Saturday, March 15, 2008

21 and Lethal!!!! - Rockets win 21st consecutive game

Houston Chronicle sports columnist Richard Justice writes that T.Mac may now be in the lead for the NBA MVP after the Rockets won their 21st straight game... "They are a team in every sense of the word, a really good team, a smart, resourceful and gritty team. Don't lose sight of the bottom line with these Rockets. There's one other thing to know about them. They've got the NBA's Most Valuable Player. Care to argue? Don't. You don't have the facts on your side. Tracy McGrady defines greatness almost any way you want to define it." ...
  • Richard Justice

  • Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti writes about Minnesota's Laettner-like shot to dump Indiana in the Big 10 tournament.... "From this point on, a sporting miracle will be known in American life as a ``Hoffarber.'' An athlete does not follow one otherworldly shot with another and not gain some sort of transcedent acknowledgement. What we saw on a memorable Friday night, I'd like to think we'll never see again in our lifetime." ...
  • Jay Mariotti

  •'s Ivan Maisel writes about the changes taking place in Ann Arbor with the Michigan football program... "He knew the discomfort they would feel at the hands of their new director of strength and conditioning, Mike Barwis, and the staff he brought with him from West Virginia." ...
  • Ivan Maisel

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports columnist Ron Cook writes how West Virginia could not stop Georgetown's Roy Hibbert.... "If Hibbert comes inspired to play and stays out of foul trouble -- as he did last night-- don't be surprised if the Hoyas win the national championship." ...
  • Ron Cook

  • Washington Post sports reporter Mike Wise writes about American University's first trip to the Big Dance... "Needing badly to make a free throw, or any shot for that matter, Derrick Mercer stared more at history than at the rim with 19 seconds left. Listed generously at 5 feet 9, American University's pint-size guard had struggled to find his shooting range and his confidence for 40 minutes -- much like the Eagles struggled to find their path to the NCAA Division I basketball tournament for 41 years." ...
  • Mike Wise

  • Columbus Dispatch sports columnist Bob Hunter says Ohio State deserves to make the NCAA tournament... "If the Buckeyes had gotten a little better a little sooner, maybe if they had simply avoided a drubbing at Minnesota two weeks ago, they could have shrugged and walked away from Conseco Fieldhouse with a smug "just wait until next week." ...
  • Bob Hunter
  • Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Beers with Bloggers - Derek of Insomniac's Lounge

    This week's Beers with Bloggers feature is with Derek of Insomniac's Lounge....Derek is a graduate of U.C.L.A. with a degree in biology....he lives in a suburb of Los Angeles and is currently on sabbatical to spend more time with his five-year-old son...when he is not busy with his son, Derek does a solid job writing for his is our interview with him...

    Q1. Why do you blog? How long have you been doing Insomniac's Lounge?
    A. Back in October of 2005, I was trying to remember some of the outrageous things that Freddie Mitchell had said during his press conferences. So I did a Google search, and one of the first things that popped up was an article over at
    themightymjd. That was my first exposure to blogs, and I was hooked immediately.

    I used to write quite a bit before I went the science route, and I was missing it. I've found that blogs provide a great outlet to write what you want, when you want, and occasionally, even have a reader or two. Also, it gives me an excuse to surf the net for pics of college-aged girls in various states of undress. Can't ask for more than that.

    Q2. What are your strengths at blogging? Why is Insomniac's Lounge a good blog?
    A. Some people might argue with the premise of that question. When I first started my blog, like many others, I had zero readers. So I only wrote with the goal of entertaining myself. I still write with basically that same approach, which I think minimizes the amount of "filler" you'll find on my site.

    If someone stumbles upon my site, I want them to crack a smile- either because I provided a slightly different spin on the day's story, a picture that they particularly enjoyed, or rarely, some insightful commentary. I don't want people to feel like they wasted their time when they clicked over to my site(assuming I actually had a new post that day). My feeling is that it's a personal blog, so give it some personality. Although Michael David Smith has been rather successful in the blogosphere and his writing has the personality of a vegan's stool, so what the hell do I know?

    Q2a. I have to ask, do you suffer from insomnia?
    A. Nothing that's been clinically diagnosed, but the only way I can fall asleep is essentially by collapsing from exhaustion. Generally that means going to sleep anywhere between 3 am and 6 am.

    Q3. The NCAA Tournament is fast approaching. Who are your picks to make the Final Four and why?A. I just know that I'm going to end up picking some teams that end up in the same region. Also, I should mention that I never pick UCLA because of superstition. I'll go with:
    - North Carolina: Playing in Raleigh and Charlotte is one hell of an edge. Being the best team in the country doesn't hurt either.
    - Texas: Point guard play is always a factor in the tournament, and DJ Augustin is as good as they come on the college level.
    - Kansas: Did I really just pick a Bill Self coached team to go to the Final Four? That pretty much undermines my credibility.
    - Wisconsin: They'll be my UCLA surrogate pick. A defensive-minded, grind-it-out team that will always have a chance to win in the last five minutes of the game.

    Q4. Real quick - who is the MVP in the NBA this year - LeBron or Kobe? Why?
    A. Ya know, if Chris Paul were white and Canadian, he'd be the winner in a landslide. But since he isn't a choice, I'll go with Kobe because he's going against much tougher competition in the Western Conference.

    Q5. Brett Favre just retired. Who are your all-time Top 10 quarterbacks of the last 30 years?
    A. I'm going to exclude Staubach from my list since he was at the tail end of his career 30 yrs ago, but still include Bradshaw since he won 2 Super Bowls within that time frame:
    1. Joe Montana
    2. John Elway
    3. Troy Aikman
    4. Tom Brady
    5. Peyton Manning
    6. Dan Marino
    7. Steve Young
    8. Dan Fouts
    9. Terry Bradshaw
    10. Brett Favre

    Q6. Hypothetical Question - You are in charge of the Miami Dolphins. What do you do with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft - keep it or trade it? If you keep it, who is your pick; if you trade it, what do you realistically want in return?
    A. The Dolphins haven't had a QB that was the face of the franchise since the days when they had the sixth best QB of the last 30 years. For that reason, it's very tempting to go with Matt Ryan and build around him. But the Dolphins need so many pieces that trading down makes sense too. If it were up to me, I'd start a public love affair with Ryan and hope that the Falcons became jealous and offered up some nice picks to move up. If so, then I'd move down and snag Chris Long at #3. If the offer doesn't come and I was left with the #1 pick, I'd take Ryan. How's that for hedging an answer?

    Q7. Joe Torre is now managing the Dodgers and Joe Girardi is with the Yankees. What are your thoughts about how each will do this season?
    A. Well, when those dry Santa Anas come blowing into LA, it's really going to make Torre's boogers crusty. He may end up with a few extra bloody noses from scratching until he gets used to the new climate. I really don't see Joe Girardi and Alex Rodriguez as a very good match. I think at some point in the season, Girardi might make ARod cry.

    Q8. I have to ask a non-sports question - Obama, Clinton, or McCain? Why?
    A. Obama, because he believes we can, and I believe we can. And if we can't, we can pay some people in India 10 cents on the dollar to do it for us.

    Q9. Who are the five hottest women in sports and/or broadcasting?
    A. Tanith Belbin, Valeria Ochoa, Heather Mitts, Ana Ivanovic, and of course, the UCLA Dance Team.

    Q10. Last question, this segment is called "Beers with Bloggers." So what are some of your favorite brews? What are some beers that you like that may not be well known nationally?
    A. Negra Modelo is one that you can usually find in my fridge. Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale is a San Diego beer that I really like, but it might just be because it reminds me of hanging out at Pacific Beach. Up here, I've discovered that they have it on tap at the Burbank Hooters, so that gives me another reason to visit that fine establishment. Abita has quite a few good brews; and it's based just outside of New Orleans, so you're helping rebuild the economy with each buzz.

    Thanks for the questions. Go Blue! (For some reason, many UCLA fans have a kinship with Michigan. I think it's because we both keep getting our butts kicked by SC in football.)

    Once again, I want to thank Derek for his time....and BTW - I love that UCLA Dance Team too!!!...

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    The alleged Kristen

    These are photos of the woman allegedly to be involved with soon-to-be former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer...

    NFL Draft Spotlight on . . . Chris Long of Virginia

    Today's spotlight is on defensive end Chris Long of the Virginia 2007 he registered 14 sacks....Long is 6'4", 277 lbs and is rated as the top defensive end....he is the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long....Jerry Ratcliffe of the The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Va was kind enough to respond to my questions about is much appreciated...

    Q1. Chris Long is being touted as one of the top 5 players in this year's draft. How would you rate him among the various other college football players (Virginia and their opponents) you have covered over the years?
    A. First, you must understand that I have been covering sports for more than three decades, so that's a lot of players. While I have covered a lot of players that have been first round draft choices, I must say that none of them were quite like Chris Long. You hear people say "his motor never stops," which is a somewhat over-used phrase these days.

    However, with Chris, this is truly the case. He admits that he's wound too tight, but he is one of the most motivated individuals I have ever known. He actually made himself into what he is today with hard work and incredible drive. He really was a borderline Division I-A prospect until his junior year of high school, when he made some significant strides, strides that have never stopped. He works so hard in the weightroom and the practice field. He is truly a self-made success. For him to accomplish what he did his senior season against double teams and even triple teams, was remarkable.

    Also consider that he was held so many times in games, that if refs had called all those holds, Virginia would have probably not given up many points on defense because teams would be facing long yardage all day. Playing the two-gap at his size was incredible because he was pit against 310 to 330 pounders and still managed to excel.

    Chris is truly one of a kind. What an NFL team will get when they draft him is more than they might expect. He's not only a great athlete, he's a great leader, the kind of kid that's going to unite a team, inspire a team. He is a great spokesperson. He's a high-character guy, a great teammate and a great representative of an organization.

    Q2. What type of person is Chris Long? Did he have an attitude because he is Howie Long's son?
    A. Here is where Chris separates himself from some of the great athletes I have seen over the years. Some are great athletes but not great people. Chris is both a great athlete as witnessed in his NFL Combine performance, and a great person. I have gotten to know him better than many athletes in Virginia's program because he's a hometown kid. I've seen him around for years prior to his college career. As far as him having an attitude because of being Howie's son, well, quite the contrary.

    While growing up with a famous father has its advantages, Chris also had to carry the burden of having a dad in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A lot of people looked at him in high school and thought that he was getting a scholarship because of who his dad was, not because of Chris' talent. They soon found out that wasn't the case.
    He is proud of being Howie's son, but to show the kind of kid he is, he would never single out just his dad. He also credited his mom, Diane, who is a very special lady, with making him who he is, just as much as he credited Howie. He also shared all glory with his two younger brothers, Kyle, who may be a first-round baseball draft choice right out of high school, and little Howie, who will play lacrosse for Virginia.

    Chris received an award in our state recently that honored the top college player who was from the state of Virginia. Chris asked his high school coach to be his presenter in order to give that coach credit for helping him reach his goals. He is a very thoughtful kid. He was one of UVa's best recruiters during his four years here because all the prospects coming in really liked him.

    Q3. Did Howie ever interfere or give advice to Virginia head coach Al Groh on how to coach Chris?
    A. Howie couldn't have been better in the way he has handled Chris' career at Virginia. He always preferred to stay in the background and wanted Chris to be known for what Chris accomplished and not for being Howie's son. I remember one game at Georgia Tech, where Howie was in a skybox watching Chris play and the TV cameras kept flashing to Howie over and over again. Howie was disturbed by it all because he wanted all the attention to focus on Chris and his teammates and not himself. From that point on, Howie would watch the game in a TV truck or try to hide somewhere the cameras couldn't find him.

    No, Howie never interfered with how Al Groh coached Chris. As Al proudly points out, there were several times when Howie would come by to pay a cordial visit to pay respect to Al, and sometimes they would get into football conversations, and even the two of them get down in stances in Al's office because Al would be curious about picking Howie's brain on some things. But never at Howie's suggestion. Howie was very good about that. He would only help if asked, but never interjected himself into the equation otherwise.

    Same with the way he handled Chris. If Chris came to him and asked him for help on a technique or philosophy or any type of tips, Howie would do anything to assist his son, but only if Chris asked for help.

    Q4. Are there any other Virginia players that we should keep an eye on for this year's draft?
    A. Yes, offensive guard Branden Albert. He might be the best offensive line prospect in the draft. He was first-team All-ACC as a junior this past season and decided to come out. He is huge, strong and is incredible on the move. He would fit in well with a team that likes to pull its guards to lead plays out on the edge. He was a player that Groh plucked out of suburban Baltimore late in the signing process. No one else wanted this kid, but Groh offered him a scholarship, Albert went to prep school for a year, then came in and started as a true freshman and started ever since.

    Q5. Who are some of the future NFL prospects that we should pay attention to on the 2008 Virginia team?
    A. I would think that rising senior left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (6-6, 310) will be someone to keep an eye on. He was the No. 1 ranked offensive line prospect in the nation coming out of high school and should be a first-team All-ACC selection his final year.

    Outside linebacker Clint Sintim, rising senior, should be someone worth watching. While it's early in his career, sophomore quarterback Peter Lalich, has a chance to make a big splash this coming season. He played some last year as a true freshman and the job should be his. Great arm. Reminds a lot of folks of Matt Schaub.

    Two running backs bear watching: rising senior Cedric Peerman (led the ACC in rushing until injuring his foot midway through last season and didn't return), and the guy who replaced him, rising junior Mikell Simpson, who had the longest run by a running back in college football bowl history this past season against Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl.

    Once again I want to thank Jerry for his time...

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    NFL Draft Spotlight on - Kevin Smith of Central Florida

    The NFL Draft is fast approaching and once again Stiles Points will be putting the spotlight on various players and NFL teams leading up to the Draft...the first feature is on running back Kevin Smith from Central Florida...last season, as a junior, Smith carried the ball 450 times for 2,567 yards and 29 touchdowns....Smith is listed as 6'1", 211 lbs....

    Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel was kind enough to respond with some thoughts about Smith...I want to thank Kyle for taking the time...

    Q1. Kevin Smith is rated as one of the top 12 running backs in this year's NFL Draft. What type of running back is he? What other running back in the NFL reminds you of Kevin Smith?
    A. Kevin definitely falls into that "gliding style" running back category. He won't wow you with how he hits the hole with his speed, but he's very smart in how he follows his blocks/waits for them to develop. Then once he hits the open field, he kind of glides away. That said, having seen all of his 80-plus yard runs his junior year at UCF, I never recall him getting caught from behind. If I had to pick an NFL back to compare him to, it would probably be current De'Angelo Williams and past O.J. Simpson.

    Q2. What type of person is Kevin Smith off the field?
    A. Off the field Kevin is that guy that everybody wants to be around. Always joking, always interacting and the center of attention without trying to be. I always loved watching him driving around with teammates in his neon purple Chevy Caprice Classic, gold toothed in the sun. He was always having a blast, no matter what he was doing. And extremely personable. Probably a product of being underestimated by people coming out of high school, but he never turned down an interview request or failed to answer his cell when I needed to get him, even when the spotlight started increasing on him last year.

    Q3. I watched Smith in this year's bowl game and I remember the announcers saying that Smith was going to come back for his senior year. What happened that made Smith change his mind?
    A. We've talked several times about it and he assures me that there wasn't some big thing to it. Seems that once the spotlight of the season was gone and he really had a chance to sit quietly and think about it, he reassesed what he was passing on. Helping out his mom and brother was a factor, but I think in the end he just decided it was time. I know it was hard because he truly loves UCF and had connected with the city. He could have easily waited, but the guy is fearless and isn't worried about the deep draft pool or anything. He wears his heart on the outside of his chest and speaks and makes decisions from it. So I'm inclined to take him at his word.

    Q4. Smith had a heavy workload last year with 450 carries. Do you see that as a positive or negative as he heads into the NFL?
    A. I think it's actuallly a positive because he has already shown himself to be durable. I think it would be a bigger issue if he'd stayed and did it again as a senior. He won't get 450 in the NFL anytime soon, so in a way he saved some wear and tear already in my opinion.

    Q5. Who are some of the future NFL prospects that we should pay attention to on the 2008 UCF team?
    A. It has to start with senior-to-be and CB Joe Burnett. He had a breakout freshmen year with lots of INTs and a few punt returns on special teams. He had some injuries that slowed him down as a sophomore, but he broke back out as junior and led C-USA and ranked high nationally in INTs and got back on track as a punt returner as well. Also an entire core of sophomore-to-be receivers led by A.J. Guyton, Kamar Aiken and Brian Watters.

    Once again I want to thank Kyle for his time...

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Big East Tournament Bracket

    The Big East is one of the best conference tournaments...from the days of Patrick Ewing and Pearl Washington to the recent amazing performance of Gerry McNamara...this week's tournament starts Wednesday at Madison Square Garden with these match-ups...

    Afternoon sessions
    Noon - #8 Villanova (19-11) vs. #9 Syracuse (19-12)
    The winner will probably make the tournament...the loser will have to hope and pray, but will more than likely be NIT bound...

    2:00 - #5 West Virginia (22-9) vs. #12 Providence (15-15)
    The Friars need to win just to make the NIT...won't happen...

    Evening sessions
    7:00 - #7 Pitt (22-9) vs. #10 Cincinnati (13-17)

    This should be an easy one for the Panthers

    9:00 - #6 Marquette (22-8) vs. # 11 Seton Hall (17-14)
    Marquette did not look good on Saturday at Syracuse...Seton Hall must make it to the conference title game if they even want to consider the Big Dance...

    Afternoon Sessions

    Noon - #1 Georgetown (25-4) vs. winner of Villanova-Syracuse

    2:00 - #4 Connecticut (24-7) vs. winner of West Virginia-Providence

    Evening sessions
    7:00 - #2 Louisville (24-7) vs. winner of Pitt-Cincinnati

    9:00 - #3 Notre Dame (24-6) vs. winner of Marquette-Seton Hall

    7:00 - Georgetown winner vs. Connecticut winner
    9:00 - Louisville winner vs. Notre Dame winner

    9:00 - Championship Game - ESPN

    Sunday, March 09, 2008

    Sunday Stories

    New York Times sports reporter Tyler Kepner wrties about Mariano Rivera and how he dealt with the death of a mentor... "When Rivera speaks of Heron, he mentions his willingness to give advice to anybody who asked. It is trait that has made Rivera as important a leader on the Yankees as Derek Jeter, the team’s designated captain." ...
  • Tyler Kepner

  • Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist Bill Livingston writes where LeBron james ranks among the greats... "LeBron James is far and away the best player in the NBA, outpointing, outrebounding and outassisting Kobe Bryant, although Bryant might win the Most Valuable Player award as some kind of lifetime achievement." ...
  • Bill Livingston

  • The New York Times has Oscar Robertson write about his first games at Madison Square Garden... "In 1958, I was just another unsophisticated 19-year-old college sophomore from the provinces, looking forward to his first visit to the big city. I had not imagined it would be in a Cincinnati uniform." ...
  • Oscar Robertson

  • Dallas Morning News sports columnist Kevin Sherrington writes about the struggle of former Dallas Cowboy Buddy Dial... "Dial's story eventually became a landmark legal case. He was one of the first NFL players to be declared permanently disabled in 1993. His ex-wife eventually sued for half his monthly disability check, lost, then won on appeal." ...
  • Kevin Sherrington

  • Houston Chronicle sports columnist Richard Justice writes about Tracy McGrady and the red-hot Houston Rockets... "If this wasn't a perfect game, it was close. McGrady was on the floor for all 48 minutes, scored 41 points, handed out nine assists and grabbed six rebounds." ...
  • Richard Justice

  • Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers writes that he is not a Kobe-hater... "Everybody thinks I've got it in for the guy, angry people e-mailing all week to point out fans were even chanting for him in Sacramento, so get with it." ...
  • T.J. Simers

  • Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti writes about the possibility of the Cubs playing their games on the Southside while Wrigley gets a facelift... "And they'll effectively tell Cubdom to go to hell, even if the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority -- which owns and operates The Cell for the people of the state -- rubber-stamps the blasphemous concept of the North Siders playing home games on the South Side while Wrigley Field is reconstructed." ...
  • Jay Mariotti