Today's Names to Know: Jaguars, Pete Carroll, Arther Blank, Kelly Tilghman, Jason Richardson, Roger Clemens, Pete Carroll, Dayton, Brian Roberts, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Kenny George, Tyler Hansbrough, James Davis, Oscar Pistorius and More!
Exciting announcement coming at 10 a.m. ET. Here it is.
NFL Playoffs: Can the Jaguars beat the Patriots? There are more pressing stories today (Carroll, Tilghman, Bobcats, Dayton: See below), but it's the national story of the week, heading for its climax on Saturday night.
Wow, the Jags are talking a lot; that makes me sort of nervous:
"We feel like we can match up with anybody." (Rashean Mathis)
"They're beatable." (Vince Manuwai)
"It would be nice to be the team that eliminates them." (Khalif Barnes)
"0-0": Barnes offered the most reasonable talking point: The Pats aren't 16-0; they are 0-0… in the playoffs. That doesn't make the Pats any less of a juggernaut. But it is a reasonable way for the Jaguars to get their minds around "16-0."
I suppose the Jags have nothing to lose by talking. If the Patriots need Jaguars trash-talk to get motivated to play their first playoff game after a 16-0 season, they aren't the team fans thought they were.
(Coming tomorrow: Will I pick the Jaguars to win?)
Pete Carroll talks to the Falcons: Yes, yes – we know that the Falcons want to interview Pete Carroll; what we didn't know is whether Carroll has any reciprocal interest. I mean, hell, I could say that I want Matt Ufford to be my weekly guest-poster here; that doesn't mean he has any interest.
Well, Carroll DOES have interest, and he spoke with Falcons owner Arthur Blank on the phone yesterday (h/t: Joe Schad). That doesn't mean it will go any further than that or that Carroll is any closer to leaving his near-perfect set-up at USC. But if he didn't have ANY interest, he wouldn't have had the phone call and would have put out a statement saying, "No interest." So there's that.
Golf Channel suspends Kelly Tilghman for two weeks for the "lynch him in a back alley" comment about Tiger Woods. Tilghman and Woods are apparently friendly, according to Woods' agent, and the player is not making any kind of deal about it. If she's not a closet racist, then – as a broadcaster – she's openly stupid, making the suspension appropriate.
Bobcats shock Celtics in Boston: The Celtics had one loss at home; the Bobcats had one loss on the road. Hardly a "something's gotta give" moment. And, yet, there is Michael Jordan's Bobcats, with arguably the biggest win in franchise history, thumping the C's by 12. MJ's top offseason acquisition Jason Richardson led everyone with 34 (making it arguably MJ's best night as an NBA executive, too.)
Clemens Watch: Congress postpones, digs in. The highly anticipated hearing has been moved from next Thursday to February 13 – get your Valentine's Day allusions ready now. It would have been cooler had this story continued at its relatively condensed pace, but Congress wanted to launch its own investigation into Clemens' denials. This is an intriguing development and all, but my default reaction to it is: Congress doesn't have better things to do?
CBB: Dayton beats Rhode Island in the CBB Game of the Month, a battle between two ranked teams from the A-10 – two of the biggest pleasant surprises of the season so far. Dayton's Brian Roberts (who I'm going to start calling "Brian Roberts, All-American") had 22.
Atlantic 10 fans hate it when I call their league a "mid-major," but they are. (They are certainly not a traditional "power conference.") Dayton and URI have been battling all year over who is the nation's top mid-major – Dayton is the pick.
Tennessee hands Ole Miss its first loss of the season: Are the Rebels for real? That was one of the Top 5 questions of the college hoops season as it headed into conference play. A loss to the Vols (one of my Final Four teams, preseason… and still today) in Knoxville is hardly an embarrassment; to push Tennessee to the final seconds is the litmus test, not whether Ole Miss actually won the game.
Kenny George Watch: Dunked on! UNC Asheville's 7-foot-7 center took on Tyler Hansbrough and UNC… and got dunked on by Hansbrough (23 points) in a UNC win that finished up the Heels' perfect regular season. The question: Who's REALLY No. 1 – UNC or Memphis? (Or, as jhawkjjm argues: Is it Kansas?)
More NBA: Blazers beat Warriors, win 12th straight at home, take over first place in the Northwest Division, something that hasn't happened since March 2001. There was a Rose Garden scare when Brandon Roy went down with a knee injury, but he returned.
NFL Draft: Clemson's James Davis – one-half of the second-best one-two RB punch in college football (behind McFadden and Jones) – is turning pro. Two implications: (1) With the juniors, this is turning into a really interesting class: Rashard Mendenhall, Kevin Smith, Ray Rice and, presumably, Darren McFadden and possibly Felix Jones. (2) Davis' backfield-mate CJ Spiller has the carries to himself in '08 – could have a Heisman-quality run in him before Spiller turns pro early, too.
Athletes with prosthetics against the "able-bodied": How do you feel about double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, who uses springy prosthetics, competing against "able-bodied" athletes at the Olympics in 2008? The IAAF is about to tell him he can't.
Sneaker News: Air Jordan XXIII officially unveiled. Longtime readers know that I'm a bit of a shoehead. I have seen pics of the AJ23 for a few weeks now, but the official announcement from Nike happened yesterday. Given that it's reported to be the final "numbered" edition of the Jordan shoe, I think the shoe is nothing if not fascinating. Consumer reaction – from kick fiends and casual wearers alike – will be interesting.