Archive for March, 2013

WATERCOOLER CHAT: SWEET SIXTEEN UNDERWAY-OHIO STATE SLIDES BY, WICHITA STATE GETS PEP TALK FROM TEBOW, MARQUETTE & SYRACUSE FACE EACH OTHER IN ELITE 8

BASKETBALL

First up, it was #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona.  Both of these teams were red hot coming into this game, and it was very difficult to predict a winner.  Arizona got out to the quick start, but Ohio State came surging back to assert their dominance.  In the end, Arizona got it to a tie game, but LaQuinton Ross hit a 3-point with just 2 seconds left to seal the game for the Buckeyes.   Ohio State 73, Arizona 70.

Ohio State would take on the winner of the two Cinderellas:  #9 Wichita State and #13 LaSalle.  This was a pivotal moment for both teams, as neither could have dreamed of making it all the way to the Elite 8.  And LaSalle even had to win their play-in game to get this far.  Unfortunately for LaSalle, Wichita State came out hungry (likely thanks to their impromptu pep talk from Tim Tebow last week).  And they never looked back.  It will be Wichita State vs. Ohio State in the Elite 8 matchup — winner goes to the Final 4.  Wichita 72, LaSalle 58.

And across the country, first it was #2 Miami vs. #3 Marquette.  Marquette has looked very lucky their first two games in the tournament, while Miami has looked stiff as well.  So which one of these teams would come out and dominate in this one?  That answer was easily Marquette, as they basically squashed Miami from the get-go, while Miami essentially laid down and died.  Marquette easily rolled into the Elite 8.  Marquette 71, Miami 61.

They would take on the winner of #1 Indiana vs. #4 Syracuse.  Indiana looked a little stiff last round, while Syracuse seems to have found a new spark of energy.  They are clicking at the right time, and that streak didn’t end against Indiana. Syracuse came out and smashed the Hoosiers from the first whistle.  They would never have to look back and easily cruised into the Elite 8.  So it will be an intriguing Big East match-up between Marquette and Syracuse for a trip to the Final 4.   Syracuse 61, Indiana 50.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: US SURVIVES ANOTHER DAY IN WORLD CUP, DUMERVIL RELEASED, NEW ARENA FOR KINGS FANS

SOCCER

 

There was a very pivotal game yesterday in World Cup Qualifiers.  The United States has improved their team since the last World Cup, but they have been struggling in the Qualifiers.  They had to take on Mexico Tuesday, and a loss may have meant that they might miss the next World Cup.  And a World Cup without the U.S. to root for simply isn’t as fun.  They needed to either beat Mexico or get a tie.  It was a tough battle, but the U.S. came out with a tie and gained a very valuable ‘point’ in the rankings.  They live to see another day and hopefully the U.S. will have a place in the next World Cup.  U.S. 0, Mexico 0.

FOOTBALL

And in the NFL, after a contract snafu that led Elvis Dumervil to be released by the Denver Broncos, he has found a new home.  To review, the Broncos wanted to sign Dumervil, but the paperwork wasn’t ready.  The Broncos asked the NFL to honor the verbal agreement, but they wouldn’t, so the Broncos had to cut Dumervil to avoid paying him a ton of money.  They said they would re-sign him, but that left Dumervil with a bad taste in his mouth.  So he went out and signed with a different team, a team that needed him badly:  The Baltimore Ravens.  The Ravens lost a bunch of people this off-season, but adding Dumervil is going to bolster their depleted defense immediately.  Great pick-up.

BASKETBALL

Finally, in the NBA, the Sacramento Kings have been fighting to keep their team and not let them move to Seattle.  And Tuesday, they took a major step in the right direction when the city approved a new 18,500 seat arena in downtown Sacramento.  The money will come from a private investment group, and a lot of the money will come from leisure parking garages in the downtown area.  If this goes through, Sacramento fans will be very happy.  Now all they need is a good team to root for.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: MIAMI STREAK STILL HOT, NUGGETS LOOK FLAT, UNIV OF MINNESOTA AND UCLA FIRE COACHES

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, the Miami Heat’s 26 game win streak was on the line, and they were going for #27 against Orlando IN Orlando.  Orlando may be the second worst team in the Eastern Conference, but every team steps their game up when trying to snap this incredible streak.  Plus, the Heat were WITHOUT Dwayne Wade  Even Orlando was able to keep it semi-close in the first half, as this game was a real test for their young team.  But in the second half, LeBron and company took off on a 20-2 run.  There was no looking back.  With the win, the Heat extend their streak to an incredible 27 games.  Now, they have  to play San Antonio IN San Antonio on Game 30.  Miami 108, Orlando 94.

Meanwhile, there was another streak on the line, as the Denver Nuggets are the second hottest team in the NBA right now with an amazing 16-game winning streak.  They had to take on a lowly Hornets team in New Orleans.  But, unlike the Heat, the Nuggets looked completely flat.  They were traveling, making all kinds of bad passes, and just didn’t look like the Nuggets we’ve seen lately.  That’s what makes these streaks so impressive — the fact that these teams basically can NEVER have an off night.  The Nuggets had one, and hopefully this sloppy loss doesn’t kill all their momentum.  New Orleans 110, Denver 86.

And in college basketball, two universities have parted ways with their head coaches after the first weekend of March Madness.  And they were both peculiar.  First, the University of Minnesota ousted coach Tubby Smith after 6 years.  Smith was responsible for reigniting basketball at Minnesota, and even got the Gophers to the second round this year.  Then, after 10 years, UCLA has parted ways with coach Ben Howland.  This one is a shocker, because Howland brought the Bruins to three straight Final Fours just 6 years ago.  Sure, UCLA is an elite program, but not many coaches can say they’ve done that.  But, UCLA wants to maintain it’s reputation as the King of the West, and first round outs as a #6 seed is simply not what they’re looking for.  Apparently, their #1 choice to fill the spot is VCU Coach Shaka Smart.  But will he leave?

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: FLORIDA GULF COAST WILD RIDE, GONZAGA FALLS, HOOSIERS ON TOP, SWEET 16 NEXT UP

In college basketball, it was one wild weekend in March Madness.

On Friday, there were some unlikely teams that advanced, including the relatively brand new school Florida Golf Coast.  The Golf Coast has been in Division 1 for 6 years, and entered the field this year as a #15 seed.  Their fist test, the #2 seed Georgetown and their tenacious defense.  Except, Florida Gulf Coast absolutely crushed the Hoyas, and with ease.  These guys are not to be taken lightly.  Then, everyone thought they would be a one and done, and would likely fall to #7 seed San Diego State.  But nope, Florida Gulf Coast came out electric again and smoked the Aztecs in the second half.  These guys look like they could beat anybody right now.  Their true championship game comes in the Sweet Sixteen as they’ll take on the state school Florida.  If they take down Florida, it’s going to be bragging rights for a long time to come.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga  (with Spike the bulldog)was trying to prove that they were worthy of a #1 seed and should be taken very seriously in this tournament.  However, the underdog #9 seed Wichita State also wanted to prove that they were worth something.  It was a tough fought battle, but down the stretch, Wichita State hit some extremely clutch shots to take the game out of the Bulldogs reach.  Gonzaga is the first #1 seed to fall, but they had a spectacular season.  For Wichita State, they will advance to the sweet sixteen to play… LaSalle?????  Yep, LaSalle, the team that had to earn a spot in the field of 64 with a play-in game, got past #4 Kansas State and the red hot #12 Ole Miss Rebels.  They look fantastic, and this means that either Wichita State or LaSalle will earn a seat in the Elite 8.

As for the other #1 seeds:  Louisville, Indiana, and Kansas, Louisville advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with ease over Colorado State, but Kansas and Indiana got a true test from North Carolina and Temple respectively.  Kansas pulled away from the Tar Heels in the end, but the Indiana/Temple game came down to the wire.  In fact, it looked like the Owls were going to pull the upset behind their star Khaliff Wyatt.  He was fantastic, but a clutch shot from Indiana point guard Victor Oladipo put the Hoosiers on top and sealed their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen.

The action doesn’t start back up until Thursday, and it’s quite likely we could see a rather strange Final Four this year.  Hope your brackets are going well.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: NCAA TIPS OFF

BASKETBALL

In college basketball, the field of 64 officially tipped off.  Just like last year, it was covered on 4 networks so people could see every single game of the day.

In the early part of the day, #11 looked to pull an upset over #6 Butler.  They were one of people’s favorite Cinderella candidates.  They gave it a good push, but in the end, Butler was simply more fluid and able to escape with a victory.  Butler 68, Bucknell 56.

Another Cinderella candidate, #14 Davidson was looking good against #3 Marquette.  It looked like they had them on the ropes, as they were up by a healthy 4 points with just under a minute to go.  But nerves got to Davidson and they made some horrendous mistakes down the stretch (like throwing the ball out of bounds) and gave Marquette the ball down by only 1 with 6 seconds to go.  Their point guard Vander Blue easily drove to the basket, got an easy bucket, and staved off an embarrassing defeat.  Marquette 59, Davidson 58.

Then it was time for the first #1 seed, Gonzaga, to get started.  There was a lot of hype surrounding the Zags heading into the tournament, and a tight game with #16 Southern certainly didn’t help their case as a dominant team.  This game came down to the final few minutes, but in the end Kelly Olynk took over and ensured that the Zags avoided a HUGE upset.  Gonzaga 64, Southern 58.

And in the evening, we got a glimpse of “Havoc”, otherwise known as Shaka Smart’s VCU team.  This team has an aggressive and impressive defense that can destroy opponents if they’re not ready for it.  They absolutely crushed the shellshocked Akron Zips by an alarming 46 points.  And VCU is a #5 seed taking on a pretty good Akron team.  Now, VCU looks like a team that could not only advance to the Final 4, but actually win this whole thing.  But, before they do, they have a very difficult second round game against #4 seed Michigan — a team that looks like they’re back to their true form from the beginning of the season.  VCU 88, Akron 42.

Finally, the big shocker of the day came from #14 Harvard vs. #3 New Mexico.  New Mexico has a very strong team this year, and planned to make a Final Four run.  Meanwhile, Harvard has never won an NCAA Tournament game.  But they came ready to play, and were hitting three-pointers lights out.  New Mexico made a few runs to get back into the game, but Harvard never got rattled, and just kept making their shots.  When the buzzer sounded, Harvard was on top and earned a trip to the second round against Arizona.  Wow!  Harvard 68, New Mexico 62.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT STILL REIGNS, JAMES MADISON & LASALLE ADVANCE, REED TO TEXANS

BASKETBALL

What’s going on in the NBA right now is nothing short of incredible.  Everyone is turning on their super A-game to take on the Heat, as every team wants to be the team that ends Miami’s incredible 23-game win streak.  Wednesday night, the Heat took on LeBron’s old team — the Cleveland Cavaliers.  So the Cavs wanted it extra bad.  Unfortunately for the Cavs, they were without their star point guard Kyrie Irving.  The Cavs jumped out to an awesome 27-point lead.  Again, that’s a 27-point lead on the Miami Heat.  But, in spectacular fashion, the Heat came surging back in the second half behind an awesome 3-point shooting spree from LeBron James.  James decided this wasn’t going to end in Cleveland.  LeBron had a triple double and helped the Heat hang on and get their 24th straight win.  Every single team is dying to take them down.  Miami 98, Cleveland 95.
And in college basketball, not many noticed, but March Madness actually had two play-in games yesterday. First, James Madison had a tough fought battle against LIU Brooklyn, but the #16 pulled it out for the right to get crushed by Indiana.  Then, two #13 teams faced off for a chance to take on #4 seed Kansas State.  It was a duel between Boise State and LaSalle.  This one wasn’t even close, as LaSalle got it done to easily advance.  They will have to take on Kansas State in Kansas City, but stranger upsets have happened.  LaSalle 68, Boise State 55.

 

FOOTBALL

Finally, in the NFL, it looks like long-time Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is headed out of town.  Reed has been an instrumental component to the Ravens stellar defense over the last decade.  But after the Ravens won a Super Bowl, Reed, like many other Ravens, has decided to move on.  He’s headed to Houston, where he will strap on a Texans helmet.  This is an extremely intelligent addition by the Texans, as they place some much needed help in their secondary.  The Texans had a solid offense last year, but the defense let teams run up the score.  Having Reed will help in keeping opponent scoring down, and perhaps help the Texans get to the Super Bowl.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT EXTEND WINNING STREAK, WOMEN’S BRACKET ANNOUNCED, HASSELBECK GONE

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, the Miami Heat were tied with the 2008 Houston Rockets for the second longest winning streak in NBA History:  22 games.  The Heat have been rolling, but have had some close calls to some bad teams.  To get that 23rd win, they would need to beat their rival, the Boston Celtics, IN Boston.  Boston is playing very well right now, and long-time Celtics fan and ESPN analyst Bill Simmons actually guaranteed a win on TV.  Unfortunately for the Celtics, they would be without Kevin Garnett.  At the same time, the Celtics played so well that it looked like they wouldn’t need Garnett.  They even got up by as many as 17 points.  But late in the 4th quarter, LeBron and Wade went to work and pulled the miracle comeback, beating the Celtics at the very end and extending their streak to 23.  Now they have a stretch of 5 winnable games.  Can they beat the Lakers record of 33 wins back in the late 60s???  Miami 105, Boston 103.

In women’s college hoops, the NCAA Women’s Brackets were announced yesterday, revealing that Baylor has the #1 overall seed.  This is largely due to the phenomenal and now legendary play of their center Brittney Griner.  Griner is arguably the best female basketball player ever to play the game.  Baylor only dropped one game this year, but they are surely the favorite to win it all. However, you can bet the other #1 seeds, traditional women’s powerhouses UConn, Stanford, and Notre Dame will all be gunning to take down Baylor.  Can the Bears win two National Championships in a row???

FOOTBALL

And in NFL free agency, the Tennessee Titans made two bold moves yesterday.  First, after two years, the Titans have decided to part ways with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.  Hasselbeck was more of an interim plan so they could start training their new QB Jake Locker.  Locker got hurt last year, so Hasselbeck actually saw a lot of action.  But they finally decided that Locker was ready.  However, to keep Locker on his toes, and as an insurance policy, the Titans signed free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Fitzpatrick had some great games and some terrible games in Buffalo, but he is a nice addition as a back-up in Tennessee.  And if Locker goes down again, the Titans can feel comfortable with the ball in Fitzpatrick’s hands.  Hasselbeck also might have a few years left as a serviceable back-up somewhere.  Hopefully someone picks him up.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: VIKINGS GRAB JENNINGS, SELECTION SUNDAY FOR MARCH MADNESS

FOOTBALL

In the NFL, a major free agent signing went down over the weekend.  Most of the big name free agents were off the board except for one:  long-time Packers star wide receiver Greg Jennings.  The Packers parted ways with Jennings for financial reasons, thinking that they can reload weapons for Aaron Rodgers in the draft.  Plus, receivers James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb are coming on strong.  But, in the NFL, teams in the same divisions like to grab other free agents to get intel about a team.  That’s why the Minnesota Vikings grabbed Jennings for a lucrative 5-year deal.  This helps the Vikings replace the void at wide receiver left by Harvin, and they will also look to put more weapons on the field around their young QB Christian Ponder. Look for them to grab wide receivers in the draft.  This is a very nice fit for Jennings.

BASKETBALL

And in college basketball, it was “Selection Sunday” where we finally got to see where teams would end up for March Madness.  First, though, we had to see the conference championship games play out.  Louisville nabbed the Big East title with ease, and looks like the toughest team in the country to beat right now.  Ohio State grabbed the Big Ten Title, while Oregon pulled an upset win to win the Pac 12 championship.  In the South, Ole Miss put on their Cinderella shoes to win the SEC, and Miami looked fearless as they took home the ACC crown.

So where would everyone end up.  Well, there was some controversy around the #1 seeds, but after all was said and done, they were doled out to Louisville, Kansas, Indiana, and Gonzaga.  As for #2 seeds, Duke went to Louisville’s division, Georgetown to the Kansas’, Miami to the Indiana bracket, and Ohio State to Gonzaga’s.  It is very important to consider that there is more parity this year in college basketball than any season in the past decade.  There is no powerhouse, and anyone could literally beat anyone.  The seedings don’t really matter as much as who is hot right now.  Teams like Indiana and Georgetown are a bit cold right now, while Miami, Louisville, and even a dark horse candidate like a #3 New Mexico are scorching hot.  Plus, there are 4 play-in games this year, so all the madness will actually begin on Tuesday.  Get ready for an amazing week of hoops.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: LAKER FANS BLAME JONES, CASSEL AND JACKSON FIND NEW HOMES

BASKETBALL

In the NBA, on Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant went down with a severe ankle sprain.  He is currently out indefinitely, as it’s unclear how long it will take him to recover.  This is a huge blow for a team that is clawing at the opportunity for a post-season birth.  Now, the Atlanta Hawks’ Dahntay Jones is coming under attack, as Laker fans think that he intentionally tried to hurt Kobe.  But Jones has fired back saying that he in absolutely no way tried to hurt Kobe.  Bryant tried to hit a fade away, which caused Jones to have to step under him in order to defend the shot.  This caused Kobe to land awkwardly on his ankle, and this type of thing can cause injuries that can end careers.  Still, many pundits are saying that no matter what Jones says, he likely did this on purpose.  It’s all a matter of opinion.

FOOTBALL

In NFL free agency, another former quarterback found a new home.  After being released from the Kansas City Chiefs in order to make room for Alex Smith, Matt Cassel was hoping to jump onto another team quickly.  On Thursday he found a new home as the back-up on the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings are likely going to stick with their quarterback Christian Ponder, but Ponder had some weak games last year, and if things don’t start clicking for them, it’s likely that Cassel could step in and get a shot.  Cassel might not have what it takes to be a star QB in this league, but he is a nice, reliable option as a back-up.

And at the age of 29-years old, Stephen Jackson is no longer a St. Louis Ram.  Jackson is a pure beast of an athlete.  He’s the type of player who gives it everything he has on every play.  He was never shy.  But, in St. Louis, the Rams often fell behind by a lot of points, which didn’t give Jackson a chance to shine at the end of games (because the Rams were always in pass mode).  Now, he’s found a new home in Atlanta . The Falcons released their running-back Michael Turner so they were able sign Stephen Jackson.  Having a truck like Jackson is going to be perfect for them.  He’s like an improved version of Michael Turner.  Last year, the Falcons had dents in their armor, but next season they will be a machine to be reckoned with.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: WILD FREE AGENCY….WELKER TO BRONCOS, WELKER’S DOPPELGANGER, BUSH TO LIONS, MENDENHALL A CARDINAL, GREENE NOT A JET

In the NFL, it was Day 2 of another wild free agency day.

The big news of the day came out of New England.  Everyone, and that means everyone, expected Wes Welker to resign with the Patriots.  He is paramount to their offense and best friends with Tom Brady.  But, yesterday, an AFC foe came to the table and snatched Welker away.  Yep, the Denver Broncos have signed Welker to a two-year $12 million dollar contract.  So not only will he be playing for a key competitor, he’ll be teaming up with Brady’s career arch-nemesis in Peyton Manning.  At the same time, this makes the Broncos passing game absolutely deadly.  If you’re a fantasy player, draft Peyton Manning.

And, in haste, the Patriots needed to find a replacement for Welker.  So they pretty much found Welker’s doppelganger in Danny Amendola (seriously, they really look alike!).  Amendola is another speedy slot receiver that has struggled with injuries but will fit into the Patriots system quite nicely.  However, the Patriots will likely have to pick up some receiving weapons in the draft as currently they only have Amendola and Brandon Lloyd at wideout.

In running-back moves, Reggie Bush has found a new home… with the Detroit Lions.  The Lions had a down year last year, but hope to pick things up again this year.  They have a solid running-back in Mikel LeShoure, but beyond him it’s a up for grabs.  Having Bush will give them some versatility in their running game and also confuse defenses as Bush is an excellent decoy.

And former Steelers running-back Rashard Mendenhall is headed to the Arizona Cardinals on a 1-year deal.  Mendenhall had some injury issues last season, and the Steelers felt he was expendable considering their depth at running-back.  With the Cards, Mendenhall will compete with Ryan Williams for the starting job, and potentially give the Cardinals and duel-threat in the backfield.  The Cardinals are in a rebuilding mode, but Mendenhall will certainly help.

Then, with the Jets also in rebuilding mode, they parted ways with Shonn Greene.  Greene was supposed to be their running back of the future, but has given a mediocre performance at best.  It’s likely the Jets will look to the draft for a running back and hope for a miracle.  But Greene found a new home in Tennessee and now gives the Titans a solid back-up to Chris Johnson.  They lost Javon Ringer to free agency, and Greene is definitely an upgrade over Ringer.  The Titans need a comeback season this fall, and adding Greene should worry other defensive lines.

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