Wednesday, March 31, 2010

UTEP Bringing In Tim Floyd Adds Riskiness, Infamy

Oh, sure, hire a fraudulent, no-good sleaze failing to realize the circumstances of becoming the next suspect of a despicable crime. Whether UTEP is desperate or indulgent, athletic director Bob Stull wasn’t thinking, and now is willing to lavish Tim Floyd with a coaching job.

In what seemed to be a tragicomedy at USC, it turns out revelations weren’t disastrous enough to influence an athletic director with good sense to avoid hiring an insidious goon.

What is so impressive about Floyd? Why in the hell is Stull giving a second chance to a coach, who is known as the dirtiest cheater in college basketball? Something reeks with the new hiring in the desert, something smells awful. And it’s not the smell of fresh air or rain, but a disgusting smell that no one should stomach. There’s nothing brilliant in signing a fraud or bringing someone aboard with an awful reputation and an insensitive psyche, heedless of a school’s image, and leaving one of the most regal programs abruptly in a repulsive scandal.

Keep in mind that Floyd embarrassed and fled USC, when he was accused of bribing and handing $1,000 to O.J. Mayo’s adviser Rodney Guillory. That year, Mayo was the best player at Southern California, even though accusations surfaced that he wasn’t recruited legitimately, but instead paid off at a Beverly Hills eatery. It’s hard to prove whether he received cash, but it’s not difficult suggesting that Floyd was a bad boy caught committing a dreadful act.

Most coaches resolve the issues, instead of hightailing to the nearest taxi and airport for a one-way ticket as a way to escape wrongdoing. Hardly, coaches run away from problems without fixing a troubling issue. Perhaps, there’s merely one coach out there content with leaving behind a mess and an ailing program in shambles. It’s Mr. Floyd, you know, the bad boy with no morals or a modest demeanor. Except solving it, Floyd resigned without providing specifics on what really took place behind the scenes.

And his name isn’t clear of guilt, sadly tainted with violations of NCAA rules. It’s amazing that our country blasts John Calipari as a cheater, and condones that Floyd’s scandals are minor. If people bash Calipari, then in fairness, we should blast Floyd as well. He allegedly made a cash transactions, a misdeed worse than Calipari’s unawareness of his former student-athletes receiving cash.

I’m not sure why any program wants to put themselves in a predicament this severe. No coach with baggage is worth the headaches, no coach with flaws is worth the time. There were other coaches available, that UTEP trustees may have been more privileged to interview and evaluate. By rushing to find a new coach and establish a foundation within an up-and-coming program among all coaches, Stull signed a problematic rogue in Floyd.

So now winning doesn’t matter, neither does respectability as a legitimate force. All UTEP needed was a few days to deliberate and hire a new coach, anyone other than Floyd. Because of his atrocious past, no one should be surprised if he replicates similar results at UTEP. Of course, any coach denies accusations as a way to salvage his reputation. It almost seems startling that a school took a risk, even if he’s innocent and a mistaken identity.

This is neither the right coach, nor the perfect job for Floyd. Like it or not, if he has a pattern in committing violations, a sickness will never vanish as long as he benefits from wrongly manipulating top high school prospects to verbally commit and sign. And then later, heavy burdens stains a thought-to-be legit program as Floyd’s initial intentions will lead to a sudden departure, once again leaving another school in disarray.

As corrupted as the college basketball system is, a sham is brewing at UTEP for hiring a bad coach. That’s bad for the game. Given that he has been accused for egregious cheating is the epitome of further complications unhinging. It’s almost laughable that a sham is given a job amid a recession, and anointed for deceit or faulty judgment. Months later, maybe there’ll be another scandal, only this time at UTEP. That’s something to take into consideration, right?


This is absurd.

After all, he’s not the first one with infractions against and hired as a coach again. The last program to make such a foolish mistake was Indiana when it hired Kelvin Sampson, an infamous idiot still been investigated for recruiting and luring in athletes over the phone. That was a resemblance of what transpired at Oklahoma, where he also cheated by using the hotline.

Because of Floyd’s brilliant recruiting it compelled the NCAA to introduce legislation known as the “eight-and-five” rule, in which coaches had a name for calling it “The Tim Floyd Rule.” It was organized to limit schools to a maximum of five scholarship freshmen in one year and eight over two years. But truly it’s hard to believe if this was done legitimate.

To this day, we’re always emphasizing the significance of integrity and sportsmanlike conduct, but as it turns out, Floyd doesn’t follow a classy ritual. For instance at Iowa State, he recruited over the 13-scholarship limit and at USC the latest incident came about, while he was praised for rebuilding a motionless program.

Hearing all of this, what was Stull thinking?

He just hired a rogue.

As a result, all Miners fans should worry about this coaching hiring.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

City of Brotherly Ungratefulness Won't Appreciate McNabb Until He's Gone

For most sports towns, most of the population builds a social bond with star athletes.

Not in Philly. Disgruntled fans are always unsatisfied and judgmental of a star player’s underachievement, and as a result, they turn on any athlete.

Why must an unhappy fan base belittle and boo a megastar whenever they are unsuccessful? Why must ignorant fans boo and deride a superstar whenever he elevates a hapless franchise as a whole, but fizzles at a moment when a needed win is at stake?

Shame on them for ridiculing, mocking and demanding a trade for any player who struggles to find his swagger, before finally cheering him on months later.

In Philly, the wishy-washiness and hostility burns out a typical athlete, who shows loyalty in order to pacify an unappreciative town. No matter what, this is a town that will never be content, or pleased with championships because of it selfishness and ungratefulness.

This makes an infuriated town look bad, and inspire all people living in an insensitive environment to boo any major franchise, an unsympathetic ritual that the masses in the City of Brotherly Love endorse.

It’s not hard to forget that this is the town that humiliated Santa Claus, when they booed him during halftime. And it’s not hard to forget that this is the town that taunted Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt.

But to this day, I’ve never understood why the town censures Donovan McNabb on every throw, every move, and every decision. Sadly, he’s the most polarizing sports figure in Philly, if not sports in general, lambasted and blamed any time the Philadelphia Eagles fall short. With all the latest trade rumors swirling around, there were unpleasant callers on sports-talk radio this weekend, chatting about the all familiar trade talks.

While a large population continuously blasts the franchise’s winningest quarterback, whose name has been mentioned in trade rumors for the past few years, his peers have referred to him as a rare breed, a natural talent, and the best in the world.

All of a sudden, it appears the Eagles are content with changing the culture. All of a sudden, it appears half of the town is burnt out of McNabb.

Ever since owner Jeffrey Lurie purchased the franchise, the Eagles have dealt with unnecessary drama, whether it centered Terrell Owens who dismantled the team and divided a relentless core. Over the years, the front office has chosen to practically stay under the salary cap and avoid spending enormously on a star player.

For a long time, the franchise has been cautious on spending, and as a result, has suffocated in recent seasons -- as thoughts of making a substantial playoff run and delivering a title were very unlikely. The point is, McNabb isn’t the problem to the recent failures, and if anything, he has been a remedy that has heightened the team's chances.

It’s almost fair to point fingers at him, but not too many are blaming it all on McNabb after he strongly drove a once-potent franchise to a Super Bowl before the Eagles fell to the New England Patriots. You may even wonder how he managed to steer the Eagles into the biggest game, while withstanding the nagging T.O. mess.

It seems a bond has been broken, since McNabb stumbled in the Super Bowl in 2005. It wasn’t long ago, when he gaffed in the biggest game of his lifetime, evidence that he collapsed under tremendous pressure in a crucial game. Embarrassed by it all, he conducted himself with class and blamed himself for any blunders.

Yet, the egotistical fans still ripped out the heart and soul of an inspirational leader, describing him as the scapegoat. They’ve scolded him, and rebuked him for any miscues.

Today, we are hearing trade rumors. And why should anyone be shocked? Why would any athlete want to play in a city where he isn’t welcomed? So today, some are curious to know where he might land, and when he will land elsewhere. With apologies later, the Eagles will regret dealing McNabb if the organization decides to trade its franchise player. Maybe once he’s gone, the masses in Philly will appreciate what type of superstar ran the Eagles' prolific offense.

All fans are willing to wave farewell to McNabb. Fans refuse to defend their franchise quarterback, who is bearing adversity because of his deficiencies and uninspired ways. Perhaps all fans lack a real understanding, if they’re willing to allow the Eagles to trade McNabb.

This is nonsense. He doesn’t deserve foul treatment from an organization that he has given it his all.

Just to refresh everyone's memories, he has played with the Eagles for 11 seasons and appeared in five conference championship games and had a lone Super Bowl appearance. It’s amazing how a town all of a sudden doesn’t mind giving away a star player, someone who has engineered the Eagles.

This is almost similar to handing over an iPod for a Philly cheese steak, or changing the menu at McDonald’s by discontinuing the McRib sandwich for a new and unheard-of sandwich.

Obviously, it’s clear the Eagles plan on establishing a new foundation and moving forward, trading their top player and giving the opportunity to backup quarterback Kevin Kolb.

Wait, what the hell? The guy who surrendered two interceptions. Kevin Kolb was the replacement who came off the bench when coach Andy Reid benched McNabb after a horrendous first-half in the Eagles’ humiliating 36-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. And the week before, McNabb was mocked because he was unaware that a game could end in a tie. Throughout his scrutinized career, he has been damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

So with all the reports circulating, maybe it is time for McNabb to part ways and end a fragile relationship with fans and executives. Either way, there are other teams probably more appreciative and would love to have a star player who can suit their offense.

This year, McNabb is expected to make $11 million. His contract expires next season, but why does it matter to anyone in the so-called City of Brotherly Love? Rename it the City of Brotherly Ungratefulness. If the Eagles were aiming to lock him into a long-term contract, forget about it.

With all this drama, McNabb may consider retirement or may be willing to play elsewhere. There’s one team that has expressed interest. For now, the Oakland Raiders are front-runners and already had conversations with the Eagles to presumably acquire the quarterback, in which owner Al Davis is comfortable with taking a gigantic risk.

By moving McNabb in the upcoming weeks ultimately will dictate the Eagles’ offseason moves, particularly if they receive a high draft pick in return, or a prospect the organization can groom.

However, the fans and Eagles won’t appreciate McNabb until he’s gone.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Wouldn't Ignore WVU: Bob Huggins Isn't Much of a Fool

It’s good to know a redemptive story is rapidly in the makings, removing all the unnecessary toxic stains from diminishing a level of trustworthiness at West Virginia. His image has induced much misery and recovered, becoming a paragon as an exemplary voice, and the renaissance man of an athletic program with little respectability.

Not long ago, Bob Huggins was labeled as a dumbass for his stupidity and senseless act when police stopped him on suspicion of drunken driving.

According to police reports, he was given a field sobriety test and asked to say the alphabet correctly, but slurred the words in an unusual order. Near the driver’s side door of his automobile, vomit was seen making the matter even more suspicous. His awful troubles of drunken driving happened years after Huggins suffered a massive heart attack. What to make of his severe health problems, was ongoing stress during an edgy and wearisome coaching career.

Throughout the madness of a burdensome career, he has exploded into a crazy madman by throwing postgame rants and too many tantrums near the sidelines, while enduring infractions and rebellious players. That’s a lot for any coach at the collegiate level to handle, a heavy burden that could turn someone whacko.

“I made a very poor decision that’s reflected negatively on the basketball program and the university,” Huggins said after knocking off Kentucky in the Elite Eight. “For that, I deeply regret it. I take responsibility for my actions. I’m going to do my part to make sure that something like this will never happen again.”

Certainly, he has stayed true to his words.

Six years later, Huggins is now a popular figure in a state where college hoops symbolizes much pride. Six years later, he’s the newest mentor, uplifting spirit and faith at a lackluster program. Not too many had enough courage to pencil in the West Virginia Mountaineers, arguably the best Big East program.

Whoever thought West Virginia could outlast Syracuse or Villanova, each respectively glorified as Big East powerhouses? For all bracket-owners, Butler, West Virginia, Duke and Michigan State, honestly, weren’t among favorites advancing to the Final Four. But either way, the Mountaineers have brightened romance with a date against Duke next Saturday at Indy.

In retrospect, there are some believers who gather clear insights that Huggins is a rogue or an arrogant idiot. Sure, he has made a gruesome mistake in the pass, mirroring the foolish episodes that almost ravaged his reputation and credibility. Sure, he screams and attacks his players, but he has his players persisting to the basic protocols in which his man-to-man defensive standards were beneficial during a remarkable drive to the Final Four.

No wonder West Virginia’s unforeseen chase to the national title materialized and presented sensible belief. Any team can win by playing physical and defending the ball, a well-known custom the Mountaineers are committed to whenever facing opponents.

It was easy to forget and ignore Huggins. Years ago, he toppled because of his arrogance and heinous actions, but why must the nation hold grudges? None of that unlawful hoopla matters with Huggins, nor does he describe a win as redemption.

Even his players know that he wouldn’t mind amending a decrepit identity, but even more so, winning a national championship. Really all that matters is bringing laughter and fulfilling aspiration in a good-natured basketball community, just as much as redeeming sorrow.

“He won’t say it, but I think he feels a sense of redemption,” said West Virginia guard John Flowers. “No one thought we’d be here and no one thought he’d be here.”

This has been a wonderful tournament, with surprises and bracket-obliterators shattering our cleverness regarding a captivating sporting tourney. And suddenly, an unpredictable activity has formed tremendous joy. There’s no reason to deny that Huggins is the most lovable coach in West Virginia, despite running a corrupted program at Cincinnati or recent outbursts at WVU.

Because he has a heated temper, it doesn’t make him a fool as the Mountaineers advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1959. Huggins hasn’t experienced or tasted a steep championship chase in 18 years. Understand he has gotten the Mountaineers to a sentimental point, only two wins away from immortality. For all Huggins haters, his public issues with alcohol haven’t contributed with his coaching practices.

Without Darryl “Truck” Bryant, their point guard sidelined with a broken foot, the Mountaineers have survived with excellent backup plans. Credit Joe Mazzulla, who had shoulder surgery that normally sidelines players for a full season. He is playing at his very best and took over the game Saturday against Kentucky.

According to reports, Bryant is expected to return for the Final Four, but honestly no one really misses the starting point guard. Mazzulla’s speed and stamina to drive inside the paint for backbreaking layups has been a savior, while the tough-driven Mountaineers have buried an array of threes as well. Other heroics have come out of the sharpshooting, Da’Sean Butler, who has drained three after three after three.

All season long, the Mountaineers were doubted in the Big East and overshadowed. They weren’t supposed to make it this far, but much credit to Huggins.

He’s not much of a fool.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Homecoming Win for Butler Engraves a Legit Hoosier Tale

There is no greater surprise in college hoops, regarding a talented program where checking in by midnight wasn’t necessary, attaining a date to its first ever Final Four. The Butler Bulldogs, a small school from an inconspicuous conference called the Horizon League, are traveling to its hometown, not to end a magical dream that turned into reality, but keep aspirations alive to compete in the biggest game on the mammoth stage.

Figuratively, it happened in front of a large crowd at Salt Lake City, where the Bulldogs respectively stunned the world as a Cinderella, taken down No. 1 Syracuse. In what is defined as an illusion, should be described as a legit run, stating the balance, poise and fierceness of an elite program.

How can we not express this as a fairytale, written in the month of March, a time sporting maniacs falls in love with the greatest sporting tournament? At first, it was typified as the massive shocker in NCAA tourney history, but if you noticed something abnormal about the Bulldogs, it wasn’t the win over Syracuse. Instead it’s the toughness and parity seen from Butler of late, celebrating with much euphoria and excitement after obliterating thousands of brackets and upsetting believers and high-profile schools. It was silly, not to realize that the Bulldogs had much willpower and toughness to threaten.

That’s exactly why this isn’t a Cinderella, but a school with ferocious fangs and monstrous weapons, observed as unstoppable villains. If you haven’t seen someone in the tourney with optimism, you have now. If you haven’t seen someone in the tourney with parity, you have now. If you haven’t seen someone in the tourney with perseverance, you have now. All those are ingredients that Butler improvises, to win it all. What was a cute fairytale is now a horror story. And what was a Cinderella is now a legit contender.

So this is a resemblance of the real-life team from the great 1986 movie, Milan High. They can make a movie, if the Bulldogs win the Final Four. Imagine Butler becoming the smallest school to win, similar to Milan High winning the Indiana basketball title in 1954, a year before my mother was born, a year my late father served in the military, and yes, a year when gas prices weren’t outrageous. Milan defeated high-ranked teams, just as Butler has sent a statement to all bracketology and college basketball devotees.

Let’s applaud the classy and strongest team in the tourney. At least it seems that way, with what has transpired in the last few days. And suddenly, a feel-good story is a historic story, with the Bulldogs coming from out of nowhere sabotaging and staining aspiration for its previous opponents. Who cares? Just alone, the Bulldogs are worthy of winning national title after winning the most critical game in school history, uplifting sanity within a lackluster program that never experienced much humanity. Waiting for a shining moment to happen, it finally materialized in a 63-56 win over Kansas State in the West Regional final.

For all the triumph it has preserved, this class will always be remembered for their incremental deeds. Such as embarrassing the Orange in the Sweet 16, and finally reaching a gratifying stage in history by outhustling, outrebounding and outplaying a fatigued Kansas State. It’s a flattering and remarkable Hoosiers story, forming an unthinkable dream. The assumption that Butler was fundamentally sound advancing to the Final Four made absolute sense, because of its pundits and firmness. So there you have it, a relentless program riding a 23-game winning streak that extended to 24.

Isn’t this what we prefer to see, a different team?

After all, they exposed much intensity and gusto.

That makes it a heartwarming story as well. And it’s amazing we ignored a basketball team that captivated our curiosity, with its powerful balance and toughness. Sure, the Bulldogs compelled much angry and tears, by annihilating brackets and sending teams home earlier than expected. Of course, it wasn’t their best performance, shooting a mere 37 percent in the first-half, had more turnovers, costly blunders that saved K-State’s lives.

In a shaky contest, the Wildcats were fortune to stay alive and keep it close, but the Bulldogs pulled away several times in the absence of Horizon League Player of the Year Matt Howard, who was limited to four minutes in the half because of foul trouble. But somehow Butler managed to attack the rim, shoot efficiently from beyond the arch outscoring Kansas State’s two star guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.

They were scoreless until the final minutes of the first half, coach Frank Martin stared disgusted and the Bulldogs led 27-16 en route to end of the half. If you believe in miracles, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs earn the privilege to play in the fieldhouse, where “Hoosiers” was filmed. There could be some luck, as the Bulldogs write an unbelievable tale, better than most sporting stories.

This is a great story for America.

Together, they believed in each other, played tough and will attempt glory at home. Once again, Butler’s coach Brad Stevens, the 33-year old who has a baby face and could be mistaken for a 17-year-old. Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, a modern venue, the Bulldogs have a date with Tennessee or Michigan State in the Final Four, where half the range of 4,500 students enrolled will be in attendance.

In a critical contest, Shelvin Mack fired threes, Ronald Nored and Willie Veasley played in-your-face type defense, and Gordon Haywood collected rebounds. Right now, the Bulldogs seem experience, seem emotional, seem dangerous, seem athletic, and seem unbeatable.

By refusing to acknowledge the Bulldogs, was an erroneous mistake.

There’s a wonderful tale being written.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Butler's Epic Win Over Syracuse Proves Elite Contenders: You've Been Warned

If there’s one shining moment to an epic college basketball tournament story, it’s Butler upsetting Syracuse in what was the most heartfelt victory in school history.

Three wins away from fulfilling a magical wish for the first time in school history, Butler hugged each other and smiled greatly, stunning the world as bracket-saboteurs.

Not every college team has tremendous luck obtaining a championship banner and cutting down a net.

This wasn’t what Syracuse had in mind, arguably portrayed as the hottest and best team in the West region before the Orange was obliterated in Salt Lake City, on a night happiness and enthusiasm was noticed from a school that has never had much worth celebrating.

In the ending of a nerve-racking finish, the Bulldogs had taken down Syracuse, the No. 1 seed in the West Regional.

There was no one filled with much delight as Butler’s coach Brad Stevens, a 33-year old whose baby face convinces most people that he barely graduated from high school a year ago.

It’s a rarity to hear the Bulldogs celebrate an incredible win and sustain a grand achievement within a lackluster program, respectively turning into a legit tourney contender.

Nothing was sweeter than the Bulldogs knocking off the Orange, a top-seeded team predicted to advance to the Final Four or greater, win it all.

But with all the uncertainty and beautiful landscapes transpiring in a tourney filled with much buzz and romance, Butler wears a gigantic glass slipper after making a strong explanation.

March has turned into a wondrous storyline, seeing the unthinkable happen before our very eyes and dramatic finishes implement the coolest tale in college hoops.

In recent memory, the Bulldogs never developed much hype or regularity, until it conquered the proudest dream and capped a 63-59 win over a prominent school with much parity and talent.

None of it matters, with upsetting sequences becoming the commonplace in collegiate sports where balance and gifted athletes elevates a fragile program.

And while Butler is the archetype of an emerging program that has accelerated to new heights and continuously defies the odds and rational thinking, consider it a miracle of the ages.

But we must also consider that the Bulldogs are a vital contender, heading to the Elite Eight.

The feverish crowd made the trip to Salt Lake City, witnessing a glorious landmark unlike in prior seasons in which the latest defeat was convenient enough to lift sanity in a community that hasn’t had much of an advantage in basketball.

I’d say Butler is elite.

An uttermost performance in the Elite Eight is no bigger than the one that occurred less than 24 hours ago.

That’s a program with young teams. Therefore, the usual pattern following an evident win is that a young core has a tendency of becoming complacent.

In this case, Butler is an unusual breed, craving and coveted shining and traveling to Indianapolis for its first ever Final Four appearance in school history.

As the final seconds narrowed, a saddened Syracuse bench mired in a state of shock.

Wes Johnson, the star player for the Orange, was stripped and committed the team’s 18th turnover.

Jim Boeheim watched in despair and Andy Rautins looked as if he was ready to burst into tears, somehow kept his composure.

So much for all conceptions that this was a dangerous powerhouse ever since Kansas was eliminated.

On the other side of the court, there was a thrilled bench watching the memorable night take place.

The Bulldogs refused to finish without a fight, and never allowed the Syracuse publicity to bother them.

As we know, there’s always less pressure on an underdog team, attempting to establish an identity in a competitive tourney.

Rarely do you see Boeheim’s talented core fall to a much physical defense that humiliated the favorable school of the Big East.

This late in the tourney, any team can escape with a win, right?

“There are no better seeds in this tournament. There are just higher seeds,” said Stevens. “It’s about who plays better on a given night.”

Guess that answers the question.

As it turns out the better seed are the No. Five Bulldogs in the West regional.

Wouldn’t it be nice if their storybook season last until the Final Four?

That’s not such a bad prediction.

The nation is glancing at the toughest team alive in the tournament, a physical core refusing to leave teary eyed.

The stakes were high throughout a dramatic showpiece, but finally the Bulldogs had enough poise and energy to explode in the late minutes. Willie Veasley’s three-pointer from the baseline, bounced around the rim before dropping in.

Whether it was luck or skill, it fell in, and just like that the Bulldogs extended their lead to 58-54 with one minute 40 seconds left on the clock.

“I was standing under the basket and it went in, then out, then in, then out, then in,” Butler forward Gordon Hayward said in relief.

He was a heroic finisher, moments later tipping in a miss for a 60-54 lead with one minute left.

From there, it capped the biggest upset defeat since Northern Iowa stunned Kansas in what arguably will go down as the greatest upset in tournament history.

I’ll rank the Butler upset at an all-time high, but I just don’t know where.

For much of the evening, Butler had the swagger with its fierce offense, potent defense and monstrous dunks. Enough parity of executing endless onslaughts to ridiculously suffocate opponents and annihilate more brackets.

For Stevens, he averaged 29 wins a year in his brief tenure at Butler and has won more games at his age than any coach in modern collegiate basketball.

There’s a little luck for the Bulldogs.

Near the end, marked one of the wildest finishes in the tourney this year, with Butler finding a rhythm by scoring 11 straight points.

The world shouldn’t be surprise by the Final Four results? Remember, there was George Mason and even Davidson almost advanced two years ago.

It’s fine to say, Butler could be this year’s George Mason.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With Much Obscurity, Cinderella's Glass Slipper Captivates Sweet 16

So this is the cultural standpoint of the NCAA Tournament, witnessing Cinderellas emerge into the biggest bracket killers and stun the at-large teams.

It’s amazing to see teams dominate at will during the regular season but disappear suddenly into the darkening clouds.

With the Kansas Jayhawks collapsing in the second round, it’s clear evidence that their loss abolished all brackets and uplifted spirits for underappreciated teams.

From agony to ecstasy, tourney observers have seen some of the craziest basketball, titillating those of us awaiting breathtaking buzzer-beaters, miraculous finishes, shooting spectacles, and whatever else is left.

I’m starting to believe this is only an appetizer en route to the Final Four, amid a year when the class slipper, seemingly, fits on the foot of many underdogs. If there are countless upsets projected to change facial expressions or obliterate more brackets, it’s the personality of an obscure Sweet 16, which gets under way Thursday.

What’s incredible about college hoops is the dramatic excitement that leaves us curious to which team is relevant surviving a field of 64 teams.

Better than college football’s chaotic system, the wildest and most unpredictable spectacles happen in March, when the madness absorbs much attention.

It’s funny how we tend to ignore the unprecedented, over-hyped of anointing the powerhouse conferences such as the Big 12 and Big East because of mystique, tradition, and athleticism. But lately, basketball lords have failed to realize that any team is vulnerable to losing in any given contest or round.

The same people who picked Kansas to win it all or even Villanova to orchestrate another spectacular run to the Final Four are stunned and angry at the way things turned out.

Nobody predicted St. Mary's to survive Villanova. Nobody envisioned No. 3 seed New Mexico falling apart against undefined Washington, a team representing the Pac-10 conference like no other. Nobody pictured No. 4 seed Vanderbilt dropping dead to Murray State.

And nobody anticipated a hard-fought battle from Northern Iowa, an unheard-of school from the Missouri Valley Conference, sending Kansas away heartbroken and in tears.

That’s a sigh of relief for top-seeded Kentucky, Duke, and Syracuse.

Still, has anyone realized they are just as vulnerable to fall to a Cinderella?

Just thought it was worth a reminder.

The elements haven’t been viewed respectively in recent memory, as mostly every smaller school was disregarded for its unpopularity or athletes. Other teams are refining the principles of college basketball and earn much acknowledgment for eliminating and humiliating top-notch conferences or teams.

The perception in a sport with much obscurity has compelling scenes that aren’t seen often in the pros, even if the best team collapses.

Besides hearing about the prominent favorites, parity is recognized among any team that has reached the Sweet 16, which means a multitude of teams are considerable. Other than constant debates, March Madness is the one sporting event an average human being cannot discuss too heavily. Ninety percent of the time, individuals are wrong about which team advances to the final.

Meanwhile, what we do know, four teams are deserving of traveling to Indianapolis, the Hoosier State. For all we know, one of the No. 1 seeds could relapse in a week that dictates whether a team’s worthy of making the Final Four. Make no mistake, a number of athletes and bracket killers have awakened in recent weeks, understanding there’s much at stake and winning is ensured.

It’s not an awful suggestion to bet on an underdog team. There’s no reason to downplay a feel-good story or an epic Cinderella tale. Like everyone else, St. Mary’s, Northern Iowa, or Cornell is as just elite. What enables premier teams to keep their respect is the prior history and values of an athletic program.

But unfortunately, it takes away from the underdogs, forgetting the athleticism they possess. This March has defied the laws of captivation, but more than anything, the principle of sleepers. Sure, some of them didn’t play well during the regular season, but whoever has enough toughness, faith, and momentum normally lasts until the ending of an epic sporting event.

In fairness, as it stands in the West region, Syracuse has the nod. It’s the region with the fewest upsets, shattered hearts, and tears. With the Sweet 16 only a day away, there’s no Cinderella putting fear in the Orange. Four of the region's top six seeds are still alive, angling to reach the most noteworthy part of the tournament. Make your pick.

While No. 1 Syracuse is the favorite to survive a high-regarded region, there has been much debate as to whether or not someone else could cease the Orange’s hot run.

The truth is, there are other teams as capable as the Orange to earn the privilege to compete in the Final Four. Still, it’s hard to imagine when Syracuse has the components, despite the loss of senior center Arinze Onuaku to a right quadriceps injury. Even with the loss feeling like a momentum default, the Orange is overlooked and has tremendous talent.

Now that Wes Johnson is playing at such a high level, compiling 31 points and 14 rebounds against Gonzaga, he’s stout to replicate his finest results. Andy Rautins is also a key piece to their hot offense, scoring 24 points, and is one of the nation’s most talented shooters.

As it seems, the ‘Cuse are the most well-balanced team in the tourney.

Or has Tennessee increased their status as one of the threatening teams in the Sweet 16? Head coach Bruce Pearl has the Volunteers playing at their highest level, and no better timing than March. This time of year wins are critical, and the Vols responded in an 83-68 rout against Ohio, a program everyone believed in as a Cinderella. For now, we’ll have to wait and see before calling the Vols a Cinderella.

This, however, is a scary March, if not the scariest ever. The underdogs are Butler or Kansas State. There’s no surprise, if either team pulls off a win against their opponents.

No player is more impressive in the West Region than Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen, whose speed and outside shooting are dangerous, especially in the late minutes. In the second round, he managed to outscore BYU’s Jimmer Fredette in an up-tempo battle.

What’s surprising is Purdue remains alive, without their second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Robbie Hummel, who went down at the end of the regular season with an injury. It’s a good thing the Boilermakers have contributed to rise during critical situations. Without their star, Chris Kramer and E’Twaun Moore are playing more minutes and averaging more points in the absence of Hummel.

The Big Ten, a conference with its own television network and a conference with much basketball talent, has three schools playing in the Sweet 16. But there’s no team as brilliant as Ohio State, mainly because of the impressive season that Buckeyes sensation Evan Turner has produced.

He’s now considered a top prospect in the upcoming NBA draft, leading the Buckeyes with his amazing ability to influence pro scouts. Whatever happens, he’s as good as Kentucky’s John Wall and Georgia Tech’s Derrick Favors.

End of discussion.

Aside from debating the NBA’s best No. 1 pick overall, St. Mary’s embarrassed and pummeled Villanova badly. Just ask the Wildcats. I think they’ll tell you the Gaels are the next upsetting team.

Once again, Omar Samhan, who had 32 points in the win against Villanova, may humiliate someone else inside the paint. He may post up someone else and average high scores against someone else, and as a result, the Gaels may ride straight to the Elite Eight. That wouldn’t be a surprise.

If anything, the nation awaits this time of year. If there’s one way to describe March, it’s talking about the amazing upsets and sleepers stunning the world with their abilities to captivate us. If there’s another way to describe March, it’s St. Mary’s and Northern Iowa.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Calipari a Real Ambassador In Kentucky: Cease Additional Mockery

We know what happened, of course, in his prior coaching jobs. Critics ripped out the soul of a master at coaching kids at the college level. It’s a shame there was no bigger fraudulent coach maintaining a collegiate profession, dealing with adversity, and tattering images.

Critics perceived him as a fool, but he wasn’t much of a fool, even if he became the first coach in college basketball history to vacate two Final Four berths. People were too judgmental of Calipari, whose reputation abruptly disintegrated after he was blamed for improprieties of violating NCAA rules.

Blinded by his inability to run a spotless program in 1996 at Massachusetts, people were no longer able to see his abilities as a coach. They were instead furious and bashed a mentor and near-perfectionist because of his infamous scandals.

For all the haze that stained a legit program, he was labeled as the scapegoat, unaware of Marcus Camby receiving money from an agent. Shortly after, he fled the scene to accept an NBA coaching job with the New Jersey Nets, and was perceived as a criminal while investigations were still pending. And then, he was held liable again at Memphis, leaving behind a toxic spill that killed prestige among an elite program in college hoops.

Being under so much tension, it’s hard to imagine Calipari handling a situation so calmly. From a clear standpoint, there weren’t any infractions tagging his name, but in reality, there were infractions against him. In fairness, no one can accuse him or refer to him as a con artist. Yet there’s a notion rushing through our brains that he was a man of deceit, especially if he had known more specifics about Derrick Rose, the star point guard, who was formally ruled ineligible because someone else took his college entrance exam after he had failed three times.

How can any college coach be blamed for someone else’s blunders? Maybe because he wasn’t aware, allowing insidious nonsense to slide instead of plotting stricter guidelines and building a stronger bond with his student athletes. For all we know, Calipari may have told nothing but the truth, and really had no idea the athletes were lavished with gifts and cash to violate NCAA rules.

To be honest, you don’t have to like Calipari, you don’t have to believe him, but you must admit to yourself how great of a coaching resume he has established, based upon the ability to discipline and cultivate student athletes.

His tactics generated a unique coaching style in each of his coaching stints, and now have installed similar textures at Kentucky University, a demanding program that needed an ambassador to remove the fundamental flaws. Ever since his arrival, good results reshaped aspiration and converted the most dysfunctional program in college hoops back into the elite program.

Before his arrival, Kentucky was stuck in a calamity, a joke in college sports, stained with unpleasant chaos. Every Kentuckian should be shouting nowadays, admiring the voice of Calipari. Most coaches normally need two or three years to uplift the soul and intensity at a program, but not Calipari, only needing to make an imposing debut in his first regular season as Kentucky head coach.

In a program with deficits winning games or even surviving the NCAA Tournament, losing would be taken in as an enormous disappointment, unlike a year ago when a loss was expected to elevate misery. To state it simpler, Calipari is a savior in Kentucky. In fact, he’s the greatest coach guiding the Wildcats since Tubby Smith bailed out to accept a coaching job at Minnesota. While the Wildcats have proven themselves legit by annihilating every opponent, the hideous violations are stored in the back of our minds.

All the population cares about in Lexington are winning games, and advancing to the Final Four. No one is concerned about obsolete troubles, an issue that doesn’t even relate to what has transpired in Kentucky.

Each of his players have more respect for him, which means critics should have more respect as well. For now, one man revitalizing and changing the culture in a single season at a school with much mystique tells us more about Calipari’s commitment and brilliance. If there’s one coach worth respecting, it’s Calipari. Almost all of his accomplishments are legit, even though he was unfairly stripped in the wins column and called a cheater.


Whether he has a good or bad image in the game, he’s not a cheater. Better, he’s a great teacher of the game, applying kids with knowledge and self-confidence. Deemed a no good con artist with a big ego, we tend to forget he has the Wildcats on a title run. But clearly, he’s being viewed differently after recently casting a gloom over his previous school, Memphis.

In the midst of winning its first title since 1998, Calipari is the man in charge, the man getting burned for lingering infractions. If he takes the Wildcats to the Final Four, expect Ashley Judd to blow kisses at him, expect warm applause from trustees and expect him to get a raise in pay.

For all the anguish in the past, the last thing the Bluegrass State anticipates is a loss. Where basketball lords are a cultural semblance, Calipari is accepted as one of the elite coaches, liked for his ability to bring back a fallen program. In the future a sports dynasty makes sense, a perception that gives us every reason to believe Calipari is the accessible voice.

So instead, it seems fairer ridiculing his predecessor, Billy Gillispie, whose failures were embarrassing and diminished mystique. Not too many coaches can change inferior activity at three different schools, as did Calipari. So if there’s anybody despising him for his mistakes, it’s just crazy.

There has been dialogue about the ramifications of him committing similar slip ups in Lexington, but now there’s much more chatter about the Wildcats possibly winning the national title.

He brought immediate principles and charismatic structure, and retooled with some of the most talented players in the nation in DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall, two big-name stars with NBA abilities. At least Kentucky’s athletic program believes in Calipari, signing him to $35 million deal over eight years to become the highest-paid coach in collegiate sports.

After advancing to the Sweet 16, the Wildcats have a date with Cornell on Thursday. That’s an upset alert, no doubt. But no need to worry, the Cats will pull it off in a romping fashion, and are favored to destroy any team crossing their path.

In Lexington, expect the people to embrace Calipari and declare him as a hero. The Cats are legitimate, with a fantastic coach.

That is, Calipari.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Hometown Icon, Joe Mauer Is a Minnesota Twin for Life

He is, without much argument, the popular face in the state of Minnesota, quickly breaking out as the sporting icon within an atmosphere where he was born and raised before ripening as the greatest catcher in the majors.

Dating back to his childhood, Joe Mauer was covetous, immersing, and engaging in a sport that he idolized growing up as a Twins fan.

Certainly, in the midst of his endeavor, he dreamed to someday establish and engrave a place as a megastar in the game that he has admired dearly. And then, years later, a fairy tale turned into reality, now distinguished as a role model and a recognized star player.

Ever since the Minnesota Twins selected him with the No. 1 pick in the MLB's First-Year Player Draft, Mauer has been viewed as the feel-good story, a hometown hero within a rebuilding franchise. His loyalty and humble-minded psyche makes it easier for Minnesotans to accept and fall in love with the hometown native.

The state of Minnesota has seen him elevate in the coolest stages of his accomplished career, seeing much improvement each season and his batting numbers skyrocket. He’s on the level of advancing as the greatest player to ever wear a Twins uniform.

That goal came into clearer focus around dinner time on Sunday, as Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract extension with the Twins, disclosing to all citizens that he’s likely a Twin eternally.

That’s exactly what Mauer intended, to remain at home for the rest of his playing career, and continue to thrive as a terrific slugging catcher in the game. It doesn’t take a fool to realize that he’s here to stay until his kneecaps give out on him, or until his body wears down completely.

With all due respect to others, Mauer is the one player in baseball that is deserving of such a wealthy deal, believed to be the purist slugger in the game.

Honestly, everyone needs to grasp a clear assumption that he has avoided fraudulent juice, a crime tarnishing the beautiful aspects of the game and exalted careers. There’s no front office more willing and understanding of lavishing Mauer with an enormous deal, getting an idea that his presence is bolstering ticket sales and attendance ratings. He’s the one sporting figure whose popularity has transcended and amended inferiority for a town assuming its lifeless times have vanished.

Rarely does any player fulfill his lifelong wishes near his hometown, let alone doing so while earning a historic contract. There’s now evidence that the Twins believe in richer deals, unlike pay cuts, cheaper bargains, or discounts. Signing Mauer to the richest contract in baseball history ever given to a catcher proves the Twins will open the wallet for the right players.

Up to this point, Mauer has played well and made a name for himself, guiding the Twins to new heights and soothing anxiety among fans. What we know so far is that he’s the inspirational voice inside the clubhouse, a well-respected individual with upper body strength and shrewd discipline at the plate.

It’s not such a bad idea to fantasize that this may actually be Minnesota’s year to explode during a tight and aggressive pennant race. With the ultimate signing and revamping, the Twins can make a surge this season.

It’s obvious that Mauer is happier than before earning superstar bucks, the kind of cash a valuable player receives whenever his productivity has an impact not only in the RBI, OBP, or home run columns but the fan population as well.

With an atrocious crisis poisoning the game, including a deadbeat commissioner with marbles missing in his brain, baseball needs an honest ambassador. What’s fascinating and very unique about Mauer is that he’s baseball’s undeniable role model and town hero, exceeding all expectations as a spectacular hitter.

On the flip side, though...if he disappoints, which I highly doubt, big bucks are considered nothing more than a failure.

Until then, Mauer has made it clear with his imposing swings, base running, and defensive effort behind the plate that he’s a huge money-maker. Normally, the Twins hold back investing millions on a glimmering player. But this time the organization took a risk and renamed themselves the Yankees of the offseason after giving Mauer the biggest contract in Twins history.

Longer than usual, his agent, Ron Shapiro, realized how valuable his name is within a rising franchise. Longer than normal, Mauer realized that he means much to a community, ready to cheer on postseason ecstasy.

As one of the coolest, most popular athletes in baseball, he has amassed three batting titles, two Gold Gloves and a lone MVP award. And has handled it all with class and dignity, rising to a higher level and forges popularity.

With that slew of accomplishments, all he needs now is a World Series title to balance out an inexplicable pursuit. Really now, he foreshadows that positivity still exists in baseball, eclipsing the everlasting performance-enhancing drug busts and accepts deep applause from the public, believing there’s still aspiration left. Last November he became the fifth MVP in Twins history.

This is a franchise planning accordingly, appeasing fans by holding on to Mauer for the next eight seasons and building around him. Very fittingly, the Twins will start off on a fresh note, set to open their new ballpark in April.

It’s obviously "The House That Mauer Built." Once this new contract expires, Mauer will be 35 years old, barely standing on his wobbly knees if he remains at catcher throughout that time.

Then again, maybe he’ll be a veteran able to voice wisdom to a younger club, with enough strength to still belt long shots and start as a designated hitter. As of now, good health and strong performances are essential, or else a huge contract extension turns into a disappointment and financial waste.

Like anywhere else, Minnesota is proud to enjoy a good time at the ballpark, but these fans also come to marvel at arguably the cleanest and most charismatic player in the game.

Every time he appears at the plate, fans are fueled by Mauer's capabilities to lace line drives and change the dynamic of the game. For whatever reason, the baseball society ignored his intangibles and mechanics, but at home there’s not a day progressing without him receiving warmth receptions from a feverish crowd.

After all, he’s a hometown icon.

And he’s home for good.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kansas Jayhawks Shed Tears in Biggest Upset Ever

It was hard to envision a nightmare, a heartbreaking upset for a No. 1 seed, especially when it happened to be the second-round of March Madness.

There was a sense that this was Kansas’ year to win it all, reaching a usual pinnacle in college hoops. Needless to say, though, the Jayhawks were all so close to pulling off a considerable win over ninth-seeded Northern Iowa.

But apparently, Kansas wasn’t close enough, losing in what could go down as the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history. At a time when America counted on the Jayhawks, like the rest of us, President Obama’s bracket is now busted after predicting that Kansas was his favorites to win the national title.

Finally, Obama is imperfect at becoming the next sports genius. Ever since he was inaugurated into office, we’ve embraced his sporting enthusiasm, believing in his bold predictions.

But this time, he wasn’t nearly close. He’s not a minority, either, picking the most talented and deepest team in the nation as everyone else marked the Jayhawks to last at least until the Final Four.

But clearly, it appears all brackets are stained by mind-blowing upsets, in what has described a thrilling and mesmerizing month in sports.

This is the year No. 1 seeds seem to be in jeopardy, unsure of which team is capable reaching the Final Four.

Assuming this is the year that Cinderella teams emerge, it’s difficult ignoring the sleepers at a juncture when most at-large bids vanished from the Sweet 16 picture.

It’s fair to admit that Kansas has ruined brackets across the country, with the most stunning loss in school history.

For those keeping track, you’ve witnessed a multitude of upsets that have either happened in the first round or second round.

Within that span, we’ve had to shut or eyes witnessing the unthinkable, which has evidently, became the epicenter of the insane madness.

Of course, there’s no upset bigger than Northern Iowa, an unexpected team, surviving in a win over the powerhouses of the NCAA tourney.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to a team, favored to preserve a national title, a team with believable star power, brainwashing the nation to ignore any team the Jayhawks encountered during an assuring drive.

It’s almost surreal hearing that Kansas collapsed, taking an early departure and leaving behind unfinished business. So what happened?

Well, in an awkward position with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left, the Jayhawks trailed 59-54. Rarely did they have to come from behind this season, battling to survive a critical nail-biter.

In the final three minutes, Northern Iowa wasn’t under duress or fearful, but managed to stay composed and confident. The Panthers were aggressive and energized to take down the Jayhawks, careless in what the program embodied and weren’t startled to attack them early.

Although Kansas has a notable reputation of thrashing substandard teams, normally lasting until the Final Four, the Panthers weren’t nudged or affected by the media and populace worshiping the Jayhawks as an unbeatable team.

Ask Dickie V.

Yes baby, he forecasted that Kansas would ride to the Final Four.

Turns out, we were wrong.

Not even were the Jayhawks good enough to advance to the Sweet 16.

If Kansas was fortunate to have Ali Farokhmanesh on their roster, maybe it could’ve made a difference. With the ultimate performance of the great Ali knocking down a trio of three-pointers in the first-half, it symbolized surrealism in what felt like a movie rather than an actual contest.

Even center Jordan Eglseder made a pair of threes in the first half, a trait rarely seen considering he had made only one three-pointer all season.

But what matters greatly is that he was involved within a streaky offense that has been surprising lately, and tapered the Jayhawks’ usual game plan.

It was more than a disappointing loss, but a sad downfall. Once time expired and the buzzer sounded, Northern Iowa celebrated as if they were little kids, getting a slice of pizza at a birthday party.

That’s when reality kicked in realizing a win over the Jayhawks wasn’t surreal. On the other side, it showed how badly Kansas was longing to taste a victory, smelling a win entering what was anticipated to be a cakewalk.

Instead, the bench had reduced into tears, distraught and saddened by the results. Near the bench, no one felt more helpless than senior guard Sherron Collins, who walked to the bench slowly and shed into tears in front of coach Bill Self.

He wasn’t by himself.

The entire team was somber, unsure how to take in a loss. Marcus Morris, a sophomore forward, revealed his emotions differently, dropping to his knees, as well as his twin brother, Markieff Morris.

There’s nothing wrong with expressing emotions, especially following a shattering defeat. Later inside the locker room, the entire team cried loudly, battered, and hurt deeply.

Too emotional to show signs of tears, the Morris twins cried endlessly into towels. It’s also sad to mention that Tyshawn Taylor and Xavier Henry cried, too. All of them were loss of words, speechless and distraught bearing an awful loss.

I almost feel sorry for them, but even more so, I feel deeply sorry for Brady Morningstar, roughly taking it harder than the rest of his teammates.

The ninth-seeded Northern Iowa, a team from the Missouri Valley Conference wanted it more. Or maybe the Jayhawks took much for granted amid desperation, when underdogs are born and sends top-notch teams away crying.

Entering the game, Kansas was stronger and built for physical toughness, but Northern Iowa was quicker and much dominant.

As it unfolded, the Jayhawks underestimated the least expected team, a blunder top-seeded teams commits often while playing in a mystic tourney in which the personality transforms often as well.

It certainly has changed in the second-round, with Kansas failing to play consistently for 37 minutes and allowed the Panthers to find a shooting rhythm, hustle for loose balls at halfcourt and rebound. No way.

Doesn’t Kansas have players with muscular bodies and speed? Yes. But the Panthers were hungrier, smarter and survived a heavyweight round.

It was much too late for a wakeup call, perhaps the Jayhawks awakened too late.

Are The California Golden Bears The Next Shocking Scare In Tourney?

There’s no bigger infatuation in college hoops than a team ostensibly declared as a Cinderella.

If this is a point in the season when we truly find out what a team is made of, then we may have learned about the California Golden Bears, amazed with their miraculous blueprint of attempting the unprecedented.

With all due respect, it has no relation to a famous football team, but is related to the resurrection of a well-balanced basketball team, established within a noteworthy athletic program.

All sporting teams existing within an inferior conference or with lower seeds, greatly ventures beyond any mirages or flukes and derives respect after being ignored for instability in the past.

Before refuting the Golden Bears in the midst of an inconceivable survival, realize that this tenacious team won’t be an easy out. If people weren’t to deny the truth, before an expected moment written what is viewed as a make believe movie, there’s an indicator that the Golden Bears are just as perilous as Ohio, Cornell or Murray State.

What a shame that gamblers and bracketology overlooked a potential Cinderella, now wearing a glass slipper after making a strong case with a decisive win in the first-round Friday night.

For those curious to know how eighth-seeded California took a commanding lead in the early minutes and sent a credible message to all doubters, the Golden Bears are athletic and well-coached of narrating an astonishing story.

Despite a disappointing loss in the Pac-10 tournament, the program that originated in the Bay Area are good, maybe, great to some living in Northern California. If the Bears were utterly calm, instead of entering a rigid contest with the jitters, then it’s realistic to believe they could explode on Duke early, maybe?

That’s the common question and a fitting one, facing the hottest team arguably in the second-round of the NCAA tournament. Competition only gets stiffer, as it should for an undiscovered program that hasn’t been on such a perennial level.

For a long time, Cal’s basketball program suffocated by a popular powerhouse known as UCLA, a now-depleted roster that has faded out of contention.

For a long time, Cal’s basketball program was overshadowed by interstate rival Stanford.

For a long time, Cal’s basketball program couldn’t find its identity within a compelling basketball conference with brand name players.

But lately, all the brand name student-athletes are listed on Cal’s roster, sparking a scare within a cryptic South region.

There wasn’t a point during the game that things became dicey for the Golden Bears, managing to contain a comfortable margin with a 22-4 explosion at Veterans Memorial Arena. They were in control, refusing to allow a shaky Louisville team to find a groove or momentum as a way to taper California’s endless rhythm.

Basically, here is a cohesion core that has gelled and played together within a four year span, accustomed to each others’ styles and plays unselfishly. At the end of a 77-62 win, it was worth celebrating and rejoicing the sudden emergence after making a sage of a wise, crafty coach Mike Montgomery.

Something happened along the way that resembled much of Montgomery. A couple days ago during an interview, he reminisced about his lustrous coaching track record, but also was candid admitting it has been difficult building a proficient program.

“It was easy for me,” Montgomery said. “This is harder, he said, “other than maybe I have a little more experience on knowing what’s going to happen.”

He ended up leaving Stanford, where he guided the Cardinal to 16 NCAA postseason appearances and a lone trip to the 1998 Final Four, the first bid in 47 seasons. Here’s the pattern we are witnessing now: Montgomery molded his sophomores until they became seniors, a season the Cardinal finished 26-7 with upperclassman.

None of this was a comparison to an upstart in the NBA. In two seasons with the Golden State Warriors, he posted two identical 34-48 records during both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 campaigns, before it was announced that Montgomery was fired.

In the college game, history is repeating itself. Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson, and Patrick Christopher are three seniors, duplicating a habitual pattern. If anything, that is dominating and trying to win as seniors, something California will attempt in a tense tourney.

The Golden Bears transformed from a first-round letdown to a probable team wearing the glass slippery. Not all teams will last or advance to the Sweet 16. But in the meantime, if given the choice to pick one, I’d pick the Golden Bears.

The glass slippers were always silver, but now it may be a pair of Golden ones. Seemingly every March, there’s a team emerging from out of nowhere, stunning us all with their inspiration, hot shooting and brilliant defensive effort.

It’s surprising Cal wasn’t bothered by Louisville’s press and zone defense, composed at attacking the rim and shooting in their comfort zone. In a way, they’re impossible to beat when they shoot over 46 percent, a perfect 21-0 against opponents. Maybe the Bears can break down Duke, and send the first No. 1 seed home, possibly?

Right now, Randle and Robertson are playing their best basketball, and each scored 21points, while Christopher added 17. Each shot a combined 20 of 35 and made all eight three-pointers to unglue Louisville’s fundamentally sound defense.

Without starting forward Omondi Amoke because of a suspension, the Bears still have solidity and balance. More than anything, their calmness and assurance were components of avoiding a huge meltdown.

While the Cardinals went on a light scoring tear and forced four turnovers, Rick Pitino’s unit soared on a 12-0 run cutting the deficit to 30-24. All of this was a scare, but the Golden Bears quickly rebounded and scored the last five points of the half on Christopher’s pull-up 15-footer and Randle’s 37-footer at the buzzard.

It capped an exalted story, one of the conspicuous stories in the crazy month of March. Can this team accomplish the improbable? Any team is bound to upset.

All that said, the Bears now are favored.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cinderella Teams Defines Crazy Madness

Is it just me, or are most of our brackets busted after the craziness that happened in the early dog days of March Madness?

This is a month when we’re obsessed with the varieties of terminology, such as brackets, underdogs and upsets. This is a month when teams experience crestfallen defeats or blissful wins, expected to draw much attention or regards, simply for ignoring the chances of an underdog busting brackets in the early stages of the NCAA Tournament. By now, we should be used to the agony and euphoria that materializes in March, a month all basketball lords’ falls in love with embracing a tournament that creates a riddle.

Regardless of the miserable track records or light schedules during the regular-season, a team’s mentality proves different in March, and their momentum magnifies at a higher level.

Getting accustomed to the unthinkable and surprising upsets only intensifies the liveliness and loveliness within a mysterious sporting tournament. It doesn’t get any better than college hoops, a sporting postseason that takes in more regards.

For all the dramatic finishes, emerging underdogs and extraordinary finishes, we tend to cherish the uncertainty and magical sequences. Mind you, a few years ago, a small school no one ever really heard of broke out, wearing the glass slipper into the Final Four.

Is it worth taking a guess anyone? I’m speaking of George Mason.

Then two years ago, a little school from a little town in North Carolina emerged in the big dance. I’m talking about Davidson. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Western Kentucky drove deep in an appealing race, but unfortunately fell short of reaching the Final Four. As competition is expected to become more intense and fierce, my bracket is busted after a disappointing first-round.

I’ve never seen multiple at-large bids lose in the first-round, nor seen multiple underdogs excel. For now, the powerhouse of the most exciting tournament happens to be Murray State. Wait, Murray who? Yes, Murray State has emerged as a critical menace within a crazy postseason.

With the early-round winners, stunning the world and staining brackets, Cinderella arrived a bit early. Thursday night’s drama illustrated much about this year’s madness. Ohio University, a 14-seed defeated Georgetown by pulling off one of the biggest stunners on the night.

The final score was 97-83, a boring contest that forced many to blink their eyes in disbelief. More thrilling, perhaps were the Racers, earning a 13 seed in San Jose to take on a good Vanderbilt team. That doesn’t matter when a No. 4 seed is sent home after an unexpected team heaves the first buzzer-beater of the NCAA tournament.

With 4.2 seconds remaining in a nail-bitter, coach Billy Kennedy designed a play that magically worked in their favor. It was perfect timing for a team at one point in the season that was struggling mightily, a team that couldn’t find its balance and suffered shooting droughts during the regular-season. But now, the Racers are back in the win column, if you will. All due to a last-second play that was executed brilliantly.

Isaac Miles, a reliable star player, was expected to produce the unimaginable. Instead of taking the final shot however, he was unselfish and had confidence in Danero Thomas, who drained a 15-footer with a second remaining. All the players on Murray State’s bench danced and celebrated a meaningful win, overjoyed of pulling off the miraculous stunner as Vanderbilt stared in shock and despair.

The Hoyas glanced from the bench hopeless also, in a loss that will be remembered as the worst in the history of Georgetown basketball. When you really think about it, this wasn’t the most impressive first-round for a lacking Big East conference. The Hoyas were pummeled, Norte Dame faltered in a close, heartbreaking loss against Old Dominion that busted my damn bracket, and six-seeded Marquette was just as bad, losing to Washington, a program representing the undermined Pac-10 conference.

Although Villanova barely survived, more props go to the Wildcats after withstanding a scare and finishing off a duel on strong note, following a resemblance of a slow start a year ago. If there’s one powerhouse in the Big East, it must be Syracuse.

“No matter what happened before, when you get on the court, you have to play,” said Georgetown’s Greg Monroe. “And I think as far as our game, they were better today. We didn’t do the things we needed to win the game.”

Keep in mind, Monroe is still a top nominee for National Player of the Year. But there’s nothing like winning a tournament in a field of 64 teams. Any team prefers winning a national title over accepting individual accolades. Remember, the Hoyas weren’t supposed to fall early and were expected to last at least until the Sweet 16. Even though it’s surprising to see Georgetown depart after a shaky first-round, it’s not surprising to see why they suffered an early ouster.

The Hoyas failed to dominate at will, like during the regular-season beating No. 3 Syracuse and Duke. Sure, some may wonder if this was just a bad outing, meaning if they were to do it over, they probably would win. It’s funny how teams survived during the season, but stumble in a substantial contest.

Let’s believe in the Cinderella teams. There’s some optimism that Murray State, Old Dominion and Ohio can all advance to the Sweet 16. Each team is bracket killers, leaving a riddle behind in this year’s tournament. But at this point, solving a NCAA riddle is very complex among stiff competitiveness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Masters Looms Ever Closer, Tiger at Augusta Is Good for Game

Without needing to deliberate, we all know what happens, of course. Everyone is suddenly raving about the reemergence of Tiger Woods, and tries to jettison the infamous memories of his humiliating sex scandals. Months ago tabloids were ridiculing and blasting a man, who America proclaimed as the greatest sports figure.

From all parts of the world, he's perceived as the iconic golfer, the impeccable athlete fans become attached to, purchasing his name brand Gatorade, golf clubs and sportswear. But eventually, his credibility was sabotaged when the world learned that Woods was a sex-addict, committing a transgression against his wife, Elin. Because of his malicious nonsense and infidelity, Tiger forced the masses to take a peculiar outlook, after believing he was the greatest family man, teacher and role model on the planet.

Now he’s making a substantial return earlier than expected on the most prestigious surface. Expected to return to Augusta National, the Masters will become more than just a traditional site, relished for its conventional triumphs and beautiful scenery. Even if people wait for another breathtaking moment, the media circus waits in a refreshing atmosphere, too, longing to interrogate Tiger about a troubling episode and his tattered respectability. Months ago, news trucks and media personnel stationed near his gated community home and invaded his privacy, seeking further details to unwrap a vacuous saga.

Citizens may want to anticipate that reporters will invade Tiger’s space, while reporters pontificate and approach him with exhausting queries. All that said, his presence could hijack the tenor of the Masters, as Woods’ return will also expand television ratings and accumulate a mass audience. Needless to say, the Masters will earn the highest TV ratings in the history of golf, if not the highest ratings for a sports event. Where he has won four major championships and enjoyed his achievements as the greatest golfer, he finally faces reality and returns to his livelihood, no longer hiding from a society with mixed emotions.

“The Master is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect,” Woods said Tuesday. “After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel that I’m ready to start my season at Augusta. The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it has been a while since I last played.”

Well, there’s nothing wrong with Tiger wanting to come back, as long as he’s ready to compete at the highest level. It’s not what we want to see, of course. What we want to see is whether or not he’s mentally and physically able to set his mind to it and fulfill his passion by enduring interest in a strategic sport. It’s the one sport that requires focus, with limited disruptions and trouble. Amid a fragile marriage between him and Elin, we wonder as to whether paparazzi or even an impaired relationship would affect a watchful return. There’s no greater environment to start his resurrection than at Augusta National, where Woods established fame and glory as the world’s greatest icon and became a respectable role model.

Apparently, the Masters has brought Tiger good fortune, during the course of his 14 seasons. Besides any other golfer, Tiger is embraced for his notable influence on a pedestrian sport and is worshiped for turning the game into a momentous event, with his unparalleled deeds. He made a splash in the premature stages of his career, when he emerged as a promising golfer in 1995. Long before his late father’s death and before he married Elin, Tiger accepted eulogy for not only his ultimate perfection, but for his charitable effort and devotion to children in communities.

He will not earn back some citizens who were scorned from his poor judgment or riches and endorsements. But it’s always easy realizing no one can take away Tiger’s talent or overjoyed memories that he accumulated on the golf course. In better days to come, he’s still on pace to shatter Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major title, a milestone that will help Woods restore his reputation and popularity. But more importantly, he’d convey the way disgruntled people perceive him as an individual. Beyond all, the Masters is only three weeks away, which means Tiger is three weeks away from teeing off since the perplexing car accident in front of his home and the malicious sex scandal.

Living in a forgiving country, half of the population is removing the pathetic images. Nobody in their right state of mind is reflecting back to when one of his mistresses sold a text message for six figures to the U.S. Weekly, revealing that he had an affair with her at least more than 30 times. Nobody is thinking back to when he slammed into a fire hydrant and neighbor’s tree and emerged from the SUV barefooted and with lacerations to his lips in the wee hours of Thanksgiving weekend. Anybody with good sense is glad to move forward, pleased, surprised or heedless of his sudden comeback.

Even though he cheated on his wife, let down thousands, and spoke publicly in a laughable and BS speech, Tiger is just as exposed to human error, as are the rest of us. Fine, whenever you commit to vows, but break trust within your wife and place unpleasant tension on your children, you are considered a worthless S.O.B. At least that’s how we should feel, hearing the most trustworthy sporting icon make front-page headlines in the tabloids for marital affairs.

Clearly, there’s no golfer holding any grudges. Each golfer has spoken pleasantly of Tiger’s mistake and recent return to the golf course, which will have a major impact at this year’s Masters. Rory Sabbatini, who has become Woods archenemy and agitator, had nice words, telling the USA Today, “We all know you don’t just have a talent like that and it disappears. It’s going to be there, it’s going to return. He’s going to be playing well.”

For those worried about his legacy, all Tiger needs is a win.

“He will be embraced by the players,” said the legendary Ernie Els. “We need him out here. The sport of golf needs him. He’s the top draw in sports and he’ll help the game.”

Tiger will indeed bolster the game’s image, especially with a win at the Masters. In all likelihood, he’s favored to win it all before golfers tee off in the early days of April, a month scattered showers falls, a month flowers bloom, and a month people await Woods. But this time the world will actually watch, knowing his status. This time, Tiger aims to win five titles at the Masters. This time, all eyes are on him.

“I think Woods return will be the biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports.

Maybe there’s a possibility that this sporting event earns a higher television rating than the Super Bowl or the hit show in the early-'80s M-A-S-H.

Keep in mind, Woods hasn’t won at Augusta since 2005. Aside from his travails at the Masters, he finished the entire 2009 season without winning a major title after returning from a nine-month intermission of rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery. Still, his year was pretty solid a year ago, winning six of 17 events on the PGA Tour, but faltered in the Masters. It may just be the year Tiger recovers, and dominates at will, zealous to compete at such an all-time high amid his prime.

Fitting for his fifth green jacket wouldn’t be such a letdown, but a way to find his groove and aplomb at 34.

Whether you wish to call it a redemptive moment or a renaissance stage for Eldrick Woods, he’s back to fascinate and disrupt. He’s back to hijack and intrigue. Either way, he’s back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Don't Discount Duke: Blue Devils Experiencing a Rebirth Entering NCAA Tourney

They can win it all, steal the spotlight in the NCAA tourney, and shimmer as the traditional team in college hoops reliving a proverbial convention.

Such is the rebirth of the Duke Blue Devils, a prominent program that is used to prevailing in March and sparking a dynasty, perhaps the most distinguished dynasty in all of sports.

Every now and then, Duke is viewed as an inferior team. But rarely are the Blue Devils downgraded, a demanding program vowing success and reverence each season. If there’s a down season, it’s a damned shame to an athletic program expecting to clinch a No. 1 seed and advance to the Final Four.

With all the ignominy in recent memory, which delayed euphoria, Duke wasn’t the hottest team entering the tournament, nor the most talented. What’s seen at this point is a Duke rebirth, turning into a ravishing nuisance as a No. 1 seed in the toughest region.

The good news is the Blue Devils are playing their best basketball in a long time. But the bad news is they’ll have to confront gritty bouts within a neutral site by staying composed and elevating their mojo.

For all the endless debates about Duke receiving the third overall No. 1 seed, most failed to realize that the Blue Devils are vulnerable of suffering a disheartening exit. It’s appealing to see whether Duke is the team to be reckoned with in the competitive, tight, and tense South Regional.

Winners of four consecutive games, including 12 of their last 13 games after a troubling January, the Blue Devils are favored to survive a significant fight. Therefore, a loss would come as no surprise, especially when probably facing two Big East powerhouses.

Being in a weaker ACC conference, where Duke struggled on the road, they haven’t really matched up against tougher teams from the Big East, arguably the stoutest conference in college hoops.

Meanwhile, their ripple effect is the difference of late, persuading the people of Durham, North Carolina to take pleasure in the thrilling return to prestige. The renewal of Duke is a symbol of good fortune after winning its conference title and pummeling in-state rival North Carolina, who missed the tournament, to take over bragging rights.

Turns out Duke is the feel-good story finding new life on Tobacco Road, a beginning to a usual dynasty, if the Blue Devils advance through all the obstacles expected to create anguish.

Admittedly, they also have a great coach conducting the most prestigious program in college sports. The brilliancy of much-respected and winningest coach Mike Krzyzewski has kept an admirable athletic program intact, even though a rebuilding stage placed a stranglehold on and perturbed an entire population devoted to basketball.

Other than grooming and influencing talented players to commit, he has earned much of his credibility after installing a defense-oriented style and a winning personality. That said, much of the players are comfortable playing within his coaching system, taught to implement unselfishness and teamwork.

If there’s one team being overexposed and anointed roughly in the field of 64 teams, it’s not Duke, the hottest team excelling at perfect timing. As a team the Blue Devils aren’t worth ignoring, led by the highest-scoring trio in the nation.

If you’ve paid close attention, you’ve seen senior guard Jon Scheyer fire scorching shots. You’ve seen Nolan Smith fly to the line and create ideal ball movement. You’ve seen Kyle Singler have the best season of his collegiate career. You’ve also seen the emergence and tallness of Miles and Mason Plumlee disrupt opposing teams' interior games.

After winning for a decade, it’s again a glance at familiarity in which Duke has an almighty origin, established to capture an immediate objective the next three weeks.

More startling than themselves are Villanova, Duke’s biggest threat during a magical surge, as well as the Louisville Cardinals. That’s hard to predict when the Wildcats are erratic, but they rode an 11-game winning streak earlier in the season. If Duke were to meet Louisville in the second round, it’s understandable the contest would generate hype as Coach K meets Rick Pitino, the hippest coach around.

Lots of people think this is Duke’s year. Certainly, the team mascot assumes the same wearing tape on his forehead that reads, “WE’RE BAAACCK!”

Maybe there’s some truth to that.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mystique, Tradition, Mayhem: This March Has The Makings of Epic Madness

Everyone has waited for all the mayhem, which is looming closer titillating all basketball devotees to fill out brackets, keep their eyes clued to the television and unite together in a tight room rooting on their alumni or college team. One team will survive within a tournament of 64 teams, of course, seeking to bust someone’s bracket and emerge as the next Cinderella team.

Each year, a fascinating twist creates an epic tale, forcing everyone to watch a breathtaking ending to a magical story, navigated by a sleeper or an underdog that was least expected to make a convincing surge.

What we love about March Madness is the unpredictable reactions, a mesmerizing scene and electrifying finishes. This hasn’t been the most brilliant season, seeing the likes of UCLA, Indiana, UConn, and North Carolina miss the tournament. It’s a rarity, whenever a program is known for its mystique and tradition, but misses the tournament.

Either way, that is, I’ll utter the words of Dickie V. “Yeah, Baby!”

The greatest tourney in all sports is amid a dramatic countdown, awing all people across the nation to fill out elusive brackets and join pools at work.

Whether their bosses scold them near the water cooler or even at their desk for wasting much time in front of the computer curious of which team pulls off the upset or which No. 1 seed survives a decisive contest, March Madness is an extravaganza and one sporting tournament, hijacking our consciousness until the Final Four takes place in early April.

This year, the emergence of Kentucky’s John Wall and Evan Turner musters attention, both recognized as a feel-good story within two programs that were mired in disarray a year ago for underachieving. Its entire mystique was ruined, based on the failures at two schools recognized greatly for basketball and dominating the tourney in March.

But nowadays, it seems the Two K’s repossess top-seeds, returning to normalcy and balancing a ritual the Bluegrass State and the Sunflower State are accustomed to embracing. However, you cannot please all teams.

In fairness, some teams deserved a shot at contending in the biggest dance, but the committee tried handling a difficult task responsibly. There weren’t signs of favoritism, I hope. Or were there indications of giving the teams with values and tradition, a better seeding?

Duke was rated a spot higher than Syracuse when the No. 1 seeds were unveiled. To me, the Orange played in a tougher Big East conference, to whereas the Blue Devils struggled to pull off must-needed victories on the road in an undermined ACC conference.

Another argument worth screaming about is West Virginia, the Big East tournament champs, claiming a No. 2 seed, undervalued by Syracuse and the devastating injury of senior center Arinze Onuaku. The section committee chairman Dan Guerrero is catching heat, after disregarding acceptable schools such as Mississippi State and Virginia Tech.

The final six teams selected in the field of 64 teams, such as UTEP, Minnesota, and Missouri were lucky based on how well they played in their conference tournament. If so, why Mississippi State never earned a bid?

Very interesting!

Aside from all the pontificating and debating on which team should’ve earned a berth to the big dance, even greater, the Madness will be tense and thrilling. In what is set to be an epic theater, we embrace a shining moment wondering which team is this year’s George Mason, Western Kentucky, or Davidson. Rarely ever is March disappointing, but becomes the month of fools, perhaps, early then April.

None of this is overexposure, but a moment for us to relish sports in a different way as teams defy the odds. It’s certainly more enthralling the NBA, a league that has become dull over the years, with its usual format.

The best-of-seven format doesn’t implement enough suspense and thrills, as the NCAA tourney. Each year, you never know what is bound to happen within an erratic sporting event that incites a large debate and bracketologists to intermingle with the biggest showdown in college sports.

If tournament week was any indictor, we’ll predict New Mexico is a sleeper out of the Mountain West conference. How about Cornell, a team from the Ivy Leauge?

Quite fittingly, the glass slipper may actually fit on the feet of a team that has buried more three-pointers than any other team in the field of 65. Settling for an average of 9.8 per game, Cornell is a dangerous out, regardless of facing Temple, an unselfish and deepest team in the Atlantic 10 conference.

The Owls are capable of slowing down Cornell’s three-point game, and taking them out of their comfort zone. But take a closer look at Houston and Siena, too. If there’s one Cinderella team in the tournament, Siena has a chance to ruin brackets.

You’ve been warned, pick the Saints to advance pass an ailing Purdue in the first-round. By losing star player Robbie Hummel to season-ending knee injury, the Boilermakers weren’t nearly as powerful in the Big Ten tournament.

Each year, there’s a new personality in the tournament and the field of 64 teams. This year, the menaces are all the No. 1 seeds, craving and coveted to reach the biggest stage at Indianapolis. Reminder to all folks filling out a bracket, Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke are tenacious and vigorous in advancing to the Final Four.

Let’s give our thumbs up to committee for granting the Jayhawks a No. 1 seed. With the exception of Bill Self, point guard Sherron Collins, center Cole Aldrich, shooting guard Xavier Henry and twins Marcus and Markieff Morris, you could be starring at the bottomless team in the nation, a team destined of the Final Four.

In conversions to break out amid the tourney, are Georgetown and Maryland, courtesy of the National Player of the Year nominees in Hoyas’ center Greg Monroe and Terrapins’ guard Grevis Vasquez, both experienced star players with tremendous talent.

It’s tough to call, having the powerhouses of the SEC in the mix. The Kentucky Wildcats are groomed and cultivated by the cleverness of John Calipari. Based on his history, he has prepared his teams for big games.

So rather the Wildcats are too young and inexperienced, his coaching method may strengthen and encourage Wall and DeMarcus Cousins of uplifting their performance. As we know, Wall is lightening quick and Cousins takes advantage inside the interior with his muscular body and wingspan to collect boards and tip in a shot before the end of regulation expires.

Is it a new dynasty for Duke? Seems Mike Krzyzewski has the Blue Devils on the right track. But in what seems to be the most vulnerable team in the South region, the boys from North Carolina are the hottest team near Tobacco Road winning four straight games and 11 their last 12 games.

It’s an understatement ignoring the Blue Devils, with the highest scoring trio in the nation. Guards Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith and forward Kyle Singler are the difference in Duke’s ideal winning streak.

Meanwhile, facing Louisville and Villanova later down the road, could spell trouble.

What has the makings for the best storyline early in the sporting year, March Madness has the makings for the greatest epic classics in sports.

We’ll certainly watch.