March 18, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 this week and what else falls where; plus our Dolphins/Kaepernick column, grading-Tannehill-era poll (last day to vote!), 'Greg Cote Day' & more

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

Stpday1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 18. Hope y'all had a Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) Saw Elton John on Saturday in Sunrise on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour -- likely the last  time I'll see him perform live. If so,  thanks, Elton, for being the enduring soundtrack of my life. 3) Football is never done, and so it's always the perfect time to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Check it out on Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Losses piling up in Dolphins free agency, Nova Southeastern hoops, national bobblehead shrine, farewell Wake/Gore, new Back In My Day & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Miami trades QB Tannehill, signs Fitzpatrick: An era ended and the Fins' rebuild kicked into higher gear with the trade of quarterback Ryan Tannehill to Tennesee for (essentially) a fourth-round draft pick. Now, after Miami failed in free agency to lure either of two short-term replacements, Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater, the Fins on Sunday signed veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. In a swap of Ryans, Miami just lost a younger, better one than it got.

2. HEAT: It's stretch run for Wade's 'Last Dance': Miami, No. 8 East seed as of now at 33-36, learned Friday what it might face in a first-round playoff matchup vs. No. 1 Milwaukee. Heat led at home by 20 at halftime yet lost 113-98, buried by the Greek Freak. Miami, with only four home regular-season games left in Dwyane Wade's 'Last Dance' farewell season, sets out on a four-game road trip starting tonight at OKC. 

3. MARCH MADNESS: Selection Sunday (and Monday) for NCAA college hoops: It was Selection Sunday for the NCAA men's basketball tournament -- a.k.a March Madness -- with Duke, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Virginia earning No. 1 regional seeds. The women's field is to be announced Monday. Jim Larranaga's Miami men, after a 14-18 season including 1-1 in the ACCs, had no shot at NCAAs and will be hoping for NIT table scraps. But Katie Meier's UM women -- 24-8 and ranked No. 19 -- should feel some NCAA love Monday.

4. HURRICANES: UM football spring practice on deck: The first on-field work of the new Manny Diaz era begins Tuesday with the first of 15 spring practices. Scrimmages are scheduled April 6 and 20, the latter wrapping up spring work. Overshadowing it all: Whether the NCAA decides to grant QB Tate Martell's transfer waiver to make the former Ohio State Buckeye eligible in 2019.

5. INTER MIAMI: Beckham group pitches first two seasons in Broward: Miami's new David Beckham/Jorge Mas Major League Soccer franchise has proposed playing its first two seasons in a new stadium at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium site, beginning next year, before moving into its permanent home at Miami's Melreese site. Fort Lauderdale city council will vote Tuesday.

6. PANTHERS: Cats were hot, but is  it too late?: The wildly up and down Panthers are 32-40 after losing Sunday to end a four-game win streak, and are eight points off playoff pace with 10 games left in the NHL regular season. It will take a small miracle from here for Cats to sneak into postseason.

7. MARLINS: The rebuilding Fish are en fuego!: Miami, expected to be really bad this season, is the hottest team in MLB right now at 13-10 after nine wins in a row entering the final week of spring training. Quick suggestion: Save some of these wins for April.

8. NOVA SOUTHEASTERN: Sharks reach Division II regional final: Coach Jim Crutchfield's Nova Southeastern men's basketball team won again Sunday in the NCAA Division II Southern Regional the Sharks are hosting, and now face Lynn from Boca Raton for the region title on Tuesday. NSU is now four wins from a national title.

9. CANES BASEBALL: Canes drop two of three at UNC: Unranked UM is now 15-5 after dropping two of three at No. 8 North Carolina. Looks like Gino DiMare's guys will have to wait some more (and win some more) to crash polls.

10. NFL: Browns, Jets land big stars: Odell Beckham Jr. is now a Cleveland Brown and Le'Veon Bell is now a New York Jet -- arguably the NFL's premier receiver and running back going to once-downtrodden teams. So the Bible was right. The meek truly shall inherit the Earth.

Missing the HB10 cut: Happy St. Patrick's Day, lads and lasses! Big day for drinking. Sort of like most other days at my house ..... Alaska native Peter Kaiser won the grueling 1,000-mile Iditarod sled dog race, by which I mean his eight dogs won ..... Southern Cal, UCLA and other schools are implicated in a sprawling college admissions scandal. Prosecutors say 33 parents, including two prominent actresses, and several college coaches face charges in a scheme in which rich folks bribed the admissions system on behalf of their kids. Those actresses' latest role: Acting innocent ..... Recent CFL flameout Johnny Manziel has signed with the Memphis Express of  the Alliance of American Football. Over/under on his being suspended or cut: Three weeks? ..... Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona and Liverpool are betting favorites in the eight-team, two-leg quarterfinal round of the Champions League beginning April 9. Looking for a Cinderella to root for? Saddle up FC Porto, the Portuguese side facing Liverpool ..... Update: Countdown now 2,652 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

ColinkRIGHT TIME. RIGHT TEAM. WHY DOLPHINS SHOULD SIGN COLIN KAEPERNICK: The Dolphins traded QB Ryan Tannehill to Tennessee today, basically for a fourth-round pick. Decent (not great) return. Earlier this week they failed to sign Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater in NFL free agency this week. But at least one better option still is out there. We're so used to the image of Kaepernick being anthem-kneeling that we almost forget he's a quarterback -- not retired, but wanting work. He's an activist, but still an athlete, too. (As a reminder, I chose a photograph that pictures him passing, not kneeling). He's eager for a comeback. And the Dolphins are eager to sign a "bridge" QB who'll be a stopgap guy between the long-anticipated moving on from Ryan Tannehill and the drafting (and readiness) of the future of the franchise. Enter Kaepernick, 31. I discuss why that's a good idea, as well as the negatives, in my latest column. To read , please visit The Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin.

Other most recent columns: 'Coach Crutch' Has Nova Southeastern Soaring / Dolphins Not Better Now Than When Last Season Ended / Trip to Miami Inspired a National Bobblehead Shrine / Jeter Gets Reminder Why Marlins Boss Is His Toughest Position Yet / The Intrigue Left: Will LeBron Go Out On Top? / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour.

RyantPOLL: GRADING THE TANNEHILL ERA. VOTE NOW!: Ryan Tannehill became an ex-Dolphin late this afternoon, and now we invite you to grade his seven years with Miami. Base your grade on your expectations via his draft status vs. what he accomplished. Notice the poll runs from a high of B-plus to a low of D-minus. Not even Mrs. Tannehill would call Ryan's an "A" time here; oppositely, though, it would be unfairly harsh to drop an "F" bomb on poor Ryan. Fairest to say the Tannehill era here was shades of gray, neither a wild success, nor a bust-failure. Let your grade reflect your thoughts on that. Vote now!

GcdIT'S 'GREG COTE DAY'! NO, SERIOUSLY...: Some sentences are so patently ridiculous they hardly need elaboration. Here's one: "The Fort Myers Miracle minor-league baseball team has scheduled a 'Greg Cote Day' at the ballpark on Saturday, July 27." They're a Minnesota Twins affiliate in the Class A Florida State League. Apparently some of their front-office folks are fans of mine on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz, which I co-host Tuesdays on ESPN Radio and occasionally other days, too. If it is possible to be half-honored, half-embarrassed about something, I'd say this may be it. I know some of the rest of the show will be joining us that evening. You can, too. Could be a hoot. Go to FortMyersMiracle for ticket info.

Select other recent columns: A Case For Tannehill, Gore And Wake All Returning / Riley Scoffs At Retirement Because His Work Isn't Done / Wade's 'Last Dance' A Masterwork In How To Say Goodbye / Six Reasons To Be Hopeful About Marlins' Rebuild / Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is Signed / He Was Wrong To Stiff Caddie, But Vilifying Kuchar is Wrong, Too / Why Murray Is Perfect Fit For Dolphins / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

APSE-HONORED WORKThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked us a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the five nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 25, 2019

Why Heat's Pat Riley is defiantly scoffing at retirement. On the premiere of new ESPN/Le Batard TV series with Riles in debut episode; plus Radio Monday (!), latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25. Football is done, but never too late to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Check it out on Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Wade's farewell a masterwork in how to retire right, 6 reason for Marlins optimism, Miami's rank among best sports cities, new Back In My Day video, Brandi Carlile's 'The Joke' & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

It's Radio Monday (!): I'm co-hosting on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz today/Monday instead of my regular Tuesday gig because of a Herald work-related conflict. It airs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. nationally on ESPN Radio and ESPNews, after a local-only hour 8:55 to 10 on Miami's 790 The Ticket. Join us!  

PrileyOn Le Batard TV premiere with Riley: ESPN's Dan Le Batard has a new ESPN TV series called Art Of Conversation that premiering last evening with Heat president Pat Riley. I thought it was really good. In case you missed it, or even you didn't, here is our review. Please visit Riley Scoffs At Retirement Because His Work Isn't Done.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami stumbling out of All-Star break: Post All-Star break, first the Heat lose to a 76ers team minus Joel Embiid, then get clobbered 119-96 by a Pistons they're chasing for the final East playoff spot. Slumping Miami now is 26-32 and 10th in the jockeying for eight playoff tickets. Why? Largely because the 11-17 home record is the worst by far of any playoff contender. After hosting Phoenix on Monday, Miami plays Golden State here Wednesday. Oy.

2. MARLINS: Spring games underway for retooling Fish: Miami opened its 30-game spring schedule on Saturday vs. the Cardinals in Jupiter. They got clobbered, giving up 20 hits in an 11-1 loss, and are now 0-2 in fake games. (Keep repeating: "Spring results don't matter..."). Highlight of spring opener: Starter Sandy Alcantara looked pretty good in two innings' work. Lowlight: Everything else. 

3. MLB: Padres hit Machado jackpot: San Diego won the bidding for prized Hialeah-born free-agent slugger Manny Machado with a 10-year, $300 million bid. Padres have never won a championship in their 50 seasons and last made the playoffs 13 years ago. No pressure or anything, Manny! 

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women end jinx, beat FSU: The 23-6 UM women rose to No. 14 in polls before an upset loss at Virginia Tech, but bounced back at home to beat nemesis Florida State 64-54 Sunday -- ending  a nine-game regular season losing streak in the series. As regular seasons wanes, Katie Meier's troops are playing for NCAA Tournament seeding. Meanwhile Jim Larranaga's 11-14 Miami men's team likely needs a big finish and a prayer just to sneak into the NIT.

5. ZION WILLIAMSON: Unraveling Nike sneaker fells game's top player: panthers ] College Player of the Year-designate Zion Williamson of No. 1 Duke crumples and injures a knee when his Nike sneaker falls apart during a game like a frayed retread on the Interstate. Barack Obama, at the game, was seen on TV saying, "His shoe broke!" Accurate. Meanwhile Nike stock takes a billion-dollar hit before rallying.

6. GOLF: Tiger says he won't play the Honda: Tiger Woods said he'll skip this week's Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, South Florida's only PGA Tour event since the tour left Doral. Modest field features only three of top 20-ranked players in No. 2 Brooks Koepka, No. 4 Justin Thomas and No. 9 Rickie Fowler. With fan favorites like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth also all skipping Honda, event could have really used Tiger.   

7. ROBERT KRAFT: Patriots owner nabbed in prostitution sting: You just can't make this stuff up, folks. If you did, nobody would believe you. So the 77-year-old owner of the New England Patriots is caught in a police sting for eliciting sex at a Jupiter massage parlor. Pats won the Super Bowl but evidently (you see this coming, right?) Kraft had another happy ending in mind. 

8. PANTHERS: Cats clobber Kings, but time running out: As Monday's NHL trade deadline looms, Florida routed the visiting L.A. King 6-1 Saturday night but still are only 27-33 and a big 10 points back in the playoff chase. Cats finished a seven-game homestand 4-3 and now hit the road starting Monday in Colorado.

9. CANES BASEBALL: UM loses series at rival Florida: The Gino DiMare era busted out to a 5-0 start before the unranked Canes lost the final two games of a three-game weekend set vs. No. 3-ranked Gators in Gainesville. 

10. DOLPHINS: Fins bolster front office with McKenzie: Dolphins hired Reggie McKenzie as "senior personnel 0executive," which basically sounds like he'll be a right-hand man for general manager Chris Grier. McKenzie spent past seven years as GM for the Oakland Raiders, but we won't hold that against him.

Missing the HB10 cut: Dan Le Batard's new ESPN series, Art Of Conversation, premieres Sunday at 5:30 with a profile of Heat prez Pat Riley. Shameless Plug Alert: I have details about the show and its first episode here ..... Ichiro singled in his first spring at-bat for Seattle. Also notable: He's bleepin' 45! ..... Famed Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim said he would coach Saturday night's game just two days after an accident in which his car struck and killed a man. Boeheim has fully cooperated and may not be charged with anything. Still, maybe take the next game off while the other family plans the funeral? Just a thought ..... The new Alliance of American Football, entering its third week, already has needed a bailout to meet payroll. Buzzards are circling ..... Former straight-laced NBA coach Don Nelson, in retirement, has grown a hippie beard and become a devotee of marijuana. Somewhere, Bill Walton is smiling ..... ..... A Kenosha, Wisconsin high school gave cheerleader awards called Big Booty and Big Boobie until the school board stepped in. Give the Big Idiot award to the coach who let it happen ..... Breakdancing has been proposed for the 2024 Olympics. Oh Lord how I wish I were kidding ..... Update: Countdown now 2,674 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

ZionwA BUSTED SHOE, A HURT KNEE AND WHAT'S NEXT FOR ZION WILLIAMSON: The most-talked about and coveted young basketball phenom since LeBron James suddenly falls with an injured knee on Duke’s court because his Nike sneaker fell apart. It’s national TV. The camera shows former President Barack Obama, seated courtside, saying, "His shoe broke!" That’s notable enough. But what happens next might be bigger: Will Zion Williamson play another game for Duke? Should he? Why should he? That's the gist of my column. To read it, please visit: Zion Should Say See-Ya Duke and Shut It Down.

Other most recent columns: Wade's 'Last Dance' A Masterwork In How To Say Goodbye  /  Six Reasons To Be Hopeful About Marlins' Rebuild  /  Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is Signed /  He Was Wrong To Stiff Caddie, But Vilifying Kuchar is Wrong, Too /  Why Murray Is Perfect Fit For Dolphins.

Select recent other columns: Taking On NFL Cost Costas His Job, But Not His Integrity / The State Of South Florida Sports in 2019 / The Redemption Of Manny Diaz / Here's Why Dolphins Hit Big With Flores Gamble / Bonds and Clemens Inch Toward Cooperstown, But A-Rod Faces Tougher Road / Kooch Never Made Canton But Helped Make Dolphins History / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM / Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

APSE-HONORED WORKThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked us a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the five nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 05, 2019

NFL Wild-Card Weekend playoff picks: Winners here!; plus What was the biggest national sports story of 2018? Annual poll. Here's The AP Top 10. You pick your top 3. Vote now!; also, our recent Dolphins/Hurricanes upheaval columns & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JANUARY 5. I'm still saying "Happy New Year" and I don't care who objects with their silly rules. 2) Football is at its crescendo and the holidays are upon us. That means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with the (late) gift of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The 3 days that shook Miami  football, final Herald NFL QB rankings, Pix 'n Fantasy results & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

DwadeSend D.Wade out as an all-star: The fan vote is saying the Heat's Dwyane Wade, in his final season, should go out as an NBA all-star starter. The players and media votes should do the same. To read our latest column, visit Wade Deserves All-Star Sendoff.

Other most recent columns: The Dolphins Seem Desperate, And It's About Time (on firing Gase, demoting Tannenbaum). Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM (on hiring new football coach). Richt Can Call It Retirement, But He Just Quit On The Canes (on shocking resignation of Mark Richt). 'Bama Shows Miami The Way Back To That Good (on Tide's Orange Bowl/CFP semifinal win). And Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

NFL PLAYOFF PICKS / WILD-CARD WEEKEND: AND THE 4 SURVIVING WINNERS ARE..: The Magical Season of Cote marauds into the postseason under  shower of confetti after a personal- Picksrecord-setting regular season. We’ve been doing NFL picks in the Miami Herald since Don Shula and Dan Marino were still rocking Miami. The Patriots quarterback was somebody named “Hugh Millen.” Bill Belichick was a rookie head coach with the Browns. It was 1991 — making this our 28th season of picks. And our best. Ever. Our .705 season winning percentage overall tied our personal best. And our .582 mark against the spread stands alone on the mountaintop at No. 1, beating the previous record of .574. Not a great finishing kick last week but we still managed to hit on four dogs with points in the Lions, Cowboys, Bears and Bengals. Now we wipe the slate. Playoffs, baby! Chaff has separated from wheat. Wanna-be's like the Dolphins watch on TV while the dozen qualifiers enter the Super Bowl Tournament. This opening weekend eight teams are in play while the four bye kings rest and wait. Our four Wild-Card Weekend picks include one by-the-numbers upset and at least one other that feels like one based on betting trends. Visit NFL Wild-Card Weekend Gems for all of our latest selections.

YOU PICK THE 2018 NATIONAL SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR: Welcome to our annual year-in-review vote on the biggest national sports story in America. The top 10 stories in this poll are 2018not mine; they are from The Associated Press official annual ranking for the calendar year. I list them alphabetically by subject here, not in the 1-through-10 order of The AP's selection, so as not to prejudice the jury. I want this to be your independent vote and not influenced by The AP's rank. I am purposely not including a synopsis of each story, because if the ballot phrase alone is not sufficient, the story mustn't have been that big or important to you. VOTE FOR YOUR TOP THREE (3). And remember, this is a national list, so please consider your vote in that broad context. On Sunday, following our national vote, we'll offer a separate poll to choose 2018's biggest Greater Miami/South Florida sports story. For now, let's go nationwide. One year ago, you voted "NFL player protests over social justice draws critics led by President Trump" as the No. 1 national story, followed closely by "Astros win 1st World Series to lift city devastated by Hurricane Harvey." What reigned for 2018? You decide, right now. My personal top 10 probably would have found room for LeBron James joining the Lakers, the corruption scandal in college basketball and Serena Williams' successful return from maternity leave, but, again, this is The AP's list. We'll keep the poll open three-plus days and announce results on Sunday as we present the South Florida poll. Vote now! 

Vote for the top three (3) biggest national sports stories of 2018:

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 06, 2018

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 29.6%; plus Fins beat Jets 13-6 behind big defense, with my new column from game; also, latest Hot Button Top 10, NFL Week 9 picks, your most-disappointing-team verdict (landslide!) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5. Latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter results are in. Find 'em in the previous blogpost. They ain't pretty. 2) Football season means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes lose to Duke with CSM poll, Biggest Disappointment Poll, NFL Week 9 picks, other state Collball & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

My Dolphins-Jets game column: From the stadium and the lockerroom Sunday, visit Dolphins Win, But Under Cloud, Not Rainbow.

Select other recent columns: Time For Faith In Richt, And Patience. And Moving Beyond Tannehill Smart But Not Easy For Dolphins. Also: Dolfans, Your Team Is Not Easy To Love (fans vent). Snakebit Adam (luckless Adam Gase). Family Tradition (N'Kosi Perry's $$$ video). And Victory-y, Miami! (Marlins sign Victor Victor Mesa).

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G9: 29.6%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 29.6 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday afternoon's 13-6 home victory over the New York Jets putting Miami's season record at 5-4. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how Dolfans are feeling about the team and its direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 7 a.m. today/Tuesday. (The DSM also takes place on our Twitter site @gregcote. The approval rate there was 32%).

2018 DSM game-by-game results

G1: 86.8% following 27-20 victory vs. Tennessee.

G2: 93.4% following 20-12 victory at N.Y. Jets.

G3: 96.2% following 28-20 victory vs. Oakland.

G4: 17.2% following 38-7 loss at New England.

G5: 6.4% following 27-17 loss at Cincinnati.

G6: 75.0% following 31-28 OT victory vs. Chicago.

G7: 8.9% following 32-21 loss vs. Detroit.

G8: 5.8% following 42-23 loss at Houston.

G9: 29.6% following 13-6 victory vs. N.Y. Jets.

Next poll: Nov. 11 following game at Green Bay.

G9: DOLPHINS 13, N.Y. JETS 6: BIG DEFENSE OVERCOMES LITTLE OFFENSE FOR MIAMI: Postgame thoughts? How about an entire game column! Visit Dolphins Win, But Under Cloud, Not Rainbow ..... Halftime thoughts: The Jets offense has been just the cure for Miami's defensive woes that we imagined. Miami has allowed only 117 total yards in the first half, while its own offense has generated only 134. In sum, 3 field goals, 8 punts, 1 lousy game thus far ..... Original post: The Jets won their season opener — big — and Sam Darnold was the mayor of Gotham. The NyjmiaDolphins started out 3-0 and Ryan Tannehill was back and better than ever. What the hell happened!? Rhetorical question. The NFL happened. Darnold’s rookie learning curve kicked in; he doesn’t get much help and the Planes (led by Dead Man Coaching Todd Bowles) have averaged a meager 13.6 points in their five losses at 3-5. And Miami continues to wait for Tannehill’s return from a shoulder injury like Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot. Godot never showed. Tannehill might, someday, meanwhile we get a fourth straight game of Brock Osweiler. Brockvember? (Who else works a 1950s Samuel Beckett play into an NFL pick, by the way? You’re welcome!). The fact the home team here has a better record at 4-4 yet is only favored by a bare-bones 3 points verifies how little bettors believe in Miami. I get that. At the same time, what better salve for the Fins’ colossal downturn in defensive success than a sincerely bad NYJ offense? Miami beat the Stinkin’ Jets 20-12 in Week 2 and I’d imagine a similar score, and result. Jets dissolve into a puddle on the road and Miami has won five of its past seven division home games. So let’s make it a venue call fortified by the belief Miami’s defense cannot possibly be worse than we’ve seen lately. Dolfans, prepare to step inside off of that high ledge because the Jets are about to “L-O-S-E, lose!” My pick: Dolphins, 23-16.

Visit Week 9 Gems for all of our latest NFL picks. 

POLL RESULT: CANES FOOTBALL IS BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: We asked (and this was mostly before Saturday's UM loss to Duke) what major South Florida sports team is the most disappointing to you right now? Your verdict: 47.30 percent--

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: UM falls at home to Duke for 3rd straight loss: Once 5-1 and ranked, UM is now 5-4 following Saturday's rain-drenched 20-12 loss at home to Duke. Canes were 9 1/2-point favorites but were doomed by two key lost fumbles. Or three, if you count Mark Richt's fumbling of his quarterback situation.

2. DOLPHINS: Big defense helps Stumblin' Fins get past Stinkin' Jets: Miami is 5-4 after Sunday's 13-6 home win over the Stinkin' Jets. Based on low preseason expectations this is not bad. Based on a 3-0 start, sputtering offense and Brock Osweiler ... not so good.

3. UM HOOPS: Hurricanes men open play this Friday: Jim Larranaga's unranked (but receiving votes) UM men open their season this Friday vs. Lehigh. Canes have no freshmen on roster, the fallout of recruiting damage from last year's implication in that FBI probe into corruption in the sport -- one that has found Larranaga and the program not found guilty of anything yet sullied. Katie Meier's UM women, ranked No. 25, open on Tuesday at FIU.

4. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Kentucky-Duke tops marquee as season opens: No. 2-ranked Kentucky faces No. 4 Duke and 1-Kansas plays 10-Michigan State as the men's college basketball season rolls out with a bang this Tuesday. Now if we can keep attention on the court this year and away from the shady dealings of Adidas executives and teams on the take, we'll be OK.

5. HEAT: Slumping Miami drops third straight: The Heat is 3-5 after a third straight loss last night in Atlanta despite Josh Richardson's 32 points. Miami is at Detroit Monday night then home for four. And if you haven't circled it in red on the calendar yet: Heat host LeBron's Lakers Nov. 18.

6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Shakeup ahead in CFP top four: Alabama and Clemson solidified their 1-2 spots in the College Football Playoff ranking with huge wins Saturday -- 'Bama's at the expense of No. 3 LSU. Watch Notre Dame and Michigan hike up to 3-4 in the new rankings, with the Tigers now on the outside. 

7. MLB: Hey big spenders, free agency now underway: It officially began on Saturday, with the Nationals' Bryce Harper and Dodgers' Manny Machado seen as the big two big prizes. Free agency involves big spending by teams willing to put their wallets where there hopes are. Meaning we'll likely hear crickets from the Marlins.

8. PANTHERS: Luongo back as Cats split games in Finland: Panthers are now 3-8 on the season after splitting two games with Winnipeg in NHL Global Series in Helsinki, Finland. Games resume Thursday vs. Edmonton here with goalie Roberto Luongo finally back healthy again.

9. SHULA BOWL: FAU stuns FIU in rivalry renewal: FIU was home, favored and having a better season. FAU was the visitor, the underdog and having a relatively lousy season. There was every reason to imagine Butch Davis smiling at the end, not Lane Kiffin. Final: FAU, 49-14. 

10. ELECTION DAY: Mid-term election are Tuesday. Vote!: Do your civic duty as an American citizen. Go out and vote for the candidate of my choice!

Missing the HB10 cut: Sure the Canes lost again, but Florida and FSU also lost Saturday. What's that they say about misery? ..... The World Series trophy was damaged by a thrown full can of beer during the Red Sox championship parade. That's terrible. Talk about a waste of beer! ..... Golfers beginning in 2019 may opt to putt with the flagstick in, and at least one, Bryson DeChambeau, says he will. I'd be more impressed if he planned to putt with the flagstick itself ..... American star Simone Biles dominated at the world gymnastics championships in Qatar despite suffering from kidney stones. Which sounds impossible, by the way ..... With only 14 days until NASCAR finale at Homestead, Joey Logano is only driver who's locked into Championship Four ..... ESPN analyst Tim Tebow criticized Maryland for firing scandalized football coach D.J. Durkin. "Not even I can agree with Timmy on that one," said God ..... Breeders' Cup ran Saturday at Churchill Downs. It's the one horse race that folks who only care about the Triple Crown races might actually watch ..... Major League Soccer playoffs are down to the final eight. Is Inter Miami sending a scout, David Beckham? ..... After months of blessed quiet, public buffoon LaVar Ball reemerged to say he could coach the Lakers with his "eyes shut." I'd prefer he try anything with his mouth shut ..... Update: Countdown now 2,787 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Other select recent columns: Wade Reminds Us Why We'll Miss HimNo More Excuses, Florida PanthersTannehill: Requiem For A QuarterbackWhatever Happened to Kenyan Drake? NFL 2018 Team RankingsDolphins? Heat? Nope. UM Football Owns This TownNFL Enters Year 3 Of Anthem-Protest QuagmireTo The Good-Guy Grinder In The ShadesTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were Ours.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 04, 2018

On Dave Shula's long journey back to coaching after 21 years; plus new feature comparing ongoing seasons of Stanton/Yelich/Ozuna with Marlins' Lewis Brinson (new leader); also, latest Back In My Day video, my final NCAA bracket & more

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

Mexico1) It's WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4. At right, sign on a Mexican restaurant that just opened in Norway. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NCAA bracket update, your Marlins-outlook verdict, "Dear Greg" & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

DaveshulaNewest column: Dave Shula ends long estrangement from coaching: He'd been out of coaching since the Cincinnati Bengals unceremoniously fired him midseason in 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son (pictured) is back. To read, click on Dave Shula Goes Home Again. Other most recent columns: On Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing and Marlins 2018: Accentuating The Positives (Sort Of) / On NCAA Final Four: Centenarian vs. Nonagenarian and Larranaga On Being Cinderella / And on Fins: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': VIDEO GAMES!: Here's the latest Back In My Day video, which aired for the first time on Tuesday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio and ESPNews. It is not my favorite, especially on the heels of an all-timer (Pocket Change!), the week before. Still hope you enjoy it:

4manof NEW REGULAR FEATURE! 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': Throughout the MLB season starting here -- just for fun -- I'll be comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair, you say, to compare a superstar and two established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. And who said life was fair again!? Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll based on our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The latest:

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

Yelich1. Christian Yelich, Brewers       1.111   5   23    6  10    5    2-0-1      .435

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .979    5   19    4   4    4    2-0-2      .211

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .636    5   22    2   5    4    1-0-1      .227

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .499    6   31    3   7    1    0-0-0      .226

VitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: MY FINAL RESULT: We've been updating you on how our bracket was faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There were 131 entries, and I ended up in 10th place. Not bad!:

Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness crescendoed with the Final Four on Saturday: No. 3 Michigan rallying to beat No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and then No. 1 Villanova crushing No. 1 Kansas. I had no teams in the first game and both in the second, with Villanova winning it all. Was hoping a 'Nova win Monday night could get me in the pool's final top 10 or close to it, and it did just that. [See earlier blogposts for our results preceding the Elite Eight round]

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest that had placed me top-10 among national columnists for 2017 in the major-outlet category has revealed the order and I ended up No. 5. Congrats to the winner, Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star, and thanks to APSE. I'm pleased by the top-five. Here are our nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 28, 2018

Verdicts in on NCAA Final Four polls: Here's who you think WILL win, and who you WANT; plus latest 'Back In My Day' video (Pocket Change!), Dolphins No. 32, old grandma feuds old nun and Larranaga on Being Cinderella, Veterans For Gun Reform vid & more

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

1) It's WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28. Our NCAA bracket updates will resume here when March Madness does with the Final Four this coming Saturday. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NCAA bracket update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

SisterjeanNCAA Final Four: 100-year-old grandma feuds 98-year-old nun, and Jim Larranaga on Being Cinderella: The nun is of course Loyola's Sister Jean, pictured in bobblehead form. To read: Centenarian vs. Nonagenarian and Larranaga On Being Cinderella.

Dolphins sink to dead-last in rankings: Dolphins are 32nd and last in ESPN's latest NFL Power Rankings this week, and the reasons given are some of the stuff I discussed in my most recent column on the team. I wrote how the signing of Frank Gore struck the rightemotional chords, but also was in keeping with an otherwise curious offseason. To read: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason.

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

Finalfour

Villanova
WILL win
Loyola
WANT to win

VERDICT IN ON NCAA FINAL FOUR POLLS: VILLANOVA WILL WIN BUT YOU WANT LOYOLA: Your answers to these two questions might have been the same, but turned out to be very different, indeed. Which men's Final Four team do you believe will win the championship? And which team do you hope does win? We asked you to forget your bracket if you were able. On the will-win question, I was more interested in the one team you'd place your money on right now. In the want-to-win question, I was interested in what your heart was telling you. I ran these same polls on my Twitter feed and drew almost 7,000 combined votes. Your results: WILL win--Villanova 44 percent, Loyola 21%, Kansas 19% and Michigan 16%. WANT to win--Loyola 58%, Michigan 16%, Villanova 15% and Kansas 11%. Blog results below (you may continue to vote) are similar:

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': POCKET CHANGE!: This first aired live yesterday on the LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio. The idea was suggested by a listener, I liked it, and this turned out to be one of my favorite BIMDs. Hope you enjoy:

VETERANS FOR GUN REFORM: This is a powerful two minutes. It preaches a message I agree with. You are free to not agree. God Bless America!

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote