Monday, December 21, 2015

UConn Football is Back

The Connecticut Huskies are going bowling for the first time since 2010 - when they faced off against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. This time around they’ll see a 9-3 Marshall team in a matchup in the St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida.
The Huskies were projected to finish in the basement of the AAC in multiple preseason polls and after a promising 2-0 start, they dropped to 3-5, and with ECU, Houston, and Temple still on the schedule, a bowl game didn’t look like it was in the picture. But if there’s one thing that stands out about UConn athletics, it’s that you can never count the Huskies out.
I have to give it to Bob Diaco. After finishing 2-10 in his first season with the team last year, and losing what looked to be the “QB of the future” in Casey Cochran (concussions), I thought that it could be another couple of years until UConn football would be competitive again.
From 2007-2010, UConn football went 33-19 finishing with at least 8 wins each season and reaching 4 straight bowl games. What stands out on those teams was UConn’s reliable defense. Those were teams led by dominant defensive players like Danny Lansanah, Scott Lutrus, Tyvon Branch, Darius Butler, Robert McClain, Lindsey Witten, Sio Moore, Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, etc. Their defense always seemed to keep them in games, getting to the quarterback and making big plays, which was especially important considering they themselves never really had a great quarterback. During that same 4-year span, UConn quarterbacks threw just as many interceptions as touchdowns (45).
There are a lot of parallels that one can draw between this year's UConn team and those of the Randy Edsall era. And the best part is, UConn is returning a lot of firepower next season. I’ll start out with the defense. On the front 7, they’ll return Cole Ormsby, Folorunso Fatukasi, Junior Joseph, Cameron Stapleton, and Luke Carrezola. Carrezola and Fatukasi (both sophomore’s) lead the team with 12.5 combined sacks. This is an incredibly athletic group with a bunch of guys who can move around and play in different formations. Linebacker, Graham Stewart, will be a huge loss for this defense. The transfer from Florida is a ballhawk with a high motor who will most likely get a shot to play on Sunday’s. However, EJ Levenberry, is a transfer from Florida State who sat out this season but will be eligible to play next year and will be looked big upon to fill the shoes of Stewart.
Lindsey Witten (#9) led the Huskies with 11.5 sacks in 2009
In the secondary, the Huskies will lose safety Andrew Adams, who has 9 career interceptions. That loss will hurt just as much as Stewart, but cornerback, Jamar Summers, who’s currently tied for 5th in the nation with 5 interceptions, will be looked upon to become the staple of this secondary.

Bottom line: UConn’s defense is back
Offensively, sophomore quarterback, Bryant Shirreffs, was the big surprise. The NC State transfer fended off Timmy Boyle for the starting job. He tossed for 9 touchdowns but it was his ability to move around in the pocket (420 rush yards, 3 rush TD) that made him such a threat. Combine his running ability with the likes of Arkeel Newsome (1,500+ total yards, 8 total TD) and Ron Johnson (220 rush yards, 4 rush TD) and the Huskies had a formidable rushing attack. The real question coming into the year: who would the quarterback be throwing to? They graduated their top 2 receivers (Geremy Davis & Deshon Foxx) and prior to the season it was announced that starting TE, Sean McQuillan, had been arrested and removed from the football team. Enter Noel Thomas. The 6’1 junior emerged as The Shirreffs top target and reminds me of a young Marcus Easley...Sophomore’s Tommy Myers and Alec Bloom filled in for McQuillan and their NFL size (6’5, 250 & 6’6, 260, respectively) provided additional beef in the blocking game. Shirreffs, Newsome, Johnson, Thomas, Myers, and Bloom are all set to return next season.
Bottom line: UConn has an offense

UConn will return their trio of backs in 2016
The future looks bright and the Bob Diaco era is off to a promising start. Win or lose to Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl, there is no reason that UConn football can’t compete for an AAC championship in the near future.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

General Electric Spins Off Synchrony Financial

On October 14th, the Federal Reserve announced that they had approved General Electric’s (GE) plan to spin off Synchrony Financial (SYF) as part of GE’s mission to reduce the size of their North American financial entity. On October 19th, General Electric officially announced an exchange offer to shareholders: to exchange their General Electric shares for those of Synchrony Financial, with that offer expiring on November 16th.
So what does this mean for General Electric shareholders? Do they take the offer or stay put?
Synchrony Financial has some serious appeal. Prior to their IPO, Synchrony Financial was a division of General Electric (formerly General Electric Capital Retail Finance) and was able to bring in nearly one-half of General Electric’s revenues. It was the third largest IPO of 2014 after raising roughly $2.88 billion in their initial public offering. In their first 15 months on the NYSE, Synchrony Financial’s stock has raised over $7/share (while GE has raised roughly $3.5/share over the same period).

General Electric’s (red line) and Synchrony Financial’s (blue line) stock growth dating back to Synchrony’s IPO in August of 2014 (click to enlarge)

All this sounds good, so why the split?
The financial division of GE ran into some distress during the monetary crisis a few years ago when it held some risky loans. Once Lehman Brothers collapsed, GE’s shares started to drop as the public grew concerned with GE’s financial division. It was at this point that General Electric set its sights on becoming less dependent on that area of the company, and the split is part of an ongoing effort to trim down that sector of its business.

If you’re someone who holds stock in GE, this exchange might be something to seriously consider. Despite the potential risk, there’s a lot of upside in Synchrony Financial. They are currently the largest provider of private-label credit cards in the U.S. (based on purchase volumes and receivables) -- a significant statistic as a Federal Reserve study found that the private-label credit card business has outpaced general-purpose credit card growth. Synchrony is also in the works of striking a deal with Apple to include their multi-purpose cards in Apple Pay.
While Synchrony doesn’t pay out a dividend, if management continues moving in the right direction, there could be some real value with SYF. Keep the offer’s expiration of November 16th in mind if you’re considering pursuing this opportunity!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Crimestopper Breaks into Houston

According to Aquille Carr’s twitter and other sources reporting the like, the 5’6 guard has signed with the Houston Rockets and will compete on their preseason roster. For those basketball fans out there that have never heard of Carr (aka “The Crimestopper”), you are in for a treat. Carr is listed at 5’6, 150 pounds (that’s nearly 3 inches shorter than Nate Robinson for comparison) but doesn’t lack the talent. The ball skills of Jason Williams combined with the scoring ability of a young Steve Francis, on the court, Carr is most known for his dazzling handles and his ability to score with some emphasis - 50 points in a game was not out of the ordinary for Carr at Patterson High school in Baltimore, Maryland.
He quickly became a YouTube sensation making his high school counterparts look as if they were playing on skates. After showing out in a tournament playing for Team USA in Milan, Virtus Roma (a professional team in Italy) offered the then high school sophomore $750,000 to drop out of high school and come play for them (the same team Brandon Jennings played for before turning pro). Carr would pass on the offer and return to finish high school at Princeton Day Academy. In 2012, he verbally committed to play collegiately at Seton Hall University, but would never step on campus and instead play overseas in China for a brief time, perhaps to support his newborn daughter.
Carr was drafted to the Delaware 87ers (affiliate of the 76ers) in the 3rd round of 2013 NBA D-League draft but was subsequently released a few months later. He was eligible for the 2014 NBA draft but went undrafted and signed to play with the Saint John Mill Rats of the Canadian National Basketball League. His time in Canada didn’t last as he was released 9 games into the Mill Rats season after two suspensions during his tenure. He was officially released on December 13, 2014 and it looked like the 21 year-old’s basketball career was on the decline and certainly the aspirations of an NBA career were an afterthought.

On October 14, 2015, Carr tweeted this:

As a basketball fan you have to be happy for this kid. He didn’t come from much in Baltimore, which is perhaps an understatement, and despite his stat line was often overlooked. I’ll definitely be tuning into a few Rockets preseason games to hopefully watch this kid continue to ball.

I could keep going but I'll leave it to 3.