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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Henderson & Artest Take Their Best Shots

Leave it to the UNC/Duke rivalry to take all the attention away from Championship Week, and steer it towards a fore arm shiver. In case you missed it, what I'm talking about is the intentional foul Duke's Gerald Henderson laid on UNC's Tyler Hansbrough with 15 seconds left in UNC's 86-72 romp of the Blue Devils. Hansbrough promptly went to the floor, and his nose exploded with blood. Henderson was ejected from the game, and suspended one more, as is the policy with intentional fouls. No comes the fun part. Duke head man coach K and CBS commentator Bill Packer both feel the foul wasn't intentional, but merely flagrant at best. Hell, Packer went as far as to call out the officials for making a big deal out of nothing. Well, sorry Billy, but your obviously blind. Here's my take on it. UNC head coach Roy Williams should have already taken his starters out of the game. I don't wanna hear how there was a guy at the scorer's table ready to sub in for Hansbrough. They were already up 10, he should have already been out of the game. Next, it's all about intent. Did Henderson intend to break Hansbrough's nose? Unless he's an idiot, yes, yes he did. Now did he leave the ground thinking "I want to break Tyler's nose!", no. But, did he leave the ground saying "I'm gonna nail this mother", yes. And like I said, unless he's an idiot, he has to know that hitting someone in the face with an open fist fore arm shiver could result in injury. Plus, if you take a look at the video at the bottom of the page, you clearly see Henderson's thinking process change as the play develops. He probably went up with the intention of blocking the shot, but, well, you judge for yourself when you see the clip. All that being said, I'm still good with the ejection and 1 game suspension, it's just too bad the event has distracted us from what really matters, Championship Week! And what a week it's been. It started with Kevin Durant turning his ankle in the game against Kansas, but returning to almost lead the Longhorns to the huge upset anyway. So far, though, the news in the mid major conference tourney's has been real good for major conference teams on the bubble. Creighton, Gonzaga, Winthrop, Davidson and Virginia Commonwealth did a lot of teams a favor by winning their conference tourney's. Those are the squads that had good enough resumes to make a strong push for an at-large bid if they didn't win, but have now basically created extra spots for the big boys to gobble up come selection Sunday. There's still a lot of bullets to dodge in tourney's like the Atalntic 10 and Conference USA, but so far so good. In the meantime, tomorrow (my birthday by the way, please keep the applause to a minimum) is the big kickoff for most major conference tournaments. That's where the real fun begins. Can't wait! In the meantime, here's the next to last top 10 poll of the season. Seems to be the rest of the country is catching up with me on the Kansas bandwagon, as they've risen to #2 in the national polls, but if anything, that'll cause me to drop them in my poll. I hate following popular opinion dammit!

College Hoops Top 10
1. Kansas (27-4) 1
2. Florida (26-5) 4
3. UCLA (26-4) 2
4. Ohio St. (27-3) 3
5. North Carolina (25-6) 5
6. Texas (22-8) 8
7. Georgetown (23-6) 6
8. Nevada (27-3) 10
9. Memphis (27-3) 7
10. Southern Illinois (27-6) 9

just missed: Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Washington St., Maryland, Louisville
dropped: none

Teams Already In Tourney
Pennsylvania (Ivy League)
Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
Creighton (Missouri Valley)
Winthrop (Big South)
Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial)
Niagara (Metro Atlantic)
Eastern Kentucky (Ohio Valley)
Davidson (Southern)
Gonzaga (West Coast)

Conference Tourneys
Atlantic Coast (6th-11th)
America East (10th)
Atlantic 10 (7th - 10th)
Big XII (8th - 11th)
Big East (7th - 10th)
Big Sky (6th - 7th)
Big 10 (8th - 11th)
Big West (7th - 10th)
Conference USA (7th - 10th)
Horizon (6th)
Mid American (7th - 10th)
Mid Eastern (6th - 10th)
Mid Continent (6th)
Mountain West (8th - 10th)
North Eastern (7th)
Pacific 10 (7th - 10th)
Patriot (9th)
South Eastern (8th - 11th)
Southland (8th, 9th, 11th)
Sun Belt (6th)
South Western (7th - 10th)
Western (8th - 10th)

NFL Free Agency News
*Let's hear it for the New England Patriots! Wooooooooooo!! If ever we needed a reminder as to why the Pats were the best franchise in pro football, we got several this past week. Just when the entire league has New England pegged as a frugal team unwilling to splurge on free agents, they go ahead and land the prize of the free agent class, former Baltimore Ravens LB Adalius Thomas. Thomas, who will be 30 when the season starts, is a pass rushing specialist who will start at outside LB opposite Roosevelt Colvin. Personally, I would have liked to see the Pats go after maybe a smaller money inside LB so Mike Vrabel could move back outside, but if they seem to think this is a better solution, it's gonna be tough to argue with them. Thomas is coming off a season in which he had a career high 11 sacks, and has had at least 8 sacks the past 3 seasons. On the surface he looks like the perfect guy for Belichick, an edge rusher that has the size and speed to crush QBs just as easily as cover TEs and RBs out of the backfield. And the Pats didn't stop there. Next they went and traded for arguably the most popular player amongst Pats fans in the AFC East, return specialist and emerging WR Wes Welker. All Patriot fans remember the game where Welker returned kicks, caught passes and kicked extra points (Olindo Mare was hurt in the 1st quarter) against the Pats, and we've pretty much all admired the guy since. Fact is though, he's not just a side show, and he's not just a kickoff specialist. With only 3 years in the league, the 5'9" Welker had a breakout season last year hauling in 67 catches for a weak Miami offense. Granted, he's a solid #2-3 receiver at best, but the sure hands he'll bring fit in perfect with Tom Brady's style. And I know we were all impressed with Ellis Hobbs' returning late last year, but personally I wouldn't mind not having to hold my breath in anticipation of a fumble on every kickoff. And by signing Welker to a 5 year deal worth $18 mil, you guarantee you have his services for what is bound to be the prime of his career, and at a good price. Next, they addressed the need at running back after releasing Corey Dillon by signing former Dolphin, veteran Sammy Morris. Another Texas Tech guy like Welker, Morris has averaged about 4 yards per carry in his 7 years in the league. He's a dependable back, and the fact he's been in the AFC East his entire career means that you know Bill has probably had his eye on Sammy for a while. And that always makes ya feel good, almost like Billy is pullin' a fast one on the rest of the division. "Ha, you didn't even know I wanted that guy!" And finally, I have to address the buzz surrounding the possibility that Randy Moss comes to the Patriots. I take the position where I don't think we need him, but I would be excited about the talent he could bring to the table. I know his style of "taking plays off" totally wouldn't fly in this locker room, it wouldn't be like other teams. Not because we would change him, but because if he didn't comply, he'd be out the door. So that's why I say I'm in favor of us taking a flyer on him, we just shouldn't totally expect the old Randy Moss skill wise, but a new guy attitude wise. Personally, while I like the idea, I'm really excited about having 2 first round draft picks, something we wouldn't have should we make a deal for Moss. Onto the actual deal though, it still seems like a lot would need to happen (namely Moss restructuring the $21 mil he's owed over the next 2 seasons and the Raiders and Pats agreeing on compensation) before the deal would actually done though. So I'm not counting my chickens yet. Straight Cash Homie!!!

*Looks like the Jets didn't waste another year trying to find a replacement for Curtis Martin on their own roster. On Monday, the Jets traded their 2nd round pick to the Bears for RB Thomas Jones and the Bears 2nd round pick. I know what you're thinkin', but in reality the Jets pick is 26 spots higher in the 2nd round, meaning it's more like Jones and a 2nd rd pick for a 1st rd pick. This trade means two things. 1) Cedric Benson is now the man in Chicago. It might not be the wisest decision since Benson has yet to stay healthy for any long period of time, but GM Jerry Angelo likes to stick with the guys he drafts (see: Rex Grossman). 2) The Jets now have a formidable running game. In today's 2-back system that most teams seem to favor, the Jets were basically working with one back last year in Leon Washington, and even he wasn't all that great. Now, with Jones carrying the majority of the load and Washington serving as the secondary speed back, the Jets have a running game that can rival almost any other in the league. That's bad news for the Pats, but I'd be lying if I said this move actually made me worried the Jets might be taking over the AFC East. Still a good move though, and I'd be pumped if I were a Jet fan. Then again, if I were a Jet fan I'd probably be more concerned with oiling up my man tan or deciding which designer fireman's hat I would be wearing at the next tea and crumpet tailgating session. Go New York JetroSexuals!

*Outside of what the Pats have done so far, the Denver Broncos signing Travis Henry has got to be the best move so far this off season. The one thing you constantly heard about Travis Henry while he was with Buffalo was that he was probably the hardest back to tackle in the NFL. Combine that with Denver's historically nasty running game, and the AFC might be in for a serious hurting from the Bronco running game this year. I don't care that Tatum Bell left the Mile High City for Detroit in the Dre Bly trade, because Henry is a more established, and flat out better running back. He's had 3 career 1,200 yard seasons, including last year's 1,211 and 7 TDs in Tennessee, and had back to back 1,300 yard seasons in Buffalo before the arrival of Willis McGahee. That fact that Henry has bounced around so much makes me think he might be a bit of an issue in the locker room or somethin', but his talent is undeniable. Barring a major injury, I'm calling right now that Henry will be in the top 3 in the AFC in both rushing yards and TDs. Denver loves to run it, and they found a great horse in Travis Henry. Out with one great back, in with another...

*The Seattle Seahawks aren't resting on their laurels this off season either. After a disappointing 2006, the Hawks have burst out of the gate this off season by landing marquee defensive end and former Atlanta Falcon Patrick Kerney. Kerney has been a big time player in Atlanta, and I haven't seen anything to tell me he's going to decline any time soon. Sure, he may have just been hurt and missed 7 games this past season, but that's after a string of 112 straight starts. I see that more as a fluke than a trend, and Kerney should help bolster the pass rush in Seattle for years to come.

*The Miami Dolphins might still have issues to address on offense, but this week they took a big step in solidifying an already solid defense. They signed former Steeler Joey Porter to a 5 year deal with more than $20 mil in guaranteed cakes. Now, I'm no cake expert here, but seems like a lot for a 30 year old linebacker, who has only been good in a system in which he was surrounded by great players. Granted, he'll be surrounded by a lot of quality players in Miami, but I just don't think he's worth that kind of loot right now. Sure, make the argument that Porter has had more success than Adalious Thomas, but I just don't think Porter is all that great. Don't get me wrong though, I'm still not all that pumped he'll be playing us twice a year now instead of just once. I just think the Phins overpaid to save face with their fans. And you can respect that I guess.

Red Sox Spring Training Update
Just a few highlights from Fort Myers so far:

Jonathan Papelbon : 2 IP, 4 K, 1 H
*Granted it was only 2 innings, but Pap is on fire already. If he can prove that he can last deep into games, all that talk of him moving back to closer should come to and end. Although if this next guy pitches well enough, maybe we can spare having Pap in the rotation.

Jon Lester: 1 IP, 8 pitches
*Hey, the guy cam back from cancer for crying out loud! Looks like he's coming along well, but his heater (87-89) is leaving a bit to be desired. But, he did just quit chemo therapy about 2 months ago, so I'll give him a little more time.

Daisuke Matsuzaka: 2 IP vs Boston College; 3 IP, 2H, BB, 3K vs Florida Marlins
*It was a lose/lose situation pitching against Boston College, yet Dice K didn't lose. No gyro ball sightings yet, but so far so good. And a nice outing against the Marlins. He probably should have given up a run if a deep gapper hadn't turned into a ground rule double, but hey his ERA is still at o.oo. Domo Irigato?

Joel Pineiro: 1 1/3 IP, 2BB, 3 ER
*Givin' up dingers to guys who will probably start the season in AA is not the way to earn a closer's job. It is, however, a good way to ensure that you will flip at least one burger before the season is through. Still considered the favorite to win the closer's job, but according to who exactly? Let me be the first to roll out this gem...Hell No Theo, No More Pineiro! (repeat until you've had enough)

Just a few other things. I've really liked what I've been seeing from Brendan Donnelly in the pen. His fastball has a ton of cut on it, and he really jams righties. Also, I like to hear out of Mike Lowell's mouth how he thinks Julio Lugo is gonna impress a lot of people with his defense at short. Gotta love that from a guy who has only played next to Alex Gonzalez in his entire major league career.


Ron Ron Being Ron Ron.....Twice Apparently
I'm not sure what's more surprising, the fact that Ron Arest was arrested on Monday, or the fact that he wasn't already in prison. According to police, Artest struck a woman in his home and then wouldn't allow her to leave or call 911. Good stuff Ron. When you're not starving your dogs to death, your slappin' around your women. What ever happened to Artest starting clean and straightening out is act in Sacramento? Well, apparently all he's really done is replaced beating fans and promoting girl groups to smacking potential x-wives and feeding your dogs about once a year. I see his point though with the dogs. It was only recently that I learned it was camels that could go without water for long times as opposed to dogs going without food for months at a time. It's a simple mistake I could see any sane person who shaves short novels into their hair making.

And the other Ron in the news today is Boston Globe sports columnist and New England Patriot beat writer Ron Borges. Borges has been suspended from writing and appearing as a Boston Globe representative for 2 months after it was discovered he directly plaigarised a report from an NFL news service in his Globe online column. Word from other writers that use the news service (it's basically like a bulletin board where a network of NFL writers post stories) is that while they often rephrase passages from the service, nobody every directly takes from it without crediting it. DUH. I mean hell, I'm accountable to absolutely noone on this thing and even I'm not ripping other people's stories. It makes me think that maybe I should read the Globe, they could actually be rippin' me off! Could you seriously blame them though? I bring the serious truth while they're still busy chasin gang wars and crooked politicians to try and slang a few extra issues. I go take a rip at ratings too boys, but I'm not about to start posting the link to the latest Paris Hilton felatio session. Get some sources, and do some real work if you're going to call yourself a freakin journalist. Borges is just lucky he didn't get flat out fired. It's bad enough that he has a grudge against the Patriots simply because he doesn't care for how Billy the Hood does business. Add this to the mix, and we'll see how receptive his return to the Boston media will be. If I were you Ron, I'd be checking out the 401K plans at sports radio stations south of the Mason Dixon, I hear they aren't as big on readin' down there.

Here's that Gerald Henderson/Tyler Hansborugh video. I'm not sure what's the deal with all the rap music in the background, but I'm gonna go ahead and say I like it. Nothing compliments a black dude smackin a white guy in the grill quite like a nice little hip hop mix.

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