April 14, 2014
UConn wins … again: The Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams both took home NCAA championships last week with their respective wins over Kentucky and Notre Dame. While the women were heavy favorites coming into the tournament, the men’s team checked in as a No. 7 seed. They were the lowest seed to win it all since the Villanova Wildcats’ 1985 championship squad, who were victorious as a No. 8 seed. The men’s championship game, in particular, which featured No. 7 and No. 8 seeded teams, proved that it’s difficult to write off nearly any team in the field.
John Calipari and the NBA: Shortly before the UConn-Kentucky game on Monday, former Wildcat Rex Chapman tweeted a rumor that Kentucky’s coach, John Calipari, would be leaving after the game to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. Chapman later retracted the statement, but the buzz was already generated. For what it’s worth, Calipari denied the rumor and says he intends to stay with the Wildcats. The coach leaving for the NBA, particularly the Lakers, seems intriguing – but it also would be the wrong move. Few collegiate coaches do well enough to have long careers in the league and while Los Angeles is a prime job, there’s no guarantee for success there with not much else around an aging Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Los Angeles will have cap room this summer but still aren’t guaranteed to land a major star. Plus, Coach Cal has perhaps the best setup in the NCAA with top recruiting classes every year and a rabid fan base at one of college basketball’s historic programs.
Bubba Watson wins the Masters: Golfer Bubba Watson held off the field over the weekend to win the Masters. The victory on the sport’s grandest stage was his second in three years and his score of 69 in the final round gave him a three-stroke win over Jonas Blixt and Jordan Spieth. Crying afterwards and with his family close by, he just comes off as a guy that’s easy to root for. Despite the drama and popularity of the Masters, television ratings plummeted. A few reasons could be given, but the primary one is the absence of Tiger Woods. Love him or hate him, Woods’ appearances draw viewers. With his recent back injury knocking him out of the event, fewer viewers tuned in.
Rory McIlroy … and toast: A college lecturer bet $1,700.00 on golfer Rory McIlroy to win the Masters after seeing his ‘image’ on a slice of toast. Seems totally reasonable.
Ultimate Warrior dies: The Ultimate Warrior, one of the WWE’s brightest stars in the 1990s, passed away unexpectedly last week when he suddenly collapsed at the age of 54. Making the death even more eerie was that only days before, he had reconciled with the federation that made him a star after disagreements between the two sides that spanned many years. James Hellwig, who legally changed his name to Warrior, was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame over the weekend then appeared on Monday Night Raw just prior to his death.
Shawne Merriman to the WWE: Speaking of pro wrestling, a former football player is reportedly on his way to the WWE. Defensive standout Shawne Merriman is hoping to make the jump from the NFL to pro wrestling, after debuting briefly at Wrestlemania as an announcer. Merriman is an outstanding athlete but my bets are generally against these sorts of things working out. Not only is wrestling a difficult art to grasp, but the schedule is incredibly demanding with the talent often working several dates a week with live shows and non-televised house shows. Traveling on the road makes it a difficult life and learning how to wrestle is just part of it.
Chad Johnson could land in Canadian Football League: Last we saw Chad Johnson, he was Chad Ochocinco and catching passes for the New England Patriots. After a disappointing year where he caught only 15 balls for 276 yards in 2011, he didn’t play another regular season game. According to ESPN, Johnson is now hoping to latch on with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. He may be able to still play at the age of 36, but using a stint in the CFL to revive his NFL career is unlikely. The wide receiver has been in steady decline since 2007 when he caught 93 passes for a career-best 1,440 yards. Since that season, he has had only one 1,000-yard season. His brief time in New England may have been a bit of an aberration since he wasn’t targeted very much. However, it’s been a few years since Johnson has even played competitively – let alone all that well.
January 2, 2013
Adrian Peterson barely misses Eric Dickerson’s record: I’ll admit that I was among the doubters not believing that Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson could break Eric Dickerson’s long-standing record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. But Peterson shocked me (and probably a lot of other people) in rushing for 199 yards, coming much closer than expected. In the end, he fell only nine yards short of the goal and despite the happy face he may put on this week, it’s hard to imagine he’s not at least a bit disappointed. Peterson still should have a few more productive seasons ahead of him, but reaching the rarefied air that he did this year may never happen again. Even if it doesn’t, though, congratulations are in order for an MVP-type season and one of the best ever for a running back. Plus, the win over the Packers gave the Vikings a playoff berth and ultimately, that’s a pretty nice consolation prize for Peterson.
Avery Johnson fired as coach of Nets: The Brooklyn Nets made a fairly surprising move by firing head coach Avery Johnson. Assistant P.J. Carlesimo is leading the way for now, but the franchise also has an eye on Phil Jackson. For Johnson, it was a tale of two months. The former NBA guard had the Nets out to an 11-4 start in November and looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But then came a 3-10 stretch in December and that ultimately cost him his job. Part of the reason for that downfall can be attributed to the loss of star center Brook Lopez, who missed six games due to injury. But with so much talent, more was expected of the team at this point in the season. Johnson should get another opportunity with a different team down the line, though. Before serving as the Nets’ coach, he led the Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs in each of his four years with the franchise and also took them to the NBA Finals in 2006.
Hideki Matsui retires: Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui ended his long career by officially announcing his retirement last week. Matsui spent a total of 20 seasons playing Japanese and American baseball and in ten major league seasons, he hit 175 home runs and batted .282 with the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, and Oakland Athletics. Even factoring in his 332 home runs in Japan, Matsui still isn’t a likely Hall of Famer. But he was certainly an above-average major leaguer. Matsui finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2003, was a two-time All-Star, and won a World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Three Rookie quarterbacks make playoffs: When a rookie quarterback leads a team to the NFL playoffs, it’s a big accomplishment. When three do it in the same year, it’s probably time to call the Mayans for another apocalyptic prediction. That’s what happened this year as the Colts’ Andrew Luck, the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, and the Seahawks‘ Russell Wilson led their franchises to the postseason. The amazing thing is that none were just along for the ride, either. Luck broke the rookie passing record, throwing for more than 4,100 yards this season, while Griffin had the NFL’s second-best passer rating and Wilson tallied 26 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.
Kevin Ollie named permanent UConn head coach: Ollie, a former player, was named as UConn’s permanent head men’s basketball coach with a reported five-year deal. Following the retirement of Jim Calhoun, Ollie was given the job on a sort of trial run with only a one-year deal. But so far this season, he’s steered the Huskies to a 9-2 record and convinced the administration that he was capable of leading the program. Replacing Calhoun is a tough task and Ollie will have his work cut out for him if he wants to achieve as much as the former coach did. The key here is that the new deal will make things much easier for him on recruiting. Instead of telling prospective players that he hopes to still be on the job next year, he can now virtually assure them that he will.
Brandon Roy hopes to continue comeback bid: Just a few years ago, Brandon Roy was one of the top young guards in the NBA. In his first four seasons with the Portland Trailblazers, Roy averaged nearly 20 points a game and made three All-Star teams. But knee issues forced him to suddenly retire after a disappointing 2010-11 season. Roy made a comeback this year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still suffering with the condition and has only appeared in a few games so far this year. Roy has weighed another retirement, but is hoping to get back on the court after dealing with the chronic knee pain. The decision has to be difficult for him. He’s still young enough that he could have several seasons in front of him if the pain can be treated. But at some point, the conditioning day in and day out to be able to play has to be a burden.
November 26, 2012
Jack Taylor goes off – Jack Taylor, a Division III guard playing for Grinnell College scored an NCAA record 138 points in a game. He surpassed Bevo Francis’ mark of 113 set in 1954 in doing so. Taylor’s performance awed NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and LBJ even said he was interested in getting a tape from the game. Sure, Taylor hoisted up 71 three-pointers and made only 27 (good for a modest 38% if you don’t have an abacus handy), but overall, he made nearly half his shots, going 52-108. That’s quite a few attempts, but the mere fact that Taylor could have thrown up that many in the course of a game without getting too tired, still makes it a worthy accomplishment.
Bill Belichick wins No. 200 – New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made news when the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night. Lost a bit in the headlines of the 30-point rout is that Belichick won his 200th game. Belichick became only the eighth coach in NFL history with that many wins and as long as Tom Brady’s still around playing pitch and catch with wideouts (Brady, by the way, threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions), he’s probably got plenty more in the tank if he wants to keep going.
Maryland and Rutgers are Big 10 bound – The ACC and Big East got a bit weaker with Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing they will head to the Big 10 (aka B1G) this week. Both football programs have been up and down, but each brings something valuable to their new conference. Maryland brings the DC market along with a successful basketball program while Rutgers adds the heavily desired New York/New Jersey market. The ACC is already on the move, reportedly interested in Big East teams Connecticut and Louisville to replace the Terrapins as of last week, which begs the question – with Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Syracuse already in the fold, doesn’t the new ACC look a lot like the old Big East?
Michael Finley wants to return – Michael Finley, a former NBA All-Star, is hoping to return to the league, according to ESPN. Finley was planning to work as an executive in the NBA, but after playing in pickup games over the summer, is hoping some team will give him a look. At 39, he’s young enough that a return could be possible, but his production shrunk considerably over the last season of his career. Finley only averaged 15 minutes a game playing in 45 games for the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, scoring about four points a game. He could be a quality reserve late in the year for a playoff team in need of some depth, but don’t look for him to be a significant contributor.
Melky Cabrera signs with Blue Jays – Melky Cabrera inked a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the first big off-season splashes. Cabrera’s signing is significant because it comes on the heels of a 50-game suspension for testosterone. Last season, he was leading the National League in batting average before the suspension and he removed himself of consideration after the positive test result. The question will be, of course, if Cabrera can repeat his stellar 2012 season. He was a career .284 hitter and before last year, had only hit greater than .300 once when he batted .305 in 2011. Because of the dramatic improvement, there will be plenty of questions surrounding him in 2013 – none greater, perhaps, than from Blue Jays’ fans who will question his signing if he gets off to a slow start.
NHL cancels more games – The National Hockey League made a minor splash when it announced games through the middle of December (including January’s All-Star game) would be canceled due to the continuation of the lockout. There’s still a chance for a season, but the key thing of note is that the two sides don’t even appear to be all that close to a reconciliation. There’s still time for the players and owners to come to an agreement in time for a partial season, but it’s not looking good right now.
March 1, 2011
Insanity. Frenzy. Intense excitement. These words aren’t just a description of the Macho Man Randy Savage. They are also in dictionary.com’s definition of “madness”. Savage frequently referred to himself as “The Madness” and said “The Madness is running wild!”
The Macho Man may not be the world champion anymore, but every March the madness returns in the form of the NCAA basketball tournament. Every year millions of people around the country fill out their brackets and enter the office pool for one of the biggest sporting events in the world known as “March Madness”.
The 2011 edition of this tournament promises to live up to the “madness” billing and give us an exciting and unpredictable tournament. This year the madness started a couple weeks early. Kansas, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Texas (three times), Pittsburgh (twice), Notre Dame, Ohio State, Arizona (twice), Duke and San Diego St. are all top 10 teams in the poll who have lost in the last two weeks. Four of the top six lost this weekend, and the upsets should continue throughout the tournament.
The tournament itself will be different this year as well. The NCAA has increased the number of teams from 65 to 68. The last four at-large teams selected and the four lowest ranked automatic qualifying teams will play in the “First Four” on March 15-16. The at-large winners will advance to the main draw of the tournament, most likely as an 11 or 12 seed. The two winners of the automatic qualifiers will advance to face a No. 1 seed.
Television coverage of the tournament will also be different this year. The NCAA agreed to a new deal with CBS Sports and Turner Sports. Now, every game of the tournament will be televised nationally on CBS, TNT, TBS or TruTV.
As of today, Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, BYU, and Pittsburgh are likely in the discussion to be the four No. 1 seeds. The fight for the final spots in the tournament is much less clear. 31 teams will qualify by winning the automatic berth from their conference. That leaves 37 spots for the selection committee to fill.
Assuming the top teams in each conference win the conference tournaments, (which we know is not going to happen), there another 24 teams who should be a lock to make the field of 68. This leaves 13 tournament bids and somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 teams fighting for them.
The road to the Final 4 begins today with the Big South and the Horizon League conference tournaments getting underway. The first three teams will punch their tickets for the big dance on March 5, and when Selection Sunday rolls around on March 13 the field will be set, and the madness will be running wild. I’m sure the Macho Man will be watching.
Teams thought to be locks:
BYU, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, George Mason, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, San Diego State, St. John’s, Syracuse, Temple, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, Villanova, Wisconsin, Xavier
Teams in the conversation:
Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, Belmont, Boston College, Butler, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cleveland State, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Harvard, Illinois, Kansas State, Marquette, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Missouri State, Nebraska, Old Dominion, Penn State, Richmond, Saint Mary’s, Southern Miss, Tennessee, UAB, UNLV, USC, Utah State, Vanderbilt, VCU, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wichita State
April 6, 2009
Wow! Promise yourself now that someday you will go to a Final Four game. I finally got a chance to do it on Saturday here in Detroit and it was awesome. Sure, sure, you think you got a better view of the action at home on your 50” mega-tube and you probably did. You got the commentary and the professional insight of the seasoned analyst. You got the reverse-angle, close-up, slow-mo, rewind and repeat view of the action. But the action wasn’t just on the hardwood.
Over 72,000 people packed into Ford Field, the most ever for a Final Four. There were something like another 30,000 outside the stadium. With MSU only 92 miles away the chorus of “Go White! Go Green!” spilled out into the streets for blocks around. And that was before the tip-off. It’s Monday now and my ears are still ringing.
The last 15 minutes of the game, when all the Spartan fans began to think that the improbable might be possible, there was a human wave of emotion that you could physically see. It started with the in-bounds pass of either team. As the ball traveled up the court the wave would begin when a few fans down front would jump up. Each row in succession would rise until, in a matter of seconds, everyone was on their feet right up to the rafters. The last five minutes no one sat down.
I give the UConnfans a lot of credit. They had to walk into the fires of hell on Saturday night and they stayed true to their team. The teenage girl in front of me, sitting with her Dad in her UConn Tee, never gave up and never showed any fear.
Here at Fathead we talk about being Fathead Worthy. It’s what captures the essence of what Fathead is all about – the passion, the excellence, the memorable moments that you never want to lose. We don’t do what we do because of the athletes and the entertainers. We do it because of the fans. After what I experienced on Saturday night in Detroit I just want to say that college hoops fans are truly Fathead worthy.