Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday 03/10 Quickie:
Champ Week Showdowns

Saturday: Few Bubble implications left as big-time conference tourneys reach their semis and finals. Lots of seed jockeying, with the 1-seeds still up in the air. Or at least they SHOULD be. (Again: Not that getting a 1-seed matters.)

ACC: OK, so maybe UVA was a wee bit overrated, but let's credit NC State for being uber-motivated. This IS their NCAA Tournament.

Big East: G'town-Pitt should be for a No. 1 seed. More likely, the winner gets a 2 and the loser gets a 3.

Big Ten: Illinois locked its at-large bid with that OT win over Indiana (even though everyone knows the Hoosiers are BRUTAL away from home).

Big 12: What did I say? As long as Oklahoma State isn't playing a TRUE road game, they're NCAA material. And the entire NCAA Tournament is neutral courts. That should factor in, along with OK St's win over TX A&M, which lost its chance for a 1-seed. (Meanwhile, Durant-Boggan III should be as good as any title fight.)

Pac-10: So much for my Wazzu love. If you haven't watched a lot of West Coast hoops this season, this USC-Oregon title game is a must-see.

SEC: Of the four teams in the semis, Arkansas is the most Bubbling. A win over tourney lock Mississippi State would be huge. (But enough?)

A-10: That's one more Bubble team that's hurting, now that the A-10's only legit NCAA team, Xavier, was bounced and will be an at-large bid.

Mountain West: UNLV-BYU should be for a 2-seed, but the winner likely locks into a 3-seed. Still, if you don't want to be freaked out when you see these teams on your bracket tomorrow night, keep an eye on this game.

WAC: I hope we can all finally agree that Nevada is overrated.

Top 5 Games of the Day, Ranked:
(1) G'town-Pitt
(2) Texas-OK St
(3) USC-Oregon
(4) NC St-VA Tech
(5) UNC-BC


Rhodes to the "Rhaiders": Didn't Oakland just bring in LaMont Jordan to be their featured RB? Guess not.

Droughns to the Giants: I'd like to know when Tiki is going to interview him on the Today show.

Chris Simon suspended indefinitely: Well, no shit.

Sixers win 6th straight: Maybe they found out that Kevin Durant won't be coming out this year, so they can afford to blow their Lottery shot.

-- D.S.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday 03/09 A.M. Quickie:
Champ Week Upsets?!?! Meh.

Could there be a method to the madness of UCLA's pre-Tournament mess? Better question: SHOULD there be?

A presumptive NCAA Tournament 1-seed, the Bruins' quarterfinal loss to Cal in the Pac-10 Tournament may very well have busted their chances for a top seed.

But since when has a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament (versus a 2-seed or a 3-seed) ever guaranteed anything? I've hammered this for weeks: Seeding is irrelevant; matchups are all.

However, here IS a guarantee: By losing, UCLA will NOT have to play two more games over the next two days.

Is there a correlation between mileage logged in a conference tournament and NCAA Tournament success? (Or, alternatively, is there a correlation between momentum gained during a deep conference-tourney run and NCAA Tournament success?)

I suspect not, and the most obvious evidence is that, each year, half-a-dozen big-league conference tournament champs do NOT win the NCAA title. And at least 11 of the 12 top-seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament (if not all 12) do not win the NCAA title.

Given UCLA's secure status as, at worst, a 2-seed, they might as well concentrate on the only tournament title that matters: The NCAA title.

(Feel free to make the leap based on what I'm saying: If I'm a fan of a team with a 1-, 2- or 3-seed, I could take it or leave it whether I win my conference tournament title. Who cares? NCAA title or bust.)

Meanwhile, how intriguing is Duke's seeding status? After losing in the first round (FIRST round!) of the ACC Tournament, I can't believe the Dukies will pull a Top 4-seeding. (More intriguing: How quickly they'll flame out. Who's got "first weekend" in the over/under?)

So where DO you seed Duke: 5? 6? 7? I'm rooting for them to pull the dreaded 5-seed or pull the 6-seed and get 11-seed VCU in the first round or pull a 7-seed and get 10-seed Winthrop in the first round.

The natural follow-up question is whether the Selection Committee will factor in the absence of suspended Duke stud Gerald Henderson?

If they're not going to take into consideration EVERY time any team had any player missing – or even not playing at full strength due to injury – they shouldn't factor in Henderson's absence in deciding where to seed Duke.

Women's College Hoops: Pokey Chatman Resigns. I love all of the euphemisms and vague descriptions being thrown around by mainstream media, all trying to either write around the fact that Chatman had a romantic relationship with a player. (While the player was still in school? After they left? Rumor is that the player was still in school.) How much of this vague-speak has to do with the fact that it would have been a gay relationship and mainstream sports media is absolutely, fundamentally and embarassingly incapable of handling that?

Let's provide a helpful reminder: A coach should never have a romantic relationship with a player. Man, woman. Straight, gay. Doesn't matter. Never. Sexuality isn't the issue here; power is.

More March Madness:

Big East: Georgetown looks strong. Wait: Is Louisville the best team in the league? They're certainly the hottest. Great semifinal lineup.

ACC: What the hell happened to Maryland's mojo? THIS is why you have to "Fear the Turtle" as a bracket-buster.

Meanwhile, did Wake Forest just screw my preseason-smart, midseason-ugly, endseason-smart "Georgia Tech as Final Four darkhorse" pick? Because Tech can't make a run if they don't make the freaking field.

SEC: After knocking off Tennessee (which had been angling for a Top 4 seeding), here comes LSU. Previously NIT-bound, I sense a run...

Big 12: Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Kansas State-Texas Tech a virtual play-in game for an at-large bid? (If not, it should be.) CORRECTION: I have been told by my Big 12 spies that Tech is a lock. (Really? Even if they lose here?) However, K-State absolutely needs this win.

Meanwhile, I think Texas A&M is in for a hell of a game tonight against Oklahoma State, which is awful on the road – but not on neutral courts.

Pac-10: Prediction: I think the Washington-Washington State game was the de facto Pac-10 conference tournament title game. (Wazzu won.)

Mid-Majors: How huge of a blow would it be to Nevada's chances of making a deep NCAA Tournament run if they lost guard Kyle Shiloh for the rest of March after a knee injury yesterday in the MWC semis?

(What makes it more ridiculous is that he slipped on an on-court advertisement. I understand the conferences have to try to make money, but can't they keep the marketing messages from damaging the product?)

More MWC: Is UNLV a legit Final Four team? Someone with some MWC or UNLV knowledge please fill the rest of us in.

Stalking the Selection Committee? Awesome.

Update: This post is yet another reason why Pete Thamel and Co. are surging with their "Bracket" blog on

As we head into the final stretch before Selection Sunday, it's worth beginning to consider who your "It" team is. (But remember: It's all about the individual game matchups.)


More of today's biggest storylines:

Tom Brady: From All-Pro to All-Preg! Um, is Gisele Bundschen pregnant with Tom Brady's baby? Between Bridget's and Bundschen's buns in the over, that's an awkward weekend visitation situation.

(For those of you who mocked me for calling Tom Brady the new Shawn Kemp, who's laughing now? You cannot possibly deny Brady's ascension to Kemp Status now.)

Meanwhile: I appreciate that Tom probably should spread his seed as far and wide as he possibly can (and I'm sure there's a line of ladies who would be interested), but he should consider either (a) condoms or (b) a vasectomy.

NFL: Willis McGahee traded to Ravens. Seems like a good upgrade for both McGahee (who will get a fat new deal) and Baltimore. What will the Bills do to fill McGahee's role? Word is that they're looking at Chris Brown or Dom Rhodes.

More: Rams sign TE Randy McMichael; Dolphins sign K Jay Feeley (Doesn't he understand leaving NYC will hurt his Tiki-wannabe TV career?)

NBA: Spurs win 11th straight. Everyone keeps talking about the Mavs as the team to beat. Or this being the Suns' year. Wait until the Spurs simply plod along and win yet another NBA title.

You will see every self-respecting all-sports or NBA blog pick this up: It's a hilarious parody of that Nike "Second Coming" TV ad. These guys deserve huge credit (as do We Are the Postmen for the find).

NHL: Chris Simon stick-as-weapon hit. I'm with Melrose: Suspend the guy for the rest of the season. That was assault. Isn't there a code among players that you just don't do that?

NHL: Why is it that the only time the NHL makes national news these days is for scandal? It seems their union honchos "pulled an HP" and tried to monitor players' emails. No wonder the players fired Goodenow.

MLB: Who had "March 8" in the "Mike Hampton Injury" Office Pool?

MLB PED Watch: Journeyman pitcher Darren Holmes the latest to be linked to this latest PED scandal. (Doesn't that affirm the Baseball Prospectus Theory that PEDs were mostly used by the talentless players at the margins?)

I also have a question: Is going to name these guys in dribs and drabs every other day? Are they sitting on a larger list and releasing it piecemeal simply to drive traffic to the Web site?

If you're staying offline all weekend (and with all the hoops to watch, I don't blame you), be sure to check back on Monday for a complete Bracket breakdown.

-- D.S.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

College Hoops Champ Week Mania

Given the skintight storyline of team uniforms as a prominent theme of this week's Champ Week coverage, I'm sitting here watching Georgetown-Villanova and I absolutely think that Georgetown's gray uniforms are in the Top 3 in college hoops. So, while we follow games all day (and all night) -- whether you're tracking online or on TV -- I'm curious for your nominees for your favorite college hoops uniform. (And what makes your choice so cool?) Oh, feel free to talk about the games, the Bubble, etc. too! UPDATE: Erin Andrews makes watching even a Northwestern-Michigan State "pre-quarterfinal" worthwhile. Discuss.

UPDATE: Totally off-topic, but did you hear that Tom Brady might have gotten Gisele pregnant, too? This guy is PRO-LI-FIC! His swimmers are even more clutch than he is. But weekend at Daddy's with the two kids is going to be... all together now... AWK-waaaaard!"

Thursday 03/08 Quickie:
Big Boys Take Over Champ Week

Championship Week gets nasty: OK, NOW we're ready to hit it today, as I shake out the cobwebs from last night's sports-blogger reading event...

Big East: G'town vs. Nova, ND vs. Cuse. (Of course, with wins yesterday, Nova and Cuse are as good as locks. Damn: Nova's Scottie Reynolds is good.) Plus: Did West Virginia go from "Bubble Iffy" to "Bubble In" with their win over NIT-quality Providence?

(By the way: Was there any bigger tempest-in-a-teacup than the new Nike spandex-style uniforms, which Syracuse showcased? In reality, the jerseys weren't nearly as tight-fitting as the released design photos seemed to indicate. Are they ugly? I actually like them. I finally get it: It's the "UnderArmour/Nike Dri-Fit" Effect on top – for performance -- with extra-baggy shorts on the bottom -- for fashion. It actually makes sense, and the players seem to like it. That should be enough for fans. 'Cuse fans are forgiven if they suspend judgment until they see how far the team gets in them.)

Meanwhile, the New York Times' March Madness blog, The Bracket, kicked it into overdrive yesterday for the start of the Big East Tournament. I counted 13 posts throughout yesterday alone. Pete Thamel and Co. are bringing it. Must-read for Big East coverage.

ACC: Clemson (MUST win!) vs. FSU; Maryland (Seeding implications!) vs. Miami; Duke (no Henderson!) vs. NC St; GA Tech (lock with a win) vs. Wake.

Big Ten: Illinois (MUST win!) vs. Penn State; Michigan State (seeding implications) vs. Northwestern(!); Michigan vs. Minnesota (Mich is in, but a loss to Minny would actually put them OUT, IMHO).

Looking for the best blogging about Big Ten Hoops -- or any college hoops for that matter? You've got to add Big Ten Wonk to your daily routine, now more than ever!

Big 12: Quarters on Friday will be a little bit more crazy, but Texas Tech and Oklahoma State don't just need to win today, but a COUPLE of wins this week.

SEC: Tourney locks Kentucky and Tennessee are playing for NCAA seedings. Bama and Arkansas are both in the NIT right now, needing more than a win tomorrow to get at-large traction. And could LSU play the ultimate spoiler?

Mid-major Mania: Weber State is IN. So is Central Connecticut. Woo! Pencil both in for first-round losses. I don't care who they're playing. (Eh: Famous last words...)

My favorite Tournament-related Web site of the day: NIT-ology, a Bracketology for the NIT. Before you mock it, consider what you would have said about Joe Lunardi 10 years ago -- or Mel Kiper 20 years ago. (H/T: Deadspin via Georgia Sports Blog)

(OK, there's a new contender: This group has put together a bracket to determine the best music album of the 90s. If you're a music fan, it's worth your time. There is nothing like the annual batch of March mash-ups between Tournament-style brackets and everything else people like caring about.)

Is Kevin Durant sticking around for his sophomore season? Hey, I'd love to see what he and his UT frosh classmates can do with another year of experience (um, national title?), but I agree with MJD over at Fanhouse: Wait until after the season ends for his decision-making process to change. (But hell, this year, he's No. 2 in the draft, short of Oden returning to school, too; if he stays until next year, he's the overwhelming No. 1. What happens if this kid is National Player of the Year as a freshman – as he should be – and comes back as a soph?!) See my post below on the NBA Draft for a follow-up on this Longhorns situation.

NFL Moves: Jamal Lewis to the Browns. Wait, how does that impact the presumption that Cleveland was hot to draft Adrian Peterson? Does that mean they could actually be thinking – gasp – about Brady Quinn at the No. 3 spot? (Whatchutalkinbout: Are the Ravens looking to replace Lewis with Willis McGahee?)

NFL Draft: The Florida Gators held their Pro Day, and early-entry DB Reggie "Effing" Nelson (no, seriously, that's the complimentary way Gator Nation refers to him, to pay appropriate homage to his eye-popping skills) might have vaulted himself up the draft rankings, running a 40 somewhere in the 4.3-something range. I'm obviously biased, but Nelson is the best defensive player I have ever seen in college football. He is going to make some team look VERY smart.

NBA: Kobe suspended (again). I don't get it. If Kobe's hitting a player in the face was suspension-worthy, why wasn't he hit harder because it was his second infraction in a month? If this was, say, Ron Artest (or even a player with no track record, but without Kobe's star power), they would have been suspended for multiple games.

Meanwhile: You've read my Arenas-as-Obama. Now, here's FreeDarko's take on Kobe-as-Obama.

NBA: Lindsay Hunter suspended 10 games for testing positive for a banned substance. It should make him the butt of countless hilarity that he was busted for taking diet pills. (Was he in it for the Dexatrim high? Or in it to get rid of those unwanted pounds?)

MLB Spring: Pedro is on the road to rehab, and – speaking of rehab – Sammy Sosa hit his second HR of the spring. Prediction: With an unlikely dinger binge, he'll reclaim his role as a fan favorite. Meanwhile, safari-goer David Wells is a latter day Teddy Roosevelt.

MLB: My new favorite baseball team president is Matt Silverman of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who won the auction by that Armchair GM blogger (to benefit Pediatric AIDS Research) to blog about the auction winner's team all season long. And Silverman won. And not just $535 to win the auction, but he put in another $1,000 to add to the charity. What a stand-up guy. Manny Stiles owes that guy the best freaking blog ever.

Move over Gilbert Arenas: Curt Schilling realizes that there's a lot of amazing pub to be claimed by starting a blog -- and, more importantly, speaking frankly through it. I've taken my shots at Schilling over the years as a media-whoring know-it-all, but I tip my cap to him for his entry into blogging, If he really gets into it, it will be a watershed moment for baseball coverage.

NBA Draft: I'm an Draft junkie, so I was excited to see the appearance of Chad Ford's annual Lottery simulator. A few thoughts:

(1) Oden goes No. 1. Oden goes No. 1. Oden goes No. 1. Just stop talking about Durant at No. 1. It's simply not going to happen. (That is, if he even comes out.)

(2) I wonder if it will affect Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and DJ Augustin's decision-making process to know that Ford has them both as lottery locks. (UNC's Brendan Wright was a no-brainer from the day he stepped on campus earlier this fall.) I sure as heck would come out, particularly if I was 5-foot-10, like Augustin, in a year weak on PGs. Young seems like an early-entry no-brainer, given that he would have been a first-rounder if he had been able to come out LAST year.

(3) Am I the only one who watches Josh McRoberts play and thinks "He's the new Brendan Haywood?" I've never seen a player with the reputation of having such imposing physical skills be so utterly unable to take over a game -- particularly for a big man. I appreciate the criticism of Hansbrough that his game won't translate at all to the NBA, but at least that guy has heart and makes plays. McRoberts? Zzz...

(4) The Gators frontcourt all goes in the Lottery. Last year was a bonus: If this group doesn't win the national title this year, it will be an underachievement of superlative magnitude.

(5) Big men rule. Why is this draft so highly anticipated? Partly due to a one-year blip from the new draft age-limit rules and partly due to the number of 2006 Lottery-worthy college players who stuck around for another year, it is the deepest group of forwards and centers I can ever remember.

Marion Jones gets married: Is it true that, in lieu of rice, wedding guests threw pills?

Finally, HUGE thanks to everyone who came out last night to the Varsity Letters Reading Series event. (The Commenters were well-represented, led by Brian from Oxford, trekking in from Connecticut.) The lineup was even better than anticipated, with a wide range of contributions, styles and angles. The biggest rock stars of the night were definitely the guys from The Dugout, who flew in from the Hinterlands to participate. Thanks to Gelf's Carl Bialik for setting up such a great night. (Ahh: The inevitable Flickr stream...)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Varsity Letters Reading Event TONIGHT!

TONIGHT: If you live in NYC, don't forget to check out tonight's Varsity Letters Reading Series event. It starts at 8 at Happy Ending (corner of Broome and Forsythe), and the lineup is packed with some of your favorite bloggers (links go to exclusive VL interviews):

Will Leitch of Deadspin, Matt Ufford of With Leather, The guys from The Dugout, Henry Abbott of True Hoop, Jason Fry and Greg Prince from Fear and Faith in Flushing, and this one shamelessly self-promoting hack. Get there on time; I'm leading off.

Wednesday 03/07 Quickie:
One Bubble Team Already Out of NCAAs

Today's Madness: One Bubble team is crying this morning. With Wright State's upset win over Butler last night in the Horizon final, a previously available at-large bid is taken by Butler, an at-large lock.

Who loses: Will it be a big-league school, like a 7th or 8th bid from the Big East or ACC? Or will the Committee see it as "like-for-like" and yank away a bid from an at-large from a smaller league, like the Colonial (ODU or Drexel)?

Big East ramps up today with early rounds, which this year are more meaningful than ever. Will the Big East get 8 bids? Really?

Oral Roberts wins Mid-Con: Who remembers my (quasi-)famous prediction last March that ORU would become the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed? Let's bring it back! (And while we're bringing back crazy Tournament picks, how about signing up for the Daily Quickie Readers group of's Tournament Challenge?)

North Texas: First NCAA bid since '88! (Does North Texas have its own version of Danny Manning and the Miracles? Um, no.)

MLB Steroid Scandal: Add two names (of players not playing anymore) – David Bell and... John Rocker. (Of COURSE: Rocker!) It loses some impact that they aren't current players.

NBA: Mavs win 16th straight. Honestly, who's with me that these impressive in-season winning streaks don't mean anything unless the streaking team wins the NBA title. Sorry.

(Of course, you can't win the title unless you're in the playoffs, and the win was much more remarkable in that it clinched a playoff spot for Dallas.)

UPDATE: I stand corrected! (We all do!) Thanks to Mike Fisher from for clarifying that the Mavs actually clinched after only 59 games. Well done, Fish and Co!

More NBA: Will Dwyane Wade reconsider his decision to try to make a comeback for the playoffs now that Heat 3-point specialist Jason Kapono is out indefinitely?

CBB: Tyler Hansbrough doesn't hate Gerald Henderson: He's merely going to demolish Duke if they meet in the ACC Tournament. (Sorry to disappoint, Psycho-T, but Duke ain't making it far enough.)

NFL: Joey Porter to the Dolphins: If they bring back Ricky Williams, they'd have the makings of an epic reality-TV series: "Joey and Ricky."

MLB: Remember when I was able to argue that Marlins SP Josh Johnson wasn't just NL Rookie of the Year, but a legit Cy Young Top 3 finisher? Those were the days... Now, he's out for another two months with a bad arm. Obvious Hint: Don't draft him for your fantasy league.

Matsuzaka Watch: 3 scoreless innings, 3 Ks, 2 hits. What's his auction league value range?

Carmelo about to be a baby-daddy of a baby boy (that sounds familiar!): Celebrates with 21 points in a Nuggets win over NOOCH. (Ahem: Seen Varsity Dad yet?.)

On a very serious note: Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream (from Ben & Jerry's) is the best ice cream flavor I have ever tasted.

Have you signed up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group of's Tournament Challenge? What are you waiting for? Last year's group was the largest single office pool in the country. Let's do it again!

Don't forget: TONIGHT! Catch me and your other favorite NYC-based bloggers reading at the Varsity Letters Reading Series event: Deadspin! With Leather! The Dugout! True Hoop! Fear and Faith in Flushing!

And just because you all have already read all of my blog posts, I wouldn't want to waste your time by reading from old blog posts. Instead, I will read an original piece! (How enticing!) Click here for an interview I did with the series hosts at Gelf Magazine.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tuesday 03/06 A.M. Quickie:
Mason Misses, Artest Arrested, Borges Booted

Mason Mania Ends! With the NCAA Tournament within their grasp, Championship Week sensation (and reigning Cinderella) George Mason uncharacteristically choked it away – or, more accurately, VCU stole it away.

Two backcourt picks erased a 5-point lead late and earned VCU the Colonial's auto-bid, leaving George Mason to be a headline team in the NIT. VCU's Eric Maynor was the hero, making the steals and scoring 9 points in the final 2 minutes. Absolutely clutch.

But it was a hell of a rousing way to spend the Monday night of Championship Week, that nebulous moment between the end of the big-conference regular season and the big-conference tournaments.

It is the end of the epilogue for George Mason, whose Cinderella story that began a year ago on Selection Sunday turned them into a college hoops icon – a team you can't help but tune in (and root) for.

More Madness: Gonzaga tops Santa Clara for West Coast Conference auto-bid. This is precisely the kind of "down" year for the Zags where they will surprise someone in the first weekend. Meanwhile, Niagara earns MAAC bid over Siena.

Psst! Sign up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group of's Tournament Challenge!

NCAA Uniforms Madness: No, seriously: Madness. What the hell is this? I'm all for radical experiments, but – really – on the eve of the NCAA Tournament? Is this a joke?

(OK, who remembers -- god, this must have been 15 years ago or more -- when NC State used similarly tight, form-fitting uniforms? It looked like they were in the Tour de France. The look lasted one game, I believe.)

Thanks to UniWatch's Paul Lukas for sending me this link to NC State's old "unitard" unis. Or is that "uni-'tard"... here's the link. Shorts went over the one-piece uniform.

Artest Arrest: He's off the Kings indefinitely, but it looks like his troubles are a lot worse than that after his arrest yesterday. This might be The Big One for Ron-Ron. (But, to look at the bright side, he's a shoo-in for a starting spot for the Cellblock D All-Stars.)

Dwyane Wade wants to come back, rather than have season-ending surgery. He obviously feels like the risk of aggravating his injury into something much worse is less than the potential reward of returning and leading the Heat to a conference title in the mediocre East. His call, but it's not what I would do. (I also just released him from my fantasy roster, where he was my anchor star, picking up Willie Green from the waiver wire. But, no, I'm not bitter or anything.)

NFL Free Agency: RB Travis Henry's fantasy stock just shot up, after he signed with the Broncos as a free agent. In their system, he should be good for consistent 100-yard games and an improvement in TDs. (It's so awesome that the biggest subplot of this signing that everyone seems to want to talk about is its fantasy implications.)

NFL Trade: Jets get RB Thomas Jones and a 2nd-rounder from the Bears for a higher 2nd-round draft pick. Jones gives the Jets an instant starter at RB, which they presumably think is better than the RB they would get in the early second-round of the draft (or via free agency). For the Bears, this means the running game is entirely in the hands of Ced Benson.

UNC-Duke Fall-Out, Cont'd. Let's rank the reputations that were tarnished, in order of how badly: (1) Billy Packer (2) Coach K (3) Gerald Henderson.

MLB: Prior sucks in return. 3 ER in less than 2 IP means that the Cubs are either glad they picked up Lilly as insurance or sad their rotation isn't what they thought it would be.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is Boston's Jon Lester, who returned to the mound after battling cancer that was caught late last season. He had chemo as recently as a few months ago. Comeback to track.

More NBA: Someday, LeBron vs. Yao might be a perennial Finals matchup (don't bet on it). Last night, it was an intriguing matchup. LeBron went over 30 for the 4th straight game and Yao returned from injury, and even at half speed, had 16 and 11 (with 2 blocks). The Cavs won the game. With a healthy Yao, the Rockets are an intriguing X-factor in the West playoffs.

NHL: "Kansas City Penguins?" Get used to it. It looks like the Pens are going to relocate over stadium issues. "K.C. Pens" has sort of a ring to it, doesn't it?

Beckham Update: Out for only a month. MLS breathes a sigh of relief, then continues printing up Galaxy jerseys with his name on it.

Ron Borges, Suspended Two Months for Plagiarism. When the story makes the AP wire, you're done. Borges was banned from writing for two months (without pay... and without being able to go on TV); it makes you wonder how he himself would cover an athlete given a similar type of suspension for a similar type of "cheating" infraction.

(At the very least, Borges should be kicked off the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee immediately, an idea inspired by an insider's tip to ProFootballTalk. In PFHOF terms, Borges has become the Alex Karras of journalism.)

Meanwhile, kudos to the AP for citing them, but even bigger kudos to the stout-hearted geniuses at for helping to bust this story wide open. Here's a phenomenal "24"-style recap.

I'm totally intrigued by the "notes exchange" that is apparently at the heart of the scandal. The exchange is where writers share tips and info and are allowed to pull liberally from it.

Is trolling a glorified message board what passes for the crackerjack "reporting" that mainstream sports media is always proclaiming it's so good at?

Seriously: A notes exchange might have been useful as recently as 10 years ago, but what self-respecting reporter or columnist can't use the... um... INTERNET to quite easily do his own research?

Have you signed up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group of's Tournament Challenge? What are you waiting for? Last year's group was the largest single office pool in the country. Let's do it again!

Don't forget: Catch me and your other favorite NYC-based bloggers reading at the Varsity Letters Reading Series event tomorrow night! Click here for an interview I did with the series hosts at Gelf Magazine.

Do you have kids? Do you think you're going to have kids? Are you simply curious about the future generations of sports fandom? I'm quietly ramping up my new Varsity Dad blog, but readers on this blog get a sneak preview until I'm ready for a real launch.

-- D.S.

Notes (Exchange) on a Scandal:
The Ron Borges Suspension

At the heart of Ron Borges' two-month suspension from the Boston Globe for plagiarism is the shadowy world of the "notes exchange."

In these groups, beat reporters and columnists upload their local quotes, notes and tips to each other for use in their columns. I guess this is why online readers who check out several different regional columns will see the same info over and over. Ever wonder why or how that happens? It's not coincidence; worse, it's by design.

At best, this is lazy journalism. (In the online age, how hard is it to find this stuff yourself? Reporters don't need to travel any further than their laptop or reach out to any sources beyond "Google" to be on their way.)

At worst, this is fraud, if not plagiarism (unless you're Borges, and you simply seem to cut-and-paste entire passages from the exchange). Based on my limited understanding of the system, sports reporters and columnists who use notes exchanges are either:

(a) Giving their stuff away to competitors for free, behind an opaque wall and involving tacit and shadowy agreements of complicity; or (b) not doing their own legwork, but still drawing a paycheck from their paper as if they are. I appreciate that this is an economical way for reporters or columnists to find source material, but if everyone is going to draw from the same well, why not simply save the paper money and run a nationally syndicated "notes" column and have the reporter or columnist file something wholly original, if short.

In an age where newspapers are universally available online, the practice of "notes exchanges" and its byproduct -- communal column-writing -- should end. (I offer kudos to those reporters or columnists who regularly attribute their details to their original source or, even better, use the convenient resource of the Web to create their own notes without the exchange.)

And shame on the reporters who can't do their own research -- and, perhaps even more, on the failure of leadership by sports editors whose inconsistent application of attribution in columns like these (and, more generally, whose lenient standards towards these "notes exchanges") have allowed this system to reach its inevitable spot at the bottom of what has always been a slippery slope.

-- D.S.

P.S.: As for Borges, he's lucky he still has a job waiting for him two months from now. But, via, there's one role he has no business being a part of: As a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Is Borges the Alex Karras of journalism? Perhaps: But just as Karras will never sniff the Hall, Borges' ethical lapse gives him no standing to judge others -- and certainly not on behalf of a public trust like the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I'll be interested to see how quickly the Hall of Fame reacts to this... or if they will circle around one of their own. It will say something profound about a selection process that is already under scrutiny as far too shadowy.

UPDATE: I highly recommend reading Will's take on this over at Deadspin. Here's the link, and here's the Line I Wish I Wrote: "[The] scary part is not that Borges plagiarized; the scary part is that, while just changing a few words, everybody is."

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday 03/05 A.M. Quickie:
College Hoops Insanity (and More!)

Monday uber-Quickie: Mason Mania! Duke thuggery! Putting the "ill" in "So. Ill."! Moss to the Pats? Pippen to the Lakers? Wright is the new Jeter! And more! (Keep reading!)

Today's analysis (with a heavy emphasis on college hoops), as I ponder if anyone in sports TV uses a more shit-eating grin than Seth Davis...

The biggest college hoops storyline coming out of the weekend? George Mason is back. Left for dead (or, at least, .500 and the NIT) this season after last year's uber-Cinderella NCAA run, the Patriots upset Old Dominion in the CAA Tourney semis – and are one win away from an improbable return to the NCAA Tournament.

(It's worth noting that the "Mason Strategy" is phenomenal: Do OK – but by no means Tournament-worthy – during the regular season, but then simply win the few games in a row necessary to win the automatic bid via conference tournament.)

UNC beats Duke in bloody mess: As this game wound down, I was all set to talk about how, for the second time this season, the UNC-Duke rivalry shows it ain't what it used to be. And then The Foul. What does it say that the image of the game was Tyler Hansbrough's face after getting clocked on a hard foul late? (He DID finish with 26 and 17, sewing up first-team All-American status – even if his NBA prospects roughly mirror Craig Smith's.)

Gerald Henderson's protest that the foul wasn't intentional doesn't pass the smell test. (And the ACC agreed, suspending Henderson for Duke's first-round ACC game vs. NC St.)

Kudos to lead blogger Beau Dure for being all over this story with some very interesting links. Here's the link, and kudos to on the redesign, particularly the more prominent placement of Dure's SportsScope blog.) And here's some audio I just got from the Duke flagship AM station.

Here's the upshot: This morning, Duke is getting a taste of its own medicine, being smacked around -- hard -- for the foul... and for Coach K's ludicrous attempts to spin it. Duke is not a great team AND they're thuggish. When did this year's Duke turn into last year's Temple?

Creighton tops "So. Ill." to win the Mo Valley tournament. Now, both teams were going to the Big Dance anyway, but if you saw The Big Lead on Saturday, you saw I was making the case for SIU as a 1-seed. Well, that didn't last the weekend. How far would I drop them? To a 3-seed at the highest. Amazingly, if they had won the MVC Tournament, I would have been able to present a compelling argument for their 1-seedness.

Meanwhile, Florida needed a little home cooking to right the ship. Their first half against Kentucky was iffy, but the second half looked like the old Gators again. I'm not going to elevate them to a 1-seed until I see how they do on the neutral court of the SEC Tournament.

And, from Saturday, in case you missed it: UCLA lost at Washington (no shame there), but I'd still give them a No. 1 seed. (Ohio State, too.) I'm ready to give Kansas a 1-seed IF they win the Big 12 Tournament. That comeback against Texas was awesome, but you have to wonder if they would have been able to do it if Durant had been playing uninjured. I don't think Kansas would have won that game. Durant was on fire.

(If you're keeping track, that means my current 1-seeds are: Ohio State, UCLA, UNC and Kansas. But, let me reiterate: Seeding doesn't mean anything, among the first 4 lines. Given last year's results – zero 1-seeds making the Final Four and a 3-seed winning it all – they are pretty meaningless. It's all about the specific bracket matchups.)

Teams Worthy of a 1-seed, in this order of priority if they win their conference tournaments (or in case anyone ahead of them on this list stumbles):

1. UCLA if they win the Pac-10 Tourney title.
2a. Ohio State if they win the Big Ten Tourney.
2b. Wisconsin if they win the Big Ten Tourney.*
3. UNC if they win the ACC Tourney.
4a. Kansas if they win the Big 12 Tourney.
4b. Texas A&M if they win the Big 12 Tourney.
5. Florida if they win the SEC Tourney.
6. Georgetown if they win the Big East Tourney.
7. Pitt if they win the Big East Tourney.

* - With the Big Ten tournament final happening AFTER the brackets are essentially in place, if Ohio State and Wisco both make the tournament title game, they will likely both earn 1-seeds. I don't want to hear the Big Ten griping EVER AGAIN about the timing of the OSU-Michigan football game vis a vis other conference title games and the BCS process. If the Big Ten title game happened Saturday, you know the runner-up between Ohio State and Wisconsin would have a very good chance of being bumped down to a 2-seed.

Bubble Watch 1: My pick (last week) of Georgia Tech to be IN looks awfully good now that they've knocked off UNC and BC in back-to-back games...

BW2: Speaking of ACC, what the hell will the Committee do with Clemson? The Tigers won at Tourney lock VA Tech to get a 7th ACC win. Could they really give bids to 8 ACC teams?...

BW3: Did Drexel play its way out of an at-large bid by losing in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament to VCU? (Old Dominion might have played its way out, too.)

Winthrop coach Greg Marshall is messing with the NCAA Tournament gods. He thinks his team is worthy of a much higher seed than they're going to get – or, frankly, that they deserve. Too much yapping will set him and his team up for the first-round bounce-out.


NBA: Pippen to the Lakers? Phil Jackson thinks he can work his mystical ways to get Scottie to be the Pippen to Kobe's Jordan (to get a little too meta about the whole thing). I suppose if Odom's shoulder injury seems problematic, it's a good fit. But, still: If Pippen wants to play for a contender, why would he play for the Lakers? (Related: Suns top Lakers.)

More NBA: Redd-Gordon duel! The pair combined for 100 points (Redd 52, Gordon 48), but BG has the last laugh, as the Bulls beat the Bucks.

More NBA: Wild ending to the Wizards-Warriors game! Down 2, Arenas was fouled while shooting with virtually no time left (tenth of a second). Don Nelson argued the call so vociferously that he got T'ed up. Arenas sank all three shots – the two free throws and the technical – to earn the win for the Wizards. Don't blame the refs; blame Nellie.

I'm sorry: has Kevin McHale ranked No. 1 on the list of Best GMs in Sports. That's "McHale" and "No. 1" and "Best" in the same list. There are contrarian viewpoints (which are often appreciated) and then there is simply the ludicrous and unbelievable.

NFL Rumor Mania: Randy Moss to the Pats?! That's what ProFootballTalk is hearing (via the Boston Herald). I don't know what Belichick and Pioli are smoking this offseason, but whatever it is, I like it. They must REALLY want to re-ascend to Super Bowl champ status.

NFL Free Agency: Cowboys sign OL Leonard Davis (too bad he can't hold on field goals)... The Jags signed Dennis Northcutt, who gives them an extra presence at WR and as a return guy... Ahman Green is not Reggie Bush, but he is an improvement on Dom Davis in the Texans backfield (if he can stay healthy)...

NFL Draft: Brady Quinn has his (Pro) Day. Vikings coach Brad Childress is quoted, which should fuel speculation that Minnesota will take Quinn if he's there, looking for the Cutler/Leinart-style steal as the draft sequence hits double-digits. (Romeo Crennel was also quoted, but I cannot believe the Browns would take him that high.)

MLB: I got my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2007 over the weekend, and -- needless to say -- it's an absolute must-have, as it is every year. It's very possible that this edition is the best one yet. (And, it's worth noting, the price point makes it arguably the best value of any get-you-ready-for-the-season publication.)

Well, here's one reason David Wright is the new Derek Jeter: Where Jeter was a huge (and anatomically improbable) dick/pussy (call it a "Der-maphrodite") about A-Rod's arrival to the Yankees, refusing to give up his position at shortstop even though A-Rod is the superior fielder and it would have been in the best interests of the team (but, yeah, sure, what a Captain!), Mets 3B David Wright said that if A-Rod came to the Mets, Wright would gladly give up 3B to have him.

If the Mets weren't in New York and about to pass the Yankees as the best team in the city, I'm quite sure that the Mets have the trade pieces (not to mention the cash) to get A-Rod from the Yankees.

It's a trade that would benefit both teams. The Yankees would get the next Bernie Williams (Lastings Milledge) and one of the Mets' many starting pitching prospects; the Mets would get the best 3B in the league and instantly one of the Top 5 hitters in the NL. And consider Rodriguez, Wright and Delgado as 3-4-5 in the Mets lineup.

NASCAR: It didn't take long for F-1 refugee Juan Pablo Montoya to win his first NASCAR race – or get into his first controversy. He spun out teammate Scott Pruett in order to take the lead and win the race. Pruett is predictably pissed, but Montoya is such a huge star-in-the-making that his griping is likely to be eclipsed.

Soccer: I totally missed talking about Beckham's knee injury this morning. Here's the reality: MLS doesn't need Beckham on the field as much as they simply need him to be the visible spokesperson for MLS' legitimacy. Oh, and to sell Galaxy jerseys.

Finally: You know, my biggest problem (of many) with Billy Packer is that he brings absolutely no joy to it. He's so humorless. Now, it's totally possible that the anti-Packer – Dickie V – brings TOO much joy and not enough critical eye. That's why the best analyst in college basketball is Bill Raftery (and when he tag-teams with Jay Bilas, creates the best two-headed analyst team in any sport). Show how smart YOU are: Sign up for the Daily Quickie Readers group of's Tournament Challenge.

(Update: Properly, Packer is getting crucified for his blind defense of Henderson's foul. It's not as bad as his performance last year on Selection Sunday, ripping on the mid-majors -- and, in particular, George Mason -- but it's up there among his Greatest Hits. Great link here via Gunslingers, h/t Deadspin.)

Reminder! NYC readers, don't forget that this Wednesday is the latest Varsity Letters Reading Series event at Happy Ending on the Lower East Side, featuring... well, me, among others that include writers from Deadspin, WithLeather, TrueHoop, The Dugout and Fear and Faith in Flushing. Click on the link for details -- and participant interviews!

-- D.S.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunday 03/04 A.M. Quickie:
One Week 'Til Selection Sunday

UPDATE: So much for my inspired pick to have Southern Illinois as my fourth No. 1 seed. Nothing has a shorter shelf life than seed placement during Championship Week and the final games of the regular season. So Ill will still be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament (as will Creighton). Meanwhile: Could Florida have re-found its mojo in Gainesville during the second half of today's win over Kentucky (which, for all its many flaws, was still No. 10 in the RPI). More tomorrow a.m.

I had a huge lead-in topic
, but I'm saving it for tomorrow or Tuesday. So we're left with a super-quick look at the day's top storylines (see yesterday's post for more CBB):

Duke women shocked in ACC quarters!

Ohio St vaults UCLA as my top men's 1-seed!
(Uh, is injured Kevin Durant going to be OK?)

Mo Valley Mayhem: So Ill survives; Mizzou St out!
(SIU vs. Creighton final is must-track, but both are locks.)

Madness: E. Kentucky ruins A. Peay's OVC bid!
(Also In: Winthrop! Belmont! Davidson!)

More: Mason upsets Hofstra in CAA: Here we go!

Jeff Garcia new Bucs QB; what about Plummer?!

Watch this Wes Welker-Pats free-agency deal!

Jon Papelbon: Going to be a great starter!

Gary Matthews Jr: Lawyer says no rules broken!

-- D.S.