July 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It

By: Joe Williams

We all know about the Aaron Hernandez situation, Dwight Howard taking his talents to Houston and Ryan Braun getting suspended, but that’s not all the crazy stuff that happened in July. In case you actually have a life, here are a few stories that you may have missed.

Longtime New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur actually got to draft his son Anthony Brodeur for the Devils during the NHL draft.

During last week’s RBC Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament to attend the birth of his first child. Mahan was leading the tournament and didn’t pull out until just before he was supposed to begin his third round, leaving his playing partner John Merrick playing in the final group by himself.

Not only did the Cincinnati Reds play a game in San Francisco as the home team, but during one of the  four-game series between the teams, the Giants grounds crew had a bit of trouble lining up the batter’s box. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a photo of the screw up online.

When former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson received his championship ring for the team’s win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, he was the only Seminoles player that got a ring that reads “2012 SEC Champions.” The rest of the team got rings with the correct conference inscribed on them.

The NCAA claimed that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo committed an NCAA violation when he tweeted “Welcome to the family” to a Class of 2015 wide receiver who recently committed to the University of Michigan.

“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen fired one of the worst first pitches I have ever seen. Video of that won’t be hard to find either.

A linebacker at the University of Florida was arrested for sticking his head in a police car and barking at a police dog.

One Cleveland Indians fan pulled off an incredible feat, catching four foul balls in the same game…the odds of which are about one in one trillion.

Another fan in Cleveland wasn’t so lucky. When Scott Entsminger passed away earlier this month, this ended up in his obituary…”A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”

A battle royal erupted between two former Thai Olympic teammates during a doubles badminton match. They started trash-talking before the match even started and things continued to escalate until they fought from one end of the arena to the other. Both players received a black card.

And in the wildest story of the month former NBA player Baron Davis (the guy with the huge beard before James Harden) said that he was abducted by aliens while on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles during a podcast interview. I’m not even going to go there on this one.

I can’t wait to see what happens in August as the NFL season approaches, and the baseball playoff races heat up.

April 25, 2013

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NFL Mock Draft

By: Joe Williams

It’s that time of year and all the cool kids are doing NFL mock drafts. I gave in to the peer pressure so here is my attempt to get a couple of Thursday’s 32 picks right.

In 2012, we knew who the first QB taken, and first overall pick, would be before the NFL Draft started. Those answers aren't as clear this year.

1 Kansas City Chiefs: There’s a new coach in town. Andy Reid has got himself a new quarterback. Now he’ll get someone to protect that quarterback.

The pick: Luke Joeckel, OL, Texas A&M

2 Jacksonville Jaguars: When you are picking second, you can’t afford to miss on your pick. The Jags will wait for round two or three to get a quarterback and look to improve the worst pass rush in the league.

The pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

3 Oakland Raiders: With Matt Flynn in the fold, the Raiders can hope he becomes the franchise guy and look to fill a gaping hole on the defensive line. It’s a choice between Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd.

The pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

4 Philadelphia Eagles: This is where we find out if new coach Chip Kelly wants to groom Geno Smith for the future or protect Michael Vick for the present. One thing we know about Kelly is that he loves speed.

The pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

5 Detroit Lions: For the Lions to compete in the NFC North, they are going to have to beat Green Bay. That means getting pressure on Aaron Rodgers.

The pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

6 Cleveland Browns: Championship teams have to be great on one side of the ball. In Cleveland, that’s not going to be the offense until Weeden proves he is the right guy or they find someone else. Adding free agents Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves and the top cornerback in the draft gives the defense a chance to be really good.

The pick: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

7 Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals offensive line was awful last year and if Fisher is still on the board, they won’t waste any time turning their card in.

The pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

8 Buffalo Bills: Here’s another team with a new quarterback. Buffalo follows suit and picks up some protection for Kevin Kolb.

The pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

9 New York Jets: The defense just took a major hit by trading Revis to Tampa Bay. If the pass coverage gets worse, the pass rush better improve.

The pick: Barkevlous Mingo, DL, LSU

10 Tennessee Titans: The Titans brought in Andy Levitre to fill the hole at one guard spot. Filling the hole on the other side would make life much easier for Jake Locker and Chris Johnson.

The pick: Johathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

11 San Diego Chargers: San Diego has got to get Phillip Rivers back on track. His 47 turnovers and 79 sacks over the last two seasons are way too many for this team to win.

The pick: Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma

12 Miami Dolphins: Cornerback duo Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are gone and the Dolphins still have to face Tom Brady twice a year. They need another corner.

The pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida St.

13 New York Jets: The secondary still needs help and this is the pick the Jets got in the Revis trade. But they don’t care when one of the best players on the board falls into their laps.

The pick: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

14 Carolina Panthers: Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and Cam Newton is going to need more weapons to keep up with Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

The pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

15 New Orleans Saints: Getting Sean Payton back will help the offense so this pick should be used on the defense. With several options to choose from, the Saints take the best defender left on their board.

The pick: Bjoern Werner, DL, Florida St.

16 St. Louis Rams: With two big needs to fill and two first round picks, the Rams must decide between a safety and wide receiver.

The pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

17 Pittsburgh Steelers: James Harrison is in Cincinnati and Mike Wallace took his talents to South Beach. One will be replaced with this pick.

The pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

18 Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones just invested $100 million in Tony Romo. It’s safe to assume he’s going to want to protect that investment.

The pick: D.J. Fluker, OL, Alabama

19 New York Giants: When the Giants are great, they are putting pressure on the quarterback. And they like to draft pass rushers.

The pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

20 Chicago Bears: The Bears need help at linebacker with Brian Urlacher now gone. They’ll get it here, but it’s not who you think.

The pick: Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas St.

21 Cincinnati Bengals: There aren’t a lot of holes in this roster. The biggest one is probably at safety. Not anymore.

The pic: Eric Reid, S, LSU

22 St. Louis: They’ve already picked up a safety. Now it’s time to get a receiver to fill the void left by Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola.

The pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

23 Minnesota Vikings: Percy Harvin is out and Greg Jennings is in. But the Vikings could still use one more guy to help take the weight off of Adrian Peterson.

The pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

24 Indianapolis Colts: Protection for Andrew Luck, a replacement for Dwight Freeney, or maybe the first running back off the board?

The pick: Datone Jones, DL, UCLA

25 Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler are in this division. Better get another defensive back.

The pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

26 Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers would love someone he could hand off to that would keep the defense guessing. First running back comes off the board here.

The pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

27 Houston Texans: Andre Johnson needs a tag team partner and Matt Schaub won’t complain about having another weapon either.

The pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California

28 Denver Broncos: The defensive line needed reinforcements even before the Dumervil debacle. One falls into John Elway’s lap on draft day.

The pick: Sheldon Richardson, DL, Missouri

29 New England Patriots: If the Pats make this pick it’s got to be a receiver or someone to cover a receiver.

The pick: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise St.

30 Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez decided to give it one more shot which means this is the perfect time to draft his replacement and let him learn from a Hall-of-Famer.

The pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

31 San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers could use another safety after losing Dashon Goldson in free agency.

The pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida

32 Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis is retired and Dannell Ellerbe is in Miami so they probably take a linebacker here.

The pick: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

March 20, 2013

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Let The Madness Begin

By: Joe Williams

The best tournament of the year is under way. I’ve already filled out my NCAA Tournament bracket – thrown it away – and filled out a new one. But I don’t like this one either. Time to start over and make a final attempt. But before I do, there are a few things I’m going to keep in mind.

There are many factors to keep in mind when filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

A No. 5 seed is going down. You can take that to the bank. The hard part is figuring out which one it will be. UNLV looks like the obvious choice because they have a rematch with Cal and it’s only about an hour away from the Bears’ campus. VCU could be in trouble if Akron wasn’t going to play without their star point guard. So the Oklahoma State Cowboys better be on upset alert because they have to play an Oregon team that is better than its 12 seed.

We also know that there is probably going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. Some of the best candidates are Colorado, Bucknell, Oregon, Middle Tennessee St., Minnesota, and Iowa St. Look for two of these teams to make it to the second weekend. It’s Bucknell and Iowa St. in my bracket.

The Mountain West Conference will have a good showing. Five teams got in (New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego St., Colorado St. and Boise St.) and all five will win at least one game..starting with the Broncos on Wednesday night. The SEC, on the other hand, will struggle to find a W. Florida should get one but that could be it.

The key to a successful bracket is to avoid picking teams to make a deep run and then they fall to an early-round upset. That’s going to be tough this year with how even the field appears to be. Here’s one team to avoid in each region…Florida, Syracuse, Ohio State and Duke.

All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. Which top team will make it to Atlanta? The last nine national champs have had blue for a school color so I will take Gonzaga and Kansas to win their regions. I’ll take St. Louis to shock the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals and win the Midwest. And if I’m sticking with blue then I guess its Marquette out of the East Region. And I better be right. I can’t afford another finish at the bottom of the office pool or I’m the one that’s going to be blue.

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!

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.