GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 14. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Assessing Dolphins in free agency with poll, Chris Bosh eyes return to Heat, Canes await Selection Sunday, UM football arrests, Marco Rubio's last gasp & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Periscope.
Year of the Rat remembered: Twenty years later, the Florida Panthers' magical run to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals still matters, still resonates as a a major touchstone in the history of South Florida sports. I try to explain why. Click on Year of the Rat for our latest Sunday column.
WHY HURRICANES' NCAA TOURNAMENT PATH IS NOT AS SCARY AS IT SEEMS: The Selection Sunday show plodded laboriously on last evening and the ink on the newly minted 68-team bracket had not even dried when Miami Hurricanes superfan Chuck Todd -- the NBC News political director and Meet the Press moderator -- Tweeted this: "Wow, does Miami have a tough road to the Four. Arizona at 6, Villanova at 2 and Kansas at 1. Plus Buffalo is no slouch. #gocanes." Chuck immediately placed UM in some sort of college basketball Group of Death, but it isn't necessarily so. A couple of quick thoughts. First, Buffalo is a slouch. All top-seeded teams (and Miami No. 3 in the South Regional qualifies) pretty much get a freebie to open March Madness before the real competition kicks in, and UM opens as a 14-point favorite Thursday vs. a Mid-American opponent that lost 14 times this season and will be overmatched. Second, all No. 3 seeds must go through the same 6-2-1 path to the Finals Four assuming results match seedings. So the question is whose 6-2-1 path is toughest/easiest? The answer: Who the hell knows!? But an indication comes via ESPN.com's ranking today of all 68 teams. Miami's 6-2-1 opponents would be Arizona (ranked 21st), Villanova (5th) and Kansas (1st). 'Zona is not as good as it was last year, and 'Nova has a bit of a clumsy history in the Dance. Kansas. Well... Of the other three No. 3 seeds, Utah's 6-2-1 is ranked 20th, 3rd and 4th -- as tough as UM's path -- and West Virginia would have to go through 2nd-ranked North Carolina. Texas A&M is the only No. 3 seed with an appreciably easier bracket than Miami. But the larger point is: Deal with it. No excuses, please. No complaining or kvetching that your team got screwed on the bracket. Miami is a very good, experienced and well-coached team (Jim Larranaga is pictured) that will crush Buffalo, likely be favored in its second game, and then need a mild but doable upset in its third game to reach the Elite Eight. The path is not so treacherous that Miami cannot navigate it. And, with four seniors starters, this is the year. The time is now.
UM women on deck: Canes' women will learn their NCAA Tournament bid this evening. Bracketologists generally have them projected as a No. 6 seed.
UPDATED MARCH MADNESS BETTING ODDS: Via Bovada today, Kansas (5-1) and Michigan State (11-2) are virtual co-favorites for the men's national championship, followed by North Carolina at 7-1, Kentucky 10-1 and Virginia 12-1. Miami is tied for 12th at 33-1. Odds to reach the Final Four out of UM's South Regional: Kansas 3-2, Villanova 3-1, Hurricanes 15-2.
WALK OF SHAME: NCAA TOURNEY TEAMS FARING WORST ACADEMICALLY: This is based on data newly released in an annual study by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. Among the 68 men's teams in the NCAA Tournament that begins Tuesday, here are the bottom five in Academic Progress Rates (APR) and Graduation Succeess Rates:
APR WORST GSR WORST
727 Southern 20 Connecticut
933 Fairleigh-Dickinson 36 Cincinnati
935 Texas Tech 39 Stephen F. Austin
939 Oregon State 42 Southern
942 Cincinnati, Wichita State 46 North Carolina-Wilmington
Average: 966 Average: 78
Miami: 990 Miami: 93
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:
1. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Hurricanes open NCAAs vs. Buffalo; let the Madness begin!: Brackets ready? The Miami men (after a so-so ACC Tournament) were seeded No. 3 Sunday in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and will face No. 14 Buffalo Thursday night in the South Regional. Top-seeded teams pretty much get one freebie before the real competition starts. Selection Sunday launched millions of brackets as workers forget work today, scrambling instead to organize office pools. Let the Madness begin!
2. DOLPHINS: Dolfans weigh gains, losses with NFL free agency under way: Miami’s big losses have been DE Olivier Vernon and RB Lamar Miller, with DE Mario Williams thus far leading the additions. Fans seem generally disappointed so far (or did that go without saying?) but landing RB C.J. Anderson would help. Of course, easily the best change so far? Being rid of loudmouth wife Miko Grimes!
3. HEAT: Bosh updates health, says he hopes to return this season: With the Heat back home Monday vs. Denver and only 16 games left before the playoffs, Chris Bosh, out since the All-Star break, said he still hopes to return this season. Coach Erik Spoelstra was noncommittal but called Bosh "in a good place." Yes, of course. But not as good a place as back on the court.
4. PANTHERS: Cats fight for division lead, honor 1996 Year of the Rat team: Florida is locked in a three-team fight for the division lead as the franchise honored its 1996 Stanley Cup finalists here Saturday night. A good thing: Being able to cheer a 20-year anniversary. Even better: Having a 2016 team worth cheering.
5. MARLINS: Updates on Fernandez, Stanton as spring training continues: As team plays NL East rivals in five straight games starting Sunday, ace Jose Fernandez will throw more off-speed and less heat this season to save his arm, while slugger Giancarlo Stanton has the second-best betting odds to be NL MVP, assuming he avoids his injury jinx. Never a question of talent with those two, always only health.
6. UM FOOTBALL: Richt prepares for first spring practice in wake of two player arrests: Wild week for new UM football coach Mark Richt: The excitement for his first spring practice (it starts Tuesday) juxtaposed with having to deal with the arrest of two players including starting left tackle Trevor Darling. Neither is suspended. For good or ill, Mark, welcome to Miami!
7. POLITICS: Florida presidential primary is Tuesday: Unlike other states, there isn't much drama in Florida. Unless the polls are spectacularly wrong, Hillary Clinton will easily win on the Democrat side, and the Republican winner comfortably will be Donald Trump despite his small hands. Do increasingly violent Trump rallies come with a warning label now?
8. TENNIS: Sharapova tests positive as Miami Open looms: The annual Miami Open on Key Biscayne starts next week, March 21, but likely will be missing one of its biggest stars after Maria Sharapova tested positive for a banned substance. The good news? Avoids losing to Serena Williams as she always does.
9. FIU: Panthers fire women's basketball coach Marlin Chinn: Let's see here. An NCAA violation. Allegation of sexual misconduct with a player. And a 5-26 record. That would pretty much be the trifecta of how to get fired.
10. SAILING: Miami Sailing Week wraps up: Some of the best Olympic-class sailors in the world have been racing for the Bacardi Cup on Biscayne Bay. I know nobody other the competitors are actually talking about this, but I couldn't come up with another No. 10, so...
Missing the cut: Erin Andrews was awarded $55 million in her peephole-video suit against Marriott. It was the same day Kim Kardashian released her nude selfie. I'm just sayin' ... The Iditarod Sled Dog Race continues. "We're tired," say the dogs ... The U.S. women defeated Germany 2-1 in a soccer friendly at FAU. Maybe the U.S. men's team should hire the U.S. women ... The Tampa Bay Rays exhibition vs. Cuba in Havana is set for March 22. Fidel Castro will start for Cuba ... Name of week, from the LPGA Tour: Pornanong Phatlum ... New season of Dancing With the Stars is set, and athlete dancers will be footballers Von Miller, Doug Flutie and Antonio Brown. The only question is who'll be embarrassed least ... Calvin Johnson retired. Hall of Fame? Very likely. First ballot? Doubt it ... MLB announced the Marlins-Braves July 3 game would be played at Fort Bragg in a salute to the military. Like it. Nice idea ... Brock Osweiler gets a megadeal from Houston. Do you even know what you're buying, Texans? ... NBA referee Joey (Uncle Fester) Crawford is retiring. Divest in technical fouls. They'll plummet ... Johnny Manziel is a free agent, and might remain thus for eternity ... LeBron and Kobe played their final game together, which the media contrived to be historic ... Bryce Harper says baseball is a tired sport run by nerds. Goose Gossage says Bruce Harper is a @#$%%@. Play nice, gentlemen.
Poll result: Most Dolfans dislike team's early results in free agency: We asked, based on gains and losses thus far, if the Dolphins roster is better or worse than before free agency began, and "worse" (51.2 percent) beat "better" (22.6%) by well over a 2-to-1 margin. The other 26.2% voted for "no significant change."
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