Madness, I tell you Madness
The tournament is here. Or as we like to say, "College basketball's month-long season actually starts this week."
First let's start with our universal college hoops rule. If Weeds writes on college roundball, we are in. Here's his well-reasoned complaints about the Selection Committee. And he's spot on. Yes, Kentucky got hosed and yes, Weeds is kind of fond of UK hoops, but in this instance, he — and, as much as we hate to admit it, Coach Cal, was too Sunday night — and the rest of Big Blue Nation have a legit beef.
And we also hope his scenario of Mark Emmert handing the trophy to Arizona coach Sean Miller comes to fruition. Heck, we'll go one step further and hope the $100 grand Wildcats face Tom Izzo and the Michigan State cover-ups in the title game. (Heck, throw in UNC and Alabama in the all-controversy Final Four and let's hear Jim Nantz try to spin that puppy).
Nantz: "Hello friends, Jim Nantz with you along with Grant Hill and Bill Raftery, live from San Antonio. Grant, you were a great player who played in three Final Fours and never took a bribe or an AAU six-figure check. How much has the game changed today."
Hill: "Well, when we were being recruited in was more about co-eds"
Raftery: "With the KISS!"
Nantz: "Oh Bill, seriously, how extensive is the corruption and why do you think the players and coaches do it?"
Raftery: "Well, first, unlike what Dickie V thinks, this spreads across every man-to-man in the game frankly. As for all the cheating, it's because the NCAA has no onions."
As for out contest, let's review:
If you want to be a winner, enter the "Madly Marching through the March Madness: Last In/First Out Contest." It's easy, email to email@example.com the double-digit seed you think will last the longest and the No. 1 seed you think will be bounced first. (Reminder on scoring: The double-digit guess is worth 1.1 points; the bounced 1 seed is worth 1 point.)
We will settle ties as they come up. Questions?
So let's review some of the high seeds with a chance.
Knowledge: Xavier, Syracuse, UCLA, Dayton, LaSalle and Florida Gulf Coast, Ohio, VCU, Cornell and Washington, are just a few of the double-digits seeds that not only won a game advance to at least the second weekend in the each bracket since 2010.
So, if you want to win, not only pick a double-digit seed that will survive the first game, but has a chance to win its second as well. Here are some of the ones we would consider:
Yes, Oklahoma is the butt of the national jokes about the committee, and yes, they could get bounced in round 1. (Remember, these are double-digit seeds, they all could get bounced in round 1.) But the Sooners have something no other double-digit seed does: A player that can take over any game against any other team in the tournament. That should count for something.
New Mexico State. NMSU gets a chance against the weakest 5 (Clemson has some injury issues) and arguably the weakest 4 (Auburn is down to eight scholarship players). That screams second-weekend potential.
Here's one more, and UT fans may not like it: Loyola-Chicago. That's an experienced and balanced bunch that made the tournament almost 10 days ago and has done nothing but rest and practice. We like them a lot against No. 6 seed Miami, which is dealing with injury issues, too. So if they get through the first round, Loyola would see a Tennessee team on Saturday that would have played Friday, Saturday, Sunday in St. Louis, flown back to Knoxville on Sunday night, flown to Dallas early Tuesday, played Wright State at 12:30 on Thursday and then turn around and play LCU on Saturday at noon.
Tough. Stupid committee.
We love the silly seasons around sports, and it's strange how much the transaction has come close to the actual action in terms of fan interest. Maybe that's a ripple effect for football fans of the Madden franchise mode generation. (We love the draft. You know this.)
But, as much as the draft winds were blowing heartily across the combine at Indianapolis, there is much to glean in the next 24-plus hours as teams negotiate with free agents and pursue trades to address needs before the draft.
Before we get much deeper into this, here's some interesting numbers from ESPN. The teams with the most cap space are Cleveland ($114.4 million, but remember All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas needs a contract too), the Jets ($90.9 million), Tampa Bay ($74.15 million), San Francisco ($73.17 million, but that's before Jimmy Garoppolo's mega-deal kicks in) and Indianapolis ($72.85 million). Teams with the least amont of cap space are Philadelphia (negative-$8.68 million), Miami (negative-$7.97 million, which explains the reported Jarvis Landry trade and the whispers that Ndamukong Suh will be released), Kansas City (negative-$3.87 million) and Pittsburgh ($1.2 million). Those numbers, especially for a team like Kansas City, which has traded Alex Smith and Marcus Peters and their high-dollar contracts, will change noticeably once those deals become official.
Here are five of the biggest head-turners so far, without the blizzard of trades by the Browns, who we discussed some on Monday:
Kansas City reportedly to sign Sammy Watkins. While the ESPN numbers show the players on the roster — before trades and releases and such — according to the folks at
Overthecap.com, the Chiefs have almost $30 million to spend during free agency. And this signing, one of the two or three best available wide outs, gives the Chiefs no worse than the second-best collection of weapons in the AFC. Who, maybe other than the Steelers, would have a better RB-WR1-WR2-TE group than Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Watkins and Travis Kelce? Patrick Mahomes has to be smiling. https://overthecap.com/salary-cap-space/
Chicago reportedly to sign Allen Robinson. This deal makes sense for the Jags, to let Robinson, a very productive receiver, walk after Jacksonville's memorable run and emergence while Robinson was sidelined with a season-ending injury. (The Jags have reportedly already backed the truck up to resign quarterback Blake Bortles and guard Andrew Norwell, so letting Robinson walk is understandable.) It's also understandable for the Bears, who have to get some perimeter weapons for second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Quick: Name the Bears leading receiver in 2017. If you said Kendal Wright, who had 59 catches — on 91 flippin' targets — for 614 yards and all of one TD, you are ready for Jeopardy! (Side note: The Bears's leader in TD catches was Adam Shaheen — no relation to Paul — with three.) This would also allow the Bears to use their top-10 pick on a much-needed pass-rusher, too.
Case Keenum intends to sign with the Broncos. Keenum had a monster year for the Vikings last year, and we commend the Vikings on their restraint in not giving him a franchise deal. But this move makes sense for Denver, too. This would mean that Denver is now out of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, leaving the Jets and the Vikings as the front-runners to write that monster check. Keenum's career year last year — it was the first time he started more than nine games or threw more than 200 passes in a single season — was deserving of a raise. It will be interesting to see how much of one the 30-year-old, who made $2 million last year, will get. This also allows Denver to target the best player on the board at No. 5, meaning that of the names of Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb or Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson that slip, the Broncos will get an immediate impact player while addressing their quarterback question.
Rams acquire Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. The Rams realize their window win is now. Yes, the 49ers are getting better, but there are still holes around Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco. The Seahawks are staring at a rebuilding project around Russell Wilson after cutting ties with longtime stalwarts Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett. The Cardinals somehow believe that A.J. McCarron will be their franchise quarterback. Time is now for Los Angeles, and acquiring two shutdown corners on a defense that sorely needed help in the back seven is a grand starting point. Plus, the Rams also can be a player starting Wednesday because they jettisoned Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree and did not bite at the Sammy Watkins bait.
The Dolphins are cutting bait. Yes, Miami got a cut-rate price on Quinn, but think of it this way: Before the start of last season, when Ryan Tannehill was healthy, who were the Dolphins four best players? We would have said Jay Ajayi, traded to Philly for a cheesesteak and some Tastykakes. And Jarvis Landry, sent to Cleveland for a couple of picks, and Ndamukong Suh, who will be a cap casualty, as well as Tannehill, who is coming off a devastating knee injury and who knows if he's the long-term solution. Man, what, right now if you are the Dolphins, are you pitching to season-ticket holders? Come see the Dolphins. The weather's great and who knows, maybe Kenyan Drake could be the next Alvin Kamara.
We talked late last week that Tiger Woods will never return to the player who won about every fourth tournament from 1999-to-2004. No one will.
But the appeal of Tiger Woods is every bit as strong as it was in his heyday. We mentioned the Saturday numbers from the Valspar — and how much are the Valspar marketing folks high-fiving each other this morning — and Sunday was even more eye-popping.
The final round of the Valspar earned a 5.1 overnight. That number was up 190 percent from last year's final round, which was won by Adam Hadwin, and serves as the biggest overnight non-major rating since the final round of the 2013 Players Championship. (Side point: Tiger won the 2013 Players Championship, so there's that.)
It's such a strong statement to Woods' overarching popularity from most and the anti-Woods feelings from some. Either way, each camp has a rooting interest and that behooves any televised sporting event.
On this Tuesday, here's our first True or False: Tiger Woods is the most valuable sports figure to his sport ever. Discuss. We say true and Arnold Palmer is likely the only one that could give Tiger a run.
This is not saying he's the GOAT. Injuries and the fallout from a wayward 9-iron in his driveway around that fateful Thanksgiving have derailed him on his quest to match Jack. And while for the first time since his run of back surgeries, we think Tiger actually could win a major again, there's no way he wins five to pass Jack's 18. And considering that Jack had much more star-studded competition through his amazing career — his contemporaries Arnold, Player, Trevino and Watson each won more majors than Woods' most successful foe, Phil Mickelson — and Jack holds the record with a mind-blowing 19 runner-up finishes at majors.
Tiger can never match that.
But what he brings his the second-best resume the game's ever seen and no worse than the second-most popular stature in the sport's history, and that's if you think Palmer's apex was higher than Woods' has been or will be. And that last part is key, considering that Tiger is now entering the rarest of rare places for a polarizing all-time Rushmore athlete in his sport.
Tiger was the Dude of his generation and then personal and physical shortcomings sidetracked him for years. He became sympathetic in a lot of ways because he was chunking chip shots and floundering in a way that was part yips, part physical and part Emmitt Smith in a Cardinals jersey.
It simply looked horribly wrong and it made us long for the memories of the Tiger we romanticized or demonized. Yes, even his haters realized that golf with Tiger in contention is more fun than golf without Tiger in contention.
Plus, his peers realized it too. And the reaction — from Luke List telling us on Press Row how much the game owes to Tiger to Valspar winner Paul Casey saying if he couldn't win it wanted Tiger to in part to show the young kids of today what it's like to operate in the Tiger Woods circus on Sunday — from players and fans alike say something quite clear.
Tiger Woods may never be THAT Tiger Woods again. But Tiger Woods in contention, we're glad to welcome that guy back to the game.
This and that
— For TV ratings purposes, we discussed the stinker that was the Selection Show and Tiger's monster showing. The ACC title game between UNC and Virginia delivered a 2.1 overnight ratings, which matched the Big Ten title game for most-watched.
— More TV sports news, this coming from late last week. Sean McDonough is out on the ESPN Monday Night Football broadcast, and reports have Joe Tessitore stepping in for the biggest play-by-play gig at the four-letter Network. Also, reports have Peyton Manning turning down the job of MNF analyst, meaning that if he does go to the broadcast booth he would do it on Thursday Nigh Football with Fox. (Side note: If Manning does sign on with Fox, here's betting that he is a) excellent at it and b) replacing Troy Aikman within a year.
— For those of wondering what ever happened to five-star defensive back prospect Kristian Fulton, here's some interesting details on a two-year suspension for the LSU junior-to-be.
— Speaking of the NFL, man, this is an excellent story behind the story of Tom Brady beating Stephen Colbert in a beer-chugging contest last night on late-night TV. If you read all the way to the end on that link, man, it makes you wish we heard more stories like that one about Brady, right?
Tuesday means one thing. You know this.
True or false, Tiger Woods is the most valuable athlete to his sport among all athletes and sports across the world right now.
True or false, you have entered the "Madly Marching through the March Madness: Last In/First Out Contest" before Thursday? How about the Press Row bracket contest? (Link is here.) (Link is here.) Pretty much there's a contest for everyone.
True or false, Peyton Manning will be an awesome NFL analyst.
As for a Rushmore, on this day in 1781, William Herschel saw what he thought was a comet, but actually he discovered Uranus. Rushmore of words that were 100 percent funny in elementary school, and keep it out of the ditch, please.