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15 posts from March 2016

March 29, 2016

Arian Foster visit personifies an offseason going wrong for Dolphins. With poll. Vote now!; plus Radio Tuesday, Serena shocker adds to Miami Open woes & more


1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 28. Hope y'all had a happy Easter! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Tommy Hutton petition, my updated bracket, your verdicts on Canes basketball season, Miami Open & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and simulcasting from 10-1 on ESPNU and Fusion TV. 

Serena ouster continues rough Miami Open: No. 1 seed and favorite daughter Serena Williams is shockingly ousted today from the Miami Open, after sister Venus also was eliminated early. Pile that on top of the illness-withdrawals of men's star Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal plus the loss today by Andy Murray and this event has taken some huge hits with the erasure of major fan attractions.

FOSTER VISIT A REMINDER THAT RUNNING BACK BEST EXAMPLE OF DOLPHINS' BAD OFFSEASON: I explore in a column newly online and shipping to Tuesday's print editions. Click on Running On Empty to read in full. Some highlights: The running back position represents the problem with Miami’s offseason thus far in the free agency period that bridges the end of the past season with Arianfosterthe coming NFL Draft. The Dolphins lost their young, ascending running back, Lamar Miller, to Houston. Now they are left to investigate recycling an aging, injury-damaged Houston discard in Arian Foster, who visits on Tuesday. Miami is understandably eager to import a veteran runner to augment young Jay Ajayi, who has not yet proven himself up to the No. 1 role. They had C.J. Anderson in, but Denver matched the offer sheet. They had Chris Johnson in but lost him to Arizona. Evidently not all visitors are convinced this Dolphins roster and new coach Adam Gase will be enough to end the franchise’s playoff drought. If Foster also turns down Miami, the search goes on. If Foster says yes and signs, the Dolphins are getting a back who will turn 30 during the preseason, is coming off a significant injury and averaged 2.6 yards per carry before he got hurt (against Miami, as it happens) last season. Sounds like a lose-lose situation. Who’s on deck? Ray Rice? Foster’s name still carries some cachet — he was really good as recently as 2014 — but pinning hopes on damaged goods is a risk, especially at that position. Plainly the Dolphins should have kept Miller, and easily could have. The former Miami Hurricane wanted to stay. Miami’s offer of $5 million per year was reasonable, but the Texans got him for $6.5 million a season. That difference is small change in the context of modern pro sports. All it took was a little more faith in Miller, a bit more foresight, for the Fins to avoid being in a position now to cross fingers on Foster passing a physical and maybe again being his old self, as opposed to just old.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 27, 2016

The latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated); plus Arian Foster to Dolphins?, bracket update, Tommy Hutton, your verdicts on UM season, Miami Open & more


Easter1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 28. Hope y'all had a happy Easter! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes out in Sweet 16 with poll, my updated bracket, Serena Williams, Miami Open tennis vs. Doral golf poll, LeBron's Dream Team, McShay's Dolphins mock, your Bright Futures verdict, Bosh's PSA & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

Arian Foster to visit Dolphins: The used free-agent running back will visit Miami Tuesday, say multiple reports. Foster was really good as recently as 2014, when he made the last of his four Pro Bowls, but averaged a pathetic 2.6 yards per carry last season in four games before being injured. And he'll turn 30 during the preseason (in August). Foster's visit represents symbolically what is wrong with Miami's offseason thus far. They lose young, ascencding running back Lamar Miller, to Houston, and now look into recycling a Houston discard in the aging Foster.  

What will make Heat season a success? This: Meeting, and beating, LeBron James in the playoffs. That's it. Simple. Click on LeBron In the Crosshairs to my latest Sunday column.

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. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAAs reach Final Four as Hurricanes men out in Sweet 16: It'll be Villanova vs. Oklahoma and Syracuse vs. North Carolina in the Final Four of the men's NCAA Tournament this coming Saturday -- 10th-seeded Syracuse the only big surprise. Alas, interest in March Madness in Miami lost steam with the Hurricanes’ Sweet 16 elimination by 'Nova. Sweet but not Elite – that pretty much describes UM’s year, right? Sweet with a sour ending.

2. HEAT: Home stretch: Ten games left as Miami jockeys for position: Heat could finish anywhere from third to sixth in the East, the first-round playoff opponent still far from known. What is known: Miami’s season will be declared a success by acclimation if it includes eliminating LeBron James from the postseason. Meantime Hassan Whiteside keeps having career nights off the bench ... and costing Micky Arison more money to keep him.

3. PANTHERS: Cats win at Tampa Bay in duel for NHL division lead: Only seven games remain in hockey’s regular season after Saturday night’s Florida Faceoff for first place between Panthers and Lightning -- a huge 5-2 win for the Panthers. If only their football brothers the Dolphins and Buccaneers, who last both made the playoffs in 2001, were representing their cities and state as well as the men on skates.

4. BASEBALL: Obama, MLB visit Cuba as spring training nears end: America mostly loved that President Barack Obama and Major League Baseball (oh, and the Rolling Stones) visited Havana. Many Miamians? Not so much.

5. TENNIS: A plague of unexpected departures as Miami Open enters final week: Roger Federer withdrew with a stomach virus and Rafael Nadal with dizziness, and Venus Williams lost early. Is tournament hater Bruce Matheson spiking the water? Meanwhile the usual question looms: Who can deny Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams another title?

6. MARLINS: Countdown 8 days 'til Opening Day: Giancarlo Stanton is getting his game face on. Hit his first spring home runs including one moonshot that left the ballpark and may not have landed yet. Still can't believe Jose Fernandez won't be the Opening Day starter, but that's the Marlins for ya.

7. DOLPHINS: Tannehill gives blessing to new coach: Ryan Tannehill says Adam Gase "has my back," becoming the 4,634th QB in a row to publicly praise his new head coach. Tanny must be confident things will work here. He just bought a $4.3 million waterfront home in Fort Lauderdale. Meanwhile Dolphins stadium is a finalist to host a Super Bowl in in 2019, '20 or '21. Good: Miami hosting a Super Bowl. Much better: Miami playing in one.

8. SOCCER: Beckham group moves closer to realizing new MLS stadium: Major League Soccer in Miami (eventually) moved closer to reality as the David Beckham group secured six acres in Overtown. That's nobody's preferred site, including Beckham's, but beggars can't be choosers.

9. HURRICANES: UM continues first spring practice under Richt: It is the disparity of interest in the two sports. Baseball coach Jim Morris just won his 1,000th game with the Canes and his team is really good, ranked No. 4 nationally. But more UM fans are following how Mark Richt's football guys are looking in practice pads five-plus months before their first game.

10. EASTER: As the resurrection of Jesus Christ is celebrated: Anybody else find it odd that the resurrection of Christ has somehow come to be associated with bunny rabbits and colored eggs? Also, you'd think Jesus returning from the dead would rank higher than No. 10 here.

Missing the cut: R.I.P., Johan Cruyff and Joe Garagiola ... The NFL owners meetings ended in Boca Raton, thank God ... Man, it's been so pleasant around here lately. The nice weather? That, too. But I meant the absence of Miko Grimes ... LeBron James dreamed aloud that he'd like to play on the same team with Dwyane Wade (again), Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul someday. Old-Timers League, I assume? ... Alex Rodriguez said he'll retire after the 2017 season, then said he might not. Keep us posted, big fella ... Miami FC plays its inaugural NASL game this coming Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers ... Robert Griffin III signs as on as the Browns' latest QB-bust-in-waiting ... The much ballyhooed Batman vs. Superman movie is out. Spoiler alert: In a cameo role, Yosemite Sam kicks both their asses ... Team USA men embarrassed in 2-0 loss at Guatemala in World Cup qualifier ... Jason Day overtook the world No. 1 golf ranking from Jordan Spieth ... Greg Cote reached the Final Four of a SliceMiami.com poll in the sports-media bracket, the last Herald writer standing, before losing to Stugotz, who may have been involved in FIFA-bribery-scale scandal involving rigged voting. That, or he's just a lot more popular than me.

NCAA BRACKETEERING, UPDATED: Sunday--I had North Carolina advancing (my only dog left in the hunt), and nobody left in the other game. Overall--I'm 38-22 thus far in men's NCAA Tournament games. Cinderella Meter--31.7% (19 of 60 games have been upsets so far based on seeding, including of course Syracuse's win Saturday). Today--No games until Final Four semifinals on Saturday, April 2.

HOPELESSPETITIONS.ORG: A Naples man has started a change.org petition to bring back Tommy Hutton, the popular TV announcer the Marlins fired. It has a zero chance of success, but I'm a power-to-the-people guy so I pass it along. When last I checked it had 17 signatures. Click here to see it or sign it. Rise up, people. Rage against the machine!

Poll result: Hurricanes men's basketball season was great, not just good: We asked how you'd characterize the UM season that ended in the NCAA Sweet 16, and it was 65.5 percent "great" (big success), 26.9% "good" (moderate success), and 7.6% "fair" (bad ending).

Poll result: Miami Open tennis edges Doral golf: We asked which major annual Miami sporting event in jeopardy of leaving do you most hope stays, and it was Miami Open tennis on Key Biscayne nosing past WGC golf at Doral, 

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 26, 2016

Hurricanes out in Sweet 16: How successful was season? Poll. Vote now!; plus my updated bracket, Serena Williams, Miami Open tennis vs. Doral golf poll, LeBron's weird dream, McShay's latest Fins mock, your Brightest Future winner (tight!) & more


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 26. Did you make it a good Good Friday, Christians? 2) Happy 69th birthday today to Elton John, one of my musical and cultural heroes. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Bright Futures 25&U poll, Canes sartorially, Cote vs. Stugotz, Serena backs Miami Open, Dolphins on the cheap, your Obama-Cuba verdict, Melania Trump ad & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

Serena and the Miami Open: The Miami Open on Key Biscayne helped raise Serena Williams, and vice versa. That symbiosis is the theme of my latest column. Click on Serena and the Miami Open to read it. 

End of the bracket for me: SliceMiami.com was down to its Final Four in the Media bracket and I made it, but lost in my semifinal to the 'Gotz Army of my 790 The Ticket/ESPN Radio colleague, Stugotz. He's now in the Media final and crushing rival station WQAM's Marc Hochman. Oh my. Juggernaut.

McShay's mock picks for Dolphins, UM: ESPN's Todd McShay's mock draft 4.0 has Fins picking Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott 13th overall and Oklahoma State DE Emmanuel Ogbah in second round, 42nd overall. Only Miami Hurricane in the first two rounds: CB Artie Burns, 45th overall to Rams.

MARCH MADNESS: RUN IS DONE FOR HURRICANES; UM ELIMINATED IN SWEET 16: Miami was swamped 92-69 by Villanova in the NCAA Sweet 16 in Louisville. That's makes it three Canessweet16Sweet 16s for UM but still no Elite Eight. Sheldon McClellan did his part with 26 points tonight but got too little help. The story, though, was Miami not containing a really effective 'Nova attack. Villanova shot 62.7 percent from the field including 10-for-15 on 3's, plus 18 of 19 on free throws. Seems like they never missed. I'd foreseen it in my preview here, writing, "Mostly the matchup figures as how the Canes' defense fares in limiting 'Nova's big-time offense, which has averaged 82 points over the past month and has shot 58.6 percent so far in the NCAAs." Villanova, the nation's No. 1-ranked team for three weeks in February, was a four-point favorite and showed why. I liked Miami in an upset, but I guess that was homer parochial thinking. They needed another lights-out performance from guard Angel Rodriguez and didn't get it. Bottom line? Miami is not Elite yet, literally or figuratively. But Jim Larranaga is getting them closer. Progress. Overall a good season that did Miami proud. Agree? Take a dip in our poll.

NCAA Bracketeering, updated: Friday--My teams were 1-3, meaning 1-1 with teams still alive (North Carolina advanced) and two others previously eliminated. Overall--I'm 37-19 thus far in men's NCAA Tournament games. The bad news? I have only two teams still alive in the Elite Eight. The good news? They include Kansas, my pick to win it all. Cinderella Meter--28.6% (16 of 56 games have been upsets so far based on seeding). Today--I very much need Kansas to  beat Villanova. I have no dog left in the Oklahoma-Oregon hunt.

ON LEBRON'S 'DREAM TEAM,' STATE OF HEAT: 1) LeBron James said this week he would "take a pay cut" to play on the same team with close friends Dwyane Wade (once Lebrondreamingmore), Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. Said James: "I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together. At least one, maybe one or two seasons — me, Melo, D-Wade, CP. I would actually take a pay cut to do that." Quick thought: Given the age and career arc of each, is 'Bron talking about an Old-Timers League? 2) The Heat's 112-88 loss to San Antonio Wednesday night was a reality check and a reminder of the distance between Miami and the best teams in the NBA. Here is another: Miami is now 4-9 this season against the five teams with clearly better records: Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Toronto. It's 2-1 vs. the Cavaliers, 2-8 vs. the other four.

Doral golf MiamiopenMIAMI OPEN TENNIS VS. WGC DORAL GOLF: The World Golf Championship event at Doral just ended, continuing the PGA Tour's 53-year run in South Florida. Now the Miami Open tennis tournament is underway on Key Biscayne -- Serena Williams won last evening in the first marquee match -- continuing that event's more than 30-year history in South Florida. But are prestigious tournaments right below being one of the sport's four majors. But both annual local sports institutions are in jeopardy. Doral could lose the greatest men's golfers in the world over politics, because the PGA Tour may distance itself from Donald Trump-owned properties. Key Biscayne could lose the best men's and women's tennis players in the world over legalities, related to a court case that will determine whether needed facility improvements are permitted. My question here: Which of these two major annual events is most important to you? I hope the answer for many of you is "both!" But which would you most hope stays where it is if you could choose only one? Take a dip in our poll and be heard!

JosePOLL RESULT: BRIGHTEST FUTURE? J'S HAVE IT AS JOSE, JUSTISE, JARVIS DOMINATE VOTE: We asked which of South Florida's 25-and-under sports stars has the brightest future, and gave you 14 choices and three votes. The clear overall top three in a tight race: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez (21.9 percent), Heat forward Justise Winslow (20.3%) and Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry (19.2%). Jose is pictured tipping his cap to thank you for the vote. Rounding out the top five were Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker with 9.3% and Heat guard Josh Richardson at 8.7%, followed by the top-ranking Florida Panther, Sasha Barkov, with 7.7%. Popular poll. Thanks to all who weighed in.

BOSH'S NEW PUBLIC-SERVICE AD: Sidelined Heat star Chris Bosh is featured (along with Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward and Becky Hammon) in a new LeanIn.org video for its public-awareness campaign in support of gender equality. Here it is:


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

Twitter @gregcote

March 24, 2016

Which Miami 25-&-under sports star will have greatest career? Poll too close to call. Last chance to vote!; plus Canes sartorially, Cote vs. Stugotz, Serena's pitch for Miami Open, Melania Trump, Fins on the cheap, your Cuba-trip verdict & more


Garagiola1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 24. Purim began at sundown last evening. Happy day to all our Jewish friends. 2) R.I.P. famed baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola, pictured, at age 90. His was the first TV voice I heard when I was falling love with baseball as a kid. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Other side of the cheering on Cuba visit with poll, disrespecting Canes, Marlins on Jose, Serena's selfie, NCAA bracket update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

"Rays beat Cuban National Team. Thank you, Tampa Bay, for denying the Castros the added propoganda." --Greg Cote

My latest 'Back In My Day': ICYMI on Tuesday's Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, here it is via ESPN Radio: Click Menus to listen and watch.

BrightfutureBRIGHT FUTURES: WHICH OF SOUTH FLORIDA'S 25-AND-UNDER PRO SPORTS STARS WILL HAVE THE GREATEST CAREER?: We made 25 the arbitrary line of demarcation here, and considered every current Heat, Dolphins, Marlins or Panthers player who was born in March 1991 or later. There were a lot, but we whittled it to a list of the 14 most prominent -- five Panthers and three from each of the other teams. Our poll list is alphabetical, and you may vote for your top three (3). It shouldn't be easy. For me, Jose Fernandez and Sasha Barkov were pretty easy, but the third was not. Jarvis Landry? Justise Winslow? Somebody else? Enough about me. Your turn. By the way, if you think anybody obvious is missing from the poll, I should mention as a preemptive strike that Giancarlo Stanton and Hassan Whiteside were born in 1989 and Ryan Tannehill in '88. They're still young, but too old for our 25U club. OK, ready? Remember, this is a brightest-future poll; try not to make it about which team or sport is your favorite. Vote now and check back frequently to monitor constantly evolving numbers. To decipher a three-vote ballot, triple the percentage of each player's total shown for an estimation of the percentage of ballots that include him in the top three. In other words, Winslow at 23.3 percent (when last I checked) was being included in about 70 percent of all top-threes.

Vote for your top 3:

UnisSWEET 16: NOT ALL AGREE THE HURRICANES ARE LOOKING GOOD: ESPN has one of those silly "Uni Watch" uniform rankings for the Sweet 16 teams, and the Miami Hurricanes's new Adidas duds are ranked only 14th. Ouch. The synopsis reads: "Green, orange and white are such a great color combination. Too bad they're used to such poor effect on the new March Madness uni set that Adidas prepared for the Hurricanes. It's hard to say which is worse -- the orange [or green] shoulder harness or the 'grass skirt' striping on the shorts. A real stinker." OK, then. A Thursday victory from Villanova away from their first Elite Eight appearance, we're thinking UM fans prefer their team continue to be athletically splendid even if its sartorial splendor may be somewhat dubious.

UH OH. IT'S COTE VS. STUGOTZ IN LOCAL MEDIA BRACKET'S FINAL FOUR: Website SliceMiami has been holding NCAA-style brackets in four 16-person "regions" including Media, and I -- the last Herald writer standing -- have vanquished two foes to reach the Final Four, where I will face my 790 The Ticket and ESPN Radio mate, the great Stugotz. The other semifinal will pit WQAM's Marc Hochman vs. his 560 stablemate Joe Rose. I think voting in the Final Four round is Thursday and Friday but we'll update you further.xx

SerenaSERENA STANDS UP ELOQUENTLY FOR THE MIAMI OPEN: We know Serena Williams is the best women's tennis player in the world, and has been for much of the past 15 years or so. She's a pretty good writer, too, it turns out. Williams this week penned a piece for the New York Times on why the Miami Open (running now through April 3 on Key Biscayne) is so dear to her and how she'd hate to see it leave, which it could related to a legal battle over improvements to the site. Good for you, Serena! Find her entire essay here.

DOLPHINS ON THE CHEAP: ESPN ranks all 32 teams in terms of current free-agent spending and your Dolphins slot in 22nd with only $11.9 million in guaranteed money given. Dough spent does Abdul-quddusnot always equate with winning, no, but it is a bit disconcerting that division-power New England has spent more than triple ($38.1 mill) what the Dolphins have to get better. ESPN's cynopsis of the Fins' FA expenditure so far: "For the first time in several years, the Dolphins elected to be judicious with their free-agent spending. They spent just $11.9 million in guaranteed money so far, with the biggest guarantee going to safety Isa Abdul-Quddus ($6 million). Big-ticket items haven't produced more victories, so Miami is trying the opposite approach." But just as spending big isn't always smart, being economical doesn't always mean smart spending. For example, Abdul-Quddus (pictured), the big get in terms of guaranteed money, has only 16 starts and two interceptions in 74 career NFL games. Hmm.

Poll result: Most oppose Obama and baseball's visit to Cuba: We asked your reaction and it was 25.3 percent "positive," 54.9% "negative" and 19.8% "mixed emotions or undecided." Interestingly, the negative vote was running only slightly higher (58.5%) in Florida, where a higher percentage of Cuban-Americans reside. Also interesting (at least to me): The "positive" vote enjoyed a plurality when the poll appeared only in my blog, before it hit a broader/different audience when picked up by MiamiHerald.com.

MelaniatrumpTHE MELANIA TRUMP AD: Nasty politics continue on the Republican side of the presidential race. A super-PAC supporting Ted Cruz ran the ad pictured, showing Donald Trump's wife Melania in a GQ photo shoot from 2000, back in her modeling days. The text reads, "Meet Melania Trump: Your Next First Lady. Or, You Could Support Ted Cruz On Tuesday."  The Donald responded on Twitter with a warning for Cruz to be careful or he'll "spill the beans" on Cruz's wife. Me? I have little doubt that Trump is privately not displeased at all with this ad -- with people being reminded how great he must be to have a wife this hot. But here's the bottom line: Will seeing Melania like this make anyone less likely to vote for Donald Trump? For many people, absolutely nothing could possibly make them less likely to vote for Trump.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 22, 2016

America cheers Obama 'n baseball in Cuba, but in Miami, not everyone is celebrating. With poll. Vote!; plus Radio Tuesday, Wade not 1 of LeBron's issues, disrespect for Canes continues, Marlins on Jose, Serena's selfie, NCAA bracket & more


1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 22. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NCAA bracket update & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and also on ESPN U and Fusion TV.

LeBron has problems. D.Wade isn't one of them: Click on The Downward Trajectory of LeBron for today's latest column by me.

Media Bracket Round 2: I advanced in the Media Region of SliceMiami.com's first Miami Sports Bracket. To vote for, click here

National disrespect for Hurricanes continues: They were underdogs to Wichita State but reached the Sweet 16, anyway. Now the men of Jim Larranaga are 4- to 4 1/2-point underdogs to Villanova in Thursday night's game. And, among the last 16 standing, UM's 28-1 championship odds (via Bovada) are tied for 10th best. Odds to advance from South Region are: Kanasas 10-11, Villanova 12-5, UM 6-1 and Maryland 13-2.

CUBA CELEBRATES WITH OBAMA, BASEBALL AND MICK ... BUT NOT EVERYONE CELEBRATES: The president of the United States is on the island, bringing the ultimate seal of approval for warming relations with Cuba. America's Pastime visits, too: The Tampa Bay Rays play ball against the Cuban National Team in Havana on Tuesday. Later this week Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones put on a free concert there. It's a feel-good story. But it doesn't feel good to everybody. Miami is the epicenter in America of where it doesn't feel good at all to lots of folks who think the Cubaobama Ladiesinwhitewarming U.S-Cuba relations in general -- and this week's festivities in particular -- lend credence to what continues as totalitarian regime rife with oppression and human rights violations. There will be much cheering and celebration in Cuba this week, and elsewhere as Cuba basks in a portrayal of progress. But the other side must have its voice. In Miami, those voices make a mighty choir -- especially among older Cuban exiles who have seen with their own eyes, who escaped, and whose memories won't let go of the pain. Meet Cuban-born Luisa Vega, 69, now of Hallandale, a retired court interpreter. Thousands all over South Florida share her views. "The first day [Barack Obama's visit] was announced I was doing a deposition with some lawyers and one asked if I should be happy. But it is so painful to me this is happening," she told me on Monday. "We came here because we were forced to flee. People of Cuba are oppressed. I wish before any steps [toward normalized relations] had been taken, something had been done about the dissidents, about freedom of movement. There's so many things wrong with the system. Havana has deteriorated to the point it is a slum. Cuba became a third-world country." I, like most non-Cubans, cannot feel these views viscerally. I see this week's events in Cuba positively; I see Obama's visit an an agent for continued needed change. My own father grew up hating the Japanese because of Pearl Harbor but we move on. Germany once meant Hitler; now U.S.-German relations are good. For me, improved relations with Cuba are a good thing. But, again, the pain others still feel is not my own. Luisa Vegas fled Cuba three days before she turned 14. "It was so hellish I don't think I was ever young," she said. Her grandmother was incarcerated "just because we left." He future husband was taken at 17, and held for two weeks. Luisa remembers sleeping outside the original U.S. Embassy in Havana with a group of freedom-seekers and being screamed at by government-organized mobs. She saw militia storm her home and take away an uncle. Her story is shared by many in Miami. Today, there has been some progress in Cuba in the transition from Fidel Castro to younger brother Raul. By most indications, gays on the island have it somewhat better, as an example. Still, ask the Ladies in White, the group that protests for civil and human rights, if enough progress has been made. Dozens more of them were arrested (pictured right) in advance of Obama's visit. The watchdog group Human Rights Watch begins in 2015 report on Cuba thusly: "The government continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights." That, and the words and pain of Luisa Vega, bear never forgetting amid all the cheering in Cuba this week.

JOSE NOT OPENING DAY STARTER = MARLINS BEING MARLINS: Your ace starts on Opening Day, period. Particularly when your starting rotation includes one ace, a jack and three 4's. But the Joserules are never quite standard when it comes to the Miami Marlins, and so it should not have surprised Sunday when the Fish announced that recently acquired Wei-Yin Chen (the jack) would be the O.D. starter on April 5 instead, with Jose on the mound for next day. Hmm. The explantation: That the switch would set up to give Fernandez more rest thorughout the season. The likely real reason: Openers sell out, followed by a severe drop in attendance for Game 2 (at least here). So save Jose to stem the decline and increase the next-date gate. This is sooo Marlins. They can't even get Opening Day right. Jose says (publicly) he is on board with this, but you know he's disappointed. Marlins fans should be, too.

BikiniserenaSERENA PREPARES FOR MIAMI OPEN TENNIS: Defending Miami Open champion Serena Williams has been preparing for the rigors of the two-week tournament that begins this week on Key Biscayne. Pictured, is hard at work taking a bikini selfie on Snapchat. On beach or on court, Serena seldom is not looking good, or shy to show it. Still in her tennis prime at 34. A true wonder.

NCAA BRACKETEERING UPDATE: Sunday--I went 5-3 on my teams advancing in men's NCAA Tournament games. Overall--I'm 35-13 thus far, with 12 teams still alive in the Sweet 16. Cinderella Meter--33.3% (16 of 48 games have been by-seed upsets so far). Today--Madness is off until Thursday.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 21, 2016

Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Angelic Canes, Heat, Cats, tennis, Fins and Fish lead the way; plus our NCAA bracket (updated) & more


1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 21. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): South Florida's Super Sports Saturday, March Madness Haiku Challenge winner, my NCAA bracket, Cote advances in media bracket, your who'll-win verdict & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

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. HURRICANES/COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Sweet! UM men beat Wichita State, reach the 16: Miami Hurricanes men beat Wichita State 65-57 Saturday to reach the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, led by Angel Rodriguez's 28 points. "Heaven-sent Angel lifts Miami" -- too perfect. Canes will next face Sunday-winner Villanova on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. So your bracket is in ruins, but at least the Canes are winning.

2. HEAT: Miami routs Cavaliers, humbles LeBron to stay in hunt for third place: LeBron James now is 0-3 in Miami since leaving after the Heat's 122-101 rout of Cleveland on Saturday. LeBron returning to Miami is still a big deal, sort of. But here’s a bigger deal: The Heat is in a four-team scramble to finish third in the East and avoid seeing LeBron again until the conference finals.

3. PANTHERS: Cats stay in NHL division despite Spacey loss to Red Wings: Florida has clawed back up into the division lead despite Saturday's 5-3 home loss to Detroit. The game featured a visit by actor Kevin Spacey, who inspires the “Spacey in Space” sweatshirts that inexplicably are part of the mojo of this Cats season. The sweatshirts bring luck, although apparently Spacey himself doesn't.

4. TENNIS: Federer, Serena in spotlight as Miami Open tennis sets to launch: Perennial favorite Serena Williams, defending champ Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer’s return from knee surgery top the marquee for Miami Open tennis, which begins its annual two-week run on Key Biscayne this Tuesday. Event’s future is in some doubt, so treat the present like a gift.

5. DOLPHINS: Mixed results, disappointments continue team’s free agency run: Bumper sticker: Honk If You’ve Left the Dolphins Facility Without Signing a Contract. Running backs C.J. Anderson and Chris Johnson were the latest to do so as Miami’s first week-plus of free agency resulted in much activity but little discernible improvement.

6. BASEBALL: MLB visit to Cuba, LaRoche saga steal the headlines: Adam LaRoche of the Chicago White Sox abruptly retires after team tells him his 14-year-old son shouldn't be in the clubhouse so much. This Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban National Team in Havana. Man, baseball will do anything for attention, won't it!?

7. MARLINS: Shenanigans with the Opening Day starter: Barry Bonds, 51, out-homered Giancarlo Stanton in a friendly hitting drill. But the big news out of Marlins spring training was the team not naming ace Jose Fernandez its Opening Day starter on April 5. Ostensibly it's to give him more rest but more like it's that, with a big crowd guaranteed for the opener, the club wants to deploy Jose to help boost the gate for Game 2. Gawd, that is soooo Marlins.

8. UM/WOMEN'S NCAA: Canes make a quick exit: The Madness started and ended quickly for coach Katie Meier's women Canes, with Saturday's 74-71 upset loss to South Dakota State in their NCAA Tournament opener. Humbling: Losing your opener. Insult to injury: Losing to team nicknamed Jackrabbits.

9. NFL: Boca Raton hosts league meetings: A league executive, Jeff Miller, became first NFL official to acknowledge a direct link between football-related head trauma and brain disease. Meanwhile the NFL owners meetings are Sunday through Wednesday in Boca. Haven't seen the complete agenda but I understand the main order of business is a resolution to make Jeff Miller quit speaking.

10. UM FOOTBALL: Canes open first spring practices under Richt: The Hurricanes began spring practice with enthusiasm and praise for Mark Richt. Shocking! It was the 89,403rd consecutive time in the history of football that players praised their new head coach after his first practice. 

Missing the cut: R.I.P., Tray Walker ... Barry men reach Elite Eight in Division II. Good job, Barry ... Its Miami FC in its inaugural NASL game next Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. A natural rivalry is born! ... So a jury awards Hulk Hogan $115 million because Gawker published his sex tape -- more than double what Erin Andrews received. Pays to be a cartoon character, I guess ... This just in. Looking to place people where no one will find them, the federal witness protection program has now begun hiding people in the NIT tournament ... Gall, redefined: FIFA wants back its bribe money confiscated by the U.S. government. No, seriously ... Answer: Ultra Music Festival. Question: "Where do 99.9 percent of South Floridians want to be nowhere near this weekend?" ... Barack Obama's presidential bracket had Kansas winning the men's NCAA Tournament. Republicans demanding equal time berated Kansas as overrated ... Without being able to  vent on Twitter anymore, what's Miko Grimes doing, kicking the family dog? ... IndyCar season is underway. Wake me for the Indianapolis 500 ... The Colts are building a statue of Peyton Manning. You know who else should? The city of "Omaha!" ... What's poor FIU gotta do to get another mention here? Any more scandals on deck?

NCAA BRACKETEERING UPDATE: Sunday--I went 5-3 on my teams advancing in men's NCAA Tournament games. Overall--I'm 35-13 thus far. Cinderella Meter--33.3% (16 of 48 games have been by-seed upsets so far). Today--Madness is off until Thursday.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 19, 2016

Super Saturday: Canes win starts a SoFla sports smorgasbord!; plus my NCAA bracket update with today's winners, Haiku Challenge champ/winning entry, Cote advances in media bracket and is embarrassed he gives a crap & more


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 19. Thoughts with the family of NFL player Tray Walker, born in Miami and died here, yesterday, at 23. R.I.P. 2) St. Patrick's Day. The only day of the year I force myself to stomach a token amount of cooked cabbage. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): All March Madness: Haiku Challenge, who'll-win poll, my bracket, NCAA state-schools history & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

Dolphins add assistant coach: Fins have named Jim Washburn as senior defensive assistant/pass rush specialist. He comes with 17 years' NFL coaching experience, including (significantly) the past three with Detroit. Miami hopes he'll bring the key that further unlocks Ndamukong Suh.

"If I could ask God one question it would be, 'Why?' Why was Dwyane Wade taking that 3-point shot to end that game!?" --Greg Cote

SupersaturdaySUPER SATURDAY! MIAMI A LOUSY SPORTS TOWN? NOT TODAY, MY FRIEND. NOT TODAY: It's Super Saturday for SoFla sports. Here's why. Buckle up:

1. Hurricanes men beat Wichita State, advance in NCAAs: After coasting past Buffalo in the first round, Jim Larranaga's guys faced Wichita State this afternoon and, after seeing a 21-point lead frittered away, won, 65-57, in a South Region game in Providence R.I. Angel Rodriguez's 28 points on 9-for-11 shooting led the way. The Shockers were a No. 11 seed to Miami's No. 3 yet Wichita State was favored by two points. They shouldn't have been. Now UM moves onto the Sweet 16 and will next face the winner of Sunday's Villanova-Iowa game.

2. Heat host LeBron, Cavaliers: Costly home loss to Charlotte Thursday night has Miami in four-team fight for third place in East, which Miami dearly wants so it can avoid having to face Cleveland in the postseason prior to conference finals. LeBron James returning to Miami isn't by itself the visceral event it once was. Saturday's 7:30 tipoff here is important mostly for that jockeying for position in standings.

3. Panthers host Red Wings: Florida, back up to a 3-point division lead, hosts Detroit Saturday at 7 with only 11 games left in the regular season. Expect a playoff atmosphere, with the Wings holding precariously onto the eighth and final spot in the East right now. Rumor: Actor Kevin (Spacey in Space) Spacey shows up, drops the ceremonial puck. 

4. UM women begin NCAA run: Katie Meier's No. 5-seeded Hurricanes open their NCAA Tournament run Saturday at 6:40 p.m. vs. the No. 12 South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the women's Lexington Region. I like South Dakota State's nickname a lot more than I like their chances against The U.

5. Marlins meet Tigers in Jupiter: Miami is just past the midpoint of spring training as it welcomes Detroit for a 1:05 first pitch Saturday. We know spring results don't matter, but, at 5-10 with five straight L's entering today's game, might be nice to build a bit of excitement heading into April. Aside to Marlins: Jose Fernandez should be the Opening Day starter. Duh, right?

I could also mention the Canes held their third spring football practice under new coach Mark Richt on Saturday morning on campus. I'd also add something about the Dolphins continuing their work in free agency, but the Dolphins tend to be depressing and this is supposed to be an upbeat item about good stuff happening in Miami sports.

FlanneryWE HAVE A MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: We combed through 108 entries in our blog's 11th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge which closed at noon today, and were pleased to find that 96 of them were valid entries -- exactly 17 syllables and on-point with the topic. Congratulations to reader John Flannery (pictured right), our 2016 champion. His happened to be one of the last entries submitted. Turns out John lives in Pennsylvania but we'll be able to fulfill his prize request: a Greg's Lobos T-shirt!

John Flannery's winning haiku:

"Bracket is busted

Cinderella is dancing

No one has a clue"

The judges (meaning me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, the simplicity, and the undeniable truth of it. Our four honorable mentions: Bernstock--"It's not a cash cow / They must say, its for the kids / as 'they' eat lobster" ... Brett Alger--"Talk about balls and busting / Cinderella's in search of better seed." ... Travis Ford--"When my bracket busts / I'll stop drinking and go home / I'm taking my ball." ... and Kjdesouza007--"Twelve again beats Five / My Final Four Picks Alive / What is TRUtv." Thanks also to readers Scott Anderson, Daniel Angster, Chet Cienkowski, Fryer54, Phil Shore and others who played.

COTE ADVANCES IN NCAA-STYLED MIAMI MEDIA BRACKET: SliceMiami.com is running an NCAA-styled Miami Sports Bracket in four 16-person categories or "regions." One is Media, and I advanced Slicemiamito the second round this week by beating fellow Heraldite Ethan Skolnick, 59.53 percent to 40.47. I am honored by the 19-point landslide. Also, I am frankly embarrassed that I give a crap. But it's fun (because I won, it's fun). Ethan and I enjoyed going back and forth on Twitter and Facebook, fake-campaigning. I think my voters were surprised, inspired and girded loins en masse by the fact I was the much lower seed, strongly suggesting the folks running the poll were drunk at the time of the seedings. I had the toughest first-round matchup in the formidable Skolnick. I don't include Stugotz facing No. 1-seeded Dan LeBatard, since the love-to-hate-Dan tenor of their 790 The Ticket/ESPN Radio show made it obvious Stugotz would win. Other first-round Media winners: Eric Reid over Tony Fiorentino in a duel of Heat TV broadcasters; Heat radio guy Mike Inglis over TV's Jim Berry; WQAM's Marc Hochman over the Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde; the Herald's Barry Jackson over TV's Will Manso; Adam Kuperstein over fellow TV talking head Steve Shapiro; and WQAM's Joe Rose over Marlins broadcaster Rich Waltz. Pictured right are the upcoming second-round matchups, featuring the disembodied head of an exalting Stugotz. Click on the image to expand. I'll let you know when 2R voting begins.

NCAA BRACKETEERING UPDATE: Friday--I went 10-6 in men's NCAA Tournament games on an upset-filled day that for first time ever saw 2-3-4 seeds (Michigan State, West Virginia, Cal) lose on same day. Overall--I'm 23-9. Cinderella Meter--40.6% (13 of 32 games have been by-seed upsets, with three of those negligible 9-beat-8s). Today--My 8 winners, in order of tipoff, are Miami, Duke, Indiana, Iowa State, Virginia, Kansas, Utah and North Carolina.

Poll result: "Other," Kansas favorites to win NCAAs: We asked you who'd win the men's NCAA Tournament and the nine choices we offered all were either betting favorites or top-two seeds. So Miami was not included ... which may explain the category "someone else" winning our vote with 26.7 percent, followed by Kansas at 20.0%, North Carolina 17.3%, Michigan State 12.0% and Kentucky 10.7%.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 18, 2016

Haiku Challenge window closing; vote before noon today!; plus who'll win NCAA Tournament: Poll. Vote now!; also, my bracket, history of Hurricanes and other state schools in the Big Dance & more


Patricks1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why Hurricanes' NCAA path isn't that scary, March Madness betting odds, tourney's worst teams academically, Hot Button Top 10, Year of the Rat remembered, Dolfans' free agency verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

THE MARCH MADNESS PREDICTOR POLL: The four little play-in games are done, now, today, the real NCAA Tournament starts -- including Miami Hurricanes opening vs. big underdog Buffalo at 6:50 p.m. So, who wins it all? I have listed here, alphabetically, the nine teams that are either top-2 seeds or better than 20-to-1 in the betting odds. Vote for the the one team you think is most likely to be champion. Not the team you want to win, but the team you think will win:

Vitale HaikuOH NO! IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 11TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: The entries are pouring in -- a veritable torrent -- but which I mean we have several ao far. We've done this as long as we've had this blog and it is back for tradition's sake and by unpopular demand. I say unpopular because many of you are intimidated by this contest, or simply do not agree that nothing captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient Japanese short-form poetry. I do not do this for the masses, but for the select, chosen few who await the contest every year with relish. It's sort of like a restaurant menu that offers liver. Few like it, but the few who do love it. You may know that a haiku is a 17-syllable poem. (Not 16! Not 18!) Ideally it's in 5-7-5 structure but we're loose with that. Rhyming is OK but not necessary.

Three simple but hard-fast rules:

1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry.

2. You may submit entries ONLY one of two ways: In this blog's 'Comments' section below, or via email to [email protected]. (No Twitter entries please!!). You may enter as many haikus as you wish.

3. Entries close Friday (today) at noon, with the winner to be announced later Friday.

Prize, you ask? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide? A chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, do it for the sheer glory and to flex your creativity, not for the prize. OK, ready? Get the mind revving. The entry window has banged open. Haiku!

MY BRACKET: I have Kansas and North Carolina in the Final Four (no surprise), but against two opponents who'd be huge surprises to get that far. My FF has Kansas beating Texas A&M and UNC beating Iowa State. I have the Miami Hurricanes getting to the Elite Eight before bowing to the Jayhawks. We'll update you daily on how our bracket is doing. Got three out of four right in the play-in games. Our winners in today's/Thursday's 16 games games are, in order of tip-off times: Duke, Butler, UConn, Iowa State, Baylor, Virginia, Kansas, Purdue, Miami, Indiana, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona, Kentucky, Providence and Gonzaga.   

THE LIST: NCAA TOURNAMENT RESULTS BY STATE SCHOOLS: NCAA Tournament men's Division 1 basketball, listed by number of appearances/invites:

Team                                            Apps. Games    Record    Last    Best result

Florida Gators                                  19       59       42-17     2014   National champions 2006, '07

Florida State Seminoles                     14      29       15-14     2012   National championship runnerup 1972

Miami Hurricanes                              8th     13        6-7       2016    Sweet 16 2000, '13

Jacksonville Dolphins                         5         9         4-5       1986   National championship runnerup 1970

Central Florida Knights                      4         4         0-4       2005   All 1st-round losses

South Florida Bulls                            3         5         2-3       2012    3rd round 2012

Florida A&M Rattlers                         3         4         1-3       2007   2nd round 2004

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles                  2nd      3         2-1       2016   Sweet 16 2013

North Florida Ospreys                        1         1         0-1       2015   1st-round loss

Florida Atlantic Owls                        1         1         0-1        2002   1st-round loss

Florida International Panthers           1         1         0-1        1995   1st-round loss

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 14, 2016

March Madness: Why Hurricanes' NCAA path isn't as scary as it seems, betting odds, worst teams academically in Big Dance; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), ode to '96 Panthers, Dolfans slam team's free-agency work & more


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, InstagramVine 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 Jimto 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.

DunceWALK 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:

Hotbutton1. 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."

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 12, 2016

Are Dolphins better? Have early free-agency gains outweighed losses? Poll. Vote now!; plus Chris Bosh eyes return, Hurricanes men await Selection Sunday, UM football arrests, Dear Marco Rubio & more


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 12. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins' dubious start to free agency, Erin Andrews vs. Kim Kardashian, Marlins' big problem, sympathy for Maria Sharapova, your verdict on Peyton Manning, Dollar Bill Murray & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

"No surprise FIU fired women's basketball coach Marlin Chinn. NCAA violation, allegation of sexual misconduct, awful record -- it's the trifecta of career suicide!" --Greg Cote 

Arrested UM football players catch break: Welcome to Miami, Mark Richt. No new coach is fully indoctrinated until he has dealt with his first player arrests. Hurricanes offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Jahair Jones -- Darling the starting left tackle -- were arrested in Miami Beach this week for "resisting officer without violence" after they reportedly were impeding traffic and refused orders to disperse. But Jones' case will not be prosecuted and Darling is expected to similarly be cleared related to what the state attorneys office called a "legally insufficient" arrest form. In other words the cops screwed up on the report. Still, I have a feeling Richt will think his players screwed up too.

ChrisboshBOSH SPEAKS ON HEALTH, IS HOPEFUL TO RETURN THIS SEASON: Chris Bosh's full statement this week on his health, with the underlines for emphasis my own: "I know there have been many questions regarding my health and when I will play again. My situation this year has never been life threatening. I am feeling great and currently I do not have deep vein thrombosis. Together with the Miami Heat, I am working with doctors, exploring the best precautionary treatment options and taking every necessary step to make sure I am healthy for myself, my family and my team. I have been working out, training with the team, watching film of the games, walking through plays, and have attended home games despite not being visible to the public. I will continue to support my teammates in every way possible. I remain positive that I will be able to return this season. I truly appreciate everyone's concern and support." I argued strongly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on Feb. 23 that Bosh and the Miami Heat owed it to fans to stop the speculation by being up front about the star's condition regarding blood clots and his prolonged absence from the court. I'm glad that, now, we have that update. And that it was good news, considering the growing assumption had been that Bosh was done for the season and perhaps even that his career might be in jeopardy.

MiketannenbaumGRADING THE DOLPHINS IN FREE AGENCY THUS FAR: Miami has gotten off to a rough start in free agency but scored a potential nice get with running back C.J. Anderson signing an offer sheet. Fins executive VP of football ops and roster-builder Mike Tannenbaum is pictured looking mighty relaxed but probably should be sweating and wringing hands a bit based on the team's early FA results. The most noteworthy additions, the three to the defense, all are guys coming off disappointing seasons in Mario Williams (whom the BIlls had cut), Byron Maxwell (spectacularly overpaid) and Kiko Alonso (health concerns). Meanwhile the two big losses, Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, are seismic. Miami was priced-out of both because, lacking foresight, the club failed to secure them to long-term deals earlier and avoid losing them in free agency now. Digest this synopsis of the team's notable gains and losses thus far, then take a dip in our poll. Wonder if adding C.J. Anderson would alter your opinion?

Notable roster gains, in order of significance: DE Mario Williams, star caliber as a proven but aging sacker. RB C.J. Anderson, only 25, 4.8-yard career average, very productive in limited role. (He isn't locked up yet, though Fins are hopeful. Denver still could match the offer). LB Kiko Alonso, a steal if he can stay healthy and regain rookie form. CB Byron Maxwell, OK starter but not a shutdown corner. OT Sam Young, backup tackle. S Isa Abdul-Quddus, backup caliber, though he may start. OT Jermon Bushrod, projected to compete for starting guard spot. W (wife) Miko Grimes, outta here, an addition by subtraction to be rid of the this meddlesome, crass woman. Bottom line: Williams is a downgrade from departed Olivier Vernon, especially factoring age. But Anderson  may be every bit as good as Miller. Alonso has big upside but health a major if. Maxwell isn't as good as Brent Grimes.

Notable roster losses, in order of significance: DE Olivier Vernon, to Giants. RB Lamar Miller, to Texans. Five draft spots in first round, down from 8th to 13th in Maxwell/Alonso trade with Philly. CB Brent Grimes, cut. WR Rishard Matthews, to Titans. DE Derrick Shelby, to Falcons. CB Brice McCain, to Titans. WR Greg Jennings, cut. Bottom line: Vernon is a significant loss and Miller is almost as big. It is fair to say both were overpaid to leave and Miami was priced out. But it also is fair to say Miami -- with foresight -- would have locked up both to affordable long-term deals last year and not allowed them to reach free agency. Invisible losses for the Dolphins also must include players they explored/needed but failed to get, including CB Adam (Pacman) Jones, help at guard and RB Matt Forte, the latter of whom I pushed for the Dolphins to pursue in this column on Feb. 12.

DREAM SEASON? HURRICANES MEN GO 1-1 in ACC TOURNEY, AWAIT NCAA BID: The No. 11-ranked Miami men of Jim Larranaga can be as good as just about anybody. Dick Vitale and other Sheldoncollege hoops experts have said UM is Final Four-capable. Based on rankings alone you'd think the Sweet 16 should be a starting point on how we measure this season's success. Well, the time to show it has begun and started with this week's ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., where the Canes beat Virginia Tech 88-82 but then lost last night to No. 4 Virginia, 73-68. UM is 25-7 as it awaits Selection Sunday and its slot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament -- March Madness. How Miami fared this week in the ACCs probably didn't boost Miami's likely seeding or help it much. Maybe if they'd been bounced earlier or reach the final, yes, but going 1-1 was average. Now Miami and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan (pictured) await UM's destination for the big tournament. Joe Lunardi's updated Bracketology for ESPN has the Canes slotted a No. 3 seed in the East; their first game will be Thursday or Friday. UM practiced all this week at George Mason, where the 2006 Final Four banner hangs. That was Larranaga's finest moment in coaching. Can he top that this year? The regular season has offered only teases and hint, and the ACC Tournament was not definitive. The real knowing is about to begin. And now is when the window is flung open wide for UM, which starts four seniors. This must be the year.

RUBIO CAMPAIGN GASPING FOR AIR: Dear Marco Rubio: Even your most ardent supporters must now know you would be smart to start crafting your concession speech Emptystadiumabout "suspending" your campaign for president. It isn't working -- and to a degree it becomes embarrassing to keep denying the obvious. Bad enough your only two primary-season victories thus far have been minor ones (Minnesota caucuses, Puerto Rico), while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have pulled away. Worse for you is what's happening in Florida, your home state. Polls show Trump leading you by as much as a 2-1 margin. And any hope for a miracle surprise on March 15 gained no steam Wednesday night, when your rally in Hialeah drew only a couple of hundred supporters to a high-school football stadium you'd hoped to fill. Instead of filled bleachers, your crowd gathered in an end zone. The photo from that rally, pictured, is devastating. It looks like an FIU football crowd. (Ouch. Sorry, FIU. Couldn't resist). First Jeb Bush, now Rubio. Both might have been a star in what should be a winnable Republican nomination. Instead Florida is 0-for-2 on "favorite sons" running for prez in '16.

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