Monday, March 19, 2018
There were a few upsets if you want to call them that, of a nine beating an eight, but we had two eleven seeds win over the six seeds, along with two different thirteen seeds beating four seeds. Those were big upsets which we'll get to in a moment. The biggest story of them all had to be UMBC. Going into the tournament, no #16 had beaten a #1 seed, let alone the #1 team in the coaches polls going into the big dance. The number one seeds were 135-0 going into the tournament. Then everything changed thanks to the Retrievers beating Virginia, the best team in all of the nation. UMBC was embarrassed badly by Albany back in January, losing to the Great Danes 85-39. Once they won the America East tournament, on a last second three no less, they weren't given a prayer. UMBC didn't believe it. They not only beat the best team in the land, they destroyed them, winning by twenty points. Hell UMBC scored almost as many points in the 2nd half (53 points) as Virginia did in the entire basketball game (54 points). Sadly for them, UMBC's Cinderella moment last a mere 48 hours, as they fell by seven to Kansas State. Still the fact that they pulled off the biggest upset ever, and were projected to lose by 20 according to the Vegas odds going into the game, it shows just how monumental this upset truly is.
Oh and while this is the biggest upset in this years tournament, the biggest comeback in the tournament goes to Nevada. On the same day that UMBC lost their dream run, Nevada pulled off the biggest comeback in tournament history over one of the favorites in the tournament in Cincinnati. With 11 minutes left in the game, Nevada was 22 points down and they still managed to pull off the victory, 75-73. It tied Duke’s over Maryland at the 2001 Final Four for the second-biggest ever in the NCAA tournament. Oh yeah, and this was after having to come back from down 14 against Texas two days prior to this, so they had a lot of magic in the bag over the first two games of the tournament. Nevada has trailed at halftime in five straight games and is still in the Sweet 16. Nevada eventually will have to start producing faster starts in order to keep advancing.
UMBC and Nevada had been big surprises, so has Loyola Chicago as the Ramblers were one of only two teams to win twice as an underdog. They were the only one, however, to trail in the final five seconds of both their wins. Donte Ingram’s 3-pointer to beat Miami might have been usurped two days later as the top buzzer-beater of the tournament, but it got a rollicking four days underway. If you thought that was crazy enough, look what happened against the three seed Tennessee. After Tennessee missed a free throw that probably would have iced the game, Loyola-Chicago charged up the court before Clayton Custer hit the game winning three pointer at the buzzer. Its a shock with this and the Nevada and UMBC that the South Region has none of their top four schools left standing in the sweet sixteen. Its going to make for interesting matchups seeing #5 Kentucky play #9 Kansas State and #7 Nevada against #11 Loyola-Chicago.
Kentucky had stopped another magical run of the University of Buffalo. Buffalo had pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the opening round beating #4 Arizona. It wasn't the fact that Buffalo won (which was shocking enough), it was how badly they beat them. A 21 point victory is pretty impressive. In just their 3rd ever appearance in the NCAA tournament, it was the first ever win for the school in the big dance, Beating a team like Arizona for the win made it even more impressive, because Arizona had been considered by some to be one of the heavy favorites.
And we're still not done. Syracuse, who some questioned even being in the tournament. The Orange had to win a playoff game to get back into the big dance. First they beat Arizona State, then followed it up with an opening round win over TCU by five, and finally helped throw off quite a few brackets by beating Michigan State by two. Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard and Tyus Battle have been a huge reason why the Orange are sitting where they are right now, getting ready to face Duke in the next round.
A lot of craziness went down over the last four days. That was only the first two rounds of the tournament. If that was any indication, then the rest of the big dance is going to be very interesting!
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 3:15 PM
Thursday, March 15, 2018
-At all levels of Minor League Baseball, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. The runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the leadoff batter of the inning (or a substitute for that player).
-By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the 10th inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the Official Baseball Rules. For purposes of calculating earned runs under Rule 9.16, the runner who begins an inning on second base pursuant to this rule shall be deemed to be a runner who has reached second base because of a fielding error, but no error shall be charged to the opposing team or to any player.
PITCHER'S MOUND VISITS
-Visits by coaches and position players will be limited based on the classification level. Triple-A clubs will be allowed six (6) visits per team, Double-A clubs will be allowed eight (8) visits per team, Single-A clubs will be allowed 10 visits per team and there will not be a limit on mound visits for Short Season and Rookie-level clubs.
-These mound visit limits will apply whether the game is scheduled for seven or nine innings.
-For any extra-innings played, each club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.
-Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning).
Definition of Mound Visit:
-A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
-a. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate
-b. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions
-c. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher and
-d. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.
15-SECOND PITCH TIMER
-Pitchers at the Triple-A and Double-A levels will be allowed 15 seconds to begin their wind-up or the motion to come to the set position when no runners are on base.
-The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 15 seconds, but must begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position to comply with the 15-second rule with no runners on base.
-With runners on base, the pitch timer will go from 15 to 20 seconds.
-The timer shall start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher's rubber, the catcher is in the catcher's box and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
-The timer will stop as soon as the pitcher begins his wind-up, or begins the motion to come to the set position.
-If the pitcher feints a pick off or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the timer shall reset and start again immediately.
-Umpires have the authority to stop the pitch timer and order a reset.
-Following any event (e.g., pick-off play) that permits the batter to leave the batter's box, the timer shall start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher's rubber, and the catcher is in the catcher's box.
-Following an umpire's call of "time" or if the ball becomes dead and the batter remains at-bat, the timer shall start after the next pitch or play.
-Should the pitcher fail to begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in 15 seconds with no runners on base, or 20 seconds with a runner on base, a ball will be awarded to the count on the batter.
-Should the batter fail to be in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher with seven (7) or more seconds remaining on the pitch timer, a strike will be awarded to the count on the batter.
Phew, that's a lot of information to try and ingest. So here's how I feel about this whole situation. I know they want to try and speed up the game and to a degree that makes sense, you want to try to have the pace of football and hockey and basketball I get it. At the same time, the pace of the game is what made baseball so great. It made it easier to understand and take in all the action at a leisurely pace.
Sometimes, the pitchers do take a long time to get the ball thrown to the plate, which kind of makes sense to have a bit of a pitch clock. Same thing with mound visits, having too many of them was more of an annoyance then anything to some watching the game in the stands.
The biggest problem I have with is the extra innings rule. That has got to be one of the stupidest rules that have ever been put into a rule book. Its such an unfair advantage it goes beyond description. I get that you want to try and end games as quickly as possible and you want to make things more enjoyable for the people in the crowd. This is so un-baseball like it goes beyond description. The fact that they are also considering doing something like this at the Major League level is one of the most mind numbingly stupid decisions that have ever been suggested. It makes me almost sick to read something like this as a lifelong baseball fan. The way the game is being played now works pretty well I think. If you really want to try and get new fans, not only should you leave the game the way it is, how about make it cheaper for fans to try and attend Major League games. Prices are so out of wack right now its ridiculous. It would cost you an arm and a leg to try and go have a night out at the ballpark.
Baseball had some good ideas, but for the most part, the rules they've put through at the minor league level are just plain dumb.
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 3:07 PM
Its a lock that the four number one seeds will move on in the opening round, as a sixteen seed has never won a game in the tournament. So its pretty much set in stone that Villanova, Kansas, Virginia and Xavier are going to win at least one game. No team lower then an eight seed has ever played in a national title game, and only twice has an eight seed ever played for a national title. Villanova won the title in 1985 as an eight seed and Butler, who lost to UCONN in 2011. Now of the four teams that sit as an eight seed this year, Creighton, Missouri, Virginia Tech and Seaton Hall, the only one I can REALLY see pulling off a major upset maybe Seaton Hall but that's a long shot. A five seed has never won a title, they are winless in three trips to the national championship game. Four and six seeds are each 1-1 in trips to the championship game. The best bet two in the whole thing are either one, two or three seeds.
So who's got the best shot to win it this year?
Villanova and Virginia have been considered by many to be the two best teams in the tourney. Virginia is coming into this thing as the top overall team in the entire country, but there is one fault here, if you want to call it that. They have never been to the Final Four under Tony Bennett and don’t feel like the overwhelming favorite heading into the tournament. Other then the number one seeds, there's quite a few teams that are being thrown around as being favorites in this tournament. Duke, Michigan State, Michigan, North Carolina, Gonzaga, are all being predicted in some way or another to be either in the final four, or even be considered a championship team.
So out of the field, who could prove to have the toughest road to the title? So far, it looks like the West is the toughest test, with tough teams like Xavier, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Michigan and North Carolina. Any one of those schools could easily walk out as National Champion, but I think of the bunch, Michigan and Ohio State maybe the two dark horses to come out of the West (at least out of the contending bunch). Coming out of this pack I have Xavier beating Gonzaga and Carolina beating Michigan before Xavier finally topples North Carolina to advance to the final four.
The Midwest is another tough division to draw out of, when you have talent heavy schools like Arburn, Clemson, Duke, Michigan State and Kansas. One of the names that have popped up on a lot of brackets to come out of this conference is Duke, a preseason for quite a few people. Duke has the horses ti possibly make a long tournament run but might come up short. The two heavy favorites to come out of this region would be Kansas and Michigan State. Michigan State has the talent to be able to pull it out from this conference. Spartans beat Duke and Kansas beats Clemosn, with Michigan State beating Kansas to win the region.
Moving to the upper half of the bracket, we'll start in the South where the top team in the nation, Virginia. Kentucky, Cincinnati, Miami, Arizona and Tennessee also reside with Virginia in the South. Virginia and Villanova were the only teams in the country to win 30 games this year, with Virginia having the top mark at 31-2. One other team in this region is in the top ten in the nation, that being Cincinnati, and only two others cracked the top fifteen, that being Arizona and Tennessee. This will be a tough region to try and climb out of. Virginia, I fell, has the firepower to roll here, having scored under 50 points in one game all season. Cincinnati will topple Miami, while Virginia beats Arizona. Virginia then takes down Cincinnati to win the South.
Finally to the East region we head, where Villanova is the top seed out there. Some feel that they may be the most balanced and well rounded team in this tournament. Villanova has some solid competition in this bracket in the form of Purdue, Texas Tech, and Wichita State. Nova finished the year going 30-4, along with Virginia, they were the only teams to win more then 30 games this season. The Shockers could prove to be a tough test, when you consider what that school has done in the tournament in recent years. They reach the sweet sixteen before falling to Villanova, while Purdue takes down Texas Tech. In the Elite Eight Nova tops Purdue to reach the final four.
Final four I see Villanova beating Michigan State 83-69 and Virginia beating Xavier 77-70.
National title game Villanova tops Virginia 81-77
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 5:39 AM
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Lets start with the Giants, who are coming off a 3-13 season a year ago. They have about $24 million in cap space to be able to work with heading into the free agency period. Offensive Line is the first priority for the Giants, which was one of the worst in the entire year last season. Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker are all coming off the books as unrestricted free agents, which I think makes many Big Blue fans very happy. One of the big priorites for the Giants will be the interior of the line, which will be a major help in trying to establish a running game. Andrew Norwell the former Panthers guard is somebody I've heard is on the Giants radar.
Running Back is also something that the Giants will be looking to improve in the offseason. Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen, who had been the featured backs for Big Blue last season, are both free agents. So that pretty much leaves Wayne Gallman and Paul Perkins as the team's top two backs. Its a major hole the Giants need to improve on, because they haven't had a solid run game since their last Super Bowl runs. Former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon looks to be the option on the market for the position.
Oh but there's more that the Giants, as they also need help in the position of Linebacker. They already got a little bit of help when they made the trade with the Rams for Alec Ogletree. Getting a hard hitting, run stopping linebacker is up on the Giants priority list. One name that's been floating around is Nigel Bradham, the former Eagles Linebacker. He's a hard hitting linebacker who will fit in quite well with the Big Blue Wrecking Crew.
Now on to the Jets and their needs, a team that is coming off going 5-11 for the 2nd year in a row. This team has almost $100 million to be able to work with in terms of cap space, so it will allow Gang Green a little more room to work with on the market. Biggest need for the Jets has to be Quarterback, something that the Jets haven't really been comfortable with since Chad Pennington. The last three years have been a bandage for the problem, covering it up with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. The target line for the Jets at the position is Kirk Cousins, who is on a short list of the Jets and Vikings, so if New York can snag him and get him here for a few years, that would be a major bonus for the club.
Another position of weakness for the Jets is at Wide Receiver, something that lacked badly last year. Yes, they did get a great year out of Robbie Anderson, but with the trouble he got into during the offseason, I don't think he's going to really be an option this year. Who could step in and play the position for the Jets has caused two different names to get thrown around. I've read Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson would both be good fits here in New York. Both guys have great hands, and can catch anything thrown at them, with plenty of speed, more for Watkins then Robinson. Both guys would be good targets for whoever is throwing the ball.
Getting help on the defensive side of the football is nothing new for the Jets, but Cornerback is going to be one of their bigger priorities in the offseason. New York has had MAJOR problems with this position the last few years, getting lit up on numerous occasions by good wide receivers. A guy who could help out with this problem would be Malcom Butler. He didn't play a defensive snap in the Patriots Super Bowl loss to the Eagles. He slipped a little in his defensive play last year but he could still help out a defense that was 21st against the pass last season.
Free agency kicks off on March 14th.
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 5:48 PM
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
"I've been in this business a long time, never seen anything like it," Smith said. "We had over 800 Division I players transfer last year. We're teaching them how to quit. That's what we're doing. Things not going well, let's quit."
"Somebody needs to tell (transfers), ‘You made a commitment. Stick to it.’ But it doesn’t happen like that. They have a lot of people in their ear. That’s the way life is.”
Now Tubby Smith does know a little something about College Basketball, having a coaching record of 595-301. A lot of players that he has gone on to coach have made it to the NBA. At the same time, this is coming from a guy who has bounced around with coaching positions in his career, making stops at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech and his current position at Memphis. He quit Tulsa to go run Georgia, then quit there two years later to go run Kentucky. He then did the same thing there after ten years to go coach at Minnesota. So who exactly is he one to tell about jumping ship.
His argument is double sided though. I mean I can understand where he's coming from in that there is a lot of jumping around among the players going from school to school, something that could not only mess with their playing time, but just as important mess with their academics as well. I know it happens a lot but it still feels funny.
At the same time, there's the other side of the coin. Maybe jumping around to different schools will give an athlete a better shot at playing time then they would have at their old schools. I don't see this as a way of teaching kids how to quit. I see it possibly as finding an opportunity to make up their minds and make a move that they feel is best for them.
So does Smith actually have an argument?
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 3:25 PM
Sunday, March 4, 2018
MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) Won for Best Picture, Actress (Hilary Swank), Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman), Director (Clint Eastwood). Was also nominated for Best Actor (Clint Eastwood), Editing, Adapted Screenplay
CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981) Won Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Original Score. Was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Ian Holm), Director (Hugh Hudson), Editing
ROCKY (1976) Won for Best Picture, Director (John G. Avildsen), Editing. Was nominated for Best Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Actress (Talia Shire), Supporting Actor (Burgess Meredith), Supporting Actor (Burt Young), Original Screenplay (Sylvester Stallone), Sound, Original Song ("Gonna Fly Now")
THE HUSTLER (1961) Won for Best Cinematography, Art Direction and was also nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Paul Newman), Actress (Piper Laurie), Supporting Actor (Jackie Gleason), Supporting Actor (George C. Scott), Director (Robert Rossen), Adapted Screenplay
RAGING BULL (1980) Won for Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Editing and was nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Joe Pesci), Supporting Actress (Cathy Moriarty), Director (Martin Scorsese), Cinematography, Sound
THE FIGHTER (2010) Won for Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo) and was nominated for Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), Director (David O. Russell), Editing, Original Screenplay
NATIONAL VELVET (1944) Won for Best Supporting Actress (Anne Revere), Editing and was nominated for Director (Clarence Brown), Cinematography, Art Direction
THE CHAMP (1931) Won for Best Actor (Wallace Beery), Original Screenplay and was also nominated for Best Picture, Director (King Vidor)
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956) Won for Best Cinematography, Art Direction and was also nominated for Best Editing
PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942) Won for Best Editing and was also nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Gary Cooper), Actress (Teresa Wright), Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Special Effects, Original Score
HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978) Won for Best Art Direction and was also nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Warren Beatty), Supporting Actor (Jack Warden), Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon), Director (Warren Beatty and Buck Henry), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score
JERRY MAGUIRE (1996) Won for Best Supporting Actor (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and was also nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Tom Cruise), Original Screenplay, Editing
BREAKING AWAY (1979) Won for Best Original Screenplay and was also nominated Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Barbara Barrie), Director (Peter Yates), Adaptation Score
THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986) Won for Best Actor (Paul Newman) and was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Mary Elizabeth Manstrantonio), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction
THE BLIND SIDE (2009) Won for Best Actress (Sandra Bullock) and was nominated for Best Picture
SEABISCUIT (2003) Nominations (7): Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound Mixing
MONEYBALL (2011) Was nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Brad Pitt), Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Sound Mixing
FOXCATCHER (2014) Was nominated for Best Actor (Steve Carrell), Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Director (Bennett Miller), Original Screenplay, Makeup and Hairstyling
THE NATURAL (1984) Nominations (4): Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), Cinematography, Art Direction, Original Score Advertisement Nominations (3): Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
FIELD OF DREAMS (1989) Was nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 6:24 PM
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Let's backtrack a little with this before we dive into the money issue. For a long time now, it has been well covered in college athletics as to how to recruit top players to schools. Sure, there was the education, but more then that was offered. Schools would try and buy cars and clothes and things like that to get players to attend. That was all off the records of course, and none of the people associated with the school had any knowledge of the situations. Now the allegations are being upped to money being paid to the players to come play at schools. The wire tap with Seam Miller and discussing $100,000 being negotiated for a player to play at Arizona is documented proof about money being involved. Its also being reported that its not just Arizona that's had this scandal. According to a report through ABC, schools such as Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC and Kansas have been named. Then there's at least 25 players are linked to impermissible benefits, including Michigan State's Miles Bridges, Alabama's Collin Sexton and Duke's Wendell Carter. All of those guys were left out of playing in games this past weekend.
Now as far as the Sean Miller story goes, some people have had differing reports as to when the call was made, whether it was in 2016 or 2017. Every indication is looking like now that it was made in 2017, which is a real problem for Arizona. Oh but wait there's more. According to a report on Yahoo Sports, at least six players were identified as having received payments exceeding $10,000. Some of the players on that list are Dallas Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who received $73,500 in loans from ASM before he played for NC State. Then there's Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead, who received more than $37,000 around the time he was at Seton Hall. And then there's the top draft pick in the 2017 NBA draft Markelle Fultz, who received $10,000. NCAA administrators are working hard to see if these allegations are true or not and if they are, the NCAA is working hard to try and get them fixed. No word yet as to what might happen to these schools if the rumors are true and money did change hands. I have a feeling that its going to be way worse then what recently happened to Louisville with the scandal that just rocked that school.
Again stuff along these lines has been going on in college athletics for a long time now, not that I'm saying its right, I'm just stating something that most people have probably already figured out. This will be leading to the debate as to whether or not college athletes should receive some kind of compensation for their abilities. I thought the whole point of going to college was to get an education and that athletics was an extracurricular activity. A lot has changed in that thought process. now most athletes go to school one year, which is now being required for athletes, before they jump to the pro ranks. And most athletes, once they do turn pro, do go on and finish their educations either during, or after their playing careers are over. The idea of athletes getting paid to play in college is looked down upon by the schools, but with the trend of recent years, it looks like paying players for what they do may actually turn into a reality. I'm sure this happens in some of the other sports as well, but Basketball and Football are the sports that are at the top of the list. The reason is because those sports bring the most money into the schools.
So what will happen with the NCAA ruling on these allegations? Will the practice continue? Only time will tell
Posted by Matthew A. Solomon at 4:49 PM