February 19, 2017

The new Hot Button Top 10, starring Heat at the break, Marlins weirdness, sizzling' Cats, Hurricanes, Dolphins; plus is he whale enough? (my Whiteside column), your verdict on Marlins expectations & more

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

Finsat501) It is SUNDAY, February 19. Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century (pictured) makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins open spring training with expectations poll, Kate Upton revealed, ode to the Monopoly thimble & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Heat, Whiteside: My new Sunday column: We're coming into Pat Riley Season: Trading deadline, then draft, then free agency. So, the question hovering over the Miami Heat at the all-star break: Is Hassan Whiteside "whale" enough for Riley? Good enough to be the centerpiece around which Riley can build another champion? Click on Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? to read in full.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (FEBRUARY 19): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature 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. NBA: Hot Heat take an All-Star break: New Orleans hosts NBA's 66th All-Star Game on Sunday night (sans any Heat all-star participants, alas) with Miami only two games off playoff pace after winning 14 of last 16 games before the break. Up next: What you got planned for that Feb. 23 trade deadline, Mr. Riley? Anything? Or will you stand Pat?

2. MARLINS: Full spring work begins as sale talk turns weird: Full-squad spring training got underway Friday up in Jupiter as talks to sell the club took a weird turn. I mean, what were the odds that Jeffrey Loria maybe becoming U.S. Ambassador to France might somehow cause the frontrunning buyer to back out?

3. PANTHERS: Sizzling Cats climb up onto playoff pace: Florida on Saturday won its fourth straight and seventh of past eight and now are on playoff pace, tied for seventh in the East. Meanwhile Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,900th career NHL point the day he turned 45. Who else gives middle age a good name like this dude?

4. HURRICANES: Big games on deck for UM men, women as regular seasons ebb: Miami's 16th-ranked women's team visits No. 13 Duke on Sunday and Canes men play at No. 14 Virginia Monday as last few games of regular season shape NCAA seeding for both. Oh, and CBS will feature Jim Larranaga Sunday at 7 p.m. in its "Men Of March" series.

5. UM BASEBALL: Diamond Canes go for sweep in season-opening series: Alleged "flagship station" 560-WQAM declined to air UM's first two games of the season vs. Rutgers. So how about some love for Jim Morris' guys as they try to complete a three-game series sweep today?

6. DOLPHINS: Team extends Wake's contract: Cam Wake is 35, but last season proved he ain't done yet, and the Dolphins rewarded him on Saturday with a two-year, $19 million contract extension. Everybody's happy except opposing quarterbacks.

7. NASCAR: Daytona 500 qualifying today: NASCAR season -- funneling to the title run in Homestead in November -- begins next Sunday with the Daytona 500, and qualifying runs today will set the grid.

8. TENNIS: Delray Beach Open tennis gets going: Running through next Sunday, it's a second-tier pro event on the men's ATP tour. Low on starpower, but if watching Jack Sock play is your thing, then go for it.

9. BOATING: Miami International Boat Show ends Monday: Four-day event's 76th edition has drawn thousands to Miami Marine Stadium. But you know that it's like they say: You are never happier than the day you buy a boat … other than the day you finally unload that money-eating monster you hardly used.

10. NCAA BRACKET: Trump breaks with presidential tradition: Unlike predecessors, President Donald Trump declined to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. Like championship teams eager to visit the White House, it seems like another tradition is dying.

Missing the HB10 cut: Nine ex-Hurricanes led by Brad Kaaya have been invited to the March 2-5 pre-draft NFL Scouting Combine. Let the meat market begin! ..... UConn women's team won its 100th straight game (streak is now 101), and it's sort of embarrassing. C'mon, women's basketball. A little parity, please? ..... Urgent reminder: the Sailing World Cup is now less than 100 days away ..... Major League Soccer season is almost upon us as David Beckham marks what feels like the 20th anniversary of his protracted, stalling efforts to see a team in Miami.

Poll result: Mild optimism for Marlins to contend, but not to make playoffs: We asked what you realistically expect of the Miami Marlins this season, and a plurality of 37.6 percent voted "mediocre team never really in the hunt. But another 36.1% voted "contending team that just misses playoffs," while 17.3% voted "the playoffs, finally!" The other 9.0% voted for "post-Jose, a bad season." Overall, that's 53.4% who see a contending team vs. 46.6% who do not.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SUN 2-19-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. NBA All-Star Game, 8 p.m.: No Heat presence, but 66th ASG goes off from New Orleans.

2. Hurricanes at Duke, 1 p.m.: No. 16 Canes women in Durham to face No. 13 Blue Devils.

3. Rutgers at Hurricanes, 1 p.m.: UM baseball wraps up season-opening home series.

4. Daytona 500 qualifying, 3 p.m.: Qualifying runs for next Sunday's NASCAR season-opening race.

5. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show continues at Miami Marine Stadium.

Select recent columns: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?, my new one, surveying Heat at the all-star break. French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, from the start of Marlins spring training. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 15, 2017

Villain purge! Which would be most pleasing: Heat beating LeBron in playoffs or Loria finally selling Marlins? Poll. Last day to vote; plus Heat's franchise value, UM's Njoku to Dolphins, Series odds as Fish begin spring training, Hot Button Daily & more

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

Cotevalentine1) It is WEDNESDAY, February 15. Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day! Pictured is something the radio show  made up, with me as Cupid. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Loria selling Marlins column, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, your own Heat MVP verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Heat's NBA market value: Forbes' 19th annual NBA franchise valuations, out today, show the Miami Heat the 10th most valuable club at 1.35 billion -- nearly exactly the leaguewide average of $1.36B. The New York Knicks are valued No. 1 at $3.3 billion. No wonder they can afford all those security guards to oust Charles Oakley!

Kiper mock has Njoku to Dolphins: Former Hurricanes tight end David Njoku goes to Dolphins with draft's 22nd overall pick, says ESPN's Mel Kiper today in his second mock draft. That's be a dynamic pick at a need position, but I still defense is the likelier play with Miami's No. 1 pick. 

Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View: The Heat endured a second straight loss Monday at home to Orlando. Nevertheless, the 13 straight wins before that has Miami poised to be buyers at this month's trade deadline as the possibility looms of a first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James and Cleveland. Click on Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View for my latest column.

Loria LebronVILLAIN-PURGE: WHAT WOULD BE BIGGER? BEATING LEBRON IN PLAYOFFS OR LORIA FINALLY LEAVING?: Which do we want more? Which would be bigger? What would please South Florida most? Would it be the Heat meeting the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first-round of the NBA playoffs and (against odds) eliminating turncoat LeBron James? Or would it be wildly unpopular Jeffrey Loria finally selling the Miami Marlins? Unfortunately, there is no choice for "both!" in this poll. You must decide. Take a dip in our poll and vote now.

MarlinsMARLINS' SPRING-OPENING WORLD SERIES ODDS: Two teams in the NL East are projected to be good. Two teams are seen as really bad. In the middle: the Marlins as the team's 25th season slowly unfurls this week with the start of spring training in Jupiter -- amid sweet reports that Jeffrey Loria has an agreement in place to sell the club. (Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for that column). World Series odds are via Bovada. In the division it's Nationals at 10-1 (tie 4th), Mets 18-1 (8th), Marlins 75-1 (tie 19th), Braves 100-1 (tie 23rd) and Phillies (150-1, tie 25th, or last). Marlins were 40-1 to end last season; blame the dropoff largely on Jose Fernandez's tragic death. Overall, Red Sox and Cubs begin as co-betting favorites at 9-2, followed by Indians at 8-1.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 2-15-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Houston, 8 p.m.: Miami tries to end two-game skid and enter All-Star break on the upbeat.

2. Georgia Tech at Hurricanes, 8 p.m.: Top 25 remains elusive for UM men as team hosts ACC game.

3. Panthers at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.: Cats, five points off playoff pace, must begin to make a move.

4. Marlins spring training, 9:30 a.m.: Partial team hits field for second day of work in Jupiter.

5. No, that'll about do it for today.

Select recent columns: Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, the latest, on how Heat's hot streak (even with two straight losses) has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported likely sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 13, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Heat back at it, Loria's decision, Cats in hunt and UM hoops lead way; plus The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings (55 games), "Spobama," disrespect for Whiteside in your Heat MVP verdict & more

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

Spobama1) It is MONDAY, February 13. Spobama, pictured right, a photo mashup of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and ex-prez Barack Obama. Saw this on Twitter @brassjazz, loved it and thought you might too. 2)Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (pictured) makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Rollicking Heat with polls, your greatest-2016-champion verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Thank you, Jeffrey Loria: Looks like immensely unpopular Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has finally figured out how to do something that will be unanimously cheered and make Marlins fans overjoyed. Sell the team. Reports are, he plans to do just that, and soon. Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for my latest column.

Heat win streak ends at 13 games in loss at Philly: Click on Spoelstra Leads the Parade for my Heat column on season's second-half surge.

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. HEAT: Hot Miami sees 13-game win streak end; back at it tonight: Scorchin' Heat had won 13 consecutive games before Saturday night's 117-109 loss in Philadelphia, and now returns home Monday night vs. Orlando. A Heat team once 11-30 is now only two games off playoff pace. But will Miami now lapse back into losing? Let's find out starting tonight.

2. MARLINS: Fish set for spring training as sale rumors fly: Team's weekend Fan Fest concluded Sunday, now players begin to report Tuesday for spring training in Jupiter. Meanwhile owner Jeffrey Loria reportedly has a "handshake agreement" to sell team. That sound you hear? Marlins fans cheering.

3. PANTHERS: Cats need solid road trip to stay in hunt: Florida won in Nashville 7-4 Saturday night to begin a five-game roadie and make it four wins in past five games. Team is only three points off playoff pace despite being in league's bottom five in goals scored. Saturday was a good sign, though. Remember Cats: Support Your Local Goaltender.

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men fall at No. 4 Louisville: Hurricanes might have cracked Top 25 with big upset at Louisville Saturday but fell short, losing 71-66 after leading at halftime. A spectator entered the UM huddle in first half before being apprehended by security. I apologized. An NCAA Tournament bid is still very much still in play for Team Larranaga. Meanwhile No. 16 UM women routed visiting Clemson 81-57 on Sunday.

5. BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Brazilians dominate Fort Lauderdale tour stop: The Fort Lauderdale Major, an FIVB World Tour pro event, wrapped up Sunday with Brazil winning the women's gold medal match, after Brazil's men also had won. Which answers the question, "What? You mean beach volleyball is played more than once every four years at the Olympics?"

6. DOLPHINS: Annual charity bike ride draws thousands: Saturday's seventh annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge drew the largest crowd of participants in its history as thousands of riders raised funds to fight cancer. If only the Dolphins consistently did as well on the field as they do in the community.  

7. GOLF: McCarron wins Allianz Championship in Boca: Don't call it the Senior Tour anymore, but the PGA Tour's older division completed its event in Boca Raton on Sunday with Scott McCarron carding a one-shot victory. Must be nice: Still getting paid to not be as good as you used to be.

8. UM BASEBALL: Canes  season open in five days: Jim Morris' guys held their First Pitch Banquet on Friday and Fan Fest on Saturday. Now the season opens in four days with a Friday-through-Sunday home series vs. Rutgers at The Light. As always three words define this program's standard: Omaha Or Bust.

9. KEVIN DURANT: K.D. big winner in first return to Oklahoma City: Durant's response to the booing that OKC fans had saved up for him? Thirty-four points in a 130-114 rout by Golden State on Saturday.

10. UCONN WOMEN: Team seeks 100th straight win on Monday: And you thought the Heat's 13-game streak was impressive? Geno Auriemma's top-ranked UConn win seek their 100th win in a row tonight vs. No. 6 South Carolina. Streak is great for UConn. But for women's college basketball? Hmm.

Missing the HB10 cut: German tennis players were aghast prior to women's Fed Cup opening ceremony in Hawaii when an outdated version of German national anthem was performed -- one harking to Nazi/Hitler era. Supposedly it was an accident, but I blame Steve Bannon ..... Charles Oakley was booted from a Knicks game at the Garden. If the Knicks were any more dysfunctional, they'd be the Browns ..... Under Armour's president called Donald Trump an "asset" to the U.S. Under Armour spokesman Stephen Curry said that was accurate if you dropped the letters "et" from the end ..... Patriots Super Bowl parade was Tuesday. As further proof it wasn't a dream, Tom Brady woke up Sunday morning wearing five Super Bowls rings being spooned by Giselle Bundchen. Damn him! ..... At least six Patriots won't attend the White House honor in protest of Trump. Get the feeling that sports tradition may slowly wither over next four years? ..... No. 17 Gators men beat visiting Texas A&M 71-62 Saturday but No. 14 Seminoles fell at Notre Dame 84-72. One out of two ain't bad. For the Gators ..... Golfer Jordan Spieth got into ugly verbal altercation with what he called adult "professional autograph seekers." Good for Spieth! Anybody over the age of 12 asking for an autograph is probably a memorabilia cretin ..... Germaine de Randamie decisioned Holly Holm atop last night's UFC 208 card in Brooklyn. Germaine de Randamie sounds like a bottle of riesling ..... R.I.P., Fab Melo, who died unexpectedly in Brazil at 26. Never did much in NBA, but had an epic name.

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (55 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 24-31 after Saturday's end to the 13-game winning streak, here's The Luddite's 11th installment, with 50-game rank in parentheses. Dragic, by the way, has narrowed his deficit to Whiteside from 216 points to 129 in past five games. 

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,573

2. Goran Dragic (2)              1,439

3. James Johnson (4)          1,027

4. Tyler Johnson (3)            1,001

5. Dion Waiters (5)               740

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      566

7. Wayne Ellington (9)        518

8. Josh Richardson (7)        483

9. Willie Reed (8)                  482

10. Justise Winslow (10)      355

Others: Luke Babbitt 320, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 99, Udonis Haslem 72.

Poll results: Dragic is MVP in landslide, and winning trumps lottery: We had two Heat polls, and you had two clear verdicts. We asked who has been team's Most Valuable Player so far this season, and it was Goran Dragic with a commanding 72.7 percent. Then it was Hassan Whiteside a distant second at 12.5% followed by Dion Waiters 7.2%, James Johnson also 7.2% and Tyler Johnson 0.3%. We asked if it's better for Heat to keep winning and make playoffs as likely low-seed expected to lose in first round or to get back to losing for increased lottery shot at top-three draft pick, and "winning" won easily with 83.6 percent.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 2-13-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Orlando at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Its' 13-game win streak done, Miami tries to start another one tonight.

2. South Carolina at UConn, 9 p.m.: No. 1 UConn women go for 100th straight win, but SC is No. 6.

3. Texas at Florida State, 7 p.m.: FSU women are No. 5 and Texas is No. 11.

4. No, that'll about do it.

Select recent columns: Loria: The End Of An Error, my latest, on team's reported likely sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 11, 2017

As Heat win streak ends at 13 games tonight in Philly, two polls: Who is team's MVP so far? And has all this winning necessarily been a good thing? Vote now!; plus thank you Jeffrey Loria, Saturday's Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, February 11. Click on The Death Of Suspense for my latest Back In My Day video from this week's LeBatard Show. 2) Check out the new Herald Sports Facebook page HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Greatest championship of historic past 12 months in sports, David Njoku to Dolphins?, Super Bowl win though local family's eyes & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Thank you, Jeffrey Loria: Immensely unpopular Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has finally figured out how to do something that will be unanimously cheered and make Marlins fans overjoyed. Sell the team. Reports are, he plans to do just that, and soon. Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for my latest column.

Heat win streak ends at 13 games tonight in Philadelphia: Click on Spoelstra Leads the Parade for my most recent Heat column.

HeatpollROLLICKING HEAT AT 13 STRAIGHT WINS: TWO POLLS. WHO HAS BEEN TEAM'S MVP TO THIS POINT? AND IS ALL THIS WINNING NECESSARILY A GOOD THING?: I'm not sure this poll will be close, or that it won't be a two-man race. But the only way to find out is to ask, right? So: As the Miami Heat and its fans celebrate a 12-game winning streak -- tied for longest in the league this season and longest in NBA history by a team with a losing record -- who do you think has been the Heat's Most Valuable Player to this point in the season? The photo chosen is not meant to prejudice the jury, although lawyers for the other three players might object, anyway. I purposely did not include an "other" category, became, c'mon, seriously. You only get one choice. Is it an easy one? In our second Heat poll: Is all this winning good? Better to keep winning and make playoffs as a low seed and first-round underdog? Or to get back to losing for lottery shot at top-three draft pick? I also think this poll result might be lopsided but, again, you don't know 'til you ask! Take a dip in both polls and vote now.

Poll result: Cubs, then Patriots, are top champions of amazing past 12 months in sports: We asked what from among six choices was the greatest championship performance in major American team sports over the past 12 months? Your results: Cubs win first World Series since 1908, 36.9 percent; Patriots furious rally win first OT Super Bowl, 28.6%; Clemson last-second TD beats Alabama for title, 15.3%; Cavaliers' rally beats Golden State for Cleveland's first NBA crown, 12.6%; Villanova buzzer-beater wins NCAA title, 5.9%; and UConn wins fourth straight women's championship, 0.8%.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 2-11-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.: Insanely hot Heat gunning for 14th straight win tonight.

2. Hurricanes at Louisville, 2 p.m.: UM men would surely crack Top 25 by upsetting No. 4 Cardinals.

3. Panthers at Nashville, 2 p.m.: Cats, four points off playoff pace, need to start a run.

4. Pro beach volleyball, 10:30 a.m.: Fort Lauderdale Major, with men's final starting at 4:30.

5. Golden State at Oklahoma City, 8:30 p.m.: Kevin Durant returns to likely  unwelcoming reception.

Select recent columns: Loria: The End Of An Error, my latest, on reported plans to sell the Marlins. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at wheel of this 13-game win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on LeBron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 06, 2017

Pats' monstrous Super Bowl rally tops updated Hot Button Top 10, also starring surging Heat, Jason Taylor, Canes; plus, debate "greatest," but not "winningest." Belichick will never surpass Shula for most career victories & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, February 6. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jason Taylor gets into Canton, predicting football Hall of Fame class, week's final Super Bowl With a Smirk & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

A Super Bowl to save a season: This has been a bad season for the NFL in general, but Falcons vs. Patriots in Super Bowl 51 is matchup capable of being spectacular and saving the season. Click on Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue to read my Sunday column previewing the game.

Patriots 31, Falcons 23: Click on Super Bowl Gem for my full prediction capsule on today's Super Bowl. (I got the score pretty close, If I do say so).

'GREATEST COACH' DEBATE MAY BE LOSING CAUSE, BUT SHULA HAS TWO DISTINCTIONS THAT REMAIN HIS ALONE: "Bill Belichick closing in on Don Shula!" somehow became a Donbillmanufactured subplot to this Super Bowl from a Miami perspective. I get it. It's easy. But it's also a false narrative, for two reasons. 1) "Greatest coach ever," alas, is a train that may have already left the station for Shula. The Dolphins' icon was 2-4 in Super Bowls. Belichick just won his fifth. I don't know that there are a lot of NFL scholars and historians who would not already give the greatest-ever nod to New England's guy. But! 2) The two great distinctions that will always keep Shula's name in the greatest-ever argument -- most career victories and only Perfect Season -- seem safely his. I laugh at the suggestion Belichick is a real threat to Shula's career mark of 347 overall victories. He would have to win at his current pace and still be coaching at age 72 to have a shot, and maintaining that current pace will be tougher indeed when Tom Brady (finally) retires presumably after one or two more years. The likelihood of Belichick winning and coaching long enough to surpass 347 wins seems roughly as likely as the odds another team will equal Miami's 1972 Perfect Season. Could happen, but wouldn't bet on it. History might already see Belichick as "greater," but the distinctions of "winningest" and perfection are safely with Shula.

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. SUPER BOWL: Monstrous rally grows Patriots dynasty: Awful game much of the way, but Patriots made a thriller of Super Bowl 51, rallying from 21-0 and 28-3 holes to win in overtime, 34-28. Massive choke by the Falcons? Maybe. But Tom Brady had a little to do with that, no?

2. HEAT: Surging Miami seeks 11th straight tonight: Heat crushed visiting Philadelphia 125-102 Saturday night behind Hassan Whiteside's 30 points and 20 rebounds to win a 10th straight and now begins a four-game road trip tonight at Minnesota. Might disappoint lottery-minded fans, but eighth seed and playoffs are no longer out of reach for the way-hot Heat.

3. HURRICANES: UM football claims signing-day bounty: Miami loaded up on National Signing Day with a 24-man bounty that ESPN ranked as the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation. "We nailed it!" said Mark Richt … then again, so did every other college coach in America on signing day.

4. HALL OF FAME: Dolphins' Taylor among new inductees: LaDainian Tomlinson was a lock. Nobody else was. But ex-Dolphins great Jason Taylor was among the seven who got in, along with Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Kenny Easley and Morten Andersen. Congrats, J.T. Now what about Zach Thomas.

5. PANTHERS: Barkov, Huberdeau back on the ice: Florida has reinforcements as it chases a playoff spot as young stars Sasha Barkov (out previous 15 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (out all out season) returned from injuries Friday to spark Cat's third straight win. That's two fewer excuses for Cats to miss the playoffs.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women outshining men: UM men were only 3-5 since Jan. 1 before winning Friday, but Canes women are 17-5 and ranked 16th entering Monday game at No. 6 Florida State. Coach Katie Meier got her 300th career win. Adding a few more in March would be nice.

7. SOCCER: U.S. men beat Jamaica in friendly: After a scoreless draw vs. Serbia in Bruce Arena's debut as coach, the U.S. men beat Jamaica 1-0 Saturday night in Chattanooga. Now, it's what's next on the team's calendar that matters and will judge Arena: World Cup qualifying.

8. GOLF: Comeback short-lived, Tiger out again: He's out a year and a half with various back ailments, he comes back, and he can't finish the tournament, withdrawing with back spasms. Hate to say, but it may be time for Tiger Woods to call it quits.

9. BARKLEY-LEBRON: Basketball beef gets personal: Broadcaster Charles Barkley called LeBron James "whiny." LeBron shot back with a litany of bad stuff Chuck has done in the past. C'mon, kids. Play nice!

10. BASEBALL: It's just about here, folks: Miami Marlins hold their annual stadium FanFest next Saturday and Sunday, the precursor to when players negin to report for spring training. Ready or not, almost time to play ball!

Missing the HB10 cut: The 2017 FIVB world beach volleyball tours opens with the Fort Lauderdale Major beginning Tuesday, a five-star men's and women's event featuring Kerry Walsh Jennings and a bunch of people I've never heard of ..... Falcons QB Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP Saturday night. Correctly had a feeling Tom Brady would be lifting the more coveted hardware Sunday ..... Five days until Kevin Durant makes his first return to Oklahoma City. Thunder fans already are practicing their booing in preparation ..... The Winter X Games have been going on. The question is, WHY!?

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-6-17: What events on the Monday, Feb. 6 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Minnesota, 8 p.m.: Good shot at 11th straight win tonight at Timberwolves.

2. Hurricanes at Florida State, 7 p.m.: No. 16 UM women visit No. 6 Seminoles.

3. Um, pretty much nothing. Light post-Super Bowl Monday.

Select recent columns: Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, the latest, previewing today's Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 02, 2017

Canes, Richt score big with recruits. The names that jump out; plus The Luddite's MVP Standings for red-hot Heat through 50 games, latest Super Bowl With a Smirk (Goodell sacked), Hot Button Daily, your Barkley-LeBron beef verdict & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, February 2. I'm back at Friday Page World Headquarters for the last time this season working up my Super Bowl pick. Anybody got a coin? 2) A new Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Barkley-LeBron beef poll, Super Bowl With a Smirk second edition, updated betting odds, new Back In My Day video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

RICHT SCORES BIG WITH CANES RECRUITING, AND ONE NAME JUMPS OUT: Miami scored the nation's 12th-ranked recruiting class (according to ESPN) this week in the first full shot for Mark JeffthomasRicht after last year's late arrival and scramble, and he wasn't lying yesterday in saying, "We nailed it." UM's 24 recruits  (11 are from South Florida) include 13 four-star rated guys, and 10 from the ESPN 300. The name that jumps out, for me, is fleet receiver Jeff Thomas (pictured), who had not been committed to UM and was a huge late get, favoring the Canes over A-list suitors including Alabama. Thomas will pair with Ahmmon Richards to form a dynamic wideout set for whomever emerges this spring as Brad Kaaya's replacement at quarterback. And that should be a great competition with four legit contenders. I also like that The U really beefed up its offensive line, including behemoth 6-6, 375-pound Navaughn Donaldson from Miami Central. He is bigger than my refrigerator. UM's defensive line looks to be pretty great with the notable addition of pass rusher D.J. Johnson. UM still seems a bit thin to me at running back, but in the overall I really like this incoming class and the job Richt and company did. With 14 of 22 starters returning and a near-Top 10 class arriving for a team that finished 9-4 with an impressive bowl win, this is a program on the upswing. Florida State and Clemson remain gigantic hurdles for UM in the ACC; still, Miami should be an improved team with a steady polls presence in 2017.

LATEST 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK': GOODELL SACKED, SMOKING WITH DITKA, RYAN LEAF, UNCLE MORT: Smirk returns with our third of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game:

Smirk Sb51NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual pre-Super Bowl "state of the league" news conference in Houston on Wednesday, and, really, it seemed to go fabulously well for him.

There was not a single uncomfortable question put to him, with the exception of the Chargers bolting San Diego, the Raiders trying to move to Vegas, lower TV ratings, the refugee travel ban, concussions and brain injuries, the broad perception of diminished quality of play — oh, almost forgot! — and the likelihood that Sunday night he’ll be forced to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after dodging the Patriots for two years over Deflategate.

Quarterbacks under constant sack siege face less pressure. By the end of the 75-minute grilling Goodell’s wingtips were covered by a rising puddle of his own sweat.

At one point, as yet another Deflategate-related question whizzed at him like shrapnel, Goodell said he has "no doubt" that if he were to attend a Patriots game in Foxborough he would be "welcomed."

Whatever he said next could not be detected above the massive roar of braying laughter that could be heard 1,600 miles away in New England.

(*) In college football, Wednesday was National Signing Day, when teams collect their latest bounty. In the NFL it was National Sighing Day, the dead middle of Super Bowl Week, when fans already are tired of the buildup but resigned to more of it.

Stubhub(*) You could spend up to $112,000 on a single Super Bowl ticket on StubHub on Wednesday. If Smirk is spending that much for one seat, there had better been an envelope stuffed with about $111,500 waiting on that seat.

(*) The NFL announced Wednesday that the Patriots and Raiders would play a regular-season game in Mexico next season if they can manage to scale Trump’s wall.

Ditkacigar(*) Celebrity parties are as big a part of Super Bowl Week as the game itself, according to party planners, and Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski co-host one Thursday: "Cigars With the Stars." Sounds like fun, other than the choking cigar smoke and the dreadful possibility of inadvertently having to converse with either Ditka or Jaworski.

(*) NFL security officials are warning about counterfeit tickets. If, for example, the ticket you bought seems extraordinarily small and reads, "AMC Theaters/La La Land/Admit One," it might not be a bonafide Super Bowl ticket.

(*) A group called MVPIndex ranks most valuable NFL players on social media and says Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rank 10th, 14th and 20th overall, while the top Falcon, Julio Jones, is 47th. Hmm. Edelman ahead of Brady? Are you drunk, MVPIndex?

(*) Friday is the 26th annual NFL Foundation/NFL Legends Super Bowl Golf Tournament. One of the team captain "legends" is Ryan Leaf. Oh, how I wish I were making that up.

(*) In an NFL initiative, Houston Habitat For Humanity rebuilt a home Wednesday despite derisive heckling from members of bitter rival group Rebuilding Together. OK, I made up that second part.

Gaga(*) Super Bowl halftime performer Lady Gaga said in a revealing interview that she would not reveal much about her planned show. People are betting on which song she’ll sing first. Smirk could not care less but is hoping for a wardrobe malfunction.

(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Have those plastic zip ties and duct tape ready again just in case Uncle Mort gets belligerently sloppy-drunk before kickoff like last year.

Click Smirk I and Smirk II for this week's previous Smirks.

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (50 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 20-30 on nine straight wins after last night's over Atlanta, here's The Luddite's 10th installment, with 45-game rank in parentheses. Dragic, by the way, has narrowed his deficit to Whiteside from 216 points to 129 in past five games. 

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,402

2. Goran Dragic (2)            1,273

3. Tyler Johnson (3)             893

4. James Johnson (4)           891

5. Dion Waiters (5)              691

6. Rodney McGruder (7)     493

7. Josh Richardson (6)         483

8. Willie Reed (8)               444

9. Wayne Ellington (10)     439

10. Justise Winslow (9)       355

Others: Luke Babbitt 295, Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 231, Udonis Haslem 64, Okaro White 53.

Poll result: LeBron most to blame in Barkley beef: We asked who's most wrong and it was 65.4 percent for LeBron James' personal-attack response and 13.2% for Charles Barkley calling LeBron whiny. Another 14.3% said neither because both had a point, and 7.1% said both are equally to blame.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-2-17: What events on the Thursday, Feb. 2 sports calendar (a very light day) interest South Florida fans most:

1. Golden State at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.: Warriors pounded Clips by 46 last week.

2. Missouri at Florida, 7 p.m.: Gators men's team is ranked No. 24.

3. Hurricanes at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.: UM women take their No. 16 ranking on road.

4. Phoenix Open, all day: First round of PGA Tour event.

5. "This Was the XFL", 9 p.m.: ESPN's debuts latest 30 For 30 doc.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote

 

January 30, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Starring scorchin' Heat, Pegasus, Aussie finals, UM hoops, marathon, Super Bowl Week; plus Falcons vs. Patriots polls (vote now!) & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 30. A new Miami Herald Facebook page debuted last week. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Breaking down Hurricanes 2017 football schedule, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, latest 'Back In My Day video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, my latest, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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. HEAT: Miami wins 7th straight while D-Wade, LeBron complain about their teams: Miami will bring a season-best seven-game win streak into tonight's home game vs. Brooklyn while prominent ex-Heaters  Dwyane Wade and LeBron James complain publicly about their teams. The bad news? Even with seven wins in a row the Heat is now 18-30.

2. HORSE RACING: Arrogate dominant in first Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream: Horse racing is dying? Not Saturday it wasn't! The inaugural Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park was richest thoroughbred event ever in a 12-horse field running for a $12 million purse -- a race that Arrogate dominated in a ballyhooed showdown vs. rival California Chrome.

3. TENNIS: Serena, Federer win Australian Open finales: Sisters Serena and Venus Williams met for the 28th time and ninth in a major final on Saturday, with Serena earning a modern-record 23rd major title. Top that, guys? OK, how about Roger Federer, 35, beating Rafael Nadal as the oldest man in a Grand Slam final since 1974.

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men stun No.9 North Carolina: UM may be headed into the Top 25 at 14-6 after Saturday beating ninth-ranked North Carolina here, 77-62. Was it a fluke or are Canes really good? May have that answer Wednesday as UM hosts No. 6 Florida State. 

5. NFL: It's Super Bowl Week as countdown to Falcons-Patriots begins: We are now six days until New England vs. Atlanta on Super Bowl Sunday. But first let's start with the real big game and undertake a detailed analytical breakdown of yesterday's Pro Bowl in Orlando. Just kiddin'!

6. RUNNING: Miami Marathon celebrates 15th year: Some 24,000 ran in weekend events culminating with Sunday's annual Miami Marathon. I'd give you the winners' names but neither one of us has heard of them so what' the point? I intended to run the marathon, but decided to sleep in and then eat a pound of bacon instead.

7. PANTHERS: Cats end four-game losing streak: Florida's 2-1 OT win over Tampa Bay ended a four-game slide and moved Florida within three points of NHL playoff pace through 50 games.  Disappointing season so far, but maybe it won't stay that way?

8. BRENT MUSBURGER: Sports broadcasting icon retiring: Musburger will call his final game for ESPN -- LSU-Oklahoma basketball -- on Tuesday before retiring at age 77 after nearly 50 years in broadcasting. As another sports-TV great fades to black.

9. SOCCER: U.S. men start new era with friendly tie: U.S. hosted Serbia in a Sunday friendly in San Diego that ended a 0-0 draw in marking the debut of new coach Bruce Arena. The word for tying Serbia? Meh.

10. NHL: It's All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles: Do you care? Yeah, me neither. Although it probably was still better than the Pro Bowl.

Missing the HB10 cut: Four Hurricanes played in Saturday's Senior Bowl and two Dolphins are in today's Pro Bowl, and I just cannot decide which game interests me least ..... There is talk of a Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight. Christ! Do it or shut up about it! ..... In WWE, Sunday's Royal Rumble begins the annual road to WrestleMania. I can't wait to find out who they've decided is going to win! ..... The Winter X Games are underway in Aspen, or, as I like to call it, Slackers on Snowboards ..... ESPN's latest 30 For 30 documentary is titled, "This Was the XFL," certifying once and for all that ESPN has apparently run out of good idea.

Sb51FALCONS-PATRIOTS SUPER BOWL: WHO YOU WANT TO WIN, AND WHO WILL WIN: We see things through different prisms, right? I am surrounded by Dolfans who tend to hate Tom Brady and call the nemesis New England Patriots cheaters, so I am inclined to think that, outside of Greater Boston and suburbs, all of America is rooting for the Atlanta Falcons to win next week's Super Bowl. Or, as much, rooting against Darth Belichick and the Pats. But is that right? I have two polls here. One asks who you want to win the Super Bowl. Vote with your heart. The other asks who you predict will win SB 51. Vote with your head, as if you to bet on one team, straight-up.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 26, 2017

Analyzing Canes' 2017 football schedule game-by-game, predicting season record; plus new 'Back In My Day' (Worn Look), The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings, Miami flavor to this Super Bowl & more

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

Mtm1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 26. R.I.P., Mary Tyler Moore (pictured), gone at 80. 2) A new Miami Herald Facebook page debuted this week. Click HERE to visit. 3) Cubs win World Series! Trump Elected President! Heat win fifth straight! 4) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 5) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl, Montoya wins Miami Race of Champions & more. 6) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

LeBron, Serena, Brady, Tiger: Appreciate them while you can: Each of those all-time greats is on stage this week, the perfect time to appreciate them all. Click on Greatness Times Four for my newest column.

Miami in the Super Bowl, Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

SmokeBREAKING DOWN CANES' 2017 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE GAME-BY-GAME: The challenge here is that, with quarterback Brad Kaaya gone a year early for the NFL Draft, we can't yet know the impact that will have on a UM team that finished 9-4 and ranked No. 20 last season after crushing West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Who'll be the new QB and how good will he be? But this we do know: Our faith in Mark Richt, our faith in Manny Diaz and that young defense, and an incoming recruiting class that could end up ranked in top-10 nationally all lead us to believe Miami will be as good as last season and more likely better. UM might very well be an underdog in only one game -- Sept. 16 at Florida State -- although an Oct. 28 trip to North Carolina and a Nov. 4 visit by Virginia Tech will be major challenges. Taking care of business in all the other games and winning at least one of those three is the path to the elusive 10-win season. Handle the rest of the schedule and win two of those three and you're talking major bowl and maybe a shot at College Football Playoff contention. That's optimistic with the QB flux and all, but optimism is merited right now. Breaking down the schedule game by game:

Sept. 2 vs. Bethune-Cookman -- An all-but-certain win for the Canes and a soft opening for whomever is the new quarterback. UM is 3-0 all-time vs. Larry Little's old school from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. B-C was 4-6 last year, and Miami won 45-0 when schools last met to open the 2015 season. Estimated Win Likelihood (EWL): 95%

Sept. 9 at Arkansas State -- Another very likely win, but a big step up from Bethune and not an opponent to be taken lightly. Arkansas State went 7-1 in Sun Belt last year and was 8-5 overall including a nice 31-13 win over UCF In the AutoNation Cure Bowl. UM leads all-time series 2-0 including a 41-20 win in 2014. EWL: 80%

Sept. 16 at Florida State -- Miami will be a clear underdog, on the road, against a nemesis that has beaten the Canes seven straight times including 20-19 last year. FSU now leads all-time series 30-29. Noles finished 10-3 and ranked No. 8 in '16 after a thrilling 33-32 win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl game. This will be first time these ACC state rivals have met in the season's opening month since 2009. EWL: 35%.

Sept. 23 vs. Toledo -- A very likely win, although Toledo was a bowl team last year after going 9-4 including 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Miami beat the Rockets in the school's only previous meeting way back in 1987. EWL: 80%.

Sept. 29 at Duke -- A return to the scene of that eight-lateral, kickoff-return Miami miracle in 2015. Friday game could be a challenging roadie, but one that should find UM expected to win. Blue Devils were 4-8 last season and 1-7 in ACC. Miami is 12-2 all-time in this ACC series, with three straight wins including 40-21 last season. EWL: 65%.

Oct. 12 vs. Georgia Tech -- Following the bye week, Canes will be expected to win this challenging Thursday ACC home date, although Yellow Jackets were 9-4 and a bowl winner last season. Teams are 11-11 all-time, though UM has won seven of past eight meetings including a 35-21 victory last season. EWL: 60%

Oct. 21 vs. Syracuse -- UM should be a heavy home favorite over Orangemen. Canes lead all-time series 15-7 including five straight wins, although this will be these teams' first meeting since 2003 back in the BIg East days. 'Cuse finished 4-8 last year and 2-6 in ACC. EWL: 75%.

Oct. 28 at North Carolina -- Tough roadie poses UM's biggest loss-threat since FSU. Miami trails all-time series 11-9 and has lost past two, 20-13 last season and 59-21 on last visit to Chapel Hill in 2015. Tar Heels went 5-3 in ACC last year and 8-5 overall with loss to Stanford in Sun Bowl. EWL: 50%.

Nov. 4 vs. Virginia Tech -- A loss-threat and a challenging test UM should be glad is at home. Miami leads all-time rivalry 20-14 but is only 5-9 in past 14 meetings, including a 37-16 loss last year. Hokies were 6-2 in ACC last year and finished 10-4 overall and ranked No. 16 after beating Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. EWL: 55%.

Nov. 11 vs. Notre Dame -- Fighting Irish's first visit to Miami since 1989 is biggest "event" game on schedule other than FSU. Miami trails all-time series 18-7-1, with four losses in a row including 30-27 in South Bend last year. Leprechauns sank to 4-8 last year but were 10-3 in '15, so it's hard to know how good ND will be. But Canes, at home, figure to be favored. EWL: 65%.

Nov. 18 vs. Virginia -- UM should be a heavy home favorite over a Cavaliers team that was miserable last season: 1-7 in the ACC and 2-10 overall. Canes lead all-time series 8-6 including two wins a row with last year's 34-14 victory at Virginia. EWL: 85%.

Nov. 24 at Pitt -- A Friday roadie closes the regular season and likely will see Miami favored. Pitt was a credible 8-5 with a bowl loss last season, Canes always seem to have Pitt's number. UM leads all-time series 25-10-1 including a 51-28 rout last year, and also has won the past six straight trips to Pittsburgh. EWL: 55%.

Predicted final regular-season record: 10-2.

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (MIDSEASON/40 GAMES): Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 15-30 on four straight wins after Monday night's home upset  of Golden State, here's The Luddite's ninth installment, with 40-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (45 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,315

2. Goran Dragic (2)            1,099

3. Tyler Johnson (3)             870

4. James Johnson (4)           779

5. Dion Waiters (6)              538

6. Josh Richardson (5)         483

7. Rodney McGruder (7)     428

8. Willie Reed (9)               369

9. Justise Winslow (8)        355

10. Wayne Ellington (10)    354

Others: Luke Babbitt 259, Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 231, Udonis Haslem 61, Okaro White 10.

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': THE WORN LOOK: Enjoy!

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 23, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10: Show us the way, Edwin Pope, Falcons-Patriots SB, Women's March, Juan Pablo Montoya & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 23. There is a new Miami Herald Facebook page, debuting today. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Remembering Edwin Pope, NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside battered in all-star voting & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's a Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl!: Click on Championship Game Gems for yesterday's Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots NFC and AFC title-game picks, and on A Dramatic Final Four for my preview column.

Montoya wins historic Miami Race Of Champions: Historic? The 28th annual ROC had never before been held in the U.S. before Saturday's race in Miami, on a racetrack built inside Marlins Park. And Miami driver Juan Pablo Montoya won. Crazy, one-of-a kind day. Click on Home Run For Montoya, Miami for my column from the race.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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. EDWIN POPE: Herald sports icon dies at 88: If you are from South Florida, are aware life existed before ESPN SportsCenter or have ever held a newspaper in your hands, then you probably said or thought last week, “I grew up reading Edwin Pope.” Thank you, kind sir, friend, colleague and mentor. R.I.P. 

2. NFL: Championship Sunday gives us a Falcons-Pats Super Bowl: Atlanta walloped Green Bay and New England dispatched Pittsburgh on Sunday for the NFC and AFC titles to reach Super Bowl 51 Feb. 5 in Houston. The blowout games were decided by 23- and 19-point margins. The challenge? For the Super Bowl to be better. You know, an actual good game?

3. WOMEN'S MARCH: Women lead world's biggest protest march. Ever: Estimates are more than 4 million women worldwide including more than 500,000 in Washington, D.C. marched Saturday to protest Donald Trump and stand up for the freedoms and rights. Hmm. Impressive. But can't help but wonder: If that same passion and numbers had participated in the election, would there have been a need to march?

4. MOTORSPORTS: Montoya wins Race of Champions at Marlins Park: Most different, unique sporting event in Miami history? You could do worse than nominating NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One stars racing against each other inside a baseball stadium this weekend in the ROC series' first U.S. appearance. Miami won twice as hometown driver Juan Pablo Montoya won Saturday's main event.

5. HEAT: Three straight wins in a lost season as trade deadline looms: Good news? Miami has its first three-game win streak of season. Bad news? Everything else. Record is still only 14-30 and streak is unlikely to reach four as Heat host Golden State tonight. Be honest. The most compelling things left in this lost season are the two dates for the trade deadline and draft lottery.

6. MARLINS: Fish acquire quality starting pitcher: The latest aftershock of the Jose Fernandez tragedy: Miami dealt three prospects to Cincinnati for righty starter Dan Straily, who was 14-8 in 31 starts for Reds last year.

7. BASEBALL: Two ex-Marlins elected to Hall of Fame: Pudge Rodriguez, of course, had a starring role in helping Marlins win the 2003 World Series. But count yourself a real Fish fan if you also recall that, the year before, Tim Raines ended his 23-year career as a reserve here.

8. TENNIS: Both No. 1 seeds out as Australian Open enters final week: No. 1 seeds Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber both were ousted the same day, the first time in the modern era the Australian Open has lost both No. 1s before the quarterfinals. An even bigger shock: Why wasn't Serena Williams No. 1?

9. PANTHERS: Three straight losses, but Florida still in playoff hunt: As NHL all-star break looms, Cats have cooled off with three straight losses but lurk only two points off playoff in Eastern Conference. Still, when you were talking Stanley Cup and are scrambling for an eighth seed -- that's a disappointing season.

10. UM BASKETBALL: Tough stretch for Canes men, women: Miami's No. 14-ranked women have lost three of past six. The men have dropped four of past five  after Saturday's loss at Duke. Better snap out of it fast, Team Larranaga. No. 9 North Carolina visits in five days.

Missing the HB10 cut: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich devoted seven minutes of a news conference Saturday to a pro-women's march, anti-Donald Trump soliloquy, pretty brave for a man who lives and works in Texas. It's enough to make me root for a Spurs championship just to see if he gets a White House invite, or goes ..... Former Marlins ace Josh Johnson retired at 32 from elbow issues, surprising analysts who thought he'd retired years ago ..... Prior to Bellator 170, Chael Sonnen talked trash. Tito Ortiz made his statement in the fight ..... A 25-year-old dunce from Boston was arrested for pulling a fire alarm in the Steelers hotel at 3 a.m. Put him in a room alone with James Harrison for 20 minutes ..... Saw the headline, 'Beagle scores in OT as Capitals beat Stars,' and thought, "Wow, what a great story!" But it turned out to be a guy named Jay Beagle ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "Florida Panthers owner and Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army Vinnie Viola once was accused of punching a man in the face at a horse auction."

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 21, 2017

Remembering an epic life and personal hero: Edwin Pope, 1928-2017, R.I.P.; plus NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside collect further disrespect, Women's March, Race Of Champions & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 21. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Edwin Pope dies, Kiper's mock draft for Dolphins, two ex-Marlins make Hall, cowardly Goodell, your Super Bowl preference, BIMD video (The Circus) & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Women's March on Washington: Much respect to the hundreds of thousands participating today in the Women's March in D.C., a grass-roots stand-up for freedoms and rights. Proud to say my wife, and many others I know, are among them.

Race Of Champions: The ROC series is in the U.S. for first time today in Miami, with stars from NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One all racing together inside Marlins Park. I like big events and am a curiosity seeker, so I'll be there columnizing.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, my latest column, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald legend. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

TO A MONUMENTAL CAREER, AN EPIC LIFE AND A CHERISHED MENTOR: THANK YOU, EDWIN POPE: [Blog note: I rarely do this. I link to columns of mine, but rarely reprint them in their entirety here in the blog. But the death of my great friend and mentor, last night at age 88, is too important to me to not share as broadly as I can. So here is my tribute column]:

Epope
The Edwin I first knew, circa mid-'70s

"I grew up reading Edwin Pope." How many generations in South Florida will be saying that, thinking it, feeling it today? I was coming of age as a sports fan who hadn’t yet discovered he was interested in writing when Pope was at the peak of his powers, and reading him kindled and sparked something in me.

What it did was give me a future, a passion, a career.

Thank you, Edwin. For your inspiration, your talent, your grace, your mentorship and your friendship.Thank you so much.

South Florida and the Miami Herald have lost a giant with the passing of Edwin Pope at age 88. Newspapering and sports journalism and the craft of putting words in just the right order have all lost a giant.

Edwin came to the Herald in 1956 in his late 20s. He was sports editor and main sports columnist from 1967 until he retired in 2003, though still writing occasionally the next several years until age and Alzheimer’s dictated otherwise. I loathe the frivolous overuse of words like "legend," but the superlative has not yet been invented that can properly describe the epic arc of Pope’s career chronicling Miami sports.

From the black and white days of Cassius Clay in the 5th Street Gym to the Heat drafting some kid named Dwyane Wade — and everything in between — Edwin was the eyes and ears for South Florida sports fans, the rhyme and the reason.

He reigned before ESPN "SportsCenter" and before the Internet changed everything, putting news and opinion everywhere, and right now, diminishing the influence of the local newspaper. He reigned when "the paper" thudded onto front lawns every morning, up and down your block, and you turned to the sports section first to see what Pope had to say.

Dan LeBatard and I tried to replace him when he left. We never had a chance. Voices are everywhere, but there is no replacing Sinatra. Pope ends an era.

I felt smarter, as a teenager, when I read Edwin. There might be a word (or three) in every column that sent me to the dictionary. I liked that. He never talked down to readers. It’s a concept that has informed my own writing.

Edwin wrote with poetic elan. He told stories. He could make the scene on a racetrack’s backstretch as interesting as the horse race itself. You smelled the hay. You closed your eyes and saw the groom mucking-out the stable.

Epope2
Edwin in his career's latter stage

Edwin also could be direct. When he wanted a column to throw a punch, it landed.

When Lou Saban abruptly left the University of Miami football team after only two years following the 1978 season to coach at West Point, the lead to Pope’s column was: "You wanted a deserter, Army? You got one."

Edwin didn’t tap-dance into a column or, in the parlance of a former editor of ours, "clear his throat." He got to it. He was concise. He didn’t overwrite, either in style or length. He valued his readers too much to waste their time.

He was like that off the page, too.

He was a gentle man, but one whose humor could be sharp, and bite.

He’d had a stormy relationship with Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, and once kidded the only thing wrong with the name of the stadium was that it wasn’t Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium. (At least I think he was kidding.)

Edwin commanded utmost respect in press boxes. He was the dean, the monarch, the legend. If the clatter got too noisy too close to deadline, Edwin eventually would raise a hand and loudly snap, "Quiet!" and the room would shut up. He didn’t have to say it twice.

You didn’t want to be a waiter who ignored Edwin once too often when he was fishing for another drink.

"What’s a man got to do to get another Heinekin around here!?!" he once stood and loudly squawked from our table in some far-flung city after some game, Southern drawl lifting into a high pitch.

Epopejoelouis
A favorite photo of his: A young Edwin Pope with boxer Joe Louis

Edwin was a drinker. May I say that? We had a good time on the many road trips we took together.

I was in the company of Edwin and more than one unnamed UM football coach as the two of them killed a 12-pack of beer hours before a game. You’d visit his hotel room and not be surprised to see a jug of red wine on ice in the bathroom sink. Once we closed down a bar in (I think) Indianapolis, stumbled out into the cold and were discussing how to go about getting a cab when it dawned on us our hotel was right in front of us.

I delighted to cover the 1992 Summer Olympics with Edwin in Barcelona, in a cramped, barracks-style dorm room we shared. After two weeks, the day before we flew out, we treated each other by taking a cab to the city’s famous nude beach to take in the sights. Why not!

Edwin was a wonderful colleague and road-trip companion of mine for 30 some years. Mostly he was a writing hero, somebody who was what I wanted to be. I have never stopped striving or falling short, or being grateful for his influence in my life and career.

His was a long, wonderful life well-led.

Thank you, Edwin. Always. Thank you.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FripixPLAYOFFS: CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S SUNDAY AFC, NFC TITLE GAMES: Lots of football fans call this Sunday the single best day of the season, better even than the Super Bowl, and I expect Packers at Falcons and then Steelers at Patriots to live up to expectations. A great final four! Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and we're 6-0 in the postseason after rolling a perfect 4-0 last week. Click on Championship Game Gems for my latest picks on the AFC and NFC title games. I see one game going as expected and the other not. We also offer our accompanying NFL column that today quantifies how good this final four is, historically, and how it gets the attention back where it belongs, on the field, after a weird week of drama for the NFL. Click on A Dramatic Final Four to read.

THE LIST: THIS FINAL FOUR IN THE POSTSEASON: Historically, this NFL final four includes three league giants and one interloper, as this list verifies. The franchise, head coach and quarterback records of these four teams in the postseason, listed in order of most all-time postseason wins, with total NFL championships listed in parentheses:

Team                                Franchise            Head coach                   Quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers (6)       36-23, .610         Mike Tomlin, 8-5           Ben Roethlisberger, 13-6

Green Bay Packers (13)      34-21, .618        Mike McCarthy, 10-7       Aaron Rodgers, 9-6

New England Patriots (4)   30-19, .612         Bill Belichick, 24-10       Tom Brady, 23-9

Atlanta Falcons (0)             8-12, .400         Dan Quinn, 1-0              Matt Ryan, 2-4

HwhitesideHEAT BATTERED IN ALL-STAR VOTING, WHITESIDE SNUBBED: Hassan Whiteside collects perceived slights the way others of us collects stamps or coins, and he has added a big new one to his collection. He barely made the East frontcourt top 10 in NBA all-star voting, slotting in 10th overall after finishing eighth in the media vote, 11th by fans, and only 14th by players. Your colleagues don't respect you, bro! Get angry! Get even! No Goran Dragic in the East backcourt top 10. Starters were named Thursday. Reserves get added next week. I'd think Whiteside (pictured) will be included, but it sure isn't a given after his comeuppance in the triangular vote.

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

Twitter @gregcote