Monday, March 31, 2008

Ones' Shining Moment

Despite a valiant effort by Davidson, next weekend’s Final Four is only open to the Goliaths. North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, and Kansas will be part of the first Final Four comprised entirely of #1 seeds. At times the pace will be as fast as Formula One, but the basketball will be far more disciplined than AND1. Clearly the number one will be predominant in San Antonio. In honor of the occasion, here’s a look at the many ways in which “One/1” relates to this Final Four.


Point awarded for making a free throw, which Memphis actually can do.

Three Dog Night song noted for the line “One is the loneliest number.” Obviously they didn’t foresee this Final Four.

Years Derrick Rose and Kevin Love will spend in college. Despite references to Love and a Rose, the previous sentence was not meant to be romantic.

2001 film (The One) starring Jet Li, featuring nearly as much action as Saturday’s Kansas-North Carolina semifinal.

UCLA titles since John Wooden retired in 1975. That trophy was claimed in 1995 by Jim Harrick, who is eager to re-enter the ranks of crooked coaches.

Jersey number of Marcus Ginyard for North Carolina and Willie Kemp for Memphis. So even if they lose this weekend, they can still claim to be number one.

U2 hit song from the early 90s, back when Roy Williams was coaching the Jayhawks AGAINST the Tar Heels in Final Fours.

Losses for Memphis this season – a February defeat to Tennessee. The Tigers did slightly better against the other UT on Sunday.

Shots missed, out of 22, by Bill Walton in the biggest UCLA-Memphis game of all time – the 1973 NCAA Championship. Commenting from the future, broadcaster Bill Walton remarked, “What a HORRIBLE miss!”

Name of a global campaign to fight poverty. These teams will do their part by producing rich NBA players.

Players on these squads with a national championship ring (Quentin Thomas). So Quentin Thomas could become the first UNC player ever to win two national titles. That’s right, I said Quentin Thomas.

Moniker (“The One”) for Neo in The Matrix. Expect Saturday’s coaches to wear dark sunglasses to go with their suits.

Members of Conference USA who made the NCAA Tournament, meaning that Conference USA is undefeated in the Big Dance.

Signature tune from the Broadway smash A Chorus Line. This week, Broadway will feature college hoops’ number one from 2006 and 2007, as the Gators try to be #66 in 2008.

Number symbolized by those big foam fingers, which were developed in response to lackluster sales of “We’re number 3” foam products.

Previous Final Fours for John Calipari, as well as the number of press conferences in which an opposing coach threatened to kill him.

Hit single recorded by Metallica in the spring of 1988. Kansas fans appreciate any reference to the spring of 1988.

Numeric designation for point guard, as well as the round in which Derrick Rose, Darren Collison, and Ty Lawson will be drafted in June.

Atomic number of hydrogen. In honor of the student-athletes, I figured I’d put something educational in here.

Combined NCAA championships for the four coaches (Williams in 2005). I’ll go out on a limb and say that they’ll combine for another by next Monday night.

Name of a compilation album for The Beatles. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, this weekend’s participants comprise a Fab Four.

Games these teams will play at a time, assuming they know their clich├ęs.

Division in which these teams play. Thankfully, the phrase “Bowl Subdivision” doesn’t apply to hoops.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Quick Hits On the Sweet 16

After an entertaining four days of the NCAA Tournament, we’re down to the Sweet 16. Here are some quick hits on the 16 who remain.


EAST:

North Carolina:
For the second consecutive year, the Tar Heels are the lone ACC representative in the Sweet 16. For their conference mates in the tournament, ACC meant “Another Clemson Choke,” “Abrams Cripples ‘Canes,” and “Adios, Chris Collins!”

Washington State: The Cougars made Notre Dame’s offense look anemic in a rout, leading many to ask if the Irish were being coached by Charlie Weis.

Louisville: Hitting on all cylinders, the unsentimental Cardinals prevented another Boise State-Oklahoma matchup. Worse yet, they demanded that Ian Johnson divorce his cheerleader wife.

Tennessee: Chris Lofton is expected to play on Thursday, despite nursing an injured ankle. Bruce Pearl is expected to coach on Thursday, despite wearing that orange sport coat.

SOUTH:

Memphis:
The Tigers survived a close one with Mississippi State. Amazingly, they were the only Tigers to win on Sunday, and they didn’t even wear red.

Michigan State: The Spartans eliminated Pittsburgh, Bobby Knight’s pick as national champion. It’s been a long time since he’s had a clue about what happens in a Final Four.

Stanford: I was ready to write about the Lopez twins, but since I’m close to the halfway point, I had to eject Trent Johnson from this article.

Texas: Taking the court in Houston, the Longhorns will have geography in their favor. Just like North Carolina in Charlotte, as well as West Virginia and Western Kentucky in the West Regional.

MIDWEST:

Kansas:
The Jayhawks just eliminated a Lon Kruger-coached team (UNLV), as they did during their last title run in 1988 (vs. Kansas State). It’s a good omen, but they’ll really be in good shape if “Dukakis For President” signs start popping up.

Villanova: Despite being a 12 seed, the Wildcats make their third Sweet 16 appearance in four years. I’m also pretty sure that Villanova is a female Russian tennis player.

Wisconsin: The Badgers bounced Kansas State from the Big Dance, shattering Michael Beasley’s hopes for a bright future.

Davidson: Tournament darling Stephen Curry left Georgetown in a state of shock. Not so much that the Wildcats won, but that a team from North Carolina made shots against the Hoyas down the stretch of a tournament game.

WEST:

UCLA:
The Bruins can’t continue the James Bond-type escapes forever. But against Texas A&M, UCLA stood for “Unflappable Collison, Love Advance.”

Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers eliminated fellow longshot San Diego, who assumed that all Kentucky teams were a cakewalk.

Xavier: With a showdown against old foe Bob Huggins looming, the Musketeers have petitioned the NCAA to move the West Regional from Phoenix to Cincinnati.

West Virginia: Speaking of Huggins, he’s done so well at West Virginia, he’ll soon be hired by Michigan.

Friday, March 21, 2008

NCAA First Round Losers

It’s on to the second round, as 32 teams remain in The Big Dance. First, we’ll take a look back at some of the first round losers.


Patriotic Fans in Birmingham: Friday afternoon saw American and USA (South Alabama) go down to defeat.

4 & 5 Seeds in Tampa Bay: The Rays can only hope that underdogs keep winning in Tampa Bay.

Kents: Gone from the field are Kent State, Ernie Kent of Oregon, and Kent-ucky.

NFC Central: There’s no more action for the (Baylor) Bears or (Portland State) Vikings.

Religious Leaders: Oral Roberts and Brigham Young didn’t have a prayer.

Saints (excluding nicknames): The Siena Saints moved on, but it wasn’t a Good Friday for St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s, or Mount St. Mary’s.

High-Priced Prostitutes: With Austin Peay’s elimination, the Governors are out of action.

Nashville: Vanderbilt was blown out by Siena, while the other local entrant couldn’t quite pull off the upset of the tournament. Like recent Triple Crown bids, it was a near-miss involving Belmont.

South Carolina Teams in Second Half: Winthrop and Clemson were outscored by a combined 49 points after halftime. On the bright side, now the Tigers have plenty of time to work on their free throws.

Padres Fans: The experience of seeing San Diego pull out a playoff win in overtime came five months too late. Unfortunately for UConn, Trevor Hoffman wasn't on the court.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A March Madness Guide, From A To Z

The field of 65 has been released, so it’s time for another edition of March Madness! Before you fill out those NCAA tournament brackets, here’s a quick primer, from A To Z.


Alamodome: As the Final Four site, everyone wants to end up there. Asked for comment, David Stern remarked, “Basketball finals in San Antonio? Those ratings will suck!”

Bulldogs: The mascot is well-represented by Butler, Drake, Georgia, Gonzaga, and Mississippi State. Plus, since “Hoya” is just part of a Latin phrase, Georgetown also has a Bulldog mascot. Because who wants to dress up as a Latin phrase?

Commercials: Non-Duke fans hope this will be the only way to see Coach K during the Final Four.

Double-Header: Georgia will demand one if the Dawgs upset Xavier in the first round.

Eleven: Record number of NCAA titles for UCLA. They have a real chance to make it twelve, since Florida is nowhere to be found.

Favre, Brett: A long-running Packer who finally called it quits. CBS viewers wish the same were true of Billy.

George Mason: The CAA champs were everyone’s favorite Cinderella two years ago. They’ve since been replaced by Amy Adams.

Hansbrough, Tyler: A guy you’re probably tired of hearing about by now. But I’m a UNC alum, so you’ll get more Psycho T and like it!

Initial Entries: American, Portland State, Texas-Arlington, and UMBC are in the Division 1 tournament for the first time. However, since Portland State and UMBC are both in the Midwest region, they can’t all make the Final Four.

Jesus: Appropriately, he’s well-represented during Easter Week. Both his parents (St. Joseph and St. Mary) are in the field.

Knowledge of Hoops: Something that has absolutely nothing to do with winning an NCAA Tournament pool.

Longhorns: Texas could play the South Regional and the Final Four in its home state. But first comes the long-awaited Battle of Austin versus Austin Peay.

Missed Free Throws: The potential downfall for Memphis, as you’ll be reminded constantly during a close game for the Tigers. Also the potential downfall for Clemson, as you’ll be reminded constantly during a close game for the Tigers.

National Championship Game: The title matchup will have two new participants, since Florida and Ohio State were left out of the field. The Buckeyes will just have to lose to an SEC opponent for the NIT championship.

One and Done: What Kansas State’s Michael Beasley and USC’s O.J. Mayo will be after their freshman seasons. And what one of their teams will be in this tournament, since they meet in the first round.

Pre-season Polls: The top four teams were North Carolina, UCLA, Memphis, and Kansas, which happen to be the four #1 seeds. So the last four months were just a formality.

Queasy: How the sappy One Shining Moment should probably make you feel. But since it’s accompanied by awesome hoops highlights, you love the damn song.

Rocky: Just a few days ago, Philly was in danger of being shut out of the field, but Temple, Villanova, and St. Joseph’s all made it. As for Final Four contenders, you can look to Rocky Top and Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

Seinfeld: A show that will be quoted constantly, thanks to the already overused line of “Love the Drake!”

Twenty: Number of defeats for Coppin State – the most ever for an NCAA Tournament team. Being in Baltimore and losing 20 games makes Coppin State a perfect fit for the Orioles’ rotation.

Upsets: You know they’ll happen. You just won’t pick the right ones.

Victory: The only experience Davidson has had in 2008, with its last loss coming on December 21 to NC State. Yes, THAT NC State. Seriously, I’m not kidding!

Wildcats: Apparently a favorable nickname for bubble teams, as Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas State, and Villanova all squeaked into the field.

Xenon: The most underrated noble gas, which ... oh, whatever, I’ll just go with Xavier.

Yankee: Like Alex Rodriguez, the Final Four contenders hope to be at their best in April.

Zebras: Another word for referees, whom fans will blame for their team’s elimination. Unless their school loses by more than 30. No, they’ll still blame the refs.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Rockets' Streak By The Numbers, From 1 To 20

Wednesday night in Atlanta, the Houston Rockets defeated the Hawks 83-75 to extend their improbable winning streak to 20 games. The run is tied with the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks for second-best in NBA history. It remains to be seen how long the streak will last. In the meantime, here’s a by-the-numbers look at the streak, from 1 to 20.


1: Division 1 college teams (Davidson) with a current winning streak of at least 20 games. But they play in the Southern Conference, not the Western Conference.

2: Career regular season 3-point attempts for 41-year-old Dikembe Mutombo, who missed both. He should try a few in tonight’s game – the way the Rockets are going, he’d drain ‘em like Reggie Miller.

3: Games among their last eight in which Houston has held the opponent to 75 points or less. The highlight was a 94-69 rout of Washington, in which Luther Head led the Rockets with 18. The combination of 69, Head, and Washington begs for an Eliot Spitzer reference.

4: Teams (Pacers, Cavaliers, Hawks, and Hornets) the Rockets have beaten twice during the streak. Cleveland and New Orleans are actually good. On the other hand, playing Indiana and Atlanta multiple times is how streaks are made.

5: Consecutive games in double figures for forward Carl Landry, before missing the last three contests with an injury. Carl Landry and “Rockets” reminds me of Carl Lewis “And the rockets’ red glare…” Somewhere, Charley Steiner is laughing.

6: Month of the year represented by June, when Houston hopes to still be playing.

7: Seasons in which first-year head coach Rick Adelman has guided his team to at least the second round of the NBA playoffs. Tracy McGrady, you can learn from this guy!

8: Consecutive victories Houston has had without Yao Ming. His season-ending injury could be a blessing in disguise. No team has won the NBA championship with a 7’6” Chinese guy.

9: Zero hour for a Rocket Man, according to Elton John. Sir Elton doesn’t know his hoops – nobody tips off at 9AM.

10: Current win streak for the Boston Celtics. Slackers!

11: Years since the Rockets last won a playoff series. Soon, “20 out of 20” will be way less important than “4 out of 7.”

12: Jersey number of point guard Rafer Alston, who feuded with coach Sam Mitchell during his previous stop in Toronto. Rafer’s not the only Rocket to have issues with a guy named Mitchell.

13: Consecutive victories Houston still needs to match the all-time record set by the 1971-72 Lakers. That team was in such a groove, Wilt probably even got laid once or twice.

14: Points scored in the Super Bowl by the New England Patriots, who unlike the Rockets have lost since the end of January.

15: Years since owner Leslie Alexander bought the team in July 1993. That fall, Michael Jordan retired, and Alexander’s Rockets won their first 15 games. At the time, he spent several hours a day screaming, “Owning a team is AWESOME!!!” to anyone within earshot.

16: Games below .500 for the Charlotte Bobcats, Houston’s next opponent. Expect Shane Battier to play well. Trust me, he has a strong track record against North Carolina teams.

17: NBA seasons played by the greatest Rocket of them all, Hakeem Olajuwon. Assuming you forget about that final season with the Raptors. Most of us do.

18: Losses by the Miami Heat since Houston’s last defeat. Plus, Dwyane Wade is out for the season. Clearly Barkley’s Five is cursed.

19: Losses on the season for the West-leading Lakers, who play in Houston on Sunday. Then the Rockets host Boston before traveling to New Orleans, Golden State, and Phoenix – all by next Saturday. This is all during Holy Week, and to keep the streak going, the Rockets may need to bench Luis Scola and replace him with Jesus.

20: Also known as a score. So the last score of final scores have gone the Rockets’ way.

Monday, March 10, 2008

UNC Requests ACC Tournament Move To Cameron

The Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament is scheduled for Charlotte Bobcats Arena this Thursday through Sunday. However, top-seeded North Carolina is seeking a last-minute change to the proceedings. UNC has requested that the tournament be moved to Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham.


The development comes in the wake of Saturday’s 76-68 victory by the Tar Heels over Duke. The win was UNC’s third in a row at Cameron, leaving senior Quentin Thomas as the only Tar Heel to have experienced defeat at the famous venue. At this point, the junior class led by national player of the year front-runner Tyler Hansbrough considers games at Cameron to be automatic victories. Therefore, the players begged coach Roy Williams to lobby the ACC to move the tournament there.


Insiders consider the relocation to be highly unlikely, given the logistics of staging such an event and the time frame involved. However, Williams raised a point to illustrate why Cameron would be such an appropriate venue. “The ACC Tournament is a huge event in this region. So why have it in an ARENA when you can hold it in a STADIUM?”


Others charge that staging the tournament on Duke’s home court would impair the neutrality of the event. A potential solution to that problem would be to refer to Cameron as Wallace Wade Stadium during the tournament, since no one ever accuses a Duke team of having a home crowd advantage at Wallace Wade Stadium. The playing surface itself is known as Coach K Court. That name is soon likely to change to Psycho T Court, because Hansbrough and his teammates clearly own the place.


Certainly Dick Vitale would be in favor of such a move, since he would spend every day in Cameron if he could. Not so happy would be the wealthy boosters from each of the twelve ACC schools. Instead of being granted the cushy seats they expected, the boosters would be forced to camp out in tents to get into the games. Even if the move is a longshot, some ACC players are stunned that this scenario has come to light. When asked for comment about UNC’s proposal, Duke point guard Greg Paulus reportedly fainted. However, it turned out that Paulus was simply trying to draw an offensive foul on the interviewer.


If the Heels do not get another opportunity to play in Cameron this week, at least they can reflect on their victorious experience from Saturday. After the game, many Cameron Crazies tried doing shots to drown their sorrows, but they were denied when the shots got blocked by Danny Green. For the third straight season, Senior Night in Cameron led to defeat for the home team. Representing the senior class, likely All-ACC first-teamer DeMarcus Nelson was held to six points. It’s a good thing that the Dukie who made a half-court shot during College GameDay is a graduate student. If he had been a senior, chances are his shot would have gone woefully awry, knocking the highlighter out of Digger Phelps’s hand and breaking Erin Andrews’s nose in Marcia Brady-esque fashion.


Chances are, Carolina will not get to play in the comfort of Cameron Indoor Stadium this weekend. Most fans anticipate a third Tar Heels-Blue Devils matchup in Charlotte on Sunday. If instead, the final matchup is UNC-Clemson, expect the Heels to lobby the ACC for a move once again. They’d definitely want that game in Chapel Hill.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"Gunslinger" Retired By Sports Media Organization

Tuesday marked the end of an era in Green Bay, as legendary quarterback Brett Favre retired from the National Football League. His bust in Canton will be ready for him in 2013. Today, Favre was the recipient of a more immediate honor. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association announced today that the term “gunslinger” will be retired from further use by all sports media.


During the course of his career, Favre’s aggressive approach to passing made the “gunslinger” label become ubiquitous. Eventually, a law was passed mandating that “gunslinger” must be used during every Packers broadcast and any article focusing on Favre. A similar law is in effect for Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and the phrase “riverboat gambler,” as well as Alex Rodriguez and “October choker.”


Since the term is so synonymous with Favre, the NSSA decided that it should not be bestowed on any other athlete in the future. The honor is similar to Major League Baseball’s retiring the number 42 for all clubs in honor of Jackie Robinson. The National Hockey League did the same for Wayne Gretzky’s number 99. Given his impact on the game, Favre seems a perfect choice as an NFL player to receive such an honor. The closest NBA equivalent was the retiring of the word “respectability,” but that action only applied to the Eastern Conference.


Ironically, Favre was labeled as a gunslinger without displaying an actual gun. In that respect, he was quite different from many of his NFL contemporaries. After the news of the gunslinger’s retirement became public, Tank Johnson appeared to pay tribute by firing endless rounds of ammunition into the air. In reality, Johnson was unaware of the news and was simply following his normal Tuesday ritual.


As of now, the use of “gunslinger” will be restricted to the endless retrospectives about Favre’s career. The only way the term can be applied to an active player is if Favre pulls a Sugar Ray Leonard or Michael Jordan and reneges on his retirement decision. Frank Caliendo, who is now legally recognized as John Madden, will be holding a constant vigil in hopes of such a scenario. In the meantime, other Green Bay staples such as Cheeseheads and the Lambeau Leap will continue. Unfortunately for football fans, so will Chris Berman’s “frozen tundra” references, which became stale around the same time as New Kids on the Block.


As the action in honor of Brett Favre takes effect, it is appropriate to reflect on those who originally inspired the term “gunslinger.” Legends of the Old West were renowned for their slick handling of a pistol. Billy the Kid himself had many things in common with the newly-retired Packer. For years it was believed that Billy was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. However, Billy actually ended his gunslinging days himself in a very different manner. He left a voicemail message for Chris Mortensen.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The ABA in Today's Sports World

This weekend, Will Ferrell returns to the sports comedy world with Semi-Pro. The movie is set in the wild, high-flying days of the American Basketball Association. That ABA ceased to exist in 1976. However, “ABA” can still be seen throughout today’s sports world. Here are just a handful of examples.


Iron Bowl result the past 6 years: Auburn Beats Alabama
Tom Glavine: Atlanta Brave Again
Frequent Cincinnati headline: Another Bengal Arrested
Celtic Ray’s actions at the three-point line: Allen Bombs Away
Badger fans’ feelings toward their former coach: Adore Barry Alvarez
Yankee fans’ reaction to a right fielder’s slump: Abuse Bobby Abreu
Their feelings after the 2003 ALCS: Aaron Boone’s Awesome!
Drew Rosenhaus: Arrogant, Boisterous Agent
Part of Reds’ pitching coach’s duties: Advise Bronson Arroyo
Reason Oregon will be in the NIT: Aaron Brooks’s Absence
Oregon State basketball game: Awful Beaver Action
Reggie Miller’s favorite activity in the 90’s: Antagonizing Big Apple
Featured in Playboy: Amanda Beard’s Anatomy
Bad news for Brady Quinn: Anderson, Browns Agree
Problem for Wizards’ fans: Arenas, Butler Aching
Cause of Orioles’ decline: Angelos: Baltimore’s Affliction
Giselle’s role after the Super Bowl: Alleviate Brady’s Agony
Frequent response from players in the Mitchell Report: Anemic, Belated Apology
Big winner in the Eagles’ signing of Samuel: Asante’s Bank Account
Lottery-bound NBA teams: Awaiting Beasley’s Arrival
Recipients of Kurt Warner’s passes: Anquan Boldin’s Arms
Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays’ history: Atrocious Baseball Annually
Help for Lakers’ title hopes: Andrew Bynum Addition
D-Backs made the playoffs in spite of this: Arizona’s Batting Average
Devin Hester: Amazing Bear Athlete
Goal For Injured Yao Ming: August Beijing Appearance