The Swinging Bunt
Terps terminated at the buzzer. Twenty-four hours later… and still, wow. Yesterday’s Maryland-Michigan State contest was truly a great game. It featured two perennially successful programs; the regular season co-ACC Champs against the regular season co-Big Ten Champs, both armed with rabid fan-bases and, oh by the way, national title winning coaches. Could we really have expected any less? Expectations are a funny thing, aren’t they? To be competitive in the NCAA Tournament and make ‘a run,’ different guys need to step up at different times. But, before the moment comes, you never know who it’ll be. It could be those you expect, like one of three seniors trying to will their team back from behind to play another day, like Maryland’s Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne and most particularly Greivis Vasquez… or it could be a guard who himself never would’ve expected the ball to be in his hands for the big shot, like MSU’s Kori Lucious. Sunday afternoon in Spokane, a spectacular second half was played between two teams ready for their respective moments, and thrilling drama ensued. In the final four minutes, Maryland’s full court trap was carried out to a textbook equivalent level and Vasquez, playing his last game in a Maryland uniform, was simply incredible. The only problem was that injured All-Big Ten point guard Kailin Lucas’ backup, Korie Lucious, a sophomore from Milwaukee, had the final opportunity to step up… and he did… as time inevitably expired on Maryland’s 2009-2010 season. Tournament heroes can emerge from anywhere, even Tom Izzo’s bench. And who could’ve expected that?
Sweet Sixteen. So how about that? Absolutely phenomenal opening weekend, huh? … And please, I really don’t care about how bad your bracket is, everyone’s is down the toilet; earlier today Ryan the Intern told me I stayed out of the “bottom quarter” and that I’m only in the “bottom third” of our WNST In-House Pool. Yikes. But anyways, it all started Thursday afternoon with the first three tips of the tourney – ODU over Notre Dame by a point, Richmond taking ‘Nova to OT, and Florida bowing to BYU in double-OT – and the action hasn’t disappointed anyone since (except for you Terps fans, I guess). When teams with double-digit little numbers next to their name, and we’ll throw No. 9 Northern Iowa in there too, move on to the Sweet 16 everyone goes nuts; we all love upsets, cheering on the ‘little engines that actually DO.’ That said, I tip my hat – figuratively, of course, I’m not actually wearing a hat – to you: Horizon League, Ivy League, Missouri Valley Conference, and West Coast Conference. You are a collective 9-1 in this year’s Big Dance. And that’s pretty awesome.
Tiger speaks to ESPN‘s Tom Rinaldi and the Golf Channel‘s Kelly Tilghman. A few highlights from Ms. Tilghman’s interview… On returning April 8th to the Masters: “I’m excited to get back in the game. I miss playing. I miss competing, … I’m starting to get my feel back.” On therapy: “As far as my schedule going forward I don’t know what I’m going to do… I don’t know how it will affect my future. What I know I have to do is become a better person and that starts with going to more treatment.” On his crash Thanksgiving night and how he crashed his car: “It’s all in the police report… I wasn’t going very fast, but ahhh… unfortunately I hit a few things.” On his father’s death and absence through his time of infidelities: “He’d be very disappointed in me, we’d have numerous long talks… I miss his guidance, I know he’d be able to straighten me up.” On what he wants his legacy to be: “Just like I ever wanted before, golf is my vehicle to help other people. My dad always said… ‘in order to help other people, you must first learn to help yourself. And going into the treatment center for 45 days I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to help myself and that’s how I can help other people in the future.”
Scanning the Blogosphere
WNST.net: Glenn Clark says, “Ravens agree to a 2-year deal with Cory Redding.”
WNST.net: Rex Snider says, “What a Weekend.”
FanHouse: Jay Mariotti says, “Tiger Fooling Nobody with 5-Minute Blips.”
Big League Stew: “Done Deal: Joe Mauer signs with Twins for $184 million.”
The Big Lead: They have their 64-subject, “2010 Culture Tournament” almost down to the Sweet 16.
Pro Football Talk: NFL Draft hopefuls C.J. Spiller and Arrelius Benn may not be ‘smarter than a 5th grader.’
Peter King, SI: “MMQB” Mike Tomlin: “I’m highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben personally.”
SI.com: In photos, “Baseball’s 100 Million Men.”
With Leather: Sorry Bill Self and all you ‘Rock Chalkers’, “Toto, we’re not in the Tourney anymore!”
SI.com: Extra Mustard alerts us that Pete Rose will host WWE’s Monday Night Raw this evening.
Video of the Day
Tim Brando: “Draymond Green finds Lucious, for the win… He got it! Spartans move to the Sweet 16!”
Tweets of the Day
– WNST Ravens Analyst, Glenn Clark after he spoke with new Ravens DL Cory Redding – WNST
– Baltimore Ravens Head Coach, John Harbaugh on the signing of Cory Redding – WNST
#Harbaugh “Sideline to sideline type of player. He’s excited to be a Raven. He fits us. Plays with a high motor, plays with great energy.”
– The Nasty One, Nestor Aparicio, from the NFL Owners’ Meetings in Orlando – WNST
Nestor: #Ravens denied compensatory picks in April draft. Guess when you don’t lose, you don’t gain?
– The Nasty One, Nestor Aparicio, from the NFL Owners’ Meetings in Orlando – WNST
– WNST NFL Correspondent, Chris Pika – BlogAndTackle
One anniversary of note today: 1989 – Pete Rozelle announced his retirement as #NFL commissioner after 29 years (via SI.com).
– ESPN NFL Insider, Adam Schefter – Adam_Schefter
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: “At the appropriate time, I’ll be meeting with Ben.”
–ESPN AFC North Blogger, James Walker – espnafc_north
Last year Baltimore lost starters such as LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard and C Jason Brown but got zero comp picks in return. Interesting.
– TheBigLead.com Editor, Jason McIntyre – TheBigLead
bad news, Gus Johnson fans: He’s going to have two more blowouts thursday: Syracuse>Butler, KState>Xavier. http://is.gd/aTpum
The Day’s Final Thought
So just who has been the 2010 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player thus far through the opening weekend of play?
I have three nominations: Ali Farokhmanesh, G. Northern Iowa; Omar Samhan, C. Saint Mary’s; and Ryan Wittman, G. Cornell.
Ali Farokhmanesh had such a good weekend in Oklahoma City he went from someone I’ve never heard of before to someone whose last name I don’t need to double-check for spelling anymore. Thursday night with the game tied 65-65 against UNLV, he nailed the game winning 3-ball from where seemed like Stillwater with 5-seconds left to knockout the Runnin’ Rebs… and that wasn’t even his most dramatic dagger of the weekend. His ‘you take it, you better make it’ three pointer Saturday evening to push UNI up 4 over Kansas with 34 seconds to play sent shock-waves through college hoops and eliminated the No. 1 overall seeded Jayhawks. In his pair of games, Farokhmanesh was in total 9-19 from beyond the arc and tallied 33 points in Northern Iowa’s unlikely run to the round of 16.
Omar Samhan from Saint Mary’s is not Blake Griffin, 2009 College Basketball Player of the Year. However, if you just look at Samhan’s numbers from victories over No. 7 Richmond and No. 2 Villanova, you’d think he’s every bit the All-American Griffin was. The brash 6’11, 260 pounder rang up 29 points and 12 rebounds in the first round and 32 points, on 13-16 shooting, and 7 boards against in the second. His domination of Jay Wright’s Wildcat big men prompted Samhan to question why his opposition didn’t double team him, he said in the post-game presser, “I get it, I’m a slow white guy, and I’m overweight. So maybe you don’t respect me because I have good numbers. But after I kill you the first half, what are you waiting for. I don’t know what he [Coach Wright] wanted. Did he want me to have 40?” I respect you Omar.
And last, but certainly not least,
I’ll bet Ryan Wittman knew a week ago his team would be headed to Syracuse for the East Regional Semifinals. C’mon, he’s a smart guy; he goes to Cornell. Wittman’s also a really good basketball player, surrounded at all times on the floor by four other really good basketball players. Getting to see Cornell play against Temple and Wisconsin over the weekend you really begin to recognize why the 3-time defending Ivy League champs have been considered a threat since November. Ryan Wittman is dangerous. He’s a true triple-threat player playing in a system that complements his repertoire and with teammates who feed off his versatility. He’s averaged 22 ppg in 36 mpg so far on basketball’s biggest stage. Cornell and Ryan Wittman will have to throw everything they have at new field-favorite Kentucky in the next round… SAT scores and all.