Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday 04/12 A.M. Quickie:
Lakers, Tiger, Mizzou, Peavy, More

NBA: Lakers beat Hornets in LA, clinch HCA in the first round and sit .5 GB New Orleans for the No. 1 spot in the West with 2 to play (for LA). One of those is San Antonio on Sunday.

Tiger is 7 back: Exactly where he wants to be for his standard Saturday sprint.

Alexander Ovechkin!

MLB: Jake Peavy owns Brad Penny... the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry just doesn't move the needle anymore (or at least in April)... Was Sabathia getting shelled a subtle protest against Carmona's new deal and his lack of one?... The Rays scored 8 in the 7th and 8th to come back on the O's... ANOTHER home run for Mike Jacobs?... the D'backs are on fire (7 straight Ws)... Who needs Johan Santana: Livan Hernandez is 3-0 for the Twins...

Name to Know: Jacob Priday, the Missouri baseball player who hit 4 HR in a 31-12 (31-12?!?!?) route of Texas. Mizzou's prolific football offense has a high bar for their game with Texas this fall.

I know you'll all be joining me in watching Florida's Spring Football Game on ESPN this afternoon, right? It might just be Twitter-worthy...

-- D.S.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday 04/11 A.M. Quickie:
NBA West, Bill Self, Masters, Draft, More

Lots to cover in today's Sporting News column:
  • The state of the NBA West: Nuggets vs. Warriors...
  • If Bill Self wants to be at Kansas, I'm fine with that...
  • Thursday is when the freaks take over the Masters...
  • Wow, what happened to the Orioles?
  • Wow, what happened to the Giants?
  • Who's the leverage: Jake Long or Vernon Gholston?
  • Joe Paterno won't be coaching in 2009 (I think)
  • How can you not be excited for Florida's Spring Game on ESPN tomorrow?
By the way, you know that "Re-Play the 1986 Season" baseball fantasy league I'm in through Strat-O-Matic and Sporting News?

You can still get in on it too, in your own free league
. If you're of a certain age, it's pretty awesome; if you're younger than a certain age, you'll be kind of freaked to manage players from before you had any memory of sports (or were even born). Here's the link.

More later.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday 04/10 A.M. Quickie:
Tiger, Favre, (Jake) Long, Tigers, More

The Sporting Blog has launched a new look: Check out this morning's column here.

What will you find today?

Another Masters, another argument over whether the "Tiger vs. the Field" situation is good or bad for golf...

Calling it right now that Brett Favre will TOTALLY be playing for the Packers when (not if) Aaron Rodgers gets injured...

Applauding the Dolphins' starting to negotiate with Jake Long to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft...

Arguing that the Tigers HAD to win sometime, that Albert Pujols isn't just back (but he never left), that the Royals are the story of the season so far and that Ryan Spilborghs rules...

Pointing out that the Warriors-Nuggets game tonight is playoff-ish...

Explaining why OJ Mayo got screwed by the NBA's age limit (and why Dante Greene might want to have waited a year)...

Briefly mentioning the NHL Playoffs(!)...

And a lot more, including Candace Parker, the Olympics, Kevin Love, Trent Johnson and more... all after this jump.

Hopefully a Bonus Post or two later today, too.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Wednesday 04/09 A.M. Quickie:
Self, Parker, Buckner, A-Rod, Love, More!

Today's Names to Know in today's Sporting News column:

Bill Self, T. Boone Pickens, Billy Donovan, Candace Parker, Candice Wiggins, Pat Summitt, Doug Davis, Bengie Molina, A-Rod, Travis Hafner, Aubrey Huff, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Baron Davis, Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Chase Budinger, Matt Stover, Gene Upshaw, San Francisco,, Aqib Talib and More!

Why Kansas should let Bill Self walk...
Why Candace Parker is the best ever...
Why Doug Davis deserves your standing-O...
Why the Orioles are still stunning...
Why the Hornets' loss wasn't THAT bad...
Why the NBA Draft is taking shape...
Why dope is no biggie in the NFL Draft...
Why is a good move for the NHL...
Why the NFLPA power play is intriguing...
Why all eyes are on San Francisco today...
And more... after the jump!

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tuesday 04/08 A.M. Quickie:
Kansas Komeback, Memphis Choke, More!

Here's today's Sporting News column, and you can imagine the superlatives being tossed around (all specifically in the context of the NCAA Tournament Title Game, not NCAA Tournament all-time and certainly not all-sports, all-time):

*Best Comeback Ever?
(*Biggest Choke Ever?)
*Best Game Ever?
*Best Clutch Shot Ever?

Again, we are just talking superlatives in the context of NCAA Tournament championship games. Because this one was a doozy, an instant classic. You could not care about either team in the title game (and most probably didn't) and still be enthralled by the ending.

Best Comeback/Biggest Choke? Up 9 with 2 minutes to play, and up 2 in the final 20 seconds with 4 chances at the free-throw line to ice it? Absolutely. DS digression:
Beyond the free-throws, which you could see coming despite Memphis' solid FT percentage in the rest of the tournament -- it's called "regression to the mean" -- many fans are talking about John Calipari's tactical blunder in not calling for his team to foul Kansas before Chalmers' game-tying shot.

I think some of that had to do with Kansas not having a time-out after Rose's make, which would have presumably allowed Calipari to set up his strategy. But he could have easily called it out from the sidelines. There is no answer for the blunder, beyond the fact that Cal simply isn't a great game or "Xs and Os" coach.

I also think this was an example of the obvious downside of the much-lauded "letting players play" coaching strategy that gained so much traction on Sunday and Monday. Letting players play cost Memphis the championship.

That said, that "strategy" also won KU the game: If Self had had a time-out to use after Rose's free throw, I'm quite sure he would have used it... and I'm not sure Chalmers hits that shot if Memphis has a chance to set up a defensive strategy.

Now THAT is a lesson for coaches everywhere: Get your team ready for game-ending scenarios BEFORE the game. Last-second time-outs to set up a last-gasp play are overrated, at least when you have 10 seconds to get a shot off.
Best Game Ever? I'm not even sure it's the best Kansas game ever in the national-title game (would old-school KU fans really rank this ahead of 1988?) So: No.

Best Clutch Shot Ever? It wasn't a game-winner, but it might as well have been, given the momentum it gave KU heading into OT. Bigger than Keith Smart's jumper? Bigger than Rumeal Robinson's free throws? I'd certainly put Mario Chalmers' 3 in the mix: He wins on degree-of-difficulty, for sure.

I generally default to superlatives. In this case, I'm totally satisfied with an exciting finish, no matter where it ranks historically. I don't need a "Best" or "Biggest" to be able to say, "Wow."

Meanwhile, huge congrats to "B. Majores," whose "Baby Boilers" entry finished first out of 695 entries in the Daily Quickie Readers tournament challenge group (99.7 percentile overall). He wins the glory of winning one of the largest (and thus one of the most competitive) NCAA Tournament pools in the country -- and a guest-post right here! (Email me, B. Majores.)

If you used the National Bracket, you would have out-performed about 70 percent of the country.

Speaking of superlatives, I completed my Worst. NCAA Predictions. Ever., finishing in the 19th percentile. 19th! Cripes! What makes it all the more pathetic was that I was TRYING.

More things you'll find in today's Sporting News column: How Bill Self is trying to ruin the greatest moment of his career... Torii Hunter earns his fat paycheck... How David Garrard's new contract is linked to Tim Tebow's future... Memories of NASL... Looking ahead to tonight's NBA West action... More MLB instant history from Monday... and more! Check it out here.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday 04/07 A.M. Quickie:
Memphis, Kansas, Candace, Candice, MLB

Here's today's Sporting News column, and it is led by something between resignation and a flip-flop:

I simply can't sustain any more hostility or indignation toward John Calipari and Memphis.

Is he smarmy? Yes. Does he break out that "We're SO underrated!" too much? Yes. Is there something totally sketchy going on between him and China and Worldwide Wes? Hmm...

But is his team a stiletto heel of hoops destruction? Absolutely.

Memphis took a team I thought would win the national title -- UCLA -- and made them look foolish. They have done that virtually the entire season. They played the toughest non-conference schedule anyone can remember and ran through it like a buzzsaw, the perfect preparation for tonight.

I think they will win. I think they should win. (That said: Personnel-wise, Kansas is by far Memphis' toughest matchup yet: Lots of guards, deep guards, long guards and depth of size up-front to give Joey Dorsey fits. Oh, and they love to run as much as Memphis does.)

But there's something about this Memphis team this year: It's Calipari's time. If Memphis wins, Derrick Rose will lay claim to being arguably the greatest freshman point guard of all time (even better than Mike Bibby, who set the standard). Chris Douglas-Roberts might vault himself into the NBA Draft Lottery (and, based on Saturday, he should be there). And the haters can stop hating for a little while.

Meanwhile, the women's Final Four is arguably even more exciting than the men's...

MLB: The Tigers are 0-6 and there are some unlikely division leaders, like Baltimore (?!?!) and St. Louis... Jake Peavy did NOT cheat... Ben Sheets is the Week 1 NL Cy Young winner... Johan with a good effort, but ultimately a loss, against the Mets' biggest division rival... How can you NOT root for Gabe Kapler?...

Don't forget to pick up your copy of Rob Neyer's new book, "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Legends," a fantastic coffee-table addition for any baseball fan, casual or avid.

The NBA West had some intrigue yesterday: The Warriors lost to the Hornets and the Nuggets seemed poised to seize the 8-spot for themselves... right up until they lost to Kevin Durant and the Sonics in 2OT. It's hard to justify the Nuggets deserving a playoff spot if they lose to the Sonics. (Did Durant seal up the ROY ahead of Al Horford with that performance?)

There's a ton more in the column today, so check it out. More later, hopefully.

-- D.S.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday 04/06 (Very) Quickie: Kansas, Memphis Deliver Decisive Knockouts

Kansas, Memphis advance to national title game: Both did it impressively, truly proving their worthiness to compete for a national title tomorrow night.

Kansas beats UNC: That first 13 minutes was one of the biggest ass-kickings I have ever seen, nevermind that KU did it against the team purported to be the best in the country.

(They actually delivered TWO decisive runs: One in the first half, to go up by 60 -- it was 26, but felt like 60 -- and one in the second half, when UNC closed the lead to 5 with 9 minutes to play, but then KU extended the lead to its final 18-point margin by the end. The former was breath-taking; the latter was champion-like.)

Memphis beats UCLA: OK, I believe. Finally. After two straight Final Fours, UCLA was as ready as any team in the country this season to win the national title; Memphis rocked them.

NBA West: The Nuggets lost a must-win against the Kings despite Melo's 47...

Meanwhile, whee: The Celtics clinch HCA throughout the East playoffs. Expect to see as little effort at the end of this season as they produced a year ago.

MLB: Peavy 2-hits Dodgers... Wow, the Tigers are STILL winless... I'm trying not to read too much passing-of-guard symbolism of the Rays beating the Yankees (remember a few years ago when the otherwise-hapless Rays owned NYY?)... Fukudome!... Weren't the Cardinals supposed to not be very good this season?... Fantasy Must-Have: Manny Parra...

NBA Draft: Arizona's Jerryd Bayless, who will likely be the second overall guard taken after Derrick Rose (and a consensus Top 5 pick) goes pro, as does Louisville's Earl Clark, who had a very good NCAA Tournament.

Why is Alexander Ovechkin the NHL MVP? Aside from his scoring brilliance, there is no way the Caps even sniff the playoffs -- let alone a division title -- without him.

Jacque Rogge says the weather in Beijing isn't a threat to athletes? I think there are many scientists related to the USOC who would strongly disagree with him, and any athlete who DOESN'T wear a mask from the second they land in China until the second before they compete is hurting themselves.

-- D.S.