December 3, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

No. 1 Alabama stunned by Auburn: The BCS title picture just got a little more interesting with Alabama’s shocking loss to Auburn on Saturday. The way the Crimson Tide were defeated was also noteworthy as they had a missed field goal attempt in the game’s final seconds returned 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown. The loss now knocks them out of the SEC title game and could set up a Florida State-Ohio State National Championship. But despite the fact that Auburn has a loss while Ohio State remains unbeaten still might give the Tigers a chance to play for the title. Voters will have a difficult decision on their hands when they consider a less-impressive Buckeyes team vs. a one-loss SEC squad if Auburn manages to win their conference title game. Stay tuned.

Auburn Tigers

Auburn fans celebrated a victory over #1 Alabama on Saturday.

Jason Kidd in Cup-Gate: Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd thought he made a shrewd move late in a game last week against the Los Angeles Lakers. Wanting to rally his team without using a timeout, Kidd held a drink and with one of his players walking towards him, seemed to utter the words ‘hit me’ as the player bumped into him, spilling the drink and forcing an official time out. Kidd used the extra time to rally his troops but their comeback fell short anyway. Afterwards Kidd denied the plot, but later relented and virtually admitted his guilt. For his part, he was fined $50,000 by the league and it was just a bad move on Kidd’s part all around. He said he wanted to help his team win, but blatantly cheating isn’t something that will win him a lot of friends.

Mike Tomlin in Trip-Gate: Last week was a rough one for head coaches and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was part of another controversy. In a heated game with the rival Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin stepped out onto the white out of bounds line in an attempt to slow down Jacoby Jones, who was running for a possible touchdown. Tomlin’s move seemed to work as Jones was definitely distracted to a degree and eventually caught and tackled. The point of whether Jones was going to be caught from behind can certainly be debated, but isn’t really the point here. Coaches are instructed to remain behind the thick white out of bounds line and not only did Tomlin pass the boundary by several feet, but he was practically onto the field of play. As of this weekend, the NFL was reviewing Tomlin’s move and deciding whether to penalize him. There’s really no way that Tomlin shouldn’t be disciplined here if the league is serious. His intent was pretty clear to most and even if the league doesn’t believe the intent was there, he simply has no business being that close to the field. A trip on Jones there could quite easily cause an injury and the league needs to send a statement that interfering in games as a coach is unacceptable.

Ping pong, anyone?: A $20,000 ping pong table? Yeah, there will be a huge market for that, right?

Hall of Fame nominees: A list of candidates up for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame included first-timers Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Tom Glavine. All three should get in, but Maddux may be the only surefire inductee next year. Thomas hit a whopping 521 home runs and was a two-time MVP, but many voters put off by the steroid era look at power numbers as being wildly inflated. Even though his name wasn’t linked to the scandal, it may (unfairly) cost Thomas some votes. But the guess is that all three will get in – even if it doesn’t happen this year. Other newcomers include Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, and Moises Alou. Mussina is an intriguing name, but he fell considerably short of 300 wins despite playing much of his career for the New York Yankees and his ERA of 3.68, even in the American League, isn’t terribly impressive when compared to Hall of Famers.

Kobe return potentially this week: The Los Angeles Lakers got some good news last week with word that Kobe Bryant is progressing nicely from his ACL injury. Things are going so well, in fact, that Bryant could return on Friday for L.A.’s game against Sacramento if he practices well this week. Things could be looking up for the Lakers, who have managed to stay afloat without Bryant and were 9-8 heading into this weekend. What the franchise shouldn’t do, though, is force him back too soon. Los Angeles has been wildly inconsistent this season, but playing well enough to be in the playoff hunt. They’ll need a healthy Bryant to make any kind of run in the postseason and that can only happen if he’s given the time he needs to fully recover. The issue here is going to be forcing Bryant to remain on the bench as the star probably wants to play as soon as he can. But the Lakers need to remember that he’s an investment (especially in light of his new contract) and not allow him to play until he’s completely readly.

Ohio State removes ‘M’ from campus: Preparing for their big annual rivalry game with the Michigan Wolverines, the Ohio State Buckeyes made a curious move when they decided to remove the letter ‘M’ from various locations around campus by covering it up with tape. Further, John Kasich, the state Governor, also encouraged people statewide to avoid using the letter per ESPN. The rivalry is one of the biggest in all of football, but really? Removing M’s from basic signs such as ‘bathroom’ or ‘gymnasium’ just seems a bit … silly.

Come Home, Lebron: A campaign to bring Lebron James back to Cleveland was led by a fan group recently. The fans distributed t-shirts, hoping to catch the attention of James, who was in town playing with his current team, the Miami Heat. James will be a free agent at the end of this year but Cleveland fans shouldn’t hold their breath for his return. He’ll be able to play for any team in the NBA and if James’ desire is to win championships, Cleveland will need at least one more key player in addition to him and star guard Kyrie Irving. And with a slew of offers to come from some of the marquee teams in the league, a return to Cleveland just doesn’t seem all that likely next year.

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.

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 12, 2013

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Wooden Award Watch

By: Tyler Vespa

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.

Will Indiana's Victor Oladipo win the Wooden Award?

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 11, 2013

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Weekend Watch List

By: Tyler Vespa

Just about halfway through the college basketball season, we are beginning to find out who’s for real and who’s a pretender. After Arizona’s loss Thursday night to Oregon, there are only two more teams left undefeated; Duke and Michigan. Now were going to party like it’s 1992. Yes it’s been a little over 20 years since Duke played Michigan for the national title, with the “Fab 5” as freshmen. For Duke, almost nothing has changed, Mike Krzyzewski is still the head coach, and Duke is number 1 in the country. However, in Ann Arbor, pretty much everything has changed. The only slight similarity is the youth movement that features a starting 5 with 2 freshmen and 1 sophomore. The Big Ten has officially dethroned the Big East as college basketball’s top conference, and the ACC is having a down year without Florida State and North Carolina in the top 25. That being said, the Blue Devils will have to beat themselves to lose the ACC.

With that I give you the marquee matchups this weekend in college hoops:

1. Duke (15-0) (2-0 ACC) at 20. North Carolina State (13-2) (2-0 ACC) Saturday 12 noon (ESPN)

The Blue Devils are without starting senior forward Ryan Kelly who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The Blue Devils don’t have the depth to replace a guy who averages 13.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG. The Wolfpack are balanced with 6 guys averaging double figures in scoring. Mark Gottfried’s club also ranks 1st in field goal percentage. Duke will have no answer for C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell on the interior.  Prediction: Duke-69 NC State- 73

Michigan State, a perennial Big Ten power, fell earlier this season to Minnesota.

8. Minnesota (15-1) (3-0 Big Ten) at 5. Indiana (14-1) (2-0 Big Ten) Saturday 12 noon (BTN)

Since their lone loss to Duke on November 22nd, Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers have won 11 in a row including two big conference wins against Michigan State and Illinois. Indiana has won their last 5 since losing to Butler. The Gopher’s Andre Hollins may be the best point guard in the country. That in combination with Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams in the post is too much for the Hoosiers. The Gophers will do it by committee to pull the upset at Assembly Hall.  Prediction: Minnesota-67 Indiana-63

2. Michigan (16-0) (3-0 Big Ten) at 15. Ohio State (12-3) (2-1 Big Ten) Sunday 1:30 (CBS)

There hasn’t been this much excitement in Ann Arbor since the “Fab 5”. The Wolverines have 4 guys averaging over 12 points per game. Their backcourt is the best in nation with Wooden Award candidate Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Big Blue’s frontcourt is also scary with two fabulous freshmen in Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. This balance will be too much for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are 12th in turnovers per game while the Wolverines are 2nd. The Buckeyes will struggle to find high percentage shots and Michigan’s depth will dominate from start to finish.  Prediction: Michigan-66 Ohio State-58.