February 26, 2017 by
Gonzaga is looking to reach the Final Four for the first time under longtime coach Mark Few.
Despite suffering their first loss of the season against BYU, the Gonzaga Zags still lead a pack of several teams that have shown glimpses of being capable of winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship this season. Look for NCAA college basketball lines at Skybook.
Much like Villanova a year ago, Gonzaga enters the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a team that has spent years posting regular season success, but without being able to break through for a Final Four run.
Since Mark Few became coach at Gonzaga for the 1999-2000 season, the Zags have reached the NCAA Tournament 17 straight times. However, only six times have they advanced past the first week of the tournament.
Twice in the last four tournaments, the Zags have entered as a number one or two seed. During the 2012-2013 season Gonzaga earned a number one seed for the first time, but lost in the round of 32 to Wichita State.
Two years later, Gonzaga was a number two seed and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time under Few. However, their dream of making the Final Four was dashed by eventual champion Duke.
With non-conference wins this season over Florida, Iowa State, Tennessee and Arizona, Gonzaga has shown that they can play with some of the top programs in the country. The loss to BYU will keep them from finishing with a perfect conference record for the fifth time, but they could still match their 17 conference wins from 2014-2015.
Of course, the NCAA Tournament is always very different than the regular season. To make a deep run doesn’t just take talent. It also requires a bit of luck and good fortune. Read the rest of this entry →
February 08, 2017 by
Northwestern men’s basketball proved itself to be a real contender for both the Big 10 and the NCAA Tournament with its win at Columbus over the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 22.
It was the first time the Wildcats have beaten Ohio State on the road since 1977, a 39-year losing streak.
Two free throws each by Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law salted the game away in the final seconds of a 74-72 win. The Wildcats improved to 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big 10, where they have four road wins.
So what were the conditions in 1977 when the Wildcats knocked off the Buckeyes at their own house? A quick trip in the Wayback Machine reveals some fantastic details. Here’s a look at a few:
The 1976-1977 Northwestern Wildcats were coached by Tex Winter: Yes, THAT Tex Winter. Texas went an abysmal 42-89 for the Wildcats as part of his 30-year college coaching career. This was 14 years after he wrote a book called “The Triple-Post Offense” also known as the triangle. In 1985, old friend Jerry Krause hired him to be an assistant for the Chicago Bulls and teach the offense to a young kid named Michael Jordan. Tex went on to win nine NBA championships as an assistant coach – six with the Bulls and three with the Lakers. Read the rest of this entry →
January 29, 2017 by
There was Brent Musburger on the far left sitting with Joe Namath poolside prior to Super Bowl III.
Part of the memory for all sports fans are the faces and voices of the announcers and commentators who have helped connect us with great sports moments. As someone whose first memories of television sports include watching the NFL Today during the 1970s, Brent Musburger is one of those figures for me. His catch phrase of “You are looking live” still makes me excited and indicates that I better pay attention because something big could be about to happen. The announcement this week that the 77-year-old Musburger will be retiring from play-by-play duty on January 31st will leave a void in the sports world, but he has provided generations of fans with some great memories.
A graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Musburger began his career in the late 1960s and very quickly found himself in the middle of the action and controversy.
Writing for Chicago’s American newspaper, Musburger covered the 1968 Olympics and the controversial “black power” salute by Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In the article, he stated that “Smith and Carlos looked like a couple of black-skinned storm troopers” who were “ignoble,” “juvenile,” and “unimaginative.” Years later Musburger said that comparing the two athlettes to Nazis was “harsh”, but stood by his opinion that the Olympic stage was not the appropriate place to make a political statement.
Just a few months later, Musburger found himself poolside in Miami as one of a handful of reporters sitting with a brash young quarterback who was holding court before Super Bowl III. As it turned out, Joe Namath was just the first of many Super Bowl heroes with whom Musburger would rub elbows.
Beginning in 1968, Musburger was first a radio and then television anchor for WBBM in Chicago. He later moved to Los Angeles where he was a news co-anchor at KNXT (now KCBS-TV) and worked alongside Connie Chung.
In 1973 Musburger began serving as a play-by-play announcer for NFL games on CBS – his color commentating partners included Bart Starr, Tommy Mason and Wayne Walker – and two years later was given the role that would make him famous. Read the rest of this entry →
December 31, 2016 by
Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.
While it is inevitable that every year we say goodbye to some of those who shaped sports history, it seems like 2016 included more than the normal share of all-time sports legends. Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer were not just sports legends, they were national icons whose celebrity transcended sports. At their peak, Pat Summitt and Gordie Howe were synonymous with their respective sports. In addition, the year included the death of several well-known members of the sports media as well as a number of accomplished coaches.
Below is a brief remembrance of some of the sports greats who passed away in 2016:
Muhammad Ali: While it is not difficult to poke holes into Ali’s self-proclaimed moniker as the “Greatest of All-Time”, there is little doubt that during his peak, Ali was one of the most recognized people on the planet. An Olympic boxing champion in 1960, Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), won the Heavyweight title in February 1964 with a sixth-round TKO of champion Sonny Liston. Ali, who was 22-years-old at the time he won the title, maintained the belt until 1967 when it was stripped following his federal conviction for refusing draft induction. It would be more than three years before Ali would return to the boxing ring. During the 1970s, Ali regained the Heavyweight title twice more while participating in some of the most iconic boxing matches of all-time. He fought Joe Frazier three times, winning the last two, and also defeated George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” After retiring in 1980, the once polarizing Ali developed into an American icon. His battle with Parkinson’s syndrome over the last two decades saw the charismatic Ali struggle to communicate, but he was often in the public eye.
Ralph Branca: Branca won 88 games and as a three-time All-Star during his 12 year Major League career, but he is best known for giving up the “Shot Heard Round the World” to Bobby Thomson during the 1951 National League Playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. He had only eight career wins before going 21-12 with a 2.67 ERA during the 1947 season. However, what Branca is perhaps best known for during the 1947 season was his willingness to stand next to teammate Jackie Robinson at the beginning of the season when others were reluctant. Branca won 13 or more games three other times during his career.
Dennis Byrd: Byrd’s NFL career was cut short in 1992 when he was paralyzed as a result of an on-field hit. He recovered enough to walk onto the field to start the 1993 season and went on to be a motivational speaker. He died as a result of a car accident in October.
Read the rest of this entry →
December 24, 2016 by
DeMar DeRozan is emerging as one of the top scorers in the NBA.
After finishing the 2015-16 regular season 56-26 and only a game behind the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference title, the Toronto Raptors loss to the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals 4-2. As both teams were exiting the floor, it was clear Toronto may have been but one season away from catching the Champs in both talent and ability.
With a little more than a third of the 2016-17 NBA season already in the books, the Raptors are sitting in a familiar place. With a record of 20-8, they find themselves 1.5 games behind the Cavs for the conference lead with Boston sitting in a distant 3rd with a record of 17-12. Given the parity found in the conference, it looks like the two leaders will battle it out until the end for home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Finals.
To get a better idea of whether or not the Raptors have made enough improvements to catch the Cavs, one would have to look inside the numbers. For starters, the Raptors are playing an up-tempo offense that has led to a scoring increase from 102.7 PPG to 112.3 PPG from last season to this season. This has also led to a spike in the number of points allowed per game from 98.2 to 103.0. Overall, that represents an improved scoring differential of 4.8 PPG versus a positive scoring differential change for the Cavaliers of only 1.8 PPG. The 3.0 PPG difference between the two teams is quite significant at this level of play.
The question becomes, “is this sustainable?” because if it is, it might be relevant enough for the Raptors to catch the Cavs and earn that all-important home court advantage heading into the playoffs. All of this analysis assumes both teams will stay healthy, and the Cavs have already been bit by the injury bug with guard J.R. Smith out with a fractured thumb and forward Kevin Love having knee issues. To date, Toronto has nothing to report.
With essentially the same group of players on the floor, the biggest improvement has come from star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who has ratcheted up his game up another notch, scoring at a rate of 27.9 PPG, up from 23.5 PPG last season. While he has increased the number of shots he has taken per game, he has also improved his shooting percentage from 44.6% to 48.2%. He has also improved his rebounding and steals, which shows he’s more focused on defense. Read the rest of this entry →
December 24, 2016 by
DeMarcus Cousins is getting quite frustrated with the continued losing in Sacramento. How long will it be before a trade is best both for him and the franchise?
It’s been a long time between drinks of playoff water for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. The last time they made it to the playoffs was in 2005-2006 when they lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs to the World Champ San Antonio Spurs in a series that went to 4-2. Since then, they have failed to finish above .500 for 10 consecutive seasons while compiling a dismal record of 277-527 for a winning percentage of 33.78%.
During that time span, the team has had a number of talented players who have come and gone. Over the last six years, power forward DeMarcus Cousins has done all a man can do to turn the franchise around. While certainly culpable for being a general pain in the butt on a team that has had more than its fair share of issues and distractions, the talent this man possesses is far beyond question.
Ever since he came over as the 5th overall pick in the 2010 from the University of Kentucky, he has matched up well against some of the best power forwards in the game. In his first couple of years, his temper and overall demeanor stood in the way of his reaching an elite level of play. With that said, there was no denying the talent was there in a body chiseled from rock.
Over his first three seasons, he averaged right around 17 PPG while proving himself to be quite effective underneath both the offensive and defensive boards. It wasn’t until the start of the 2013-14 season that he started harnessing all that destructive energy into something positive. The result was an invitation to the All-Star game and honorable mention on the All-NBA team after averaging just over 22 PG with 11.7 RPG. Read the rest of this entry →