Today's Names to Know: NFL Playoffs, Jaguars vs. Pats, David Garrard, Jim Schwartz, Tony Dungy, Alexander Ovechkin, St. Louis Billikens, Rick Majerus, Reggie Bush, Washington State, Rasheed Wallace, Felix Jones, Brian McNamee, Marion Jones, Edmund Hillary, Wright Thompson and More!
In case you missed yesterday's announcement. First of all, huge thanks to everyone for the Comments and emails. It meant a lot to me. Here is Darren Rovell's take on the news at CNBC, and MDS' take on the news at Fanhouse.
Second, to be clear: DanShanoff.com will not only continue, but be better than ever. Even though the usual morning post is over at SportingNews.com– there's going to be all new content and gimmicks, daily. Should be a pretty interesting day on Monday.
Now, on to business…
NFL Playoffs: The Jags will beat the Patriots on Saturday night. One astute Commenter noted that it is costless for me to pick the upset – if the Jags win, I claim otherworldly credit; if they lose, they were supposed to lose. (Well, thank YOU, Mr. Cynic.)
Here's the amazing part: I actually think the Jaguars can win. WILL win? That's a pretty strong statement to make – that's the kind of arrogant talk that I expect out of Pats fans. But you're crazy to think it's a Pats gimme. If the Jags can keep it close, David Garrard's legs will put them in position to win, just like he did against the Steelers.
So, meanwhile, I have a new definition of "America's Team." It isn't the Pats. It isn't the Cowboys. It isn't Favre's Packers. The answer is: "America's Team is whoever is playing the Patriots." This week, it's the Jaguars.
I actually think non-Pats fans are torn: On the one hand, it's pretty cool to contemplate witnessing the history of 19-0. On the other hand, it's pretty cool to contemplate witnessing the biggest Goliath-falling ("choke" is the wrong word) in NFL history: The Pats NOT going 19-0. Whether it happens this round or in the AFC title game or in the Super Bowl (yeah, right), it doesn't matter. I suppose it would be more dramatic if they lost to the Colts or blew it in the Super Bowl itself, but I'll take it this weekend, too. (Particularly if I call it.)
The rest of the picks taste chalky:
Colts over Chargers: But it's close.
NFC: Cowboys over Giants; Packers over Seahawks
Redskins interview Jim Schwartz, the Titans defensive coordinator: Schwartz is reported to have had a great interview with Dan Snyder, the first the team has conducted officially with any coaching candidate.
Here's an ironic twist: Snyder has spent his ownership career making incredibly splashy coaching hires; his best hire ever might just turn out to be the lowest-profile name he has ever pursued.
The best reason to support him: Schwartz is a guru of statistical analysis, a Thinking Man's NFL coach; he has worked with Football Outsiders, a group that most certainly would lead a momentum of approval, particularly from bloggers. (Would Schwartz hire F.O. as official consultants?)
More NFL: Is Tony Dungy retiring after this season? He has a career ahead of himself as a best-selling author, apparently. (Let's not insult anyone's intelligence by suggesting that the defending champs can be motivated by something as weepy as their coach announcing his retirement on the eve of, say, an AFC title game against the Pats.)
CBB: Worst. Scoring. Ever. St. Louis set a shot-clock era record by scoring 20 points in a loss to George Washington. 20 points! This is incredible – arguably the most fascinating result of the college basketball season. 7/48 FG… 1/19 3-pt… 7 points at halftime.
"We have some issues in terms of our offensive proficiency": Rick Majerus is one of the most colorful, quotable coaches in all of sports. Amazingly, this sentence was uttered without irony.
Most drubbings are either boring or painful; this one was gloriously epic: Superlatively bad. I have to believe fans in attendance were gleefully scoreboard-watching to see if they could witness history.
Alexander Ovechkin, NHL's highest-paid player ever: 13 years, $124 million. Wow. I don't care if you don't care about hockey; that's one big effing number. Quickie readers know that I am not much of a hockey fan, but I did grow up rooting for the Caps and maintain a nominal allegiance. I'm happy to go get my Ovechkin jersey T-shirt now. (Jersey T-shirts are the adult-acceptable version of wearing a jersey. They're my new fascination. I love 'em.)
Reggie Bush Watch: A new book says he was given $300,000 in cash during his USC career. That's a sensational number, but regardless: Does anyone really doubt that Bush was given some large amount of money while still playing college football by a sports marketer angling to be his representation? What is amazing is that the NCAA has managed to avoid actually investigating this under the glare of public scrutiny, particularly the part about "what did the USC coaches know and when did they know it?"
More College Hoops: Washington State won at USC, in the Cougars' biggest win of the season so far. Everyone talks about UNC, Memphis and Kansas – but Washington State is still unbeaten, too, and a damn good team. East Coast Bias, much? (Or is that East Coast Bias?)
Washington State at UCLA on Saturday afternoon sizes up not just as the best game of the weekend, but as the best in-conference match-up of the season. (Not a high bar, given the way the top teams are spread out throughout many conferences. But still: That's a hell of a statement to say this is the best game of the season between teams from the same conference. Can't argue with No. 4 vs. No. 5.)
NBA Stud of the Night: Rasheed Wallace, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds in a Pistons win over the Spurs.
David Stern: "The Knicks are not a problem at the moment." One thing to remember about the Commissioner: Like Alan Greenspan, he chooses his words VERY carefully, and never says anything without extraordinary care in his word-choice. Keep your eye on "at the moment." (That said, the league didn't punish Isiah, even though he was ejected the other night.)
NFL Draft: Felix Jones turning pro on Monday? He will make his announcement. We're still waiting on Darren McFadden, who must be waiting from the hand-cuff bruises to go away. The gold standard for RB tandems in the NFL Draft is Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. I don't know if McFadden and Jones will BOTH go in the Top 10, but they will make a better pro pair than Brown and Williams.
More Draft early-entry: It's a WR bonanza! Vanderbilt WR Earl Bennett (the leading-receiver in SEC history), Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly and West Virginia WR Darius Reynaud are all turning pro early, adding to a deepening WR class that includes Michigan's Manningham and Arrington. What is amazing is that if Texas Tech RS freshman Michael Crabtree was eligible, he might just be taken before all of them – but the NFL insists Crabtree "isn't ready" simply because of his age. Nevermind that he was the best WR in college football last season. After his sophomore season next year (technically three years in college), he can turn pro.
PED Scandal: The MLB and NFL gave $3 million each to the effort of steroid research. I'm not impressed by the number. As a percent of total revenue, it's a blip – particularly given how steroids, as a percent of total pain-in-the-ass for these leagues, is rather large.
Clemens Watch: Brian McNamee met with Federal prosecutors who are looking into PEDs in sports. Maybe that's why he isn't checking his mail for lawsuits from Rusty Hardin. Meanwhile, Clemens is going to speak in front of the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association on Saturday, making a mockery of their convention.
Marion Jones to be sentenced today: It could be anything from zero jail time to six months to a year.
Here's the prediction: Forgetting any underlying crimes (which is a shame, because perjury should be punished severely), I'm betting she gets zero jail time, with the judge buying her lawyers' notion that her public shame is punishment enough.
I could see the judge wanting to make an example that if a star athlete steps forward to admit cheating, their legal punishment won't be as severe.
That said, let's not give Jones TOO much credit: Don't think she would have said anything – anything – if it wasn't obvious that the Feds were going to be able to expose her as the lying cheater that she is/was.
R.I.P., Edmund Hillary, 88: If you consider extreme sports participants to be "athletes," then Hillary was one of the greatest athletes of all time. He's O.G.
Must-Read: Wright Thompson's latest for E-Ticket. Wright is one of my favorite writers; some say he may be the next Gary Smith. I say he's the NEW Gary Smith. Undoubtedly, he is our generation's Gary Smith and the antithesis to the current trend toward shallow (cough!), from-the-couch (cough!) "analysis." Here's an interview with Wright on TrueHoop. Start there, then get to the story.