Saturday, April 13, 2013

4/13 (Very) Quickie

This Kobe injury news is the worst. Kobe willing the Lakers from NBA oblivion into the 8th seed in the playoffs was the best storyline of the NBA regular season -- and by far the best storyline of the first round of the playoffs. Now, we only get "What if?" It is a huge bummer, and I'm hardly a Lakers fan. Kobe's Facebook venting was epic -- one of the best things any athlete has ever said on Facebook or Twitter.

Should Tiger have been DQ'ed? Let's be real: If it was any other golfer -- say Guan Tianlang (see next item) -- they would almost surely be bounced. But it's Tiger. So he gets a two-stroke penalty and the chance to rally. Let's please not look to Augusta National for any sort of lessons about morality or sportsmanship.

Guan Mania: Youngest ever to make the cut at The Masters -- despite the absurd "slow play" penalty he was given, which is -- at least as it relates specifically to the play on the course during The Masters -- Augusta National at its stodgiest. (Obviously, Augusta National's stodginess has extended WAY beyond the course itself.) Meanwhile, tough break for Tiger on that flagstick.

A-Rod tried to pay to keep Biogenesis docs suppressed? If there is some kind of tangible proof, that's really bad for him.

Enjoy the day.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

04/11 (Masters) Quickie

As is pretty obvious, one of my fascinations is "win or fail" stakes -- teams and athletes for whom anything less than a championship is a failure.

That was the case with Louisville (and the Baylor women's team). That is the case with the Heat (if not quite the Thunder, because of the Heat). That is the case with Alabama football.

And, even more than the Heat, that is the case for Tiger Woods, as I lay out in today's Morning Win column for USA TODAY Sports.

The context of golf majors -- every golfer gets four chances to win one per year -- means that winning The Masters isn't do-or-die for Woods in terms of winning another major. He will get three more chances this year, and four a year from now until whenever he hangs it up.

But that doesn't mean that anything less than winning in Augusta isn't a failure for Woods. With the momentum he brings into the tournament, this year is "win or fail" more than any since before his personal life fell apart.

It used to be "Tiger versus the field," with the expectation that Tiger was going to win. Now it is "Tiger versus the field," with the expectation that he will fall short.

Tiger failing remains the most compelling story in golf and one of the most compelling stories in sports.

Give the column a read, if you would -- I nearly led with Kobe and his 47-point performance last night, because the Lakers trying to cling to their 1-game lead on the playoff 8-spot with three games to play is the best storyline of the NBA regular season. (And Lakers-Whoever in the first round of the playoffs will be the best storyline of the postseason, given that it is essentially a certainty that the Heat are going to roll to a title.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

4/10 (Bubba Watson) Quickie

We're through the NCAA tournament tunnel and out on the other side. There are a few weeks until the NFL Draft, but the rest of this week is dominated by The Masters.

Today's Morning Win column for USA TODAY Sports is a salute to defending Masters champ Bubba Watson, whose "Champions dinner" menu last night was straight outta Publix.

And that is entirely consistent with Bubba's appeal -- his accessibility, his "everyman-ness," and his lack of pretense.

Compare that to the big Masters story of the week -- Tiger Woods, who is defined by his inscrutability and (at least on The Masters stage) his lack of signature major wins recently.

In golf -- and The Masters, specifically -- I am rooting for two things: (1) Tiger to fall short (because he is infinitely more fascinating as a loser than a champ), and (2) Bubba to repeat.

Check out the column here, which also includes two Top 5 lists -- "Athletes You Want to Fail" and "Most Accessible" (the second of which was probably too hastily constructed, aside from Bubba Watson at No. 1) -- a tribute to UConn's women's hoops dominance and more.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

04/09 (Louisville) Quickie

Here is some classic Quickie "Instant History":

Last night's game was the most entertaining NCAA hoops title game ever.

Others have had more dramatic final sequences and maybe even more memorable single signature moments, but last night's game tops them for sheer end-to-end enjoyment -- college basketball played at a high level, with many (many) "shining moments," plural.

That is the lead of today's USA TODAY Sports "Morning Win" column -- from Spike Albrecht's first-half barrage to Luke Hancock's answer to Montrezl Harrell's alley-oop to the Siva-vs-Hardaway dueling takes to the rim (bridged by Siva's dad celebrating in that awesome tank-top) to Trey Burke's block-that-wasn't to Chane Behanan's relentless offensive rebounding spurt... play after play after play.

Rick Pitino becoming the first coach to win titles with two teams? Novel.

Kevin Ware cutting down the nets? Feel-good.

But it was the game, from tip to final buzzer, that superseded the easy narratives and made us all affirm how awesome college basketball can be.

Check out the column here, if you have a minute.

Meanwhile, my bracket finished just shy of the 75th percentile nationally -- way better than the past few years, and basically tied with President Obama. If I had used the National Bracket, of course, I would have finished better than 90% of the country. (And, true to form, Mrs. Quickie out-performed me with her bracket -- she was the top finisher among folks near the top who didn't pick Louisville to win it all.)

Let's do it again next year.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 08, 2013

04/08 (Michigan-Louisville) Quickie

Regardless of who wins, my NCAA Tournament bracket will be as accurate as it has been in years, a long stretch in the bracket-picking wilderness that I am excited to recover from. That said, there is still a very good chance that the "National Bracket" will out-perform me -- if not, then it will outperform 85% (maybe even 90%) of the country. That's pretty good.

As for the game itself, I expect Louisville to roll, but - then again - I expected UL to thrash Wichita State. The best thing about the game is that it is the country's best defense versus its best offense -- you can't ask for much more than that. The big difference? Louisville's offense is still pretty good, while Michigan's offense remains just OK -- although way better since Mitch McGary became a force in the lane.

I'm facinated by McGary's ascension, which -- if you really consider it -- has been all of four games, and yet he is the leading candidate to be Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. I'd give him that through five games, to be sure.

He takes his place alongside a small handful of the most memorable freshmen in the history of the NCAA Tournament -- Carmelo obviously. Ewing. Ellison. Anthony Davis. Webber. Michael Jordan had a memorable shot (and a memorable title game in 1982 overall), but the rest of his tournament was just OK. Chris Webber was tremendous (as was the entire Fab Five -- but if you had to pick one, it would be Webber).

In today's USA TODAY Sports column, I ranked McGary sixth among NCAA Tourney frosh phenoms -- with the main qualifier being that the player had to get to at least the title game (Ewing, Webber) if not lead the team to a title outright (Carmelo, Ellison, Davis). If Michigan wins and McGary plays like he has the past four games, I would have no problem putting him in the Top 5 (if, as a hedge, tied with Webber for 5th). Unlike Davis or Ewing or Melo, McGary's contribution has almost entirely been in the tournament itself -- that alone makes him fascinating.)

Please give it a look -- and enjoy the end of the college basketball season tonight.

-- D.S.