*Leave it to the Evil Empire to stir up the first bit of contract controversy in the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season. Not a single pitch has even been thrown in Spring training, and already the Yankees have a problem with their stud closer, Mariano Rivera. This week, upset that he has yet to be offered a contract extension, Rivera said that if one doesn't get done before the season, the Yanks won't have any advantage in obtaining him through free agency at season's end. Now, as a Red Sox fan, this is music to my ears. I mean who wouldn't want the best closer in baseball history out of their division, let alone out of your main rivals bullpen. If I were Georgie and the Yanks, I wouldn't mess around with this one. What, you're afraid to waste a little cake on a guy that might be on the down turn in his career? Eh, just throw it on the pile with the other $200+ mil your already set to drop.
*And on another "leave it to MLB" note, it's only been two days, and I'm already sick of the 24/7 Dasiuke Matsuzaka coverage. Sure, I'm just as excited as the next guy to see what this kid can do on the diamond, but it's getting ridiculous faster than the battle for Anna Nicole's Trim Spa'd corpse. Too soon for a crack like that? Well, my bad. But I think it rings true. And it's not helping the cause that the Dais Man's translator seems to have gone to the Bill Belichick school of answering reporters. No matter how long his responses seem to be, all the answers come out sounding like Stephen Hawking's answering machine. "I like baseball" "Baseball is what I play". How about this. We just let the guy play, and stop handing out press passes to every Pokemon peddler from the Tokyo times. 200 media members are already at Fort Myers and players don't report for 3 more days! The last thing I want is for this guy to be a distraction to his teammates. I know they are media crazy in Japan, and that everything they do can somehow be controlled be their cell phones (except for sex, but I hear they Sony is fast at work on the "Me Love You Long Time" flip phone), but I don't think even they need information regarding each step the guy takes during Spring training. Ease up boys and let the man do his thing. If he starts to blow, then I say let him have it. Until then, keep your distance, or I'll have some ninjas on the next boat to Fort Myers. Konichiwa bitches!
*While I have never really been a fan of the actual game when it comes to NBA All-Star weekend, I have religiously watched the dunk contest ever since I can remember. However, unless the contest improves this year, I may even stop watching that. Not only has the quality of dunks seemed to go down in the last 4-5 years, but it's starting to turn into an afterthought and a freak show. Anyone who watched last year knows that Andre Iguodala got robbed because people like watching midgets dunk, and I don't see this year being any different. 5-9 "Nasty Naked" Nate Robinson is back to defend his title, and honestly, I don't see how he could lose. He won last year basically because he was small, and he can jump. Well, he hasn't grown, and last time I checked he could still jump, so where's the suspense. Iguodala even pulled off a dunk (throwing the ball off the back of the backboard and reversing it) that I'd never seen, which is rare, and still didn't win! So what's it gonna take this year, Gerald Green jumping over the backboard? Or maybe Tyrus Thomas dunking a ball that's actually on fire? It's a joke. But, I will still watch, at least for one more year. But if Dwight Howard, Tyrus Thomas or Gerald Green can't make me stand up and give one of those And1 "oh snap" moments where you start shoving all your boys in the room, then I may just call it quits. Somebody needs to step up and make the prize money worthwhile for all the big names to compete, then maybe the event can be restored to it's glory. Anything short of that just ain't gonna git er done. Also, I'd like to officially throw my support behind the City if Sin in their efforts to land an NBA franchise. NBA ballers are gonna get with hookers and gamble anyway, so why not just make it so they don't have to drive as far to do so? We all know these guys tend to get in trouble when they have to drive anywhere. I know Stephen Jackson is feelin' me. Wait, I got it. How about the Las Vegas Bengals? Just throwing it out there.
*Now I know earlier in the week I took a run at Tiki "When am I finally going to come out of the closet?" Barber, but it seems he felt the need to give me even more ammo to fire his way. Barber came out earlier this week and vented about how Giants coach Tom Coughlin's rough practices helped convince him it was time to retire. If I may echo the thoughts of University of Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins, "It ain't intramurals!" (that rant may not have been up to Denny Green's lofty standards, but it's quickly becoming a classic in my book) Simply put, grow a set Tiki. Your out of the league now, no need to whack guys on your way out the door. Although we all know you'd love to be whackin' some guys now don't we?
College Hoops Top 10
1. Florida (24-2) 2
2. Kansas (22-4) 3
3. North Carolina (22-4) 1
4. Wisconsin (25-2) 4
5. Ohio St. (23-3) 5
6. Memphis (22-3) 7
7. Georgetown (19-5) 8
8. Nevada (23-2) 9
9. UCLA (22-3) 10
10. Texas A&M (21-4) 6
just missed: Southern Illinois, Pittsburgh, Washington St., Butler
Big Games This Week (Bracket Buster Games)
Winthrop @ Missouri St. - The first of the Bracket Buster match ups pits #1 squad in the Big South against the 3rd best from the Missouri Valley. Winthrop may be 12-0 in conference (22-4 overall), but with an RPI of 83 and the 286th toughest schedule in the land, they need a big win bad. If they fall in this one, anything short of getting the Big South's automatic bid will prolly leave them in the NIT. Really a shame too. They're probably one of the most talented teams to avoid being on TV all year, led by feisty guards Torrel Martin (14 pts 5 rebs) and Michael Jenkins (16 pts 4 rebs). Little inconsistent though. Lost @ UNC and Wisconsin by a total of 10 combine, but lost @ Maryland and A&M by a combine 31.
Southern Illinois @ Butler - Best two "Mid Major" teams in the country. Winner probably has the inside track to a #4 seed or better come tourney time. Gotta love the Salukis in this one though. Butler is mainly a perimeter scoring team, and that never bodes well against arguably the best defensive team in the nation.
Georgetown @ Villanova (in Philly) - Villanova has been a real mystery this season. One game they look like a team that could make a decent tourney run, the next they look mediocre at best. And it's not like they're losing either, they just aren't looking that great. If you ask me, and most people do, they look like a team on the cusp, a la Kentucky. They beat everyone they should, but can't seem to elevate their game to beat the big boys. Here's there chance to make a statement to the selection committee. Won't be easy though against a Hoya team riding an 8 game winning streak and looking for their 10th Big East win.
UCLA @ Arizona - It's important that UCLA right the ship after that loss to West Virginia last week. Plus, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if Arizona was knocked out of the top 25 again. I mean really, how long can an 8-5 Pac 10 team with one marquee win (@ home vs Memphis 2 months ago) stay in the conversation as a prominent team? I know I'm a Zona hater, but for once I'm thinkin' I have a pretty good case.
UNC @ Boston College - In case you were wondering why people haven't been making more noise about a Boston College team that leads the ACC (18-7, 9-3), chew on this. Their only impressive wins in conference are at home against Virginia and Virginia Tech. Let's see how they do down the stretch. They've already dropped 2 to the Blue/White Devils, and now they finish up with the Hells, Hokies, Yellow Jackets and Clemson. Who's ready for the fastest fall from grace in the Northeast since Bill Buckner? OK maybe that's a little harsh.
Kentucky @ Alabama - It may not look it, but this game will go a long way in deciding how my bracket shapes up in March. Bama has played classic underachiever all season long (including blowing an 18 point lead to Florida the other night), and Kentucky has been a classic FRAUD. Should the Cats prove me wrong, I might have to rethink how I view the SEC.
Memphis @ Gonzaga - I'll be honest. I just wanted to preview a Gonzaga game so I could use the phrase "psychedelic mushrooms". Hey when one of your stars gets caught with buds and booms, it's news. Besides, it gives a whole new meaning to the words "road trip" doesn't it? And in an unrelated story, Nate Newton has recently moved to Spokane, Washington.
Holy Cross @ Hofstra - Holy Cross didn't pass their recent test @ Bucknell, and I don't expect them to pass this one either. Simply put, they aren't that good, and even with a win against the Pride (it was so much cooler when they were the Flying Dutchmen wasn't it?) anything short of the Patriot League title with send them to the NIT. Hofstra's been swimmin' up stream too. Despite having the back court of Loren Stokes (21.4 pts 5.8 rebs) and Antoine Agudio (20 pts 4 rebs) lighting it up night after night, they are only 3-3 in their last 6 and 3rd in the Colonial Conference. To quote Dana Carvey as H. Ross Perot, "Not gonna do it!".
Appalachian St. @ Wichita St. - Losing @ Drake on Valentine's Day probably dashed the last hopes Wichita St. had for an at-large bid, but let's not bury them quite yet. After this match up with Southern Conference leading Appalachian St. Mountaineers (pronounced App-ul-atch-in), they still have big win opportunities against in conference tourney locks Missouri St. and Creighton. If the Shockers can stay at .500 in the MVC (currently 8-8) and make a decent run in the conference tourney, they could be back in business. As for the Mountaineers, when your biggest win is @ Virginia, you best be winning your automatic bid, so this game is more just for show.
Bradley @ Virginia Commonwealth - Bradley is another Missouri Valley team in need of a strong finish to secure a tourney bid. While in a slightly better situation than Wichita St. at 9-7 in conference, they can use all the big wins they can get too. Much like Appalachian St., VCU just needs to focus on holding it down in conference. They seem to have the regular season title in hand, but with awful computer numbers (#45 RPI, #128 strength of schedule) and no marquee wins, they too will need their automatic bid for any shot at dancing.
Drexel @ Creighton - Despite being 4th in the Colonial, Drexel could make a strong case with a win against the Blue Jays. They have a slew of quality wins (@ Syracuse, @ Villanova, vs George Mason), but also a number of head scratchers (@ Penn, @ Rider, @ William & Mary). Creighton is already in, but the Drexel Dragons could start to make some real Cinderella noise with a win here and a nice run to at least the Colonial title game. Stay tuned.
UCONN @ Syracuse - People often think I hate on the Orange, but I'm just a realist. And the reality is, if they can't win this game, then they don't deserve to be in the mix for an at-large bid. A win here would give them 20 wins and guarantee an above .500 Big East record. I know they have some ugly losses, but if that's not enough for a bid these days, then I'm not sure I know what it takes. Oh yea and UCONN is beat. Guess that's what happens when you steal laptops. Punks!
Villanova @ Marquette - One thing about playing in a power conference like the Big East is that you're never short of chances to get big wins. That's the plus side. The down side is, well, it's tough to get wins. Marquette needs to rebound after dropping back to back games against Georgetown and Depaul (gulp), and should they drop #3 in a row to Louisville, you gotta start thinkin' they are fraudulent at best.
Kansas @ Kansas St. - Sure, the Jayhawks smacked K-State by 27 just a week ago, but this one is in Manhattan (that's Manhattan, Kansas for all the geographically challenged). Their computer profile is bad for a major conference team (RPI #52 SOS #98) and their only key win is against USC, so they need this one bad. But this is a classic example of how one big win could throw them right back on the bubble. Then again, Kansas is again in the drivers in the Big XII, and don't expect them to exactly hand the reigns back over to A&M without a fight.
West Virginia @ Providence - Clock is ticking for the Providence Friars. They've been real solid this year and have probably overachieved a little, but without a few big wins down the stretch it's not gonna be enough. PC has been another example of a team that usually wins when it should, but just doesn't have what it takes to win those big games (see single digit losses @ Pitt, @ Marquette and @ Notre Dame). A win in either of those would probably have the Friars closer to the bubble.
Texas Tech @ Texas - You know it's getting good in the Big XII when Bob Knight is getting reprimanded for comments he made about the officiating after their loss against OK St. As if this match up of in state rivals jockeying for conference position needed anything to spice it up. Oh and did I mention Bob Knight is in a pissy mood? (PS - Kevin Durant is a pimp on a mission...mission: stay in school one more year to avoid playing for the Celtics. Sounds like a good mission to me!)
Missouri St. @ Wichita St. - It's the Val baby! Go ahead, throw up the Shocker!
Boston College @ Virginia Tech - The Virginia Tech Hokies have been the picture of up and down this season. They are 18-7 (8-3 in the ACC), and in the top 25, but their resume is shady at best. They've beaten Duke once and UNC twice, but also have losses @ Western Michigan, @ George Washington and @ Marshall. I mean, maybe they just don't travel well, but that's not exactly a good sign come tourney time is it? Add to that they're recent 21 point loss to the Eagles in Chestnut Hill 2 weeks ago, and it makes this game about as tough as any to pick a winner.
Texas A&M @ Oklahoma St. - As much as I love me some OK St., things are going downhill in Stillwater faster than Eddie Sutton pounds Jack Daniels. Remember when these Cowboys were flirting with the top 10? Well, now they've dropped to 5-5 in the Big XII, and are fresh off a 19 point shalacking at the hands of the Texas Longhorns. If they can hold court against Mizzou on 2/17, then this game will be a chance for them to gain so momentum back before the conference tourney.
Florida St. @ Maryland - Loser has their bubble officially burst in the ACC. You heard me Frosco. I don't care if FSU beat Florida, or even the Globetrotters for that matter. If they can't start winning on the road, they will be receiving a bus ticket to MSG in a few weeks. And yes, in case you wondering, that's Frosco on the right there fresh off his visit to the John Amaechi 3D Experience in Provincetown.
Washington St. @ Oregon - I'm not sure how they've managed to do it, but the Washington St. Cougars have managed to stay off the National radar all season long. Even now, as they climb towards the top 10, most people still have no idea who these guys are. They may not score a lot of points (another one of those squads where the leading scorer, G Derrick Low, is below 15 pts per game) but they play great defense. Tony Bennett (not the old singer), the son of former Wisconsin and Wash St coach Dick Bennett, has continued his dad's repuation for stingy teams. A win in Eugene agains the Ducks will affirm that this Cougar squad, along with UCLA, are the cream of the weak Pac 10 crop. But don't get it twisted, those two teams are actually legit, no matter how overrated the rest of their league may be.
Duke @ Clemson - The two biggest FRAUDs in the ACC battle it out for the title of "Who is the Bigger Phony". Loser takes all. And oh yea, Josh McRoberts is still gay, and if he wants to fight me he knows where to find me (shhhhh no he doesn't). Seriously though, how long ago does it seem that the 19-6 Tigers were 18-0? Answer: A long time
And as one final note, I'd like to inform all my loyal readers that my good friend Michael Patent (AKA Mikey P, Miguel Pejada, Sanjay Kumar and Tyrone Washington) has returned to society. Not only that, but he's decided to pay me a visit next weekend. And when he returns to society, the kid comes back better than Jay Z. He's scored some choice seats to the Cuse/Providence game and some comped meals to boot! Allow me to officially welcome you back Sanjay, you have been sorely missed.