Sunday, January 30, 2011

Frank Vogel Takes Over Coach Duties in Indiana

By: Nick Grays, Senior Writer at The Sports Bank

A few hours after the news broke about Head Coach Jim O’Brien’s firing, the Indiana Pacers organization called for a press conference with team president Larry Bird.

At this presser, the team announced that assistant coach Frank Vogel would be stepping in as the interim coach for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.

“I’m sure you’ve heard the news that we let Jimmy go today and we’re going to replace him with Frank Vogel. I want to thank Jimmy for his three-and-a-half years of service. He helped change the culture and he’s going to be missed. Hopefully we can move forward and win some ball games and get back in playoff contention,” said Bird.

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Jim O’Brien Out As Indiana Pacers Coach

By: Nick Grays, Senior Editor at the Sports Bank

After three-plus seasons, the Indiana Pacers have decided to part ways with Jim O’Brien according to Pacers beat-writer and Indiana Star writer Mike Wells.

The Pacers have struggled to close games in the fourth quarter all season en route to a 17-27 record. O’Brien was a combined 121-169 in his tenure as Head Coach of the Pacers.

The decision comes after a 110-89 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night which marked the Pacers seventh loss in their last eight games.

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Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun Sit Courtside At Bucks Game

By: Nick Grays, Senior Writer at The Sports Bank
The Milwaukee Bucks 91-81 defeat of the New Jersey Nets marked the return of point guard Brandon Jennings, but it was Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Milwaukee Brewers All-Star Ryan Braun who received a standing ovation.

Rodgers and Braun sat court-side to watch the Bucks win their third straight game behind 17 points and 18 rebounds from Andrew Bogut.

Excited about the Packers recent success, Jennings even threw in a “championship belt” celebration of his own from the Bucks bench on Saturday night.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Packers-Steelers: The Forgotten Headlines

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Senior Writer

Each and every year, the media entrenches the masses with positive stories surrounding the two football teams in the Super Bowl. This goes on for a full two weeks following the conclusion of the conference championship games.

However, the ugly truth is that the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers have both had their fair share of negative publicity in the last couple of years.

Sit back and buckle up as we take a trip down memory lane and reflect on a few forgotten headlines.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Freshman Josh Gasser Records First-Ever Badgers Triple-Double

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

Now that the dust has settled from the Packers monumental win over the Bears, we can revert back to talking about another historic accomplishment in Wisconsin sports which occurred on the same day.

In a 78-46 thrashing of the Northwestern Wildcats,  freshman Josh Gasser went for 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to record the first triple-double in Wisconsin Badgers history.

Just to prove what kind of accomplishment this really was; Michigan State's Earvin "Magic" Johnson was the last Big Ten freshman to record a triple-double when he had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists vs. Detroit in 1977. How's that for company?

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Packers Receive Help From Unlikely Trio In NFC Championship

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

Similar to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears ugly match-up in week 17, someone had to win the NFC Championship. After three quarters of stifling defense and a riveting fourth quarter, the Packers edged out the Bears 21-14 to become the second-ever #6 seed to make the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLV will mark the Packers fifth overall appearance in the biggest game of them all. In that game, they will be vying for their fourth Lombardi Trophy.

It may be hard to fathom, but it wasn’t Aaron Rodgers or Clay Matthews who stole the headlines this Sunday. It was a couple of rookies in CB Sam Shields, P Tim Masthay and second-year DT B.J. Raji who came through in the clutch to send their team to Dallas.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Previewing Packers/Bears NFC Championship ("Green and Yellow" Music Video)

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

Believe it or not; the NFL‘s oldest rivalry has seen the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears make the playoffs in the same year only four times.

In those four years, the Packers and Bears have met in the playoffs two times. The last meeting coming in 1941, at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Bears won 33-14 behind offensive stars George McAfee, Norm Standlee and Hugh Gallarneau.

This time around, it’s Jay Cutler vs. Aaaron Rodgers and a battle between two of the best defenses in all of the league. The NFC Championship also serves as a rare rubber match because the two teams split their two games in the regular season.

In addition to a preview, it’s only appropriate I include the music video for the Packers 2011 Playoff Anthem, “Green and Yellow.” To avoid any musical bias, make sure to check out the 2011 Chicago Bears Super Bowl Shuffle Remix.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Badgers and Hoosiers Closer Than Expected

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

The #17 Wisconsin Badgers outlasted the Indiana Hoosiers 69-60 behind a career-high 28 points from Jordan Taylor.

Wisconsin (14-4, 4-2) has won their last seven against Indiana (10-9, 1-5) and their last last 14 at the Kohl Center. While a win is a win, the Badgers clash with the Hoosiers was a lot closer than expected.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Blake Griffin Scores a League-High 47 Against the Pacers

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

A season-high, franchise-high, 2010-11 NBA league-high and just about any other high you want to mention is what Blake Griffin accomplished with his 47 points on Monday afternoon.

The so-called rookie (technically his second year because he didn't play in 2009-10) also snatched 14 rebounds for his 27th consecutive double-double to rally his Los Angeles Clippers over the Indiana Pacers 114-107.

Griffin is just unstoppable with his all-around game consisting of dunks, hook-shots, jumpers and even three-pointers. I think it might be time to give him the nickname  "The  New Human Highlight Film." Do you think Dominque Wilkens would mind?

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Interview with the Champ!

By: Nick Grays, League Commissioner

After the fantasy championship, I had the pleasure to catch up with the 2010 fantasy champion Matt McCarthy (pictured above with his trophy). Keep reading to see the fantasy owner's reaction to a sweet sweet year in fantasy football.

Hey Matt, what a year, huh? Do you have some opening comments, maybe regarding the fantasy championship, the trophy, or your bad start?

It was a rough start. I was thinking in the beginning that I had an excellent team, then the bye weeks and injuries started to happen. After that last loss and dropping to 2-4 my team picked up dramatically.

Is there any one moment in the fantasy season which sticks out in your memory? Something you might remember for years to come.

The two games against Rory. The first time I had a decent lead and then he had some guy named Michael Vick that started on a Monday night. I thought I was in good shape and then Vick started a scoring spree. I still ended up winning, but it was definitely an oh my god moment.

I wouldn’t be able to conduct this interview without asking who was your fantasy MVP this season?

I would have to say my running back squad. They really scored a lot of points for me this season, especially the pick up of Darren McFadden. After a rocky start, Tom Brady picked it up and was consistent through the rest of the season as well.

Next season, I’m going to start a fantasy league records page. Will your ten-game winning streak ever be touched again?

I don't think that it will be touched for a long time. I still cant even believe it. It was a great run with some bumps on the way, but my team really came together in the end.

If my mind works right, I think you drafted from the 5th spot, any specific strategy or thoughts from that spot in a 14-team league?

I like to have a good quarterback. The last two years I took a QB in the first round. This year I took a running back first. I think that having one of each is almost essential in most leagues. You can do great with a different setup, but look at the top teams this year in our league, Vick, Manning, Rodgers, and Brady all in teams ranked 1-4.

We’re going to wrap it up here with one final question. As your league commissioner, is there anything I need to change about the league to make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone?

I think that everything is great. You keep everyone updated as to what is going on and take time out each week to show all of our upcoming matches and Monday night heroes. The fantasy league records page will add even more where all of us can check out stats from the last couple of years, maybe even adding our top picks from the last year would be cool to show the different picks everyone had from previous years.

Thanks Matt and good luck for your prep in the 2011 fantasy season!

Badgers Jon Leuer Developing Into an NBA Talent

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist
By now, pretty much everyone knows the Wisconsin Badgers Jon Leuer and his back-story. He’s the kid from Orono, MN who played at the guard position until high school when he sprouted an extra ten inches to reach his 6-10 frame.

In his four-years in Madison, he has learned how to use his knowledge of the guard and forward positions to become one of the nation’s most complete players.

In The Sports Bank’s latest NBA Mock Draft, David Kay has Leuer going to the Chicago Bulls 26th overall.
During Big Ten Media Day, The Sports Bank Founder and CEO, Paul Banks caught up with Leuer to talk about how playing with Team USA this summer has helped develop his game.

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Aaron Rodgers Almost Perfect in a Rout of the Falcons

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

Can you say NFC Championship? That’s where the Green Bay Packers are heading after embarrassing the  #1-seeded Atlanta Falcons by the score of 48-21.

QB Aaron Rodgers took his play to an elite status when he completed 31 of his 36 passes for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rodgers ten touchdowns through his first three playoff games are an NFL record.

A fellow Pro Bowl snub in Tramon Williams also had a career game with two interceptions and a touchdown.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rapid Reaction: Wisconsin 76 Illinois 66

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist
“I think if that was a dance, they would have called it off. You said rhythm; their was absolutely no rhythm. If it was the Gong Show, they would have hooked us all,” said Bo Ryan in regards to the fifty fouls called in Saturday’s game with Illinois.

Despite the foul-fest which was reminiscent of a 1970s TV-show, the #20 Badgers 76-66 win over the #16 Fighting Illini improved their home-record to 10-0 and marked their 13th straight win at the Kohl Center.

Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor combined to score 48 of Wisconsin‘s (13-4, 3-2) 76 points and Demetri McCamey led Illinois (13-5, 3-2) with 23 points.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Packers Keys To Victory Versus the Falcons

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

The Green Bay Packers continue their playoff road trip on Saturday at the Georgia Dome where they will take on the #1-seeded Atlanta Falcons in a NFC divisional match-up.

When these two teams met back in week 12, it didn't go so well for the Green and Gold. Following a 40 yard kickoff-return from Eric Weems, Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan moved his team down the field to set up for the game-winning 47 yard field goal with nine seconds left.

Here's what the Packers need to do if they want to avenge the loss and more importantly advance to the NFC Championship for a chance to play in the biggest game of them all, the Super Bowl.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pacers Rookie Paul George Making Siginificant Contributions

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

For the third time in six games, Indiana Pacers rookie forward Paul George has reached double digit points.

Why is this important? Next to superstar Danny Granger's 21 points per game, the Pacers (16-20) have struggled to score while averaging 96.9 points per game (22nd in the league). When the team does find production and eclipse the 100 point mark, they are 10-2.

George is by no means a scoring threat on this Pacers team, but he is an improving rookie who could emerge into one.  On Wednesday, George posted a career-high 16 points off the bench in a 102-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Packers Upset Eagles With a Stark Surprise

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

There's only one thing that can make Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense even more dangerous than they already are and that's a formidable running game.

On Sunday, rookie running back James Starks gave the team just that when he ran 23 times for a rookie-record 123 yards to lead the Green Bay Packers to a 21-16 upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Who needs home-field advantage as the Packers victory capped off a crazy wild-card weekend in the NFL which saw three road teams win. The only home team to move on were the surprising Seattle Seahawks.

The NFC divisional match-ups are set as the Green Bay Packers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks take it to the road in Chicago for a battle with the Bears.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Wisconsin RB John Clay Entering the NFL Draft


By: Paul Banks, The Sports Bank Founder and Leading Columnist

Back in the preseason, I published an article entitled “One more year then NFL for Wisconsin’s John Clay?”

Today, that became prophesy as a Milwaukee newspaper reports Clay will forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. So what are his strengths and weaknesses? What does he bring to the NFL table?

Here we re-publish that article, based off my Big Ten Media Day exclusive with him, answering all those questions and more.

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Previewing Packers and Eagles Wild-Card Match-Up

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

The Green Bay Packers will kick off the playoffs in the same way they started the regular season and that's at Lincoln Financial Field against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sunday's game should shape up to be a epic battle between two of the best teams in the last decade as the Packers (10-6) and Eagles (10-6) are the only two teams in the NFC to make the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

The Packers can only hope the NFC Wild Card contest ends with a similar result to their 27-20 win against the Eagles in week one. That was the first time the Packers beat the Eagles in Philadelphia since 1962, breaking a streak of nine-straight losses.

Can the Packers win in Philly again?

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Badgers J.J. Watt Declares for NFL Draft

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

Prior to the Badgers’ 31-18 win over the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, not many outside of Madison were aware of the name J.J. Watt.

Now, just ask the Buckeyes’ quarterback Terrelle Pryor and he can tell you all about him.

Soon the NFL Draft will as well. Watt tweeted minutes ago that he’s entering the NFL Draft; and the Twitterverse blew up. Want to learn more about the former walk-on who went on to win the Lott Impact Trophy?

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Rapid Reaction: Wisconsin 66 Michigan 50

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

The Wisconsin Badgers just don't know how to lose two in a row as they rebounded from a loss at Illinois to beat the Michigan Wolverines 66-50 at the Kohl Center. The Badgers (12-3, 2-1) have won 17 straight games after a loss and haven't lost two in a row since January of 2009.

Bo Ryan and the Badgers have now defeated Michigan (11-4, 1-2) for the ninth straight time, winning those nine games by an average of 11.8 points.

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner: Team McCarthy Wins It All!

By: Nick Grays, League Commissioner

That's right; Team McCarthy and owner Matt McCarthy (pictured above) won ten straight games en route to his first ever Fantasy Championship. He joins Nick Lowenberg (Nick's 2008 League) and Kari Klitzman (Nick's 2009 League) with fantasy championships. For his hard work and mad amounts of luck, he wins a total of $150.

Here's a complete breakdown of this season's winners:

1st - Team McCarthy (Matt McCarthy) - "Fantasy Champion" $150
2nd - Team Szmanda (Jason Szmanda) - $90
3rd - The Rippin and the Tearin (Rory Linton) - $35
4th - Team Lowenberg (Nick Lowenberg) - $5
5th - Team Breiby (Chad Breiby) - "Fantasy Predictions Guru" $20
6th - Team Grande (Anthony Grande)
7th - Wizard Killer (Joe Selbo) - $5
8th - Team Lee (Isaac Lee) - "Best Draft"
9th - Team Merrill (Seth Merrill) - $5
10th - Team Grays (Nick Grays) - "Draft Choice Winner" $5
11th - Bobby's Sad-Asses (Robert Trader/John Rymaszewski)
12th - Team Klitzman (Kari Klitzman) - $5
13th - Team Szombatfalvy (Mike Szombatfalvy)
14th - Free Victory (Tim Harwood) - "Pity Pot Party Boy" $20

Thanks for a great year guys. Make sure to check back to the blog for an interview and photo-shoot of the champion when he receives his trophy in a couple of weeks. Additionally don't miss out on the NCAA Bracket Pool I annually run each year as I will be providing coverage on my blog in regards to that as well (and yes, a trophy will be awarded)!

Please read my stories on The Sports Bank and follow me at Twitter by clicking here (@NickGrays_TSB)

Green Bay Packers Narrowly Defeat Bears to Make the Playoffs

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

The Green Bay Packers ended up on the right side of a defensive struggle Sunday afternoon when they edged out the Chicago Bears 10-3. The game was a must-win as it propelled the team to the NFC's second and final wild-card berth.

The Packers will meet the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Sunday, January 9th at 3:30 PM CT.

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Week 17 Fantasy Predictions from Nick and Chad

 Nick's Record (59-47 overall) (4-28 in points predictions) = 67 points (4-2 in week sixteen)
Chad's Record (63-43 overall) (5-27 in points predictions) = 73 points (2-4 in week fifteen)

Championship Game

What's At Stake: And there were two!
1st Place - $145 + Fantasy Trophy ($15) + Fantasy Championship (priceless)
2nd Place - $80

1.) #3 Team McCarthy (Matt McCarthy) (9-4) vs. #1 Team Szmanda (Jason Szmanda) (9-4) 

Nick's Prediction: Team Szmanda

Chad's Prediction: Team McCarthy

Runner-Up Game

What's At Stake:
Just short of playing for the fantasy championship. For your troubles, you guys can duke it out for the third place prize!
3rd Place - $25

2.) #5 Team Lowenberg (Nick Lowenberg) (7-6) vs. #2 The Rippin and the Tearin (Rory Linton) (7-6)

Nick's Prediction: The Rippin and the Tearin

Chad's Predictions: The Rippin and the Tearin

Draft Prize Game

What's At Stake:
For the owner and team who can win this last match-up will be awarded with their choice of draft position in next season's fantasy league. That's right, pick #1 overall, last, or somewhere between, it's all up to you!

3.) #12 Bobby's Sad Asses (Robert Trader/John Rymaszewski) (5-8) vs. #10 Team Grays (Nick Grays) (7-6)

Nick's Prediction: Team Grays

Chad's Prediction: Team Grays

All The Rest

What's At Stake:
Not much accept a $5 baller pot if you can be the team to score the most points!

4.) #7 Team Grande (Anthony Grande) (7-6) vs. #4 Team Breiby (Chad Breiby) (8-5)

Nick's Prediction: Team Grande

Chad's Prediction: Team Breiby

5.) #8 Wizard Killer (Joe Selbo) (7-6) vs. #6 Team Lee (Isaac Lee) (7-6)

Nick's Prediction: Team Lee

Chad's Prediction: Wizard Killer

6.) #14 Team Szombatfalvy (Mike Szombatfalvy) (3-10) vs. #11 Team Klitzman (Kari Klitzman) (5-8)

Nick's Prediction: Team Klitzman

Chad's Prediction: Team Szombatfalvy

Bye Weeks: #9 Team Merrill (Seth Merrill) and #13 Free Victory (Tim Harwood)

Points Predictions

Nick's Prediction:
Highest (Team Grande) and Lowest (Wizard Killer)

Chad's Prediction: Highest (The Rippin and the Tearin) and Lowest (Team Klitzman)

Let us know what you think about the predictions by commenting below!

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rose Bowl Blunder; Badgers fall to Horned Frogs 21-19

By: Nick Grays, The Sports Bank Columnist

It just wasn't the Big Ten's day as #5 Wisconsin topped off a humiliating 0-5 record in New Year's Bowl Games for the conference in a 21-19 loss to the #3 TCU Horned Frogs in the 2011 Rose Bowl.

UW's loss snapped a run of three consecutive Rose Bowl wins and brought their record to 3-4 in the game played annually in Pasadena, CA.

Give credit where it's due as the Horned Frogs (13-0) proved they can play with the big boys. QB Andy Dalton was magnificent while accumulating 219 yards and a touchdown on an efficient 15-of-23 passing.

Meanwhile, the Badgers (11-2) came out strong in a record-setting first quarter, but couldn't revive themselves from some costly penalties and suspect pass defense.

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