March 10, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Lakers Suffer Worst Loss in Franchise History: The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, but with a slew of injuries, the team is sinking to new lows this year. Another ‘benchmark’ was set as the team suffered a demoralizing 142-94 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week. After the Lakers were dominated 44-13 in the second quarter, the rout was on. With a roster featuring an aging Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and not much else, the franchise is desperately in need of a roster upgrade in the offseason. Unfortunately, Gasol is one of the few real assets they have to trade and having failed to find a suitable deal to this point for the big man, the Lakers just don’t have many options heading into next season.

Kobe Bryant

Can the Lakers turn their season around before it's too late?

Doug McDermott Joins 3,000-point Club: Creighton star Doug McDermott joined the NCAA’s 3,000-point club with a 45-point performance in an 88-73 win over Providence. In the process, McDermott vaulted himself to the seventh-leading scorer in Division I basketball, passing Oscar Robertson and Hersey Hawkins. McDermott is having an incredible season and recently also passed Larry Bird, Danny Manning, and Elvin Hayes on the list. What makes his year even more special, though, is Creighton’s season as a team. The Bluejays finished 24-6 on the year in the regular season and are ranked among the nation’s top 15 teams.

Tommy John Surgeon Dies: Dr. Frank Jobe who pioneered the famous Tommy John surgery died last week at the age of 88. Jobe performed the initial surgery on pitcher Tommy John, replacing a torn ligament in John’s arm with a tendon from his forearm. Then a breakthrough surgery, hundreds of pitchers have since had the procedure and there’s no doubt that Jobe extended many careers in the process. John himself went on to pitch another 14 years following the procedure and there’s no telling how many pitchers’ careers would have been cut short without the revolutionary surgery.

Mike Modano Number Retired: Mike Modano’s No. 9 was retired by the Dallas Stars last week in a legendary ceremony. Not only were 20 members from the 1999 championship team present wearing jerseys with No. 9 patches, but other Dallas-area stars in other sports such as the MavericksDirk Nowitzki, and Dallas Cowboys Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, were all present on the ice as well to celebrate the achievement. Modano, who finished his career with more goals and points than any other American-born NHL player, was surely deserving.

Shaq Video Game: Former basketball star/current millionaire Shaquille O’Neal and a video game developer not only want to create a video game, but apparently want fans to help invest in it. Seems legit.

Tie Hockey Game Results in Co-champions: Two high school hockey teams stood tied after an amazing seven overtime periods and decided to call it quits in an Ohio state championship game. Both teams, Sylvania Northview and Cleveland St. Ignatius, citing fatigue, agreed to a 1-1 tie and were declared co-champions. Calling the game early was probably the safe thing to do if both teams were literally too tired to continue. However, it underscores the need for a revised format – after all, why not have a shootout after three overtimes and declare a true champion?

It’s the Sleeves, Man: NBA star Lebron James had an off night last week in the San Antonio Spurs’ 111-87 rout of the Miami Heat. It wasn’t the recently broken nose that was the problem in his 6-18 shooting night, though. James said after the game that he wasn’t a fan of the sleeved jerseys the Heat and other teams were wearing this season. For the record, he didn’t want to use that as the official excuse, but James, like others, does think it’s affecting shots. On the surface it might sound petty, but James makes a good point in that there is little margin for error on a player’s jump shot. It’s easy to see that something as restrictive as a sleeved jersey could cause problems for certain players.

Harvard Kicks off March Madness: March Madness is officially here and Harvard was the first team to usher it in. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament got its first participant as Harvard knocked off Yale, 70-58, to win the Ivy League Championship and gain an automatic berth. Many more teams will shortly punch their ticket to the Big Dance with conference titles in the upcoming week.

Hat Trick Shenanigans: Hat tricks in hockey generally elicit baseball caps being thrown onto the ice. In Dallas? Cowboy hats.

March 19, 2013

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Highlighting This Year’s Biggest Cinderellas

By: Matt Bowen

NCAA March Madness is officially upon us as our minds, and our desks, are now cluttered with a plethora of brackets.

With bragging rights on the line for the next year, selecting the perfect upsets along the way play a huge factor in the end result.

Should #1 seed Louisville fear a matchup with the Saint Louis Billikens?

Everyone loves an underdog and this year the field of 68 is as wide open as it’s ever been. Say what you want in regards to the way the NCAA governs college athletics, the NCAA basketball tournament is the cat’s meow.

The parity in men’s college basketball is gorgeous and the look of Cinderella has now changed. No longer does a Cinderella have to have a lower seed or be from a small conference.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

This article highlights one Cinderella in each region and the results may surprise. No, as a No. 1 seed Gonzaga is not one of them. They have graduated from the Cinderella ranks over the past decade. So too has Butler, so don’t be confused when they don’t make the list. These two schools are the exemplary models of what is right in college basketball.

With that being said, let’s find out just which schools look to become the darlings of the college basketball world.

The South Region: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Surprise, surprise, a team from the Big Ten, which was the best conference in the country, ends up as a Cinderella in the tournament. Don’t be.

After a strong start to their season and a favorable ranking in the national polls, the Minnesota Golden Gophers stumbled to a 20-12 record. Their biggest win of the season against then No. 1 Indiana is what punched their ticket to the dance.

Even with an 11 seed, the Golden Gophers aren’t to be taken lightly in the tournament. They have a skilled big man in Trevor Mbakwe, a talented point guard in Andre Hollins and an all-world flyer in Rodney Williams. When they are focused on the task at hand, they are as difficult to beat as any team in the country.

Their first game is up against UCLA, and with a victory they would most likely face the Florida Gators. This isn’t putting the horse before the cart, but the Golden Gophers are capable of beating both of these teams.

Remember, a trip to the Sweet 16 and a Cinderella is born. Think twice before you write-off Minnesota.

The East Region: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

Yes, the UNLV Rebels are ranked a No. 5 seed, but everyone will be rooting for them in less than a week.

They finished the season third in a Mountain West Conference that received five nods from the committee this March. The conference is a prime example of why college basketball is tough across the board. The respect earned by the Mountain West this season is phenomenal.

UNLV is a scrappy team that has one of the best freshmen in the land. Anthony Bennett is a name that fans from sea to shining sea will be talking about soon enough. He averaged 16.1 points/game this season to go along with 8.1 rebounds.

UNLV has already beaten their first opponent California this year and will burst into the limelight by beating a topsy-turvy Syracuse squad in the round of 32.

Long forgotten on the college hoops scene no more, UNLV will be rolling.

The West Region: Wichita State Shockers

Coming in as a No. 9 seed, the Wichita State Shockers look to make quick work of the Pitt Panthers before a third-round match-up puts them up against No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

The Shockers have wins against tournament teams like Virginia Commonwealth and Creighton this season. They’re a team that has 11 players, yes 11 that averaged more than 10 minutes a game this season.

That means that they’ll be the most rested team in the tournament. Another bonus, foul trouble doesn’t affect them like it would many others. That kind of depth gives the advantage to the Shockers, especially in a situation where overtime may occur.

They’re a true team where every kid on the team is an intricate piece to the puzzle. They’re a team that outsiders can easily become fond of quickly.

The Midwest Region: St. Louis Billikens

Though they may be a No. 4 seed, the St. Louis Billikens are a real Cinderella. They took the A-10 Conference over the likes of Virginia Commonwealth and Butler this season.

How did they do so when it seems they just came into the national spotlight?

Well, for starters they won 15-of-16 to end the season, which earned them such a pleasant seed. They beat ranked VCU and Butler all four times they played them this season.

They also beat New Mexico, who just so happens to be the No. 3 seed in the West Region this season.

To put it lightly—they fear none. A Sweet 16 victory over the No. 1 overall seed Louisville Cardinals would prove that last statement. Don’t be surprised when that happens.

Enjoy!

March 5, 2012

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NCAA All-American Ballot

By: Anson Whaley

As a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, one of the great privileges I have is voting for the organization’s All-American college basketball team. Below were my selections for the 2011-12 season.

Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) – The Tarheels have any number of players that could be considered for All-American status, but my nod goes to Barnes. Barnes is a downright freakishly athletic player and while some critics will complain that he needs to average more than five rebounds as a 6’8” forward, he’s a mismatch nightmare and can step out and hit three-pointers. He makes 40% of them and also averages 17 points a game – doing all of that for the ACC’s regular season championship team is good enough for me.

Harrison Barnes is a major reason why North Carolina is so highly ranked.

Anthony Davis (Kentucky) – As a true freshman for the Wildcats, Davis has been as good as advertised. His 15 points and ten rebounds per game only scratch the surface, though. Davis may be the best defensive player in the country, which for a first-year player is incredibly rare. He also leads the nation in blocked shots with nearly five per game and could lead Kentucky to yet another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Marcus Denmon (Missouri) – Denmon is the second leading scorer in the Big 12 and has the Missouri Tigers gunning for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The senior is one of those players who have gotten better each year and in 2011-12, he is averaging career highs in scoring, rebounding, and assists.

Draymond Green (Michigan State) – The Spartans’ promotional mailer to voters says that Green is the most versatile player in the country. Head coach Tom Izzo says he’s never had a player that’s been asked to do as much as him. Green has had 20 points, ten rebounds, and five assists in five games this year (more than anyone else in Division I) so all of that sounds about right to me.

Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette) Marquette has surprised fans all season and Darius Johnson-Odom has been a huge reason why the Golden Eagles were in the top ten heading into the weekend. Jae Crowder could be the better overall player for Marquette, but he’s disappeared in several games this season and Johnson-Odom is the motor that makes the team go.

Kevin Jones (West Virginia) – Playing for NCAA bubble team West Virginia, Jones hasn’t gotten the recognition he’s deserved. But he’s been unquestionably the best player in the Big East, one of the toughest conferences in the country. And in averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, he may be the best player in all of America.

Doug McDermott (Creighton) – Players from mid majors don’t generally receive a ton of respect when it comes to All-American teams, but McDermott clearly deserves the honor. At more than 23 points a game, he’s the third leading scorer in all of college basketball and Creighton is a top 25 team with only five losses heading into this past weekend.

Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State) – Moultrie is in a similar position as Jones. He’s been largely ignored playing for unranked Mississippi State, but is also one of the top players in his conference. Moultrie is the leading rebounder in the SEC and the fourth leading scorer. He could have the Bulldogs back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Thomas Robinson (Kansas) – Robinson not only got my vote to represent the All-American team, but was my Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year selection as well. The forward averages just under 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Kansas Jayhawks, a top five team. The thing I like most about Robinson, though, is that he’s played even better against big time opponents. In five games with top ten foes in Duke, Missouri, and Baylor, he’s averaged 23.4 points and 13 rebounds.

Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) – Sullinger has disappeared in some recent games against Wisconsin and Illinois, but his 17 points and nine rebounds per contest are clearly enough for All-American status. He is in the top three in both scoring and rebounding in the Big Ten this season and his Buckeyes are one of the best teams in the country.