March 20, 2013
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.
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 18, 2013
The NCAA Tournament is here: It’s NCAA Tournament time. The NCAA released its tournament bracket yesterday and while the field is generally wide open, that’s even more so the case this year. In case you missed it, the four No. 1 seeds were Louisville, Indiana, Kansas, and Gonzaga. There’s been no truly dominant team in college basketball with the No. 1 spot changing hands nearly every week. I haven’t hashed out my bracket yet, but my early pick to win it all might be Louisville. The Cardinals fell a bit off the radar in the middle of the season after three straight losses to Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, but they lost two of those games by a total of four points. And as we found out, those are three pretty good teams. Louisville went on to win 13 of their last 14 games and the one loss was a five overtime thriller to Notre Dame.
Team USA bows out of World Baseball Classic: Team USA lost games to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and was knocked out of the World Baseball Classic. Most amusing was the attitude by some players on Team USA who were none too pleased with the way the Dominican Republic celebrated after their victory. First things first – the tournament means much more in general to the other countries playing. Team USA’s players want the World Series, not the World Baseball Classic title. I’ve got no problem with the enthusiastic celebration by the Dominican Republic. It’s not only a big deal to them, but it was a dramatic victory as they scored two runs to snap a ninth-inning tie. Team USA being upset about the celebration is akin to a ranked college basketball team losing on the road and then being angry that the home team’s fans storm the court. Want to know the best way to avoid opposing teams celebrating? Win.
Tony Gonzalez Un-retires: The NFL season has barely ended, but Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez couldn’t wait to get back onto the field, despite saying he was retiring during last season. Gonzalez is expected to now return for 2013 and his coming back isn’t really that much of a surprise. He’s still in great shape and with 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012, he not only was productive but had one of the best years of his career. What is surprising, though, was that Gonzalez made the announcement to come back so quickly. It’s only March and training camp isn’t any time soon. By making his decision so soon, it only shows he was never all that convinced that retirement was for him. You could make the argument that the team was pushing him for a decision in order to figure out what path they might need to take in free agency. But Gonzalez is a future Hall of Famer who’s still producing, so they would have given him a bit of leeway.
NHL Realignment for 2013-14: In a move that’s gone somewhat under the radar, the NHL will undergo some realignment for next season. The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will move into the Eastern Conference while Winnipeg will head to the west. Simply put, the move makes a ton of sense and the only hope is that other professional leagues will follow suit. Don’t hold your breath, though. While it would make far more sense for the Dallas Cowboys to be playing in the NFC South and the Carolina Panthers to move to the NFC East, things like that aren’t likely to happen for one big reason: rivalries. Unlike the NHL, with a limited schedule, the NFL can’t have all of its teams face each other every year. And Cowboys fans wouldn’t be all that thrilled with losing annual games against the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins.
The Miami Heat keep winning: In case you’ve not noticed, the Miami Heat are pretty good at basketball. The Heat have been winning, and winning … and winning. The team won their 22nd straight game on Sunday and is a threat to challenge the Los Angeles Lakers’ 33-game record streak set in 1971-72. Can the Heat break the record? Sure. But even though they’re steamrolling the rest of the league right now, there are a few things that will stand in their way. The Heat have many road games coming up in the next couple of weeks including some that should be tough. Among those stops are trips to Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. The Heat have had several near losses during their streak. Four of their wins have been by five points or fewer and one has gone to overtime. If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this – the Heat have already clinched a playoff spot and have a large lead on the rest of the Eastern Conference for home court advantage throughout the playoffs. At some point, you’ve got to imagine the team will try to rest some players and that could bring an end to the streak.
March 12, 2013
College basketball’s player of the year race is starting to heat up. In this wide open season where we’ve seen top 5 teams go down almost every week, the Wooden Award Watch has also been sent into a frenzy. We’ve seen so many teams picked to finish in the middle or the bottom of their conference rise above expectations. This parity has put names on the Wooden Award Watch that nobody saw coming.
With that, here are my top 5 players (in order) that could take home player of the year honors:
Victor Oladipo- Indiana
His incredible quickness helps him do so many different things for the Hoosiers. Oladipo is one of the best I’ve seen at turning defense into offense. He averages 14.0 ppg, 2.1 assists, 6 rebounds and 2.3 steals and to top it off, he is shooting 63% from the floor. His play has been so consistent it’s hard to put anyone ahead of him at this point.
Otto Porter- Georgetown
The Hoyas swingman rises to the occasion in big games. Porter scored 33 points in a win at Syracuse, and scored 21 of his 22 points in the second half of a double-overtime win against Connecticut. Porter shoots 51% from the floor and averages 16.6 points. 2.5 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. The Hoyas have won 11 in a row, and Porter is averaging 19.2 ppg in the last 13 games. In other words, he single handedly took the Hoyas to the top of the Big East.
Rodney McGruder- Kansas St.
The Kansas State senior guard is averaging 14.9 ppg and 5.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.3 steals. This play by McGruder has helped the Wildcats win 5 in a row and take over 1st in the Big 12.
Deshaun Thomas- Ohio St.
In the toughest conference in the country, the junior forward has averaged 19.8 ppg, 1.3 assists, and 6.1 rebounds. This consistency, along with Thomas’ 84.5 free throw shooting has helped the Buckeyes win 4 of their last 5, putting them 2nd in the Big Ten.
Marcus Smart- Oklahoma St.
The freshman guard is averaging 14.6 ppg, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals. Smart does it all for the Cowboys, who have now won 10 of their past 11, with their only loss coming against Kansas in double overtime. They now sit just one game behind Kansas and Kansas St. in the Big 12.
I would be in shock if one of these 5 didn’t win player of the year. Even with the conference tournaments and the NCAA Tournament right around the corner, these are the top guys in the top conferences in the nation. I can’t wait to see how these guys perform down the stretch in the race for a national championship.
January 10, 2013
Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.
January 8 – The Denver Broncos make short work of the new NFL overtime rules, scoring an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to beat the Steelers 29-23 in the first round of the AFC playoffs.
January 14 – Tom Brady shredded the Denver Broncos for five touchdown passes in the first half and another in the third quarter to tie the postseason single-game record in a 45-10 win.
January 14 – The 49ers and Saints combine for 34 points in the fourth quarter and four lead changes in the final five minutes as the 49ers outlasted New Orleans 36-32 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
January 22 – Joe Paterno passed away.
January 22 – The Baltimore Ravens had a dropped pass in the end zone that prevented them from winning the AFC Championship Game in New England and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.
January 22 – The New York Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with a 20-17 overtime win against the 49ers after a fumbled punt set up the game-winning field goal.
February 4 – Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere and led the New York Knicks to a win with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in the first of an incredible 13-game stretch in which he averaged 22.3 points and 7.4 assists. His heroics were celebrated worldwide and he ended up on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and one of the biggest celebrities in the league.
February 5 – The New York Giants beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in another Super Bowl, 21-17, led by Eli Manning and another fourth-quarter comeback.
February 5 – Tom Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, gets caught on camera blaming Patriot receivers for New England’s Super Bowl loss, saying that her husband cannot throw and catch the ball at the same time.
March 13 – The First Four was worth watching on this night. First, Western Kentucky rallied from a 16-point deficit with 4:51 to go and beat Mississippi Valley State 59-58. Then BYU followed that up by erasing a 25-point deficit and beat Iona 78-72.
March 16 – Duke and Missouri, both No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, go down on the same day. Norfolk State upset a 30-win Missouri team 86-84 and then later that night Lehigh defeated the Blue Devils 75-70. Only four No. 15 seeds have ever knocked off a No. 2 seed in history before it happened twice that day.
March 20 – Peyton Manning picks the Denver Broncos.
March 21 – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the law on the New Orleans Saints for their bounty scandal, effectively ending the Saints season before it ever got started. This story never went away due to the continuous appeals of the suspensions.
March 11 – Tiger Woods withdrew from the final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship with an injury. The blimp that was covering the golf tournament then followed Tiger as he left the golf course, a scene usually reserved for a high-speed chase.
April 1 – I.K. Kim takes the honor for worst golf shot of the year after she missed an 18-inch putt that would have won the LPGA’s first major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She ended up losing in a playoff.
April 8 – Bubba Watson hits one of the greatest shots in Masters history; a miracle 40-yard hook shot out of the pine straw on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. Two putts for par later and Watson was wearing the green jacket.
June 3 – Tiger Woods hit an incredible flop shot from behind the green on 16 that trickled into the hole on his way to winning the Memorial Tournament.
June 7 – LeBron James overwhelms the Boston Celtics with a 45 point and 15 rebound performance in a 98-79 win over Boston on the road to force a Game 7 in South Beach.
June 7 – Novak Djokovic outlasted Rafael Nadal in a grueling marathon in the Australian Open final (5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5) in a match that took five hours and 53 minutes and didn’t end until 1:37 a.m.
June 11 – The Los Angeles Kings win their first Stanley Cup in 45 years after barely squeaking into the final playoff spot in the West and going on one of the greatest runs in playoff history.
June 27 – A four-team college football playoff was formally approved to begin in 2014.
June 30 – The third round of the AT&T National was played with no spectators on the golf course because of safety concerns after a powerful wind storm left trees uprooted all over the golf course.
November 8, 2012
With the 2012-2013 college basketball season set to begin on Friday, this could be one of the most wide-open seasons in recent memory. I don’t believe there are one or two teams loaded with all the NBA talent as in past years with Kentucky. To me, you see the result of that parity evident near the top of all the preseason polls with teams like Indiana, Michigan, and North Carolina State, who is picked to beat North Carolina in the ACC. Let the madness begin.
With that I give you 10 teams that could win it all this season:
Cody Zeller might be the best player in the country. Put that on top of key returners Christian Watford, Will Sheehey, and Victor Oladipo and an experienced coach in Tom Crean and the Hoosiers have arrived.
Coach Rick Pitino has one of the best backcourts in the country with the trio of Peyton Siva, Wayne Blackshear and Russ Smith. The Louisville frontcourt is also extremely talented with Chane Behanen and Gorgui Dieng. With the additions of transfer Luke Hancock (George Mason) and 4-star recruit Montrezl Harrell, a national title might be “in the cards”.
With no returning starters, coach John Calipari has once again brought a fountain of youth with NBA talent. Top recruits Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin may not win a title, but a Final 4 is a strong possibility.
Ann Arbor please welcome “The Next 5”. Coach John Beilein returns 3 starters with one of the best point guards in the country in Trey Burke, junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and center Jordan Morgan. The final two that make up “The Next 5” are 5-star recruit Glenn Robinson III on the wing and 4-star recruit Mitch McGary at power forward. The bench for the Wolverines adds great depth with senior Matt Vogrich and redshirt sophomore Jon Horford. With this combination of experience and young talent all may HAIL to the maize and blue.
The Jayhawks lost their top 2 players in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Coach Bill Self returns 3 seniors that started a year ago starting with pre-season All-American Jeff Withey at center, who at 7 feet is his own “block party” in the post. Experienced guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford complete the trio of returning starters. The key will be the adjustment of freshman Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore. If that happens it will be “Rock Chalk” time in Lawrence.
North Carolina State
With the return of star forward C.J. Leslie, the Wolfpack now have 4 starters back from a season ago. The other 3 being guard Lorenzo Brown, and forwards Scott Wood and Richard Howell. If McDonald’s All-Americans’ Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren live up to the hype, this pack could go the distance for Coach Gottfried.
Although the Orange lost 4 of their 5 starters, the four replacements all gained great experience as role players last season. The lone returner, guard Brandon Triche has a lot of talent around him with backcourt partner Michael Carter-Williams, and forwards Rakeem Christmas, C.J. Fair and James Sutherland. Top recruits Jerami Grant and Dajuan Coleman must be ready to contribute for Coach Boeheim.
Billy Donovan’s Gators return 3 starters from last season’s Elite 8 team in point guard Kenny Boynton, center Patric Young and forward Eric Murphy. If role players Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Scottie Wilbekin can step into the spotlight and offer major contributions, they will “swamp” the competition come tournament time.
Losing a player like Draymond Green was always going to be a tall order. However, Tom Izzo still has a key core returning in point guard Keith Appling, forwards Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne and sophomore Branden Dawson who was on track to have a stellar year last season before his season-ending ACL injury. Top recruit Gary Harris will bring some key depth to a Spartans backcourt that is not as loaded as Izzo has had in past seasons.
San Diego State
I really like the Aztecs. Coach Steve Fisher returns 3 double-digit scorers from last season in Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and Xavier Thomas. Sophomore transfers James Johnson (Virginia), JJ O’Brien (Utah) and Dwayne Polee II (St. John’s) bring incredible depth and size to an already fast team. 4-star recruit Winston Shepard (Findlay Prep) will be in the running for freshman of the year. This “tribe” may rule come April.