April 7, 2014
NCAA Men’s Title Game Set: The Final Four got underway on Saturday with UConn knocking off overall No. 1 seed Florida while Kentucky topped Wisconsin. Both games were considered upsets and those outcomes ensured that a low seed will win the NCAA Title game on Monday. The Huskies were a No. 7 seed while the Wildcats were a No. 8. Heading into the tournament, UConn was ranked near the bottom of the Top 25 rankings while Kentucky was unranked. Monday’s title game is just another example of the unpredictability of the NCAAs.
NCAA Women’s Title Features Two Unbeatens: While the men’s basketball final features two unexpected teams, the women’s finale consists of the two teams many expected to be there. 39-0 UConn takes on 37-0 Notre Dame on Tuesday, meaning the champion will finish the season with a spotless record.
Desean Jackson Signs with Washington Redskins: The Philadelphia Eagles cut ties with star wide receiver, Desean Jackson. Last week, the Washington Redskins quickly signed him, sending the talented playmaker to one of the Eagles’ fiercest rivals. The idea that Jackson was let go due to his playing ability would seem to be ridiculous. Not missing a game last year, he set new career-highs in receptions (82), targets (126), and yardage (1,332), while tying his career best of nine touchdowns. The fact that Jackson now joins a division rival makes the move even more difficult to swallow for many Eagles’ fans.
Charity Hockey Brawl: A charity hockey game between New York’s firefighters and policemen included a bench-clearing brawl. Of course it did.
Toews Out: The Chicago Blackhawks are sitting their star Jonathan Toews for the remainder of the regular season. The captain is expected to return for Game 1 of the team’s first playoff series, but head coach Joel Quenneville said he has sustained an upper body injury. Rather than play him now, the team is hoping to get him to 100% for the postseason. Toews has been incredibly reliable and hasn’t missed any games since 2012. While he could probably play, at this point in the year the playoffs are the important thing.
Tennessee Titans Cut Chris Johnson: A few short years ago, Chris Johnson was regarded as the best running back in the NFL. On Friday, though, the Tennessee Titans released him, making him a free agent. Johnson has never rushed for fewer than 1,000 yard in the league and after his 2009 season when he racked up 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, he was setting the NFL on fire. Johnson hasn’t returned to that dominant form, but has still been a very good rusher, averaging nearly 1,200 yards per season. Johnson is finding the end zone less these days, but at only 28, should find plenty of suitors interested in adding him to their roster.
Masahiro Tanaka Shines in Debut: It’s only been one game, but so far the Yankees’ new starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka looks like a keeper. Tanaka scattered six hits over seven innings, allowing only two earned runs in his debut against the Toronto Blue Jays. He also recorded eight strikeouts and after earning the win, the Japanese pitcher is off to a solid start to his career in Major League Baseball.
Arian Foster Fail: A woman met a man that she thought was Arian Foster and after having her picture taken with him, tweeted it to Foster, saying she was happy to meet him. Only one problem – it wasn’t actually him, as Foster himself had to point out in replying to her. Oops.
Kevin Durant Tops MJ: Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time list of most consecutive 25-point performances. Durant dropped 38 points in a loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday to pass Jordan with his 41st consecutive game scoring at least 25 points. The forward now sits in third place on the all-time list and while he can catch Oscar Robertson, who accomplished the feat in 46 straight contests, he’s unlikely to pass the record holder. Wilt Chamberlain stands atop the list after scoring at least 25 points in a whopping 80 games.
March 25, 2014
What a weekend that was! The first couple rounds of the NCAA Tournament had it all….upsets, overtimes, controversy….it was everything we hope for. Sadly, the tournament is already 75 percent over, but at least we’ll have some really good match-ups before it is all said and done. What’s going to happen this weekend? I can’t wait to find out.
I know a lot of people are excited about Louisville vs Kentucky, but to me the best game is Virginia vs Michigan State. Has there ever been a #4 seed get as much love from the media as the Spartans have this year? Has there ever been a less talked about #1 than Virginia? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Michigan State was the #1 seed. This game, more than any other, will make-or-break a lot of brackets out there.
Sorry. There are only eight games. They can’t all be a hype-machine. Especially, Wisconsin vs Baylor. Both of these teams have conference rivals that are still alive and getting all the attention so there is still plenty of room on the bandwagons here even though the Badgers and Bears have been two of the most impressive teams so far and the winner has a great shot to reach the Final 4.
Connecticut over Iowa State. The Huskies have played a lot of games in Madison Square Garden over the years and should have the crowd on their side. And they’ve got Shabazz Napier, the best name in the tournament and the kind of player that can put a team on his back and get to the Elite 8. It also helps that Iowa State will be without Georges Niang.
Two #11 seeds will reach the Elite 8. It could happen. Why not? Dayton has already knocked off Ohio State and Syracuse without playing its best. It won’t be afraid of Stanford and if the Flyers get hot from 3-point range, the Cardinal will be in trouble. Tennessee is as hot as anybody after cruising by Iowa, Massachusetts and Mercer but that’s also about as easy as it gets to reach the Sweet 16. The Tennessee big men will need to dominate inside against the Wolverines.
Player to watch
Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. If you watched Gordon and the Wildcats beat Gonzaga, you know what I’m talking about. How many massive dunks did he have in that game? He may or may not be the best player in the tournament, but he provides some of the best highlights for sure. Arizona will need some of those plays against San Diego State to quiet that Anaheim crowd.
Final 4 picks
Florida, Virginia, San Diego State, Michigan
March 24, 2014
NCAA Tournament upsets galore: The NCAA Tournament continued to produce upsets and last week saw quite a few of them. The biggest was No. 14 seed Mercer topping Duke in their first game, but plenty of others were surprises, too. A Kentucky team that underwhelmed for much of the season knocked off undefeated No. 1 seed Wichita State. No. 2 Kansas fell in the second round to tenth-seeded Stanford. No. 12 seeds North Dakota State, Stephen F. Austin, and Harvard all knocked off No. 5 seeds in their first-round games. And 11-seed Dayton pulled off two upsets, defeating Ohio State and Syracuse. Each year, the tournament features a host of upsets and this year was no exception.
Jets make quarterback changes: The New York Jets believe they have their franchise quarterback in Geno Smith, but that didn’t stop them from making some intriguing moves at the position last week. The team cut one-time franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez on Friday and essentially replaced him with veteran signee Michael Vick. The Sanchez dismissal was a long time coming since he had lost his job and fell out of favor. That meant New York had to go out and sign someone and Vick is an experienced signal-caller that will give the team a bit of insurance if Smith doesn’t work out.
Dodgers open season in Australia with two wins: The majority of major league teams are still finishing up Spring Training, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks have already kicked off the season. Opening Day took place in Australia and L.A. got off to a good start to the season with a pair of wins over Arizona on the backs of their starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw struck out seven and gave up only one run in 6 2/3 innings in the first contest. Hyun-Jin Ryu came in for the second game and threw five scoreless innings in picking up his first win. The duo gave Los Angeles two of what they hope will be many more victories in 2014.
Bill Belichick sans hoodie: Bill Belichick showed up at the NCAA Tournament without his trademark hoodie. But his ensemble of an unbuttoned shirt complete with Florida Gators visor left a lot to be desired.
Roddy White backs out: Twitter is an interesting animal. Fans are not only given a more up close look at their favorite athletes, but they can also interact with them. Wide receiver Roddy White took to Twitter and after a fan told him Mercer would beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament, responded by saying he would give said fan season tickets on the 50-yard line. What happened next was nothing short of legendary. White responded to those who reminded him about the bet by saying he would give tickets to only the Falcons-Bears game. When others reminded him the bet was for season tickets, White then responded by saying it wasn’t even a real bet (and by proving he can’t spell the word ridiculous in the process). Well, then. The story obviously took off and instead of just buying the tickets and looking like a stand up guy, White’s stubbornness has now made him look foolish, cheap, and above human decency. Just pay up, Roddy.
Raiders trade for Matt Schaub: Oakland was in desperate need of a quarterback and addressed that issue with a trade with the Houston Texans for Matt Schaub. Schaub was benched last year after returning from an injury and Houston really had no future plans for him. The sixth-round pick they got for him wasn’t much for a guy that was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2012, but it was clear the team just wanted him out of town. Schaub had a down season in 2013, but the year before, completed 64% of his passes and threw for 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. At only 32, the guess here is that he has at least a few years left in the tank.
Andrew Bynum haircut fiasco: Indiana Pacers’ center Andrew Bynum was sitting out of a game with an injury and did what any normal NBA player would do – get a haircut. Bynum reportedly got the haircut during halftime of a game against the Chicago Bulls and continued to prove he doesn’t always do the right thing. Even if Bynum is injured, he’s still getting paid by the team. I mean, seriously – he can’t wait an hour or so until after the game?
March 18, 2014
We are just minutes away from the opening tip of the NCAA Turnament (although, to me it still doesn’t start until Thursday). I’ve already filled out my bracket – thrown it away – filled out a new one – used white out to make some changes – and thrown that one away too. 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.
1) A No. 5 seed is going down
You can take that to the bank. Three 12 seeds advanced last year. If you can figure out which one it will be your bracket will look that much better. The obvious pick this year is St. Louis who has lost four straight. They will be taking on a team that has already got a tournament win under its belt (Xavier or N.C. State) and will be feeling good. But that doesn’t mean the other 5 seeds should feel comfortable. Especially you, Oklahoma.
2) A double-digit seed is likely to make the Sweet 16
Some of the best candidates this year are Tennessee, St. Joseph’s, Nebraska, and Stanford. I’m taking Tennessee to get it done. Assuming of course that they catch Duke on a cold-shooting day. (This could be wishful thinking on my part….I was assigned the Vols in a prize pool).
3) Beware of the Mountain West
4) Don’t play the fool
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…Syracuse, Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin.
5) #1’s aren’t always safe
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 go down first? Which will win its region? Florida seems to be a pretty good bet to win the South. All three of the other top seeds could face some pretty difficult opponents. Especially Wichita St. Look for the Shockers to be the first top team to be shocked in the tournament.
March 17, 2014
NCAA Tournament Teams Announced: It’s that time of year again. With March Madness here, entire companies will again be dealing with productivity issues in the earlier part of the week with employees scrambling to complete a bracket. That will continue on into Thursday and Friday with games all day long. There isn’t a truly dominant team out there this season, but the closest one would be Florida, who has been on an absolute tear. Two teams that haven’t gotten as much consideration as teams like Florida, Arizona, and Villanova are Louisville and Virginia. But both of those teams have lost only one game since the beginning of February and won their conference tournaments. Each looks capable of making a deep run.
Phil Jackson reportedly hired by Knicks: According to ESPN, the New York Knicks have officially named Phil Jackson as their team president. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the Knicks have routinely underperformed, even with talented players. The big question is if the move will be enough to keep Carmelo Anthony, a free agent after this season, around. He is the Knicks’ best player and Jackson’s era will be off to a rocky one if Melo leaves for another team this summer. In addition, there’s no guarantee that Jackson will even be able to make the Knicks a success, anyway. His expertise is in coaching, not in being a team president. Unless the move includes Phil returning to the sidelines, I’m not sure the hire is a slam dunk to work since he can only do so much in the front office.
Darrelle Revis heads to New England: All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis is headed to the New England Patriots after only a year in Tampa Bay. Revis, one of the premier players in the NFL at his position, signed a one-year $12 million deal with the Patriots. New England was far worse in rushing defense (30th) than they were in pass defense (18th) last season, so some might thing the defensive line/linebackers might be more of a priority. But Revis’ presence was something that was too good to pass up. The secondary will be improved bringing him on board and even though it’s only a single move, it’s one that could make New England the favorite in the AFC.
Yankees no-hit in Spring Training: The New York Yankees are hoping to be improved with some key additions and a healthy Derek Jeter in 2014. Heading into Sunday, though, the team was a modest 8-9 in Spring Training and on Saturday, the team was no hit in a game by the Miami Marlins. To make matters worse, the Yankees were in a game in Panama to honor the recently retired Mariano Rivera. Spring Training records are hardly a great barometer in determining World Series teams since rosters often consist of players that won’t be in the majors and even the entrenched starters are working on new things. Still, it’s never good to be completely no hit – particularly considering New York was fielding many of their regulars.
Philadelphia 76ers make history: The Philadelphia 76ers made a bit of history over the weekend, but it wasn’t the type they’ll care to remember. On Saturday, the 76ers lost their 20th straight game this season, falling 103-77 to the Memphis Grizzlies and tying a franchise record. That record seems likely to fall Monday night when Philly heads to Indiana to face the Pacers – one of the best teams in the league. The 76ers have some attractive players, including rookie Michael Carter-Williams. But there’s not nearly enough to make for a competitive team just yet. Philadelphia is in line to experience a lot more losses until things get better.
John Daly goes John Daly: Pro golfer John Daly shot a 90 last week at the Valspar Championship. An average guy hacking around on his local public course may be pleased with that number. A professional? Not so much. Daly understandably caught some criticism on Twitter and responded the way you might think he would.