March 28, 2015

It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida!; plus Heat in good hands, unbeatable Kentucky, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Miami Open, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 28. 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. 2) 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 fall, Cats still alive. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-39 (L1) after last night's 99-86 loss at Atlanta, 3 games from 6th with 10 games left (next Sunday vs. Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 73.0% (down 4.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 34-40 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 3 points from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

1aa1asupersatWELCOME TO SUPER SATURDAY: It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida. We have the 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream (I'll be there columnizing). UM's football Spring Game is up at Lockhart Stadium. The Miami Open continues down on Key Biscayne, including Serena Williams' match delayed from Friday. The spring Marlins host Astros up in Jupiter. Panthers try to keep NHL playoff hope alive at Montreal. Oh, and the NCAA Tournament begins its Elite Eight with 1's Kentucky and Wisconsin both in play. That enough for you?

1aa1aheatbig3NBA 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 the 78-39 Kentucky rout of West 1aa1asweet16Virginia 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 seven of eight higher-seeded teams won in the Sweet 16 round (all but Oklahoma), so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is now at 19.6 percent, with 11 upsets (based on seeds) in 56 games thus far. (By the way, CBS and Turner report that TV ratings have been the highest for a Sweet 16 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 to little-known Daria Gavrilova in the Battle of the Russian 'Ovas' became the 1aa1amariasfirst 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. This year, 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 1aa1abrandonpirricurb yet. Florida's 4-1 win at Toronto on Thursday 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 1aa1aespnradio
1aa1abomaninational 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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March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).

 

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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

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

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 CBSSports.com 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 sportsclubstats.com.

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 gcote@miamiherald.com, 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 13, 2015

Judging Mike Wallace's time with Dolphins. New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL's biggest FA/trade moves poll, Canes hoops, Marlins in fantasy, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

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


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 14. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Suh effect/Dolphins expectations poll, college hoops, robot sportswriters & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

It's back! Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge!: An annual spring fixture in this blog is our March Madness Haiku Challenge. You know the drill. Haikus (17-syllable poems) about the coming NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned. Rules and details coming Sunday, contest starts Monday.

Ex-Cane Henderson leads NFL performance-pay list: NFL every spring puts out Top 25 list of performance-based pay bonuses, based on playing time vs. salary. Guys on list tend to be modestly paid but prominent -- overachievers, based on their salary. Well, No. 1 for last season was Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson, the ex-Cane, with a $373,671 bonus. One Dolphin made it: LB Jelani Jenkins, 24th with $242,782.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Saturday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 9th place at 29-36 (L1), 1/2 game from 8th and 1/2 game from 10th with 17 games left (next Monday vs. Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 33.7% (down 3.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 30-37 (W2), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 15 games left (next tonight at Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.6% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

DOLPHINS TRADE WALLACE, SIGN CAMERON AND STILLS: On Wallace: Dolphins late yesterday traded receiver Mike Wallace (pictured saying goodbye) to Vikings, along with a seventh-round draft pick, in exchange for a fifth-round pick. They gave him away in ending speculation whether he'd remain with team. His free- 1aa1amwallaceagent signing in 2013 is tough to judge (see poll just below). The 140 catches for 1,792 yards and 15 TDs in two seasons is not the Pro Bowl level Miami thought it was getting but neither should it be called a complete failure. What's notable is that Wallace was targeted 256 times, so the 140 catches translates to only 54.6 percent -- that's low. It speaks to he and Ryan Tannehill never quite finding their chemistry. So does the fact only one of his 15 scoring plays exceeded 50 yards. On Cameron: Free agent tight end Jordan Cameron looks the part at 6-5 and 245 pounds and is only 26. In 2013 he made the Pro Bowl with 80 catches for 917 yards and seven TDs for Cleveland. And last year even sidelined almost half the season he averaged a big 17.7 yards per catch. He isn't Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham but at his healthy best he's very good, a guy who can bust big plays and a guy popular in fantasy drafts, though considered a below-average run blocker. The asterisk: Cameron has a concussion history that bedeviled him last season and could well reoccur. Cameron: "If it was a concern for me, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’ve seen a lot of specialists and talked to a lot of people and it’s cleared. There is no cause for concern on my end and the Dolphins felt the same." Cameron is a quality hedge against the Fins likely losing Charles Clay to Buffalo. On Stills: Receiver Kenny Stills comes in trade via Minnesota, giving up LB Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick. Ellerbe was a bust but a 3R pick is pricey. Stills had 63 catches for 931 yards and three TDs with Saints last season and is only 22. He joins Jarvis Landry to give MIA an excellent young tandem.

NFL WHIRLWIND: THE BIGGEST FREE-AGENT SIGNINGS OR TRADES IN LEAGUE'S WILDEST MARCH: I 1aa1anflcannot recall a previous NFL spring that has seen such major activity in terms of free agency and trades. In winnowing our poll to a manageable 12 names I had to omit several notable player movements. (Sorry you missed the cut, Brian Hartline to Browns, Jordan Cameron and Kenny Still to Dolphins and Jared Odrick to Jaguars). What I present you is the top dozen players switching teams, listed alphabetically. You may vote for up to three (3). Base your selections on overall expected impact. Consider how much news the signing made and how exciting the deal is to fans. Remember, vote for your top three and say why.

Deciphering the vote: With three votes allowed per person, a player's maximum vote percentage would be 33.3 percent if everyone voting cast the maximum three votes. A player's percentage multiplied by three is a fair barometer of the percentage of ballots on which he is being included. A percentage over 33.3 indicates some voters are voting for only that person.

MARLINS IN FANTASY DRAFT: ESPN's first fantasy baseball mock draft is out and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton was the No. 4 overall pick in the first round. Other Marlins chosen in the 25-round draft: Christian Yelich (7th round), Dee Gordon (9th), Marcell Ozuna (10th), Steve Cishek (13th), Mat Latos (18th), Jose Fernandez (20th) and Martin Prado (24th). Fernandez of course is out until midseason recovering from Tommy John surgery; otherwise he might have been among the 10 starting pitchers mock-drafted in the first five rounds.

CANES BASKETBALL SHOULD BRACE FOR BAD NEWS NOW: Jim Larranaga knew it going in. His Hurricanes needed to beat Notre Dame in second round of ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Instead UM lost 70-63, continuing a close-but-not-quite season now at 21-12. (Cane Tonye Jekiri is pictured right). The U 1aa1atonyejerikiwill be very close to making the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday, but is expected to fall just short and settle for the NIT. Miami's low RPI number and 1-7 mark vs. ranked teams will be tough to overcome. Upsetting the Irish might have done it. Eamonn Brennan's analysis of UM's situation for ESPN: "Miami's resume' is basically the same as it's been all February: one massive road win (at Duke), four ugly losses (including a still-inexplicable 72-44 home drilling at the hands of Eastern Kentucky), a good road record (which Larranaga has been touting as much as possible), a bad non-conference schedule and a shaky RPI. Miami has been among the first teams outside Joe [Lunardi's] bracket for weeks; it has never gotten over the hump. It may yet on Selection Sunday. We'd be surprised, but far stranger things have happened. Fingers crossed." 

Poll result: Suh expected to lift Dolphins to playoffs: We asked your expectations for the Dolphins in the wake of the Ndamukong Suh signing and most, 65.4 percent, voted "fairly high/playoffs." Then it was 12.3% "modest/improved but no playoffs," 9.7% "low/disappointment and firings," 9.3% "high/division champs," and 3.3% "very high/Super Bowl contender." That's 78.1% overall who expect the playoffs, though doubts remain.

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March 12, 2015

Suh Effect poll: Setting the bar on Dolphins expectations. Vote now!; plus Canes/FIU hoops, verdict on Whiteside, Heat/Panthers playoff-chase update, robot sportswriters & more

1aa1abryanb
1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 12. Congrats to my friend Bryan Baucom (pictured) for his 500th softball coaching victory with St. Thomas Aquinas High. He also is offensive coordinator for STA's vaunted football program -- one of South Florida's most successful prep coaches. 2) Feeling sexist or shallow? Click here for a video on hottest quarterback WAGs. (Yes, Lauren Tannehill gets a mention). 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dirty Town: On Suh and Whiteside with poll, Canes/FIU basketball, Marlins future, delights of Twitter & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

It's back! Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge!: An annual spring fixture in this blog is our March Madness Haiku Challenge. You know the drill. Haikus (17-syllable poems) about the coming NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned. Rules and details to come.

Postseason hoops: Canes tonight, FIU eliminated: Miami won its ACC Tournament opener last night over Virginia Tech, 59-49, in Greensboro, N.C., thanks to Sheldon McClellan's 16 points, strong defense and an awful opponent. But UM likely must beat a very good Notre Dame tonight at 9 to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. FIU also won yesterday, beating Texas-San Antonio, 57-54, in the Conference USA Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., but the Golden Panthers were eliminated this afternoon by Texas-El Paso, 83-71, to finish their season 16-17. 

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Thursday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 29-35 (W1), 1/2 game from 7th and 1/2 game from 9th with 18 games left (next Friday at Toronto). Heat playoff likelihood: 40.4% (up 11.9) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 9th place at 29-37 (W1), 6 points from 8th and 1 point from 10th with 16 games left (next tonight vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.5% (up 0.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

SUH IMPACT: SETTING THE BAR ON DOLPHINS EXPECTATIONS: I attended Ndamukong Suh's Dolphins introduction yesterday and smiled when he was asked about the pressure one him. The question was
1aa1andammisdirected. The pressure is not on Suh. It is on (more than ever) coach Joe Philbin. As I write of the Suh signing in today's column -- love quoting myself! -- "It does not guarantee you will win or succeed. What it does is leave you out of excuses to explain why if you don't." So the question for you is how the Suh signing has impacted how you feel about the Dolphins and their chances this coming season. As I also note -- click on A Man Named Suh for the entire column -- the Pats are still the Pats and the active Bills and Jets both have improved, too. Factoring all of that, let's set an early bar on expectations for the 2015 Dolphins. Take a dip in our poll. Vote not for the option you hope for, but for the option you realistically expect, and say why.

1aa1adansuhPictorial: Behind-the-scenes photos from Ndamukong Suh's first day as a Dolphin: Click here to access around 50 behind-the-scenes photographs from Ndamukong Suh's first official day as a Miami Dolphin on Wednesday, courtesy the team. One of the photos, of Suh meeting Dan Marino, is pictured at left.

Poll result: There is concern for Whiteside's Heat future due to temper: We asked if you were very, somewhat or not concerned that Hassan Whiteside's temper and immaturity were imperiling his future with the Heat. It was close, with 38.5 percent voting "somewhat," 37.8 "very" and 23.7 "not." That's 76.3% expressing some concern.

1aa1arobotTHE SINISTER RISE OF ROBOT SPORTSWRITERS: Click here for the sad backstory. Well, probably it's more weird than sad. The robot actually is a software program that is fed data about, say, a game result, processes that information, and produces a news story based on the data provided. So, Big Brother is not only watching, now he's writing, too. I think my job is safe (for now), but who knows? Pretty soon there  might be an app for that.

WHEN SOMETHING SAD TURNS HEARTWARMING: Some fans at a middle-school basketball game in Kenosha, Wisc., were teasing a cheerleader who has Down Syndrome. Three players walked off the court to confront the bullies. Story here.

1aa1agronkbowl"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a picture of Rob Gronkowski holding a bowling pin. Thank you." Dear Reader: I'll try, but can't imagine where I'd get one. 

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March 10, 2015

Dirty Town: Suh, Whiteside make Miami new bad boy of sports, but situations are opposite. Is Hassan jeopardizing his Heat future? Poll. Vote!; plus Canes/FIU hoops, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), analyzing Marlins future, Twitter & more

1aa1aangusyoung1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11. Thanks to the Tony Kornheiser Show for having us on the radio this morning to talk Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and more. Always great being on with Tony! 2) Click on Rock The Blues Away to see and hear AC/DC's latest video. Love it when guys even older than me still rock hard! 3) Click on Bosh Back Home for my column earlier this week on Chris Bosh. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins land Suh with poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Dolphins announce 4 p.m. news conference today to make official the Ndamukong Suh signing.

1aa1agatorgolfUm, I think I'll just take a double bogey and move on...: This is not a doctored or fake photo. That is an actual, giant alligator on a green at Myakka Pines Golf Club this week in Englewood, Fla., just north of Palm Beach on the state's west coast. Fore!

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Wednesday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even at 9th, 28-35 (L1), 1/2 game from 8th with 19 games left (next tonight vs. Brooklyn). Heat playoff likelihood: 28.5% (down 1.4) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 6 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (down 0.3) per sportsclubstats.com.

DIRTY TOWN: SUH, WHITESIDE PUT THE 'BAD BOY' IN MIAMI SPORTS: Dirty Town. A spanking new Dolphin, Ndamukong Suh, and a Heat player we'd never heard of before this season, Hassan Whiteside, combine to suddenly position Miami, for better or ill, as sports' new face of dirty play. It is interesting to me how the two teams (and perhaps their fan bases) view each player so differently, and how the two situations are so different. Some thoughts...

On Suh: He bothers quarterbacks and stops the run better than any defensive tackle in the NFL, but he


1aa1andamalso is unquestionably the most controversial player in the league for his on-field actions. His league fines for "player safety violations" approach $500,000 in five seasons. Last year alone he had 10 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. He might  "accidentally" step on your ankle. But is anybody worried? Nah. Not at all. The Fins know what they are getting in Suh, 28, and will happily take the tradeoff: The occasional dumb, needless penalty in exchange for overall excellence. The same Dolfans who once saw Suh as a villain now happily welcome him to town as the guy bringing their team needed bravado and "toughness."

On Whiteside: It's the opposite. Heat management is very concerned that Whiteside's immaturity and temper -- the reasons an athletic 7-footer was unwanted around the NBA and 1aa1ahassanavailable in the first place

-- may prove unmanageable and jeopardize his future here. (The poll below indicates how concerned Heat fans are, or aren't). Monday night the 25-year-old was ejected for the second time in five games and is suspended by the NBA from tonight's game. Whiteside has the potential to be a 15-point, 15-rebound guy, a dunking, shot-blocking savant who defends the rim like a lion defending her cubs. He could be a huge and hugely popular part of this team moving forward. But Miami needs to get his head straight. Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade -- if this excellent leadership and support system can't do it, then Hassan may be hopeless. The dumb fouls and ejections, the unreliability, shouldn't and won't be tolerated indefinitely.

Bottom line: We have here two guys clearly share anger management issues. But one, Suh, is so exceptional at what he does that the dark side is accepted as simply a part of his football DNA. The other, Whiteside, full of potential but still short on proof, is not so established that his behavior is accepted as a part of his game. The Dolphins' message to Suh: "Keep doin' what you do, big fella." The Heat's message to Whiteside: "Grow up. Fast."

Poll result: Most love Suh signing, but reservations, too: We asked how you felt about the Dolphins landing Ndamukong Suh and 54.3 percent said "great." Another 26.4% were pleased but think Miami is overspending. The other 19.3% were not pleased because the cost might short-change roster elsewhere.

CANES BASKETBALL BEGINS POSTSEASON: Miami's men's team faces Virginia Tech tonight at 9 in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Should be a low-stress waltz. UM was 2-0 vs. Hokies this 1aa1ajimlseason by a combined 45-point margin. Canes if they win tonight would then face tough Notre Dame in second round Thursday. This week will determine whether the men of Jim Larranaga (pictured) will earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Upset loss tonight and there's no shot. Win tonight and then upset Notre Dame and an invite is all but assured. The anxious in-between will come if Miami wins tonight but then loses a close one to the Irish. That's what would turn Selection Sunday into a nail-biter for Canes fans.

FIU wins tourney opener: FIU's men opened play in the Conference USA Tournament today and beat Texas-San Antonio, 57-54, in Birmingham, Ala., led by Dennis Mavin's 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Not expected, considering G-Panthers had lost to UTSA by 11 in only regular season meeting. 

MARLINS' FUTURE: ESPN's periodic "futures rankings" are newly out for baseball, and the Marlins (surprisingly and disappointingly) are ranked only 23rd of 30 teams and fourth of five in the NL East in terms of how each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years based on five categories. (Story and 1aa1ajustinnicrankings here). Despite the unimpressive ranking, the accompanying synopsis is fairly upbeat: The overview (by Buster Olney) -- "Think about the ages of the players who form the core of this team: Giancarlo Stanton is 25, Marcell Ozuna is 24, Christian Yelich 23, Jose Fernandez 22 and Jarred Cosart is 24. This might be just the beginning of something that lasts." The dilemma (by Jim Bowden) -- "The Marlins need to find long-term answers at both first and third base. Perhaps at least one of those players could be a left-handed power hitter to better balance out their lineup." Impact prospect (by Keith Law) -- Lefty Justin Nicolino [pictured] doesn't miss bats, but he's one of the most efficient pitchers in all of baseball, throwing strikes and generating ground balls. He'll probably be a midseason call-up when the Marlins need a starter." 

THE SMALL DELIGHTS OF TWITTER: I like Twitter (@gregcote) and make a point of trying to click on as many new followers as possible because I'm curious about the backstory, the location, et cetera. I appreciate you all and am ceaselessly flattered. I also enjoy it when, 1aa1atwitter

1aa1ahaggardevery once in a while, a new follower will randomly jump out at me as I scan the daily list -- a notable name or perhaps the symbol for a verified account will catch my eye. Very recent examples of that, willy nilly: @SeriouslySusan is Susan Bennett, a voiceover artist who is the voice of Siri; and @kidfromkidnplay is Christopher Reid, half of the 1980s/early '90s hip-hop duo. And this new follower popped in Monday night, while I was at the Heat game: @merlehaggard. As a fan of old-school and outlaw country, I must tell you what a cheap thrill it was to see that Merle, a musical hero, follows little ol' me. Thank you, Mr. Haggard, and thanks to you all!

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March 08, 2015

Dolphins land Ndamukong Suh. What say you? New poll. Vote now!; plus Fins in trouble over contract leak?, Bosh's special delivery, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 9. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heat extend Michael Beasley with another 10-day contract. No surprise. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Exciting-times poll, Mike Wallace verdict, new betting odds & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

What a Sunday for Miami sports!: Dustin Johnson punctuates his golf comeback with a stirring victory at Doral as the news is breaking across South Florida about the Dolphins landing prized free agent Ndamukong Suh. The days don't get much better than this for local sports. Click on Dolphins 'n Doral to read my column combining both events.

#GetWellCB DeliveriesBosh's special delivery: Heat star Chris Bosh is to address the media this evening prior to the Heat's home game vs. Boston. It will be Bosh's first availability since last month when his season was ended by blood clots in his lung, for which is undergoing continuing treatment with a full recovery expected. Pictured: Earlier today, about 35 Heat staffers delivered 10,000 get-well messages from fans to Bosh's home.

Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Monday:  A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending down at 9th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 20 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 38.2% (down 1.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 4 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.7% (down 1.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

A MAN NAMED SUH!: DOLPHINS REPORTEDLY LAND FORMER LIONS DEFENSIVE TACKLE: It had been looking like Miami was the frontrunner for Ndamukong Suh. Sunday it began to look all but 1aa1ansuhofficial as ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the Fins had landed the NFL's top free agent with a six-year, $114 million offer including $60 million guaranteed. The good: Miami gets the league's premier DT and second-most impactful defender overall after  Houston's J.J. Watt. Suh is in his prime at 28 and instantly and hugely upgrades both Miami's run defense and pass rush. It is a bold, major move by owner Stephen Ross and the franchise. The not so good: The enormous expenditure may short-change the club and its roster elsewhere. Also, Suh is a notoriously dirty player who has incurred some $421,000 in league fines (and two games' suspension) in his five seasons. When you factor in all of it -- Suh's talent, his reputation and the money it is costing -- what do you think of the reported soon-to-be signing? Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Fins being investigated for Suh contract leak?: This story suggests Miami and other NFL teams may be investigated for leaking contract information to the media prior to Tuesday's first day that teams may sign free agents.

Suh, Whiteside top most-excited-about vote: We asked what about Miami sports excites you most at the moment, and of five choice it was the Dolphins' pursuit of Ndamukong Suh leading with 38.6 percent and Hassan Whiteside's Heat emergence with 28.4%. Then came optimism for Marlins season at 18.5%, UM's pursuit of men's NCAA tournament bid at 11.2% and Panthers chasing NHL playoff spot at 3.4%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 8: 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 reportedly land Ndamukong Suh: Miami was seen as a front-runner to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunay that the deal ($114 million over six years with $60 million guaranteed) is done barring a last-minute glitch. Suh is the ex-Lion known for his sacking, run-stopping excellence but also his dirty play and league fines. Admit it: You hate Suh. But you’d love him on your team.

2. HEAT: Miami hanging on to edge of playoff contention: Heat can regain the No. 8 seed with a win over visiting Boston tonight. Why am I smiling? Before season, on a hunch, I bet big that players leading Heat's stretch run would include Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Tyler Johnson and Bill-turned-Henry Walker.

3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men seek big showing in ACC tourney: UM ended its regular season 20-11, but now Jim Larrañaga’s Canes need a big ACC tournament starting Wednesday -- at least one win and likelier two -- to get into the NCAA Tournament. Teenage girls and bubble teams know it: It’s tough waiting to see if you’ll be asked to the Big Dance.

4. PANTHERS: Cats now four back in playoff chase: Newly acquired future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr has added a spark, but Florida (off until Thursday) has now dropped four points off the No. 8 seed even after the 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders. Injuries have left team thin at goaltender. I don’t wanna say Cats are desperate, but if you own a stick and a glove, you might be starting next game.

5. GOLF: Johnson survives Championship Sunday at Doral: Dustin Johnson, in only his fifth tournament back from last year's six-month PGA Tour leave for personal issues, survived J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson to win the World Golf Championships event on Doral’s Blue Monster. A $1.57 million check, a new baby son, going home to Paulina Gretzsky ... life is good for Dustin.

6. MARLINS: Spring training games begin amid high hopes: The team not only spent big to keep Giancarlo Stanton and bolster the roster but also will have a private team jet and personal chef for players this season. This is making it tough now for me to make fun of owner Jeffrey Loria for being cheap. Damn him ruining my hobby!

7. NFL: Big moves of interest to Miami: Bills acquiring RB LeSean McCoy and Jets trading for WR Brandon Marshall put heat on Dolphins in AFC East. Meanwhile it was a rough week in the NFL for old ex-Canes as the Patriots released Vince Wilfork and Colts cut Reggie Wayne. Perpetually disgruntled UM football fans blamed Al Golden.

8. SAILING: Miami Sailing Week ends on Biscayne Bay: The 88th Bacardi Miami Sailing Week wrapped up, a weeklong sun-splashed regatta held this time each year expressly to make folks in the snow-buried Northeast feel even more jealous of us than usual.

9. AUTO RACING: Streets ready for Miami ePrix: They’ve set up barricades downtown for this coming Saturday’s “Miami ePrix,” in which world’s fastest electric race cars will be humming down Biscayne Boulevard. Miamians have a phrase to describe that kind of crazy speed, chaos and danger on the road: "I-95."

10. SOCCER: MLS begins its 20th season: Major League Soccer is back in action as David Beckham continues to search for a stadium site for his prospective Miami franchise. Dead-ends so far on all his preferred locations. Poor Dave may end up settling for a warehouse district in Hialeah.

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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 sportsclubstats.com.

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 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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