Archive for March, 2014

WATERCOOLER CHAT: AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR: FLORIDA VS UCONN, WISCONSIN VS KENTUCKY

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In college basketball, it was time to trim the Elite 8 down to the Final Four.

First up, Cinderella #11 Dayton took on the #1 overall seed Florida.  And unfortunately for the Flyers, this is where the dance ended.  The game stayed close for a while, but then Florida’s sheer athleticism took over and they punched their ticket to the big dance.  But what a great advertising opportunity for the Dayton flyers who will surely be a competitor going forward.  Florida 62, Dayton 52.

Then, it was #2 Wisconsin vs. #1 Arizona.  This game was anybody’s guess, as Wisconsin is playing phenomenal basketball right now behind their 7’0 superstar Frank Kaminsky.  This game was knotted until the end.  Wisconsin held the lead, but Arizona had one more chance to try to win it.  They gave it to their best player, Nick Johnson, he drove, and was correctly called for an offensive foul.  And that offensive foul ended a fantastic season for the Wildcats, who have once again emerged as a top team in college basketball.  But, this year, the Badgers march on to the Final Four.  Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63.

Then, it was #4 Michigan State (heavily favored to win it all) taking on #7 UCONN and their superstar Shabazz Napier.  UCONN is trying to do what Kemba Walker did with UCONN in 2011.  That team got hot, and Kemba Walker led them to a National Championship as a #3 seed.  But they would have to take down Michigan State.  Towards the end it looked like State might pull away, but just the oppositte happened, and UCONN went on a tear.  Plus, it didn’t help the Spartans cause that this game was played in Madison Square Garden, which is pretty much a home game for UCONN.  The crowd was going crazy.   They pulled off the upset, and will now face the Florida Gators in the Final Four.  UCONN 60, Florida 54.

Finally, it was the much anticipated match-up between #8 Kentucky and #2 Michigan.  No one has given the Wolverines much credit in this tournament, probably because they got so much attention with their run last season.  But this team is just as good.  Michigan was leading late in the second half, but the Wildcats simply would not die.  They held in there.  Then, with the clock winding down on the game, Aaron Harrison hit a deep three pointer to give the Wildcats a 3-point lead with just 2.3 second left.  A very gutsy shot.  Michigan couldn’t convert, and the Kentucky team that is finally gelling with all their blue chip recruits is headed to Dallas in the Final Four to take on Wisconsin.  Kentucky 75, Michigan 72.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: SWEET 16- DAYTON OVER STANFORD, BADGERS CRUSH BAYLOR, FLORIDA PULLS OUT WIN OVER BRUINS

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In March Madness, the Sweet 16 was underway.  In the first batch of games, it was the Cinderellas:  #11 Dayton vs. #10 Stanford.  Both teams have had an incredible run so far, getting past some tough teams, but now they would face each other to see who would truly wear the slipper.  Dayton didn’t have the talent level of Stanford, but said they would just play Dayton basketball.  And whatever Dayton basketball is, it can’t be stopped.  They easily got past the Cardinal.  Dayton 82, Stanford 72.

Next up, #6 Baylor vs. #2 Wisconsin.  Both of these teams looked great coming into the game, and it was tough to imagine a winner.  But, this appears to be the year where Wisconsin doesn’t just play fundamental basketball, and defense.  These guys are very athletic, and they can seriously score with the 3-ball.  The Badgers crushed Baylor and advance to the Elite 8.  Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52.

Then, it was #1 Florida vs. #4 UCLA.  Florida is arguably the best team in the tournament, but they struggled with UCLA early.  It was neck and neck for most of the second half, but then, Florida turned on their juice and pulled away from the Bruins.  So it will be Florida and Dayton on Saturday in what will be a very exciting battle.  Don’t miss it.  Florida 79, Dayton 68.

Finally, in the marquee match-up of the night, it was #1 Arizona vs. the defensive-minded #4 San Diego State Aztecs.  San Diego State showed no fear against Arizona and controlled the game most of the way.  It looked they were on their way to a victory, especially since Arizona’s best player, Nick Johnson, simply could not score.  But, in the final 7 minutes of the game, Arizona finally clicked, and the Aztecs just couldn’t keep up.  Arizona advances to the elite in a showdown with Wisconsin.  An awesome game awaits.  Arizona 70, San Diego State 64.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: PACERS HOLD OFF HEAT, NORTHWESTERN PLAYERS UNIONIZE, JIM KELLY BATTLING CANCER

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In the NBA, it was the much anticipated match-up between the Eastern Conference leaders Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.  As of now, these two are jockeying for position, hoping for the eventual home court advantage if they wind up playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals.  This one was on the Pacers home court, and they hoped to take a step closer to securing that #1 spot.  Plus, as an advantage, the Heat were without Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen.  They are seemingly resting up for the playoffs.  It was a very close game that came down to the last shot.  Chris Bosh had a chance to win, but… air ball, and the Pacers hold on for the win.  Indiana 84, Miami 83.

FOOTBALL

And in college football, some potential groundbreaking news.  Northwestern University football players attempted to unionize recently, and yesterday, the court ruled in their favor, saying they have the right to unionize.  According to their decisions, the players are technical employees of the university and can unionize.  If this becomes contagious, it could be the end of the NCAA as we know it.  Many college athletes have voiced their opinions on not being paid even though they make the university and the NCAA a ton of money.  With a union, they would have more strength behind their argument.  This is a story that could get very heated in the coming year.

Finally, in the NFL, former Buffalo Bills star quarterback Jim Kelly has been battling mouth cancer.   Yesterday his wife put out a statement that Kelly will not pursue surgery for his cancer.  She said, at this point surgery is not the best option for his particular form of cancer.  It wouldn’t eradicate everything, and Kelly still has a type of cancer that can be cured via non-surgical means (e.g. chemotherapy).  Bills fans and football fans everywhere are praying for the Kelly family.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: QUINTON ROSS REPORTED DEAD, SNYDER TO ESTABLISH FUND FOR NATIVE AMERICANS

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How strange would it be to wake up and get a phone call that it’s been reported you were dead? Well, that happened to former NBA player Quinton Ross. Ross played for seven seasons with the NBA. It was reported by the New York Post (and later retracted) that he was found dead and buried on a beach.

FOOTBALL

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins is trying to get football fans to forget about the controversy over the team name. He set up a Foundation to donate coats on behalf of the Native American community. “It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans,” Snyder said in a letter to the team’s fans. “We must do more.” Some criticize that this is strictly a PR move and that the Team name “Redskins” is still highly offensive.  Either way the name controversy is not likely to go away anytime soon.

 

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: HEAT AND PACERS NO LONGER LOCK, SWAGGY P ROBBED, VICK & SANCHEZ SWAP

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In the NBA, everyone has been talking about the amazing inevitable battle between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.  The fact that no other team stands a chance.  Both the Heat and the Pacers are heavily struggling right now, and neither looks like they will give the best teams in the West much of a contest.  On Monday, however, the Heat pulled out an impressive win against a tough Blazers team, and gained a step on the Pacers who continue to slide.  One thing is for sure:  Neither of these teams are a lock for the Eastern Conference Finals anymore.  Miami 93, Portland 91.

Elsewhere in the NBA, during a Lakers game on Sunday, Lakers guard Nick Young’s house was robbed of nearly $100,000 of items.  Young is known around the NBA for flaunting his “swag” (i.e. nice clothes, shoes, cars, jewelry, etc…).  He even goes by the nickname Swaggy P.  However, it’s not always a good idea to tell everyone that you have a lot of nice stuff in your house, as you will likely become a target for robbery.  A real bummer for Young, but at least nobody was hurt in the break in.

FOOTBALL

Finally, in the NFL, the New York Jets recently cut QB Mark Sanchez in favor of signing Michael Vick.  Vick will likely start out as a back-up to Geno Smith.  But if Smith slips up even once, you can bet that fans will be screaming for the enigma that is Michael Vick.  But Mark Sanchez wasn’t without a job for very long.  In fact, it looks like he will be taking Michael Vick’s place on the Philadelphia Eagles as a back-up to Nick Foles.  They pretty much just swapped.  It’s still unclear whether or not Sanchez has a robust NFL career in him, but he’s safe for now.  Then again, he still has to make the team this summer.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: SWEET SIXTEEN ALL SET

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In March Madness, the round of 16 is all set.  Of course we got some surprises, but there is still a healthy amount of competition in Sweet Sixteen.  #1 seed Arizona has cruised past its opponents, crushing Gonzaga and Weber State.  Now it will face a true defensive test in San Diego State, a team that thinks it can beat anybody in the country now.

Wichita State was riding a 35-0 unbeaten streak, but it’s a different story when you’re playing tough teams with a do-or-die attitude.  Wichita State’s second round opponent was the mighty Kentucky.  Kentucky has struggled all year, but they are gelling at just the right time, and have a top player in Julius Randle.  It was a neck and neck game that came down to the wire, but in the end, the Kentucky Wildcats stood strong and ended the Shockers incredible run.  Going undefeated and winning the championship has never been done in college basketball.

Mercer may have pulled the upset of the tournament by defeating Duke in the first round, but #11 seed Tennessee looks fantastic right now, and they simply crushed the Mercer Bears.  Tennessee will now lock-up with #2 Michigan.   Meanwhile, UCLA continues its end of the season hot streak, toppling prospective Cinderella team Stephen F. Austin.  And the upset of the day came in the first game when #2 seed Kansas simply couldn’t get the best of #10 Stanford.  Kansas was hoping to get out of this first weekend, and get their top player, and likely #1 overall pick in the NBA draft, Joel Embiid, back in the line-up.  But Stanford wouldn’t have it, and nabbed the upset.  Everyone thought the sweet sixteen match-up was going to be a classic between Kansas and Syracuse.  Instead it will be #10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton.  Wow!

Get ready for more madness on Thursday!!!

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: FIRST DAY ACTION, SCIOSCIA AND GRETZKY TRADE

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And the REAL March Madness was under way.  We got a thrilling amount of overtime games, buzzer beaters, and pretty much everything we expect at this time of year.  Early in the day, we saw Syracuse return to dominance, Pitt established itself as a powerhouse after a complete crushing of Colorado, and Wisconsin proved that it was definitely deserving of that #2 seed.  They smashed American.  However, it wasn’t all top seeds taking the cake.  Ohio State had a rough start and got eliminated by its little in-state brother Dayton. Then, Harvard, the now Ivy League champ, came in and made #5 Cincinnati sweat.  They pulled out the win, and picked up only their second win in NCAA tournament history.

In the evening, Michigan eliminated Wofford, easily erasing them, and after an early scare, tournament favorite Florida came back to beat down Albany.  Then, in a showdown between Texas and Arizona State that came down to the wire, Texas had the ball with just a few seconds left.  They took a horrible 3-point which air-balled, but then, their big boy in the middle, Cameron Ridley grabbed the rebound, and threw it up with just a half-second left.  BANG! It went in, and Texas won at the buzzer.  Then, in late night action, everyone agreed that Louisville was playing the best ball coming into the tournament, but they got a serious scare from Manhattan who took them down to the wire.  But, some clutch 3-pointers from Luke Hancock gave the Cardinals the win in the end.  Just a thrilling day of March Madness action!

BASEBALL

And in some interesting minor league baseball news, the Chicago Cubs traded for a player near and dear to the Angels organization.  It was a minor league player, but nonetheless, still very important.  Angels manager Mike Scioscia’s son Matt Scioscia was part of the Angels minor league organization, but the Cubs wanted him, and the Angeles shipped him out of town.  However, in return, they got back another kin of a celebrity, Trevor Gretzky, son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.  At least both have promising futures.

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MARCH MADNESS BEGINS THURSDAY NIGHT, VICK MAY BE A JET

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March Madness begins tonight with the round of 64, meaning 64 college teams competing to be named the number one team in the country. Be prepared for everyone in the sports world to claim their brilliance when the teams they picked survive another round. And, if you happen to pick a “cinderella” team that beats one of the powerhouses, you definitely have bragging rights. I just filled out my bracket and have Florida to win it all.

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Free agent quarterback Michael Vick is rumored to be heading to the NY Jets. He is scheduled to meet with the Team on Friday. Current QB Mark Sanchez is likely out and perhaps Vick will come in to mentor current backup Geno Smith. Could be an exciting play for the Jets.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: MARCH MADNESS BEGINS, AUBURN TIRED OF IRRELEVANCE, BO SAYS NO TO WILSON

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You may not have realized it, but the very FIRST round of the NCAA Tournament (known as March Madness) got under way on Tuesday.  These were the first two of four play-in games.  First up, it was two #16 seeds hoping to get a crack at the #1 overall seed Florida.  Albany led 21-5 over Mt. St. Marys at one point, then in almost a flash of lightning, lost the lead.  The game was neck and neck, but Albany was able to pull out the victory to nab their first ever NCAA Tournament win.  Then, it was a battle of the #11 seeds:  NC State (playing very well right now) against Xavier.  NC State held control of the game throughout, and took the win.  They will now take on #6 UMass.  Albany 71, Mt. St. Marys 64.   NC State 74, Xavier 59.

Elsewhere in college basketball, the Auburn basketball program is tired of being irrelevant. Sure, this is a football school, but with their resurgence in the last few years, they want to be one of the overall athletic programs in the country.  That means you need a good basketball team.  In order to do this, you need a charismatic coach who knows how to recruit.  They went with ESPN’s own Bruce Pearl.  Pearl used to be the coach at Tennessee, but a controversy led to his release.  Auburn is giving him a $14 million dollar second chance.  This program should turn around quickly.

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In the NFL, everyone knows by now that Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson used to be a baseball player in college.  The Texas Rangers even used a draft pick on him.  Wilson reported to camp, but likely won’t play.  Then again… he’s keeping his options open.  With that said, former 2-sports super athlete, Bo Jackson, has weighed in on the matter.  Bo said that Wilson should stick with football.  Nowadays, sports have gotten so competitive and intense physically that it seems nearly impossible to for an athlete to play sports year round.  Wilson will likely heed Bo’s advice.

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WATERCOOLER CHAT: IRSAY ARRESTED, COWBOYS TAKE CHANCE ON WEEDEN, PHIL JACKSON NEW KNICKS PRESIDENT

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In the NFL, it looks like absolutely nobody is above the law.  Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested on a DUI charge, and now faces 4 felony counts, including the possession of a controlled substance.  We’re used to seeing this kind of thing from a wayward player here and there, but not a team owner.  These people have an image to uphold.  So how will the NFL punish Irsay?  Likely a lengthy suspension — although it’s hard to understand how that applies to a team owner.

Elsewhere in the NFL, the Cowboys are sticking with quarterback Tony Romo this year as their guy.  They have decided, however, to get him a new back-up QB.  They have opted to give former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden another chance.  Weeden basically floundered in Cleveland, however, was a superstar while playing at nearby Oklahoma State just a few years ago.  Perhaps he still has the talent to succeed, and maybe the fault was that of the Browns coaching staff.  This might just be a steal  by the Cowboys, taking a QB that everyone else has given up on.

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Finally, in the small, quiet lull before the NCAA Tournament storm, all eyes are on the latest movie in the NBA from the New York Knicks.  The Knicks haven’t performed well this season, and appear to be a franchise falling apart. They are in danger of losing their only superstar, Carmelo Anthony,  and possibly facing a multi-year rebuilding project.  There is man who can cure those woes:  Phil Jackson, The Zen Master.  The Knicks and Jackson agreed to terms Monday that Jackson would be the new team president.  He used to play for the Knicks and has a penchant for winning.  He will turn the culture around in New York, and Carmelo’s attitude will most likely improve at lightning speed.

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