Thursday, June 30, 2011
"Sam". You hit enter.
Up on the screen, you're greeted by a video highlight of starting quarterback Danny O'Brien, a picture of some uber-fans and a clip of punt returner Tony Logan spiking the ball after a touchdown.
Pretty cool. And at some point during that barrage of swagger, a faux billboard pops up: "Are you ready Sam?" it asks.
Hey, that's pretty cool, you think.
Until you realize how easy it is to pull a prank and have the board display a joke, or a profanity. Or worse, something making fun of the team. Like this:
I just get this vision of visiting fans entering Byrd Stadium this fall with massive posters printed out featuring the TerpVision scoreboard taunting our own team and fans.
Maybe someone should have thought of the possibilities before this thing went live. The idea: cool. The execution: flawed.
That would have avoided the immature person in me playing around with the site to get it to ask the following up-close-and-personal-lower-intestinal question:
That's for me to know, and for nobody to find out.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Nearly half the draft (29 players) was comprised of underclassmen. Some who went undrafted had no chance of hearing their names called: Midland Junior College forward Roscoe Davis and former Colorado guard Ryan Kelley, for instance.
(Kelley averaged 2.6 points in 5.5 minutes for Colorado as a freshman, then sat out last year.)
But there were seven guys who declared and had a chance of hearing their names called... but didn't. Thanks to ESPN's Andy Katz, we can get a little better look at what each guy was thinking:
Coaching changes clearly played a role in three players' thought processes. Washington State center DeAngelo Casto, Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson (pictured) and Fresno State center Greg Smith all opted to go forgo their eligibility after their teams hired new head coaches.
An undersized power forward in the NBA, Casto was a longshot to hear his name called, but Hopson averaged 17 points per game as a junior for the Volunteers. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Hopson has NBA size, but wasn't projected in late mock drafts.
Smith was the biggest surprise to go undrafted out of the trio, but came out just before a breakout junior season. He averaged 11.7 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore, but was projected to be an All-WAC selection (and possibly the conference's Player of the Year) as a junior.
Academics played a role for two others, though in a much different capacity. Despite being a junior, Notre Dame forward Carleton Scott had already graduated, so he threw his name into the ring. But Stanford guard Jeremy Green was ineligible this past spring, and though Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said he'd likely be eligible this fall, Green had other ideas.
The last two undrafted underclassmen made terrible life decisions. Neither Louisville forward Terrence Jennings nor Illinois guard/forward Jereme Richmond was on the radar of many NBA scouts. Neither was projected to be drafted in any mock drafts.
Jennings averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Cardinals this year, but spent one-third of the season coming off the bench. He's got good size for the NBA, but another year could have really helped his draft stock. Jennings came to Louisville in the same class as power forward Samardo Samuels, but fell behind Samuels in the depth chart. After two seasons, Samuels went pro and was also undrafted. He's since caught on with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Richmond was even more puzzling. He left Illinois after one season in which he averaged 7.6 points and five rebounds. He started six games all season. He didn't play in the NCAA Tournament. And he was not on anyone's mock draft board.
Jennings' -- and Richmond's, especially -- story goes to show you just how important it is to listen to NBA scouts and not listen exclusively to the guys in your inner circle whispering in your ears.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
On one hand, it left the Terps with a weak roster for next year. On the other hand, it wasn't his responsibility to make sure Maryland was competitive next year.
Regardless, mock drafts pegged Williams as a late first-rounder or early second-rounder, and they were right: the New Jersey Nets selected Williams with their No. 36 pick.
He's instantly a pretty huge underdog to start -- or, really, to get meaningful minutes. Backing up Kim Kardashian fiance Kris Humphries at power forward means Williams gets any of his scraps at the '4.'
At 26 years old, Humphries averaged a double-double last year, with 10 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in 28 minutes. So there's some playing time, if he can get the best of then-backup power forward Travis Outlaw, who's in the second year of a five-year, $35 million deal.
But YES Network's Al Iannazzone predicts the Nets will try to move Outlaw, which would give Williams a legitimate chance at earning minutes from Day One.
In the end, it's a decent fit for Williams in terms of places he can start to make an impact. And it's good that he's behind a guy who can teach him a few things. Humphries isn't a 25-point, 3-rebound type of big man. He's a blue-collar grinder, built much in the same way Williams will have to make his living in the NBA.
But being the No. 36 pick means that Williams is signing a non-guaranteed contract. And with a potential NBA lockout looming, we'll see whether or not he's able to stick around for the long term.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Singleton was a pretty good pick, especially since he's one of the best defensive players in the draft. But despite his 6-foot-9, 225-pound frame, he averaged just 13.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game last year.
So he's a great defender, but an average rebounder, which is a bit odd. He did manage 11 multi-block games in 28 appearances, including seven games of three or more blocks. He also had 15 multi-steal games, including three games with five or more steals.
In reality, it's a shame that San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard and Kansas' Marcus Morris came off the board a few picks before Washington.
But Singleton fills a need, much more than a backup point guard would have at that spot. And adding him to a young frontcourt with JaVale McGee, Jan Vesely, Andray Blatche, Trevor Booker, Yi Jianlian and Kevin Seraphin -- some of whom may not be Wizards next year -- gives Washington some depth (albeit unproven).
Speaking of backup point guards, at No. 34, Washington took a fairly low-risk, medium-reward guy in Butler guard Shelvin Mack. Mack has been to back-to-back National Championship games with the Bulldogs, an unbelievable feat for a mid-major team, and this year, Mack had a lot to do with that.
He's got good size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) and ESPN confirms he's a good on-court leader. He's an all-around good guard, and seems to be the type of guy you want on your team. Really, the only thing holding his draft stock from going a lot higher is an inconsistent jump shot.
In 19 of 38 games this year, Mack shot less than 40% from the floor. And in 10 games, he shot better than 60%. You never really know what you're going to get out of him on a nightly basis. But here's guessing some NBA coaching will work to fix that.
Without big man Gordon Hayward, Butler didn't expect to find itself in the National Championship game for a second straight year. But Mack upped his numbers to 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, filling the team's leadership void with no noticeable dropoff.
Singleton and Mack are solid additions to a young core of players Washington is building. Let's just hope Vesely lives up to his hype.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Vesely, a small forward/power forward combo, averaged 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in European Adriatic League.
The Washington Post says he's "considered by some scouts to be more NBA ready than fellow European players Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania) or Enes Kanter, among others, (Turkey) because of his extensive playing time in the Euroleague the past two seasons."
After Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter came off the board in that order, it seemed like just a matter of time before the Wizards selected him. Especially because the Washington Post reported that the Wizards' front office had invited the Czech Republic Embassy to join the team's draft party.
I didn't know much about Vesely before the draft, mostly because European players' draft stocks are so volatile.
But ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who is known for working closely with European products, said he'll win an NBA dunk contest one day. And ESPN briefly compared his game to Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin, a comparison that seems to be a big stretch.
Video highlights showed an impressive shooting range, knocking down three-pointers in international play.
At 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, Vesely appears surprisingly thin, though more important than anything, he's athletic and quick enough to move around the court without being left behind in transition.
He's the highest-ever European drafted by the Wizards, and just the second-ever international player Washington has taken in the first round. The other was Oleksiy Pecherov in 2006, who Washington took at No. 18. Pecherov averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game before getting traded.
It's still a bit disappointing to whiff on trading up for Williams or Kanter. The European big men turn out more like Nikoloz Tskitishvili or Jake Tsakalidis than Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol.
At No. 18, Washington drafted Florida State forward Chris Singleton. (Thumbs up!) And in the second round, the Wizards selected Butler guard Shelvin Mack. Review of those two coming on Monday.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
McIlroy, as you'll recall, just won the U.S. Open, beating his competition by about 78 strokes in the process. He's just 22 years old and was the youngest golfer to win the Open since 1923.
And with the recent fame comes a video someone dug up from 13 years ago, when McIlroy appeared on an Irish talk show.
Usually, home videos are pretty awful. It's seeing the winner of one of golf's most prestigious tournaments as a toothy, awkward kid chipping a golf ball into a washing machine that saves this video from being a throwaway.
He's being interviewed by someone who I can only assume is Craig Ferguson's dad. Remind you of anything? Maybe Tiger Woods' appearance as a two-year old with Bob Hope?
Well, Rory's not a schmuck. And even though he's much older than Tiger was, this is way more impressive. Watch as he chips the ball into a tiny opening, and then gets awkwardly groped by Ferguson.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
But that's exactly what Garrett Sauls, a rising sophomore golfer at South River High School in Edgewater, Maryland, just did.
According to The Washington Post's Josh Barr, "Sauls won the putting contest at Lake Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro on May 16 by successively making 15-, 25- and 35-foot putts at the turn."
The grand prize was $5,000. But cashing that check meant Sauls would possibly forfeit his amateur status and deem him ineligible to continue playing high school sports, and potentially college sports, too.
So, with an (possibly overly) optimistic goal of one day reaching the PGA Tour, Sauls bid au revoir to a payday totaling two summers' work at minimum wage.
Barr reported that Sauls, one of South River's top golfers this year, failed to reach the Maryland state high school golf tournament, with a 96 average.
Sauls told Barr "it would take at least $25,000 for him to give up high school golf or the chance to play Division I college golf."
He's still young, though, and seems to have a promising future. Whether that's on the Tour or not is to be determined.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A group of kids were fined $500 for selling lemonade without permits.
Before getting bent out of shape, know that the kids weren't totally innocent and adorable. Montgomery County officials warned the group to stop twice before issuing a citation on their third visit.
Even worse, the stand was across the street, on the front lawn of one of the parents' houses. Not on country club property.
What county officials didn't know is that the group was donating half their proceeds to Just Tryan It, a pediatric cancer charity. Oof.
So while it's a little mucky that this group was keeping part of the money, it's a disaster that this story has made national headlines. Bureaucratic government shuts down lemonade stand.
Spokeswoman Bonnie Ayers said the stand could create a pedestrian traffic jam, here's guessing the 13th-richest county in the U.S. could have looked a bit more kid-friendly and a bit less, well, government-esque.
And while it's unknown just how much the kids ended up selling, ESPN reported one thirsty, generous gentleman wrote a $250 check.
Monday, June 20, 2011
We've got a third entry to add to the list, as Washington Wizards rookie John Wall was invited to do the honors for the Washington Nationals in their interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles.
After his performance, seen below, it may also be the last time he's invited to throw an opening pitch.
Despite a world of athleticism, it looks like nobody ever taught Wall to properly throw a baseball. It's a shame, but I guess things worked out OK for him anyway.
Regardless, I got a kick out of watching a guy who can throw a basketball the length of the floor to a teammate struggle to toss a baseball 90 feet to home plate.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Despite having an abundance of youth, the Wizards are sort of devoid of long-term playmaking talent, outside of franchise point guard John Wall and maybe fellow second-year guard Jordan Crawford.
And after the 2011 NBA Draft lottery didn't give Washington its second-straight No. 1 overall pick, the Wizards have to figure out what to do with the No. 6 pick.
It's pretty clear that Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona big man Derrick Williams are the top two players coming off the draft board.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, arguably as devoid of talent as any team in the league, could draft either.
With the second pick in the draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves already have a solid stash of young big men in Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, so they have little need for Williams if he's around at No. 2.
So it's no surprise that the Wizards are apparently trying to work out a deal with Minnesota for the No. 2 pick. The Washington Post has reported they're trying to swap the No. 6 pick and young center JaVale McGee for the No. 2 pick.
McGee is something of a long-term project for the Wizards, who bumped up his minutes from 16 to nearly 28 per game this year. As a result, McGee's numbers rose across the board. His points (6.4 to 10.1), rebounds (4.1 to 8.0), blocks (1.7 to 2.4) and field goal percentage (51% to 55%) were all impressive increases for the 23-year old big.
And technically, the only way to guarantee Williams would be to trade with the Cavaliers, a move that nobody has been talking about. It would be a huge gamble to trade up to No. 2 without knowing for sure that Cleveland is taking Irving, and it wouldn't help Washington out much to have a pair of young, star point guards on the roster.
The other possibility at No. 2 -- if Williams came off the board at No. 1 -- would be to grab Kentucky big man Enes Kanter, who was ineligible all season for the Wildcats but Washington seems to really like. Of course, there's a chance Kanter could fall to No. 6, too, though that's a serious roll of the dice.
If Washington sticks around at No. 6, look for the Wizards to go after San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard or one of the lesser-known European big men.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
ESPN The Magazine's latest issue, due out tomorrow, ranked every MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchise from top to bottom, "based on a weighted average of scores in eight different categories ranging from the quantitative to the emotionally subjective: 'bang for the buck' (24.3%), players (16.6%), fan relations (16.5%), affordability (14.1%), stadium experience (9.1%), ownership (9.0%), title track (6.7%) and coaching (3.9%)," ESPN MediaZone reported.
So it makes sense that the Green Bay Packers rank No. 1 overall among all franchises, with the New Orleans Saints checking in at No. 3. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder appear at No. 5 and No. 6.
And way, way, way down the list? The Washington Redskins, ranked 121st out of 122 teams, ahead of just the Cincinnati Bengals. Sigh. Quite honestly, it's hard to figure out how the Redskins are any better, outside of the city they're located in.
It's not entirely clear how everything is considered. But let's take a look, going from least weighted to most weighted.
Coaching -- Washington's got a legend in Mike Shanahan, certainly an above-average finish here.
Title Track -- Playing in the NFC East is one of the toughest conferences in pro sports. And the fact that the Redskins have made the playoffs just twice since 1999 is terrible.
Ownership -- Owner Daniel Snyder is suing a local news reporter for writing a negative article about him. He's been directly responsible for colossal failures like Albert Haynesworth's $100 million-plus contract. Awful.
Stadium Experience -- Lousy, but improving, sort of. FedEx Field is in the process of updating its 13-year old JumboTron, which was embarrassing, especially after hanging out at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. But the Skins are updating that and adding a Party Deck this year, so it's getting better. Slowly.
Affordability -- Not bad, actually. As of last year, Washington hadn't raised its ticket prices since 2006. Then again, the Skins ranked 117th last year in this category, so maybe they were too expensive to begin with.
Fan Relations -- I'm not entirely sure what this means, but I have a feeling an owner everyone hates doesn't help out the Redskins in the standings for this category.
Players -- Washington tied for 23rd in the NFL for Pro Bowlers on its roster last year. Yuck.
'Bang for the Buck' -- Not sure what this even means, but given that the Redskins haven't made the playoffs regularly for more than a decade and don't appear to be playoff-bound anytime soon, just charging admission is kind of a ripoff.
As for the rest of the D.C. and Baltimore-area teams? The Baltimore Ravens (No. 21) and Washington Capitals (No. 27) had good showings. The Baltimore Orioles (No. 67) and Washington Nationals (No. 78), not so much. But it's an improvement for the Nats, who were No. 94 last year.
The Wizards, sadly, were No. 110. That doesn't seem quite right, though team ownership is one of the lesser-weighted categories.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The most important, of course, is whether the "Big Three" can win a championship without much support.
The Mavericks did it with a big one (Dirk Nowitzki) and a supporting cast of solid pieces: center Tyson Chandler, forward Shawn Marion and guards Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and JJ Barea. It's obviously a different strategy from Miami, and one that paid off this time.
Miami's LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, all signed to six-year deals, don't have nearly the same roster makeup. And with Dallas getting the best of Miami, one has to wonder if there will be a knee-jerk reaction in South Beach.
Immediately after losing Game 6, thousands of people took to Twitter to write that their phones had a new "LeBron mode": it stays silent and has no rings.
Others noted James has as many championship rings as you or I do: none.
Some have suggested Miami could (or should) make a move to surround the Big Three with more talent. But here's a crazy idea...
What if the Heat traded LeBron? Miami desperately needs a legitimate, true point guard, as well as a low maintenance big man. In return, it could get two high-caliber starters like Boston's Rajon Rondo and Jeff Allen, or New Jersey's Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
Or Indiana's Darren Collison and Danny Granger, or Memphis' Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. Oklahoma City, Utah, Sacramento and Golden State also have viable trade bait.
But here's the craziest idea of all. What if the Heat traded James back to Cleveland in exchange for their first and fourth overall picks in the 2011 NBA Draft, which takes place just eight days from now?
With the first pick, the Heat could select Duke guard Kyrie Irving, immediately filling the hole Miami has at point guard. And assuming Arizona big man Derrick Williams goes second or third in the draft, the Heat could still have a shot at Kentucky big man Enes Kanter.
Obviously the idea is far-fetched, as James is a hated man in Cleveland these days. But it actually makes a little bit of sense.
Boom, two top five picks, both immediate starters alongside Wade, Bosh and maybe another wing they pick up via free agency or with their second-round pick.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Yet, for some strange, reason, Vick was invited to give the commencement speech for the Camelot Schools in Philadelphia, a district of schools for underprivileged and at-risk youths.
Here's guessing Vick didn't tell the teenagers not to get involved with dogfighting, or more specifically, not to get caught.
Or maybe he just told them to be really good at football, because in the end that seemed to work out for him.
But by far the best part of the experience sounds like it was the ambiance.
"Complete with whistles and air horns, wild cheers and even a round of boos, it was the day nearly 450 graduates had been waiting for," CSN Philly reported.
Well, that seems more appropriate. But in reality, Vick was a decent choice if you look at it through the eyes of the VP of Operations, Milton Alexander.
"Based on Vick's recent story of making a mistake, hitting rock bottom and having the courage to pick himself back up and work through difficult period of life, that was something we felt was very relevant to the student population and their story," Alexander said.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The Mavs resembled everything good about sports: passion, hard work and building a team over multiple years. Meanwhile, James came up short in the NBA Finals for the second time in his career.
While guys like Dirk Nowitzki won their first (and their only, most likely) ring, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will all have a chance to do it over the next five seasons, as all three are signed to six-year deals.
And it's doubly exciting to see team owner Mark Cuban finally win a ring, after being unquestionably the most passionate and relatable owner in the league since buying the Mavericks in 2000.
Seeing Cuban on the sidelines at the end of Game 6, jumping up and down in celebration with his players was something you rarely see from a team owner these days. And as outrageous as he may sometimes be, nobody can ever question how much he's wanted this since Day 1.
So while Miami will probably win it at least once or twice in the next half-decade, it's good to see the quasi underdogs win a championship by doing all the right things. And it's even better to see the Heat not win it after essentially buying an NBA runner-up finish.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Rather than simply firing head coach Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers elected to bring on Holgorsen as the offensive coordinator for the 2011 season, while keeping Stewart around for one more year to avoid paying a $2.7 million buyout. Stewart would be heavily pressured to step down at the end of the season.
It's a bizarre situation, more so than other head-coach-in-waiting deals. And the saga just got a whole lot more awkward.
In May, Holgorsen got kicked out of Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in West Virginia for at 3 a.m. for "refusing to cooperate with the casino's management." Holgorsen issued a public apology, but a few days later, a story from the Huntington Herald-Dispatch came out saying he's had "as many as six alcohol-related incidents in the last six months, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation."
Now, rumors are surfacing that the person leaking these stories to the media is either Stewart's wife, Karen, or Stewart himself.
According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Colin Dunlap, Stewart approached him asking to "dig up dirt" on Holgorsen when he was initially hired.
"[Stewart] tried to flame-throw [Holgorsen] in December by calling me and at least one other reporter because the reporter and I discussed it. He said, 'can you get the word 'scumbag' tattooed on the front of the sports page?'" Dunlap said.
"'[Stewart said] you need to dig up this dirt. You need to get it out on this guy.' And I said, 'hey man, I'm not a part of some witch hunt,'" he finished.
S**t, meet fan.
West Virginia is investigating the leaks, and athletic director Oliver Luck now has the unenviable task of untangling the mess and figuring out if firing Stewart or Holgorsen (or both) makes sense, just two months before the season starts.
Holgorsen was a high-risk, unlimited-reward type of hire. But he was passed over at Pitt for former Tulsa head coach Todd Graham, and his checkered background may have something to do with that.
Still, Holgorsen engineered the No. 1 offense in the country for Oklahoma State in 2010, and led high-octane offenses at Texas Tech and Houston over the last decade.
Gee, who'd have thought that keeping a guy around for a year while bringing on his replacement could possibly create some unwanted tension?
Thursday, June 9, 2011
It came as a surprise to no one, as Pryor had already been suspended for the first five games of next season for "violations of NCAA extra benefits rules," according to ESPN, when he allegedly sold memorabilia to a Columbus, Ohio tattoo parlor.
More recently, the rumors and investigations had heated up, and Pryor may have earned up to $40,000 signing autographs last year.
There's enough going on in Columbus that it's more suitable for a book rather than a blog post.
And while it may have tarnished the legacy of longtime head coach Jim Tressel, who until 10 days ago was the second winningest active Division I coach, the focus now is on Pryor's next move.
He already missed the 2011 NFL Draft in April, which may have cost him millions of dollars. But he's got other options.
His agent has announced Pryor intends to enter the NFL's supplemental draft, which has been the choice of players who have been deemed academically ineligible or dismissed from their college teams after the NFL Draft.
But others are inquiring about the 2010 Rose Bowl MVP. According to the Associated Press, the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League are interested, and ESPN reported yesterday that a stint in the United Football League could benefit him.
The UFL would be an interesting fit, as it's a league filled with well-established former NFL coaches as well as several former college standouts, like Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett and Arizona Cardinals running back JJ Arrington.
The ultimate problem, though, is that Pryor does not project as a quarterback at the next level, so he'll need some time to get used to lining up as a wide receiver or tight end. It's unlikely a team would spend a high draft pick in the supplemental draft on a guy with questionable character for a position he hasn't played since at least high school.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Apparently, a few years ago, back when he was a Cleveland Brown, "Edwards promised 100 Cleveland high school students that he would pay for their college tuition if they maintained grade point averages at 2.5 or higher and performed 15 hours of community service," The Sporting News reported.
Well, Edwards has confirmed through Twitter that he's going through with it. On May 25, Edwards tweeted: "As the 2nd most hated man in Clev. & a man of my word, Today I will honor a promise made to 100 students in Cleveland"
"The last of my Advance 100 students will graduate from my program & head off to college on scholarships that I will provide them with."
"Guys enjoy & embrace your new beginnings and remember your promise to me, to reach back & help someone else along the way!!!"
Pretty classy move for a guy with a bit of a checkered past in his NFL career. He's been pulled over for speeding, gotten a DWI, been charged with assault and has served probation. So to see him turning a corner -- even though he made the promise four years ago -- is promising, especially during the NFL's lockout.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Unlike the Coastal Division, the Atlantic Division has far less parity. Florida State is the heavy favorite, with Maryland (3-to-1) and Clemson (5-to-1) reasonable longshots.
Behind them, Boston College (8-to-1), NC State (10-to-1) and Wake Forest (30-to-1) check in as longshots.
FLORIDA STATE -- The Seminoles bring back 16 starters and lose QB Christian Ponder, yet Florida State doesn't seem to be too concerned about it. Mobile dual threat QB EJ Manuel is expected to be the team's next star at the position. He's fortunate to have a pair of veteran receivers to throw to, and his top three rushers returning. It doesn't hurt that FSU has a stout offensive and defensive line, either. Prediction: 9-3
MARYLAND -- It should be a good season for first-year head coach Randy Edsall, who inherits a team returning the majority of its starters. Edsall's got a fantastic young quarterback in Danny O'Brien and one of the deeper offensive lines in recent memory. Though the Terps must replace WRs Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon, Maryland fans are expecting no worse than eight wins. And they should get it. Prediction: 9-3
CLEMSON -- This isn't one of the best Tigers teams Clemson has fielded recently, but it won't be a throwaway season. Clemson must replace QB Kyle Parker, but have high hopes for Tajh Boyd, who may remind some of FSU's Manuel. Losing a pair of defensive linemen doesn't help in the mild rebuilding year, either. Starting the season with six straight home games would be good normally, but considering Auburn, FSU and Virginia Tech are coming to town in that stretch, maybe the Tigers would rather be somewhere other than Death Valley. Prediction: 6-6
BOSTON COLLEGE -- The Eagles return 14 starters, but must replace a few large holes created by OT Anthony Castonzo and LB Mark Herzlich. Though BC returns the statistical leader in most categories and has an OK offensive line, nobody seems to be talking much about the conference's northernmost team. A quick start will be followed by a tough second half of the year. Prediction: 6-6
NC STATE -- NC State loses franchise QB Russell Wilson, who leaves incredibly large shoes to fill. The Wolfpack think they've got their heir to the throne in Mike Glennon, younger brother of former Virginia Tech QB Sean Glennon. NC State also must replace top linebacker Nate Irving. Much of the team's success relies on how quickly Glennon picks things up. Prediction: 6-6
WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons return 16 starters, but unfortunately not a ton of talent. Quarterback Tanner Price is back, but he doesn't have much in the way of proven wide receivers to throw to. The offensive line remains a question, though the defense should be improved. Still, with an early bye week not doing it any favors and a tough schedule, Wake Forest is looking at a long season. Prediction: 4-8
Monday, June 6, 2011
According to Vegas, it's a three-horse race for the Coastal Division crown. Virginia Tech leads the way, with Miami (FL) and North Carolina not far behind.
Next, Virginia is listed at 8-to-1, with Georgia Tech (12-to-1) and Duke (30-to-1) filling out the rest of the division. It's fair to say none of these three teams will be stealing the division this year, but each could play spoiler to the Hokies, the Hurricanes or the Heels.
VIRGINIA TECH -- It would be strange for Virginia Tech to not be in the discussion in a given year, and 2011 is no different. The Hokies are the odds-on favorite, despite losing QB Tyrod Taylor and a pair of top running backs. Still, Virginia Tech is high on incoming starter Logan Thomas to carry Taylor's torch. Thomas should get used to the starting role with a cupcake first four games of the season. Prediction: 11-1
MIAMI (FL) -- The first game or two of the season will be no fun for the Hurricanes, who are suspending at least 10 players for the season opener, and possibly longer. Though QB Jacory Harris returns, Miami must replace its top wide receiver in Leonard Hankerson. With plenty of options at running back, this team may rely heavily on the running game this year. Prediction: 7-5
NORTH CAROLINA -- Mired in controversy last season, North Carolina returns hoping to improve off last year's 8-5 season. With just 12 returning starters, the Tar Heels replace four-year starting quarterback TJ Yates, but think they have their guy in sophomore Bryn Renner. UNC lost a pair of excellent linebackers in Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, but return plenty of experience on both the offensive and defensive lines. Prediction: 9-3
VIRGINIA -- The Cavaliers return a ton of starters -- 17 to be exact -- but not its quarterback. And for second-year head coach Mike London, figuring that out is going to be no fun task. Nine starters return on defense, which leads me to believe we'll see a lot of low-scoring Virginia games. Prediction: 6-6
GEORGIA TECH -- Tech has a mess on its hands, having to replace its top rushers in QB Josh Nesbitt and RB Anthony Allen. Running the triple option offense is no easy feat, and to top that, the Yellow Jackets have a number of question marks all across their roster. Prediction: 6-6
DUKE -- The least likely team to go bowling out of the Coastal Division, Duke stands an OK chance at winning four or five games. The Blue Devils return 14 starters, including last year's leading passer (Sean Renfree), rusher (Desmond Scott) and two wide receivers. With a fairly soft first half of the season that includes games against Richmond, Boston College, Tulane and Florida International, it wouldn't be a shock to see Duke start out 3-2. Prediction: 4-8
Friday, June 3, 2011
They're about to buy a championship ring.
After signing massive, long contracts -- LeBron James and Chris Bosh signed six-year, $110 million deals, while Dwyane Wade signed a six-year, $108 million deal -- the Heat seemed to have locked up a ring before the season even started.
But after limping out of the gate to a 9-8 record, people wondered whether it was actually possible to build a dynasty overnight. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have a storied tradition of signing big-name players to huge contracts, but baseball and basketball are significantly different sports.
The Heat regained footing and went on a historic 21-1 run over the next 22 games and finished the regular season at 58-24, good for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. But considering their never-before-seen free agency moves, the Heat underachieved during the regular season.
But Miami clearly got its act together for the playoffs, cruising to the NBA Finals.
And despite everyone in the country actively rooting against the so-called superteam, the controversy has been great for the NBA. People are tuning in to root against the Heat, America's villain. ESPN reported the Game 1 ratings were the league's highest since 2004.
On one hand, it's bad for the sport. It encourages teams bombing, cutting their rosters and signing a couple All-Stars and filling the rest of their roster out with guys from the local YMCA.
But others would argue the league is stretched too thin, and with 32 teams, there's not as much talent as there was in the days of NBA on NBC, when a Knicks versus Rockets game on a Sunday afternoon regularly featured six or seven All-Stars on the court at one time.
It'll be interesting to see what direction the league heads in next. The upcoming offseason may be one of the most memorable for years to come, particularly with a potential lockout looming.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
The 7-foot-1 behemoth was one of the most prolific to ever play the game, ranking No. 5 all-time in points, No. 7 in blocks, No. 12 in rebounds and most amazingly, No. 17 in free throws made (though he ranks the second-worst by percentage in the top 50).
Shaq, listed generously at 325 pounds -- I'm convinced he's over 400 right now -- won three rings with the Los Angeles Lakers over his eight-year stint, and picked up another in his three years with the Miami Heat. But his legacy reached far beyond the court.
One of the most charismatic personalities in all of sports, O'Neal had several nicknames, including The Big Aristotle, Shaq, The Diesel, Shaq Fu and a number of others.
He appeared in several movies -- some good (Blue Chips and He Got Game) and some bad (Kazaam, Good Burger, Steel, Scary Movie 4 and The House Bunny).
He put out four CDs, all of which cracked the top 100 on Billboard. He was featured in video games Shaq Fu (which was awesome, screw the haters) and was an unlockable character in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, Delta Force and UFC 2010 Undisputed.
He also appeared on several television shows, challenged a kickboxer to a mixed martial arts fight and famously told teammate Kobe Bryant to "tell me how my ass taste."
But above all, he was a staple of my childhood, a guy who served as the face of the league for several years and a likable character with a unique personality you don't see every day from athletes.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
But I've never seen a soldier proposal that made me a trembling-lipped wuss like this one.
At a Kansas City Royals game on Monday night -- Memorial Day -- one soldier surprised his girlfriend with a Jumbotron proposal. But the surprise after that was even better.
If you can hold it together through this video, you might not have tear ducts. Enjoy.