Saturday is here once again, which means it’s time for another edition of J-Hill’s Two Minute Drill. The clock is ticking and the gun is about to sound, so let’s take a look at what the world of sports has to offer for our amusement and bewilderment this week:No Method To March Madness – March Madness kicked off earlier this week, and although only two days worth of games are in the book at this point, it appears that a vast majority of completed brackets have already became buzzer beaters in the nearest trash cans. Of the thirty-two games played on Thursday and Friday, eight have had the team with the higher seed come out on top, including two monumental upsets in #15 seed Norfolk State defeating #2 seed Missouri and #15 Lehigh defeating #2 Duke. Add in the fact that on Thursday #1 seed Syracuse (minus star center Fab Melo) nearly lost to #16 UNC-Asheville, and you have a tournament in which it seems that literally anything goes. The question that I have is what about this year in particular has led to more upsets, because there has to be something significant for two #15 seeds to win on the same day when it had been eleven years since the last one had accomplished the feat (Hampton defeated Iowa State 58-57 in 2001). I honestly have no clear answer to this other than the thought that these young coaches spread out across the country at smaller schools have what it takes to win with the right personnel, and their recruiting techniques have provided their teams with players that when in synch with each other can shock the world.
Free Agent Frenzy – The annual bidding wars known as NFL free agency started on Tuesday, and with only four days work of drama many think they know which teams will be in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy next year and which teams will have fans wearing bags over their heads in no time. The main story this week has been Peyton Manning, who has traveled back and forth across the country touring different NFL complexes in order to figure out where he will play football in 2012. Last week I predicted that Manning would sign with the Texans, but it has been made clear this week that Houston had a problem when it came to bringing in the former Colts quarterback, instead opting to stand behind Matt Schaub. With Houston as well as Kansas City, Arizona, and Seattle now out of the picture, it appears that there are only three viable spots left for Manning to land: Denver, Miami, and Tennessee. Each provide different advantages for Peyton, but in the end I predict that the future Hall of Fame quarterback signs with the Broncos, leading to a big uproar from the fans due to the realization that Tim Tebow will more than likely be dealt out of Denver (I hear Jacksonville’s nice pretty much all year round). Another transaction that has been turning heads is former #1 overall pick Mario Williams’ decision to leave the Texans to sign a 6-year, $100 million with the Buffalo Bills. Although Buffalo isn’t the most luxurious or exciting NFL city, the amount of money the team was willing to offer just couldn’t be turned down by Williams in this situation, and the pairing of this former N.C. State DE with former Alabama DE Marcel Dareus poses an legitimate threat against all of the great passing games that the AFC East has to offer, by which I mean soley the New England Patriots. The signing of Williams to Buffalo made an impact on the Falcons’ strategy for free agency, as the team decided to re-sign John Abraham to a 3-year, $21 million deal. Although I am not ecstatic about giving a 34-year-old defensive end that kind of a deal, Atlanta’s hand was forced by the lack of star power at the defensive end position left in free agency, so giving a guy like Abraham a deal isn’t a bad decision. With Abraham returning to the fold in 2012, I predict that we will see him start on one end of the defensive line for the Falcons while Ray Edwards looks to prove all the doubters wrong by starting on the other.
Regretting Brandon Marshall – The Chicago Bears pulled off an impressive trade on Tuesday afternoon, sending two third-round picks in the NFL Draft (one in this year’s and one in next year’s) to the Miami Dolphins for star wide receiver Brandon Marshall. This trade for Marshall seemed like an absolute steal for the Bears at first, as the trade reunited Marshall with former Bronco teammate Jay Cutler and gave Chicago their first legitimate threat in the passing game since the team acquired Cutler back in 2009 while only giving up two picks that will more likely than not be used on players that most NFL fans have never heard of. However, as the time passed, the reason for Miami’s willingness to trade Marshall became clear, as a report quickly surfaced that the wide receiver had been in a fight in a club last Sunday and allegedly punched a woman in the face. While everyone is innocent until proven guilty, this incident just adds to the long list of off-the-field issues that Marshall has had in his seven years in the NFL, and although bringing in a player that your quarterback has had a significant amount of success with before at such a low asking price is a must, this is yet another case of “caveat emptor”, otherwise known as “let the buyer beware”: Brandon Marshall is an amazing athlete at wide receiver, but his personal issues could ultimately derail the Windy City’s hopes of him revitalizing a dead passing game.
D’Antoni Leaves Knicking and Screaming – Sorry, Knicks fans, but you really thought Jeremy Lin would be all it took to make your team contenders again? After starting the season 18-24 including a 2-8 stretch in the last couple of weeks, head coach Mike D’Antoni resigned. D’Antoni, who left the Knicks with a 121-167 mark in four seasons as head coach, had never really gotten the momentum necessary to win with the Knicks, as he dealt with issues ranging from lack of talent early in his tenure to complaints about his system to borderline selfishness from star Carmelo Anthony. Now serving as interim head coach for New York is Mike Woodson, the former Hawks head coach who left Atlanta back in 2010 with a 206-286 mark after six years with the team. Personally, I always liked Woodson when he was in Atlanta, and although I don’t think he will hold the position of Knicks head coach for the long run, I believe the Knicks will see more life than they have offered in the last two weeks of play under D’Antoni. The question on everyone’s mind now is who will be the successor to D’Antoni, and while the majority say it will be former Knick Phil Jackson, I just don’t see the Zen Master returning to coach any team other than the Lakers. My guess is that when it is all said and done New York just hires another former head coach to try and build on the foundation that Mike D’Antoni tinkered with but in the end could never effectively utilize, which led to his departure.
Howard Stays Put – After several weeks of public cries of “should I stay or should I go?”, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard decided on Thursday’s trade deadline that he would stay in Orlando next season instead of testing the free agent market. This move is huge for the Magic as it allows them to keep their franchise player for at least another season, but it offers them a huge challenge: to provide Howard with teammates that can help Orlando win a championship. The team’s executives have tried over the years to bring in the right pieces in order to make the Magic elite in the East, but time after time their best laid plans have fallen apart. This offseason will have to be time to call in all favors and do whatever it takes to bring in some big guys to piece around Howard, specifically Phoenix Sun point guard Steve Nash. I’m not sure what it is about Nash, but there is something about the two-time NBA MVP that makes me think that uniting with Howard in Orlando could mean an end to both of these star player’s championship droughts.
Sports Quote of the Week
“It’s never an upset if the so-called underdog has all along considered itself the better team.”
-Woody Hayes, former Ohio State head football coach