November 18, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Baseball dishes out annual awards: Major League Baseball’s annual awards were given out this week and all eyes were on the Most Valuable Players in the American and National Leagues. The Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera won his second straight MVP award and the Pittsburgh PiratesAndrew McCutchen captured his first. Both were worthy winners and didn’t get much competition on their way to grabbing their respective hardware. Cabrera took home 23 of the 30 first-place votes available after nearly winning the Triple Crown award again. Meanwhile, Cutch’s win was even more lopsided as the centerfielder received 28 of the 30 votes after leading the Bucs to their first postseason trip in two decades.

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP for the second straight year last week.

Chiefs lose first game: For nine games, the Kansas City Chiefs remained undefeated in this year’s NFL season. That all changed on Sunday night, though, as the Denver Broncos defeated them 27-17 at home. Despite the Chiefs perfect start, Sunday’s game proved what many of us had figured was true – that they are likely the best team in the league. With Peyton Manning at the switch, it’s simply too hard to pick against this team right now. With the win, they’ve now got the inside track on home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Louisville coach buys beer … for fans: Louisville’s womens basketball coach Jeff Walz needed a quick way to get some fans through the turnstiles for the Cardinals recent game against LSU. Enter Beergate. Walz got innovative and decided to buy a beer for the first 2,500 fans in attendance. Coupled with a discounted admission ticket, a little more than 8,000 fans made their way to the game to see No. 5 Louisville steamroll No. 14 LSU, 88-67. Whatever works.

Michael Jordan flu shoes up for auction: Most basketball fans can remember the epic game Michael Jordan had back in the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, despite battling the flu. Now MJ’s shoes from that game will go up for auction, courtesy of a former ball boy who got the shoes afterwards. Jordan repaid a favor by giving the shoes to the boy, who now hopes to make a tidy sum off of the gift. Bidding starts Monday for ‘only’ $5,000, but you can bet the final bid will be much higher.

South Carolina player shoots self, then lies about it: Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

The $300 million man?: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw won his second Cy Young Award this year. Now, word on the street is that he wants to get paid. The Dodgers, apparently, are willing to oblige and the number $300 million has even been thrown around. First things first – Kershaw is an amazing pitcher and at 25, may not have even reached his prime. That said, $300 million? Have teams not learned their lesson after the monster deals that have been dished out? Alex Rodriguez’ $200+ million deal has severely handcuffed the New York Yankees – particularly since he isn’t nearly the same player he was when he signed the contract. And while it’s only been two years, Albert Pujols has taken a major step back after his mega deal with the Los Angeles Angels. When you factor in that Kershaw isn’t even a position player and can only pitch every five days, tying that much money up into the ace seems like suicide.

Carmelo bashes Knicks: This season was supposed to be the year when the New York Knicks competed for a trip to the NBA Finals. But at 3-6, the team wouldn’t even make the postseason if the playoffs started today. It’s only been nine games, but so far, the Knicks haven’t impressed. Earlier this year, head coach Mike Woodson questioned the team’s effort. This past week, though, Carmelo Anthony did the same saying the team didn’t even appear to be trying in a 20-point beatdown at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. Like I said, it’s early … but don’t be surprised if this year spirals out of control for the Knicks. Under the heavy New York media spotlight, the pressure is only going to continue to mount and I’m not sure the team has the type of players to dig themselves out of this hole.

May 20, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

NBA’s Conference Finals underway: With the NBA Playoffs nearing an end, the conference finals are now set. The Spurs and Grizzlies advanced to the NBA’s Western Conference finals last week. San Antonio has the upper hand with a 105-83 win in Game 1 on Sunday behind 20 points from Tony Parker. But despite the slow start, don’t sleep on Memphis just yet. The Grizzlies have lost the first game in their two previous series and still managed to advance each time. And with the NBA’s best defense this season, Memphis can definitely give the Spurs a run. Meanwhile, in the east, the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers reached the finals with series wins over the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, respectively. The two teams will play their Game 1 on Wednesday.

Phil Jackson compares Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan in his new book.

Phil Jackson says MJ > Kobe: Phil Jackson’s got a new book due out soon and in it, he says what most people already believe – that Michael Jordan was a better player than Kobe Bryant. Among the reasons given by Phil included MJ’s superior defense and leadership skills. That won’t come as a surprise to many who share the same sentiments, but what is a bit interesting is that Jackson has been willing to make the statements right now. Even though he’s out of coaching, a return to the game and even to the Lakers isn’t all that far-fetched. That’s not to say that Kobe wouldn’t be willing to suit up for Phil again – after all, Jackson’s previous book “The Last Season” was even more critical of Bryant. But it’s easy to see how the guard could be a bit offended by the comments … particularly those downplaying his leadership abilities.

Maurice Clarett trying to play rugby: It’s been a long while since former Ohio State Buckeyes star Maurice Clarett has been in the news. But the former running back caused a minor stir last week when it was reported he was attempting to play rugby. Clarett’s not only making a run at the sport, but wants to compete at a high level. He’ll be playing for the Columbus affiliate of Tiger Rugby – the developmental program for the team representing Team USA in the 2016 Olympics. He clearly has had a rocky past and never even reached the NFL, but he’s also still young enough that finding a new career may not be all that far-fetched.

ACC targeting Madison Square Garden or Barclays for conference tournament: ACC Commissioner John Swofford hinted at last week’s conference meetings that the ACC basketball tournament could be played at Madison Square Garden or the Barclays in the future. It’s far from a done deal, but the ACC at least has shown some interest. With Syracuse and Pitt headed to the conference this season along with Louisville next season, the ACC will clearly be the nation’s premier basketball league. And what better place for the conference tournament than basketball’s biggest stage of MSG?

Dick Trickle commits suicide: Former racing great Dick Trickle died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week. His brother says he was in immense physical pain and was having a tough time dealing with it. Just an incredibly sad story made even worse in that he leaves a wife and three children behind. Trickle was known for winning short track races and finished in the top ten in 78 NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races. He was named as the NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year at the age of 48 back in 1989.

Skydiving for … bathrooms? In one of the weirder news stories from last week, Eastern Michigan head football coach Ron English is willing to help improve his football team’s facilities by skydiving. The coach has agreed to the stunt if the school can raise at least $60,000 in an upcoming golf outing. The money will go towards fixing up, of all things, the bathrooms in the locker room. If the school raises at least $30,000, several assistant coaches have agreed to make the plunge. That’s an honorable move and will surely give the program some much-needed publicity. But with a 2-10 record last season, I’m thinking fans will care a lot more about on-field success.

April 8, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

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.

Former 49ers QB Alex Smith will meet his former team in Week 2 of the Preseason.

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.

April 1, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Final Four set: The NCAA Tournament will conclude next week and the Final Four has been set. Like many years, the top seeds have disappointed for the most part. Included in the Final Four are No. 4 seeds Syracuse and Michigan, and No. 9 upstart Wichita StateLouisville was the lone No. 1 seed to get into the elite club. My bracket is completely busted at this point, but since I had the Cardinals to win it all, I can still finish respectably. And after two weeks of NCAA Tournament action, I’ve got to say Louisville is looking like the nation’s best team.

Kobe Bryant is now 4th on the all-time scoring list.

Opening Day is here: With Spring Training over, Major League Baseball officially got its season underway on Sunday night with a game featuring the Texas Rangers and new AL West team, the Houston Astros. As always, there are plenty of questions heading into this season. Will Stephen Strasburg continue his dominance after surgery? Can the Yankees overcome all of their injuries? Will the Angels’ additions of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the past two years pay off? If you forced me to make an early season World Series pick, I’ll go with the Nationals vs. Angels, but don’t take that too seriously.

Dallas Cowboys all in with Tony Romo: The Dallas Cowboys have shown plenty of confidence in starting quarterback Tony Romo over the years. After another disappointing season, Romo was rewarded with a six-year $108 million extension. The deal could take Romo, who turns 33 this month, to the end of his NFL career. The $55 million guaranteed money he will get even topped the deal Super Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco recently got with the Baltimore Ravens. Many Cowboys fans likely aren’t all that thrilled with the new deal for a quarterback who hasn’t gotten them to a Super Bowl since he’s been with the team. But finding a franchise quarterback isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do and the Cowboys think they’ve got their man in Romo.

Kobe Bryant passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list: Los Angeles Lakers’ guard Kobe Bryant passed legend Wilt Chamberlain this past weekend for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list when he tallied point number 31,421. Statistics aren’t valued in basketball as much as they are in baseball, but Kobe’s achievement is still a big deal. Next up for the Mamba is none other than Michael Jordan, whose 32,292 points are third on the list. Bryant should easily pass up Jordan next season, but getting into the top two could be quite a feat. Karl Malone is second at 36,928 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list at 38,387. Bryant will likely need to play at least four more seasons to have a shot at catching Malone, so Jordan could be the last person he passes on the list. But if there’s anything Kobe has proven over the years, it’s that he shouldn’t be doubted.

Good news and bad news for Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh Penguins experienced some highs and lows last week. The team traded for star winger Jarome Iginla earlier in the week in a move that may put the team over the top to win the Stanley Cup. But on Saturday, Pittsburgh lost captain Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw after he was hit in the mouth with a puck during a game. Crosby underwent surgery on Sunday and is now out indefinitely. The Penguins are still in pretty good shape, but losing Crosby to injury yet again has to be frustrating for the team. Crosby is regarded by many as the league’s top player but has dealt with setback after setback in the league.

Miami Heat winning streak ends: The Miami Heat’s long winning streak ended with a loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, 101-97. Even though the Heat’s streak was snapped at 27 games, Miami still put together one of the most impressive stretches the league has ever seen. Plus, while the loss meant they fell short of the Los Angeles Lakers historic 33-game streak back in 1971-72, the Heat’s real target is another NBA title. The goal here is to keep everyone healthy for a long playoff run.

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.