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Saturday, March 31, 2007

In need of a good game

OK, so the Florida-UCLA game got a little better in the second half.

But we really need the Florida-Ohio State game to be a good one on Monday night.

Otherwise, this tournament will be one of the least memorable in years. So far the greatest moment in this tournament didn't win a game, but only sent it into overtime (Ohio State's Ron Lewis shot against Xavier).

Maybe we're putting too much pressure on the tournament to provide unexpected moments. Maybe they'll come on Monday night.

But you'll have two No. 1 seeds playing for the title. The Final Four was two number ones and two number twos.

We're due a classic game.

Hard to watch

It's halftime of the Florida-UCLA game and this has been brutal to watch.

Florida 29, UCLA 23

First to 60 wins.

I realize these are two good defensive teams. I also realize there has been some poor shooting as well.

Here is hoping both teams can make some shots and get in some kind of offensive flow.

Right now, I am just thankful I didn't spend big $$$ on this.

Final Four time

Ohio State and Georgetown tip off tonight, and some things occurred to me as I was reading some game notes online...

Is Greg Oden the oldest-looking 19-year-old you've ever seen? The kid, and I use that phrase loosely, looks like he should be having a mid-life crisis any day now. I'm beginning to suspect he's Robert Parrish's love child after a wild road trip to Cleveland.

News out of Atlanta says UCLA brought their band and cheerleaders to practice. Is that how relaxed people in California are all the time? I guess when every morning you wake up and you've got the Pacific Ocean out your front door, I'd be pretty laidback too.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Most wonderful time of the year?

We're just hours away from what is one of the best weeks in sports every year. You have the Final Four starting, Major League Baseball starting and next week the Masters.

That's not to mention locally the CHL playoffs and the ongoing NBA and NHL seasons.

I have always considered the month of October to be the greatest month in sports - you've got the World Series, the NFL, college football, the NHL and the NBA starting training camp.

But for one week, this may be as good as it gets during the year.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mangum may leave Techsters

The talk around Ruston is that Lady Techsters guard Eboni Mangum is seeking a transfer to another institution.

When contacted on Wednesday about the possible move, Techsters boss Chris Long said that he didn't want to comment on the matter. Another source close to the school, however, said Mangum's leaving "was a done deal."

Mangum was slated to be the Techsters' only returning starter and the leader of what will be a young Techsters team. She was the team's third leading scorer last season at 8.6 ppg. Long loses four seniors to graduation this spring.

Mangum was recruited by former Techsters assistant Katie Hall, and was the highest rated player signed during the tenure of former head coach Kurt Budke. Budke said Thursday that he was disappointed to hear that Mangum might be leaving and said that she had not contacted his school about transferring there.

The Techsters will have a bevy of incoming guard talent this fall, but the leadership of Mangum will be sorely needed. Here's hoping Long can turn her head before it's too late -- if it isn't already.

Marketing the Wings

Give the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings credit for trying to market their team with their marquee player, quarterback Quincy Carter.

You can find Carter, dressed in a Battle Wings uniform, on a billboard on Spring/Youree on the way into town.

That is a good thing. It reminds people that the Battle Wings are in town and the season is about to start. And Carter does give the team some credibility in the sense that he is a recognizable player.

The only risk is if Carter washes out.

Still, it is a risk worth taking. So kudos to the Wings for doing something rather rare around town and trying to market one of the team's stars.

No love for JaMarcus

Swinging by Barnes & Noble to pick up some magazines on the upcoming NFL Draft and I notice one thing.

There are five magazines stretched out in the sports magazine section - from ESPN to Sporting News to Lindy's. Every one of them has Brady Quinn on the front cover. None of them have JaMarcus Russell.

Quinn has got to be the most overhyped quarterback coming out of college since Ryan Leaf.

Mike Golic calls Quinn, "the most prepared quarterback in this year's draft." Prepared at what? Losing big games? If that's the case the Lions should take him with their first pick. Oh wait. The Lions never play any big games.

Mel Kiper writes that Quinn, "defines what a comeback quarterback is this year." Let's look at the Notre Dame's big comeback wins last year - Georgia Tech, Michigan State and UCLA. Any one of those teams really all that impressive? Georgia Tech finished 9-5, UCLA finished 7-6 and Michigan State was 4-8.

I will give credit to Quinn. He certainly has the physical attributes to succeed in the NFL, but so does Russell and a lot of other quarterbacks (Drew Stanton, Michigan State; Chris Leak, Florida; Kevin Kolb, Houston).

Think Quinn is being mentioned as a possible No. 1 pick if he plays in the SEC? I don't think so.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Richard set to return at Tech

Louisiana Tech men's basketball fans can expect another year at the helm by current head coach Keith Richard.

Although Tech Athletic Director Jim Oakes hasn't officially extended Richard another season, it appears as if that will be the case.

"We'll continue to evaluate our men's basketball program in relation to our strategic plan," Oakes said on Wednesday. "We're always looking for ways to improve in all sports through the evaluation of our goals and objectives."

Richard, whose team finished 10-20 overall and 7-9 in the WAC, lost to New Mexico State in the first round of the WAC tournament. The Bulldogs will graduate seven players off that team.

Richard's current contract will end this summer and Oakes couldn't say whether Richard would receive an extension or would have to operate without one, as do coaches in all Tech sports except football and men's and women's basketball.

Tech President Dan Reneau will make the final decision regarding Richard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hoops talk

The Final Four is coming up this weekend, but the talk in college basketball right now is about some of the jobs that are open.

I don't understand it, but apparently Billy Gillespie is headed to Arkansas from Texas A&M. At least that's the talk in hoops circles. I figured Gillespie, a Texan, to stay at A&M. But apparently Arkansas is going to get serious about men's basketball.

If Gillespie leaves, then it will be interesting to see Texas A&M's next move.

Another hot topic is the Kentucky job. The word in hoops circles is that Kentucky is going to go hard after Billy Donovan at Florida. The numbers being tossed around there are Nick Saban numbers - nearly $4 million a year is what is being talked about among basketball types. It will be interesting to see what Donovan does.

Locally, Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy has created a stir by applying for the Iowa job.Already, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl has taken his name out of consideration there.

These next two weeks will be huge in determining what happens next season.

Hollywood & baseball

With the start of the baseball season right around the corner, I was thinking about the best baseball movies and it dawned on me that there really aren't that many.

Tops on the list has got to be The Natural. Although, Hollywood had to give it the melodramatic ending that test audiences want. I read Bernard Malamud's novel on which the movie is based and Roy Hobbs is nothing like the All-American boy portrayed by Robert Redford. He's a man tormented by demons, and I was devastated by Malamud's ending. I have always wanted either a New York Knights jersey or the leather jacket.

Second, it's Field of Dreams. It can get sappy at times, but the final scene has me reaching for the box of Kleenex every single time. It too was based on novel - W.P. Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe." For another good read, check out his "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy."

Throw in Eight Men Out, The Bad News Bears and that's about it for good baseball movies. Bang the Drum Slowly is probably in there as well, but I've never seen it. And, frankly, Bull Durham and Major League are a bit overrated.

For a sport as dramatic as baseball, you'd think Hollywood could do a better job adapting it for motion pictures.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Calling the Hogs - Crazy

Arkansas fired coach Stan Heath today. Those NCAA Tournament trips in the last two seasons apparently don't count for much at the most unhappy school in America.

Seriously, the Hogs go to the SEC Championship Game in football and all anyone in Arkansas wants to do is complain about Houston Nutt because the Springdale Mafia isn't happy.

Then, the basketball team gets hot, reaches the SEC Tournament final, earns an NCAA Tournament berth, and now the coach gets whacked.

Somebody is going to inherit a team that loses no seniors, has the returning SEC Freshman of the Year, and should be primed to go in the SEC West.

As former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson told reporters today, "Frank Broyles ought to take the job. Hell, he can win with the team (Heath is) leaving.''

Texas not a lone-star state in hoops

The AP All-America team has spoken and it says Texas isn't a Lone Star State this season.

Texas' Kevin Durant and Texas A&M's Acie Law IV were both named first-team All-America on Monday. Given the hype surrounding Durant, the only unanimous choice on this year's team, a first-team selection was unsurprising.

Law, on the other hand, embodies what college sports should be about. Three seasons ago, as a freshman, he was part of an Aggies team that went 0-16 in Big 12 play. Now, he's an accomplished scorer, one of the country's top point guards on a Sweet 16 team and a possible first-round pick in June's NBA Draft.

While some college athletes moan and whine about being used by their respective institutions (and there may be some truth to that), Law took advantage of everything offered to a student athlete and made himself a better player and the Aggies a better team by doing so.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Little help

The Final Four is set with two No. 1 seeds (Florida and Ohio State) and two No. 2 seeds (UCLA and Georgetown). I thought the committee did a good job with the bracket and turns out they did.

I had three of the four Final Four teams in my bracket. North Carolina let me down today..

If I had known North Carolina was that bad defensively I don't know how long I would have had them in my bracket. The Tar Heels were brutal today in the second half. All they needed was one more stop, one more stop, in the final 7 minutes and they win in regulation. But that defense was softer than Charmin toilet tissue.

Still, despite Carolina's lack of defense, I can't complain too much about this group of Final Four teams.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

March Madness

Leave it to the NCAA Women's Tournament to put the Madness into this March.

While the men's tournament is pretty much going according to the seedings the women's tournament is actually having some upsets.


Your defending national champion Maryland Terrapins - They gone. Courtesy of Ole Miss.

Those dominant Duke Blue Devils - They gone. Rutgers ousted them today.

How about some recent powers?

Stanford? Florida State took care of Stanford.

Baylor? Didn't make the Sweet 16.

This is what made the men's tournament what it is. Now it's coming to the women's tournament. Hopefully people will take notice.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Surprise, surprise, surprise

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin has revealed who will present him for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. It isn't who you might think.

No, Troy Aikman.

No, Jimmy Johnson.

Irvin has selected Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to present him.

In fact, Irvin told the Dallas Morning News that Jones was not only his first choice, but his only choice.

Once he expounded on his selection, Irvin made sense. He said without Jones' commitment to winning, he wouldn't have had the players around him that helped make a Hall of Fame career. Makes sense to me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring football games are in the air

It will be a big weekend around here for college football fans.

I realize it's March. I realize the NCAA Tournament is going on right now. I realize the Mudbugs are making a playoff push. I realize spring training will soon wrap up in baseball.

But this weekend LSU, Grambling and Northwestern State are all wrapping up spring football drills. Grambling will play its spring game at 11 a.m. on Saturday. LSU will follow at noon and Northwestern State is at 6 p.m.

Yes, spring football doesn't count. And yes, the stars don't often play a lot in spring games. But this is the time when you see the guys who will likely emerge in fall camp. This is the time the serious fan can get an idea about what kind of team he can expect to see in 2007.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Centenary celebrates big sports day

It was fun to be on the Centenary campus on Wednesday. Whether you were part of the throng that watched the Arkansas-Gents baseball game or the LSU-Ladies softball game, you made it a one of the best sports days for two sometimes neglected sports on the Kings Highway campus.

The Gents and Ladies didn't get to do a lot of celebrating, since they lost both games to nationally ranked clubs, but by bringing in the SEC teams, they exposed their programs to hundreds of area sports fans who otherwise would not have seen them play.

There's no telling how many hot dogs, boxes of popcorn and soft drinks that Centenary Athletic Director Glen Evans sold in the concession stand, but the numbers had to be significant when compared to your average Gents or Ladies basketball game.

Here's hoping there are more similar split-sport doubleheaders in Centenary's future.

Did Texans give up too much?

I applaud the Houston Texans for not standing pat this offseason, they’ve certainly been aggressively pursuing talent. But is today’s trade for Matt Schaub worth TWO second-round picks AND swapping positions in the draft?

The Texans obviously think so.

From all accounts Schaub is a talented quarterback, but he’s seen limited action. The same can be said, however, of Texans backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

So why not keep David Carr and Rosenfels, draft a quarterback and let them battle it out for the starter’s job? That way, you don’t surrender TWO second-round picks and drop from No. 8 to No. 10 in the draft. And if Carr loses the starter’s job, he’ll be just as solid as any backup that's on the market.

There’s plenty of talent to be had in the second round. Remember NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year DeMeco Ryans?

And dropping in the draft could force the Texans to miss out on another franchise player. There will be talent at No. 10, to be sure. But there will be MORE talented players on the board at No.

Stay tuned.

Centenary blows grand chance

How often will an opportunity come along as big as the one Centenary had on Wednesday?

The Gents had a chance to beat No. 9 Arkansas for the first time in 40 years and let it slip through their fingers (literally). They were up 8-2 after the first inning and 10-4 after the third inning and lost, 16-14.

Centenary wasted a fantastic start, thanks to its middle relievers who struggled with the Razorbacks' bats. Centennary coach Ed McCann praised his team for its fight, but deep down, this loss has got to sting knowing he had Arkansas on the ropes.

Arkansas fans may complain the umpire didn't know what a strike was, but the simple fact is the Gents were beating Arkansas soundly for most of the game.

On a side note, an Arkansas fan wanted me to write a story about a Centenary student who was heckling the Razorbacks the entire game. She couldn't believe the college was letting him standing up and say such slanderous things for the whole game.

First, what he was saying wasn't slanderous at all. It happens at every sporting event in the nation. He wasn't disputing Arkansas players' bloodlines or calling into question their mothers' morals. He was ribbing the Razorbacks with some good one-liners. He was annoying at times and nothing more.

Second, grow some thick skin for crying out loud. I don't think the Arkansas players were bothered by him. They're big boys. They play in the SEC, they can handle it.

Third, has this woman ever attended a sporting event before? I can't believe she would be so naive to think that heckling doesn't go on at baseball games. I don't think she'd be saying the same thing sitting at Reynolds Razorback Stadium if a Razorbacks fan was tormenting LSU in the fourth quarter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Where's the marketing?

Centenary will play home baseball and softball games against top-10 teams on Wednesday. Of course, you wouldn't know it if you were depending on Centenary to tell you.

The school has blown a wonderful marketing opportunity to package these two games as one event. They could have called it Super Wednesday. Instead, they call it another day at the yard.

Arkansas is the No. 9 baseball team in the country and will play Centenary at 2 p.m. Then at 5:30, LSU, the No. 9 softball team will Centenary.

Instead of advertising and promoting the two events as one, the school basically sent out separate press releases to media outlets locally about the two events.

Centenary officials sometimes complain about attendance. Maybe they should look at themselves in this instance.

Monday, March 19, 2007

LSU breathes a little easier

The Lady Tigers dodged a huge bullet from West Virginia here in Austin.

LSU escaped the second round of the women's NCAA Tournament with a 49-43 win, thanks in large part to Sylvia Fowles. The Tigers had problems knocking down shots that were falling in their first round game.

West Virginia did a fantastic job on Fowles in the first half. The Mountaineers showed a man defense on the Tigers first trip down the court, but after that, it was all zone.
Fowles had a more physical game compared to the UNC-Asheville game.

While everyone was looking at Fowles' performance, interim head coach Bob Starkey credited one of his guards as the game's turning point.

"RaShonda LeBlanc on (LaQuinta)Owens was critical because she didn't get any looks," he said.

The best question in the post-game news conference was from Baton Rouge Advocate beat writer Scott Rabalais who asked Starkey who's now 2-0 as a head coach: "Coach, was this the toughest game of your career?"

That got a hearty laugh from the collection of reporters working in the media room.

Is it just me?

Or does the Big 12 give us some of the most hyped teams in all of college athletics?

I bring this up after having heard about the great Texas Longhorns basketball team all winter. There is one columnist from a metropolitan area in the Big 12 North who went so far as to say we could see the Kansas-Texas Big 12 title game back again in the national championship game. Because, the writer said, these were the two best teams in the country.

Alas, we will be Texas-free this weekend at the Sweet 16.

This comes on the heels of all of those overhyped Oklahoma football teams of earlier in the decade. You may remember the "greatest team of all time'' as we were told by USA Today. That 2003 team got blown out by Kansas State in the Big 12 title game. Then it somehow back doored its way into the national title game and got beat by LSU.

Then, a year later, the Sooners vowed revenge. Oh yeah, they got blasted out of the national title game by USC.

In fairness, Texas did win the 2005 season title game when most were picking USC.

But for some reason there seems to be this love affair with the Big 12, particuarly Texas and Oklahoma.

I guess it's good for those schools.

But for the rest of us, there's nothing as sweet as watching them put the equipment away for the year.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Did Oklahoma State earn NCAA invite?

You have to give former Lady Techsters coach Kurt Budke credit. He got his Oklahoma State team into the NCAA Tournament, something current Lady Techsters coach Chris Long couldn't do.

After playing a very weak non-conference slate against the likes of Southern, Pacific, UMKC, Prairie View and Texas Southern, the Lady Cowboys went 8-8 in the Big 12. They lost in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament to lowly Kansas. Somehow, that earned them a trip to the Big Dance.

The Techsters, 12-4 and regular season co-champs of the WAC, also lost in the first round of their postseason tournament. Their non-conference slate included contests against LSU, Mississippi State, Iowa, Kansas State and Western Kentucky.

Maybe the Lady Techsters didn't deserve an NCAA invite. But you could certainly make an argument that they deserved one as much if not more than Oklahoma State.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finally some action

After two of the more mind-numbing opening-round days in recent NCAA Tournament history, Saturday finally gave us reason to watch.

Thank goodness. Another day of horrendously noncompetitive games may have made many want to turn away from the sport's biggest moment.

So thank you Xavier, Ohio State, Butler, Maryland, Vanderbilt, Washington State, Pittsburgh and VCU for restoring some shine to a thus-far dull Big Dance.

Greetings from Austin

A six-hour drive to Austin actually went by rather quickly, thanks to XM radio. I was flipping between the Tigers-Blue Jays spring game, my favorite show - the Ron & Fez show, and the special St. Patrick's Day programming. Made me wish I was back in Ireland, sitting in a pub with a Guinness in my hand.

Anyway, on to the Women's NCAA Tournament game tonight. LSU faces UNC-Asheville and the Bulldogs have plenty of matchup problems to contend with.

LSU interim head coach Bob Starkey said the key for tonight's game will be how well the Lady Tigers can shoot. If they're shooting well, that opens up a lot inside for Sylvia Fowles to work and gives room for Erica White to drive and create.

UNC-Asheville will implement a zone defense against the Tigers, daring them to shoot.

The funny thing is because of the game's late start, and The Times 10 p.m. deadline, I'll probably spend most of the first half sitting in the media room, watching the game on television and polishing up my first story. Meanwhile, the actual game is a mere hundred feet or so away from me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

When is an upset an upset?

There have been some upsets -- if that's what you want to call them - in this year's NCAA Tournament. But shockers? Not really.

And I wonder what constitutes an upset anymore? Sure a 10 seed beating a seven seed is called an upset, but is it really an upset?

I mean, VCU beating Duke was no upset. Duke stunk at the end of the season. And Duke being a six seed was a joke to begin with because Duke was a seventh seed in its own conference tournament.

Parity has hit college basketball. Maybe it's because of scholarship limitations or the NBA's underclassmen rules, but parity is here. So only call an upset an upset.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Re-visiting the Techsters NIT decision

Lady Techsters coach Chris Long is taking some heat for his decision to skip playing in the Women's NIT.

While there are some justifiable reasons why the team should have continued playing, there are also some reasons why they should have just called it a season. The biggest reason of all for the Techsters' lack of success this season was a lack of both team chemistry and leadership. Sophomore guard Quantae Thomas was released from the team midway through the season for causing a disruption.

Then, in the WAC Tournament loss to New Mexico State, senior Shan Moore took herself out of the game in the closing moments, although the team still had a chance to win. What prompted that decision is anyone's guess, but with my senior leadership acting that way, I wouldn't continue playing either.

If Long made a mistake, it was in the school's release where he said, " Louisiana Tech women’s basketball has been about playing in the NCAA Tournament. We did not do enough this season to reach that goal. With all due respect to the WNIT, we are not interested in an invitation."

That came across as sounding arrogant. But people who know Chris Long, know that he is anything but arrogant. A softer worded statement probably would have saved him some heat.

The Techsters need a big time post signee in the spring if they hope to avoid the indignity of an NIT invitation next season. They'll have plenty of talent and depth at guard, but they need more depth in the paint.

Fortunately, the madness won’t end in March

For basketball fans, the fun has just begun. There’s nothing quite like the buzzer-beaters, upsets and win-or-go-home thrills of March Madness.

But once an NCAA champion is crowned, it’ll be time to look ahead to the excitement of the NBA playoffs, beginning in April.

If you caught the Dallas Mavericks-Phoenix Suns double-overtime thriller on Wednesday night, you know what’s in store. The NBA’s two best teams and its two best players gave basketball fans a glimpse of what to expect once March Madness comes to an end.

The Mavericks. The Suns. The surging San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. Steve Nash. Dirk Nowitzki. Shaq. Yao Ming and T-Mac. The Utah Jazz and Louisiana Tech rookie Paul Millsap.


Sit back and enjoy the thrills of March Madness. And when it’s over, buckle up for another exciting ride. The fun has just begun.

All's quiet on NCAA front

The afternoon games are wrapping up and except for a small scare for Texas A&M in the second half (the Aggies were tied at 39 with Penn), it's been a rather uneventful NCAA Tournament thus far.

My upset picks - ORU over Washington State and Old Domininion over Butler - went down in flames.

That's not good news. Because you know there are going to be some upsets. And I know those upsets are going to crash my bracket.

Otherwise, this would be the first time the tournament ever held form in history.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pete Rose comes clean

Pete Rose finally admitted on ESPN Radio this afternoon that he bet on baseball, and more specifically, his own team.

ESPN ran a poll asking viewers should he be reinstated in Major League Baseball? Amazingly, nearly 70 percent voted yes.

Why? The man openly admits his guilt, after years of denying he bet on the sport, and now fans are ready to embrace him back.

If that's the case then reinstate Shoeless Joe Jackson from the 1919 White Sox scandal. Some of the "evidence" against Shoeless Joe was circumstantial at best, and yet the man hasn't been cleared.

Rose may feel like he's cleaned his slate by his admission and ready for Major League Baseball to welcome him, but he's signed his own pass to baseball purgatory.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Go Tigers

I'm not a betting man. But if I were - and I was in Las Vegas - I would have to put $5 down on the Jackson State Tigers.

The Tigers are my new favorite team in the NCAA Tournament.

If you want to talk about having the odds against you, then you have to talk JSU. These Tigers are 50 sextillion-to-1 underdogs.

So if JSU were to win six straight - I know let me dream - that would be $250 sextillion coming my way.

In case you were wondering, a sextillion is a 1 followed by 21 zeros.

Here is what 50 sextillion looks like - 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Booing ban?

This week's sign of the apocalypse (thank you Sports Illustrated) comes from Washington state. The state's high school athletic association wants to ban booing at all games.

Other high school athletic associations are already on board and have also banned face paint, those big foam No. 1 fingers, feet stomping, derisive cheering against opponents and trying to distract opponents shooting free throws.


We might as well as start handing out ribbons to everyone for participating...oh wait, we already do that.

Some of those cheers against opponents can brush the corners of decency, but to ban booing? Face painting? Feet stomping? This is beyond ridiculous.

These educators, who are supposedly preparing young men and women for adulthood, are only coddling them. A recent study of college students determined that narcissism is a common them among them. They've never had to face any challenges and only expect the best to be handed to them.

Sports are supposed to teach teamwork, discipline, and the fact that sometimes, the odds are against you. Yes, people will be cheering for you to fall on your face. It's rising to the challenge that builds character.

In case you missed it ...

The Dallas Mavericks are good. Real good.

That's a 17-game winning streak the Mavericks are on right now. They are 38-2 in the last 40 games they have played.

They could win 70 games.

And yet all you hear about on the national talk shows or publications is the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs and others.

The Mavericks, since a four-game losing streak to start the season, have been the NBA's best team. And if they don't win the championship this season, then they may never win it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Who to root for in the tournament?

OK, so you're not a fan of Arkansas, Texas or Texas A&M. Then who do you root for in the NCAA Tournament?

Here are some ideas.

You could root for Notre Dame. There's former NSU Demon Mike Brey coaching that team.

Or you could root for USC. Mike McConathy's former Louisiana Tech teammates and roomate Tim Floyd is coaching that team.

You could root against Duke. You'd have a lot of people ready to join you on that one.

You can still have fun with the tournament.

But let's face it, the tournament is more fun when you have a rooting interest. And this year, there is no rooting interest in Louisiana.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What's not to like?

Congratulations to the University of Arkansas. The Razorbacks will play in the SEC Tournament championship game after having played in the SEC football championship game in December.

The school's fans should enjoy this feat - especially being matched up against Florida again.

While Razorbacks coach Stan Heath has been feeling some heat, this tournament run should help a) his team get into the NCAA Tournament and b) him keep his job.

Of course if we learned anything from Arkansas football, some things aren't as they seem.

Hopefully Arkansas fans can quit grinding Mitch Mustain and Houston Nutt long enough to enjoy their team's accomplishments in both football and basketball.

Greetings from Kissimmee

Greetings from Kissimmee, Florida, the Houston Astros' spring training home. It's a gorgeous Central Florida day - sunny and 75 degrees.

I've been coming down here for several years, and the weather always seems to cooperate.

The only thing that's been uncomfortably hot here is rookie Hunter Pence's bat! He's hitting major league pitching at a .700 clip!! Wow!!

The Astros have BIG decisions to make concerning Pence and other players.

Does Pence stay in the majors or return to the minors? Who's the odd man out if Pence stays?

I'll talk to players and coaches to find out what Astros fans can expect this season.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Giving back

While the locals continue to go ga-ga over actors all over town, a couple of celebrities gave the community a little more significant return today.

The Shack Harris-Doug Williams Foundation gave SPAR 12 computers and 12 printers.

What Shack Harris and Doug Williams are doing is commendable. They're not just talking about giving back to the community, they are doing just that.

Hopefully, the folks in Shreveport and Bossier City will recognize that.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I-Bowl gets a date

The PetroSun Independence Bowl will be played on Sunday, Dec. 30, at 7 p.m.

The good news for the bowl is the game will be televised nationally in prime time by ESPN. Another good thing is the date isn't that close to Christmas to make it a problem.

Personally, I like day games. But I also understand the importance of playing at night with the most viewers, although I don't like the matchup against the NFL. A year ago the MPC Computers bowl went head-to-head with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

Still, there have been worse dates.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Peyton Manning-Ryan Leaf lesson

There’s a debate as to who’ll be the better NFL quarterback, LSU’s JaMarcus Russell or Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn. A similar debate took place before the 1998 NFL Draft, when Tennessee’s Peyton Manning and Washington State’s Ryan Leaf were rated as the nation’s top quarterbacks.

But there shouldn’t have even BEEN a Manning-Leaf debate, just as there should be no doubt today.

Here’s the lesson that SHOULD have been learned in 1998: When choosing between the two best athletes at a position, and all else is equal, ALWAYS go with the player who’s consistently faced better competition.

Manning, who played in the SEC, has carved out a Hall of Fame career and won an NFL title. (In Super Bowl XLI, Manning just happened to face another former SEC star, Florida’s Rex Grossman.)

Leaf, who had an injury-riddled career, played in the Pac-10. In 1997, half of the SEC’s 12 teams finished the season in the Associated Press Top 25 poll as compared to four Pac-10 teams.

Remember this: Russell is going to have a much more successful pro career than Quinn. Not only does he have off-the-chart skills, he’s had to constantly adjust to top-flight competition in the SEC. Russell is going to have a Peyton Manning-like career. He’s going to put up phenomenal numbers AND lead his team to a championship.

Quinn is going to be a LOT better than most observers think, however (Think Marc Bulger). Don’t underestimate Charlie Weiss’ influence on him. Quinn CERTAINLY won’t be another Leaf, but he won’t be another JaMarcus Russell, either.

Hometown hero

Her high school alma mater (Southwood) lost in the state championship game, but you can read about Morenike Atunrase and her Texas A&M Aggies in USA Today today.

But if you want to see a photo of her in USA Today, you'll have to pay the 75 cents. The Web site doesn't have one, but the newspaper does.

Atunrase's season has been one hampered by injuries. Still, her team is one to watch in the Big 12 Tournament starting today.


So the LSU-Centenary game drew nearly 4,000 people Tuesday night -- a glorious night for Shreveport and Fair Grounds Field.
Well, not so much.
Not one of the folks in the stands didn't at some point make a joke about the scoreboard. IT'S A DISGRACE. Names of players were illegible (loved Ate Santiago, that was my favorite), the scores were jumbled and the pitch counts were absolutely a disgrace.
It was embarrassing. Of course it's been like that for years. Someone joked at the office that the Sports don't care the scoreboard doesn't work because then people won't know they're losing.
Scoreboards are much of what people remember when they visit a ball park --Wrigley and Fenway with the manual scoreboard and Yankees stadium with the simple, yet historic electronic scoreboard.
Shreveport mayor Cedric Glover was at Tuesday's game. Hopefully, he was as embarrassed as the rest of us. Then maybe something will get done.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

XM sees the light

Thank you XM for finally seeing the light.

Oh, I love my XM radio. The Major League Baseball games every day for six months are worth the price alone. And I can occasionally get into the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 games on the radio, probably the basketball more than the football.

But today XM announced a deal with the SEC.

Now there are a couple of things to be noted. Not all of the SEC schools can get out of Sirius contracts. One of those is LSU, but hey, you don't need a satellite to hear those games. But it's not all the schools. And some will come along in the next couple of years. Still, it's a great start.

Me, I'm fired up about being able to listen to the SEC basketball tournament on the way into the office this week. I'm fired up about being able to listen to SEC football on crisp, fall afternoons.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Signing Green was a good move, but …

The Houston Texans should be commended for signing Green Bay running back Ahman Green on Sunday. The 30-year-old four-time Pro Bowler, who has rushed for over 1000 yards in six of his nine NFL seasons, is an instant upgrade at the position.

But he’s not the answer to the questions surrounding the Texans’ running game. That would be Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, who was one of the most impressive players at the NFL Scouting Combine. And if Peterson is available when the Texans draft in the No. 8 spot, they should grab him – without hesitation.

If the Texans manage to pass on Peterson because they’re confident Green can do the job, they’d be making a colossal mistake. Again.

Good to see the Saints active

Without a doubt, chemistry played a role in the New Orleans Saints' stunning run to the NFC Championship Game.

A winning season and a deep playoff run can cover up a lot of shortcomings. But give the Saints credit for knowing where their problems are and being willing to make moves to handle those problem areas, regardless of who it meant cutting.

Looks like the Saints may have figured it out in the front office as well as on the field.

Show me the money

I know it's fashionable for Louisiana Tech fans to bash athletic director Jim Oakes and some of the Bulldogs coaches. But a glance at the numbers show some of those criticisms to be off base.

Sports Illustrated listed the five poorest athletic programs in Division I. Three of those programs can be found in Louisiana.

Louisiana-Monroe is the poorest in the state - and second poorest in the nation - with just $7.2 million in revenue. Louisiana-Lafayette is second poorest in the state at $8, third poorest in the nation. Then comes Louisiana Tech at $10.1 million in revenue, the same as Arkansas State. (VMI is the poorest at $5.5 million).

Those revenue figures reflect as much on the fan base as they do the administration.

And to be honest, with that little revenue coming in, Tech hasn't done that poorly. The football team had a losing season this year, but a winning season last year.Ditto men's basketball. Baseball has made improvements.

The reality of the situation is for Tech to reach some of its athletic aspirations the fan base is going to have to step up along with the athletic programs.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Off year for state hoops

Last year at this time, the state was buzzing over the possibilities of what could happen in March Madness.
The LSU men, LSU women and NSU men all had tremendous runs and made people in this reason forget, albeit just temporarily, about football season.
Things are extremely different this year. The biggest hype surrounding the tourneys this year will be our brackets.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bucs dis Rattay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Jeff "Don't Call Me Jerry" Garcia and traded for the rights to Jake Plummer on Saturday.

Not only is the move bad for last year's opening day starter, Chris Simms, it's also not good news for former Louisiana Tech standout Tim Rattay.

For whatever reason, Bucs coach Jon Gruden does not like Rattay despite Rattay's decent play in relief of Bruce Gradkowski last season and what he showed when he was with the San Francisco 49ers.

Garcia can still play, but he's getting old. It's never been clear if Plummer could play in the NFL. Plus, Plummer said late Saturday on his Web site he will retire. So why not go with Rattay? The guy is a winner and -- if he ever gets a chance -- can prove he belongs in the league.

Maybe the Bucs will do Rattay a favor and let him go play for a team that needs a capable QB. Otherwise Gruden will be seen as something I've suspected for a long time -- a spiteful, overrated coach whose best years are already behind him.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UFC 68: The Uprising

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has one of its biggest events (without Chuck Liddell) set for Saturday night. The main event features a bout between former light heavyweight champion and UFC Hall of Famer Randy “The Natural” Couture against current heavyweight champ Tim “The Maniac” Sylvia.
I was shocked when I heard of this bout. Couture shuns retirement to come back and fight one of the biggest, baddest dudes in the sport? Yikes.
The rest of the card is overwhelming. You have two champions in their first fight back from losing the title – Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes.
Franklin had his face rearranged by Anderson Silva while Matt Hughes was knocked out by Georges St. Pierre.
Franklin will face Jason MacDonald while Hughes steps up against Chris Lytle. Many believe Lytle got hosed in a decision in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter: 4 reality show against Matt Serra. I was at that bout in Vegas and Lytle certainly deserved a better fate. Here is Lytle’s chance to prove himself.
Another battle features Renato Sobral and Jason Lambert. Sobral has lost just two fights in the past 4 ½ year – both to Liddell, including an Aug. 26 loss in UFC: 62. This dude is tough.

FROM COLUMBIA DISPATCH: The highest-grossing event at Columbus, Ohio's Nationwide Arena isn’t a hockey game or rock concert. It’s Saturday’s kicking, grappling and punching UFC match. The sold-out event has reaped $2.8 million in ticket sales. More than the Rolling Stones, the Blue Jackets or the combined effort of Billy Joel and Elton John. In the first day of sales, 16,000 fans paid between $100 and $400 to see nearly naked men armed with only their fists and feet climb into an octagonal cage with one goal: beat an opponent into submission.

Fight card and official weight-in Friday afternoon:

Championship fight-Heavyweight Division
Randy Couture (222.5) vs. Tim Sylvia (263)

Middleweight Division
Jason MacDonald (183.5) vs. Rich Franklin (185)

Welterweight Division
Chris Lytle (169) vs Matt Hughes (171)

Light Heavyweight Division
Jason Lambert (204) vs. Renato Sobral (204)

Middleweight Division
Drew McFedries (185) vs. Mark Kampmann (185.5)

Light Heavyweight Division
Rex Holman (205) vs. Matt Hamill (202.5)

Welterweight Division
Luigi Fioravanti (171) vs. Jon Fitch (171)

Lightweight Division
Gleison Tubau (155.5) vs. Jason Dent (156)

Lightweight Division
Jason Gilliam (155.5) vs. Jamie Varner (155.5)

Quincy Carter on Outside the Lines

Sorry, but I had to chuckle when I heard ESPN crews were in town recently to shoot a feature on Quincy Carter for Outside the Lines. The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback signed with the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings to play this season.

I wonder how late in the evenings the production crews stayed with Carter, you know, in the effort to get the entire story.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Game of the Year?

Everyone who thought the Texas-Oklahoma State triple-overtime game in Stillwater in January was college basketball's game of the year, raise your hand?

Yes, mine is up.

Of course, that's the answer I would have given before watching last night's Texas A&M-Texas game. You know, the double-overtime thriller that was about 3 inches away from a third OT.

While Kevin Durant, Texas' all-everything freshman, has made his case for national player of the year honors, A&M's Acie Law IV made his case for enshrinement in college basketball's all-time clutch shooters hall of fame.

With 1.4 seconds left in regulation, Law drilled a 22-foot 3-pointer over Durant, who's only 6-9. With 27 seconds left in overtime, Law connected on another game-tying 3. Add those to the 3 to beat the Longhorns last year in College Station and his game-winning 3 at Kansas in January and it's hard to count A&M out and easy to count on Law in crunch time.

Skip Bayless is an idiot

This morning on ESPN's Cold Pizza, the ever-lovable Skip Bayless stated that at LEAST 50 percent of NFL players and upwards of 80 percent of them use HGH.
This despite the fact Jay Feely, the kicker for the New York Giants was on the panel and said he would estimate maybe 5 percent.
Granted Feely is a kicker, and certainly wouldn't greatly benefit from Human Growth Hormone, but he is in the locker room and spends a majority of his time around these players.
Bayless said a kicker would never know, but Feely asked "why not, I know stuff these guys' wives wouldn't like to hear."
It's a good point. Players are players. Sure, they aren't all best friends, but Feely more than Bayless would be able to grasp the true issue.
Bayless, as a member of the media (somehow respected by many), made a ridiculous, irresponsible statement. As a journalist, I'm embarrassed.
We may never know the extent of the problem as there is currently no HGH testing. However, I'll take Feely's honest opinion over Bayless' attempt to shock and dismay.