is an afterthought because the Warriors have been that good, overall.

Al Cervi of the Syracuse Nationals had the record for the best start to a coaching career in NBA history with an 18-2 record in the 1949-1950 season.  Steve Kerr tied the record against the Timberwolves, broke it against the Rockets, and has extended it against Dallas and New Orleans since then.  The Warriors record now stands at 21-2.  The Warriors are the twelfth team in NBA History to start 20-2 or better.  Only seven teams in NBA History (including the Warriors) have started a season 21-2.  Win tonight and the numbers become even gaudier.

But How Good is This Team Really?
Six out of the 11 teams to start a season 20-2 in the past won NBA Titles.  Additionally, the Warriors have the 17th best point differential through 23 games in NBA History.  Seven of the previous 16 teams to do it won the NBA Title that season.

Does this mean the Warriors are going to win the NBA Title?  Definitely not.  While it is obviously the hope of all Warriors fans, they play in the toughest conference and one of the tougher divisions in basketball.  Will they continue this pace and break the Bulls’ all-time great record of 72-10?  It is possible, but again, most-likely not.  However, they have definitely positioned themselves to contend in the West this year.

The Warriors won 51 games last season.  They only need to go 30-29 the rest of the way (a paltry .508 win percentage) to equal last season’s total.  Additionally, they only need to go 39-20 (a .661 win percentage) the rest of the way to finish with an all-time franchise-high 60 wins, while a 41-18 finish to the season (a .694 win percentage) will give them the same record as the reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs had when they finished with the best record in the NBA last year.

There is no question that the Warriors’ schedule will get tougher from here.  After Memphis tonight they face the streaking-now-that-they-are-healthy Oklahoma City Thunder, followed by a game at the Clippers next week.  The Warriors opponents through the first 23 games of the season had a combined win percentage of .496 (14th in the NBA).  This will increase as they play the aforementioned tougher competition and continue to play teams from the Western Conference.  They also need to stay healthy, and injuries have begun to pile up.  Having said all of that, the Warriors have played the third-most road games in the NBA thus far this season, meaning they can look forward to a bevy of games at Oracle Arena in the future.

Bottom Line
The Warriors were projected to be exciting, with a superstar in Steph Curry, a fiery rookie head coach, and a supporting cast including star Klay Thompson.  Curry has grown to new heights, Thompson is playing like a superstar and justifying the big payday he received before the beginning of the season, Draymond Green has emerged as a star—and they’ve done all of this without All-Star David Lee who is nursing a hamstring injury.  While it is close to a given that the Warriors will not stay on this pace and win over 91% of their games this season, they have emerged as true contenders who can size up—and defeat—any team in the NBA.  While historical and modern perspective shows that the Warriors record may be bloated, they are by far the best team in the NBA at this point, and there is no reason why that cannot continue for the rest of the season.

The first step:  beating the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis tonight to have the best win of the young NBA season, and extend the franchise-best, historical win streak and start to 17 games and a 22-2 record, respectively.  Hey, “It Could Happen.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Robbins Rants: Why Arizona will make the College Football Playoff—without help from other teams—if they beat Oregon in the PAC-12 Championship Game

I released a Live Album of my Poetry!  Click HERE to check it out on iTunes today!!!

The inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP) will kick off on New Years Day, with two semifinals featuring the top four teams in college football.  While the field for this historic playoff (that finally signals death to the rightfully vilified BCS) will be set on Tuesday, December 9th, there is much football to be played between now and then—which means there is much discussion and debate to be had, as well.

During my time at the University of Arizona, scientific skills and analysis earned me the nickname, “Stat. Boy.”  Over the past few weeks, I used these skills to figure out the scenario by which U of A could reach the PAC-12 Title Game—two weeks before the Thanksgiving slate of games—and to show why Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III deserves an invite to this year’s Heisman ceremony in New York*.  I am now turning my attention to the College Football Playoff, with the bold assertion that the University of Arizona will make the field of four without help from any other team(s) if they beat Oregon in the PAC-12 Title Game.  Consider this your College Football Playoff primer.  

To quote a beer company that will remain unnamed until they decide to sponsor this blog:  “Here We Go!”

The latest CFP rankings came out as follows:

1. Alabama (11-1 Record, SEC)
2. Oregon (11-1 Record, PAC-12)
3. TCU (10-1 Record, Big 12)
4. Florida State (12-0 Record, ACC)
5. Ohio State (11-1 Record, Big 10)
6. Baylor (11-1 Record, Big 12)
7. University of Arizona (10-2 Record, PAC-12)

The top four teams in the field face each other in two national semifinals on New Years Day.  #1 will face #4 in the Sugar Bowl, while #2 will face #3 in the Rose Bowl.  The winners of each semifinal will face off in the National Championship game in the House That Jerry Built in Arlington, Texas on January 12th.

Predictions & Projections (Team Rankings in Parentheses)
(1) Alabama faces (16) Missouri in the SEC Title Game.  Alabama should have no problem keeping its number one slot in the CFP rankings.

(2) Oregon faces (7) Arizona in the PAC-12 Title Game.  This should be a great game between two high-powered offenses and hard-hitting defenses.  It features Heisman leader Marcus Mariota running the offense for the Ducks, and Heisman contender Scooby Wright III leading the defense for the Wildcats.  Oregon opened up as more than a two-touchdown favorite, and understandably so:  it will be extremely tough for Arizona to win this game.  Oregon is one of the top teams in the nation.  It is also extremely difficult for any team to beat an opponent twice in one season—regardless of how good the opponent is.  Oregon will be ready for this game, and it will be ready to exact revenge on the Wildcats for its lone loss of the season, suffered at home in Eugene on October 2nd.  Having said all of this—unbiased by my Arizona Fandom and Fanhood—I am going to go with the Wildcats winning this matchup, for the simple reason that this article would be pointless—and will be rendered useless aside from featuring aesthetically pleasing writing—if the Wildcats lose.  U of A completes the season sweep and rides the victory into the CFP.

(3) TCU faces lowly Iowa State—with its 2-9 record—in a “gimme game.”  TCU should win and win big.

(4) Florida State—which has won its last three games (all against) unranked opponents by a combined 12 points—faces (11) Georgia Tech and the swarming defense that would have any offense in the nation scared right now.  Florida State doesn’t win this game playing the way it has played since the beginning of October.  Look for the upset to finally end FSU’s tumultuous and barely undefeated season, once and for all.

(5) Ohio St. faces (13) Wisconsin in the Big 10 Title Game.  Both teams have been overrated for most of the season, but they have both (somehow) managed to get to the Title Game.  Ohio State did it behind its phenomenal redshirt freshman quarterback JT Barrett, despite its porous run defense.  Wisconsin did it on the strength of its fabulous running back Melvin Gordon.  On paper I would have liked Wisconsin anyway, but Barrett unfortunately suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Ohio State’s win over Michigan last week, like dashing all hopes for Ohio State.  Struggling on offense and keeping a defense that is weak at stopping the run on the field against one of the top running backs in the nation is a recipe for disaster for Ohio State, and a recipe for success for Wisconsin.  Look for the Badgers to win this one.

(6) Baylor hosts (9) Kansas St. in a game with potentially big playoff implications.  If Baylor wins, it will make its case for the final playoff spot if Florida State goes down.  If Baylor loses, it will open the doors for a lot of other teams, depending on who else goes down.  Baylor barely beat Texas Tech last weekend in a game Texas Tech’s coaching staff probably gave away by going for a two-point conversion with eight minutes remaining in the contest.  This forced them to go for two after they scored their final touchdown.  They were unable to convert, and Baylor escaped with a 48-46 win.  Baylor’s star quarterback Bryce Petty also went down with a concussion in that game.  While Baylor is 10-1, Kansas State is 9-2, with its only two losses coming to (3) TCU and (19) Auburn.  Baylor should win this one, but it will be no surprise if they lose, if they play the way they did against Texas Tech last weekend.

What Does It All Mean?
Alabama and TCU are locks for the CFP.  While an upset is always a possibility, Alabama is too good to fall to Missouri after the season both squads have had, and TCU losing to lowly Iowa State when winning means a guaranteed spot in the CFP would be one of the biggest chokes in history.  Any team can win any given Friday/Saturday (Michigan vs. Appalachian State anybody?), just not Iowa State on this Saturday.

Since the premise of this article is Arizona making the CFP without help from other teams, we’ll say that Alabama and TCU are locks, and Florida State finds a way to eke out another win.  For the sake of the article, we’ll also say that Ohio State beats Wisconsin and Baylor beats Kansas State.  With Oregon falling, this leaves one spot for winning teams Ohio State, Baylor, and Arizona.

So how can Arizona possibly make the CFP?  How can it jump two teams already ahead of it, who will have just beaten ranked opponents?  Assuming the College Football Selection Committee sticks to its trends and doesn’t throw us all a curve ball, the answer is “Pretty easily.”

The Case Against Ohio State & Baylor, & The Case For Arizona
The Committee has forgotten Ohio State.  They moved up last week because Mississippi State lost ahead of them and Baylor nearly lost to Texas Tech, but they were essentially dead to the committee when Heisman hopeful JT Barrett broke his ankle.  As has been discussed many times over the past week, this is essentially the “Kenyon Martin effect.”  Martin was a star for the number-one-in-the-land Cincinnati Bearcats basketball squad when he broke his leg the game before March Madness.  The Bearcats lost their number one seed (they fell to a two-seed, essentially ranking them as the fifth best team in the tournament at best), and sure enough, were eliminated early on in the tournament.  Ohio State may be able to play without their QB, but even if they can do so against an overrated Wisconsin team, the Committee has already said it will look at how well they believe a team can do going forward (i.e. how competitive they can be in the Playoff with their team as it currently is).  Ohio State should struggle to win this weekend.  Even if it does, Baylor and Arizona will easily jump the Buckeyes should each team win their respective games against better, tougher opponents than Ohio State is facing.

The Committee never liked Baylor.  Baylor and TCU play in the same conference and have the same record.  The difference is, TCU’s lone loss was to Baylor!  And yet, Baylor is behind TCU—not by one spot, but by three.  The Committee has said they will not drop Florida State out of the Playoff as long as it keeps winning and remains undefeated, so it is understandable Baylor is behind FSU, but there is no reason for the Bears be ranked below Ohio St.  In addition to losing Barrett, Ohio State is worse than Baylor across the board, both in terms of teams it has beaten, and the lone team each has lost to.  For whatever reason—a TCU win over Minnesota that grows more suspect by the week—the Committee values TCU over Baylor.  While the rankings aren’t done with public percentages released by the Committee like the BCS did and other polls currently do, Arizona can’t be far behind Baylor.  If they are pretty even going into the weekend and Baylor Beats the ninth-ranked team while Arizona beats the second-ranked team, Arizona should definitely jump Baylor—especially if Baylor ekes out a win like it did against Texas Tech last week.

The Committee likes Arizona.  For what seems like the first time in College Football History, the Committee values the PAC-12 Conference.  The Conference has been touting the PAC-12 Championship Game as a CFP play-in game:  the winner will make the Playoff.  Arizona would have had a good resume ranked eighth in the nation coming into this weekend.  The Committee favored the Wildcats and surprisingly had them jump Michigan State last week after beating ranked Arizona State, putting Arizona in the perfect position to make the CFP.

If Arizona beats Oregon, it will arguably have the two best wins of any team in the nation, having beaten an Oregon team ranked second in the nation on two separate occasions away from Tucson (once on the road, once at a neutral site).  Its only losses will have come on a last-second missed field goal to ranked USC, and on the road to ranked UCLA.  While the Committee says that it looks at teams where they were when the matchup happened, it has to help Arizona that UCLA and USC are both ranked in the latest CFP rankings (#15 and #25 respectively).  Also ranked are the aforementioned Arizona State Devils (#17), and Utah Utes (#23), both of whom lost to Arizona.  Arizona will have won the most conference games of any conference champion in the nation, and will be the champions of the conference with the second-most teams ranked in the CFP Rankings (behind only the mighty SEC).

Why Arizona?
So why does the CFP Selection Committee like Arizona?  Maybe it’s because they are an upstart team.  Maybe they like Coach Rich Rodriguez or Scooby Wright.  Maybe they recognize how far the program has come, that this was the same program that won eight games total from 2003-2005 and has won 10 already this season.  Maybe they think the style of spread offense Arizona runs will wow and excite fans, and maybe they just don’t like teams that wear green and yellow or gold—whether they are from Texas or Oregon.

Regardless of the reason, the Arizona Wildcats control their own destiny:  beat Oregon to become PAC-12 Champions, and they will find themselves in the inaugural College Football Playoff—regardless of what other teams do.

WARNING:  Biased Fan Comment Coming Soon…

Will I feel better if Baylor, Ohio State, and Florida State lose?  No question.  Any Arizona fan would be silly to rely solely on the CFP Committee.  However, we should take solace in the fact that any help locks Arizona into a Playoff spot—as opposed to the Wildcats needing help to make it to the CFP.


*Column on Scooby’s candidacy coming after the CFP field is announced

Joseph D. Robbins is a poet and an educator based in New York City.  He has a BA in Creative Writing & Judaic Studies from the University of Arizona, a Masters in the Teaching of English from Columbia Teachers College, and a Masters in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary.  He is pursuing State Certification in Students with Learning Disabilities at Teachers College.  You can find his poetry album, “One Man Gang Live” at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-man-gang-live/id769044733.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Robbins Rants: 16 is Oh So Sweet!

**I am covering March Madness for the "Louis Live" show on TLV1.fm.  Check back here for weekly updates on March Madness.  This is the third post in the series.  Click here to read a previous post.**

I released a Live Album of my Poetry!  Click HERE to check it out on iTunes today!!!

Well that was awesome.  They call it March Madness and the first two rounds of this year's NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament definitely did not disappoint.  After six overtime games, multiple other games decided in the final moments and a host of classic games, we have arrived at the Sweet 16.  It was dicey at times for some teams--and even dicier for people who had those teams in their brackets--but the 16 teams playing tonight and tomorrow have all earned their right to March on.

In the words of a certain beverage company who did not pay for the rights to have their name printed in this blog, "Here We Go!"

Miller Bros.
On Saturday night, Archie Miller, head coach of the Dayton Flyers, led his team to a hard-fought upset over struggling Syracuse.  It capped off a tough season for Syracuse that saw the Orange finish with a 28-6 record after beginning the season 25-0.  But this game should not be classified as a Syracuse loss:  it was a Dayton win that propelled the 11 seed Flyers and their third year head coach into the spotlight as the closest thing remaining in this Tournament to a Cinderella.  Miller has done a phenomenal job at Dayton, turning the program into a success story that is in the Sweet 16 for the first time in three decades.  After upsetting in-state rivals Ohio State 60-59 to ruin most people's brackets in the first game of the Tournament, Dayton avoided a late Syracuse run and last-second attempt by star point guard Tyler Ennis to defeat the Orange 55-53 in the second round.  While their combined margin of victory in the first two rounds was three points, Dayton positioned themselves to win both games, and reminded the world that "Survive & Advance" is all a team needs to do in March Madness.

On Sunday evening, one seed Arizona faced off against eight seed Gonzaga in a game with an ungodly tip-off time of 9:53 p.m. Eastern.  (Tonight's tip-off is even more ridiculous for people who have to function on Friday mornings, as Arizona is not scheduled to tip-off until 10:17 p.m. Eastern, which means there is a good likelihood that the game will start after 10:30 p.m.)  A highly-anticipated matchup between a Gonzaga team that looked strong in dispatching Oklahoma State in the first round and an Arizona squad that seemingly had to prove itself despite being ranked number one for eight straight weeks this season, ended in a rout as Arizona had the game all but wrapped up at halftime.  As close friend and Huffington Post blogger Lewis Krell put it before the game while we were discussing what Arizona needed to do to beat Gonzaga, "Turnovers lead to easy points, easy points lead to March wins."  The Wildcats obliterated Gonzaga, converting the 21 Gonzaga turnovers it forced into 32 easy points.  The Wildcats looked like not only the top defensive team in the country, but a fluid offense that is and always has been about unselfishness and teamwork.  The unselfish style of play, work ethic and success that Arizona exhibits on the court is due to its leader and head coach, Sean Miller.  Miller is widely considered to be the "Best Coach to Never Make a Final Four," leading both Xavier and Arizona to huge success in his relatively short amount of time at the schools.  In addition to having the Wildcats posed to make the trip to North Texas for the Final Four, Sean Miller is the older brother of Dayton head coach Archie Miller.

Although he is one of the brightest young coaching minds in college basketball, Archie Miller was a relative unknown before Dayton's run.  Those who did know him outside of Ohio, most-likely knew him as the younger brother of Arizona head coach Sean Miller.  When Archie left his position as associate head coach at the University of Arizona to take the Dayton job, big brother Sean praised him as a great coach who would do fantastic things for the Dayton program.  Three years later, as they both prepare to coach their teams in this year's Sweet 16, Archie proved that big brother knows best.  Last weekend was a pretty darn good weekend to be a Miller.  For the sake of Dayton & Arizona fans, lets hope this weekend turns out to be an even better one.

The Shockers
On Sunday afternoon, the Wichita State Shockers faced off against the Kentucky Wildcats in the best game of the Tournament, thus far.  In a Tournament that has been this exciting and garnered the best ratings in 19 years, having the title of "best game" is no joke.  Wichita State came in as the 35-0, in-the-record-books mid-major team looking to prove itself to everybody.  Kentucky came in with a recruiting class for the ages that had been ranked number one in the nation during the preseason before faltering throughout the regular season.  Kentucky finally came together as a team towards the end of the season, running through the South Eastern Conference Tournament, ultimately losing to Florida by a point in the Title Game.  Wichita State entered the matchup as the only one seed to look strong in its first round matchup.  Kentucky entered the game with all of its talented freshmen finally clicking, exhibiting the chemistry that had eluded them all year long.  This was a matchup that many argued never should have been set up in the Round of 32 (with Kentucky deserving much higher than an eight seed in the tournament) and numerous pundits and the coaches of both teams remarking after the game that it was reminiscent of a Final Four game--if not a National Title game.

After a back-and-forth battle that showcased all of Wichita State's stars and included the dunk of the tournament and 31 points from Cleanthony Early, and the skills that made Kentucky's recruiting class the unquestioned best in the nation, Kentucky bested Wichita State 78-76 to advance to the Sweet 16. Immediately the conversation focused on Wichita State's credentials:  were they deserving of the one seed they were given?  Were they as good as their 35-0 start?  Had they earned the top seed in the Midwest Region of the Tournament?

The answer is yes.  To any questions about Wichita State's ability, to any questions about its coaching and its players, to any questions about its resume and its qualifications and accomplishments.  2013-2014 Wichita State was a great team led by Gregg Marshall who should runaway with every "coach of the year" award.  After leading the team to a Final Four last year, Marshall brought them back and kept them extremely focused despite the distractions and extra-incentive for other teams that inevitably follow undefeated teams.  They were scrutinized, they were picked on, and they prevailed through it all.  Coming into the Tournament, I had Kentucky beating Kansas State in the first round, to set up the exact matchup we witnessed with Wichita State on Sunday.  I had Kentucky winning the matchup because of its athleticism--a type of athleticism Wichita State did not have to face all year.  And I, someone who picked Kentucky to upset Wichita State, am here writing that there is no doubt in my mind that Wichita State deserved their one seed.  I do not care what conference you play in:  going undefeated in the regular season and conference tournament gives you elite status.  They were a well-oiled machine that ran through their schedule, as soft as parts of it may have been.

In March Madness, athleticism often wins out, especially when teams from smaller conferences ("mid-majors") face teams from "major" conferences.  I picked Kentucky to win for that reason, but there is no doubt in my mind that Wichita State is the better team overall.  On Sunday, Wichita State was a great team that came up against an unfortunate opponent.  Had Kentucky been seeded differently, Wichita State would still be dancing.  The fact that they are not should not take away from what they accomplished this season.  Wichita State set records and won in a way that had never been seen in a single season in NCAA History, during a time when unprecedented media coverage and technology allow anybody to be a pundit.  They turned the microscope into the limelight and triumphed all season long in spite of it, before ultimately losing a Title Game-esque matchup to a Kentucky team that played as well as it possibly could have.  Wichita State is back in Kansas this weekend, likely wondering what could have been.  They and everybody else should focus on what was, because their season was a thing of beauty and their team was one for the ages.

Back-Weighted Brackets
Historically, I have been great at picking the first round games, even going undefeated in my bracket through the first weekend one year.  (By comparison, one person in all of Yahoo! Sports brackets and zero people in ESPN's brackets were perfect after the first round this year.)  As any die-hard bracketeers know though, it is the later rounds that matter the most.  I was discussing this with OMG Poetry fan and fellow Arizona Alum. David Abraham last Thursday while we were watching the first round of the Tournament.  David had plenty of upsets in his first round, making sure that he also picked the teams he actually thought would make it, to go far in his bracket.  This gave him Dayton over Ohio State and Mercer over Duke, while only costing him some 12/5 match ups.

David's strategy is a good one when it comes to differentiating oneself from the other people in your pool.  The scoring for most brackets is skewed towards the later rounds, meaning that correctly picking a Sweet 16 game is worth more points than picking a First Round game.  I had a shaky first round by my standards, going 24-8.  This dropped me towards the bottom of both of my brackets and left my prospects looking bleak after day two.  However, I was not despondent, as I knew a bounce-back Second Round would have me right back in contention.  I had already lost three of my Sweet 16 teams, Duke, New Mexico and Ohio State.  Out of the 13 possible remaining teams, I went 12-1, missing out only on the Wisconsin/Oregon matchup.  I had top seed Wichita State losing to Kentucky, as well as second seeds Villanova and Kansas, and third seeds Syracuse and Creighton losing.

Even though I lost one Final Four team (Duke), two Elite Eight teams (Ohio State and New Mexico) and three Sweet 16 teams (the aforementioned three teams) in the first round, my second round picking enabled me to bounce back and jump all the way up to second in both of my pools.  While the games could obviously not go my way the rest of the Tournament, I have put myself solidly in contention and I will win both of my pools if my National Champion pick (Arizona) comes through and wins it all, in spite of my tough first round.

This is a reminder to everybody for the future:  while upsets are fun and we all want Cinderellas to advance in the Dance, it is important that you are able to see which teams will be around during the second weekend when you peer into your Crystal Ball.  These are the teams that position you to win your brackets.  These teams are your Prince Charmings.

16 is Oh So Sweet!
With 16 teams to go and my bracket and results posted above, I figured now would be a good time to make my predictions for this weekend's games, and give a few brief sentences on my reasons why.  (My picks are bolded.)

West Region:
Arizona vs. San Diego State
Arizona and San Diego State both feature great defenses.  Arizona also has a great offense.  San Diego State has Xavier Thames.  He is a great offensive player, but he is not enough to beat this caliber of a team singlehandedly.

Baylor vs. Wisconsin
Baylor's offense was unstoppable against Creighton in the Second Round and its defense smothered the Blue Jays and their star player Doug McDermott.  Wisconsin is a better offensive team than it ever has been under Bo Ryan--it is also arguably the worst it has ever been on defense.  Baylor offense/defense overcomes Wisconsin's offense for the win.

Midwest Region:
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Kentucky looked incredible against Wichita State, playing as well as it could have.  Louisville hasn't looked great in either of its wins, but it was also coasting through the first two rounds.  Kentucky will have to be at its best to beat a Louisville team that I expect will come out with the best it has to offer. Kentucky won't be at its best.

Tennessee vs. Michigan
Tennessee is a hot team that is severely outplaying its opponents.  It has a bonafide star in Jordan McRae and a huge interior presence.  Michigan is lacking an interior presence, but it is a better team and a deserving two seed.  Michigan will stay on track and outshoot Tennessee, just as it did to Texas and the Longhorns' inside-outside game.

East Region:
Iowa State vs. UConn
Connecticut looked great knocking off a soft Villanova team.  Iowa State lost its leader and most versatile player to a broken foot in the first round--and still came back to beat a very good North Carolina team.  Iowa State may not be the same contender it was with Georges Niang in the lineup, but it is still better than UConn.  Look for UConn PG Shabazz Napier to have a good game in a losing effort.

Virginia vs. Michigan State
I picked Michigan State to win this matchup on my bracket and nothing I have seen in any of the four Michigan State and Virginia games I have watched this Tournament tells me to do otherwise here.  But I am going to.  I have a Cavalier feeling inside and I am going with Tony Bennett's team to score the "upset" over Sparty here, preventing Michigan State's seniors from reaching the Final Four.  (I might be a round off on this Michigan State loss, but I have to go with my gut--as small and finicky as it may be.)

South Region:
Stanford vs. Dayton
Stanford is too big inside, coming off of too big of a win, with too great of a scorer in Chasson Randle to lose their first game in the Tournament as a favorite.  Johnny Dawkins has this team clicking and rolling.  While Dayton is playing storybook basketball, their Cinderella Story comes to an end tonight.

UCLA vs. Florida
This was my second-hardest decision after UVA and Michigan State.  I have Florida beating UCLA in my bracket.  Florida is a one seed and has played that way for most of the season.  They are senior-laden and capable of winning it all.  But UCLA is pesky, with stars at almost every position and Kyle Anderson who is a 6'9 point-forward and matchup nightmare for any team.  What UCLA may lack on the interior, they make up for everywhere else.  Florida was shaky for the first 30 minutes against Pittsburgh.  UCLA will not excuse that shakiness.  Get ready for an all-PAC-12 matchup in the Elite Eight!

Until Next Time...
Enjoy the games, you beautiful readers!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Robbins Rants: Let the Madness Begin!!!

**I will be covering March Madness for the "Louis Live" show on TLV1.fm.  Check back here for weekly updates on March Madness.  This is the second post in the series.  Click here to read the first post.**

I released a Live Album of my Poetry!  Click HERE to check it out on iTunes today!!!

The Madness has officially begun!

After a great Championship Week that saw Virginia grab the last number one seed after every other team in the running for it faltered down the stretch, and a decent "first round" of play-in games, the round of 64 has begun in the greatest tournament in all of sports!

Billion Dollar Bracket
As millions of people know, Quicken is offering $1,000,000,000 to anybody who picks a perfect bracket.  This means if you are a savant, lucky, and blessed enough to pick every game from the Round of 64 down to the National Title Game correctly, you walk away with a cool Billion Dollars (annually over 20 years, or Five Hundred Million Dollars on the spot).

Let's get this out of the way before any of you get too excited:  nobody is going to win a Billion Dollars.  While the chances of winning are listed as one in nine quadrillion, the odds are even worse than that because Quicken Loans, Warren Buffett (who is underwriting the prize) and partner Yahoo! Sports limited the spots to 15 Million entries.  Additionally, there is no way to quantify the heightened level of play, amount of buzzer-beaters and all of the other intangible factors that contribute to March Madness being the greatest sporting event of the year--in any year.

As I'm writing this, I--along with hundreds of thousands of other fans--have already been eliminated from contention for the Billion Dollars due to Ohio State's upset at the hands of in-state foe, Dayton.  I genuinely wish those of you who are still in contention the best and hope you win the Billion Dollars, but don't get your hopes up.  I would be very surprised if anybody is perfect after the round of 32 (heading into the Sweet 16).

Pools, Pools & More Pools...& My Bracket
Luckily, although none of us will be placed into the highest tax bracket as a result of the Tourney, many of us are still in pools that give us the opportunity to win some money.  March Madness is universally loved because everybody can fill out a bracket, regardless of basketball knowledge.  There are stories of people winning their pools because they picked all of the Catholic Schools to win, picked schools with the mascots they liked best, or picked their favorite uniform color combinations.  All of these have proven to be winning strategies and this adds to the excitement.  There is something special about the way people come together to root for (and against) teams, and there is something for everybody in March.  As OMG Poetry fan Alex Poolda put it, "I'm in way too many [pools] currently.  Haha I'm gonna go broke."

Whether you have filled out a bracket for yourself for fun, a $5 per entry office pool, or spent all of your money on pools, there are thousands of options for casual fans to get involved in March.  As usual, I have joined the "Israel Sports Radio" pool on Yahoo! Sports.  My bracket is located below for your viewing pleasure.  I have shared my Bracket Soul with you, please be gentle with it.

Wait, The Selection Committee Weights Regions?
There could be no Tournament without the mysterious Selection Committee who ranks each team and decides who makes the 68-team field, which teams play each other and which geographic regions they play each other in.  Every year there are many gripes and rants about teams who made the field of 68 who should not have, the teams who were snubbed by the Committee and left out of the Tournament, and the match-ups each team has.

Right after the bracket was released, there was an immediate reaction to the Midwest Region, headed by number one seed, undefeated Wichita State.  The region features three teams from last year's Final Four (Wichita St., reigning National Champions Louisville, two seed Michigan) and the always dangerous, perennial contender, Duke Blue Devils.  Athletic, talented teams have historically done well in the Tournament and the Midwest Region also includes the Kentucky Wildcats, arguably the most athletically gifted team in the Nation.  Assuming Wichita State beats upstart Cal Poly in the first round (more on that below) and Kentucky wins their first round matchup, Wichita State would have to play Kentucky in the second round.

As soon as the Selection Show finished and the bracket analysis began, NBA Legend Charles Barkley stated that he felt that Wichita State was singled out by the Committee and given the toughest bracket
because they played a weaker schedule than the other number one seeds.  I made the same argument as soon as I saw the bracket and took it a step further to explain the West region, as well.  My argument was as follows...

Wichita State earned a number one seed as the first team to make it to the Tournament undefeated in over 20 years.  Their perfect 34-0 record is impressive in any conference, mid-major or not.  They showed they were an elite team when they made a run to the Final Four as a Cinderella in last year's Tournament and they returned all of the starters from that squad and coalesced to earn their place in history entering this year's Tournament.  They are a very good team and there is no question they deserve to be a one seed.  The lone question is their strength of schedule.  Wichita State played a soft schedule because they play in a mid-major (non-power) conference that had a down year.  The Selection Committee loves to talk about how many factors go into its decisions and ranking process.  While I do not doubt the numerous factors, it is hard to ignore the fact that Wichita State, who had the weakest strength of schedule out of any one seed, was given the toughest region in the bracket by far.  It is hard to disregard the assertion that Wichita State was given the hardest strength of schedule in the Tournament, after playing a "weak" schedule of opponents during the regular season.

On the flip side, the University of Arizona arguably has the easiest road to the Final Four in Dallas.  While there are very good teams in their region and teams such as Oregon that are peaking at the right time, the region features underachieving teams, teams that Arizona is primed to beat due to its style of play and many teams lacking a bona fide superstar.  Get by Oklahoma State and star guard Marcus Smart in the second round, and there is a strong belief between pundits and fans alike that Arizona will make it to the Final Four.

Arizona is the best defensive team in the nation as measured by multiple metrics, including defensive efficiency per possession.  They were undefeated for the majority of the season, and spent eight weeks with the number one ranking in the country.  In their first loss of the season--at Cal against a tough team projected to make the Tournament at the time--Arizona lost its most versatile offensive player in forward Brandon Ashley two minutes into the game.  It was reported by halftime that Ashley had broken his foot, was scheduled to have surgery after the game and would miss the rest of the regular season and March Madness.  The Wildcats rallied in that game before ultimately losing to by two points on a buzzer beater by Cal's star guard Justin Cobbs.  Arizona regrouped without Ashley and finished the season with a record of 30-4, earning their number one seed.  Three of their four losses came by a combined nine points, including the aforementioned two-point loss at Cal, a double-overtime road loss to rivals and tournament team ASU, and a four-point loss in the PAC-12 Conference Title Game to four seed UCLA.  Many people surmise that Arizona would have joined Wichita State at 34-0, had they not lost Brandon Ashley.  It is hard to ignore the fact that Arizona was rewarded with a region fit for a team that went 34-0 in a major conference and it is hard to disregard the assertion that Arizona was given the easiest road to the Finals despite being the second overall team in the Tournament to the University of Florida.

Wichita State may very well reach the Final Four.  If they do, nobody will be able to question the difficult route they navigated to get there.  Arizona is a favorite by many to make it to the Final Four. If they do, there will undoubtedly be fans of other top seeds who do not make it to Dallas complaining about the "easy road" Arizona had to the Final Four.

Underachieving...For Now
In my first blog post, I was going to include a section on Michigan State with the same header as this one ("Underachieving...For Now"), about how the Spartans were underachieving, but would put things together for the Tournament like Tom Izzo coached-teams always do.  Since that blog post, Michigan State ran through the Big-10 Tournament, winning the Title and earning a four seed in March Madness in the process.  They then became the darlings of the Tournament and bracket selection process, becoming the instant favorite of many pundits to win it all.  While I personally have Iowa State beating Michigan State (as noted in my bracket above), Michigan State is a veteran team, expertly coached by a Hall of Famer who has won it all before.  Look for them to do some damage and make it to the Elite Eight, if not further.

Every year a team comes out of nowhere to surprise the world and make a deep run.  Last year it was 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast University shocking two seed Georgetown, en route to a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight.  While the potential Cinderellas will be locked down by this coming Sunday and we will know who to watch for in the Sweet 16, I have a team that I am currently rooting for with all of my Cinderella heart, and all of my Cinderella might...

The Cal Poly Mustangs have a 14-19 record.  They were 10-19 when they entered the Big West Tournament for a matchup against two seed University of California Santa Barbara.  They thrashed the Gauchos 69-38, beat the league champion Anteaters of UC Irvine in the next game, before winning the Big West Title Game against Cal State Northridge.  They carried the Big West momentum into last night's play-in game, easily handling Texas Southern despite a 38-point contribution from star Texas Southern big man Aaric Murray.  Cal Poly is now 14-19, but more importantly, they are on a four-game winning streak and they believe they can beat anybody.

No 16 seed has ever defeated a one seed and there is very little chance it will happen this year when the Mustangs lace up against Wichita State on Friday.  Having said that, I know who I'll be rooting for when the teams face off in the Midwest Region.

Nobody ever thought Cinderella would make it to the Ball, and she took down a prince.  Nobody ever thought Cal Poly would make it to the Big Dance.  Time for them to Shock the world by taking down Wichita State!

Until Next Time...
Enjoy your weekend of buzzer-beaters, upsets and non-stop basketball.  It's Madness Baby, Madness!!!  And this is as good as it gets.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Robbins Rants: Conference Tournament Week

**I will be covering March Madness for the "Louis Live" show on TLV1.fm.  Check back here for weekly updates on March Madness.  First post starts now...**

It is March and the Madness is upon us.  That’s right folks:  while the weather outside is frightful, the college basketball is so delightful!

This week marks Conference Championship Week, where all of the Division I Collegiate basketball conferences hold tournaments to decide who gets to go dancing in the granddaddy of them all:  NCAA March Madness.  I’ll be your host over the next month, as we navigate this wild ride that is universally accepted in an Americentrist world as the greatest sporting event of the year.  Tune in to “Louis Live” as I cover everything March Madness-related in print and on air.  Let the Madness Begin!

Back Problems
Injuries to star players have the potential to derail championship teams.  Cincinnati’s title hopes were dashed in ’00 when future number one overall pick and current New York Knickerbocker Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament a week before Selection Sunday.  While no team has suffered a season-ending injury of that magnitude over the past week, many teams are currently struggling with injuries to their stars.  Specifically, back problems have been an issue as of late.

Syracuse began the season at 25-0, before dropping four of five games, nose-diving to a 26-4 record before righting the ship against Florida St. on Sunday.  The rough patch included losses to Georgia Tech, and an inspired, but lowly, Boston College team.  While Syracuse was never good enough to be an undefeated team and they had a Strength of Schedule (SOS) of over 100 when they lost to Boston College—meaning that they had yet to play their toughest opponents, as their SOS now sits at 61st—their streak did coincide with a back injury to star forward Jerami Grant.  Although Grant was productive in back-to-back losses to Boston College & Duke, he played 13 ineffective minutes in a nail-biting 57-55 win over Maryland three days after the Duke loss.  After receiving treatment for the rest of the week, he attempted to play in Syracuse’s next game, ultimately managing a grimace-filled 13 ineffective minutes in Syracuse’s blowout-loss to Virginia.  In their next game, a home game against Georgia Tech, Syracuse lost 67-62, while shooting under 40% from the field, as their vaunted zone surrendered 47% shooting to their opponents.  Grant was absent in the loss to Georgia Tech, sitting on the sidelines in street clothes, watching his teammates struggle without his interior presence creating spacing problems for opposing teams.  Grant’s return in the next game couldn’t have come soon enough for the Orange, who blew out a pesky Florida State squad on the road, behind Grant’s 16 points and eight rebounds.  Syracuse shot 48% from the field against the defensive-oriented Seminoles, while their zone bounced back and held their opponents to 38% shooting.

While C.J. Fair leads Syracuse in scoring, Grant leads them in rebounds and physicality and it became abundantly clear to Syracuse fans just how much they need him on the floor.  The same can be said for Kansas and its star center, Joel Embiid.  Embiid, projected by some to be the number one overall selection in this year’s NBA Draft, has missed the last two games with a stress fracture to his lower back.  It was announced on Monday that he will miss the entire Big-12 Conference Tournament and may miss the first week of the NCAA Tournament, as well.  In his absence, Kansas crushed a bad Texas Tech team, before being upset by West Virginia in what was arguably its worse and most telling loss of the season—a loss that has at the very least temporarily knocked Kansas out of a number one seed in March Madness.  Like Grant, Embiid does not lead Kansas in scoring—that mark goes to fellow freshman superstar Andrew Wiggins, who scored 41 points in the loss to West Virginia on Sunday.  However, like Grant, Embiid leads the team in rebounding, blocks and overall physicality and is a huge force for Kansas on both ends of the floor.  While it remains to be seen just how much time he will miss and when he will return to the court—if he ever does return in a college uniform—the impact of Embiid’s loss was felt mightily on Sunday.  Kansas is talented enough to win without their big man, but they are likely not talented enough to win it all if he does not return.

What Does it Take to Be, #1?
With less than a week remaining until Selection Sunday, three number one seeds are seemingly locked-in:  the top-ranked Florida Gators will be a number one seed regardless of what happens in the SEC Tournament, the Wichita State Shockers completed a 34-0 season, and the Arizona Wildcats currently have the top RPI (the metric used to reflect the toughness of a team’s schedule and how they fared against the schedule—the all-important metric for deciding seeding in the NCAA Tournament) and number four overall SOS in the nation.  A loss to Oregon was presumably frustrating to the Wildcats, but losing to a fellow tournament team on the road in a conference game did not hurt their chances at a number one seed.  Like Florida, they should be a number one seed regardless of what happens in the PAC-12 Conference Tournament.  Three teams down, one to go.

For those of us who have anxiety over unfinished business, we are anxious about this fourth number one seed.  So are four teams who can’t seem to make up their minds on whether they want the one seed or not.  Although they were playing without Embiid, Kansas would have all but locked up the number one seed with a win over West Virginia.  Instead, the loss has them trending downward as a two-seed.  Similarly, Wisconsin lost to Nebraska on Sunday.  While Nebraska is a tournament team and Wisconsin had been playing some of the best basketball in the nation as of late, the loss knocked them down to a two-seed, as well.  Similarly, a Duke loss to Wake Forest knocked them off of the top-line, despite their bounce-back domination of archrival North Carolina on Saturday night.

So who does that leave to grab the fourth number one seed?  Villanova & Michigan are the two most-likely candidates, as of now.  The winners of the Big East and Big-10, respectively, will each need to win their conference tournaments to have a shot at the number one seed.  It is currently theirs to lose, although if Kansas runs through the Big-12 Tournament to sweep the regular season and conference titles in the toughest conference in the country, the Jayhawks might just leapfrog Villanova and become the first team in history to earn a number one seed with eight losses on the season.

History Repeats Itself…Sometimes
The last time the University of Arizona Wildcats lost to the Oregon Ducks to end the regular season, they went on to win the school’s lone National Championship.  Arizona lost to Oregon to close the season on Saturday night…

Wichita State currently has a record of 34-0, going undefeated in the regular season and their conference tournament, undoubtedly earning a number one seed and a deserved place in the history books.  The last team to enter March Madness undefeated after sweeping the regular season and their conference tournament was the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV, who had a 34-0 record in 1991.  That team, a one seed featuring first round draft picks Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony (who will be calling games during this year’s March Madness) and Elmore Spencer, lost to two-seed Duke in the Final Four.  Wichita State is a one seed.  Duke is currently pretty tightly locked-in to a two seed…

The Florida Gators are currently locked-in as a number one seed and looking good for the number one overall seed in the Tournament.  They finished the regular season on a 23-game winning streak, breaking a record originally set by the ’06 Florida Gators and matched by the ’07 Florida Gators a year later.  Both of those teams won the National Championship.  The last Florida Gators team to be the number one overall seed was the ’07 squad:  they won the National Championship.

Bit of Tid
The Manhattan Jaspers, who clinched their tournament berth Monday night with a victory over fellow conference mate and tournament team Iona, are named after Brother Jasper of Mary, who founded the school’s first band, orchestra, glee club and various literary clubs.  However, Brother Jasper was not just a lover of the arts:  he also served as the team’s first athletic director and brought the then little-known sport of baseball to Manhattan College.

According to the school’s website, Brother Jasper noticed on a particularly warm and humid day of baseball that the students in the stands were becoming restless as the team came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning of a close game.  Thinking on his feet, Brother Jasper called for a time out and told the students to stand and stretch for a few minutes until the game resumed.

The Jaspers played an annual game against the New York (baseball) Giants in the 1880s and 1890s, at which point Manhattan College’s “seventh inning stretch” was adopted by the Major Leagues.  This year’s entry marks Manhattan College’s seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament.  Three stretches for Brother Jasper!

Israeli Dancing!
Oregon player Ben Carter is the son of former Hapoel Holon star Mike Carter.  Although he grew up in Nevada after leaving Israel with his parents when he was six months old, Carter is an Israeli Citizen.  While the sophomore plays a reserve role on the Oregon squad, he was instrumental towards the end of Saturday’s upset win over Arizona.  Carter finished with five points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in only 13 minutes of play.  Most importantly, the forward made crucial plays and hit clutch free throws down the stretch to help seal the win for his team.  As a result, the Israeli-born player will be dancing in March for the second straight year.

We’re Going Dancing!
So far, eight teams have officially punched their tickets to the Big Dance and will be dancing when March Madness opens next week.  Congratulations to the Mercer Bears, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens, Harvard Crimson, Manhattan Jaspers, Wichita State Shockers, Eastern Kentucky Colonels and the Wofford Terriers on winning their respective conferences.  A special shout-out to Delaware, who will be appearing in the tournament for the first time since 1999.

In the Words of my Former Governator:  “I’ll Be Back”
That wraps up this edition of “Robbins Rants.”  I hope it’s gotten you as excited about college basketball as I am, informed you on what we have to look forward to together over the next month, and helped you productively spend some time at work.

To quote Major Clipton and the final line from the 1957 classic and winner of eight Academy Awards in 1958 including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, The Bridge on the River Kwai,  “Madness!  MADNESS!”  It is upon us.


Joseph D. Robbins is a poet and an educator based in New York City.  He has a BA in Creative Writing & Judaic Studies from the University of Arizona and a Masters in the Teaching of English from Columbia Teachers College.  He is pursuing a Masters in Jewish Education at JTS and State Certification in Students with Learning Disabilities at Teachers College.  His poetry album, “One Man Gang” was recently released.  You can find it online here.