Here we go
Connecticut's Alex Oriakhi topples over Butler's Andrew Smith during the first half of the men's NCAA Final Four college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Thank goodness that's over
The college basketball season ended with a collective clank in Houston as UConn topped Butler 53-41 for the national title Monday night. TFP columnist ace Mark Wiedmer was excellent all weekend in Houston and had a strong column from the championship HERE.
Egads, there were long stretches last night that looked more YMCA than NCAA and more pick-up than playoffs. At one point the 5-at-10 thought the camera had switched to EC's weekend pick-up game, but then Jim Nantz said something stupid, and well, Jim Nantz is not going to do play-by-play on EC's pick-up game. (Have we discussed why Gus Johnson is not more involved in the title game? No clue on that one.)
Where were we? Oh yeah, really bad basketball. Butler shot something like negative 82 percent and UConn had something like 20 turnovers to three assists. The 5-at-10 would have looked up those stats but our research staff is recovering from severe retina burns after watching the title game last night. It was not awesome in its awesomeness; more like gross in its grossness.
Plus, everyone (yes, the 5-at-10 is guilty, too) assumed that Butler was the underdog story because of its profile. Well, in the preseason hoops poll Butler was No. 18; UConn did not receive a single vote.
Anyhoo, if you're handicapping the front-runner for the College World Series, look for the team currently in the NCAA crosshairs. Auburn won the football title amid the rumors and NCAA questions involving Cam Newton. UConn is on probation and coach Jim Calhoun is suspended for the Huskies' first three games of next season. So the early favorite in baseball has to be someone currently on the NCAA radar, right?
In this April 13, 1986, file photo, Jack Nicklaus watches his shot go for a birdie, giving him the lead and the title, on the 17th at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. The Masters will be played for the 75th time this week, a major filled with special moments. Few of them resonate like one 25 years ago, when Nicklaus shot 30 on the back nine to defeatGreg Norman, Tom Kite, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Price, all of whom are in the World Golf Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Joe Benton, File)
Masters Week, Day II (part one)
Holy buckets of divots, there has to be something amazing on tap at Augusta National this week in the 75th Masters. If sports — and history for that matter — are defined by cycles, the silver anniversary bell curve at the Masters is world class.
It was 25 years ago that Jack Nicklaus won his final major title in arguably the greatest Masters ever. (Let's be real clear, BIspy will not listen to anyone who says otherwise. In fact, it's best just to step away slowly. Move along, nothing to see here.)
It was 50 years ago in 1961 that Gary Player became the first foreign Masters champ. Player got up and down from a greenside bunker to finish at 8 under — one shot clear of Arnold Parlmer, who made double-bogey on the 72nd hole, and amateur Charles Coe. (Player won $20,000 for winning that year, and some chubby-faced amateur named Nicklaus tied for seventh.)
It was 75 years ago in 1936 that Horton Smith became the first two-time winner. Smith, who won the first Masters two years before, finished the tournament at 3 under and pocketed $1,500.
Tiger Woods hits from the sand at the practice range as he prepares for the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday, April 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Masters Week, Day II (part two)
Three quick predictions for this week:
— Eldrick Woods will have a big-time run Saturday or Sunday to get into the top 10. He will advance to the weekend, make a huge push with a big third round or a super strong/meaningless final-round 66. The golfer formerly known as Tiger will make a charge that gets a lot of attention and allows him talk about how close he is in the comeback process.
— Defending champion Phil Mickelson is going to test his game, our imagination, the limits of the "No, no, no, no.... great shot," and the patience of the Augusta National Golf Club gods. It will also more than likely cost him a chance to repeat. We're thinking water on No. 15, maybe. Or even an overly agressive play from the pinestraw, perhaps. Quid pro quo, Dill, quid pro quo.
— Someone will win their first major championship on Sunday. Names like Justin Rose or Lee Westwood or Bubba Watson or even Nick Watney are being bounced around as possible "safe" upset picks (face it, if you're not picking Dill Pickelson or Eldrick Woods, you're kind of picking an upset, right?). We said two weeks ago on SportTalk and again last week on "The Show" with Chris Goforth that we like Matt Kuchar. Nothing has happened since to change that our mind, either.
Here's the 5-at-10 game for everyone: Submit your top five players (order is not important; points will be awarded as 5 for first, 4 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth and 1 for fifth; perfect score is 15) and the most points will get you a Masters trinket or something (we won't bring you back a pimento cheese sandwich, but don't expect the moon either — the 5-at-10's on a tight budget). Picks are due by Wednesday night, and the results are after Sunday's final round (thanks Oso). As always, everyone's welcome to play, no purchase necessary.
BIspy4 — Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood
Mcpell — Mickelson, Kaymer, Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods
CelticVol — Mickelson, B. Watson, Justin Rose, Westwood, Woods
EC — Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, B. Watson, Kaymer, Mickelson
Mrs. 5-at-10 — Kuchar, Westwood, B. Watson, McIlroy, Mickelson
5-at-10 — Kuchar, Watney, Rose, Mickelson, Westwood
(Please note, the 5-at-10 reserves the right to change his pick; after all, no matter how strongly we believe Eldrick is going show, if Tiger shows up all bets are off. What if he came out, emerging from the clubhouse as the dry ice machines started blowing and GnR's "Welcome to the Jungle" blaring over the speakers, spot lights swirling, Nantz going nuts, like old-school Gordon Solie crazy? Some where Jack Nicklaus just spit up in his mouth and he doesn't know why. Sorry Mr. Golden Bear, let's just move along.)
Uch — Mickelson, B. Watson, Westwood, D. Johnson, Anthony Kim
Pretend Al Davis ("I'm coming for you EC.") — Ditka (What do you mean he's not in it? He's Ditka for the Love of Gene Sarazen's Sand Iron.) OK, Tiger ("Duh."), Jason Bohn ("He went to Alabama like Stabler and Namath."), Charley Hoffman ("If there was ever a golfer that looked like a "Raider Golfer," it's this guy."), Bo Van Pelt ("Giants used to have a stud linebacker named Brad Van Pelt, maybe they're related."), Mark Wilson ("Former BYU QB right? Throws a good deep ball right? He was pretty good with us the first time in the 80s. No. That was Marc with a "C" you say? Take him anyway.)
Charlie Sheen — Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Jhonny Vegas, Ryan Moore (winning), Fred Couples
Atlanta Braves Jason Heyward, right, gets congrats from catcher Brian McCann after his solo home run in the second inning of their opening day baseball game with the Washington Nationals on Thursday, March 31, 2011 in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Braves continue fast start
The 5-at-10 is fully prepared for a possible backlash come August if the Atlanta Braves are 12 games out of the wildcard race, but color us impressed.
With each passing game, this Braves team looks more and more like a contender. Good teams play a lot of one-run games; championship-type teams win a lot of one-run games.
As friend of the show Quake said on SportTalk last night, games such as Monday's are a measuring stick for quality clubs, and quality clubs win games 2-1 by rallying for a couple runs in the eighth inning like the Braves did against Milwaukee on Monday afternoon.
This morning that one-run win means little more than a 3-1 mark less than a week into the season. But come August and into the "er" months (September and October) when baseball gets pressure-filled and every win becomes valuable, those one-run wins in April can be worth Brooks Conrad's weight in gold.
Side note: From the wizards at Elias Sports, Dan Uggla's eighth-inning home run broke a 1-1 tie in Monday's win. This is Uggla's first year in Atlanta and his first late-game homer heroics for the Braves, but get used to it Johnny Braves Fan. Uggla has 49 homers in the seventh inning or later since arriving in the big leagues in 2006. His total ranks eighth in the baseball in that span.
Side note, No. 2: Brandon Beachy was peachy, going six strong innings and allowing four hits, a walk and an earned run and striking out seven. That's the Braves' No. 5 starter by the way.
This and that
— Shaka Smart got an eight-year extension from VCU. His annual salary went from $325K to $1.2 million. Let's just assume there were some Smart folks cutting loose last night.
— Word is leaking that the new Ole Miss mascot — that wily Rebel Black Bear — is slated to make some public appearances this week. No word on whether replaced Ole Miss mascot Colonel Reb will show up, but hopefully authorities are on alert and we can avoid any violence.
— Chiefs Mike Vrabel was picked up on theft charges after a misunderstanding at a casino. Vrabel, a former Patriots star, first said it was not big deal, even saying that in Bill Belichik's world and New England practice, stealing was generally called "watching film" or "scouting."
— Yahoo Sports had the results from an interesting SI poll with NBA players naming Anderson Varejao as the game's top flopper. Somewhere Vlade Divac just smiled and said, "Not even close, pal."
Until tomorrow, and remember to send in your Masters picks.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...