2014 NCAA Tournament Schedule

February 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Here are the dates and locations for the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament:

Selection Sunday
March 16

First Round
March 18-19
UD Arena (Dayton, Ohio)

Second-Third Rounds
March 20, 22
First Niagara Center (Buffalo, N.Y.)
BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee)
Amway Center (Orlando, Fla.)
Veterans Memorial Arena (Spokane, Wash.)

March 21, 23
PNC Arena (Raleigh, N.C.)
AT&T Center (San Antonio)
Viejas Arena (San Diego)
Scottrade Center (St. Louis)

South Regional
March 27, 29
FedExForum (Memphis, Tenn.)

West Regional
March 27, 29
Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.)

East Regional
March 28, 30
Madison Square Garden (New York)

Midwest Regional
March 28, 30
Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

National Semifinals
April 5
AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

Championship Game
April 7
AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

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If Arizona bill becomes law, will NFL move Super Bowl?

February 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

The NFL has moved a Super Bowl out of Arizona before over civil rights issues, and if new anti-gay legislation becomes law, the league will have another decision to make

March Madness 2014: Analyzing Potential Cinderella Teams to Watch in Tournament

February 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

March Madness 2014: Analyzing Potential Cinderella Teams to Watch in Tournament

The 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is quickly approaching. With Selection Sunday set to take place on March 16th, the field of 68 teams will soon come to fruition. Each year, certain teams steal the national spotlight; however, there will always be some under-the-radar teams destined to turn some heads.

These are the teams that can cause March Madness bracket owners fits as the tournament gets underway. Knowing which teams have a great chance of pulling an upset is a crucial element of producing a stellar bracket.

Let’s take a closer look at a few potential Cinderella teams that could make some noise once the first round of the tournament gets underway on March 18th.

George Washington Colonials

Currently sitting sixth in the Atlantic 10 Conference, George Washington hasn’t been putting up gaudy numbers this season, but they have been solid.

The team’s 20-7 record includes a big win against No. 20 Creighton and close losses against No. 25 Marquette and, most recently, No. 10 St. Louis.

The Colonials may only be ranked 96th in points per game, averaging 74, but their defense has been stout, ranking 76th in the nation while giving up an average of 66.4 points per game.

What makes George Washington a team to watch for is the fact that each starter must be accounted for—they don’t simply have just one key player to defend against.

Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood could become major factors in the tournament.

Creek is streaky from downtown, but can light up the scoreboard if he gets it going. He is currently shooting .382 from three-point range. Armwood is dominant in the paint on both sides of the ball. He leads the team with an impressive 230 rebounds and 48 blocks this season.

Head coach Mike Lonergan spoke of the team’s diversity and chemistry during an interview with Gene Wang of The Washington Post:

We’ve got really good chemistry, and chemistry means a lot. I think it makes it easier for the international kids that we have six countries [including the United States] represented. I mean, D.C. is diverse. The country’s diverse, and our campus is diverse.

Those traits will continue to mean a lot as this team heads into the tournament.

Mercer Bears

The Mercer Bears are sitting first in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 22-7 record. Although they haven’t had a brutal schedule this year, this is still a team that could surprise when the NCAA tournament rolls around.

Of their seven losses, a few close contests against Texas and Oklahoma showed that the Bears can hang with some of the more highly regarded college clubs.

Within its own conference; however, Mercer has been blowing away its competition.

Offensively, this is a team that can get on a hot streak and maintain it throughout a game. Ranked 22nd in the country with an average of 80.0 points per game and seventh in the nation in assists per game with 17, these players certainly have built a solid chemistry.

The Bears offense features two solid three-point shooters in Langston Hall and Bud Thomas. Hall is shooting .410 from behind the arc, and Thomas is not far behind with .399.

Scoring on the perimeter is a big part of this offense, although the Bears can get it done in the paint as well. Big man Daniel Coursey has been a rebounding machine this year with a total of 192. He is also a nightmare of defense and has totaled 56 blocks on the season.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Despite Minnesota’s 17-11 record and seventh-place standing in the Big Ten Conference, this is still a team that could surprise by tournament time. The Golden Gophers have had a rough schedule this season, but have stepped up in a big way at times.

Minnesota has played seven ranked opponents this year, but came away with two impressive wins, beating No. 11 Ohio State and blowing out No. 9 Wisconsin by a score of 81-68. They also took No. 5 Michigan State to overtime earlier this season.

Two top-11 wins is something that should not be overlooked here. Minnesota proved that they can compete with some of the best teams in the country, and that’s a huge part of instilling confidence and creating success in the tournament.

This team has not been lighting up scoreboards this year, but they have a solid mix of perimeter shooting and big bodies in the paint that will allow them to stay competitive in March.

Andre Hollins and Malik Smith have dominated the perimeter this season, shooting .380 and .363 from downtown, respectively. On the inside, Austin Hollins and Elliott Eliason continue to use their size to their advantage. Hollins has accrued 163 rebounds this year while Eliason had snatched 203.

This team thrives off turnovers and has three double-digit scorers who can make them count.

Slopestyle sweep highlights American dominance of freestyle sports

February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

1KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – There was no official medal ceremony at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, but there was one rendition of the national anthem.

As America’s three ski slopestyle medalists made their way from interview to interview Thursday afternoon after sweeping the medals in the sport’s Olympic debut, a small group of U.S. fans began to sing. It was badly off-key, but it was a poignant gesture not lost on the athletes competing here who for so many years were told their sport was too extreme to be included in something as traditional as the Olympic Games.

“I’m glad we’re still holding on with traditional sports like figure skating and stuff, but we are just dominating in freestyle sports, and I think it’s awesome,” said U.S. fan Tom O’Conner of Buffalo who was part of the chorus singing The Star-Spangled Banner. “This is our sport.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Since the Games opened last week, Americans have won nine medals — five gold — in snowboarding or freeskiing events. That accounts for 75% of the USA’s total medal haul after Thursday’s events.

Consider this 18-hour span at the Extreme Park, home to slopestyle, halfpipe, moguls, aerials and ski and snowboard cross: American women finished first, third and fourth in the snowboard halfpipe just before midnight. By midafternoon the following day, the USA had added three more medals in men’s ski slopestyle: a gold for Joss Christensen, silver for Gus Kenworthy and bronze for Nick Goepper.

MEN’S SWEEP: Americans take podium places in men’s slopestyle

WOMEN’S SKI SLOPESTYLE: Devin Logan takes silver

“It’s freaking amazing,” U.S. freeskiing coach Skogen Sprang said. “I’m still kind of in shock. You don’t really talk about that before. The chance was there, but you don’t really expect it to happen. You can’t expect it to happen.”

But maybe he should have. The Americans have deeper rosters of talent in most of the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events than any other country, which is exactly what Christensen showed in his surprising gold medal day.

FTW: Olympian tries to save stray puppies

Christensen was the final man picked for the slopestyle team, and a controversial one, as he was in a dead heat with other skiers vying for that final spot. If not for a big win in the final qualifier in Park City in January, he would have been watching these Games on television from back home in Utah.

But here he was, and he dominated, turning in three of the top four scores of the day (including the semifinals). He could have won gold and silver by himself. Kenworthy had the second-best score in the final, as he joined Christensen and Goepper in landing at least one risky triple jump.

Teammate Bobby Brown also landed his first-ever triple during a qualification round but couldn’t stick it in the finals and finished ninth.

“The jumps were so big that they were pretty effortless but definitely scary,” Kenworthy said.

Scary, he said, because once committed to trying the triple there are only two outcomes — land it, or crash hard.

“If it doesn’t go right, the consequences are a lot higher,” Kenworthy said. “I think everyone obviously wants an Olympic medal, so it’s a reason worth sending it.”

Just last month, a triple was unheard of in slopestyle. Kenworthy and Goepper each hit one in the X Games in Aspen, Colo., becoming the first men to do it in competition. Christensen arrived in Sochi knowing he’d need one too, so he learned it this week, practiced it and nailed a switch triple 1440 — in which he takes off backward and flips three times while doing four full rotations — en route to gold.

That Christensen hadn’t even tried his triple until this week might sound crazy to those in the traditional sporting sphere. It’s not crazy to freeskiers, who enjoy the creative and innovative side of their events as much as the adrenaline of trying the wildest tricks.

“That’s what makes it so cool, is there is such this cool, creative element to what we do. It never gets stale,” Goepper said.

“When slopestyle skiers are done competing, we go out the next day, we go skiing, and for fun we would hit this same course tomorrow and just work on our own personal style and our own flavor. NFL players, I don’t think for fun they go out and smash into each other.”

NBC is tape delaying the Olympics again. Get over it.

February 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

(Reuters)

NBC didn’t offer live coverage of Friday’s Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This led to the biennial tradition of people on social media loudly complaining about the network shunning modernity and clinging to the archaic practice of tape delaying Olympic events for broadcast on both coasts.

It’s getting old, people — the complaints, not the tape delay. Here are six reasons it’s time to stop whining about the delay in NBC’s Olympic coverage.

1. The Olympics — especially the Opening and Closing ceremonies — are a television show

(USA TODAY Sports)

All the spoilers you’ve heard today — the missing Olympic ring, the lighting of the torch, the crazy outfits, the beautiful ballet dancing to Tchaikovsky — do nothing to diminish the viewing experience you’ll have for the Opening Ceremony on Friday night. Tape delaying sports is one thing (we’ll get to that), but there’s no reason to be upset with a delayed parade and pro-Russia celebration.

2. People are still watching

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Though the loudest voices seem to belong to people upset with NBC’s decision to tape delay, the numbers tell a different story. The tape-delayed Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics nabbed 40.7 million viewers. That’s a bigger total than at any previous Olympics, including the live broadcast of the 1996 opener from Atlanta. Those 2012 Summer Games also set ratings records despite airing fully on tape delay.

This is a key example of the media being out of touch with the viewing audience. Most people aren’t spending all day on Twitter, obsessively checking results. They flip on the TV at night and sit back to watch prepackaged highlights, edited to keep their interest. What’s wrong with that?

3. There’s no good way to broadcast an Olympics with a nine-hour time difference

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

I’ll give you this: It’s annoying when the West Coast has to wait to watch events that are live in the East (like happened during the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics). But Sochi is nine hours ahead of the East coast and 12 hours in front of the West Coast. Nothing is airing live in primetime anyway.

4. Most people don’t have the ability to watch a live broadcast at 11:30 a.m. ET

(Rob Schumacher, USA TODAY Spotrs)

Would I love to be watching the Opening Ceremony live in 1080p HD with NBC commentary and its top-notch production value? Of course. But I have nothing else to do except watch the Olympics at 11:30 a.m. ET on a Friday. Most Olympic viewers are busy during the day, either with work or school or errands or whatever. Tape delaying makes sense. (On a side note: I do wish NBC would broadcast marquee events live during the weekend instead of saving them for primetime. If Sunday afternoon is good enough for the NFL, it should be good enough for the Olympics.)

“Fine, but what’s wrong with airing live sports for the people who can watch TV in the middle of a work day?”

Again, this would be nice. But streaming has rendered this argument moot. If you care enough to be concerned about the lack of midday coverage, then watching a legal, high-quality NBC stream should tide you over.

“But NBC didn’t stream the Opening Ceremony.” 

See No. 1.

5. You watch everything on DVR anyway

(USA TODAY)

Irony of ironies: A majority of us tape delay most our television viewing. If you use your DVR to record shows so you can watch them back at your convenience, you have no business complaining about NBC doing the same thing at the Olympics.

6. NBC does a really, really good job of broadcasting the games

XXX NUP_157704_0001.JPG SPO

None of this means to suggest the tape delay isn’t a big issue. It’s just  time to move on. Don’t let this one annoyance obscure everything else NBC does well. The network airs hundreds of hours of Olympic coverage, devoting time to major sports like figure skating and hockey, as well as lesser sports like curling and biathlon. It’s all covered. NBC has experienced announcers giving solid analysis that never feels dumbed down. The graphics, camerawork and replays are top notch. During primetime, NBC airs informative segments on the culture of the host nation, as well as necessary puff pieces that help you gain an attachment to certain athletes.

Overall, NBC shines with its Olympic coverage.

2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony photos

February 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Olympian’s dad shares heartbreaking message on Facebook after daughter’s injury

February 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

(USA TODAY Sports)

Teammate Hannah Kearney saw Kloser perform a back flip off the first jump in her run. The next thing Kearney saw was ominous.

“Next thing I know, they closed the course,” Kearney said, which almost always indicates a crash. It’s a heartbreaking turn of events for Kloser, which is made even more gut wrenching when you read her father Mike’s Facebook post.

(USA TODAY Sports)

Kloser’s father assured his daughter that “Of course she was” still an Olympian but added that Heidi is obviously still “so sad.”

It’s harsh, bitter, and unfair reality of Olympic sports. It’s a tenuous build every four years for these athletes who dedicate years and years of their life. When a terrible turn of luck strikes, you can only shake your head.

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