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More Shoes Drop
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: Hey, spring is around the corner. 1) Albert Pujols enters the season with 614 home runs. Who are the next two on the active list? 2) Who are the top two on the active wins list? Answers below.
Yes, as I’ve been writing recently, more dark days were ahead for the sport, and we received more bad news Friday. I cover it in great detail, but first the weekend’s action.
No. 1 Virginia (26-2, 15-1) clinched the ACC regular-season title with a 66-37 victory at pathetic Pitt (8-22, 0-17). I was following this online and when I saw it was 22-7, I had to look at the box score. Well, let’s just say it ended up being 30-7 at the half...7 points...the fewest points of any team in any half this season across all divisions of college basketball (Washington Post). It was the fewest points Virginia had allowed in a half since the introduction of the shot clock in 1986.
Pitt was 1 for 22. It ended up 11 for 46 for the game, 23.9 percent.
No. 3 Villanova showed once again that while virtually everyone has them as in a class of three, including Virginia and Michigan State, that is ahead of the rest in college hoops, ‘Nova nonetheless has serious issues...as in they’ve now lost four in the conference, the latest Saturday’s 89-83 defeat at the hands of Creighton in Omaha, the Bluejays moving to 20-9, 9-7, and clinching a tourney berth.
5 Duke had an easy time against Syracuse (18-11, 7-9) at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 60-44, despite shooting just 2 of 18 from three. Duke (24-5, 12-4) has now held four straight opponents to 57 points or less.
No. 6 Texas Tech (22-7, 10-6) hosted 8 Kansas and the Jayhawks won their fourth straight, 74-72, moving to 23-6, 12-4, as the Red Raiders lost their third straight and will plummet in the rankings.
Your “Pick to Click” 13 Wichita State Shockers will continue to move back up in the rankings after their sixth straight ‘W,’ 84-78 at SMU (16-13, 6-10), WS now 23-5, 13-3.
Seton Hall picked up a key victory at Madison Square Garden, defeating St. John’s 81-74 in overtime as the Pirates played without Desi Rodriguez. The Hall is now 20-9, 9-7, and should have wrapped up a tourney berth. St. John’s, which had that phenomenal stretch where it beat Duke and Villanova, back-to-back, fell to 14-15, 3-13.
[Thursday, The Hall had a big 89-77 win at Providence, the continuation of a game that had to be suspended Wednesday due to moisture on the court. But the game claimed the Pirates’ leading scorer, Rodriguez, who sprained an ankle on the slippery floor. Khadeen Carrington picked up the slack with 25.]
Then you have Wake Forest playing Notre Dame at home, Chaundee Brown hit a 3-pointer with 8:08 left to give the Deacs a 69-60. Nice win for the Deacs...until it wasn’t. We had two free throws the rest of the way, while Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell made a clutch three to make it 74-71 on the way to a 76-71 win, the Fighting Irish 17-12, 7-9, while the Deacs fall to 11-18, 4-13.
But hey, Wake wasn’t on “the List”!
Sunday, a school that was on the list, No. 2 Michigan State, beat Wisconsin in Madison, 68-63, to move to 28-3, 16-2, and take the Big Ten regular-season title in the process, the Badgers 14-17, 7-11.
Who is sick of seeing Wisconsin on Sundays? I sure as hell am!
11 Cincinnati (25-4, 14-2) beat Tulsa 82-74, the Golden Hurricane falling to 17-11, 10-6.
--Lastly, as I walked into my local Staples on Saturday, a guy alongside me was wearing a Drexel sweatshirt and I had to ask, “You go there?” “No, my son does.” “Nice win the other day,” I said. “Yeah, wasn’t that?”
Drexel made history on Thursday night with a furious rally from 34 points down against Colonial Athletic Association foe Delaware at home. Delaware led by 34 points late in the first half and by 27 at halftime, but then Drexel roared back behind Tramaine Isabell’s 29 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in an 85-83 win. The 34-point comeback set a new Division I record, breaking the previous record from 1950 when Duke came back from 32 points to beat Temple.
And now the bad stuff....
Yahoo Sports released a bombshell report Friday morning linking some of the most prominent players and programs in college basketball to the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in the sport.
Documents obtained and reviewed by Yahoo tie at least 20 Division I schools and more than two dozen players – including former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and current stars Miles Bridges and Collin Sexton – to former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency, ASM Sports.
The players – or in some cases family members – are listed as receiving impermissible benefits ranging from meals to more than $40,000 in loans, according to the report.
Others listed on a 2015 balance sheet as receiving five-figure loans while they were in school include former North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith ($73,500 in loans from ASM before he played for the Wolfpack), former Maryland center Diamond Stone ($14,300 as a freshman), former Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead ($37,000 around the time he was a freshman) and Fultz ($10,000), who starred at Washington.
Several current players are also listed as having met with Miller’s associate, Christian Dawkins, including Wendell Carter of Duke, Kevin Knox of Kentucky and Sexton, who plays for Alabama. The mother of Miles Bridges, who entered the season as the favorite for player of the year, is listed as receiving hundreds of dollars in loans from Dawkins, according to Yahoo.
Players or family members from the following other schools are listed in the documents: Clemson, Creighton, Iowa State, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Texas, Southern Cal, Utah, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wichita State and Xavier.
San Diego State took action Friday by provisionally suspending Malik Pope, a senior forward and NBA prospect who allegedly received a $1,400 loan, according to Yahoo.
Altogether, the documents mention players or family members of players from 17 programs that made the NCAA tournament last season, including five that reached the Elite Eight.
This is depressing as hell for us hoops fans.
In a statement published after the report, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the allegations, if proven true, “point to systemic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America.”
Emmert pointed to the fact that after the first news broke last fall, “the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was among those responding on Friday.
“Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a former or current Kentucky student-athlete,” Calipari said in a statement. “We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”
In a statement to Yahoo Sports, Xavier coach Chris Mack also denied having a relationship with Miller, as did Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.
Duke athletic director Kevin White issued a statement saying the university had reviewed the matter and found no eligibility issues related to the Yahoo report.
“Duke has an uncompromising commitment to compliance in athletics,” White’s statement said. “That has not, and will not, change.”
As for the biggie, thus far, the FBI has wiretaps of conversations between Arizona head coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, a runner for ASM Sports, in which Miller talks about paying $100,000 to make sure current star freshman Deandre Ayton landed with the Wildcats, according to an ESPN report.
Dawkins, who was working under ASM sports agent Andy Miller, is a major figure in the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball, which according to Yahoo Sports will implicate players and coaches from some of the nation’s top programs.
During the taped conversation, Sean Miller was asked by Dawkins if he should work with then-assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson about finalizing the agreement with Ayton. Miller, according to ESPN’s report, told Dawkins to deal directly with him when it came to money.
The calls are among 3,000 hours intercepted from Dawkins’ phone. According to Yahoo Sports, Dawkins can be heard on wiretaps claiming he can attend Arizona practices, “like I’m on the team.”
Ayton is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. The Wildcats also have a star point guard, Allonzo Trier, who was recently declared ineligible by the NCAA after testing positive for a banned substance.
Richardson was arrested by the FBI on Sept. 27 during the initial rollout of the two-year investigation’s findings. He is accused of taking $20,000 in bribes and paying players to attend Arizona. Richardson has been charged with six felonies.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas didn’t hold back during Saturday’s College GameDay, in addressing the probe. Talking about Sean Miller being recorded, Bilas called it “Career-ending. I can’t imagine him ever coaching in college again.”
Bilas added Arizona should put Miller on administrative leave and not play Ayton until the investigation is complete.
But Ayton did play Saturday night against Oregon, while Miller wasn’t on the sidelines. He addressed his team late Saturday morning, passing the reins to top assistant Lorenzo Romar and was gone – perhaps never to return again.
“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,” Miller said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “I continue to fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team.”
So picture the Wildcats had a few hours to gather their thoughts before taking on Oregon at a sold-out Matthew Knight Arena. Ayton, befitting his probable status as the No 1 pick in the upcoming draft, had another monster game, 28 points and 18 rebounds, but Oregon (19-10, 9-7) prevailed 98-93 in overtime, the No. 14 Wildcats falling to 22-7, 12-4.
Arizona also learned that Shareef O’Neal, son of Hall of Famer Shaquille and a top high school prospect, had decommitted from AZ.
“At this time I am opening up my recruitment due to the current events with the UofA Bball team,” he wrote on Twitter.
The 6-9, 200-pound forward at Crossroads School in Los Angeles is a four-star recruit and ranked the 28th top prospect in the 2018 class by Rivals.com.
Meanwhile, the following is a good example of how a ‘minor’ program is impacted.
Steve Politi / Star-Ledger
“So now it seems that Kevin Willard, once believed to be the sturdiest branch on the rotting Rick Pitino coaching tree, may have invited the same FBI scrutiny and potential NCAA sanctions to Seton Hall that his former boss brought to Louisville.
"Now it seems that Willard’s desperate quest to return the Big East program in South Orange to relevancy – which, until a guard from Brooklyn named Isaiah Whitehead came along, was an utter failure – was the byproduct of the same sleaze that brought down his old mentor.
“Willard’s name doesn’t appear in the eye-popping Yahoo Sports report that landed Friday morning, but his program is at the very center of it. Whitehead allegedly received so-called loans from the office of prominent NBA agent Andy Miller, one listed at $26,136 and another at $37,657 on balance sheets that federal agents are using in their investigation.
“Perhaps more damning, former Seton Hall assistant coach Tiny Morton allegedly received a $9,500 loan from the now-shuttered agency. Morton, who coached Whitehead at Lincoln High, arrived in South Orange as part of a package deal with the star player in 2014.
“ ‘Coach Willard is a guy who’s hungry,’ Morton told New York basketball blogger Adam Zagoria shortly after Whitehead picked Seton Hall. ‘He didn’t win any championships, so he’s going to probably do what he’s gotta do to make sure everybody is successful.’
“Gee, ya think?
“Willard can’t plead ignorance when he faces the media now. He can’t continue to follow his old boss, whose continued denials that he has ‘run a clean program all my life’ should come with a laugh track.
“No, Seton Hall wasn’t doing anything illegal when it hired Morton, or for that matter even controversial, given the long history of similar deals in college basketball. Coaches do what they have to do to get a player, even if that means hiring a high school coach with red flags in his past.
“But Willard had to know he was plunging his program into murky waters. He had to know that a day like this, with Seton Hall lumped in with LSU, Maryland and the rest, was possible – and that it could lead to national embarrassment and crippling sanctions for his program.
“ ‘Everyone knew Tiny was trouble,’ is how one New Jersey high school coach put it on Friday. There is a reason that former St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin, just as desperate for Whitehead’s talent, steered clear of a similar arrangement with the high school coach.
“Politico – yes, Politico – described Morton, in 2012, as a ‘polarizing figure’ who to his detractors is ‘an exploitative hustler who bends the public-school rules and uses teenage basketball players for his own glorification and financial gain.’ But Willard went all in.
“Now the banner from the 2016 Big East Tournament title, the first for Seton Hall in 23 years, might come down. The program won’t have to vacate any NCAA Tournament wins, at least, which might be the one benefit of Willard’s inability to get this program past the first round.
“No one, however, can predict what sanctions might come when the dominoes stop falling....
“Seton Hall fans wanted a return to relevancy, and here they are, watching as their team is lumped with the other programs in a federal investigation that’s just getting started. The Pirates are back, all right.
“Turns out, Willard’s apple didn’t fall that far from the Pitino tree after all.”
Separately, Coach K said he was comfortable with where Duke was regarding star freshman Wendell Carter Jr. Krzyzewski laid out in considerable detail how the school handled Carter’s clearance to play Saturday.
“This is a horrible time for the game,” Coach K said. “The game has begged, it has been on its knees begging, for change for years. Sometimes, unless something horrible happens, you just don’t change. We need to change. We need to take a look at amateurism and look at it, probably defining it differently.... Let’s become more modern in what we’re doing.”
--The Celtics improved to 42-19 with a 121-112 win over the lowly Knicks (24-37) at the Garden Saturday night, as Kyrie Irving scored 31, including 15 in the third quarter. Knicks fans are dreaming of Irving in a New York uniform, the West Orange, N.J. native a free agent after the 2018-19 season. The Knicks are definitely on Irving’s short list if he doesn’t re-sign with the Celts.
[For New York, fans are at least getting to see the potential Trey Burke has, as he scored 26 off the bench, the second straight 26-point effort as a backup.]
--Kind of shocking how the relationship between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard has deteriorated. All of us fans of the sport thought Leonard was the perfect star teammate. He played hard every night, played at an All-Star level, potential league MVP, kept his mouth shut, but now it appears he won’t be reappearing this season, even after he has been medically cleared to return from the right quad injury he has been suffering from. It seems to be about whether he can handle the pain, and it’s this fact that has led to tensions between Leonard and management, including coach Gregg Popovich. Kawhi can become a free agent after next season.
--Minnesota fell to Houston on Friday, 120-102, and lost All-Star Jimmy Butler for an unknown period of time with a knee injury that while it wasn’t a torn ACL as first feared, it is a right meniscus injury. He is telling teammates he should be back before the playoffs. Without him, my prediction that the T’Wolves will shock the world (at least the Western Conference) goes out the window.
--Today, Charlotte beat Detroit 114-98, the Pistons now 28-31 and just 5-5 with Blake Griffin in the lineup, after winning the first four. Now how they mapped it out following the big trade.
PyeongChang...the Olympics be over....
Final Medal Count
Norway 39 (14 gold)
German 31 (14)
Canada 29 (11)
USA 23 (9)...12 of the 23 won by U.S. women!
Netherlands 20 (8)
23 for the U.S. was the lowest in 20 years.
Go Norway and the Netherlands! Can we move to either one? I mean I hear you get to skate to work in the latter, which keeps one in shape. [cough cough...cough]
Actually, the beer is so expensive, especially in Norway, that even if these kind folks let you in, my fellow Americans (which they won’t), you have to rethink your budget.
In 2014, the medal count was as follows:
Russia 29 (11)
Norway 26 (11)
Canada 25 (10)
U.S. 28 (9)*
Netherlands 24 (8)
Germany 19 (8)
*U.S. won 37 medals in Vancouver, 2010.
--But the U.S. did pull off a stunner in winning the gold medal in curling, led by John Shuster.
No, I didn’t watch curling...sorry. I watched a fair amount of the other action, especially Alpine, skeleton, bobsled, and figure skating, but I do understand it’s a big deal that Shuster and Team USA won its first-ever gold medal in the sport, capping an incredible comeback. [I know my brother was a big fan.]
The U.S. was just 2-4 in round-robin play but then ousted Canada in a semifinal on Thursday, before toppling Sweden for the title; only the second Olympic medal the U.S. has won in the sport and the first since 2006.
--Germany shocked the world with a 4-3 win over two-time defending Olympic champion Canada in the men’s hockey semifinals on Friday.
But then the “Team Olympic Athlete From Russia” came from behind to defeat Germany in an overtime thriller (so they say, I didn’t stay up for it) 4-3 on a goal by Kirill Kaprizov.
[Germany hadn’t won more than bronze in Olympic hockey, finishing third as a unified country in 1932 and replicating the feat as West Germany in 1976.]
It was a strange tournament without the NHL participating as its season went on during the games for the first time since 1994.
It was also the first Russian gold medal in hockey since 1992 in Albertville when the team also played under a neutral flag as the Community of Independent States.
But the Russians had a lot of former NHL players on their squad, and the skill from the Kontinental Hockey League was apparent, especially in the final against Germany, whose team was comprised of players from leagues in its homeland.
That said terrific effort by the Germans, who, like the Scandinavians, speak better English than we do...it just has to be said.
In the closing ceremonies, the Russians again marched under the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” name and the Olympic flag.
Separately, the IOC said two Russian doping violations* during the Games had marred an otherwise clean report card for the Russian delegation.
“This was hugely disappointing and, in addition to other considerations, prevented the IOC from even considering lifting the suspension for the closing ceremony,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.
*After a curler had been found to have failed a doping test, a Russian female bobsledder also failed one.
--Back to Canada, it was a dark Olympics for it on the ice. Not only did it lose to Germany, the Canadian women’s team lost to the United States in a shootout, 3-2, ending its run of four straight gold medal finishes, the Americans with a stunning win. What a great group of representatives for our country these women are.
The United States had a poor showing overall, but this victory was huge for the future of the sport, and once again the women showed us the way in an Olympics, such as our female track athletes so often do.
[One more downer for Canada. After three straight curling gold medals for the men, they not only lost to the U.S. in the semis, they lost the bronze medal match with Switzerland.]
--Mikaela Shiffrin added a silver to her gold in the giant slalom, finishing second in the Alpine Combined on Thursday; Lindsey Vonn skiing out in the slalom portion after leading following the downhill leg.
Michelle Gisin of Switzerland won the AC.
So Shiffrin and Vonn collected three medals overall. Nothing wrong with that, especially given how the schedule was so severely impacted by the winds early on.
--So who was the Best Athlete of the Olympics? Has to be Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka for making history in winning gold in both Alpine skiing and snowboarding, which is frankly unfathomable.
We’ll remember her shocking gold in the super-G for a while, and then on Saturday, she won the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding.
--Jessie Diggins was the very deserving closing ceremony flagbearer for the U.S., Diggins having captured a gold medal in the cross-country team sprint.
Unlike with the controversy surrounding who was carrying the flag at the opening ceremonies, luge star Erin Hamlin over Shani Davis, the nod to Diggins bore no such issues, with all U.S. Olympians eligible to vote for the closing flagbearer.
--Speaking of Shani Davis, he once again proved his total jerkdom. After finishing seventh in what was no doubt his final Olympic race, the 1,000 meters, the two-time gold medalist risked discipline from the Games’ sanctioning body and skipped his post-race media obligations.
Davis had a great Olympic career, a real trailblazer, but then there was the other side of him.
--I saw a touching piece on how much American bobsledding misses Steve Holcomb and it was wonderful his mother was at the Games. Holcomb passed away at 37 last May. He was found dead at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid with a blood alcohol level of 0.19 and the sleeping aid Lunesta in his system.
Holcomb had led the U.S. to its first four-man bobsled gold medal in half a century with his win in Vancouver. He then led the United States to a bronze in Sochi. He finished the 2016-17 season with the third-ranked four-man sled in the world. Even at 37, he would have led a sled into medal contention at these Olympics. [The top U.S. sled this week of three finished ninth.]
--Dylan Hernandez / Los Angeles Times
“Watching the free skate program was unnecessary to figure out how the women’s individual figure skating competition ended for the United States. Listening to Mirai Nagasu would suffice.
“ ‘I’m ready to go home,’ she said.
“That’s the kind of rhetoric expected of an overfed and overpaid newspaper columnist, not an Olympic champion.
“Which is, well, why she isn’t an Olympic champion, except in the field of complaining.
“This might be unpleasant to read, but many others in the field encountered the same obstacles she did.
“The 24-year-old Nagasu was the senior member of the three-woman U.S. contingent here, and it’s little wonder the Americans had their worst showing in the modern era of the Olympics.
“Nagasu piled up excuses the way Russian gold medalist Alina Zagitova did combination jumps.
“Nagasu was emotionally drained after winning a bronze medal in the team competition. She traveled four hours last week to attend a lunar new year party. She couldn’t take hot showers.
“But, hey, she wasn’t the only one who choked Friday at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
“ ‘I’d like to point out that Gabrielle Daleman, who is an Olympic gold medalist (for Canada in the team event), also didn’t have a strong outing here in the individual,’ Nagasu said.
“By the way, if ABC is looking for a contestant for the next season of ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ Nagasu is available.
“ ‘I would like to be on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ because I want to be a star,’ she said.
“Of course, she could have become a star if she didn’t mentally check out of this competition.”
National champion Bradie Tennell was the top U.S. finisher at ninth, Nagasu was 10th, and Karen Chen 11th.
This was the third straight Olympics in which U.S. women didn’t win a singles medal; the last was Sasha Cohen’s silver at the 2006 Turin Games.
I should add that 15-year-old Alina Zagitova and 18-year-old Evgenia Medvedeva were in a class by themselves in the women’s free skate.
--Finally, did North Korea suck or what? Their speedskaters were total cheats, trying to injure their fellow competitors in their heats by falling down and tripping some of the other skaters (this happened at least twice), and in terms of performance, the best they did was a 13th in pair skating, Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Kik, who were actually the only North Koreans to have qualified for the Olympics. But they outperformed only three other pairs.
Meanwhile, Kim Ryon Hyang was 54th out of 54 finishers in the women’s slalom and 67th out of 67 finishers in the giant slalom.
Ri Yong Gum finished 89th out of 90 in the women’s 10-kilometer free cross-country race.
In men’s cross country, Han Chun Gyong was 101st and teammate Pak II Chol 107th in the 15-kilometer free. There were 116 men in that race.
Choe Myong Gwang and Kang Song Il were the final North Korean skiers to compete. They raced in Sunday’s giant slalom and came in 74th and 75th out of 75 finishers.
--Shohei Ohtani made his highly-anticipated debut for the Angels, pitching to seven Milwaukee Brewers batters on Saturday and struggling with most of them. He gave up two runs on a double and a homer in 1 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out two, though he wasn’t really fooling anyone. Of his 31 pitches, the Brewers swung and missed at only two.
He threw hard but everyone commented after that the fastball had no movement.
Hell, the guy only pitched 25 innings in Japan last year, it’s easy to forget, and it would seem he’s going to be in the minors for quite a spell to start out.
As for hitting, he might DH later this week, the Angels announcing he wouldn’t hit before or after he pitches in a game, nor in the game itself. His batting practices, however, are already legendary...lots of 450-foot shots.
Just imagine the hordes of Japanese media chronicling every movement. Tons of pressure on the lad.
--Shu and his fellow Pirates fans have to be happy the Buccos acquired Corey Dickerson from Tampa Bay, Dickerson, 28, having hit .282 with a career-high 27 home runs and 33 doubles for the Rays in 2017. He had been designated for assignment last Saturday, which was part of the Rays’ attempt to imitate Miami and its dissembling of a roster.
What made no sense was that Dickerson was still controllable in terms of his contract. The Rays are obligated to pay about $1 million of Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary for 2018.
Justin Thomas won his eighth PGA Tour title on Sunday in a sudden-death playoff with Luke List at the Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens. Incredibly, JT now has seven wins in his last 31 tournaments, and he’s just 24.
One of the stories, though, was Tiger Woods, who was playing back-to-back events after missing the cut last week at Riviera, and Tiger looked real good in finishing solo 12th.
So this year in his latest comeback effort, he is T23, MC, 12...pretty good. There is no reason why he can’t be a factor at Augusta.
Meanwhile, two Europeans are making their mark. Alex Noren of Sweden has gone T2, T21, T16, and 3 in his four events this calendar year on tour as he seeks to break through; Noren third this week.
And Tommy Fleetwood of the U.K. finished solo fourth as he seeks to make his mark on America. Both of these players will no doubt be factors in all four majors this year.
The NFL Combine is Feb. 27-March 5, with more than 500 prospects attending and competing for visibility.
USA TODAY Sports has their latest rankings at each position.
1. Baker Mayfield
2. Josh Rosen
3. Sam Darnold
4. Lamar Jackson
1. Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
2. Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)
3. James Washington (Oklahoma State
4. DJ Moore (Maryland)...huh
8. Anthony Miller (Memphis)...my man
Of course I’m partial to any Wake Forest players on the grid and I’m pleasantly surprised to see Duke Ejiofor as the No. 7 defensive end! A projected 2/3.
But I’m still baffled by the lack of attention given tight end Cam Serigne, who is listed as No. 14 at his position and a 6-, 7-rounder. If he doesn’t go until then, whoever selects him has a steal.
Meanwhile, Demon Deacon fans, safety Jessie Bates III, who was a quality player with NFL potential, but stupidly is opting to go out early, isn’t listed among the 14 at his position. Which means if he goes in the draft at all, it will be very late.
Also, Summit, NJ residents and high school grads of same, Michael Badgley isn’t listed among the three kickers that USA TODAY has down, with Daniel Carlson of Auburn No. 1. Ergo, he won’t be drafted, though no doubt he is going to get an invite or two.
Back to Mayfield, he has really been moving up, and it’s now unlikely the Jets could get him at No. 6. At this point I hope the Browns take him. He could be an answer there. He’d certainly bring some excitement. [Yes, Mark R. I know you think Kizer can still be a solution at QB and the Browns should take Saquon Barkley. Can’t disagree with that, either.]
With just ten games to go, aside from the jockeying for the final Champions League slots, every match from here seems to have an impact on the fight to avoid relegation.
Saturday, Huddersfield had a critical 2-1 win over West Brom, while Newcastle drew with Bournemouth 2-2, Southampton tied Burnley 1-1, and Brighton whipped Swansea 4-1.
But Stoke had a crushing 1-1 draw at Leicester as Stoke’s star goalkeeper made a rare mistake late. Otherwise, Stoke would have moved above the relegation line.
Then Sunday, Tottenham was at Crystal Palace, a huge contest for both, and it appeared that the Spurs would only get a point out of it, after the Palace keeper, Wayne Hennessey, stopped numerous Tottenham opportunities, when once again, superstar Harry Kane headed one in at the 89-minute mark for the 1-0 win, Hennessey muffing it. Kane now leads the Premier League with 24 goals.
The win was all the more critical as Chelsea then lost 2-1 at Man U, Tottenham moving into the fourth Champions League slot. The two play each other at the end of March.
Standings...28 of 38
1. Manchester City 72 points*
2. Manchester United 59
3. Liverpool 57
4. Tottenham 55 ...Champions League line
5. Chelsea 53
6. Arsenal 45*
*have both played 27, and play each other Thursday. They played Sunday for the Carabao Cup, which I don’t follow, and Man City whipped the Gunners 3-0.
14. Huddersfield 30
15. Newcastle 29
16. Southampton 27
17. Crystal Palace 27 ...relegation line
18. Swansea 27
19. Stoke 26
20. West Brom 20
--Kevin Harvick had the dominant car today in the rain-delayed NASCAR race in Atlanta. Brad Keselowski was second. It was win No. 38 in Harvick’s career. [Yippee, I won some coin in DraftKings! I lost in golf.]
--The New York Rangers are retiring Jean Ratelle’s No. 19 tonight at Madison Square Garden. Ratelle, now 77, played parts of 16 seasons for New York before a stunning Nov. 7, 1975, trade with Boston that sent Ratelle and All-Star defenseman Brad Park (along with Joe Zanussi) to the Bruins for Phil Esposito and Carol Vadnais.
The trade, vivid in the memory of yours truly, who was a huge fan at the time, came a week after the Rangers had waived the great goaltender Eddie Giacomin, who returned two days later in goal for Detroit when Ratelle played his last home game as a Ranger.
The Ratelle trade, coupled with the Giacomin move, was such a big deal, it made the front page of the New York Times.
In Boston, Ratelle appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals, but both times the Bruins lost to Montreal. He retired in 1981 at the age of 40, and then worked two decades for the team as an assistant coach and scout. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
For the Rangers he had 336 goals and 481 assists, and added another 155 and 295 for the Bruins.
In 123 playoff games in his career, Ratelle had 98 points.
Ratelle was most famous as a Ranger for centering the GAG, Goal-a-Game line, with Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert and left wing Vic Hadfield
The other Rangers to have their uniforms retired are Giacomin (1), Gilbert (7), Harry Howell (3), Andy Bathgate (9), Mark Messier (11), Mike Richter (35), Brian Leetch (2) and Adam Graves, whose No. 9 hangs next to Bathgate’s.
What’s great is that Ratelle will be on the ice tonight with former teammates Gilbert and Hadfield, as well as Park, Giacomin, goaltender Gilles Villemure and forward Pete Stemkowski.
Those Rangers teams were so much fun, and they were good, but they just couldn’t get over the hump. Great memories.
[I just caught the end of the ceremony...very cool...and much deserved.]
--Needless to say, with the following, ‘Dog’ has once again wrapped up “Animal of the Year” and it’s only February.
Cydney Henderson / Arizona Republic (USA TODAY)
‘Millions of animal lovers celebrated National Love Your Pets Day earlier this week.
“One Washington family, however, has another reason to celebrate their unconditional love for their beloved dog, a German shepherd named Rex.
“His 16-year-old owner, Javier Mercado, was home alone Wednesday when two people broke into the house. Rex sacrificed himself to save the day, taking a beating and three bullets for Javier.”
After the intruders broke in in the middle of the afternoon, Javier hid in a bedroom closet and called 911, while holding Rex, a family member, Susy Cadena, told King 5 News.
That’s when Rex jumped into action.
“When the two reached the teen’s hideout, Rex’s instinct to protect took over again.
“ ‘Rex came out and threw himself at them as he knew my nephew was in danger,’ Cadena said.
“Rex was shot at least three times, she said. He was no longer barking.
“Sounds of sirens in the distance chased the intruders off and help finally arrived. The robbers remain at large.
“ ‘I thought he was dead for sure. I broke down,’ Mercado, who hid in the closet for nearly an hour, told King 5.”
Rex was shot in the neck and hind legs and was rushed to an emergency pet hospital. He underwent scans, X-rays and other treatment to stabilize his condition before a life-saving surgery.
But now the Mercado family was worried about how they would afford Rex’s treatment.
Well, thanks to a GoFundMe page, they are set...more than enough money raised.
--We note the passing of actress Nanette Fabray, 97. Fabray was a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical comedy star whose work with Sid Caesar on the 1950s TV comedy-variety show “Caesar’s Hour” also earned her three Emmy Awards.
Fabray won a Tony for best actress in the 1949 musical “Love Life” and appeared in the 1953 MGM musical “The Band Wagon”, before becoming the female lead on “Caesar’s Hour” in 1954.
This was the successor to Caesar’s popular “Your Show of Shows,” whose female lead in comedy sketches was Imogene Coca.
But Coca launched her own show in ’54, and Caesar had to find a new leading lady to complete a comedy ensemble that included Carl Reiner and Howard Morris.
Fabray won an Emmy as best actress in a supporting role for “Caesar’s Hour” – as well as an Emmy for best comedienne.
But as Dennis McLellan of the Los Angeles Times noted, Fabray “was dropped from the show after two seasons when a business manager who handled her money had a meeting in Caesar’s office and, without her knowledge, made unreasonable demands for her contract for the third season.
“It wasn’t until she talked to Caesar at a tribute for the comedian a couple of years later that they both discovered what had happened.”
Later, and what I remember, Fabray appeared regularly on game shows such as “Password” and “Hollywood Squares.”
--Uh oh...As reported by the AP from Melbourne, Florida, “Several blue dragon sea slugs were spotted on the beach near Cape Canaveral last weekend, and the evil-looking creatures with their menacing tendril-like digits were credited with stinging at least a few beachgoers by Brevard County Ocean Rescue officials.”
The venom of the blue dragon and the Portuguese man o’war is the same. Blue dragons fill themselves up with air and float on the surface, “hoping to find Portuguese man o’wars to eat.”
Huh...looks like the All-Species List board needs to rethink the ratings of each one...so ‘Blue Dragon’ moves up to 299, while ‘Portuguese man o’war’ falls to 302.
‘Man’ is 385.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/22/69: #1 “Everyday People” (Sly & The Family Stone) #2 “Crimson and Clover” (Tommy James and the Shondells) #3 “Build Me Up Buttercup” (The Foundations)...and...#4 “Touch Me” (The Doors) #5 “Can I Change My Mind” (Tyrone Davis) #6 “Worst That Could Happen” (Brooklyn Bridge) #7 “You Showed Me” (The Turtles) #8 “This Magic Moment” (Jay and the Americans) #9 “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #10 “I’m Livin’ In Shame” (Diana Ross and the Supremes)
Baseball Quiz Answers: 1) Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera both enter the season at 462 home runs. 2) Bartolo Colon, having signed with Texas, is the leader in active wins at 240, just ahead of CC Sabathia at 237. [John Lackey and Justin Verlander are next at 188.]
*Note: I’m assuming I’ll have a little Bar Chat on Thursday. I have a medical issue to take care of Monday, Oxycodone at the ready, and we’ll see what kind of shape I’m in Tuesday and Wednesday.