Friday, March 13, 2009

Live from Tampa

Leading Off (The Cuff):

There’s no overstating the importance of tonight’s Florida-Auburn game in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Princes won’t be assassinated nor will wars start based on tonight’s outcome, but this is easily the biggest game of the season for both teams.

Florida and Auburn both enter Thursday night’s final game at the St. Pete Times Forum as bubble teams needing strong tournament runs for a chance at an at-large NCAA Tournament berth.

According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Florida is currently considered the last at-large team in the tournament. A loss tonight would surely eliminate the Gators.

Auburn likely needs nothing short of a run to the SEC Tournament final. The Tigers are the 11th team on Lunardi’s list, but could climb with a strong showing.

Is it right for Auburn? Yes. The Tigers have won eight of their last nine, but that doesn’t erase bad losses to Mercer, Northern Iowa and Dayton earlier in the season, nor does it offset the fact that Auburn has just two wins against the RPI top 50.

Bottom line: Follow the Al Davis mantra and ‘Just win, baby.’


Today’s Starting Lineup:

There is some reason for optimism today for Auburn. South Carolina’s loss likely takes the Gamecocks out of at-large consideration. Virginia Tech lost, Miami lost Thursday and UNLV was all but knocked out yesterday as well.

However, the last few hours have not been good to the Tigers.

Maryland all but punched its ticket with an upset over Wake Forest – the ACC’s No. 2 seed. Temple also likely will go dancing after upsetting Xavier in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Auburn can hop another of the 11 teams in its way if the Tigers top Florida, which is currently the last team in.

Six of the teams ahead of Auburn have already been knocked out of their conference tournaments, meaning Auburn has upward mobility whereas those teams are at the mercy of others.


Around the League:

Brett Dawson: Kentucky is not looking forward to its NIT invitation that will mark the end the Wildcats’ 17-year NCAA Tournament streak. LSU ended Kentucky’s tournament hopes earlier today.

The State: South Carolina will also likely be forced to settle for the NIT after Mississippi State pulled the mild upset.


Fantasyland:

My fantasy baseball team might get a shot in the arm if Chris Carpenter can stay healthy. He made another step forward yesterday. Currently, he’s my No. 6 starting pitcher, meaning he’s not in the lineup. If he can be halfway decent, I will be happy.


Today’s rant:

Would you GET that OFF of me!?

I’m in Tampa and was able to take in a spring training game today (Mets-Tigers). Don’t have too much to complain about today.


TV Update:

As much flak as ESPN catches, it usually does an amazing job covering March Madness. This year has been no different. The constant updates on every channel as to who’s in and who’s out does an excellent job keeping the viewers informed. The highlight coverage has been focused more on the games and less on the experts, which is good for everybody.

On Fridays, this will normally be a spot for me to talk about The Office and 30 Rock, but since I’m out of town, I didn’t see either show last night. (Don’t ruin anything for me).

Also, I watched the part of the Syracuse-UConn game in a place where I couldn't hear the sound, but how great was that? That is exactly what makes sports worth watching -- the intensity, the drama. The only thing missing was the element of loser-go-home. Imagine if there had been some kind of meaningful ramification on the line.


The Good:

Jon Stewart ripping Jim Cramer on The Daily Show: The New York Times' Brian Stelter.


The Bad:

Cramer's performance against Stewart: CNN.

The Absurd:

CNN: Man steals plane, crashes it into mall.


Ending on a High Note:


Few people in the coaching profession get to end their careers on their own terms. We will likely see that played out over the next few years with both Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden.
That's why it was so refreshing to see Oregon coach Mike Bellotti take a step into retirement Friday when he announced he would stop coaching and step into an athletics director capacity on July 1.
Chip Kelly, who formerly coached at New Hampshire before going to Oregon as the team's offensive coordinator, will take over as head coach. Kelly will become the first head-coach-in-waiting to officially take over since the trend to name a predecessor became all the rage in college football.

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