Northern Iowa Should Have Never Upset Top Seed Kansas

While half of America and everyone in Lawrence is still trying to figure out if Kansas really lost on Saturday, a caller on my radio show made an excellent point that I had overlooked: Northern Iowa should have never been playing Kansas. At least not in the second round. When the brackets were first released on Selection Sunday, my immediate observations were that Kansas got screwed being placed in a ridiculously difficult Midwest bracket, Kentucky’s East bracket was also tough, and that Duke lucked out with the easiest draw of all. I was so consumed with complaining about Kansas’ bad draw (the toughest two seed in Ohio State, what I thought was one of the toughest threes in Georgetown, difficult fours and fives in Maryland and Michigan State, the best six seed in Tennessee, and a team that already beat them in Oklahoma State at seven), that I totally ignored how under-seeded Northern Iowa was.

Northern Iowa was 28-4 entering the tournament and they had spent almost the entire season in the Top 25. Even knocking them down a few pegs for the lack of difficult competition on their schedule, you figure they’d be a six seed in the tournament — seven at the lowest. Instead, the Panthers got dogged as a nine, four seeds lower than Butler who had an identical record (but much more difficult non-conference schedule). While Notre Dame went from being a bubble squad to a six seed, teams like Northern Iowa got dropped by the committee. For all the complaining I did about Kansas’ difficult draw, the one team I ignored was Northern Iowa. Perhaps they were the most under-seeded team in the tournament. We knew they were a solid team the entire season and they proved they were even more than that this weekend in Oklahoma City. And with Kalin Lucas out for Michigan State, they even have a legitimate shot at the Elite Eight.

St. Mary’s Gets Confidence From Omar Samhan’s Mom

St. Mary’s center Omar Samhan has proven himself to be one of the biggest difference-makers in the tournament. He also has the coolest name this side of Ali Farokhmanesh, but that’s a story for a different day. Today’s story is about Samhan’s mom, Marianne Black-Samhan, and how she had more confidence in St. Mary’s than any of the players did.

Omar shared a story after St. Mary’s second-round win over Villanova, of his mom who bought plane tickets to Houston as soon as the brackets were released on Selection Sunday. Houston was the location of the regional semis and finals for the South Regional, not the first and second round games in Providence, Rhode Island where St. Mary’s spent their first weekend. As St. Mary’s spent their first two games struggling to beat Richmond and Villanova, Samhan’s mom was making dinner plans in Houston for when the Gaels won their games.

I’m actually exaggerating about the dinner plans, but Omar joked after the Nova win that the team really did get its confidence from his mom. I’m guessing Marianne saw St. Mary’s’ matchups against Richmond and Villanova and knew neither team had the size to contend with her son; Omar Samhan has averaged 30.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Gaels’ two tournament wins. No doubt Baylor will have their hands full with Samhan on Friday. The Bears will likely call on John Lomers to counter. Good luck with that.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Arriving Means Hits are Getting Harder

The last couple weeks, NHL players seem to be hitting each other harder and harder. In some cases, like the hit laid on Chicago Blackhawk Brent Seabrook by James Wisniewski a few nights ago, they are literally knocking players out cold. But what’s with all the hard hits lately fellas? I might know the answer.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a few weeks away and the pressure is on. I don’t know exactly what is going through the mind of players like Wisniewski. I don’t know if he intentionally tried to lay Seabrook out like a sack of potatoes or if he was “in the moment” and feeling aggressive. But Seabrook isn’t the only hit that’s been like this lately. There’s also his teammate Brian Campbell (who is now out for the season) and Boston Bruins Marc Savard who was knocked out a couple weeks back. These hits are proof that the players aren’t messing around and they will be as aggressive as they have to so that they can be the ones hoisting up the Stanley Cup in just a few weeks time.

Although I’m all for being aggressive, I think these guys need to be smart about it. When you are headed towards another player and you’re ready to hit him with all you can, remember that you can injure yourself in the process, too. If these NHL players keep making these reckless hits they are not only going to injure their opponent but themselves as well, and then picking up that Stanley Cup will be a difficult task when you have a broken arm.

Kelvin Sampson’s Players Are Starring in the Tournament

Kelvin Sampson was fired unceremoniously by Indiana two years ago for committing several recruiting violations, the same issue that got him into trouble at Oklahoma. The Hoosiers started out the ’05-’06 season promisingly, going 17-1 and ultimately 22-4 before losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Many of the IU players were upset that Sampson was fired and they were further angered when assistant Dan Dakich was appointed the interim coach. Several players stopped attending class during that tumultuous time and a few of them were kicked off the team (reports of drug and grade issues also could have contributed to the departures).

Armon Bassett was one of those players and he eventually transferred to UAB — former IU coach Mike Davis’ new school — before ultimately deciding on Ohio. Bassett led Ohio to the MAC tourney championship and the Bobcats to an upset win over Georgetown in the first-round of this year’s tournament, scoring 32 in the game. Xavier star player Jordan Crawford, best known for not dunking on LeBron James, was another player caught up in the Sampson mess. A freshman at the time, Crawford wasn’t too fond of Tom Crean’s new regime, so he decided to transfer to Xavier. Crawford’s averaged 20 points per game in his first year at Xavier and put up 28 in their first round win over Minnesota. While I recognized Armon Bassett’s name from the ’08 IU team, I have to thank my uncle for pointing out that Crawford was on that team too. Clearly that Indiana team had talent, but that’s not even where Sampson’s ties end!

[Read more...]

Tom Brady Spotted Boxing in Los Angeles

One of the stories this past week for the Patriots was that their star quarterback, Tom Brady, was not present in Foxboro for the start of the team’s offseason workouts. Brady previously had a strong record of being the most dedicated Patriot in offseason workouts but his new family lifes has led to changes — Brady now spends more time in Los Angeles, away from the New England-area. Despite missing team workouts in Foxboro, we have confirmation that Brady’s been staying in shape in LA. The website Faded Youth spotted 12 doing some boxing in Beverly Hills:

Thanks to the almighty PFT for the heads up on that story. While it’s encouraging that Brady is apparently staying in shape on his own (not unlike many other star players), boxing in a ring and working with your receivers are two completely different things. Obviously Brady’s priorities and responsibilities in life have changed and he has adjusted accordingly. While coaches like Mike Shanahan have demanded that players show up for Redskins workouts, Brady’s missing time with his teammates. I have no doubt that the guy is a pro who will be ready to play at a high level this season, but it’s indisputable that his focused has changed. Let’s just hope the boxing proves to be more beneficial for Tom than MMA was for Matt Leinart.

Tom Brady Takes up Boxing [Pro Football Talk]

LBS Exclusive: Oney Guillen Takes the Fall in Twitter Controversy

Oney Guillen is best known as the son of outspoken White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen. Oney was drafted by the organization in ’07, played two seasons, and then began working in the team’s scouting department last season. He was looking forward to his second season in the team’s front office until a twitter controversy arose, leading to his resignation on Friday.

Talking with Oney on Saturday, you could sense his frustration in what he called a contradiction with the White Sox organization, “You want to keep stuff private but you approve a reality show for the team. You say you want to keep stuff in-house but you agree to do a reality show. It’s contradictory, don’t you think?”

Oney was confused because he never felt he was critical about the organization on his twitter account and because he had been posting tweets for over a month without the team telling him to stop. While he did concede that the organization probably wouldn’t want him to influence decisions with his tweets (he made several positive remarks about Andruw Jones and even advocated for re-signing A.J. Pierzynski), he was disappointed that they never approached him to talk about the issue.

“I didn’t tweet anything bad at all,” Guillen lamented. “I only heard stuff through the grapevine. If they had asked me to close down the account I would have but they never said anything.” Oney said he felt there was a double-standard because other members within the organization have twitter accounts and that didn’t seem to be a problem. He felt he was being watched under a microscope because of who his dad was, not because of what he was writing.

Tension seemed to have been brewing within the White Sox organization the past few months. First, the team grumbled when Ozzie Guillen signed up for a twitter account. Then, when Ozzie had plans to expand his thoughts onto a website, the team nixed the plans. Oney’s resignation seemed to be the culmination of mounting problems that could last into the season, but it’s his final words that will ring true for most Sox fans, “Why are we worrying about what a 24-year-old kid is twittering instead of winning games?”

Opening day is only two weeks away and suddenly a reality show doesn’t look like the best of ideas for a club that’s already engaged in a soap opera.

Hawks Screw Up Zaza Pachulia’s Jersey, Spell it Pcahulia

The Washington Natinals have been supplanted for the latest jersey misspelling in professional sports. The Atlanta Hawks screwed up the spelling of backup center Zaza Pachulia’s last name on his jersey by placing they “C” in front of the “A” to produce Pcahulia. I’m not sure how they messed that up so badly because it just looks wrong:

It’s bad enough that Pachulia’s only playing 13 minutes a game. Now he has to deal with the equipment manager making fun of him? Poor guy. At least leaving out the “o” for the Nationals was much more understandable.

Zaza Pcachuia [bball 'n' more]