March 19, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who wins mighty battle for No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Match Madness update: My bracket still strong after Bloody Sunday and our Haiku Challenge winner; also, my newest column (Dolphins) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 19. Hope ya'll had a fun and safe St. Patrick's Day weekend! 2) Pleased to meet so many of you recently at the LeBatard Show event at J. Wakefield Brewing in Wynwood. Great place, great time, great people. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My NCAA Bracket updates, March Madness Haiku Challenge, The List (UM hoops), new Back In My Day video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

HaikuWE HAVE A MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: Our blog's 13th annual Haiku Challenge drew a robust 128 entries this year, of which 80 qualified for consideration as proper haikus (17 syllables) and on topic. Our winning entry was from Michael DeFerrari. His haiku: "Winning a bracket / justifies my existence / picks don't fail me now." Judges appreciated the classic 5-7-5 structure, liked the simplicity and allusion to the disproportionate importance placed on winning, and were smitten by the apparent nod to the 1979 Herbie Hancock album and subsequent colloquialism, "Feets don't fail me now." (Michael, email me at gregcote@miamiherald.com and we'll work out a prize). Appreciation as well to honorable mention haikus from Jay Krupa, Trevor @trashmanT, Harrison Gillming, Marshall Aldrich, Garrick Piche, Rob Frye and Ryan Rodenhauser. Thanks to all who played! Haiku!

Latest column: On Dolphins scrambling to make up losses: This has been a rough offseason and free agency for the Miami Dolphins, led by the departures of much starpower in Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey. In my newest column, I pose the three questions that measure the state of the Dolphins. You might not like answers. To read, click Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins.

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:

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES / MARCH MADNESS: Miami one and done as Sweet on deck: Your bracket busted yet? Chances are Bloody Sunday did it, with five upsets in eight games. Hurricanes men got bounced in their opener by Loyola-Chicago and UM women were ousted quick by Quinnipiac. The Madness pauses a few days now before resuming Thursday with the Sweet 16. Kansas and Villanova are the only No. 1s left, with Loyola and Syracuse (a play-in team) the double-digit-seed survivors in the Glass Slipper Division.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins busy as NFL free agency underway: Ndamukong Suh followed Jarvis Landry out the door, but Miami bagged two receivers in veteran Danny Amendola (from the Patriots) and young, fleet Albert Wilson. Fins are now talking about signing running back DeMarco Murray. Hmm, like defensive end Robert Quinn, whom they traded for, I'd be more excited about Miami getting Murray if this was, like, 2014. 

3. PANTHERS: Cats hit road as playoff fight intensifies: After Saturday's loss to Edmonton the Cats stand ninth in the jockeying for eight East playoff spots, now five points off pace but with three games in hand. Florida now plays seven of its next eight games on the road in a closing stretch that will likely determine whether the Stanley Cup playoffs invite South Florida or not.

4. HEAT: Miami sits pretty for playoffs, but can they climb?: Heat is a virtual lock to make NBA playoffs with a dozen games left. Only question is whether Miami can climb from 8th place for a more advantageous first-round draw. Fourth place and home-court advantage is only three games away, but it'd take a strong finishing kick starting Monday vs. Denver. 

5. TENNIS: Serena back as Miami Open begins: Not tired of brackets yet, are ya? The women's draw was Sunday and the men's is Monday as the Miami Open gets underway in its final iteration on Key Biscayne before (unfortunately) moving to Hard Rock Stadium in 2019. Simona Halep was seeded No.  1 but the big intrigue on the women's side will be how wild-card entry Serena Williams performs (starting Wednesday) in her first major tournament since maternity leave.

6. MARLINS: Fish say they want to hear from fans: Two-thirds through spring training the Marlins are a surprisingly decent 12-8-2 after Sunday's loss to the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton. Meanwhile, the club has started a "Dimelo Miami" gimmick, dimelo being Spanish for tell me. They want to hear from fans. Uh oh. Be careful what you wish for, Fire-Sale Fish.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Richt's Canes to open spring practice: Mark Richt's Hurricanes aim to restart the momentum when spring practice begins this Tuesday after last year's break-through 10-3 season that included ACC Championship Game and Orange Bowl appearances. Atop the spring watch list: In a quarterback competition flung wide open, Will Malik Rosier reaffirm himself as the starter?

8. SOCCER: Peru-Croatia in Miami for tuneup: I know a lot of Peruvians live in Miami. Not sure if we have a "Little Zagreb" section of town or not. Anyway, plenty of futbol fans will turn out this coming Friday night at The Rock for a World Cup tuneup friendly match. U.S. men sadly didn't qualify, so we take what we can get.

9. CANES BASEBALL: UM avoids being swept at Duke: Hurricanes beat Duke in Durham Sunday, 8-2, to avoid being swept by their ACC rival. Still been an uphill climb overall, though, for Miami, now 9-10, in Jim Morris' final season. If this is a team capable of reaching the College World Series, tick tock fellas, time to start showing it.

10. HORSE RACING: Florida Derby looms into view: Less than two weeks until the March 31 Florida Derby at Gulfstream, one of the last major prep races before the Kentucky Derby opens Triple Crown season. Still waiting for a superhorse and betting darling to emerge and capture imaginations. Maybe Hallandale Beach will be the stage?

Missing the HB10 cut: Once again the NIT is happening, and nobody is really sure why.

Mm ViitaleUPDATED. MY NCAA BRACKET: STILL REALLY SOLID, EVEN AFTER BLOODY SUNDAY
:
 We're updating you daily on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and -- hard to believe -- even afgter Bloody Sunday, I stand tied for second place overall. And the leader's championship pick is, while mine (Villanova) is not, so I'm still well in this thing entering the Sweet 16:

Next / Sweet 16 -- After a three-day pause the Madness turns Sweet beginning Thursday. Kansas and Villanova are the only No. 1s left. With UMBC ousted, the designated Cinderellas left are 11-seeds Loyola-Chicago (which slayed Miami) and Syracuse, the latter off a play-in game. 

Day 4 / Round of 32 -- Correct on only three of eight games (37.5%) on a Bloody Sunday in which Cinderella went nuts. There were five by-seed upsets, including No. 1 Xavier falling to Florida State. Alas, one of the games that went according to form saw the UMBC fairy tale end. For the tournament as a whole I have been correct on 36 of 48 games, or 75%. (Updated: More than half of all in my pool, 68 of 131, already have seen their title-pick eliminated, led by Virginia with 22, North Carolina 16, Arizona 11 and Michigan State 10).

Day 3 / Round of 32 -- Correct on seven of eight games (87.5%), another big day, missing only on Loyola's upset of Tennessee. For the tournament overall I have been correct on 33 of 40 games, or 82.5%.

Day 2 / Round of 64 -- Correct on 12 of 16 games (75%), a dip from Day 1 but still not bad. Went two out of three on by-seed upsets, nailing No. 9 Kansas State over No. 8 Creighton and 9-Florida State over 8-Missouri, but missing on 10-Providence over 7-Texas A&M. Our other misses: Like all of you, I didn't see No. 1 Virginia losing in a stunner. Also missed on losses by Arkansas and Wichita State. Overall, survived the Round of 64 with 26 teams still alive, or 81.3%. 

Day 1 / Round of 64 -- Correct on 14 of 16 games (87.5%). Very pleased. That includes two out of three on by-seed upset picks. I was right on No. 11-Loyola over No. 6-Miami (sorry, Canes fans) and 9-Alabama over 8-Virginia Tech. This just didn't feel like the March for Miami to make a run, as I wrote in this column. The upset misfire was 10-Oklahoma over 7-Rhode Island. Our only other miss: 13-Buffalo's bracket-busting stunner over 4-Arizona.

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation 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: Can Hurricanes Answer The Doubters? / Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Fins Must Find Their Future / 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 NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 17, 2018

March Madness Update: My bracket's still solid, oh Virginia, no-Cinderella Saturday and Haiku Challenge contest news; plus brutal honesty on Dolphins (new column), UM women ousted, latest Back In My Day video & more

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

Stpatricks1) It's SATURDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Stay safe out there. It's one of those holidays when all of the amateur drunks come out of the woodwork to join we more experienced imbibers. 2) Pleased to meet so man of you Thursday at the LeBatard Show event at J. Wakefield Brewing in Wynwood. Great place, great time, great people. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Haiku Challenge advisory & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

"It was 8th-seed Miami Hurricanes women (21-10) vs. 9th-seed Quinnipiac (27-5) today in Storrs, Conn., to see if UM's better half was just that and could do what the UM men failed to: Advance. Um, they couldn't. Out, 86-72." -- Confucious, 484 BC

New column: On Dolphins scrambling to make up losses: This has been a rough offseason and free agency for the Miami Dolphins, led by the departures of much starpower in Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey. In my newest column, I pose the three questions that measure the state of the Dolphins. You might not like answers. to read, click Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins.

BracketUPDATED. MY NCAA BRACKET: SOLID FRIDAY FOR US, NOW CINDERELLA CAN TAKE SATURDAY OFF, PLEASE: We're updating you daily on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I stand tied for seventh place through the Round of 64 and entering Saturday play. And in case you wondered, Virginia was the championship pick of 22 in the pool, or 16.8%. Ouch. Not me, luckily. I have Villanova net-cutting.

Day 3 / Round of 32 -- Cinderella can take Saturday off, please. My bracket is alive in all eight games and needs all eight by-seed favorites to win, including Gonzaga over Ohio State and Texas Tech over Florida in what look to me to be today's tightest matchups.

Day 2 / Round of 64 -- Correct on 12 of 16 games (75%), a dip from Day 1 but still not bad. Went two out of three again on by-seed upsets, nailing No. 9 Kansas State over No. 8 Creighton and 9-Florida State over 8-Missouri, but missing on 10-Providence over 7-Texas A&M. Our other misses: Like all of you, I didn't see No. 1 Virginia losing in a mega-stunner. Also missed on losses by Arkansas and Wichita State. Overall, survived the Round of 64 with 26 of 32 teams still alive, or 81.3%. 

Day 1 / Round of 64 -- Correct on 14 of 16 games (87.5%). Very pleased. That includes two out of three on by-seed upset picks. I was right on No. 11-Loyola over No. 6-Miami (sorry, Canes fans) and 9-Alabama over 8-Virginia Tech. This just didn't feel like the March for Miami to make a run, as I wrote in this column. The upset misfire was 10-Oklahoma over 7-Rhode Island. Our only other miss: 13-Buffalo's bracket-busting stunner over 4-Arizona. 
Haiku

ENTRIES NOW CLOSED ON OUR 13TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: UPDATE: We had 128 haiku entries in four days (not bad), of which 80 qualified for consideration. The rest were either not 17 syllables, not on topic, didn't make the deadline or, in two hilarious instances, were obscene. We'll reveal our finalists and Grand Champion Haiku in a new blogpost here on Sunday. Thanks to all who played along! ..... Original post: We have done the Haiku Challenge for as long as we've had this blog and it is back for tradition's sake and by unpopular demand. Actually we had a record number of entries last year, so let's see if we'll raise the bar even higher. I know many of you Vitaleare intimidated by this contest, or simply do not agree that nothing captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering like ancient Japanese short-form poetry. I do not do this for the masses, but for the select few creative minds and poets among you. Think of it like a restaurant that offers liver. They know very few like it, but they know the few who do love it. You may know that a haiku is a 17-syllable poem ideally but not necessarily in 5-7-5 structure. Rhyming? Fine, but also not necessary. Here's an example of a standard 5-7-5 haiku: "An ocean voyage / As waves break over the bow / the sea welcomes me." Got it ? Now apply that to March Madness.

Three simple but firm rules: 1. Your poem had to be 17 total syllables exactly and must in some have been about the NCAA Tournament, March Madness or college basketball. 2You could submit entries ONLY one of these two ways: Via email to gcote@miamiherald.com with Haiku in the subject line, or via Twitter @gregcote with the hashtag #Haiku. 3. Entries were accepted starting Tuesday through noon today/Friday, March 16.

Grand prize? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide or something equally crappy? We'll figure something out. But don't do it for the prize, as I said. Do it for the glory and empowering feeling of Zen.

THE LIST: MIAMI HURRICANES BASKETBALL IN NCAA TOURNAMENT: UM men's basketball is in the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time since first making it in 1960, and the Canes women are in it for the 13th time since their first appearance in 1989. Seasons when both Miami teams made the NCAAs the same year:

Year     UM men's results                                       UM women's results

1998     Lost to UCLA                                                Lost to Clemson

2013     Beat Illinois, lost to Marquette                Lost to Iowa

2016     Beat Wichita State, lost to Villanova     Lost to South Dakota State

2017     Lost to Michigan State                              Beat Florida Gulf Coast, lost to Quinnipiac

2018     Lost to Loyola-Chicago                               Lost to Quinnipiac

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': MUSIC CONSUMPTION!: Here's the latest BIMD video, which debuted on yesterday's LeBatard Show. Key reference: Oddjob from Goldfinger. Bonus: Shirley Bassey. Enjoy:

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation 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: Can Hurricanes Answer The Doubters? / Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Fins Must Find Their Future / 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 LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 12, 2018

Why do damned Dolphins keep giving away their best players!? New column; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), can March Madness save the season, Haiku Challenge update & more

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

Gang1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 12. I was pleased to meet so many fans at Saturday night's LeBatard Brothers 'Mas Miami' event at Blackbird Ordinary. Lots of fun, as suggested by the photo at right, in which I am surrounded by Dan LeBatard, his artist brother Dave (Lebo), Zoo Miami's Ron Magill and a lovely, photobombing fan of the show. Y'all are the best. Click on image to see enlarged version. 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): Your verdict on Landry trade, Thrilling Thursday in SoFla sports, intimate portrait of Ichiro & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Why do the damned Dolphins keep giving away their best players?: First Ajayi, then Landry, now Suh. The Dolphins curiously keep parting with their best players. I explore in my newest column. To read, click Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? Also, the ongoing FBI probe into corruption has scandalized this men's college basketball season and shadowed dozens of schools, Miami included. That is why Selection Sunday arrived as medicine for the sport. For that column, click Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season.

HaikuMarch Madness Haiku Challenge advisory!: Our blog's 13th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge is ready to unveil, because other than peanut butter and jelly what goes together better than American college basketball and Japanese short-form poetry! We'll unveil entry details and rules right here on Tuesday morning, so prepare to get creative in 17 syllables for your chance at a (not so) fabulous prize!

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:

Hot1. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Selection Sunday sets NCAA bracket: Gentlemen (and ladies), start your brackets! Selection Sunday set the field for the men's NCAA Tournament, with the women's field coming Monday. Villanova is the early betting favorite to win it all, followed by Duke and Virginia. The onset of March Madness means you'll spend the next three weeks pretending to work while sneaking peeks at your smartphone for scores and at your bracket for holes. Do like me. Assume your bracket will suck. It makes the eventual disappointment easier to take.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins trade Landry for not much in return: Jay Ajayi, now this. Dolphins keep giving away talent as if talent weren't the whole point. Miami is trading productive but soon-to-be-pricey slot receiver Jarvis Landry, arguably its most popular player, to the Browns in exchange for fourth- and seventh-round draft picks. If this trade were a football score, I think Cleveland just beat the Dolphins around 31-13. 

3. HURRICANES: UM men get No. 6 seed, face Loyola: Canes men were a cinch for selection to the NCAA Tournament, but hardly made their case for a high seed in a one-and-done ACC Tournament performance and lopsided loss to North Carolina. The UM women did better in the ACCs (1-1) and also are sure to make the NCAAs. Question is whether either Miami team can win a couple of games from here and make it interesting. UM men open Thursday vs. Loyola-Chicago in Dallas and are scant 1- to 3-point favorites.

4. PANTHERS: Ice on fire! Hot Cats skating toward playoffs: The crazy-hot Panthers' 4-3 OT win over the Rangers Saturday night marked Florida's franchise-record eighth straight home win and 15th in the past 19 games overall. Cats still are two points off playoff pace but with three games in hand. Bottle the team we've seen the past five or six weeks and this would be a Stanley Cup contender. 

5. HEAT: Can Miami climb to fourth in East?: The deep-bench Heat put eight men in double figures in walloping Washington 129-102 at home Saturday night for a second straight win. Miami remains in seventh place in the East but is only 2 1/2 games from fourth with 15 games to go in regular season. Team has been erratic but finds ways to keep you believing. Meanwhile Dwyane Wade visited Stoneman Douglas High and gotten behind the gun-control fight. Could Miami love this guy any more? 

6. GOLF: Tiger finishes second as comeback accelerates: Tiger Woods finished second Sunday, one shot back, in the PGA Tour stop at Valspar. There's been much debate whether we should regard Tiger as all-the-way "back." Coming close here was a big step. A great Masters in April would be bigger.

7. MARLINS: Booo! Stanton no-show for Marlins-Yankees: Fish are a solid 10-5-1 at the midsection of spring training -- surprising, considering low expectations for the team. (In fact MLB players union boss Tony Clark blasted the club this week for breaking apart a competitive team. Hallelujah. Yes they did!) Marlins beat Yankees 7-5 Sunday but Giancarlo Stanton did not make the trip to Jupiter. Not cool, Mike. Not cool.

8. CANES BASEBALL: Signs of life as ACC play begins: UM still is only 7-8 overall in Jim Morris' final season but showed signs of life by taking two out of three over Notre Dame in Canes' start of ACC play, missing out on a sweep in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader.

9. TENNIS: Miami Open begins next week: The final Miami Open on Key Biscayne (before moving to Hard Rock Stadium) begins next week, running March 19-April 1. Rafael Nadal dropping out was a big blow but otherwise the men and women's field is strong, and includes fan favorite Serena Williams' return from maternity. Serena is so good, you get the feeling she could win the tournament even if she played while nursing.

10. UM FOOTBALL: Richt preparing for spring practice: UM spring practice opens next week, March 20, and all eyes will be on the quarterback position as incumbent Malik Rosier attempts to fend off the competition and keep his job. If the battle is that close, though, chances are the fight will seep into fall.

Missing the HB10 cut: Giants star receiver Odell Beckham could be in trouble after a leaked video showing him in bed with a woman and with lines of white powdery substance visible. Who's he think he is, a Dolphins offensive line coach!?

OUR MOST RECENT COLUMNS:  Our columns from the past week: Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History  /  As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests  /  Don't Shut Up, Get Louder  /  Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018.

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation 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: Fins Must Find Their Future  /  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 / Welcome Home, D.Wade  /  Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 18, 2017

Results of 2017 March Madness Haiku Challenge right here!; plus, with latest news, is it appropriate for Marlins to honor Jose Fernandez with uniform patch? Poll. Last day to vote!; also, Canes one-n-done, my bracket update, Hot Button Daily & more

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

Stpatricksday1) It is SATURDAY, March 18. Hope y'all had a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Like I need an excuse to drink!? 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge with Canes-in-NCAAs poll, Miami snubbed on best-sports-colleges list & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Hurricanes one-and-done in NCAA Tournament: A positive, surprising, better-than-expected season for UM men's basketball ended with a crash and a thud last night in Tulsa, in a 78-58 loss to Michigan State in Miami's first game of the NCAA Tournament. Canes led by a 12 early before the bottom fell out. Now the women carry the banner for UM hoops, with Katie Meier's crew debuting today at home vs. Florida Gulf Coast.

My bracket update: After round-of-64 play and entering Saturday's games I have 27 of 32 teams still alive and stand tied for sixth among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends men's NCAA Tournament pool. Offsetting my losses I have nailed four notable seed-upsets so far with 12-Middle Tennessee, 12-Rhode Island, 11-Xavier and 10-Wichita State.

IT'S 17 SYLLABLES OF MYSTICAL LOVE AS WE CROWN 2017 MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: Our blog's 10th annual Haiku Challenge enjoyed a great response with 141 entries --  121 of which were actual haikus and eligible. Thanks to all who played along! The ones we liked best:

Special mention: To Ryan Meyer, a poet/professor who adapted from the famous Japanese poet Basho to write: "An old silent pond / Past a field of sixty-eight / Splash! Taste the feeling."

HaikuHonorable mention: To Reuben Rubalcava, for: "The madness is here / Let's crack open some dark beers / The heartbreak is here."   To Elliott Gelfand, for: "Brackets call to us / We succumb to the madness / Buzzers will be beat."   To our 2016 champion John Flannery, for "Skipping out of work / Rooting hard for underdogs / Dear God please not Duke."   To Ronald Kinzel, for: "I enjoy haikus / But sometimes they don't make sense / Jim Larranaga."   And to Andrew McTague, for: "It's that time again / Perhaps a crying flute girl / Dick Vitale, baby."

Third place: To Justin Regas, for: "Forget the Plumlees / Coach K 'back' on his high horse / sweep the leg, Grayson."

Second place: To Ryan Rodenhauser, for: "Ups and downs this year / Like Larranaga's en'e / Canes will close on top."

FIRST PLACE: KEN WHITELEY, CHATTANOOGA, TN, for: "Fill out your bracket / Cheer for teams you've never seen / Cinderella dies."  

Congrats, Ken. The judges appreciated the 5-7-5 structure, the simplicity, and the underlying allusion to the inherent ludicrousness of investing so much emotion into teams we've never watched when, for 99 percent of us, our bracket ends if destruction and dnd death."

Ken, email me at the same address to which you submitted your entry and we'll come up with a prize suitable to you. Thanks again to all who played! Once again congratulations to Ken Whiteley, our 2017 俳句チャンピオン!

LATEST COLUMN: LOVE & REGRET: THE COMPLICATED LEGACY OF JOSE FERNANDEZ: Yesterday investigators revealed Fernandez was at the wheel of his boat, impaired by alcohol and cocaine Joseand speeding, the night of the fatal September crash that took three lives including his own. Click on A Complicated Legacy for my latest column on this. It is now clear and official that Fernandez's own recklessness primarily was responsible for this tragedy. Does it change the way you feel? Should it? The Marlins plan to go ahead with honoring Fernandez in various ways this coming season (though not on Opening Night, I am told) and with uniform patches with his number worn throughout the season. I have mixed emotions. The Marlins are honoring the life of a Miami hero, especially to Cuban-Americans, and of a star pitcher lost too soon. But can that be so neatly separated from the fact Jose's own illegal recklessness that night caused this tragedy that involved two other families? There are no easy answers here, and I do not claim to have the right one. But I did want to invite your opinion in light of Thursday's 46-page report implicating Fernandez as the cause of the tragedy.

Poll result: Canes must at least win tonight to call season a success: We asked what Miami Hurricanes men's team must do in NCAA Tournament to call this a successful season. The results: "Win at least one game to avoid fast exit," 46.3 percent; "Season already a success based on expectations," 31.2%; and "Win two games to at least reach Sweet 16," 22.5%.
 
HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 3-18-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Florida Gulf Coast at Hurricanes, 3:30 p.m.: UM women make NCAA Tournament debut at home.

2. Team USA vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic game could tell who reaches semis.

3. NCAA Tournament, 12:10 p.m.: Day's eight men's games include FSU at 6:10, Florida at 8:40.

4. Marlins vs. Detroit, 1:05 p.m.: Fish travel for spring game in Lakeland.

5. Hurricanes at North Carolina State, 6:30 p.m.: UM baseball in ACC game. 

Select other recent columns: A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 16, 2017

NCAA Tournament begins, last day to enter March Madness Haiku Challenge! Details here; plus Hurricanes-in-tourney poll (last day to vote), our NCAAs preview column, Eric Hosmer, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, March 16. Team USA's Eric Hosmer, born in Cooper City and from American Heritage High, hit the go-ahead 2-run homer in last night's huge 4-2 win over Venezuela in second round of World Baseball Classic. Local boy makes (really) good. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, onus on Team USA in WBC, Smokey Robinson review & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"Happy 104th, Mae Riback!"

Column: Loving the Madness: I used to be a March Madness agnostic who made fun of Bracketheads, but I have slowly come around on why people love the NCAA Tournament so much. Click on A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness for my latest column. 

HaikuOH NO! IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 12TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: We expect the entries to be pouring in like a tsunami, by which I mean we expect a few, or perhaps even several. We have done the Haiku Challenge for 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 VitaleJapanese 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!) and that ideally it's in 5-7-5 structure. But we're loose with the structure. Rhyming? Fine, 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 or the  Miami Hurricanes, it's a valid entry. (Tip: 'Larranaga' burns four syllables).

2. You may submit entries ONLY one of two ways: via email to gcote@miamiherald.com, or via Twitter @gregcote with the hashtag #Haiku. You may enter as many haikus as you wish.

3. Entries will be accepted from now through 5 p.m. today/Thursday, with winner announced in the blog Friday morning. (We are getting an unusually big response this year so shutting entries down sooner than first expected).

Prize, you ask? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide or something equally crappy? We'll figure something out. Don't do it for the prize. Do it for the sheer glory and to flex your creativity and inner-Zen. OK, ready? Get the mind revving. The entry window has banged open. Haiku!

MIAMI SNUBBED ON 'BEST COLLEGES FOR SPORTS' LIST: Money magazine and Sports Illustrated together have come out with a Top 100 list of "Best Colleges for Sports Lovers." Top five are Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Duke and Virginia. Florida fares well at No. 7. Florida State at least makes it at No. 64. Miami Hurricanes? Nope. Nada. Click here for the complete Top 100 and methodology.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / THU 3-16-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. NCAA Tournament, 12:15: With first of day's 16 men's games including Gators at 3:10, 'Noles at 9:20.

2. Panthers at Columbus, 7 p.m.: Was 7-2 rout of Toronto start of late Cats surge?

3. Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic 2nd-round game from Diego.

Select other recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

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...

Twitter @gregcote

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).

 

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

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.

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