Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See the new No. 1 and what else lands where; plus NCAA Final Two and my bracket, your verdict on Marlins expectations (ouch), me in APSE column-writing, Miley Cyrus spanked by Easter Bunny & more
GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 2. Welcome, April. Hope all you Christians had a Happy Easter! 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Day expectations poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.
APSE contest: We finished in Top 5: The Associated Press Sports Editors annual writing contest that had placed me in the top 10 for national columnists this month in the major-outlet category revealed the exact order on Friday and I ended up No. 5. Congrats to the winner, Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star. And thanks to APSE. I'm pleased by the top-five recognition. (A list of our nominated columns that earned that honor may be found below).
Latest columns: Marlins' Opening Day, NCAA Final Four, Dolphins, Wayne Huizenga: On baseball Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing and Marlins 2018: Accentuating The Positives (Sort Of) / On NCAA Final Four: Centenarian vs. Nonagenarian and Larranaga On Being Cinderella / On Fins: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / And on passing of South Florida sports and civic giant: Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible.
HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:
1. MARCH MADNESS: It's Villanova-Michigan for NCAA men's title: 'Nova crushed Kansas while Michigan ended the dream of Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean in Saturday's Final Four, setting up a heavyweight championship match tonight that finds Villanova the biggest title-game favorite since 2010. On the women's side, Notre Dame beat Mississippi State for the crown Sunday as 'Anybody But UConn' prayers were answered.
2. MARLINS: MLB underway as Jeter presents his Fire-Sale Fish: Marlins finished a credible 2-2 vs. Cubs in season-opening series now welcome Red Sox to town for a pair. Marlins gave up a home run on the very first pitch of the season, while Giancarlo Stanton was homering on his very first swing as a Yankee. Poetic justice? Meantime "Marlins Man" is shopping himself to other teams, as if anybody on the face of the Earth gives a s--- other than Marlins Man.
3. TENNIS: Championship Weekend as Miami Open leaves Key Biscayne: John Isner beat Alexander Zverev for the men's title Sunday one day after Fort Lauderdale's Sloane Stephens defeated Jelena Ostapenko, completing the first U.S. sweep of the event since 2004. It was a star-shy, low-watt weekend to end the tournament's long history on Key Biscayne before next year's move to Hard Rock Stadium. The crowd jeered during Saturday's post-match ceremony when tourney director James Blake mentioned the move. Good.
4. PANTHERS: Playoffs now seem a longshot for Cats: There is a phrase for the Panthers' playoff hopes now: Thin ice. An ill-timed third straight loss on Saturday has Florida now seven points off playoff pace with two games in hand, a lot of ground to make up with only five games to play starting Monday here vs. Carolina. Even a strong finish won't be enough unless 8th place New Jersey ends in a tailspin.
5. HEAT: Whiteside gripes as Miami waits to clinch: Hassan Whiteside went petty after Saturday's home OT loss to Brooklyn, calling it "bulls---" that he was benched when Nets went small. Miami now sits in 7th place (via a tiebreaker) and still needs one more win or a Detroit loss to clinch playoff spot. They'll make it, but the idea, with five games left, is to stay above 8th to avoid top-seed Toronto in the first round. Aside to Hassan: As your team fights down the stretch, not a great time to make it all about you, big fella.
6. GOLF: All eyes on Tiger as Masters nears: The year's first golf major -- The Masters at Augusta -- begins this Thursday, and it will be the first major first step to gauge Tiger Woods' comeback and return to full health. "I got a second chance on life," Tiger said this week. "I am a walking miracle." Woods has won the Masters four times but not since 2005. A fifth would send weekend TV through the roof, were there roofs over golf courses.
7. HORSE RACING: Audible wins the Florida Derby: Audible won the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, assuring he'll be among favorites in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. Audible will take a four-race winning streak into Triple Crown season, and the previous two Florida Derby winners (Always Dreaming in 2017 and Nyquist in '16) have gone on to win at Churchill Downs. No pressure anything, Audible!
8. DOLPHINS: Let the NFL Draft countdown begin!: April now, draft month, 24 days 'til the first round. Mel Kiper's latest mock draft for ESPN has the Big Four quarterbacks going 1-2-3-5 and then also 15th (Lamar Jackson). Alas, Kiper has the Dolphins, picking No. 11, taking Florida State safety Derwin James. Pfffft.
9. SOCCER: Champions League quarterfinals on deck: The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals are April 3-11. The first of eight matches are Tuesday with Sevilla vs. Bayern and Juventus vs. Real Madrid. No middle ground. You are either excited, or could not possibly care less.
10. HURRICANES: Football spring practice at midpoint: Mark Richt's Canes are halfway though spring practice, with the Spring Game coming up April 14. UM football gets the nod because, unfortunately, Jim Morris' baseball Canes continue to slog around at 12-15 after being swept on Sunday at Georgia Tech.
Missing the HB10 cut: The Angels' two-way star Shohei Ohtani on Sunday became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to start as a non-pitcher on Opening Day and then start as a pitcher within his team's first 10 games. Talk about a showoff! ..... Answer: I just saw that the UM men's tennis team is ranked 46th in the nation. Question: Do you think maybe they 're ranking too many teams? ..... NFL league meetings ended in Orlando with an apparent agreement on what constitutes a catch. Progress! ..... Ex-NBA stars Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Grant Hill head the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class. Inductees also include Maurice Cheeks. No, seriously.
NCAA BRACKET UPDATE: LET'S GO VILLANOVA!: We're updating you on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I stand in 19th place entering Monday night's championship game in San Antonio:
Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness crescendo with the Final Four on Saturday: No. 3 Michigan rallying to beat No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and then No. 1 Villanova crushing No. 1 Kansas. I had no teams in the first game and both in the second, with Villanova winning it all. Hoping a 'Nova win Monday can get me in the pool's final top 10 or close to it.
Elite Eight -- Last Sunday as the Final Four was set I had the two No. 1 seeds still in play and both winning, and Villanova and Kansas both came through for me. Alas I didn't have a bracket dog in the hunt in either of Saturday's games as Michigan ousted Florida State and No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean kept the dream alive by beating Kansas State.
[See earlier blogposts for our results preceding the Elite Eight round]
POLL RESULTS: YOUR OUTLOOK FOR MARLINS? NOT PRETTY: We asked in a blog poll this week, "What is the most likely/reasonable expectation for the 2018 Miami Marlins?" and gave you six choices. The results: 38.3 percent said 59-or-fewer wins; 27.5% said 60-64 wins; 15.8% said 65-69 wins; 10.8% said 70-74 wins; 4.2% said 80-plus wins; and 3.3% said 75-79 wins. That's 81.7% who don't see Miami reaching 70 wins. Ouch. In a separate Twitter poll, we you what would end up as the bigger number: Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge's combined home runs for the Yankees? Or Marlins season losses? More than 2,000 voted, and it was 56% for Marlins losses as the larger number. Ouch II.
"DEAR GREG...": "...Your blog's OK, but would be much better if occasionally you would show a picture of Miley Cyrus being spanked by the Easter Bunny. I feel that would be especially appropriate now, with Easter coming up on Sunday. Thank you." Dear Reader: That's a lot to ask, but I'll see what I can do. (Click on image to see enlarged version. Imagine. You're a professional mall Easter Bunny guy ready for his annual weekend posing with 5-year-olds, and a rep for Miley Cyrus calls to invite you to this photo shoot...)
OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing / Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose / NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering / What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.
Select additional columns: Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night, Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To Last. Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, Rubin. Beckham's Dream Becomes A Team. When Victims Seize The Power. The Godfather Speaks. Regret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.
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