Archive for March, 2015

UT Fired Barnes, Mullin Back To St. Johns, Golden Nugget Could Lose $1Mill If Mich State Wins

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Kevin DurantIn college basketball, as we eagerly anticipate the Final Four, some head coaches are already on the move.  The Texas basketball program fired head coach Rick Barnes after 17 years.  Texas is arguably the largest athletic program in the country, and if you can’t win there, there is something wrong.  They have great access to recruits.  Barnes did convince Kevin Durant to play for one season, but they haven’t had a Final Four appearance in a very long time.  Now, with him out (and likely headed to Tennessee) the top candidates are Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and VCU’s Shaka Smart.  Both are excellent coaches, and Texas’ basketball program desperately needs a makeover.

Elsewhere in college basketball, the St. Johns men’s program used to be one of the most talked about teams in the country back in the 80s.  There were always relevant, and always had the potential to make it to the Final Four.  They also gave us a Hall Of Fame Dream Team player in Chris Mullin.  Now, the program is looking to get back on track, and who better to helm the ship than Chris Mullin himself.  Mullin has agreed to be their head coach, and hopefully that will help with their recruiting, although there are fears from St. Johns fans that Mullin’s name won’t resonate with the younger recruits.

Golden NuggetFinally, in some interesting betting news, there is one fan desperately hoping Michigan State wins it all.  Derek Stevens is a gambler in Las Vegas, and likes to make interesting bets.  In December, Stevens walked into the Golden Nugget and said he wanted to put a bet on Michigan State to win it all. The odds were 50:1 and Stevens made the biggest bet of his life:  $20,000.  Vegas didn’t think it was possible, but now the Golden Nugget said if Stevens wins, this would be an enormous loss for them ($1 million).  The sports book said they had bad days where they lost $10,000 – $30,000, but $1 million would be a huge blow.  And they are just two Spartan wins away from paying that out.

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Final Four Set: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Michigan State And Duke

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In March Madness, this year’s Final Four is now set:

First up, it was the West Region that featured #1 Wisconsin and #2 Arizona.  This one was anybody’s game, and the Staples Center in Los Angeles was jam packed with Badger and Wildcat fans who made the trip.  Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead, but Arizona came back to take the lead at the half.  Then, in the second half, Wisconsin just caught fire, and seemingly couldn’t miss from three-point land.  They hit every off-balance three they took.  Some shaky clock management decisions led to Arizona’s demise toward the end, and Wisconsin marches on to the Final Four.  And that is two years in a row where they have eliminated Arizona in the Elite 8.  Wisconsin 85, Arizona 78.

Then, it was the marquee match-up between unbeaten #1 Kentucky and #3 seed Notre Dame.  Notre Dame saved their best basketball for this game and gave Kentucky heart palpitations the whole game even jumping out to a 6-point lead late in the game.  But, to beat Kentucky, you have to truly crush them, as they always have just enough gas in the tank to come back.  And even though this one came down to the final seconds, Kentucky did what they needed to get the job done, and they advanced to the Final Four where they will meet Wisconsin.  The Wildcats have already made history as they are the first Division I men’s team with a 38-0 undefeated record. Kentucky 68, Notre Dame 66.

Then, on Sunday, it was #4 Louisville, coached by Hall of Famer Rick Pitno vs. #7 Michigan State, coached by Hall of Famer Tom Izzo.  Both of these guys know how to win in March.  Louisville got the edge early, but the Spartans came charging back to lead late.  The Cardinals are resilient though and their valiant effort got the game to overtime.  But, in OT, Michigan State was just the more polished team, and their inexplicable championship run continues into the Final Four.  Michigan State 76, Louisville 70.

Duke BasketballFinally, it was #1 Duke vs. #2 Gonzaga.  Gonzaga was hoping this was the year where their fantastic program finally made the final four.  Unfortunately, squaring off against a super talented Duke team isn’t exactly easy.  Gonzaga hung in there for most of the way, but Duke’s defense was simply too constrictive, and Coach K and Duke advanced to their 12th Final Four.  That’s incredible!  Duke 66, Gonzaga 52.

Kentucky vs. Wisconsin and Duke vs. Michigan State next Saturday.

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Notre Dame, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona Move On, Dean Smith Leaves $200 To Each Player

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March Madness is back on, and this is the week where people’s brackets are going to get interesting.

First up, #7 Wichita State took on #3 Notre Dame.  Notre Dame almost lost their last game, while Wichita State was red hot coming off a win against Kansas.  But each game is played independently, and Notre Dame was in true form doing everything it needed to do to knock off the Shockers.  Notre Dame 81, Wichita State 70.

Kentucky BasketballIn the other half of that bracket, it was #1 Kentucky against #5 West Virginia.  West Virginia had been talking smack all week about how Kentucky was going to go 36-1.  Even some analysts were calling for an upset.  Kentucky heard all of that and decided to completely destroy West Virginia.  They were up by 26 at halftime, and they didn’t let up in the 2nd half.  It was king of ugly.  This win sets up an exciting game on Saturday between Kentucky and Notre Dame.  Kentucky 78, West Virginia 39.

In the West region, #1 Wisconsin battled #4 North Carolina.  The Tar Heels controlled this game most of the way, but at the very end, Wisconsin turned it on and rallied back to hold off North Carolina.  Wisconsin 79, North Carolina 72.
Finally, in the late game, it was #2 Arizona vs. #6 Xavier.  Xavier had control of this game, and it was extremely close at the half.  Then, in the 2nd half, it looked like Xavier was going to pull away, but Arizona wouldn’t go away, and finally the Wildcats turned the tide in their favor with their point guard T.J. McConnell brilliantly leading the team to victory in the last few minutes.  So it will be a rematch of last year’s Elite 8 between Arizona and Wisconsin.  Arizona 68, Xavier 60.

Dean Smith and Michael JordanIn other college basketball news, former and revered University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who passed away last month at the age of 83, left $200 in his will to each letter player he had ever coached. Included with the money was a note that said, “enjoy dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith.”

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SPURS DELIVER MESSAGE TO THUNDER, MARCH MADNESS RESUMES, DEVON STILL’s Daughter In Remission

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Even though Kevin Durant is currently sidelined, and may even be traded, the Oklahoma City Thunder are playing well behind Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter.  People are talking about the Thunder possibly upsetting the Warriors or Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.  On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs were tired of hearing how great OKC is, and they delivered a 39-point message to the Thunder establishing that, in case anybody had forgotten, they are still the defending champions.  San Antonio 130, OKC 91.

March Madness resumes on Thursday, and these are going to be some incredible games.  One of the most anticipated matchup is #5 West Virginia vs. the unbeaten #1 Kentucky.  West Virginia is a very tough defensive team and head coach Bob Huggins has a history of upsetting Kentucky, as his Mountaineers’ team toppled a Kentucky squad that included John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and DeMarcus Cousins (all stars in the NBA).  Plus, a West Virginia guard, Daxter Miles, said publicly that Kentucky is going to be 36-1.  We’ll see if it was a good idea to rile a powerhouse like Kentucky.

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Devon StillIn some feel-good news, many remember the Devon Still story from last year’s NFL season.  Devon Still is a defensive tackle for the Bengals who had to take time off to help his young daughter with cancer.  It started with a viral video of Still “fist-bumping” his daughter before a difficult cancer operation.  The whole country got behind Still, and his jersey sales soared.  And on Wednesday, it was reported that his daughter Leah’s cancer is officially in remission.  Just wonderful news.

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Love & Lebron Evolving, Redskins’ New QB, Bears Sign McDonald, Deep Fried Nachos On Stick

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Kevin LoveIn the NBA, there is a bit of controversy within the Cleveland Cavaliers’ organization.   In the off-season, the Cavs traded their #1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love in order to try and win championships right now.  Since that trade, his relationship with the Cavs’ Lebron James has been “evolving”. LeBron and Love are not enemies, but they’re not exactly best friends either — as Kevin Love hinted in an interview on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike”.  Love also said that he thought Russell Westbrook was having a better season than LeBron.  Not exactly the best thing to say about your teammate.  Then again, Love was former teammates with Westbrook at UCLA.

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And in the NFL, the historic Washington Redskins are a mess right now.  They are a super popular organization that simply can’t field a good team.  Now their GM is saying that they might pick a quarterback with their #5 overall draft pick.  This certainly sends a mixed message to Robert Griffin III. Earlier this off season, head coach Jay Gruden said that Griffin would be the team’s starting quarterback.  This may not end well.

In a controversial move, the Chicago Bears signed defensive end Ray McDonald. McDonald was released by the SF 49ers in December while he was under investigation for sexual assault. He has not been officially charged in that case and he is suing the woman that accused him.  He was also implicated in a domestic abuse case last August involving his fiancee. He did not face charges in that case either. Many are questioning the Bears’ organization for bringing in McDonald while others are saying that since he hasn’t been found guilty of either charge, he has been unfairly targeted.

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mlb_cornts_600x600The Milwaukee Brewers seem to think there is no limit for what could be considered unhealthy in their ball park  And now, it looks like they are offering deep fried nachos on a stick.  This is their quest to become the most talked about food stadium in the league.

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Sharper Guilty Of Drugging/Raping, Vikings Want Peterson, Princeton Finally Loses Game

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In the NFL, some horrible news. Former New Orleans Saints’ star Darren Sharper pleaded guilty to drugging and raping two women.  Sharper was immediately given 9 years in prison, but that will likely be on the low end of the deal, as more sentences are coming based on how he handles his entire case.  He is likely looking at the range of 33 years according to the reports.
Adrian PetersonElsewhere in the NFL, apparently the Minnesota Vikings want to keep Adrian Peterson. Peterson’s agent, however, said that Minnesota isn’t a good fit for Peterson anymore.   It’s reported that both the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals are very interested — both teams who desperately need a running back.

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Finally, in women’s college hoops, Princeton University was riding a perfect season coming into March Madness.  Many wondered if they could nab a perfect year, just like Kentucky is trying to do in men’s basketball.   Unfortunately, Princeton got seated in the same bracket as Maryland in the early rounds, a team who had a terrific year, and Monday night the Terrapins put an end to Princeton’s perfect season.   Still a huge accomplishment to finish the regular season without a loss.  Maryland 85, Princeton 70.

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March Madness Big Weekend Games-Kentucky, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Duke, Gonzaga And NC State Over Villanova To Sweet Sixteen

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This weekend, it was all about March Madness.  Of course everyone was aiming to topple the undefeated Kentucky, but that certainly wouldn’t prove easy.  In the 2nd round, Cincinnati gave them a very hard time in the first half, but in the 2nd half, Kentucky was just too dominant, and easily pulled away.

Notre Dame continued their hot streak, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.  However, they had a very close call with their second round opponent, Butler.  In that same bracket, however, the ailing #2 seed Kansas got beaten badly by their NEW in-state rival Wichita State.  Wichita State will take on Notre Dame, and both teams feel like they can beat anybody right now.

Kyle Wiltjer#2 Gonzaga was able to avoid an early upset.  This team is fantastic offensively, led by former Kentucky recruit Kyle Wiltjer.  They actually look like they have legs this year, and could make a run.  Then again, the #1 seed in their regional, Duke, looks incredible and if that match-up happens, it will definitely be something special to watch.

Three #1 seeds made it to the Sweet Sixteen (Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky), but even though it always looks good to pick all #1 seeds to advance on paper, it seldom happens.

The big upset of the weekend was the NC State Wolfpack, a team that has beaten both #1 Duke and #2 Virginia this year, played a near perfect game to upset the #1 Villanova Wildcats and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  That’s two years in a row where Villanova came in as a high seed and left very early.

The action continues next Thursday.

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UAB, Georgia State Pull Upsets, UCLA Barely Survives

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March Madness is upon us, and Thursday marked the first REAL day of action.  People everywhere were calling in sick to catch it all, and there was plenty of craziness to keep us entertained.

#3 seed Iowa State was poised to make a deep run in this year’s tournament.  They have a lot of talent and were completely healthy.  Plus, they are coached by Fred Hoiberg, who many have pegged as an NBA coaching candidate.  But they didn’t expect UAB (Alabama-Birmingham) to come out so strong.  UAB just wouldn’t go away and pulled a major upset.  UAB 60, Iowa State 59.

It looked like the #3 seeds had trouble coming into the tourney, as Baylor also suffered the same fate against #14 seed Georgia State.  Georgia State was completely relentless down the stretch and just kept coming strong at Baylor.  It all came down to one final shot by the coach’s son RJ Hunter.  He shot long with just a few seconds remaining to take the lead and pull the shocking upset.  Georgia State 57, Baylor 56.

UCLAFinally, storied coach Larry Brown finally got his SMU (Southern Methodist) Mustangs into the tournament.  They were lackluster in the first half, but went on an incredible 19-0 run in the second half, and finally looked like the team that everyone thought could go far.  It looked like they were going to lock up the game, but UCLA took one last three, and got the miracle they needed.  No, the shot didn’t go in, but a SMU defender just barely grazed the ball coming down before it hit the rim and was called for goal tending.  That gave UCLA a one-point lead and all they needed to win the game.  Just incredible.  Madness is upon us.  UCLA 60, SMU 59.

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Cowboys Add Controversial Greg Hardy, NFL Mulling “Bonus” Point, March Madness Begins

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DeMarco MurrayIn the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have taken a hit in free agency with DeMarco Murray signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.  To make up for that huge loss, the Cowboys have added defensive end Greg Hardy to the mix.  This is a very controversial signing, however, as Hardy is currently under investigation for violating the league’s and the law’s domestic conduct policy.  He may have attacked his partner.  So some critics out there are saying that the Dallas Cowboys sold their soul in an attempt to make their team better.  This is essentially the equivalent of signing Ray Rice, and that is simply bad PR for any organization.

Elsewhere in the NFL, there is a proposal for a very interesting rule change concerning a “bonus” point.  This rule would allow teams that convert a successful 2-point conversion to then have a shot of scoring a 1-point “bonus” by kicking a 50-yard field goal.  This is clearly an attempt by the league to try to make the game more competitive, and allow for late miracle 4th quarter comebacks, as a team down by 9 points could make up for that deficit on one possession.  This is a radical concept, but the league is seriously mulling it over.

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Remember, Thursday marks the start of March Madness.  Everyone is pretty much penciling in undefeated Kentucky as the champion, but make no mistake that March Madness is when crazy things happen.  So when filling out your brackets, keep in mind that it only takes one bad shooting day for a mighty team to fall.  A few years ago, everyone had Kanasas to win it all, and they were stunned by Northern Iowa in the 2nd Round.  So absolutely anything can happen.

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Hampton Celebration With Call To Jesus, 1 in 2.4 Trillion Chance Of Perfect Bracket

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Major LeagueAs of  Thursday all anyone will be talking about is the NCAA tournament.  We’ll see some great upsets and entertaining celebrations. In fact, two of the most memorable celebrations already occurred when Hampton beat Manhattan in a play-in-game giving them the opportunity to play #1 seed Kentucky on Thursday. After a free throw, the Team mimicked the scene in the movie “Major League”.  Then at the end of the game, the Hampton’s coach pretended to have Jesus’ number on speed dial and called to see if they had a chance against Kentucky.

If you’re planning to set your bracket for the tournament, you have until noon on Wednesday.

Just remember, the odds of picking a perfect bracket are staggeringly difficult. One Duke math professor puts the odds at 1 in 2.4 trillion.

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