February 08, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Canes, Heat, NFL, Tiger, Cats, Dean Smith, Marlins, Fins, Brian Williams; plus verdict on Suh & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ndamukong Suh-to-Dolphins poll, Incognito joins Bills, 7 Canes at Combine, Terrell Williams, death of newspapers video & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 8: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Mixed reviews for UM recruiting class: ESPN rated Miami’s National Signing Day class No. 23 in the country, with most other outlets ranking it lower. Perpetually disgruntled Canes fans face the usual dilemma: Wishing the best for UM while also wanting coach Al Golden gone. What to do!? Oh, the conundrum!

2. HEAT: Once-proud team sputtering to All-Star break: The darlings of the LeBron James Era seek answers, with Dwyane Wade still out injured, the guard play abysmal and Miami now struggling to maintain playoff pace -- Hassan Whiteside the bright spot. Chris Bosh said the season is “slipping away.” Volunteers to stop the slide are encouraged to raise their hand.

3. CANES HOOPS: Moment of truth for “bubble” Canes: Coach Jim Larrañaga’s UM men have been mostly mediocre since that 8-0 start. Now they’re 14-8 after three losses in a row entering today's/Sunday’s key home date with Clemson. Canes are down to “bubble” status on NCAA Tournament watch lists. Many more losses and that bubble bursts.

4. NFL: Super Bowl, dramatic ending draw record numbers: The Patriots’ 28-24 win over Seattle was the most-watched TV telecast in U.S. history with a record 115.1 million viewers and was the highest-rated Super Bowl in 30 years. Um, what was that you were saying about how Ray Rice et al would damage the NFL’s popularity?

5. GOLF: Woods is unraveling for all to see: In the past two weeks, Tiger Woods — who last won a major in 2008 — lost a front tooth, missed the cut of his PGA Tour season debut after a career-worst 82, and then withdrew from the latest tournament with a back ailment. He’s unraveling! On the bright side: Tiger made $55 million on 2014.

6. PANTHERS: Florida beefs up front office: The hockey club has added longtime Philadelphia Flyers boss Peter Luukko as a a new team executive. I'd be more impressed if the club had added a team that could actually  make the NHL playoffs for a blessed change.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83: Smith led North Carolina to 11 NCAA Final Fours and two national championships. Tobacco Road weeps today. Well, except for those !@#$%^s at Duke.

8. MARLINS: High hopes as spring training nears: Team prepares to open spring training in Jupiter Feb. 20 with new additions and unusually high hopes. With Heat and Panthers struggling it's time for Jeffrey Loria to save us. (Did I really just say that!?)

9. DOLPHINS: Stadium redesign adds upscale seating: There will be 16 four-seat "living rooms" available starting at $6,000 per game. My thought? Watch the game in your own living room and save 6,000 bucks.

10. TELEVISION: NBC's Brian Williams in hot water: NBC News anchor claimed to have been in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 -- a tale now proved false. We now hear Williams admits it was not him who guaranteed and quarterbacked the Jets' 1968 Super Bowl win.

Poll results: Dolfans want Suh, but with some reservations: We asked in the previous blogpost if the Dolphins should pursue free agent-to-be defensive tackle Ndmaukong Suh (you may still vote), and it was 57.0 percent yes. However 28.8% said "avoid him like the plague" and 14.2% were undecided.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

January 09, 2015

Who'll win Super Bowl, and who you want to. Two new polls. Vote now!; plus NFL pix, Shula right on "Beli-cheat," Bosh acting, Canes' big win, mouthy relatives & more


RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.


1aa1acharlie1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 10. Happy anniversary to my wife, the greatest person I know! 2) Charlie Hebdo forever. Terrorists don't get it and never will: They don't weaken freedom. They strengthen it. 3) Ex-Dolphin Rob Konrad swims nine miles to shore, saves own life. Story and video here. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolfans and media wrong to blast Tannenbaum hire, Cane to Fins in draft?, Bonds/Clemens verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Chris Bosh, actor: Watch the Heat's Bosh in Funny or Die's 'Tall Justice 2.' It's awful. Then again, it's only 2 minutes. Click here.

HOW BETTING, ROOTING INTERESTS DIFFER WITH NFL'S FINAL EIGHT: With the NFL down to its final eight teams entering this weekend's playoffs, what team do you predict will win the Super Bowl? Now, 1aa1adivnflwhat team do you hope wins it all? Odds are, those answers are different. Who you predict will win asks your dispassionate view, as if you were a nuetral observer laying a big bet. Who you hope will win purely asks your rooting interest. I'm interested in how different those two things might be. Hence, this poll. Top poll asks who you honestly think will win it all. Bottom poll asks who you'd most like to win. Vote in both and say why.

OUR NFL DIVISIONAL-ROUND PLAYOFF PICKS: With eight you get not eggroll (obscure, mathematically 1aa1afripix
challenged reference to 1968 movie), but rather the Divisional Round playoffs. Click on Divisional Gems for all of our latest, expanded prediction capsules. No upsets this weekend, but two teams won't cover. Click on Seven And One for my Friday NFL column. I detail why this is an excellent array of teams, why Dallas in it is money in the bank, and how Carolina is the lone outlier looking up at seven other franchises with championship heft.

SHULA, "BELI-CHEAT" AND THE TRUTH: Don Shula referred to Pats coach Bill Belichick as "Beli-cheat" in a recent Sun-Sentinel piece pegged on Shula's 85th birthday. The general reaction has been A) huffing 1aa1abilldonand puffing that it is unbecoming of a Hall of Fame coach to name-call another coach, or B) amusement along the lines of, "When you're that age you get to say anything you want." I'm a little of both. Prudently, Shula probably shouldn't have gone there, but age and retirement do bring you some latitude. My main point in Shula's defense: Truth. Belichick did cheat, in the 2007 "Spygate" incident that brought Belichick a record $500,000 NFL fine and the Pats a forfeited first-round draft pick. If that's personal to Shula, even seven years later, it's because Belichick's '07 Pats nearly ,atched the Dolphins's '72 Perfect Season, and would have done so sullied by that controversy. You can say calling Belichick out was beneath Shula, but The Don wasn't lyin'.

CANES' BIG WIN UNDERLINES COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S PROBLEM: Katie Meier's UM women stunned No. 1aa1aamotley4 Notre Dame here last night, 78-63, led by 32 points from Adrienne Motley (pictured). It ended ND's 30-game road winning streak. It was the Canes' biggest win since beating No. 5 Duke in 2013. It makes UM 12-3 and will catapult the team into the next Top 25. (Miami's men are solid, too, at 10-4). Here's the problem, and it's sport-wide. College basketball's regular-season doesn't matter. What teams do now and rankings now are weightless. All that counts is what the two UM teams do in the ACC tournament and whether they get into the NCAA Tournament. Everything else is a preamble.

RELATIVES OF ATHLETES, PLEASE SHUT UP: Jameis Winston now says he is still seriously considering a
1aa1adadjwreturn to FSU, after his father (pictured) revealed he'd decided to turn pro. He likley will enter the NFL Draft, but the point is, why should Dad be announcing his son's intentions. We see this all across sports, from Duke Johnson's mother to Brent Grimes' wife to Derrick Rose's brother and more -- loved ones getting a little too mouthy on social media and putting their favorite athletes in squirmy situations. Dear parents, wives and other sycophant, spotlight-glomming relatives: It isn't about you. Shut up, please.

Check back a lot because we update and add to our latest blogposts a lot, and also because I asked you nicely...

November 19, 2014

Is your opinion of Jeffrey Loria changing for better? Poll. Vote!; plus how Giancarlo $tanton celebrated (with pix); also Larranaga's Angel, new SOPY rank, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Schitt's Creek & more

1AA1ACADC1) It is THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20. I'm at Friday Page Headquarters today creating my Week 12 NFL predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's call. 2) AC/DC have a newe song out, "Rock Or Bust," from a forthcoming new album. Listen. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NASCAR dodges bullet at Homestead, Dolphins/NFL playoff picture, Kim Kardashian as a horse, Gary Shelton & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Click on Now, The Pressure for today's latest column, off the Marlins press conference making official Giancarlo Stanton's megadeal.


1aa1amoetgs 1aa1amoet3How $tanton celebrated his new megadeal:
(Yes, we've made the S in $tanton a dollar sign): Giancarlo $tanton's new 13-year, $325 million Marlins contract is being announced officially today, but $tanton celebrated late Monday, at the trendy FDR nightclub at Miami's tragically hip Delano hotel. He has officially entered the orbit of self-celebration that we saw the Heat's Big 3 perfect the past four years. According to TMZ, and seen here, $tanton was partying at 3 a.m. Tuesday with friends "and some very attractive ladies" and a $20,000 bottle of champagne that had been "gifted" him by a Miami party queen named "Julz." Yes, I said a $20,000 bottle of champagne. It was Moet Nectar Imperial Rose' Leopard Luxury Edition Methuselah, one of only 60 made, a 6-liter bottle coated in 22-carat gold leaf. Top that, D-Wade!
 

1aa1ajloria

WILL STANTON DEAL TRANSFORM JEFFREY LORIA'S IMAGE WITH FANS?:
 In my most recent column I write about the impact of the Giancarlo Stanton megadeal on the popularity of owner Jeffrey Loria. Click on Image Makeover to read the column in full. Will locking up Stanton for at least six more seasons (and as many as 13 more) do the trick for Loria? It can't hurt. Loria's unpopularity has run deep, rooted in years of gross underspending on payrolls and product. But now Mr. Cheap has OK'd a contract that would be a record $325 million over the full 13 years. How has that impacted the general opinion of Loria? There's only one way to find out. Ask. So I'm asking. Take a dip in our poll and vote what best reflects your attitude, right now, about Jeffrey Loria.

1aa1aangelrA HEAVEN-SENT ANGEL FOR CANES HOOPS: Miami Hurricanes stunned No. 8 Florida 69-67 in basketball Monday night ending the Gators' 33-game home winning streak, thanks to 24 points including a game-winning prayer 3 from guard Angel Rodriguez, a transfer from Kansas State. Jim Larranaga's guys are now 2-0 and likely to bomb into the Top 25 now.

SOPY: CANE VS. NOLE FOR STATE TITLE DOWN THE STRETCH: Looking like Miami's Duke Johnson vs. Florida State's Jameis Winston, each with two games to play, vying for season honors in our blog-1aa1asopyexclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Because our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 13:

SOPY WEEK 12 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk12    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         173     1,725

2 (2)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         161     1,611

3 (3)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      BYE    1,399.5 

4 (4)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            175     1,247.5

5 (5)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb          179.5    1,240.5

6 (6)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec        53       1,070

7 (8)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb           141.5    1,055.5

8 (7)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            98       1,055

9 (9)       Matt Jones, Florida-rb              69        868

10 (10)     Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb      BYE      780

Bubble: Karlos Williams, FSU-rb, 769. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: Florida and UCF have played 9 games; Miami, FSU, FAU and USF have played 10; and FIU has played 11.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 10: 1. FSU (10-0); 2. Miami (6-4); 3. UCF (6-3); 4. Florida (5-4); 5. SoFla (4-6); 6. FIU (4-7); 7. FAU (3-7).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: SLUMPING PICKS, SURGING LOBOS IN WEEK 11: We update you briefly every 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixTuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: Still lagging. Having a strong season, but our lull continues. Went 8-6 overall and 7-7 vs. the spread. Did hit our Upset of the Week call with Pats over Colts ("Aawwk!") and also had 'dog Texans, Rams and Raiders with points. Fantasy: Surge continues. Greg's Lobos won a third straight to make it 5-6 and move within one game of playoff pace with three to go. Won ugly, 88-76, my top scorer the 49ers defense with 15 points. But won. Go 'Bos!

1aa1aschittscreekCAN I SAY 'SCHITT'S CREEK' IN A BLOG? YES, I THINK SO: Cable's TV Guide Network, rebranding to the Pop network in January, has signed it's first scripted series: Schitt's Creek, a Canadian comedy starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. (Schitt, of course, is a legitimate if unfortunate German surname). I'll give the show a try. Have liked Levy and O'Hara since their SCTV days; loved them in the movie Best Of Show. Also look forward to hearing a television announcer intone, "Coming up next ... Schitt's Creek!"

Check back often because we're constantly updating and adding to our latest blogposts...

November 10, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 40.3%; plus Miami falls to Lions in last minute 20-16; also new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Rooting-for-or-against-LeBron poll, state Collball Week 11 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Our Dolphins-Lions gameblog and postgame thoughts are immediately below the new DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G9: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 40.3 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Sunday's 20-16 loss at Detroit putting Miami's season record at 5-4. 1aa1adsm(That's the season best mark following a defeat). The DSM, in its seventh season, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2014 DSM results

G1: 96.4% (following 33-20 victory vs. New England)

G2: 12.2% (following 29-10 loss at Buffalo)

G3: 2.0% (following 34-15 loss vs. Kansas City)

G4: 62.3% (following 38-14 victory vs. Oakland in London)

G5: 14.2% (following 27-24 loss vs. Green Bay)

G6: 80.7% (following 27-14 victory at Chicago)

G7: 63.2% (following 27-13 victory at Jacksonville)

G8: 97.4% (following 37-0 victory vs. San Diego)

G9: 40.3% (following 20-16 loss at Detroit)

Next poll: Thursday, Nov. 13 (following game vs.Buffalo)

G9: DOLPHINS @ DETROIT: FAILING TO BRING THE MIAMI SOUND TO MOTOWN: Final: Three-game winning streak ends as Dolphins fall to 5-4 and see playoff shot take a hit, a defeat compounded by left tackle Branden Albert's season-ending knee injury. Heartbreak loss as Miami fought from an early 10-0 deficit to take a late lead before giving it up with 29 seconds left. Bottom line? Miami got beat on pass defense as Matthew Stafford threw for 288 yards and Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate both topped 100 yards receiving. Miami also got beat for its red-zone shortco ing, as with settling for three in the fourth quarter from a 1st-and-goal situation. That gave Miami a 16-13 lead but it turned out to be the losing field goal. A hard-fought game by Dolphins, not a shameful loss by any means. But a hurtful loss nonetheless. ..... Fourth quarter: Sure would be nice to have that one timeout Miami used on defense. ... Theo Riddick 11-yard TD pass from Stafford with 29 seconds left. Good coverage by Reshad Jones, but not good enough. ... Miami gets final timeout back after Philbin argues he never called it. ... Fins back up 16-13 on 20-yard kick after Charles Clay drops TD pass in the e-zone. ... DET knots it 13-13 early in fourth on 5-yard kick. ..... Third quarter: Dolphins' first lead at 13-10 as Tannehill-Wallace 3-yard TD pass immediately followed a long Dion Jordan block-field goal return to the 3. Earl Mitchell had the block. ... MIA within 10-6 on 50-yard FG. Lions momentum has been negated. It's a game again. ... Ugh. Dabiel Thomas loses fumble on first possession. ..... Halftime: It's the defensive struggle we thought it would be. Miami has only 103 total yards and must find a qay to spark the offense. Imbalance in the Fins attack so far, with Tannehill at 20 pass attempts and the team only 10-for-18 rushing. Have the conceded the run? We'll see. Miami gets kick to start second half. Feels like Dolphins lucky to be only down by a touch. ..... Second quarter: Miami within 10-3 on 23-yard FG just before half. ... Oy! LT Branden Albert leaves game injured. ... Grimes interception gets it right back for Miami! ... Tannehill intercepted; his own tackle prevents pick-6. ... Tannehill overthrows Wallace on a deep ball ... Lions try another fake punt -- ballsy! -- but Miami stops it. ... Miami's luck so far: Fake punt is sucessful but penalty negates the first down. Penalties hurting. ..... First quarter: Fins O-line is being overwhelmed. ... DET 10-0 on 49-yard Calvin "Megatron" Johnson catch over much-smaller Brent Grimes. Gorgeous deep pass by Matthew Stafford. ... Quick punt for Miami. Ndamukong Suh having his way with Fins OL. ... Koa Misi defensive stop has Detroit settling for short FG and 3-0 lead on drive extended by successful fake punt. Thought Miami defense played well even though Lions controlled ball for 15 plays. ..... Original post: Eliminate Dolfans and Lions fans, extract the partisanship and remove the betting/fantasy factor. This would still be a game that football fans
1aa1adoldetshould want to watch as the second half of the NFL season kicks off. It weighs in both conference's playoff chase. It involves two of the best defenses in the league. And it matches an improving Dolphins offense -- Miami has averaged 30.6 points since Week 4 -- and a Detroit squad getting top weapon Calvin Johnson back. This will be a huge test for Miami's pass defense especially because, apart from the Megatron factor, Golden Tate has been a handful. Should be fun to watch. I'm not convinced the Lions are better than just pretty good. Last time I watched them they were really lucky to beat awful Atlanta by a point in London. Also, erratic Matthew Stafford usually is a decent bet for a pick or two, and I think the Fins' pass rush will bother him. Detroit is favored here by 3, meaning oddsmakers see it dead-even apart from the home-field factor. My pick: Dolphins, 23-20.

Georgia RB Gurley to Dolphins?: NFLDraftScout.com has its 2015 mock draft out, estimates Miami picking 21st, and has the Dolphins selecting Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Click here for the full first-round guesstimates.

THE LIST: BEST DOLPHINS GAMES VS. DETROIT: This is only 11th all-time meeting between the clubs; Miami leads 7-3. Dolphins have faced only the Giants fewer times (7) among franchises that have been around as long. Most indivdiual passing, rushing and receiving yards by a Dolphin vs. the Lions:

Category         Player                    Yards / Date     

Passing            Dan Marino            310 / Dec. 7, 1997

Rushing           Lamar Smith          125 / Nov. 5, 2000

Receiving        Marty Booker          115 / Nov. 23, 2006

Poll result: Heat fans are rooting against LeBron: We asked in the previous blogpost, and "rooting against" beat "rooting for" by a nearly 4-1 margin, 58.6 percent to 15.2.0%. The other 26.2% answered that they are "pretty much ignoring" LeBron this season.

HOT BUTTON NOV. 9: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, an expanded, updated Hot Button Top 10. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Detroit Sunday, then quick Thursday turnaround: Here's your early holiday gift, Dolfans. Two games -- two important games -- in five days, starting in Motown today, then following with Buffalo here Thursday night.

2. Hurricanes: Idle Canes preparing to host FSU in six days: It's No. 2 FSU here Saturday at 8 p.m. Jameis Winston's lawyers want his student conduct code hearing delayed. UM lawyers counter-propose that the hearing be scheduled for Saturday at 8 p.m. 

3. Heat: Miami, LeBron both win: Heat won last night to improve to 4-2, and LeBron's Cavs also won their last game to go to 2-3. Take a picture of the standings. Might not be much longer that Miami has the better record.

4. College basketball: Canes open season on Friday at home: NCAA hoops tips off in five days, with Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes men hosting Howard after Katie Meier's women face Oakland. Both UM teams are judged mid-pack in the ACC, suggesting March Madness may be closer to March Mildness in the 305.

5. NASCAR: One week until season crescendo at Homestead: Today in Phoenix determines the final four drivers eligible for NASCAR's season title next Sundday at Homestead. Winner will be whichever driver has fastest car, or the most luck avoiding the vindictive non-qualifiers hell-bent on running the finalists into a wall.

6. Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod's latest shame: It was reported The Yankees' fading star, under oath, admitted all about his PED use to DEA agents, while still continuing to publicly deny all wrongdoing. We thought he was cheat. Turned out he was a cheat, and a lliar.

7. Stephen Ross: Dolphins owner puts business over football: Ross agreed to have Miami play a "home game" against the division rival Jets in London next year, denying the team one of eight home games, and cheating Dolfans of the joy of booing their most hated rival.

8. Marlins: Club begins contract talks with Stanton: Giancarlo Stanton, who finds out Thursday if he is the NL MVP, has begun talks with club about possibly re-signing long-term. Hope Jeffrey Loria isn't involved. Writing a check with that many commas must make him nauseous. 

9. Panthers: Hockey team loses, but at least finds the net: Florida lost 6-4 last night to the Calgary Flames. The good news? Cats topped two goals for only the second time all season.

10. Soccer: Strikers reach NASL title game: Fort Lauderdale Strikers will visit San Antonio next Saturday in the NASL championship game, the club's first shot at a title since the 1980 Soccer bowl in the original NASL. Holy Cor van der Hart!

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

April 28, 2014

G4: Heat 109, Charlotte 98: Sweep = sleep!; plus new Dolphins draft projections, NBA racist-owner poll, Panthers, Dr. Jack, Ireland, Herald & more

1aa1amichotwalt1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 29. Demolition has begun on the iconic Miami Herald building, and Walt Michot's photo here is worth a thousdand words, all of them sad. 2) Jay Z and Beyonce's summer tour will kick off June 25 at Dolphins stadium. 3) ICYMI, click on The Perfect Quarterback for our column on the death of Dolphins icon Earl Morrall. It generated a voluminous positive reaction. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte G3 with preview/live blog/postgame thoughts/Sunday reflections, Dolphins best-game result & more. 5) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

Panthers fire coach: The Florida Panthers today fired coach Peter Horacheck. It isn't a susprise in the least. They never removed the "interm" tag from him, he did not spark a notable turnaround, and the Cats need a replacement with more NHL experience. With an impressive young nucleus of talent and the No. 1 overall draft pick coming, Florida has a fairly inviting roster. Now GM Dale Tallon must find a premier goal-scorer and make the right coaching hire to re-energize a listing franchise.

No radio today: No me today on the Dan Le Batard Show. I'll be on Friday this week instead.

DOLPHINS LATEST DRAFT PROJECTIONS: ESPN dueling Mock Drafters Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay crap their latest guesswork today and Kiper has Miami selecting Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley 19th overall, while McShay has the Fins picking Virginia tackle Morgan Moses. They have Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin -- the guy Miami really wants -- going 15th and 17th, respectively. Sounds like a trade-up for Martin may be the way to go.

Seahawks hire Jeff Ireland as a temp: Champion Seattle has hired ex-Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland as a consultant through next month's draft. Explained coach Pete Carroll: "We were tired of all this success." Naw, Pete didn't really say that. But Seattle really DID hire Ireland.

G4 FINAL: HEAT 109, CHARLOTTE 98: SWEEP = SLEEP: Postgame: Miami sweeps Charlotte 4-0 with tonight's triumph led by LeBron James' 31 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Now let the playoffs begin! I mean the real playoffs. Brooklyn-Toronto winner on deck for Miami in next round, but, with that series tied 2-2, Heat could be in a for a full week's rest thanks to this sweep. Tonight's Heat 3 Stars: 1. LeBron. (Or did that go without saying); 2. Chris Bosh, with 17 points, 8 rebounds; 3. Norris Cole, with a sparky 13 points, 4 assists off the bench. ..... Halftime thoughts: Heat trail by two 54-52, but Al Jefferson sitting for Bobcats with foot injury and like Heat based on flow of game. Funny that Charlotte fans boo LeBron James at every touch. It's so 2010! Loved Heat's pregame warmup-shirt stunt in support of Clippers and against racist Donald Sterling. Miami shooting only 41.5%, only 2-for-12 from 3 and LeBron with a mortal 11 points and yet it's a (near) even game. Thse things do not bode well for the Bobs. ..... Original post: While playing golf on Saturday (I had a 93 at Inverrary-East while my showboat son shot 79), I predicted the fired-up Heat would win that night's Game 3 easily but 1aa1aheatchag4 1aa1aheatcha 1aa1aheatsweepthen lose Game 4, which is tonight. I called the first one right. Now I'm wavering on tonight.  All know the series is effectively over, and that in 108 all-time NBA playoff sets the team up 3-0 has won every time -- 108 for 108. But human nature can work two ways tonight. It might spark the Bobcats to avoid the embarrassment of a series shutout coupled with the Heat being complacent and coasting. Or! It might find the Bobcats going through the motions, resigned to defeat, while the Heat rev it up again for the sweep -- knowing that would mean welcome extra rest before the next round. Unlike Saturday, I don't have a strong feeling which way this one will go. (I'll be back here with commentary at halftime and postgame).

THE LIST: HEAT-CHARLOTTE SERIES SCORING LEADERS: The top five updated through Game 4:

1. LeBron James, Heat            30.0

2. Kemba Walker, Bobcats       19.5

3. Al jefferson, Bobcats           18.7

4. Dwyane Wade, Heat            17.5

5. Chris Bosh, Heat                 14.5

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated through 4 games/first round): Entering second round: LeBron James 11 points, Dwyane Wade 6, Chris Bosh 4, Chris Andersen 1, Norris Cole 1, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' every game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

MY VIEW: NBA SHOULD FORCE OUT STERLING AS OWNER. NOW YOUR VIEW GOES HERE: No company or entity that deals with the public can afford to be owned or led by a racist -- let alone a franchise owner in 1aa1adonaldsthe NBA, with more than 70 percent of its players African-American. That is why L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racism on that audio tape is such a bombshell-crisis for the NBA and must be dealt with quickly. For now the NBA has told Sterling (pictured) not to show up at Tuesday's Clippers home playoff game, but surely more punishment is ahead. I think Sterling needs to be forced out as owner or at least be made to relinquish his authority -- the harshest penalty. But a hefty suspension and/or fine also is possible. Perhaps you think a public apology would suffice. Some of you may even think no punishment is due because, after all, it's a free country and Sterling isn't breaking any laws with his views even as they outrage most of us including NBA star like the Heat's LeBron James, who said, "There is no place for Donald Sterling in our league." How would you handle this situation if you were new NBA commissioner Adam Silver? (Hmm. Sterling and Silver. How bizarre). Take a dip in our poll and say why.

1aa1adrjackHEAT REACT TO DEATH OF "DR. JACK": [Update: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is pcitured left at age 10, with Dr. Jack at a basketball camp in 1980. Lil' Erik was so cuuuuute!] Original post: Jack Ramsay passed away Monday morning at age 89 at his home in Naples, Fla., after a long battle with cancer. (Naples, 1aa1adrspocoincidentally, was also the adopted hometown where Dolphins great Earl Morrall died on Friday). Ramsay is best known as the basketball Hall of Famer and 20-year NBA coach who led the Portland Trailblazers to their only championship in 1977. But his post-coaching career in broadcasting also was long and accomplished. He has a niche in Heat history as the team's eight-season on-air personality alongside Eric Reed from 1992-2000. Fans may recall the Dr. Jack nugget, "This-away, that-away, Hardaway!" Team owner Micky Arison said today, "When I first bought the team we had no basketball organization in place and Dr. Jack was the first person who I turned to for advice. So for a few days, he was the entire basketball organization for the Miami Heat. Over the years I often turned to him for advice. Club president Pat Riley said: "Dr. Jack Ramsay meant a great deal to me as a mentor when I was coaching and while I've been with the Heat running the team." Ramsay's long, remarkable life included a pre-hoops stint in the Navy working underwater demolition. R.I.P.

GATORS, CANES ODDS FOR '15 NCAA MEN'S HOOPS TITLE: With deadline past for declaring for NBA draft, new odds are out on 2014-15 NCAA men's basketball season, and national-championship favorites are Kentucky at 5-1, Duke 9-1, Wisconsin 12-1 and Kansas 14-1. Florida, Arizona and North Carolina are bunched at 16-1. Miami is 66-1, ahead of Florida State's 100-1.

Click back often. We constantly update and add to these latest blogposts except when we forget...

April 08, 2014

Tue pm 4-8: Who'll be first QB taken in NFL Draft? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat tries to cut down Nets, Bob Coy, Mickey Rooney & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan Le Batard Show for my 18th national appearance. Airs 3-7 p.m. on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 8. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with a week of heaven for basketball junkies. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UConn beats Kentucky, Zo talks Hall, Heat Drama Week, Ryan Williams injury & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Betting odds for Tiger-less Masters: It's Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott co-faves at 10-1, then Phil Mickelson 12-1, Jason Day 14-1, Matt Kuchar 18-1 and Sergio Garcia 20-1. 

1aa1adraft14ONE MONTH FROM NFL DRAFT, WHICH QB GOES FIRST?: The first round of the NFL Draft is May 8, so let's start the one-month countdown with a poll 1aa1abig3qbquestion. Normally this would be Dolphins-related, like, what's the greatest need, but this year offensive line is such a no-brainer answer it's pointless to ask. The most interesting draft question, for me, is which of three 1R-stamped quarterbacks will be taken first, and when. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are pictured, left to right. There is great variance in the many mock drafts I've perused. Most but not all mocks have all three guys going in the top 10, and each has support as the likely first QB taken. What do you think? Take a dip in our poll (listing is alphabetical) and say why.

CUTTING DOWN THE (BROOKLYN) NETS: UConn just cut down the nets. Tonight it's the Heat's turn to cut 1aa1aheatnetsdown the Nets. Beating the Knicks Sunday got Miami's Drama Week off to a strong start, but this is a greater challenge. Brooklyn has been quite good (32-13) this calendar year, and is 3-0 this season against Miami. This also serves a preview of a possible-dare-say-likely second round playoff matchup. (Miami's supposed waltz into the Eastern finals may be tougher than many think). You know LeBron James and the Heat will bring their A-game tonight; question is whether they'll have their A-team available, especially Dwyane Wade, who could miss a seventh straight game with hamstring issues. I write about Wade's hobbled season in today's latest column; click Counting On Wade to read.

CUTTING DOWN THE (NCAA) NETS: I was happy last night the One & Done Kentucky Wildcats got their comeuppance and that the Won & Done UConn Huskies snipped nets after a 60-54 win. John Calipari runs an NBA factory, while Connecticut holds truer to what college sports are supposed to be about. Having said that, it was only a year ago that UConn was closer to You-Con, banned from the postseason for academic reasons. So it wasn't exactly a feel-good final. There was not a truly great team in it, and neither was there a classic Cinderella. Seventh-seed UConn was the highest seed to win it all since No. 8 Villanova in 1985, but both UConn and Kentucky had too much program pedigree to be true Cindys. Bottom line, the right result: Team 1, Individuals 0.

1aa1amickeyr

R.I.P., MICKEY ROONEY:
Famed child star and entertainment legend Mickey Rooney passed away this week at 93, and here is a photo of Rooney taken on March 30, one week before he died. Rooney, seated, is flanked by fellow entertainment icons Dick Van Patten and Mel Brooks, at Santa Anita Park, the Los Angeles-area racetrack Rooney frequented. The picture is copyrighted by and courtesy of Benoit Photo.

ON BOB COY AND THE 'MEGACHURCH': Pastor Bob Coy (pictured) has resigned in disgrace from Fort Lauderdale's 1aa1abobcoyCalvary Chapel, a 20,000-member "megachurch," over a "moral failing" reported to include extramarital affairs. This reminds us that men of the clergy can be just as ethically bankrupt as the rest of us, and that anybody can throw on a robe and claim to speak for God. What interests me more about this story is the revelation that Calvary Chapel's assets are said to be around $135 million. Hmm. For me, the very idea of the "megachurch," the profiteering big business of of it, does more harm to the idea of religion than the occasional rogue infidel pastor. Of course, I may be wrong.

Poll result: You had NCAA final a razor's edge for Kentucky: We asked who'd win the NCAA Tournament men's championship and rarely have we had a closer blogpoll. It was 50.63 percent for Kentucky, 49.37% for Connecticut.

Click back often. Regularly update/add to this latest blogpost...

April 06, 2014

Mon pm 4-7: Won 'n Done! UConn beats Kentucky; plus Zo on Hall induction, Heat's Drama Week, Dolphins, Canes' big loss & more

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 7. WR Nate Burleson turns down Dolphins for Cleveland for the prospect of more playing time. Logical. 2) Click on Random Evidence for the latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with a week of heaven for basketball junkies. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four, Marlins Big 2 poll, Kiper on Dolphins draft, thank you Zo/Letterman & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

HALL OF FAME: ZO GRACIOUS, AS ALWAYS: Alonzo Mourning spoke for the first time today about his 1aa1azompending Aug. 8 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and said, "I stand here on the shoulders of so many people. I'm very, very grateful. Zo, now a Heat executive, especially thanked his family, his Georgetown coach John Thompson, Pat Riley, and his cousin Jason Cooper, who donated the kidney for Mourning's 2003 life-saving operation. Mourning will be remembered for overcoming kidney disease, for helping win the 2006 NBA championship, and for his post-career philanthropy that continues. The Hall of fame has only confirmed what Heat fans have long known about the man. "If my life ended today, " he said. "I've lived a storybook life. I think I've had a lot of angels n my life." Zo is the fourth Heat family member to be enshrined, after Riley, Bob McAdoo and Gary Payton.

WON 'N DONE! UCONN BEATS EVIL KENTUCKY!: UConn wins 60-54 tonight. No predictions from me. Not after I misfired on both of 1aa1aonedoneSaturday's semifinals. I had Florida and Wisconsin. Instead the two upsets made it 22 upsets (by seeding) in 62 NCAA Tournament games, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 35.5 percent. However I most certainly did have a rooting interest, and it was UConn by default. I disdain what Kentucky and John Calipari stand for. "One and done" is a mockery of what college sports and the "student-athlete" should be about. You may disgree. Check back tomorrow for our pregame poll result.

HEAT DRAMA WEEK: WILD RIDE BEGINS WITH DEFEAT OF KNICKS: Miami beat the visiting Knicks 102-91 yesterday behind LeBron James' 38 points (still no Dwyane Wade) in a revival of a former bitter rivalry that still percolates pretty hot. Tuesday the Heat host the Brooklyn Nets, who are 3-0 against Miami this season. Wednesday Miami visits Memphis, which is fighting for its playoff life. Then Friday the Heat host the Pacers in what could be a winner-take-all for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed. I'd contend the Heat has never had a bigger, more dramatic regular-season week. Let's go!

UNFORTUNATELY, CANES JUST GOT INTERESTING: We've been joking how this spring has been "splendidly boring" for Al Golden's Miami Hurricanes, with no NCAA cloud and no controversies. Well, unfortunately, things got interesting fast with the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Williams. The fifth-year senior caught an awful break with a reported ACL tear injury in his right knee requiring surgery. No prognosis yet, but an extended recovery of four-plus months may be anticipated. That means redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen is the likely starter now, for the forseeable future, and likely tino the start of the upcoming season. A huge blow for the 2014 Canes, and you have to feel badly for Williams, who waited in line for this opportunity only to see it taken from him.

Poll result: Marlins should keep Jose over Giancarlo: We asked which of Marlins' Big 2 you'd prefer the club spend big to keep long-term, and it was 73.98 percent for Jose Fernandez, 26.02%  for Giancarlo Stanton.

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...

April 04, 2014

Sat pm 4-5: Gator Nation mourns Final Four loss; plus Marlins' Fernandez-or-Stanton poll, Kiper on Dolphins draft, Heat, Zo, Letterman & more

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 5. Heat really missed Dwyane Wade in last night's double-OT loss to Minnesota. Miami three-peats with a healthy Wade, doesn't without him. Period. 2) I was remiss in not remarking yesterday on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most important people anywhere, any time. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should-college-football-players-be-compensated with poll, Pat Riley talks Big 3 future & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

1aa1afinal4FINALLY THE FINAL FOUR: GATORS UPSET LOSERS, KENTUCKY IN: No. 1-seed Florida Gators were favored over No. 7 UConn in today's early game but lost 63-53, a surprise if not a stunner. No. 8 Kentucky edged No. 2 Wisconsin 74-73 in in the late game. Our original post on the Final Four from four angles:

Our analysis, predictions: Florida-Connecticut--Gators have won 30 straight since last losing Dec. 2 to UConn on a buzzer beater, and I like Florida here without much hesitation. UConn is a one-man show with Shabazz Napier, while the Gators are so balanced and deep, with Scottie Wilbekin's court command, Casey Prather's offense, Dorian Finney-Smith's rebinding, Will Yeguete's unsung dirty work, and of course man-among-boys Patric Young's power inside. Wisconsin-Kentucky: Fascinating contrast, with Wisconsin's veteran, unheralded bunch vs. Kentucky's young One-and-Done crew of highly recruited stars led by NBA-ready Julius Randle and villain-coach John Calipari. Team vs. Individuals. My picks: Handling the atmosphere, stage and crowd of 75,000 in a football stadium could be a huge factor tonight. That's partly why I like the two older, veteran teams. Make it Florida, 68-58, and Wisconsin, 70-67.

My bracket: Go Gators!: Florida is the only team I have alive in the FF, and I have the Gators winning it all, so my rooting interests are with Gainesville (sorry, Canes fans). I'm out of the running in my lone office pool but it'd be nice to at least say I got the champ right.

1aa1affanimalsFinal Four by influential alumni: Somebody at Time.com had waaay too much free time and came up with a way to compare schools by how many influential alumni each has. Influence in this case was measured (dubiously) by how many alumni had Wikipedia pages and how long they were. Anyway, Florida Gators are 3.66 times more influential than UConn Huskies (220.6 to 60.2), and Wisconsin Badgers are 1.70 times more influential than Kentucky Wildcats (151.2 to 88.7). So there's that.  

Cinderell-O-Meter: Entering the Final Four exactly one-third of men's NCAA Tournament games this year (20 of 60) have been upsets based on seeding. All 20 upsets, ranked by seed differential: +11: 14-Mercer d. 3-Duke; +8: 10-Stanford d. 2-Kansas, 11-Dayton d. 3-Syracuse; +7: 8-Kentucky d. 1-Wichita State, 12-North Dakota State d. 5-Oklahoma, 12-Harvard d. 5-Cincinnati, 12-Stephen F. Austin d. 5-VCU; +6: 8-Kentucky d. 2-Michigan; +5: 7-UConn d. 2-Villanova, 11-Dayton d. 6-Ohio State, 11-Tennessee d. 6-UMass; +4: 7-UConn d. 3-Iowa State, 8-Kentucky d. 4-Louisvile; +3: 4-Michigan State d. 1-Virginia, 6-Baylor d. 3-Creighton, 7-UConn d. 4-Michigan State, 10-Stanford d. 7-New Mexico; +1: 2-Wisconsin d. 1-Arizona, 9-Pitt d. 8-Colorado, 11-Dayton d. 10-Stanford.

WHICH OF MARLINS' BIG 2 SHOULD TEAM PRIORITIZE KEEPING?: The premise of course is that the penurious Marlins won't spend to keep both pitcher Jose Fernandez and slugger Giancarlo Stanton long-

1aa1ajoseright 1aa1agiancarloleftterm. Each will command the kind of financial committment associated with Yankees or Dodgers spending, not with Jeffrey Loria. (I explore all of this in today's latest column; click Marlins Big 2 to read). The likeliest scenario is that Miami will prioritize locking up Fernandez and trading Stanton after this season, but is that wise? Which player would you keep if you thought the team had an equal chance to sign either and planned to keep only one? I know, I know. Why can't they keep both!? But we're trying to deal with reality here. So take a dip in our poll and say why.

DOLPHINS' TOP 3 DRAFT PICKS ACCORDING TO KIPER...: Mel Kiper Jr. on ESPN.com predicts every NFL team's top 1aa1acalvinpthree picks in the May draft and here are his guesses for Miami: 1st round--Safety Calvin Pryor (pictured), Louisville. 2nd round--Offensive tackle Joel Bitonio, Nevada. And 3rd round--Offensive tackle Jack Mewhort, Ohio State. (I should note that the player most early mock drafts have Miami taking first -- Notre Dame OT Zack Martin -- goes 17th, according to Kiper. Dolphins pick 19th).

THANK YOU, ALONZO MOURNING: Comes the news that former Heat star Alonzo Mourning is going into 1aa1aalonzomthe Basketball Hall of Fame, and it is deserved. We're talking about a great player and a better man. On the court he was an inspiring, scowling, biceps-flexing defensive monster. Off the court he encouraged many fighting and overcoming kidney disease, and he has been a community giant with his philanthropy and time-giving. A small snapshot I recall: A brawl in the 1998 Heat-Knicks playoff series found Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy latched onto Mourning's lower leg "like a poodle on a redwood," I wrote in a column. Next day at practice, Mourning started laughing out loud at the reference, saying how much he'd enjoyed it. Thank you, Zo.

THANK YOU, DAVID LETTERMAN': David Letterman, for me the No. 2 late-night icon of all-time after 1aa1adavelJohnny Carson, says he's retiring next year, and that's worth a quick homage here. Letterman is my kind of humor, absurdity meets wise-ass, and I loved him from the start. For years you were a Letterman guy or a Leno guy, and the choice was always a no-brainer for me. There was something about dropping watermelons and TV sets from a three-story building to watch them smash on the ground that appealed to me. I was just out of college when he came on in the early '80s and he's been a big part of the laugh-track of my life ever since. Thank you, Dave.

Poll result: Close call, but don't further compensate college football players: We asked in the wake of the NLRB/unionization ruling (you may still vote) if college football players should be compensated beyond their scholarships, and "no" beat "yes" 49.7 percent to 43.9%. The remaining 6.4% were undecided.

Click back often. Updates/adds coming to this latest blogpost...

March 27, 2014

Mon am 3-31: Gators in Final Four; plus Dolphins' big upgrade, NLRB's bad ruling, Heat's shot at No. 1, Greatest Ralph & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 30. Check out my latest Random Evidence Sunday notes-column package, leading with the Marlins. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Greatest Ralph poll, Heat fall to Pacers, the art of child-spoiling, topless protestors & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

An optimistic take on Marlins. No, seriously: In today's special Marlins preview section I write an upbeat column on the Marlins. I list 10 reasons to like this team and feel good about this season. Check it out.

DOLPHINS AN APPRECIABLY BETTER OFFENSE BY ADDING MORENO: Signing free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno yesterday makes Miami's offense better -- period. You don't need a bunch of nerdy metrics 1aa1amorenorbor useless stat breakdowns to know that. In Denver last year he rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs and -- this is important -- caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three more TDs. Yes, much of that was thanks to Peyton Manning. Still, Moreno, used right, can be the dual-threat back the Dolphins had but underutilized in Reggie Bush. Moreno also is healthy, young, a very good pass-blocker and fumbled only one time in 241 carries last year. Lots of upside. He should complement Lamar Miller well, no matter who starts. The onus now is on Daniel Thomas to earn his roster spot and carries. The fact Moreno only signed a 1-year, $3 million contract could be smart for both sides. He isn't a financial burden for the Dolphins. At that price, he's low risk, high ceiling. Smart, smart. Moreno is pictured gesturing where he hopes to be on Miami's RB depth chart this season.

BRACKETS BACK! CINDERELL-O-METER (PATENT PENDING) AT 33.3% ENTERING ELITE 8 GAMES: Excluding the four even-seeded play-in games, there have now been 20 upsets (by seeding) in the 60 men's NCAA Tournament games through the Elite Eight round, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 33.3 percent. We update the Cindy Meter throughout March Madness. Here are all 20 upsets thus far, ranked based on seed differential:

1. No 14-Mercer over 3-Duke (+11)

2. 10-Stanford over 2-Kansas (+8)

2. 11-Dayton over 3-Syracuse (+8)

4. 8-Kentucky over 1-Wichita State (+7)

4. 12-North Dakota State over 5-Oklahoma (+7)

4. 12-Harvard over 5-Cincinnati (+7)

4. 12-Stephen F. Austin over 5-VCU (+7)

8. 8-Kentucky over 2-Michigan (+6)

9. 7-UConn over 2-Villanova (+5)

9. 11-Dayton over 6-Ohio State (+5)

9. 11-Tennessee over 6-UMass (+5)

12. 7-UConn ovcer 3-Iowa State (+4)

12.8-Kentucky over 4-Louisvile (+4) 

14. 4-Michigan State over 1-Virginia (+3)

14. 6-Baylor over 3-Creighton (+3)

14. 7-UConn over 4-Michigan State (+3)

14. 10-Stanford over 7-New Mexico (+3)

18. 2-Wisconsin over 1-Arizona (+1)

18. 9-Pitt over 8-Colorado (+1)

18, 11-Dayton over 10-Stanford (+1)

The Cindy Meter composite standings among teams still alive in the tournament are: Kentucky +17 and UConn +12.

Elite Eight round: And my bracket wants...: I had five of eight teams still alive on my bracket. Saturday: I needed Florida to beat Dayton (thanks, Gators), and Arizona to beat Wisconsin. Got one of two. Sunday: I needed Michigan State to beat UConn and Michigan to beat Kentucky -- and got neither.

Sweet 16 round. And my bracket wants...: I had nine of 16 teams still alive in my bracket entering the Sweet 16 games. Thursday night: I needed Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona to win, and all did. (I didn't have a dog in the Dayton-Stanford hunt). Friday night: I needed Michigan and Michigan State to win -- and both did. I did not get the wins I needed from Iowa State and Louisville.

WHY THE NLRB'S NORTHWESTERN DECISION IS WRONG-HEADED AND SHOULDN'T STAND: So a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago rules that Northwestern football players may vote to unionize, and all hell breaks loose in college sports. The ruling affects only private universities (for 1aa1anlrbnow), so the potential reaches to Coral Gables and UM. The Northwestern players bid for compensation benefits for injuries well into their post-school futures, plus bargaining rights for working conditions such as number of practices. The NLRB in effect has ruled that football players are primarily workers and employees, not students. Pay-for-play is not a part of this whole thing, although the ruling surely opens the door for that, too. There are problems with the ruling. Where do I begin? Players already have medical benefits; your ankle injury is well-treated. And is it really good for college sports to have players negotiating how much they'd like to practice? Mostly this ruling is wrong because it assumes players contribute substantially to a school's football revenue. (In Northwestern's case that was $235 million from 2003-12). That's a faulty premise. The ruling alludes to the "enormous commercial value" of players' work. That's wrong. Players come and go, and very few actually impact a university's success or brand. For every superstar exception like Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, there are a hundred relatively anonymous low- or no-impact players along for the ride. About 99 percent of all players have zero relevance on attendance and revenue at Any Given University. They are incidental. They are passengers. The backup guard who seldom plays and should be grateful for his scholarship is lumped in this ruling with the star quarterback -- either that or somebody has to decide relative value. The whole idea of most athletes' entitlement beyond their scholarship is faulty. The brand is Ohio State or Southern Cal or Florida, and fans will be there no matter who temporarily fills the uniform. This NLRB ruling is an unnecessary mess for college sports. I'd call it a landmark ruling if I weren't pretty sure it'll be overturned on appeal and disappear. (At least for now...).

1aa1aheatindHEAT NOT CONCEDING NO. 1 SEED: Last night's 84-83 Miami loss at Indiana gave the Pacers a 3-game lead for the Eastern Conference's top playoff seed, and 2 in the loss column. But the tiebreaker (conference record) goes to IND so Heat must finish with a better record, not tied. Still, it ain't over! Miami has 12 games left, and seven are at home including an April 11 rematch with the Pacers. Only five of 12 Heat games left are against teams with a winning record. Indiana has only four games left, of 10, and five against teams with a winning record. In sum, Miami if it wins the rematch here in two weeks will have a shot at wresting No. 1 and home-court advantage in what should be a deliciously brutal playoff series.

1aa1akramdenBUS DRIVER BEATS POET FOR GREATEST-RALPH HONORS: We asked you in the previous blogpost to name the Greatest Ralph of All-Time (you may still vote), and I'm thrilled to report a delightfully diverse two-way battle emerged from among 11 finalists, and that Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners (32.7 percent) beat Ralph Waldo Emerson (20.3%). Ralph Lauren and Happy Days' Ralph Malph were dueling for a distant third. A fictional sitcom bus driver winning my poll over a legendary essayist/poet says much about my blog readership -- all of it good!

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...

March 24, 2014

Tue pm 3-25: Real concern or unneeded angst on Heat title hopes? Poll. Vote!; plus Marino, Bosh's b-day, Marlins' Samson acts & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 p.m. on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. As serendipity would have it, today is my 16th national appearance as sports prepares for the Sweet 16.

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 24. Marlins announce Dolphins legend Dan Marino will throw ceremonial first pitch on Opening Night. 2) Happy 67th birthday to someone who has played so much of my life's soundtrack, Reg Dwight. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with March Madness (but not the one you're thinking of). 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NCAA Tournament: Cinderell-O-Meter, my bracket, haiku winner; plus Heat rips Heat, Dolphins and Moreno, LeBron's soda & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Heat: Big win, bigger game ahead: Last night's 93-91 home win over Portland turned a valve and let some pressure escape from the team, but now it builds right back up fast as Miami visits rival Indiana Wednesday night. Click on Judge Later, Not Now for my column from the arena off last night's win.

HEAT ANGRY AND SEARCHING; IS THREE-PEAT SLIPPING AWAY?: Two straight NBA championships give a team a reservoir of faith. Confident Heat fans stand back and smirk at others as the outsiders panic 1aa1alebfruswith every Miami loss. But now it feels a bit different, doesn't it? Seven losses in the past 11 games -- before last night's 93- 1aa1aspofrus91 home win over Portland -- amounts to the most extended malaise of the Big 3 era. And now we are hearing anger and bewilderment. "We suck," said Chris Bosh. "There is no passion. There's nothing." LeBron: "Too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. It's very frustrating." Coach Erik Spoelstra: "Our lockerroom is angry." The Heat always seems to use turmoil and doubt as fuel. But when will that start to happen? Why hasn't it? Indiana is growing its lead in the East. Three teams out West have better records. Miami's run for a three-peat has become far from a foregone conclusion. I'm curious what you think. Will the three-peat happen or fall short? We had this excat poll question on Oct. 29, 2013 (just before the season started), and again on Dec. 12. Now we take a late-March pulse read, and it will be interesting to compare this with previous results. Remember, not asking if you want the Heat to win it all again, but if you honestly think they will -- if you were placing a yes-or-no bet. Vote and say why.

1aa1aboshbashON BOSH'S BIRTHDAY BASH: Give the Heat stars credit. They know how to throw birthday parties for themselves. Chris Bosh turned 30 on Monday so on Sunday he rented out Marlins Park for a circus themed bash he called Cirque du Noir. It included clowns, liquored-up snowcones, dunk tanks, carnival games, capering little people, a towering cake and entertainment by Bone Thugs 'N Harmony. A representative picture, courtesy April Belle Photos, is shown.

MARLINS' SAMSON STARRING IN LOCAL THEATER PRODUCTION: Marlins president David Samson, fresh 1aa1anotreadyfrom his quick boot off the island on TV's Survivors reality show, will 1aa1adavidsportray Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels in the upcoming theater production, Not Ready for Primetime. Miami's New Theatre will premiere the play with a Friday, March 29 opening night at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay. The play, running through April 19, is directed by Erik J. Rodriguez and revolves around the greatest SNL cast ever featuring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray et al. Visit the New Theatre website for more. Samson, pictured, is a movie expert, marathon runner, reality-show star and, apparently, an actor. In his free time he is a major-league baseball team president, time permitting.

MADNESS TAKES A BREATHER: 9 STILL ALIVE ON MY BRACKET: Yeah, yeah. I know. I wrote a Curmudgeonly Anti-Bracket Column last week (somewhat in jest), but I do have a bracket in an office pool. Just one. Entering the Sweet 16 round later this week I have nine teams still alive: No. 1s Florida, Arizona and Virginia; No. 2s Wisconsin and Michigan; No. 3 Iowa State; and No. 4s UCLA, Michigan State and Louisville. I think my bracket is in decent shape. I have a dog in the hunt in seven of the eight S16 pairings, and am still alive for my championship pick of Florida over Arizona. Is having 9 teams still alive good, average or poor? To put it in context, Dick Vitale and golfer Bubba Watson have 11 teams left, President Obama has 9 left like me, soccer star Hope Solo has 8 left, and TV's Jimmy Kimmel has 7 alive. In my office pool, I am tied for 16th place among 54 brackets. 

Sweet 16 national-title odds: Fresh from Bovada today, Florida Gators are the readjusted NCAA Tournament championship favorites at 7-2, followed by Michigan State 9-2, Louisville 5-1, Arizona 6-1 and Virginia 10-1. Then it's Michigan/Louisville both 16-1, Iowa State/UCLA both 18-1, Kentucky/Baylor both 20-1, Tennessee 28-1, San Diego State/UConn both 33-1, Stanford 50-1 and Dayton 100-1.

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...