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Monday, February 28, 2011

Heat vs. Knicks brings out the stars.




The Oscars wasn’t the only place filled with stars Sunday night. The New York Knicks vs. the Miami Heat made for a star-studded night in South Beach as well. The Heat with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh always attract stars when ever they play. New York’s trade for Carmelo Anthony and combining him with Amar’e Stoudemire has made the Knicks one of the marquee franchises in the league once again. Before Carmelo and Stoudemire arrived, the only guaranteed celebrity that would in be the house was Knicks superfan Spike Lee (who of course was in attendance). The list of stars for this game include: Lil Wayne, Birdman, Fat Joe, Floyd Mayweather with his fiancĂ©, Chad Ohcocinco with Evelyn of real basketball wives, Timberland, Michael Clarke Duncan, Venus Williams, Fat Joe and son,DJ Khaled, and even Omarosa showed up. They say Miami is a front-runner city and from the look of this game the reports may be right.







The game itself was a thriller as the Knicks came back from a 16 point deficit to stun Miami. Amare’e Stoudemire’s block in the final seconds sealed the win for the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony led New York with 29 points. Amar’e Stoudemire added 16 points and 10 rebounds. The big three of Miami was only the big two for this game as Lebron scored 27, Chris Bosh had 20 points and 12 rebounds but Dwayne Wade was limited to just 12 points. The Knicks forced 20 turnovers from the Heat in this possible playoff match-up.






College Baskbetball Weekend Finale

Before you know it, it will be March and time is winding down for bubble teams. The NCAA tournament begins March 17 and that leaves just four weeks for teams to get their resumes up to par. A few teams helped their cause helped their cause out and none more than Virginia Tech as they defeated number 1 ranked Duke in Blacksburg. The Hokies came out from the start with the passion and intensity usually reserved by the Blue Devils. Its good to see Seth Greenberg’s bunch finally get on the right side of the bubble for change as in recent they seem always to come up just short. Michigan State just can’t right that ship for their disastrous season. They were easily defeated by Purdue and at 16-12 they need to win all of their remaining games to have a shot entering the tournament as an at-large. Last years final four run for Coach Izzo’s group seems so long ago. The Jimmer was on the loose again as he scored 25 for BYU as they downed a solid San Diego State team for the second time this year




Now let’s take a look at the weekend’s best games.



Virginia Tech 64 vs. Duke 60 -  The Dukies took the initial shot from Va. Tech but it couldn’t take the final wave as Tech was able to wear down the Blue Devils. The Hokies played an inspired first few minutes highlighted by some beautiful plays from guard Eric Green. The Blue Devils were able to shut down the Hokies leading scorer Malcolm Delaney for the first few minutes of the game as Coach K’s signature defense was on display. Tech would grab the early lead only to see Duke retake it back in the second half and go up by six points, 53-47. However the Hokies didn’t back down after relinquishing their lead as Terrell Bell scored five straight to give Tech the lead for the remainder of the game. Bell knocked down a clutch 3-pointer in the corner with 4:40 left and two free-throws seconds later. Malcolm Delaney finally was able to get loose from Duke’s suffocating defense to hit his only 3-pointer of the night. The Dukie with the most miserable night had to be Seth Curry as chants of “Who’s your daddy rang loud and clear. Curry’s dad Dell, of course was in attendance to see his son but that doesn’t mean the Virginia Tech legend and his son were getting off easy in Blacksburg. This was Duke’s 18th lost as the number one ranked team in the nation, giving the Blue Devils this ominous record for most losses as a number 1 ranked team.



BYU 80 vs. SDSU 67 – San Diego State just had no answer for the shooting display by the Cougars. Jimmer Fredette done his usual putting up 25 points but it was his teammates as well that put the game away. The team as a whole was 10-16 from 3-point range. Charles Abouo was 4-5, Noah Hartsock was 3-4, and Jackson Emery was 2-6. They just shot the lights out. San Diego State was led by Kawhi Leonard’s 17 points and 13 rebounds but they could never control the pace of the game. Fredette shooting percentage wasn’t pretty (8-23) but he effectively found a way to get his teammates involved. He is clearly the front-runner now for player of the year and BYU has a chance to stalk a claim as a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.



St.John’s 81 vs. Villanova 68 – I don’t know what Steve Lavin is telling his players these days but whatever it is he should keep it up. The Red Storm continue their unbelievable hot play of late as they beat their sixth straight top 25 team in Villanova. The star again for the Johnnies’s was Dwight hardy as he demolished the Wildcats defense for 34 points. Hardy is as versatile as they come as he was able to make a dazzling display of different shot’s including tear-drop lay-ups, runners in the lane and 3-pointers. The Wildcats usually play tough in your face defense with their great guards in Corey Fisher and Malik Wayns but Hardy was able to find space. Speaking of Fisher, he was only 1 of 10 from the field and the team as whole was just 4 of 14 from 3-point land and when you combine that with 12 turnovers, you have a recipe for defeat. The Wildcats started the year off hot but not have lost two straight and four of six. The score was 18-4 in the first few minutes of the game. Dwight Hardy has now firmly entrenched himself in the race for Big East player of the year.



Other news and notes:



Can the Big East get 11 bids? As of today you have at least 11 to 12 possible teams coming from the big bad Big East. Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, St. John’s, Villanova, Connecticut, Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Marquette all seem to have a creditable resume for the tournament. But with so many teams from one league getting in, it will definitely lead to some scrutiny for the teams who don’t get in. I’m sure Digger Phelps doesn’t like so many teams getting in from a BCS conference especially when it is taking away a few mid major bids in the process. Maybe everyone can get what they want this year since the tournament has expanded from 64 to 68 teams.



Pauley Pavillion gets proper send-off – What better way for Pauley to close its doors for renovation then to have the late great John Wooden’s great-grandson score the last basket. Tyler Trapani, the rarely used walk-on junior was able to make a lay-up on a putback after an airball from teammate Jack Haley Jr. The shot from Trapani bought his head coach Ben Howland to tears. I was thinking about Coach,” he said of the man who led the Bruins to 10 national championships. “It was so fitting Tyler hit the shot. It fell right in his hands. There’s something going on there, I really believe it.” John must have been smiling down from the heavens.



Louisville cheerleader is a little too enthusiastic – From the department of male cheerleaders gone wild, a Cardinals cheerleader got a little too excited about the Louisville impending win over number 4 Pittsburgh. The play happened after Kyle Kuric’s dunk looked to seal the game for the Cardinals in the last few seconds of overtime. The cheerleader (Still no name associatied with him) ran onto the court and chucked the ball into the air. All seems normal until it was noticed that there was still five-tenths of a second left on the clock (D’oh!). The chuck by the cheerleader led to a technical foul being called on Louisville and gave Pittsburgh two-free throws in a five point game. Luckily for this guy Ashton Gibbs missed on a half-court shot and Louisville prevailed 62-59. Who knows what would have happened to this kid had Pittsburgh found a way to pull off the victory even though it was highly unlikely. The guy wouldn’t’ have mad it out the arena alive in basketball crazed Louisville. "The male cheerleader is coming to an end," Louisville coach Rick Pitino joked to start his postgame press conference. "It was good while it lasted. It was fun. Now we'll try another sport for him."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Universtiy of Tennesse charged by NCAA for Violations


The University of Tennessee finally was served by the NCAA for various rule violations in their men’s basketball, football and baseball teams. This comes as no surprise as most have known for months the day of reckoning was coming as the school has been investigated the last 22 months. Tennessee was citied for 12 various violations in both programs under the watch of former football coach Lane Kiffin (Insert your own bad word here UT fans) and current head basketball coach Bruce Pearl. The baseball team, although investigated was not charged with any wrongdoing.




The penalties on the football side were about as good as it could it be in this situation for the Vols. Most of the penalties levied against the program are going west to follow Lane Kiffin. Kiffin and his assistants were accused of making improper phone call to recruits after UT officials admonished Kiffin and his staff about making those types of calls. The dates of the allegations are Jan 03-09, 2010 and of course those dates came just before Kiffin resigned at UT and jetted his way to USC. The NCAA stated that Kiffin “Failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance of NCAA rules within their programs.” The happiest man in Tennessee right now should be current head football coach Derek Dooley. He can recruit now knowing with a peace of mind. The program can now begin to move on from this scandal that was brought onto from Kiffin. The light is visible at the end of tunnel for the football team.



However, as for the aforementioned Bruce Pearl and the men’s basketball team, not so much. Pearl faces a gauntlet of allegations that could possibly cause him his job. Pearl and his staff have been charged with unethical conduct after he lied to NCAA investigators in a June interview about hosting high school players at a cookout at his home in September of 2008. He also called John Craft, the father of Aaron Craft, to sway some influence onto the younger Craft’s statement to NCAA agents. Not to be forgotten in this is that UT has already docked Pearl’s salary by $1.5 million dollars as well as banning him from off-campus recruitment for a year. SEC commish Mike Slive also stepped in as he suspended Pearl for the first eight games of the conference season. It wasn’t just Pearl who was charged as his assistants Tony Jones, Steve Forbes and Jason Shay were accused of “violating the NCAA principles of honesty” for making up to 96 impermissible calls to 12 recruits.



This is a bad situation for all involved. Not only could Pearl lose his job but he also makes a huge distraction for his team. After playing their best game of the season against Vandy, they get hit with news like this. AD Mike Hamilton now has three programs including football, basketball and baseball all under investigation under his watch and has to take some heat for hiring Kiffin and Pearl. Hamilton could also possibly lose his job but from what I hear, he is safe. The scandal has marred all of UT’s athletics as it has given the entire department a bad name. Pearl still has his support and seems to be on solid footing with Hamilton. Most fans still support Pearl as he has developed Tennessee men’s basketball team into a top 10 or 15 programs nationally. The rub with me on this issue is if Pearl stays on as the coach, what kind of message does it send about UT athletics? Is it a win at all cost mentality? It must be because I know if Buzz Peterson were the coach during all these accusations, he would have been shown the door a long time ago. In the cut-throat world of the SEC, winning is the only thing that matters at most schools but sometime you can’t just go with the status quo. I am a big Pearl supporter as he is a personable guy and a damn good basketball coach but he made his mistakes and must pay for them like everyone else. The ball is in UT’s court. The decision that they make on Pearl will let us know what UT athletics is all about.

Melo Shines in Madison Square Garden Debut

Melo madness reached its tipping last night as he finally made his debut in Madison Square Garden. After starting slow in the first half, Anthony got it going in the second half. When his new partner in crime Amar’e Stoudemire fouled out, it was Anthony who would make two clutch baskets down the stretch to give the Knicks the win. Melo was only 10 for 25 accounting for 27 points and also had 10 boards but it was more about the shots that did fall compared to the ones that didn’t. This was a night to remember in the garden as it was a culmination from all the chaos that has surrounded Anthony for the last seven months. The crowd was described as electric as they cheered for Anthony and his sidekick in the deal, Chancey Billups. The fans in attendance to see Melo’s return home included Chris Rock, Lala Valsquez (Anthony’s wife) Matthew Modine, Woody Allen and of course Spike Lee. And that couldn’t ask for a better start to the renaissance that is New York Knicks basketball.




After all of the “Melo-drama” it was good to see Carmelo actually do what he does on the court. I still question how he and Amar’e will gel over the next 27 games but for at least one night all was well in New York. For everything that was negative about the power play Anthony pulled on the Denver Nuggets was forgiven last night by most fans (Well at least in New York). Billups, who was traded from his hometown and was none to happy about it, put on his happy face and delivered 21 points and 8 assists for his new team. This was only the first night of the saga that has become the new face New York Knicks. Where the destination ends for this team, no one knows but at least for one night, all was well in the garden.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Change you can believe in for Titans

When Mike Munchak was hired as the new head coach of Tennessee Titans most from the outside looking in thought it was just a lateral move for the franchise. Munchak was seen from the public perception as a inside man who wouldn’t stray to far from what Jeff Fisher had put together over the last decade and a half. I for one thought Munch would keep things rather mundane as well. However in Munchak’s press conference introduction as head coach Munchak was quoted as saying “I feel like we're starting fresh. It's not same old, same old. We come in, sit down and figure out what's best for the Titans going forward with what we have. ... Anything's possible," Munchak said. That could go on to be the understatement of the year here in Tennessee.




The entire coaching staff of the Titans has gone under construction with Munchak at the helm. Gone are the familiar faces of Mike Hemindinger, Chuck Cecil and Jim Washburn and in are new coaches including new offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and new defensive coordinator Jerry Gray. This is a team that needed a shake-up, a change in the atmosphere and the status quo. Munchak is proving that he won’t settle for the same results from the Titans as in years past under Fisher.



Moreover the defensive identity will change under new coordinator Jerry Gray. Gray is familiar with the team as he was the Titans defensive back coach from 1999 to 2000. He will install a multiple defensive capable of switching to a 3-4 and 4-3 accordingly. Gray credits former Titans DC Gregg Williams as one of the many influences to him as a coordinator He also stated that he wanted players to be more disciplined as the Titans were one of the most penalized teams in the league last year. Said Gray "I was kind of brought up the old-fashioned way as a player," he said. "If you're not disciplined, it's hard to win. You can't win because you're going to make a mistake and next thing you know, you're going to screw it up."





The last and maybe the most important thing that has to be addressed by the new coaching staff is the QB position. Vince Young obviously won’t be back next year so the Titans will have to start fresh. The good news on that front is that new offensive coordinator has a nice track record with developing QBs, as he has worked with Mark Brunell during his most successful seasons in Jacksonville, Drew Bledsoe when he led the Pats to the Super Bowl and most recently Eli Manning as the Giants quarterback coach when they won their last Super Bowl. Munchak and Palmer know the importance of the QB position as both were separately quoted saying as much. Munchak stated "I really wanted to have someone strong in that (quarterback development) area because that's been a problem here a little bit," Munchak said. "I knew it might come down to really developing a young quarterback. I felt he's been around a lot of quarterbacks in this league, and when he's been there with them, they've played very well." As for Palmer, he stated "It's our job as coaches to identify what talent is available and to give them the chance to perform"

The Titans have many options in their QB search as they could grab one in the draft with the eight overall pick they own. They could also find a veteran on the free agent market or via trade with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, or Kyle Orton looking to be available. It will definitely be interesting to see what direction they go for the most important position on the field. Of course all of this will be subject to matters of the current labor strife being negotiated by the owners and players union and as of today they are moving at a snail’s pace.

In summarizing, this is a team in transition. Changes have been installed from top to bottom and not only in personnel and coaching but also in mentality. Change can definitely be good in terms of a football team. The organization seemed to grow stagnant under Fisher. These types of things happen when the same system has been in place for so long. I have to credit Munchak for rolling the dice and bringing a change of culture and influences to the Titans. Only time will tell if these changes will result in changes in the win column. We all know that will be the only thing that matters come next season.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh no! Tiger Woods Caught Spitting on the Greens

With so much attention that is always focused on Tiger Woods, you would think he would have knew that the cameras would catch him in the act of spitting on the course. This is a big etiquette no-no in the world of golf. Woods was participating in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic over the weekend when the incident occurred. On the 12th green, Tiger can be seen apparently with a substance coming out of his mouth. Upon further inspection it was confirmed by tournament officials and also Woods that he indeed was spitting.


Officials at the tournament were so upset that they fined Woods an undisclosed amount and Woods agreed with them by saying on his twitter page “The Euro Tour is right – it was inconsiderate to spit like that and I know better. Just wasn’t thinking and want to say I’m sorry.” That is just the latest in a series of bad publicity for Woods, as we all know of the of his infidelity issues he had with wife Elin Nordegren, that eventually led to their divorce and his fall from grace in the media. His golf game has never recovered either.

Woods is still searching for his first victory since the scandal broke (The Australian Masters in November of 2009 was his last) and was in the running to win the tournament until he bombed out on the last day shooting a round of 75 in the final round.

Michael Vick to appear on Oprah Winfrey Show

The controversial Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick is set make an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show on February 24th. Being the polarizing figure that Vick is, Oprah has been called into question about why she would interview Vick. As for Vick himself, he is still trying to recuperate his image since his dog-fighting ring incident that landed the Pro Bowl QB in prison. Vick had his best season as a pro throwing for over 3,000 yards and posting career highs in touchdown passes (21) and passer rating (100.2). He garnered the most votes and was named to his fourth Pro Bowl as the starter for the NFC in the NFL Pro Bowl. The show should draw huge ratings because of the disparity that Vick causes along with the insightful questions of his life that only Oprah can ask. I’m sure Oprah knows this is a calculated risk but this is an interview she couldn’t pass up. She and Piers Morgan openly placed a bet on who would land the interview first and looks as if Oprah has won.




The internet has been set ablaze of the news of Vick’s appearance on the show. Vick of course has those who say he doesn’t even deserve to be out of prison for the awful things he did to those animals and those who say he served his debt to society for his crimes and should be vindicated. What do you guys think? Is this a good move for Oprah to interview such a controversial athlete?


Local College Basketball Beat

Tennessee welcomed back coach Bruce Pearl this weekend with a loss to Florida. The loss stung because it drops UT to 5-5 in the SEC and a tie for fourth place in the east. Tennessee had it chances as they were up by as much as eight points in the second half and got a strong performance from sophomore Scotty Hopson who scored 22. UT shot 49 percent from the field easily their highest mark in SEC play and forced 14 turnovers. That should be enough to win the game but the gritty Gators roared back and the Vols let them by not knocking down there free-throws. The Vols have had trouble all season closing out close games as they lost to Alabama and Florida the first time in similar fashion. If the Vols (15-10) are to make a run at the NCAA tournament it has to start Wednesday against South Carolina. Pearl knows this as he tries to ease himself from his 8-game suspension, Pearl stated “Late-game offensive execution to win games is an area we have scored very poorly in,” Pearl said. “I hope that we can learn from some of those mistakes and do a better job of closing them out down the stretch.” UT also has to get better play out of starters Tobias Harris who only had 9 points and 5 rebounds. Melvin Goins, the starting point guard had 7 points with NO assists. The time is now for the Vols to get hot make their run for the tournament. The team that shows up in South Carolina will tell us all that we will need to know Wednesday night.


Vandy got a stirring performance from super sophomore Jeff Jenkins as he just assaulted the Kentucky defense from long range. Jenkins went off for 32 as the Commodores were able to hold off the Wildcats. What made the performance even more awe-inspiring was the text Jenkins got from his mother who said he needed to score at least 25 or more for Vandy. Jenkins did more than that with a dazzling array of spot up jump shots and coming off ball screens to knock down a career high six three-pointers. Vandy also got help from big man Festus Ezeli as he chipped in with 14 and Brad Tinsley added 11. The Commodores are as dangerous a team as they come when Jenkins is shooting the ball well. Jenkins is living up to the billing he had come out of high school as one the best shooters in the country. Vandy stands at 18-6 and 6-4 in the SEC good enough for second in the rugged east division. The Commodores seem to have a nice blend of athletes and shooters that play well together. When you throw in the presence of Ezeli in the middle it makes for a team that could make a run in March. Jenkins seemed to know the importance of beating perennial SEC and national power Kentucky as he stated I told Coach I must’ve been dreaming because this can’t be real. Especially being from here you see a lot of great games against Kentucky,” Jenkins said. “To be a part of that part of that legacy now is something special.” Vandy faces Georgia this Wednesday in what will be another test for the streaking Commodores.



Tennessee Lady Vols 65 vs. Vanderbilt Commodores 57: This was another classic is this epic women’s rivalry. In a game that was eerily similar to they previous meeting this season, the Commodores couldn’t have asked for a better start as UT couldn’t make anything in the first half. The Lady Vols scored a whopping 15 points in the first half on 20 percent shooting as the Commodores built an 11-point lead. But things changed in the second half for the lady Vols upon the insertion of backup point guard Lauren Avant. She seemed to spark the lady Vols as they went on a tear and scored 50 points in the second half. The slow start could be attributed to the fact that UT had played 3 games in the last 7 days. The Vandy lead was 39-28 before UT would go on a 16-3 run and never look back. Avant scored on a lay-up and added the free throw and then added a three-pointer to spark to the Vols. Jence Rhoades of the Commodores led all scorers with 15 but it wasn’t enough. The lady Vols always seem to find a way to pull out the win on the Commodores and this time wasn’t different. Vandy coach Melanie Balcomb summed it up the best as she stated "You hold somebody to 15 and then they score 50?”."I mean 20 might not have been enough at that point. The frustrating piece, until the last eight minutes we were beating them, and they're the No. 4 team in the country and there's a lot to be said for that." Both teams are in action this Thursday as the lady Vols take on the South Carolina Gamecocks and Vandy face the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl Hangover

The Super Bowl hangover is now in full effect. We now have no football until at least August and quite possibly longer than that with looming NFL labor strife with the players union and the owners. What is a die-hard fan to do in the lulls of winter boredom? If you’re like most fans including myself, you will just turn your attention to the other major sports but the only thing in full swing is basketball. I am an avid basketball fan as well but regular season basketball just doesn’t tickle my fancy as much as a regular season football game. Of course, you are going to have your deep 3-pointers and high-flying dunks with animated commentators such as Marv Albert with his signature “Yes!” .Also in college basketball with Dickie V’s over the top bragging about any player he sees fit for his praise but it not enough for to fill football void. Basketball is my yang and football and is my ying. I’ve always followed both with die-hard status but it always hard to just change my viewing pleasure to mid-season basketball.




It makes it even harder when one person is dominating the headlines of the NBA as much as Carmelo Anthony is right now. So after countless trade rumors about Melo going to the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks, am I suppose to believe that the Los Angeles Lakers have joined the discussion? So I guess now the NBA is in line for its version of super-teams that was ushered in by Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. I just wish he would land somewhere so every time I watch sportscenter I don’t have to hear about it anymore.



College basketball isn’t good until March although The Jimmer is making a case for me to watch a BYU game. I want to catch the latest outfit of one and done players Coach Cal has put together at Kentucky before its too late. North Carolina and Duke games are always good and are about the closest thing to hard hitting you will see in college basketball. But again, I can wait until March in most cases before I tune in for college basketball.



What about baseball you ask? Spring training is right around the corner. The Boston Red Sox have reloaded by adding two of the best young hitters in the game in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Philadelphia added ace Cliff Lee after he spurned offers from the Yanks and Texas. And speaking of the Yankees, now what are they going to do without Andy Pettitte? Baseball peaks my interest but again not enough for my football fix. For the life of me I cannot watch an entire nine inning game of baseball. I have tried and tried but I always end up doing one of the following: A.) Falling asleep B.) Hopping on the computer or C.) Flipping the channel after watching a guy foul off 10 pitches. It’s just not the same as seeing Troy Polamalu come off the edge for a blitz or Peyton Manning pump faking the defense for a bomb to Reggie Wayne.



As far as all the other so-called spring and summer sports (Tennis, Race-car driving, Golf etc.), none can come close to the action on the gridiron. For those of us who are die-hard football fans, nothing else can touch the pigskin. The worst Sportcenters are in the summer, tune in to one if you don’t believe me. I call this period of non-football the drought. I find myself sometime watching old college football games with players who are either in the league or doing something entirely different with their lives. I watch the NFL network games just to get a taste of what I’m missing even though I know who is going to win. The only good thing that comes from this is that it makes you tune back in to your regular life. You know like work, your family and the outdoors. One person who never complains when football season is over is my girlfriend, she says this is the only time she can get my attention and maybe she is right.



So in summarizing the only thing for us football fans can do is the things we did before football like enjoying the nice spring weather and our family and friends. That is until football returns.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Munchak The Man In Music City

As expected, the Tennessee Titans named long-time offensive line coach Mike Munchak as the 16th head coach in Titans/Oilers history. Munchak is a 9-time pro bowl selection and 4-time all-pro selection. He was selected in the 2001 NFL Hall of Fame class. The Titans selected Munchak after interviewing the likes of Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, NY Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and being rejected by former Titan and current New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Bud Adams did what most of us thought, staying in-house and cheap. The Munchak hire won’t inspire the fan base as he has basically been with the team as long as Jeff Fisher has been. If you think Jeff Fisher was here long time, than think about that Munchak has either been playing or coaching for the organization since 1982.There were many different options that the organization could have gone. The Titans could have hired a hot-shot coordinator like Marty Mornhinweg of Philadelphia who helped resurrect Michael Vick’s career, Cam Cameron who has developed young Joe Flacco into a top 15 QB or Rob Ryan of Cleveland, brother of Rex and defensive minded just like his big brother.




However the most intriguing candidate to me was Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers. He is the brain-child of the Green Bay defense that just won the Super Bowl. Capers in just 2 years on the job turned around a Packers defensive unit that was mediocre at best. His blitzing and attacking 3-4 has put the Packers in a different class defensively as they were ranked in the top 5 of the NFL the past two seasons. Peter King of Sports illustrated tweeted exactly what I was thinking as he said “The Titans couldn’t have waited until the after the Super Bowl to at least talk to Capers.” In any event the Titans have made their choice and are giving the keys to the franchise to Munchak.



There are still more questions than answers about the future of the Titans. Who will be the starting QB? Who will Munchak name as his defensive coordinator? What about the other coaching positions (defensive line coach, running backs coach etc)? What will be his team’s offensive identity? Will he play it close to the vest as Fisher did? Only time will tell if Bud Adams made a status quo decision based on his own personal beliefs while trying to keep a few extra bucks in his pocket or did he take notice of Munchak as an up and comer in the organization and went ahead and gave him the job before some other team snatched him up. Another thing that convolutes the story is the upcoming labor strife with the players union and owners. The new CBA could have forced Adams not to go after a big name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden because of the impending stipulations or revisions that will be made.





Munchak was light-hearted and in a jovial mood in Monday’s press conference but he did make one thing clear. Said Munchak I'm going to be my own man, and I'll be judged by what I do and not what was done before me. I'm not looking here to blame anybody about what was left for me," Munchak said. "I think it's a great opportunity here with what we have, and I think I'm the guy to pick up the pieces and hopefully get us in the right direction."



Either way you look at it this is the beginning of a new era for Tennessee football. The only man we ever knew as the coach of the Titans is gone and now one of his former assistants takes over. Munchak comes in with hall of fame credentials as a former all-pro guard and has spent his entire career in the Houston/Nashville organization but this will be first experience as a Head Coach Hopefully he can get the Titans back on the road to winning sooner than later.

Update: Titans fire offensive coordinator Mike Heimendinger. I guess Munchak is making his mark early with the team.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl Finale Prediciton

After countless reading and observing about the spectacle that is Super Bowl XLV, I believe the time has come for my Super Bowl prediction. But before I can do that, we have to take a look at the breakdown of both teams and who has the edge in certain categories including offense, defense, coaching, special teams and intangibles. Pittsburgh and Green Bay match-up well on paper as both are 1st and 2nd respectively in per allowed per game and also 2nd and 5th in total defense. Troy Polamalu of the Steelers won defensive player of the year with the Packers Clay Matthews coming in second and not to mention their dueling hair personality’s battle as well.




Now for the breakdowns:



Offense:

The Pack’s offense has been on attack entering this game. Aaron Rodgers has just been everything you ask for from a QB. He is able to make throws from anywhere in the pocket and also on the move. He is one of more mobile QB’s in the league and with the Packers explosive receiving corps featuring Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Jerome James, he is able to make plays at will. Couple that with the fact that these guys now have running game thanks to rookie James Starks and you have a dynamic offense capable of putting up points on anybody. Even though the Steelers have probably the best D in the league, I fully expect Rodgers and company to move the ball on them.



The Steelers on the other hand also have one of the better offenses in the league as well. Ben Roethlisberger extends plays better than anyone in the league at his position. How many times can you remember watching a Steelers game and saying that the opposing defense just can’t get Big Ben down? He may not be your prototypical QB a la Peyton Manning or Tom Brady but Roethlisberger is a proven winner and you should want a guy on your team like that. Reshard Mendenhall had maybe his best game as a pro in the AFC championship game against the Jets. He 121 yards rushing on 27 carries and gave great balance to the offense. The Steelers also have an underrated and speedy receiving quartet led by one of the fastest men in the league in Mike Wallace. Wallace along with Emmaunel Sanders and Antonio Brown form probably the fastest ever receiving tandem in Steelers history and don’t forget about Heath Miller coming over the middle as he is the security blanket for Big Ben.



Edge: Packers



Defense: The Packers defense under Dom Capers is one of the best at mixing up their blitz packages and bringing heat off the corners. Charles Woodson was last year’s defensive player of the year and has the versatility to cover as well as blitz from his position. Tramon Williams is becoming a shut down corner as of late and gives Capers flexibility to be able call all of those blitz packages. Clay Matthews is just a beast coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and will command a double team most of the game. Even when you double team Matthews, he still will make plays. This guys motor never stops running. Anybody that pours water on their head in subfreezing temperatures as Matthews does is crazy. Sam Shields has been a pleasant surprise in the secondary Green Bay as his two interception game in the NFC conference championship proved. He adds to the confusion on the defense on the Packers as you don’t want to test him to many times either.



The Steelers have the most formidable defense in the league. They are the bullies in a league full of bullies. You can’t start a conversation about the Steelers D without first speaking about all-world safety Troy Polamalu. I’ve been noted as saying that he is the Steelers most valuable player, more valuable then even Roethlisberger. He can cover and stuff the run. His instincts are bar none as he makes at least one or two big plays a game. The offense always has to know where number 43 is. James Harrison is a ferocious linebacker known for big hits and big fines. Do not I repeat do not come over the middle while this man is roaming around because you will pay for it dearly, just ask Mohammed Massaquoi. Lamar Woodley holds down the other side of the linebacking core and is more of a pass rushing player. He is able to get to QB as good as anybody. Polamalu’s partner in crime at safety is Ryan Clark and he is a ball-hawk known for big plays as well. As you can see, the Steelers defense has playmakers all over the field.



Edge: Steelers





Coaching:

Mike McCarthy is making his first Super Bowl appearance and you know that means a few jitters but that doesn’t mean much besides that. Sean Payton appeared in his Super Bowl last year and won and even Mike Tomlin got it done in his first appearance two years ago. McCarthy has seen over the development of Aaron Rodgers and also the departure of Brett Favre. He has endured the whole saga with a humility and even-keeled nature not seen by much. McCarthy grew up in Pittsburgh while the legendary Chuck Noll was roaming sidelines and it shows in McCarthy. Both men are very stoic in nature and don’t show any emotions while coaching. That is probably the best quality about McCarthy.



Mike Tomlin can be described as opposite of McCarthy. You will see him getting into his players on the sidelines and also very demonstrative when he engaged with the refs. The players seem to feed off his energy. I guess when your one of the youngest coaches in league not to mention the youngest to win a Super Bowl, its makes it that much easier to move around on the sidelines. Tomlin is one of the most comical men in a press conference. His answers are always straightforward, honest and to the point. His teams stay true to their Pittsburgh tradition as they are big, strong and physical teams. He has proved he is able to handle the big stage as he already has one Super Bowl ring. That is the only reason I will give him the edge in this category over McCarthy because there is no way of simulating what the biggest game of your life is like until you have participated in one. Tomlin looks just like this actor to me as well which makes it funny every time I see him http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=mike+tomlin&view=detail&id=A4815F5924047CBBCFBA177F104C8611D81AF30B&first=1&FORM=IDFRIR&qpvt=mike+tomlin



Edge: Steelers




Special Teams:

In a game that is evenly matched as this one, they usually come down to one big play or special team play. The Packers have one of the best kickers in football with Mason Crosby. The guy doesn’t miss much and has +50 yards range. He is a definite plus to have in a game of this magnitude. Rookie James Starks and veteran Charles Woodson handle the kick off returning duties for the Packers and are decent in that aspect.



The Steelers cut their long time kicking ace Jeff Reed mid-season after he missed seven of 22 attempts overall, including all four between the 40- and 49-yard lines. He was 4 of 9 at Heinz Field, where swirling winds and mushy grass make kicking difficult. He was replaced by Shaun Suisham the former Washington Redskin kicker. Suisham has been solid in the postseason as he has made all of his field goal attempts but he was always shaky in Washington. The kick-off return tandem of Antwaan Randle El and Antonio Brown is respectable but nothing spectacular.



Edge: Green Bay



Intangibles:

The Packers were among the worst hit team for injuries this year as they had to overcome. The list includes some of their key contributors in starting TE Jermichael Finley, Starting RB Ryan Grant and Starting LB Nick Barnett. All of these players are vital to the Packers but some kind of way GM Ted Thompson and HC Mike McCarthy continue to plug the holes so they don’t sink the ship. That shows resiliency not only by the front office but for the players as well as the backups have come in and held the team steady throughout the season. Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, and Clay Matthews provide leadership and their even-keeled coach keeps them at an even pace not to get too high or too low in any series of events



The Steelers had to endure the Big Ben saga that seemed to take over the summer and also losing him for the first quarter of the season. Charlie Batch came in and played admirably and led them to a 4-1 record over that span. This team probably is the toughest mentally you will ever come across. Remember in the AFC divisional round when they were down 21-7 to the Ravens and all hope seemed lost? Remember when the Pats blasted them at home and everybody jumped off the bandwagon? I do, and every time this team faced some type of adversity they have resoundingly taken care of business. This is a team that is used to winning so this won’t to big of a stage for them to handle. Mike Tomlin is a tough minded coach who doesn’t concern himself with nothing other than winning football games.



Edge: Steelers





This should be an epic game featuring two of the storied franchises in the NFL. Both teams have an already decorated trophy case and would like to add to their accomplishments. It’s sad that this is the last game of the season and maybe even beyond that with the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming labor dispute between the owners and players. So everyone should enjoy this game. Call over you family and friends and forget about all of life’s everyday problems and enjoy America’s game for one evening. Enjoy the lavish accommodations that Jerry Jones has bestowed upon us for this grand finale to the season rather if your swinging your terrible towel or wearing your cheesehead. So with all that being said here is my prediction



Steelers 28 Packers 24


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sportaholic Mid-Week Speed Drills: Nashville Preds Update, Tennessee State Fairgrounds News, Vandy Basketball and Recruting News for UT and Vandy.

National Signing Day: Tennessee Vols Head Coach Derek Dooley is charging hard at the finish line on national signing day. The second year coach has closed on three 4-star recruits over the last 48 hours including the top ranked player in the state Antonio Richardson of Pearl-Cohn. UT also signed Cameron Clear out of Memphis as the Vols are doing a good job closing the borders of the state and keeping the talent in Tennessee Orange. The other top recruits for the Vols include Curt Maggit from Florida, DeAnthony Arnett from Michigan, Maurice Couch a JUCO transfer from Kansas, Marcus Jackson from Florida, Marlin Jackson from Florida and A.J Johnson of Georgia. The Vols have a total of 27 commitments and are ranked 11th by Rivals.com in the nation and 10th by scouts.com. The Vols needed to beef up their defensive line and secondary and by all indications they have emphatically did so with these signings. Recruiting in the SEC is as cutthroat as it gets but it appears Dooley can hold his on against the big boys of Nick Saban, Les Miles, Mark Richt and Gene Chizik. Derek Dooley and his staff did one heck of a job for Tennessee and should reap the benefits next fall. For a complete list of all the UT signings click this link: http://www.utsports.com/signingday/




Vandy’s new Head Coach James Franklin also did a tremendous job for the Commodores as he reined a few surprise recruits to his first class. The biggest issue facing Vandy was quarterback and they addressed that by signing Lafonte Thurgood, a 4-star stud from Virginia Beach, VA. He should come in and immediately compete for the QB position. Franklin also snuck in on Dillon Van Der Wall of Westlake Village California. He originally committed to Arizona State but after meeting with Franklin changed over to Commodore black and gold. Vandy has a solid class following the late start they got due to coaching search. To see Vanderbilt’s full list click this link: http://vucommodores.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/2011-signing-day.html





Predators Update: The Nashville Predators have 31 games left to make their playoff push and things didn’t get started the way they would have liked against the Calgary Flames last night. The Preds, losers of their last 3, lost in a shootout battle thanks to Rene Borque as he scored the only goal in the shootout.



The Preds led 1-0 off the strength of a Patric Hornquist goal going into the 3rd period, only to see their lead be erased as Matt Stajan and Corey Sarich each tallied goals for Calgary. The lost dropped the Preds to 5-4-1 over their last 10 games. Nashville had been 6-2 in shootout games entering this contest but just couldn’t come away with the victory this time around.



“At least we got one point, but there comes a point where we've got to figure out how to lock things down. There are 31 games left, and if we're not going to...” Said defensemen Shea Weber.

The Preds look to get back in the win column this Thursday as the take on the Philadelphia Flyers.



Vandy Basketball: Florida 65 Vandy 61: The Commodores traveled to Gainesville for a national televised ESPN game against Florida. Vandy shot the ball well early and took an early lead. Jeff Jenkins showed why he is the SEC scoring leader, as he scored a game high 22 points on an array of acrobatic lay-up, runners and three-point shots. However the Dores continued to give the Gators second chance shots as Florida annihilated Vandy on the boards 42-29. Chandler Parsons of Florida was the thorn that stuck Vandy all game as he tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds, Vandy simply didn’t have an answer for his offensive versatility. Vandy’s big men added to their misery as Festus Ezeli, Steve Tchiengang, and Jeffrey Taylor all fouled out during the game which left the Commodores front-court paper thin. Without the big men to protect the basket, the 6-9 Parsons begin doing his damage in the paint. He drove toward the lane and hit a jumper that put Florida ahead 60-59. Florida got a big three-pointer from guard Kenny Boynton on their next possession to go ahead for good. Jenkins would get another shot for Vandy but air balled a three-point attempt. From my view it clearly looked like a foul was committed by Boynton but no call was made by the ref. Boynton all but admitted fouling after the game saying I think I got him, but I think on the other end they missed some fouls, too,” Boynton said. “If they called it, they called it. I think I jumped too high and he kind of tried to draw it. It was a foul, but they missed it.” Vandy Head Coach Kevin Stallings also had some input about the late-game no call “I’m pretty sure there was a reason there was an air ball,” Stallings said. “I’m not saying our guys shot an air ball. I think there might have been a reason.” The lost coupled with their defeat at the hands of Arkansas this weekend marks the first time Vandy (15-6 3-4 SEC) has lost consecutive games all year. Vandy looks to regroup and they face South Carolina this Saturday.



Tennessee Fairgrounds Racetrack Is Safe.... For Now: The demise of the Tennessee fairgrounds have been greatly exaggerated as the Metro council ratified a bill to keep the fairgrounds in business. This comes after a very public outcry that included some of the biggest race-car driver names in Tennessee with the likes of Sterling Marlin and Darrell Waltrip coming on board to save the track. This is good news for all local sports fan as a piece of nostalgia Nashville was saved. The track is one of the oldest in the country as it has been around since 1904 and has hosted Winston cup (Sprint Cup now) from 1958 to 1984. It would have been a shame to see it be demolished but looks like the local support saved it. Give yourself a pat on the back Nashville.

Editor's Note: Don't forget to check out my latest articles on Onetribenashville.com as well.