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Sweet 16 Picks and Previews From Brandon Berg and Andy Erickson

Take a look at the EE Sports World Sweet 16 preview from Brandon Berg and Andy Erickson.

East

1. Ohio State vs. 4.  Kentucky – 3/25 9:45 EST

The Buckeyes are the hottest team in the tourney, led by Jared Sullinger.

Berg: Ohio St. has gone through by pure domination so far this tournament. I don’t see any reason for it to end now. They are easily the most well-rounded team in the nation. Kentucky is led by John Calipari, who is trying to lead his 3rd team to a final four, a feat that has only been done by none other than Rick Pitino. Better luck next year coach.

Pick: Ohio State

Andy: Ohio St. absolutely demolished an upset-minded George Mason team by 32 points and hasn’t had a tough task so far in the tournament. Kentucky on the other hand has had a couple tough battles. In order for Kentucky to keep this one close they will need to pressure the Buckeyes into making mistakes and capitalizing on their own fast-break opportunities. If they try to slow the game down it will definitely favor Ohio State

Pick: Ohio State

1. North Carolina vs. 11. Marquette – 3/25 7:15 EST

Berg: North Carolina was on a tear to finish off the season and they’ve picked up where they left off. Kendall Marshall has done wonders at the point and Barnes, Benson and Zeller are averaging 23.2 points and 11.2 rebounds combined. As a team, they’re averaging over 92 points in the tourney so far. Marquette did a good job against Xavier and even more impressive against Syracuse, controlling the game and playing how they want to play, but UNC pushes the ball too and probably will dispose of the Golden Eagles fairly easily.

Pick: North Carolina

Andy: This could be the game to watch if you’re looking for a major upset. Marquette is one of just two Big East schools remaining and has a lot to prove for their team and conference in this game. The key to this game for the Golden Eagles is rebounding. UNC is the best rebounding team and if Marquette can keep the edge about even they will keep it close down to the end. For the Tar Heels, they need their bench to step-up. Washington’s bench outscored UNC’s 41-5 on Sunday. This should be a pretty good game and I can’t imagine a double-digit win either way unless it comes down to free-throws at the end, which UNC is pretty darn good at.

Pick: North Carolina

West

1. Duke vs. 5. Arizona – 3/24 9:45 EST

Berg: Kyrie Irving has returned to Duke, Nolan Smith is on fire and they have the reigning Final 4 Most Outstanding Player in Kyle Singler. Need I say more? The main deciding factor is how well the Plumlee brothers and Ryan Kelly do down low. If they can get Derrick Williams into foul trouble like Williams has been in, they should play well enough to win. Arizona, on the other hand, has played very well taking out Texas and Memphis to get to this point. Derrick Williams’ draft stock is soaring, but do they have enough support to take out the one seeded Blue Devils? Probably not.

Pick: Duke

Andy: To say Arizona has skimmed out their two wins to get to this point is an understatement. In the first-round it was a blocked shot at the Buzzer against Memphis, and in the second it was a 5-second call on Texas that gave Arizona a chance that they took advantage of. Arizona’s Derrick Williams made some huge plays at the end of both games and will need to be a force inside against Duke for his team to advance. Duke will need a much better performance from Kyrie Irving who made just one shot from the field against Michigan. Duke just has too much depth from the outside for Arizona to be able to handle.

Pick: Duke

3. Connecticut vs. 2. San Diego State – 3/24 7:15 EST

Kemba Walker has been on fire for the Huskies.

Berg: Kemba Walker has been doing it all for the Uconn Huskies. He’s been carrying them on his back to this point. Against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Uconn managed to contain impressive center Yancy Gates and win the rebound battle while winning by 11. Chalk that one up as an impressive victory. San Diego State, on the other hand, wound up fighting to the death with the Temple Owls as their game went into double overtime. We’re about to see how lethal the trio of Kawhi Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas really are.

Pick: Uconn

Andy: To be honest, if I’m a UConn fan, I am really not all that worried about this game. Kemba Walker has been on a roll and looks nearly unstoppable. He was only two rebounds shy of a triple-double in UConn’s 81-52 win over Bucknell in the first round. Then he had a huge 33-point performance in the Huskies 11 point win over Big East rival Cincy. The Aztecs obviously know they have to slow down Walker in order to advance. Fortunately I think SDSU just might be good enough defensively to hold him in check. With a defense ranked 7th in the nation in scoring defense at 58.8 points allowed a game and 13th in field-goal percentage defense. I think San Diego State has an athletic enough defense that they can slow down Walker.

Pick: San Diego State

Southwest

1. Kansas vs. 12. Richmond – 3/25 7:27 EST

The Jayhawks need these two to get off to a hot start in order to avoid the upset bid.

Berg: Kansas has gotten off to a slow start in each of their tournament games so far. They can’t let that happen against Richmond. Against Boston and Illinois, they started slowly, but picked up speed and crushed the opponent by the end of the game. Richmond likes to come out of the gates early and firing. If Kansas lets Richmond get ahead early, it could be doomsday for KU. Richmond has enough leadership and firepower to hold the lead through the end of the game. I’m not saying Richmond is going to win, but this may be an upset in the making.

Pick: Kansas

Andy: Like Brandon said, this game has upset written all over it. Kansas needed over a half in both of their tournament games to get in a groove, and against a team like Richmond, they could find themselves in a deep hole by then. Once the Spiders get on a roll, they don’t stop, so the last thing the Jayhawks need is this Richmond team’s confidence to build as the game goes on. Richmond held Morehead St. to 37% shooting from the field on Saturday. Kenneth Faried had a solid outing with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Justin Harper will need to repeat his salty 19 point, six rebound performance to keep Richmond throwing punches in this one. The Jayhawks haven’t hit their stride yet, and they are bound to choke soon.

Pick: Richmond

11. Virginia Commonwealth vs. 10. Florida State

Berg: First off, I know very little about both of these teams except Florida St. is the best defensive team in the nation and VCU isn’t supposed to belong here. The Florida St. fact holds true as evidenced by their ownage of Notre Dame. The VCU opinion proves to be no more than opinion. That opinion has also gone away. I do not hear the same screams I was hearing five days ago. In the end, defense wins championships.VCU has a very balanced attack on offense that really helped in the pummeling of Purdue. However, as well as Florida St. plays defense, I have a hard time seeing them struggle to game plan for VCU.

Pick: Florida State

Andy: Florida State’s defense was stellar in their upset win over Notre Dame, forcing the Irish into taking 30 three point attempts. The big thing about the Seminoles is that four players scored in double-figures against the Irish. They will need that type of team effort to advance. VCU has obviously proven they belonged in the tournament after thrashing Purdue. They had six players in double figures which may just be the best overall team performance of the tournament thus far. Granted, it will be tougher to score on FSU, but as long as VCU can stay balanced on offense, they have a great chance of beating the Seminoles.

Pick: VCU

Southeast

8. Butler vs. 4. Wisconsin – 3/24 9:57 EST

Berg: Call me arrogant, but I’m still not quite buying into Butler’s hype. They won by a last second basket in each of their first two games and I had Pitt busting early for a quick exit anyways. Now we have a team in Wisconsin that I picked to reach the Elite Eight, and I can see them simply overpowering Butler. Matt Howard and company are going to fall short in another upset bid in this one.

Pick: Wisconsin

Andy: In my regional preview, I said Butler didn’t have near the talent to make a run deep into the tournament like they did last year. Boy have they proven me wrong. Granted they only won with last second baskets, it is that kind of a performance in the clutch that sends the other team home. Wisconsin’s defense just isn’t good enough to contain Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard.

Pick: Butler

3. BYU vs. 2. Florida – 3/24 7:27 EST

Jackson Emory will be critical in BYU's effort to move on in the tourney.

Berg: I’ve been saying it for a while now, and I’ll repeat it again. BYU isn’t going far without Davies in the lineup. I figured they would beat Wofford considering Wofford’s tallest player is 6’6”, then planned on them playing St. Johns, but we all know that didn’t happen, so I wasn’t surprised one bit to see them take out the lesser Gonzaga team. Now they go up against the Gators who man a dominant trio in the middle, Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin. Jimmer Fredette is indeed very super, but he really can only take this team so far.

Pick: Florida

Andy: Jimmer Fredette did it once again against the Zags on Sunday, torching Gonzaga for 34 points as he led his team to a blow-out win. This is BYU’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1981, and a sweet one it could be at that. The Cougars had a great performance from Jackson Emory who is starting to prove he can be just as effective as his Fredette counter-part. On the other side is Florida whose defense had a great performance against an upset minded UCLA team. The Gators held the Bruins to less than 42 percent shooting from the field and only allowed 23.1 percent from beyond the arc. This game is going to come down to the one, the only…..Jackson Emory. We know Fredette will be a “Studette” like always, but it is going to be his sidekick that will have the final say on whether or not the Cougars advance.

Pick: BYU

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UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion

Photo by Sherdog.com

Wow.  Jones simply DESTROYED Shogun to take the title!

I did think he could do it, but wow.  Anyone who claims that they were predicting that Shogun would get straight abused like that is lying!

Here’s the crazy part of the story, while out in Newark, N.J. just shortly before making his way to the arena to prepare for the fight of his life, he subdued a mugger.

Apparently he heard the scream of “help!” from across the way and caught up with the man, then brought him down in to a tendon-tearing leg-lock until the police arrived to apprehend the individual.

This is part of the reason that UFC commissioner Dana White simply refers to Mr. Jones as “kick ass” when he sees him.

As for the fight, Jones just flat-out demolished Maricio “Shogun” Rua with a vicious array of elbows and kicks.  Even when the fight was on the ground, Jones constantly kept dominant position.  When it was on the feet, his size, speed, incredible reach, and somewhat awkward striking style all contributed in one of the most convincing title acquiring fights that has been seen in years.

Before the fight, there was a lot of talk about Shogun being offended that Jones was signing his name as “2011 champ” next to it.  Oh well, I guess there’s nothing left to be offended about now Shogun, because that prediction is now fact.

But I say the signature was not just a vote of confidence to himself, but it somewhat shortchanges him.  That signature will only be true for nine more months, then he will be the 2012 champion.  At least that’s what i think.  This guy has a real chance at holding this title for as long as anyone ever has in this division, so look out Chuck Liddell.  Jones has a chance to become one of the most celebrated UFC champion ever.

Long live the champ!

Player Profile: J.P. Arencibia

It looks like J.P. Arencibia is going to have the starting catcher gig in Toronto locked up.

Despite posting less than mediocre numbers this spring (two for 26), he does not seem to be in danger of losing playing time to backup Jose Molina. The team likes what he is doing behind the plate and trusts him to break out of his funk.

Arencibia hit .301 with 32 HR and 85 RBI in just 104 games in Triple-A last year. He’s not a hitter for average, as he only is a career .275 hitter in his minor league career, but the power has always been there and should carry over into the majors.

The Blue Jays anointed Arencibia the catcher of the future when they let John Buck walk.

I recently wrote about Arencibia in my newcomers article and I’m sticking to my word. Arencibia will be a useful fantasy asset this year.

He looks to have all the tools to make an impact right away. I’m expecting somewhere around .260 with 20 HR and 80 RBI for 2011.

I’ve waited in every league so far to draft him as my starting catcher in the final rounds.

One concern, though, is his high strikeout rate, but I draft him for the power that I am going to get at catcher and the cheap price.

I would say that is great bang for your buck if he is on the board in the final rounds of your draft.

Player Profile: Ubaldo Jimenez

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

Not many players in baseball will raise a greater debate about their potential production in 2011 as Ubaldo Jimenenez will.  So we know a couple of things about him for sure; he’s a 6’4  27 year old right-handed Dominican who throws gas.  So much gas in fact, that he has been clocked at 101 mph in games, with a 99 mph two-seamer. That’s right, I said 99 mph two-seamer.

Did he just break out last year with the two best months of his career, or is there still some more magic to be squeezed out of this guy? I say yes, and yes.

Last year basically showed a tale of two different pitchers, both named Ubaldo Jimenez.  One pitched in April and May, and the other in June and July.

The Ubaldo who pitched in April won five games with a 0.79 ERA, and in May won another five games with a 0.78 ERA.

The “other” Ubaldo that pitched in June won four games with a 4.41 ERA, and in July had a 6.04 ERA with only two wins.

But here’s something interesting to consider; the batting average against Jimenez in consecutive months of April – July was .186, .160, .264, and .210.  So while in July he had and ERA of 6.04, the avg. against him was only .210, which is far from terrible.

This leads me to believe that these two Ubaldos are actually the same guy.  That his ERA in April and May were rather exteme and lucky, and that his ERA in June and July of the very same year were treacherously unlucky.

July heat is rarely kind to anyone’s ERA in Colorado.  But these peripheral numbers show signs of some bad fortune for Jimenez in 2010, who in the beginning of June was having one of the best years we’ve seen in the past century.

Coors is still a hitters park, but not nearly the way it was before the days of the humidor that they use to contain the balls before games.  In 2010, Jimenez only gave up ten hrs, and just four of them were at Coors Field.  His fly-ball rate really isn’t nearly as much of a liability as some may perceive it to be.

It was almost as if in the course of just one year, he experienced the extremes of good and bad luck that Cole Hamels did in ’08 (good luck) and ’09 (terrible luck).  So it seems to me that Ubaldo’s 2011 ERA should fall somewhere in between, perhaps in the 2.70 – 3.30 range with another 200+ strikeout season.

That’s not bad, right?

What is Next From EE Sports World? You Decide!

I hope you all are enjoying the projects we have done recently on EE with the NCAA Tourney Previews and the MLB Previews.

We will be unveiling an NBA playoffs preview with Josh Eberley and Mike Pendleton in the near future, as well as an NFL Preview in the fall.

For now, though, we want to know what you think we should do next. Want an article written specifically on something? It could be anything from a player profile to thoughts on NFL’s strict policy on hard hits to a YouTube series.

So let us hear it EE Nation! Give us some suggestions in the comments below, or fill out the form below:

Chad Ochocinco Set to Tryout for the MLS Sporting Kansas City

Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is slated for a four day trial with the Sporting Kansas City of the MLS.

The funniest part about this whole ordeal is this:

“Due to the NFL lockout, I’m excited to be able to follow my childhood dream of playing for a Major League Soccer team,” Ochocinco said. “Thanks to Sporting Kansas City for giving me this opportunity.”

Ochocinco’s childhood dream must have taken place when he was 17 years old (The, which was after he gave up soccer for American football.

So is this a publicity stunt or is he for real?

I don’t really want to say it, but he is for real, people. If Kansas City wants to offer him a real deal here, he might take it for one season.

The thing is, though, is that he’ll realize the crowd size of the MLS games is nothing compared to NFL games, not to mention the poor fan support, and return for an NFL team this fall.

Good luck Chad, we’ll leave a place for you on NFL’s Football Follies.

BallHyped.com - Best Sports Blogs, Sports Blogger Rankings

NCAA Tourney: Southwest Preview

The Southwest Region, doesn’t provide fans with many intriguing match-ups as almost everyone, including the President himself, have Kansas coming out of this region. Actually President Obama has the Jayhawks taking it all.

So, is he right?

Marcus Morris is the Jayhawks leader

While I don’t have the Jayhawks winning it all in any of my brackets, they will more then likely come out on top of this region.  Led by Marcus Morris, who is one-half of the Morris twins along with Markieff bring the Jayhawks into the Big Dance, with storming effort. Marcus averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds this game, and should be force in every game for the Jayhawks.

Player To Watch: #2 Preston Knowles, Guard, Louisville Cardinals

Preston Knowles Has The Skills To Take Over Any Game

Averaging 15 points a game, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and nearly 2 steals a game, Knowles has almost every aspect of the game down.   Knowles finds himself with veteran coach Rick Pitino and has veteran-ship himself, being a senior for the Louisville Cardinals.  No one wants to lose early during the NCAA tourney, and certainly want to make a run during the senior season. All this put together makes Preston Knowles, one of your key player’s to watch in this year’s Big Dance.

Darkhorse “Team To Watch”: Illinois

Mike Davis Flashes The Illinois Name, Something He Can Have Planned If Illinois Can Knock Off Kansas

Potential, if nothing more, that is what can make Illinois one of the surprise teams in this year’s tournament.  It’s been a repetitive story for the Illini who find themselves in close games with good teams, but always seem to fall at the end. With that being said however, Illinois has knocked off North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Michigan during key-times of their season.  A lot of great young talent surrounds Bruce Weber, if they can get it together, Illinois might be the team to surprise many.

Letdown “Team To Fall”: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Could Find Its Season Ending Early If Everyone Doesn't Perform

Yes, Notre Dame deserved their #2 seed. Yes, Notre Dame has five seniors starting and they all will play a key-role for their team. Yes Ben Hansbrough was the Big East  Player Of The Year, over UConn’s Kemba Walker. Like his brother Tyler, who plays for the Indiana Pacers, Hansbrough is a great college player, who paces himself perfectly so that he can come up big in clutch situations late in games. Notre Dame has the tools to make it, but they haven’t been to a Final Four since the ’70s. Notre Dame’s run can be ended at the Sweet Sixteen against a surprising Georgetown, or they could continue this great season. They are a great team this year, but have the potential to fall.

With all the preview fun stuff done, here are the picks, round by round, for each game in the Southwest Region of the 2011 NCAA March Madness Tournament.

With the play-in games all finished we start with Round 2

Writers note: Winners labeled in bold

#1 Kansas over #16  Boston University

#9 Illinois over #8 UNLV

*Upset Notice* Although I have #5 Vanderbilt over #12 Richmond, don’t be surprised if Richmond pulls off the upset.

#4 Louisville over #13 Morehead State

#6 Georgetown over #11 VCU

**Upset Notice** I know it sounds crazy but it could happen I have #3 Purdue over #14 St Peter’s, but St. Peter’s may just pull this off.

#10 Florida State over #7 Texas A&M

#2 Notre Dame over #15 Akron

Round Three Winners:

#1 Kansas over #9 Illinois

#4 Louisville over #5 Vanderbilt

#6 Georgetown over #3 Purdue

#2 Notre Dame over #1o Florida State

Sweet Sixteen Winners:

#1 Kansas over #4 Louisville

#6 Georgetown over #2 Notre Dame

With a trip to the Final Four on the line, and overlooked Georgetown making it to the Elite Eight, here is my winner, advancing to the Final Four:

#1 Kansas over #6 Georgetown

The favorite pick in this region, comes out on top. The Morris brothers will rise and veteran coach Bill Self will once again lead his team to the Final Four, while I don’t have them winning it all, there is once again, no doubting the Jayhawks.

Thomas Robinson & Co. Will Give Kansas Jayhawks Fan Plenty Of Reasons To Cheer This Tournament

Player Profile: Casey McGehee

AP Photo

Casey McGehee is a player whose value could vary a great deal depending on who you talk to.

One thing is for sure, fantasy owners of Prince Fielder last year are certainly well aware of McGehee’s ability to scoop up base-runners and bring them home.  In 2010 Mcgehee drove in 104 runs while his more notable counterpart Fielder, had just 83.

Now let’s be honest here, we aren’t talking about a guy like McGehee for his speed.  His .288 lifetime average is respectable, but the value McGehee will show this year is directly tied to how many runs he can drive home.  Some people think that McGehee’s RBI numbers last year were a mirage, and that more of them will be driven in by Fielder (who is in a contract year) and Braun.  That the RBI total was a quantified product of his 610 AB (7th most in NL).  But no one is questioning the likes of Ryan Braun to produce runs, and he had 619 AB with one less RBI than Casey did.

Am I implying that McGehee is the same caliber hitter as Ryan Braun?  Of course I’m not saying that, but there is good value to be had with a guy like him.  McGehee still has some possible room for growth too, if he can learn to start hitting right-handers with more authority.

In 2010 hit .316 with eight hrs in just 158 AB against lefties, while hitting .274 with 15 hrs in 452 ab’s against righties.

In conclusion, I believe that McGehee should have pretty similar numbers to what he posted last year, with maybe just 8-10 less rbi to be predicting on the more conservative side.

Fantasy-wise he is a nice value pick in fairly late rounds, especially if you’re looking for some cheap quality run production that won’t punch a hole in your batting average.  The amount of value he can bring will mostly be on how well he can progress against right-handed pitching, since hoping that twice as many lefties will suddenly show up in the bigs is futile.

Be sure to tune in to plenty of MLB action this summer and find out what will happen when this Casey is up to bat.

NFL: Rule Changes Planned for 2011

Commissioner Roger Goodell

They are still in a work stoppage, but the National Football League apparantely is still planning changes for the upcoming (hopefully) 2011 season.

They say this year they will start suspending players for illegal hits to the head and neck areas, as well as on defenseless players.

”Frankly, now that the notice has been given, players and coaches and clubs are very aware of what the emphasis is and we won’t have that hesitation,” Ray Anderson, Chief Disciplinarian said. ”Everyone will be very clearly on notice now that a suspension is very viable for us and we will exercise it when it comes to illegal hits to the head and neck area and to defenseless players.”

The league has looked back at two year’s worth of plays to scout out the repeat offenders and who to keep an eye out for while handing out the fines and suspensions.

Also, the rules for a defenseless player have been broken down into eight categories:

-A quarterback in the act of throwing

-A receiver trying to catch a pass

-A runner already in the grasp of tacklers and having his forward progress stopped

-A player fielding a punt or a kickoff

-A kicker or punter during the kick

-A quarterback at any time after change of possession

-A receiver who receives a blind-side block

-A player already on the ground

And with that, the owners will discuss new kickoff rules during the owners meeting next week. They propose moving the kickoff to the 35-yard-line and bringing the touchback out to the 25 yard-line. Touchbacks on any other plays will remain at the 20-yard line, however.

Also, no player besides the kicker will be allowed to line-up 5 yards behind the ball. They are also suggesting making any and all wedges illegal on returns. (They reduced the number of blockers in a wedge to 2 players in 2009.)

The NFL continues to get more strict on rules.

I agree with most of the defenseless categories, expect the quarterback after a change of possession. They are paid to play for cryin’ out loud, and if the ball is turned over and they are trying to make a tackle then they should be allowed to be blocked.

If a QB is trying to tackle a defender after a fumble or interception, they are trying to say he is defenseless and no one can even attempt to block him? Are you kidding me? That’s what I get out of that statement, but please feel free to correct me if I’m not understanding it in the comments below.

As for the proposed kickoff changes. I don’t really get why they need to move it up 5 yards. Apparently it is for safety reasons on the kickoffs. But really, whats moving it up 5 yards going to really do? Players are still going to hit their full speed before they hit any blockers.

The only thing I can understand would help is the eliminating of wedges. Again, if I’m mistaken, leave some comments people!

The suspensions were expected. They didn’t suspend any players last year, and Mr. Anderson explained why in the quote above. I just hope this doesn’t go too far, because some hits you just can’t stop, and Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL need to realize that.

*Information from a Foxsports article was used.

Player Profile: Francisco Liriano

That's Liriano dominating.

Francisco Liriano was dynamite in his rookie year. However, before the next season could start, he injured his arm and had Tommy John surgery.

It was a really tough break for a guy with such potential, yet, the Twins faithful, as well as others around the league, had confidence that he would return to form as the ace of the Twins staff.

That has not quite happened.

He had a 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA and 1.00 WHIP his rookie year. The surgery put a quick end to that.

Liriano returned in 2008 with a quality season, compiling a 3.91 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP in a half season’s work, leading everyone to believe that he would return to form in his first full year back from injury.

Not so fast.

Liriano had an abysmal season in ’09 posting a 5-13 record with a 5.80 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, with perhaps the most disturbing stat walking 66 batters to surpass his career season high.

However, Liriano returned back to fantasy relevancy last year putting up some impressive numbers. He threw for a 14-10 record with a 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 201 SO, by far his best season since his rookie campaign.

Today, the question is, will history repeat itself with him posting less than mediocre numbers, or will he return to form the be the ace he was touted to be just five short years ago?

To me, it appears that Liriano may have worked out the kinks and has become fully healthy, despite a sore shoulder scare early this spring.

Sometimes, it just take two to three years to fully recover from Tommy John, and it looks like that was clearly the case here for Liriano.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Liriano puts together a Cy Young worthy season and I will be drafting him in every league I can get him in.

At age 27, Liriano is going to live up to the full potential that he was once touted to have.

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