May 11, 2018

The Gambler: Adam Gase all in and betting big. My new column; plus Yankees-Red Sox in London poll, latest BIMD (Receipts!), Twitter reach of state's pro teams, Dolphins rookie minicamp, your verdict on our Big Four team inspiring most optimism & more

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

1) It's FRIDAY, MAY 11. Mother's Day reminder, fellas. It's Sunday. Remember the one person who gave you that certain lil' gift called life. 2) Astonish and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Our return from Montreal, Big Four optimism poll, your Dolphins QB-position verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

GaseTHE GAMBLER: DOLPHINS' ADAM GASE IS ALL IN AND BETTING BIG: Miami's third-year coach is betting big that lockerroom culture is worth more than Pro Bowl talent. He is all in on Ryan Tannehill (again). He is betting on himself, on his gut feeling and instinct. It could get the Dolphins back in the playoffs. It could cost him his job. I explore all of this in my new column. to read it, click Adam Gase Places His Bets. (My previous column was pegged to Dolphins rookie minicamp happening today and Saturday. All eyes will be on top pick Minkah Fitzpatrick, but all the pressure is on the Dolphins to have made the right choice with him. We explore the franchise's spotty record with picks this high, and why Miami must hit big this time. To read that one, click Burden Is On Team, Not Player It Chose.

LondonAMERICAN LEAGUES EXPORTING GAMES OUTSIDE U.S.: ENOUGH, ALREADY!: The idiom, "the straw that broke the camel's back," arises from a proverb about how a seemingly minor action can cause a large, sudden reaction because of the cumulative effect of the small actions. So: the poor camel can bear the weight of a million straws, but its knees buckle as the million and first straw is added. In the case of my latest column, in an increasing trend in U.S. sports, over the years we have seen 34 regular-season NFL games, 27 in the NBA and 23 in MLB played outside the U.S. -- removed from their home cities and home fans. The straw, for me? This week's announcement that the Yankees and Red Sox -- the single best rivalry in American sports -- will play a two-game series next year in London among eight MLB games in all newly scheduled beyond our borders. Enough! That's my attitude, and to read the column please click Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money. But I have little idea if I'm in the majority or minority on this topic. Hence, this poll! I'm curious, so you tell me. Vote now!

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': RECEIPTS!: Here's the new one that debuted on Tuesday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio:

Heat TwitterTHE LIST: STATE SPORTS' TWITTER REACH: HEAT IS KING: Twitter followers of the state's 10 biggest pro teams -- NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL plus Major League Soccer. Quick general conclusion? Basketball owns social media. South Florida conclusion: Gulf of Heat/Dolphins popularity over Marlins/Panthers comes clear, in case there were any doubt. And the Heat's lead nearly tripling the second place team is beyond impressive.

Team                            League        Reach

Miami Heat                   NBA             4.73M

Orlando Magic               NBA             1.60M

Miami Dolphins              NFL              983K

Tampa Bay Buccaneers  NFL              758K

Tampa Bay Lightning     NHL              674K

Jacksonville Jaguars     NFL               635K

Tampa Bay Rays            MLB              542K

Orlando City SC            MLS              484K

Florida Panthers           NHL              359K

Miami Marlins               MLB              328K

CatsPOLL RESULT: PANTHERS INSPIRING MOST OPTIMISM AMONG BIG FOUR: We asked, "Which of South Florida's Big Four pro teams is inspiring the most optimism and closest to being really good?" Three had sizable support. The results: Florida Panthers 36.64 percent, Miami Heat 32.82%, Miami Dolphins 24.43% and Miami Marlins 6.11%.

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Other recent columns: Taking The Optimism ChallengeThe Dolphins' Misplaced Inattention. Dolphins Needed Boldness But Played It SafeA Hope-Crushing Defeat. And In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 07, 2018

Bonjour. Je suis revenu! What South Florida Big 4 pro team is inspiring the most optimism? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus return of 'The 4-Man Outfield,' your verdict on where Dolphins QB situation ranks in AFC East & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, MAY 7. Astonish and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ranking Dolphins QB situation in AFC East with poll, your verdict on Dolphins draft, The Godfather (Riley) Speaketh, latest Back In My Day video, 4-Man Outfield & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Memont CohenBonjour. Je suis revenu!: Hello. I'm back. My wife and I spent this past Thursday though Sunday in the Mont Royal area of Montreal, Quebec with friends. Toured Notre-Dame Basilica, immersed in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, devoured a famous Moishes steak, had a couple or three Rickard's Reds (pictured) and enjoyed meeting up again with our good friends from Maryland near D.C. Also pictured: A 12-story mural of the late, beloved Canadian writer/singer Leonard Cohen. We and our friends rendezvous a couple of times a year in a random city for a long weekend, a tradition we began a handful of years ago and a great way to stay close with close friends far-flung. Next and 10th stop on our odyssey will be Chicago (I think). Blog note: Hot Button Top 10 had Sunday off but will return May 13.

Big4WHICH OF SO-FLA'S BIG 4 PRO TEAMS IS INSPIRING THE MOST OPTIMISM? NEW POLL. VOTE NOW!: I love to run this kind of poll every year or so to get a pulse read on how my community and readers are feeling about their teams. The springboard for the poll is my latest column, which explores how there isn't a ton of outward optimism about any of our teams but that if look a little harder there are reasons for hope with each. Click Taking The Optimism Challenge to read that column. The premise off the poll also is underpinned by my belief that if you call yourself a local sports fan, you likely are at least casually aware of all four teams even if one is your favorite. I also trust you to understand this is NOT a favorite-team poll that wants wishful votes. Please pull the invisible lever for the team whose fans you think honestly should feel the most optimistic right now for being really good and soon. Poll is alphabetical and purposely omits David Beckham's approved Major League Soccer expansion team. This is for teams in play mode, not still in the womb. OK, ready? Vote!

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED)Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Beginning today The 4-Man Outfield will appear every Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers       .806   23  89   16  25   11   4-1-3      .281

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .768   34 132  24  30   19   7-1-7      .227

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .627   30 128   9  33   19   5-0-2      .258

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .518   32  110  8  18   11    2-0-4     .164

POLL RESULT: DOLPHINS 3RD OF 4 IN AFC EAST FOR QB SITUATION: In a blog poll and also in a poll on our Twitter feed we asked which AFC East team has the best or most enviable quarterback situation moving forward?" And the order was the same in each: 1. Patriots with Tom Brady, 2. Jets with Sam Darnold, 3. Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill and 4. Bills with Josh Allen. The percentages, with blog poll first, then Twitter: Brady (51.63 and 53 percent; Darnold (20.26 and 25%); Tannehill (17.65 and 13%) and Allen 10.46 and 9%).

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Recent Dolphins draft-related columns: The Dolphins' Misplaced Inattention. Dolphins Needed Boldness But Played It SafeSolid Contact, No Home Run. And Next Gronk (They Hope) And A Mini-Linebacker.

Recent Heat playoff-run columns: A Hope-Crushing DefeatEmbiid Shows Up, Whiteside Not So MuchNot Good If Heat Need Wade to Carry ThemWhiteside Must Rise Up NowIn Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust. And The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 30, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See what's No. 1 (well, no duh) and what else slots where; plus Grade-the-Dolphins-draft poll (last day to vote!), The List (Fins all-time drafted TD producers), 4-Man Outfield & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 30. Fairwell, April. 2) The accuser isn't always right. I believe Tom Brokaw. 3) Astonish the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins pick-by-pick draft analysis and poll, 4-Man Outfield & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our Dolphins draft columns: Main column on first round: Dolphins Needed Boldness But Played It Safe. Quick-take short columns: Solid Contact, No Home Run and Next Gronk (They Hope) And A Mini-Linebacker.

DolsGRADE THE DOLPHINS DRAFT! ANNUAL POLL. VOTE NOW: I know, we all hate instant analysis, right? And yet we all have instant opinions. An instant gut feeling on how much we like (or don't like, or somewhere in between) our team's draft. So this isn't science. We all might feel differently in a year or so. This is just a pulse read now on how Dolfans are feeling about Miami's '18 draft. I'd base my vote on the quality of players drafted and on how they addressed needs. But your criteria is your own. Does the Dolphins' haul leave you happy? Disappointed? What? Poll purposely does not include an 'F' grade because, well, come on. Vote now!

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Alabama safety Fitzpatrick lead Fins draft haul: Miami imported eight new players over three days, led by versatile 'Bama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, whom Fins will use as free safety. Oddity: Two tight ends among first four picks. Surprise: Didn't draft either of two need positions: Quarterback or defensive tackle. Could have moved up in first round for their future QB, but stood pat. Fitzpatrick's really good, but this draft was a step, not a leap.

2. NFL: Quarterback drama, Griffin win the weekend: Baker Mayfield going No. 1 overall and Josh Allen slipping after some Dumb Teen Tweets led the Day 1 drama in the NFL Draft. But by Day 3 the draft's heart was stolen by one-handed UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin being signed by the Seahawks. UCF claiming to be national champion? Not real. Griffin as an inspiration to anybody who's been told no-you-can't? Real.

3. HEAT: Early-ousted Miami plots path forward: The Godfather Pat Riley takes the throne today for his annual postseason State of the Heat address to gathered local media. Riles will be as eloquent as always, spewing perfect soundbites and filling up notebooks. But will he have an answer for the one overarching question: How does a team that just got bounced 4-1 in the first round bridge the enormous gulf between low playoff seed and championship contender?

4. NBA: LeBron's monster show carries Cavs in Game 7: It was LeBron James with 45 on the home wood for Cleveland in a 105-101 Game 7 ousting of Indiana on Sunday to close the first round, after Philadelphia, Toronto and Boston previously advanced in the East. Out West, second round already underway with Golden State-New Orleans and Houston-Utah. Conference finals? Nothing stops Golden State vs. Houston, but the final two in East is anybody's guess.

5. MARLINS: Signs of life for the flopping Fish: The Fire-Sale Fish still are only 9-18 but have won four of their past five games as the Phillies come to town for three starting tonight. Marlins can't hit, but the pitching actually has been mostly solid lately. Miami prevailed the other day when Wei-Yin "Disabled List" Chen won in his first start in nearly a full year. OK, so his work is done! 

6. NHL: Conference semifinals underway: Boston leads Tampa Bay 1-0 and PIttsburgh and Washington are 1-1 in the East. In the West Winnipeg-Nashville and Vegas-San Jose both are knotted 1-1. For me the best storylines are out West, where Vegas is trying to win a Stanley Cup as a first-year expansion team and Winnipeg is aiming to bring the Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993, eh!

7. PANTHERS: Cats don't get lucky in draft lottery: The order for the June 22-23 NHL Draft was determined Saturday and the Florida Panthers, who narrowly missed the playoffs despite a pretty solid 96-point season, shook out at No. 15 overall, a mid-pack, meh result. This draft is seen as eight dynamic talents and then a dropoff, so barring a major tradeup by Cats, don't expect another Sasha Barkov in this summer's haul.

8. HORSE RACING: Countdown 5 days 'til Kentucky Derby: Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown season leaves the gate this coming Saturday at Churchill Downs, where Justify was a 2-1 betting favorite when last we checked. Unfortunately, the horse Gronkowski -- yes, named after the Patriots star, who has a small ownership stake -- will miss the Derby after spiking a fever. Two legs or four, health always an issue with those darn Gronkowskis!

9. SOCCER: Liverpool, Real Madrid in charge in Champs League: The UEFA Champions League is nearing its championship matchup. In the second leg of semifinals, Real Madrid is up one goal on Bayern Munich heading into their Tuesday match, while Liverpool is a big plus-three on Roma in the other semi on Wednesday. It was a miracle Roma got this far. Do they have another astonishment in them?

10. UM BASEBALL: Sad-season Canes avoid sweep at FSU: The stunningly woeful UM baseball team improved to 18-25 with a Sunday win at No. 14 Florida State to avoid being swept. It will take a miracle for Jim Morris to put a smile at the end of his final season as coach. 

Missing the HB10 cut: Missing the HB10 cut is taking this Sunday off to go sailing on Biscayne Bay.

THE LIST: BIGGEST TD-PRODUCERS EVER DRAFTED BY DOLPHINS: By passing, rushing and receiving, here are the players drafted by the Miami Dolphins who have produced at least 50 career touchdowns in the NFL:

RK  Player, Pos.                             Rd-Yr Drafted   TDs  As Dolphin

1    Dan Marino, QB                        1st - 1983        429      429

2    Bob Griese, QB                         1st - 1967        199      199

3    Joe Theismann, QB                   4th - 1971       177          0

4    Ryan Tannehill, QB                    1st - 2012       112+     112+

5    Bill Kenney, QB                         12th - 1978      110         0

6    Scott Mitchell, QB                      4th - 1990       106       12

7    Mark Clayton, WR                      8th - 1983        85        82

8    Nat Moore, WR                          3rd - 1974        75        75

9    Larry Csonka, RB                       1st - 1968         68       57

10  Chad Henne, QB                        2nd - 2008        61+     33

The five other 50-plus guys: David Woodley (60), Mark Duper (59), Chris Chambers (58), Anthony Carter (57) and Freddie Solomon (52). Former Dolphin Jarvis Landry, with 23 TDs at age 25, has chance to join list.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': STANTON OVERTAKES LEADThroughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and constantly updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The latest, entering Monday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .763   27 109  20  26   15   5-1-5      .239

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers       .762   17  65   11  17    9    2-1-2      .262

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .601   25 108   8  27   17   3-0-2      .250

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .513   26  92    7  15    8    2-0-3      .163

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Our six-pack of recent Heat playoff-run columns: A Hope-Crushing Defeat (off Game 4). Embiid Shows Up, Whiteside Not So Much (Game 3). Also: Not Good If Heat Need Wade to Carry ThemWhiteside Must Rise Up NowIn Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust and The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 16, 2018

G2: Heat @ 76ers: Tonight or forget it. Will Miami show up?; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated). See who's No. 1 and what else falls where; also, 4-Man Outfield update (Brinson at .131) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 16. Jackie Robinson dissolved baseball's color barrier 71 years ago yesterday. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 1 and playoff preview, your confidence-level verdict, The List, 4-Man Outfield update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

G2: HEAT @ SIXERS: MUST-WIN FOR MIAMI? NOT LITERALLY, BUT YES REALISTICALLY: Still no Joel Embiid for Philly, yet Heat are a 7-point underdog tonight in Game 2 of their NBA first- Miaphiround playoff series after being shellacked 130-103 in Game 1 Saturday. This is the 34th seven-game series in Miami franchise history, and the weight of Game 1 is clear. The 18 times Miami has G2won the opener, it is 15-3 on advancing. The 15 times it has lost the opener, it is 7-8 on advancing. But four of those advances from 0-1 were in the Big 3 era; today's is obviously not an especially strong Heat team, just a resourceful one with a deep bench. The onus tonight is on Erik Spoelstra to make adjustments that give his Heat a chance. That starts with better perimeter defense against the Sixers' 3's. It also depends on much better efforts and results from everybody but the one guy who played well Saturday, Kelly Olynyk. Time for Miami's "Culture" to show up in the battle with Philly's "Process." The fundamentals that Spoelstra relies on -- defense and effort -- need to arise in full tonight or Miami will limp home in an 0-2 crater.   

My Heat playoff columns: The Dolphins thought they'd retake Miami when LeBron left, but the Heat, back in the playoffs, have other ideas. Click In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust. Also, I foolishly daringly picked Miami to win in six games. For that column: The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT/NBA: Heat get clobbered in Game 1 as playoffs underway: Ouch. Oy. Miami got spanked 130-103 by the 76ers in Philly last night, with Game 2 back up there tonight/Monday. Kelly Olynyk showed up big off the bench for Miami; everybody else pretty much disappeared. It's early, but our series pick (Heat in six games) has been rushed to the emergency room. First the Eagles win the Super Bowl, then Villanova wins the NCAA Tournament, now this. Don't get greedy, Philly!

2. DOLPHINS: Amendola sounds off as draft nears: We're 10 days until the draft's first round, so before we get fully immersed in that, new Fins receiver Danny Amendola tells ESPN that his former Pats boss, Bill Belichick, is both a brilliant coach and a person who could be "an a-hole sometimes." Um, Danny, doesn't that sorta go without saying on both counts?

3. MARLINS: B.V.I. Fish ready to visit Yanks, Stanton: After closing out a home set with the Pirates on Sunday (another loss, of course), the British Virgin Islands Marlins travel to New York for Monday and Tuesday games vs. the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton. Marlins dismantler-in-chief Derek Jeter said it would be "awkward" for him to be in Yankee Stadium so he won't make the trip. What, like it isn't awkward for him to be at Marlins Park, too?

4. HURRICANES: Spring Game fails to settle QB battle: The quarterback race remains open although with Malik Rosier out front and the defensive line dominated the offensive line, if you want a capsule synopsis of Saturday's football Spring Game at Hard Rock Stadium. Other big college programs sell out their Spring Games, while UM 's drew only around 12,000 fans. If that. You know why? Because Miamians are smarter than everybody else. Bulletin: A Spring Game doesn't count. It's a glorified practice. See ya in September.

5. NHL: Panthers extinct (again) as playoffs underway: Florida finished ninth in the scrum for eight Eastern playoffs spots, but the fight for Lord Stanley's cup is on, anyway. Nashville, Tampa Bay and old-guard Boston are the betting favorites going in, but wouldn't it be fun if the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights won it all!? Already picturing a float full of waving Elvis impersonators in the victory parade.

6. SOCCER: Neat contrast in Champions League semifinals: The UEFA Champions League is down to four teams as the first leg of the semifinals looms April 24-25. In the upstart division: Liverpool vs. Roma. And in the heavyweight division: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid. The only real Cinderella? Associazione Sportiva RomaI Giallorossi = La Lupa = La Magica. Roma!

7. GOLF: Tiger commits to U.S. Open: He was encouraged by a credible showing in this month's Masters with a 1-over tie for 32nd, including a finishing 69. Now Tiger Woods says he'll play in the 118th U.S. Open June 14-17 in New York. Tiger has won three U.S. Opens and the one way back in 2008 was his last major title. Time for another, Eldrick?

8. UM BASEBALL: Will Clemson series be needed spark?: The Canes are limping with a 15-20 record but were encouraged to take two of three on the road at No. 8-ranked Clemson over the weekend. UM will take a spark anywhere it can find one as it tries to salvage Jim Morris' swansong season.

9. NFL: Cowboys release star receiver Dez Bryant: Dallas rather abruptly cut Dez this week. Yes, and other than his age, injuries, diminishing production, huge salary and itinerant attitude issues, it was a real shock!

10. MLB: Two-way sensation Ohtani continues to wow: The Angels' Japanese star Shohei Ohtani enters Sunday play hitting .367 with three homers and a 1.191 OPS, and is 2-0 pitching with a 2.08 ERA and 18-2 on strikeouts/walks ratio. Mike Trout? Who?

Missing the HB10 cut: Quick. Somebody check on Conor McGregor. Getting worried. Been several days since he's done anything stupid ..... Dancing With The Stars announced an all-athletes lineup for its 26th season, including Adam Rippon, Josh Norman, Johnny Damon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The must-watch factor? A chance to hopefully see Tonya Harding fall on her a-- in humiliated defeat ..... PGA Tour golfer Kelly Kraft missed the cut because his tee shot hit a bird. He'd have still made the cut had more of his other shots hit birdies ..... WNBA draft was held. Details when available ..... Free-agent QB Mark Sanchez was suspended four games for performance-enhancing drugs. Dear Mark: They ain't workin'!

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON DOWN TO .131: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but Brinson is really struggling, while Yelich remains sidelined by an oblique (abdominal) issue. The latest, entering Monday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers        .984   6   26    6  10    5    2-0-1      .385

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .761  14  59    8  13   10   3-1-3      .220

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .703   15  66    6  19   10   2-0-2      .288

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .316   15  61    3   8    1    0-0-0      .131

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Recent: Buy Me Some Tetley's And Crumpets, Jack / Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports / The Case For Gronk to Dolphins / Dave Shula Goes Home Again / Others: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing / Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 09, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Tough fight but a new No. 1, and see what else lands where; plus my Sunday Tiger 'n Phil column, your Heat playoff-foe verdict, 4-Man Outfield update (oh no Brinson) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 9. This was my mother's birthday. It's why my first uniform number in Little League was 9. Miss you, Mom. 2) Surprise and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat playoff possibilities with poll, 4-Man Outfield, 'Dream Still Lives' video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Tiger, Phil and the emotional power of sports: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at The Masters. Two beloved, all-time greats, out of contention but trying to summon glimpses of the greatness that is running away from them. This is the emotional pull of sports, the sentimental power of it. And this is an atypically personal column by me. To read, click Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports.

Other most recent columns: Heat/playoffs, Dolphins/Gronk, Dave Shula, Marlins: As a playoff opponent is determined: For Heat, 1 Team to Avoid  /  Hop aboard our flight of fancy: The Case For Gronk to Dolphins  /  He'd been out of coaching since 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son is back: Dave Shula Goes Home Again  /  And on baseball's Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Two games left and playoff foe still a mystery: Miami ends the NBA regular season at home tonight vs. Oklahoma City and Wednesday vs. Toronto -- with everything still up in the air. At the moment Heat is 6th seed and set to open playoffs vs 76ers, but that can change. Miami still could finish 6th, 7th or 8th and face the Raptors, Celtics, Sixers or Cavaliers. So pick your preferred opponent and then hold your breath for a couple of days.

2. PANTHERS: No playoffs for you, Cats. The fight was lost: Florida ended its season with five straight wins but still was officially eliminated from playoff contention -- by one standings point. Cats started season too slowly and got good too late. Roberto Luongo became only third goalie to reach 1,000 career games, but, once again, too little of that career has been spent getting anywhere near the elusive Stanley Cup.

3. GOLF: Reed hangs on to win Masters: American Patrick Reed finished 15-under-par to to win The Masters and his first career major, edging Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Way back were Tiger Woods at plus-1 and Phil Mickelson at plus-2. You know it's bad when Sunday for Tiger and Phil is more about saving face than contending. Meantime defending champ Sergio Garcia missed the cut thanks to an 8-over par 13 on the 15th hole of the first round. Who'd he think he was, Greg Cote!? 

4. MARLINS: Fire-Sale Fish embarrassed in 20-1 loss: Miami has a 3-6 early-season record lowlighted by Sunday's shameful 20-1 loss -- yes, 20-1 -- at Philadelphia. The Mets visit starting tonight. The marketing catch-phrase for Derek Jeter's starless team is, "Just Gettin' Started." Yeah, that's what worries us, Derek!

5. PRO WRESTLING: Bam! Pow! It was Wrestlemania XXXIV!: The Undertaker beat John Cena and Ronda Rousey was victorious in her WWE in-ring debut to highlight Sunday's 34th Wrestlemania extravaganza before 70,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans. When the final history of America is written just prior to the Apocalypse, our bizarre, enduring fascination with the loony spectacle of pro wrestling needs to have its own chapter.

6. DOLPHINS: NFL Draft countdown: 17 days: Getting closer to the April 26 first round. I'm not privy to exactly what's being discussed inside the Dolphins' Ginn Family War Room. But I do know that Miami probably should spend the 11th overall pick to get its quarterback of the future. Which is why it probably won't happen as the conservative, inside-the-box Fins probably will target defense first.

7. SOCCER: UEFA Champions League nearing semifinals: Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will own the inside track as the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take place this Tuesday and Wednesday. If you're radar for the sport is only engaged during the World Cup, treat yourself to some of the the best club futbol on Earth. I mean, Ronaldo's bicycle-kick goal, am I right!?

8. UFC: McGregor rampage, then UFC 223: Khalib Nurmagomedov or perhaps Nurmagomedov Khalib won the lightweight Saturday at UFC 223 in Brooklyn. But more interesting was the rampage that got Conor McGregor arrested earlier in the week for disrupting a Dana White UFC media event. McGregor was caught on camera throwing a hand dolly through the window of a bus carrying UFC fighters. There is a phrase for this: "Publicity stunt."

9. HURRICANES: Spring football unveiling in five days: Canes' open-to-public Spring Game is this coming Saturday at The Rock. Yesterday's scrimmage was closed to fans and media, but, based on statistics provided by Mark Richt, Malik Rosier outplayed challenger N'Kosi Perry in the quarterback battle. Spring schming. September, please.

10. UM BASEBALL: Canes' rocky farewell for Morris continues: UM baseball is 13-18 after beating North Carolina on Sunday to snap a seven-game losing streak and avoid being swept at home. Forget College World Series for the moment. Don't even think NCAA playoffs. Take it one step at a time, Canes. Think .500. Think trying to avoid one of the worst seasons in UM history.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Alliance of American Football spring league announced Steve Spurrier, 73 this month, will coach its Orlando team when the eight-team league begins play the week after the next Super Bowl. Negotiations with Spurrier went smoothly once they agreed to that sideline putting green ..... I correctly had Villanova winning it all. It was all those other damned games that ruined my bracket ..... Miami Open tennis leaving Key Biscayne for Hard Rock Stadium? If I might adapt the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi: "They left paradise and moved to a parking lot" ..... The WNBA Draft is coming up on April 12. Where's Mel Kiper's mock? ..... Dear Media: Can we please quit acting all excited every time Tim Tebow hits a home run in Double-A? Thank you ..... That reminds me: Johnny Manziel, the devil to Tebow's angel, threw TD pass in some spring game Saturday ..... The quarterback grandson of Bear Bryant just signed with Alabama. Hey no pressure or anything, kid!

POLL RESULTS: CELTICS OR CAVS FOR HEAT, PLEASE, NOT 76ERS OR RAPTORS: We asked what opponent (of four possibilities) you'd most like the Miami Heat to face in the playoffs' first round, and it was 43.2 percent Boston Celtics, 32.0% Cleveland Cavaliers, 22.4% Philadelphia 76ers and 2.4% Toronto Raptors. The same question on our Twitter feed had the same order: Celtics 46%, Cavs 36%, 76ers 11% and Raptors 7%

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON'S WOES: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but all four (especially Brinson) RE struggling to some degree except Yelich -- and he's sidelined by an oblique (abdominal) issue. The latest, entering Monday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers        .984   6   26    6  10    5    2-0-1      .385

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .831   9   35    5   7    7    2-0-3      .200

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .765    8   34    4  11    5    1-0-1      .324

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .428    8   38    3   7    1    0-0-0      .184

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks to APSE. Here are our nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 02, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See the new No. 1 and what else lands where; plus NCAA Final Two and my bracket, your verdict on Marlins expectations (ouch), me in APSE column-writing, Miley Cyrus spanked by Easter Bunny & more

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

Easter1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 2. Welcome, April. Hope all you Christians had a Happy Easter! 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Day expectations poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

APSE contest: We finished in Top 5: The Associated Press Sports Editors annual writing contest that had placed me in the top 10 for national columnists this month in the major-outlet category revealed the exact order on Friday and I ended up No. 5. Congrats to the winner, Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star. And thanks to APSE. I'm pleased by the top-five recognition. (A list of our nominated columns that earned that honor may be found below).

Latest columns: Marlins' Opening Day, NCAA Final Four, Dolphins, Wayne Huizenga: On baseball Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing and Marlins 2018: Accentuating The Positives (Sort Of)  /  On NCAA Final Four: Centenarian vs. Nonagenarian and Larranaga On Being Cinderella  /  On Fins: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason  /  And on passing of South Florida sports and civic giant: Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible.

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

Hotbutton1. MARCH MADNESS: It's Villanova-Michigan for NCAA men's title: 'Nova crushed Kansas while Michigan ended the dream of Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean in Saturday's Final Four, setting up a heavyweight championship match tonight that finds Villanova the biggest title-game favorite since 2010. On the women's side, Notre Dame beat Mississippi State for the crown Sunday as 'Anybody But UConn' prayers were answered.

2. MARLINS: MLB underway as Jeter presents his Fire-Sale Fish: Marlins finished a credible 2-2 vs. Cubs in season-opening series now welcome Red Sox to town for a pair. Marlins gave up a home run on the very first pitch of the season, while Giancarlo Stanton was homering on his very first swing as a Yankee. Poetic justice? Meantime "Marlins Man" is shopping himself to other teams, as if anybody on the face of the Earth gives a s--- other than Marlins Man.

3. TENNIS: Championship Weekend as Miami Open leaves Key Biscayne: John Isner beat Alexander Zverev for the men's title Sunday one day after Fort Lauderdale's Sloane Stephens defeated Jelena Ostapenko, completing the first U.S. sweep of the event since 2004. It was a star-shy, low-watt weekend to end the tournament's long history on Key Biscayne before next year's move to Hard Rock Stadium. The crowd jeered during Saturday's post-match ceremony when tourney director James Blake mentioned the move. Good.

4. PANTHERS: Playoffs now seem a longshot for Cats: There is a phrase for the Panthers' playoff hopes now: Thin ice. An ill-timed third straight loss on Saturday has Florida now seven points off playoff pace with two games in hand, a lot of ground to make up with only five games to play starting Monday here vs. Carolina. Even a strong finish won't be enough unless 8th place New Jersey ends in a tailspin.

5. HEAT: Whiteside gripes as Miami waits to clinch: Hassan Whiteside went petty after Saturday's home OT loss to Brooklyn, calling it "bulls---" that he was benched when Nets went small. Miami now sits in 7th place (via a tiebreaker) and still needs one more win or a Detroit loss to clinch playoff spot. They'll make it, but the idea, with five games left, is to stay above 8th to avoid top-seed Toronto in the first round. Aside to Hassan: As your team fights down the stretch, not a great time to make it all about you, big fella.

6. GOLF: All eyes on Tiger as Masters nears: The year's first golf major -- The Masters at Augusta -- begins this Thursday, and it will be the first major first step to gauge Tiger Woods' comeback and return to full health. "I got a second chance on life," Tiger said this week. "I am a walking miracle." Woods has won the Masters four times but not since 2005. A fifth would send weekend TV through the roof, were there roofs over golf courses.  

7. HORSE RACING: Audible wins the Florida Derby: Audible won the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, assuring he'll be among favorites in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. Audible will take a four-race winning streak into Triple Crown season, and the previous two Florida Derby winners (Always Dreaming in 2017 and Nyquist in '16) have gone on to win at Churchill Downs. No pressure anything, Audible!

8. DOLPHINS: Let the NFL Draft countdown begin!: April now, draft month, 24 days 'til the first round. Mel Kiper's latest mock draft for ESPN has the Big Four quarterbacks going 1-2-3-5 and then also 15th (Lamar Jackson). Alas, Kiper has the Dolphins, picking No. 11, taking Florida State safety Derwin James. Pfffft

9. SOCCER: Champions League quarterfinals on deck: The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals are April 3-11. The first of eight matches are Tuesday with Sevilla vs. Bayern and Juventus vs. Real Madrid. No middle ground. You are either excited, or could not possibly care less.

10. HURRICANES: Football spring practice at midpoint: Mark Richt's Canes are halfway though spring practice, with the Spring Game coming up April 14. UM football gets the nod because, unfortunately, Jim Morris' baseball Canes continue to slog around at 12-15 after being swept on Sunday at Georgia Tech.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Angels' two-way star Shohei Ohtani on Sunday became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to start as a non-pitcher on Opening Day and then start as a pitcher within his team's first 10 games. Talk about a showoff! ..... Answer: I just saw that the UM men's tennis team is ranked 46th in the nation. Question: Do you think maybe they 're ranking too many teams? ..... NFL league meetings ended in Orlando with an apparent agreement on what constitutes a catch. Progress! ..... Ex-NBA stars Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Grant Hill head the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class. Inductees also include Maurice Cheeks. No, seriously.

Ncaaff DickvitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: LET'S GO VILLANOVA!: We're updating you on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I stand in 19th place entering Monday night's championship game in San Antonio:

Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness crescendo with the Final Four on Saturday: No. 3 Michigan rallying to beat No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and then No. 1 Villanova crushing No. 1 Kansas. I had no teams in the first game and both in the second, with Villanova winning it all. Hoping a 'Nova win Monday can get me in the pool's final top 10 or close to it.

Elite Eight -- Last Sunday as the Final Four was set I had the two No. 1 seeds still in play and both winning, and Villanova and Kansas both came through for me. Alas I didn't have a bracket dog in the hunt in either of Saturday's games as Michigan ousted Florida State and No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean kept the dream alive by beating Kansas State. 

[See earlier blogposts for our results preceding the Elite Eight round]

JeterPOLL RESULTS: YOUR OUTLOOK FOR MARLINS? NOT PRETTY: We asked in a blog poll this week, "What is the most likely/reasonable expectation for the 2018 Miami Marlins?" and gave you six choices. The results: 38.3 percent said 59-or-fewer wins; 27.5% said 60-64 wins; 15.8% said 65-69 wins; 10.8% said 70-74 wins; 4.2% said 80-plus wins; and 3.3% said 75-79 wins. That's 81.7% who don't see Miami reaching 70 wins. Ouch. In a separate Twitter poll, we you what would end up as the bigger number: Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge's combined home runs for the Yankees? Or Marlins season losses? More than 2,000 voted, and it was 56% for Marlins losses as the larger number. Ouch II.

Mileybunny"DEAR GREG...": "...Your blog's OK, but would be much better if occasionally you would show a picture of Miley Cyrus being spanked by the Easter Bunny. I feel that would be especially appropriate now, with Easter coming up on Sunday. Thank you." Dear Reader: That's a lot to ask, but I'll see what I can do. (Click on image to see enlarged version. Imagine. You're a professional mall Easter Bunny guy ready for his annual weekend posing with 5-year-olds, and a rep for Miley Cyrus calls to invite you to this photo shoot...)

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 26, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): A surprise at No. 1 (maybe) and see what else falls where; plus our NCAA bracket update (ugh), columns on Dolphins/Frank Gore and Wayne Huizenga & more

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

Neveragain1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 26. So, so proud of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High whose anger and tears in the wake of last month's mass shooting led to Saturday's March For Our Lives that drew hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. and millions to rallies nationwide. The movement to ban assault weapons has only just begun. 2) Happy 71st birthday on Sunday to a philanthropic giant and a man who has been such a vital part of my life's soundtrack: Elton John. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): R.I.P. Wayne Huizenga, our NCAA bracket update, your Who's-Next verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our latest column: The feel-good and the bad of Dolphins signing Frank Gore: It strikes all the right emotional chords, but it also is in keeping with a curious, troubling offseason for the Dolphins. To read our newest column, click Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason. (By the way, we had a snarky little Twitter poll inviting your reaction to last week's Fins signing of Gore and QB Brock Osweiler. More than 3,000 voted. The result was 26 percent voting "Super Bowl!" and 74% voting "Well, um, uh...") 

Other most recent columns: On Wayne Huizenga, Serena Williams, Canes QBs: A South Florida sports and civic giant dies. Click Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible / Serena returns from maternity leave in her home tournament and is quickly ousted by 20-year-old phenom who grew up idolizing her. Click Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / And, can Malik Rosier hold onto Hurricanes' quarterback job? Click Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation

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

Hot1. MARLINS: It's Opening Week for Fire-Sale Fish and MLB: Winding down a mildly encouraging spring training, by which I mean they weren't awful, the decimated Marlins are three days from Opening Day this Thursday afternoon here vs. the Cubs. The big question: Will new boss Derek Jeter be a part of pregame ceremonies and risk being booed after trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon in a profit-first, baseball-second salary dump?

2. MARCH MADNESS: NCAA Tournament has its Final Four: It'll be No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 seed Loyola-Cinderella in the men's Final Four this Saturday after a five-day break. That's three superpowers and one reminder why we love March Madness so much.

3. WAYNE HUIZENGA: Influential sports owner dies at 80: The man who founded the Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers and rescued the Miami Dolphins from financial calamity -- once owning all three teams concurrently -- died on Thursday. Huizenga was a giant in business and philanthropy and a major figure on the South Florida sports landscape in 1993-2008. R.I.P., good sir.

4. DOLPHINS: Curious offseason continues with Gore, Osweiler: The Dolphins' offseason is getting "curiouser and curiouser," as Lewis Carroll's Alice might say. Last week the team signed former Hurricanes star Frank Gore and then quarterback Brock Osweiler, which might not be too bad except that one is a soon-to-be 35-year-old running back and the other is Brock Osweiler. 

5. MARCH FOR OUR LIVES: Parkland tragedy spawns massive rally: No, this has nothing to do with sports. It is much more important than that. Close to a million demonstrators against gun violence and for gun control were drawn to D.C. Saturday by last month's Parkland tragedy and the student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. I've seldom been prouder to be American. The best part? Didn't feel like a culmination. Felt like a beginning.

6. PANTHERS: Cats' win as playoff chase enters crunch time: Florida beat Arizona 4-2 led by Vincent Trocheck's two goals Saturday but remains three points off playoff pace with two games in hand. It's crunch time with nine games left, starting now with four straight on the road. Cats have been 19-7 since Jan. 30 but must close strong or the second-half rally will be for naught.

7. HEAT: Miami tumbles to 8th, awaits LeBron: Playoff-bound Heat now sit in 8th place in East after last night's OT loss at Indiana as the NBA regular season wanes. Now it's four straight home games starting Tuesday with a visit by LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers. Is LeBron back in Miami still a big thing? We'll likely see him in the playoffs, too -- if Miami can somehow inch up to the 6th seed. 

8. TENNIS: Crazy first week as Miami Open hits midpoint: No. 1 seeds Roger Federer and Simona Halep both were eliminated, and Serena Williams suffered a rare first-round ouster as the Miami Open turned quickly into a wide-open affair. Oh, and Caroline Wozniacki claimed she was verbally abused by the crowd. The tournament headed to Hard Rock Stadium next year isn't leaving Key Biscayne quietly ... or predictably.

9. HORSE RACING: Five days 'til Florida Derby at Gulfstream: Promises Fulfilled and Audible are among favorites in this coming Saturday's 67th running of the Florida Derby at Gulfstream. The next-to-last day of the track's Championship Meet will star a major Kentucky Derby prep race that will send one horse off to the Kentucky Derby with a tailwind.

10. SOCCER: Peru beats Croatia in Miami friendly: Holy Nene Cubillas! Peru is back in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, and looked ready Friday in beating Croatia 2-0 in a Miami friendly that drew 46,893 to The Rock. Both teams are in the 32-nation field for the summer World Cup in Russia. Alas, the U.S. is not, unless Trump can work something out with his pal Putin.

Missing the HB10 cut: Hurricanes spring football practice continues. Would you wake me in September when they start keeping score again? ..... Canes baseball is back up to .500 and goes for the sweep over No. 24 Virginia today. Just when I'm about to write off the season, UM says, "Wait a sec!" ..... Love that another spring football league is starting up one year ahead of Vince McMahon's planned XFL reboot. I'd put the over/under on either league succeeding at 1.5 seasons ..... The NFL winter meetings start Sunday in Orlando. This is where a bunch of rich guys get together, wring hands and do very little. It's a little like politics, in that way ..... UConn's dominance in women's basketball? Bor-ring! ..... By the way anybody know if the NIT tournament has ended? Or started?

Bracket VitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: A BIG SUNDAY LIFTS US: We're updating you daily on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I stand tied for 24th entering the Final Four (up from 51st) after a perfect Sunday:

Day 9 / Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness will crescendo with the Final Four on Saturday in San Antonio: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan, and No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 Villanova. I have 'Nova winning it all.

Day 8 / Elite Eight -- Sunday as the Final Four was set I had the two No. 1 seeds still in play and both winning, and Villanova and Kansas both came through for me. 

Day 7 / Elite Eight -- I didn't have a bracket dog in the hunt in either of Saturday's games as Michigan ousted Florida State and No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean kept the dream alive by beating Kansas State. 

[See previous blogposts for daily results preceding the Elite Eight round]

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 24, 2018

Wayne Huizenga, 1937-2018: My column on the passing of an epic life; plus Dolphins/Gore-Osweiler poll (vote now), our NCAA bracket update (more ouch), MSD March in D.C., Canes football anointed our next champ, my Serena column & more

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

Time1) It's SATURDAY, MARCH 24. Pictured: The new Time magazine cover as today's March For Our Lives takes place in D.C. -- spawned by the student activism in the wake of last month's mass shooting at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Power to the (young) people! 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Who's-Next poll, latest Back In My Day video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Dolphins/Gore/Osweiler poll. Vote now!: Dolphins sign Frank Gore, now Brock Osweiler. Quite the week. Your thoughts. I have a new poll on my Twitter site. Go to @gregcote to vote now.

HwayneR.I.P.: WAYNE HUIZENGA, 1937-2018: A South Florida sports and civic giant passed away today at age 80. A titan as a businessman and philanthropist, Huizenga was best known as founding owner of the Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers and also owner of the Miami Dolphins -- owning all three concurrently for much of the 1990s, a first in American sports. Click on Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible for my new column on his passing. (Click Do Not Vilify, Give Thanks for an earlier column on Huizenga I'd written in January).

Other most recent columns: On Serena Williams, Canes QBs, state of Dolphins: It was poignant to see the great Serena return, at 36, from maternity leave in her home tournament and quickly be ousted in straight sets by a 20-year-old phenom who grew up idolizing her. To read that column: Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company. Also, can Malik Rosier hold on to the Miami Hurricanes' starting quarterback job against tough competition?: Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation. And, the offseason struggles of that other team: Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins.

Mmadness VitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: HELP! I'M FAAAAADING!: We're updating you daily on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I tumbled further with Friday's results into a tie for 40th place. Amazing. From tied for second at one point to this. Sad:

Day 7 / Elite Eight -- I don' have a dog in the hunt in either of today's games, Loyola-Kansas State or Florida State-Michigan. My only two remaining teams, Villanova and Kansas, both play Sunday. 

Day 6 / Sweet 16 -- Correct on three of four games. As the march to the Elite Eight was completed last night, I desperately needed Villanova, Kansas and Purdue to all win, in that order of importance -- especially 'Nova, my national-champion pick. Well, I got 'Nova and Kansas, but it won't be enough. I got spanked by the Sweet 16. Overall for the tournament I have been correct on 40 of 56 games, or 71.4%.

Day 5 / Sweet 16 -- Correct on only one of four games as Sweet 16 play began Thursday after a three-day pause in March Madness. I had Michigan winning Thursday night's game but not getting to the Elite Eight on my bracket, so the pick did me no good. No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago (which slayed Miami) stayed alive as the tourney's official Cinderella, with underdogs Florida State and Kansas State also advancing. (ESPN says only 0.001% of all brackets have Loyola vs. K-State in their Elite Eight). Overall for the tournament thus far I have been correct on 37 of 52 games, or 71.2%.  

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

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

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

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

TheuPOLL RESULT: IT'S ON YOU, CANES FOOTBALL. YOU'RE OUR NEXT NATIONAL CHAMPION: We asked, "Which of South Florida's biggest pro sports teams is most likely to win a championship next?" We gave you seven choices, and Hurricanes football dominated with a majority of 61.14 percent. Next were the Florida Panthers at 15.63%, then David Beckham's as-yet-unborn MLS soccer team at 10.90% and the Miami Heat at 8.06%. The Miami Dolphins drew only 2.37%. The Miami Marlins and Canes men's basketball drew a negligible 0.95% each.

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 21, 2018

Who's next? Which of South Florida's Big 7 teams is closest to being champion? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Miami Open column on Serena loss, latest Back In My Day video (Handwriting!), Hurricanes QBs & more

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

1) It's WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21. We'll be back with our NCAA Bracket updates when the Madness resumes on Thursday. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, my NCAA Bracket update, March Madness Haiku Challenge winner revealed & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

New: Column from Miami Open on today's loss by Serena Williams: To read, click Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company.

Other most recent columns: On Hurricanes' QB battle, state of Dolphins: The most intriguing question in South Florida sports right now is whether Malik Rosier will hold on to the Miami Hurricanes' starting quarterback  job against very tough competition. We have begun to find out as Tuesday opened a month of spring practice under the aegis of third-year coach Mark Richt. I explore the QB situation in my latest column after speaking with Richt just before spring sprang. To read that column click Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation. Our previous column was on the offseason struggles of Miami's pro football team. To read that one click Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins.

WhoWHO'S UP? WHICH OF OUR BIG SPORTS TEAM WILL BE CHAMPION NEXT?: We like to do this poll every year or two (or when we think of it) as a pulse-read on how South Florida sports fans are feeling about their teams. The presumption behind is that we all might have a favorite team but nobody is a fan of only one sport. Chances are you have at least a casual awareness of even the teams you care about least. Anyway, usually this poll involves only what I call our Big Five teams -- the four main pro teams plus Hurricanes football. This time I've expanded by two,adding Canes men's basketball and David Beckham's Miami Major League Soccer franchise set to kick off in 2020. Vote as honestly as you are able, not for the team you hope wins the next championship, but for the team you genuinely feel is most likely to. Ready? Do it.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': HANDWRITING!: Our latest Back In My Day the gradual extinction of handwriting as now it's all emails and texts. Video includes the rare use of  a prop on the dismount:

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing designation from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Can Hurricanes Answer The Doubters? / Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Fins Must Find Their Future / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Can Hurricanes Answer The Doubters? / Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Fins Must Find Their Future / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote