April 1, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

An Unlikely Final Four: After another crazy weekend of college basketball, an unlikely Final Four is finally set. Florida, the No. 1 overall seed, is there and the lone non-surprise. But Kentucky topped higher seeds Louisville and Michigan, UConn upset Iowa State and Michigan State, and Wisconsin beat No. 1 seed Arizona. Of the four teams standing, only Florida was a popular Final Four pick and this year is one of the best examples of what March Madness is really all about. By the way, I’ll take the Gators.

Florida Gators Basketball

Will Florida, the overall #1 seed, win the NCAA Tournament?

Northwestern Football Players Win Right to Form Union: Northwestern’s football players scored a historic victory when a court ruled that they have the right to create a union. We’re likely still a long way from anything significant happening on this, but in essence, it could open up the door for college athletes to earn money as employees. While the win holds some significance, I still find it difficult to believe athletes can get paid with things remaining the same in the NCAA. There are really too many hurdles with this – for example, who gets paid … the football players or all of a university’s athletes? How much do they earn? What about football programs that don’t earn boatloads of money? To me, the best solution always has been to allow high school athletes to go straight into the NFL Draft if they desire. The league could create a de facto minor league system, similar to the NBA’s Development League. For players that are good enough to be selected in the draft and want to earn money right away, that’s their ticket. For the others that wouldn’t be selected, they still have the option of playing in college for a scholarship.

Philadelphia 76ers Win: Typically a regular-season NBA win against a bad team isn’t big enough to garner much attention, but all eyes were on Philly after they defeated the Detroit Pistons over the weekend, 123-98. The Sixers had lost 26 straight games, tying an NBA record with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the dubious distinction. Philadelphia’s last win was a one-point victory over the Boston Celtics on January 29th.

Bowling for Records: A man nearly bowled a perfect game … backwards.

Mike Montgomery Retires from Cal: The head coach of Cal’s men’s basketball team is stepping down after a long career. Mike Montgomery gained fame from his 18-year run at Stanford, leading the team to numerous NCAA Tournament Appearances and a Final Four. After leaving that job for a brief NBA stint, Montgomery returned to the college ranks at Cal for six years. He led the Bears to six NCAA Tournament appearances, but couldn’t get the team past the third round. With a 21-14 record this season, Montgomery led Cal to the NIT, where they were eliminated last week by SMU.

Andrew Wiggins Declares for NBA Draft: Kansas freshman basketball star Andrew Wiggins suffered a disappointing loss when his Jayhawks were bounced early in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Stanford. Now, the phenom is ready for the next step and declared himself available for this year’s NBA Draft. Wiggins didn’t have a good game in that finale against the Cardinal and while he had some duds this season, they were few and far between. He averaged 17.4 points and six rebounds per game, and was a Second Team All-American, making the decision a no-brainer.

Mark Sanchez Photobomb: Quarterback Mark Sanchez signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and then was promptly photobombed. By a photo.

Maurice Jones-Drew to Raiders: Longtime Jacksonville Jaguars running back will continue his NFL career after being let go by the franchise. MJD heads to the Oakland Raiders on a three-year deal and should give running back Darren McFadden some much-needed competition for the starting job. Jones-Drew rushed for a career-best 1,606 yards in 2011, but became expendable when he had an injury-prone 2012 and lackluster 2013, rushing for a combined 1,217 yards in both seasons. Over those two years, he only found the end zone six times on the ground and last year, really struggled with a meager 3.4 yards per carry average – a career worst. As bad as Jones-Drew has been lately, though, there’s still a fighter’s chance that he wins the starting job. McFadden has been a career underachiever, and only once reached the 1,000-yard mark. Over the past two years, he’s averaged only 3.3 yards per carry and might even be the underdog against the older Jones-Drew.

UMass Leaving MAC: Conference realignment and expansion in college football has slowed dramatically in the past year. It isn’t over completely, though, as UMass will be leaving the MAC – their home for football. The Minutemen currently play many of their sports in the Atlantic 10 and were offered full conference membership by the MAC. However, they declined and the conference asked them to look for a new football home after the 2015 season. With teams like Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, and Central Michigan finding success in recent years, the MAC is becoming a stronger football league. Still, the Atlantic 10 is rising too quickly in basketball to leave right now and the Minutemen basketball program is much farther along than the football program, which just leapt to the FBS in 2012. It may be difficult finding a new football home, but the option to remain as an Independent exists.

March 17, 2014

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The Week in Sports

By: Matt Bowen

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.

Louisville Cardinals

After winning it all in 2013, how far will Louisville go in this year's NCAA Tournament?

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.

Hats off: A hockey announcer whiffed on a trade prediction involving the New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, so he ate a hat. With syrup. Sort of.

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.

February 19, 2014

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NBA Second Half Predictions

By: Joe Williams

The NBA’s All Star break is officially in the rear view mirror and the trade deadline is just a couple days away. So now seems like a good time to take a look at what lies ahead this season.

Once again, the trade deadline will be a lot of talk and a lot of disappointment for the fans hoping their team will make a big splash. Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and other big names have been rumored as possible trades. But they aren’t going anywhere. As always, we’ll have a few solid players finding new homes but nothing that is franchise altering. Everyone is waiting for that to happen in the draft.

Milwaukee is well on its way to having the most balls in the draft lottery. The real “battle” will be between Philadelphia, Orlando, Sacramento, Boston, Utah and the Lakers so make sure they get the second or third best chance to win the first pick in the draft.

Philadelphia 76ers

Many teams, like the 76ers, are already looking to 2015.

The division winners will be Toronto, Indiana, Miami, Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers and Houston.

Indiana will finish with the best record and home court advantage in the Eastern Conference. Miami will not care. The Pacers want to play at home. Miami wants to be healthy for the playoffs. Both teams will get their wish, setting up a tremendous Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami will not pull off the three-peat. Sooner or later their ability to turn it on and off at will will be over. They are next-to-last in allowing a 51.6 effective field goal percentage. Defense wins championships right? There is no D in Miami right now and it will come back to haunt them in the playoffs.

The other stroll (I can’t call it a race when all the teams are under .500) to watch is whether Michael Jordan’s Bobcats can hold off the Knicks and Cavs to make the playoffs. These teams have been unintentionally terrible and need to reach the postseason as they try to gain some much needed respect (Bobcats), try to keep Carmelo (Knicks) and lure LeBron James (Cavs).

In the Western Conference the Thunder have been the best team and are about to get Westbrook back. They’ll be the top seed. But the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Blazers are going to be in a fight for the 2-5 seeds. Meanwhile, Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix and Memphis are all playing well, but someone’s going to be left out.

Kevin Durant will be the MVP. He’s led the Thunder to the best record in the league – and done it without Russell Westbrook for just about the whole season. Durant is having a career best season in scoring, assists, and shooting. He is on a mission.

In the NBA Finals, I’m seeing the Indiana Pacers taking on Oklahoma City and as long as Westbrook is healthy and returns to his old form, the Thunder winning the title.

November 19, 2013

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Early Season NBA Observations

By: Joe Williams

We’re just 10 games into an 82-game NBA season so obviously there’s a lot of basketball left to play. But now that the games are for real, its time to take a look at what has happened so far compared to what we expected to happen.

Kobe Bryant

What will the Lakers' record be when Kobe Bryant returns?

Atlantic Division
Philadelphia was supposed to be the worst team in the league and the 76ers are leading the division. They have Michael-Carter Williams to thank for that. The rookie is making everyone forget they traded Jrue Holliday during the offseason and led the team to shocking wins over the Heat and Bulls. The future looks bright in Philly with Williams, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes (averaging a double-double), injured rookie Nerlens Noel and probably a high draft pick coming in the summer.

Brooklyn is supposed to be a threat to Miami and is in last place at 3-7. The Nets have been dealing with injury problems and that makes life even tougher with a first-time head coach. Good thing they are a veteran team and have an owner willing to do whatever it takes to win. Once they get healthy, the Nets should get back on track.

Central Division
Indiana has picked up where it left off in the playoffs when it nearly knocked off the Heat. The Pacers ought to be better this year.

In Cleveland its starting to look like the Andrew Bynum addition isn’t going to be the move that gets the Cavs back to the playoffs. They are going to need a lot more than six points and four rebounds from their big man.

Southeast Division
Charlotte is off to a pretty good start (for Charlotte) at 5-6 and that is with Al Jefferson only playing three games so far. He should improve their 30th ranked offense.

What’s wrong with Washington? Weren’t the Wizards supposed to be a playoff team? Not at 2-7 they aren’t.

Northwest Division
Portland is the hottest team in the league with seven straight wins. This appears to be a much improved team and another contender to battle for a playoff  berth in the stacked Western Conference.

Utah is running away with the race for the most lottery balls in the draft. The Jazz already have 11 losses. That’s four more than the next highest. Will it be Wiggins or Parker?

Pacific Division
Phoenix may be the biggest surprise so far at 5-4. The four losses are by a combined 13 points and that includes games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Impressive start, but will it last?

There is still no word on when Kobe will be back but it already looks like it might be too late with so many great teams in the conference, the Lakers look like the 10th best right now.

Southwest Division
New Orleans is a Wednesday night win over the terrible Utah Jazz from getting to .500 and they’ll still be the worst team in the best division in basketball.

San Antonio has nine players averaging at least seven points a game. Some teams don’t even have nine guys they will put on the court.

June 3, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Grant Hill retires: In a somewhat expected move, forward Grant Hill retired from the NBA last season. For many, Hill will be remembered for the injuries that ate up much of his career. Injuries again kept him down this year as the forward appeared in only 29 games all season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and at 40, it’s clear he should have retired. But Hill should never be forgotten. He was the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star. Hill wasn’t always healthy, but when he was, he was one of the NBA’s best forwards earlier in his career.

The Kansas City Royals hired George Brett to be their Hitting Coach.

Rangers coach John Tortorella fired: Shortly after being ousted by the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Rangers dumped head coach John Tortorella. The Rangers had hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup finals this season, but actually regressed after making the Eastern Conference finals last year. Tortorella had some success in New York, but was rumored to have rubbed some of his players the wrong way. After not advancing past the first round in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers, Tortorella had done better each of the past two seasons. It wasn’t enough to keep his job, but as a former Stanley Cup winning coach in Tampa Bay, he should get another chance down the line.

Steve Smith (the other one) retires: New York Giants receiver Steve Smith (not to be confused with the Carolina PanthersSteve Smith) has decided to hang up his cleats. Smith was a former Pro Bowler and just signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. He was always a bit underrated as a receiver and finishes with seven 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He nearly had another in 2009 when he finished with 982 yards and there’s little doubt he had something left in the tank. Smith had nearly 2,600 receiving yards over the past two seasons with 11 touchdowns. At 34, he probably still has some football left in him. It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind when training camp rolls around.

Phoenix Suns hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach: Jeff Hornacek, a former shooting guard in the NBA, will head back to Phoenix to serve as the team’s new head coach. Hornacek played for the Suns from 1986 – 1992 and also had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. He helped the Jazz to two trips to the NBA Finals alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton. After retiring, he became an instructor with the Jazz and then an assistant. Hornacek will come in somewhat unproven with only a few years of experience as an assistant. And considering the mess that is the Phoenix Suns right now, that will make it even harder to succeed.

Everett Golson suspended for 2013: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was suspended by the team due to ‘poor academic judgment.’ There hasn’t yet been confirmation on what exactly that means, but one thing is for certain – he won’t be suiting up for the Irish this fall. It’s a blow to a team that went to the BCS Championship with him at the helm last year. Notre Dame must now turn to another option – most likely senior Tommy Rees. But Malik Zaire could have an outside shot at the job as he comes in as a highly touted freshman this year. But without Golson, the team’s stock is taking a significant hit.

Kansas City Royals hire George Brett as hitting coach: Stuck in the middle of a long losing streak, the Kansas City Royals have turned to perhaps the best player in the history of their franchise – George Brett. Brett will assume duties as the team’s new hitting coach. Let’s face it – giving the job to a franchise icon who just happens to be one of the best hitters in the last 50 years isn’t a bad idea. But stars generally have a difficult time coaching and often, aren’t able to teach others how to play the game as well as they could. Still, for just taking a shot in the dark on a midseason hire, the Royals could have done worse.

Floyd Mayweather to fight Saul Alvarez: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. recently announced that he would fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 14th. The match will pit a pair of unbeatens as Mayweather is 44-0-0 while Alvarez is 42-0-1. While this is a big deal and surely a fight that Mayweather will trumpet, Alvarez isn’t Manny Pacquiao - the fighter many would like to see battle Mayweather. In the announcement on (where else) Twitter, Mayweather made sure to tell us that he’s ‘giving the fans what they want’ by participating in the fight. Thanks, I guess?

NCAA Golfer penalized for car washing: Yep, you heard that one correctly. The NCAA penalized an unidentified women’s golfer for washing her own car. The reason? She reportedly used water on the campus that technically belonged to the university and was forced to pay the school $20.00 – the approximate value of the water and hose that was estimated by the organization. I’m all for following the rules and I think the NCAA gets a bad rap sometimes. They’ve got a difficult job in trying to police schools and student athletes, and I get that letting smaller things go can easily escalate into bigger problems. But seriously, can’t we have a common sense clause that allows for a warning in some instances?