November 24, 2015

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 3.8%; plus Miami falls to Cowboys, new Hot Button Top 10 (uypdated), Kyle Busch wins NASCAR crown at Homestead, UM hoops' big win & more


JFK1) It is MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22. See previous blogpost for results of latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter poll. 2) Fifty-two years ago yesterday, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Pray for Paris and for peace on Earth, but remember JFK, too. 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes host Georgia Tech with CSM poll, other state Collball, UM next-coach verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Hurricanes men's basketball rockets from unranked to No. 15 today in new Associated Press poll.

Gordon's career trumps Busch's crown at Homestead: Click on End of the Rainbow for my column from the racetrack on Jeff Gordon, who ran his final NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G10: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 3.8 percent overall satisfaction -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 24-14 home loss to Dallas putting Miami's season record at 4-6. 1aadsm
The DSM, in its eighth year, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:15 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2015 DSM Results

Game 1: 31.0% (following 17-10 victory at Washington)

Game 2: 1.7% (following 23-20 loss at Jacksonville)

Game 3: 18.0% (following 41-14 loss vs. Buffalo)

Game 4: 2.7% (following 27-14 loss vs. N.Y Jets in London)

Game 5: 92.0% (following 38-10 victory at Tennessee)

Game 6: 96.1% (following 44-26 victory vs. Houston)

Game 7: 32.4% (following 36-7 loss at New England)

Game 8: 4.8% (following 33-17 loss at  Buffalo)

Game 9: 44.6% (following 20-19 victory at Philadelphia)

Game 10: 3.8% (following 24-14 loss vs. Dallas)

Next poll: Nov. 29 (following game at N.Y. Jets)

G10: DALLAS 24, DOLPHINS 14: NOT ENOUGH OFFENSE AS MIAMI PLAYOFF HOPES TAKE A HIT: Final thoughts: Miami falls to 4-6 and sees its wild-card hopes take a hit today because of a reason that has been common this season: Too little offense. Two touchdowns won't win many games, especially when your QB, Ryan Tannehill, gives the other team six free points on a pick-six interception. The result was fair. Miami was dominated in many ways, in total yards 386-210 and in first downs 22-9. The Fins converted only one of 10 third downs. A disappointing home loss in what had (in terms of betting odds) been a dead-even game going in. ..... Halftime: A mostly absymal first half by Miami in rainy Miami, but sunshine beamed in on the Fins late. Team doing nothing offensively until the final drive, when Ryan Tannehill's 47-yard strike to Jarvis Landry set up a 12-yard TD throw to Jordan Cameron. Defense doing OK. Only has given up one TD, considering Tanny's pick-six accounts for half of Dallas' points. ..... Note: I'm writing from NASCAR in Homestead today but will be updating Dolphins score live throughout today's game and be back with halftime and postgame thoughts prior to the posting of the new DSM poll. ..... Original post: Isn't often two teams with a combined record of 6-12 present a game as tasty as this one. Miami at 4-5 doesn't enjoy much margin of error, so call today a must-win for the Dolphins, realistically if not literally. The Dolcowopponent, despite its sorry record, arrives dangerously revitalized by the return from injury of its star, and brings with it the swagger of "America's Team" and its many fans. It will be very difficult today for the Dolphins to sack Tony Romo on account of that hero’s white steed he’s riding in on. They’ll have to tackle the horse, too, I guess. Dallas went a season-ruining 0-7 with their QB out with a broken collarbone but gets him back just in Romotantime for Miami. Romo has not shied from portraying himself in the savior’s robe, even knowing Dallas likely must finish on a 7-0 run for a playoff shot. This week he tweeted the scene from the movie Major League with the line, "Well, then I guess there’s only one thing left to do … win the whole [bleep]ing thing." A 2-7 team on the road with an even betting line further indicates Joe Public is buying into the Romo-savior myth. It won’t happen, though. Dallas won’t make the playoffs. I doubt they’ll win today, either. I see a pumped-up, sold-out crowd fomenting a palpable home-field advantage and inspiring a big, emotional effort from the Dolphins. Miami is the first NFL team since the 1970 merger to play in its home stadium only twice in the first 10 weeks. That and the marquee opponent should have Joe Robbie’s place rocking for Dallas’ first regular-season visit since 2007. These may be two teams with losing records, but it still feels like an "event" game. Adding to that: Don Shula, flanked by Bob Griese and Dan Marino, will be presented a special Hall of Fame ring in a halftime ceremony today. Key to the Fins winning will be much better pass defense than we’ve seen the past three games. A particular concern today is a depleted linebacking corps vs. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. But between Brent Grimes’ return and Romo’s rust, I see the big home crowd leaving happy. My pick: Dolphins, 27-23.

KYLE BUSCH WINS RACE, SEASON TITLE BUT IT'S JEFF GORDON'S DAY AT HOMESTEAD: Update: Kyle Busch wins NASCAR season Sprint Cup championship by finishing ahead of the three other qualifiers for the title. Busch won the race, with Kevin Harvick second, sentimental favorite Jeff Gordon sixth, and Martin Truex Jr. 12th. The night was about the season crown, and whether Gordon, in his last race, could write the perfect ending to his storied career. Original post: I'm down at Homestead-Miami Speedway today columnizing on NASCAR's Championship Sunday, because it is an event of greater national scope than the Dolphins-Cowboys game (and will draw a bigger crowd, too). It is bigger than even a typical Sprint Cup finale, because this one is Jeff Gordon's farewell ride before retiring to the TV booth. Gordon (pictured), defending series champ Kevin Harvick, bad-boy Kyle Busch and designated-underdog Martin Truex Jr. are the four drivers in the full field who'll be competing for the season title, a great mix. My preview column, online and in today's Miami Herald print editions, focuses on the 20th anniversary of the Homestead racetrack and how its origin helped lift a city from the ravages of Hurricane Andrew. Today's race is big. What this track meant and means to Homestead is bigger. Click on Saving A City to read the column in full. Race starts at 3, presuming good weather. Rain, rain, stay away. Vroooom!

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (NOV. 22): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins season crown, Gordon bids farewell at Homestead: Imagine. Jeff Gordon, set to retire, runs his final race and in it dramatically wins his fifth NASCAR title and first since 2001. If only. Kyle Busch won it all Sunday night to deny Gordon the perfect ending to his career.

2. DOLPHINS: Miami falls to Romo, Cowboys: Tony Romo played Sunday for first time since Sept. 20 as "America's Team" came to town in a rare visit — Dallas was last here in 2007. Lots of hoopla. Almost forgot. Fins needed to win to bolster fading playoff hopes. They did not, falling 24-14.

3. HEAT: Whiteside's Block Party highlights early season: Miami avoiding a loss to winless Philly Saturday allows us to spotlight sensation Hassan (Sultan of Swat) Whiteside, whose 58 blocked shots in 12 games are on pace to be NBA's highest per-game average since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989-90. 

4. HURRICANES: UM whips Georgia Tech in home finale: As UM searches for its next coach, there is plenty left to play for. Saturday's 38-21 win over Georgia Tech and this Friday at Pitt will determine whether Canes are invited to a bowl game you don't care about or one you barely care about.

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes win Puerto Rico tournament: Big week for UM hoops. The 2016 recruiting class added two big prizes, and Canes beat No. 22 Butler last night 85-75 in final of Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament after earlier beating No. 16 Utah 90-66. Canes now 5-0 and up to No. 15 in AP poll. Hey, can Jim Larrañaga coach the football team, too!?

6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ohio State loss shakes up the CFP: College Football Playoff will have a new-look top four after Ohio State's loss Saturday. The national group, People Who Feel Sorry For Urban Meyer, is meeting tonight. Waffle House. Corner booth.

7. FAU: Almost as lowly Owls take Gators to OT: Top-ten Florida would prevail 20-14 in overtime Saturday but it was a Swamp scare from now 2-8 Florida Atlantic. I'm not big on moral victories/good losses, but this performance by Owls was bigger than any win in program history.

8. PANTHERS: Trying to keep the faith at the quarter mark: Roughly one-fourth into the NHL season, Florida has played 20 games and won eight entering Monday's date with the L.A. Kings here. Cats not currently on playoff pace. Or, by now, did that go without saying?

9. MARLINS: Jose Fernandez trade rumors swirling: Much media speculation lately about Marlins shopping ace Jose Fernandez, as well as reports he has an attitude problem. Of course it would make no sense to trade Fernandez for at least two more seasons. Then again, these are the Marlins.

10. SOCCER: Latest 'El Clasico' chapter a rout: Barcelona thumps Real Madrid 4-0 Saturday in an El Clasico rout being seen as exemplifying "team" triumphing over "individuals." The three times many Americans pay attention to soccer: World Cup, Olympics, Barca-Real.

Missing the cut: Miguel Cotto vs. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez for middleweight title. Smart on that nickname. Fighters named Saul don't scare anybody ... Steph Curry and Golden State improve to 15-0 ... FIU loses finale, misses bowl eligibility ... Fort Lauderdale Strikers fire coach Gunter Kronsteiner. Again. Who owns that team? Jeffrey Loria? ... MLB post-season awards ... David Ortiz to retire after '16 season ... Florida Sports Hall of Fame inductees ... Track & Field governing body suspends Russia for doping. Shocker!

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 19, 2015

UM's latest basketball recruiting gets a tribute to Larranaga's stewardship; plus Dolphins' playoff odds, David Beckham, cheetah picks NASCAR/Homestead winner, SOPY rankings, NFL Week 10 Pix 'n Greg's Lobos fantasy results & more


Paris1) It is THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19. PRAY FOR PARIS, AND FOR PEACE ON EARTH. 2) I'm back at Friday Page HQ today bringing forth my NFL Week 11 picks, girding loins for a better effort than last week. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's Titans-Jaguars pick. 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins win in Philly with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Dolphins' latest All-50'ers: Fins in random fives are announcing the club's all-time 50 greatest players. The latest wave: Bob Brudzinski, Norm Evans, Mike Pouncey, Patrick Surtain and Jason Taylor. Taylor is obvious. Evans and Surtain are expected. Brudzinksi for me is borderline but I'm OK with it. Surprised by Pouncey mainly for the lack of longevity.

 "BeckhamDavid Beckham has been named People's latest 'Sexiest Man Alive.' Too bad he hasn't been named 'Most Successful Man Alive at Closing an MLS Stadium Deal in Miami.'" --Greg Cote

On Canes' coach-search: This week's latest column from me is on the Hurricanes' search to replace fired football coach Al Golden and his interim fill-in Larry Scott. UM must find a great coach whose strength is recruiting and the ability to win back the South Florida talent-market. The priority should not be appeasing fans by necessarily hiring someone with Canes ties. Click on Recruiting The Best to read the column in full.

CANES' BIG RECRUITING GETS A TRIBUTE TO LARRANAGA'S STEWARDSHIP: UM basketball's 2016 recruiting class soared into the national top 10 rankings with the addition this week of Miami Norland 6- Larranaga10 power forward Dewan Huell and Massachusetts 6-4 shooting guard Bruce Brown. The biggest schools in the sport, like Louisville and Kansas, were after Huell. It's a tribute to coach Jim Larranaga and where he has the Canes program now and where it is headed under his stewardship. In Larranaga and women's coach Katie Meier, UM has one of the elite coaching duos in the entire country. Rock solid. South Florida is in good shape generally at the coach level at the moment among our top teams. The Heat's Erik Spoelstra is excellent, the Marlins made a promising managerial hire in Don Mattingly, and it seems the Panthers finally have a guy they can win with in Gerard Gallant. The questions are in football. Will Dan Campbell be a keeper for the Dolphins or will a postseason search open? That's to be determined. And the Canes job is wide open, of course. The U would do well to make a hire even approaching the quality of what basketball has in Larranaga and Meier.

DOLPHINS PLAYOFF CHANCES: A PULSE, BUT STILL A FAINT ONE: Winning in Philadelphia elevated the Dolphins' playoff chances from negligible to small. The computers of put Miami's playoff likelihood at 12.7 percent and has it at 7.2% entering this coming weekend -- both ranking the Fins 12th in the jockeying for six AFC postseason tickets. Patriots, Bengals and Broncos are the consensus definitely-in picks. The 4-5-6 seeds will be Steelers, Bills and Colts according to makenflplayoffs, and Steelers, Colts and Jets according to numberfire.

CheetahCHEETAH FORECASTS NASCAR/HOMESTEAD WINNER: Sorry, storybook-ending fans. Retiring Jeff Gordon won't be going out a champion in Sunday's season-ending race south of Miami. Koda, a 2-year-old cheetah and official Zoo Miami "wildlife prognosticator," chose Kevin Harvick from among the four miniature die-cast cars of the title-contending final four of Harvick, Gordon, Martin Truex and Kyle Busch. Koda is pictured ruminating over his decision. Zoo officials denied it was a publicity stunt.

SOPY: FLOWERS POWER! 'STATE HEISMAN' HAS A NEW LEADER: The fourth season of our blog's SOPY rankings --State Offensive Player of the Year -- is too close to call as we reach the final stretch. It's Sopynow South Florida QB Quinton Flowers narrowly ahead of Florida State RB Dalvin Cook. It's pretty much a two-man race because FIU QB Alex McGough has fallen to third place and has played one additional game than the players he must catch. Our weekly cumulative rankings measure the most productive QBs, running backs and receivers for the state's seven FBS teams: Miami, Florida, Florida State, FIU, FAU, UCF and South Florida. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The 2015 SOPY Top 10 entering Week 12:

2015 SOPY TOP 10 / WEEK 11

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                W11        Season

1 (t2)       Quinton Flowers, SoFla-qb   223         1,717

2 (t2)       Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb             167        1,661

3 (1)        Alex McGough, FIU-qb          37         1,543.5

4 (5)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb          153        1,236.5

5 (7)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb          290        1,206

6 (4)        Alex Gardner, FIU-rb             15         1,167

7 (6)        Joseph Yearby, Miami-rb       153        1,108

8 (9)         Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      139       956 

9 (10)       Kelvin Taylor, Florida-rb       126        929

10 (8)       Everett Golson, FSU-qb          26         889.5

Bubble: Will Grier, Florida-qb, 789. Other team leader: UCF--Justin Holman, qb, 713. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 290 (Wk11). Note: FIU has played 11 games; all others 10.

Cote's State of the State ranking: 1. Florida (9-1); 2. Florida State (8-2); 3. Miami (6-4); 4. South Florida (6-4); 5. FIU (5-6); 6. FAU (2-8); 7. UCF (0-10).

NFL PIX 'N GREG'S LOBOS FANTASY: WEEK 10: OH THE AWFULNESS! RECORD EMBARRASSMENT!: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our two Greg's Lobos fantasy teams, and, this week, the admission pains us: Pix: A record-worst week: This is our 25th 1aacote2
1lobosseason doing the Friday Page picks and we have never -- ever -- had worse week than last week's 2-12 record overall and 3-11 against the spread. I mean, there were some weird results and losing picks I'd probably make again. But still. No excuses. Just abysmal. Or, as the Upset Bird muttered: "Aaawwwkful!" Greg's Lobos / family league: Another loss: The original Lobos lost 125-112 to fall to 4-6, off playoff pace but still in it with four weeks left in our regular season. Rode Adrian Peterson for 31 big points, but five positions scoring in single-figures and only 12 points from Drew Brees killed us. Greg's Lobos / radio-show league: Big loss to open playoffs: The LeBatard Show Lobos fell 117.1 to 69.4 to Bills in the first round of our playoffs. It's a two-game opening series so I'm still alive but would need to rout Billy next week to have any chance. Ill-timed bye weeks ruined me this week. Just-signed Joe Flacco was our MVL with 20.1 points but we had two guys score zero. Miserable showing for the 'Bos. Embarrassing. But, yes, I do believe in miracles, so watch us next week.

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 17, 2015

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 44.6%; plus Fins rally, win at Philly 20-19 with our postgame thoughts; also, new Hot Button Top 10 with Homestead field set, Canes, Heat, Rousey's loss, Cats, UM hoops, Gators, FIU & more


Paris1) It is MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16. PRAY FOR PARIS, AND FOR PEACE ON EARTH. 2) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes clobbered in Chapel Hill with CSM poll, other state Collball & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

CSM poll results: The latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter approval rating has fallen to 49.5 percent, its lowest total since Week 4. See the previous blogpost for details.

My Ryan Tannehill column: My Sunday column is on the failure thus far of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to transcend and be the difference-maker Miami needs him to be. Three and a half seasons in, we still aren't sure what we have in this guy. Click on When Good Isn't Good Enough to read the column. Update: Leading a winning rally from 16-3 down in Philadelphia yesterday was a step forward for Tannehill.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G9: 44.6%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 44.6 percent overall satisfaction -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 20-19 victory at Philadelphia putting Miami's season record at 4-5. The DSM, in its eighth year, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:45 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2015 DSM Results

Game 1: 31.0% (following 17-10 victory at Washington)

Game 2: 1.7% (following 23-20 loss at Jacksonville)

Game 3: 18.0% (following 41-14 loss vs. Buffalo)

Game 4: 2.7% (following 27-14 loss vs. N.Y Jets in London)

Game 5: 92.0% (following 38-10 victory at Tennessee)

Game 6: 96.1% (following 44-26 victory vs. Houston)

Game 7: 32.4% (following 36-7 loss at New England)

Game 8: 4.8% (following 33-17 loss at  Buffalo)

Game 9: 44.6% (following 20-19 victory at Philadelphia)

Next poll: Nov. 22 (following game vs. Dallas)

G9: DOLPHINS 20, PHILADELPHIA 19: MIAMI RESCUES ITS PLAYOFF HOPES!: Final: Terrific road win today for underdog Miami, overcoming an early 16-3 deficit. Admit it. At that point, did you think they would? Ryan Tannehill had a solid game with 217 yard passing, two TDs and no picks. The running game toughed out 26 carries for balance. The run defense was strong. And Mark Sanchez replacing injured Sam Bradford and throwing a costly late pick (by Reshad Jones) sure helped. All in all a big win making Miami 4-5 now and keeping Dolphins close enough to playoff contention to foment hope with seven games yet to play. MIA now 3-2 under interim coach Dan Campbell. ..... Fourth Q: Reshad Jones end-zone interception of Sanchez prevents PHI a likely go-ahead score. But why'd he run it out!? ... PHI within 20-19 on 37-yard kick by ex-Dolph Caleb Sturgis. Ends 17 unanswered points by Fins. ... Wow! Miami up 20-16 (first lead since 3-0) when Jarvis Landry comes down with short pass in end zone that had been deflected and was up for grabs on first play of last quarter. A 43-yard completion to Rishard Matthews had given MIA 1st-and-goal. Birds Third Q: Birds QB Sam Bradford injured, Mark Sanchez in. ... Miami still under 200 yards total offense. Tannehill needs to go win this game. ..... Halftime: Miami allows 16 unanswered points by Eagles but rallies to within 16-13 at half. The bad: Pass D has let Sam Bradford got 16-for-20 for 196 yards, and Miami offense has a meager 153 total yards. Considering the hole once was 16-3, though, a somewhat encouraging half. ..... oughing-Second Q: Roughing-passer penalty against MIA negates a last-minute interception. Then Brice McCain injured as half ends. ... Dan "Man" Campbell wins challenge to force Philly punt but MIA gives it right back. ... Miami within 16-13 now on 13-yard Tanny pass to Miller, after blocked punt by Zach Vigil set up Fins at Philly 12. Vigil-ant! ... Fins within 16-6 but it's settling, with a 1st-and-goal turning into a 22-yard FG. Jay Ajayi runs of 24, 20 yards key the drive. ... MIA been outscored 66-6 in first quarter of its five losses and today. ... Birds miss 32-yard FG try. Something goes right for Miami! ..... First Q: Rough start. PHI up 16-3 after Ryan Mathews' 1-yard TD run following safety. ... Tannehill sacked in end zone for safety, third straight game Miami has given up one. First time in NFL since 1980 a team has given up a safety three straight games. ... Kick returner Damien Williams dumbly returns from deep in end zone, slips at own 1. Why is he evn playing with a bad hand? That's a losing-team play right there. ... Birds up 7-3 on 2-yard TD pass to finish drive that included a 61-yard catch and run by TE Brent Celek. ... MIA up early 3-0 on 42-yard FG but it was a fizzle in the red zone on a drive featuring a 35-yard completion to Lamar Miller. ..... Pregame: CB Brent Grimes is a surprise inactive today because of illness. Sam Bradford is smiling. ..... Original post: Miami begins the second half of its season a touchdown underdog in Philadelphia today, and for the Dolphins this is about nothing less than saving a season's playoff hopes or watching them all but realistically disappear. A 5-4 record is Dolphilplayoff pace in the wide-open AFC entering NFL Week 10, so Miami at 4-5 with a win today would stay in the hunt, while at 3-6 with a loss today you could all but fuhgedaboudit. Unfortunately, Miami has lost five consecutive road games as underdogs, and I’m having a tough time imagining a happy flight back from the team’s first trip to Philly since 2007. The Dolphins defense I have watched the past two games — the one clobbered by the Patriots and then absolutely gouged by the Bills — won’t find this opponent much easier. The Birds ground game has found its stride with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, while QB Sam Bradford seems to have found his comfort zone running Chip Kelly’s offense. Offensively, the Fins are averaging a paltry 14.8 points this year in the six games apart from those magical two against the Titans and Texans. I just can’t trust Ryan Tannehill to score sufficiently, on the road, against a Phils defense that is fourth in the NFL in interceptions and sixth in opponent passer rating. It might take a Jarvis Landry touchdown return or a defensive TD to keep Miami in this one. But this is a Dolphins defense that last Sunday became the first team — ever — to allow an opponent two 100-yard rushers and a 150-yard receiver in the same game. That’s the defense I don’t trust to win in the City of Brotherly Shove. My pick: Philadelphia, 27-17.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (NOV. 15): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins win in Philly, stay in playoff hunt: Miami came in 3-5 and had lost two in a row, which is why today's 20-19 rally-win in Philly was huge. Now the Dolphins host Dallas and the return from injury of Tony Romo. You like a challenge, Dan Campbell? You got one. You want to keep turning around the doubters, Dolphins? Go do it.

2. HURRICANES: UM trounced in Chapel Hill, sees ACC title hopes perish: Al Golden never could seem to get that elusive “signature win.” Saturday would have been that for interim replacement Larry Scott, but the Hurricanes did not have another miracle in them. Or even any fight in them losing 59-21.

3. HEAT: Bosh, hot Heat earn a few days off; Chalmers traded: Heat is 6-3 amidst a rare four days off before returning to action here Tuesday. Meantime, Mario Chalmers was traded in a tax-relief move. Give Chalmers this: He lost his starting job, he lost his minutes, but he never lost his swagger.

4. UFC: Stunner! Ronda Rousey loses!: Holly Holm stunned the MMA world in UFC 193 in Australia Sunday, beating formerly unbeaten champion Ronda Rousey with a kick to the head and a second-round stoppage. This may be good for UFC, not bad. Rousey needed competition, a rival who could beat her.

5. NASCAR: Up next, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosts season finale: NASCAR’s race Sunday in Phoenix determined that Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex will join retiring star Jeff Gordon in the final four competing for the season championship next Sunday in Homestead. Gordon winning would be a storybook ending. Am picturing Cinderella in a flame-retardant racing suit and earplugs.

6. PANTHERS: Cats see an upturn as homestand begins: Saturday's 5-4 shootout win at Tampa Bay made it two wins in past three games for Panthers, who now begin a five-game homestand Monday night vs. the same Lightning. 

7. UM BASKETBALL: Canes face first real challenge in Puerto Rico: Jim Larrañaga’s team gets its first real test of the young season in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament starting this Thursday vs. Mississippi State. If they win the tournament, Canes could get where many think they belong: in the Top 25.

8. GATORS: Florida keeps hope for miracle finish alive: Saturday's 24-14 win over South Carolina put 10th-ranked Gators at 9-1 and still dreaming that, if they win out, they might somehow still rise into the College Football Playoff's top four. A one-loss SEC champ would be hard to keep out.

9. FIU: Panthers bowl hopes now faint after clobbering: A 52-0 loss to Marshall on Saturday left FIU 5-6 and needing a win its its last game to become bowl-eligible. That game is vs.8-2 Western Kentucky. Good luck with that.

10. MISSOURI: Mizzou at the intersection of sports and social issues: A threatened boycott of football games by Missouri players forced the resignation of the university president over charges he turned a blind eye to a culture of racism on campus. Power to the people!

Missing the cut: David Beckham spends the day with Hurricanes women's soccer team. Hey, as long as he didn't spend the night, too, then it's OK ... Marlins president David Samson and agent Scott Boras feuding! ... MLS playoffs down to final four ... Steph Curry and 11-0 Golden State on a planet all their own right now ... Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team beats local NFL Alumni team 63-28 at Flanagan High ... Draft Kings, FanDuel continue to lose in court. If you want to make those apparently easy millions, better do it quick. ... U.S. men's soccer trains at Barry U for World Cup qualifying. The pressure is on, Jurgen Klinsmann! ... Dez Bryant screams at a reporter. Everybody hates us!

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 26, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Fish, Fins, Finals, Canes baseball, Montoya, Letterman, hockey, soccer, tennis, Heat; plus 50,000 Names: Thank you, American heroes; also, UM/MLS stadium verdict & more


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

1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 26. Click on Random for our latest Sunday Random Evidence notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UM/MLS stadium discussions with poll, King of Late Night and Kidgate poll results, proctology news & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON MAY 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (a day late this week but updated) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Stinking Fish make bizarre manager change, finally win: The slumping Marlins surprised baseball by prematurely firing manager Mike Redmond and then stunned baseball by replacing him with Dan Jennings, who was the general manager and began 0-5 in his new role before finally winning. Jennings last managed at the high school level in 1980s. No, seriously.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins lock up QB Tannehill with long-term deal: The Dolphins will pay quarterback Ryan Tannehill $96 million over the next six seasons in the hopes he makes them a perennial playoff team and even a Super Bowl contender. I think Dolfans are generally happy about the deal, but probably not nearly as happy as Tannehill’s wife, Lauren.

3. NBA: Golden State, Cleveland barreling toward Finals: All of America outside of Atlanta, Houston and Miami is rooting for the Golden State-Cleveland NBA Finals that now seems certain -- Steph Curry vs. LeBron James. Take solace, Heat fans. Even if that happens, it would be first time in five or six years that LeBron would enter a playoff series expected to lose.

4. UM BASEBALL: Canes to host NCAA regional: Miami failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament but stil was named a No. 5 national seed and will host an NCAA Regional at Ron Fraser Stadium. (Hey. It's my blog. I can call it whatever I want).

5. AUTO RACING: Miamian Montoya wins Indy 500: The 99th running of “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” is the one day IndyCars steal the spotlight from NASCAR, and Miami's Juan Pablo Montoya won Sunday. I was betting on Will Power. Not because I thought he'd win, but because I have a soft spot for guys with ridiculous names that sound like alter-ego pseudonyms of comic-book superheroes.

6. DAVID LETTERMAN: Late-night TV legend says farewell: Letterman didn’t supplant Johnny Carson as the all-time late-night king, never got to host “The Tonight Show” and didn’t often beat Jay Leno in ratings, yet wound up a legend. Proves you can be beloved even if you don’t win the ultimate prize. Just ask Dan Marino. Ouch! Too soon?

7. NHL: High drama in hockey semifinals: Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers are tied 2-2 in the Eastwern Conference and Anaheim and Chicago are knotted 2-2 in the West. Dear NBA: This is how you do drama.

8. SOCCER: Joint stadium for UM football and MLS soccer?: David Beckham wanted a Miami waterfront home for Major League Soccer but couldn’t get one. Miami Hurricanes need a campus football stadium but couldn’t get one. Now the sides are discussing sharing a new venue near Marlins Park. What will it be called? Consolation Stadium?

9. TENNIS: French Open is underway: Betting favorites in Paris are Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Sort of like in every other tournament anywhere else.

10. HEAT: Tough week for Heat fans: Watching LeBron James roll to another Finals. Pretending to be thrilled over keeping the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. Then seeing no Miami player make the All-NBA first, second or third team for the first time since 2008. Good news? Season's almost over.

Poll result: Cautious excitement over proposed UM/MLS stadium: We asked and 34.5 percent called it a great idea and 28.6% were intrigued enough to hear more. On the negative side, 15.1% were skeptical and 21.8% said "no!"

MEMORIAL DAY, 2015: THANK YOU, FALLEN SOLDIERS: On Memorial Day every year (that's today), America honors its war dead. As a proud, patriotic citizen I am honored to mark the occasion in my blog today. The Revolutionary War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and right through to today's fight against Islamic State, among many other battles distant and not, America's bravest fight and the casualties continue. Across decades and centuries, across the world, the price of freedom never lets up and never will. I hate that we use the word "heroes" so frivolously, especially to apply to something as inconsequential as sports. This is the day for real heroes. The video below is a song called "50,000 Names," by George Jones. It is about Vietnam and The Wall in Washington, D.C., but it speaks to all of America's war dead, and with appreciation to all of the loved ones they left behind. This is for them. Thank you, today and always!


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March 17, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 08, 2015

What excites you most today about Miami sports (poll, vote now); also updated Heat/Panthers playoff trends, verdict on Mike Wallace & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heading down to Doral for today's golf finale. Rain, rain stay away. 3) Saw Elton John at the sold-out AAA Friday night. He never ceases to amaze with his talent, professionalism and ability to still be relevant and a major draw 45 years after "Your Song." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Do Dolfans like Mike Wallace poll, Austin and a horse's head, Heat-Lakers, playoff odds, Spoelstra sings Billie Jean, Suh redux & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

UPDATED: Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Sunday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending up at 8th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 20 games left (next Monday vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 39.9% (+5.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 2 points off pace with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.5% (+1.1) per

Good golfer, better story: Isn't often I write a column about an athlete involving multiple brain surgeries and porn. Click on J.B. Holmes for my latest, on Doral's leader entering today's final round.

EXCITING TIME FOR MIAMI SPORTS ON ALL FRONTS: Swivel your head in any direction around here and see something exciting. Out at Doral the best golfers in the world are playing. The best in tennis are 1aa1aexcitedabout to descend on Key Biscayne. The Florida Derby will soon hit Gulfstream Park. Spring training has sprung. And we haven't even gotten to our local teams yet. Anticipation and excitement for the Marlins is very high. The Dolphins seem the favorite land the NFL's biggest free agent and best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Whiteside continues as an emerging force for the Heat. The Panthers are thick in the hunt to make the NHL playoffs. And UM men's basketball is on the bubble fighting to make the NCAA Tournament. A crowded sports plate full of a lot to like. So what involving our biggest local teams has you the most excited at the moment. Tough poll, I know, because many of you would check three or four answers if you could. But life isn't fair. What interests or excites you the most right now? Vote and say why.

Poll result: "Like" factor on Mike Wallace mixed but largely favorable: We asked your overall impression of the Dolphins receiver and your decision was 46.5 percent favorable vs. 28.6% unfavorable. The other 24.9% answered "mixed or undecided," an unusualy high number for the not-sure crowd.

UPDATED BETTING FAVORITES IN FOUR SPORTS: Courtesy Bovada, Cleveland is now the NBA title favorite at 11-5, with Golden State next at 15-4. In the wide-open NHL it's Chicago 15-2 followed by Anaheim and Nashville at 9-1. MLB clear pick is Washington at 7-1, with L.A. Dodgers next at 17-2. In MLS, it's L.A. Galaxy out front at 10-3. (The Miami team with the shortest odds is Marlins at 33-1. Panthers are 66-1, Heat 200-1).

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March 01, 2015

The Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Fins cuts, Beasley back, Jaromir Jagr, Stanton, Canes, golf, 14 seconds; plus ode to Doral, optimism verdict & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on the Ticket Miami, 4-7 (with webcam simulcast) on ESPN Radio. Ears (and daring eyes) welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 3. Technical issues prevent us from publishing a new blogpost as we'd planned today. Hope to get it fixed and do so on Wednesday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): In/Out door revolving, Big 5 optimism poll, Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

An ode to Doral: Today's latest column by me is an unabashed appreciation of Doral's place in PGA Tour history -- and ours. Click on The Blue Monster Endures to read in full. 

HOT BUTTON MAR. 1: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins cut Brian Hartline in salary-cap move: Hartline and fellow receiver Brandon Gibson (and now CB Cortland Finnegan) were suddenly lopped off the roster in a salary-cap move. That might increase the likelihood of the team keeping Mike Wallace, which Dolfans can decide is good news or bad.

2. HEAT: Beasley back as Miami remains on anxious edge of contention: Trading for Goran Dragic but losing Chris Bosh to blood clots is not looking like a positive give and take for Heat, whose two straight losses before last night's win over Phoenix have team fighting to stay on playoff pace. Signs of desperation: Bringing back Michael Beasley on a 10-day contract.

3. PANTHERS: Cats sign Jaromir Jagr for stretch run: This would be very exciting if it was, say, 2005. In 2015 Jagr is 43 and skating near retirement. Still, maybe it'll be the shot Cats need to make up what now is a mere two-point deficit to Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

4. MARLINS: Two days from real start of spring schedule in Jupiter: After a couple of tuneups vs. FIU and UM the Marlins begin spring ball vs. MLB competition on Thursday up in Jupiter. Giancarlo Stanton, who appears on latest SI in body paint, got hit by a pitch on the hip by Henderson Alvarez. Cannot confirm the dugout emptied and teammates charged the mound to say, "Don't do that again!"

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men scrambling for NCAA Tournament invite: Jim Larranaga's guys are 18-11 and may need to sweep their final two regular-season games and then show well in the ACC tourney to make the Big Dance.

6. GOLF: Harrington wins Honda; Doral on deck: With Doral waiting on deck, Padraig Harrington won the Honda Classic in a Monday playoff up in Palm Beach. As golf haters like to say, the only thing worse than watching four days of golf is watching five days of golf.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Canes continue spring practice: As Canes work toward their March 28 Spring Game, disgruntled Al Golden detractors pessimistic about the coming season inquire about banner-pulling small-plane rental costs just to be on the safe side.

8. NASCAR: Ho-hum Daytona 500 begins season: Sorry, but Joey Logano winning under a caution flag last week was nobody's dream start for the NASCAR season. Well, except maybe Joey Logano's.

9. UFC: Ronda Rousey wins fight in 14 seconds: This is the dilemma for fans of mixed marial arts and boxing. Part of you wants your fighter to win easily. But the cheap part of you wants to get your money's worth, too.

10. CRICKET: New Zealand first to 4-0 in World Cup: That's right. The Cricket World Cup!

Poll result: Marlins, Heat inspiring most optimism: We asked which of our Big 5 teams is inspiring the most optimism in fans for its direction and immediate future, and the Marlins were out front with 42.9 percent followed by the Heat at 25.6%. Trailing were the Dolphins at 13.3%, UM football at 12.5% and Panthers at 5.7%.

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February 23, 2015

ESPN's Great Analytics Rankings: How Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins rate on use of new-age info; plus get-well campaign for Bosh, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, fight verdict, Oscars review & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 p.m. on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 ESPN Radio. Ears welcome. (And eyes, on the national-show webcast...)

1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Pacquiao-Mayweather poll, Hot Button Top 10, Dragic debut for Heat, Oscar snorts coke & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Stuck in the middle with you: Those six words are more than a 1972 song by Stealers Wheel. They describe the position of So-Fla sports fans, as I explore in today's latest column. Click on Border Town to read. Heat and Panthers clawing just to make playoffs, UM men's basketball on NCAA Tournament bubble, Dolphins and UM football stuck in mediocrity, Marlins improved yet not a betting pick for playoffs ... everywhere you look, our teams are better than bad but maybe not quite good enough.

Corner to Fins in first round?: For what it's worth, USA Today's new, post-Scouting Combine mock draft has Miami selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. My comment: That's be a great, but it's doubtful the draft's top CB will still be around at No. 14.

MIAMI TEAMS FALL SHORT IN ESPN ANALYTICS RANKING: ESPN The Magazine and are calling 1aa1aanalyticsit "The Great Analytics Ranking" and it is now on The World Leader's website; click here. (Illustration shown is from the magazine). ESPN rated all 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams on how it judged "the strength of each franchise's analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics." Teams were slotted in one of five tiers: All-In, Believers, One Foot In, Skeptics and Non-Believers. The Dolphins, Heat and Panthers all rated in the middle ground of One Foot In, while the Marlins are in the bottom rung of Non-Believers. Here is ESPN's synopsis (minimally condensed by me) of each Miami team:

DOLPHINS: Owner Steve Ross and GM Dennis Hickey have become proponents of analytics, and new VP Mike Tannenbaum is a recent convert. Ross is heavy user of analytics in his real estate business and has been frustrated by its relative infancy in NFL. In summer of 2014 team hired Dennis Lock, who holds graduate degree in statistics, to head a football analytics group. At same time Dolphins announced hiring of sports science analyst Dave Regan, and in September, Tom Pasquali, with a graduate degree in applied statistics and experience in Yankees front office, joined Lock's staff. Tannenbaum said in January he planned to hire a "sports performance director" and acknowledged, "We have a long way to go, but we started something in terms of trying to give ourselves a competitive advantage." Miami has monitored player health for several years, and coach Joe Philbin has altered practice schedule to improve sleep habits by becoming only coach to give players Thursday off. But Philbin focuses on game film far more than stats, and it remains to be seen how well he'll use Miami's burgeoning analytics department.

HEAT: When analytics skeptics point out that coaches have been using numbers for decades, Heat president Pat Riley is commonly cited. As coach of Lakers, Riley famously devised his own efficiency rating for players. He passed that interest to protégé and coach Erik Spoelstra, who speaks the language of analytics. Riley devised a system the Heat still use to grade each defensive possession based on 54 criteria, focusing on the process of executing the team's system rather than results. Evaluations are done by Brian Hecker, Miami's director of basketball information technology, who gets the pertinent numbers to Spoelstra. In addition to lineup data, Spoelstra also has relied heavily on a simulation model developed by analyst Bob Chaikin. He has worked for Heat since 2008, following stint as consultant for team during 1990s, when Riley first arrived as coach. "I look at [stats] to evaluate our team, to compare us to other teams, particularly defensively," Spoelstra told in 2011. "I also use it to make points to the team about things we need to improve. I use it also for scouting." Riley's fondness for statistical analysis doesn't seem to have carried over to his personnel work as team president. Miami has regularly punted valuable draft picks in favor of stacking bench with fading veterans. Heat's success, including three titles in past decade, has made it easy to justify sticking with an old-school approach. To get back to that level, Miami's front office may have to embrace details like analytics and international scouting that have gone neglected.

PANTHERS: The Panthers were wise to pick Brian Macdonald as team's director of analytics last summer, although they still have a skeleton crew compared to some other teams around league. Integrating him into team's decision-making has been a season-long process because of when he was hired, and his impact may not be felt until next season. "Anywhere there is data in this organization, I've tried to get my hands in it a little bit," Macdonald said. "That includes the business side of things now, also. The past couple months, I've been doing more business than hockey."

MARLINS: Marlins have a small, tight-knit baseball operations department that has shown very little interest in analytics. Team president Michael Hill was a two-sport athlete at Harvard, but like GM Dan Jennings, is a former player with a background in player development and scouting. The job of keeping the Marlins aware of analytics trends falls to director of baseball ops Dan Noffsinger, a longtime staffer who majored in applied math and economics at Harvard. Noffsinger has good reputation but a broader, less technical skill set than the leading sabermetricians being hired by other organizations. In a sign that Marlins might be ready to change their ways, they are looking to hire their first analytics interns this year to get their program off the ground.

HEAT INVITES YOU TO WISH BOSH WELL: Everything is so organized now. For example the Heat on
1aa1acbgetwellMonday (prior to beating lowly Philly at home) unveiled a website to encourage fans to send best wishes to Chris Bosh, who will miss the rest of this NBA season as he undergoes treatment for blood clots in his lungs. Not sure the prompting was needed. Great player, great guy. Everybody rooting for Bosh. (He'll be on blood thinners probably at least through May, but is expected back fully for next season's training camp).

1aa1adanteesoffIT'S (STILL) GOOD TO BE DAN MARINO: Dolphins icon (and ambassador and now front-office consultant) Dan Marino tees off during his second annual Marino & Friends Bahamas Weekend event, as a deployed small battalion of the team's cheerleaders stand in the background looking all cheerleader-y. (The excellent photo is courtesy the Miami Dolphins). The Marino event isn't a fundraiser but rather a cross-promotion in which the Dolphins grow their brand in the Caribbean while the Bahamas promotes itself as a tourist destination.

 A race should not end under a caution flag. Start 1aa1ajloganothere. So it was the antithesis of a thrilling ending in NASCAR's season opener Sunday as Joey Logano (pictured) coasted to the finish. In NASCAR's dream it would have been fan favorite and defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and retiring Jeff Gordon duel-barreling to the checkered flag. Or maybe Tony Stewart finally ending his Dayton jinx. Nope, just Logano under a yellow flag. NASCAR, reeling from the domestic-abuse suspension of Kurt Busch, could have used a result that wowed fans in one of its signature events. Didn't get it. That's racin', I suppose.

Poll result: Hoping Pacquiao wins but predicting Mayweather: We asked your feelings on the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight and it was split. Most hope Pacquaio wins, 56.5 percent to 23.4%. But most predict Mayweather will win, 57.9% to 22.0%. (The other 20.1% said they have no interest in the fight).

THE ACADEMY AWARDS REVIEW: Sunday's Oscars telecast may or may not still be going on. The Big 3 winners were Birdman (best picture with Michael Keaton), Eddie Redmayne (actor for The Theory of Everything) and Julianne 1aa1abirdmanMoore (actress for Still Alice). Admit it: No other Oscar category really matters that much except to the winner. Admit it II: You'd never 1aa1abirdheatheard of Eddie Redmayne, either, before last night. Evening lowlight: Host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. Admit it III: Against high expectations, NPH wasn't all that good. Summary: Boyhood

took 12 years to make and one night to pretty much ignore. Quick aside: While watching a film called Birdman, 1aa1abirdraphow must Chris Andersen and Bryan Williams feel? Andersen of course is the popular Heat reserve nicknamed Birdman. Williams is better known as the rapper whose stage name is Birdman, co-founder of Cash Money
records. I'm no lawyer but think the two Birdmen pictured at right should sue the movie for royalties. Speaking of the Heat and movies, I cannot confirm that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the story of how an NBA team works to integrate newly arrived Goran (Dragon) Dragic into its lineup.

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February 15, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10, with Marlins, Heat, NBA, Canes, Cats, NFL, cricket, Tiger, LLWS, racing; also, verdict on Loria, thanks Dr. J & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15. Hope the ladies had a wonderful Valentine's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Reconsidering Jeffery Loria poll, D-Wade on '50 Shades,' Ndamukong Suh verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Miami awarded All-Star Game as spring training nears: As an improved Marlins team opens spring training in five days in Jupiter, MLB held a news conference here Friday to make official that Miami would host the 2017 All-Star Game. "We couldn’t be happier,” Marlins fans said. “Well ... unless of course Jeffrey Loria changed his mind about not selling the team."

2. HEAT: Wade sits as Bosh represents Heat in Sunday’s All-Star Game: Dwayne Wade rests his injured hamstring but Chris Bosh will play in tonight's NBA showcase of stars. Miserable New York and Brooklyn, a combined 31-74, are cohosts. Am surprised teams aren’t boycotting the game at Madison Square Garden for fear their players might catch whatever the Knicks have.

3. NBA: LaVine, Curry, Bosh top Saturday's All-Star Game undercard: Miami's Bosh (along with WNBA'er Swin Cash and legend Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars event, Golden State's Stephen Curry won the 3-point contest and Minnesota's 19-year-old Zach LaVine won the Dunk contest. The latter answered the question, "Who the hell is Zach LaVine?"

4. HURRICANES: It’s the nexus of basketball, baseball and football: UM men’s basketball team tries to shake off an ill-timed slump and still make the NCAA Tournament. UM opened baseball season this weekend seeking to end a six-year College World Series drought. Football prepares for spring practice with heat on Al Golden. For all three, cue Queen and David Bowie’s "Under Pressure."

5. PANTHERS: Crunch time as Cats chase rare NHL playoff spot: Florida enters today's game only four points off playoff pace, chasing what would be only the fifth postseason berth in 21 franchise seasons, after 1996, ’97, 2000 and ’12. Not much margin of error from here, though, as each loss puts the Panthers closer to a phrase particularly apt in hockey: Thin ice.

6. NFL: Scouting Combine, major pre-draft event, begins: The weeklong talent show begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. And if you can't get enough of watching fat college linemen timed in the 40-yard dash, the NFL Network will have your all-excess pass.

7. CRICKET: World Cup under way in Australia, New Zealand: Yes, we DO have cricket in this week’s Top 10 as 14 nations are in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The sport is very popular in parts of South Florida among residents from the West Indies. For others inclined to scoff, here’s your challenge: You can make fun of cricket, but wisecracks may not include the word “Jiminy.”

8. GOLF: Tiger Woods taking indefinite "break" from PGA Tour: This is bad news for the tour and for the upcoming Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. There go the TV ratings. Golf fans would rather watch Tiger take a break (or a nap) than watch other guys play golf.

9. YOUTH SPORTS: Chicago team stripped of Little League title: Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team was stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League World Series for its coach using players not from its district. It's another reminder the only problem with youth sports is adults.

10. AUTO RACING: Daytona 500 begins the NASCAR schedule next Sunday: The swansong season for Jeff Gordon, with all its testiminials and ceremonial rocking chair gifts, is about to begin. The Gordon tributes haven’t even started yet and I’m already tired of them.

Poll result: Estimation of Loria improving, but still skews negative: We gave your four choices on how you feel about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and results were: Very positive 25.6 percent, mildly positive 18.4%, mildly negative 25.9% and very negative 30.1. That made it negative over positive overall by 56-44%. [Note: There was a sudden surge in "very positive" votes yesterday, suggesting an organized effort by the Marlins, perhaps. Not enough, alas]. 

THANK YOU, DR. J: Julius Erving said something (click here) that I have thought but never said aloud. In 1aa1adunkmascotfact I've not heard it said or seen it written. "Dr. J" says the NBA All-Star Weekend's Slam-Dunk Contest, once an exciting, huge draw, has lost much of its appeal due to mascots. Yes, mascots. He means mascots (and non-mascot gymnasts) bouncing off mini-trampolines and acrobatically slam-dunking from above the rim as in-game entertainment (as pictured). Mere earth-bound mortals cannot duplicate that. No, not even Michael Jordan. Blake Griffin can sort of jump over the hood of a small car, but he still is not rising as high or majestically as a trampoline allows. The absence of top stars in the Slam-Dunk Contest also hurts (talking to you, LeBron), but Dr. J. is right. No more trampolines in NBA arenas!

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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

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...