In case you were the one guy in the office who was actually working yesterday, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Break up the Crimson! Harvard mounted the biggest upset of the first day of the NCAA tournament, beating New Mexico, 68-62. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker was near tears after the game, saying, "No one thought New Mexico could be beat. No one. But we took a ragtag bunch of kids with no futures, and we brought down Goliath. No one will hear 'Harvard' and think second-rate any longer. This changes everything."
Davidson's bid to upset Marquette fell just short as a late turnover doomed the Wildcats to a 59-58 defeat at the hands of the Golden Eagles. "Not hands — talons," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams after the game, who credited his team's victory to their "unnecessarily specific mascot name. The Wildcats never had a chance."
In case you were murdered on the steps of some forum or another Friday, here's what you missed in sports this weekend:
The NCAA tournament field is set with Kansas, Indiana, Louisville, and Gonzaga your four top seeds for March Madness. Expect upsets this year, as Louisville, despite being named the top overall seed, was drawn into the presumptive "group of death," featuring such dangerous teams as Duke, St. Louis, and Michigan State. Also, Gonzaga faces a potentially tough early round game against Pittsburgh oh, god, I'm talking myself into it who, based on advanced statistics, could actually be a slight favorite over the Zags DON'T DO IT; DON'T PICK PITTSBURGH making Pittsburgh my upset special of the tournament NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Surprisingly omitted from the top line of the NCAA Tournament were the Miami Heat, who won their 22nd consecutive game Sunday, beating the Toronto Raptors, 108-91. "Who needs this NCAA crap," Miami forward LeBron James said after the game, before teammate Shane Battier handed him an economic study on the long-term earning effects of college educations that he had co-authored during the offseason with Duke economics professor Arnaud Maurel.
In case you were busy drinking all of the soda in New York, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Top-ranked Gonzaga completed its perfect run through West Coast Conference play, winning the WCC tournament final, 65-51, over St. Mary's. In a particularly touching postgame moment, Gonzaga alum John Stockton handed down to his son, current Gonzaga reserve guard David Stockton, a pair of his trademark shorts. "Look at the waistband," the elder Stockton said to his son with a wink, as he had written, "now, you are a man," inside them. When asked if he would wear the shorts in the upcoming NCAA tournament, David Stockton responded, "yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah."
In a showdown of Western Conference titans, the San Antonio Spurs topped the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-93, at home to maintain a two-game advantage in the race for the top seed. The win was the Spurs sixth straight win over the Thunder in San Antonio. "I know I should keep a tighter leash on my guys when we get down here," Thunder coach Scott Brooks explained after the game. "But I also know that K.D. went to school in the area, and he loves SeaWorld San Antonio. No more, though; we have important non-Orca-related business to attend to here. Next time, I promise you, we won't be all hopped up on elephant ears and the thrill of watching Shamu." Brooks then looked over his shoulder at a disappointed Durant, before adding, "well, probably."
In case you were out drinking away the memories of all the birthday parties you didn't get to have as a child because you were born on February 29, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
College basketball's topsy-turvy season continued as Virginia beat Duke in Charlottesville, 73-68. While this might have appeared to be a massive upset based on the AP rankings, Las Vegas actually had the game as a virtual pick 'em, due to Virginia's recent form at home and the continued absence of Duke's Ryan Kelly. In unrelated news, this weekend's foam party at the Duke PIKE house has been canceled due to lack of funds after a "shockingly big loss on what should've been a sure thing," according to fraternity treasurer Charles 'Chip' Willoughby Jr.
In case you were busy setting all the clocks in your house back an hour as part of an ill-conceived "February Fools" prank, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
After missing birdie putts on the last two holes he played, Phil Mickelson finished with a 60 in the opening round of the Phoenix Open, one stroke off of the PGA record for the lowest score in a single round. "I'm not thinking about those two putts," a haggard Mickelson said 12 years from now, panhandling outside of a Piggly Wiggly's in West Memphis, Arkansas, a broken shell of his former self. "But, man, they were both so close. I bet things would be different if one of those bad boys fell. But no, I'm not thinking about them. Hey, you got some teeth I could borrow?"
Let's begin by delving into the realm of the imagination. Pretend it's November 1, 2012, and you and I are real-life acquaintances. Pretend we're having a conversation on a park bench near a vacant outdoor court. The wind is whistling, and it's far too cold to even consider playing, but we can't help stare longingly at the torn net hanging from the bent rim. The wind dies down for a moment, and I tell you that I've had a vision. There will be a number of buzzer-beaters this year, I say, but only one of them will be truly peculiar. You'll watch the replay over and over, but you still won't quite be able to wrap your mind around how it all happened. And tell me, I continue, as the wind begins to howl, tell me which team is involved. More than that, tell me which team wins.
We both know what you'd say, even without the benefit of a mystic vision. "Butler." Of course you'd say Butler. It's always Butler.
In case you were busy writing the first part of a gritty 3-D trilogy reimagining the story of Humpty Dumpty called "HD Volume One: Sitting on a Wall," here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The Baltimore Ravens topped the Patriots, 28-13, behind three touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Flacco. After the game, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs reportedly said, "Tell (the Patriots) to have fun at the Pro Bowl." When told this, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady grinned ear to ear, saying, "Terrell said that? Really? I thought that guy didn't like me, what with the all the hitting and screaming today. I guess I learned a valuable lesson in judging. Tell Terrell congratulations on his hard-fought victory, and that we will have a great time at the Pro Bowl because nothing is better than chilling with friends in Hawaii. And then tell him aloha, because, hello, what a great competitor; goodbye, I'll miss his sweet face; and I just love that guy's attitude!"
Remember that period in college basketball history when the last two weeks of December were the worst of the season? When exam time and cupcake schedules made for a miserable, dormant period leading up to the excitement of conference play? That epoch lasted from 1891, when James Naismith invented basketball, to 2011, when Kansas beat Toledo A&M 145-6 on December 31.* But it all came to an end in 2012, because, holy sweet Moses, we were treated to some spectacular action in the last two weeks of 2012. (I want you all to know how hard it was for me not to swear in that sentence. Right now, looking back, I can spot nine different places where an f-bomb would've felt really good.) It started with three exciting games on Saturday the 22nd, when Temple upset Syracuse, Kansas beat Ohio State, and Missouri out-gunned Illinois, and continued all the way to New Year's Eve and Gonzaga's road win over Oklahoma State. Hardly a day passed without a great game, or at least an interesting one. Our fan cups ranneth over.**
*Some liberty is taken with historical facts.
**My fan cup has a magazine photo of Coach K steam-pressed onto the side.
It felt like I should've been there for you guys, writing something smart, but instead I just gorged on cookies and pie at my mom's house for two weeks. In the end, I think I made the right choice. (You don't know heaven until you've dipped a snickerdoodle into pumpkin pie and then poured milk all over yourself just because it's not your furniture and you've always wondered what that would be like.) But to atone for my absence during that solid stretch of hoops, I've put together a few videos of the most amusing/heartbreaking/theatrical moments of the year-end frenzy, and I'll include them along with the top 10 games of the weekend.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
The Redskins rallied to beat the Ravens, 31-28, in overtime, and dodged a bullet when Robert Griffin III's knee injury was diagnosed a sprain, and not an ACL tear. They dodged another bullet when they discovered it wasn't a sprained knee at all, just a swollen fat face, and dodged a final bullet when they realized they were actually looking at a large photo of team owner Dan Snyder.
Before we get going, I want to announce that I'm taking nom-nom-inations for the 2012-13 All-BeefyBulky Team. I was inspired to do this after watching Nebraska's Andre Almeida do battle in a losing effort against Creighton last night. At 6-foot-11, 314 pounds, the Brazilian Almeida is a man of some size, and the eye is immediately drawn in his direction when he's on the floor. Like the elderly couple entranced by the painting of Kramer, we cannot look away.
I was going to put together my own All-BeefyBulky team, but frankly, I haven't done the legwork. The country's elite teams are stocked with perfect physical specimens of varying height at every position, and my mental Rolodex couldn't produce five worthy BeefyBulksters. And this is not something you want to rush. The BBs represent the real America, and we can't risk choosing the wrong men. So far, my All-BB team has just two members:
We asked Mark Titus for five predictions before Thursday's March Madness games. Here's what he had to say about tonight's matchups
Half of last year’s Final Four will lose
This year, the most popular 12-over-5 pick seems to be VCU over Wichita State. This might be partially because people don’t know how good Wichita State is, since they haven’t seen the Shockers play. But most likely, it's because of VCU’s run to the Final Four as an 11-seed last year. My guess is that a lot of people figured if the Rams could make it deep into the tournament a season ago, there’s no reason that they can’t win a couple of games this year.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
According to sources, Saints owner Tom Benson is backing head coach Sean Payton despite accusations that he maintained a bounty program to injure opponents. "I think Sean Payton is great! Beep-Beep-Beeeeeeeep! No problems here! Beeeeeeeeep-Beep-Beep" he said loudly. It took code-breakers all night, but they finally realized Benson was using Morse code to deliver a hidden message: "Bounty on me, please help, they have my wife."
Redskins players came out in support of former assistant Gregg Williams, insisting that while he gave money for big hits and good plays, there was never a bounty system to reward anyone for injuring an opponent. "He would also pay us $1,000 if we threw water in his face and called him 'Little Linda' until he cried," said one former player. "But I'm pretty sure that was unrelated."
Before we get started, I'd like to tip my cap to the slam-dunk craze that's sweeping the country. I called it a "passing fad" on my blog The Old Fashioned Chest Pass back in 1964, but it looks like it's here to stay.
So if you're into the jam culture, it's worth checking out this one from Georgetown's Henry Sims on Wednesday night. It's rare to see a dunk that definitive at the college level, and if intimidating displays of power are your thing, you'll want to take a trip to Sims City. (Came up with it on my own, don't steal it.)
And unlike Blake Griffin's jam from the other day, this one wasn't a glorified layup. (Did you just spit out your drink because things got too edgy? Well, then, I'm sorry ... not.)
So. No. 14 Georgetown took down UConn 58-44 in one of the Huskies' worst shooting performances ever. The visitors finished 18-of-60 from the field, and an abysmal 2-of-20 from 3. Their offensive efficiency, which is a measure of how many points they'd score in 100 possessions, was 68.6. For comparison's sake, the Division I average is 100.3, and UConn's usual average is 110.1. Ken Pomeroy's single-game numbers go back to 2003, and in that time UConn hasn't even approached a number as low as 68.6. In other words, they made a little bit of the wrong kind of history Wednesday.