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NFL Free Agency
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
North Carolina Hoops Quiz: 1) Name as many starters as you can from the 2008-09 national champion Tar Heels, who defeated Michigan State, 89-72, in the title game. 2) Name as many starters as you can from the 2004-05 national champion Tar Heels, who beat Illinois, 75-70, in the final. Answers below.
Final AP Poll
1. Gonzaga (60) 26-0
2. Illinois 23-6
3. Baylor 22-2
4. Michigan 20-4
5. Alabama 24-6
6. Houston 24-3
7. Ohio State 21-9
8. Iowa 21-8
9. Texas 19-7
10. Arkansas 22-6
11. Oklahoma State 20-8
12. Kansas 20-8
13. West Virginia 18-9
14. Florida State 16-6
15. Virginia 18-6
16. San Diego State 23-4
17. Loyola Chicago 24-4
18. Villanova 16-6
19. Creighton 20-8
20. Purdue 18-9
21. Texas Tech 17-10
22. Colorado 22-8
T-23. BYU 20-6
T-23. USC 22-7
25. Virginia Tech 15-6
--I did my bracket and I have Gonzaga, Florida State, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the Final Four, the Zags winning it all.
And I have only two first-round upsets…12 UCSB over 5 Creighton, and 12 Winthrop over 5 Villanova; neither of which is really an upset because both Creighton and ‘Nova have issues.
I was ticked to see 14 Morehead State matched against 3 West Virginia because I like Bob Huggins and didn’t want to root against him, otherwise I was prepared to have Morehead State defeat anyone else they were matched up against.
Locally, Rick Pitino and Iona, at 15, take on 2 Alabama. Sorry, Coach. No chance.
And 10 Rutgers takes on 7 Clemson. I have to go with the Scarlet Knights. It’s a very reasonable road to the Sweet 16 for RU, playing for the first time in the tournament in 30 years.
I wish Jeff B. luck with his 7-seed UConn Huskies going up against 10 Maryland.
And Pete M. just wants his 14-seed Colgate to stay competitive against 3 Arkansas.
Loyola (Chicago) is back, as an 8-seed, facing ACC tournament champion 9 Georgia Tech. And we learned today that Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 101-year-old chaplain, is traveling to Indianapolis!
Sister Jean’s status was up in the air, as she has not attended a game all season, and now you have the traveling party restrictions for Indy. Last week she told Chicago Tribune reporter Shannon Ryan “I want to go so badly” and had already received her vaccine shots.
“I’m not going to run down on the court and I’m not going to cause any disturbance,” she told the Tribune.
Sister Jean was the star of the 2018 tournament, when Loyola became one of the Cinderella stories, making it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.
Can the Ramblers’ good luck charm work her magic again?
But, boy, it’s going to be strange not having Duke in the NCAAs after 24 consecutive appearances.
Kansas is making its 31st straight appearance, while Gonzaga is in for a 22nd straight. [Michigan State’s streak is at 23.]
Virginia is not traveling to Indianapolis until Friday, a day before the Cavaliers are scheduled to play 13 Ohio in the West Region first round. Most of Virginia’s roster is in quarantine due to contact tracing following a positive Covid test within the team.
Kansas is traveling to Indy without three players, and it’s not known if they’ll be available when the 3-seed Jayhawks take on 14 Eastern Washington on Saturday.
The schedule is changed some, with the four play-in games on Thursday, and the first-round Friday and Saturday, meaning the Round of 32 plays Sunday and Monday, which will give those of us working from home some Monday afternoon action.
The NCAA wanted a bigger window to replace any qualifying teams that do not meet the testing protocols, the deadline Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eastern time.
The Sweet 16 is now Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28, with the Elite Eight Monday and Tuesday, March 29 and 30…instead of the normal Thursday thru Sunday action.
The Final Four remains Saturday, April 3…championship Monday, April 5…and then we roll into The Masters, a tradition unlike any other…on CBS.
--The Big Ten has nine teams…totally warranted; while the Big 12 and ACC have seven, the SEC six, and the Pac-12 five.
--Steve Prohm is out at Iowa State after a godawful 2-22 season, including 0-18 in the Big 12. Prohm, after a big four-year run to start his college coaching career at Murray State, was brought in to replace the beloved ISU figure, Fred Hoiberg, and the Cyclones got off to a solid start with Prohm, going 23-12, 24-11 his first two seasons, 2015-17, and then they won the Big 12 tournament in 2019, going 23-12, but they had limited NCAA Tournament success, they went 12-20 last season and then had this year’s disaster.
--Utah fired coach Larry Krystkowiak after 10 seasons, the last two going just 8-11, 7-11 in the Pac-12. The Utes missed the NCAA tournament five straight seasons after a good run behind future NBA players Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl and Kyle Kuzma.
--The only All-American team that matters…the Associated Press’ hoops lineup.
Luka Garza, Iowa
Jared Butler, Baylor
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State…consensus first pick in the draft, a/o today
Corey Kispert, Gonzaga
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga
Evan Mobley, USC
Hunter Dickinson, Michigan
Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
Davion Mitchell, Baylor
Quentin Grimes, Houston
Herb Jones, Alabama
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola Chicago
Chris Duarte, Oregon
--In the Women’s NCAA tournament….
Stanford, UConn, North Carolina and South Carolina have the No. 1 seeds. But UConn will be without, initially, coach Geno Auriemma, who tested positive for Covid on Sunday. While at last word he wasn’t experiencing symptoms, he would not be eligible to head to the San Antonio bubble until after the Huskies had played two games.
For the Lady Wolfpack (which has a sexy, albeit perhaps dangerous connotation), it is their first No. 1 seed. In 1998 they made a Final Four as a 4-seed, but they are the only top seed to have never won a national championship.
UConn has 11 titles, Stanford two and South Carolina one.
But, what’s this? The Lady Deacons of little ol’ Wake Forest made the tournament? It’s their first appearance since 1988. The coach, Jen Hoover, was a star on that ’88 squad, the only other Wake team to make the NCAAs.
--I noted at the All-Star break that the Knicks had a tough six-game stretch immediately following it and they got blasted in the first, 134-101 in Milwaukee.
But they came back to beat Oklahoma City 119-97, in a must game.
Then last night the Knicks faced the Nets in Brooklyn and the Knicks’ ‘D’ failed to show up early, the Nets hitting 25 of their first 35 from the floor, leading 67-55 at the half.
But it was a fascinating contest from there, the Knicks falling short 117-112, Brooklyn helped by a late bad call against New York’s Julius Randle.
So tonight, the Knicks were then in Philly, fourth straight on the road, but the 76ers without Joel Embiid. New York was up 82-73 after three and then the back-to-back games against the two best teams in the East caught up to them, the Knicks with only 14 points in the final quarter, running out of gas, falling 99-96, and now 20-21. The Sixers are 28-12.
--Coming into tonight’s game against the pathetic Rockets in Houston, Atlanta had won its first five under interim coach Nate McMillan.
Make that six, the Hawks evening their record at 20-20, as Atlanta hands Houston its 17th straight loss (11-27 after starting the season 11-10).
--I love the Jets’ free-agent signing of wide receiver Corey Davis, who has had a solid career at Tennessee, after being the No. 5 overall choice in the 2017 draft out of Western Michigan. I was high on Davis in college and the 6’3” 209 had a 64-984-5 season last year. He doesn’t have to be a No. 1, as everyone is already saying…I’ll gladly take what he did in 2020, because he’s a terrific blocker as well.
The Jets also signed a needed edge rusher, Carl Lawson, who has 20 career sacks in four seasons, including 5.5 last season, but the Jets feel he has far more potential in their new 4-3 scheme under new coach Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ former defensive coordinator. Others around the league aren’t so high on Lawson.
And they signed a linebacker from Detroit, Jarrad Davis, but for only one year.
As for quarterback Sam Darnold and whether he is going to be traded, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll apparently likes Darnold and there are multiple rumors Seattle will be involved with the Jets in a trade involving Russell Wilson, perhaps a three-way deal.
The Jets still have the No. 2 overall pick, whose value is increasing by the day.
Wilson has a no-trade clause, with the Bears, Saints, Raiders and Cowboys the only teams he’ll accept a trade to, with the Cowboys now off the list after they re-signed Dak Prescott.
But I’d have a hard time believing Wilson, and his singer/actress wife, Ciara, wouldn’t mind the New York spotlight. Wilson just needs the assurance the Jets would put an offensive line together for him.
Washington was a supposed landing spot for Darnold, but they just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick for one year, not that this precludes Darnold still ending up in Washington, though WFT did sign Taylor Heinicke to a two-year deal.
As for Deshaun Watson, Houston seems adamant they are not trading their disgruntled star QB.
--The Giants had franchise tagged defensive end Leonard Williams for $19.4 million for 2021, and then they reached agreement with him on a $63 million, three-year deal, $45 million fully guaranteed. Wow.
Williams did have a career best 11.5 sacks in 2020, a big turnaround from his initial years with the Jets, where he was a 2015 first-round pick that largely bombed.
I just wonder if he’s had his career year, at that price especially. His previous high in sacks in a season was seven for the Jets in 2016.
But as Tony Soprano would tell me if we were just chatting about the local teams, me attempting to make him a legitimate Italian meal, Furio menacingly in the background, ‘Whaddya gonna do?’
--Since last chat, Rob Gronkowski is joining Tom Brady for another year, a one-year, $10 million contract.
--Gronk’s old team, New England, is spending money like drunken sailors (no offense, sailors, but if I was on shore leave, I’d be, err, you know, too). The Patriots signed not one solid tight end, but two…Jonnu Smith (4-years, $50 million) from Tennessee, and Hunter Henry (3-years, $37.5m) from the L.A. Chargers. And others….
Dan Shaughnessy / Boston Globe
“Bill Belichick has put the NFL on notice that the Patriots are back in business.
“On Monday, New England (unofficially) signed seven free agents, awarding deals worth close to $200 million, half of that guaranteed. It was a signing spree that George Steinbrenner or Al Davis would have loved. Very unBelichick-like.
“Our region was still reeling Tuesday morning when news broke that the Patriots had signed Chargers tight end Hunter Henry for $37.5 million, $25 million guaranteed.
“Belichick was nowhere near any of it, of course – he probably was standing up as godfather while church bells rang at the Navy chapel – but he certainly settled a lot of Patriot family business in the first two days of NFL free agency. After two decades of fiscal responsibility, and unprecedented success on the field, Belichick is suddenly doling out wads of cash like an NCAA basketball coach at an AAU tournament.
“We’ve never seen Bill behave like this. It’s like watching Larry Bird pop his head into a random bar and holler, ‘All drinks on me for the rest of the night.’
“In less than 24 hours, while most of the league stood still, the Patriots locked up the best two tight ends on the market…, a Super Bowl wideout (Kendrick Bourne), a receiver from the Raiders (Nelson Agholor), a Pro Bowl linebacker (Matt Judon), a defensive back with green hair (Jalen Mills), a nose tackle from Miami (Davon Godchaux), and a lineman cut by the Jets (Henry Anderson).
“ ‘I’ve never seen a spending spree like this,’ said former Patriots general manager Upton Bell. ‘Are the Patriots checking the borders to see who might be coming across?
“ ‘They have to do this because they drafted poorly for a number of years. That used to be deadly, but now you can make up for it with free agents. Luckily, they have the money and the cap space.
“ ‘Belichick is good at picking up people. The difference is that, in the past, he picked them up to complement what he had. Now he’s signing people to fill positions that were never filled properly.
“ ‘Look at their roster. It’s almost like they are the Red Sox, starting all over again.’….
“The formidable Patriots Media Cartel doesn’t seem to know quite how to spin Bill’s buying binge. Is Belichick reluctantly carrying out orders given by Bob and Jon Kraft? Is this an admission that Bill knows he failed in the draft and was unprepared for the departure of Brady? Or…is this Bill playing chess again while the rest of the dopes play checkers?
“The influx of pricey new talent can only help a 7-9 team that failed to make the playoffs, but it still leaves one wondering how the Patriots are supposed to contend with Cam Newton at quarterback.
“Is Cam still going to be the man behind center? Is it possible that stubborn Bill is making all these new moves to prove that the quarterback position does not matter? That Tom Brady was overrated? That it was the system all along?
“Or is there another quarterback on the horizon? ….
“The Patriots will be better this year. They have better players. But Bill is not going to mortgage the future and swap a raft of picks for Deshaun Watson. I fear we’ll see Cam Newton behind center, trying to throw passes to these nimble new receivers.
“Swell. But we all know the Patriots won’t be fully back in business until they find the Next Guy at quarterback.”
--Tonight, Chicago and Andy Dalton agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal, which one assumes precludes Russell Wilson becoming a Bear. Dalton, 33, spent 2020 with the Cowboys and played well after Dak Prescott suffered his dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle in Week 5.
While Dalton’s record was just 4-5, he threw for 2,170 yards, and 14 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. His passer rating, 87.3, was also basically his career average, 87.5.
Dalton will now have a shot at beating out Nick Foles for the starting position, the Bears unlikely to bring back Mitchell Trubisky.
--I’m always rushed on Sunday night’s and can’t cover everything in the detail I sometimes want to, so it just needs to be said, looking back at the final round of the Players Championship, that that was one of the greatest displays of pure ball-striking from Justin Thomas that you’ll ever see, or as J.T.’s caddie, Jimmy Johnson put it, “It was a ball-striking clinic.”
Jim “Bones” Mackay, the NBC on-course reporter, called Thomas’ play “Hogan-esque.”
Thomas won a Players’ record $2.7 million for this event and as he put it after:
“It’s a huge championship, very special,” said J.T. “It’s a tournament I’ve wanted to win…I love the golf course. It was in incredible shape this week. The greens were so good. The fairways were perfect. Rough was long. Just a great test of golf. I mean, that’s why it’s a Players Championship.”
Thomas called his Sunday 68, “Probably one of the best rounds of my life, tee to green.”
Thomas overcame the social media maelstrom after he chastised himself with a homophobic slur after missing a short putt back at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, and then the recent death of his grandfather, a big figure in his life and his love of golf.
“We’ve been through a lot the last couple months, and losing my dad, I think, impacted Justin quite a bit,” Thomas’ father and coach, Mike, said. “He just kind of has not been himself the last month or so, which is understandable. He kept getting better every day this week.”
Aside from the slur incident, and losing his grandfather, Thomas also saw his close friend, Tiger Woods, almost lose his life.
“It’s been a crappy couple of months,” Thomas said. “I’ve had stuff happen in my life I never thought would have happened.”
Thomas referenced that he “reached out to people” to discuss his troubles.
“I’m not embarrassed to say that I reached out to talk to people to kind of let my feelings out and just discuss stuff with them,” he said. “I think it’s something, especially at our level, a lot of people probably think that they’re bigger and better than that.”
“I kept telling everyone on my team or my family I’m ready for something good to happen this year… I’d say this qualifies as something good.”
As for Bryson DeChambeau and his incredible double-bogey on the fourth hole, that included a topped tee shot into the water, he said after when asked what happened: “Golf.”
And tonight, Tiger Woods said in a statement that he had returned to his South Florida home.
“Happy to report that I am back home and continuing my recovery. I am so grateful for the outpouring of support and encouragement that I have received over the past few weeks. Thank you to the incredible surgeons, doctors, nurses and staff at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. You have all taken such great care of me and I cannot thank you enough.
“I will be recovering at home and working on getting stronger every day.”
--I didn’t watch the at bat of Mets infielder Luis Guillorme until Monday, and, yes, it was indeed fun to see the reaction of his Mets teammates as he fouled off pitch after pitch (16 in all, including nine straight). Overall, a 22-pitch at bat, which had it taken place in the regular season would have been a record; the MLB mark held by Brandon Belt of the Giants on April 22, 2018 at 21 (records for the category kept since 1988). Only Ricky Gutierrez, playing for Houston in 1998, had 20.
Guillorme did it off St. Louis righty Jordan Hicks, who threw 10 pitches that were 99 mph or faster throughout the at-bat.
Guillorme was Hicks’ first batter since 2019, after the 24-year-old reliever had Tommy John surgery the same year and opted out of the 2020 season. He was removed after the titanic at-bat.
Just imagine if this happened in the regular season. Guillorme is a strange player. Excellent fielder, at multiple positions, but zero pop in his bat. However, he makes contact, making him an ideal pinch-hitter. He’ll be on the team all season.
--I was so focused on the Players Championship, I watched very little of this week’s NASCAR race at Phoenix Raceway, but in the final restart, Martin Truex Jr. pulled away for his first win of the year, after a disappointing 2020 with just one first. He now has 28 wins overall on the circuit. [He won 23 between 2016 and 2019.]
Truex failed to advance into the season-ending finale, also at Phoenix, last fall for the first time in four years, but he beat all four across the line Sunday – champion Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.
Phoenix hosts the championship race again in November.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/20/65: #1 “Eight Days A Week” (The Beatles) #2 “Stop! In The Name Of Love” (The Supremes) #3 “The Birds And The Bees” (Jewel Aikens)…and…#4 “King Of The Road” (Roger Miller) #5 Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (Herman’s Hermits) #6 “Ferry Cross The Mersey” (Gerry & The Pacemakers) #7 “My Girl” (The Temptations) #8 “This Diamond Ring” (Gary Lewis and The Playboys) #9 “Goldfinger” (Shirley Bassey) #10 “Shotgun” (Jr. Walker & The All Stars…A week…)
North Carolina Hoops Quiz Answers: 1) 2008-09 national title squad: Tyler Hansbrough (20.7 ppg), Wayne Ellington (15.8), Ty Lawson (16.6), Danny Green (13.1), Deon Thompson (10.6)…Ed Davis and Bobby Frasor key reserves. 2) 2004-05 national champs: Sean May (17.5 ppg), Rashad McCants (16.0), Jawad Williams (13.1), Raymond Felton (12.9), Marvin Williams (11.3)…Jackie Manuel, Melvin Scott and David Noel top reserves.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.