Random Thoughts: Reds still playing catch-up, early Big Ten picks, NBA playoffs fizzle and recruiting small schools

We’re way overdue to clean out the reporter’s notebook. Happy Friday! 

  • Turns out that 1-8 start may have really done irreparable harm to the Cincinnati Reds season. I tried to maintain at the time it didn't really matter because while I expect them to be better this season, I don't think they will actually compete for anything meaningful. However, if they had started 4-5 instead they would be over .500 now and two games out of a wild card spot. If they had started 5-4, they would…. still be in fourth place in the NL Central (but at least ahead of the slumping Cardinals).
  • Of course you can create a lot of alternate realities by playing "What if" with sports results, especially in baseball, but it's extra tempting in this case since the Reds' first 11 days of the season included four one-run losses and three two-run losses.
  • Aside from slumping St. Louis, everyone else in the division is treading water at the moment, meaning the Reds not only put themselves behind the 8 Ball with that dismal start but have wasted an opportunity to make up ground over the past 10 games. And why have they done that? Well, because they are a .500-quality team as expected, and that means playing well enough for an extended stretch to erase a wretched 11 days might be impossible.
  • The Eurostep actually doesn't look like traveling when Giannis Antetokounmpo does it, so at least Kostas' brother has got that going for him. I was starting to get excited to see the Greek Freak and the Bucks try to take down the Warriors, but now not so much. I bet the NBA would rather see them get swept in the Finals than Toronto, though, since Canadian households aren't part of Nielsen ratings.
  • While watching the Raptors triumph in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I was struck by how funny it is a team's name in 2019 is a legacy of what happened to be a popular movie in 1993.
  • Speaking of the Warriors, I have to admit the nobodies on their roster have exceeded my expectations in their last four games. Golden State is not better without Kevin Durant, but it is a testament to their system and collective ability that they have played so well without him. I don't see the Raptors or Bucks having enough offense to challenge them in the Finals.
  • Remember when the Celtics and 76ers were the next big thing?
  • I appreciate waking up to the smell of the ground instead of the air in the morning.
  • Are all the Toy Story movies based on a true story, or is it just 1 and 3? You know, like Mario Bros.
  • Will the XFL succeed where previous spring football leagues have failed? The biggest question might be if going with bigger markets than the AAF is the right move. Maybe they are banking on the volume of football fans there being a solution, but I think it makes more sense to appeal to some new markets and assume TV ratings will be about the same because spring football is like minor-league baseball or hockey or MLS more diversion than something people are going to care deeply enough about to want to follow all the time. Overall if a new football league is going to succeed, it will be because there are enough hardcore football junkies (or at least gamblers) to form an audience that is akin to hockey and regular season basketball. I think that's realistic but we'll find out.
  • College football preview magazine season has starter, and Athlon picked Michigan to beat Ohio State, win the Big Ten and make the playoffs. While it is tempting to write off the Wolverines after the way they finished the season and given the important pieces they lost on defense, the Buckeyes also have some crucial questions to answer this offseason so perhaps the bigger question is why Michigan State and Penn State are so high on Athlon's list.

  • Nonetheless, isn't it interesting that while Michigan is banking on changes on offense to get Jim Harbaugh's program over the hump, the other side of the ball is the focus for Ohio State (and with two former Michigan assistants expected to play a key role)?
  • I assume Thomas Rhett was planted on country radio as a means of making Luke Bryan sound more like real country.
  • Speaking of kids movies, the most authentic part of Cars 3 is how the statistics analyst is so unlikable.
  • And finally: SBNation had a good look at how 15 lower-rated recruits became first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. The most interesting part is the idea talented players at small high schools present a market inefficiency college recruiters can exploit. I would think it could be done now without as much risk as in the past for multiple reasons. Evolutions in communication make getting to know a player and doing background research (character judgement) that has to be done on all prospects easier, and physical testing is a little more scientific than it was 20 years ago.
  • Beyond that, recruiters are doing a lot more projecting than they used to, so there's less of a concern about how a guy looked against his level of competition if you assume he is going to be far from a finished product anyway. So recruiting a small-school player may be no less an inexact science than going after guys from bigger schools. There is also a matter of time spent scouring the countryside for potential stars and traveling to remote locales to get to know them rather than hitting a densely populated area where a coach can check in on multiple prospects in a short amount of time. This is where local colleges can take advantage by cultivating relationships with coaches over many years.

“Random Thoughts” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions and have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook. 

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