From the "Talks too much" studios, let make the magic happen.
NCAA title game
OK, we belly-ached about the state of college basketball on Monday.
And then, just like Lloyd finding the "hog" in Dumb and Dumber, the game completely redeemed itself with a classic title game.
It was compelling, competitive and complete. It was entertaining and enthralling; equal parts excellence and excitement. More than that, it was what we want from all of our championships — it was great, griping and exceptionally well-played. Well-played indeed.
Want to know how to determine a truly great game is happening as you're watching? If you get to halftime, and there could be as many as four guys as the MVP and then you continue to add names in the second half, well, you have a great game.
Peyton Siva or Trey Burke? Luke Hancock or Spike Albrecht? Louisville does not win without Chane Behanan's 15 points and 12 rebounds or center Gorgui Dieng's eight points, eight rebounds and a team-best six assists.
Here are the four things we believe this morning:
Louisville coach Rick Pitino instructs his team during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut in Louisville, Ky., Friday, Feb. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
— Rick Pitino is the best coach in the country. As our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer told us today, Pitino refused to flinch throughout the NCAA tournament. He pushed the right buttons — even sitting his best player throughout the season to start the second half of the championship game — and proved yet again that his ability to adapt and overcome in just about any style is eye-popping.
Think of it this way — How many guys could take a team and overcome any of the following: Losing your top reserve to a horrific leg injury that made your bench sick; survive an inspired Cinderella when your team is playing its worst; Trail by 12 late in the first half to a team that has the national player of the year, and the best most impressive Spike since Looney Tunes quit doing new shows? How many coaches could handle any of those? Pitino handled all of them in the last eight days.
There's a great way to determine value in sports. All things considered, would you trade this player for that one? This coach for that one? Who out there would not trade their coach right now for Pitino? Duke maybe, and that's as much because of the institution of Coach K as the coaching stylings of Coach K.
— For a game to be truly great — and last night's game was exceptionally great — there has to be several "Wow" moments. Last night was the Golden Corral buffet of highlight plays. Pass the yeast rolls. Heck, we probably should have known it was going to be special when Michigan's Trey Burke hit a 26-footer on the Wolverines' second possession. And the hits just kept on coming. Albrecht and Hancock trading first-half bombs, including four 3s in 90 seconds for Hancock. Peyton Siva's perfect alley-oop lob in the Cards' late first-half run that got them back into the game.
— Sadly, yet again, the officiating was bad. One of the game's most athletic plays — Trey Burke pinning Siva's dunk attempt against the glass — became the game's most controversial. It wasn't the only really bad call, and amazingly, the misused whistles were not about block/charge rulings. They were easier calls that were botched. Goaltends, fouls and even a blatant kicked ball. We have watched middle school tournaments with better officiating than this year's tournament.
— Hats off to the Cards for allowing the 5-at-10 to win our fifth career NCAA tournament pool and first since 2003. We'd like to thank Oregon, which advanced to the Sweet 16 as we predicted. We'd like to thank Gonzaga for tanking when we thought they would tank. We'd like to thank Syracuse for getting to the Final Four as we guessed. And we'd like to say stick it to Kansas, which could have wrapped this think up long ago if they had put the clamps on Michigan when it had the chance.
OK, gang, inspired by the NCAA tournament bracket win — and the alleged extra entertainment in our pocket — we're offering prizes for first and second of this year's Mastering the Masterful Masters Master List challenge. (Side note: If we could get a title sponsor for this contest, we'd pick MasterLock for obvious reasons. Plus, we love those old commercials where they shoot the lock. Not sure what the lock said or did, but we're sure he got what he deserved. Side note about the side note: When a lock gets shot, do the lock cops on the radio call in and say, "Lock Down. Lock Down.")
The Masters contest rules are simple: Pick five golfers and we'll take your best four finishers. You get points for where they place (first = 1 point; 11th = 11 points) and the two lowest scores win. Of course if you pick Tiger, you only get four picks and they all count.
Here are the entries so far, with a partial list from the host (more to come):
5-at-10 — Tiger
Dawg747 — Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar
McPell — Mickelson (last time I swear), Dufner, Choi, Snedeker & Kuchar.
(side note: Love the Choi pick. If he wins, your new Delta Tau Chi name will be Pure Choi... Why not?)
Sportsfan — Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Bo Van Pelt, Justin Rose, and Fred Couples
Todd962 — Schwartzel, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, and Tiger
Fred — Couples, Tiger, Phil, Bubba
WarEagle — Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Tiger, Dustin Johnson
There are a few more in the inbox, but we wanted to keep the mojo working.
College hoops lookahead
College basketball may be the most difficult thing to project before the season starts, especially today considering there's no telling how many of the current NCAA hoops "stars" will be tomorrow's NBA bench warmers.
Think of it this way, Michigan started five underclassmen in the title game and likely will be far behind Kentucky in the preseason polls since the Cats will have a star-studded recruiting class and a slew of Michigan guys will go pro.
It's the nature of the beast.
Anyhoo, here's the best guess at the preseason top five next year:
3) Michigan State
Of course that could all change, especially if several of the big names in last night's game return to the college game.
This and that
— Want a tough way to start the baseball season? New Cleveland manager Terry Francona got lost strolling to the ballpark for the Indians' home opener. Which is the better way to describe that — using the Harry Doyle classic from "Major League" with "just a bit outside, he tried for the corner and missed" or an unintentional walk?
— Former Auburn defensive back Mike McNeil, the primary source in the latest report of NCAA violations, accepted a plea deal and will serve three years for his part in the armed robbery in March 2011. Nothing really to add here, other than McNeil looked the part of an NFL player in the late stages of Auburn's magical 2010 season and that dream seems broken now.
— The Bulls opened the season with a tie last night. After one inning, the 10-10 draw was called for time. It was a good start to the year, and we believe if we play 10 games, we're most likely going to finish 0-0-10. We're surprisingly OK with that. Here's a photo of the lil' 5-at-10 — he for sure looks the part.
— Today there will be a runoff in Chattanooga's District 4. You may have read about it in the papers. After hitting 70 percent of our college football picks — including a 9-for-9 run on New Year's Day — and winning the TFP office bracket pool and the 5-at-10's own "First 1 out, last 'dog in" challenge, we feel pretty good about picking this election. We're picking the over-60 white guy.
— Shoutout to the SportTalk guys, who celebrated 24 years on the air on Monday. Congrats guys, and keep fighting the good fight.
— Also, the 5-at-10's Pop celebrates 46 years working for the same company today. Mucho congrats to the best man we know.
We got today's question early this morning in our email:
From PDavi at 1:38 a.m.
"Looking forward to the 5 at 10 in the morning. What a game and what a year for sporting events in the city of Atlanta. Probably not worth the question but I'm not sure there's been a better group of games in any city in the same year."
From PDavi at 1:45 a.m.
"Also, it was nice seeing Dick Vitale become overwhelmed with a happiness for the sport of basketball only previously equaled by Brent Musburger describing his admiration for AJ McCarron's girlfriend."
Well-played PDavi, well-played indeed. In fact, right behind Hancock and Spike, PDavi landed the best long-range bomb.
Here's the first question: Best recent sports run by a city
a) Atlanta's crazy run of memorable events: Baseball's one-game wildcard game (you know the game in which there was infield-fly call on a ball on the warning track), the Falcons, the SEC title game, a great NFC title game, the Final Four.
b) Louisville — Sugar Bowl champs, NCAA men's champs, women's champsionship game
c) New Orleans — which seems like every third or fifth year hosts a slew of major events.
Side question: Is anyone watching "Splash" the TV show with a slew of C-list celebs, including AJ McCarron's better half? Someone please give us an update.
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 ...