Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Don't mock me

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free dispatches from mom's basement for you . . .

1. In his latest mock draft, Mel Kiper Jr. has the Patriots selecting Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis at 24, then landing Florida safety Reggie Nelson at 28. While I'm slightly wary of Gator safeties - Are you out there? Tony George? Is that you, Guss Scott? - Nelson sounds like the real deal, and I think I've made it pretty clear here that Willis is TATB's annual draft binky. Unfortunately, pretty much every other mock draft has workout warrior Willis long gone before the Patriots pick, and the last time Kiper was right about the Pats on draft day, I think they selected Reggie Dupard. Hell, Kiper's still scratching his man-bouffant over the Logan Mankins pick.

2. Given that I can look out the window and still see a home run Vernon Wells hit off him in August accelerating toward the moon, I'm not quite ready to trust Josh Beckett just yet. But damn, when he's throwing three nasty pitches for strikes, as he's done all spring, I can't help but wonder if he'll emerge as a force in his second year in Boston.

3. I'm not going to pretend I'm an accomplished NBA scout like, say, Marty Blake or Bill Simmons, but for this slightly-more-than-casual hoops fan, there sure have been some fun revelations in the tournament this year. Georgetown's Jeff Green isn't the quickest player on the court, but the ball always seems to find him in the big moments, and I love his slashing game. And while his behemoth teammate, Roy Hibbert, probably won't amount to much more than space-filler in the NBA because of his plodding ways, he's smart and a deft passer who deserves praise for making himself into a legitimate player. There are NBA teams who would be glad to have Ohio State freshman Mike Conley Jr. running their offense right now, and I'm even coming around on Florida's Joakim Noah, whose relentless hustle and shrewd court sense might help him become something more than the NBA role player I thought he'd be. The Final Four should be a blast.

4. As for Durant or Oden? Give me Oden, and without a moment's hesitation. Oh, I do love Durant, and believe he'll be an amalgam of Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony in the NBA, a perennial All-Star, a potential scoring champ. But I think NBA history makes it apparent that a franchise big guy is a far more valuable commodity that a franchise wing player. Oden's performance in the tournament, epitomized by his game-saving volleyball spike of a block at the end of the Tennessee game, has left me with no doubt that he will eventually be a franchise player in the NBA, and a dominating defender from Day 1.

5. As fun as it's been to watch Durant and Oden find superstardom, my two all-time favorite freshmen remain Chris Jackson (LSU, '89) and Kenny Anderson (Georgia Tech, '90). Forget about the slugs they became in the NBA. If you saw them in college, you understand.

6. Anyone who's wondering why ESPN would dump Joe Theismann and replace him with Ron Jaworski on "Monday Night Football" is forgetting three important facts. 1) Jaws was nothing short of terrific in Week 1 last season when he and Dick Vermeil were the analysts for the second MNF game of the season-opening doubleheader. 2) He has terrific chemistry with Tony Kornheiser during his guest spots on "PTI," and it's a reasonable gamble to assume that will transfer to the broadcast booth. 3) Theismann was humorless, never shut the **** up, rarely made an insightful point, and contradicted himself constantly. But other than that, he was great.

7. If there's anything we've learned about Rick Pitino, it's that when he says he's not interested in the Kentucky job, there's a pretty good chance he's interested in the Kentucky job. I do think his slippery protege, Billy Donovan, gets first dibs, though.

8. His Idiot's Guide To Plagiarism was one thing, but yesterday's suggestion that the Celtics might want to consider trading for pretty-close-to-untouchable Jazz star Carlos Boozer made it official: Butch Stearns has officially passed Steve Burton as the frontrunner for our annual TV Sports Dude Who Was Most Likely Dropped On His Head As An Infant award. Stay tuned.

9. Quick programming note: Starting next week, TATB will be writing a weekly column for FoxSports.com in the Nine Innings format. (The kicker: It's not Red Sox-related. You mean there are other teams?) Also, it looks like we'll have some sort of affiliation with Boston.com soon, and we've got a few other cool freelance things going on as well that we'll let you in on once they become semi-official. My point: Please check the other stuff out, and thanks for making it all possible.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

So I fire off a Google search for "baseball card," and ol' Wilbur here is the first thing to come up. Yep, that's what I call random.

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