Happy Friday! It is March and the freeze of February is finally over. NFL free agency is just around the corner and teams are preparing to make their major moves to improve before the draft. Let’s make a quick run through the NFL and get ready fro free agency and the draft:
In Minnesota, the Vikings are trying to determine if they make an offer to keep Matt Cassel after he got out of his contract to get to free agency. With Christian Ponder still eating up space on the roster, the Vikings have a tough choice whether to dare going into another season without a quarterback who actually gives the team a chance to win. Picking eighth in the draft, Minnesota could take a quarterback, but they may be gun shy after the Ponder debacle. They basically had no wins with quarterbacks not named Cassel last year, so they may be forced to overpay for the former New England backup, especially with the Houston Texans indicating interest.
Cleveland is in a similar situation as former first round draft pick Brandon Weeden stinking out the joint, the Browns have the tough choice regarding grabbing a quarterback or praying that a former New England backup can do the job. Former Patriot Brian Hoyer led the Browns to two wins in 2013 before being lost for the year due to a knee injury. Of course, that was 50% of their wins, so that is kind of impressive.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are picking third in the draft this season and look ready to finally move past the horrible Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert duo that has grossly underperformed the past two seasons. One name not heard about much is Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. It seems improbable the Sanchize is back in New York next year, but will there be a market for him when the Jets inevitably part ways with him?
Moving past the quarterbacks, the New Orleans Saints are rumored to be shopping some veterans on offense. Running back Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas and wide receiver Lance Moore are reportedly available for teams in trades. The Saints are trying to free up about $9 million in cap space without just releasing their playmakers. The Saints need to get younger and more athletic on both sides of the ball in a hurry to not be left in the dust by Carolina, San Francisco, and Seattle.
The Saints of course need to pay tight end Jimmy Graham who is likely off the market with their offer sheet. To get Graham, a team has to give New Orleans two first round draft picks. Of course, most likely to happen is that a team will let New Orleans know they are interested and work out a trade. Would the Saints be willing to listen? For sure, this team is rebuilding on the fly and Graham is basically a large wide receiver (no blocking ability at all).
The Buffalo Bills did not tag safety Jairus Byrd who is going to be one of the big money signings in free agency. Whether it is in Buffalo remains to be seen.
Atlanta signed former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora last year thinking he was the final piece in the puzzle to move on to the Super Bowl. Whoops. At 32, he is no spring chicken, but Atlanta is in a tough spot. Are they a bounce-back team? Are they rebuilding? Either way, over $3 million in cap space for a player who should be a third down pass rusher at this stage is steep. According to reports he is being asked to take a significant pay cut. Will he? That’s the question. If not, there is another pass rusher on the market.
Denver released greybeard cornerback Champ Bailey and freed up $10 million dollars. Champ may be full of self confidence and think he is worth all that money at 36 after an injury filled season. Bailey had a Lisfranc sprain that slowed him most of the season and is looking at a low, one year salary to prove himself still capable. Not the market he is looking for in free agency. Of course, Denver now becomes the favorite in the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes to make one last push for the Super Bowl next season.
Good news for New England as their center Ryan Wendell is a free agent. The Colts surprisingly cut their starting center Samson Satele. At 29, Satele is an unrestricted free agent and the Patriots can move on from their weak link in the middle of the offensive line.
One replacement for cornerback is off the market for New England if they cannot re-sign cornerback Aqib Talib. The Miami Dolphins signed cornerback Brent Grimes to a four year $32 million contract with half the money guaranteed. Grimes came to Miami on a one year prove it deal and proved it as he was a top ten cornerback last year bouncing back from missing the 2012 season.
Speaking of the Dolphins, they need a huge upgrade on the offensive line. The Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess leaves a bad offensive line even weaker. They need both tackle positions filled and at least one guard and some depth. Young quarterback Ryan Tannehill has looked impressive, but if he has no running game or time to throw, the Dolphins will never get over the hump to the playoffs.
Took a look at the running backs in free agency. No superstars, but a lot of solid backs. Donald Brown of the Colts and Ben Tate of the Texans are looking to be a top back and paid as such, as is the resurgent LeGarrette Blount who resurrected his career in New England. Add in the always injured Darren McFadden of the Raiders, Green Bay’s James Starks, Jacksonville back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Broncos Knowshon Moreno, former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall, the Giants’ Andre Brown, the Vikings Toby Gerhart, and former Jaguar and Raider Rashad Jennings. One of these backs could be a breakout star, or two of them, or all of them...heck, maybe none of them. The depth will keep the prices down, which is good for teams trying to keep their backs or fall in love with another back. There is a reason they are available...but there are some good backs who can contribute to a team in 2014 on the market.
One back who may end up on the market is Ravens back Ray Rice. Last seen dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator in Atlantic City, it may be difficult for the Ravens to keep him on the team. Whether the team eventually releases him depends on what plays out in the courts. Most likely, he will pay his way out of trouble and the Ravens have to weigh if they are going let public opinion sway their decision.
Finally, following the surprise release of linebacker D’Qwell Jackson last week, he ended up with an $11 million guarantee from Indianapolis on a four year $22 million contract. Jackson was good, but not great in Cleveland and again the Colts seem to be overpaying for scraps from Cleveland. Last year they inexplicably traded a first round pick for running back Trent Richardson who was a huge disappointment. At least Jackson only costs the Colts money and cap space.
Baseball season is soon to start. How do I know? Last week I was in Sarasota, spring home of the Orioles and was a week too early to catch any games. This week, I’m in Washington DC, not far from Nationals Park and catch some radio ads to order game tickets – some as low as $10 – and yet, they’re in Florida. Maybe its just the buzz of the onsetting season that’s got me, or maybe it’s just Mo’s luck. I was in Queens NY and looking forward to a Mets game, staying less than 3 miles from CitiField, and I couldn’t make it. I was in Atlanta, not far from Turner Field, while the Braves were in town…and I couldn’t make it. You’d think it would happen – JUST ONCE – for me that I could make something happen.
So I wait. Just like everyone else that doesn’t like in either a Grapefruit League or Cactus League locale. Damnit.
“Outside the Lines” on ESPN is running a program on “The N Word.” There’s a piece on Warren Moon, where he highlights one game in New England where some DB in the stands laid that on him – as he was one of the only quarterbacks of color in the league at the time – and he said he wanted to go into the stands and get the guy. Joel Ward of the Capitols scored the series closing goal against the Bruins in the 2012 playoffs and was hit with all manner of racist comments – afterall, how many people of color play hockey? I’m highlighting these two issues, because they happened in contests against MY teams, teams that represent my city. My home.
Last week, I wrote about the proposal the NFL is considering a racism rule, that I suggested is a terrible idea. Which isn’t to say it’s something you would hear me say, it’s just that somethings have a way of taking care of themselves. The OTL program, though, was eye opening. I mean, I want to believe we live in if not “post-racial” society, then certainly a far more integrated society. The kids interviewed in the second half of the program, really seemed to not care about it. They said they use it so frequently that it has no meaning. The folks of my generation and older, take great offense to the word. To the point that, truly, I don’t use it. Ever.
But you know, and I recognize that I’m not in a position to comment on the word in specific, but in general, words have power because – and ONLY because – we give it power. So, maybe, just maybe, these kids have the right idea. Desensitize the word. Remove the meaning. Bear in mind, we can point fingers at teenagers and say they’re out of touch. But our history isn’t necessarily going to theirs. I was 22 years old before I interacted at any level with anyone that wasn’t white.
When I was a kid, Generation X was a bunch of slackers…when the Boomers were writing the essays. Now Gen X is in positions of authority, the history is being rewritten. Gen-X has re-written a bunch of rules, maybe that’s why we’re so conflicted about this word. Maybe, 20 years from now we’re wondering why this was such an issue. Those teenagers will be 37 in 20 years – I’d like to see what they have to say then. I’m no Barack Obama political fan, but I’m a fan for one reason: his presidency stands for is the idea that we’ve at least started to move beyond these distinctions.
Think about it. In 20 years, we’ve gone from DOMA to same-sex marriage being endorsed by the President of the United States. We’re in a time of great change. My hope for those kids is that 20 years from now, they feel the same way. Race and conversations thereof won’t matter.
See what I did there? I brought it back to Washington DC. Even managed to talk about sports – in case you missed it, it was in the first paragraph. I’m glad ESPN talked about the issue, because sports is the one area in American life where we all put all the crap aside and root for results on the field. Where the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks quarterback is black. Where the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers – North Carolina, a member of the Confederacy – is black. And bringing it back to my opening, talking about how embarrassed I am that the two stories I mentioned were related to my city. But you know, even those DBs saying that crap about Warren Moon were the same guys cheering all night when Deion Branch hoisted the Super Bowl MVP trophy, those pricks who went after Joel Ward were celebrating David Ortiz’ MVP performance in last October’s World Series. They’re the hypocrites, and the opinions of hypocrites hold no value.
Change and understanding takes time. It’s my belief, sports is important for that reason: they give us a reason to cheer and root on folks who might not look like us. Michael Sam is important for that reason – imagine. Ask yourself how long ago his race would be the story here. The answer is, not that long ago. The fact his race isn’t the story is big. Let’s not lose sight of that.
Happy Friday, all! Amazingly, it is just a pinch over five months until the 2014 NFL season kicks-off at the preseason Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH on August 3rd. Just over a week until the NFL teams are able to negotiate with other team’s free agents prior to the signing period starting on March 11th. The NFL Draft is pushed back to May this year, but even that is only nine weeks away.
With the news of an increase in the salary cap to close to $132 million there will be a number of teams with more space to overpay free agents. This is interesting because of the last collective bargaining agreement between the players and league followed an uncapped year and immediately the league had a number of stagnant cap seasons that seemed to belie the league’s success. Finally, this year the cap finally rose as many expected it would three years ago.
The NFLPA is already readying for the next labor war as former Carolina Panthers defensive end Sean Gilbert is out and campaigning to run against NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Gilbert has been making the rounds and planning to get out of the current CBA. The election is next year, but the ten year deal is suddenly in jeopardy with another work stoppage in 2015 if Gilbert is elected.
Free agents are starting to ink deals now as left tackle Jordan Gross unexpectedly retired. Gross was an All-Pro and Pro Bowl multiple times in Carolina. This is a huge hole for a team that was close to contending in 2013.
Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski was in the news after saying on a radio show that he did not think prospect quarterback Johnny Manziel is not a good prospect. Jaworski is one of the best quarterback analysts (in my opinion at least--I NEVER miss him on NFL Matchup during the season) on the air and knows his passers. I do not see the controversy...I feel the same way as I watched him this season at Texas A&M and was not impressed. He was a great college quarterback...just like Tim Tebow.
The Philadelphia Eagles set the wide receiver market with a five year $25 million for wide receiver Riley Cooper. At the same time they are trying to decide to re-sign wide receiver Jeremy Maclin whose knee injury opened up the position for Cooper to step up. Hard to predict that Cooper would cash in after having nearly been booted off the team for his training camp racial slur scandal.
The Eagles also locked up their left tackle Jason Peters and extended center Jason Kelce. For Kelce, a sixth round draft pick, the six year $37 million contract is the payoff for a lot of hard work to work his way from being a fringe roster player to an elite interior offensive lineman.
The New Orleans Saints look to be on the verge of franchise tagging tight end Jimmy Graham. The two sides are far apart on a deal and New Orleans would be insane to let him on the open market. What is interesting will be where he is tendered as a franchise player. The difference is a couple million dollars so it will be interesting to see how that plays out this summer.
The Cleveland Browns released long-time linebacker D’Qwell Jackson after just two seasons into his signing a big money extension. Jackson excels in pass coverage at linebacker so he should have quite a market in free agency. Of course, there was a reason he was released by a four-win team (he has been terrible against the run the past two seasons and adds little to the pass rush) and if someone overpays they will likely be in the same boat as Cleveland in a year or two.
Of course, the NFL off-season is always full of controversy. Arizona almost lost the Super Bowl next year due to their discriminatory anti-gay bill. The NFL showed their muscle in the political arena by putting pressure on the state government. The NFL (and particularly the Arizona Cardinals) pushed hard to strike down Bill 1026 in order to keep the Super Bowl. Remember, the NFL stopped Arizona from having a Super Bowl due to their not recognizing Martin Luther King Jr Day in the past.
Other bad news for the NFL came with former NFL player and NFL Network analyst Darren Sharper stands accused of drugging and raping several women. The news now is that he is suspected of raping seven women. He was arrested initially in Los Angeles and now has an arrest warrant in New Orleans. He is under investigation in Florida, Arizona, and Las Vegas as well.
For Sharper it is his job gone and now potentially his freedom. If he is guilty then it is a tragic waste of a life. I do not understand or want to know what is going on in his head, but if he is responsible for this he is a sad, sick individual.
Speaking of wasted lives: former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was back in the news. A fight in jail--allegedly attacking an inmate who was in handcuffs--and he ended up in isolation for 30 days. Another odd twist in this ongoing saga for the former NFL player.
I was all pumped up to watch Duke play UNC in Hoops the other night a than totally forgot it was on. So a few nights later Duke was playing Syracuse right after the Cuse ruined their undefeated season against Boston College fall asleep missed that one too. I did end up watching a good NBA game if there is such a thing anymore Houston and Golden State in Overtime 102-99 first time in a while was totally entertained by the NBA, I had no routing interest and only could watch the guy do the luge some many times. There really wasn’t anything else on. So I tuned in and actually enjoyed
Has banned collisions at the plate sort of. There has been talk it will take the players a while to get use to it but isn’t the slide or avoid rule at every other level of baseball from Little league to college? It simple the catcher has the ball go around him or slide into the plate don’t barrel him over. The catcher if you don’t have the ball or not getting ready to receive a throw move your ass out of the way what's so hard about it?
Is attempting to implement a 15 yard penalty for certain inappropriate words regarding race and sexual choice. There is no place in the game for using language regarding either. I'm thinking the rule has come about in direct relationship to two recent events. The Richie Incognito stuff with Jonathon Martin and Micheal Samms comming out as a gay athlete which I think once this kid poves he can play and his a good teammate the gay issue goes away.
I think this will be unfair burden on the officials. If one decides to call a penalty because he hears the N word and it costs a team a playoff birth there will be a huge debate. In treality I think the rule is a cover our ass rule by the league. I also think it won't be enforced during the regular season.
The one question I have is how much is the word used during games by opposing players and by teammates and in what context?
I think it's time to give olympic hockey back to the college kids and the junior players. The USA lost and Canada ,Sweden and Finland all medal the hockey was pretty good but wouldn't be just as good if top amatuers played. It's time to keep the NHL open every4 years and it's time to put some meaning back behind the medals. i'm sure every player on those three teams is proud to own Olympic hardware and Canada certainly deserved it. I also thinkthe Stanley Cup means far more to all off them than Olympic Gold. Ithink those medals would mean a hell of lot more too a bunch of college kids and Jr players that may never play in the NHL. just my opinion.
With the NHL Trade Deadline closely approaching I that I would look into a few rumors for those of you who care.
According to TSN,CA Sabre GM Tim Murray says that it’s possible that Goaltender Ryan Miller will be on the move before the March 5th deadline. Murray says Miller could use a fresh start and at least 2 but fewer than 10 teams have shown interest.
According to Lanz
Miller being traded could restart his career and bring him back to top goalie status depending on where he ends up.
Meanwhile in Edmonton GM Craig mactivish is looking for draft choices preferably a 2nd and a 3rd rounder. The Oilers are probably a lootery pick and have traded away their second and third rounders in deals last summer.
According to Lanz
Maybe Craig should held on to those.
According to the NY Post soon to be Free Agents Ryan Callahan and Dan Giradi could be rentals to help some teams out. Callahan has stated he wants to remain on the Rangers.
According to Lanz
Giradi maybe just the Blueliner the Bruins would want.
That’s just a few as usual lots of rumors at the deadline and often not a lot of deals but the NHL seems to make more deals than the other leagues
I’m proud of the Laser he has decided to pack in the last few games of the Hockey season to avoid further injury after his second concussion in less than a year. Aother concussion would sideline him for entire year and he would miss Baseball and fall and winter High school sports.
Lil Lanz AKA the Miser after going 0-12 in the preseason the boys have moved from5th place to third with wins last Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. The Boys are 12-10-7 with about 10games left. They trailed 3-0 Saturday to the Tanners who have had their number all season. They cameback and won 4-3. It was pretty funny Lil lanz has had trouble with a player on the other team all year . This player happens to be a girl. So he gets away with a clear trip(which he got huge talking too by me afterwards) The girl didn’t take it He was going in for a loose puck and she skated and was banging into him all the way down and finally she knocked his stick out of his hand. He ask me if I saw I said about as clear as you tripping her told him she got even. I had to say have to give that girl credit for not taking any crap.
The Middle School season ended last Thursday as the boys were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
One family from the Lil Hockey Team has had a rough time we hadn’t seen that player for a while his aunt died unexpectedly and than his older sister had sometrouble delivering her baby. So the Mrs. And a few other mons from the team decided that this young man could use some fun so they to a collection up overwhelming response from all the families from the team. They were able to get some Gift certificates to a local Hamburger place, an Imaxx movie, and a local Ice Cream shop all three places are actually inside a local furniture store. Yes alocal furniture store they also have a Jellybelly jellybean store and a Trapeze School inside. The family was geniuenly moved and they were show appreciative the tears were flowing. There is basic human kindness and genuine gratitu
Thats some twinkie...Hoodwood mourns the loss of Harold Ramis...
Greetings from the Hoodwood, where things are their usual hectic chaotic style and your scribe continues his long running hatred of insurance red tape. The tooth still has yet to be pulled or root canaled (Is that a term?) but as long as it’s quiet I’m fine.
US Hockey, not good as gold?
More often than not the US and Canada have a quiet relationship. The US/Canadian border is the longest non-militarized border in the world and until recently a short wait to enter freely from any customs point. I haven’t been in Canada in nearly 20 years since I refuse to pay $30 for passport but the parts I saw were nice and the people by and large (except for Montreal) were friendly. The only true rivalry that will get these mostly friendly neighbors up is hockey and the Canadians are relishing the chance to stick it to the Americans. The men roared through their bracket having had trailed in any point in the Olympics for a paltry 7:19. But they met their match in the speedy aggressive Canadians who dominated the game from the opening draw, pressuring goalie Jonathan Quick from the start, but Quick parried 16 shots in a scoreless 1st period, but you knew it would only be a matter of time before the Canadians would cash one in and when Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars slammed home a silky pass from Jay Bouwmeester, you knew it was all over but the shouting. Carey Price made the lone goal stand up and the Americans were handed their 4th loss in the Olympics by the Canadians. The US Women were even more painful a loss. They were steam rolling through the Olympic tourney and for some 56 minutes had their Canadian nemesis shutout, but the Canadians scored with 3:26 left and you got the bad feeling creeping in, and the clock was moving sooooo slow. With a little more than a minute left the Canadians cashed in on constant pressure, getting the equalizer with an agonizing 55 seconds left. The deflated Lady Yanks headed to overtime looking like a prisoner walking the Green Mile, you knew that they were gonna get it sooner or later and they were finally put out of their collective misery with the winner about 7 minutes into sudden death. But at least the women were able to take home a silver, the men after losing the heartbreaker to Canada in the semis looked disinterested and played that way in a lackluster 5-0 thrashing by Finland in the Bronze medal game. Needless to say the American hockey teams left Sochi quite unfulfilled.
NBA: And the fuss over Jason Collins is because…?
Jason Collins is a journeyman player at best, he has played with six teams over the course of 14 seasons and by the best description is the worker bee, yeoman type player you see come and go in the NBA. It helps that Collins is 7 feet tall and seems to be happy to do the grinder work that every basketball team needs. The fact that Collins is the first openly gay player to play in any of the four major sports has gotten a lot of play over the past weekend frankly puzzles me. Collins came out almost a year ago in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he wasn’t playing with an NBA team at the time and many pundits figured that he wouldn’t be playing anymore. Of course other pundits said that no NBA team would sign Collins and that it would be blamed on his announcement rather than his advanced basketball age. Collins was 34 when he made the announcement. When the Nets (the team he played for the longest and was a teammate of current Nets coach Jason Kidd) called and subsequently signed him. I looked at it as a basketball move, the Nets are a team in need of big bodies and the 7 foot Collins looked to be the best fit for the team. Like Michael Sams, I have no concern of the players’ sexuality. It’s none of my business and really no concern of mine. The only thing that annoys me is that the media making such a fuss on this, my question is can he play? Can he contribute? The vitriol that is anticipated by the anti has been largely drowned out by the overly PC people lording his participation. I’m not homophobic, I’m on a live and let live mentality. But I’m still puzzling on the fuss and to be sure, Collins isnt the first openly gay player in the four major sports. That would have been Dodgers outfielder Glenn Burke in the late 70s, whos other claim to fame was to be the first to perform the greeting we now know as the high-five. Burke was largely ignored and forgotten and died of HIV in 1995 but he really was the first...
NASCAR: Dale Jr. wins at Daytona..and clinches a playoff spot?
I’m not much of NASCAR maven, I know more people who are into and have enough of a working knowledge of the sport (and it is a sport) to have an appreciation of the drivers. My mom likes Dale Jr. which is ironic since she had zero love for his late father. After a lengthy rain delay the race finally got rolling close to 9p EST and Dale Jr. claimed the checkered flag, ten years after winning his first Daytona, 13 years after his father was tragically killed at that same track that he claimed his long sought Daytona win in 1998. I’ve always understood that Daytona is a prize bull for NASCAR drivers and that with the new format for the NASCAR playoffs that a premium is placed on winning races, but given that why is the biggest race at the start of the year when the playoffs are better than 7 months away? It’s like a football team winning a big game in September and clinching a playoff berth right then, I don’t get it.
NFL: Can you regulate speech in the heat of battle?
I have to start this part with a disclaimer, I’m a black man that has used the so-called n-word in conversation with friends and family. Black and white, I do have white relatives by the way. I understand the context that the word can bring and I understand the conundrum that the use of the word can bring. But the NFL is trying to push the political correctness too far, proposing a 15 yard penalty to any player using the term in play. And an ejection for a second offense in a game. Look, I’m not advocating use of the word, though I do understand how and when it could be used. But many find it offensive and I am careful in my use but this is taking legislation too far. How is a ref able to determine who said what?
MLB: No collisions at the plate…
MLB history is full of legendary collisions at the plate King Kong Keller bowling over Ernie Lombardi in the ’39 World Series (Unfairly called Lombardi’s snooze, he was knocked out) Pete Rose’s barreling into Ray Fosse in the ’70 All Star game.; JT Snow trying unsuccessfully to dislodge the ball from Pudge Rodriguez in the ’03 NLDS clincher. Or this collision by AJ Pierzynski on Michael Barrett in 2006 that result in a classic belt to the grill.
More infamously the frightening collision by Scott Cousins on Buster Posey that knocked the All-Star catcher out of the remainder of the 2011 season with a broken leg, but collisions are part of the game and I’ve always thought an exciting aspect. But MLB has taken steps to dissuade collisions with its altering of the rules. No longer can a catcher block the plate if they aren’t holding the ball, and no longer and the runner cant initiate contact by lower the shoulder or “pushing through with the arms, elbows or hands.”. The collisions is still allowed if the catcher has the ball and is blocking the direct path and the catcher is allowed to block the plate if he is making the move to field the ball. And of course if the runner slides appropriately whether head or feet first and collides with the catcher won’t be in violation of the rule. I think that is the way that the rule should have always been but there is still some gray areas here and it will be interesting to see how the umps call it the first time there is a bang-bang play at the plate.
College Basketball: The Latest and greatest Spec Sheet
Atlantic Coast Conference Class-Power
Solid: Syracuse, Duke, Pitt, North Carolina, Virginia
Work to do: North Carolina State, Florida State, Clemson Skinny on the ACC: Quick who leads this conference? Duke after their hard fought win over the Cuse? Nope, are the Orange still on top? No they are both looking up to Virginia where the Cavs at 14-1 are the top dog. The solid group is still just jockeying for position though Pitt is the shakiest. New to the list is Florida State who after going to the Oakland Zoo and earning a hard fought win is at least on the fringes. But I’m still sticking fast to the theory that the cut line is at 6
Key Game: North Carolina at NC State Wednesday 8p (ACC Net) The Pack can really solidify their chances
Projected Bids: 6
Atlantic Ten Conference Class- Major
Solid: Saint Louis, George Washington, UMass, St. Joes, VCU
Work to do: Dayton, Richmond The A-10 Spec is: The Billikens are still out in front but suddenly charging hard into the picture is St. Joes. The Hawks are closing in on 20 wins but have no margin for error with a pretty soft last four in the regular season skein. I’m really getting doubtful about GW who really didn’t give front running Saint Louis much of a fight and now have a solid week to stew. I’m really thinking that Richmond might be the better 5th team coming out.
Key Game: Dayton at St. Joes Tuesday 7p (CBSSN) Both teams are on the cusp of 20 wins, if the Flyers get it they make it harder to keep them off the solid list
Projected Bids: 5
Solid: Cincy, Louisville, UConn, Memphis, SMU
Work to do: None All-American Spec: The Cards won a cliffhanger in Cincy but the Bearcats are still in front but both are still way safe. The Mustangs cleared any doubters with a snappy win in Storrs. There is not too much left to see here beyond a shifting of seedings as I think all five teams in the solid category are Ft. Knox safe.
Key Game: Temple at Louisville Thursday 9p (ESPN) Coming off an emotional slugfest will the Cards get caught with the look aheads to a meeting with Memphis?
Projected Bids: 5
Big East Conference Class-Major
Solid: Creighton, Villanova
Work to do: Providence, Xavier, Marquette, St. John’s Big East Skinny: The Bluejays and Wildcats are still on top but like the SEC the chaff is growing fast. The Muskies took an awful beating in DC to a middling G-Town squad and are in serious trouble. The Johnnies blew a golden chance to get a signature win. But incredibly the Muskies still have the inside track of getting the bid as they still have home games against the tourney bound Jays and Wildcats, a win here paired with their earlier win over Cincy might give them all the cred they need in the committees eyes.
Key Games: Xavier at St. Johns Tuesday 7p (FS1) The winner here has more an inside chance at moving solid
Projected bids: 3
Big Ten Conference Class-Power
Solid: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa
Work to do: Nebraska The word on the Big Ten is: The Buckeyes thumped the Gophers and for all intents and purposes are safe (grudgingly so) As much Iowa keeps tottering they are still good. The Michigan-Michigan State game was good TV but the real matchup will be in March. The Huskers are trying to their best to move solid but their resume is spotty at best but they have won 7 of 8 and have pushed their way on to the fringe of the conversation
Key Game: Nebraska at Illinois Wednesday 8p (BTN) The Huskers had better not get caught in this trap game if they want to solidify their tourney chances.
Projected Bids: 5
Big 12 Conference Class-Power
Solid: Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma
Work to do: Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Baylor Skinny from the heartland: The Jayhawks pounded Texas to reassert their hammerlock hold on the Big 12, they are bulletproof. The Clones, Sooners and Horns are relatively safe themselves and just need to avoid any dumb losses down the stretch. After that its gets dicey, you have four teams trying to snag what I think are two spots. Kansas State is the safest bet though they got housed by the Sooners. I don’t trust West Virginia at all and the Pokes got a pair of badly needed wins against weak teams but still need to basically run the table get back to .500 and win once in the Big 12 tourney in Kansas City order to be safer
Key Game: West Virginia @ Iowa State Wednesday 8p (ESPN3/Big 12 Sports) The Mountaineers so-so chances get a big boost if they can steal one in Hilton. Baylor at Texas Wednesday 9p (ESPNU/Longhorn Net) The Bears could finally get that get that bona fide signature win with a win in Austin.
Projected Bids: 6
Conference USA Conference Class-Mid-Major
Solid: La. Tech, Middle Tennessee
Work to do: Southern Miss, UTEP, Tulsa
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: Middle Tennessee was happy to escape Huntington with a W and remain in the lead here but things may very well shake themselves out here in the next few days. There are some de facto elimination games ahead of the CUSA tourney in El Paso will be key in snagging a coveted double bye that the top four teams get
Key Games: Middle Tennessee @ La. Tech Thursday 7:30p The Blue Raiders will get their stiffest test ahead of the CUSA tourney in Ruston where the Bulldogs still have designs on the regular season title and holding onto their double bye slot Tulsa at UTEP Thursday 9p In another game that could go a long way to determining bye slots the Golden Hurricane and Miners face off.
Projected Bids: 2
Missouri Valley Conference Class-Mid Major
Solid: Wichita State
Work to do: Indiana State Missouri Valley Skinny: The Shockers are #2 in the nation at 29-0, the Sycamores miniscule chances to get notice as an at large dried up with their loss to Missouri State, which means nothing less than a title run through Arch Madness will get them a bid
Key Game: Wichita State @ Bradley Tuesday 9p (ESPN2). The Braves try to pull their biggest upset as they host the rampaging Shockers
Projected Bids: 1
Mountain West Conference Class-Major
Solid: San Diego State, New Mexico
Work to do: Boise State, UNLV, Wyoming
Spec from the Mountains: The Aztecs seeding may be in serious danger as they were stifled by the Lobos who may have steeled their solidity with the win. The Broncos are charging hard to make their presence known they won a thrilling OT shootout with the Rebels but have only a 1 point win over a then unranked New Mexico to point at, they will need to win out and get to the finals in Vegas to have a real shot. The Rebels and the Pokes are just about done with their respective losses. The latter got housed by the middling Rams and are in need of a miracle run now
Key Game: Utah State at New Mexico Tuesday 9p (CBSSN) Let’s see how the Lobos deal with being ranked and facing a soft team, a loss puts them right back on the bubble.
Projected Bids: 2
Pacific 12 Conference Class-Power
Solid: Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, Stanford, Cal,
Work to do: Arizona State, Utah Spec from the left coast: The Utes housed the Sun Devils before a gleeful Huntsman Center crowd and stay on the sheet…for now. I still don’t think that the Pac-12 goes 7 deep, and the Sun Devils and Buffs are looking quite suspect after getting housed. The latter by Arizona. Stanford has gotten too hard to ignore especially after thumping UCLA.
Key Games: Stanford @ Arizona State Wednesday 11p (ESPNU) The Cardinal do the Southwest two step, the Sun Devils are back in bubble trouble but could make the cut line even fuzzier if they hold serve at home
Projected Bids: 5
Southeastern Conference Class-Power
Solid: Florida, UK
Work to do: Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee, Mizzou Spec is Down South: Give the Bayou Bengals some credit, they fought the Wildcats to the wire and then some in Rupp and stay on the sheet but a sweep of UK would have merited a move to solid. I’m not putting Georgia in even though they are in third and piling up win against weaker teams. There are count ‘em 7 teams at 7-7 in the SEC, which further underscores how weak this league is. Florida and UK are safe, pick two more teams from this league and your guess is as good as mine. Mizzou and Arkansas are the closest to 20 and might have the most legit case…I’m just getting ill considering the hot mess this league is.
Key Game: Missouri @ Georgia Tuesday 7p (ESPN) I’m gonna look awful foolish keeping the Bulldogs off the list at 10 wins in conference, but if the Tigers win they justify me keeping them off the sheet and merit an uptown move at 20 overall wins.
Projected Bids: 4
West Coast Conference Class- Mid Major
Work to do: BYU, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s West Coast Spec: The Bulldogs are having all sorts of trouble closing the deal on their 10th WCC regular season crown in 12 years and the Cougars left almost for dead ten days ago are closing fast but can’t win the title outright. The Dons and Gaels are jockeying for position and though this remains to me a one bid league, it’s getting interesting on who will get in.
Key Game: Gonzaga @ Pacific Thursday 10p (ESPNU) Will the third time be the charm for the Bulldogs? They continue to totter toward the bubble with bad losses and need to right themselves ahead of the WCC tourney.
Projected Bids: 1
There are others in the mix to be sure. Teams from the always dangerous Colonial (Delaware) and Big South (VMI) always are in the mix. Of course the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid (projected winners in parentheses): Amer. East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Mercer), Big Sky (Weber State), Big West (UC Irvine) , Horizon (Green Bay, Ivy (Harvard), MAC (Toledo) , MAAC (Iona) , MEAC (NC Central), Northeast (Robert Morris), Ohio Valley (Belmont) , Patriot (Boston U.), Southern (Davidson), Southland (SF Austin), Sun Belt (Georgia St.) , Summit (IPFW), and SWAC (Southern) and Western Athletic (New Mexico St
Remember that this is still speculation, nothing here is ever solid and we haven't even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?
Phat Dap/Head Slap
To one of my own. Despite my beloved Bearcats taking a tough loss to their despised rivals of Louisville, Bearcat redshirt senior guard Sean Kilpatrick became only the 2nd player in UC history to score more than 2000 points in his collegiate career. The only other player in that club? He only has a statue outside of 5/3rd Arena, a guy by the name of Oscar Robertson. His school scoring record of 2973 points is still very safe. But SK is joining some heady company and has played in a manner that has earned the Big O’s respect and admiration. Congrats to a class act Bearcat.
To otherwise mild mannered Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim who more or less went batshit crazy after a bang-bang call was made late in the Syracuse-Duke game. The resulting double tech gave the Blue Devils just enough extra cushion to hold off the Orange in the second of their titanic battles. Boeheim had never gotten the gate (exhibition game not included) in his coaching career, but he broke that streak. I thought the meltdown was amusing given Boeheim’s long standing stature as a mild mannered coach. But it was not needed and a bad exhibit
A Few Other Passing thoughts
NHL whining about losing players in the Olympics (Im talking to you Garth Snow), werent they out front saying that they should be able to represent their countries?
I gave dap to Sean Kilpatrick of Cincy for scoring over 2000 career points, you have to give dap as well to Doug McDermott of Creighton, the names that he is passing on the scoring list as he closes in on 3000 points are the whos who of college basketball scorers.
Speaking of great scorers could you imagine what Pistol Pete (may he rest) or the Big O would have done with a 3 point line and being able to play as freshmen? Mercy! Maravich scored 3667 points and Robertson scored 2973 points in 3 years at LSU and Cincy respectively but freshmen were ineligible to play up until 1972.
Wait...was that Melo actually playing tough defense on Dirk's game winner at MSG?
Kansas won the Big 12 (minus 2) for the tenth straight year, that's called dominance there, gang
JaDaveon Clowney needs to stop clowning or he will get the tag of doggin. That will cost him loot and a high draft pick.
If you want to get in a good mood listening to music, I highly suggest "Livin' In the Life" a 1977 track from the Isley Brothers, its an obscure track to be sure but its hard driven bass guitar foundation will put you in a good mood. Highly recommend it for the car.
In Memoriam Harold Ramis 1944-2014
The comic world lost a legend. Harold Ramis passed away Monday at 69 from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis He was survived by his wife, daughter, two sons, and by two grandchildren. Before you screw your face up with a “who’s that?” query. Go to your movie library…if you have Caddyshack, Stripes, Animal House and/or Ghostbusters then you know who Ramis is. He either wrote or directed these comedy classics. He was the understated Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters. I didn’t realize that he had a hand in many of my favorite movies until I looked him up. Thanks for the laughs Harold, you will be missed...