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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shot Blocking: Very Different When You're 5'6''

I played four years of basketball in High School, four years of intramural hoops in college, and regularly frequent local parks for pickup games. Reaching a soaring height of five feet, six inches, I have never been known for my shot blocking abilities. However, that doesn't mean I don't get the occasional swat at the rim. I just don't have the blocking talent of, say, Shaq, Dwight Howard, or the ever videogenic (it's about time someone made up that word) Dikembe Mutombo.

You may have seen Mr. Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, as his friends call him, in a recent insurance commercial wherein he shows the joy he has for rejecting his opponents. This finger-wagging, 7'2'' center was an intimidating presence in the paint. Much unlike Mutombo, I am not a formidable foe against forwards flying to the hoop.

Throughout his NBA career, Mutombo had almost 3,300 blocks and I'm sure some variation of, "No no no! Not in my house!" was said or thought for each and every one of those. I, on the other hand, am able to pull off a block once in a blue moon. It's usually because I turn around and suddenly a guy is driving through the lane, so I stick my hand out and he happens to run the ball into my hand. When this rare feat happens, I definitely don't wag my finger or taunt my opponent. Usually this is the thought process going through my mind: "Teehee!" *:-D giddy school girl giggle* "Ouch, he really tweaked my arm there. Dang! I probably should have just let him score."

Alas, the game wasn't built for five and a half feet grown men to be swatting balls out of the air. Besides, when was the last time you saw Dikembe Mutombo do a crossover, penetrate the lane, and dish off the alley oop? Never! So, when I learn to do some of those moves, I will be better than him at one aspect of basketball! Until that day, it's park ball pickup games for me.

- Isaac M. Comelli (4/24/2013)

(Just to settle the debate, this is what would happen if Mutombo tried to come into MY house!)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Random Chance: Halfway Update

To update the progress on my randomly generated picks on ESPN's Streak for the Cash game, I bring you this picture which proves my monthly total to be 16-22. That means the "coin flip" has achieved a record of 16-13, a relatively expected total (just above 50%).

We are halfway through the month of April and the random numbers are proving to be much more average than I. Hopefully mediocrity follows it through the month.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please see my earlier post)

- Isaac M. Comelli (4/15/2013)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Yesterday I Decided to Make My Own App

I'm not sure why. I'm not a computer programmer and know very little about programming for anything, let alone apps. But, I love math, I like computers, and the idea I had for an app was relatively simple and won't require much fancy artwork or doo-hickees.

My idea is this: to create a pseudorandom number generator app. Why? Because there aren't many out there and the one I'm currently using isn't amazing. I felt like I could do better.

So, I'm off on a treasure hunt without much of a map. I've started downloading all these app developer programs my friend who knows about these things suggested I get. Here's hoping it works out easier than I suspect it will be!

Let me know if you would want or use this app if it were available.

- Isaac M. Comelli (4/9/2013)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Random Chance

Some of you sports enthusiasts out there may be aware of the game on called Streak for the Cash. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a guessing game in which contestants try to pick results from sporting events throughout the day. If you guess correctly, your streak goes up by one. If you guess correctly five times in a row, your streak climbs to five (W5). If you guess incorrectly, your streak goes to negative one (L1) and you have to start over. At the end of every month, the person who compiles the longest win streak wins $50,000 in cold hard cash. But don't quit your day job just yet. This is no simple task. Habitually, the monthly winner has a preposterous streak of W20 or higher. I've been playing Streak for the Cash (or Streak, as I like to call it) since January 2010 and my best streak ever is a mere W10. But if you think you can win, give it a shot.

Anyway, the point of my blog entry today is to vent frustration and to attempt a new method. The month of April has started out miserably for me on Streak. In only 3 days, I've managed to collect a whopping nine losses in a row!

Normally my monthly rate for correct guesses is between 50 and 60 percent so I'm a far cry from that. I'm not one to give up, but the mathematician in me wondered, "Couldn't you be doing better if you let a pseudorandom number generator pick your choices for you?"

Now I know what you might be thinking. You probably doubt that a computer could come up with a better guess than I could with a little bit of research before making my selections. And you're right. Yet, my thought was, what if I were to take the picks that I would normally pass up because they were too close to make a decision and let the computer take a 50-50 guess at it? Over the course of the month, I ought to get at least close to half correct, right?

So, that's what I'm going to do. From April 4th until the end of this month, a computer will be choosing my picks for me. I'm interested to see what will happen and I hope to have some mediocre numbers to report, thus confirming my hypothesis.

For the mathematicians/programmers out there who might be curious in the code I used to generate my picks, I've included it below. I used Wolfram Mathematica and a simple Module function. If you have any questions about the code, feel free to ask in the comments.

WhichPick[ ] : = Module[{a, b, c, d},
  a = RandomInteger[{0, 1}, 1000000];
  b = Count[a, 0];
  If[b >= 500000, Print["Go with the favorite."],
   Print["Underdog for the win!"]]

- Isaac M. Comelli (4/3/2013)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cinderella Coach Cops Out On Coast Crew

The Cinderella story of Florida Gulf Coast University's Men's Basketball team from the 2013 March Madness has been heard by sports fan everywhere. If you missed the big news, here are the highlights:
  • The FGCU Eagles rearched the "Big Dance" in just their 3rd year as a D-I program
  • As the #15 seed, FGCU upset #2 Georgetown in the Round of 64, 78-68
  • #7 San Diego State fell in the Round of 32 to the Eagles by 10 points
  • Their 2nd win made FGCU the first 15-seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen in tournament history
  • The Eagles were defeated by their fellow Floridians, the Gators (U of F) in the Sweet Sixteen
  • The team became lovingly known as "Dunk City" with their acrobatic lobs and alley-oops
March Madness' complete coverage gave this unknown team instant fame after its first win. From there, the team's notoriety grew rapidly and the underdogs soon became the fan favorites. Despite their loss to #3 Florida, FGCU's team ended an amazing season with high spirits and high hopes for the next year. The Eagles were looking ahead to a year that would include a better recruiting class and a team that would lose only one senior while likely returning one junior and three sophomore starters. FGCU could have turned their program into one of the perennial mid-major contenders.

Alas, the head directs the body and FGCU's head (coach), Andy Enfield, was signed by USC's Men's Basketball program just 3 days after their tournament exit. If Kentucky's leader John Calipari were to announce he was leaving the program, the nation's #1 recruiting class would likely have some student-athletes skipping towns to head to Duke, Indiana, or Michigan. Unfortunately, much of the momentum the Eagles had built with their historic run could be cut off before it really gets rolling with the loss of their coach.

Sources say that Enfield's annual salary could increase from $157,000 to over a million because of the move. But I dare say that fans, parents, and Enfield's former players will ask the question, "Was it worth it?" In a society where commitment and loyalty suffer, it would have been nice to see the "Little Guy" stick to his guns and try to turn FGCU's program into a legitimate threat on a regular basis. Although the university's athletic department press release appears to be amicable, there is still a sense of regret and dissatisfaction.

- Isaac M. Comelli (4/2/2013)