The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Point, Counter-Point: Wilkinson v. Pennycook IV

Posted by Blake Murphy on March 10, 2008

This article has been submitted by Alex Pennycook and Stu Wilkinson and is the fourth installment of their best-of-7 Point, Counter-Point series. Anyone who knows Stu or Alex or is a regular reader here knows the drill – they throw down on a few different sports questions, I arbitrarily award a split decision victory to one of them to keep the series alive (a page out of David Stern’s playbook), and they do it again a month or two later. This time, Stu has the added benefit of a victory speech, since he eclipsed Alex in The On Deck Circle’s $100 Sports Gambling Challenge by a closer-than-it-appears $459.60 to $170.37 margin. Kudos to both men for doing with hypothetical money what they’ve been unable to do with real money…make winning bets. Please note also that this is the very last time I will ever post one of Stu’s stupid cat photos, but to the victor gull the spoils, today.

Stuart Wilkinson’s Victory Speech
I’m not good at a lot of things. These include drawing, chugging beer out of bottles, and exercising self-control when I see Sebastian Telfair jerseys on eBay. But I am good at one important thing in life: Gambling on NCAA basketball games with fake money. I’m glad this talent of mine has finally been showcased through The On Deck Circle’s $100 Sports Gambling Challenge.

I have a lot of people to thank for this victory, so bear with me. First of all, the Austin Peay Governors were the horse that I rode to victory. I couldn’t have done this without them. Second, those funny pictures of cats were truly an inspiration to me during this pressure-packed week. Third, and finally (I can hear The On Deck Circle’s orchestra drowning out speech) I’d like to thank my opponent, Alex Pennycook. As a token of my appreciation I will now mock his opinions and embarrass his family in this edition of Point, Counter-Point.

Who will win the NHL’s Hart Trophy?
Alex – Once upon a Rocky IV, Apollo Creed said, “I just wanna show the whole world that Russia doesn’t have all the best athletes.” He died trying to prove this theory. That leaves us with two MVP candidates… Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin leads the league in goals and has put his team on his back and carried them into contention for the prestigious Southeast division crown. While Malkin is only a couple of points behind Alex for the lead league, you can’t even call him the best player on his own team. Another interesting stat is that Ovechkin has a better plus/minus than Malkin on a far less talented team. While I don’t necessarily agree with giving the MVP to a player on a team that doesn’t even qualify for the playoffs, Washington would be in last place without Alex the Great, while Pittsburgh with a healthy Crosby could handle a sustained Geno absence.

Stu - While Ovechkin might be the NHL’s version of Damon Jones with his electrifying play, Evgeni Malkin is the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. Ovechkin’s team isn’t going to make the playoffs, while Geno’s Penguins are cruising towards a top seed in the East. Evgeni carried the Penguins when they were hit by the injury bug in the middle of this season, and he might even catch OV in the points race, especially with Sidney “Bing” Crosby coming back on the power play. I can’t see the Hart Trophy being awarded to a player whose team doesn’t make the playoffs, especially when there’s another valid candidate from one of the best teams in the league like Malkin on the ballot.

Who will be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player?
Alex – LeBron is having an unbelievable statistical season on a mediocre team but Kobe Bryant is the best player on the best team in the league, and this is the year he’ll take home his first ever MVP award. As we saw last year, the voters love to back players on the top teams, and the Cavs aren’t even in the league’s top ten. LeBron’s offensive stats are marginally better than Kobe’s, however, Bryant is the far superior defender. Kobe has been deserving of this award for years now and finally he’ll get his.

Stu - Kobe’s had a phenomenal career, but the MVP is about this season, not how Kobe had great numbers in 2001. LeBron is the baddest guy in the league. By far. The Cavs, especially the pre-deadline Cavs, were complete morribund except for LeBron, but he didn’t whine. He kept his head down and carried his team, like a superstar is supposed to. The main problem I have with Kobe is his ridiculous moodiness – see his demand to be traded, the first few games of this year, Game Seven of the Suns-Lakers series in 2006, or even his NBA-leading twelve technical fouls. Besides Kobe having the mental makeup of a petulant child, he’s also straight up not as good as LeBron at the game of basketball. Exhibits A through Z: LeBron’s crunch time stats. This debate is over.

Which NFL team most improved in free agency so far?
Alex – It has got to be the Cleveland Browns. First of all, they resigned QB Derek Anderson meaning they shouldn’t have to suffer through Brady Quinn’s growing pains this season. Anderson proved he can be a very solid quarterback in this league and lead a potent attack. His receiving corps also received a boost when they brought in Donte’ Stallworth to give them three dangerous sets of hands in the passing game. The Browns then addressed their suspect D by adding two big bodies to beef up their line. This is huge for the Browns because it should free up their excellent playmaking linebackers (easily the heart of this team’s defense). At the same time, their division rivals have done absolutely nothing, meaning this team should have no problem improving on last year’s 10-6 season. Finally, since this team has virtually no draft picks, they absolutely had to improve through free agency.

Stu - First of all, Cleveland still sucks, and so do Alex’s analytical skills when it comes to the National Football League. Secondly, the big winners of free agency so far were the New York Football Jets. Kris Jenkins will be a critical part of their 3-4 defense. What do all the successful 3-4 defenses in the NFL have in common? Great nose tackles. The Jets already have a great secondary with Revis and Rhodes, so the help up front might be able to make them a legitimately good defensive unit. The great Alan Faneca and the not-so-great Damien Woody will provide help to the offensive line that already has D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. People forget that this was a playoff team just two years ago, and that doesn’t just disappear over night. The Jets are primed to challenge the Bills for a wild card spot in next year’s NFL Playoffs.

Who is your favorite to win the NCAA Tournament?

Alex – The thing I’ve found most interesting about this college basketball season is how far the top teams have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. I really only think five teams have a shot at winning it all this season: UNC, Kansas, UCLA, Memphis and Georgetown. While Georgetown is my favorite team, I just don’t think they have the same talent level as these other teams, so they can’t be the favorite. Memphis is still a brutal free throw shooting team and it will come back to bite them since all of their games aside from the first round will be close. It’s hard to pick against UNC or Kansas because they are both so deep and talented, but there is one thing that UCLA has that they don’t… experience. With Kevin Love, the Bruins finally have the post player needed to make a championship run, and with many players poised to make the jump to the NBA this could be their last shot.

Stu – Nice work touting UCLA’s experience then saying that their key player is a freshman. Until the latest episode of the Duke-UNC rivalry, I would have said Kansas, not UCLA, was the favorite to win it all. After UNC’s win against Duke, however, I have to pass the torch to the Tar Heels. Quentin Thomas, their Achilles heel, looked great. The interior defense provided by Danny Green and Deon Thompson was very impressive, and UNC was able to consistently score the ball against Duke’s intense defensive pressure. This team is peaking at the right time, they have a mentally tough leader in Tyler Hansbrough,, and Ty Lawson is going to be close to 100% by the time the Tournament rolls around. What’s not to like?

What is the best sport to gamble on?
Alex – This has to be the National Football League for three reasons. First of all games are only played once a week. This means you don’t have to go through the grind of checking lines every day and you can sit down, watch TV for an entire day and check scores. Second, there is nothing like having your team punch in a garbage touchdown to cover a line. Finally, the amount of info out there on the world wide web to help aid your picks is incredible. No sport is followed as closely as football so you can grab tons of advice, injury status reports and stats to back any pick. When is the last time you heard a reliable injury report about a college basketball player?

Stu - College basketball is easily the best sport to gamble on, unless you don’t want to make any money in your gambling activities. The home court advantage provided by the college game is second to none, and it makes for very lucrative parlays of strong home favorites. Throw in the small group of well-coached teams like Duke, UNC, and Georgetown that can go on the road and compete with anyone and you have yourself a cash cow that needs to be milked.

Who is the top March Madness breakout player candidate?
Alex – This could come back to haunt me because there are so many breakout candidates on the Jayhawks alone, but I’m going to go with Brandon Rush. He might not put up the eye-popping stats but is the kind of clutch player needed to go on a big run in the tournament. He probably would have been a late first round pick if he came out of school last year and hasn’t had a great season, so he has a lot to play for in March. The Jayhawks would love to have him back for his seniot year next season but he could be a solid wingman and instant contributor in the NBA.

Stu - Dejuan Blair, the man with the 7’2” wingspan out of Pitt, will turn some heads in March Madness. People have been sleeping on him since the Panthers went into an absolute tailspin during Big East play, but they’re rolling again with three wins in their last four games heading into the Big East Tournament. Blair’s blue collar game is suited to the half court, physical nature of the NCAA Tournament, and with point guard Levance Fields back healthy (one rebound and one assist short of a triple double in their regular season finale against DePaul), Blair should be able to dominate down low. Get those Karl Malone comparisons ready, ESPN.

This article has been submitted by Alex Pennycook and Stu Wilkinson and is the fourth installment of their best-of-7 Point, Counter-Point series.

6 Responses to “Point, Counter-Point: Wilkinson v. Pennycook IV”

  1. Erik Says:

    The fact that both of you MADE money is amazing. You just beat the other 95% of gamblers who inherently lose.

  2. Blake Murphy Says:

    I have a lot of thoughts on the $100 challenge. Foremost, Alex, you let me down. Stu…how are you not rich? Your success with mid-major gambling turned me on to it and I had an extremely profitable weekend (with real money) making over $100 on $10 worth of bets. Now, if you could improve that 3-8 Shoe-In record…

    Good P, C-P as usual, and with the series tied 2-2, the next one is statistically the most significant for a 7-game series. Your breakout candidate needs to be OJ Mayo (see: my article coming later this week), if it’s possible to ‘break out’ when you’re that hyped already. The best sport to gamble on is without a doubt professional weightlifting. And despite flawed reasoning, Alex is right. For the third year in a row, I’ll be taking UCLA to win it all.

    Nice work gents, and to everyone else, sorry for subjecting you to that cat picture.

  3. Pennycook Says:

    Trying to keep this short I didn’t explain my UCLA pick well. The team does have a ton of experience (Collison, Shipp, Captain Luc Richard) but their problem those years was a lack of a solid post presence. Look at the teams in the Final Four last year: Ohio State (Oden), Florida (Noah, Horford and even Richard) and Georgetown (Hibbert) all would have owned Mata. All those teams were so deep that UCLA’s perimeter players couldn’t over come their deficiencies down low.

    Enter Kevin Love and his 17 points, 10 boards a game. This guy isn’t just any freshman, but more importantly, UCLA doesn’t have to count on him to him games. If he has a bad game early, the Bruins likely will still win. Love is also Mr. Consistent. In 18 Pac-10 games he has reached double digit points every game and rebounds 14 times. He is the difference maker for this squad.

  4. stu Says:

    Yeah, I don’t think it’s possible for OJ Mayo to break out. The hype machine has already made expectations for him way too high, and we’ll be subjected to Billy Packer talking about how unimpressive he is at least once in the Tournament.

  5. Blake Murphy Says:

    I’d say he can breakout then. Everyone is sick of the hype machine and already calling him overrated, and I think this will be his time to remind everyone that he is, first and foremost, a baller.

  6. AJ Says:

    I am so happy I’m not the only one with a Bassy Telfair jersey addiction…did yours come with a handgun in a pillow case too?

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