April 8, 2013
Louisville vs. Michigan in NCAA title game: Tonight Louisville will take on Michigan for the NCAA basketball championship. With March Madness coming to a close, it’s been an exciting tournament to say the least. Wichita State, a No. 9 seed reached the Final Four. Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a terrible and potentially career-ending injury. And tiny Florida Gulf Coast shocked the world, reaching the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed. With one game left, I’ll stick with my bracket pick and go with Louisville to win it all. Michigan has been on an impressive run in the tournament, beating a slew of very good teams but the Cardinals haven’t lost a game since early February. My guess is that Rick Pitino wins his first title at Louisville on Monday.
NFL preseason schedule set: The NFL released its preseason schedule this past week. While there are plenty of intriguing matchups, my favorite might be the San Francisco 49ers vs. the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. That, of course, will pit former Niners quarterback Alex Smith against his former team. The bad news is that since it’s only Week 2, Smith’s action could be limited in the game against San Francisco since coaches typically shorten the play of their starters. But one reason Smith may play a bit more than normal is because he’ll still be learning the offense and needs all the practice he can get. Regardless of how long he plays, though, the game is sure draw a lot of attention.
Dwyane Wade could sit out until playoffs: Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has been sidelined with a knee injury and word broke this past week that the guard could miss the team’s remaining regular season games. At 60-16, Miami has only six games left. The problem for the Heat, though, is that Wade has been out since the end of March, missing the team’s last four games. If he can’t play in the next six, that would be a significant break from game action for him. Miami should be able to win its first round playoff series even with a subpar Wade, but it’s not an ideal situation as the champs prepare to defend their title.
Yu Darvish just misses perfection: At this stage in the season, pitchers are generally ahead of hitters. Still, what Yu Darvish nearly accomplished was pretty impressive. The Texas Rangers pitcher took a perfect game into the ninth inning and after recording the first two outs, he was as close as you can get to perfection. But the next batter, Marwin Gonzalez, singled up the middle to break it up. Losing a no-hitter is one thing, but losing a perfect game is another. There have been nearly 300 no hitters, but only 23 perfect games in Major League Baseball history. Darvish was agonizingly close to joining an elite group.
Darrelle Revis and Jets still at odds: Cornerback Darrelle Revis could be traded any day now, but that doesn’t mean the New York Jets are willing to let him sit back and relax. According to ESPN, the team is reportedly insisting he participate in the team’s offseason conditioning program to begin in the middle of this month. The move sounds ludicrous as Revis isn’t likely to be playing for the Jets this fall, and could thus be a huge distraction. But if you’re not expecting him to show up, think again. Revis is due to collect a $3 million bonus for showing up. His contract states that he would forfeit money if he fails to participate in offseason events – even non-mandatory ones. The chances are slim that Revis isn’t participating if he’s still a member of the team.
Mike Rice fired as Rutgers coach: Rutgers’ basketball program took a bit of a hit this week when it was announced that head coach Mike Rice was fired after video surfaced of him berating and being physically abusive towards players. The video also cost athletic director Tim Pernetti his job. The move will surely mean more scrutiny of college coaches and their behavior toward athletes. And in the end, that’s a good thing. Much was made of the fact that the players didn’t complain about the rough practices, but then again, it’s easy to understand why. No kid that’s worked his entire life to earn a scholarship and play basketball at the highest level would want to risk that by speaking up. It’s a shame that it took so long, but firing Rice was the right move in my opinion.
March 26, 2013
Sweet 16 set in the NCAA Tournament: The first week of the NCAA Tournament is complete and, as usual, there were a fair share of big upsets. The big ones in the first round were tiny Florida Gulf Coast shocking the world by beating No. 2 seeded Georgetown and No. 3 seed New Mexico being ousted by Harvard. Lots will be made about some of those weaker teams being underseeded, but the fact is that if you played the tournament a dozen times, you might have a dozen different champions. Any team is capable of losing on any given night and if a team like Florida Gulf Coast played Georgetown ten times, it’s difficult to believe they’d win the majority of those games. But that’s the beauty of March.
Brian Urlacher leaving Chicago: A bit of a surprise in NFL free agency was that the Chicago Bears didn’t re-sign longtime linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher, a mainstay on the team for the past 13 years, couldn’t come to terms with the team. He had come down considerably from his initial asking price for the 2013 season, but that still wasn’t enough to get the Bears to move from their $2 million offer, as reported by ESPN. Reportedly, his agent has already talked with the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals. Now at 35, Urlacher is surely slowing down – his tackles have dropped each of the past two seasons. But the bet here is that some team will take a chance on him. With no other options, his asking price may have to come down, though.
Denver Nuggets dominating with 15-game winning streak: With everyone focused on the Miami Heat’s remarkable streak, the Denver Nuggets have gone under the radar. The Nuggets won their 15th straight game this past weekend, beating Sacramento on Saturday. As a result, Denver has soared up to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, passing the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies in the process. The Nuggets have been winning this year on youth and depth. The team has only three players over the age of 25 and only one of those, Andre Miller, is over 30. Also, nine players average more than eight points a game, but none average more than 17. With so much youth and balance, if the Nuggets keep their core together, this is a franchise that could compete for years to come.
Hanley Ramirez out for two months: The Dodgers got some bad news with Opening Day just around the corner. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez had a torn ligament in his thumb and required surgery last week. Because of it, Ramirez will miss about eight weeks recovering. That’s a tough break for the Dodgers, who picked him up in a trade last season. In 2012 splitting time with the Dodgers and Marlins, Ramirez hit 24 home runs and drove in 92 runs, having one of his best offensive seasons of his career. Not having him until close to May could mean the Dodgers get off to a slow start.
Sergio Garcia hits golf ball … from tree: The final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was on Sunday. You might assume that the real news was that the event was suspended due to weather, but you’d be wrong. The big highlight came from Sergio Garcia hitting a golf ball while atop a tree branch. Don’t believe me? Here’s the video. Whatever your interest level is in golf, there’s no denying that shots like these make it interesting. Still, I’m not sure Garcia’s move was all that wise. A slip of the foot could have meant a nasty fall and possibly even an end to his season. Not to mention that Garcia double-bogeyed the hole anyway and later withdrew. Still, if we’re going by entertainment value, this one’s a ten all the way. And as a spectator, I’d much rather see Garcia take a gamble like that.
U.S. Soccer wins match over Costa Rica despite snow protest: You read that right. The U.S. Soccer team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in the qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in the snow in Denver. Costa Rica protested during the match and also filed a formal protest immediately afterwards. Typically, this is where I’d say that both teams had equal playing conditions so Costa Rica should suck it up. But I also understand the point in protesting. Soccer isn’t like, pardon the pun, (American) football where snow is considered as a part of the playing conditions. When you think of soccer, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most of us, it’s not white stuff falling to the ground. I don’t mind a match being played if it’s a little bit of snow, but the field was covered to the point where Costa Rican players were complaining that they couldn’t even adequately see the lines. Keep in mind, this is also the qualifying for the World Cup – it’s not a meaningless preseason MLB game. With so much at stake, postponing the game would have made more sense. Similarly hilarious is the fact that a qualifying match was even scheduled in Denver when there’s always a chance of spring snow.