Finally. Pro football is over.

Yes, there was a football game played yesterday. A professional one, at that. At stake was the Vince Lombardi Trophy, given to the “world champions” of the United States’ chief professional football league.. Never mind the fact that not one NFL franchise is located outside of the continental US, the winner of this football game is declared world champion. Huh.

Recap.

The team that has New York in its name but is really based out of New Jersey scored more points in regulation than the team that refuses to be Boston over New England, knowing that everyone and their grandmother thinks “New England” sounds pretentious and would only drive them to hate their team and ugly elite quarterback and his good-looking-but-not-really-great-looking wife. There won’t be any actual pro football played for a while, but some of you suckers who are still completely enveloped by ESPN will have to deal with about three-and-a-half months of pre-NFL Draft crap. Good luck tuning out Kiper, Jr., McShay and the rest of those hacks disguised as journalists.

Anyway, there are more important things than caring about a Super Bowl that didn’t involve the Bears. Like, Chicago sports. That are in season.

Blackhawks.

How the hell did this happen? Losing 5 of 6 in late December/early January was enough to have Blackhawks fans calling for goalie Corey Crawford and winger/part-time center Patrick Kane to be traded. Coach Q was messing around with the lines too much. Hockey player (?) John Scott is a huge pile of failure. Despite that bad stretch, the Blackhawks didn’t play that badly. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick outdueled Crawford in the first loss, and two one-goal losses followed that one. A clunker against the Avalanche and OT loss to the Red Wings capped off the string of losses.

This last bad stretch is not the same. Two pretty bad losses to the division rival Nashville Predators, an OT loss to the Luongo-less rival Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner going 80’s Gretzky (literally) during an 8-point performance all over the Blackhawks, and Jarome Iginla going old-school Iggy have left the Blackhawks facing a 5-game losing streak, 4 of which have come on the road.

There has been bad offense, defense, goaltending and special teams by the Blackhawks during this run of ineptitude. Obviously Coach Q deserves some blame, but a talented team that finds ways to lose games shouldn’t be on the head of the coach. Overall, the Blackhawks score a lot of goals, but allow a lot, too. Their power play is respectable, but their penalty kill unit is rather paltry. GM Stan Bowman has let it be known he is looking to add depth at the center and defenseman position, but no one has paged him back yet. The “trade (insert name here)!” idiots are back, unfortunately. Things won’t get any easier for the suddenly shaky and Central’s 5th-place and Western Conference’s 6th-seeded Blackhawks, as their next six games will be on the road. Good luck?

Bulls.

No offense to the Blackhawks and anyone who thinks they and the Bulls are both equally legitimate title contenders…but you’re dead wrong. While the Blackhawks have fallen a bit over the last month, the Bulls have overcome injuries to almost everyone but the most injury-prone basketball player known to man, Carlos Boozer, to have the NBA’s second-best record 26 games through the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA sseason.

The Bulls rank 3rd in the NBA in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’re averaging the 11th-most points per game, and are allowing the 3rd-fewest. They’ve won 11 games on the road. Reigning MVP point guard Derrick Rose is actually playing a bit better than he was last season, despite still dealing with a turf toe injury that has kept him out of a few games. When healthy, new shooting guard Rip Hamilton has been a productive player. Center Joakim Noah has come on over the last two weeks after starting the season like he still prefers cognac as his beverage of choice for breakfast. Boozer has been…Boozer, and the bench mob has been a huge reason for the team’s success, just like last season.

Right now, small forward Luol Deng is playing with a torn tendon in his left wrist, and Hamilton is still out with an injured groin. Throw in the injury to Rose and Noah being bitten by the injury bug as well, and it’s amazing the Bulls lost only four games in their first full month of the season. The Bulls have played a fairly favorable schedule, and this will continue in February. Although I’d like there to be, there are no whispers that the Bulls are looking to trade for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. Even without Howard though, the Bulls have just as good a chance as any to win the NBA title in June, provided the Bulls don’t suffer any more injuries to key players…and Brian Scalabrine never plays another meaningful minute while he wears a Bulls uniform.

Sparty Men’s Basketball.

The Michigan State Spartans have come a long way since opening the 2011-12 basketball season with consecutive losses to then top-ranked North Carolina and then 2nd-ranked Duke. Since, they’ve gone 18-3, winning games over quality non-conference opponents Gonzaga and Florida State, and winning conference games against Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, with all three ranked in the AP Top 25.

Coach Tom Izzo recorded his 400th win after a home 68-52 victory over underachieving Minnesota, and regardless of the fact that Sparty doesn’t always appear to be an elite team, they do have an elite player. Senior small forward Draymond Green is a Wooden Award finalist, and deservedly so. The do-it-all native of Saginaw, MI, is averaging 15 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1 block and 1.5 steals per game for the 10th-ranked Spartans. He is also shooting 45% from the field and 37% from 3. Green tweaked his knee in the final seconds of a recent loss to Illinois, but he appeared to be just fine in yesterday’s 10-point win over in-state rival Michigan.

Of the Spartans’ final 8 games, all of them except one (Nebraska, home) should be a tough matchup. They’re currently one game behind conference leader Ohio St., who they will play this Saturday and in both teams’ regular season finales. Defensively, this team is one of the nation’s best. Offensively…well, the defense is one of the nation’s best. The onus to score falls mainly on Green and sophomore point guard, Keith Appling. If they can’t manage to get it going, it’s bad new bears for Sparty. Fortunately, their defense has led the way, and like vintage Izzo-led teams, MSU has been dominant on the offensive and defensive glass. If you’ve seen them play for a half, you’d come away knowing they don’t have a serious offensive threat. Fortunately, that is what one of the nation’s best prep players, MSU commit Gary Harris, will bring to the 2 position in the fall. With their defense and battle-tested unit led by arguably the best all-around player and floor general in the country, Green, there’s no reason to believe the Spartans won’t make noise once the dance starts.

 

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