Friday, March 31, 2006




There are only two things that can happen from this investigation.

One, they find nothing....or just limited somethings....and everybody will look at this as total BS.

Two, they find everything....or mostly everything...and the game gets ruined.

I am all for rooting steroids from sports.  I am.  Make the rules.....give the tests....suspend the players.  But if this investigation digs up what it is supposed to dig could tear down baseball entirely and it could be worse than just cancelling the World Series.

Again, we all want a clean game.  But, let's go from the Senate hearings and start at that point at figuring everything out.  Doing a "Titanic-eque" reconasance mission may very well unearth things that baseball doesn't want unearthed.  Like, everything we've seen in the 1990s and since has been a scam.

Baseball is dumb in many ways....mainly in numbers and records.  Records are everything in that much so that they have to have qualifiers to explain stuff.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has more NBA points than anyone.....but most people forget to put them on their top 5 players of all time list.   Meaning, while records are great and all....they are just statistics that only they have reached.  It doesn't always equate to how great someone is.  I mean, they put an asterick next to Roger Maris' record for, what, 30 years just because he played in a few more games than Ruth.  Now people want an asterick next to Bonds name in case he does top Hank Aaron.

Should we put an asterick next to Kareem's record since Jordan took a few of his prime years off??  Should Emmitt Smith's rushing record get an asterick because both Jim Brown and Barry Sanders hung them up sooner than Smith??  C'mon!  Are we that dumb? 

Sorry for that tangent, but it's the kind of thing that will come up after this investigation concludes.  If Bonds is exposed as a legit roid user.....what will it mean??   Really...what will it mean?  Can we erase his stats?  No....there is no way to know which HRs were gained by his roid use.  Can they suspend him?  Hard to do so down the road.

We will all take this stats, look at them and say "yeah, but...."  We all will.  Just as we look at Cy Young's all time pitching statistics and say "yeah, but....."  Just as we look at any stat pre-Jackie Robinson as "yeah, but...."

And the other thing I really wish would get investigated was who KNEW of this use.  Not players....but team officials.  With all this crap going on....someone working for these teams had to know something.  Managers, trainers, doctors, front office.....and if they knew, shouldn't they be held accountable as well??

Baseball was already doing the right thing.  Because of the stricter rules governing these things....we've had Rafeal Palmeiro exposed and essentially ostracized out of the league.  Guys like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa left before the heat came.  And we've all seen those 60 and 70 home run seasons wittle down to a league leading 51 last year.  Guys are getting scared off the roids.

So exposing all the crap that went on in the 1990s and beyond will do nothing but make positive what pretty much every baseball fan believes.....roids were prevelant and that some [not all] of those breathtaking numbers put up in that span and as juiced as the players. 


I said this before....said it again....and will say it now.  The NBA must change their playoff format.  Now.

This is twice in two years [the only two years] that the new playoff format may have a huge flaw exposed.  Last year, a #6 team almost had home court advantage over a #3 seed.  This year, the #5 and #6 seeds in the West may TANK their games so they won't get that #5 seed.


Well, in the Midwest Division, the Spurs and Mavericks are fighting for the division crown.  The winner will be the #1 seed in the West....while the runner up will be the #4 seed.  The #2 and #3 seeds will be the winners of the Pacific and Northwest Divisions. 

So the Grizzlies and Clippers are sitting in those #5 and #6 spots.  What would you rather have?  A playoff series against the Spurs or Mavs....or one against the Nuggets.  Hmmmm.  The Nuggs, please.  So, to do so, the #6 would have the better matchup.

Not only that, but if the Spurs and Mavs win their series, they'd meet in the 2nd round of the playoffs.  It could be conceivable that the two best teams in the entire NBA [if they both pass the Pistons] would meet in the playoff with no championship on the line.  No Western Conference NBA championship. 

That's crap! 

Fix it.  It'll be easy.  Just make the winners of the three the 2nd place team with the best record....the top 4 seeds in each conference.  And, while you are at it, make it that they automatically get home court advantage in the 1st round.  Using this format, the winner of a subpar division will get a lower seed than an excellent 2nd place team....but also guarantee them a reward for winning the division......the home court.

How hard is that?  It also throws another interesting race in the mix.  And it makes our NBA playoffs a better thing.


Don't know if you heard this....but Nigerian referees are allowed to take bribes from the teams that are officiating....but they cannot let it influence them on the field.

What?  What is that?

The Nigerian Football Association said, and get this, that the officials should just pretend that the bribes will sway their calls....but to not actually go thru with it.

Um....what?  Let's see...I throw a few bucks at the ref, tell him to swing it my way, he says he will.....but when he doesn't I am just supposed to say AW SHUCKS like I just bought something from a snack machine that didn't drop?? the real world, the official would most likely have his legs broken....if he's lucky.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Duke's LaCrosse Team Suspended Over Rape


Here we go.  Three members of Duke's lacrosse team were alleged to have raped an exotic dancer who was hired for a private party.  The Duke players were white....and the dancer was black....which has put Durham in a bit of a racial divide.  In true affluent ways...the guys on the team are refusing to chat with investigators, though DNA tests were administered. 

It has also come to light that about 1/3 of the team has been in trouble with the law previously....mainly on alcohol, open containers, disruptive behavior and......public urination. 

Apparantly, the dancers were ready to dance...when guys grabbed a broomstick and were making lewd comments about where they wanted to put the broomstick.   In true team spirit....the LACROSSE guys told the dancers that they were members of the BASEBALL and TRACK teams to muddy the trail.  Good one guys! 

After that, the dancers left....were coarsed back to the party.....where one of them was pushed into a bathroom, tied up, beaten, strangled, raped and sodomized. 

Go to [the Triangle newspaper] for more up-to-date info on this story. 

Here is the main story from 

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University's highly ranked lacrosse team will not play again this season until school administrators learn more about allegations that several team members raped an exotic dancer at an off-campus party, the school said Tuesday.

President Richard Brodhead decided to suspend the team from play "until there is a clearer resolution of the legal situation involving team members," the university said.

The case has roiled the campus, raised racial tensions and heightened antagonism between the affluent students at Duke, which costs about $43,000 a year, and the city of Durham, which has a large population of poor people and is about evenly divided between white and black.

A woman told police she and another dancer were hired to perform March 13 at a private party in an off-campus home. The dancer, a student at North Carolina Central University, told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men.

No one has been charged.

Armed with a judge's order, police took DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 of the lacrosse team's 47 players last week. The 47th player, the only black member of the team, did not haveto provide DNA because the dancer said her attackers were white.

"I needed to have the information about who will be charged," said District Attorney Mike Nifong said. "I feel pretty confident that a rape occurred."

Brodhead said team captains notified athletic director Joe Alleva on Tuesday that players wanted to stay off the field until the DNA results came back from a crime lab. In a statement, the captains predicted the DNA testing would clear the players of wrongdoing.

Brodhead said it was his decision to expand the suspension.

"In this painful period of uncertainty, it is clear to me, as it was to the players, that it would be inappropriate to resume the normal schedule of play," Brodhead said.

Nifong said the team members are standing together and refusing to talk with investigators, and he warned he may bring aiding-and-abetting charges against some of the players.

The alleged victim is black, which has proved a source of tension on campus.


"The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation for some of the things that were done," Nifong said. "It makes a crime that is by its nature one of the most offensive and invasive even more so."

Angry over the team members' silence and the university's handling of the case, Durham residents have demonstrated on and off campus in the past few days. They rallied outside the house where the alleged attack occurred, and gathered outside of Duke Provost Peter Lange's home, where they banged on pots and pans until he emerged to answer questions.

Lange said Monday that he believes "the students would be well-advised to come forward. They have chosen not to."

Durham lawyer Bill Thomas said he was hired by the family of one team member and that there was "no corroborated evidence at this point that anything happened to give rise to any liability -- civil or criminal -- with the possible exception of alcohol violations."

A lawyer representing several other lacrosse team members did not immediately return calls Tuesday.

Duke University spokesman John Burness said the three players who lived in the house where the party occurred had moved out. Burness also said other students had hired lawyers who advised them not to talk about the party.

The DNA samples taken from the 46 team members arrived Monday at a state crime lab, which agreed to work quickly on the case.

The school originally said the team would forfeit two games -- Saturday's home match vs. Georgetown and a Tuesday game vs. Mount St. Mary's -- for conduct at the party that was inappropriate, including serving alcohol to underage students and hiring women from the escort service. The losses gave Duke, considered a national title contender before the season began, a 6-4 record with five regular-season games to go.

Redskins Pre-Season Sked


The Redskins preseason skeddie has been announced....

Game 1:  Aug 13:  at Cincinnati [I will maybe go to this game].

Game 2:  Aug 17-21:  NY Jets

Game 3:  Aug 24-28:  at New England

Game 4:  Aug 31-Sept 2:  Baltimore

As you probably know by now, the Redskins' first game of the season will be at home against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.



I have every reason to hate George Mason.

By beating UConn, they assured that I wouldn't win the office pool I was in....where I am currently 2nd and 3rd.  Both had UConn going all the way, and if that would've happened.....I'd be champ.

G-Mason also ended the Tar Heels season 10 days ago.  That's not cool!!!

But I can't stay mad at ya!

Everyone's brackets are screwed and only 4 teams remain in the NCAA tournament.  So why not jump on their bandwagon?  Unless you are a UCLA, LSU or Florida are gonna root for George Mason.  Even if you don't think you will will. 

This is a team that you STILL forget their nickname [Patriots] or where they play [Fairfax, VA].  Quick, name me someone who plays for Kent State.  Well, about 2 weeks ago you didn't know a soul on G-Mason either.  Their coach looks like your wife's uncle....or the guy that lives down the street.  They aren't from your you can't hate them cuz of that. 

They aren't gimmicky.  It's not like they are some three point bombing team.  Nor are they that complete weird defense team [though they are one of the best defensive teams in the nation].  They aren't Indiana State in 1979 when one star player carried the team.  This is a team of no stars....just hard working guys that never quit.

They never quit.  That's why you root for them. 

Against North Carolina, they were down 16-2 to start the game.  I'm a Carolina fan, and I thought that that start would stomp all over their little hopes and they'd just take it.  Not so.  They fought back in that half and took a 1 pt lead heading into halftime.  UConn had them down early....but G-Mason fought back to get in and ended up beating the Huskies. 

They will play in the FINAL FOUR in Indianapolis.  Ya know, the same Indianapolis which played host to a similar hoops story....the Milan High School basketball team which was dramatized in the movie "Hoosiers". I fully expect George Mason coach Jim Larranaga to take a tape measurer into the RCA Dome to measure that the rims there are the same back at, well, whatever Mason's home court is.  Maybe they'll even run the picket fence for the game winner. 

Don't call them a "Cinderella".  Cinderella hid her identity a bit from others as to keep on the down low.  These kids are having a great time crashing the party.  While UConn basically slept walked thru thetournament as if it was a job.....the Patriots have had a mini party everywhere they've gone.  This is a team where one of it's best players was suspended for the first round after tagging a Hofstra player in the junk during the CAA semis.  This ain't some team of choir boys.   The players are interesting.....their coach certainly is....and the fact that no one knew any of these people it is like we are meeting them for the first time. 

Their coach has said that he'll do pretty much every media thing he can.  In an era where coaches pick and choose interviews to concentrate on the game....their coach is making a point to talk to everyone.  They are the toast of the sports world at a time where the sporting landscape is a bit cluttered.  Everyone is talking about this.

It is a shame for UCLA, Florida and LSU who all have overcome slights to get here too.  It's just that no one cares.  Those are big name universities named after their states.  George Mason is named after the guy who essentially laid out the framework for our Constitution.  Boooooring!

UCLA?  Can't root for them.  They already got 11 titles....they don't need anymore.  Florida?  Hey, you guys get to go to school wehre spring break happens every week.  LSU?  You guys have had Shaq and Pistol Pete.  You got history.  G-Mason was once in the "Mason-Dixon Conference".  The others have had their chances.

We are all George Mason fans now. 

Monday, March 27, 2006

Non-Tournament Fixin's


R.I.P. PAUL DANA:  The life of a race car driver is edgy because a thing like this can occur to anyone [IndyCar's Dana dies after practice crash].  Drivers have to have a short memory, as they ran the race that Dana crashed practicing for later in the day.  Then in the NASCAR circuit, bumping and pushing was the story of the day at the Food City 500 in Bristol.  Tough life.  Prayers are out to Mr Dana's family. 

ACC FINAL FOUR:  While the ACC men are banished from the Final Four for just the 4th time in the last 17 years.....the women have a good chance at comprising 3 of their Final Four.  Tonight, Maryland takes on Utah...and the Terps should be big favorites in that game.  Tomorrow, both North Carolina and Duke are #1 seeds, but facing legendary #2 seeds - Tennessee and UConn.  If all three teams win, it would mark the first time that a conference has gotten three Final Four teams in women's tournament history.  In fact, the only time the men did that was in 1985, when three Big East teams got there. 

NO MORE PATRIOT GAMES:  Look, we are all buzzing about George Mason making the Final Four.  But, for God's sakes, can we please stop with throwing up "Patriot Games" as a headline????  I've seen it in newspapers, on websites, on TV....come up with something better.  We already had to hear Verne Lundqvist's horrible "BY GEORGE" line when the final buzzer sounded against UConn.  You'd figure all these "Patriot" lines would be exhausted after the New England Patriots recent run in the NFL.

GOTTA GIVE IT UP TO DALLAS:  They've made two huge splashes in free agency the past week.  Everyone's discussed the Terrell Owens signing, but they also netted the "idiot kicker" Mike Vanderjagt.  Vandy is only the most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL.  Sure, he missed his final kick of the year last season against the Steelers in the playoffs.  In a less dramatic move, they also netted LB Akin Ayodele.  This marks a good offseason for the NFC East.  Washington made a nice splash with getting WRs Antwan Randle-El and Brandon Lloyd, to go with S Adam Archuleta, LB Andre Carter and TE Christian Fauria.  The Giants got a whole new secondary, signing S Will Demps and CBs Sam Madison and RW McQuarters [my favorite NFL name behind Rock Cartwright].  The  They did get backup QB Jeff Garcia [I guess so he and McNabb can trade T.O. stories], but not much else. 


WHAT LANGUAGE DOES RICK MAJERUS SPEAK?:  I know he's from Wisconsin, but dude....what's with the accent??  Sorry, but it hurts my ears to listen to listen to him.  First off, he must have been hanging around in the NHL wing of ESPN as he calls it "O-fence".  Second, his stammering makes every part of the lower half of his face move. 

AND HOW MANY "EXPERTS" DOES ESPN HAVE??  Good God, every time I turn on ESPN...I am treated to another 5 "experts".  Whether it is that Gottleib guy....or Digger "Who" Phelps....or Dick "The Bottom Line" Vitale....or Majerus....or Steve Lavin....or Jay Bilas....or Joe "How Did He Get Famous" Lunardi....or Andy Katz....or Mike "Uncle Phil" Jarvis....or.....

WHY I LOVE NBADRAFT.NET:  I love NBA have for years.  What I love most is how their do their "NBA Comparison" section where they try to pair a guy up with a past or present NBA player.  Sure, it's unfair and guys want to be their own man....but it's fun to say that he's like "the next" or "another".  My faves this run around???  JJ Redick is the next Drazen Petrovic.  Rudy Gay is like Scottie Pippen.  Patrick O'Bryant is like Brad Daugherty.  Big Baby Davis is like Rodney Rogers.  Kevin Pittsnogle is like Sam Perkins.  Marco Killingsworth is like Anthony Mason.  Josh McRoberts is like Chris Webber. 

BOY WERE WE WRONG ABOUT CHARLIE VILLENUEVA:  When ol' Charlie was picked by Toronto with the #7 pick in the draft....every one pegged the Raptors as the dumbest franchise ever.  I did.  Not that he sucked....but there were supposedly better players to be had and the Raptors already had a guy that played that position.  Instead, Villenueva may be the best rookie not named Chris Paul.  Last night, he dumped in 48 points against the Bucks and looks as if he could be a big time scorer for years to come.  Remember, he was the #2 high school guy in 2003 behind LeBron it's not as if he came outta nowhere. 

There Are More George Masons Out There


Earlier this month, I wrote this:  Make It a 96-Team Tournament.  Sure, it was a bit out of left field....but these past two weeks have made it even more evident to me that we need to do this. 

George Mason has advanced to the Final Four....and what's all the more surreal is that you cannot tell me that there is no chance that they couldn't win the whole thing.  They can beat Florida.  They can beat either LSU or UCLA.  They won't be favored to do either...but they haven't been favored to win a game yet in this tournament.

So let's bring more of these guys on board.  Why don't we? 

It isn't only about George Mason.  It's about Wichita State and Bradley....who both made the Sweet 16 from the Missouri Valley Conference.  It's about Northwestern State, Bucknell, Montana and Wisconsin-Milwaukee who all won first round games.  It's about Southern Illinois, Kent State and the foundation that Gonzaga has made in tournaments past. 

It's also about the fight that Albany gave UConn; Davidson gave Ohio State; Murray State gave North Carolina; Southern gave Duke; Pacific gave Boston College; Winthrop gave Tennessee and Monmouth gave Villanova.  Sure, they all lost....but it's becoming rare that these teams just bow down and take it like they used to. 

I used to believe that there were TWO tournaments.  There was the first weekend, where some Cinderellas dance an extra day [NW State] and some others break into the next weekend [Bradley].....but the other tournament is when the Sweet 16 starts and the cream rises to the top and those pesky stories go away.  Not anymore.  With George Mason crashing the Final Four EVERY mid-major team will come into every NCAA tournament from here on out believing that they could be the next one to do it. 

Now, let's not get too myopic here.  This wild tournament comes just one season after the #1 and #2 ranked teams met for the National Championship.  I'm not saying that the power conferences are dead.  I'm just saying that the power conferences don't have a monopoly on the Final Four anymore.

So, let's open the tournament to more teams!  Click the link above and read my reasons why and how'd I like to do it.  George Mason was a mid-major at large bid.  Many people felt that Hofstra [26-7], who beat GMU in their final two meetings, should've been in the dance as well.  They could've made a run here too.  So could have Old Dominion [24-9], who is in the NIT's Final Four right now.  Maybe Western Kentucky, Akron, Delaware State, FDU, Holy Cross or Sam Houston State coulda made a move in the dance. 

Again, they could get run out of the place like Belmont, Kent State or South Alabama did.  But, Seton Hall, Michigan State, Kansas, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Marquette didn't look too sharp in the dance either.  Of the first round losers.....12 were from "power conferences" and 16 came from the true mid-majors [SD State, Xavier, Air Force and Nevada are kind of between a power conference and mid-major]. 

The court is the ultimate equalizer.  If this tournament showed us anything it is that the number next to your name is meaningless.  Play the game.  How else could the most talented team and favorite to win this tournament lose to a team that was ousted in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals to a team that didn't make the tournament field?  On paper, it can't happen.  On most of our bracket papers, we didn't think it would happen.  But, on the did.

The only way to find these things out is to let 'em play. 

Now Pay Attention To The Women's Tournament

                   Ivory Latta

Talk shows will be a-buzz with all the shocking events in the men's NCAA tournament over the past few days.  There are plenty of stories to last us nearly a week before the next game is played.  But, there is some hoops left to watch while you veg out from the second straight year of stunning Elite 8 action.

No, not the NIT [but it's cool, too].  The women's bracket.

There are two awesome games out there to watch on Sunday.

TENNESSEE takes on NORTH CAROLINA for the Cleveland Region championship.  Tennessee is the elite program of women's hoops...and they take on the elite program of this season, Carolina.  The Lady Vols are looking to go to the Final Four for the 5th straight season.  Carolina is trying for it's first National Championship since 1994.  Needless to say, neither team will be too scared for this matchup.  Tennessee routinely plays the toughest sked in the nation [this will be their 8th game against a team ranked in the Top 10...second against the #1 team in the nation].  UNC has also played some heavyweights, including FIVE games against teams in the Elite 8. 

Also, you have the most talked about player, Tennessee's Candice Parker, against it's best player, Carolina's Ivory Latta.  Man, this should be fun!  I am picking UNC

Also that night, you get DUKE against CONNECTICUT.  Wow!  Duke has lost just 3 games this season.  Two to North Carolina and one to Maryland.  That's it.  Ah...but this game will be played in Bridgeport, will UConn have the advantage??  Maybe...but Duke looked awfully good spanking Michigan State while UConn barely got by Georgia.  Many thought the men would match up for the championship next Monday night....but this Tuesday, a great women's game will do just fine.  I will pick Duke

On Monday night, you have Utah-Maryland in the Albuquerque Regional final.  Maryland is the lone team to beat North Carolina this year....and is one of the most exciting and athletic teams to watch.  The Terps ended Baylor's reign as defending champs and may be the best team in the nation right now.  Utah has gotten here under the radar.  They are a stellar defensive club who also takes care of the ball on their own end.  The key will be if Utah can generate enought offense to stay with the Terps.  I think not.  Maryland wins. 

Out in the San Antonio Bracket, you get LSU facing off against Stanford.  LSU is trying to do what the men did and get to their own Final Four [they were also there last year].   Both teams have completely rolled into this game....leaving their opponents in their wake.   The men have Big Baby Davis...the ladies have Sylvia Fowles.  Watch her!!!  Well, try to when you aren't watching Seimone Augustus...who is the JJ Redick of the women's game [she has her own website.....'].  Stanford is a scoring team....and LSU will have to deal with center Brooke Smith, who torched Oklahoma for 35 pts on Saturday.  Smart money is on LSU....but I'm taking Stanford

Sunday, March 26, 2006



If there is anything this tournament should teach us is that this is an actual tournament.  Throw the seeds and the regular season out the window...and just lace 'em up.  How else can George Mason beat the defending champs last Sunday.....then the tournament favorites this Sunday???? 

Being a Final Four team usually means getting a few breaks, your role guys stepping up....and winning a close game somewhere.  All these teams have done so.   

When it looked as if there was a good shot that for the first time ever that ALL FOUR #1 seeds would meet up in the Final Four, turns out that ZERO of them made it.  Duke lost on Thursday and the other three were toppled the past two days. 

This marks just the 3rd time in the last 17 Final Fours that there is no ACC team present [in 4 of the previous 16 Final Fours, there were TWO ACC teams there].  There are no Big East teams....despite them getting 1/8 of the entire tournament's bids.  The Big Ten didn't get out of the first weekend.  Instead, there are two SEC teams [neither named Kentucky], a Pac-10 team and a Colonial Athletic team. 

This is the first time since 1980 in which no #1 seeds were in the Final Four. 

And there is some new blood up there.  No Duke or North Carolina.....okay UCLA is there, but they've had one Final Four appearance in the last 25 years.  We have our first real mid-major in the Final Four since Larry Bird led Indiana State against Magic's Michigan State squad [Penn was in that Final Four too].   Florida is technically the most experienced Final Four team, since their coach was there in 2000, the team that lost to Michigan State for the title. 

Any one of these four teams can win it.  Heck, all have beaten odds to get this far.  And if anyone in November picked UCLA, LSU or George Mason to win the National need to be in Vegas betting your house. 


GEORGE MASON:  I would pretty much guarantee that no single soul had them in the Final Four in their brackets.  Maybe a coed who attends G-Mason....but no one else.  We usually smile and give a pat on the back for these teams to get to the Sweet 16...but, people, this is the Final Four!!!  A Final Four that was supposed to have Duke, UConn....maybe Texas in it.  Not George Mason!  Heck, Mason was a big time bubble team just a month ago.  How did this happen?  Luck?  Nope, you cannot point to questionable officiating nor complete meltdowns by any of their opponents.  Breaks along the road to the Final Four??  Nope.  They had to beat Michigan State, who was deemed the "strongest #6 seed in a long time" by Billy Packer.  They had to beat defending champion North Carolina.  Sure, a Sweet 16 matchup with Wichita State was a bit of a step down...and they ran the Shockers out of the gym.  And then they take care of UConn....many people's favorites, including mine, to win this whole thing.  How's them apples??  What team in this tournament can boast that kind of damage to get here?? 

Think about all of that.  They took out THREE of the last SIX National Championship programs.  They took out Mike Izzo, Roy Williams and Jim Calhoun in a matter of ten days.  The first #11 seed since 1986 when LSU did it.  And it wasn't like George Mason just happened to catch these guys on their worst games.  The thing that impressed me most about this win was the fact that the let UConn back into the game late with that buzzer beating shot to send the game into overtime....yet still had the nads to not feel down but to re-finish off the Huskies. 


LOUSIANA STATE:  Defense wins championships, eh?  Well, I've never subscribed to that theory....since I believe that good offensive teams can do pretty well for themselves too.  But,when a good offensive team starts playing killer defense, well, this is what happens.  LSU stopped a game Iona team....and then hit big shots against Texas A&M to get to Atlanta.  There, LSU took out #1 seeded Duke and #2 seeded Texas.  In both of those games, LSU did an outstanding job in pressuring the opponent's top gun.   Against Duke, they forced Redick into a 3-for-18 game.  Against Texas, they forced Aldridge into a 2-for-14 shooting night. 

This marks the first Final Four appearance for the Tigers in 20 years.  Amazing for a team and a school who has been in the front row of the whole Hurricane Katrina nightmare.  This is a team that many felt were overrated a bit....winning the softer half of a weakened SEC and then not even getting the SEC title game.  This was a program that were blitzed out of the first round of the last two tournaments they played in.  Yet, LSU believed and shook up the Duke-Texas fight to go to Indy.  Congrats Tigers!


UCLA:  The Bruins have gotten this far by not being the Pac-10 norm.  UCLA has been physical.....just as a 50-45 win in the Oakland Region title game would suggest.  UCLA has the biggest route of the tournament, when they beat Belmont by 34 on the first night of the tourny.  Since then, it's been nothing like that.  UCLA escaped Alabama with a 3 pt win.....escaped Gonzaga in an unprobably comeback....and won an ugly regional final against Memphis. 

This game was BY FAR the lowest scoring game in a Regional final during the shot clock era.  But, this win ties UCLA with North Carolina for all-time Final Four appearances.....just their 2nd appearance in the last 25 years....and has them just two wins away from their record 12th title. 


FLORIDA:  I said after the first weekend that the Gators were the best looking team in the first two rounds.  One week later, I can say the same thing.  Of all the teams in the tournament, no one has been as "dominant" as Florida.  In the first four rounds, they've had to adjust to different styled teams.  The size of Georgetown; the quick guards of Villanova; the senoir laden Wis-Milwaukee team.  Problem is that no one has been able to adjust to them.

For a team that started 17-0, Florida has been a bit disrespected after playing average in the last stretch of the season.  They had a 3-game losing streak against Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas which exposed their inability to pull out close games.  Call it youth, call it content.....which are both valid....but this team turned it back on with a strong SEC tournament championship run and now this Final Four appearance.  They've won 9 straight games after that losing streak, and only Georgia and South Carolina [in the SEC title game] weren't tournament teams [and South Carolina is currently in the NIT's Final Four]. 

SO, WHO DO YOU PICK???  Who indeed.  While LSU, Florida and UCLA were all respected as possible Final Four teams...most people kept the Duke, UConn, Villanova or Memphis/Gonzaga picks [I did].  If you took George Mason for the Final Four....well, I'd like to see your other Final Four picks too. 

I run a 52-player tournament bracket, and only THREE people picked any of these four teams to win the title.  And all three of them picked Florida [well, two of them are kids and the other one is a woman who picked NC State to play Florida in the title game].   So, to go with the children and the crazy lady.....I pick Florida over LSU for the title. 

Saturday, March 25, 2006

And You Thought YOUR Team Was Cursed

                                   Steve Coppell (left) and John Madejski: Reading manager and chairman celebrate clinching promotion

English soccer does something that I think that someone in our American sports world needs to do.  Have seperate leagues, and the top guys move up a league...the bottom guys move down a league...and the middle guys stay.

Well, Reading is getting their shot.  After 135 years of playing, Reading finally moves up to the English Premiere League for the first time [that's the league that Manchester United plays in].   And Red/White Sox fans thought they had it rough!!!

This team has been around since 1871...but only now gets to play with the big boys.  In current American sports terms, only the Cincinnati Reds was founded before this team [and that team went dormant for a decade].  So, imagine the Reds never, ever, ever, ever, ever, getting to the playoffs until now. 

Read more about it here....COCA-COLA CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW



                     Your mascot is needed back with the Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band

UCONN'S MAGIC HORSESHOE:  You know that UConn is the best team in this tournament.  And the sad thing is they haven't shown it yet.  Another sad thing is that they could very well be gone by now.  Washington had UConn on the ropes, but Anderson's huge 3-pt shot with less that two seconds left sent the game into overtime.  Marcus Williams was stellar, controlling the game late and dumping in 26 points.  UW hung tough, but wilted down the stretch [a theme the last few days, eh?].  Another theme is bad calls.  UCLA had plenty against did Washington did tonight [what, no goaltending?]....and Boston College [what, a guy pulling you to the ground is traveling??].   

Anyways, UConn committed 26 turnovers.....ouch....but got 47 FTs on an amazing 33 fouls called on Washington.  Another staggering stat is that Washington attempted 29 more FGs than UConn and got just 9 assists on 80 shot attempts. 

THE UNDERCARD:  With big dogs battling each other, the undercard was clearly the George Mason-Wichita State game.  And G-Mason made sure that no one cared they were missing it.  The Patriots took a 16 point halftime lead [which ballooned to 19 a few minutes later] and just coasted in the 2nd half to dispose of the Shockers.  While beating Wichita State doesn't have the buzz and ring to it as beating Michigan State and North Carolina....still it gets them to their first Elite 8 and a major upset away from getting to the Final Four.

If George Mason gets to the Final Four, it will be the first mid-major school not named UNLV to do so since 1979 when Penn and Indiana State got to the Final Four. 

VILLANOVA TOPS BOSTON COLLEGE:  Add BC to the list of teams that couldn't hold on to a lead in the Sweet 16.  The Eagles owned thisgame from the start...jumping to a 9-0 run....but bad calls, shots not falling and Nova' Randy Foye helped to eliminate them.  That, and a goaltending call that scored the game winner for the Wildcats. 

FLORIDA'S RUN CONTINUES:  Corey Brewer hit a shot that I have no idea how he even got in the air.  With someone pulling on his arm, Brewer got his hands free and threw something toward the rim while fading away.  The ball went in, a foul was called, and Florida was on it's way to victory. 

SO, WHAT'S THIS ELITE 8 THING:  Some good games, nice matchups.  The Texas-LSU game should be physical and played above the rim.  I like Texas to win that one.  In Memphis-UCLA, I like those huge pressing Tigers to finish off the Bruins.  In UConn-George Mason, let's just say it won't be the biggest tournament upset that happens.  And in Villanova-Florida, Nova's guards will come up big against the Gators.  So, I have a Texas, Memphis, UConn, Villanova Final Four. 

DOMINANCE:  In a Sweet 16 filled with overtimes, buzzer beaters, clutch plays and nail biters....there were only two games that seemed to be in hand.  Memphis won one of those games and George Mason [?] won the other.  Both beat....ta-da....Missouri Valley Conference teams.

CONFERENCE ROLL CALL:  Okay, the Big Ten was caput after the first weekend.  The ACC won their first 6 tournament games....and then lost their next 4.  So the ACC is gone.  What is left is the Big East [UConn, Villanova], SEC [Florida, LSU], Big XII [Texas], Conference USA [Memphis], Pac-10 [UCLA] and Colonial [George Mason]. 

NICKNAME ROLL CALL:  Okay, we have a Gator, a Husky, a Wildcat and two Tigers, a Longhorn, a Bruin and a Patriot.  Only one that ain't an animal. 

EVERYONE IS NEW:  With West Virginia losing to Texas, that means that NONE of last year's Elite 8 teams are in this year's Elite 8.  Last year, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan State, Louisville, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kentucky and West Virginia comprised the regional finals.  In fact, of our 2006 Elite 8 teams, only Villanova was even in the Sweet 16 last year. 

Friday, March 24, 2006



DUKE GOES HOME:  Again, the #1 team in the final AP poll goes home without a National Championship.  For the 21st time in the last 24 years, the top team in the final poll won't win the ring.  I wanna direct my next comment to SETH DAVIS.  On a SBL episode, Jamie Mottram read a statement by me slamming JJ Redick for his failures in the NCAA tournament [Redick Is Coming to SBL...scroll all the way down for my comment].  Seth Davis went on the air after Jamie read that comment and, basically, called me an idiot for thinking that way.  Something like, "a lot smarter than that blogger....JJ Redick is one of the biggest clutch players in the nation." [Listen to it here.... Player].  So, Duke.....#1 team in the nation.....goes home after JJ Redick's 3-for-18 night in Atlanta and couldn't hit a shot down the stretch.  Oh, Seth did say "until someone knocks them off their're gonna have to deal with it."   They've been knocked off.  And I'm dealing with it fine!

I said it before. JJ Redick was 10 for 38 shooting [27%] during last year's NCAA Tournament.   He was 18 for 64 shooting [29%] during his last 5 NCAA Tournament games.  He was a darn good 17-of-34 heading into this ended with a 3-of-18 game that put him at a 2006 tourney average of 39%.  Thank God he got all those Duke and ACC scoring records since he won't end it with a National Championship. 

But, I gotta pay respect to LSU.  They played physical with Sheldon Williams and JJ Redick...a tough task to do.  The best defense [err...only defense] on Redick is to get a quick long guy to chase him aroundand bother him [UNC's Jackie Manuel made a Carolina career out of just that].  But, it was "the other guys" that were the difference.  LSU's Big Baby Davis didn't have a great game either...but his guys stepped up with big games.  Duke's Sheldon Williams had a great night, Josh McRoberts did okay [9 pts and 10 boards ain't bad] but no one else did squat.  Duke got just 7 points from Paulus and Dockery and a combined 4 pts from the bench.  Congrats to LSU!  And c-ya to Duke!  I know, strong talk from a fan of a team that didn't even get to this weekend...but my Heels finished the deal last year in their "expected" season. 

UCLA PULLS OFF STUNNER:  Man, what a game.  UCLA was getting smashed early in the game....and were down by 9 pts with 3:26 left.  But UCLA scored the final 11 pts of the game....and Gonzaga CHOKED.  Sorry, it was a choke job.  How do you get caught up in the backcourt when the other team has to foul you once you get past halfcourt...then get the ball stolen from you for a layup.  Then you run down the court to turn it over.  Again, Gonzaga fails to get it done.  UCLA moves on for the only #1 vs #2 matchup in the Elite 8. 

WIth Morrison done, this still means that the leading scorer has not reached the Final Four since Oscar Robertson did it in the early 1960s. 

HOOK 'EM HORNS!:  Okay, you wanna talk about the game winning shot....I'll talk about what really won this game for Texas.........rebounding.  Texas outrebounded West Virginia 43-15.  OUCH!  Texas had more offensive rebounds [17] than West Virginia had total boards.  And it was very noticeable while watching the game.  WVU couldn't grab a board if their life depended on it.  The Mountaineers stayed in the game with their 15 three-pointers.  But, after Pittsnogle [my wife dubbed him "Pig-snot-ul"] hit a huge three, which I yelled HE HIT IT...Paulino hit a game winner at the buzzer, which I yelled HE HIT IT!  Texas is on it's way. 

MEMPHIS IS BORING:  C'mon Tigers!!  You are boring!  Stop blowing out teams....cuz no one is gonna watch if you can't letyour opponent keep close.  I will say this:  Memphis could be the next UNLV...and in a good way.  John Calipari can coach...and he can recruit...and he has NBA ties.   I mean, imagine what he could have had in Memphis had not the NBA stolen many of his prospects.  And with the Conference USA a league that can be dominated by them....this could be laying up nicely for them.  They get UCLA next, which isn't Oral Roberts, Bucknell or this will be their biggest test.

THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASKETBALL:  For some reason, basketball is full of tears.  In baseball, when a team loses and has it's season end, they just stand on the steps of the dugout and give that glassy stare at their opponent celebrating on the field.  In football, guys either walk off the field with the head down and helmets in their hands [or they go to the middle of the field and pray].  In hockey, you gotta do the ol' Little League "good game" line.  They do that in college hoops to, but the other thing is breaking down and crying.  Sprawled out on the floor.  Face buried in a towel or your jersey.  Sure, these are kids....but they rarely do that in the other sports...just hoops, it seems.

Well, Adam Morrison took it up a notch, looking like BULL SHANNON on "Night Court".  Dude, I would've sworn he would've found a gun nearby and lit the place up ala Above The Rim.  The look on his face as the final seconds were counting down looked like a guy that could snap any moment.  Sure, others were sad and faces were turning red with sadness....but dude looked like he couldn't deal with it.  We all hate to lose, but (a) you are Gonzaga, (b) you were wearing your dark jerseys which meant the other team was supposedly better and (c) of the 333+ teams in Division I only one gets to finish with the NCAA title.  Deal. 

COMING ON SATURDAY:  This all means that Memphis will face UCLA for a Final Four berth.  Memphis is trying to become the 3rd Conference USA team in the last 4 years to reach the Final Four.  UCLA is looking for it's first Final Four appearance since their title season of 1995.  In the A-T-L, Texas and LSU square off for the right to go to Indy. 

ON TAP TODAY:  The Minneapolis and Washington Regions get underway.  The "best team left", UConn, takes on Washington in what could be a track meet.  Later at the Phone Booth, Wichita State faces George Mason to place one mid-major at large team in the Elite 8 and a step away from the Final Four.  In Minnesota, yah, Villanova and Boston College lock horns to play the winner of Florida-Georgetown. 


CINCINNATI CONNECTION:  Alright, follow me roll stroll.......   Former Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins takes the head job at Kansas State.  Andy Kennedy, the guy who replaced Huggins on an interim basis will be the new head coach at Ole Miss.  Mick Cronin, Murray State's head coach, will take over for Kennedy as the head guy at Cincinnati.  All this happened on the same day that Cincinnati was eliminated in the NIT quarterfinals by South Carolina.  Oh, and James White and Jihad Muhammad were suspended for academic reasons before that game.   Oh, and all that happened on the same day that Cincinnati high school phenom, OJ Mayo, was suspended from his North College Hill team for undislosed reasons [but we thinks it is truancy]. 

Thursday, March 23, 2006

One Last Day Of Normalcy

                                          is Wednesday night...and I've been chilling without the NCAA tournament in my face for three days now.  Amazing, since my regime for FOUR straight days was waking up at 11:00am [I work 2nd shift, so this is my morning]....taking the dogs out....getting my Dr Pepper and chips together...going down to my Sportz Room....watching NCAA hoops from noon until about 1:00am.  Yep, 10-13 hours of hoops each night with just a break to see my wife from time to time and to rid myself of the Dr. Pepper and chips.  So, let's chat!

GAME OF SHADOWS:  Another day, another excerpt.  From that "Game of Shadows" Giambi and Gary Sheffield are thrown under the bus.  Ya know, nothing in this book shocks me...other than it's another account of something we all know subconsciencely but don't have any hard answer about.  Ridding the game of steroids will most likely be done by scaring these guys into retirement and then acting like it never happened.  And screw these press leaks.....errrr....excerpts.  Release the freaking book.

HUGGINS AT K STATE:  In a bit of an unexpected news, former Cincy coach Bob Huggins will be the new head man at Kansas State.  Good hire for K State, but many felt that Huggs could be in line for a bigger job.   But, Huggins could bring some bigtime talent to Manhattan with 2007's #1 prep, OJ Mayo, may follow Huggins. 

SPANKING ALFORD:  Question....why is Steve Alford a hot coaching candidate??  I understand the Indiana connection....but apparantly they are not interested [but he's interested in them].  Missouri would like him, maybe.  Meanwhile, word is that many Iowa Hawkeye fans wouldn't mind seeing him leave.  Alford's career isn't anything spectacular.  Sure, the Hawkeyes are a solid program....but they have exactly one tournament win under Alford....including two straight losses in the first round.  He did do well at SW Missouri State [now Mizz State] but others have done fine there too.  I don't see what the buzz is about?  Indiana is doing the smart thing.  They are doing a search of who they really want...and can fall back on Alford if needed.  The fans and alumni will like Alford....but he may not be much for the program's resurgance.  There's nothing Alford has done that would make him more qualified than Mike Davis was. 

THE NIT GETS IT RIGHT:  The NIT Final Four will be set the winner of the Cincinnati-South Carolina game will join Louisville, Michigan and Old Dominion in New York.  Michigan and Cincy were the only two teams that I had "bracket-olo-gized" to be in the dance that wasn't.  Louisville, though not a strong bubble team, was  the only NCAA Final Four team to not make the dance this year.  ODU comes from that strong CAA conference that has George Mason in the Sweet 16.   

SHAWN KEMP EYES COMEBACK:  A "slimmer" Shawn Kemp....which is still bigger than the effective Shawn Kemp....wants to come back to the NBA after being out for 3 years.  I guess feeding all those kids really takes a hit on the ol' wallet.

NFL TALKS:  So, the league will have meetings next week and, of course, finding a new commish will be discussed.  But rules changes will also be a big deal.  They are looking at officials holding the flag when a WR flinches [it's a false start now, but may not be next year].  Also, officials are being told to throw flags only if the SEE a holding violation...not when they think one occured.  The overhyped "horse collar" penalty [which didn't get called at all during the season] may be revised to include tackles made by pulling the shirt, not just the inside of the shoulderpads.  The league will also look into adding a 7th playoff team in each conference. 

DEFENSIVE HEADPHONES:  We all know that QBs have those headsets in their helmets.  Well, the NFL may look into letting one defensive player have a headset in their helmets.  Since the defensive captain, usually the middle linebacker, calls plays from the sidelines just as the QB would stand to reason that it would be fair that the defense get their signals the same way. 

YANKEES HATER:  There is a big stink between YANKEESHATER.COM :: OFFICIAL Yankees Hater WEBSITE and the actual Yankees.  Check out the website for more. 

NEW SOUTH PARK:  Sorry, but the new season of South Park began with an "ode" the Issac Hayes leaving the show due to religious differences.  If you didn't know, Hayes was the voice of "Chef"...and Hayes left the show last week because he said he and creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were at odds over the show's treatment of religious subjects.  Hayes is now a Scientologist....and South Park has been ripping Scientologists in recent episodes [especially the classic "Tom Cruise is in the Closet"].  Hayes' statement was odd, since he had no problem with the show's contininous Jewish jokes, Christianity jokes and Mormon jokes....all which have staples of the show since it began over 8 years ago. 

Well, this show had Chef being brainwashed by a which Chef eventually dies.  In the memorial, the kids pay tribute to Chef by remembering the good times they had and placing the blame on the brainwashing and not Chef, the man.  Way to go guys!  Also, classic Star Wars take at the end, as a dismembered Chef gets thrown on a table and repaired into a Darth Chef [or Chef Vader]. 

MY DANCE PICKS:  Okay, here are my picks from this weekend......Duke over LSU, Texas over West Virginia, Gonzaga over UCLA, Memphis over Bradley, UConn over Washington, Wichita State over George Mason [payback], Villanova over Boston College, Florida over Georgetown.  Yep, only one upset in that whole bunch.

In the Elite 8, Duke over Texas, Memphis over Gonzaga, UConn over Wichita State and Florida over Villanova.  Just a hunch on the last one. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nippon....Cha Cha Cha


JAPAN ARE THE CHAMPS:  In what could be deemed as a mild upset, Japan won the inagural World Baseball Classic by beating Cuba on Monday night.  That championship game featured all of TWO Major Leaguers...and featured a bunch of guys most of us have never heard of.  A friend of mine is from Okinawa, and her dad is a huge baseball fan and has been watching this tournament from afar this whole time.  So, it's really cool to actually know of at least one person who is half the world away that is celebrating right now. 

HEY LADIES!!!:  Alright, since the boys are done...I can put my attention on the Lady Tar Heels.  Those Heels are #1 in the nation and are the top seed in the tournament.  In a big flaw of the women's game, UNC had to play their 2nd round game in Nashville.....versus Vanderbilt.  How is that fair??  North Carolina did win.  Interesting.  In 1993, the men's team won the NCAA title.  The next year, the women's team did.  Last year, the men's team won the ring again.  Ladies.....

SORE-IANO:  Alphonso Soriano is supposed to be an outfielder this year for the Washington Nationals....but in his first start there....he refused to show up.  When the team took the field, he stayed in the dugout.  He was replaced in the lineup soon after.  This is the concrete line drawn in the sand between Soriano and the Nationals.  Washington is viewing this as a breech of contract and, if the next two games Soriano still refused to go into the outfield, the Nats will ask the commissioner's office to place him on the Disqualified list.  That would mean that Soriano gets no pay and no "time of service" while he's on that list.  It means that if Soriano is on a 1-yr deal.....he can't just sit a year and wait for the contract to expire.  He has to honor that deal on the field. 

NOW.....OH, NO....IT'S T.O.:  I hate hearing or talking about Terrell Owens anymore....but I gotta.  Dude has a book coming out about his "Eagles experience" and a rap song that takes stabs at the Eagles.  This is a guy that just 48 hours ago said that he wanted "the past to be in the past".   Way to convince everyone that you are a changed man.  The book, I'm sure, will be filled with child-like explaining of why things went so badly for him in Philly.  It cannot be his fault at all, can it?  As for the rap song, it sounds like something a 15 year old white kid in Topeka can spit on his DJ software on his computer.  Or at least just a smidge better than Kip's song after the credits in Napoleon Dynamite. 

PETER GAMMONS GRADUATED FROM UNC????  Chalk this up to something I did not know.  On Peter Gammon's ESPN Insider blog, his bio states that he graduated from UNC in 1969.  After doing some research on are a few other people I didn't know graduated from UNC:  Comedian Lewis Black....Reds radio announcer Marty Brenneman....David Brinkley....Billy Crudup [for you Almost Heroes fans].....former MTV talking head Dan Cortese....Hardball's Chris Matthews....Jeff Richards [the dude that played Drunk Girl on SNL]....and the guy who invented Pepsi.    I did know that Andy Griffith, Jim Lampley, ACC commish Jim Swofford, Presidend James K Polk, Stuart "Booya" Scott, Charles Kuralt, Jack Palance, John Edwards, Davis Love III, Marion Jones, Mia Hamm, Lawrence Taylor and some dude named Michael Jordan. 

Monday, March 20, 2006

Goodbye, Tags!


After brokering the toughest labor dispute in 15 years, the NFL's commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, will retire in July. 

He may stay on one more year to help ease the transition to the new commish....or he could do so as an "elder statesman" for the NFL.  He has a clause in his contract where he gets a sort of ex-Presidential treatment where he can be a consultant to the new NFL commish. 

Tags has been the NFL commish since 1989.  In his time in office, the NFL established the current salary cap structure that brought much of Pete Rozelle's beloved parity to the league.  Instead of the Niners, Redskins and Cowboys winning all the titles [though, Dallas won 3 of the first 4 Super Bowls in the salary cap era]...teams like the Rams, Steelers, Ravens and Buccaneers can win Super Bowls.  And though the Patriots have a recent we are seeing the past couple of years that it is really hard to keep those intact.

Also, expansion franchises were added in Charlotte and Jacksonville.  New teams were placed in Houston and Cleveland.  The NFL delicately handled the movement of the Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis, the Los Angeles Raiders back to Oakland, the Houston Oilers to Nashville, the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.   The league expanded to eight divisions....and a 6th playoff team from each conference. 

The NFL has also made itself nearly self-dependant.  Since he took over, there have been 17 new stadiums built for NFL teams.  Only the Vikings, Raiders and Dolphins share a stadium with a baseball team.  When he first started, the Oilers, Steelers, Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Eagles, Mariners, Rams, Falcons, Vikings and Niners shared with the MLB. 

TV-wise, the NFL is perfect.  He got Fox in to the act, pretty much legitimizing them as a network....then later re-admitted CBS.  NBC will get the Sunday night games....while ESPN takes over for the Monday Night staple.  Also, the NFL Network...beloved by fans everywhere...will start carrying games this fall.  The NFL Sunday Ticket is pretty much what made DirecTV into the top satellite carrier. 

He also took what could have been the worst hour of his era into maybe his finest.  The recent labor dispute could have put the NFL into a near-nuclear winter.  But his leadership bought time and essentially got a dividing group of owners on the same page. 

Either way, the 65-year old Tagliabue will soon be gone from the face of America's top sports league. 

Roger Goodell [the dude in the pic below], the league's executive vice president and COO is the leading candidate to replace him. 


Um, So Why Did We Trade Casey???

     Boston Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo pitches during a spring training baseball game in Vero Beach Fla., in this Thursday March 9, 2006, file photo. The Boston Red Sox announced Monday March 20, 2006, that they have traded Arroyo to the Cincinnatti Reds for outfielder Wily Mo Pena..

The Cincinnati Reds dealt away OF Wily Mo Pena to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Bronson Arroyo.

This is an interesting move from many angles.  One, why trade Pena?  I thought that dealing away Sean Casey this winter was done to allow the logjam in the outfield.  The Casey deal moved Adam Dunn to 1st base and allowed the outfield of Pena, Austin Kerns and Ken Griffey to play every day. 

The old regime, during the Carl Linder era, made the Casey deal.  The new regime has taken over and are trying to make their own mark.  But why did we deal Casey then?  Sure we got a good up and coming pitcher...but we lost or clubhouse leader on a team that really needs one. 

I am willing to give all of this some time to work itself out.  The Reds needed pitching more than anything...

Pena will most likely platoon in Boston....taking Trot Nixon's spot when lefties face them.  Someone on called Pena the "real-life Cerrano" [referring to Dennis Haysbert's character in Major League] and in some of that, he may not be missed too much.  He's a Rob Deer type guy who will plant a few in the seats....or walk back to the dugout as the ball is being slung around the infield after another strikeout.  The Reds already got one of those....Adam Dunn...and he's more likely to plant them in the seats than Pena is. 

And how will Arroyo take this?  He was on a championship contending team....and all of the sudden is on a smaller market also ran [a "mid-major" to use NCAA terms].  Arroyo took a "home team discount" to staywith the Red he signed a 3-yr deal for under market value to stay with Boston.  He could have a bad attitude about this and ruin the deal for the Reds by mailing it in.  Or he could get bent and go off for an even better season than his last.  Of course, he was just gonna be a spot starter for the not a huge loss for them.  For the Reds, he may just be the ace of the staff.

From what I've read on the Red Sox message boards, they are also not sure what to make of the deal.  I guess time will tell. 


And how about this.....Japan v Cuba for the title.  Sorry, an no offense to the two countries, but this tournament got worse before it got better.  How is this a round robin tournament for two rounds....then a one game playoff for the title game??  What is that?  I though they'd have another round robin with Japan, Cuba, Domitican Rep. and Korea....with the top two teams playing for a championship.  Did they write this on the back of a napkin?

Also, good job Major League Baseball!  The combined amount of MLB players that will be in the World Baseball Classic Final????  Two...and they both play for Japan. 

I will say that Peter Gammons had a beautiful point about these games.  On his ESPN Insider blog, he remarked about how great and diverse a country we live in....since you can hold a game between Japan and Korea in San Diego.....and have Japanese and Korean people there screaming and cheering for their teams.  Another day, you can have the same place filled with cheering Domiticans rooting for their team.  Aside from those three countries....where else in the world could have that??  No where.


Also, he remarked on the fact that American players can fill these other countries rosters [like A-Rod trying to decide who he'd play for....or Mike Piazza on the Italian team].  Just like in the Athens Olympics, they fielded a team of Americans of Greek decent. 

He also stated how great it was that Japan and Cuba....the first two baseball cultures that grew outside of the USA....are in the finals with [aside from two guys] their own league players.  The entire feeling of this "classic" was what the Olympic feeling used to be like.  Just a bunch of guys from America, Far East, Europe and the Caribbean all playing the same game depite all of the crap their countries may represent in their capitals.  And remind us what we have when Major League Baseball season starts up in a few weeks....that these guys from all these places actually are bonded by the game and their love for it more than anything.  You can have an American, Korean, Domitican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Venezeulan and Mexican players on the same team.  And that we don't have a monopoly anymore on the best players in the world.

The 2006-2007 Tar Heels

                           Ellington, Lawson

QUICK RECAP:  For a team that lost it's top 7 scorers....this was quite a year for the Heels.  If you told me in November that this team would win at Duke, finish 2nd in the ACC, and got to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament....I wouldn've taken that with a huge smile!  Sure, the loss stings right now due to the unexpected rise of this team and the potential road to the Elite 8....but ya can't have everything.  Needless to say, that the Armeggedon that many planned for this program this year never materialized. 

WHO DO WE LOSE:  The only seniors who were in the rotation were David Noel and Byron Sanders.  Noel will be missed for his leadership, athleticsm, versatility and the best link to the championship team.  Sanders did play his best ball this year, but was primarily Tyler Hansbrough's backup. 

WHO DO WE GET BACK:  Barring something unforseen, all these guys should be back.  The freshman of the year, Tyler Hansbrough, will most likely bulk up some more in the offseason to adapt to the pounding he took and will take in the ACC.  Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green will have this first season under their belts and can do their own preperation for another ACC season.  Another freshman, Mike Copeland, could also see more minutes since it seemed that Roy Williams has some faith in him.  For the non-rooks, the biggest name returning is Reyshawn Terry.  Terry had a great second half of the ACC season and became Carolina's best offensive threat, aside from Hansbrough.  Terry's role will assuredly expand next year because of the improvement he showed.  Two backcourt guys stay, as Wes Miller and Quentin Thomas will return.  Miller was the deep shooter that the Heels desperately needed this year....and Thomas may be the most improved Heel of them all.  He played too fast last year [and the first part of this year] but something at some time clicked and he was a valued member of the team. 

THE NEW GUYS:  Wayne Ellington [upper left] and Tywon Lawson [right] could be the starting backcourt for the Heels next year.  Also arriving will be Brandan Wright who could take his rightful place alongside Hansbrough along the frontline.  Add in center Deon Thompson, William Graves and Alex Stepheson....and the Heels have the #1 recruiting class in the nation, despite not landing the #1 prospect, Greg Oden. 

                                         Graves, Wright and Thompson

SO, WHAT WILL THE ROTATION LOOK LIKE:   This should be a very, very deep team next year.  I would expect Lawson to start at point guard...since Williams loves guards that will push the ball.  I would think Ellington would start along side him to keep that running style alive.  Hansbrough and Terry will be the heart of the team and will be on that front line.  Joining them could be either Brandan Wright or Danny Green.  I'd say Wright...since he adds more size and a bit more athleticsm alongside Hansbrough.  Okay....that lets Frasor to come in off the bench to run point [not quick, he's a good shooter and excellent distributor]....and maybe Thomas gets minutes to help move the ball along.  Miller will get his minutes as a zone crusher, nailing outside shots.  Ginyard will be called on to shut down hot wing players.  Green is instant energy and do-everything type of guy off the pine.  I think Thompson will get the role of backing up Hansbrough....though I think that Wright will move over to the center spot and Green and/or Terry will assume the other forward post. 

ROY WILLIAMS' THINKING:  Most likely, Williams will try to keep that running style that made the 2005 team so successful.  In doing so, Frasor will probably lose his starting job to Lawson.  A team with Lawson, Ellington, Wright, Terry and Hansbrough would be a nightmare for teams to keep up with on the break.  However, I think that Ginyard or Miller may start ahead of Ellington for defensive purposes if needed.  Either way, Williams can employ the Dean Smith philsophy of just bringing fresh bodies in the game to keep the energy pumping, the team running and the opponent reeling. 

ANOTHER BRUISING SCHEDULE:  The Tar Heels will have a lot to deal with due to another hectic schedule.  Carolina has the normal ACC schedule, with 2 games each with Duke, NC State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.  We get Virginia, Florida State and Miami at home only.....and Boston College, Maryland and Clemson on the road.  Non-conference, there is at Arizona, at Davidson....and home games against Penn and Kentucky [all are 2006 tournament teams].  The Heels also play Dayton and open up in the Preseason NIT [which has Indiana, Notre Dame and Tennessee in it as well].  There are still some more spots left open in the schedule. 

THE STATE OF THE ACC:  Well, Duke will lose JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams....two All well as Lee Melchionni and Sean Dockery.  And there are rumors that Josh McRoberts will dip into the draft process.  Even if he returns, Duke will be down just a bit....but lethal nonetheless.  Boston College loses Craig Smith, Louis Hinnant and possibly Jared Dudley [JD should stay].  Maryland is a young team, but will lose Nick Cader-Medley.  NC State will get nailed.  They lose Ilian Emtimov, Cameron Bennerman and Tony Bethel.  So, UNC will most likely be the only team that improves a great deal heading into next season. 

ANNIVERSARY:  The 2006-2007 season will mark the 25th anniversary of that 1982 Tar Heel Championship team.  That '82 team featured James Worthy, Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins.  It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the 1957 team that toppled Wilt Chamberlain in the NCAA Championship game in triple-overtime [just after winning the previous game in 3OTs as well].  Karma???  It will also be the 14th anniversary of the 1993 title team and the 2nd anniversary of the 2005 title teams.  Eh, not as thrilling. 

MY EXPECTATIONS:  Well, I think it could be a championship caliber team.  The problem is that most of the guys will either be freshmen or sophomores [only Miller and Terry will get time that are above two years in the program].  Also, this team could be on a "rental basis"  Meaning, if Hansbrough has another great year, he may be gone.  Ellington, Lawson and Wright would most likely been in the NBA draft this coming June had it not been for the new rules forcing guys into a year in college.   This could be the best collection of talent on the Heels since 1984.  Anyway, I expect this team to be a contender in the title sweepstakes.

Alright, On To The Sweet 16

A NEW CHAMPION:  With North Carolina losing on Sunday, there will be a new champion crowned in Indianapolis.

BUT HOW NEW WILL THEY REALLY BE??  Who knows?  UConn and Duke are the two "top" teams in the dance and they are still around.  UConn won the title two years ago....and Duke won it a few years before that.  Aside from that, everyone else is a bunch of newbies.

CLARK KELLOGG COULD BE RIGHT:  Ya know, most people laughed at Clark Kellogg when he uttered on CBS that "all four #1 seeds could get to the Final Four".  Yeah, we all know it's never happened before.  Well, neither has a team come back from down 0-3 in the ALCS....but that streak ended.  Why not this one??  In a tournament filled with "upsets" and "Cinderellas".....this also could be the tournament where the Final Four ends up being all #1 seeds.  Sure, they all have tough roads ahead....but it is feasable that they all come out of their regions.  And the fact that we've had all these upsets lends credence to that theory.  Look at UConn.  While Washington and the winner of the other game will be tough, they don't have to face Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois or Michigan State.  The highest seeded team they'll face in this region will be Washington....the #5 seed who's next on their menu.  

OR NO #1 SEEDS COULD MAKE THE FINAL FOUR:  Let's just say that Duke went from having the easiest road of the #1 seeds to possibly having the toughest.  LSU is a tough matchup for them....and Texas or West Virginia can pop them in the Elite 8.  UConn hasn't been top notch either....and Washington can expose them.  Villanova has a hungry and determined Boston College coming up....and in the bottom of that bracket lies Florida, arguably the team who's played the best in this tournament thus far.  And in Oakland, Memphis still has to deal with the Gonzaga/UCLA winner if they get past Bradley. 

MID MAJOR MADNESS:  Well, the Missouri Valley Conference has Wichita State and Bradley in the Sweet 16.  Joining them isGeorge Mason from the Colonial.  Add them to Memphis [of Conference USA] and Gonzaga [of the West Coast Conference] and you have 5 of the 16 teams remaining coming from non-"BCS" leagues.

THE TEXAS TRIO:  Don't sleep on Texas!  They could do the unimaginable tri-fecta.  They could hold the NCAA basketball, football and baseball championships at the same time!   Texas won the 2005 College World Series....and won the NCAA National Championship in football.  A tournament win here would be historic!

THE FOUR REPEATS:  Only Duke, Washington, West Virginia and Villanova were in the Sweet 16 last year and this year.  Only West Virginia advanced past the Sweet 16 a year ago. 

NON-CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS:  Of the 16 teams remaining.....11 earned at large bids.  Only Florida, Duke, Memphis, Gonzaga and UCLA won their conference tournaments.  In fact, teams that won their conference tournament championships are a combined 15-26....while at-large teams are 34-23. 

NO BIG TEN:  The #1 rated conference in the RPI was a combined 2-6 in the NCAA tournament...with no teams still alive. 

NO BLOWOUTS:  This is how great a tournament this has been.  Sure, we get close calls and upsets in every tournament.  But we also get quite a few blowouts...especially by those #1 and #2 seeds in the 1st or 2nd rounds.  Um, not so this year.  There has been only four games that were decided by more than 20 points:  UCLA beat Belmont by 34...Florida beat South Alabama by 26...Florida beat Wis-Milwaukee by 22...Texas beat NC State by 21.  If you notice, there were no #1s on this list.  There are Florida [twice] and the only #2 seeds still remaining. 

GREAT STATE DEBATE:  So, what state is best represented??  North Carolina [Duke], Louisiana [LSU], West Virginia [WVU], Texas [UT], Tennessee [Memphis], Illinois [Bradley], California [UCLA], Connecticut [UConn], Kansas [WichitaState], Pennsylvania [Villanova], Massachusetts [Boston College] and Florida [UF] each have one school represented.  So where is the beef?  Try Washington.  Both the city and state.  The State of Washington [UW and Gonzaga] has two teams left.  And the city of Washington....the DC...has two teams left [George Mason and Georgetown].  Oh, sure, technically G-Mason is in Virginia....but it lies in the DC suburbs.  Indiana...the site of the Final Four...has zero teams represented.

BUT, THE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE??:  Well, George Mason will be playing close to home in Washington, DC.  Both Duke and LSU should be well represented in Atlanta.  And the West Virginia and Texas contingent should be there, too.  Out in Oakland, well, UCLA is in they should draw better than anyone.  In the Minneapolis Bracket....well, I guess Georgetown is the closest school.  Odd, since all schools in this bracket [Nova, BC, Florida, G'town] are east coast schools with three of them in the Atlantic/Northeast section of our nation. 

DOME SWEET DOME:  Well, the Final Four will always be held in a dome....but two of these regional finals will be held in domes.  The Metrodome and the Georgia Dome will host this weekend.  That is a big factor into how teams play.  In Minneapolis, Georgetown and Villanova are no strangers in playing in Syracuse's Carrier Dome [neither is BC for that matter].  In Atlanta, well Duke has seen it's share of domes from past tournaments....and LSU has been to SEC tournaments in Atlanta.  Also, Wext Virginia has dealt with the Carrier Dome.  How about Texas??  And, does it really matter??

WASHINGTON:  Think about this!  Either George Mason or Wichita State will be in the Elite step away from the Final Four.  They'll play against each other in a rematch of one of the best games during Bracket Busters weekend [maybe you'll pay more attention to that next year?].  Mason won in Wichita on a buzzer beating three pointer. 

ATLANTA:  Think about this!  The last time Atlanta hosted the regional finals [2004], Duke was in it.  They beat Illinois and Xavier in route to getting beat the Final Four.   

MINNEAPOLIS Think about this!  Three of the four teams in this bracket are basically Big East teams.  G'town and Villanova are Big East members, while Boston College is just one year into the ACC.  Most of the guys on BC basically came up thru the Big East wars. 

OAKLAND:  Think about this!  Memphis, Bradley, UCLA or Gonzaga will be in the Final Four.  One of those teams has to be.  Only UCLA isn't technically a mid-major. 

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I LOST MY DOG IN THE FIGHT:  North Carolina, for the 2nd straight time, looked really bad in the tournament.  The Heels looked like they'd run away with it...with their pressure and energy to start the game [and got 'em a 18-5 lead].  That went out the window, for some reason.  Well, the reason was George Mason's zone.  The zone locked out Tyler Hansbrough, which allowed the Heels to fire up horrible perimeter shots.  Also, the Heels had difficulty getting to the line....shooting only four FTs.  I said before the tournament that this Carolina team exceeded expectations for me this year...and a 2nd round appearance was suitable for me.  I'm not gonna slit my wrists on this one.   We won the title last year...and, if our freshmen all come back...we will most likely be one of the favorite to win it next year [that recruting class is awesome].  But, it does chap me a bit, since things laid out nicely for the Heels.  Murray State, George Mason and Wichita State was a nicer than expected road before having to link up with UConn for a Final Four berth.  But, the team played bad....and G-Mason played well, expecially on defense and they were so poised down the stretch.  Good luck to the Patriots!  Of course, this means that either George Mason or Wichita State will be in the Elite 8.  Wow!

THE OTHER NC LOST TOO:  In less of a shocker, NC State was smacked by Texas....making the ACC 6-2 in the tournament.  It was just a matter of Texas flexing their muscles at the Pack.  If we do see a Duke-Texas regional could be a doozy!

UCONN-KENTUCKY WAS A GOOD ONE:  UConn led Kentucky virtually the whole game....but they could never shake the Wildcats.  Kentucky fans love to diss Tubby Smith, but I think he did a heck of a job with this team.  The team lacked talent and leadership....and until Morris came back they lacked any inside game.  They stayed with the Huskies until the end which is a testament to their not wanting to quit.  But I love this UConn team and think they have what it takes to win the whole thing.  Well, if they actually decided to put it all together for an entire game. 

BRAD PITT AT THE NCAA TOURNY:  Some feel that Bradley was the last at-large team in the field...which may be true.  Their #13 seed says as much.  But they've looked every way.   First they pop Kansas....and now they pop Pittsburgh.  And this isn't as Cinderella like as you may think.  Or maybe it is?  This team was 8-6 and dead in the water at the midway point of the season.  But a 14-4 run that continues, along with a strong showing in the MVC tournament got the Braves in and keep them chugging along to the Sweet 16.  But, this is a good team.  They have a big man in the middle that can dominate, Patrick O'Bryant...the perfect name for St Patrick's Day weekend, along with unspectacular guards that just take care of the ball.  So, the MVC has as many teams in the Sweet 16 [2] as the ACC and Pac 10....and two more than the Big Ten.  The Brad Pitt reference comes from my wife....who noticed that the score in the lower right corner of the screen read BRAD  PITT.  Good call, hon! 

MEMPHIS ADVANCED TOO:   Don't forget about the Tigers.  They, Florida and West Virginia have impressed me most during this first weekend.  The fact that they discarded Oral Roberts and Bucknell doesn't give them much attention....but this is a team that looks like a Final Four team right now.  They get Bradley next.

WILDCAT PARTY:  Villanova, like UConn, just motors on.  In a tough 1-8 matchup, Arizona stuck with Nova but it was 3-pt shooting that did them in.  They both shot 17-of-20 from the line.  Their assists and rebounds were virtually identical [Nova had two more rebounds, two less assists].  They both made 28 shots [despite Arizona getting 13 more attempts].  So the capper was the shooting behind the arc.  Arizona shot 5-of-17 from deep....Nova shot 9-of-19.  Four extra points.  Villanova won 82-78.  Or you could say the bench made the difference.  Nova's bench scored a grand total of 6 points.  Well, Arizona's bench didn't score at all.  There ya go. 

THE LAST BIG TEN TEAM GOES DOWN:  Ohio State was handled by G'town [one of my surprise teams to make a run....okay, so was Pitt] which meant there are no more Big Ten teams left.  The conference that was rated #1 by the RPI is gone.  There is a Colonial team....a WCC team...a Conference USA team...two Missouri Valley teams.  No Big Ten teams.  This one year after the conference had 3 of the Elite 8 and two of the Final Four.  And let me tell ya now, that Florida-Georgetown game will be off the chains!

GOODBYE NORTHWESTERN STATE:  NW State embodies the tournament.  A rag tag team that suffered lows not to long ago to make a magical moment in the tournament.  For two days, we get to bask in their gleeming smiles and they get their 15 minutes of fame in from of the CBS and ESPN nation.  So, it does hurt when that team gets manhandled in their next outing....this time to West Virginia.  Goodbye NW State...and thanks for that great moment in the 2006 Tournament.  At least for now.

SO, WHAT DO WE GOT???:  With all these upsets and the is my rankings of the Games To Watch during the Sweet 16

8.  Wichita State-George Mason:  Yeah, they are mid majors...but this should be a great game.  They met during Bracket Busters weekend with Mason winning in Wichita by a 3-pt shot at the buzzer.  This game will also be in G-Mason's backyard.
7.  Memphis-Bradley:  Memphis faces their 3rd straight mid-major in their quest for the Final Four.
6.  Texas-West Virginia:  That huge Texas frontcourt has gotta go out and guard that hot shooting and carefree Mountaineers team.  Should be interesting.
5.  Florida-Georgetown:  Two big teams fighting it out. 
4.  Duke-LSU:  Big Baby v Sheldon. 
3.  UConn-Washington:  Two teams that can go up and down the court all day.  Also, two of the best wing players in the nation with Rudy Gay and Brandon Roy. 
2.  Villanova-Boston College:  Two former Big East foes going at it.  BC is playing really well right now...and remember, virtually this same BC dominated the Big East last year. 
1. UCLA-Gonzaga:  Adam Morrison said it best that it's rare to see two West powers go at it in the Oakland no less.  Should be a classic!