Wednesday, June 9, 2010

John Wooden, In Memoriam

Photo courtesy the NY Daily News.

Last Friday, UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden passed away from natural causes at the age of 99. He won 10 national titles and single-handedly transformed UCLA into a basketball powerhouse. He is a two-time Hall of Famer, inducted in 1961 as a player and 1973 as a coach. Wooden served during World War II as a Navy lieutenant and was a devout Christian. His Pyramid of Success is as much a part of his legacy as his coaching resume. To commemorate his coaching excellence and passion for shaping mens' lives, here are some of his quotes:

"Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."

"Never mistake activity for achievement."

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

"Be prepared and be honest."

"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."

"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."

"Ability is a poor man's wealth."

"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."

"It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it."

"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."

"Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts."

For his Pyramid of Success, see this LA Times graphic. And for a more complete look at Wooden's life, read Jeff Eisenberg's column at Rivals/Yahoo. The last two paragraphs will make you shed a tear.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spelling Bee Highlights

Occasionally, I watch the National Spelling Bee. Some of the kids' reactions are priceless. These are some highlights, courtesy ESPN:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Lakers v. Celtics in a Nutshell

I'm heading out of town for the weekend, so here's a quick video on the history between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, the two franchises with the most titles in the NBA (Celtics 17 titles, Lakers 15). The Lakers-Celtics rivalry is easily the biggest in basketball and one of the most famous in sports. Video courtesy YouTube user xiehaorong:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blown Perfection

Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga. Photo courtesy

Last night, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was on the brink of the 3rd perfect game this season, but his bid was derailed by one Jim Joyce. A perfect game is one of the rarest feats in baseball, and this season there have already been two (Oakland's Dallas Braden against Tampa on May 9 and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay against Florida on May 29). Last night, with two out in the bottom of the 9th, one batter away from the perfecto, Galarraga pitched to Jason Donald and made the out at 1st, but umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe, spoiling the perfect game. Video replays clearly showed Galarraga had Donald out at 1st.

There has been a lot of debate as to whether or not instant replay should be used in baseball. Currently, it is only selectively used on home run calls but it should be expanded to safe/out calls on the basepaths. With expanded instant replay, calls like the one last night will happen less and umpires like Joyce won't have to deal with the public backlash like he and his wife have today (he's behind home plate in today's Tigers-Indians game).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Roethlisberger Returns

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice on Tuesday for the first time since the NFL handed him a six-game suspension in April for violating the league's "personal conduct policy". While Big Ben's relationship with the city of Pittsburgh has soured, his teammates are giving him plenty of public support. Receiver Mike Wallace was quoted as saying, "He's a man and everybody makes mistakes. I just feel like he's the leader of our team. Anytime he comes back we accept him for who he is." Video of his teammates below, courtesy ESPN:

And for further analysis, here's ESPN's Trey Wingo, Cris Carter, and Marcus Allen discussing what Ben has to do to regain the team's confidence:

Personally, I'm with the Steelers fanbase on this one, since this isn't the first time Roethlisberger has had questionable decisions. For further reading, here's the original FTRS post stemming from Ben's Georgia incident here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Free Agent Summit

LeBron James, left, starts a highlight reel dunk on Amare Stoudemire. Photo courtesy

Last week, Dwyane Wade made noise by announcing he'd talk to fellow NBA free agents LeBron James and Joe Johnson before deciding where he wants to play ball next season. He forgot Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire, and STAT is making sure it's known he wants an invitation. Should all five meet up for the so-called "free agent summit", it could shift the balance of power in the NBA. It's a given the New York area teams, the Nets and Knicks, will want to sign at least one of these five players. Doing so would start to bring the NY teams back towards contention again. Likewise, should any of these five players leave their respective franchises (Wade - Miami, James - Cleveland, Johnson - Atlanta, Bosh - Toronto, Stoudemire - Phoenix), these franchises would slide way down the contender scale.

From ESPN:
Last week, the NBA said Wade did not break any league tampering rules with his comments. Under league rules, players cannot tamper with other players, though it's a given that players talking among themselves not only happens, but is impossible to regulate. The NBA metes out discipline only in what it said are "the most egregious" cases, and said Wade's comments "do not meet that standard."

Monday, May 31, 2010

Gracious Winners Wanted

The Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher, left, and Kobe Bryant. Photo courtesy SportsIllustrated..

Nothing supports a player's legacy more than being a gracious winner while nothing destroys their reputation worse than being a graceless loser. While I don't consider Kobe Bryant to be an arrogant person, his public persona says otherwise. The pat he gave Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry could be misconstrued as arrogance, a sign of "we own you" or "payback time". Kobe's media sessions both at practice and postgame are short, with the Black Mamba not being very talkative and at times can be aggressive toward reporters. Again, I don't think Kobe is inherently arrogant and graceless, but his public actions don't do anything to discourage the notion that he is. To contrast, teammate Derek Fisher is eloquent with the media, complimentary of the opposing team, and while he's not the best player on the Lakers, he's certainly one people can look up to. In a world of 24/7 media coverage, it is imperative that players realize they are role models both in attitude and conduct.

But the players aren't fully to blame. Success can breed arrogance and there's a reason why franchises like the Lakers, Boston Celtics, and New York Yankees are known for having fanbases that can get cocky. It is the unstated objective every season for the New York Yankees to win a title because that's what their fanbase expects and demands. The Lakers are prone to picking up bandwagon fans during their playoff runs, as evidenced by how many Laker flags magically sprout up on cars around Los Angeles in May. These fans don't help the matter. They pull the ol' "I've been a fan since Showtime!" routine, but can't name the current Lakers starting five then have the cajones to mock the opposing team and call it all sorts of things not fit for print. This weekend, I had a Laker bandwagoner slam not just the Phoenix Suns but the city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona itself, calling it all sorts of vulgarities. As someone who's originally from the Grand Canyon State, this did not go over well with me. This fan behavior is a shame for the team they root for, whether its the Lakers, Yankees, or the Kansas City Royals.

And for fans of teams that are on the losing end, it's best not to say any witty retort back. There's always another year. The law of averages dictates that a championship will come to you, eventually, unless you're the Chicago Cubs. By retorting back, the loser becomes just as graceless as the winner who brags or tries to pull a Terrell Owens-esque stunt.

What do you, my readers, think of the situation? Are there fanbases that have a reputation for arrogance? How do you deal with graceless winners/losers?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Re-evaluating Things

Over the last month or so, I've been re-evaluating how effective this blog is in terms of sports commentary and expanding readership. While posting often is the goal, some of the posts have been nothing but breaking down the obvious (NBA playoffs scenarios, free agency moves, etc.) For that kind of news, there's a wealth of other websites out there, plus ESPN and the like. Expect some tinkering in the next few weeks in this space to try to make FTRS stand out more on the Web.

Yesterday, the Lakers eliminated my Suns from the playoffs with a 111-103 win in Phoenix. While the loss in game 5 courtesy of Mr. Ron Artest was tough, this one was brutal, given it was on the Suns' home floor. But what struck me as noteworthy was the postgame reactions of fans. Is there such a thing as a gracious loser? A gracious winner? Why do some teams seem to reek of arrogance while others don't? Find out tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Desert Ice

Photo courtesy Coyotes fan blog Five for Howling/AP.

I usually don't watch hockey. It's not that the sport itself is bad, but for whatever reason it hasn't kept my appeal. But recently at my internship, we've been swept up in LA Kings playoff hockey, and it was as suspenseful and intense a sports game I've ever seen. Unfortunately for the Kings, I ended up watching what would turn out to be the game they were eliminated from the playoffs (beaten by the Vancouver Canucks in 6). But the story of the season has to be the Phoenix Coyotes.

Two years ago, the Coyotes were losing money...and fast, despite having a new arena and being in the fairly large Phoenix market. The owner at the time, Jerry Moyes, put the team into bankruptcy then wanted to sell the team to Jim Balsillie, a Canadian businessman who wanted to move the team to Hamilton Ontario, between Buffalo and Toronto, both of which already have teams (Sabres and Maple Leafs, respectively). The NHL blocked the sale in court until Moyes sold the team to the NHL, with the league assuming all debts. For the fans in Phoenix, their team was on the brink of getting uprooted from their new arena and shipped off to Canada. With the court ruling that the team could not be sold to Basillie and subsequent takeover by the NHL in September 2009, the Coyotes had a surprising 50-25-7 record with a team record 107 points this season. Despite losing to the Detroit Red Wings in 7 games during the playoffs, the Coyotes season is one of success, especially since the coach was hired just days before the regular season and the team recovered from the off-ice legal drama. Coach Dave Tippett is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given to the coach that has "contributed most to their teams' success". Meanwhile, Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and White Sox, has been named as a potential buyer of the Coyotes, alng with investment group Ice Edge Holdings. Reinsdorf's White Sox spring training complex is nearby the Coyotes' arena in Glendale. So while the Stanley Cup won't be on desert ice this season, the Phoenix Coyotes' future is looking much better than it did a year ago.

Predictable East and a Wild, Wild West

The Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James. Photo courtesy The Telegraph (UK).

The NBA Playoffs have gotten underway and the East is showing how weak the conference is while the West is an all-out slugfest. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics punched their tickets to the second round last night and the Orlando Magic did the same the night before. Of the four Eastern Conference series, only one has gone past five games (Milwaukee Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks). The East has been very predictable and while most NBA pundits salivate over the thought of a Cavs-Celtics second round playoff series, the Magic get to sit back and rest up while Atlanta and Milwaukee duke it out. While I do think the Hawks will eventually pull it out, it won't be until game 7, then Orlando will blast them in the second round.

The Phoenix Suns' Jason Richardson and Portland's Brandon Roy. Photo courtesy Associated Press.

Then there's the Western Conference, where the 1 seed has been given a strong challenge, the 2 seed is almost eliminated, and the 5 seed is almost done knocking out the 4 seed. The LA Lakers have been given all they could handle with the Oklahoma City Thunder and it wasn't until Game 5 when they were in the friendly confines of Staples Center that they put on a dominating performance worthy of defending champions. I think the Lakers will advance, but it won't be until the final Game 7. The 2 seed Dallas Mavericks are on the verge of getting knocked out by their hated rivals, the 7 seed San Antonio Spurs. I think the Spurs will complete the upset tomorrow in Game 6 in San Antone. Considering the Mavs came into the playoffs hot, they'll be scrutinized by many in Dallas should they lose. The 3 seed Phoenix Suns are in a dogfight with 6 seed Portland Trail Blazers, who are banged up beyond belief and still giving PHX a run for their money. Portland star Brandon Roy has made a huge gamble in coming back early from surgery on a torn meniscus in his knee. Should he have complications from rushing back so soon, it could damage his career permanently. Finally, the 5 seed Utah Jazz are on the verge of beating the 4 seed Denver Nuggets, but this upset was widely predicted especially after Nuggets coach George Karl had to take a leave of absence to undergo cancer treatment. In essence, the Nuggets were going into this series down and without their rudder.

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant. Photo courtesy

So by the time the smoke clears in the West, I think it'll look like this:

Eastern Conference
1 Cleveland vs. 4 Boston (Cleveland beat Chicago in 5, Boston def. Miami in 5)
2 Orlando vs. 3 Atlanta (Orlando def. Charlotte in 4, ATL beats Milwaukee in 7)

Western Conference
1 LA Lakers vs. 5 Utah (Utah def. Denver in 6, Lakers beat OKC in 7)
3 Phoenix vs. 7 San Antonio (PHX beats Portland in 7, Spurs def. Dallas in 6)

Monday, April 26, 2010

NFL Draft 2010 Roundup

Photo courtesy Arrowhead Pride.

The 2010 NFL Draft was a thrill to see in its new format. Having the first round in primetime on Thursday was a ratings boon for the NFL and invigorates the fanbase. As some have pointed out, the second round picks now have more value to them as well, due to the extra time between rounds.

There are some teams that have an uncanny ability to draft well year after year. Baltimore and New England did just that this year, with Baltimore gaining 1st-round caliber talent in Texas DE Sergio Kindle and Alabama DT Terrence Cody. New England addressed most of its needs, traded like crazy in order to obtain more picks now and in future drafts, and still managed to come up with several potential studs. TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will give the Pats a good two-tight end set, since they use several multiple-TE formations. Other buzzworthy picks include receiver Taylor Price and linebacker Brandon Spikes.

Many teams this draft seemed to get a B grade from the draft prognosticators, but there were more than a few who had a good draft. Detroit and the aforementioned Ravens and Patriots had pretty good drafts, but here are my 5 teams that had a draft that really stands out:

5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs grabbed Oklahoma standout DT Gerald McCoy and UCLA DT Brian Price with their first two picks. Price was outstanding as a Bruin and helped make that unit one of the best in the Pac-10. WR Arrelious Benn was one of the most coveted receivers in the draft and CB Myron Lewis helps upgrade the secondary after the defensive front got all the attention in the first two rounds. The Bucs had one of the worst punting units last year and upgraded with Brent Bowden.

New Browns QB Colt McCoy. Photo courtesy

4) Cleveland Browns
The Browns made a heck of a gamble and it worked perfectly. Had it not worked, they wouldn't have been on this list. Their first three picks were all good picks, except for the fact that none of them were a quarterback. They upgraded at cornerback, running back, and safety, betting that Colt McCoy or Jimmy Clausen would be available in later rounds. Sure enough, Colt McCoy, the Texas QB, was available for the taking in the third round. Sixth-round pick Carlton Mitchell is an intriguing possibility considering the talent rating at such a late round ( had him at a 7.1).

3) Oakland Raiders
In recent years, the Raiders could be counted on for having at least one "huh?" moment in the draft. This year, the Silver & Black made some great picks, starting with Rolando McClain at linebacker. Bruce Campbell, the Maryland OT that some thought was going first-round, was available in the 4th. And to top it off, the Raiders upgraded their QB situation by trading for displaced Redskins QB Jason Campbell. I don't think they're playoff ready, but they certainly took a few steps towards that goal in this draft.

2) San Francisco 49ers
The Niners gave Arizona a run for its money in the NFC West this year, and with this draft class, may very well be the favorite. With first-round offensive line picks Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, the running game will be even more of a problem for opposing defenses. I'm not quite sure if San Fran has addressed its receiver needs, but it's clear they want to pound the ball inside to win. The 49ers got USC standout Taylor Mays, who had a few words for his former coach, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Speaking of which...

Golden Tate, left, is now with the Seahawks. Photo courtesy the NY Times.

1) Seattle Seahawks
Hands down, the winner of the draft. Considering the Seahawks had a ton of needs, they did an outstanding job. The 'Hawks got a stud offensive tackle in Russell Okung to protect QB Matt Hasselbeck's blind side and safety Earl Thomas in the first round. Most would grade that well enough alone, but Seattle also got WR Golden Tate and upgraded their defensive front. Even Anthony McCoy, the USC TE who had off-field issues (tested positive for pot at the combine), could be a good pick given his college coach was Carroll. Then to top it off, they got RB's LenDale White, a former USC Trojan, and the Jets' Leon Washington. This team will be very interesting to watch in 2010.

As with any draft, there are always a few teams that, on paper, probably wish for a do-over. Some teams were hampered by trades that stripped picks (Chicago, Washington) while others just plain made some bad calls. Here are 3 teams that left me scratching my head:

3) Buffalo Bills
The Bills have lots of holes to fill, none more so than quarterback and offensive line. They waited until the 5th round to address the OL and the 7th round for QB. By that time, the premiere talent that can make a difference is gone and the QB they did pick up, Troy's Levi Brown is projected to be a backup at best. They did pick up some help on defense, but the fanbase has been disillusioned for some time and the Bills are often rumored as a team on the move to a different city. Stacking the backfield with C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson won't help make the team exciting like a solid quarterback would.

New Broncos QB Tim Tebow. Photo courtesy the Miami Herald.

2) Denver Broncos
This draft will go down as one of the Broncos' best...or absolute worst. They have some serious needs and this draft, at least on paper, didn't seem to address that much. First-round receiver Demaryius Thomas could be a star, but that's a few years off. Dez Bryant would have been a safer choice (drafted shortly after Thomas by Dallas), despite his off-field issues. I really like Tim Tebow, one of my favorite college players in recent memory, but I don't think he fits a need for Denver, nor do I think Denver fits him. He's third on the depth chart to start and considering the price it took to get him, Denver may regret the cost. Coach Josh McDaniels stresses high-character, but then goes and drafts CB Perrish Cox, who teams were skittish about drafting because of "character concerns". In short, it seems like the Broncos need a very clear direction for their team, and that's something a draft can't provide.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars
I generally don't vouch for the idea of grabbing players for the sake of selling tickets, but if there ever was an exception, Jacksonville is it. Jacksonville had the most TV blackouts last year because they didn't sell enough tickets for their home games. Like Buffalo, the fan base has been disinterested for some time and the player they draft with the 10th overall pick is Tyson Alualu? It's not that Alualu won't be a great player, but with that high of a pick, there's a certain amount of pressure and expectation involved. Plus, other higher-rated players were available and if the Jaguars wanted Alualu, they could have traded down and get more picks to fill places of need. Their defensive line needed help, but did it require four of the Jags' six picks when the linebacker, safety, and quarterback positions needed help?

And that wraps up the FTRS 2010 NFL Draft coverage. The meaningless preseason will be here before you know it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Video: Kownacki Goes Superman

A crazy good baseball play by Fordham University's Brian Kownacki to lead Fordham's comeback against Iona. (video courtesy The Sporting Blog).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Creepy Tiger Nike Ad

Nike unveiled a new ad featuring Tiger Woods that features his deceased dad's voice, as if to question him over his illicit activities. Creepy or effective? (video courtesy CBS News)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

FTRS Revamp Continues

Photo courtesy

Recently, I've been making some changes to the blog's look and links sections. Today, the links section is just about complete. I've expanded the links and broken them down by subject. For example, the well-known college football blog Everyday Should Be Saturday, or EDSBS, is in the College Sports Links section on the right. The baseball section is mostly done while the basketball, college, and football sections will be added to throughout the year.

Here are a few of the blogs that are on the blogroll as of today:
MLB Trade Rumors, the most widely-read baseball blog online
Beyond the Boxscore, a sabermetric baseball blog
TrueHoop, the most visited basketball blog on the net

Also today, the media links will be expanded while the columnists links will be removed. This is part of an effort to make FTRS a sports media hub and provide readers with the best content online.

As the site is tweaked, I'd appreciate any and all feedback.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fantasy Baseball 2010

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Photo courtesy

After a long absence, I've resumed doing fantasy baseball and this season, was lucky enough to do it with some family in an 8-team league. While I generally do my fantasy sports on ESPN, my cousins hosted the league on Yahoo and initially, I like it better than ESPN's. In ESPN's game, you're required to start five outfielders, whereas in Yahoo's you only start three. Considering only three play in the real games, drafting five starters seems unnecessary and makes what can already be a long draft even longer. My hitting seems to be pretty good, bu my pitching leaves a little to be desired.

My first pick (4th overall) was Philadelphia Phillies 2nd baseman Chase Utley. Utley usually hits 30 homers and 95 RBI, but what makes him so valuable is his consistency for a position that doesn't have much depth. My next pick was shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, with much the same logic as the Utley pick (low position depth).

Photo courtesy

In the third round, I picked up my big masher, San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. A-Gon hit 40 homers last year in San Diego's Petco Park, notorious for being a park that favors pitchers (it helps that the ballpark is a block away from the beach, so the cool marine air stifles the baseball's trajectory.) The Padres as a team are terrible, and Gonzalez has been rumored to head to Boston, where his numbers would jump. So he's a good hitter in a bad ballpark on a bad team, with the chance to be in a more offensive park come trading time.

In the fourth round, I picked up my token Red Sox, catcher Victor Martinez. Not a bad catch considering position depth, but the guy ahead of me took the guy I was pulling for, Sox first/third baseman Kevin Youkilis. It wouldn't be the last time a moment like that happened in the draft. In the sixth round, I got my token Diamondback, ace pitcher Dan Haren. Quite the stud who goes under the radar because he pitches in Arizona.

Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez. Photo courtesy

One of my quirks with my fantasy teams is that I try to get players in towns and cities where friends and family are from or teams our family roots for. This year, I have 1 Diamondback, 1 Red Sox, 1 Mariner, 2 Rangers, 2 Angels, 2 Dodgers and 1 Ray (pitcher James Shields who's from my hometown). I also carry a policy of no known steroid users (A-Rod, Papi) and no Yankees on my squad unless absolutely necessary. Suffice to say, I have no Bronx Bombers on my team this year.

Here's the hitters:
C Martinez - Red Sox
1B Gonzalez - Padres
2B Utley - Phillies
SS Tulowitzki - Rockies
3B Michael Young - Rangers
LF Adam Lind - Blue Jays
CF Shane Victorino - Phillies
RF Ichiro - Mariners
Util Kendry Morales - Angels
Util Hunter Pence - Astros
Bench Ian Stewart - Rockies
Bench Elvis Andrus - Rangers
Bench James Loney - Dodgers
Bench Colby Rasmus - Cardinals

Diamondbacks pitcher Dan Haren. Photo courtesy the Phoenix New Times.

Here's the pitchers:
SP Haren - Diamondbacks
SP Josh Johnson - Marlins
RP Andrew Bailey - A's
RP Brian Wilson - Giants
P Shields - Rays
P Jered Weaver - Angels
P John Danks - White Sox
P Hiroki Kuroda - Dodgers
P Huston Street - Rockies

One Duke to Rule Them All

Photo courtesy the NY Daily News.

It was already a wild NCAA Tournament. It lived up to its hype as March Madness. And it was a basket away from being a huge upset. Duke has won its fourth national title by beating the underdog Butler Bulldogs 61-59. For highlights, go here.

Photo courtesy the Bleacher Report.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mr. McNabb Goes to Washington

Photo courtesy the NY Daily News.

Donovan McNabb has gone from one NFC East team to another, as the Philadelphia Eagles traded the face of the franchise to the Washington Redskins in a questionable move for both teams. The NFC East is the toughest division in football, home to the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Eagles, and Redskins. You need a great quarterback in this division, which Philly had in McNabb and Washington did not. Now, the two have essentially traded places in that regard as the Eagles will go with Kevin Kolb at QB.

For Philly, this is a step back with the potential for being a huge step forward, depending on the level of talent they get in the draft picks Washington sent them. The Eagles get a second-round pick (37th overall) and a conditional pick next year. Philly's season rides entirely on Kolb's shoulders now, and the fan base will not be forgiving should he struggle. The team has a lot of youth on the offensive side of the ball in receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and running back LeSean McCoy. As much as I think Philly shouldn't have traded McNabb, Philly did at least have the class to make an accommodating trade that fit his wishes. Most players don't deserve that type of accommodation, but since McNabb has played in an Eagle uniform for eleven years, he is an exception. The other destinations McNabb could have headed, Buffalo and Oakland, are not nearly as appealing to a quarterback as DC is.

New Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. Photo courtesy the Bleacher Report.

For Washington, this deal hinges on McNabb's play, or the naysayers will say the price was too high, given the draft picks given up. McNabb will have lots of help at running back with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker. His receivers are mostly young, but he has Santana Moss as his #1. On the downside, the trend with Redskins ownership has been to spend like a drunk in free agency and trade/give up draft picks and this trade continues that trend. Most great teams become great teams through the draft, just ask New England and Indianapolis. Plus, McNabb is a free agent after this upcoming season, so it could become a "rent-a-player" situation.

The unmentioned winner in this deal: the NFL. One of the league's historic franchises suddenly becomes TV-worthy and one of the biggest rivalries, Washington-Dallas, becomes noteworthy again. Meanwhile, the Eagles should remain competitive and Dallas and NY Giants fans everywhere start to sweat a little.

EDIT (1:48 PT): Had to reformat some photos, so if you're seeing this post twice, my apologies.

West Virginia's Tearful Final Four Trip

The Final Four wittled down to two over the weekend, setting the stage for a David vs. Goliath battle between the powerhouse Duke Blue Devils and the hometown Butler Bulldogs. The Bulldogs dispatched banged-up Michigan State 52-50 in their hometown of Indianapolis.

But the heart-breaking moment happened in the West Virginia-Duke game. West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler, a four-year senior, tore his ACL while driving to the basket, trying to get the Mountaineers back into the game, down 63-48. What followed can't be said as anything but sad and touching (video courtesy CBS)...

While the Mountaineers went on to lose the game, West Virginia showed teamwork at its finest, helping its best player off the court. Butler's NBA career is in serious jeopardy and could have been a first-round talent, but now, it's anyone's guess if or where he'll go in June's NBA Draft. For Bob Huggins' (West Virginia coach) part, he has a reputation for being a crusty type but his players' biggest supporter, so his display of affection on the court is very out-of-character for Huggins compared to how he usually is on the sideline. Anyway you slice it, it was the saddest moment in the tourney.

Friday, April 2, 2010

NBA East: Quick Dropoff

Photo courtesy ESPN.

On Wednesday, I covered the NBA Western Conference playoff teams here. Today it's the Eastern Conference teams.

The unfortunate reality of the Eastern Conference the last few seasons has been the shallow pool of legitimate playoff contenders compared to the Western Conference. In the last few seasons, the sixth through eighth seeds of the East were .500 or below, meaning only half their games were won...or worse. By comparison, for a Western team to make the playoffs, a record over .600 is effectively required.

Photo courtesy the Orlando Sentinel.

The top dogs in the East continue to be the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and the Boston Celtics. The Cavs have little room for error this postseason, given the pending contract expiration of superstar LeBron James, the overall expectations in Cleveland, and the level of talent around LeBron. Simply put, anything less than a championship for Cleveland is a disappointment. The Magic went to the Finals last year and may be even better this year. They've beaten some impressive teams recently, including Denver and Dallas. Ditto with the Hawks, who smashed the Lakers on Wednesday and beat Orlando last week. The Celtics have hobbled along recently, with critical losses to San Antonio, Utah, and Oklahoma City. The C's flat out look terrible right now, especially after getting booed off their home floor against the Spurs. The age of the Celtics, one of the oldest teams in the league, is catching up to them at the worst possible time.

But after these four teams, there's a significant dropoff in caliber of playoff teams. The Milwaukee Bucks are inconsistent, beating the likes of Boston, Utah, and Denver recently, but losing to Cleveland and squeaking out a win against Atlanta. Right behind the Bucks are the Miami Heat and Charlotte Bobcats, other inconsistent clubs. All of these teams play terribly on the road, which will be a huge factor come playoff time when they don't have home-court advantage. Of these clubs, expect the Heat to make a run for Milwaukee's hold on the fifth seed, since they have the easiest schedule remaining of the three and have the best road record of the three.

Photo courtesy the Toronto Star.

And then there's the Toronto Raptors, the very definition this season of mediocre. A .500 record, 5-5 in their last ten games, and a terrible road record to top it off. The scary part for the Raptors is that they have some tough games ahead and they have the Chicago Bulls hot on their heels. The same Bulls who in early March had a 10-game losing streak and have a losing record. An ugly sight at the bottom of the Eastern playoff picture.

So what makes the Eastern Conference so much weaker than the West? For starters, marquee teams like the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, and the Philadelphia 76ers are all having down years. (Or in NY's case, a down decade). Second, much of the player movement has been within the East (teams feeding off each other) or moved out West. Many of the Eastern teams have young talent, but are missing a few pieces to be legitimate title contenders. This summer's free agent class is unusually strong and a lot of the rumors involve East superstars swapping teams, so it could lead to more of the same. For example, should Dwyane Wade leave Miami for Chicago or some other East city, it'll help the Bulls or whoever gets Wade while hurting the Heat, effectively swapping fortunes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

SportsNation - Sports TV at its Funniest

Photo courtesy the NY Daily News.

Due to some unexpected things I needed to attend to today, I'm going to delay the NBA East post to tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the post I intended for Friday...

SportsNation on ESPN is one of my favorite sports shows and websites. It tracks the mood of the dedicated sports fans (especially in regards to the Favre debacle) and shows clips of the funnier side of sports. Here's one of my favorite SportsNation moments:

And the infamous Gunslingers mock ad, ripping the Brett Favre Wranglers jeans ads...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NBA West: Jockeying for Position

Photo courtesy the NBA.

The NBA season is winding down and teams are scrambling for playoff position. The Western Conference is wide open while the Eastern Conference bottom half is up for grabs. And with less than 10 games remaining, teams are running out of time to make their playoff push. Today is the Western Conference teams' turn, tomorrow the East.

You'd think the sky is falling in Lakerland with all the worried fans calling the local radio stations. Many are saying they wouldn't be surprised if the Lakers get knocked out in the first round. They're in the midst of a tough road trip that's been marked by inconsistency. Wins against San Antonio and Houston have been shadowed by ugly losses to Oklahoma City and New Orleans. But despite this trip, the Lakers are still the number one seed in the West and would have home-court throughout the western playoffs. Is there cause for concern? Maybe. Time to hit the panic button? Nope.

Photo courtesy the Bleacher Report.

With the Lakers all but assured the top spot in the West, it's a frenzy for the last seven spots. The Dallas Mavericks, propelled by a 13-game winning streak earlier this month, are in the 2 spot, but have consistency issues of their own. They got blown out by the lowly NY Knicks in Dallas plus recent road losses to playoff contenders leaves lots of questions for the Mavs. The other problem for the Mavericks is that there are three teams right behind them. The Utah Jazz (still the weirdest team name, even after knowing the team originally came from New Orleans) are playing well and have the makings of a team capable of a deep playoff run. The Jazz are, prior to tonight's games, in the 3 spot.

The Phoenix Suns are playing like their city's namesake. After nearly trading superstar Amare Stoudemire and being a dysfunctional unit in February, they're on fire with 8 straight wins, including victories over rival Utah and playoff contender Portland. The Suns aren't at full strength and can have trouble playing defense, but the run-and gun offense still has plenty of firepower and the Suns are still one of, if not the most entertaining teams to watch in the NBA. Another chink in the Sun's armor has been their difficulties playing the Lakers (LA won the season series 3-1), and until further notice, the road to the title runs through the City of Angels.

The Denver Nuggets, the team Lakers fans once feared most, has fallen from the 2 seed to the 5, largely because of the absence of coach George Karl, who has had to undergo throat and neck cancer treatments this month. Denver has the weapons to jump back to the 2 spot, largely on the backs of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, but it will be a struggle with both Utah and Phoenix ahead of them.

Photo courtesy the USA Today.

There's also a fight for the 6th, 7th, and 8th seeds. The Oklahoma City Thunder, led by young superstar Kevin Durant, is hanging onto the 6 spot by a thread, with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs in 7th and 8th, respectively. The Spurs have the veteran experience to make some noise in the playoffs and could scare the Lakers, should they play each other in the first round, which would happen if the playoffs started today.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

McNabb Heading West?

Photo courtesy of the Lehigh Valley Express-Times / Associated Press.

There's a lot of speculation in the NFL that longtime Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will be traded to the Oakland Raiders for at least a second-round pick in this year's draft. It would be the end of an era in Philly as McNabb has been with the Eagles since 1999.

McNabb has certainly had a rocky time in Philly. First, his selection in the 1999 NFL Draft (1st round, 2nd selection overall) was booed by Philly fans because they wanted running back Ricky Williams, who later turned out to be a bust in New Orleans. Talk about a warm welcome. McNabb has made the Pro Bowl six times, led the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game five times and one Super Bowl where they lost to the New England Patriots on a field goal. Initially, McNabb had sub-par receivers to work with, but when the Eagles traded for hothead Terrell Owens for the 2004 season, the duo lit up the scoreboard. Finally, acceptance by the Philly fans, right? Nope, because they lost the Super Bowl that year. Then, in 2005, Owens publicly ripped McNabb over his Super Bowl performance and subsequent play. In 2006 and 2007, there were rumblings the Eagles would replace McNabb, who had had injury issues in those seasons. In 2008, the criticism continued with Eagles fans caling him a "choker" after losing in the NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Photo courtesy the New Jersey Star-Ledger / US Presswire.

And to top it off, the Eagles are considering trading him to the Oakland Raiders, a team who hasn't had a winning season since 2002 and is known more for its crazy owner, Al Davis, and its bizarre fans in the Black Hole. Classy move, Philly. Is McNabb the best quarterback of his era? Certainly not, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have had better runs. But after those two, McNabb can be considered a top performer and maybe even a potential Hall of Famer, though winning a Super Bowl would greatly increase those odds. For Philly to treat McNabb the way it has for ten years then to ship him off to the wasteland that is the Oakland Raiders, #5 deserves better. Whether it be back in Philly or not, at least somewhere other than Oakland.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Elite Eight Roundup: The Wild Ride Continues

Photo courtesy the Bradenton Herald/Associated Press.

The Elite Eight continued this past weekend, and it didn't disappoint. Another 1 seed fell, two legendary coaches return to the final four, and an underdog returns home playing for the national championship. On Saturday, it was upset central with two major surprises: 5-seed Butler defeated heavily-favored 2-seed Kansas State 63-56 and West Virginia, a 2-seed defeated 1-seed Kentucky, considered by many to be a national title contender, 73-66. On Sunday, it was Michigan State over Tennessee and Duke defeating Baylor, 78-71.

The Butler Bulldogs have had an impressive run in the tourney. First, many considered them ripe for a first-round exit against 12-seed UTEP, but Butler smashed the Miners 77-59. Next, they survived Murray State then pulled off the double upset against the Syracuse Orange and K-State Wildcats. Syracuse was a banged-up 1-seed, so one can make the argument that it was inevitable the Orange would lose, but the K-State win was more of a surprise given the Wildcats' guard tandem of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. The duo only shot 11 for 30 combined against the Bulldogs after lighting up Xavier for 53 combined points. Now, the Bulldogs head home to Indianapolis and are set to play powerhouse Michigan State in the Final Four. Butler, led by sophomore stud Gordon Hayward, isn't a surprise to anyone anymore and could give the depleted Spartans of MSU a run for their money. Then again, Tom Izzo isn't a Final Four novice, and he knows hot to motivate his team, even when their best player is injured on the bench. This is Butler's first-ever trip to the Final Four, quite the achievement to have your first be the one on your home court. Here is the recap from the West Regional Final (courtesy CBS):

On a side note, CBS commentator Gus Johnson is a favorite's worst nightmare. He called most of the West Regional for CBS this year, which had a multitude of upsets (Xavier beat Pitt, Butler's upsets). He's called tons of other upsets and his signature calls of "Bam!" and "Oh my goodness!" have earned him some notoriety amongst fans. The website Gus Johnson Gets Buckets provides a fun soundboard of some of Gus' famous calls.

The team that Butler plays in the Final Four, Michigan State, had a thrilling game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sunday that came down to the last shot. Both the Spartans and the Vols have fought through lots of adversity during the season to reach this point, so kudos to both teams, but they don't call it the Final Four for nothing. Here was the recap of the Midwest Regional Final, courtesy of the Eye Network:

The Kentucky-West Virginia game was intense from start to finish. West Virginia couldn't get a 2-point basket to save its life for most of the first half. 3-point shooting is what saved the Mountaineers, and what killed the Wildcats, as WVU was 10-23 while UK was only 4-32 from behind the arc. West Virginia's Joe Mazzulla and Da'Sean Butler led the team with crucial shots when it counted and the Mountaineers overall had a balanced effort while Kentucky's John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were the only real offensive options for UK. WVU had four starters with 12 points or more, while UK only had two. This is West Virginia's first Final Four trip since '59, back when they had a player named Jerry West. Here are the highlights, courtesy CBS:

The Duke Blue Devils never seem to have a down season, especially with Coach K at the helm. In recent years, they've been tourney busts, but this year, they're in the Final Four. Baylor gave Duke a hard time for most of the game, but with three minutes to go, the Blue Devils pulled ahead for good. Despite not being in the Final Four, Baylor has had a year of tremendous accomplishment under coach Scott Drew, considering how broken the Baylor basketball program was just a few years ago. The game itself was simply a matter of who would outlast whom and Baylor's shots didn't fall when it counted. Here are the highlights, once again courtesy CBS:

So the Final Four looks like this:

5 Butler vs. 5 Michigan State, Saturday April 3, 6:07pm ET on CBS
1 Duke vs. 2 West Virginia, Saturday April 3, 8:47 ET on CBS

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Arenas Gets 30 Days in Halfway House / New Blog Look

Just to wrap up an ongoing story here on FTRS, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house, 2 years probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $5,000 donation to the "violent crimes fund" by a DC judge on Friday. While I think jail time would have been appropriate given the crime (DC has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation), ESPN and former LA Times columnist J.A. Adande makes the case for no jail time.

Also, Blogger has released some new templates that I'm trying out on the site, so check it out and send me some feedback.

Sanity Makes a Comeback...Unless You're Ohio

The Big Dance known as March Madness rolled on Friday night, but the clock has struck midnight for several Cinderellas. 10-seed St. Mary's, the little school that surprised Villanova, was steamrolled by 3-seed Baylor, 72-49. It wasn't even close at halftime when the Gaels only scored 17 to the Bears' 46 points. St. Mary's has completed its deepest run in the modern tournament era while Baylor is going to its first Elite Eight. Baylor is a compelling story in this tournament and one of the few underdogs remaining. Seven years ago, the Baylor basketball program was a shambles after Carlton Dotson murdered teammate Patrick Dennehy and the coach at the time was caught in a scandal of his own. Quite the mess for a university that is backed by the Baptist church. The current coach, Scott Drew, has led this team to the regional final when they were the preseason pick for 10th place in their conference. Instead, they'll be one of two teams representing the Big 12 Conference (the other is Kansas State) in the Elite Eight.

The other Cinderella sent packing was Northern Iowa. After having beaten the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, Northern Iowa gave perennial power Michigan State a run for its money, but in the end, the banged-up Spartans prevailed, 59-52. The difference-makers were point guard Korie Lucious and head coach Tom Izzo. Lucious hit a key turnaround jumper with 91 seconds left and Izzo proved why he's one of the game's best coaches. Working with a depleted lineup, Izzo is making his seventh Elite Eight appearance, fifth most amongst active coaches. Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh, whose clutch 3-pointers were key in UNI's tournament wins over UNLV and Kansas, shot 1 for 6 from 3 point range. He also missed some key free throws at the end of the game, but his Panthers will be remembered for stunning Kansas. Here are the highlights (courtesy CBS):

While Izzo's team was battling Northern Iowa in St. Louis, college basketball coaching icon Mike Krzyzewski led his Duke Blue Devils over the injured Purdue Boilermakers, 70-57 in Houston. Purdue kept the game close at halftime, but Duke pulled away in the second half. One can say it wasn't a fair fight as Purdue was without star Robbie Hummel, who tore his ACL in February. Duke's trio of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith was too hot to handle in the second half. Highlights below (courtesy CBS):

But the game of the night was in St. Louis, as the sixth-seeded Tennessee Volunteers upset the second-seed Ohio State Buckeyes. The game was close to the very end, but Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers will finally go to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history and got payback after OSU knocked Tennessee out of the tournament in 2007. Ohio State stud Evan Turner scored 31 points, which was as many points as OSU put up in the entire second half. For the Buckeyes to have won, it needed somebody other than Turner to step up. Tennessee had four players with 10+ points compared to Ohio State's two. Tennessee has had a rocky season, rife with academic and legal issues, but as ESPN analyst Steve Lavin put it, "Bruce Pearl is a crisis-management expert". Tennessee has been a "giant killer" of sorts this season, beating Kansas and Kentucky during the regular season, then Ohio State last night. Highlights a plenty below (courtesy CBS):


Today's games should be excellent. First, the Butler Bulldogs try to make the Final Four a homecoming but they have to beat a very good Kansas State Wildcats team (4:30 ET, CBS). This game is the West Regional Final in Salt Lake City, so crowd advantage is slightly favoring K-State. Then, what may be the game of the tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the East Regional Final in Syracuse (7:05 ET, CBS). The Mountaineers were viewed by many as 1-seeds, even though they were slotted as a 2-seed while Kentucky has dominated during its tournament run while other 1-seeds have fallen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Syracuse Shocked Amidst Tourney Course Correction

Photo courtesy of

The NCAA Tournament resumed last night and for the most part, was pretty predictable, amid a few surprises. The twelfth-seeded Cornell Big Red sprang burst onto the scene with big upset wins over Temple and Wisconsin, winning in convincing style. Their average margin of victory in the first and second round was 15.5 points. Unfortunately for them, they faced the steamroller known as the Kentucky Wildcats and lost 62-45 to the top-seeded favorites from the Bluegrass State. Despite the lop-sided defeat, Cornell's squad has just finished the best season in school history. As for Kentucky, the pre-season expectations were a national title, and they're one step closer.

Photo courtesy the Idaho Statesman/AP.

Eleventh-seed Washington Huskies have been dogged by the national media this tournament in regards to the current state of West Coast basketball. They surprised Big East stalwart Marquette and defeated third-seed New Mexico, but couldn't defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers, who won 69-56. The Huskies lead by two at halftime, but the Mountaineers exploded for 42 points in the second half. West Virginia will move on to face Kentucky Saturday night in a battle of top-seeds in the East region. The winner moves on to Indianapolis and the Final Four.

Despite being a small school, Xavier has been a known college basketball destination for years. The Musketeers took on the Wildcats of Kansas State in a thriller that went to double-overtime. The highlights speak for themselves (video courtesy CBS):

While Xavier fans will no doubt take a while to forget this loss, fans of the Kansas Jayhawks must be fuming. To have your team, the number one overall seed, lose to a little-known school in the second round, then have your biggest rival head to at least the Elite Eight and possibly a national title, that's gotta be embarrassing.

But the biggest surprise of the night was the West region's top seed, Syracuse, falling to unheralded five-seed Butler. Butler has been a factor in several past tournaments, but this year was favored to be knocked out in the first round by the prognosticators, mainly because of their designation as a five-seed. (Seems like every March Madness, a 12 seed knocks out a 5, so this year, people had Butler pegged as a first-round loss. This year, only one 5 seed lost in the opening round, Temple lost to Cornell). Here are the highlights (courtesy CBS):

Butler, a liberal arts school in Indianapolis with a student population of about 4500, will face Kansas State in the West Regional Final Saturday night in Salt Lake City. The winner goes on to the Final Four, which happens to be in Indianapolis this year. As for Syracuse, this game cannot be labeled a disappointment, since they were without center Arinze Onuaku, the team's glue. Had Onuaku been on the floor, the game would have likely been very different.

Tonight's games include Tennessee vs. Ohio State, Duke vs. Purdue, Northern Iowa vs. Michigan State, and Baylor vs. St. Mary's. Some great storylines continue tonight as UNI and St. Mary's try to continue their improbable runs, Purdue tries to get to a home-state Final Four, and one of the top players of the country, Ohio State's Evan Turner, laces up against Bruce Pearl's talented Vols.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arenas Recommendation: 3 Months

Just a quick blurb for today, since I will be at an all day function. The Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas was given a recommended sentence of 3 months in jail by the prosecution Tuesday. This is down from the reported 6 month sentence the prosecution was allegedly seeking initially. For reaction from ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack, go here. For previous Arenas coverage here on FTRS, you can go here and here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Woods Talks to Rinaldi

Photo courtesy of

In the midst of March Madness, there's other news that surfaced over the weekend. Golfer Tiger Woods was interviewed by ESPN's Tom Rinaldi Sunday night in a tightly controlled, 5-minute interview available here, with post-interview commentary by Rinaldi here and ESPN Golf's Bob Harig's take here.

I don't doubt Tiger's remorse and I respect that there are matters he wants to remain private, however this interview did not cast any further positive light on his situation. The interview's controls were evident, and as a result, there is a sense of distrust, especially when a man who had previously lied to millions by portraying someone he wasn't use phrases like, "to tell you the truth" and "honestly,..." Tiger, those phrases are unnecessary and only reassert the notion that you lied previously. The second key flaw with the interview was that he kept using repeater phrases over and over again, making it feel more like a press conference than an interview. We saw the press conference at PGA Tour headquarters, and this interview felt similar. Perhaps he should have waited longer to be able to give a more candid interview than the guarded one he gave to Rinaldi Sunday night.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Second Round Closes

Photo courtesy the NY Daily News.

The second round of March Madness ended Sunday with several thrillers in what has easily been one of the best NCAA tournaments in recent memory. The remaining number 1 seeds cruised (Duke past Cal, 68-53, and Syracuse knocked out Gonzaga, 87-65) and 2 seed Ohio State defeated 10 seed Georgia Tech 75-66 after having a sluggish first half. Fellow 2 seed West Virginia defeated 10 seed Missouri, 68-59 in a game that was competitive until the Mountaineers' Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks made timely baskets for the victory.

If there's been a theme during this second round, it's beware the small schools. Northern Iowa stunned Kansas, St. Mary's shocked Villanova, and Butler barely squeaked by Murray State on Saturday. On Sunday, it was Cornell and Xavier's turn. Cornell, a 12 seed, surprised 4 seed Wisconsin, 87-69. Cornell, better known for its Ivy League education rather than its basketball, beat a Wisconsin team that's one of the best defensive clubs in the country. Cornell will be making the trip to nearby Syracuse for the East Regional part of the tournament. Xavier, a small Jesuit school in Cincinnati, beat Pitt 71-68, the team that knocked Xavier out of the tournament last year. While the final score was close, Xavier was up by as much as 15 before the Panthers started a furious rally that ultimately fell short.

Spokane, Washington hosted the two best games on Sunday. The first one was Michigan State vs. Maryland, a matchup of powerhouse schools and legendary coaches. This was how it ended (video courtesy CBS):

In the second game, a nail-biter between Texas A&M and Purdue that was sent into overtime, Purdue barely surives (video courtesy CBS):

And so ends the second round of March Madness. And if next weekend's games are anything like this weekend's, then "hang on to them hats and glasses", it'll be a wild finish. As far as the brackets go, there's no way a perfect bracket is left, unless you're Nostradamus or picked based on team name/colors. (Even if that were the case, Cornell should have been out of it in the first round. Big Red what?) That being said, one of my brackets has a 93% rating on, and I'm within the top 350,000 with that bracket (tied with President Obama).

Here are highights from the weekend (video courtesy CBS):

EDIT (3/23/10): Replaced one of the videos with another due to CBS copyright claim.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Small School Stunner Saturday

Video courtesy the Associated Press.

Shocking news out of the NCAA Tournament today. The Kansas Jayhawks, the #1 overall seed and heavy favorite to win the tournament, lost to the Northern Iowa Panthers 69-67 in the second round of March Madness. To give you an idea of just how big of an upset this was, consider that of the near 4.8 million people that made brackets on, only 42,500 (0.9%) had UNI advancing to the Sweet 16 and only 1,546 (0.003%) had them winning the national championship. Compare that to 98% having Kansas advance to the Sweet 16 and 42% winning the national title. President Obama's bracket took an absolute beating this weekend, with three of his Elite Eight teams gone.

The University of Northern Iowa has a current student population of about 15,000, 92% of which are Iowa residents. UNI is in the town of Cedar Falls, Iowa, population 39,145. Prior to tonight's stunner, UNI was most well-known for being the college NFL quarterback Kurt Warner attended. This was Northern Iowa's first trip into the second round since 1990 and first-ever trip to the Sweet 16. The game itself was the classic case of Northern Iowa having nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Panthers were on top for most of the game then the Jayhawks slowly came back into the picture but not before UNI's Ali Farokhmanesh buried a timely 3-pointer with seconds to go.

But Kansas wasn't the only major team upended by a small school. The 2-seed Villanova Wildcats lost to the 10-seed St. Mary's Gaels 75-68. Villanova is yet another Big East team that's going home earlier than expected, leaving Syracuse, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh as the only Big East representatives left in the tournament. But Villanova was playing with fire, having nearly been beaten by Robert Morris on Thursday. And when you play with fire, you get burned. Scottie Reynolds had a terrible tournament while St. Mary's Omar Samhan had a career game, scoring 32 against the Wildcats.

St. Mary's is located in Moraga, California, about 10 miles east of Oakland, and has a school population of less than 5,000. So what is a Gael? According to, a Gael is "A Gaelic-speaking Celt of Scotland, Ireland, or the Isle of Man. A Scottish Highlander." While Villanova isn't a big school either, with a student population of just under 10,000, it is in the Philadelphia metro area, so there's naturally more attention paid to it, especially given its basketball history. This game went similar to the Kansas-Northern Iowa game in that St. Mary's took an early lead, then the game tightened up in the second half.

Other tournament scores were:
6 Tennessee def. 14 Ohio, 83-68
5 Butler def. 13 Murray State, 54-52 (Butler was nearly upset, but held on)
11 Washington def. 3 New Mexico, 82-64
3 Baylor def. 11 Old Dominion, 76-68
2 Kansas State def. 7 BYU, 84-72
1 Kentucky def. 9 Wake Forest 90-60