While still marveling over Storrs, Connecticut being the center of the college basketball universe...again...
COLLEGE BASKETBALL WRAP UP
UConn - Monday night saw the rise of the men's basketball team to the top of the heap after their 60-54 defeat of Kentucky. Kevin Ollie did a marvelous job in guiding the team to the title and Shabazz Napier was just awesome.
Following that up was the UConn women's team completing a 40-0 season with their defeat of Notre Dame, 79-58. As a matter of fact, the game and entire women's tournament went pretty much how I thought it would. I told a co-worker that the women's tourney would come down to a matchup between #1 UConn and #2 Notre Dame and then UConn would win by 20 points. Which is pretty much what happened.
Speaking of the tournaments themselves, the final breakdown of the four brackets I had going broke down like this:
Men's NCAA record - 43-26 (Won the YouGabSports ESPN Bracket Challenge Group)
Women's NCAA record - 48-15 (Picked the national title winner)
Manhattan - After it was learned that Steve Masiello did not have the degree he claimed to have received and lost out on a job, he decided to try and stay at Manhattan. But the school put him on leave until they decided what they were going to do.
The news this past week was Masiello would keep his job but is on unpaid leave until he completes his degree studies at Kentucky. Associate head coach Matt Grady will run the team in the meantime.
UNLV - Former Runnin' Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian was hospitalized on Thursday. The 83 year old complained of feeling weak and having trouble breathing. His son was quoted as saying his father was having trouble keeping his eyes open as well.
It was later reported that Tarkanian is being treated for pneumonia and while improving is still hospitalized.
Men's Basketball - There has been a lot of activity with the men's team this week. Between the introduction of the new coach to a flurry of transfer news both real and rumored, it has kept the fan base very engaged.
Men's Hockey - The Eagles faced off against Union College on Thursday in the Frozen Four.
They owned the first period, leading 1-0 at the break. But the start of the second period saw Union dominate the first 9 minutes. They took a 2-1 lead during that time. After that, the Eagles controlled the next 9 minutes allowing just one shot on goal for Union.
It was tied 2-2 after the second period. Union took a 3-2 lead. Boston College then got the benefits of a five minute power play. They weren't able to capitalize on it though. Union then took a 4-2 lead and things looked very bleak.
BC pulled their goalie with 2:32 left in the third and they managed to score to make it 4-3. Union countered with an empty net goal to make it 5-3.
Not to go down quietly, BC's Patrick Brown scored to make it 5-4. But with just 3.2 seconds left in the game, Union prevailed by that 5-4 score to end the Eagles season.
Also, while it doesn't reduce the hurt of finishing short of a national title, BC's junior forward Johnny Gaudreau capped his year by being named the 2014 Hobey Baker Award winner.
Despite holding a 19 point lead in the 3rd quarter, the Celtics week started off with a 115-11 loss to the Detroit Pistons. The loss featured three Celtics going for more than 20 points apiece and Phil Pressey having a 12 point 11 assist night with Rajon Rondo sitting out.
Things didn't get much better on Wednesday night when the Hawks handed Boston a 105-97 loss. Avery Bradley scored 24 points to lead the offense while Rondo had 19 points and 12 assists. Jared Sullinger added 15 points and 11 boards.
However, the Celtics did manage to break their losing streak on Friday night thanks to a 106-103 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. Bradley again led the offense by scoring 22 points and Sullinger had 20 points. Rondo was out with a bruised shin so Phil Pressey handled the point with 10 points and 13 assists.
They followed that up with a 111-99 win over Cleveland on Saturday night. It's been quite a while since they won 2 games in a row and over the first three quarters, the Celtics looked like the dominant team of yore as they built up a 31 point lead. A combination of them slacking off and Cleveland getting hot saw the Cavaliers outscore the Celtics by 19 points in the fourth quarter, making things tighter and the final score more respectable.
Kelly Olynyk scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Celtics. Avery Bradley also scored 25. Jeff Green and Brandon Bass also chimed in with 19 points apiece.
In other NBA news, Joe Dumars is reportedly going to resign as GM of the Detroit Pistons. He's been with the team for 29 years including a front office job since 2000. It's really too bad because he's been the one Bad Boys era Pistons player that you could actually root for.
But the team has been terrible the last few years and I don't think anyone can really argue that a change isn't needed.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Now that he's with the Buffalo Bills, ex-Patriot Brandon Spikes mouthed off on Twitter this week about his time with the Pats. While most of his comments were inconsequential hype, the one comment that is sure to tick off a lot of people was how he termed his time with the Patriots as "Four Years a Slave".
Really Brandon? Seriously? You are trying to compare being a well paid pro athlete with the black mark on US history that is slavery?
While I'm not in the habit of rooting for ex-players that leave the teams I root for, I generally leave them alone in terms of the booing and such. But with the idiocy of his comments, I'm going to actively root against Spikes during the two games he faces off against the Patriots.
My fandom for the league has hit a downturn with the news on Thursday that the Chicago Sky had cut former Boston College standout Carolyn Swords.
She saw her season end early last year with a knee injury but when I saw her a couple of times at BC games this winter, she said rehab had been going well and expected to be back in Chicago for the upcoming season.
I don't know what if anything happened to make the team change their mind and release her. But I do know that they are losing out on a decent backup.
I don't know what her plans will be now. She could go overseas again or look for another WNBA team. (The Connecticut Sun would be a nice landing spot for my own selfish reasons of being close enough to actually go see her play again)
However, with her departure from the team, my interest in the Chicago Sky just went into the crapper. And with Katie Smith retired, there are currently no active WNBA players I have any interest in following. Yes I'll keep track of the New York Liberty because Smith will be an assistant coach there this season but it will be a different experience to not be rooting on a particular player.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Wareham Girls Track - The team picked up their first win of the season by beating Bourne 106-30. They won all but one of the individual events in the meet. My ex-player Paige picked up individual wins in the long jump (14 feet 4 1/2 inches) and the 800 meters (2:41.4). She and another of my former players (Kali) were part of the quartet that won the 4 x 400 meter relay event (4:41.4).
Wareham Girls Varsity Softball - The Vikings got blasted by Fairhaven on Wednesday, losing 19-4 in a mercy rule shortened game. Rae-Lyn got tagged with the loss on the mound.
On Friday, the Vikings lost to Old Rochester 15-5, despite Gina going 2-3 with a home run.
They are now 0-4 on the season.
Upper Cape Girls Varsity Softball - The Lady Rams are 4-1 on the season after beating Cape Tech 16-0. The Upper Cape pitcher threw a no-hitter.
Friday's game against Old Colony saw the Rams take a 14-13 thriller to improve to 5-1 with a 2-0 conference record.
You can check out the video for the new Winger song "Tin Soldier" below.
Books - I finally finished reading a book this week. It was the Star Trek Enterprise novel Rise of the Federation - A Choice of Futures by Christopher L. Bennett. It was a surprisingly good read and much like the other books based on the Enterprise TV show, far better than anything that came in the first three seasons of the series. I loved the fourth season which was just awesome until the abomination they call the series finale.
I also picked up the Ingrid Thoft thriller/mystery Loyalty. It is the first book in her series featuring PI Fina Ludlow. I read a review of the second book in the series and thought it sounded good so I wanted to read the first book.
TV - The extended trailer for 24: Live Another Day has been released online. You can see it below. I get more excited as May 5th draws closer.
While anticipating the season finale of The Walking Dead tonight...
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
It was quite a week for some of my former players. Last Sunday, the New Bedford Standard Times released their picks for the area basketball All-Star players. Three of my former girls players got mentioned and one of my former boys did as well.
For the girls, Amber and Breanna made the "Super Team" while Gina got an honorable mention.
Here's what was written about Amber and Breanna:
Averaged 14.9 points a game in her final season and finished with 1,052 career points as a shooting guard. ... Was among the top-three picks in voting for South Coast Conference All-Star honors and ranks sixth all-time in girls basketball scoring at Wareham. ... Holds school records for points in a game (37) and career 3-pointers (191). ... Is nominated for the Dave Cowens Achievement Award and is headed to Catholic University to continue her playing career and study physical therapy. ... "Amber brought some real stability and leadership to the team," Wareham coach Dave Brogioli said. "She played with a lot more maturity and intensity. She has great range on the perimeter and she played better defense this season."
A solid ballhandler and passer, Muir set school records for single-season assists (187) and career assists (416). ... Averaged 11.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.4 steals a game en route to being named a South Coast Conference All-Star. ... Used her speed and quickness at the point to make up for a lack of size. ... Wants to continue playing in college and has narrowed her choices to Mount Ida College or Worcester State. ... "Breanna teamed up with Amber to give us one of the best backcourts in the area," Wareham coach Dave Brogioli said. "She was quick enough to get past defenders, take the ball to the basket and get to the free-throw line. She also made a lot of shots on the perimeter."
For the boys this is what they said about Latroy:
Vikings coach Kevin Brogioli called him "the hardest working small big man I've ever coached," and the 6-2 center helped turn that faith into an all-star effort. ... Working hard in the offseason to develop a mid-range jump shot, Latroy became an inside-outside offensive threat and averaged 13.3 points a game with 57 of his 267 points coming on 19 3-pointers. ... Seven times he led or co-led the Vikings in scoring and was a dominant factor inside with both his scoring and rebounding as Wareham wrapped up its eighth consecutive South Coast Conference championship. ... Latroy hopes to further his education and is looking at Dean or Bristol Community College.
But things got even better and historic this past Thursday. Amber was nominated for the Dave Cowens Leadership Award. No player from Wareham, girl or boy, had ever won the award. Until Thursday night when Amber's name was announced.
As you might imagine, I was very proud of her accomplishment and made sure to send her a congratulatory message.
BOSTON RED SOX
While the Red Sox struggle in their spring training games, two off the field items of note led the Beantown discussions this week.
David Ortiz got the contract extension he was looking for, with two club option years thrown in beyond that as well. It essentially guarantees that he will stay in a Red Sox uniform for the rest of his career.
I know a lot of people hate the yearly complaining Ortiz has done about his contract. Heck, I'm usually one of those people. But this year, he didn't start the engine on this year's edition.
I'm glad that things are taken care of and out of the way. He, the team and we can focus on the on the field stuff (not counting the team's dealings with Jon Lester and his possible contract extension).
The other news comes courtesy of the Red Sox TV broadcast booth. This past week, the Boston Globe laid out a devastating report on the level of monstrosity that is the life of Jared Remy, the son of Sox TV analyst Jerry Remy. It included looks at the other two Remy children and their brushes with the legal system as well. You can read the Globe article here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/03/22/remy/xFRaOQqrnZ1S1pfLa2eKgK/story.html
The custody issue of Remy's granddaughter was settled as well. The Remys got visitation rights but not the physical custody they had been seeking. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief after reading the report.
But what gets me is how a sizeable chorus of the Tsk-Tsk crowd a lot of this country has evolved into has gotten it into their heads that Jerry Remy should not be allowed to be a TV talking head because of his lack of successful parenting.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? SERIOUSLY?
The Remys should never be in the running for any kind of parental award, but how that affects his ability to analyze a bad throw from the shortstop to first base is beyond me.
For those who think Remy should be fired, get a freaking life and stop poking your nose into everyone else's business.
The Celtics had a home and home set of games against the Raptors this week. Unfortunately, they lost both of them and dropped to 23-49 on the season.
The first game saw them lose 99-90. It was Jared Sullinger's 26 points that led the Celtics offense. Avery Bradley added 16 points and Chris Johnson had 13 points. Rajon Rondo scored 9 but also had 15 assists.
The Friday night game was a 105-103 win for the Raptors, but Jerry Bayless had 20 points for Boston. Jeff Green scored 16 points. Bradley, Rondo and Sullinger each scored 11 points and Kelly Olynyk finished with 10 points.
How's your bracket(s) doing? The NCAA men's tournament set the field for the Elite Eight on Friday night, and I had 5 of my teams still left alive.
My men's NIT bracket is completely dead, I will finish 13-18 in that one.
In the women's NIT tournament, I have two Final Four picks left alive but neither one was who I thought would win the title so the bracket will end up dying a cold and lonely death.
In the Women's NCAA tournament I had 14 of my picks for the Sweet 16 make it through successfully.
My Tennessee Lady Vols got to the Sweet 16 by virtue of beating St. John's 67-51. Cierra Burdick (pictured below) had 21 points and 11 boards for the now 29-5 Vols. Meighan Simmons added 17 points and Isabelle Harrison scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The move isn't surprising, she had five years at the school and just couldn't build a winning program there. While some say she left her "giveadamn" at Boston College, I just think it is utterly impossible to win at URI. Either way, she's done at the school.
The best news of the weekend comes out of Division 2. On Friday night, I watched the D2 women's national championship game between West Texas A&M and the Bentley University Lady Falcons.
Bentley being from Waltham Massachusetts, I think you can be safe in thinking that's who I was rooting for. You have to root for the teams that represent Massachusetts basketball!
It was a tough and exciting game. West Texas A&M opened up a lead in the first half but the two team were tied at the break.
In the second half, Bentley found themselves down by 9 points late in the half. But the Lady Falcons put the pressure defense on over the last three minutes of the game, rattled the hell out of West Texas A&M, went on a 19-5 run to close out the game and win 73-65 for the program's first ever national title!
HELL DAMN YEAH!
Seven seniors finished their careers as champions and it was the first ever championship for coach Barbara Stevens, who is a legend in her own time. She's coached all three divisions and has been at Bentley for 28 years. In that time at the school she has average 19 wins (917 in total) a year. But never a title...until now.
I was watching the game and afterwards, the sideline reporter asked her what was going through her mind when the team was down 9 points. Even Stevens admitted she was starting to think "Oh, well it's been a good season."
But the Lady Falcons soared and did themselves, their coach, their school and the state of Massachusetts proud!
The National Champion Bentley University Lady Falcons:
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
After a week or two of drama and back and forth, the Patriots and Vince Wilfork came to an agreement on a new contract. I'm glad that the situation resolved itself rather quickly because the last thing we need is more Patriots drama. Welcome back Vince, put your nameplate back up willya?
There's a long way to go in both cases, but I think it is clear to even the most basic sports fan that college sports as it has been for decades is coming to an end.
I just hope the athletes are ready for the changes that are going to affect them if they become employees rather than student athletes. Because as with most things, there are going to be pros and cons for everything. And the cons are usually a big enough bite in the ass, you begin to wonder if it was all worth it.
Not too mention that the schools and NCAA are going to fight this until their last red cent.
With The Walking Dead season finale tonight, the fourth season will come to an end with a pretty split viewing audience. Either you have loved this season or you have absolutely hated it. I'm in the "I loved it" camp, and have even been called stupid on a message board because of my opinion. Episode 14 was called "The Grove" and it was an amazing piece of work, one of the best episodes of the series and could definitely be in the running for one of the best episodes of any TV series.
Now comes the last episode of Season 4 and no one has any idea what is going to happen.
I picked up a couple of movies on DVD this week. I'd seen them in the theater or on PPV and liked them enough that I wanted them as part of my permanent collection. The movies in question? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Escape Plan.
Books - I finished one book this week and ended up buying four more.
The book I finished was the Jennifer Roberson fantasy book Sword-Bound. It is the 7th book in her Novels of Tiger and Del series. It was a really good read.
As for the books I bought, there was the Christopher L. Bennett Star Trek Enterprise novel Rise of the Federation - Tower of Babel. The new Lee Child paperback in his Jack Reacher series is Never Go Back. And I got the Rob Thomas/Jennifer Graham novel Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. It is set after the events of the movie that came out a couple weeks ago.
The final book I picked up was a hardcover by J.A. Jance. It's the latest in her Ali Reynolds series entitled Moving Target. I usually would wait for the book to come out in paperback but the author is appearing at an event at a college in the area tomorrow afternoon and I'm going to it, so I picked up the book to have it signed.
The video for their song "Addicted to Pain" is below.
Winger released another video from their upcoming album. The song is called "Midnight Driver of a Love Machine". I thought musically the song was good but didn't care for the lyrics at all. You can judge for yourself below.
While deciding on whether to attend a high school girls All-Star game...
And don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter: @TheOneTrueJay
MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
There's been a number of games that I've caught here and there over the past week. While nothing has really made me stand up and cry out to the heavens, "THAT WAS FREAKING AWESOME!", the games have been largely entertaining from what I've seen.
As we await the men's bracket announcements tonight, I can say that I am hoping for my buddy Brian's Providence College to do well. They've had quite a run for themselves so far this year despite a lack of available bodies. Whether due to injury or suspension, they've got little in the way of a bench. Their top player, senior Bryce Cotton (pictured below), has played nearly every minute of every game.
Since neither of my Boston College basketball teams are headed to tournament play, I might just have to find myself pulling for the Friars.
Oh by the way, the Friars pulled off a huge upset on Saturday night by beating #14 Creighton in the Big East tourney final and clinched the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. The Friars are going dancing. Bryce Cotton led the team (playing just 6 players in the game) with 23 points.
It's not a school you hear much about come tournament time. After all, it isn't like Wofford is expected to win a game much less make a run for the title. But after the Terriers won the Southern Conference title and the automatic bid to the Big Dance, it was the post game interview from Aerris Smith that got a lot of buzz. The senior has dealt with knee injuries all year and during the post game interview the senior told the radio announcers that the tourney final win was his last college game as he heads for surgery. The following link tells the story and contains a Youtube link to the interview. The emotion coming out of Smith is amazing. Read it here: http://extramustard.si.com/2014/03/13/wofford-aerris-smith-interview/
Before moving on, has there been a more exposed as an overly flawed team than Syracuse the last few weeks? When they won on a buzzer beater to improve to 25-0, they looked like they were unstoppable.
Then came a stunning loss to my BC Eagles and thing seemed to unravel for the Orange from there. They had dropped all the way down to #11 before losing again in the ACC tourney to NC State. They've lost 5 out of their last 7 games and unless Jim Boeheim can figure something out, Syracuse looks to be an early out this season in the tourney.
BOSTON COLLEGE ATHLETICS
Men's Basketball - Speaking of BC men's hoops, the Eagles closed out the regular season with a 78-68 loss to NC State. Of course, when you give up 42 points to any player (as they did to the Wolfpack's T.J. Warren), a loss can't be too much of a surprise.
The Eagles finished their ACC schedule with a 4-14 record despite getting 29 points from Olivier Hanlan and 15 from Ryan Anderson.
The Eagles then saw their season come to an end in the first round of the ACC tournament when they fell in overtime to Georgia Tech 73-70. The loss ends their season at 8-24.
And the loss gave one final showing of a pattern that developed for the Eagles during the season. They were down big late in the game (13 points against the Yellowjackets), rally back to tie things up and force the OT, and then take a lead in the extra period. Then somehow manage to blow the game regardless.
It is frustrating as hell because the Eagles have talent, they just have absolutely no idea how to play defense. I understand that they are in the toughest conference in men's college hoops, but when the game is on the line, they play defense as if they were 80 year old men with walkers instead of college athletes in prime athletic condition.
Patrick Heckmann, who's scoring touch seemed to return late in the season, led the team with 21 points. Hanlan scored 16 points and Anderson had 15 points.
The team is only losing one player to graduation this year. I'm hoping that everyone else returns (not getting deluded into thinking they are ready for the NBA). And the news came late in the week that coach Steve Donahue would be back for a fifth season at The Heights.
But if they can't figure out how to play defense, it will be another long season.
Football - The school held their Pro Day for BC players looking to get themselves drafted by the NFL this year. The headline player on the day was of course, running back Andre Williams.
Tennessee - The Lady Vols once again found themselves trailing by double digits in the first half of their SEC tourney game, but they rallied back and ended up beating Kentucky 71-70 to improve their record to 27-5 on the season. Oh and since this was the tournament final we're talking about here, they got the automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Meighan Simmons scored 17 points (becoming the fourth Lady Vol to go over 2,000 career points). Isabelle Harrison added 16 points and Jordan Reynold had 11 points.
While in the early rounds, the Lady Vols will likely not be faced with an overly daunting opponent (that doesn't mean they can sleepwalk through the games of course), if their streak of games where they face deficits of 10 points or more continue, their "Grind for 9" campaign is going to be coming to an early and decisive end against the teams they will face in the later rounds.
Hartford - The Hawks season came to an end with a 65-51 America East tourney loss to top seeded Albany. They finish at 13-18 for the season. Amber Bepko finished with 21 points to lead Hartford. Going into the offseason, they have certain pieces of the puzzle in place (Bepko, Mayza, Moore in particular), but coach Jennifer Rizzotti is going to have to see a talent infusion and more cohesion from her team if they want to get back to the tournament.
Bepko will be a senior next year and after finally getting to see her play in person when the Hawks traveled to Boston College this season, she's going to have a great final year if she can be consistent in her scoring all season long. But she can't do it alone and everyone is going to have to raise their games to become better as a team.
You can see highlights of the final game below.
Missouri State - The first regular season under coach Kellie Harper came to a close with a 93-56 loss to Wichita State. The Lady Bears finished with a 13-16 overall mark (8-10 in conference play).
They had a season high 27 turnovers in the game against the Shockers. Hannah Wilkerson led the team with 14 points while sisters Bry and Tyonna Snow added 10 points apiece.
In the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, MSU picked up a first round win over Southern Illinois thanks to a game ending 15-0 run, giving them a 61-39 victory. Wilkerson and Tyonna Snow had 12 points apiece to top the scoring column while NiJay Gaines had 10 boards.
But any hope of post season play came to a screeching halt on Friday night when they lost to Wichita State 71-53. According to the game recap, the Lady Bears held strong with the Shockers for the first 30 minutes of the game before falling to defeat.
Desiree Phillips scored a career high 13 points in her final game. She is one of four graduating seniors on the team. Seniors Hannah Wilkerson (11 points) and Bry Snow (10 points) were also big for the team in their final games.
A 14-17 record under Harper duplicates the record the team had last year (though the conference mark was a couple games better). Not a stunning turn around but at least they weren't worse off. But now with the need to replace Wilkerson and Bry Snow in particular, not too mention weathering the absence of Kenzie Williams (ACL tear) until late in the season, the Bears are going to need more talent and a team that quickly adapts to their new roles next year.
The Celtics had a busy week that started off nicely then crashed and burned. They beat the Pistons 118-111 behind 27 points from Jeff Green and 20 points, 11 rebounds from Kris Humphries.
Kelly Olynk (18 points), Jerryd Bayless (15 points) and Jared Sullinger (14 points, 8 boards) also contributed in the win.
The most notable thing from the statistical viewpoint was Rajon Rondo's game. I mentioned in the previous Sunday Musings how he'd had 9 assists but 7 turnovers in the game before this Pistons matchup. And how that was a bit worrisome to me.
So what does Rondo do against the Pistons? The 11 points he scored were a sideshow compared to the 18 assists he dished out to go with ZERO turnovers. Guess I'm just going to have to keep my opinions on his turnovers to myself.
But that was kind of the end of the good news for the Celtics.
First there was a 94-83 loss to the Pacers. Sullinger led the team with 17 points and 9 boards. Given that the Pacers are the best team in the East, a loss is not a surprise but rather just disappointing.
They then lost 116-92 to the Knicks. I watched the first half of that game and defense was a dirty word for Boston as the Knicks just shot the lights out against them. Dave Cowens was the in studio analyst for halftime and when asked how the Celtics could come back from what was then a 20 point deficit, the best he could offer was for them to make all their shots and not let the Knicks hit any shots...for the entire second half. Jeff Green had 27 points to lead the Celtics in this game.
On Friday night, the Suns beat Boston 87-80 to drop Boston to 22-44 for the season. Kris Humphries had 11 points and 13 boards to lead the Celtics. They also got 11 points from Chris Johnson. Kelly Olynyk had 8 points and 10 boards.
The painful season to watch continues. Hope abides for improvement down the line, but it doesn't make each paper cut of a loss any easier to bear at the time.
In other NBA news, the Lakers announced this week that Kobe Bryant would officially be out for the rest of the season. Given the status of his injury and the total crapfest that is the Lakers season, this is not much of a surprise. I guess the only surprise is why it took so long to announce what seemed to be a foregone conclusion by most anyone paying attention.
We all know about Kobe's work ethic, but as the season started spiraling downward for the Lakers, anyone but a moron would've realized that it would be better to shut him down and let him focus on getting as completely healthy as possible and starting again NEXT year.
And the Knicks being the worst kept secret team of the week will introduce Phil Jackson as their new president on Tuesday. Yep, they are making official what everyone guessed would happen a week ago.
The problem with the Knicks remains the product on the floor. What will be done with Carmelo Anthony? How soon do they fire Mike Woodson? Who will be the new coach? How will they import more talent to the roster? And the biggest question...will Jackson be able to provide answers to all these questions?
Most importantly, the hope is that Jackson will be given full control of the team's decision making. He hasn't done anything like this before but he can't possibly be worse than Knicks owner James Dolan has been. Dolan needs to step aside and just be an owner. He needs to not be seen or heard. And he needs to let actual basketball people do actual basketball jobs.
Will this happen? I doubt it, egomaniacal rich people don't change their tune. But here's hoping that will become the case. Otherwise, the Knicks will remain the mess they have been for most of the last decade.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The good, the bad and the ugly managed to worm their way into the Patriots offseason this week.
The Pats signed cornerback Darrelle Revis to a 1 year 12 million dollar deal. After losing Aqib Talib to Denver in free agency, they had to make a move to shore up an already weak secondary. This is a big dollar deal for the Patriots who are usually loathe to lavish such a high salary on anyone not named Tom Brady.
But it had to be done to show they are serious about improving a team weak spot. They also signed Brandon Browner to a 3 year 17 million dollar deal. His talent almost guarantees the secondary will be highly improved instead of just treading water from where the grouping was last season. But unfortunately, his signing comes with the realization he won't be available for the first four games of the season while serving a PED suspension.
On the offensive side of things, it was going to be bad if their primary receiver last year, Julian Edelman, found a new home in free agency. He was testing the open market. Danny Amendola cannot be our #1 receiving option!
Thankfully, yesterday afternoon, the news broke (by Edelman himself on Twitter) that he had re-signed with the Patriots.
As for the bad, it actually spills over into the ugly as well. After the Patriots approached Vince Wilfork about restructuring his contract, Big Vince not only turned them down, but told the club he wants to be released from the team.
I know the 11 million dollar cap hit and the fact he is coming off a major injury are factors in the decision to try and work out a different deal with him, but this is Big Vince we are talking about. The Patriots were demonstrably worse off when he got hurt and he is one of those franchise cornerstones teams need.
I don't know how this is going to be resolved but 10 years with Wilfork as the massive presence in the middle deserves a better ending than a simple cold hard "It's a business" finale.
In regards to the Rich Peverley situation down with the Dallas Stars, I saw the news announcement that he was out for the season. I had to shake my head and wonder why it took a few days to actually come out with the release.
THE GUY HAD A FREAKING CARDIAC EVENT ON THE BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME!
It should've been something that was immediately tied into the news story that it happened in the first place.
There's a lot of injuries that you can come back from over the course of one season, but of all things that could possibly happen, a damn heart attack in the middle of game should be an automatic YOU ARE DONE FOR THE SEASON!
The former Boston Bruin scared the hell out of both teams so bad, they had to postpone the game because the players were so shook up.
Maybe I'm being overly cautious but if he doesn't have to take and pass a list of tests a mile long with flying colors, then doctors and teams are likely to be the biggest idiots on the face of the planet. And even if Peverley does pass those tests, should he really come back? There would have to be some sort of system in place that could completely guarantee something like this would never happen again. It is a hard hoop to make someone jump through to continue being employed, but if I'm a team owner the last thing I want to do is explain to the man's family why he was allowed back only to collapse and die on the ice.
Here's to a return to full health for Peverley (pictured below from the Bruins Cup win) but goddamn man, please consider every aspect of your life before rushing back will ya?
I had a good time with the two games I was able to do the call for and the guy in charge of filming and the coach both want me to do more games next season.
Speaking of UCT basketball, a hearty congratulations goes out my ex-player Michaela. At the banquet for the winter sports teams this past week, she received the team defensive player of the year award.
And as you might expect, with tournaments underway everywhere right now, there had to be some buzzer beaters to check out. And I saw this one from Michigan on Yahoo Sports! It was a hell of a shot to be sure. A regional final with .8 seconds left on the clock at you get this finish:
Books - My book review for the spy thriller I Am Pilgrim by author Terry Hayes went up late Sunday last week. I've gotten good feedback on the review from the publisher including "what a well thought out review" and "didn't realize it was your first ever book review and honored it was for Pilgrim and impressed that it was so good". You can check out the review here: http://www.pop-topia.com/book-review-pilgrim-terry-hayes/
I picked up a couple of new books this week too. The new Mary Daheim mystery The Alpine Xanadu and Robert K. Tanenbaum's thriller Tragic.
And thankfully, I've already finished the Daheim book.
Movies - Busy week for me, I actually saw two movies. The first was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I thought it was far and away better than the first movie in the series.
And on Friday, I borrowed a friend's Kindle device and watched the Veronica Mars movie on it. I'm hoping to do a full review of the movie and have it up so I can include a link next week. But the quickie review was that I liked it.
TV - Three returning series released trailers this week. It was third preview trailer for Game of Thrones on HBO, while the first new trailers for the new seasons of Orphan Black on BBC America and Falling Skies on TNT.
Music - The band Helstar has a new album called This Wicked Nest due out April 29th in the US. The first song off the album is called "Fall of Dominion" and you can listen to it below. I've not been a fan of the band usually, but I do like singer James Rivera from his work with another band called Seven Witches. So I'm likely to pick up this Helstar CD and review it.
While still at loose ends with the high school basketball season over for me...
The Celtics season continues along it's sub .500 way. I know that normally that would be considered a snarky remark, but for a change it is just a simple statement of fact.
It's not like they are truly horrid. They have their moments. They aren't as bad as people hoped they would be but they aren't a real threat to anyone either. The season has moved towards the end and the Celtics have morphed into the role of a spoiler team. If a playoff bound team comes into a game against them and gets caught looking past them, they just might be in for an unwelcome surprise loss.
With the Rajon Rondo birthday party tempest in a teapot behind them, the focus is back mainly on the court.
While the Pacers are the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics took their full measure before losing 102-97 last week. Jeff Green led the team with 27 points and Kris Humphries added 18 points of his own.
Sadly, the Celtics have had to deal with an injury bug as of late. First they lost Gerald Wallace and before Friday's game against the Nets, the new came out that center Vitor Faverani is done for the year as well. Both had surgery for a torn meniscus.
Speaking of the Nets, the Celtics ended up beating them on Friday night. I saw the first half of the game and Boston looked decent. The 91-84 win saw Rajon Rondo lead the team in scoring with 20 points. He had 9 assists, but also finished with a slightly disturbing 7 turnovers.
Jeff Green had 15 points and Jerryd Bayless added 14 points. Kelly Olynyk scored 13 points and grabbed 7 boards. Jared Sullinger had just 5 points but led the team with 12 rebounds.
Did you see this ridiculousness that passes for a spring training controversy? Apparently the Red Sox sent a mostly minor league lineup to play the Miami Marlins in a game. While a minor violation of the rules that call for four "regular" players or players under serious consideration for the major league level, the Marlins executives were more pissed off because they had the gall to charge a lot more for game tickets because it was the Red Sox.
What a joke! The Miami Marlins trot out major league rosters that aren't even good Triple A teams and they get pissed about the Red Sox lineups?
Even more galling was how Red Sox GM Ben Cherington actually apologized for the lineup they sent. If I was him, I would've told the Marlins, "I sent minor leaguers to play against minor leaguers."
Red Sox owner John Henry said it best when he tweeted out about the Marlins "They should apologize for their regular season lineup."
The Marlins apparently are the class tattletale and seem to be hellbent on continuing to be an embarrassment to organized baseball again this year.
If you aren't one of those who follow bracketology from Midnight Madness practices onward, the NCAA men's tourney bracket fever might set in about the time the first team seals a bid to the tourney.
Well, set your brackets up because Friday night Harvard beat Yale to clinch the Ivy League title and seal their automatic bid to the Big Dance. No one is really expecting a national title out of the Crimson, but it would be fun if they got to advance once again this year.
But keep in mind that only one side of the story is presented in the article. And given how the Boston Globe is notorious for ignoring facts in favor of fantasy, I want to hear a complete story before launching into any kind of diatribe.
Some teams are headed for conference tournaments while others have yet to finish their regular seasons.
Missouri State - The Lady Bears lost to Evansville 72-65 this week. Now 13-15 (8-9 in conference), they close their regular season today. They trailed by 19 points in the first half of the game but rallied back to make the score closer, unable to fully complete the comeback.
Katie Palmer had 15 points to lead the team while Bry Snow added 14 points.
Hartford - The Hawks closed out their regular season with a 57-49 win over Vermont. They finish with a 12-17 mark (9-7 in the America East Conference). Deanna Mayza scored a career high 22 points to lead the team to victory.
Shanish Bultron added 10 points and 6 boards.
The highlights are below.
It was Senior Day and the four graduating players were honored before the game. The photo below in order: Diamond Doe, Taylor Clark, Alyssa Englert and Milana Gilbert.
As for their conference tourney, Hartford opened up with a 63-62 overtime thriller, knocking off Maine in the quarterfinals. Amber Bepko led the team with 16 points, but it was Deanna Mayza's 4 points in the final 14 seconds of overtime that powered the Hawks to the win. Mayza finished with 12 points. Alyssa Englert had 10 points and 5 assists.
You can see game highlights and the post game press conference below.
The win advances Hartford to the semifinals where they will face top seeded Albany this morning.
Tennessee - The Lady Vols closed their regular season at 24-5 (13-3 in the SEC) with a 73-81 upset of #4 South Carolina. Isabelle Harrison scored 20 points and grabbed 15 boards. Meighan Simmons (pictured below) had 16 points and was honored before the game as the only senior graduating this season. Andraya Carter added 14 points.
Ball security was a big factor in Tennessee's win, they only turned the ball over 7 times for the game and outrebounded South Carolina 48-39.
Things weren't easy in the Lady Vols first round SEC tournament game. They trailed LSU by as many as 15 points in the first half, but a late 19-0 run in the second half helped fuel their 77-65 comeback win.
Isabelle Harrison (pictured below) had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Bashaara Graves added 14 points and 9 boards. It wasn't a great shooting night for Simmons but she finished with 14 points. Cierra Burdick (10 points, 11 boards) and Carter also played a big role in the win.
In the semifinals, Coach Holly Warlick (pictured below) saw her team go down by 10 points in the first half. But like the LSU game, they rallied back again and took an 86-77 win over Texas A&M. Now 26-5, the Lady Vols got 20 points and 13 boards from Isabelle Harrison. Simmons added 15 points and Graves had 14 points and 9 boards. Mercedes Russell had 11 points.
BOSTON COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Men's Basketball - The Eagles got 20 points from Olivier Hanlan but it wasn't enough to hold onto a late game lead and BC fell to Florida State 74-70. They are 8-22 now with a 4-13 conference mark. Their regular season still has some games before the ACC tournament starts. Patrick Heckman added 13 points and Joe Rahon had 11 points.
Women's Basketball - The women's team closed out their regular season on the road against Georgia Tech. Playing with just 7 available players (senior Kristen Doherty was out with the flu), the Eagles lost 84-74. They finish at 12-18 and 3-13 in the ACC.
The ACC women's tournament is in Greensboro, North Carolina and the Eagles were playing in the first round. That's where there season came to a sadly merciful end. Virginia beat them 74-59 ending the careers of Katie Zenevitch and Kristen Doherty (didn't travel with the team).
Zenevitch (pictured below) finished with a team high 14 points. Lauren Engeln and Kelly Hughes had 12 points apiece and Kat Cooper added 10 points.
The fact of the matter is that despite having talent on the team, the Eagles don't have enough of it to compete in the ACC. There needs to be a major talent upgrade if you ever want to be a REAL factor in the conference. I know the football money is the primary reason Boston College is in the ACC, but they just aren't good enough.
Also, coach Erik Johnson needs to find a true point guard. One that can actually handle things when teams throw pressure defense at them. The post game is going to need a lot of work with the loss of Zenevitch and Doherty. I'm not sold on Karima Gabriel or Victoria Lesko as capable replacements for either of them.
By the way, I did well enough in the two games I provided commentary for that both the guy I worked for and the UCT coach want me back to do more games next season. The first game I did is available online. You can check it out here: http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01161&video=187485
Oh, and Sports Illustrated's website had an article by Chris Ballard about the Gunderson High basketball team in California. The coach kicked a number of players off the team and then more quit in protest. The story goes into the details of what happened next. I like that the coach did what he did, but he also comes off as a bit of one of those holier-than-thou types as well. Check out the story and decide for yourself: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/highschool/news/20140305/gunderson-high/
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Linebacker Brandon Spikes is hitting the free agent market next week and given the remarks he made during an appearance on the NFL Network show NFL AM, it would seem a foregone conclusion that he will not be returning to the Patriots next season.
The damning comment was "I would never say never -- everybody (says) you never want to burn a bridge," he said of returning to New England. "But I just feel like both sides would benefit from a fresh start."
As if the Patriots didn't have enough problems finding a defense without their own players heading off to parts unknown.
TV - Thanks to having a bit extra money I was able to order my copy of the Shout! Factory release of L.A. Law Season 1. Back when the series was airing on TV, it was one of my favorite shows. But I haven't really seen it since it left syndication on the Lifetime Network. It will be interesting to see how the show holds up to my memories of it.
I also took advantage of a huge bargain deal and got my hands on the first two season of the sitcom Wings. It cost me less than 10 bucks so it was well worth the investment.
Oh and of course there's this little awesome "24: Live Another Day" trailer.
Movies - This week I got the DVD release of the movie Riddick in the mail. I saw it in the theater and liked it enough that I wanted to add it to my collection. It was an inferior version of the Pitch Black movie that started the series but better than The Chronicles of Riddick film.
Books - I finished reading the novel Robert B. Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins this week. I found it rather enjoyable despite my reluctance of reading Spenser novels written by someone other than Parker himself.
I'm also trying to get my review of the book I Am Pilgrim done. I'm finding that doing a review of book is a bit of a challenge.
Do you remember the band Winger? I certainly do. I got to see them when their first album came out and met them after the show. Well, they are due to release a new album called Better Days Comin' and the first song from the album is called "Rat Race". You can see the video for this far heavier sounding song from the band below.
How do you run a sports franchise in this day and age? You have problems no one dealt with decades ago, unions, CBAs, absurd payrolls, lawyers and their incessant liability suits, salary caps and player attrition just to name a few. It's a hard question to answer. But some have succeeded even in this millenium. How'd they do it?
The Red Sox have been a model of success in baseball, but their methodology hasn't been consistent. It's been modeled to fit necessity.
In the early part of the 2000s things were as they always had been. The Yankees had more money than anybody and, not coincidentally, the best teams and a seemingly unceasing dynasty. Not that it's over. But throwing money at a problem is the obvious solution. Boston began to mimic the strategy early on, though not at the same scale. Their 2004 team wasn't perhaps the strongest in baseball, and their miracle comeback against New York wasn't something you can buy. Maybe it was the Law of Averages.
Their 2007 win was more in line with Yankee strategy. The star-studded team with the astronomical payroll was hardly an underdog. True, they still had to overcome teams (like the monster in their own division) that spent as much or more. But they had clearly become identifiable with the penthouse set.
That all came apart famously in 2011. For 2013 Boston came up with a new manager, several midprice free agents, some holdovers and a ton of kids from their fruitful farm system. And a lot of beards. The results were beyond anyone's expectations, including theirs. It didn't seem to be the model that had worked before. Maybe the disarray of the clean-shaven leviathan in New York made it possible. Whatever --- it worked.
But those other two winners, the 2004 'Idiots' and the 2007 all-stars, both had something in common with the latest edition. They had harmony and team spirit. Regardless of payroll status, those factors proved to be the overwhelming strength. That's hard to do these days.
Note: This past week the Marlins' owner was reportedly furious at Boston for bringing a squad of AAA players to his field. He ranted that his fans (who paid through the nose for tickets) were being robbed. Robbed in preseason by a still-rebuilding team using the opportunity to evaluate potential roster additions? In one long breath, he demonstrated one difference between a loser and a contender.
Side note: When the game was called after 8 innings due to a thunderstorm, the game was tied 0-0 and Boston's AAA squad had 7 hits to Miami's 2.
How about the NBA? The current edition is a joke, of course, with players grouping to whatever warm, glamorous site they choose to form superteams. The Lakers had it all until recently, but who doesn't want to play in the glitz capital? Maybe it's the Clippers' turn. Oh, I hear it's warm in Miami too.
The one fly in that ointment has been San Antonio. Multiple champions, their supposedly crumbling dynasty remains competitive. How, when everyone keeps waiting for the dust pile to settle?
Aging stars like Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are a large part of it, forming a consistent core for the peripheral players to fit into. Sheer pride, class and effort make up no small part. Teamwork is a given with them. Maybe they don't have enough endurance for the long haul anymore, but that they should be where they are this very day is a testament to their success.
That all reflects strongly on Pops. Clearly the best coach of the past decade and more, he has kept his teams in the running consistently, all the while keeping the face of the franchise classy, avoiding the trashy image put forth by recent editions of the Lakers and others. Having class helps in a league where it's become a rare commodity. Class precludes selfishness too.
Football? Since nearly the turn of the millenium one franchise has dominated the success meter. No, they haven't won the big one in years, but their record of success is unmatched in the Cap Era and goes toe to toe with success stories from more manageable times. That franchise is of course New England. How do they do it?
Notably, its not by throwing money at problems --- well, not by pro sports standards. Quite the opposite. The Patriots have become the league's most notorious cheapskates. Pundits blame them incessantly for not 'going the extra mile' to get that one perceived piece that could have put them over the top in so many recent seasons.
But pundits aren't paid to think, they're paid to talk. One might better ask how the Patriots keep coming so close so often to put themselves in such a position.
There are two schools of thought on that. One is that they have Belichick and Brady. No one will argue that they help (a lot), but there's still that other 95% or so of the team on the field to deal with. And more than most franchises (far more than some), the Patriots want business-first players who fit their system. And they insist on 'value'. They've cut more Pro Bowlers than a bad razor. They treat it like a business, trying to maximize their resources. Really? How shocking.
Does that mean they never bring in a bad seed? Anyone who's watched the news over the past years knows they are just as susceptible to bad character as anyone. But it's hard to name a team that hasn't been. And it's not the 'character' issue anyway. That's for the pundits to hash over. It's all about whether they can fit in. In other words, T-E-A-M, the overriding factor in most sports. This alone makes New England a savory success story for an age in sports beset by me-me-me celebrity. And the league is responding, not only by coveting every water boy on Belichick's sideline, but by trying to structure their own teams in similar fashion, much like the NBA of the '80s went at once from dunkarama to teamwork with the advent of Bird and Johnson. They had to if they wanted to compete.
Last we have the most difficult league of all to analyze. The NHL isn't the most highly-paid, though no one can possibly cry poverty. It doesn't have near the revenue of the other sports, being regional in nature. Not coincidentally, stories of slackers do not abound. Here, players don't make it because they're not good enough. Anyone who doesn't try as hard as possible finds himself elsewhere even if he's a can't-miss draft pick like Tyler Seguin. All this makes the NHL the best all-around example of the way a league should be --- if only on the field (or ice).
Gone are the dynasties of privilege. Montreal no longer gets a special shot at the French skaters. The flood of Soviet players into Detroit (whose uniforms were a dead ringer for the Central Army's and whose name waxed patriotic to said players) that put the Wings on the map again was a one-shot deal. Nowadays it's about drafting and acquiring players wisely, managing the pocketbook, and fostering strong teamwork. Some do it better than others. But everybody does it, at least to a strong degree. Money isn't a huge factor. If it were, the Rangers would have won a ton of Cups.
Yet even if the NHL is harder to pigeonhole it terms of its success secrets, it shares the big one with the rest --- team spirit, and its offspring teamwork. Even in baseball, it matters as Boston showed the world last season. The Cardinals, the NL's most successful franchise of the millenium, have been showing that for years now. If it didn't matter in the NFL, New England wouldn't be what it has become, and Peyton Manning would have a ring instead of Russell Wilson. The NBA may be dominated by all-star squads, but the elite tier at large still has more strong examples of teamwork than of anything else.
It will be a sad day in sports --- and it may be coming --- when that doesn't matter anymore.