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Friday, March 31, 2006

Biggest LSU hoops fan? Smoke Laval

I don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing the happiest person on the LSU campus right now, outside of the men's and women's basketball teams, is one Smoke Laval.

You see as long as the basketball teams keep playing, the rest of us won't notice how completely mediocre Laval's LSU Tigers baseball team is.

The Tigers have already dropped a series at Kentucky (Kentucky? Are you kidding me?) and at home to Mississippi State.

So far, this school year is looking like one of those early '80s years for LSU -- good in football and basketball and not so much in baseball.

There is still time to make something of this season.But Laval better be ready for some questions in the coming weeks as soon as everyone gets their eyes off basketball.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

MLB Predictions

A season ago, in our Major League Baseball preview, one of my co-workers who shall remain nameless until the next paragraph pointed out that we left no room for our staff predictions.

And, heaven forbid I say this too much, Roy was right. So now, thanks to this blog, we'll have space to predict all we want.

So here are my predictions

Division Champions:
AL East -- New York
AL Central -- Chicago
AL West -- Oakland
AL Wild Card -- Cleveland

NL East -- Atlanta
NL Central -- Houston
NL West -- San Francisco
NL Wild Card -- New York

AL Champion -- Oakland
NL Champion -- New York
World Series champion -- Oakland

Individual awards
AL Cy Young -- Mark Buehrle, Chicago
AL MVP -- David Ortiz, Boston
AL Rookie of the Year -- Kenji Johjima, Seattle

NL Cy Young -- Tim Hudson, Atlanta
NL MVP -- Albert Pujols, St. Louis
NL Rookie of the Year -- Ryan Zimmerman, Washington

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No Fun League at it again

NFL owners voted to limit touchdown celebrations Wednesday.

Instead of addressing real issues like old refs who can't keep up with the action, thus making horrible calls, the owners decided to clamp down on end zone dances -- particularly ones where players use props or where they go to the ground.

Another instance of "The Man" trying to keep the players down.

The owners did OK some tangible rule changes -- like making down by contact calls subject to instant replay and limiting replay reviews to 60 seconds instead of 90 -- but the end zone celebrations were not that big of a deal and the decision could alienate some fans. I know it'll upset players like Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and Carolina's Steve Smith -- two of the league's best receivers who harmed no one with their skits.

Lighten up, NFL. It is just a game.

Time for Tyrus to go...

Since I often give unwanted _ and unwarranted _ advice, let me be one of the first to give LSU's precocious freshman forward Tyrus Thomas some much-needed guidance: find yourself a reputable agent, a demanding trainer and an honest financial adviser.

Do this as soon as you play your final game of the season with the Tigers, whether that's Saturday after a semifinal loss to UCLA or (as many anxious Louisianans hope and pray) Monday after a title-game celebration that would make even "Girls Gone Wild" mastermind Joe Francis blush.

Do this as quickly as you would swat away an overmatched psychology major's awkward set shot.

Do this as fast as you would swoop in for a dunk over a cowering mid-major walk-on.

Resist the urge to buy a Maybach and settle for an Escalade.

Why, you might foolishly ask?

Dozens of cautionary tales come to mind, but I'll name just three in the interest of brevity: Terence Morris, Wayne Simien and Daniel Gibson.

The latter name is familiar to anyone who watched the Tigers push around the highly overrated Longhorns last Saturday, with the help of a MVP performance from Thomas.

Gibson is a sophomore guard for Texas, a one-time favorite of NBA scouts and analysts and now a guy who could use a burnt-orange life preserver to salvage his sinking draft status.

Last year, Gibson seemed a sure bet to end up in the lottery or at least the mid-first round of the NBA draft following a solid, but not spectacular, freshman season in Austin. But swayed by the advice of overzealous alums and the prospect of playing for a national champion the next year, Gibson stuck around for another season.

Bad move, and I'm not talking a failed crossover: he struggled so badly at point guard that his coach moved him to shooting guard, and saw a marked decrease in all the major statistics _ points, assists, shooting percentage and steals.

He has two years to salvage his stock, but as an undersized shooting guard who doesn't shoot particularly well, and a point guard who can't lead an offense, it's tough to see how he'll ever be considered an elite prospect again.

The second guy, Simien, was a 29th overall pick of the Miami Heat in the most recent draft, which is about, oh, 15-20 spots later than he would have been taken had he left Kansas two years earlier.

He did everything a blue-chip recruit could do: was the Big 12 player of the year as a senior, led the Jayhawks to two Final Fours and three conference titles and even graduated with a degree in sociology.

All that got Simien was rare maturity among NBA rookies, a rep for being injury prone and an especially nerve-wracking draft-night party. Had he been chosen two picks later, Simien wouldn't have even gotten the guaranteed contract given to first-rounders.

The first guy mentioned, Morris, only a few people will remember unless they're especially rabid college hoops fans, a Maryland alum or a season-ticket holder for Apollon Patras of Greece. Morris was the Tyrus Thomas of his day, way back in 1999. He was a 6-foot-9 sophomore jumping jack, the kind of gifted, raw athlete that NBA GMs imagined being the Scottie Pippen to their Jerry Krause.

Paired with Steve Francis on Maryland's Elite Eight squad, Morris seem all but assured a photo op shaking hands with David Stern on draft night. But for some inexplicable reason, Morris returned to Maryland for his final two years, ruining his draft profile to the point that he was only a second-round pick in 2001. NBA teams had fallen out of love with him.

He played two seasons with the Houston Rockets, spent a season in the D-League, went to Greece for a year and had a cup of coffee with the Orlando Magic last year. His whereabouts this year are unknown.

I can only imagine, though, what Morris sees when he watches the NCAA tournament from wherever he lives these days and checks out young Tyrus Thomas.

He probably sees an especially haunting ghost: an emerging 6-9 star with unmatched athleticism for college, a guy that some are already projecting as the top pick in the 2006 draft.

A guy that with some NBA seasoning and the security of first-round money _ and, thus, the team's lasting investment _ could someday live up to those extremely premature comparisons to Shawn Marion.

In fact, forget what I'd say. I wonder what Terence Morris would tell Tyrus.

Not me!

Daunte Culpepper has disavowed any connection to the Duke men's lacrosse team. He was playing pinochle at the time.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Not a charge? You all must be kidding

For one, I refuse to agree with Messerly, so I'll just state this on my own. If you want to go ahead and joke about nuptuals with Pokey Chatman -- feel free.

Candice Wiggins was guilty, flat out guilty, of a charge. I was 30 feet from the infraction. There was no doubt in anyone's mind it was a charge. Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said it was a tough call and that it could have been a no-call ... but what else is she going to say? That's loser's (just in the game, not calling her a name) speak for they got the call right.

Seimone Augustus was in perfect position and the correct call was made. The call was so appropriate that most at the AT&T Center, including myself, didn't even see the ensuing 3-point shot from Krista Rappahahn go in the basket. They didn't need to, they knew the teams were going to the other end of the court.

“I knew it was coming, we make that same play all the time," Wiggins said. "I was just a second too late, you know and the pass was there. I knew it was coming though, I just couldn’t get there in time.”

Couldn't get there in time NOT to be called for a charge!!!!

LSU MUST play better in the first half Sunday against Duke if it plans on advancing to the championship game. The Lady Tigers have been forced to play from behind the entire Tournament. That can't continue -- with victory as a result -- agianst teams like the Blue Devils.

Bye, bye UConn

The ole ESPN boys are crying in their beers tonight with UConn and their cussing coach Geno Auriemma getting eliminated from NCAA Women's Tournament. Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in Geno's locker room to hear his ranting and raving.

ESPN announcers were undoubtedly drooling at the thought of having their favorite women's team playing on virtually a home court in Boston for the Women's Final Four. Now they're stuck with LSU and three ACC teams competing for the title. What? No Big East teams. So sorry.

Parker favored in Derby

London oddsmakers have made Sarah Jessica Parker a slight favorite to win May's Kentucky Derby. Parker is at 5-2, while Rebecca Lobo is placed at 6-1. Parker is trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Messerly-Chatman wedding to be glorious

Yes, sports fans, from reading this blog you can tell Michael Messerly is head-over-heels in love with Pokey Chatman, defending her at every turn. As a result, she has accepted his proposal of marriage.

The nuptials will be Monday evening, since Pokey will be free following her semifinal defeat.

There will be a lovely multi-tiered white cake and a smaller chocolate groom's cake, as is traditional.

The bride will be dressed in a glorious purple and gold dress with a 15-foot train. We're not sure what Pokey's wearing.

No gifts, please. Pokey got her gift on the final major call of the Elite Eight game against Stanford.

Lady Tigers fans will hate me, but you know I'm right

LSU is extremely, EXTREMELY lucky to be heading to Boston.

That charge Seimone Augustus took with 4.8 seconds remaining in the game...that wasn't a charge.
There! I said it. It's out in the open now, so we can talk about it.

First, Augustus was sliding into Stanford's Candice Wiggins. Watch the replays, like we did in the newsroom last night and it's indisputable that she's still in motion as she comes over to defend Wiggins.

Second, that official who made the call never should have made the call. That's all I've ever heard from sports fans - Let the players decide the outcome of the game, not the officials.
Especially on a call as close as that one (and Wiggins dishing the ball off), it's better to have a no-call and let the ball bounce where it may.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Geo. Mason reminder of why college is better than pros

The flood of underclassmen and high school kids to the NBA figured to be the death knell for college basketball. How wrong they were.

George Mason's remarkable run to the Final Four is the perfect reminder of why I like college sports over the professional ranks. A former colleague was confounded by that. He thought the pro game was far superior to anything the college game could produce

Here are the Patriots -- a team that barely made it into the NCAA Tournament -- a game away from playing for the national championship. They have been giant slayers, knocking off Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn in the process.

And don't forget Northwestern State. Until George Mason emerged, the Demons were the darlings of the tournament for their first-round upset of Iowa.

These teams exemplify the passion of college sports. When is the last time you saw a professional team play with similar passion? The 2004 Boston Red Sox? The 2004 Detroit Pistons? The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers?

Every college team during this tournament plays for every minute. Did you see Geo. Mason guard Lamar Butler? He's keeping a couple of mementos from the Patriots' win over UConn.

"One I'm going to keep in my pocket wherever I go. One I frame and keep it on my wall," he told ESPN.com of what he's going to do with the strands he cut from the net.

I can't remember the last time a pro athlete was as heartfelt as Butler.

Here's your championship football tournament

For those -- mostly media -- types clamoring that we MUST have a college football playoff in Division I-A to find out who REALLY has the best team, check out the Final Four. Were George Mason, Florida, LSU and UCLA the four best teams in the country this year?

No. A playoff doesn't guarantee the best team will win. NOTHING guarantees the best team will win. In fact, I can't think of anything better than the BCS to do that, a combination of human and computer rankings.

For those who think a college football playoff would duplicate the excitement of March Madness, you aren't thinking. There won't be 64 football teams in a playoff, and there won't be the same type of upsets. George Mason would never make the final four in football.

Who'll man controls at Tech?

Spring football is just a week underway in Ruston and much discussion surrounds who will succeed Matt Kubik as the starting quarterback. Zac Champion, Michael Mosley or JUCO arm Joe Danna.

Even though Champion has had a throng fan supporters over the past year or so, the knock on him as been poor decision making. It appears from the stats from Saturday's scrimmage, in which the junior threw three picks, that he still has problems deciding when and where to throw.

That's not a good sign.

Mosley had much more yardage and fewer mistakes (one int.), while the jury is still out on Danna, who could end up being redshirted, if necessary. With a 13-game schedule staring them in the face, the Bulldogs will probably need three quarterbacks to make it through the season. The Tech coaching staff will undoubtedly put the guy on the field who has the best chance of getting wins in 2006. But my bet is on Mosley being the best of the bunch before all is said and done.

Enjoy the games, Jim Calhoun

How lucky we all are to have Duke and UConn sitting at home the rest of the basketball season. As I awaited my flight to return to lovely Shreveport after a week of vacation at the beach, I watched Jim Calhoun and his Huskies exit the NCAA tournament with an overtime loss to George Mason.

And I loved it. How many times has Jim won games in his backyard? He never complained about that. How many times has he taken his team to George Mason or another "lowly" school for a regular season game?

And how many favorable calls have his teams gotten through the years? Well, not as many as Duke, but plenty.

Go sit at home and watch this one on television like the rest of us, UCan't.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

SEC not so down after all

Well, well, well.

Still looking for those ACC teams in the Final Four? Oh that would be none.

How 'bout that Big Ten? Oh, that's right, they didn't make it to the Sweet 16.

And the Big East? Grab some couch.

So two conferences that the ESPN boys looked down their noses on all season - the SEC and Pac-10 - have three of the four Final Four teams. And the Colonial Athletic Association- yes, there is such a thing - has the other.

The SEC has half the field with LSU and Florida, but the national media had long ago dismissed the SEC as being young and weak.

The Pac-10, with UCLA in the field, got bashed every bit as much as the SEC if not more.

Does the Final Four suggest league strength? Not really. It suggests high-level teams with good matchups in the tournament.

It also suggest the national media should occasionally look past the Eastern time zone to see what is going on in the rest of the country.

LSU's best chance yet?

So LSU is in the Final Four. And so is UCLA. We'll find out the other half of the Final Four on Sunday.

The question now is this: Is this LSU's best chance to win the national championship?

The Tigers' last trip to the Final Four came in 1986. That team featured a future NBA player in John Williams, had a senior point guard in Derrick Taylor, and some role players. LSU lost to eventual national champion Louisville in the semifinals. But that LSU team needed help to win a national championship.

The Tigers' 1981 team probably should have won the national championship. Instead, they lost to an Indiana team led by Bob Knight and Isiah Thomas.

So what of this year's Tigers?

Well, to hear the experts talk the Tigers have more NBA-type talent on this team than either of the two previous Final Four trips in this generation. Tyrus Thomas, Glen Davis and Tasmin Mitchell are all projected as NBA players in the future. The Tigers are a better defensive team than those clubs. They have a senior point guard in Darrel Mitchell. And who can complain about this team's karma.

LSU may not win the national championship, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Tigers did either. Their run to the Final Four isn't a fluke for anyone who has been watching college basketball this season.

Hey, Dallas Morning News, LSU was the SEC champion (by two games) not just the SEC West champion.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

LSU All Grow'd Up

This isn't supposed to happen.

They can't shoot straight, they're too young, they have untimely unforced turnovers, they can't knock down a three and they're backcourt doesn't have enough fire power to do enough damage in the NCAA Tournament ... yet here they are ... the LSU Tigers back in the Final Four for the first time in 20 years.

Through each round of this year's tournament, the Tigers have seemed to mature into a unbelievably athletic wrecking crew that finds a way through sheer will to overcome everything going against it. They've never won pretty, but style points don't matter when it comes to getting your ticket punched to go to Indianapolis.

Can the Tigers beat the Memphis/UCLA winner? Could the Tigers learn from their earlier match up with Connecticut to be victorious in rematch? Based on what I've seen, there isn't a better team left when it comes to just finding a way to win.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Attention Bicknell bashers

While thumbing through SuperPrep's post-signing issue I found the football recruiting rankings for the Western Athletic Conference. And what do you know, Louisiana Tech is ranked No. 2.

The Bulldogs are behind only Boise State and ahead of Fresno State and the rest of the WAC.

Maybe it's time for those Jack Bicknell bashers to give it a rest. And the same could be said for John Brady bashers at LSU.

Time to step up Shreveport

It was a most unusual news conference -- New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson rambling about being Louisiana's Saints and beating the "hell out of the Dallas Cowboys'' in a meaningless preseason game in Shreveport on Aug. 21.

Yes, it was unusual for those reasons. But it was also unusual in that another big-time sporting entity - the National Football League - is willing to take its turn at solving the Shreveport market.

Remember this is the market that failed to sell out a Miami Hurricanes football game against Louisiana Tech in the same stadium in 2003. It's the same market that failed to sell out a San Antonio Spurs preseason game against the New Orleans Hornets at the CenturyTel Center last October.

So good luck to the Saints trying to sell 48,000-plus tickets.

I can hear the Shreveport excuses for not going -- it's hot, the ticket prices are too high, it's only a preseason game, I can watch it on TV, blah, blah, blah, blah.

This is one time Shreveport needs to shed its fickle image if it ever wants big-time sports back. Plus, this is one time Saints fans need to back their team and make the NFL's gamble on the Saints, the state and the region worthwhile.

It's up to you Shreveport.

Kudos to John Brady

I'll admit it, the reason I thought LSU would not defeat Duke Thursday night had nothing to do with talent or players - it had everything to do with coaching.

Not that John Brady is a bad coach, mind you. It's just that Mike Krzyzewski is just a kinder, gentler version of his mentor, Bob Knight, and we all know how that turned out for LSU.

So my response when asked about the LSU-Duke game was always this: Play it at the YMCA without refs and coaches and LSU wins. The Tigers simply have better, more athletic players.

But Duke is Duke for a reason.

So kudos to John Brady. He managed his short bench to where it was an asset and not a liability. He managed early foul trouble with Big Baby and Tyrus Thomas. And, best of all, he had the good sense to keep Garrett Temple hounding J.J. Redick.

By doing all of that, it didn't matter what Coach K did on his side.

So let Coach K have the commercials and the XM Radio gig. He'll be watching from home the rest of the way.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rattay should start for Bucs

With the Chicago Bears' signing of former Broncos-Dolphins-Bucs quarterback Brian Griese this week, former Louisiana Tech star signal-caller Tim Rattay has another golden opportunity to take the reins as a starter in the NFL.

Rattay had success when he played in San Francisco, but the 49ers did not really give him much of a consistent chance to blossom into a top NFL QB. Once he was injured, the team abandoned him for all intents and purposes. They drafted Ken Dorsey a few years back then took Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick last season and sent Rattay packing.

Now entering his second season in Tampa Bay, Rattay should be allowed to compete with Chris Simms for the starter's job. Rattay was a better college quarterback than Simms and has shown he can play well in the NFL. Simms made some strides last season, but it doesn't seem like he and Bucs coach Jon Gruden see eye to eye. Might be because Simms is not really that good. He may, given time, develop into an impact player, but Rattay is already there.

If Rattay is given a fair shot he should and will be the starter. And another former Tech standout, Josh McCown, could also move up the depth chart to No. 2, although it's not likely the Bucs will pay Simms that much to be No. 3.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Crazy days at LSU again

Back in the 1980s, Sports Illustrated had former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown on the cover with the headline "Crazy days at LSU.''

The crazy days are back - but in a good kind of way. LSU has both of its basketball programs in the Sweet 16. Duke, Boston College and Connecticut are the only other schools that can make the same claim. Those three schools don't have a top-10 football program going through spring practice right now.

About the only thing crazy right now is what used to be the only thing stable on the LSU campus - the baseball team. The Tigers are nationally ranked, but they really don't know what they have after playing a less-than-challenging schedule. They'll find out this weekend against No. 1 Mississippi State.

Still, for as much griping and complaining as LSU fans do about John Brady, Les Miles and Skip Bertman, it's hard to imagine things being much better for Tiger fans.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What I'm proudest of ...

Not being a Dallas Cowboys fan today. What were they thinking in signing Terrell Owens? Talk about bringing a once-proud franchise down! It doesn't matter how great an athlete Owens is, his actions over the past few months have been classless and have set a poor example for our youth.

If he had been banned from football forever, the world would be a better place. That would send a message to the other egomaniacs out there that their actions won't be tolerated.

Instead, the Cowboys give Owens not only new life, but more money. That tells the youth of America that you can act like a jerk and get rewarded for it. Unfortunately things only work like that in pro sports. In the real world, Owens would never work again.

Battle Wings have started

The Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings have begun preseason workouts and based on the roster, it should be an interesting season. Coach John Fourcade of Ole Miss, New Orleans and Hooter's ownership fame, has a ton of new faces in camp with just a handful of holdovers from last season.
Fourcade is particularly excited about fullback/linebacker Patrick Craig from North Alabama. Craig was reportedly hitting so hard in practice on Monday that he had to be told to tone it down a notch.

On a disappointing note, only about 250 season tickets have been sold, although that is more than was sold preseason last year. The team was treated to dinner at Smokey Bones Barbecue on Monday and more than a few cows left the place.

Monday, March 20, 2006

LSU's women are lucky

The Lady Tigers are lucky that they won't have to meet Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson and the Baylor Bears until the NCAA Championship game if both teams make it that far.

While they are perhaps the most talented team in the women's game, the Lady Tigers are also among the least disciplined on-court teams. Mulkey-Robertson out-coached Pokey Chatman last year in the NCAA's and she now has the incentive to whip the Tigerettes again after the verbal confrontation the two coaches had earlier this season.

Mulkey-Robertson is one coach that you don't want to make mad. The sad thing is that we probably won't get to see a meeting between the two schools this season, since one or both will not make it to Boston. There's too much parity in the women's game.

Tags Calling It a Career

The NFL has announced that Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is retiring this summer fresh off his coming to terms with the NFL Players union on an extended collective bargaining agreement. As successful as his predecessor Pete Rozelle was in putting the NFL in position to become America's new pastime, Tagliabue was the one to make it happen.

Clearly, Tagliabue goes down in history as the most successful CEO in professional sports history. The NFL rules the sports landscape at a time when pro sports has its greatest exposure in history. Heck, baseball, with more games on TV than any other sport, has substantially lost interest as have the NBA and NHL. NASCAR may be the fastest growing sport, but it still pales in comparison to the popularity of the NFL.

The Super Bowl is the crown jewel sporting event. The right fees for NFL games are by far higher than any other sport. Heck, despite the incredible number of hours devoted by other networks to the NFL, including the off-season, the league can still come out with its own NFL Network!

Yet Tags goes about his job without the need to mug for the cameras like David Stern, without the dreaded foot-in-mouth disease of Bud Selig, and he can be picked out of a line-up of accountants unlike Gary Bettman.

Saving the Saints for New Orleans may be too tall an order even for Tagliabue, but at least he's given the state a fighting chance at it. Tagliabue isn't the last of a dying breed; he is an original that the NFL will have a hard time replacing.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Despite an early tourney exit, Long has Techsters on right track

Lady Techsters coach Chris Long, in his first year at the reins of the team, and his players -- especially the injured Tasha Williams -- should be commended for their efforts this season.

Although the Techsters were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year Saturday night, Long is helping to restore the program's reputation as a national contender that it had consistently enjoyed under Long's mentor, Hall of Famer Leon Barmore.

Before the loss, the Lady Techsters (26-5) had won 12 straight games, taken the WAC Tournament title and finished the regular season ranked No. 17 in the AP poll. This after preseason prognosticators didn't even have them anywhere on the radar.

With the team's first victory next season, the Techsters will have their 900th win in the program's history and, assuming he doesn't get courted by other schools, Long and his players should see more success for years to come.
See, Tech fans? It's not all about LSU and NSU around here :)

P.S. Attention latechbbb.com forum members: This is not Jimmy Watson (who showed me the "Pedro's an idiot" entry on your Web site) nor did he put me up to this post -- it's that idiot, conceited LSU fan Pedro giving credit where it's due.

And make sure to register for the blog -- Ross did (Hey, Ross! How've you been?). Any and all posts are welcome.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pre-emptive strike

Funny, back in the mid-1990s no one wanted to hire Mike McConathy as their school's head basketball coach. Not Northwestern State. Not Louisiana Tech. Not Nicholls State. Not Centenary College.

The knock on McConathy was he wasn't a good interviewer when he interviewed for jobs.

Now maybe I'm mistaken, but if I'm hiring a coach I want a good coach, NOT somebody who answers the questions the way I want to hear them.

Anyway, when Greg Burke came on the scene at NSU in the late 1990s and had an opening in 1999, he interviewed McConathy for the job. Instead of judging McConathy on the interview, he actually listened to what he said.

McConathy was hired and the rest was (NCAA Tournament) history.

Well, sort of.

You see the 14th-seeded Demons -- the highest remaining seed in the tournament -- still have a game with West Virginia today and who knows if this is the end or when the Demons' run ends.

Then the fun begins.

A coach who couldn't land a job in the mid-1990s will likely get some attention for some other jobs. Ole Miss is a possibility. Or if Ole Miss hires South Alabama coach John Pelphrey, then there could be an opening there.

Burke said his school began taking steps two months ago to financially reward McConathy and his staff.

It's a good idea.

But in the end, I'm guessing McConathy isn't going anywhere. He's got the support of his admininstration. He's got ties to the school. And he can write his own ticket there. But it doesn't hurt to make a pre-emptive strike.

Cohen gives NSU another lift

John Cohen is in Lexington, Ky., a world away from Natchitoches. But this former Northwestern State coach is helping shed the light on his former school.

Cohen has the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team on the verge of a three-game sweep of longtime national power LSU after Saturday's 6-3 win. Cohen's team seems to have learned how to close out games and means Big Blue may have reason to care about baseball in April and May for the first time in a long time.

With every win over an SEC school, Cohen helps lift not only his profile but that of NSU and the Southland Conference, both of which are rapidly producing successful coaches in BCS conferences.

And don't think Cohen has forgotten about NSU or Natchitoches. He was one of many to call NSU sports information director extraordinaire Doug Ireland to congratulate him and the Demons on their upset of Iowa in the NCAA Tournament.

A win today against LSU would warrant some return to calls to the 859 area code.

Friday, March 17, 2006


These describe NSU coach Mike McConathy and the Northwestern State athletic program. It's was tremendous to watch the game-winner this afternoon. The funny thing is they are no fluke. This team can play. This doesn't mean the Demons are a lock to win Sunday, but make no mistake, this is not your normal 14 seed.
No matter Sunday's outcome, this was a day Northwest Louisiana will remember for quite some time.

Congrats Demons!

There is no team more deserving of this win than the Demons...

NSU went through too many growing pains as they struggled through their 6-21 and 11-17 seasons. Then to have that disheartening loss to Southeastern La. in the Southland championship game last year...it was enough to crush any team's morale.

Coach Mike McConathy has done a remarkable job building this team from day one and keeping this team focused toward its goals.

The amazing thing is Jermaine Wallace hasn't been the hottest Demon shooter lately. He was 2-of-7 from 3-point range in the Southland title game and 1-of-6 against Texas-San Antonio in their first-round game.

Demons are a godsend

NSU's 64-63 first-round upset of Iowa today shows they are the best team in north Louisiana.
They shot poorly early and still managed to beat a team almost everybody had predicted would win.
The best college basketball team in the state is still LSU, followed by NSU, Southern -- which managed to give Duke a lot of problems until fading in the second half, and the LSU women (who would probably stomp Tech and LSUS).

On a positive note

Was it really just a year ago when Louisiana was the Bad Hoops state?

Now a year later LSU wins the SEC championship. Northwestern State wins the Southland championship and Southern wins the SWAC championship.

Not bad for a football state.

And for area fans, it's been an even better time to have a basketball Jones. Fair Park won Shreveport-Bossier City's first boys championship since 1994. The Southwood girls won yet another state championship.

It's been a great time to follow basketball in northwest Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pilots' nosedive

I knew LSU-Shreveport would have a difficult time winning the NAIA national championship if only for the fact that it is a 32-team tournament played over about a seven-day period.

But never, and I mean never, did I expect the Pilots to bow out in the first round as the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

Yes, the Pilots had a great season winning the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship and tournament and reaching No. 1 in the NAIA poll.

But there is no way to sugar coat the Kansas City collapse.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kudos to Saints

Give credit to the New Orleans Saints, they actually look they are trying to win.

Their signing of Drew Brees -- at least on paper -- appears to be a good thing. OK, so if his shoulder is damaged that could be a $10 million weight dragging the team down. But if he comes back healthy, Brees is an upgrade over Aaron Brooks. Something had to be done at that position.

Now, here is the catch. Just because the team has signed Brees doesn't mean it should trade the No. 2 pick in the draft. This is still a once in a decade chance to draft a franchise quarterback. Draft Matt Leinart. Bring him along slowly and when the time is ready, Brees can make an interesting bargaining chip.

But, knowing the Saints, they'll probably trade the No. 2 pick for the No. 17 pick and end up with the only defensive lineman from Georgia who can't play. Right?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Teams we want to see lose in the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Tournament is as much about pulling against teams as it is for teams.

So here are the teams I want to see lose:

Duke. In the immortal words of UConn coach Jim Calhoun, "Duke is Duke. They're on TV more than Leave it to Beaver.'' Maybe this show will get canceled early this year.

Gonzaga. Tired of them. It was a nice run.

Texas. The thought of Texas holding the college baseball, football and men's basketball titles all at the same time is enough to make one sick.

Anyone from the Missouri Valley Conference. See Gonzaga.


North Carolina State...Villanova...Syracuse. The Wolfpack and Orangemen will lose in the first round. I hate the thought of Texas A&M winning, but I look for Jim Boeheim to pull off the collapse.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bud Lite's worst nightmare

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's baby -- the World Baseball Classic -- may wind up being a nightmare for the commish.

On Sunday, the United States was on the verge of losing to Japan before a controversial overturned call and the first piece of timely hitting by Alex Rodriguez in eons helped Team USA beat Japan 4-3.

Had the overturned sacrifice fly stood, the U.S. may be looking up again at the top of its pool, praying for help to advance to the next round.

Instead, all the help the Red, White and Blue needed was from the blue shirts calling balls, strikes and outs.

Clearly, though, the color of the moment is black -- the same color this event's eyes may become.

Drug testing for NCAA committee?

Let me get this straight. LSU wins the SEC regular season championship -- outright -- and is seeded fourth in its regional. Florida wins the SEC Tournament title and is seeded third. Tennessee, winner of only an Eastern Division title and a first-round SEC Tournament knockout, is seed SECOND.

In the immortal words of Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, "Are you kids (on the NCAA selection committee) on dope?''

Seriously, I know Tennessee's win over Texas back in December was impressive. But what about the way the Vols ended the season.

I have no problem with the seeding of Florida or LSU. But Tennessee as a No. 2? You've got to be kidding.


The past week represents an example of when I hate being a member of the media. Everyone had the answer for J.J. Redick. He was tired, he has played too much, he was done.
Even Michael Jordan had shooting slumps. And why not have a slump when the game mean NOTHING?
Redick hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer down the stretch in the ACC final -- WHEN IT COUNTED. I think he -- and Duke -- will be just fine for the next three weeks.
Duke won its seventh ACC Tournament title in eight years! Are you kidding? For a team to win to accomplish that in the best basketball conference in the country is incredible.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Oh Captain my Captain

Flipping through the satellite TV channels today, I came across a familiar face pitching in a spring training game for the Pittsburgh Pirates - Ryan Vogelsong. You may remember Vogelsong as a Shreveport Captains pitcher in the late 1990s.

The fact that there are still former Captains dotting the major league baseball scene serves as further evidence of what the loss of affiliated baseball in this town means.

Sure, some people went to the games for the beer. But serious baseball fans can talk about seeing Keith Foulke, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, a host of others playing for the Captains, not to mention those that played against the team during their Texas League days.

We may never get Double-A baseball back here. But at least we have some memories when flipping the TV dial.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

No Mo Valley

I have to admit, until about a couple of weeks ago I would have had a hard time telling you what schools were members of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Now, after a media onslaught not seen since the Charles Woodson for Heisman campaign run by ESPN, you can't get away from the Valley.

The Sporting News has shoved the Valley down its readers throats for the past two months. The Sunday New York Times had a story pushing for five NCAA Tournament bids for the Valley. The AP wire has gotten into the act.


Yes, the Missouri Valley has figured out how to manipulate the RPI. Congratulations to them. Does that mean Bradley and Creighton are two of the best 65 teams in the country? No it means they figured out a way to bolster their RPI ratings.

Look, I'm the first person that tells you Northern Iowa ought to be in the NCAA field. Northern Iowa has good wins over LSU and I0wa. I've seen Northern Iowa play in the past and have no problem with that team in the field. No problem with Southern Illinois after it won the tournament.

But the rest of the conference's schedule outside of the league is nothing to get excited about.

Hopefully, the NCAA selection committee will see through this facade on Sunday. No more than three for me.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Double standard for drugs?

So Barry Bonds used steriods? Wow. Pick me up off the floor. I'd have never guessed.

Sports Illustrated is treating the new Bonds book as if it was the tablets coming down from Mt. Sinai.

My problem isn't with outrage over Bonds. The outrage is deserved.

My problem is this: Where was the outrage last summer when a French sports newspaper busted Lance Armstorng? Instead, the story was neatly tucked away in the back of almost every sports section in America. One denial by Armstrong and -- poof-- the story went away.

Is it because the American media wants to believe Armstrong and wants to bury Bonds?

I don't know. But the situations certainly appear to have some similarities.

Memo to Saints: Just don't do it

There has been an ESPN report that the New York Jets want USC quarterback Matt Leinart to come in for a workout.

The Jets own the fourth pick of the draft. To draft Leinart, they'll have to trade up, probably to the No. 2 picked owned by --- your New Orleans Saints.

Memo to the Saints: don't do it.

You've got one chance at a franchise quarterback, one chance at a player who can be the face of the franchise's rebuilding, don't blow it. There is NOTHING on the Jets roster worth making that trade.

ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd suggested the league needs Leinart in New York. No, the league already has Eli Manning in New York. Cowherd said if the Saints are "gracious'' they'll trade the pick. Dude, the Saints have been gracious for nearly 40 years. As for his statement that the team doesn't know where it will play, I guess ESPN Radio doesn't get the AP wire. They'll be in the Dome again in September.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

First impressions on Team USA

Midway through Team USA's first World Baseball Classic game and nothing new has emerged.

Jake Peavy is a rising star, Derrek Lee can hit and Alex Rodriguez is the whiniest player in Major League Baseball -- and possibly the world.

The offense hasn't been there yet for the Americans but they were facing a guy who won double-digit games last year in Rodrigo Lopez. The pitching, however, has been dominant in the first half of the game, which should give anyone who cares about how the USA fares in the tournament some hope.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Do conference tournaments matter?

To ESPN, this is Championship Week. To teams on the proverbial bubble, it's do-or-die week for their NCAA Tournament bids. But to teams already in, do these conference tournaments really matter?


It would be nice to think that all of the teams will be going all out to win in Championship Week. News flash - they won't.

Case in point, the LSU Tigers. LSU coach John Brady said today he wasn't going to put any of his injured players at risk in the SEC Tournament. Does Brady want to win? Sure. But he'd rather do his winning next week when the NCAA Tournament begins. He has his outright crown. The SEC Tournament only proves who is hot for a four-day period.

So college hoops fans, don't believe the hype. Championship Week happened about eight times in January and February.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Could be Airline's turn

I saw the final regular-season game between Airline and Southwood, and I've seen each team play two postseason games. Right now, the Lady Vikings are playing better basketball.
For whatever reason, and she didn't appear to have one, the Denham Springs coach chose to do nothing special to guard Emily Carter in the semifinal round. I don't think Steve McDowell of Southwood will make that mistake. It may be up to the remaining Vikings to win the game.
On the other side, I suspect Southwood will have to win with outside shooting if the Vikes pack it in at all costs.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Wisdom from the Valley

Finally, a college basketball coach who seems to get it.

It's March. Time to talk about the infamous bubble of the NCAA Tournament. Thankfully, Creighton's Dana Altman gets it.

His Bluejays play in the Missouri Valley Conference -- this season's mid-major media darling league. Some projections have The Valley getting 6 teams into the Big Dance. Five of those would have to be at-large bids. That shouldn't happen.

I'm no BCS conference apologist and five or six Valley teams would be a nice national story, but Altman hit the nail on the head as to why his conference may not be treated as nicely as some of the national experts would have you think.

"I’m not sure we have to go to the Final Four, but we have to have more postseason success," Altman tells The Indianapolis Star. "That would give us more credibility."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ah, the Dame of Kentwood

After a few days of halftime "entertainment" at the Sweet 16, the Brittney Spears phenomenon is much clearer to me.
Apparently, in the search for something to keep the fans amused during the brief intermissions, the committee here went for "give 'em the kids!" We've had at least three groups of amazingly young children dancing and smiling to some of pop music's trashiest offerings. They've been adorned -- keep in mind, we're talking in the 4- to 6-year-old range here -- in stomach-revealing attire, gyrating like Kentwood's own.
All the while, the crowd goes wild and mommas stand just off the court with cameras and shrieks of joy. The point seems to be making these preschoolers appear as raunchy and grown up as possible. At one point, a youngster dropped to the floor in similar fashion to adults or teens who roll their hips against the ground as if simulating sex.
What a joyous time we've had here. In five years, these same mothers will be wondering why their lovely innocents are out all night and dating the community's finest hooligans.
Brittney, I apologize. Maybe it was your childhood after all.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

World Baseball Classic

So they're having this World Baseball Classic -- I guess.

So far, it's been easier to keep up with the players who are not playing in the Classic than the ones who are.

And the biggest news has been George Steinbrenner's opposition to this whole mess.

As a Yankees hater, it pains me to say this, but I'm on George's side on this one. Who cares about the World Baseball Classic?