University of Louisville guard Russ Smith talks about his decision to return to the team for his senior season, via WLKY News.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving drove past defenders with ease all season.
It was no different in voting for rookie of the year.
Irving, who played beyond his years and above everyone’s expectations including his own, was chosen the NBA’s Rookie of the Year on Tuesday, winning an award he always believed was within reach.
“It was a goal of mine,” he said. “I knew as long as we won some games and beat some great team that it was going to come.”
Irving received 117 of 120 possible first-place votes from a nationwide media panel of writers and broadcasters. Irving finished with 592 points, way ahead of Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (170) and Denver’s Kenneth Faried (129).
The 20-year-old is the second Cleveland player to win the award, joining LeBron James in 2004.
The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft was clearly the league’s top first-year player, leading all rookies — and the Cavs — in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He also led all rookies in field-goal percentage (46.8), was second in assists (5.4) and became one of just six rookies in league history to average at least 18 points and five assists.
However, it was the other elements of his game — a nasty crossover dribble, a fearless desire to get to the basket, and a clutch, cold-blooded instinct in the fourth quarter that separated him from the others.
During a sometimes funny and emotional acceptance speech, Irving credited his father, Drederick, and his late mother, Elizabeth, for raising him. He donated a car given to him by Kia for winning the award to the New Jersey Roadrunners, his former AAU team.
Irving, who played only 11 games at Duke because of a toe injury before turning pro, regularly took over games down the stretch for the Cavaliers. He kept them competitive and in the playoff race until mid-March, when the team’s front office decided to build for the future by trading his backup, guard Ramon Sessions, to the Los Angeles Lakers for a first-round draft pick.
Once Rubio went down with a season-ending knee injury, Irving became the runaway favorite to win rookie of the year honors.
And beyond his impressive statistics, Irving brought hope to the Cavaliers and Cleveland fans, who have spent the past two seasons trying to move past James, who left as a free agent before he could bring them their first league title.
Irving appears to be the major piece the Cavs can build around, and they plan to get him some help next month with three of the top 34 picks in the NBA draft. The Cavs got lucky and won the draft lottery a year ago, paving the way for them to select Irving.
He was clearly the perfect choice.
“I can’t wait to add some pieces this summer and see what happens next year with him,” said Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who opened his downtown casino Monday night. “He’s great and the way he carries himself is really remarkable. He’s 20 years old. That wasn’t me at 20 — or 40. He can’t have a drink legally or come into our casino but he can do everything else.”
Despite having a limited training camp because of the labor lockout, Irving started the opener for coach Byron Scott, who has formed a strong bond with his young star. He believes Irving has just scratched the surface of his potential.
“One of the easiest guys I’ve ever coached,” Scott said. “Last year was a learning experience for him and us. I expect so much more from him next season and beyond.”
Although it was assumed Irving would start the season opener, Scott didn’t inform him until the day of the game so as not to pamper the playmaker. But Irving had earned the job and it didn’t take him long to show the Cavs and the rest of the NBA that stardom would be in his future.
In just his third game, he had a chance to hit a game-winning layup at Indiana but rolled his shot off the rim. Still, Scott’s decision to give Irving the ball in that situation was a sign the Cavs were ready to put their franchise in the then-19-year-old’s hands.
Irving said that moment of failure was the one he’ll savor most from his first season.
“It was a stepping stone for me,” he said. “It was learning experience and I needed it.”
A month later in Boston, with his father sitting in a courtside seat, Irving had perhaps the defining moment of his season. With the Cavs down by two, Irving, ignoring his failure in a previous situation, drove to the basket, split two defenders and flipped in a left-handed layup to beat the Celtics.
The next day he handled his heroics with humility that was on display all season.
“Just a shot,” he said.
Irving arrived with none of the superstar trappings. There was no entourage or multimillion-dollar shoe contract, no cameras chronicling his every move. Irving chose to blend in.
At the Rising Stars Game during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Irving made all eight 3-pointers to win MVP honors. Posing for a photograph afterward, Irving lowered the crystal he was presented and told the photographer, “Make sure you get the Cleveland” on the front of his jersey.
“That wasn’t a publicity stunt at all,” Irving said when the season ended. “I just wanted to make sure they got the Cleveland uniform in it. We’re not as publicized as everybody else.”
As long as Irving’s around, that will change.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
WESTERN CONFERENCE – FIRST ROUND
Game 1 - Sun. April 29, Utah at San Antonio, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 2 - Wed. May 2, Utah at San Antonio, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Sat. May 5, San Antonio at Utah, 10 p.m., TNT
Game 4 - Mon. May 7, San Antonio at Utah, TBD
Game 5 * Wed. May 9, Utah at San Antonio, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, San Antonio at Utah, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, Utah at San Antonio, TBD
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sat. April 28, Dallas at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 2 - Mon. April 30, Dallas at Oklahoma City, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Thu. May 3, Oklahoma City at Dallas, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 4 - Sat. May 5, Oklahoma City at Dallas, 7:30 p.m., TNT/R
Game 5 * Mon. May 7, Dallas at Oklahoma City, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, Oklahoma City at Dallas, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Dallas at Oklahoma City ,TBD, TNT
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sun. April 29, Denver at L.A. Lakers, 3:30 p.m., ABC/R
Game 2 - Tue. May 1, Denver at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Fri May 4, L.A. Lakers at Denver, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 - Sun. May 6, L.A. Lakers at Denver, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Denver at L.A. Lakers, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, L.A. Lakers at Denver, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Denver at L.A. Lakers, TBD, TNT
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sun. April 29, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 2 - Wed. May 2, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, 9:30 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Sat. May 5, Memphis at L.A. Clippers, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 - Mon. May 7, Memphis at L.A. Clippers, TBD
Game 5 * Wed. May 9, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Memphis at L.A. Clippers, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, L.A. Clippers at Memphis, TBD
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sat. April 28, Philadelphia at Chicago, 1 p.m., TNT
Game 2 - Tue. May 1, Philadelphia at Chicago, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Fri. May 4, Chicago at Philadelphia, 8 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 - Sun. May 6, Chicago at Philadelphia, 1 p.m., ABC
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Philadelphia at Chicago, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, Chicago at Philadelphia, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Philadelphia at Chicago, TBD, TNT
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sat. April 28, New York at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ABC/R
Game 2 - Mon. April 30, New York at Miami, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 3 - Thu. May 3, Miami at New York, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 4 - Sun. May 6, Miami at New York, 3:30 p.m., ABC/R
Game 5 * Wed. May 9, New York at Miami, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Miami at New York, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, New York at Miami, TBD
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sat. April 28, Orlando at Indiana, 7 p.m., ESPN
Game 2 - Mon. April 30, Orlando at Indiana, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 3 - Wed. May 2, Indiana at Orlando, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 4 - Sat. May 5, Indiana at Orlando, 2 p.m., ESPN
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Orlando at Indiana, TBD
Game 6 * Fri. May 11, Indiana at Orlando, TBD
Game 7 * Sun. May 13, Orlando at Indiana, TBD
• SERIES HUB
Game 1 - Sun. April 29, Boston at Atlanta, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 2 - Tue. May 1, Boston at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m., NBA TV
Game 3 - Fri. May 4, Atlanta at Boston, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 4 - Sun May 6, Atlanta at Boston, 7 p.m., TNT
Game 5 * Tue. May 8, Boston at Atlanta, TBD
Game 6 * Thu. May 10, Atlanta at Boston, TBD
Game 7 * Sat. May 12, Boston at Atlanta, TBD, TNT
• SERIES HUB
* if necessary
All times are Eastern
TBD – To Be Determined
R – ESPN radio
By John Clayton | ESPN.com
Peyton Manning’s move from Indianapolis to Denver caused major ripples in the 2012 NFL schedule.
Before Manning’s departure from Indianapolis, networks bid to position themselves to get a couple of Denver Broncos games because of the popularity of Tim Tebow. John Elway changed that. He brought in Manning and shipped off Tebow to be a backup with the Jets, increasing the value of Broncos games.
As long as Manning is healthy and playing like Manning again, his presence changes the landscape for big games this fall. Here are the top matchups to watch this season:
1. Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, Sun., Oct. 7: The Tom Brady-Peyton Manningduel was always the highlight of a season. That game usually set the plate for which team was going to be the best in the AFC, the Patriots or the Colts. Now Manning has a new team and a new challenge. His move to Denver could add four or five wins to the Broncos’ record if he’s healthy. That would turn an 8-8 playoff team into a Super Bowl contender. The Patriots play the league’s easiest schedule, but all of a sudden what looked to be a winnable home game against Tebow got tougher because Manning is the Broncos’ quarterback.
2. San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints, Sun., Nov. 25: The fallout from last season’s playoff game has already made a big impact on the 2012 season. The audio tapes of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams telling his defenders to go for Frank Gore’s head and Michael Crabtree’s ACL are replayed frequently on TV and radio stations. The Saints’ bounty system cost the team suspensions for two coaches, a general manager and possibly players. The week leading up to this game will generate a lot of reflection.
3. Baltimore Ravens versus Pittsburgh Steelers, Sun., Nov. 18 and Sun., Dec. 2: This has become the best rivalry in the NFL now that Joe Flacco has shown he can win against the Steelers’ defense. This game features two of the best hitting teams in football and some of the most ardent fans. Last season, the Ravens finally took the AFC North title, which should cause the Steelers to be more determined.
4. Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, Wed., Sept. 5: The Giants will find out early how tough it will be to repeat as Super Bowl champs and NFC East title holders. The Giants host the Cowboys in the season opener. Despite having an off season in 2011, the NFC East is still a big draw because of the longstanding rivalries. The Cowboys are hoping to rebound from a disappointing season and should have a great training camp knowing they open the season against one of their best rivals.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos, Sun., Sept. 9: Even though this is a repeat of a 2011 playoff game, the stakes could be even bigger. The Steelers had an entire offseason to reflect on losing in overtime against Tim Tebow when he caught them in an untimely blitz. Now they have to come back to the Mile High City to face a Broncos offense that should be better with Peyton Manning.
6. San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers, Sun., Sept. 9 : Now that Alex Smith has been to a championship game, a matchup involving Smith andAaron Rodgers becomes even more fascinating. Rodgers has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Smith is still trying to gain respect, but at least he won over 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who kept Smith as his starter.
7. Carolina Panthers versus New Orleans Saints, Sun., Sept. 16 and Sun., Dec. 30: The best rivalry in the NFC South is the Saints versus the Falcons, but the Panthers-Saints battles this fall should be scrappy. Why? The Panthers are fuming since they heard the Saints put a bounty on their quarterback, Cam Newton. Owner Jerry Richardson is steaming. Players are mad. This could lead to two of the nastiest games of the regular season.
8. New York Jets versus New England Patriots, Sun. Oct. 21 and Thur., Nov. 22: Thanks to Rex Ryan and the Jets’ playoff win in New England after the 2010 season, there is a great edge to these two regular-season AFC East games. The Jets play with a chip on their shoulder, and the Patriots love to knock it off. The Jets’ man-to-man defense creates problems for the Patriots’ passing offense. We’ll see whether the offseason has made the Patriots better equipped to handle those issues.
9. Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers, Sun., Sept. 16: Who can forget the sight of Lions coach Jim Schwartz chasing down 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh after the 49ers’ victory last year? Schwartz didn’t think the 49ers and Harbaugh handled their victory with class. Both teams are geared up with high-energy, emotional defensive players. Both coaches are fiery. Expect a lot of talking and pushing after plays.
10. Green Bay Packers versus Chicago Bears, Thur., Sept. 13 and Sun. Dec. 16: This NFC North rivalry is always a highlight of the season. The Packers have the edge in the division, but the Bears feel better about their chances. They picked up Brandon Marshall to give Jay Cutler a pass-receiving target he feels comfortable with. Bears coach Lovie Smith was hired to beat the Packers. It’s a passion for him.
Above records are for the season series between the two teams
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson has even more in common with Blake Griffin now. Not everything, though.
Robinson, who played through personal tragedy as a sophomore reserve, capped his junior season by being a unanimous selection to The Associated Press’ All-America team Monday, a day after leading the Jayhawks to the Final Four.
The 6-foot-10 Robinson averaged 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds this season and he was a first-team pick by all 65 members of the national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25.
The last unanimous pick was Griffin in 2009.
“It’s a blessing to be named even in the same category as Blake Griffin,” Robinson said. “For that to happen, I’m glad all the hard work is paying off.”
Robinson did find some similarities between them besides being Big 12 Player of the Year.
“That man jumps out the gym. He looks like a superhero when he takes off,” Robinson said. “But we both try to be aggressive. He knows what he does well. I feel the same way. I know what I do well.”
Joining Robinson on the first team wereJared Sullinger of Ohio State, the first repeat All-America in three years, freshman Anthony Davis of Kentucky,Draymond Green of Michigan State andDoug McDermott of Creighton.
Davis received 63 first-team votes while Green, the lone senior on the team, got 53. Sullinger had 30, one more than McDermott. The voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
Robinson received nationwide support as a sophomore when he lost his mother, grandmother and grandfather in a three-week period. He not only became a starter this season, he became a star.
“It’s an unbelievable honor for a kid that came as a semi-highly recruited guy, played seven minutes as a freshman, 10 minutes as a sophomore, endured the tragedies he’s had and then somehow made so many sacrifices, not only for the betterment of himself but the betterment of all of us,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “To be unanimous, it’s just something that blows me away.”
Robinson is Kansas’ first All-America since Wayne Simien in 2005.
The 6-9 Sullinger, who was selected Most Outstanding Player of the East Regional as he led the Buckeyes to the Final Four, is the first repeat All-America since North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough in 2009.
“It means a lot when your name is with Tyler Hansbrough, Psycho T. He was a great basketball player,” Sullinger said with a big smile as he used Hansbrough’s nickname. “It means a lot. I think it’s a credit to my teammates.”
Sullinger, the first player to repeat as a freshman and sophomore since Chris Jackson of LSU in 1989 and 1990, averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 53.9 percent from the field. He is the fourth Ohio State player to repeat joining Jerry Lucas, Robin Freeman and Garry Bradds. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said it’s no surprise Sullinger has already sealed a place in the history of the program.
“I think that’s one of what was important to us when Jared came here,” Matta said. “We knew he was going to be a special player. And to see him get these accolades he has received and won at the level he’s won at speaks volumes to the player he is and that select category and only being a sophomore let’s you know what a great player he is.”
Davis burst onto the national scene as part of the Wildcats team that spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the poll and then entered the NCAA tournament as the overall No. 1 seed. The 6-10 Davis was chosen the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 14.3 points, 10 rebounds and 4.6 blocks while shooting 64.2 percent from the field.
“It means a lot, especially for a freshman,” Davis said before admitting he surprised himself this season. “I thought I would just come in here and hit a couple of shots, block a couple of shots, get a couple of dunks. I never thought I would be this successful in college.”
He said he has been successful because of opportunities.
“My teammates have been doing a great job of giving me the ball,” he said. “And basically, all the teams that were driving inside, giving me a chance to get blocks. We’re just out there having fun.”
The 6-7 Green averaged 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals while doing everything the Spartans needed on the way to sharing the Big Ten regular season title, winning the conference tournament and being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
He is Michigan State’s fourth first-team selection joining Magic Johnson, Shawn Respert and Mateen Cleaves.
“It’s an honor because those are the guys who I looked up to, paved the way for me, starting with Magic and going to Respert and Cleaves,” Green said. “Those guys, every time I walk into the gym I see their names up in the rafters and that’s a goal that everyone has who’s playing. Just being mentioned in the same sentence with those guys means a lot. All of them are winners, all of them are great players and all of them are successful and great people.”
McDermott is Creighton’s first All-America and he joins three-time selection Pete Maravich of LSU as All-Americas coached by their fathers.
The 6-7 sophomore was third in Division I in scoring with a 23.2 average. He averaged 8.2 rebounds and shot 61 percent from the field, including 49.5 percent from 3-point range.
“It’s really special. It really hasn’t hit me yet. Later down the road it will,” McDermott said of his selection. “It’s something real cool to be in the company of some of those names. Creighton never had one. It’s really cool to be able to be the first, especially with all the great players who have been at Creighton over the years.”
Coaching a son who is the star of the team did bring about a different problem for Greg McDermott.
“It could be a situation where if your son was a borderline player that your fans get upset if you put him in the game,” he said. “Our fans get upset if I take him out.”
Sullinger was the only member of the preseason All-America team to make any of the postseason teams. Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut andJordan Taylor of Wisconsin were honorable mentions. Terrence Jones of Kentucky was the fifth member of the preseason team.
It’s going to be worth it.
For sports fans, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is as good as it gets. The Super Bowl may receive more hype, and watching your hometown team play in the World Series or NBA Finals is hard to beat.
But on a national level, no event is as highly anticipated by such a wide range of fans as the NCAA tournament. And no sport can match the excitement that will unfold time and time again during the “round of 64” games that take place Thursday and Friday.
Now that most of you have made your picks and turned in your brackets, here are some things to keep an eye on over the next two days.
Five best round of 64 games
No. 8 Iowa State vs. No. 9 Connecticut (South Region) – After finishing ninth in the Big East last season, the Huskies won their final 11 games en route to a national championship. The chances of that happening again this year appear slim, especially with a potential round of 32 game looming against Kentucky. Still, Jim Calhoun’s squad is loaded with NBA talent (Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb) and experience. Its tilt with the Royce White-led Cyclones should be an entertaining one.
No. 8 Creighton vs. No. 9 Alabama (Midwest Region)– Any little league basketball coach should have his team watch Creighton. Greg McDermott’s squad plays the game the right way. The Bluejays share the ball on offense, take high-percentage shots and genuinely relish each others’ success. They also feature one of the nation’s top players in Doug McDermott (Greg’s son). The 6-foot-7 sophomore will be challenged by an Alabama squad that’s known as one of the top defensive teams in the country.
No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 North Carolina State (Midwest Region) – Don’t let the Wolfpack’s low seed fool you. With players such as C.J. Leslie andLorenzo Brown, Mark Gottfried touts the most talented team in the ACC behind North Carolina and Duke. NC State, which is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006, has won four of its past five games. San Diego State, though, will be a tough out. The Aztecs had won six in a row before falling to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament title game.
No. 5 Wichita State vs. No. 12 VCU (South Region) – VCU became the biggest story of last year’s NCAA tournament when it went all the way from the “First Four” in Dayton to the Final Four in Houston. This year Wichita State hopes to end the Rams’ run before it truly starts. The Shockers are generally regarded as the top mid-major team in America. Gregg Marshall’s squad is a solid seven deep, with underrated point guard Joe Ragland leading the way along with 7-foot center Garrett Stutz. Both players are seniors.
No. 5 New Mexico vs. No. 12 Long Beach State (West Region) – Steve Alford’s New Mexico squad shared the Mountain West regular-season title with San Diego State before winning the league tournament. In Drew Gordon (13.4 points, 10.9 rebounds) the Lobos feature one of the field’s best-kept secrets. Led by Cousy Award finalist Casper Ware, Long Beach State is a senior-laden team that played nonconference games at Kansas, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Louisville. The 49ers won’t be intimidated by the big stage.
Best round of 64 coaching matchups
Gonzaga’s Mark Few vs. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (East Region) – By their own standards, Few and Huggins have had somewhat “down” years. Gonzaga failed to win at least a piece of the West Coast Conference title for the first time in 11 years. West Virginia squeaked into the tournament despite losing eight of its final 12 games. Still, these are two of the top game tacticians in the country.
Florida’s Billy Donovan vs. Virginia’s Tony Bennett (West Region) – The Gators have won two NCAA titles under Donovan, who likes to push the tempo. Meanwhile, no coach is as good at controlling the pace of a game as Bennett, whose team averages 63.1 points a game. Only one team in the last month (Maryland) has cracked the 70-point barrier against Virginia, and the Terps needed overtime to do it. The contrast in styles between these two coaches should make the game interesting.
Memphis’ Josh Pastner vs. Saint Louis’ Rick Majerus (West Region) – Pastner is the 34-year-old wunderkind who is regarded as one of the profession’s rising stars. Majerus has 516 career wins and took Utah to the NCAA title game in 1998. Beating such a highly regarded coach in the NCAA tournament would do wonders for Pastner, whose reputation has already begun to soar. Memphis has won 11 of its past 12 contests and won the Conference USA title by a commanding two games.
Saint Mary’s’ Randy Bennett vs. Purdue’s Matt Painter (Midwest Region) – Bennett has turned Saint Mary’s into a mid-major power by winning 25 or more games in each of the past five seasons. This season his Gaels became the first team in 11 years other than Gonzaga to win the outright West Coast Conference title. Painter’s Purdue squads are always among the top defensive teams in the country. The Boilermakers aren’t as good as they’ve been in years past, but Painter will have them prepared for Saint Mary’s.
Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall vs. VCU’s Shaka Smart (South Region) – Both coaches are rumored to be in line for bigger jobs (and bigger paychecks) at the end of the season. Granted, they may not want to leave their current schools. Marshall has the Shockers back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. Smart took VCU to the Final Four last season and is hoping for another big run this month.
Best Round of 64 Individual Matchups
Florida State’s Bernard James vs. St. Bonaventure’sAndrew Nicholson (East Region) – The 6-foot-10 James, who averages 2.3 blocks, will have his hands full trying to stop a forward who has averaged more than 16 points in each of the past three seasons. James is fortunate in that he has already faced some of the country’s top big men (Tyler Zeller, John Henson,Mason Plumlee, Mike Scott, etc.) in the ACC.
UNLV’s Mike Moser vs. Colorado’s Andre Roberson(South Region) – Two of the nation’s top rebounders will go head-to-head when the Runnin’ Rebels meet the Buffaloes. Moser averages 10.6 rebounds per game, while Roberson snares 11.6 per contest.
Gonzaga’s Elias Harris vs. West Virginia’s Kevin Jones – Jones would’ve likely been the Big East Player of the Year and a first-team All-American had the Mountaineers not floundered so badly down the stretch. With averages of 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, the 6-8 260-pounder is one of the most versatile players in the country. His size makes him a tough matchup, but Harris (6-7, 240) is big enough to handle the chore.
Alabama’s JaMychal Green vs. Creighton’s Doug McDermott (Midwest Region) – Green had better get plenty of sleep before his team takes on Creighton. He’ll need all the energy he can muster to keep up with the 6-7 McDermott, who can score from anywhere on the court. McDermott ranks third in the country with a scoring average of 23.2 points per game.
Baylor’s backcourt vs. South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters (South Region) – Wolters averages 21.3 points per game and, at 6-4, he’s a tough matchup for opposing guards. The Bears have plenty of backcourt depth, so expect Pierre Jackson, A.J. Walton, Brady Heslip,Deuce Bello and Gary Franklin to take their turns pestering Wolters, who scored 34 points against Washington earlier this season.
Five potential round of 64 upsets
No. 14 Belmont over No. 3 Georgetown (Midwest Region) – The Hoyas lost their opening game in each of the past two seasons and haven’t made it to the second weekend since 2007. Belmont lost to Duke by one point in its season opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Bruins, who have won 14 straight, are a strong No. 14 seed.
No. 12 Long Beach State over No. 5 New Mexico (West Region) – The 49ers won at Pittsburgh and lost by single digits at Kansas and North Carolina. They’ll have a chance in this one, but only if guard Larry Anderson (knee) is able to play. Long Beach State is led by former Gonzaga and Minnesota head coach Dan Monson.
No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Wisconsin (East Region) – The Grizzlies have lost just one game since Dec. 10. Wisconsin, which finished fourth in the Big Ten, has had a solid season. The Badgers, however, play a slow style that makes them vulnerable to upsets. Eight of Wisconsin’s last nine wins have been by single digits.
No. 15 Detroit over No. 2 Kansas (Midwest Region) – Kansas’ history of floundering against mid-major teams (Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, VCU) makes this game interesting. Detroit touts a McDonald’s All-America point guard in Ray McCallum Jr., and 6-foot-10 center Eli Holman began his career at Indiana before transferring to Detroit. He and 6-foot-11 teammate LaMarcus Lowe could create problems for Thomas Robinson.
No. 13 Davidson over No. 4 Louisville (West Region) – This isn’t Stephen Curry’s Davidson team, but Bob McKillop’s squad is dangerous, nonetheless. Davidson defeated Kansas 80-74 in Kansas City back on Dec. 19. And the Wildcats went an impressive 16-2 in their conference. Louisville is one of the country’s best defensive teams, but overall, the Cardinals have a small margin for error.
INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Committee announced Sunday (March 4th) the field of 64 teams that will compete in the 2012 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship.
Twenty-two conferences have been awarded automatic qualification. The remaining 42 teams were selected at large by the committee.
Seven of the regional tournaments, consisting of eight teams each, will be conducted March 10, 11 and 13 at regional sites. The West regional will be conducted March 9, 10 and 12. The eight regional champions will advance to the quarterfinals in conjunction with the 2012 NCAA Division II Men’s quarterfinals at the Bank of Kentucky Center in Highland Heights, Ky. The quarterfinals will be conducted March 21, 22 and 24.
|California Collegiate Athletic Association||Humboldt State|
|Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference||Bloomfield|
|Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association||Winston-Salem State|
|East Coast Conference||C.W. Post|
|Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Findlay|
|Great Lakes Valley Conference||Southern Indiana|
|Great Northwest Athletic Conference||Montana State Billings|
|Gulf South Conference||Alabama-Huntsville|
|Heartland Conference||St. Mary’s (Texas)|
|Lone Star Conference||Midwestern State|
|Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association||Washburn|
|Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference||Southwest Minnesota State|
|Pacific West Conference||Dixie State|
|Peach Belt Conference||Montevallo|
|Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference||East Stroudsburg|
|Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference||Colorado School of Mines|
|South Atlantic Conference||Wingate|
|Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||Benedict|
|Sunshine State Conference||Florida Southern|
|West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference||West Liberty|
Schools Receiving At-Large Berths
|Cal State Chico|
|District of Columbia|
|Minnesota State Moorhead|
|Missouri Southern State|
|Northwest Missouri State|
|South Carolina Aiken|
|St. Cloud State|
|West Texas A&M|
|West Virginia Wesleyan|
By Ashley Fox
Peyton Manning is getting cut.
Let that sink in.
One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, some would say the most technically sound man to ever play the position, is getting cut. Peyton Manning. The assassin. The leader. The face of the Indianapolis Colts‘ franchise. A man so ruthless with the football that Bill Belichick, of all people, famously feared him.
Cut. Gone. Done. Thanks for playing. See you in Canton.
It is like the Chicago Bulls waving goodbye to Michael Jordan, or the Edmonton Oilers saying farewell to Wayne Gretzky. There are no fairytales, not in professional sports, only reminders of how harsh a business it is.
If Peyton Manning can get cut, no one in the NFL is safe.
This has been coming for weeks, since the two sides fired up their spin machines shortly before the NFL arrived in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. It had to end like this because of how Manning’s contract was structured.
But the news is jarring nonetheless, and it left me with this: Jim Irsay better be right.
For Irsay’s tweeting sake, Manning better be done. He better not be able to throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield. He better not be able to win or to scare defenses so badly that they never blitz for fear of leaving a receiver open for Manning to hit.
Manning’s win total better be stuck on 141, his passing touchdowns on 399, his regular-season starts at 208, his passing yards at a ridiculous 54,828, his NFL MVP honors at four, his division titles won on eight, his Super Bowl appearances at two and his Super Bowl MVP awards at one.
Manning at 36 years old — his birthday is March 24 — better not be Manning at 33, still able to lead a team, to direct a franchise, to win 10 games, to win the AFC South, to reach the playoffs. He better not join Washington or Miami or Kansas City or Arizona or the New York Jets or whichever team opens its doors to him and, off his fierce competitiveness, turn them into a winner as he did in Indianapolis. He better not be out there pointing and waving and calling plays and making adjustments as he did so masterfully for 13 seasons in Indianapolis.
Irsay better be right, or he will go down as the man who cut Peyton Manning, potentially the G.O.A.T., before it was time. In a Midwestern city that loves its quarterback’s loyalty, his charity, his family and his professionalism, Irsay better be right or he will never be forgiven. That beautiful stadium downtown very well might go dark.
Every franchise quarterback wants to be John Elway or Dan Marino, Troy Aikman or Terry Bradshaw. Joe Montana didn’t want to leave San Francisco. Brett Favre didn’t want to leave Green Bay. They wanted to finish what they started, to keep playing, keep grinding, keep winning.
The 49ers had Steve Young waiting. The Packers had Aaron Rodgers. Those were sound business decisions that worked out better for the teams than for the veterans. Montana finished up in Kansas City and Favre, it seems, is finally done after stops with the Jets and Minnesota.
The Colts have the No. 1 pick in the draft. They have a clear path to Andrew Luck, a quarterback most analysts have tabbed as the real thing, a can’t-miss prospect, a legitimate longtime starter. Luck is coming from a pro-style offense and played the majority of his career for Jim Harbaugh.
Had the Colts not been in position to draft Luck, maybe they would’ve worked harder to restructure Manning’s deal. Maybe they would’ve pushed to keep Manning, to let his career end the way it should — in a Colts uniform, chasing a third Super Bowl appearance, trying to become the fourth quarterback to win a Super Bowl after the age of 35.
But Luck was there. The pick was there. It all set up for this ending.
With the information he had at the moment and given the deadline to make a decision, Irsay really had no choice but to cut Manning. It would have been fiscally irresponsible to pay a $28 million bonus to a soon-to-be 36-year-old coming off four neck surgeries who didn’t play a snap last season when you have a potential starter coming in at a greatly reduced price.
Irsay probably is right. It makes sense. But with so many variables, we can’t be sure yet. We will have to wait and see.
Can Luck make the transition to the pros? Can he learn, and adapt, and do so quickly? Will he have enough help? Will the Colts be able to build around him as they did around Manning, and do so relatively quickly?
And what of Manning? Can he throw? Can he get his arm strength back? Which team will sign him, and will it give Manning the control he craves? Will there be the pieces in place to win in 2012?
Irsay’s decision to cut Manning closes the book on Manning’s Colts career, but the story is not over. There are chapters still to write.
Manning is fiercely competitive. He will want to make Irsay rue the day he cut him.
More than anything, Manning will want to prove Irsay wrong. Irsay better hope he was right.
Ashley Fox is an NFL columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @AshleyMFox.