Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Page 2 Quickie: March 6, 2006
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
So it might be "Bloody Thursday" after all. Only not last Thursday, but next Thursday, after the NFL extended the start of free-agency again last night.
Bloody Thursday, Bloody Sunday, Bloody Monday. Fans are all tapped out. They need a transfusion. At this point, we couldn't care less about the labor agreement; we just want to see some free-agent action.
That's why Shaun Alexander's re-signing with the Seahawks, the biggest deal ever for a running back, is such welcomed news.
Not because fans around the NFL necessarily want him back with Seattle (his re-signing ensures the Seahawks could be an NFC power through the end of the decade).
No, the real reason is simply because now we can put the focus back on player movement, not the movement of the labor talks. (Go ahead, stifle your yawns at the mere mention.)
LaVar Arrington is finally done with the Redskins? Great! Let the speculation begin about where he might land begin!
Chad Pennington took a $6 million pay cut to stay with the Jets? Fabulous! Now we can all debate the Jets' draft strategy -- should they still take a QB with that 4th pick?
Ahman Green back with the Packers for one more year? Maybe Brett Favre will be inspired to join him? (Uh, did Green's deal come with a physical?)
Even a statement like "Kerry Collins gets a reprieve in Oakland!" piques some interest. Again, if only because we're not talking labor deal.
Financial security of players and owners (who will vote on the union's newest proposal on Tuesday) is out; fans' fantasy draft strategy is back in.
So whether or not the owners and union agree Tuesday on 56 percent sharing, 58 or some random decimal compromise in between, just get the deal done already.
The NFL should take a lesson from how engaged fans feel today with the Alexander news, now that we're back in what should be the real drama of the offseason.
UNC Shocks Duke
Six Things We Learned:
(1) Duke should not be a No. 1-seed (IF it doesn't make it out of the ACC Tourney semis). If the jersey said any other name, Duke would already be bounced to a No. 2-seed in preconference tournament projections.
(2) Roy Williams is Coach of the Year. Kansas' Self had to work with as much youth (but not against as tough comp) and GW's Hobbs produced one of "those" years, but this is Williams' best coaching job ever.
(3) UNC is a Top 10 team, and if it wins the ACC Tournament, it should get a No. 2 NCAA seed. Has any team ever lost its top 7 scorers (off a national championship, no less) and done so well?
(4) Tyler Hansbrough is Frosh of the Year. He is as dominating as he is awkward-looking. Hopefully, he doesn't jump to the NBA and we can see this kid dominate in college for four years.
(5) J.J. Redick looks tired (according to his stats). He finished his final four games shooting 23-of-80. Despite 18 points, he helped sink Duke by missing 15 of his last 16 shots. Redick's late season fatigue is once again in play.
(6) Every TV remote should be equipped with the equivalent of a "Crazies Cam" button, where you can see the action from the p.o.v. of the student section. "Full Circle" was a really cool idea.
Mo Valley Mo'
Three NCAA bids? Four? Five? Consider the Missouri Valley Conference's success in creating a scenario where up to five of its teams will get NCAA bids as college hoops' version of "Moneyball."
Remember, "Moneyball" wasn't about baseball's stat revolution as much as it was an analysis of smart people finding market inefficiencies to gain an advantage.
The MVC's breakthrough was realizing the weight of the RPI in the NCAA selection process, recognizing the value of a tougher nonconference schedule in that formula and then going out and increasing that factor.
As soon as a half-dozen MVC teams cracked the RPI Top 50, it became a virtuous cycle; as they played each other, their RPI ratings stayed high, even if they beat each other.
Big conferences need to stop griping and start learning. Smaller conferences need to take a lesson if they want to be the next MVC. And the NCAA should do nothing to the RPI or its tournament selection criteria.
This is the best kind of parity.
How many MVC teams will get bids? One-time Quickie favorite Northern Iowa is actually on the outside looking in, but I'm setting an informal over-under at an unprecedented five teams. This year, they deserve it.
(Congrats to Southern Illinois, who won the conference tournament and can sit back rooting on its league-mates on Selection Sunday.)
Tale of Three Title Games Tonight:
Colonial: Winner takes all when top seed UNC-Wilmington faces 3-seed Hofstra. George Mason lost in semis; stranded in bubble purgatory. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
West Coast: Gonzaga doesn't have to beat Loyola-Marymount to earn an NCAA bid, but it won't help the Zags' already volatile seeding projections if they don't. Zags needed OT to fend off San Diego. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
MAAC: Gotta love St. Peter's! The league's 5-seed upset No. 1-seeded Manhattan (enjoy the NIT) to set up a chance at the Dance vs. 2-seed Iona. Again, winner takes all. (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Tiger Wins Doral
If you wait for the Masters to start paying attention to golf (really, until college hoops ends and baseball gets into full swing), you're missing what could be an epic season by Tiger.
With the exception of his blip in the Match Play, he has been dominant, with to three tournament titles already this season after yesterday's win at Doral.
Meanwhile, Phil gave some gallery guy $200 for busting his watch. The lesson, of course: Nice guys don't finish first.
USA Hoops Roster
Allen Iverson got screwed. Kobe Bryant will infuriate fans. Luke Ridnour has no business on this roster.
Chris Paul will be the team's MVP by the time 2008 rolls around.
Redick and Adam Morrison shouldn't make it simply because they're the best college seniors the year the roster was selected ("Laettner Rule").
Coach K is the best Olympic coach the U.S. has ever had (and Euro-savvy assistant Mike D'Antoni will prove to be his most valuable asset).
And much-touted chemistry doesn't happen just because you say you want it. Since when has a team with Kobe as a centerpiece ever had chemistry?
Pros vs. Joes
Dennis Rodman. John Rocker. Jim McMahon. This new show pitting ex-jocks vs. wannabes is like the recycling bin for name athletes. Wouldn't be surprised if your average dude on the street could work over a dud like Rocker.
Meanwhile, is Jerry Rice still a part of this? I know he signed the deal before his "Dancing with the Stars" breakthrough performance, but he can only tarnish his reality TV rep with this.
If "Crash" can beat "Brokeback" for Best Picture, then next Monday you better not pick too many No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four. (The lesson? Upsets happen.)
Did you hear Best Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman talk about how he's a fan of the Final Four? He has an open invite to watch with me this year.
Night's best improv line? When Jon Stewart said, "Martin Scorsese: Zero Oscars. Three 6 Mafia: One Oscar."
I hope the ESPYs audience is more upbeat for first-time host Lance Armstrong than the Oscars audience was for first-time host Stewart. Sheesh.
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