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Embrace March Madness: The 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is Here

The time for talk of rankings and bubble teams is over.  With the official release of the 2016 bracket for the NCAA tournament, it’s put up or shut up time for the top 68 college basketball teams in America.  Here’s what I think will happen:

Despite the fact that there isn’t a top tier of elite national contenders, I expect the top seeded teams will do very well.  Of course there will be some exciting upsets (I’m looking for UNC-Wilmington to upset Duke and for Butler to take down Virginia in the second round), but it seems that come Final Four time, it will be many of the usual suspects.  The fact remains that for any team to win this tournament they need to accumulate 6 straight wins, each against top quality opponents.  It’s simply not feasible for small-time schools and average teams to do this.

For me, the Final Four will consist of Kansas, UNC, Michigan State, and Texas.  The only real surprise of this group is Texas.  I feel like they have that quirky team that will be able to build a strong run, led by intriguing point guard Javan Felix.  That being said, Kansas will be too strong for them at that point.

However, the team I foresee claiming this year’s tournament in North Carolina.  After a relatively inconsistent majority of the season, they really turned it on down the stretch and won the ACC tournament.  They’ve won 5 straight games, each against teams in the NCAA tournament, including a 1-seeded Virginia in the ACC Championship Game.  That win showcased something different for Carolina: an ability to defend.  If they can focus on defending, they will overcome their 3-point shooting woes, and guys like Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige will make the necessary drives and dunks to claim this national title.  It’s UNC all the way!

First Annual AAA Sports Memorabilia Bracket Challenge (and it is free)

password is: aaasports

http://aaasports.mayhem.cbssports.com/e?ttag=BPM16_twt_invite_new

Free to enter in our first annual March Madness Bracket (deadline is tomorrow morning). Feel free to forward along to anyone who you think would be interested.

Grand Prize – Magic Johnson signed basketball PSA/DNA COA

http://www.aaasportsmemorabilia.com/nba/magic-johnson-autographed-indoor-outdoor-spalding-basketball/

2nd Prize – 25% off your next purchase

3rd-5th Place Prize – 15% off your next purchase

Good Luck!

Super Bowl 50 Preview: Panthers Favored but Broncos have Story

Super Bowl 50 is upon us, and it’s going to cap off yet another fantastic year of NFL football.  An intriguing matchup presents two of the team’s top defenses squaring off against two of the league’s finest quarterbacks.  Here’s how I see the game panning out.

The Carolina Panthers march into this game on the heels of an inspirational 15-1 regular season, and recently tore apart the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship game.  The Panthers’ offense is led by rising superstar Cam Newton, who is now living up to the potential that accompanied the number #1 draft pick (2011).  He is an awe-inspiring talent.  He has tremendous size and mobility, comparable to that of a tight end or defensive end.  This helps him elude tacklers and power his way for yardage and touchdowns.  But he’s also a tremendous passer and leader.  He has already earned himself the MVP award this season, but this is his moment to take the league by storm.  Superstar quarterbacks are judged by championships, and this Super Bowl presents his first opportunity.

Across the field is the Broncos’ living legend Peyton Manning, 39 years young and gearing up for his 4th Super Bowl appearance (he was the NFL’s top draft pick in 1998).  As a wily veteran, Manning is all about football smarts and understanding what the defense gives him.  His passing ability has waned in recent years, but he’s still able to command an offense better than anyone else, and his knowledge and experience in these mega-games instills confidence in the fan base.  He also has a Super Bowl ring to his credit.

Defensively, both teams are very good, but I give the edge to the Broncos, whose pass rush and coverage groups can be suffocating (just ask Tom Brady and the New England Patriots who were bounced in the AFC Championship game).  In the end, while the Panthers are favored due in large part to Newton’s supreme athletic ability, I actually think the Broncos will find a way to capture this Super Bowl.  They have the talent to stall the Panthers’ offense, and Manning’s veteran know-how will prove to be the difference in a tight, low scoring game.

AAA Sports Prediction: Broncos win 20-17.

NCAA Basketball Powerhouses in the Mix for 2016

The current NCAA Men’s basketball season is proving to be one for the ages. Without a true frontrunner, it seems that the tournament will be wide open come March.  Promising great excitement and a hearty dose of surprises, this could result in wonderful drama in the postseason.  With nearly all of the typical heavyweights in the fold (and with several Cinderella darlings already batting their eyes), predicting a national champion is practically impossible.  Instead, it will be an intriguing close to the season as we begin to head down the final stretch.

The usual suspects are at it again, with UNC, Kansas, Michigan State, Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Villanova, Xavier, and Indiana all off to decent starts.  The only true stumble has been for Duke, who has been on a cold streak of 4 losses in 5 games.  If they don’t fix this immediately, they could be in severe trouble of missing out, given the crowded ACC.  But the really fascinating thing about this season is that each of these usual heavyweights has endured multiple losses.  There’s no true favorite.

What could prove to be interesting is how many other schools are also having good years. Schools like Oklahoma, Iowa, Iowa State, West Virginia, Maryland, and Texas A&M are all ranked near the top 10.  While one usually writes off such hot starts as premature once the tournament rolls around, perhaps with the major programs each not having a truly dominating season, the door could open for a surprise title for one of these schools.

It all spells excitement and fun as the season really starts to heat up heading into February. Who do you think will emerge as the true champion come tournament time?  Please give post your team in the comments section, we would like to hear from you.

AAA Sports Memorabilia LLC Pick: Maryland Terrapins

Who Will Win the College Football Playoff?

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The culmination of the college football season is here, and while most of the bowl games are going to be largely meaningless, the playoff featuring the top 4 schools will be for the ultimate crown of crowns: a national title.  Between Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, and Michigan State, we will have our national champion.  The only question is, who will win it all?

If last year’s run by 4th seeded Ohio State taught us anything, it’s that anything is possible in these games.  The balance can be swung in an instant, or a single blown call can ruin a season of hard work.  But amidst such possibilities, here’s what I expect to happen.

Alabama is going to win the title.  College football games are often dictated by who runs the ball the best.  Crimson Tide star running back Derrick Henry is the Heisman champion and will punish any defense, especially the largely average defenses presented in this college football playoff.

Clemson is my second favorite, and I expect them to beat Oklahoma, but ultimately they will be undone by Alabama’s fine defense. #Clemson has a great running back in Wayne Gallman, and quarterback Deshaun Watson is as dynamic as anyone in the game, but I feel they will be slowed by Alabama.  And unfortunately their defense will simply not be able to contain Henry, who I expect to have a field day and rush for over 150 yards.

#Oklahoma and #MichiganState have had fine seasons, and their prototypical quarterbacks Connor Cook (MSU) and Baker Mayfield (OKLA) will give their teams a fighting chance.  However, like so many great running backs have proved time and time again over the years, a strong rushing attack and a mighty defense is the recipe for success in college football, not a star quarterback.  These two traits have come together perfectly for #Alabama this season, and I suspect they will have a relatively easy time reclaiming the title.

Fantasy Football Sleepers Ahead of the Playoffs

The fantasy football playoffs are beginning this week. Here are some of these sleepers that I’d recommend picking up for final weeks of fantasy:

Quarterbacks

Derek Carr (62% ownership) – Despite being the 10th highest scoring passer this season, his ownership remains low.  While the upcoming matchup against the top ranked defense, the Denver Broncos, looks intimidating, he could be worth a pickup.

Blake Bortles (55% ownership) – Sure the Jacksonville Jaguars stink, but Bortles is ranked 7th in scoring this season.  Last week he got 32 points.

Running Backs

Mike Tolbert (<1% ownership) – This is a definite risk but let’s think about it.  Premier rushers Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton will be rested as we approach the playoffs meaning more carries for Tolbert.  While his yardage is low this season, he has been able to nab a few touchdowns, especially as a receiver.

David Johnson (61% ownership) – Given a chance by virtue of injuries to Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, the Arizona Cardinals running back got a season-high 17 points last week and could be poised for more opportunities.

Wide Receivers

Doug Baldwin (55% ownership) – He’s been crushing it, especially in the TD department for the last two weeks with 5.  As part of a Seattle Seahawks team that is in the thick of the playoff race and are known for late-season surges, Baldwin could be your fantasy hero.

Anquan Boldin (50% ownership) – Obviously the San Francisco 49ers have regressed this season, but Boldin is still a great pass catcher.  A soft end to the season schedule could spell wonders for your fantasy title hopes.

Tight End

Richard Rodgers (35% ownership) – After his monster game in Detroit, he could become the focal point of the Green Bay Packers’ offense for the playoff run.

Stay ahead of the competition and good luck to those who have made it to the playoffs!

Who Are the Early Candidates for Super Bowl Contenders?

Make no mistake about it; the NFL is all about the Super Bowl.  For all the accolades, touchdowns, and victories cheered on every Sunday by football fans, winning America’s biggest game is truly what pro football is all about.  So two weeks into this 2015 NFL season, who are the true candidates that are ready to contend for Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara next February?  Here are the 5 contenders ready to fight for this game:

  1. Green Bay Packers – Having avenged the tragic 2014 NFC Championship game loss to the Seattle Seahawks, #AaronRodgers and the Packers are definite contenders for this year’s Super Bowl.  By far the top quarterback in the league, Rodgers simply took over the game and fired his team to victory, having already overcome injuries to his two best offensive weapons, #JordyNelson and #EddieLacy.  But everyone knows that defense wins championships, and concerns have always followed the Packers’ back end.  However, with several game changing turnovers that ended both the #Seahawks and the #Chicago Bears games, the team looks ready and capable to take their play to Super Bowl heights.
  2. New England Patriots – The defending champs have picked up right where they left off last season. #TomBrady has performed tremendously in both opening games, racking up 7 touchdowns to 0 interceptions.  He simply will not age graciously into that good night!  Meanwhile #RobGronkowski has developed into not only the best tight end in the NFL, but possibly the best pass catcher overall as well.  His combination of size, speed, and power make him largely unplayable, and he should continue to have a huge year.  Having defeated both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the division rival #BuffaloBills to start the year, earning Brady a 5th Super Bowl is a definite possibility.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers – How can they be in contention given that they already lost? Well, the Steelers lost to one of the league’s best teams in the Patriots, and the way they returned in Week 2 suggests that everything will be all right.  Quarterback #BenRoethlisberger is playing better than he ever has, while Antonio Brown has been electric in the passing game.  Backup running back DeAngelo Williams has been playing like he did in his earlier Carolina Panthers days, while Le’Veon Bell’s return will certainly boost this team to yet another level.  Obviously there defense is having to move on from the retired Hall of Fame safety #TroyPolamalu, but guys like Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier, and Bud Dupree are building a new future of hard hitting Steeler D.  While the offense is playing so well, all the defense has to do is slow opponents down and Pittsburgh just might win another Super Bowl.
  4. Arizona CardinalsCarson Palmer is having a career year in Phoenix, like he did for much of last year before an injury ruined the Cardinals’ 2014 Super Bowl hopes. #LarryFitzgerald is still carrying on strong and the running back duo of Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington is proving to be effective. With a stellar defense highlighted by guys like Tony Jefferson, Calais Campbell, and Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals could well usurp the Seahawks and finally take control of the NFC West.
  5. Denver Broncos – They aren’t playing pretty by any means, and very well could have been 0-2 to start the season, but the Broncos have been pulling out miraculous wins the likes of which we’ve only seen when Tim Tebow was at the helm! Winning ugly is a big part of the NFL, and when it comes to gritty NFL playoff encounters, this may be just the recipe for winning a trip to the Super Bowl.  I think we’ve definitely seen age start to catch up with quarterback #PeytonManning, but his experience and knowledge could push them through, while a stellar defense makes the key plays.  Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, #VonMiller, and Brandon Marshall are extremely talented, and we might just see a Peyton Manning team led by strong defensive play that wins the 2015 Super Bowl.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Are the Kansas City Royals Poised to Claim a World Series with Recent Trades?

Baseball’s trading season has come and gone, and we’ve learned a great “deal” about those teams who are putting all their chips on the table in an effort to win a World Series title, and which clubs are packing it in and looking to build for the future.  One team that caught my eye with a couple brilliant trades are the #KansasCityRoyals, who’ve come out loud and clear and stated their intentions not only repeat as American League Champions but to go one step further and claim that elusive title.  They wisely picked up ace pitcher #JohnnyCueto from the #CincinnatiReds and acquired utility-man infielder #BenZobrist from the #OaklandAthletics.  In essence, these two moves patched up the only glaring holes on the Royals’ roster and well could just earn the team their long sought after salvation in the postseason.

Pitching wins championships isn’t just a cliché; it’s the truth!  The Royals have a decent pitching staff, evidenced by an ERA that is 8th in baseball.  However, 8th isn’t quite good enough to win a title, is it?  Owning an ace like Cueto changes that.  Now they have an arm that will compete down the stretch and give the bullpen some relief.  They have someone who can pull off a commanding performance and subdue an opponent into submission.  This single move could be the key difference in putting the AL leading Royals into heavy contender category.  They now have 3 quality starters in Cueto, #EdinsonVolquez, and Chris Young.  That’s what it takes to win a title, and they now have it.

Meanwhile, the addition of Zobrist is less sexy, but could prove to be just as vital.  The Royals lack any true power hitters, but they’ve got 6 guys with double figures in home runs on the season.  That points to balance.  It points to small ball success.  The way that the Royals played down the stretch in 2014 reveal that they are true masters of the small ball game.  In Zobrist they got a good, smart hitter who draws walks and steals bases.  He’s a great defender in a variety of positions.  He’s batting around .270 on the season and will greatly add to the strong lineup in Kansas City.  That ability to get on base and the speed to convert such positions to runs is exactly the attributes that the team so covets.

The Royals reached the World Series last year and came within one hit of the title.  They came that close.  The management of the club know that their period of success won’t last forever, and that they’ve got a window of roughly 3 more years where they could nab a World Series victory before their limited financial reserves send them scuttling back into hibernation for another 20.  This is the situation that small market baseball clubs dream about.  They’ve got a solid core that is hungry as ever to win a title.  They’ve gotten a taste of October, and now they’re going about finding a way to take that final step and earn their glory.  Sure, numerous other clubs are contenders as well, and many did also bolster their rosters this trade season, but the Royals are a team that you want to see win.  They’ve been perennial losers for so long that this remarkable run is the stories of miracles.  It’s inspiring for Kansas City fans and even casual baseball fans alike.  Heck, I’m a division rival Cleveland Indians fan and even I’m pulling for them!

The Royals may not win the World Series, but they’re giving themselves every fighting chance they can muster with trades like these that complete an already dominant roster.  Here’s to another deep October run by the Kansas City Royals with their newfound keys to success!

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