Author Archives: travissarandos

NostraTravis’s Pretty Good NFL Draft Blog

Who is that?

Woah, who the heck is that?

It’s me, NostraTravis. Here to tell you about which players are going to go where in the NFL draft today, tomorrow, this weekend, and throughout the seven-week long odyssey that is the National Football League’s Fourth Annual Acquisition of Additional Human Sacrifice Volunteers (“It’s a BloodBath!”TM).

Nah, not really. I’m not going to do that. There’s a million folks who are doing that already. I mean that literally — there are 1.27 million different mock drafts available on websites such as: google.com, sports.com, nfldraft.com, whotheheckisgonnagetdrafted.com, pornhub.com, football.com, footballers.com, pigskinsRus.com, and many others. So we’re not going to do that, because even I, the great NostraTravis, don’t really know, and who the heck even cares anyway. I wasn’t going to do anything at all for the draft because I try to avoid the waves of NFL coverage after the Super Bowl until at least August if I can, but there was some popular demand, and dang it friends I am a man of the people.

Instead, we’re going to talk about a couple of the guys that I sure hope the Packers can draft tonight, and maybe a few later this weekend that might be neat. But first! A list of players the Packers will definitely not draft tonight:

  • Jameis Winston – Winston will be drafted before it is the Packers turn, and anyway they already have a quarterback who’s pretty good, maybe you’ve heard of him, his name is Aaron. Idiot. Surprised you didn’t know that.
  • Cleatus – Cleatus is the football robot that began it’s rise to power in 2005 and now runs all of Fox Sports programming with an iron (literally) fist. It is widely rumored that Terry Bradshaw talks like that now because Cleatus punched him in the head, causing severe brain damange. Cleatus is not eligible for the NFL Draft, because he is not a human being.
  • Melvin Gordon III – Stop being silly.
  • Shane “Footsteps” Falco – Footsteps is a great young quarterback who had an incredible performance in the Sugar Bowl. However, he is also a fictional character, and as such is not eligible for this year’s draft.
  • Jake Kumerow – The former UW-Whitewater standout wide receiver is a pretty good football player, but he is not a first round talent. It would be quite a stretch if Ted Thompson were to select him with the 30th overall pick.

FINE we’ll do some real actual #analysis, you big babies. Fine, are you happy? The Packers most glaring needs are on the defensive side of the ball, as they had an exodus of sorts on that side of the ball. At inside linebacker, the Packers lost A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore and Brad Jones (the latter is addition by subtraction, of course), and at cornerback, the Packers will move on without Tramon Williams and Davon House; all five of those players left through free agency/were cut. That leaves them perilously thin at both positions, especially ILB, where their best player is 2013 fourth-round pick Sam Barrington (assuming Clay Matthews shifts back to the outside).

While ILB is Green Bay’s primary position of need, that’s a position where talent can generally still be found on days two and three. By contrast, the elite secondary players are going to fly off the shelves early; last year’s first round saw nine defensive backs selected, including our very own Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Assuming Thompson doesn’t just decide to trade out of the first round altogether (a rather hefty assumption),  here’s a couple of guys he might target tonight:

Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

There’s little doubt about Collins talent: he’s rated at the 5th cornerback in the draft by ESPN. However, it was revealed just a few days ago that Collins had failed “multiple” drug tests at LSU (not that the NCAA would give a rip about that as long as he didn’t sign his name on the joints before he inhaled them). Or course, Thompson has a history of not worrying too much about off-the-field issues; he brought Johnny Jolly back after his stint in jail, resigned Letroy Guion after his arrest this off-season, and drafted Colt Lyerla last year (the latter may have given him some pause, however).

Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

You may remember Jones as the fellow who broke not only the combine record, but the world record as well, in the broad jump back in February. If broad jumping were worth any points in the NFL, Jones would probably be one of the first players drafted tonight, but it’s not. It does speak to his athleticism however. Considered more of a third day prior to the combine, Jones rocketed up to possible first round territory with his performance there.

Eric Rowe, CB, Utah

Rather than pretending I know much of anything about Rowe, I’ll just point you to Acme Packing Co., where Evan Western (@TexWestern) posted a piece about him yesterday morning.

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

A little bit outside the box here, as Williams fits neither position of greatest need and the Packers just spent a third round pick on Richard Rodgers last year, who showed flashes of ability. But Williams is the best tight end in this class by a significant margin, and Rodgers (Aaron, that is) an the Packers offense struggled mightily at the beginning of last season as the Packers desperately sought a tight end who could make some plays offensively.

Anyway, I want to just quick close by saying that if you spend this evening watching the draft instead of Bucks-Bulls game six, what in the entire world is wrong with you? Get your head on straight. The best way to follow the draft is to check the internet when it is over because there is zero benefit to watching Kiper and McShay drone on about who cares what, and don’t even get me started on Chris Berman. Go Bucks. Fear The Dear.

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The dang Brewers are bad: 5 ways to enjoy the game anyway

You're a spade

You’re a spade.

Okay, folks friends. Now, let’s not beat around the bush or anything, let’s just talk about the dang elephant in the room. Let’s really get down to brass tacks here. Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s time to face the music, people. It really is.

The Brewers are the worst dang baseball team in the whole league.

And it’s just the pits.

So what are you gonna do? If you’re like me (you know, not totally like me, but a little bit I guess is what I’m saying, anyway just shut up and listen, will you), then you’ve got this whole big stack of Brewers tickets for the rest of the season, because you know, maybe you didn’t think they were going to win the World Series or anything like that, and maybe the playoffs were really a long shot all along if we’re being honest with ourselves, but you kind of figured they’d be playing some meaningful baseball for at least a couple months, and darn it, going to the ball game is just a good time all around, anyway.

But instead the days of the Brewers playing meaningful baseball are already over, and holy crap will you just look at that, it’s not even May yet for Pete’s sake. What in the world! That’s right, at 4-17 (as of Tuesday night), the Brewers are already 10 games out of first place. TEN GAMES! In April! They have a -52 run differential, which is 15 runs worse than the next worst team, Philadelphia. As a team, they are ranked 27th in ERA, 29th in OPS and 27th in Fielding%, the latter of which isn’t even a good stat but shut up the point is, they aren’t good at any of the three parts of playing a baseball game. Plus they keep wearing those Dwight Schrute uniforms, so they don’t even look good while the look bad.

But we’re not here to beat any dead horses, that’s what we have @HoustonRockets for. So just how the heck are you going to have any fun at Miller Park this summer with the Milwaukee Nine playing like the Indians at the beginning of Major League? I’ve heard your cries for help:

“We need a solution, Travis!”
Yeah, I know you do, friends.
“The Brewers sure are bad, aren’t they, bud?”
Yup.
“What are we to do, Travis? Die in our beds?”
Quit bein’ so dramatic. I’m here to help with some handy tips on how to really spice up your game-day experience:

1) Drink a lot

The seems like it goes without saying maybe, and shouldn’t necessarily be a significant alteration in your normal game-day routine. Here, I merely suggest drinking slightly-to-moderately more than you would normally. If your tailgating program normally calls for 2-3 beers, perhaps have 3-5 beers instead. If you are 21 years old, you might consider shotgunning two beers (a double-barreled shotgun, if you will), or perhaps a tallboy, rather than the customary single 12 oz. can. Of course, I stress here the importance of a designated driver to make sure you and all your fellow fans get home safely. In the absence of a willing teetotaler, I urge you to consider Uber, which now has it’s own designated pick-up parking lot right next to the Brat Haus.

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You sure don’t want to see this on your date!

2) Take a pretty girl to the game with you

Or a handsome man, okay, that’s fine, ladies and gay dudes. We are accepting of all cultures here. All I’m saying is, you know, most things are more fun if you can bring a nice-looking person of your chosen gender along with you. Y’all can have a nice chat, maybe enjoy some delicious ballpark nachos, and just really see where the night takes you. In fact, there are only a few places where bringing along a hot date would make things less fun:

  • A prostate exam, OBGYN appointment, or colonoscopy.
  • Your own wedding
  • Oddly enough, the movie theater to see 50 Shades of Gray
  • To fight Batman (no one wants to see you get your butt kicked, loser)
  • A Magic: The Gathering tournament
  • Gary, Indiana

3) Root for some other team

This isn’t necessarily a suggestion for enjoying games that you are attending at Miller Park, but rather for having a nice time during the MLB season in general. Now, I do not want to confuse anyone here: I am not advocating abandoning the Brewers or actively rooting for them to lose so that they acquire a better draft pick; that stuff is for jabronis. When you’re at the game, you just better root, root, root for the home team. I simply want to give you the opportunity to watch a team that has a chance to make some noise in October this year. Here’s a few top options:

  • Kansas City Royals – Did you like rooting for the Brewers during the 2006-2008 seasons? Well guess what, most of those guys are here now. The Royals lineup features former Brewers top prospects Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain, and of course, they’re managed by statewide pariah and world-renowned George W. Bush impersonator Ned Yost. They also have the same style as those nasty jerks from the mid-aughts Brewers that so offended the official Keepers of the Unwritten Rules of Baseball. They may have gone too far a week or so ago, but it’s really, really hard to blame anyone for throwing balls at Brett Lawrie.
  • Whichever team is playing against St. Louis – This has been my second favorite team for years. I’m really looking forward to them hopefully having a great season.
  • Houston Astros – Guess whose got a four game lead in the AL West, that’s right you guessed it, it’s the dang Astros. Why not root for the Astros? Why not?
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – They’re gonna win so you might as well root for the winner if you’re gonna pick another team anyway.
8421A_d

This is a silly hat, for example

4) Wear a silly hat

There’s all kinds of silly hats you can wear. This one time, myself and a bunch of friends got roaring drunk and entered a kickball tournament, all wearing a bunch of silly hats from my house. There was a guy with a Packers helmet on, one lady wore a bike helmet, and I was wearing a festive felt chicken hat, like the one pictured to the left. The other team was a bunch of people in their 30s and 40s who had blue kickball uniforms and even wore matching baseball pants. They beat us by 30, but I like to imagine that we left with a greater degree of dignity than they did, having taken a kickball game so seriously. Any time a guy wearin’ a dopey chicken hat on his head thinks he’s ahead of you in the dignity standings, it’s time to reevaluate some choices.

Anyway, wear a silly hat to the Brewers game, who cares anyway. Just make sure it doesn’t obstruct the view of the people behind you.

5) Tacos

Find a way to incorporate tacos into your game-day routine. Tacos are the best food and eating a taco will always make a day better than it was before you ate any tacos. For a baseball themed taco, you can try topping your taco with bits of shaved baseballs or splinters from broken bats. Just make sure they’re new ones from the store and not game-used, or else you might get some dirty bits and your taco might be ruined; ruining a taco is among the gravest of game-day sins.

Can you think of any other ways to enjoy a baseball game featuring a bad team, just have a nice time during the summer in general, or do you own a cat? Sound off in the comment section below!

Travis’s Mailbag #2

Doug-MelvinDo you think the Brewers will extend Doug Melvin’s contract after this season?
Cael, East Troy, WI

Yes. In September 2002, Doug took over as the GM of one of the worst franchises in the league; a team that hadn’t had a winning record in a decade and had just lost over 100 games for the first and only time in team history. In the space of three years, Melvin turned a team that was a league-wide laughingstock into, if not a perennial contender, at least a team that was regularly playing meaningful baseball after the All-Star break. The Brewers have posted winning records in five of the past eight years, a feat accomplished only nine times in 34 years of existence prior to his arrival.

Certainly, there have been questionable moves: signing Jeff Suppan, adding Nelson Cruz and Michael Brantley as throw-ins in larger deals, hiring Ken Macha, everything about Bill Hall. But there are also moves that he took a lot of heat for that made him look like a dang genius: trading James Jerry Hardy for Carlos Gomez (and then extending him), Ryan Braun’s first extension, signing Norichika Aoki (and then dealing him for Will Smith). Doug’s job is secure in Milwaukee. Ron Roenicke, on the other hand, may not make it to the All-Star break.

What’s the best food happy hour on Wednesdays in Milwaukee?
Brad, Milwaukee, WI

Ugly’s Pub on Old World Third.

Tailgating is so fun. How can we make watching baseball more entertaining?
Holly, Madison, WI

I come from a place of already thinking that baseball is fun to watch, but I understand the needs of the masses as well and people, I am here to help. Here are some things you can do to make your time watching the national pastime more engaging:

  • If you love tailgating well guess what, the fun doesn’t have to stop once you hit the turnstiles! Many ballparks have food and/or drink available for purchase for $1-$30 dollars per item. Wishing you could toss the old bean bags around inside the stadium? Well you just better not, there’s a lot of people in there and someone might get hurt.
  • One thing you can do to really kick up your enjoyment of baseball up a notch is to go back in time to when you are five and leave your family behind and get raised by my dad instead. My dad loves baseball and I bet he could instill the same love in you, if you’d just let him.
  • You can try a little bit of friendly wagering with your fellow fans! “Say, chap, I forecast that our local baseball squadron will successfully tally a run in this very inning. What say you to a little bet? I’ve a sixpence that says the old boys will be able to do it.”
  • You can pretend that the offensive team knows the baseball is a bomb while the defense has no stinkin’ idea, and then marvel at the fact that those dummies keep running straight toward it while the offense keeps obviously trying to get the dang thing as far away from them as possible. Stand up and yell, “KABOOM!” every time the ball is caught to let everyone know that the center fielder is now ‘dead’, and must be replaced.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver NuggetsHow much better is Michael Carter Williams than Brandon Knight?
Michael (not Mr. Carter-Williams), Milwaukee, WI

Negative seven. As in the Bucks, after the deadline deal that sent Knight to the Suns, finished the season seven games behind the Bucks as constructed prior to the trade: they were 30-23 at the time of the trade and finished the year 11-18, failing to finish above .500 for the fifth consecutive year. In the short term, this trade was disastrous. It made them a worse team on the basketball court, as Knight represented the only legitimate scoring threat on a nightly basis; certainly Giannis and Middleton have their big games, but neither is anything close consistent. It completely disrupted their rhythm and spacing as teams no longer had to worry about a point guard who could shoot; defenses collapsed to the lane and Giannis was unable to find any real estate to work his magic.  From a fan goodwill standpoint, it couldn’t have come at a worse time; with a huge push for a new arena underway and the Bucks coming off a 9-1 stretch, the city was absolutely buzzing with excitement about the NBA. Then the trade, the Bucks lost six of seven, MCW looked lost, and the excitement was gone, the Bucks drowned out by the Badgers tournament run and Brewers spring training; it was just more of the same from a team that has won two playoff series since 1989 (both in the same year). Prior to the trade, the Bucks were a major upset threat in the East, but that is likely no longer the case.

That said, the idea that perhaps some of MCW’s shortcomings in Philadelphia might be corrected simply by getting onto a better team with more weapons proved correct. No longer the lone scoring option, Carter-Williams saw significant bumps to his effective shooting percentage as he was able to be more selective with his shots: though his three-point shooting percentage continues to plummet, he cut his attempts to just 1.1 per game (he averaged 3.0 three point attempts with Philly this season). His per-36 assist numbers fell, and if he’s not going to be able to shoot from outside, he’s going to have to provide more scoring chances for his teammates. But going forward, there’s hope that although it shot their exciting 2014-15 season to hell, the trade could provide future dividends.

Is it still acceptable to have Blurred Lines as my ringtone?
Andrew, Madison, WI

The fact that you’re asking me this question mean you already know the answer, Andrew. Do the right thing.

What’s the deal with airplane food?
Nicholas, Milwaukee, WI

There are NO deals on airplane food, no sir. That stuff’s expensive as all get out! But if you’re really hankerin’ for a pre-packaged sandwich on your flight, you better come correct with the plastic, because most airlines no longer accept cash for on-board transactions. Imagine that! Not accepting cold hard cash as a form of legal tender. What is the world coming to? I’ll tell you what, it’s all going to hell in a hand basket. You better just pack up your valuables and head for the hills, because this society is falling apart.

Will you marry my mom so she isn’t ‘illegal’ anymore?
Mellie, Milwaukee, WI

No, I would only ever marry for love and I’ve never met your mom, though I’m sure she’s a lovely woman. Also, I’m kind of seeing someone at the moment, and she might not like it if I was married. I could ask her about it though. Don’t they let folks take a test about who were the presidents and where is New Jersey or whatever to become a citizen? Maybe she could sign up for that test. Or maybe we could all just relax and let people live where they want who cares.

98-degrees-2013-650-430Why doesn’t 98 Degrees get more credit as a boy band?
Holly, Madison, WI

We have previously covered what defines a boy band, so let’s take a look back at that to begin (excerpted from Travis’s Mailbag #1):

  • You need a collection of boys making music (you know, because words mean things)
  • No instruments. If I so much as see a guitar string, you’re out (sorry, Hanson)
  • If you weren’t managed by Lou Pearlman, that’s not a good sign (if you were managed by Lou Pearlman, that’s not really great either)
  • No writing your own music. Are you kidding me? Out of the question. Get real.

Unfortunately, 98 Degrees was adamant that they wrote much of their own material. Because of this, 98 Degrees does not qualify as a boy band. However, even allowing it for the sake of argument, their best song, “The Hardest Thing”, isn’t fit to lick to boots of Millennium or No Strings Attached.

leggingsAre leggings like legit pants?
Mellie, Milwaukee, WI

Absolutely not. You don’t see me strollin’ around the city rocking nothing but my dang Jockey’s, do you? Put some damn pants on. I have previously discussed this issue with others, but feel it’s important enough to have it written here: if you are wearing leggings like they’re just regular old pants, you are not adequately covered on your bottom.

Will Wisconsin make the Sweet 16 next year?
Kevin, Madison, WI

It’s hard to answer a question like this, since we have no idea what the bracket will look like, and what sort of match-ups the Badgers will face, so we’d have to forecast not only how well the Badgers will play but where they and every other team would be seeded, and which teams would go where. Rather, we can more easily answer, “Will the Badgers be one of the best 16 teams in the country next year?” To which we can safely answer yes. The Badgers will have a tremendous amount of talent and production to replace, perhaps more than Bo Ryan has ever had to previously. But to repeat a bunch of facts that you’ve heard a thousand times: The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth or failed to advance to the NCAA tournament under Ryan, and have advanced to the tournament’s second weekend in four of the past five years. A solid core of Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown should be enough to keep them among the country’s elite teams; count on all of them to make big leaps going into their junior seasons, as almost all of Ryan’s kids do.

Is it acceptable that I listen to Creed even though I’m an atheist?
Mellie, Milwaukee, WI
No, it is 100% not acceptable that you listen to Creed, though it has nothing to do with your belief (or lack thereof) in Christ or in any other deity. It is unacceptable because Creed makes really bad music, and you should listen to better music. Here is a short list of bands that are better than Creed:

"THE MUPPETS"..Ph: John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney1. The Silver Lining – This is a three-piece band I formed with my friends Sven and Jordan in college. We had one original song and we also did a pretty good cover of “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. We once played a show for up to three people. It was approximately seven minutes long.
2. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem – Pictured to the right.
3. Pink Floyd – Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true.
4. CrossRoad – My mom’s Christian praise band, which plays every other Sunday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and is currently seeking a drummer.
5. The Chuck E. Cheese’s Animatronic House Band

Or you could just listen to Taylor Swift, the official singer-songwriter of Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co., and have done with it.

Why does everyone hate Nickleback?
-Mellie, Milwaukee, WI

I think it’s about time we sit you down and have a musical intervention.

milwaukee_bucks_logo_primary_detailThe Bucks new logo: Yay or Nay?
Kevin, Madison, WI

It’s fine. I would have preferred, if they were going to re-brand, that they rewind the clock and bring back the sweater buck, but the trend in sports logos is to make your animals meaner looking and more polygonal; the sweater buck just isn’t cut out for the harsher times. I wish they’d used a bit more blue; we’ll have to see what the jerseys look like, but from Jabari’s hint at the unveiling, it sounds like there’s only going to be a touch of it. Perhaps an alternate blue jersey somewhere down the line? I could get down with that.

Speaking of the unveiling, what in the world was that? The painters were cool but man, just stick a DJ up there or something! That dude squeaking away during “Uptown Funk” reminded me of every karaoke night where some jabroni goes up there trying to bite off more than he can chew, a feeling that was solidified when they immediately followed with “Don’t Stop Believin'”. #OwnTheFuture? That song is 34 years old.

I get why they did it now: new owners, a new arena (pretty please??), a new team identity that comes with a return to relevance. I just feel bad for all the people that dropped big money on brand new Jabari and Giannis gear that’s now obsolete 3-5 months later. This is why I always try to stick with buying retro gear when making purchases; that stuff never goes out of style.

What’s with LAX?
Chuck, Milwaukee, WI

I know, right?

A cricket

A cricket

Do you think Martin Guptill is overrated or do you think he’s New Zealand’s only hope of making the Cricket World Cup this year? With his salary alone they could get 2-3 top notch players, and their at bats wouldn’t be so one hit focused.  New Zealand is never going to get above their 5th place international ranking and catch powerhouses like South Africa and Pakistan if they don’t start playing team oriented cricket.
-Greg and Ryan, Denton TX and Greenfield, WI

The New Zealand national cricket team had their most successful showing ever at the 2015 Cricket World Cup, finishing as the runner-up to rival Australia in heartbreaking fashion at the event the two counties co-hosted in March. They should have no trouble qualifying to the next Cricket World Cup in 2019, and they’ll hope to build on the progress they made this year.

While Guptill, ranked 22nd in the world among batsmen, is certainly a key component of the All Blacks’ success, he’s certainly not their only hope. Thought Guptill and fellow top-order batsman Ross Taylor, both 31, may not be with the team in 2019, 24-year-old phenom Kane Williamson may already be the best player on the Kiwis’ national team, and he’ll be joined by all-rounder Corey Anderson, also just 24.

Of course, player salaries don’t enter into the equation of the make-up of the national team. To keep pace with Pakistan and South Africa, not to mention the hated Australians, New Zealand will need to continue to develop young players domestically through youth programs designed to find the next diamond in the rough.

Pre-Season 5 Game of Thrones Power Rankings

If you’ve followed me here from my old site on blogger.com, you may remember my Game of Thrones Power Rankings posts of which I did maybe two or three. Folks seemed to like them okay. They featured mostly randomly assigned ranks to characters appearing in that week’s episode. I implied that a full ranking of all Game of Thrones characters existed and was definitely real. But guess what, it wasn’t. It didn’t exist.

Wasn’t. Didn’t. PAST TENSE.

To get you ready for the new season starting Sunday, I present, not humbly, the definitive ranking of every Game of Thrones character. As always, we start with the In Memoriam, as with a notable exception, the dead hold no power. Obviously, if you haven’t gotten yourself completely caught up with the first four seasons, then spoiler alert. I shouldn’t have to say that, because 100% obviously, but someone will get mad if I don’t. Use your judgment, folks.

The Dead

147. Old Nan
146. Septa Mordane
145. Biter
144. Polliver
143. Lommy Greenhands
142. Craster

141. Alton Lannister
Affiliation: House Lannister
Manner of death: Beaten to death by his own cousin, Jaime, to aid in the latter’s escape from Riverrun’s dungeons. The dang idiot though he and Jaime were gonna be besties.

Game of Thrones - A Golden Crown

Viserys Targaryen’s manner of death is pictured.

140. Viserys Targaryen
139. Rast

138. Karl Tanner
Affiliation: The Betrayers
Manner of death: Jon Snow gives him a nice long iron tongue while he’s distracted by one of Craster’s daughter-wives.

137. Qotho
136. The Spice King
135. Ros
134. Black Loren
133. Dagmer

132. Kraznys mo Nakloz
Afilliation: The Good Masters of Astapor
Manner of death: Roasted by one of the dragons he had just received as payment for his Unsullied slave warriors. It was pretty funny.

131. Ser Amory Lorch
130. Ser Wendel Manderly

129. Ser Rickard Karstark

128. Will
Affiliation: Night’s Watch
Manner of death: Beheaded by Eddard Stark for desertion after fleeing The Wall when his fellow rangers were murdered by a White Walker. Ned didn’t believe him, literally the only time throughout the entire show that Ned didn’t take someone’s word at face value, and of course it was the only time anyone said something to him that was 100% honest.

127. Irri
126. Rakharo
125. Maester Luwin
124. Maester Cressin
123. Ser Dontos Hollard

122. Locke
Affiliation: House Bolton
Manner of death: Neck snapped nearly clean off by Bran Stark, warging through Hodor’s body, during the second battle at Craster’s Keep. Any time someone affiliated with the Boltons dies horribly, you have to love that.

121. Mirri Maz Duur
120. Ser Jory Cassel
119. Ser Rodrik Cassel
118. Hoster Tully

117. Shae
Affiliation: House Lannister
Manner of death: Strangled to death with her own necklace by Tyrion after he found her in his father’s bed.

116. Talisa Stark
115. Matthos Seaworth
114. Lysa Arryn

113. Pyat Pree
Affiliation: The Thirteen
Manner of death: Like so many others in Essos that have crossed her, set aflame by Daenerys’ dragons.

lol

lol

112. Joffrey ‘Baratheon’

111. Pyp
110. Grenn
Afilliation: Night’s Watch
Manner of Death: A shaft through the throat from Ygritte’s bow and bludgeoned to death by Mag the Mighty, respectively, during the Battle of Castle Black.

109. Magnar of Thenn
108. Mag the Mighty
107. Qhorin Halfhand

106. Yoren

105. Jojen Reed
Affiliation: House Stark
Manner of Death: Stabbed by a White Walker, mercy killed by his sister, Meera, with a cut across the throat, and then blasted by a fireball from Leaf, the child of the forest, just to be damn sure.

104. Ygritte
103. Joer Mormont
102. Renly Baratheon
101. Khal Drogo

100. Catelyn Stark
99. Robb Stark
Affiliation: House Stark
Manner of death: I don’t wanna talk about it.

98. Robert Baratheon
97. Oberyn Martell
96. Eddard Stark

95. Tywin Lannister
Affiliation: House Lannister
Manner of death: Crowbow’d by his son while enjoying a nice post-coital two-sie because he wouldn’t stop calling folks whores.

The Ambiguously Extant

94. Doreah
93. Xaro Xhoan Daxos

Affiliation: The Thirteen of Qarth
When last we left them: Locked inside Xaro’s vault by Daenerys and presumably left there to rot after the former betrayed the Mother of Dragons to the latter. Both begged uselessly for their pitiful lives. Both should have been summarily ignited by dragon fire, but instead we don’t have a body and can therefore not be sure of their demise.

92. Benjen Stark
Afillition: Night’s Watch
When last we left him: Benjen has been missing since the outset of the series, having gone on a ranging beyond the wall and never returned. He almost certainly dead except then why the heck do they keep talking about him then?

91. Orell
Affiliation: Wildlings
When last we left him: His human body has been dispatched with, but he warged into an eagle and lives (well, kinda) to fight on.

90. Syrio Forrel

89. The Mountain That Rides
Affiliation: House Lannister
When last we left him: Mortally wounded by the Red Viper during Tyrion’s trial by combat, Cersei tasked the dubiously moral former Maester Qyburn with maintaining the body of Ser Gregor, no matter the cost.

88. The Hound

The Not Dead Just Yet

87. Janos Slynt
Affiliation: Night’s Watch
While Sam Tarly, some ladies and a couple of pre-teens were out fighting for their lives against the Wildlings, Janos spent the Battle of Caslte Black locked in the pantry with Gilly. He’s only ranked this high because those are the rules so I have to.

86. Roslin Tully-Frey
85. Edmure Tully

84. Hot Pie
Affiliation: No one cares
Makes a mean wolf-shaped loaf of bread, though.

It's been a rough couple of months for Theon

It’s been a rough couple of months for Theon

83. Reek
82. Fat Walda Bolton
81. Rickon Stark
80. Lancel Lannister
79. The High Septon
78. Selyse Baratheon
77. Shireeen Baratheon

76. Ser Jorah Mormont
Affiliation: House Targaryen (disowned)
Well, how the heck do you like that? He was promised a pardon for his crimes if he spied on Daenerys a little bit, but then decided he liked her more and became her staunchest friend and ally (and was friendzoned hard and repeatedly). Then when she finds out about all this, instead of rewarding him for changing sides and risking everything for her, she banishes him. Women, I tell you. Who needs ’em, amirite?

75. Illyrio Mopatis
74. Ser Illyn Payne

73. Myrcella ‘Baratheon’
Affiliation: House Lannister
We should expect to see a lot more of Cersei and Jaime’s only daughter this season as we finally see Dorne, where the young princess was sent by Tyrion to save her from her mother.

72. Gilly
71. Lame Lothar
70. Black Walder Rivers

69. Lord o’ Bones
Nice.

68. Hallyne
67. Hizdahr zo Loraq
66. Ser Meryn Trant

65. Tormund Giantsbane
Affiliation: WIldlings
His side lost at the Conflict at The Wall, but did anyone deal out more raw damage during the Battle of Castle Black? Picked up an entire bucket of EXP, probably leveled up twice.

64. Kovarro
63. Gendry
62. Anguy the Archer
61. Grand Maester Pycelle
60. Olyvar

59. Sweet Robin Arryn
Affiliation: House Arryn
A slightly less intelligent and slightly more pliable Joffrey clone, he may have a chance to be a productive member of Westerosi society with his mother out of the picture.

The GOAT of horrified screams.

The GOAT of horrified screams.

58. Ellaria Sand
57. Salladhor Sahn
56. Mance Rayder

55. Olly
Affiliation: Night’s Watch
This would be the amateur archer that killed Ygritte. He sucks and we hate him for it.

54. Othell Yarwick

53. Vance Corbray
52. Anya Waynwood
51. Yohn Royce
Affiliation: House Arryn
The three members of the tribunal who ruled on the matter of Lysa’s murder fell for Sansa’s nonsense hook, line and sinker.

Screw you, Walder Frey

Screw you, Walder Frey

50. Walder Frey
49. Myranda
48. Bronn

47. Hodor
Affiliation: Hodor
Hodor. Hodor hodor hodor, hodor. Hodor! HODOR! Hodor hodor hodor hodor.

46. Kevan Lannister
45. Ser Loras Tyrell
44. Maester Aemon
43. Quaithe
42. Meera Reed

41. Thoros of Myr
40. Beric Doncarrion
Affiliation: Brotherhood Without Banners
Though neither the Old Gods nor the New seem to wield any real influence over the events of the world, the Lord of Light works real magic through his followers. Quaithe, the Asshai’i shadowbinder, Melisandre and Thoros of Myr are all able to do fantastic works in his name, the latter having brought Beric, the Lightning Lord, back from the dead several times.

39. Osha
38. Greatjon Umber

37. Leaf, Child of the Forest
36. The Three-Eyed Raven
Affiliation: The Old Gods
Bran has finally reached his destination, although the triumph is lessened by the death of Jojen. We don’t really know what sort of power these two possess, but one of them can shoot fireballs out of her dang hands.

35. Dolorous Edd
34. Podrick Payne
33. Davos Seaworth

32. The Blackfish
Affiliation: House Tully
Having left the reception to relieve himself at an extremely opportune time, it would seen that Ser Brynden Tully escaped the massacre at the Red Wedding. His whereabouts are unknown to us, but he likely holds Riverrun against the Bolton’s in the name of the slain King in the North.

Grey Worm has absolutely zero chill

Grey Worm has absolutely zero chill

31. Barristan Selmy
30. Samwell Tarly
29. Grey Worm
28. Alliser Thorne

27. ‘Jaqen H’ghar’
Affiliation: Faceless Men of Braavos
Since he’s a face-changer, we could have been seeing him all along and would have no idea, and of course Jaqen isn’t his name, but it’s the only real way to identify him at this point. A popular fan theory that Jaqen and Syrio Forrel are the same man means we may have listed him twice, though I doubt the likelihood of that. Braavos is where Arya is headed now.

26. Asha Greyjoy
25. Balon Greyjoy
24. Daario Naharis

23. Missandei
Affiliation: House Targaryen
Daenerys’ handmaiden managed to sexually arouse Grey Worm, who does not have any sexual organs. It’s a crime that she’s not number one on this list.

22. Mace Tyrell

It's gettin' real weird at the Eyrie

It’s gettin’ real weird at the Eyrie

21. Sansa Stark
Affiliation: House Baelish
Just what in the blue hell is running through this misguided girl’s head? Did she just give me the “do me” eyes to Littlefinger? What in the WORLD are you doing, child? You need R’ihlor, girl. Get your dang head on straight.

20. Brienne of Tarth
19. Bran Stark
18. Qyburn
17. Arya Stark
16. Jon Snow
15. Ramsay Bolton

14. Cersei Lannister
13. Jaime Lannister
Affiliation: House Lannister
Really hard to say where Jaime will go from here when he finds out that the brother he just set free, as his first act, murdered his father. Cersei would be in the top ten, but she thinks she is number one, and her hubris drops her here.

#TommenFace

#TommenFace

12. Tommen ‘Baratheon’
11. Roose Bolton
10. Margaery Tyrell
9. Stannis Baratheon
8. Olenna Redwyne

7. Tycho Nestoris
Affiliation: The Iron Bank
Most would agree that prior to his untimely death, Tywin Lannister occupied the number one spot on these rankings; mostly because I am the only person who has any say over such things. There was only one entity that Tywin feared: Tycho and the Iron Bank. He refused to lend money to Stannis when he came asking; had he done so, season four would have ended with Stannis using the stuffed corpse of Cersei Lannister as the Iron Throne’s footrest.

6. Petyr Baelish

5. The White Walkers
Affiliation: The Great Other
They can only really be killed by obsidian, or “dragon glass,” and as far as anyone knows the only piece of it is a dagger that belongs to Sam Tarly. That, or you can learn to shoot fireballs out of your hands like Leaf, but that’s it. So that’s not great.

4. Melisandre
3. Varys

2. Tyrion Lannister
Affiliation: His own dang self
Yeah, he’s a fugitive who is basically on the run from everyone in the entire world. But he just killed the most powerful man in the world. For one week, he deserves this spot at the top.

As if there was any doubt.

As if there was any doubt.

1. Daenerys Targaryen
Affiliation: House Targaryen
She has lost track of one of her dragons after he set a child on fire for no dang reason, and was forced to chain up the other two as a result. This leaves her in control of two incapacitated dragons, which remains infinitely more dragons than everyone else combined. She’s undefeated, but she’ll regret dismissing her biggest and oldest supporter in Ser Jorah — he’d abandoned a chance to return to his old life with a full pardon without about three weeks of meeting her.

MEET THE BLUE DEVELS

Who likes Duke well it's no one that's who

Who likes Duke well it’s no one that’s who

#1 Duke Blue Devils
34-4 (15-3, 2nd in ACC)

How did they get here?
Duke blew through their half of the bracket with relative ease, as their only single-digit win was against #5 Utah in the second round. They received an at-large bid to the tournament after being bounced from the ACC Tournament semifinals by Notre Dame. The Blue Devils haven’t lost to a team that wasn’t Notre Dame since January 13th, when they dropped their second of two consecutive games against ACC also-rans.

Who is their best player?
Freshman Jahlil Okafor is your headliner, and with good reason, he’s one of the best players in the country and a certain top-2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, barring a catastrophic injury. He’s averaging 17 and 8 and makes two thirds of his shots, which is preposterous. But the Blue Devils have a pair of freshmen in Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow (dig that name, bruh) who are pretty dang good too. Senior Quinn Cook provides #leadership.

Can the Blue Devils beat Wisconsin?
Of course they can, they already did back in December. But the Badgers were a very different team when they met Duke for the ACC Challenge. Beyond the natural growth of a team throughout the season (a process magnified by Bo Ryan), that game was played under the widely-held but false assumption that Sam Dekker was a human being. Now of course he has revealed his true nature to us, that of the ancient god of ball, Threesus. Dekker scored five points in that game. If he scores five points tonight I will eat my hat.

Did you ever imagine you would wake up on Opening Day and care more about something other than baseball?
Nope. I can’t put into words how much I want this. Not only for myself as a fan, but for these young men. Has any team ever been so damn likable? We know we’re losing Frank and Josh after tonight and at this point, it’d almost be irresponsible for Sam to stay, as he’s almost certainly played himself into the lottery over the last month. The Badgers will reload, as the always do, but this team is special, on and off the court. #MakeEmBelieve

What is the best case scenario?
Any scenario in which this game ends with the Badgers having more points on the scoreboard than the Blue Devils is the best case scenario.

What is the worst case scenario?
The Badgers one-in-a-million shot misfires, and the Evil Empire wins another championship to add to their pile of trophies as Wisconsin and the entire nation outside of Durham mourns. Everyone that conceivably could declares for the draft and Bo is left having to replace 80% of his starting lineup, a tall task even for him. The Badgers finish 3rd in the B1G next year.

MEET THE OTHER WILDCATS

The Wildcats used to dress like this on purpose. No one even made them do it.

The Wildcats used to dress like this on purpose. No one even made them do it.

#1 Kentucky WIldcats
38-0 (18-0, 1st in SEC)

How did they get here?
Just what in the sam heck are you askin’ me that for, you some kind of dummy? Well guess what if you never lose any games I guess that means you’ll be in the Final Four. Kentucky put the boots to #16 Hampton and #8 Cincinnati, medium style, to make the second weekend. Then some jabroni that plays for #5 West Virginia went and guaranteed victory over Kentucky, forgetting that you definitely should not anger the frickin’ Terminator, so the WIldcats doubled up the Moutaineers just for laughs. They won a classic over #3 Notre Dame to punch their ticket to in de Annapolis.

Who is their best player?
Take your dang pick. You can’t really go wrong with either of the dudes with three names, Willie Caulie-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns. Or you can go with either one of the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, although you just better not because I sure do not like them. Their best player is probably ‘depth’: the Wildcats have eight players that average more than 20 minutes per game (though one of those is Alex Poythress, who was lost for the season in December).

Can the Wildcats beat Wisconsin?
Yeah duh of course they can, what’re ya asking me all these silly questions for? The Wildcats are the best darn team in the country, it’ll be really hard for the Badgers to win this game. But they just might do it: Kentucky is long and tall and have been dominating their opponents with size, but WIsconsin is long and tall as well. This game features the best offense in the nation against the best defense in the nation and I think it’s just gonna be a really great game that Wisconsin will win.

Hey Travis, the WIldcats sure are good. Do you think they could beat the Philadelphia 76ers?
No stop that right now, what in the world is wrong with you? Kentucky has probably seven or eight future NBA players, some of them might be good but who knows, none of them have ever played in the NBA before. The Sixers have 12 NBA players because they are an NBA team. If they played a seven game series Philadelphia would win all seven games by 30.

What is the best case scenario?
The Badgers put a gosh darn whoopin’ on those good ol’ Kentucky boys, cruising to a 12 point win and earning a championship game rematch against Duke, because I hate Michigan St., get real.

What is the worst case scenario?
Kentucky sticks Badgers fans with a heartbreaking loss, as Aaron Harrison drills another impossible three with time running out to send Wisconsin home saying, “What if,” for the second consecutive year.

NostaTravis’ 2015 MLB Preview

Hey there pals. Yup that’s right it’s me, appearing before you for the first time, NostaTravis. Well, you know, I heard that baseball season was coming up soon, what with it bein’ April and all, and I thought maybe you all would like to know what was going to happen this year, since the baseball season is pretty long and the games are considered “boring” by some of you less dignified mortals, and you might just not have the patience to stick around and find out who the winner will be come October. So, consider this your **SPOILER ALERT** because if learning the winners of all the games before they happen will upset you, you better just go ahead and check out now.

Some things to note before we get started:

  • I am not very good at this. Last year I predicted that the Diamondbacks would make the playoffs as a Wild Card team (they finished in last place with a record of 64-98) and that the Tampa Bay Rays would win the World Series (at 77-85, the Rays finished 11 games out of the race for the second Wild Card spot). If you make gambling decisions based on my predictions, you will probably lose all of your money.
  • “Travis you big idiot the Brewers aren’t very good you are being a homer.” Read the name of this blog ya chucklehead.
  • Everything written here is exactly as true as you want it to be. Bucky’s Beer Cheese Co. is a magical vehicle powered only by your imagination. Let it run wild.

AL East

1) Baltimore Orioles
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Toronto Blue Jays
4) New York Yankees
5) Tampa Bay Rays

A lot of folks are down on the Orioles this year, which doesn’t make a dang lick of sense; they didn’t do much in the off-season, but they won this division by 12 games last year without Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, they didn’t need to do much … The Rays will have one of the best starting rotations in the league once Alex Cobb and Matt Moore are healthy, but their lineup is abysmal … A-Rod will play this year, which is pretty funny.

brantleymb

Cleveland MVP candidate Michael Brantley, in happier times.

AL Central

1) Cleveland Indians
2) Kansas City Royals*
3) Detroit Tigers
4) Chicago White Sox
5) Minnesota Twins

A couple of years ago, this division was a laughing stock outside of Detroit. Now it’s probably the best division in baseball: I could easily see any one of the four top teams taking it, and the Twins are only a year or two away from contention … The White Sox made a big splash in the free agent market, but a lot of times you don’t see a team click into contention after moves like that until year two … Sure the Tigers are getting old, but they’re not the Yankees yet, and David Price and Miguel Cabrera are still the best pitcher and best hitter in this division.

AL West

1) Los Angeles Angels
2) Seattle Mariners*
3) Oakland Athletics
4) Texas Rangers
5) Houston Astros

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and it isn’t close. The Angels have a bunch of other nice pieces as well … Oakland was very busy this off-season and made a couple of moves many considered questionable, but they haven’t lost too much … Yu Darvish will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery, which is an absolute tragedy … The Astros still aren’t close. Was the possibility of contending in the nebulous “next year” worth the half decade they’ve put their fans through?

bold-strategy-cotton

The Phillies

NL East

1) Washington Nationals
2) Miami Marlins*
3) New York Mets
4) Atlanta Braves
5) Philadelphia Phillies

A lot of people have dismissed the Nationals’ division championship as a foregone conclusion, which I think is as much an indictment of the rest of the division as it is a crowning for Washington. Everyone else is terrible … That being said, holy cow is Washington’s starting rotation good. Gio Gonzalez is their FIFTH starter — he is better than every pitcher currently employed by the Milwaukee Brewers … The Phillies are sitting at the intersection of really old and really bad. It’s an interesting approach.

NL Central

1) Milwaukee Brewers
2) Pittsburgh Pirates*
3) St. Louis Cardinals
4) Chicago Cubs
5) Cincinnati Reds

“Travis you can’t put the Brewers in first place you are being ridiculous” Oh yeah well guess what idiot I just did, shows what you know … The Brewers are a better team this year than the team that spent 150 days in first place last year. It’s not a stretch to think Jimmy Nelson can produce at the same level Gallardo did last season, Braun is healthy again, they employ an actual first baseman for the first time in three years, and the bullpen is deeeeep … “Travis you can’t put the Cardinals in third place you are being ridiculous” Yes I can fuck the Cardinals … The Cubs are going to be good. Really, really good. But I think they’re still a year away.

NL West

1) Los Angeles Dodgers
2) San Diego Padres
3) San Francisco Giants
4) Colorado Rockies
5) Arizona Diamondbacks

I mean, the Dodgers can afford to outbid everyone for anyone, and they just went on got one of the best penny-pinchers in the game in Andrew Friedman. I’m not sure how well that’s going to play out: he just shelled out 4/$48 for Brandon McCarthy … The Padres were involved in basically every off-season deal all winter, and they’ve obviously improved a league-worst offense immensely. I’m a big fan of their 100% new and improved outfield … The Diamondbacks have about nine major league players on their team, which is pretty good, because there aren’t any on the baseball team that I own. But since most of the other teams in the league have 25, I don’t think they’re gonna have a really nice time.

Playoffs:

Wild Card Games
NL: Marlins over Pirates
AL: Mariners over Royals
Divisional Series
NL: Nationals over Marlins, Dodgers over Brewers
AL: Angels over Mariners, Indians over Orioles
Championship Series
NL: Dodgers over Nationals
AL: Angels over Indians
World Series
Dodgers over Angels

The smirk of a man who knows he's the best in the world.

The smirk of a man who knows he’s the best in the world.

Awards:

MVP
NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
AL: MIke Trout, Los Angeles
Anyone who picks someone other than Trout for MVP is grasping for headlines. Get real.
Cy Young
NL: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
AL: Felix Hernandez, Seattle
Little bit of chalk here, but these are the two best pitchers in the game, health permitting.
Rookie of the Year
NL: Kris Bryant, Chicago
AL: Rusney Castillo, Boston
Boy, I SURE AM EXCITED for the Cubs future.

Well, thanks for taking a look, friend. Feel free to bookmark this post and tell me what an idiot I am during this year’s White Sox-Cubs World Series.

A poem for Larry Sanders

Good afternoon folks. Well today as I was browing through twitter dot com, I saw the following tweet from Jon Bois:

Intrigued, I clicked the link. If you’re unsure as to why I was intrigued, that means you don’t read Jon Bois on SB Nation and you don’t follow Jon on Twitter, which in turn means every choice you’ve made in your life up until this moment has been an incorrect one, and I demand you stop reading this and immediately read the following three things instead, written by Jon:

1) Breaking Madden, a series in which Jon puts the Madden video game through a whole mess of hilarious nonsense, featuring the exploits of Touchdown Tom Brady, BEEFTANK, and a host of other real and fictional football players.

2) The Tim Tebow Chronicles: A Three Million Yard Football Odyssey, a story in six parts about Tim’s adventures in the CFL.

3) NBA Y2K, which is basically an NBA themed clone of the Breaking Madden series, and the impetus of this post.

Anyway. If you click the link in Jon’s tweet (you don’t have to if you don’t want, but you should if you do want to), you’ll see that he’s asking for folks to send him “a poem about an NBA player that has disappointed you.” I chose Larry Sanders, and chose to craft my poem in the style of a Shakesperean sonnet, complete with the rhyming scheme and Iambic pentameter therein prescribed. I hope that you like it.

For Milwaukee did Larry Sanders play,
Nigh seven foot, possessed of lanky arms.
Beloved was he, and made he Bucks fans gay,
Though unto men at nightclubs he caused harm.
But oh! He chose to leave the old hard wood
behind, his mind was in another place,
And never shall the Blocktopus make good
on his contract, nor will he LeBron face.
Now doth he tary and ne’er to return,
Maybe smokin’ doobies, but maybe not.
With untold millions that he did not earn
goes he now, and prepares his Pockets-Hot.
    Methinks we shall not see his face again,
    but hope do I he gains a mind more sane.

First enjoy the ride, then MEET THE WILDCATS

CA0vQbGWgAAOrWLBefore we dive into Wisconsin’s next opponent, who we certainly hope is the first of two consecutive Wildcats, let’s just take a moment to step back and really enjoy what’s happening right now. Are you ready? 3, 2, 1…

Wow.

The Badgers are back in the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year, a feat never before accomplished by Wisconsin since the tournament’s expansion to 64 teams in 1985. Prior to last year, they hadn’t gotten this far since 2005. So, win or lose on Saturday, this has been incredible, and I want you to enjoy it. Because this is sports, and sports is supposed to be fun. Of course we want more, but let’s not forget to enjoy the ride.

Obviously, this is by far the most talented Badgers roster in the expansion era. But more than that…this team is fun. You love them. I love them. Frank, Sam, Nigel…they’re not only bright stars and locks to be first round picks (but maybe, just maybe, not until 2016, in the case of Sam and Nigel), they’re characters. Just, just LOOK at this:

Are you kidding me Nigel? This is the 100% most endearing moment in sports history (no that is not hyperbole). Nigel is just like us! He thinks girls are pretty too! He accidentally tells an entire room and, subsequently, the entire nation about it too! He has to bury his face in his hands in embarrassment too! I LOVE you Nigel. Never, ever change. How about Sam and Frank, you following them on Twitter? How about the rest of the team? WHY THE HECK NOT!?

I think it’s good to be reminded that these guys are just kids. They’re 19, 20, 21 years old, and they are out there on the big stage, and rather than letting the pressure crush them, they’re out there having the time of their lives. I love this team, so much. Thank you, the 2015 Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team.

Now then, on with it.

#2 Arizona Wildcats62627
34-3 (16-2, 1st in Pac-12)

How did they get here?
Arizona blew through their half of the West bracket with relative ease, cruising past #15 Texas Southern and #10 Ohio St. with 21 and 15 point wins, respectively. Xavier gave them a bit of a scare, keeping up with the ‘Cats in what was a one possession game throughout until about two minutes left, when Arizona pulled away slightly for an eight point win.

Arizona earned the automatic bid from the Pac-12 as a result of winning their conference tournament, which was of course a mere formality. The Wildcats were a top-10 team throughout the season. None of the three teams that beat them this season had winning conference records, so they are obviously very bad and vastly overrated.

Who is their best player?
Freshman forward Stanley Johnson is the guy whose name is on the marquee. But Arizona is very similar to Wisconsin and Kentucky in that their entire starting five is strong. T.J. McConnell is very good at basketball. Brandon Ashley is very good at basketball. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is very good at basketball. Kaleb Tarczewski is very good at basketball. No one in their starting lineup averages less than nine points per game. Additionally, none of them are as good at basketball as Frank Kaminsky III.

Can the Wildcats beat Wisconsin?
Yeah, sure they could. But they just better not.

Just exactly WHAT is happening in that picture up there, Trav?
Oh, I’ll feed you, baby birds. That photo was taken during the 2006 marriage renewal of vows ceremony undertaken by U of A’s mascots, Wilbur and Wilma. They were first married in 1986, just eight months after they met at Wilma’s debut — you don’t usually expect a marriage that is rushed like that to work out, but damn it if they aren’t still going strong 28 years later. Wilbur mainly handles men’s basketball and football, and is normally found wearing the uniform of whichever sport he is actively supporting. Wilma’s main focuses are women’s basketball and volleyball, but she pretty much only wears her cheerleading outfit, because Arizona is filled with old white men who remain unaware that some women like and participate in sports.

What is the best case scenario?
A repeat of last year’s Elite Eight meeting between these two schools when the seeds were flipped, a back-and-forth thriller that the Badgers won in overtime. That game too was in California, though in that case the home-court advantage held by Arizona was actually fair, given the seeding. Kaminsky put up 28 and 11 in the Badgers’ 64-63 OT win last year, but the Badgers will need to have great games from all their stars; both of these teams are improved over last year.

What is the worst case scenario?
Up two with 4.9 remaining in the game, Kaminsky steps to the line to shoot two and seal the game. Both shots miss, with the second agonizingly circling the rim twice before falling off. McConnell grabs the rebound and outlets to Johnson, who darts past half court and sinks a 35-foot prayer with Gasser’s hand down his throat. Wisconsin sports fans are left picking up the pieces as certain victory is replaced with agonizing defeat for the third time in 12 months.

MEET THE TAR HEELS

North Carolina Central v North Carolina

Hey don’t cry, little buddy. The Sweet 16 is still pretty great.

#4 North Carolina Tar Heels
26-11 (11-7, 5th in ACC)

How did they get here?
North Carolina survived a massive scare from Ivy League darling #13 Harvard in the opening round, 67-65. The Tar Heels blew a 16-point second half lead in that game, as the Crimson missed a pretty good look as time expired that would have A) given them the one point win and B) been really awesome. They played a back-and-forth game with Arkansas for most of the way on Saturday until pulling away with about 10 minutes to play.

UNC received an at-large bid to the tournament after being bounced from the ACC tournament by eventual champion Notre Dame, 90-82.

Who is their best player?
Junior guard Marcus Paige forms one half of a talented UNC backcourt along with Menomonee Falls’ own J.P. Tokoto, also a junior. Paige was on the preseason Wooden Award watch list, but missed the mid-season cut when he got worse at pretty much everything after a breakout sophomore season. He still leads the Tar Heels in every major category other than rebounds and field goal percentage, so he hasn’t been disappointing enough to not be the team’s best player, which I suppose is all the more disappointing for Tar Heels fans. But who cares about them, most of them think N*Sync was better than the Backstreet Boys and that yellow is the best flavor of Starbursts.

Can the Tar Heels beat Wisconsin?
Probably not. The Tar Heels are big, and score a lot of points from the free throw line: they rank 26th in Division I in free throw attempts (21.5 per game). Unfortunately for UNC, Wisconsin doesn’t really ever foul anyone: their 10.9 FT attempts allowed per game is so much better than the rest of Division I that the difference between the Badgers and 2nd place San Diego St. is equal to the difference between 2nd and 19th place on that list. That’s bonkers.

The Tar Heels also won’t be able to use their size to bully the Badgers as they have done to smaller teams throughout the year, which is especially true now that starting center Kennedy Meeks is likely to miss Thursday’s game after an injury sustained against Arkansas. UNC can’t shoot threes and the Badgers don’t turn the ball over or foul, so if they get behind, the Tar Heels will basically just be praying Wisconsin goes cold.

Just what the heck is a Tar Heel anyway, huh?
“Tar Heel” is a nickname given to the state of North Carolina and it’s inhabitants that originated around the time of the Civil War. It was originally meant as a pejorative term, but North Carolinians co-opted the term and made it a source of pride, not unlike the way Packers fans hijacked “cheesehead” for their own.

Why are folks from North Carolina called Tar Heels? Well they’ve got a whole mess of tar-producing pine trees in North Carolina, that might be it. Or it might refer to any of a number of stories of legend concerning North Carolina’s involvement in the Civil War. Nobody is really sure and who cares anyway, it’s a stupid nickname and why the heck is their mascot a ram? A ram doesn’t even have any dang heels you jabronis.

What is the best case scenario?
The Badgers clog up the inside in the absence of Meeks and force the Tar Heels to bomb away from outside, where they rank 316th in the nation with 4.6 three point field goals made per game. Wisconsin builds a house with the bricks the Tar Heels lay all night, which they subsequently donate to a needy family living in the poorer part of Los Angeles. Traevon Jackson returns and plays 17 useful minutes, mostly in garbage time as the Badgers mop up a 17 point win.

What is the worst case scenario?
The Badgers three losses this year have come in rather fluky scenarios: Duke shot 65% and 58% from the 3-point line, in their win; Rutgers caught them without Kaminsky and Jackson, who sustained the foot injury that has kept him out for the past two months in that game; and Maryland rode a ridiculous performance from Dez Wells to wins. In this week’s episode, the Badgers follow the same plan as above, but instead of having a nice laugh at Paige doinking threes off the back of the rim, Wisconsin is shocked as UNC makes it rain, shoots over 50% from beyond the arc, and shoots the Badgers out of the tournament. Sam Dekker declares for the draft, and Nigel Hayes joins him.