February 11, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Antawn Jamison talks Michael Jordan comeback: Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison talked a bit about Michael Jordan this past week to reporters. That fact isn’t all that surprising considering he and Jordan are friends and North Carolina alums, but what was surprising was the context of the discussion. Jamison insisted that Jordan could not only average double figures in scoring if he returned to the NBA, but that he wouldn’t be all that surprised if Jordan did make a comeback attempt. Ever since he retired from the Washington Wizards, talk of an MJ comeback has been widely discussed. But Jamison’s recent comments just add fuel to the fire with Jordan’s 50th birthday coming up this week. Could Jordan come back? I’d never rule it out and the thing about him is that he thrives on trying to do the impossible. Playing at 50 would be an incredible feat and if he were able to contribute to any team, that’d be even more impressive. For now, file this one in the ‘not likely, but certainly possible’ category.

Despite a loss last week, Indiana remains the #1 team in the nation.

Another ‘one’ bites the dust: With Indiana’s loss this week to Illinois, there’s likely to be a new No. 1 when the latest college basketball polls are released. No. 1 teams lose every now and then, but this will be the sixth straight week another team takes the top spot. With all of the changes this season, it proves one thing: there’s no truly dominant team in the sport. By the end of the season, we’ll have a champion. But if you played the NCAA Tournament ten times, you might come away with ten different winners this year. No. 4 Duke would be my pick to regain the top position since the teams ahead of them in the rankings, Indiana, Florida, and Michigan all lost this past week. (Update: Indiana remains the #1 team in the country, with Duke coming in at #2.)

Super Bowl power outage caused by … equipment designed to stop power failures: Strange as it sounds, the massive power outage in the Super Bowl appears to have been caused by equipment that was designed to prevent outages. All of the details aren’t yet known, but the utility company (Entergy) installed a device and the settings apparently played a part in the outage. Because Baltimore ended up winning the game after jumping out to a big lead, this won’t be discussed all that much. But if San Francisco had completed the largest comeback in Super Bowl history after taking control of the game after the outage, it’s a moment that would never be forgotten.

Big East split in 2014?: Even with Pitt and Syracuse due to enter the ACC in time for the 2013 football and basketball seasons, the Big East may have another year before major changes take place. Notre Dame, which participates in the conference’s non-football sports, announced it would be staying for 2013. They are slated to join the Panthers and Orange in the ACC for all sports except football, but it won’t be this season.. The biggest impact, though, is that the Catholic 7 (non-football playing members) may be staying in 2013 as well. They previously announced they would exit the conference to create a new league, but the chances of that happening in time for next year are looking slim. Notre Dame’s decision to stay in for 2013 was partially based on the premise that the non-football schools are likely to remain for another year as well. If that’s true, that’s good news for the Big East. Even though the conference is losing those members, another year gives them more transition time to look for new schools to join and figure out a viable plan to make the conference relevant.

Mexico wins Caribbean World Series: Mexico won the Caribbean World Series last week, defeating the Dominican Republic. To many of us that may not have watched, the win itself may not have been all that noteworthy. What was, though, was the length of the game. The contest between the two teams lasted 18 innings and took a whopping 7 ½ hours to complete. Well, then. I’m all for extra-inning baseball, but 7 ½ hours is long by anyone’s standards. But in a championship game, there’s no choice by to continue playing – despite the game ending at 4:30 a.m. The 18 innings and nearly eight hours of play were records for the event.

National Signing Day ends in bizarre tale: I could go on and on about college football’s National Signing Day on Wednesday. But instead of talking about the best classes, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. In case you missed it, Alex Collins, one of the top running backs in the nation was all set to send in his paperwork to Arkansas to sign with the school. But reports said his mother had other ideas, and she’s alleged to have taken the necessary papers and went into hiding. This, of course, set off all kinds of jokes about an SEC running back not being able to catch his own mom. The bizarre story was capped off by Collins’ father signing the letter of intent for Collins and the running back is now officially at Arkansas. But yeah, what a weird tale.

January 11, 2013

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Weekend Watch List

By: Tyler Vespa

Just about halfway through the college basketball season, we are beginning to find out who’s for real and who’s a pretender. After Arizona’s loss Thursday night to Oregon, there are only two more teams left undefeated; Duke and Michigan. Now were going to party like it’s 1992. Yes it’s been a little over 20 years since Duke played Michigan for the national title, with the “Fab 5” as freshmen. For Duke, almost nothing has changed, Mike Krzyzewski is still the head coach, and Duke is number 1 in the country. However, in Ann Arbor, pretty much everything has changed. The only slight similarity is the youth movement that features a starting 5 with 2 freshmen and 1 sophomore. The Big Ten has officially dethroned the Big East as college basketball’s top conference, and the ACC is having a down year without Florida State and North Carolina in the top 25. That being said, the Blue Devils will have to beat themselves to lose the ACC.

With that I give you the marquee matchups this weekend in college hoops:

1. Duke (15-0) (2-0 ACC) at 20. North Carolina State (13-2) (2-0 ACC) Saturday 12 noon (ESPN)

The Blue Devils are without starting senior forward Ryan Kelly who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The Blue Devils don’t have the depth to replace a guy who averages 13.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG. The Wolfpack are balanced with 6 guys averaging double figures in scoring. Mark Gottfried’s club also ranks 1st in field goal percentage. Duke will have no answer for C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell on the interior.  Prediction: Duke-69 NC State- 73

Michigan State, a perennial Big Ten power, fell earlier this season to Minnesota.

8. Minnesota (15-1) (3-0 Big Ten) at 5. Indiana (14-1) (2-0 Big Ten) Saturday 12 noon (BTN)

Since their lone loss to Duke on November 22nd, Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers have won 11 in a row including two big conference wins against Michigan State and Illinois. Indiana has won their last 5 since losing to Butler. The Gopher’s Andre Hollins may be the best point guard in the country. That in combination with Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams in the post is too much for the Hoosiers. The Gophers will do it by committee to pull the upset at Assembly Hall.  Prediction: Minnesota-67 Indiana-63

2. Michigan (16-0) (3-0 Big Ten) at 15. Ohio State (12-3) (2-1 Big Ten) Sunday 1:30 (CBS)

There hasn’t been this much excitement in Ann Arbor since the “Fab 5”. The Wolverines have 4 guys averaging over 12 points per game. Their backcourt is the best in nation with Wooden Award candidate Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Big Blue’s frontcourt is also scary with two fabulous freshmen in Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. This balance will be too much for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are 12th in turnovers per game while the Wolverines are 2nd. The Buckeyes will struggle to find high percentage shots and Michigan’s depth will dominate from start to finish.  Prediction: Michigan-66 Ohio State-58.

December 17, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Josh Hamilton joins Los Angeles Angels: The balance of power could be shifting in the AL West as the Los Angeles Angels have signed Josh Hamilton, formerly of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton’s deal is a reportedly $125 million over five years. Give the Angels credit for making such a splash yet again in the offseason. Over the past two winters, they’ve had the biggest signings in baseball with Hamilton this year and slugger Albert Pujols last year. One thing’s for certain, though – if L.A. somehow misses the playoffs again, ownership won’t be happy after investing a boatload of money for the next several seasons.

Josh Hamilton going to the Angels was the biggest story of the week.

Andrea Bargnani bashes team: Toronto Raptors forward/center Andrea Bargnani recently spoke to an Italian newspaper, reportedly calling his team ‘pretty much the worst team in the NBA.’ Few would dispute that with the Raptors and Washington Wizards battling it out for rights to shack up in the league’s basement. Bargnani’s honesty should be lauded as far too often, players dance around questions. Unfortunately for him, though, making the comments while he collects dusts on the bench recovering from an injury looks bad. The franchise needs him healthy to even have a chance at respectability and calling the team he’s not able to help right now among the worst in the league implies that his teammates aren’t all that good.

High school girls’ basketball team wins 107-2: No, 107-2 isn’t a team’s record over several seasons. Rather, 107-2 was the score of an actual, singular game. Indiana’s Bloomington South High School defeated Arlington by that ginormous amount, drawing the criticism of many. There are two sides to the argument, of course. If you’re Bloomington, do you continue to play as hard as you can or take your foot off the pedal a bit? I don’t necessarily have a problem with either approach in college or the pros, but in a high school contest, that’s probably a bit ridiculous. To his credit, the Bloomington coach played all nine of his players. Hopefully, the reserves logged a ton of minutes in the game.

NHL lockout gets uglier: If you were hoping for a timely end to the NHL lockout as an early Christmas gift, you’re probably out of luck. Word broke last week that the players could break up their own union and things could go downhill from there. According to ESPN, by voting to disband the group, players could be protected by antitrust laws, which prohibit companies from locking out employees not a part of the union. If they are locked out, laws require said companies to pay triple the amount of wages owed to employees … er, players in this case. The NHL quickly reacted, filing a class-action complaint in federal court and an Unfair Labor Practice Charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Eventually, things will still end up with Sidney Crosby scoring goals and owners entertaining clients in their private suites since there’s simply too much money to be made. But when that happens remains a big question mark.

Enter … Pokertox: Okay, so we could debate for hours if poker is really a sport, but just go with it for now – I promise, it’ll be fun. Dr. Jack Berdy in New York is introducing Pokertox to the world. Pokertox, essentially is Botox for poker players. The procedure would ideally reduce telltale facial reaction players might make in certain situations while playing the game to give them a better poker face. Sounds a bit strange, but when you think about it, it would have to help, right?

Non-FBS Schools reportedly leaving Big East: For years, the Big East has endured a bit of a power struggle. The schools that played football have wanted to improve that side of the conference, but there were many members that either didn’t play football or didn’t participate in the FBS. With the recent defections from the conference, reports are now that the Big East’s non-FBS football members (that’s Georgetown, DePaul, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Providence if you’re scoring at home) plan to leave. Reports have the seven potentially ending up in the Atlantic 10 to create a new basketball super-conference. Others say that the seven schools could join forces with other Catholic basketball-focused colleges and create a new league. Either move really makes significantly more sense than remaining in the Big East since each member would have the same goals. They would also be less prone to being affected by the recent realignment nightmare since the other conferences are heavily football-focused and wouldn’t be as interested in adding a non-FBS football member.

November 26, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jack Taylor goes off – Jack Taylor, a Division III guard playing for Grinnell College scored an NCAA record 138 points in a game. He surpassed Bevo Francis’ mark of 113 set in 1954 in doing so. Taylor’s performance awed NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and LBJ even said he was interested in getting a tape from the game. Sure, Taylor hoisted up 71 three-pointers and made only 27 (good for a modest 38% if you don’t have an abacus handy), but overall, he made nearly half his shots, going 52-108. That’s quite a few attempts, but the mere fact that Taylor could have thrown up that many in the course of a game without getting too tired, still makes it a worthy accomplishment.

How many wins will Belichick get to with Brady at the helm?

Bill Belichick wins No. 200New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made news when the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night. Lost a bit in the headlines of the 30-point rout is that Belichick won his 200th game. Belichick became only the eighth coach in NFL history with that many wins and as long as Tom Brady’s still around playing pitch and catch with wideouts (Brady, by the way, threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions), he’s probably got plenty more in the tank if he wants to keep going.

Maryland and Rutgers are Big 10 bound – The ACC and Big East got a bit weaker with Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing they will head to the Big 10 (aka B1G) this week. Both football programs have been up and down, but each brings something valuable to their new conference. Maryland brings the DC market along with a successful basketball program while Rutgers adds the heavily desired New York/New Jersey market. The ACC is already on the move, reportedly interested in Big East teams Connecticut and Louisville to replace the Terrapins as of last week, which begs the question – with Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Syracuse already in the fold, doesn’t the new ACC look a lot like the old Big East?

Michael Finley wants to return – Michael Finley, a former NBA All-Star, is hoping to return to the league, according to ESPN. Finley was planning to work as an executive in the NBA, but after playing in pickup games over the summer, is hoping some team will give him a look. At 39, he’s young enough that a return could be possible, but his production shrunk considerably over the last season of his career. Finley only averaged 15 minutes a game playing in 45 games for the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, scoring about four points a game. He could be a quality reserve late in the year for a playoff team in need of some depth, but don’t look for him to be a significant contributor.

Melky Cabrera signs with Blue JaysMelky Cabrera inked a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the first big off-season splashes. Cabrera’s signing is significant because it comes on the heels of a 50-game suspension for testosterone. Last season, he was leading the National League in batting average before the suspension and he removed himself of consideration after the positive test result. The question will be, of course, if Cabrera can repeat his stellar 2012 season. He was a career .284 hitter and before last year, had only hit greater than .300 once when he batted .305 in 2011. Because of the dramatic improvement, there will be plenty of questions surrounding him in 2013 – none greater, perhaps, than from Blue Jays’ fans who will question his signing if he gets off to a slow start.

NHL cancels more games – The National Hockey League made a minor splash when it announced games through the middle of December (including January’s All-Star game) would be canceled due to the continuation of the lockout. There’s still a chance for a season, but the key thing of note is that the two sides don’t even appear to be all that close to a reconciliation. There’s still time for the players and owners to come to an agreement in time for a partial season, but it’s not looking good right now.

May 30, 2012

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Why The ACC Is Still Relevant

By: Anson Whaley

With news a few weeks back that the Big 12 and SEC were planning a major bowl game tie-in similar to the Big Ten and Pac 12 Rose Bowl, all sorts of guns were jumped in relegating the ACC to the Big East’s status. And when rumors floated that Florida State and/or Miami and Clemson could soon exit the conference for presumably greener pastures in the Big 12, the ACC’s death was all but written on a tombstone.

What would become of the ACC if Florida State left?

The only problem was that common sense was somehow lost in the melee.

The biggest factor is that considering Florida State, Clemson, and Miami all but gone is really taking a leap of faith. While it’s well known that Florida State wasn’t exactly in a state of euphoria about the ACC’s new long-term deal with ESPN, it’s still no guarantee they’re leaving the conference. Florida State is a better fit geographically in the ACC and all three leaving is an even bigger long shot.

Here’s one fact often forgotten in this whole mess. Many will quickly point to the schools’ distaste for North Carolina and Duke receiving special treatment in the ACC, but the trio would quickly discover that Texas reigns supreme in the Big 12. If they think they’d receive much more respect in a midwestern conference where Texas and Oklahoma are considered kings, they’ve got another thing coming.

The concern amongst fans of other ACC teams about the conference being left out of the discussion when it comes to playing in a potential playoff pitting four teams is also a bit misguided. Those making decisions in college football already get a ton of heat for not making the national championship open to enough schools. So now, they’re going to risk litigation by shutting out even more programs? Sorry, I just don’t see it. Right now, there are six power conferences that receive automatic bids – the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC, and Big East. If the ACC were left out of a playoff scenario, you can bet that the Big East would have no shot at it as well. It’s difficult to imagine a national championship playoff with even fewer teams given access.

Florida State, Clemson, and Miami should all recognize this. Problem is, though, there’s another factor in play – money. If those schools can make considerably more money in the Big 12 or SEC, they’d almost certainly consider it.

So with that in mind, let’s set up a hypothetical situation – say all three leave the conference … then what? Technically, I still think the ACC could survive. While those three are a large part of the conference, the basketball side of things would remain virtually unaffected. With North Carolina, Duke, Pitt, and Syracuse still around, the ACC would continue to be one of the most dominant basketball conference in college basketball. That’s got to count for something, right?

Football drives the bus, though, and I get it. The simple fact is that if all three bolted, the conference could be in serious trouble. But Virginia Tech has been the class of the conference on the gridiron and the ACC would still have them as a foundation. There’s also Georgia Tech, Pitt, North Carolina State, Virginia, North Carolina, Boston College, and Maryland. All of those teams have had solid seasons in recent memory and while none are powerhouses, there’s enough talent there to justify a playoff spot being given to an undefeated team. The ACC could also try to pluck additional mid-card schools such as UConn, Louisville, or Rutgers from the Big East. Smirk all you want at that group of schools, but the Huskies and Cardinals would bring even more basketball talent to the conference and Rutgers would include more eyeballs in the attractive New York/New Jersey market.

It’s still entirely too early to figure out how all of this plays out. But the safe bet is that the ACC stays alive throughout all of this.