Adopt-A-Team: Well, December was not good to Defensa y Justicia...  since last we checked in on December 7th of last year this is what it's looked like:

L to San Martin
L to San Lorenzo
L to Velez Sarsfield

As a result, Defensa has settled back to 9th place in the Superliga standings... working purely off of the table, I would say that San Lorenzo is probably the most expected of their three losses. (San Lorenzo is currently in second, six points back from Boca Juniors at the top of the table.) San Martin is sort of their mid-table cousins, so I feel like that could have gone either way, but Velez Sarsfield is gettin' down there in the table. Can't be dropping points there, people. But let's see how February shakes out:

Argentinos Juniors
Chacarita Juniors

They also start the Copa Sudamericana (something I'll have to learn about for the next edition of Sportsyball) with the first of two legs against America de Cali...  but, looking at what's on the menu for their league ties, I'd would expect wins against Tigre and Chacarita (who are at the way way way bottom of the table) and given their recent form, Argentinos Juniors and Patronato could go either way- but given where Defensa is sitting compared to those two teams, I'd be anticipating wins/draws there as well. They don't play Boca Juniors until April, so they've got opportunities ahead of them.

Arsenal: Okay, here's where I am on Arsenal. Alexis is gone. They got some money for him, instead of letting him walk for free. I am okay with this. Now they need to back up a truck full of money and give Mesut Ozil whatever he wants. I think if they can bring in Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund and give Ozil different types of playmakers to create for, they could be a move or two away from being a very dangerous looking team indeed. Of course, the defense is...  suspect at times and Arsenal can go from looking like they can beat anyone to looking like they can beat no one in the space of a single game. So it's not a cure all to their problems, but securing Ozil and giving him the right people to play off could be the foundation they've been looking for.

Of course, this is Arsenal, so the odds of any of this actually happening are probably pretty low. But like most Arsenal fans, I live in hope.

Since December 7th, this is what it's looked like for Arsenal:

D to Southampton
D to West Ham
W over Newcastle
W over West Ham (League Cup)
D to Liverpool
W over Crystal Palace
D to West Browm
D to Chelsea
L to Nottingham Forest (FA Cup)
D to Chelsea (League Cup Semi Leg 1)
L to Bournemouth
W over Crystal Palace
W over Chelsea (League Cup Semi Leg 2)

So... not awful overall, but not exactly scintillating stuff either. They're into the Finals of the League Cup, so hooray for that, but for a team that's sort of owned the FA Cup for the past couple of years, crashing out to Nottingham Forest was a bit galling. (Since Forest really aren't that good.) The loss to Bournemouth was... just disheartening, but they looked really good in their first post-Alexis match against Crystal Palace. (Not sure if that was because of Palace's woes or just the relief of getting the Alexis drama over and done with, but we'll see.)

Heading into February, they've got Swansea City, Everton and Tottenham on deck for Premier League action. Two legs of Europa League against Ostersund and then the League Cup Final against Manchester City at the end of the month. They're six points out of the top four and sitting in 6th place right now. Winning the league is probably out by now, but if they can put together a good run in February and heading into March, a run at the top four is eminently possible. They're technically only eleven points off of second place, so...  who knows. But: if they can keep Ozil, finish in the Top 4 and get at least one trophy out of this season, it won't have been a bad one.

Football Wrap-Up: College football is officially in the off season and...  sigh...  Alabama won the National Title once again in an all SEC match-up that I was really really hoping that Georgia would pull out the win, but alas, it was not to be. (Props to Oklahoma and Georgia for puttin' on a show in Rose Bowl though. That was an excellent game.) Iowa won their bowl game against Boston College, which broke Iowa's bowl losing streak in a fairly satisfying way. (And thank goodness, we won't have to go back to the Pinstripe Bowl for a few years because the field was frozen, the attendance was desultory and there are more exciting destinations, damn it. Like Nashville.)

If there's an off season story that will dominate the headlines, it's probably the growing scandal at Michigan State. There's been talk of something brewing since last summer (at least on the football podcasts I listen to) and the Larry Nasser story has been out there for awhile, it's just the sheer number of victim impact statements that helped it to all boil over and break it into the mainstream. The President is out. The Athletic Director is out. I'm willing to be the Board of Trustees (with the possible exception of the apparently one member who had their head screwed on straight about the magnitude of this scandal) is going to replaced as well. Investigations are starting and deservedly so... and I think it's got the potential to pretty much burn the place down. While both Men's Basketball Coach Tom Izzo and football Coach Mark Dantonio still have their jobs, I'm willing to bet they won't by the end of the year if not a lot sooner.

In the professional world of football, the Minnesota Vikings had this glorious moment and then went ahead and lost to Philadelphia the very next week 38-7. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots remain Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, so I'm sure they will win their umpteenth Super Bowl next week. As always. (But, on the upside: Minnesota managed not to lose by shanking a field goal. And they'll always have that moment... it's just a shame that a promising start against Philly collapsed so quickly.)

Bracketology: So... the Iowa men's team is very much not good at basketball this year. Like, we're not making the tournament and will probably limp to our usual first round exit of the Big Ten Tournament. It's kind of been a shocking step back from where people thought the men's team was going to be this year (everyone was sort of expecting a tournament appearance- maybe going a little further in the Big Ten Tournament, that kind of thing) and people are sort of scratching their heads as to what the hell is going on.

This article from BHGP sort of encapsulates the frustration perfectly for me. And I 100% agree with them in that Fran should not be fired over this season and I do wish the psychotic end of the fan base would take a deep breath, calm down and remember where this program was when McCaffery took over as head coach. He's earned a season or two like this in my book. (Now, two seasons of this in a row might be a different story- but steps back are to be expected. I just think no one was expecting this season to be quite this large of a step back.)

In general, the sports franchises that I support have helped me temper my expectations quite a bit and although I'm not as much of a basketball fan as I am a football fan or a soccer fan, I do like me a basketball game now and again. In general, when it comes to my personal Iowa expectation, I feel like post-season appearances more often than not, consistent finishes in the upper half of the conference and going moderately deep in the B1G Tournament is probably Iowa's wheelhouse, given the depth of the conference. In general, I feel like- apart from the B1G Tournament, Iowa's more or less meeting my personal expectations. (And of course, now that I just wrote all this, news has leaked out that Iowa handed McCaffery a contract extension and upped his buyout to $10 million, which only underlines what I've said all along: I want a new AD, damn it.)

On the other hand, the Iowa women's team is considerably better at basketball than their male counterparts. (I don't know if we'll get to a women's game this year or not, but if you haven't gone to see them in action, well you should- and not just the year, but every year. Coach Bluder and her staff have been churning out fun, great teams for years now and it's kind of a bummer that they can't get more butts in seats.) Iowa's women were ranked as high as number 20 at one point, but they've picked up some injuries and are currently 15-5 and slipping a bit in the standings.

Who's going to come out on top of the basketball mountain? I'm only sort of plugged into the basketball world right now- but it feels like it could be interesting come March.


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