April 05, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Flying Fish, Kentucky's loss, reeling Heat, 7 others; plus who'll win NCAA final? New poll. Vote now!; also Loria, Serena & more

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


1aa1aeaster1) It is SUNDAY, APRIL 5. Happy Easter, believers, and congratulations, Jesus! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Marlins. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four, UM/NIT, Jordan tops poll, Heat/Panthers playoff chase, Josh Freeman, Cuban baseball, John Wolin & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins' Jeffrey Loria: I visit with the team owner for my column in today's season-preview section. Many don't like Loria, but will a big-spending offseason help his image? Click on Judging Jeffrey to read.

Serena's dominance: Serena Williams is The Tennis Terminator. She proved it again yesterday at the Miami Open. Click on Queen Serena for my column on Williams and her place in tennis history.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Double doom! Heat drop off pace, Panthers eliminated. Update entering SundayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 9th place at 34-42 (L3) after last night's 99-98 loss at Detroit, 1/2 game from 8th, 1 game ahead of 10th with 6 games left (next tonight at Indiana). Heat playoff likelihood: 60.5% (down 9.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down (eliminated) in 10th place at 36-43 (L1) after last night's 4-0 loss vs. Tampa Bay, 8 points from 8th with 4 games left (next today vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.0% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

HOT BUTTON APR. 5: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Opening Day! High hopes as Fish debut Monday: Major League Baseball opens its season with Cardinals at Cubs tonight, but all other teams take the field Monday. Here is your pump-up music, South Florida: Only the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants have won more World Series since 1997 than the Marlins’ two.

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: It's Duke-Wisconsin for NCAA championship: Kentucky and Duke were five-point betting picks in Saturday’s Final Four semifinals but only one of them did their job. For the previously unbeaten Wildcats of John Calipari, that meant yesterday was one and done.

3. HEAT: Loss at Detroit knocks Miami off playoff pace: The blown-lead 99-98 loss at Detroit last night toppled Heat into ninth place in East with six games to play resuming tonight at Indiana. Miami has now lost three straight and six of past eight in a season that has proved to be exciting like hanging on to the edge of a cliff is exciting.

4. TENNIS: Serena wins, men on deck at Miami Open: Two weeks of tennis nirvana in Key Biscayne end with today's Novak Djokovic-Andy Murray men's final, after Serena Williams won Saturday's women's crown with such ease that we won't even mention her poor opponent's name.

5. PANTHERS: Cats eliminated from NHL playoff contention: Last night's 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay officially eliminated Florida from race. Panthers may have been most improved team in league this season. Unfortunately, Lord Stanley doesn't believe that close counts.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes lose heartbreaker in NIT title game: The bad news? UM, with two starters out injured, lost to Stanford 66-64 in overtime in the final of the NIT. The good news? We avoid having to cringe with a condescending smile while listening to coach Jim Larrañaga claim straight-faced that his team just won a national championship.

7. GOLF: Masters on deck with Tiger in it: Rory McIlroy is the betting favorite at The Masters this week at Augusta, but as much attention was being paid to Tiger Woods on whether he would play. He will. But it speaks to the shaky state of his game -- battling health issues, and after a long layoff -- that even his fans sort of wished he hadn't.

8. NFL DRAFT: UM Pro Day showcases Canes: NFL scouts raved about the Hurricanes’ talent at UM’s annual Pro Day, notably Phillip Dorsett, who ran a 4.25 40. I don’t wanna says he’s fast, but when Dorsett flips off the light switch in his bedroom he’s under the covers before the room goes dark. Seems the Canes will have a sizable impact on the NFL Draft’s early rounds. That sound you hear is one more excuse for a 6-7 season running away from Al Golden. 

9. DOLPHINS: Fins sign quarterback Josh Freeman: That was after the team gained a court order to exhume the remains of Freeman's career and conduct an autopsy for signs of life.

10. HORSES: Show-jumping competition ends on Miami Beach: A major show-jumping competition concluded Saturday on the sands of Miami Beach. I don’t wanna say those horses are pampered, but an "equine psychotherapist" was on hand. Seriously. Am picturing a typical session. Sad horse sighs as it lays on couch. Psychotherapist: “Why the long face?”

Poll result: You want different, better NCAA Tournament format: This surprised me a bit. I'd have guessed you'd go for the status quo. Instead, 70.3 percent said they'd prefer a tournament with the 64 best teams and no automatic bids for small-conference winners. Only 29.7% preferred it as is.

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

January 01, 2015

What was Miami/South Florida's biggest sports story of 2014? Poll. Last chance to vote!; plus Oregon hammers FSU, Ohio State stuns 'Bama & more

1aa1anew15
1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 1. Happy New Year, all! Let's make it a great one! 2) In The 
Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron and D-Wade plotting reunion?, Orange Bowl game interest poll, Cats sign Bjugstad, NFL Pix results & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

A message from me to you: To all our readers, print and online, to our Blog Family and radio listeners and to our followers and friends on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine ... thank you! You made it another great past year and make me look forward to 2015.

More Cowbell!: Click on More Cowbell for my column from last night's Orange Bowl game. I write how Georgia Tech was up to the big stage in its 49-34 win; Mississippi State was not.

1aa1amiami2014WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2014?: We do this every year. We asked you last week to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2014 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond what's in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Remember, you can choose your top three. Ready? Vote!

Your national sports story of year was...: We asked you to vote for the 2014 national sports story of the year from among The Associated Press' top 10, and LeBron James going home was your top choice with 22.2 percent, followed by Donald Sterling's NBA ouster (20.7%) and NFL domestic violence (18.9%).

O MY! OREGON, OHIO STATE REACH TITLE GAME: Ohio State upsets Alabama 42-35 in last night's late semifinal ending at 12:42 a.m. (which is ridiculous). Not sure if Urban Meyer winning feels any better than Nick Saban losing. In the first game Oregon hammers Florida State 59-20. Turnovers killed FSU as much as the Ducks did. Don't eviscerate the Noles too much, though. Champions; 29 straight. Great run. Respect. ..... Original post: What the Free World has clamored for so long -- a College Football Playoff -- bursts from concept to reality today with the two CFP semifinals: Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., then Alabama vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30. The doubleheader will do monstrous TV ratings nationally , and should even fly high in nonchalant South Florida. Here, the large FSU alumni fan base and our natural disdain for Nick Saban assures interest. (Then again, rooting against Nick means rooting for Urban Meyer. LIFE ISN'T FAIR! ESPN polled its 43 college football experts (which is about 38 too many, by the way), and the picks were Oregon over FSU by 31-12 and 'Bama over OSU by (ouch) 42-1. Eventual-champion votes were Alabama 21, Oregon 18, FSI 1 and Urban 0. The asterisk in the headline? Me. I agree with the consensus on the Tide rolling, but think the Seminoles -- undefeated yet maligned -- will upset the mighty Ducks. Can't wait! 

Poll result: Interest in Orange Bowl game was low: We asked your interest level in last night's Georgia Tech-Mississippi State Orange Bowl game, and most voted "non-existent" (49.2 percent) or "low" (23.4%). The rest voted "medium" (18.4%) or "high" (9.0%).

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

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! Heat beat LeBron, Cavs 101-91; plus my holiday video to you (with some special guests), Cooperstown results & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25. Merry Christmas, celebrants! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Cooperstown poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Josh Smith, Miami Beach Bowl & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1axmas14MERRY CHRISTMAS! A HOLIDAY VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: A few friends took time from their busy holiday to join me to make this Chistmas video. They are the two coaches you love to hate and hate to love, the superstar who stayed, and the one who left. Pictured from left to right are LeBron James, Joe Philbin, myself, Giancarlo Stanton and Al Golden. Click HERE for the video. Enjoy. And happy holidays!

HEAT SPOIL LEBRON'S RETURN: You know I hate the NBA playing games on Christmas. But if you must have a game, it might as be LeBron James' first return to Miami since leaving for Cleveland. And a 101-91 Miami win led by Dwyane Wade's 31 points and Luol Deng's 25. LeBron had 30 for the Cavs on an amicable night that heard more cheers than boos for James. The fans' reaction to LeBron is what was most notable about today, although the result was unexpectedly exhilirating.

Poll result: Randy Johnson leads your parade to Cooperstown: We gave you a 22-player ballot and only four men received the equivalent of the 75 percent vote that would be necessary for induction. They were, in order, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and (barely) Barry Bonds.

Have a wonderful holiday!

December 19, 2014

Dolphins, NFL Week 16 picks: 0.725%; plus Fleetwood Mac, state bowl-game winners, Heat 'n Panthers morphing, Marlins-Yanks trade, NBA-on-Christmas verdict & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20. No Random EVidence this week. The Sunday notes-column package is off for the holidays. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA-on-Christmas poll, Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden verdict, U.S.-Cuba relations & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 16 PICKS: "0.725%": The percentage at left represents the less than 1-in-100 playoff likelihood for Miami right now as it hosts the Vikings on Sunday, according to computer estimations 1aa1afripixfrom makenflplayoffs.com. Miami has the second-worst odds of any of 21 teams still mathematically alive (ahead of only Cleveland). It'll be win-and-pray for the Dolphins and several other teams as the better clubs clinch remaining playoff spots. Click on Week 16 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules, which have a playoff-piocture theme. (Strong start to our week Thursday night with a near exacto. Jags beat Titans 21-13; I had it 20-13). Also, click on Overlooking Landry for my weekly Friday Page column. It posits that the Fins' Jarvis Landry is having a season that, most years, would merit offensive rookie-of-the-year consideration, but that, unfortunately for him, this is a particularly bounteous year for rookie wide receivers.

LET'S GO BOWLING: The glut of 39 bowls games begins Saturday. Astonishingly, 11 of the bowls (28%) either involve a Florida team or are played in our state. We rank those 11 by interest in South Florida, with state ties underlined, and with predictions by ESPN's Mark Schlabach:

1aa1adepend1. Rose (College Football Playoff semifinal): Oregon 42, Florida State 31. Jan. 1, 5 p.m., Pasadena, CA.

2. Duck Commander Independence: Miami 27, South Carolina 20. Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m., Shreveport, LA.

3. Birmingham: East Carolina 27, Florida 23. Jan. 3, noon, Birmingham, AL.

4. Capital One Orange: Georgia Tech 34, Mississippi State 30. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., Dolphins stadium.

5. Miami Beach: Memphis 31, BYU 24. Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Marlins Park.

6. Boca Raton: Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38. Dec. 23, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium.

7. Bitcoin St. Petersburg: North Carolina State 21, UCF 20. Dec. 26, 8 p.m., St. Pete.

8. Outback: Auburn 42, Wisconsin 35. Jan. 1, noon, Tampa.

9. Russell Athletic: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 20. Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., Orlando.

10. Citrus: Missouri 24, Minnesota 20. Jan. 1, 1 p.m., Orlando.

11. Taxslayer: Tennessee 28, Iowa 17. Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m., Jacksonville.

ON FLEETWOOD MAC: Saw the legendary band at the Sunrise arena last night and thought it was a great show. I've never been a huge FM fan beyond the obligatory heydays love of the Rumours LP, but as a huge pop music fan I am drawn to seeing all-time great perfomers I've not seen before. Thoughts: Lindsay Buckingham is a better guitar player live than is heard on records, but is rather insufferable as a frontman, his ego unhidden. Founding father Mick Fleetwood is terrific on drums and a delight to watch. Bassist John McVie gets too lost; he's too invisble, not musically, but onstage. Stevie Nicks is still playing the gypsy-poet. Not a huge fan of her voice but she is a commanding stage presence. The star, for me, is Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards. I don't think I would have gone to the show had she not rejoined the band.

 

1aa1ampradoMARLINS-YANKEES MAKE TRADE: Marlins today acquired infielder Martin Prado (pictured), pitcher David Phelps and cash from Yankees for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and minor league pitcher Domingo German. I'd call it a medium trade, certainly not a big one. Prado, 31, who hit .282 with 26 doubles and 12 homers last year, will compete to start at third base. Phelps, 28, could emerge as a No. 5 starter.

HEAT, PANTHERS HAVE BECOME SAME TEAM: For years the Heat preened and reigned, and the Panthers were the forgotten and forlorn afterthought. Now the two teams have met in the middle: Mediocrity. They have morphed into the same team. The previous four seasons, the Heat's winning percentage was .718 and the Panthers' .381. This season:

Team        Record            Pos.    L10    Strk

Panthers    14-16, .467    T-7th   6-4    W2

Heat          12-14, .462     7th      3-7    L1 

Poll result: Most don't like NBA playing on Christmas: With the LeBron-at-Heat Christmas Day game looming, we asked what you thought of the NBA playing games on the holiday, and 61.2 percent were against versus 34.0% who were OK with it. The other 4.8% were undecided.

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

November 28, 2014

Ray Rice available: Should Dolphins sign him? Poll. Vote now!; plus NFL Week 13 picks, Thanksgiving video, Al Golden verdict & more


1) It is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28. Hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving, with special thanks to my longest-time readers and the most loyal of our blog family! 2)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Al Golden debate and poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adolriceRAY RICE REINSTATED. WANT HIM TO BE A DOLPHIN?: Former Ravens running back Ray Rice won an appeal on Friday meaning he is suddenly a reinstated free-agent NFL running back who may sign with any team. Would you like to see the Dolphins sign him? Weigh his talent, Miami's need at the position, and of course the baggage of the domestic abuse issue that got Rice suspended and cut by Baltimore ... and then vote and say why you feel as you do.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 13 PICKS: Miami will win Monday night but we're on high alert for a Jets upset. Click on Week 13 Gems for all of our latest NFL predictions, and on Now, The Real Pressure for my 1aa1afripixweekly Friday Page column. It leads with the playoff chase really starting now, and how the pressure is on the Dolphins even as they face a relatively soft closing schedule. By the way, you know what I'd be extra thankful for today? If the rest of my Week 13 was a lot better than my Thanksgiving Day effort. I went 1-2 overall and 0-3 against the spread. That's the prognosticating equivalent of the turkey being cremated in a flaming oven. At our house the first game started as the turkey was just beginning to brown, the second game was on as we gave thanks and ate, and the third game coincided with our attempts to wake Uncle Buddy, who by then was deep-dozing from a day-long conversation with Jack Daniel chased by an overload of Tryptophan. Click on Bird Day Gems for all three predix capsules, although, given the outcomes, I'd just as soon you didn't.

1aa1athanks14HAPPY THANKSGIVING! HOLIDAY VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: I'd like to thank Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, enduring Heat star Dwyane Wade and newly enriched Marlin Giancarlo Stanton for joining me on this year's Thanksgiving video. Always heard Philbin resembled a pilgrim. Now we find out. Stanton's picking up the tab on dinner, by the way. Click on Bird Day '14 to watch the video.

Poll result: Support for Al Golden split but shaky: Apparently not all of you are thankful for Al Golden. We asked in previous blogpost, and "weak" or "no" support for the Hurricanes' football coach was 52.4 percent, edging "strong" or "medium" support at 47.6%. However, at the extremes, "no" swamped "strong," 36.9-15.6. I'd note (I pay attention) that support for Golden was running slightly favorable overall in the natural flow of votes until a late swarm of negative votes suggesting an orchestrated effort. Hey, free country. Power to the people!

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

September 01, 2014

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 6.7%; QB Kaaya shaky in 31-13 opening UM loss, our thoughts; also radio, U-Bird Countdown & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: We're back in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show today 3-7 on 104.3/790 The Ticket, 4-7 ESPN Radio. Dan's still off so it will be Stugotz and I co-hosting. Also my first time in the new South Beach studios, so I'll Vine out how they look.



1) It is TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2. Watch for our season-debut of the college SOPY (State Offensive Player of the Year) rankings in the blog on Wednesday. 2) Patriots sign former Dolphin Don Jones. Typical Bill Belichick chicanery. 3) Happy new month, and hope all my fellow American workers had a nice Labor Day. 4) In T
he Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Rate My Fantasy Draft poll, Hot Button Top 10, Upset Bird Countdown, FIU vs. Herald verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1awoodywoodpeckerUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 3 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of NFL 1aa1abird3Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 3 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following UM's Sebastian the Ibis), we welcome Woody Woodpecker, born in 1940 into the cartoon genre of screwball characters whose template included Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

See our live game blog and analysis and commentary on tonight's Canes loss right below the poll...

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G1: Results are certified in the season's first Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 6.7 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Monday's 31-13 loss 1aa1acsmat Louisville. (A roiling majority of 75.8% called themselves "very dissatisfied'). The CSM polls, in their sixth season, are your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9:15 a.m. today/WednesdayWelcome back. Vote now!

2014 CSM results

G1: 6.7% (following 31-13 loss at Louisville)

Next poll: Sept. 6 following game vs. Florida A&M

CSM previous final season results: 2013--16.1% overall satisfaction (following 9-4 season); 2012--80.9% (7-5); 2011--22.1% (6-6); 2010--4.2% (7-6); 2009--41.7% (9-4).

G1: LOUISVILLE 31, HURRICANES 13 (4Q): Final: "FIRE GOLDEN! BENCH KAAYA!" (I'm just getting ready for fan hysterics on Miami sports-talk radio...) This was a winnable game for a long time but Miami let it slip with three turnovers, too many missed chances, and 17 unanswered Louisville points to end it. I thought the Canes defense was fairly solid much of the night in the 31-13 loss, allowing 336 total yards, and bearing in mind that one of Louisville's TDs came on a 97-yard kickoff return. Overall I'd say offensive coordinator James Coley has more to fix than defensive chief Mark D'Onofrio. True-freshman QB Brad Kaaya and the offense had a rough start, partly because the coaches were hesitant to let Kaaya let it fly. The play-calling was conservative. Duke Johnson fought for every yard (he was 20-for-90), but Kaaya completed only 17 of 29 for 174 yards and had two INTs offsetting one TD. UM's offense was a miserable 1-for-12 on third downs. Kaaya struggled enough that coach Al Golden will need to address early in the week if Kaaya is still his guy or if he might immediately switch to senior Jake Heaps. ..... 4Q: Kaaya interception ends game. ... Cards make it 31-13 with late TD pass. ... Kaaya-to-Duke Johnson 36-yard completion negated by ticky-tack illegal man downfield penalty. Huge call. Was a 1st and goal. Ended in a punt. ... Redbirds add short FG for 24-13 lead. ... A winnable game Miami is letting slide. So far. ..... 3Q: UM finally a 1st down on 3rd down after being 0-for-9. But Kaaya underthrow-INT on very next play. ... Cards up 21-13 after 15-yard scoring run. ... UM within 14-13 but settled for short FG after recovering fumble at L'ville 8. That could hurt. ..... Half: I don't mind the spot UM is in at 14-10 down. Miami's defense is looking pretty solid and Canes would be up but for two key plays: the lateral/turnover in the Louisville red zone, and giving up the long kick-return TD. ..... 2Q: L'ville up 14-10 as Canes gouged for 97-yard kickoff return. ... UM up 10-7 on 24-yard FG. ... Cards go for it, make it on 4th and 1 from own 22. Usually when Bobby Petrino makes a decision that dangerous and questionable he's on a motorcycle. ... Huge blown opportunity by UM. Sack/fumble recovery gives Canes a 1st and goal, but immediately give it back. ... Canes 7-7 on Kaaya 2-yard TD pass to Clive Walford, set up by their hookup for 31. ..... 1Q: Canes driving as quarter ends. ..... What UM did NOT want tonight: Brad Kaaya, in his first start, on the road, playing from an early deficit. ... Louisville 7-0 after 93-yard drive. D'Onofrio haters, start your engines! UM getting zero pressure from its 3-man rush. ... Mmm, I don't know about those metallic-green UM helmets. You like? ..... Original post: The Miami Hurricanes' 89th season of football launches tonight at Louisville before ESPN cameras at 8 p.m., marking the fourth season for coach Al Golden. The Canes and their fans hope tonight is a lot different than the way last 1aa1amialvilleseason ended: a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. Same teams, but much different -- notably at the most important position. True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya takes over for Miami, while Louisville must replace departed star Teddy Bridgewater. We'll be looking for three things, mainly: 1) How does Kid Kaaya handle the pressure of a loud, hostile crowd and a national stage in his collegiate debut. He seems well-suited for the challenge; doesn't act like a kid just turning 19 on Wednesday. But you know the Cardinals' defense will be geared to pressure and disrupt him. 2) Running back star Duke Johnson in his return from last year's season-ending injury. Domination by the Duke of Gables will make Kaaya's job so much easier. And 3) UM's defense. It was awful at times last year and must be much better all-round. Looking for a star or two to step up other than senior linebacker Denzel Perryman. With no Bridgewater and Louisville also missing star receiver DeVante Parker, the Canes have no excuse for a poor showing. This is an ACC game right out the gate, and also huge because it's one of those swing games that define a season. Most college schedules have a few games that are gimmie wins and a few you can't count on winning, with most teetering in between. This is one of those for The U. Louisville is favored by 3 1/2 points, meaning it's about a tossup aside from the location. My pick: Upset. Miami, 27-23.

Poll result: It's official. You hated my fantasy draft: We had a blind poll inviting you to rank my family fantasy league's draft based on each team's top three picks, and I came in next-to-last. Ouch. Results: Team #2 (my brother/led by Jamaal Charles) 34.3 percent; Team #7 (older nephew/Peyton Manning) 27.9%; Team #3 (oldest son/LeSean McCoy) 11.9%; Team #6 (son's girlfriend/Eddie Lacy) 8.5%; Team #1 (youngest son/Adrian Peterson) 7.5%; Team #4 (wife/Matt Forte) 6.0%; Team #5 (me/Calvin Johnson) 4.0%; and Team #8 (younger nephew/Demaryius Thomas) 0.0%.

HEAT MAKE MINOR COACHING STAFF CHANGES: Movin' on up: David Fitzdale now will be the Heat's clear No. 2 behind head coach Erik Spoelstra. And Juwan Howard will be elevated to a full assistant coach. Demoted: Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo, who'll be invited to remain with the club but in lesser roles. Spoelstra is expected to add another assistant or perhaps elevate Dan Craig. (Is this the kind of story fans care about? I have a feeling a team's staff changes -- unless they involve a head coach or, in football, a coordinator -- are of media interest only).

1aa1asebastiantheibisUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 4 DAYS (from Monday): The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of NFL Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 4 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following the Aflac Duck), in honor of the Hurricanes' season opener we welcome UM football's venerable Sebastian the Ibis.

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

July 04, 2014

World Cup semifinals set: Heavyweight Four!; plus Heat free agency, Hurricanes' new helmet & more

1aa1afourthjuly1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 5. Hope you had a happy birthday, America! You look good for 238. My Boston butt on the Big Green Egg came out fabulous, by the way. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Garo's Biggest Fight, U.S. World Cup success poll, Dion Jordan's suspension, Tannehill's rank & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Heat free agency: We'll have a column on Heat free agency on Sunday and online late today. Despite the agent visits and everything else you hear, Heat remains very confident LeBron James will re-sign to complete the return of Big 3. Main free-agent targets are Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol or Luol Deng, but Pat Riley is asking significant financial sacrifice from each. First day to sign is Thursday the 10th.

1aa1auhelmet
Hurricanes' new helmet:
It depicts the state of Florida, the peninsula whose outline is as distinctive as any U.S. state, with the 'U' logo where it should be down south.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! WORLD CUP: GREAT EIGHT: THE QUARTERFINALS: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier results. Today concludes the quarterfinal round. The event might have been called off once the United States was eliminated but, somehow, was not. The four matchups, chronologically:

GERMANY (def. France, 1-0): Europe palpitated as mighty Germany and the

1aa1agermansurging French kicked off the quarters. France enjoyed a redeeming World Cup after a nightmare four years earlier, and had dispatched Nigeria 2-0 to get here, but the run ended. The Germans, who carry the European banner as (arguably) the best non-South American contender, struggled somewhat in getting here past Algeria, 2-1 in overtime, but made an early goal hold up here. I'd chanced an upset. I was wrong. My pick was: France, 2-1.

BRAZIL (def. Colombia, 2-1): The most anticipated of the four games, and not just because



the host
1aa1abrazilcountry would be swooning, but because of volatile, attacking football between the South American rivals. Brazil had yet to thrill its fans with optimum play, and needed luck to get here past Chile, 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Colombia had been as impressive as anyone in the tournament, at 4-0 with an 11-2 goals differential after getting here past Uruguay, 2-0. The favorites prevailed but at great cost, losing star Neymar to an injury. I had sensed an upset. I was wrong. (Again). My pick was: Colombia, 3-2.

ARGENTINA (def. Belgium, 1-0): Cross-continent duel found Argentina and the sublime Lionel



Messi 1aa1aragebtinsa(my picks to win it all) still seeking to find all of their cylinders offensively, after getting here past Switzerland by a modest 1-0 score. Belgium eliminated the United States 2-1 in overtime but put an impressive, constant barrage on American goalie Tim Howard. Argentina still wasn't amazing with the ball but one goal was all it took. My pick was: Argentina, 3-1.

NETHERLANDS (def. Costa Rica, PKs): Costa Rica gave the final eight its one true Cinderella but fell in 1aa1anetherlandspenalty kicks after a scoreless draw, the Dutch looking like geniuses for a daring goalkeeper change just before the PK shootout. Netherlands was stymied by Costa Rica's offside trap but prevailed when all was on the line. My pick was: Netherlands, 2-0. 

World Cup goal scoring entering the semifinals: 60 matches, 159 goals, 2.65 per.

Ensuing schedule: Semifinal Tuesday July 8--Germany vs. Brazil, 4 p.m. Semifinal Wednesday July 9--Argentina vs. Netherlands, 4 p.m. Third-place Saturday July 12--Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Championship Sunday july 13--Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.

Poll result: U.S. World Cup run (mostly) a success: We asked, and a plurality of 39.6 percent called it a success without question, while 36.5% called it a success but a "modest" one. Not a success but a decent show drew 16.5%, while only 7.4% called it "closer to a failure."

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May 26, 2014

5 signs Pacers are imploding (including Vogel-yell video); plus James, Bosh lead G4 win, Heat postseason MVP table, fast food & more

1aa1agodzilla1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 27. At right, Godzilla devours E.T. and that adorable kid. 2) We needn't require an annual holiday (Memorial Day) to honor our war dead. Thank you today, too, fallen heroes. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat and the good noise/bad noise forever surrounding LeBron James. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Nine Heat truths we hold self-evident, Heat-Pacers Game 3, Charles Barkley, Mel Kiper's early prejection & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Instagram and Vine.

Click on Thou Shall Not Irritate LeBron James for my column off last night's Heat win.

FIVE INDICATIONS THE PACERS ARE IMPLODING: No, I mean beyond their 3-1 series deficit to Miami that now makes their odds of winning the Eastern Conference finals equal to the likelihood Kim Kardashian will suddenly eschew fame and spotlight and quietly become a nun:

1aa1apgeorgepost1. Paul George's postgame lunacy: "I thought we outplayed them," he said late last night, as a large room full of media looked at each other and worked to stifle outbursts of braying, incredulous laughter. George said he found it "demoralizing" that Indiana was so superior in all phases and yet lost at the free-throw line because of "home cooking" by the officials. (Over/under on the league fine the NBA cooks up for George: $25,000). By the way, somebody point out to Paul that Miami scored 20 points off his team's turnovers, and invite him to blame the refs for that. Lame excuses, Indiana.

2. Lance Stephenson's mouth: (See my rrelated game column) Lance's maw was wide open and yakking before the game, talking about how LeBron James' trash talking had been a "sign of weakness" and that he was "under his skin." Then, during the game last night, Lance was as a church mouse. Somebody give that man a choke sign.

3. Roy Hibbert zeroes in. Hibbert can do the seemingly impossible. He can be a 7-2 giant on national television, and completely disappear. Last night: 0 points. Your cat scored as many. Pacers were minus-23 points with him on the court. And his defense against Chris Bosh was as nonexistent as his offense.

4. World's shortest bench. This doesn't really fit with the others, but, have you noticed? In terms of bench/depth/rotation, Indiana is pretty much bereft with the exception of Luis Scola and his 1970s hair.

5. Frank Vogel's schoolyard yell. Saved my favorite for last. This is a classic. Vogel, the Pacers' nerdy coach, screaming at Shane Battier as he attempts a three-point shot. Recalls my old Little League days, when, as the opposing outfielder raced toward a fly ball, we'd shout, "TREE STUMP!" C'mon, Frank. Seriously!? Be a grownup. Postscript: Battier made the shot.

 

G4: HEAT 102, INDIANA 90: MIAMI IN CHARGE AT 3-1: LeBron James' 31 points and 10 rebounds and schooling of Lance Stephenson was the big story overall, although Chris Bosh's fast start and 25 points set the early tone. Click on Thou Shall Not Irritate LeBron James for my full column off the game. Original post: Looking at tonight's Game 4 from two angles. I love the seven-game series format because every result dramatically alters the framework of how the series looks and feels. Take tonight back at the downtown bayside arena. A 1aa1azheat-pacg4 1aa1alenlanceMiami win to make it a 3-1 series lead would put the defending-champion Heat in full control of these Eastern Conference finals and have even the most hopeful Pacers fans bracing for a third 1aa1aecfstraight playoff elimination by their nemesis. But! A road upset by the Pacers tonight to even the series 2-2, with Game 5 in Indianapolis, would swing momentum suddenly back to the team that is both the No. 1 seed and yet the underdog. OK that's the big-picture angle. Now the other one. I also love a seven-game series format because it is long enough to become its own soap opera. Hard fouls on the court and dumb comments off it can turn up the intensity and volume. That happened in the runup to tonight's game when Pacers guard Lance Stephenson said Sunday that LeBron James trash-talked him in the last game and called that "a sign of weakness" by James. (The two are pictured, with Stephenson either defending James or trying to kiss him on the left cheek). There is a history here. Lance, of course, made a choke sign (from the bench) in the 2012 playoffs after James missed a key late free throw. Stephenson is 23, so I suppose he can still play the young-and-stupid card, but two points  must be made here. 1) Publicly jabbing LeBron is never smart. He is due a monster game offensively; his 49-pointer in Brooklyn is his only plus-30 since the first round. And you know James would delight in showing up the mouthy Stephenson tonight. 2) Stephenson is a nice young player, a pretty good shooting guard, active defender, and also somebody who would not start for Miami. Three NBA seasons have not seen him within shouting distance of an all-star team or a leaderboard. Stephenson is a grain of sand. LeBron is the beach. It will be delicious to see if those roles come clear tonight.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated): We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Tonight: 1. LeBron James, 2. Chris Bosh, 3. Dwyane Wade. The updated standings through 13 playoff games, including tonight's Heat-Pacers Game 4: LeBron James 31 points, Dwyane Wade 22, Chris Bosh 11, Ray Allen 8, Chris Andersen 2, Norris Cole 2, James Jones 2.

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RILEY HAS YOUR BEDROOM COVERED:
 Urgent update: Heat prez Pat Riley's business arm, Riles & Co., has extended trademark rights to the phrase Three-Peat (and 3-Peat) to include bed covers, linens, blankets, sheets and towels. He has held the trademark since his late '80s Lakers days, but has now gone bed, bath and beyond. Further updates as needed.

THE LIST: FAST-FOOD CHAINS: The world's top 10 fast-food chains based on number of restaurants:

Rank  Chain                  Restaurants

1       Subway                41,641

2       McDonald's           34,492

3       Starbucks             20,184

4       KFC                      18,875

5      Pizza Hut               14,067

6      Burger King           13,667

7      Dunkin' Donuts      10,862

8      Domino's Pizza       10,566

9      Baskin-Robbins       7,294

10    Wendy's                  6,557 

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March 31, 2014

Wed pm 4-2: Marlins start 2-0. Now how closely will you follow team? Poll. Vote!; plus Dolphins sign OL, Heat, Tiger, Hochman, Neil Young & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2. Hope y'all had a merry Happy April Fool's Day. I did not have a token prank in the blog. You're welcome. 2) Tiger Woods withdraws from The Masters with back issues. That's got to knock his chances of catching Jack Nicklaus for most majors by a good 10 percent I'd think. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness/Cinderell-O-Meter, Knowshon Moreno, NLRB ruling, Heat, Greatest Ralph results. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Dolphins sign ex-Canes OL: Dolphins today signed offensive lineman Jason Fox, the former All-ACC Miami Hurricanes stalwart. Fox spent past four years with Detroit Lions. He opened last season starting at right tackle but would start only three other games.

1aa1aabuelaThe Grand Opening: Marlins opened season big Monday night with a 10-1 win that found Jose Fernandez striking out nine in six innings as his grandmother (pictured) watched him pitch here for the first time. That was my column; click Abuela to read. In Sunday's Marlins special preview section I wrote an upbeat column on the team, listing 10 reasons to like this team and feel good about this season. So I look prescient, for now. Click HERE to read.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MARLINS?: I admit it. The Marlins are my toughest Miami team to read in 1aa1ajosefterms of the fan base. How do they (you) feel? Upbeat and optimistic? Still hating Jeffrey Loria so much it colors your thinking? What? Well, Opening Night 2014 seems the perfect time to ask. Marlins certainly got off to a wonderful start last night by clobbering Colorado, 10-1. Jose Fernandez struck out nine in six innings, and the offense that wasn't there last season appeared with a vengeance. Oh, and the crowd was a Marlins Park-record 37,000-plus and festive and loud. Now the team is 2-0. But how will that translate for the long haul? Take a dip in our poll, vote what best describes your level of Fish fandom, and say why.

TOLD YA SO ON HEAT: I hate to brag, by which I mean I love to brag, so i'll remind you I told you in a blog item last week that the Heat -- then trailing Indiana by 3 games -- still had a great chance at the No. 1 conference playoff seed based on each team's remaining schedule. Apparently I was right. Miami is now narrowly ahead based on the loss column (51-22 to the Pacers' 52-23). Miami's nine games left include six at home and five against teams with current losing records. Indy's seven games left include three at home and four against losing teams. Most important: Teams' final meet on April 11 is here. Could be tantamount to a winner-take-all for that top seed. Delicious!

HOCHMAN DEBUTS ON WQAM: Longtime former 790 The Ticket personality Marc Hochman ended his contractually mandated time off and returned to the air yesterday (3-7 p.m.) on rival WQAM. I don't know how he'll do in the ratings but I've won already. Placed two sure bets in Vegas. One was that his debut show would include the requisite April Fool's Day prank. The other was that, within the first two segments, Hoch will introduce himself by way of an homage to 'QAM and growing up listening. For me to collect on the bet he had to refer reverentially to Hank Goldberg. Of course I wasn't listening because I was on some other air at the time. How'd Hoch do?

ME, CHARLESTON AND NEIL YOUNG: There is a Greg Cote who is not in the newspaper, online or on radio. He's probably pretty boring, but he would give you an occasional glimpse into that other life 1aa1aneilybecause it's his blog. I mean my blog. Wife and I spent a long weekend in Charleston, S.C., with our longtime friends Jake and Evelyn, from the D.C. area. The two couples started a tradition of meeting and mini-vacationing a couple of times a year at an agreed-upon location, just because. We'd been to San Antonio, Cleveland, Memphis and New Orleans before Charleston. No two cities are alike, except that, coincidentally, all serve alcohol. While in Charleston I finished my latest book, Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young's autobiography. Highly recommended to anyone who is into Young, via CSNY or Crazy Horse. He's a fascinating guy way beyond performing on stage. No spoiler alert needed, but three things to hopefully pique your interest: Pono, Lincvolt and Lionel trains.

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March 16, 2014

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

1aa1apatrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Patrick Surtain, Dolphins cornerback, 1998-04

3. Pat Rapp, Marlins pitcher, 1993-97

4. Pat Cummings, Heat forward, 1988-90

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

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

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

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

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

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