March 19, 2016

Super Saturday: Canes win starts a SoFla sports smorgasbord!; plus my NCAA bracket update with today's winners, Haiku Challenge champ/winning entry, Cote advances in media bracket and is embarrassed he gives a crap & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 19. Thoughts with the family of NFL player Tray Walker, born in Miami and died here, yesterday, at 23. R.I.P. 2) St. Patrick's Day. The only day of the year I force myself to stomach a token amount of cooked cabbage. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): All March Madness: Haiku Challenge, who'll-win poll, my bracket, NCAA state-schools history & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

Dolphins add assistant coach: Fins have named Jim Washburn as senior defensive assistant/pass rush specialist. He comes with 17 years' NFL coaching experience, including (significantly) the past three with Detroit. Miami hopes he'll bring the key that further unlocks Ndamukong Suh.

"If I could ask God one question it would be, 'Why?' Why was Dwyane Wade taking that 3-point shot to end that game!?" --Greg Cote

SupersaturdaySUPER SATURDAY! MIAMI A LOUSY SPORTS TOWN? NOT TODAY, MY FRIEND. NOT TODAY: It's Super Saturday for SoFla sports. Here's why. Buckle up:

1. Hurricanes men beat Wichita State, advance in NCAAs: After coasting past Buffalo in the first round, Jim Larranaga's guys faced Wichita State this afternoon and, after seeing a 21-point lead frittered away, won, 65-57, in a South Region game in Providence R.I. Angel Rodriguez's 28 points on 9-for-11 shooting led the way. The Shockers were a No. 11 seed to Miami's No. 3 yet Wichita State was favored by two points. They shouldn't have been. Now UM moves onto the Sweet 16 and will next face the winner of Sunday's Villanova-Iowa game.

2. Heat host LeBron, Cavaliers: Costly home loss to Charlotte Thursday night has Miami in four-team fight for third place in East, which Miami dearly wants so it can avoid having to face Cleveland in the postseason prior to conference finals. LeBron James returning to Miami isn't by itself the visceral event it once was. Saturday's 7:30 tipoff here is important mostly for that jockeying for position in standings.

3. Panthers host Red Wings: Florida, back up to a 3-point division lead, hosts Detroit Saturday at 7 with only 11 games left in the regular season. Expect a playoff atmosphere, with the Wings holding precariously onto the eighth and final spot in the East right now. Rumor: Actor Kevin (Spacey in Space) Spacey shows up, drops the ceremonial puck. 

4. UM women begin NCAA run: Katie Meier's No. 5-seeded Hurricanes open their NCAA Tournament run Saturday at 6:40 p.m. vs. the No. 12 South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the women's Lexington Region. I like South Dakota State's nickname a lot more than I like their chances against The U.

5. Marlins meet Tigers in Jupiter: Miami is just past the midpoint of spring training as it welcomes Detroit for a 1:05 first pitch Saturday. We know spring results don't matter, but, at 5-10 with five straight L's entering today's game, might be nice to build a bit of excitement heading into April. Aside to Marlins: Jose Fernandez should be the Opening Day starter. Duh, right?

I could also mention the Canes held their third spring football practice under new coach Mark Richt on Saturday morning on campus. I'd also add something about the Dolphins continuing their work in free agency, but the Dolphins tend to be depressing and this is supposed to be an upbeat item about good stuff happening in Miami sports.

FlanneryWE HAVE A MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: We combed through 108 entries in our blog's 11th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge which closed at noon today, and were pleased to find that 96 of them were valid entries -- exactly 17 syllables and on-point with the topic. Congratulations to reader John Flannery (pictured right), our 2016 champion. His happened to be one of the last entries submitted. Turns out John lives in Pennsylvania but we'll be able to fulfill his prize request: a Greg's Lobos T-shirt!

John Flannery's winning haiku:

"Bracket is busted

Cinderella is dancing

No one has a clue"

The judges (meaning me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, the simplicity, and the undeniable truth of it. Our four honorable mentions: Bernstock--"It's not a cash cow / They must say, its for the kids / as 'they' eat lobster" ... Brett Alger--"Talk about balls and busting / Cinderella's in search of better seed." ... Travis Ford--"When my bracket busts / I'll stop drinking and go home / I'm taking my ball." ... and Kjdesouza007--"Twelve again beats Five / My Final Four Picks Alive / What is TRUtv." Thanks also to readers Scott Anderson, Daniel Angster, Chet Cienkowski, Fryer54, Phil Shore and others who played.

COTE ADVANCES IN NCAA-STYLED MIAMI MEDIA BRACKET: SliceMiami.com is running an NCAA-styled Miami Sports Bracket in four 16-person categories or "regions." One is Media, and I advanced Slicemiamito the second round this week by beating fellow Heraldite Ethan Skolnick, 59.53 percent to 40.47. I am honored by the 19-point landslide. Also, I am frankly embarrassed that I give a crap. But it's fun (because I won, it's fun). Ethan and I enjoyed going back and forth on Twitter and Facebook, fake-campaigning. I think my voters were surprised, inspired and girded loins en masse by the fact I was the much lower seed, strongly suggesting the folks running the poll were drunk at the time of the seedings. I had the toughest first-round matchup in the formidable Skolnick. I don't include Stugotz facing No. 1-seeded Dan LeBatard, since the love-to-hate-Dan tenor of their 790 The Ticket/ESPN Radio show made it obvious Stugotz would win. Other first-round Media winners: Eric Reid over Tony Fiorentino in a duel of Heat TV broadcasters; Heat radio guy Mike Inglis over TV's Jim Berry; WQAM's Marc Hochman over the Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde; the Herald's Barry Jackson over TV's Will Manso; Adam Kuperstein over fellow TV talking head Steve Shapiro; and WQAM's Joe Rose over Marlins broadcaster Rich Waltz. Pictured right are the upcoming second-round matchups, featuring the disembodied head of an exalting Stugotz. Click on the image to expand. I'll let you know when 2R voting begins.

NCAA BRACKETEERING UPDATE: Friday--I went 10-6 in men's NCAA Tournament games on an upset-filled day that for first time ever saw 2-3-4 seeds (Michigan State, West Virginia, Cal) lose on same day. Overall--I'm 23-9. Cinderella Meter--40.6% (13 of 32 games have been by-seed upsets, with three of those negligible 9-beat-8s). Today--My 8 winners, in order of tipoff, are Miami, Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Virginia, Kansas, Utah and North Carolina.

Poll result: "Other," Kansas favorites to win NCAAs: We asked you who'd win the men's NCAA Tournament and the nine choices we offered all were either betting favorites or top-two seeds. So Miami was not included ... which may explain the category "someone else" winning our vote with 26.7 percent, followed by Kansas at 20.0%, North Carolina 17.3%, Michigan State 12.0% and Kentucky 10.7%.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

March 18, 2016

Haiku Challenge window closing; vote before noon today!; plus who'll win NCAA Tournament: Poll. Vote now!; also, my bracket, history of Hurricanes and other state schools in the Big Dance & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Patricks1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why Hurricanes' NCAA path isn't that scary, March Madness betting odds, tourney's worst teams academically, Hot Button Top 10, Year of the Rat remembered, Dolfans' free agency verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

THE MARCH MADNESS PREDICTOR POLL: The four little play-in games are done, now, today, the real NCAA Tournament starts -- including Miami Hurricanes opening vs. big underdog Buffalo at 6:50 p.m. So, who wins it all? I have listed here, alphabetically, the nine teams that are either top-2 seeds or better than 20-to-1 in the betting odds. Vote for the the one team you think is most likely to be champion. Not the team you want to win, but the team you think will win:

Vitale HaikuOH NO! IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 11TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: The entries are pouring in -- a veritable torrent -- but which I mean we have several ao far. We've done this as long as we've had this blog and it is back for tradition's sake and by unpopular demand. I say unpopular because many of you are intimidated by this contest, or simply do not agree that nothing captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient Japanese short-form poetry. I do not do this for the masses, but for the select, chosen few who await the contest every year with relish. It's sort of like a restaurant menu that offers liver. Few like it, but the few who do love it. You may know that a haiku is a 17-syllable poem. (Not 16! Not 18!) Ideally it's in 5-7-5 structure but we're loose with that. Rhyming is OK but not necessary.

Three simple but hard-fast rules:

1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry.

2. You may submit entries ONLY one of two ways: In this blog's 'Comments' section below, or via email to gcote@miamiherald.com. (No Twitter entries please!!). You may enter as many haikus as you wish.

3. Entries close Friday (today) at noon, with the winner to be announced later Friday.

Prize, you ask? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide? A chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, do it for the sheer glory and to flex your creativity, not for the prize. OK, ready? Get the mind revving. The entry window has banged open. Haiku!

MY BRACKET: I have Kansas and North Carolina in the Final Four (no surprise), but against two opponents who'd be huge surprises to get that far. My FF has Kansas beating Texas A&M and UNC beating Iowa State. I have the Miami Hurricanes getting to the Elite Eight before bowing to the Jayhawks. We'll update you daily on how our bracket is doing. Got three out of four right in the play-in games. Our winners in today's/Thursday's 16 games games are, in order of tip-off times: Duke, Butler, UConn, Iowa State, Baylor, Virginia, Kansas, Purdue, Miami, Indiana, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona, Kentucky, Providence and Gonzaga.   

THE LIST: NCAA TOURNAMENT RESULTS BY STATE SCHOOLS: NCAA Tournament men's Division 1 basketball, listed by number of appearances/invites:

Team                                            Apps. Games    Record    Last    Best result

Florida Gators                                  19       59       42-17     2014   National champions 2006, '07

Florida State Seminoles                     14      29       15-14     2012   National championship runnerup 1972

Miami Hurricanes                              8th     13        6-7       2016    Sweet 16 2000, '13

Jacksonville Dolphins                         5         9         4-5       1986   National championship runnerup 1970

Central Florida Knights                      4         4         0-4       2005   All 1st-round losses

South Florida Bulls                            3         5         2-3       2012    3rd round 2012

Florida A&M Rattlers                         3         4         1-3       2007   2nd round 2004

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles                  2nd      3         2-1       2016   Sweet 16 2013

North Florida Ospreys                        1         1         0-1       2015   1st-round loss

Florida Atlantic Owls                        1         1         0-1        2002   1st-round loss

Florida International Panthers           1         1         0-1        1995   1st-round loss

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

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March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).

 

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March 24, 2015

Deadline today for March Madness Haiku Challenge. Enter here, now!; plus Hot Button Top 10, Marlins' OF, Wade voted SoFla's biggest sports star, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 24. "Hello. I'm Ted Cruz and I'm running for president of the United States even though I have as much chance to win as the homeless guy with the cardboard sign." 2) Click here to watch heroic ponies save a French couple from a wild boar attack. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami's biggest sports star poll, NCAAs, Heat/Panthers playoff race, Haiku Challenge, expectations on Stanton, LeBatard show & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat in good shape, Cats in must-win mode. Update entering TuesdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 32-37 (L1), 1 1/2 games from 6th with 13 games left (next tonight at Milwaukee). Heat playoff likelihood: 68.1% (up 2.6) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 33-39 (W2), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 10 games left (next tonight at Tampa Bay). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.2% (down 1.0) per sportsclubstats.com.

HAIKU CHALLENGE CONTEST UPDATE: TODAY IS LAST CHANCE TO ENTER!: Entry window bangs shut tonight at midnight on our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge, so get your 17-syllable poems in 1aa1ahaikutue 1aa1ahaikutue2today. We'll announce the winner on Wednesday. Three simple rules: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it'll be considered. 2. You may submit entries two ways: Here in the blog's 'Comments' section below OR by email to gcote@miamiherald.com. 3. You may enter as many haikus as you wish. Contest prize? Grand prize will be the glory of victory, of course, but we'll have offer other choices. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? In any case, rev up your creative mind now. Last chance. Ready, set ... haiku!

MARCH MADNESS AT THE BREAK: UPSET-O-METER, MY BRACKET: The men's NCAA Tournament has whittled from 64 teams (I don't count the play-ins, sorry) to the Sweet 16. Now, starting Thursday, it gets good. No, it gets great. Let's take stock. The Upset-o-Meter is running at 20.83 percent, with 10 upsets (based on seeds) in 48 games thus far. No. 1 Villanova and a pair of 2's (Virginia and Kansas) are bounced. The top three upsets based on seed differential: 14-UAB d. 3-Iowa State, 14-Georgia State d. 3-Baylor, and 8-North Carolina State d. 1-Villanova. How's your bracket doing? Mine (I'm only in one pool) is in surprisingly decent shape. I am tied for eighth place among 42 teams entering the Sweet 16 -- not counting my money (*), but certainly not out of it. (*-I use the word "money" figuratively, of course. Under no circumstance would I ever be involved in an illegal pool that featured an illicit pot!).

Click on Cinderella Has Left The Building for today's latest column by me, on how this Sweet 16 has everything but a true, classic underdog.

IT'S (SORT OF) OFFICIAL: MARLINS HAVE BEST OUTFIELD IN BASEBALL: ESPN's Baseball Tonight is ranking the 10 best players at every position, began with the three outfield positions, and the Marlins place all three in the top 10: Christian Yelich No. 6 in LF, Marcell Ozuna No. 7 in CF and Giancarlo Stanton No. 1 in RF. The only other team with all three is San Diego, ranked 3-9-9 left to right. Marlins average OF rank of 4.7 beats Padres' average of 7.0. Six teams place two guys in the OF top 10s.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 22: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday (this week, Monday) feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: March Madness pauses, prepares for Sweet 16: America’s annual spring obsession with brackets and office pools is at its break point, with a 64-team field whittled to the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, in Miami, UM's women are out of the NCAA Tournament after two games but the Canes men are still alive in the NIT, visiting Richmond in a quarterfinal game Tuesday night. Thinking that makes it a little closer to March Mildness this year for Hurricanes fans.

2. HEAT: Rejuvenated, vintage Wade leading playoff push: Though Miami lost Sunday at Oklahoma City, Dwyane Wade had scored 25 or more points in seven straight games entering the weekend (his best stretch since 2010) and led big home wins over LeBron James’ Cleveland and Portland that lifted Miami from ninth to seventh in the NBA playoff chase. What was that you were saying about “past his prime?”

3. MARLINS: Big spending Fish extend Yelich’s deal: For years we made fun of Jeffrey Loria’s infamous cheapness. Now the Marlins owner is making it rain and buying everyone drinks. Latest example: the 7-year, $49.5 million contract extension for young outfielder Christian Yelich. The only complaints you hear these days are from Loria haters are how tough they have it now.

4. PANTHERS: Win over Boston keeps Cats alive: Florida' big home win over the Bruins Saturday moved the Cats within four points of Boston for the final NHL playoff spot, with 10 game left in regular season. Still don't like their chances, but, now, at least there is a chance.

5. DOLPHINS: Fins let Clay go, audition receivers: Tight end Charles Clay left for Buffalo as Miami signed center J.D. Walton, invited receiver Michael Crabtree in for a visit and pondered adding WR Greg Jennings. Once the news got to career backup QB Tarvaris Jackson also being in for a look, it was official: The big Ndamukong Suh-led wave is done. Excitement's over. Free agency beginning to wane.

6. TENNIS: Key Biscayne welcomes top men, women: The two-week pro tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, often called the sport’s “fifth major,” begins its annual run Monday. One problem: Predictability. Put it this way: Give me Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic and you can have everybody else. I like my chances.

7. HURRICANES: UM spring football set to wrap up: The Canes' annual football Spring Game is coming up Saturday. It isn’t the season, so instead of a plane pulling a “Fire Al Golden” banner, it will be a small drone carrying a cardboard sign.

8. HORSE RACING: 64th Florida Derby runs at Gulfstream on Saturday: This is where we get excited and imagine the winning horse might finally be the one to end the sport’s 37-year Triple Crown drought, even though we sort of all know better.

9. NFL: League considers tweak in scoring: NFL is considering 23 rules changes at its league meetings, including one proposed by the Colts that would give teams a “bonus point” if, after making a two-point conversion, they then converted a 50-yard field goal. The only reasonable explanation for this proposal: The Colts were either kidding or drunk.

10. BASEBALL: Rose officially seeks reinstatement: Pete Rose, lifetime-banned for gambling, officially petitioned baseball and new commissioner Rob Manfred for reinstatement. I wouldn’t bet on his chances. “I would!” said Rose.

1aa1adwade 1aa1anumber1NO SURPRISE: HEAT'S WADE CROWNED AS MIAMI'S BIGGEST SPORTS STAR: We had a major poll here in the blog inviting you to name South Florida's biggest current professional team-sport star. We gave you 10 choices and three votes, and

the results showed a clear top-five: 1. Heat's Dwyane Wade with 36.7 percent, 2. Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton with 21.0%, 3. Dolphins' Ndamukong Suh with 17.3%, 4. Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill with 8.1%, and 5. Heat's Chris Bosh with 6.9%. (Marlins' Jose Fernandez led the others at 3.5% followed by Dolphins' Cam Wake at 2.9%. Lesser support rolled in for the Panthers' Jaromir Jagr and Marlins' Ichiro, both 1.3%, and Panthers' Roberto Luongo, 1.2%). Wade winning comfortably was no surprise, and Stanton merited the runnerup spot. A mild surprise, at least to me, was how the recently signed Suh barreled in to quickly swamp Tannehill as the Fins' top vote-getter. Thanks to all.

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

March 20, 2015

Who is South Florida's biggest sports star? You pick 3 from 10 choices. New poll. Vote now!; plus March Madness, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Haiku Challenge update & more

1aa1apatriley1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 21. Heat potentate Pat Riley, imprimatur of cool, turned 70 on Friday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Boring March Madness ahead? with poll, Haiku Challenge news, Loria reimagined, Pouncey brothers, D&G & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. (New stuff from this week's LeBatard Show).

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Georgia State coach falls off chair during game: Georgia State's Ron Hunter, coaching while sitting on a courtside office chair due to an injury, falls from seat in closing minutes of his 14th-seeded team's upset of No. 3 Baylor Thursday. Funny! Click here to watch.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat stay hot, Panthers need huge finish. Update entering Saturday/today: A daily blog feature as two teams (one barely) fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 32-36 (W3) after last night's win over Detroit, 1 1/2 games from 6th with 14 games left (next Sunday at Oklahoma City). Heat playoff likelihood: 68.4% (up 9.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 32-39 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 11 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Cats playoff likelihood: 2.8% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

WHO IS SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST CURRENT PRO SPORTS STAR?: I'm looking forward to this vote, 1aa1astarpowerbecause the landscape is evolving. It has added firepower. Ndamukong Suh is a 1aa1astarpower2new Dolphin. The Marlins and Panthers have recently added certain future Hall of Famers in Ichiro and Jaromir Jagr, respectively. I leave it up to you how you interpret the poll question. Certainly longevity in the market is a factor. But the question, stripped bare, is who is greater Miami's biggest professional team sports star right now. We've offered you up to three votes, not just one, because the question is open to interpretation, and also because the list is pretty strong. The order is alphabetical. (If I left someone out, let me know in the Comments section). Vote for your top three (3) and say why.

Interpreting the voting results: With three votes allowed per person, a player's maximum vote percentage would be 33.3 percent if everyone voting cast the maximum three votes. A player's percentage multiplied by three is a fair barometer of the percentage of ballots on which he is being included. A percentage over 33.3 indicates some voters are voting only for that person. 

HAIKU CHALLENGE CONTEST UPDATE: Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge continues ... but not for much longer, so enter soon! Get those 17-syllable poems in now. Three simple rules: 1. If your poem 1aa1ahaikuis 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries here in the blog's 'Comments' section below (preferred) OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com. 3. You may enter as many haikus as you wish. We'll give you some warning on the new deadline but enter now just to be safe. Contest prize? Grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, rev up your creative mind. Ready, set ... haiku!

THE EXPECTATIONS ON GIANCARLO STANTON, QUANTIFIED: How much is expected of the Marlins' $325 Million Man? Well, new betting odds out via Bovada have Stanton as the money favorite to win both the MLB home-run title (at 7-1 odds) and the NL MVP award (at 3-1).

Poll result: Kentucky the pick over the field: We asked, "What would you bet is more likely to happen in the men's NCAA Tournament, Kentucky wins it all, or a different team wins?," and the pick was Kentucky with 62.5 percent.

ON THE LEBATARD SHOW: 1aa1adanshowOne of the fun things about my doing the Dan LeBatard Show on Tuesdays each week is that it becomes interactive with listeners. Last week, for example, during a break in the show, I posted this Vine from the Clevelander (where the studio is) that depicted LeBatard smoking a cigar while scantily clad women danced on stage in the background. Quintessential South Beach. Well, that Vine inspired the photo-illustration at right, created by talented listener Angel Resto. Love the detail, such as me wearing a jacket with a "Greg's Lobos" logo.

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March 19, 2015

NCAAs a foregone conclusion? Most boring March Madness ever? Poll. Vote now!; plus Charles Clay, Ron Fraser, Haiku Challenge news, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Loria reimaging, Pounceys, D&G & more

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 19. Corned beef. The meat I really enjoy one day a year, then never think of again. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge, Wade beats LeBron, UM men denied NCAAs, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. (New stuff from yesterday's LeBatard Show).

Georgia State coach falls off chair during game: Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, on a courtside office chair due to an injury, falls from chair in closing minutes of his 14th-seeded team's upset of No. 3 Baylor today. Funny! Click here to watch.

Charles Clay to Bills: Dolphins today decline to match contract offer by Buffalo, meaning tight end Clay is headed to Bills. For him it's a smart financial move, dubious football move, awful lifestyle move. 

Ron Fraser statue dedication: The Miami Hurricanes will have a ceremony unveiling a new Rom Fraser statue on April 24 at 4 p.m. outside Mark Light Field. Fraser, the two-time national champion baseball coach, passed Away in at age 79 in 2013.  

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat soaring, Panthers nearly done. Update entering Thursday/today: A daily blog feature as two teams (one barely) fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 31-36 (W2), after last night's big 108-104 home win over Portland led by Dwyane Wade's 32 points. Miami is now 2 1/2 games from 6th with 15 games left (next Friday vs. Denver). Heat playoff likelihood: 60.0% (up 13.6) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-39 (L2), 3 points from 9th and 7 points from 8th with 12 games left (next tonight vs. Detroit). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.6% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

ARE WE STARING DOWN THE BARREL OF THE MOST BORING MARCH MADNESS EVER?: You could make the argument that we are if the feel of "foregone conclusion" is a barometer. Think about it. Kentucky is 1aa1amarchmad34-0, a unanimous No. 1 and a huge favorite (near even-odds) to win the men's NCAA Tournament. On the women's side, UConn is 32-1, also a unanimous No. 1 and perhaps an ever bigger favorite. I'd feel very good if you gave me Kentucky and UConn and you took the field. I get the two favorites; you get everybody else. I cannot recall a previous year in which the two overall No. 1s were such prohibitive favorites. Doesn't mean brackets will be filled out any less or that office pools will be smaller, but, for me, at least, the seeming inevitability of Kentucky's men and UConn's women reigning makes this March Madness feel like we know the ending even as the story is just starting.

HAIKU CHALLENGE CONTEST UPDATE: DEADLINE EXTENDED!: Due to unpopular demand we are extending the deadline to enter our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge into next week. (As an 1aa1ahaikuemailer put it, "Why end the contest just as the tournament is beginning, you moron!" Fair comment). So you still have time to get those 17-syllable poems in. Three simple rules: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries here in the blog's 'Comments' section below (preferred) OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com. 3. You may enter as many haikus as you wish. We'll give you some warning on the new deadline but enter now just to be safe. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of 1aa1adickievMarch * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the double entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Contest prize? The grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, rev your creative mind. Ready, set ... haiku!

JEFFREY LORIA: BIG SPENDER: Still getting used to the re-imaging of Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, erstwhile notorious tightwad. First, the huge contract for Giancarlo Stanton, Now, the private team jet.
1aa1aboeing767200The Marlins have rented a Boeing 767-200 (the model pictured) for the season and it includes 84 oversized luxury seats, a massage table and card tables. The outside of the jet will bear the Marlins logo. Miami also has expanded its overall payroll as well as its scouting, player development, marketing and sales departments. Did I mention the executive chefs to prepare meals for home games? Many Marlins fans still think negatively of Loria and maybe always will, but give him this. He's trying. And spending.

ON THE POUNCEYS' SNIPES AT WALLACE: Oh, those Pouncey brothers! Cue the ghost of Ronald Reagan 1aa1apounceysshaking his head with a smirk and saying, "Well, there they go again..." So Dolphin Mike Pouncey and his bro Maurkice (pictured) pretty much say in an interview "good riddance" to departed Mike Wallace. Maurkice drops the hot-potato word "coward," assuring media (over-)attention. To me this isn't a big deal because the Pounceys by now are established loose cannons and Wallace is a ship sailing fast from Finland. (Mike who?)

THE SLOW SUICIDE OF DOLCE & GABBANA: It's above my pay grade and sartorial splendor, but Dolce & Gabbana is an Italian luxury fashion line in the category Armani, Gucci and Versace. It is only important to 1aa1ad&gnote that founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana both are gay because of the controversy now embroiling them. Celebrities led by Elton John have condemned the  brand and promoted a boycott of D&G because of the founders' saying in an interview that gay adoption is unnatural and referring to babies born via in-vitro fertilization as "synthetic children." The LGBT community, non-gays who have benefited from IVF and many others inclined toward tolerance are sympathetic to the boycott, which seems to be growing. Many others agree with D&G's opinions or align on the side of freedom of speech in the social media age. What's interesting to me is that it feels like such business-suicide for a high-end fashion house to be perceived as anti-gay or anti-same sex parents. I am generalizing here, but feel safe in thinking D&G's customer base is gay or OK with same-sex adoption to a far greater extent than it would include supporters of D&G's stance on the matter. #BoycottDolceGabbana

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March 17, 2015

March Madness Haiku Challenge! Got 17 syllables? Enter here, enter now!; plus Wade leads Heat past LeBron, Canes men miss on NCAAs, latest Hot Button Top 10, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.


1aa1adaypatrick1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) I don't know if new Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills will be better than departed Mike Wallace. But I know this. Stills immediately immediately leads all of South Florida sports in hair. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mike Wallace traded with poll, NFL biggest-moves poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Marlins in fantasy, Canes hoops & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Wade's 32 lifts Miami in Return of LeBron II: [Click on The LeBron Effect for my column from last night's game] LeBron last night made his second return to Miami since jilting leaving the Heat to return to Cleveland, but the story was Dwyane Wade, with 32 points, leading an exhilirating 106-92 Heat win. Playing LeBron brings out the best in Wade and the Heat. "None of our guys had to look at a calendar to know who we were playing," as coach Erik Spoelstra put it.

NCAA Tournament odds: Kentucky of course is a near even-money favorite at 6-5, according to Bovada today. Then it's Arizona at 15-2, Wisconsin 17-2, Duke 9-1 and Villanova and Virginia both 10-1.

Me on podcast: I was invited to discuss Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and the Marlins on the Cooper and Rupert podcast out of Los Angeles. Click here to listen. I'm on for 12 minutes starting at 35:00.

The Dolphins, for what's worth...: ...will select Louisville receiver DeVante Parker 14th overall in the first round, according to the latest CBSSports.com mock draft. MY comment: Signing Kenny Stills makes a first-round WR unlikely.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering today/Tuesday: A daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 30-36 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 16 games left (next Wednesday vs. Portland). Heat playoff likelihood: 48.3% (up 17.2) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-38 (L1), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 13 games left (next tonight vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.3% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 10TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: Because, really, what captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient Japanese short-form poetry!? You know what a haiku is. It's a 17-syllable poem. (Not 16 and not 18!) Ideally it's in 1aa1ahaiku5-7-5 structure but we're loose with that. Our three rules are simple: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, we'll consider it a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries in the blog's 'Comments' section below OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com, and you may enter as many haikus as you wish. 3. We'll accept entries starting Monday at 8 a.m. and ending Wednesday at 6 p.m., with the winner to be announced on Thursday. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of March * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the 1aa1adickievdouble entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Prizes, you ask? The winner's grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a sports book publishers send me that I don't read? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, get your creative minds revved up. Remember, the entry window opens at 8 a.m. Monday.

DENIED!: HURRICANES MEN PASSED OVER FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT INVITE; UM WOMEN GET IN: The expert bracketologists had judged Miami likely to be on the wrong side of the bubble coming into Selection Sunday, and for Jim Larranaga's 21-12 Hurricanes the experts unfortunately were right. Miami was denied an at-large bid to the men's NCAA Tournament. It would have been a pleasant surprise more than a shock if UM made it, but the Canes were hurt by a mediocre RPI number and a 1-7 record vs. ranked teams. Now, instead of an eighth NCAA appearance, most recently 2013, Miami will settle for its 11th appearance in the NIT, most recently 2012. No. 2-seeded Miami will host North Carolina Central Tuesday at 7 p.m. Larranaga and UM fans can complain a little but not too much. Since starting the season 8-0 Miami was barely above .500 the rest of the way. Better news: Tonight, Katie Meier's UM women as expected were invited to their NCAAs.

Poll result: Mixed but lukewarm reviews for Wallace's Dolphins term: We asked if you thought Mike Wallace's two seasons with Miami were a success, pretty good,  barely OK or a failure, and it was 38.3 percent barely OK, 37.3% pretty good, 17.8% failure and 6.6% success. 

Poll result: Suh, Graham top NFL's biggest moves: We asked what have been NFL's biggest recent free-agency deals or trades and the top three among 12 choices were Ndamukong Suh to Dolphins with 34.4 percent, Jimmy Graham to Seahawks with 24.6% and Darrelle Revis to Jets with 11.1%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins sign Ndamukong Suh, trade Mike Wallace: What a week in Finland! Starts with team signing DT Ndamukong Suh. Ends with Miami trading WR Mike Wallace and signing WR Kenny Stills and TE Jordan Cameron. Of course the big news was Suh. A terrific talent but one who often shows a propensity for unsportsmanlike conduct that has some calling him the league’s dirtiest player. But enough about the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside!

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Bubble burst. Canes denied NCAA: March Madness began with last night's Selection Sunday show setting the men’s NCAA Tournament field, with the women’s side coming today. As expected the Canes men narrowly missed and aettle for the NIT; the UM women might sneak in. The alternative, the NIT, should be called the NOT because it ain’t the NCAA.

3. HEAT: LeBron visits tonight as playoff chase continues: The Heat today are ninth in the East and just off playoff pace while awaiting a Monday visit by LeBron James’ Cavaliers — his second time back (first was Christmas) since leaving. Heat president Pat Riley said last week it remains “shocking to me that it happened.” C’mon, Pat. This is a “No Dwelling Zone.”

4. PANTHERS: Big loss has Cats running out of time to make postseason: Panthers lost to Rangers last night to end three-game win streak but remain six points from the final playoff seed with 13 games to play. The good news: Florida still has three games left against Boston, who it is chasing. The bad news: Even winning all three might not be enough.

5. AUTO RACING: Prost wins inaugural Miami ePrix: Nicolas Prost won as the first race of electric cars hummed through downtown Miami streets Saturday in one of 10 stops in the circuit's first season. It was really weird to see cars going that fast with no roar of engines. But no weirder than the only American in the race being a driver named Scott Speed.

6. MARLINS: Fish off to strong spring start: With spring training about one-third done, the Marlins sat atop the Grapefruit League standings with an 8-3 record after beating Detroit yesterday. Can we start the playoffs now?

7. NFL: Flurry of free agency moves, trades: With Miami doing its part, Jimmy Graham, Darrelle Revis, and DeMarco Murray were among the latest wave of NFL players to switch uniforms in the most active offseason in memory.
 
8. BASEBALL: MLB hints at future games in Cuba: New commissioner Rob Manfred expressed openness to playing exhibitions in Cuba if U.S. relations continue to warm. Hey don't blame me, Miami hard-liners. Unlike Ozzie, I don't like Fidel and never have!
 
9. TENNIS: Miami Open gears for next week's start: As Serena Williams ended her Indian Wells boycott, pro tennis shifts to Key Biscayne next week. This year's Miami Open will include a swimwear fashion show, pro beach volleyball tournament and “Taste of the Open” event with celebrity chefs. Reportedly there also will be tennis matches, time permitting.
 
10. BASKETBALL: NBA, NCAA agree to discourage early entries: The NBA and NCAA have agreed on a plan to discourage players from leaving school early for the pros. You knew it had gone too far when middle-school kids started sitting out NBA games because of acne.

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March 12, 2015

Suh Effect poll: Setting the bar on Dolphins expectations. Vote now!; plus Canes/FIU hoops, verdict on Whiteside, Heat/Panthers playoff-chase update, robot sportswriters & more

1aa1abryanb
1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 12. Congrats to my friend Bryan Baucom (pictured) for his 500th softball coaching victory with St. Thomas Aquinas High. He also is offensive coordinator for STA's vaunted football program -- one of South Florida's most successful prep coaches. 2) Feeling sexist or shallow? Click here for a video on hottest quarterback WAGs. (Yes, Lauren Tannehill gets a mention). 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dirty Town: On Suh and Whiteside with poll, Canes/FIU basketball, Marlins future, delights of Twitter & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

It's back! Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge!: An annual spring fixture in this blog is our March Madness Haiku Challenge. You know the drill. Haikus (17-syllable poems) about the coming NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned. Rules and details to come.

Postseason hoops: Canes tonight, FIU eliminated: Miami won its ACC Tournament opener last night over Virginia Tech, 59-49, in Greensboro, N.C., thanks to Sheldon McClellan's 16 points, strong defense and an awful opponent. But UM likely must beat a very good Notre Dame tonight at 9 to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. FIU also won yesterday, beating Texas-San Antonio, 57-54, in the Conference USA Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., but the Golden Panthers were eliminated this afternoon by Texas-El Paso, 83-71, to finish their season 16-17. 

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Thursday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 29-35 (W1), 1/2 game from 7th and 1/2 game from 9th with 18 games left (next Friday at Toronto). Heat playoff likelihood: 40.4% (up 11.9) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 9th place at 29-37 (W1), 6 points from 8th and 1 point from 10th with 16 games left (next tonight vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.5% (up 0.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

SUH IMPACT: SETTING THE BAR ON DOLPHINS EXPECTATIONS: I attended Ndamukong Suh's Dolphins introduction yesterday and smiled when he was asked about the pressure one him. The question was
1aa1andammisdirected. The pressure is not on Suh. It is on (more than ever) coach Joe Philbin. As I write of the Suh signing in today's column -- love quoting myself! -- "It does not guarantee you will win or succeed. What it does is leave you out of excuses to explain why if you don't." So the question for you is how the Suh signing has impacted how you feel about the Dolphins and their chances this coming season. As I also note -- click on A Man Named Suh for the entire column -- the Pats are still the Pats and the active Bills and Jets both have improved, too. Factoring all of that, let's set an early bar on expectations for the 2015 Dolphins. Take a dip in our poll. Vote not for the option you hope for, but for the option you realistically expect, and say why.

1aa1adansuhPictorial: Behind-the-scenes photos from Ndamukong Suh's first day as a Dolphin: Click here to access around 50 behind-the-scenes photographs from Ndamukong Suh's first official day as a Miami Dolphin on Wednesday, courtesy the team. One of the photos, of Suh meeting Dan Marino, is pictured at left.

Poll result: There is concern for Whiteside's Heat future due to temper: We asked if you were very, somewhat or not concerned that Hassan Whiteside's temper and immaturity were imperiling his future with the Heat. It was close, with 38.5 percent voting "somewhat," 37.8 "very" and 23.7 "not." That's 76.3% expressing some concern.

1aa1arobotTHE SINISTER RISE OF ROBOT SPORTSWRITERS: Click here for the sad backstory. Well, probably it's more weird than sad. The robot actually is a software program that is fed data about, say, a game result, processes that information, and produces a news story based on the data provided. So, Big Brother is not only watching, now he's writing, too. I think my job is safe (for now), but who knows? Pretty soon there  might be an app for that.

WHEN SOMETHING SAD TURNS HEARTWARMING: Some fans at a middle-school basketball game in Kenosha, Wisc., were teasing a cheerleader who has Down Syndrome. Three players walked off the court to confront the bullies. Story here.

1aa1agronkbowl"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a picture of Rob Gronkowski holding a bowling pin. Thank you." Dear Reader: I'll try, but can't imagine where I'd get one. 

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March 20, 2014

Sun pm 3-23: NCAA Cinderell-O-Meter at 27.1% entering Sweet 16, my bracket, Gators; plus Heat rips Heat, Moreno, haiku winner & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 23. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with March Madness, but not the kind you think. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge entry portal, our Top 5 Pats/Patricks, Dolphins free-agency grade/Super Bowl odds & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Gators whip Pitt, 61-45, reach Sweet 16: I'm up in Orlando with the Florida Gators in their NCAA Tournament regional and Florida looked and played more like the No. 1 seed it is today in easing past Pittsburgh, led by Scottie Wilbekin. Click on Problem Turned Solution for my column off the game centering on Wilbekin. I'd filed this column off Thursday's perfunctory opening win over 16th-seeded Albany. UF was top-ranked, had just won a 27th straight game and yet had more to prove. They're very good. But are they great? They looked closer to that today vs. Pitt. 

1aa1acinderellaUPDATED: NCAA CINDERELL-O-METER (PATENT PENDING) AT 27.1% AFTER 48 GAMES: Excluding the four even-seeded play-in games, which I try to ignore at every turn, there have now been 13 upsets (by seeding) in 48 NCAA Tournament games thus far, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 27.1 percent. That includes all Thursday/Friday games and Saturday/Sunday games. We'll be updating the Cindy Meter here throughout March Madness. Ranking all 13 upsets thus far 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. 7-UConn (over 2-Villanova; +5)

8. 11-Dayton (over 6-Ohio State; +5)

8. 11-Tennessee (over 6-UMass; +5)

11. 6-Baylor (over 3-Creighton; +3)

11. 10-Stanford (over 7-New Mexico; +3)

13. 9-Pitt (over 8-Colorado; +1)

UPDATE: MY BRACKET AT 35-13 WITH 9 ALIVE IN SWEET 16; YOU?: I know that I wrote a Curmudgeonly Anti-Bracket Column last week (somewhat in jest), but I do have a bracket in an office pool. Just one. I opened a nifty 13-3 on Thursday, my wins including two nice little upset picks with W's by 12-Harvard and 11-Dayton, and a third upset if you count 9-Pitt. I rallied Friday to also go 13-3 for a total of 26-6 entering the weekend. My most notable upset pick Friday was an advance by 12-Stephen F. Austin. I was 5-3 on the survival meter in Saturday games and 4-4 on Sunday. As we pause and await the Sweet 16, I have nine teams still alive in my bracket: Florida, UCLA, Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Louisville and Michigan.

"WE SUCK." LEBRON, BOSH RIP HEAT: Heat loss to Pelicans last night was Miami's seventh in past 11 games, and I'm not sure what's more shocking. That slump. Or there being an NBA team named "Pelicans." OK, it's that slump, and the slumpers aren't taking it well. I haven't heard words like this out of the Big 3-era Heat since 2010-11. "We suck," said Chris Bosh. "There is no passion. There's nothing." LeBron: "Too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. It's very frustrating. We're all frustrated." Coach Erik Spoelstra may have understated it in saying, "Our lockerroom is angry."

1aa1akmorenoLOVING DOLPHINS' INTEREST IN MORENO: Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas might be OK, may be good enough. But I love that Miami thinks it can do better at running back and is looking at Denver free agent Knowshon Moreno, who visits today. Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs last season. Yeah, it helps when defenses are so consumed by Peyton Manning that stopping the run is seldom a priority. Still, Moreno is good. He's compact, built for short-yardage conversions. He's in his prime at 26. He pass-blocks well. And he's a dual threat who caught 60 passes last year. Hope they get him. (Interesting Fins didn't target LeGarrette Blount instead, since GM Dennis Hickey knew him from their Tampa Bay days).

VOGELSBERG IS MAYOR OF BRACKETVILLE: Scott Vogelsberg is the winner of our blog's 9th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of March * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judges appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the double entendre on bubbles popping. Three Honorable Mentions go to Hukk (Madness Flies Away), Michael (Furious Study) and J.C. (White Whale). Special mention as well to 3Pete, Big Baby, Frydad4, Neal S. and Original VT, all of whom also placed haikus in the final round of consideration. Aside to Mayor Vogelsberg: Email me at gcote@miamiherald.com with your choice of prizes listed in the previous blogpost. Thanks to all for playing. Even those of you who were confounded by the idea of 17 syllables, and others of you who veered from the template and waxed haiku-ish on the Dolphins and other unauthorized subjects.

1aa1asprite6mixLEBRON JAMES IS DOC PEMBERTON OF NBA: Historical aside. Dr. John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola. Now Coke product Sprite is rolling out a limited-edition soda called "Sprite 6 Mix by LeBron James." Picture LeBron in a white lab coat painstakingly experimenting with various flavor combinations before hitting upon the winner: Sprite's traditional lemon-lime flavor but with hints of orange and cherry. "I never imagined I would have my own flavor someday," said James. Dream big, King. Dream big.

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March 16, 2014

Wed pm 3-19: March Madness Haiku Challenge: We have a winner!; plus Top 5 Pats/Patricks, Dolphins' FA grades & more

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WE HAVE A MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: And the winner (and runnersup) will be announced in a new blogpost tomorrow/Thursday morning. Stay tuned. Thanks to all. Maybe the best year yet for quality entries.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19. Hope y'all had a beery I mean merry St. Patrick's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with the onset of March Madness. 3) !n The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins free-agency poll, Heat sky falling, Tiger's error, Canes hoops & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

"Selection Sunday now done, bracket is set, office pools on ... HAIKU!" --Greg Cote

Haiku prize list revealed: Our 2014 Haiku Challenge winner will receive his or her choice of four prizes: 1. Dolphins 2013 Postseason Guide: Which may or may not be a collector's item, considering the team did not make the postseason. 2. Heat 2013-14 Media Guide: It's 496 pages of champion, baby. 3. Meet-n-greet with Dan Le Batard Show: And chance to sit in-studio with us during a Tuesday segment. 4. Eurythmics 1986 album "Revenge": Vinyl, unopened, mint. 

NCAA Tournament betting favorites: Bovada sets the faves as Florida at 11-2, Louisville 13-2, Michigan State 7-1, Arizona 9-1, Kansas/Virginia/Wichita State all 10-1, and Duke 12-1.

MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE: FREE YOUR INNER POET. ENTER CONTEST NOW!: This is the official entry point for our blog's ninth annual March Madness Haiku Challenge. The contest stubbornly 1aa1ahaikuchallengesurvives despite sometimes tepid response owing to too few inspired souls able to see and appreciate the natural marriage of American college basketball mania and Japanese short-form poetry. This a "boutique" contest, meaning its relative unpopularity makes your odds of winning fairly good should you dare to delve. Contest rules? Simple:

1. Haikus must in some way be about the NCAA Tournament or postseason 1aa1ahaikuexample(men or women, Miami-themed or national, serious or funny) and must be in
haiku form, or 17 syllables. Classic 5-7-5 metrical phrasing is preferred but not required, and rhyme-or-no-rhyme is your call, but only entries of exactly 17 syllables will be considered. An example of haiku is shown above.

2. Enter as many times as you like in the Comments section here, but only one entry per comment, please! Haikus must be entered as a comment here in this blogpost to be considered. In the case of similar haikus, favored status goes to first posted.

There will be a prize to be announced soon for the best, most original or inventive haiku. Chances are it will be a crappy prize, with a strong possibility that I'll procrastinate getting it to the winner and perhaps forget altogether. Don't delay because we plan to shut off entries and announce winner in a few days.

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Defending 2013 Haiku Challenge champ is OC Dolphin with his winner: "Miami, home of roundball * Heat, second to none * Canes, joining the fun." The judges overlooked a lack of 5-7-5 phrasing, charmed by simplicity and use of the quaint 'roundball.'

Our CHAMPIONS ROLL CALL: 2013--OC Dolphin; 2012--Frydad4; 2011--OC Dolphin; 2010--I Am Kazaam; 2009--r.duke; 2008--Tococane; 2007--Bruce and David Tucker (tie); and 2006--Kurt from Boca.

Now, don't be scared. Have fun. Ready ... set ...haiku!

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THE LIST: GREATEST PAT/PATRICKS: The Dolphins just sigbned the greatest active Irish name in sports -- Cortland Finnegan -- but in honor of St. Patrick's Day we bring you the top five greatest Pats or Patricks in South Florida pro sports history:

1. Pat Riley, Heat coach/president, 1995-present

2. Patrick Surtain, Dolphins cornerback, 1998-04

3. Pat Rapp, Marlins pitcher, 1993-97

4. Pat Cummings, Heat forward, 1988-90

5. Patrick Cobbs, Dolphins running back, 2006-10

Note: No Panthers made the top five after the Pat Committee rejected the surname Fitzpatrick.

Dolphins latest Super Bowl odds: Bovada has updated odds today reflecting the first week of NFL free agency, and Miami remains 50-1, tied for 23rd of 32 teams. Betting faves are Seahawks at 6-1, Broncos 7-1, 49ers 15-2, Patriots 9-1 and Packers 10-1.

Heat beats Rockets: OK so the sky isn't falling, after all. That was just a metor shower.

Poll result: Strong grades for Dolphins' early free-agent signings: We asked in the previous blogpost, a great response followed, and y'all came in throwing bouquets at new general manager Dennis Hickey. Tha vast majority thought the Dolphins' early FA work was good (57.6 percent) or excellent (30.1%). Another 10.6% called it fair, and only 1.7% thought it poor.

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