January 10, 2013

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What I’ll Remember About 2012 – Part 1

By: Joe Williams

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 1 – Matt Flynn and Matthew Stafford combine for 971 net passing yards in 45-41 Green Bay win.

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 9 Alabama actually scored a touchdown in its rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game, winning 21-0.

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 4Jeremy 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.

Jeremy Lin was one of the biggest stories of 2012.

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 8 – The Indianapolis Colts announced that they will release future hall-of-fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.

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 16Duke 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 21NFL 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 26 – The Denver Broncos trade Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

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 2 – John Calipari and his Kentucky squad that consisted of six future NBA players wins the national title, beating Kansas 67-59.

April 3Baylor completed a perfect season at 40-0 and won the women’s national title, beating Notre Dame 80-61.

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.

April 21Phil Humber pitches a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

April 26Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are drafted by the Colts and Redskins.

May 8 Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and had eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

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 13Matt Cain pitched a perfect game in a 10-0 San Francisco win over the Astros.

June 21 – LeBron James and the Miami Heat win the NBA championship after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-106 in game five.

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

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview: 10 Teams That Could Win It All

By: Tyler Vespa

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.

Will Louisville keep the National Championship in Kentucky?

With that I give you 10 teams that could win it all this season:

Indiana

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.

Louisville

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”.

Kentucky

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.

Michigan

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.

Kansas

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.

Syracuse

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.

Florida

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.

Michigan State

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.

July 2, 2012

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NBA Draft Surprises

By: Anson Whaley

The NBA Draft was held on Thursday and it was a fairly standard affair. That said, there were a few surprises from the evening that were notable.

Lack of Star Trades – With big names out there on the trading block, it almost seemed expected that an All-Star would be dealt. But Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and a few others all stayed put. Other than the trade deadline when teams are looking to improve their playoff position or dump salary, the draft is the premier time to make moves. Teams can package picks along with players to acquire a star while others can rebuild with addition draft selections. This wasn’t the case on Thursday, though, as it was a relatively quiet night in terms of trades.

With NBA stars like Dwight Howard thought to be on the trading block, the lack of blockbuster trades on draft night was surprising.

The fall of Perry Jones – Jones didn’t put up gigantic numbers for Baylor this season, but was still projected to go as high as a late lottery pick. Instead, he nearly fell out of the first round, sliding all the way to No. 28 when he was mercifully picked up by the Oklahoma City Thunder. There have been questions about Jones’ energy level and the health of one of his knees, but even taking those things into consideration, it was hard to envision him falling so far. Adding insult to injury is that Jones almost assuredly would have been a lottery pick had he left school last season. When it comes to poor draft decisions, the cautionary tales are generally about players coming out too early. But as the case of Jones proved, staying in school can actually hurt players as well.

Things go New Orleans’ way – Several mock drafts had the New Orleans Hornets landing both Kentucky standout Anthony Davis and Duke star Austin Rivers with the No. 1 and No. 10 picks respectively. With the top pick, they controlled their own destiny when it came to landing Davis. But on a night when so many things can go awry, to actually land Rivers at No. 10 was about as good as the Hornets could have hoped for. If everything works out, New Orleans has effectively rebuilt their franchise in one night with their point guard and center of the future. It’s one thing to predict how a draft will turn out ahead of time, but things often don’t work out that way. In the Hornets’ case, though, things worked out just the way they wanted.

Mo Harkless becomes Maurice Harkless – Seriously, when did this happen?

West Virginia’s Kevin Jones not selected – There are always snubs in any draft and this one was no exception. You can take your pick when it comes to players that were projected to be scooped up – Iona’s Scott Machado and Texas’ J’Covan Brown are a couple that come to mind. But I’ll go with West Virginia’s Kevin Jones as the biggest surprise. Jones was believed to be a shoo-in to be drafted and his agent said earlier in the week that he even had a guarantee from a team in the first round that promised to select him if he fell to them. Not only did that not come to pass, but Jones wasn’t even taken in the second round. He was perhaps the best player in the Big East this past season and had to be a bit surprised when he didn’t hear his name called.

Teams Forget Dion Waiters and Miles Plumlee are Dion Waiters and Miles Plumlee – Perry Jones was an example of a player who slipped farther than expected, but things couldn’t have worked out better for Waiters and Plumlee. Both were taken ahead of most projections and the picks raised more than a few eyebrows. Each is a serviceable player, but Waiters (drafted No. 4 overall) couldn’t even crack his own team’s starting rotation. Plumlee, who went No. 26 overall, also was taken a bit earlier than expected despite modest numbers of approximately seven points and seven rebounds per contest as a college senior. Both players probably fared better than they imagined.

June 19, 2012

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NBA Mock Draft

By: Joe Williams

Oklahoma City and Miami are battling it out in the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the rest of the league has its attention on next weeks draft. For those of you who won’t be able to watch the draft and want to know what will go down, keep reading. For the rest of you its *SPOILER ALERT* time. Continue reading at your own risk.

With two 1st round picks, who will the Celtics surround PG Rajon Rondo with for next season?

1. New Orleans Hornets – Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky
Everyone knows who is going no. 1. The biggest question going around about this pick is whether the Hornets won the lottery fair and square.

2. Charlotte Bobcats – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
MJ begins rebuilding his team with another Michael. It worked out pretty well for Chicago in the 1984 draft.

3. Washington Wizards – Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Robinson says he should be the first pick but any way you slice it, he’ll be going to a team with a lot of work to do.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
Kyrie Irving needs a big time shooter to help spread the floor. Beal is exactly that.

5. Sacramento Kings - Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

The Kings need a small forward that can put the ball in the basket and find a solution to their problems getting an arena deal done with the city. Barnes can help in one of those areas.

6. Portland Trail Blazers Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
Here we go again. Drummond has got to be crossing his fingers and anything else he can find hoping that he doesn’t go to Portland considering the string of injuries that have taken out Blazer big men.

7. Golden State WarriorsPerry Jones III, PF, Baylor
The Warriors already got lucky in the lottery when this pick didn’t go to the Jazz. They push their luck and take what could be an all-or-nothing player.

8. Toronto Raptors – Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
The Raptors could improve quickly by adding a good pick here to go along with last year’s lottery pick, Jonas Valanciunas.

9. Detroit Pistons – Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Buckeye fans won’t be thrilled about him going to play in Michigan.

10. New Orleans Hornets  - Damian Lillard, PG, Weber St.
The rebuilding continues with one of the nation’s most prolific scorers.

11. Portland Trail BlazersKendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
The Blazers breathe a sigh or relief when neither Lillard or Marshall are taken in the first nine spots because they really need a point guard.

12. Milwaukee Bucks – Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
There is a big hole to fill in the middle after the Bucks traded Andrew Bogut last season.

13. Phoenix Suns – Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
With several free agents at the guard position, Phoenix goes with their favorite backcourt player.

14. Houston Rockets - Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
Rockets pick up a big man who can become a defensive presence.

15. Philadelphia 76ers - Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
After a surprising playoff run, the Sixers look to take the next step by adding a big man to help matchup with the Eastern Conference powers.

16. Houston Rockets – Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
The Rockets make NBA history as this is the first time two players named Terrence have been drafted back-to-back.

17. Dallas Mavericks - John Hensen, PF, North Carolina

Dallas gets some help for Dirk Nowitzki and takes the best available player left on the board.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves - Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Timberwolves go with a replacement for the possibly leaving free agents Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph.

19. Orlando Magic – Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
New GM. New coach. Dwight Howard is probably gone. Melo can block shots and shoot free throws like Howard but lacks in the scoring department. Two out of three ain’t bad.

20. Denver Nuggets – Royce White, SF, Iowa St.
The Nuggets don’t have any major holes so they add some depth to back-up Afflalo and Gallinari.

21. Boston Celtics - Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
We know who the point guard is. Everything else is a question mark. Doc Rivers drafts one thing he knows. His son.

22. Boston Celtics – Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor

If he gets back to 100 percent healthy, he has a lot of upside.

23. Atlanta Hawks – Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt

The Hawks could be in for a lot of changes with the possible trades of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers – Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi St.
Here’s an athletic player that would be another piece of the rebuilding puzzle.

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Evan Fournier, SG, France
Memphis is looking for more scoring to compete with the top teams in the Western Conference. The Frenchman can do that.

26. Indiana Pacers – Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
The Pacers are on the rise and Teague could help out the second unit while getting to play close to home.

27. Miami Heat – Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
The Heat struggled with the size of the Pacers. Ezeli will make them much bigger.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Draymond Green, SF, Michigan St.
He can do some of everything, making him a great fit for a team that isn’t lacking anything.

29. Chicago Bulls - Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington
The Bulls need somebody to help Derrick Rose get some rest and stay healthy.

30. Golden State Warriors – Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
The first round ends the way it began….with a Kentucky Wildcat.

March 28, 2012

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Final Four & National Championship Predictions

By: Junior

Last week, after a terrible start, my Elite Eight picks ended up 5-3. I didn’t have time to write an article predicting who would advance to the Final Four, but I am back to predict the Final Four winners and project the NCAA National Champion. The NCAA Tournament is lacking a major Cinderella, but it still has given us our share of upsets. Only one #1 seed, overall top seed Kentucky, has made it to the Final Four, accompanied by two #2 seeds. Louisville is the highest seed left at #4, but when you are coached by Rick Pitino,you aren’t the prototypical underdog. So with all of the teams seeded fairly evenly, let the predictions begin!

Can #1 seed Kentucky go the distance and claim the 2012 National Championship?

Louisville vs. Kentucky

The excitement kicks right off with the Battle for Kentucky. Louisville and Kentucky will be the first teams from the same state to square off in the Final Four since 1962. Louisville upset Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and proved it was capable of taking down a top seed. This won’t be Louisville’s first shot at the Wildcats, though. They played each other on New Year’s Eve and while Kentucky came out on top, Louisville gave them all they could handle. Kentucky has grown a lot since that game and has shown that they are the best team in college basketball during the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats blew out a solid Baylor team to make it to the Final Four, and put 102 points on Indiana in the Sweet 16. I think Louisville peaked at the right time and has played great basketball in the tournament, but Kentucky will be the team advancing.

Ohio State vs. Kansas

This game is also a rematch of an early season matchup.  Kansas beat Ohio State earlier in the season 78-67, but Jared Sullinger didn’t play. That will make a big difference this time around, as Sullinger led the Buckeyes in points and rebounds in the regular season. Ohio State dominated their competition in the first three rounds of the tournament, before knocking out #1 seed Syracuse. Kansas has walked a finer rope this tournament, but also knocked out a #1 seed in North Carolina to make it to the Final Four. I think this game could go either way, but I also think both teams have the ability to run away with this game. Ohio State is a very talented team, but I think Kansas will take the opportunity to show that their victory earlier in the season wasn’t only because Sullinger wasn’t in the game.

Kentucky vs. Kansas

Both these teams have been highly ranked all season long, so it is not surprising that they would end up playing each other for the National Championship. Many people have Kentucky in their Championship game, but I don’t think Kansas was a favorite to make it. Nonetheless, this will be a great NCAA Championship game, with two major programs looking to notch another National Championship. In sticking with the rest of these games, Kentucky and Kansas also played earlier this season. In only the second game of the season, Kentucky beat Kansas 75-65 when they pulled away in the second half. Both teams have gotten much better as the season went on, but Kentucky might have grown more than any team this season. I don’t think Kentucky can be stopped and I don’t know what would happen if Calipari loses to Kansas again in the Championship game. I think Anthony Davis leads Kentucky to their first NCAA National Championship in the Calipari era.