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Takeaways and observations from the opening weekend of March Madness

The madness is under way and it is as awesome as ever. Nine lower seeded teams won in the first (technically the second) round. Four more upsets occurred en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some takeaways, observations, facts, and figures about the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • A No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 seasons and in 22 of the past 24 years. 2013 was no exception; in fact, it was even more extreme than normal. Three No. 12 seeds (Oregon, California, and Ole Miss) pulled off an upset against a No. 5 seed (Oklahoma State, UNLV, and Wisconsin).
  • For the first time ever, a No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seed in the same region lost in the round of 64. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin were defeated in the West Region.
  • The Mountain West, which was the toughest conference in the country in the regular season according to RPI, has been completely eliminated from the tournament after a 2-5 showing for its five teams that made the tourney.
  • The Pac-12 may have been under-seeded and is getting hot at the right time. Two Pac-12 teams with No. 12 seeds (California and Oregon) defeated No. 5 seeds and the conference put two teams (Arizona and Oregon) in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona defeated No. 11 seed Belmont by 17 points and No. 14 seed Harvard by 23. Oregon topped No. 5 seed Oklahoma State by 13 points and No. 4 seed Saint Louis by 17.
  • Teams from the state of Florida are 6-0 and all three (No. 2 seed Miami, No. 3 seed Florida, and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast) are in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will face each other on Friday.
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that did not win a game in the tournament. The conference is 10-3 and has a team in the Sweet Sixteen in each region.
  • For the third year in a row, there was a matchup between a No. 12 seed and No. 13 seed in the round of 32. No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle faced off in the West Region. Last year it was No. 12 South Florida and No. 13 Ohio that matched up in the Midwest Region and two years ago No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Morehead State played in the Southwest Region.
  • No. 13 seed La Salle is doing its best to model itself after 2011 Virginia Commonwealth, who was a No. 11 seed. The Rams played in the First Four before making a Final Four run, where they lost to No. 8 seed Butler. The La Salle Explorers finished tied for third in the A-10, then defeated No. 13 seed Boise State, No. 4 seed Kansas State, and No. 12 seed Ole Miss to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday.
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth's footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com)
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth’s footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)
  • Only two of the four Naismith Award finalists remain in the tournament–Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not make it out of the first weekend.
  • The main color of the past nine NCAA Champions was blue. Eight (Duke, La Salle, Arizona, Marquette, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, Michigan, and Kansas) of the remaining schools have blue as their main color.

Bracketology Report: Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats—(19-7, 7-6)—10th in the Big East

Strength of schedule: 31

RPI: 42

BPI: 21

Good wins:

  • 77-66 vs. Oregon
  • 70-61 @ Pittsburgh
  • 71-69 OT vs. Marquette

Bad losses:

  • 54-50 @ Providence

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/21 @ Connecticut
  • 2/24 @ No. 24 Notre Dame
  • 3/2 vs. Connecticut
  • 3/4 @ Louisville
  • 3/9 vs. South Florida

Even though Cincinnati has six conference losses and sits towards the bottom of the Big East standings, the Bearcats have been competitive in every game they’ve played in this season. Four of their losses have come against ranked opponents and another was against an unranked New Mexico squad that is now No. 16. UC has lost two games by one point, in addition to three other losses by six points or fewer. The Bearcats have proven that they’re a tough out but they lack quality conference wins, which are readily available in a conference with six ranked teams.

Cincinnati has held its opponents below 70 points on 23 occasions this season. However, the Bearcats’ offense leaves them susceptible to close losses in low-scoring games. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with his 18 points per game average on 41.6% shooting. Senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are the only other Bearcats to average in double figures in scoring. UC’s offense is too guard heavy and Cincinnati is lacking an inside scoring presence that the team had last season with center Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Cincinnati’s résumé is certainly tournament worthy but the Bearcats still have lots of room for improvement. At this point, UC is on pace for a seven, eight or nine seed. With four games remaining against Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, who are fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Big East, respectively, the Bearcats could move up to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they run the table. A strong showing in the Big East Tournament would allow Cincinnati to be in the discussion as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Prediction: Cincinnati will lose at Connecticut and Notre Dame, then end its three-game losing streak with a home victory over UConn. The Bearcats will lose on the road to Louisville and end the regular season with a win over South Florida to finish the season 21-10 (9-9). UC will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati will win its first game and lose the second. The Bearcats will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

College basketball stock report: 5 teams to buy, sell or hold

Illinois

SELL

The Fighting Illini started the season 12-0 and defeated No. 10 Gonzaga on the road by double digits. However, since Illinois’ victory over Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 16, John Groce’s squad is 3-5 and 2-4 in the Big Ten. The Illini lost to unranked Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern, which does not bode well since their schedule will only get tougher as the season progresses. They still have to play Michigan twice, Indiana and Michigan State for the first time, in addition to rematches against Minnesota and Ohio State.

Michigan State

BUY

It's a good time to be in East Lansing, Mich. as Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. (Image courtesy of http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/sep/24/msu-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-guest-speaker-at-kalamazoo-benefit/)
It’s a good time to be in East Lansing, Mich. since Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 6-1 record. (Image courtesy of http://wkzo.com/news/articles/2012/sep/24/msu-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-guest-speaker-at-kalamazoo-benefit/)

The Spartans were on the verge of dropping out of the AP Top 25 after three losses in the 2012 calendar year. Michigan State’s challenging non-conference schedule paid off; Tom Izzo’s squad is leading the Big Ten with a two game lead over Michigan and Indiana. Three of Michigan State’s Big Ten wins are by three points or fewer, which separates great teams from the good ones in March.

 Oregon

BUY

The Ducks sit alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings after defeating No. 24 UCLA last Saturday. Arizona and UCLA only appear once on Oregon’s schedule, which means there are no ranked opponents remaining on the Ducks’ schedule. Oregon is in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 now that the team’s biggest challenges are in the Ducks’ rearview mirror.

Wisconsin

HOLD

Bo Ryan’s Badgers are a very perplexing team. Wisconsin lost four of its first 10 games then rattled off seven consecutive wins, including victories over No. 12 Illinois and No. 2 Indiana. After defeating the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall, the Badgers dropped two games to Iowa and Michigan State by a total of six points. Wisconsin has the coach and the talent to finish in the top three in the Big Ten or the Badgers could end up sixth or seventh. They have been too inconsistent to determine how good they can be in college basketball’s toughest conference.

Xavier

BUY

The 2012-13 Musketeers are possibly one of the weakest Xavier teams in the past decade and most Atlantic 10 projections have Xavier as a middle-of-the-road team in the conference yet Semaj Christon & Co. have started to turn their season around in conference play. Don’t look now but Xavier is tied with Virginia Commonwealth for first place. The Muskies have pulled out close wins against Temple, St. Bonaventure and La Salle after losing four straight games in non-conference play. They don’t play VCU and Butler until late in the season, which means that Xavier has over a month to improve before it faces two of the A-10’s best teams.

Wisconsin upsets No. 2 Indiana, continues undefeated streak against Crean

Now is not a good time to be a top ranked team in college basketball. In the span of six days, four teams ranked in the top three lost to lower ranked or unranked opponents. Last week, Oregon upset No. 3 Arizona, No. 20 North Carolina State knocked off No. 1 Duke and No. 15 Ohio State was victorious against No. 2 Michigan. With the three losses the No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers moved up three spots to No. 2 but lost to Wisconsin at home 64-59 on Tuesday.

The Badgers were a nightmare matchup for the Hoosiers. Wisconsin prides itself on slowing down the pace of the game and playing tough defense, which go against Indiana’s play style of scoring in transition and racking up over eighty points per game on average.

The first half was different from Indiana’s other home games this season. The Hoosiers typically have no problem scoring at home and distancing themselves from their opponents–even good teams like Minnesota and North Carolina. A combination of easy baskets in transition, effective three-point shooters and multiple scoring options gives Indiana breathing room at halftime. IU was winning by nine points after the first half against North Carolina, 23 points against Minnesota and the rest of their non-conference home games were similar scenarios. However, against the Badgers, Indiana was only leading by one after the first half.

Outside of Cody Zeller’s first half, no Hoosier player had a good performance offensively. Zeller had 18 points on 8-8 shooting against Wisconsin senior center Jared Berggren. In the second half, the sophomore center scored only five points and made just one of his seven shot attempts. Other than Zeller and freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell, who made the one shot that he took and contributed the only two bench points of the night, no Indiana player shot above 43 percent. The other four starters, senior Christian Watford, junior Victor Oladipo, senior Jordan Hulls and freshman Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, were a combined 10-31. Junior Will Sheehey, sophomore Remy Abell and freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea were 0-7 from the field. Indiana’s shooting woes were the result of tight defense from Wisconsin and a team-wide epidemic of a bad shooting night. The quality of a team’s warmups may not have a direct correlation to how the players will perform but I noticed that few shots were falling in the pre-game shooting drills, which may have carried over to the actual games.

The lack of outside shooting options for the Hoosiers made it especially difficult for Indiana when one of its players was able to penetrate into the lane. On two occasions, Jordan Hulls drove to the basket, jumped and looked for an outlet pass but he could not find any open teammates and turned the ball over both times.

While the Badgers connected on less than one-third of their three-point attempts, the ones that they made came at critical points in the game, either to take the lead from Indiana or begin to pull away from the Hoosiers. One of their largest leads of the game came with 12:13 remaining in the second half when Wisconsin went on a 9-0 run that included a pair of three-pointers from freshman Sam Dekker and senior Mike Bruesewitz.

Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dunks on Victor Oladipo.
Wisconsin center Jared Berggren dunks on Victor Oladipo.

Victor Oladipo scored the first three points of the game after halftime to extend Indiana’s lead but the Hoosiers failed to play with the urgency that they needed against a tough opponent. Indiana’s zone defense left gaping holes for Wisconsin to exploit and by the time that IU Coach Tom Crean called for full-court pressure, it was too late for the No. 2 team in the country. Wisconsin made six free throws in the final 71 seconds and the Badgers held off Indiana to complete the upset at Assembly Hall.

_____________________

Game Notes

It is irresponsible to declare under most circumstances that the officials decided the game based on their calls. Many Hoosier fans are up in arms over several calls against Indiana.

Were most of the calls justified?

Yes.

Were a couple of the calls absolutely outrageous?

Yes.

The referees did not decide the game but some of the calls certainly made it more difficult for Indiana to surmount Wisconsin in a late comeback. The worst of the calls occurred with 1:11 remaining after Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell made the second free throw after being fouled to bring Indiana within four of Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz tried to set a screen on Victor Oladipo, held him and the two were tangled up as Oladipo tried to get past him. A foul was called on Oladipo, Brusewitz made a free throw to extend Wisconsin’s lead and Indiana lost seven ticks on the clock when there wasn’t much time to spare.

_____________________

The past eight winners of the Big Ten have lost only seven home games, which suggests that Indiana may be out of luck to win the conference. The Hoosiers still have to face Michigan (x2), Michigan State (x2), Ohio State (x2), Minnesota and Illinois.

_____________________

While Will Sheehey and Remy Abell have received national recognition as potentially being the best sixth and seventh men in the country, respectively, the pair has combined for only one point on 0-12 shooting in the past two games. Indiana needs them to step up, especially on offense, if the Hoosiers want to win the Big Ten and battle for a No. 1 seed in March.

However, it is not just Sheehey and Abell who make Indiana’s bench a liability. Jeremy Hollowell has only scored six points in the four games since he sat out during an NCAA investigation. Junior Maurice Creek hasn’t played since the Dec. 15 game against Butler due to an injury and senior Derek Elston has not played in the past three games. Freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea is not yet a scoring option on offense and only plays when Zeller needs a quick breather. Freshman Peter Jurkin has only played in three games after serving a nine-game suspension and has yet to play for more than four minutes in a game.

Currently, Indiana is only seven players deep. Mosquera-Perea and Hollowell will play minor minutes but IU Coach Crean will need to develop the talent on his bench for Indiana to play to its potential in the remainder of the Big Ten schedule and the NCAA Tournament.

_____________________

Indiana has lost 11 consecutive games against Wisconsin and Tom Crean is still searching for his first win against the Badgers as head coach of Indiana.

2013: Week 2 in review (Jan. 6-12)

College football’s Kelly’s flirt with the NFL

After four consecutive BCS bowl appearances, Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly decided to remain in Eugene, Ore. despite interest from the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles. It remains to be seen if Kelly’s recruiting at Oregon will be impacted in the future due to his interest in the NFL but his window of opportunity to make the jump to the next  level may be closing after turning down several offers to be an NFL head coach.

The Philadelphia Eagles also interviewed Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly just days after the Fighting Irish lost the BCS National Championship to Alabama. Kelly certainly would have been a leap of faith for Philadelphia since he has no NFL experience as a player or coach. Also, Kelly has moved up the ranks incredibly quickly. He has won everywhere that he has coached but just 13 years ago he was an assistant coach at Grand Valley State University. Three years at Central Michigan, three years at Cincinnati and three years at Notre Dame is a very fast progression but Kelly has certainly earned consideration to coach at the next level.

By winning his third BCS National Championship in four years, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is definitely in the conversation for the greatest college football coach of all time. While he only has won half the number of national championships that former Alabama Head Coach Bear Bryant won, this is a different era. In Bryant’s day, coaches could have well over 100 players on scholarship. Today the number is 85. Saban announced that he is “at peace” with his current position, which indicates that he is unlikely to return to the NFL. At 61 years old, Nick Saban still has time to bolster his resume and potentially vie for more national championships in the future.

Only one rookie QB advances to the Divisional Round; three great Saturday games

In Ray Lewis’ final home game of his career, the Baltimore Ravens defeated Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts behind Joe Flacco’s two passing touchdowns. The Colts ran 31 more plays and held the ball for 15 minutes longer than Baltimore but could only kick three field goals.

In Washington, Mike Shanahan put rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in the game despite visible signs of being hurt and RGIII ended up tearing his ACL and LCL in the fourth quarter. The Redskins had taken a 14-0 lead before RGIII left the game to see the team trainer. Seattle then scored 24 unanswered points and ran for 224 yards in the game. Griffin III had surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews, who has worked with Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Albert Pujols and Drew Brees, soon after Washington’s playoff loss and has an eight to twelve month recovery period. Who knows, RGIII could be next year’s Adrian Peterson if he can rehabilitate his knee and come back even stronger.

Somewhere Tim Tebow has to be celebrating secretly that he managed to win a playoff game in Denver and Peyton Manning fell short this season. Despite a Trindon Holliday’s 90-yard punt return and a 104-yard kickoff return for touchdowns, the Broncos could not put away Baltimore, extending Ray Lewis’ career by at least one week. Joe Flacco lead scoring drives in the final thirty-six seconds of both halves. In the first half, the Ravens had three plays for 58 yards and Flacco found Torrey Smith for six on a 32-yard strike. With the game on the line, Baltimore had another three-play drive that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown reception by Jacoby Jones after a blown coverage by Denver safety Rahim Moore. Peyton Manning threw an interception at the end of the first overtime period and Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker won the game in double OT with a 47-yard field goal.

Well, it looks like Jim Harbaugh’s gut paid off. After benching starting quarterback Alex Smith in favor of second-year backup QB Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49’ers have had a record of 6-2-1 and Harbaugh’s team is in the NFC Championship Game for the second year in a row. Against the Green Bay Packers, Kaepernick rushed for an NFL record 181 yards, which is the most ever by a quarterback in a single game. He also threw for 263 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns as the 49’ers downed the Packers 45-31 in Candlestick Park.

San Francisco 49'ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 181 yards against Green Bay. (Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130113/nfl-playoffs-49ers-packers/)
San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 181 yards against Green Bay. (Image courtesy of http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130113/nfl-playoffs-49ers-packers/)

Two top teams suffer first loss in college basketball

Duke and Arizona were in the top three in virtually every college basketball ranking. However, everything changed in a three-day span. On Thursday night, the No. 3 Wildcats traveled to Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. to face the 12-2 Oregon Ducks. Arizona was down 12 points with 3:10 remaining in the game and in typical Wildcat fashion, Sean Miller’s squad fought their way back to within four after Mark Lyons knocked down a pair of three pointers. However, it was too little too late for Arizona and Oregon won 70-66. Two days later, a short-handed Duke team (without senior Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry was injured in the game) lost on the road to No. 20 N.C. State, who was led by C.J. Leslie’s 25 points and six rebounds.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

The first week of 2013 in review

College basketball conference wins are hard to come by, especially on the road

Conference play started kicked off in college basketball and it has already taken its toll on some of the top teams in the country. No. 18 Michigan State fell to No. 9 Minnesota 76-63, Purdue upset No. 11 Illinois 68-61, Marquette bested No. 15 Georgetown and No. 24 Pittsburgh is off to an 0-2 start in the Big East after losing to No. 14 Cincinnati and Rutgers.

Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)
Minnesota beat Michigan State thanks to a 25-8 run to end the game. (Image courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2012/12/31/3823022/michigan-st-minnesota-final-score)

Colorado was set to hand No. 3 Arizona its first loss of the season thanks to a career night from senior guard Sabatino Chen. Arizona came back from a double digit deficit in the second half and Mark Lyons tied the game with a pair of free throws in the final seconds. Chen hit a pull up three with 00.1 seconds left to win the game and the referees ruled the shot good. Upon further review, they waived off the shot (which was determined in HD replay to have left Chen’s hands before the clock hit zero) and the Wildcats won in overtime.

The NFL Playoffs are under way

For the second year in a row, the Houston Texans ended the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff hopes, leaving Cincinnati winless in the postseason since 1990. In a game in which the majority of the points were scored by the kickers, Houston dominated time of possession by having the ball for 38 minutes and 49 seconds. Arian Foster moved the chains for the Texans with 140 yards  and one touchdown on 32 carries. Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half and the Bengals had -6 passing yards at halftime. Houston settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, which allowed Cincinnati to stay within striking distance but the Bengals struggled to put together a scoring drive in the fourth quarter.

Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)
Andy Dalton did not target A.J. Green in the first half against Houston. (Image courtesy of http://www.boston.com/sports/football/2013/01/04/picking-the-nfl-wild-card-winners/IltouiU0yasLRvDydm2TNK/story.html?pg=2)

Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder did not start against the Green Bay Packers due to an elbow injury, making Joe Webb the first quarterback in NFL history to start a playoff game without throwing a pass in the regular season. Webb only took three snaps all season–two rushes and a kneel–but looked to beat Green Bay for the second time in as many weeks. The Vikings had the second fewest first half passing yards in NFL Playoff history (6) to only the Cincinnati Bengals, who set the dubious record just hours earlier. The Ponder-less Vikings could not keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. Minnesota scored first with a field goal in the first quarter but surrendered 24 unanswered points, which was enough for the Packers to win at Lambeau Field.

Two long streaks end in the NBA

The Charlotte Bobcats ended an 18-game losing streak by beating the Chicago Bulls, who then beat the defending champions, the Miami Heat, in their next game.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Clippers put together a 17-game win streak before falling to the Nuggets in Denver.

Kobe Bryant may be 34 years old but the Black Mamba still has some gas left in the tank for the Lakers. He posterized Chris Paul on a fast break in Friday nights matchup between the two Los Angeles teams. Kobe also joined Twitter this week, giving social media users insight into his life, including his acupuncture therapy and his love to challenge himself. You can follow him @kobebryant.

Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)
Kobe Bryant showed that he still has youth left despite being 34 years old. (Image courtesy of http://elitedaily.com/elite/2013/kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kobe-bryant-throws-nasty-dunk-chris-paul-video)

Oregon and Johnny Football shine in bowl wins

In a matchup that had national championship hopes late in the college football season, Oregon routed Kansas State and the Ducks didn’t take long to get on the board–De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff and Dion Jordan took a shovel pass into the end zone to give Oregon an 8-0 lead 12 seconds into the game. While the Wildcats had possession of the ball for six minutes more than the Ducks, Oregon outgained Kansas State by 102 yards. The strangest play of the game was when Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed for a touchdown but Alejandro Maldonado’s extra point attempt was blocked, a Kansas State played grabbed the ball and pitched it to a teammate in the end zone and the Wildcat player was tackled for a one-point safety in favor of Oregon. Oregon won the Fiesta Bowl 35-17.

Johnny Manziel backed up his Heisman Trophy winning regular season with an impressive bowl game performance. Manziel had over 500 yards of total offense along with 2 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns as No. 9 Texas A&M defeated No. 11 Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

I Do Not Condone Violence but I Support Rajon Rondo

I do not condone the unnecessary violence that occasionally occurs when emotions run high in collegiate and professional sports. I’ve seen the sports that I love at their lowest points when brawls break out and punches are thrown. The scenes of Indiana Pacers spilling into the crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills, former Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount punching a defenseless Boise State player in the face, and last December’s Crosstown Shootout skirmish between Cincinnati and Xavier will forever stay fresh in my mind. There is enough damage done from the physical nature of elite athletes in the natural flow of competition; it is unnecessary for more players to be injured or for the reputations of the sports establishments so dear to our hearts to be harmed.

This is why I don’t agree with the extent of the retaliation by Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo after Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries committed a hard foul on Kevin Garnett. Rondo immediately shoved Humphries, which started a scuffle between the two teams that spilled into the first few rows of the stands behind the basket. The foul was not worthy of a flagrant or technical foul, it was simply an attempt on the part of Kris Humphries to prevent a basket. Garnett was off-balance and it didn’t take much contact for him to topple over.

Rajon Rondo’s intensity and backing of his teammates is praiseworthy. His violence is not. Courtesy of http://hiphollywood.com/2012/11/rajon-rondo-rushes-kris-humphries-in-celticsnets-brawl/.

However, I love Rajon Rondo’s intent of the confrontation. I fully support the intensity he showed in the backing of his teammates. Collegiate and professional sports need more of this fiery passion, as long as it is exhibited in an appropriate manner. An attitude of “no one is going to harm my teammates and get away with it” is commendable. If Rondo took offense to the foul, he should have confronted Humphries but he could have done without the initial shove.

Rondo sent a message to both the Celtics and the rest of the NBA. He let the world know that Boston is in this season together and no one will be able to walk all over the Celtics.

With self-righteous players who are only concerned about their individual statistics and salaries that are often in excess of ten million dollars per year, Rajon Rondo sticking up for KG was refreshing in professional sports. It was an overreaction but it showed camaraderie and support of one’s teammates that makes a good team great. Talent only carries a team so far but by having teammates who have each other’s back and push one another on a daily basis, a team can make the jump to the next level.

And Then There was One

Entering Week 12 of the college football season, there were three undefeated teams sitting atop the rankings: Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame. By the end of Saturday, only the Fighting Irish were left.

Kansas State was pummeled on the road by Baylor 52-24. It was the difference in the two rushing attacks that determined the outcome of the game. The Wildcats collected only seventy-six yards on the ground and averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Baylor amassed 342 yards on the ground and the Bears’ running backs scored five touchdowns. Heisman hopeful Collin Klein was just mediocre when his team needed him to be great. He completed 27 of his 50 pass attempts for 286 yards. He threw two touchdowns and ran for another but threw three interceptions.

Baylor emerged victorious against the No. 1 Kansas State Wildcats. Courtesy of http://collegefootball.ap.org/columbian/content/baylor-beats-kansas-41-14-1st-big-12-victory-0.

After Kansas State had fallen, the Oregon Ducks had their chance to claim the No. 1 spot in the polls. However, the Stanford Cardinal were too much for the mighty Oregon offense to overcome. Stanford’s defense held Oregon to an uncharacteristically low 405 total yards. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota led the team in rushing with 89 yards on twelve carries, but 77 of those yards came from one long run. Kenjon Barner was held to three yards per rush and gathered only 66 rushing yards on the night. De’Anthony Thomas had the Ducks’ only rushing touchdown and the team’s best average yards per carry but only had seven carries against Stanford. Both teams had opportunities to take control of the game. Stanford had four turnovers and a missed field goal. The Ducks turned the ball over three times and missed one field goal in regulation. With the game tied at fourteen apiece, Oregon and Stanford went into overtime. Oregon was on offense first but could only advance one yard in three plays before Alejandro Maldonado missed a 41 yard field goal. Oregon had a glimpse of hope when Kiko Alonso forced a fumble when Stanford had the ball at Oregon’s 23 yard line but the Cardinal recovered the football. On 4th and 5, Jordan Williamson kicked the game-winning 37 yard field goal, knocking off the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.

De’Anthony Thomas and the Oregon offense were held in check by Stanford. Courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2012/11/17/3657188/college-football-tv-schedule-oregon-stanford-usc-ucla.

Notre Dame had no trouble defeating Wake Forest 38-0 and will move up two spots to the No. 1 position. The Fighting Irish will be in control of their own destiny from here on out. They travel to Los Angeles, Calif. to take on the struggling USC Trojans, who lost to UCLA 38-28 in Week 12. If Notre Dame finishes the season undefeated, it will have the opportunity to win its first national championship in football since 1988, when it defeated West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

Who Notre Dame would play in the BCS National Championship remains a mystery. Kansas State, Oregon, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida are one-loss teams that will come after Notre Dame in the rankings and it may depend on who the computers select to be the No. 2 team when the regular season is over.

Down Goes the SEC

The SEC has been the best college football conference in the past decade without question. An SEC team has won the last six BCS National Championships and the conference has dominated the college football rankings. However, after Texas A&M upset Alabama 29-24 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, the Southeastern Conference’s reign over the title game appears to have come to a brief end. The Crimson Tide fall to 9-1, while Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame all advanced to 10-0 on the season. While the order of those three schools has yet to be determined, they will surely take the top spots. Alabama will likely be ranked fourth, followed by a host of SEC schools in Georgia, Florida, and LSU. As long as two of the three remaining undefeated teams stay unbeaten, the SEC will not be represented in the BCS National Championship Game for the first time since 2005.

The Aggies overcame the country’s top scoring defense by jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter. Johnny Manziel generated 345 total yards of offense. He completed 24 of 31 pass attempts for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also led Texas A&M in rushing with eighteen attempts for ninety-two yards, including a thirty-two yard run. Aggies kicker Taylor Bertolet tried to let Alabama back in the game by missing a PAT in the first quarter and pushing a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right in the fourth quarter but A&M’s defense backed him up. Steven Terrell forced a fumble when he hit T.J. Yeldon on the Crimson Tide’s next drive following the missed field goal. Two plays and sixty-six yards later, Manziel found Malcome Kennedy in the end zone to give the Aggies a twelve point lead.

Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to a 29-24 victory at Alabama. Courtesy of http://thequad.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/live-analysis-college-football-saturday-4/.

A.J. McCarron connected with Amari Cooper for a 54-yard strike to cut Texas A&M’s lead to five points but threw an interception in the end zone by Deshazor Everett on Alabama’s next drive. The Aggies ran out the clock and gave Alabama its first blemish on its nearly flawless resumé.

The SEC could potentially finish the season with six top ten teams–Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M–but not be represented in the championship game. While the SEC’s talent and depth of great teams solidifies it as the nation’s best college football conference, it is punished when its good teams beat each other and non-SEC schools go undefeated and finish higher in the rankings.