Survey affirms Heat in (very) good hands despite losing record; plus time to stop pretending anyone can beat Kentucky; also Heat/Panthers playoff update, Sharapova out, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more
GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It is FRIDAY, MARCH 27. I'm back up at Random Evidence Laboratories today creating the Random Evidence notes-column package for Sunday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes in NIT semis with poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Jarred Cosart, Marlins odds, Dolphins draft, MLS/Miami, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.
Turning awful into good: That racist fraternity video at the University of Oklahoma was awful, but the positive response of the Sooners football team reminds us of sports' power to involve itself in issues that matter. Click on Bigger Than Games for my latest column.
PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat solid, Cats alive with win. Update entering Friday: A daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-38 (W1), 2 1/2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next tonight at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 77.8% (up 0.9) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending up in 10th place at 34-40 (W1) after last night's 4-1 win at Toronto, 3 points from 9th and 3 points from 8th with 8 games left (next Saturday at Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (up 2.7) per sportsclubstats.com.
NBA EXPERTS VERIFY HEAT IN (VERY) GOOD HANDS: The Heat may have a losing record post-LeBron and looking like a playoff seventh-seed, but regard for the people running the franchise remains high.
An ESPN experts panel this week lists NBA owners, front office executives and head coaches, first to last, plus an overall ranking, and Miami shines. Heat is ranked second in ownership (Micky Arison), third in front office (Pat Riley), sixth in coach (Erik Spoelstra) and No. 3 overall, trailing only San Antonio and Golden State. (The Spurs swept all four categories). Riley, Arison and Spoelstra are pictured left to right, immortalized on canvas -- the Heat's real Big 3.
CAN WE PLEASE STOP PRETENDING ANYBODY CAN BEAT KENTUCKY?: I cannot remember seeing a more lopsided game this deep into an NCAA Tournament than last night's 78-39 Kentucky rout of West Virginia in the Sweet 16. The Mountaineers were awful, can't shoot straight, but it was KY's defense and size that preened. You hear analysts still speculating about who can beat Kentucky and how, but it's just an injection of false drama against the growing inevitability of John Calipari's Wildcats finishing as the sport's first unbeaten national champs since 1976. By the way all four higher-seeded teams won last night, so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is down to 19.2 percent, with 10 upsets (based on seeds) in 52 games thus far. Don't expect that tonight. I think 7-Michigan State will beat 3-Oklahoma and give 8-North Carolina State a great shot against 4-Louisville. Even 1-Duke should be nervous vs. 5-Utah. 2-Gonzaga over 11-UCLA looks like the only certain result. (By the way, CBS and Turner report that TV ratings last night were the highest for a Sweet 16 night since 1991, and up 30 percent over last year. So Kentucky as flagship seems to be helping, not hurting).
Poll result: UM in NIT semifinal is big deal, sort of: We asked if the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team reaching the NIT semifinals (Canes face Temple on Tuesday) is a big, medium or minor deal. You voted big 42.7 percent, medium 40.2% and minor 17.1%.
MIAMI OPEN: SHARAPOVA FAST-TRACKS INEVITABLE ELIMINATION: No. 2-seed Maria Sharapova (pictured) losing last night to little-known Daria Gavrilova in the Battle of the Russian 'Ovas' became the first notable big news of the Miami Open on Key Biscayne. Typically Sharapova reaches the women's semifinals or even the finals before getting steamrolled by her career nemesis, Serena Williams. Last night, it was as if she chose to concede early to that inevitable fate. Sharapova's unexpected early ouster and the fact Roger Federer isn't playing on the men's side robs the Miami Open of some luster.
CATS ALIVE! PANTHERS WITHIN THREE POINTS OF NHL PLAYOFF RANGE: Don't kick the Cats to the curb yet. Florida's 4-1 win at Toronto last night led by two goals from Brandon Pirri (pictured) moved the Panthers within three points of Ottawa and fading Boston for the final Eastern playoff spot. Odds are still long but made better by the fact three of the team's eight remaining games are against the two teams they're chasing: Sunday at Ottawa, Tuesday at Boston, then April 9 against the Bruins here. May take a sweep of those three to get it done.
THE MIAMI-IZATION OF ESPN RADIO: Mr. Miami Dan LeBatard captains ESPN Radio's 4-7 p.m. national ship, and now the nighttime airwaves are going Miami, too. Starting this coming Monday, March 30, the reconfigured new
national lineup will feature "The Sedano Show" from 7-9 p.m., with Miami-raised Jorge Sedano, and then "The Right Time With Bomani Jones" (pictured) from 9-11, featuring the South Beach-living LeBatard protege who had been Dan's co-host on Wednesdays. (The LeBatard Show will audition several people to possibly replace Jones on Wednesdays). ESPN described Bomani's new show as "evocative." I think they probably meant "provocative," but let's not nitpick. David Roberts, ESPN Audio Network VP, rightly notes the lineup's diversity. LeBatard and Sedano are Hispanic; Jones and Freddie Coleman (on after Bomani) are black.
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