(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series looking at the Faces of March, players who you’ll become familiar with as college basketball’s most exciting month unfolds.)J.J. Mann is known on Belmont’s campus as J.J. Mann the Superfan because he’s always at games supporting other Bruins athletes. Now it’s time for the entire school to applaud the efforts that have made the 6-6, 215-pound senior from Smyrna, Ga., the Ohio Valley Conference’s Player of the Year, a first-team Academic All-American and the winningest player in Belmont history, a distinction he shares with fellow senior Blake Jenkins.That win total is at 106 heading into this week’s OVC Tournament, and Mann played a huge role in securing what is arguably the biggest win in school history in November, scoring 28 points in an 83-80 upset of No. 12 North Carolina.Mann scored 11 of the Bruins’ final 13 points, helping the team overcome an eight-point deficit with 2:37 remaining after it led by as many as 11 points earlier in the half. Nine of those 11 points came on 3-pointers in the final 1:02, including the go-ahead 3 with 14 seconds left. He entered the game shooting 1-for-16 from distance.“It really was probably the most fun game I played in,” Mann said. “The guys in the locker room were so excited the whole time after the game … such a great memory.”Not bad for a guy who was lightly recruited coming out of Virginia’s Hargrave Military Academy. That’s a story in itself, as Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander, a former Belmont player and Bruins assistant who recruited Alexander, can attest.Alexander became aware of Mann after a coaching friend from the Patriot League reached out regarding Mann, who was considering Bucknell, Lehigh and Colgate. “We love him but don’t need him,” Alexander recalls his friend saying, “and he’s probably going to Bucknell or somebody else in the Patriot League and I don’t want him to go there.”Mann became an immediate contributor for the Bruins as a freshman, when he averaged 15 minutes a game and 6.0 points off the bench. He’s never averaged more than 10.5 points per season until the 2013-14 campaign. He ranks fifth among OVC players with an 18.4 average.Mann has been part of the Bruins’ last four regular season championships (the first two coming in the Atlantic Sun), and he and his teammates are chasing a fourth straight conference title later this week in Nashville.“I don’t think a lot of guys can say that they won four regular season and four conference championships,” Mann said of that potential. “That would just be great to add to the resume and add to the Belmont program and it really would just be a testament to hard work and how great a coach Coach (Rick) Byrd is.” There is a hole in Mann’s resume; he’s 0-for-3 in NCAA Tournament games. The Bruins have lost to Wisconsin, Georgetown and Arizona in successive seasons. Already having led Belmont to a win over a name-brand program, can he pull off another on the sport’s biggest stage?If the Bruins get that far, Alexander knows how dangerous Mann can be, even if he doesn’t look the part. He’s coached against him four times, losing each one.“You look at him and say, hey, not very athletic, not a real imposing physical specimen,” Alexander said. “The numbers speak for themselves, but still you have to talk yourself into believing that he’s as good of a player as he is. But I knew better.”
The Oakland Raiders have some interest and some good money to go after wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports they are not as interested in giving up an upcoming mid-round draft pick to get him. #Raiders are intrigued by DeSean Jackson, but sources say they are not inclined to give up a ’14 pick. Interested in him, if he’s free.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 24, 2014The rumors are heating up about the Philadelphia Eagles moving Jackson, whom they owe $10.5 million in base salary for 2014. The New York Jets should still be considered the primary suitor, given they are still needy at wideout and just signed former Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Super Bowl-contending teams such as the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, are longer shots to acquire Jackson. According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, if Philadelphia can’t find a trade partner during or soon after the NFL owners meetings in Orlando this week, the team would be willing to release him. That would put more teams in play to handle a restructured contract for Jackson. The Raiders don’t want to part with draft picks, but shouldn’t mind reeling in Jackson to complement newcomer James Jones. With the Jets, Jackson would be a great target opposite Eric Decker.Could Jets be in hunt for DeSean Jackson? Source tells me: “Philly is trading him or cutting him.That’s a fact. They don’t want him” #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 22, 2014
Mike DeCourcy’s five takeaways from Saturday’s NCAA Tournament round of 32 action: Shabazz Napier came off the court first for his ovation, so he already was on the bench when Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie pulled guard Ryan Boatright for similar treatment to celebrate UConn’s win over Villanova and a trip to the 2014 NCAA Tournament East Region Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden. Boatright wasn’t interested in hugs or high-fives, though. He wanted to play-push and chest-bump as he made his way down the bench. You could see Napier’s reaction to Boatright’s celebration — he pulled back his leg to make sure it did not take any further abuse.Napier twice injured what UConn called a bruised shin and had to be removed from the game briefly as it entered the final four minutes. He buried his face in a towel to hide the agony and then, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, he returned to close out the Huskies’ win.“Napier was just awesome,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the game.He scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, including consecutive 3-pointers at 9:45 and 9:00 of the second half that turned a 45-40 game into a double-digit UConn lead. It never was closer than a 5-point game after that.Kemba Walker gets an exorbitant amount of credit for UConn’s 2011 NCAA championship — all of which he deserves. But easily forgotten is how much help he got from Napier, among several others. Napier played like a champion in 2011, and he still does. And his college basketball career will last another week — at least. Remember when Syracuse’ success was defined by freshman point guard Tyler Ennis’ cool execution under pressure? For instance, the first Pitt game, when he cut up the Panthers’ defense and stole the game late. Or the second Pitt game, when he calmly drove into a 30-foot game-winner in a matter of seconds. Or the Miami game, or … there were a lot.It wasn’t like that against Dayton in the round of 32. Instead, each time he had the opportunity to make one of those big Tyler Ennis plays, he played hyperactively or chose incorrectly.With Syracuse trailing Dayton by a point with 2:03 left and, perhaps, ready to grab the lead after an enormous Jerami Grant block, Ennis rushed the ball up the court for a shot at the lead, but he sprinted too fast for the ball to keep pace. The rock slipped from Ennis’ hands and wound up with Dayton’s Devin Oliver.With Ennis having scored seven consecutive Syracuse points, and the Huskies given a shot at the lead when Dayton’s Jordan Sibert stepped on the sideline with 14 seconds left, Ennis had the ball near the top of the key. He chose not to drive it and, instead, settled for a pull-up jumper that missed.With UD’s Dyshawn Pierre having left open the door for a game-tying layup by making only one of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left, Ennis got the ball with a chance to rush it upcourt for a game-tying layup or runner. And, again, he pulled up short — this time for a 3-point attempt that left 2.8 seconds unspent and caught the left side of the rim.Boeheim contended that was “a good shot,” even though there was time to go farther with the ball.“I have no problem with that shot,” he said. “Some of his other jumpshots were not good decisions.” You want to talk about a coaching tree that’s truly genuine? That one belongs to John Miller, maybe not as famous as some of the higher-profile Division I bosses but even more adept at turning out elite college coaches.He didn’t just hire them. He sired them.John Miller coached Blackhawk High in suburban Pittsburgh from 1975-2004, during which time he won eight Western Pennsylvania championships and four state titles. He is considered one of the great high school coaches in Pennsylvania history. Two of his star players during that period were named Sean and Archie — his sons. Now they’re coaching two terrific college basketball teams at Dayton and Arizona, with Archie safely into the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time in his third season as a head coach, and Sean today to get there for the fifth time in his 10th year.John was in the stands in Buffalo as Archie achieved his greatest professional success.While serving as an assistant to Thad Matta at Ohio State, Archie was hired by Dayton after at least one other high-level assistant turned down the job. He’d also worked for Herb Sendek at N.C. State and Arizona State, and for Darrin Horn at Western Kentucky. He might have worked for Sean at Xavier, but a nepotism rule got in the way.“I’ve come up in a basketball family,” Archie said. “But I’ve been very fortunate to be around some great coaches. Started off in college, and somebody gives you a chance. Then you’re around good people, they help develop you to be ready, hopefully.” With eight minutes left in their game against Texas, the Michigan Wolverines had allowed a lead that grew as large as 18 points in the second half dwindle to just six on a jumper from the Longhorns’ Isaiah Taylor. UM needed someone to make a big play. Glenn Robinson was able to handle the moment.He has been among the most criticized players in college hoops, mostly for the crime of not living up to what mock-draft followers expected of him. Robinson scored in double figures in all but nine of the team’s 36 games. He averaged 13 points. He shot 48.7 percent from the field. It’s not enough, though, to be a very good sophomore on a championship team once you get into the mock draft machine. You have to please those who judge you based on what people will think of your talent in June, not on what you accomplish in March.Frankly, it’s absurd.So it was lovely to see Robinson stand forward as Texas threatened to make a game of it Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee. He scored with 7:27 left to push the lead to eight points, then slammed the door by stepping into a right-wing 3-pointer that made it a double-digit game once again. He finished with 14 points — playing on the floor where his father once was a star with the Milwaukee Bucks.“I wanted the ball,” Robinson said. “They were kind keying in on Nik and some of our other guys. I hadn’t scored in a while. I figured they were kind of sleeping.” Saint Louis missed all 15 of its 3-point attempts. Syracuse missed all 10 of its 3-point attempts. SLU’s performance set a record for futility, and SU’s was not far off.Other losing sides put together such lines as 4-of-17, 2-of-11 and 11-of-31 on 3-pointers.Just not a good look.
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman’s got guts, I’ll give him that. In the two months since their home playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, Gettleman has systematically allowed the team to fade into oblivion as Panther after Panther has retired, been released or signed elsewhere in free agency.He has shown guts — but not necessarily in a good way. Gettleman has allowed his team to be “gutted” just one week into free agency. In a series of moves, he has made it clear that he’s not looking to build on last season’s 12-4 record and make a Super Bowl run.Even more obvious in his offseason strategy: He doesn’t care what anyone thinks; not even longtime Panthers fans. When he says he’s doing it for the long-term health of the franchise, you want to believe him, but it’s a hard sell.Let’s start with the big one: Steve Smith. Gettleman released the best and most well-liked player in franchise history last week. That alone is a bold move, but the circumstances behind it make it even more curious.Both Gettleman and head coach Ron Rivera were noncommittal about Smith’s status at the Scouting Combine, a red flag if there ever was one. Smith was not happy to hear about his uncertain status that way, and I don’t blame him given what he’s meant to the franchise for 13 seasons. If Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub, then Smith is Mr. Panther.Then you consider the fact that the Panthers must pay Smith $3 million this season even after releasing him and that by cutting him, they only saved $1 million on the 2014 salary cap. You realize something out of the ordinary was going on there. Gettleman is willing to pay Smith to play for the Ravens, with whom Smith signed on Friday? It doesn’t make fiscal or football sense and tells you that Gettleman (and possibly Rivera) wanted Smith out of their building.That doesn’t sit well with Panthers fans, nor should it.But that was just the beginning, really, in a series of disturbing moves.Gettleman allowed longtime stalwart left tackle Jordan Gross and versatile interior lineman Geoff Hangartner to retire without any real effort to convince them otherwise. Gross, it should be noted, said he’d planned to play through his contract that ended after the 2014 season. That was, until the Panthers asked him to take a pay cut last year. As a result, he chose to hang it up a year early and the Panthers have a huge hole along their offensive line. One of several, really.Gettleman also allowed safety Mike Mitchell and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to leave via free agency without really making much of an effort to keep them. They were Carolina’s two best defensive backs last season and signed nice deals with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, respectively.The issues along the offensive line and in the secondary pale in comparison to the current void at wide receiver.Not only did Gettleman unceremoniously release Smith, he also allowed any other receiver on the roster with a catch last season to leave as well. Most notably, Ted Ginn Jr. signed with the Arizona Cardinals while Brandon LaFell put pen to paper on a three-year deal with the New England Patriots.It’s not like the Panthers don’t value these players just as these other teams do. They just don’t value them enough to try to do what it takes to keep them.Even potential free agents the Panthers targeted at wide receiver have signed elsewhere, as Hakeem Nicks, whom Gettleman helped draft with the New York Giants, elected to take the Indianapolis Colts’ one-year offer in lieu of a deal with the Panthers.So what exactly is going on here?Gettleman knew what he was getting into in Carolina when he took the job. The problem is that the Panthers signed a lot of players to bad contracts during the tail end of the Marty Hurney era. Without getting too deep into the nitty gritty, there’s not only a lot of dead money — meaning cap space taken up by players who aren’t even on the roster anymore, like Jon Beason — but there also are several guys taking up more than their fair share of cap space as a result of some of the Hurney deals. Defensive end Charles Johnson, for example, has a cap number this season of $16.42 million.As a result, the Panthers had a little less than $8 million in salary cap space at the close of business Friday. Gettleman has clearly made a conscious decision to use 2014 as a “get right” year with the team’s salary cap structure. He is looking toward the 2015 season, though he would obviously never say that publicly. That’s a bitter pill to swallow if you are a Panthers fan.They had been down for quite some time before last season’s resurgence and now it looks like they are going backward.The biggest issue with the strategy is that this is the last season they’ll have Cam Newton under contract at a salary ($3.4 million) that is way below market value. Starting next season, Newton will be paid the transition tag amount for a quarterback at a minimum as a result of the fifth-year option teams possess for first-round picks as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. That means that starting in 2015 and beyond, Newton is going to take up a good chunk of their cap.So while other 2013 playoff teams with quarterbacks on rookie contracts, like the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles, recognize that they have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the value they are getting from the quarterback position, the Panthers are going the other way.Maybe that’s part of Gettleman’s thinking. Knowing that Newton’s contract is coming up, perhaps he wants to get rid of all of the dead money and get his salary cap house in order before doling out a big deal to his talented signal caller. That’s quite understandable.Or maybe he looks at the aforementioned Seahawks and 49ers and realizes that despite the surprising success Carolina had last season, they are not at that level and it doesn’t make sense to attempt to push some of the cap pain into future seasons when the end result would likely be a playoff loss again. Or worse, the team takes a step back and doesn’t even make the playoffs despite doing a bunch of salary cap maneuvering in order to make a run. No matter the reasoning, Gettleman has decided that he is looking out for the long-term interests of the organization as opposed to attempting to build on last year’s success. Even at age 63, it’s clear Gettleman is in this for the long haul.It’s also clear he’s willing to be public enemy No. 1 in Carolina in order to do what he thinks is right. You have to respect someone that has so much conviction.Even if you don’t agree with him.
For much of the regular season, Kentucky coach John Calipari has been telling NBA executives that his prized twin guards — Aaron and Andrew Harrison — would be returning to Lexington for their sophomore season.But a source close to the process told Sporting News that no such decision has been made yet, especially with the Wildcats heading into the Final Four. Increasingly, general managers and talent evaluators around the league feel that Calipari will be proven wrong, and that both Harrisons will join the line of one-and-done players at Kentucky, jumping into the first round of this coming draft.“I think the tournament has helped those two as much as anyone,” one general manager told Sporting News. “They were disappointments for this year, there’s no other way to say it. They looked overhyped, they didn’t look like first-round picks. But as the season has gone on and looking at how things came together, they look more like the players we thought they were coming in.”In Sporting News’ most recent mock draft , Andrew Harrison was slotted 19th, going to Toronto. Aaron Harrison was listed at 24, to Charlotte.On Sunday, in an upset win over Michigan, shooting guard Aaron Harrison stole the show, finishing with 12 points, all coming on 3-pointers — including the game-winner with 2.3 seconds remaining and three 3-point makes in the final 4:22.That means that in the last seven games — dating back to the start of the SEC tournament and through the team’s run in the NCAA tournament, Aaron Harrison is shooting 50.0 percent from the 3-point line, making 22 of 44 shots. It was his ability to knock down NBA-distance 3s that had scouts high on Aaron Harrison before the season started.Andrew Harrison — the team’s point guard — was just 3-for-12 from the field with four turnovers. But he showed the ability to break down the tough Wolverine defense, winding up with six assists. Harrison made two of his three foul-shots, which has been a key component of his game over the same seven-game stretch that began in the SEC tournament. Andrew Harrison has averaged 5.7 free-throw attempts per game since in that span, making 82.5 percent of them.“I think that is what most people were expecting to see from him this year,” the general manager said. “He needs work on his shot, everybody knows that. But he always had great speed and athleticism with the ball and could create points for himself and for others by putting pressure on the defense. He was not showing that for most of this year.”He and his brother are showing it now, showing why they were so highly regarded coming into the season. The Wildcats are benefiting — and so is the value of their draft stock.
Jim Irsay has entered an undisclosed rehab facility, a day after his arrest on drunk driving and drug possession charges, the Indianapolis Colts announced Tuesday.The team released a statement about the 54-year-old owner, who faces four felony charges of possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated: “Yesterday, Jim Irsay took the first step toward regaining good health. He voluntarily checked into a highly-respected health care facility and is committed to undergoing the treatment and care necessary to help him meet his challenges head-on. Jim, the Irsay family, and the Colts organization are all deeply appreciative of the incredible outpouring of support and compassion from our fans and the Indiana community.” Irsay is out on bail. His next court appearance is March 26.After he was released from jail Monday afternoon, Irsay sent a tweet to his social media followers.Deepest thx to family, friends, fans, colleagues for the messages of support, thoughts and prayers. Impossible to tell u how much this means— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 17, 2014
One of my idols retired this week and nobody really cared.OK, that might be an exaggeration. Longtime stalwart Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross is not really my idol, especially since he is younger than me, but I do have the utmost respect for what he and guys like him accomplish during their outstanding NFL careers. It’s hard to express how impressive players like Gross are, but I’m going to try anyway.Gross played both left and right tackle for the Panthers during an 11-year career that included three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro season in 2008, but his accolades aren’t what make him so amazing. What’s mind-boggling is Gross missed only nine games during his career and seven of them were during the 2009 season when he broke his leg. The man suited up and put it all on the line 167 times, and that’s just his regular season starts.Do you have any idea the amount of mental and physical toughness you have to possess to do that?I do. A lot.I know how difficult it was for me just to officially start 24 regular season NFL games and play in 43 total including one playoff contest. I tore my right MCL and broke my left hand as a rookie. Sprained my elbow in my second year and had the bursa sac in my right knee explode during year No. 3.Then things really got rough.I had a high ankle sprain and then herniated a disk in my back during my fourth campaign that required surgery at multiple disk levels after the season. It included a discectomy, laminotomy and foraminotomy at both L4/L5 and L5/S1.My career ended two years later when I suffered a bruised spinal cord as a result of a herniated disk in my neck.Even the times during my career when I was “healthy” there was always something bothering me physically. It’s just the way it is.That’s why Gross and another 2003 draftee that retired this offseason, Giants offensive lineman David Diehl, are such studs. Diehl started 161 games at four different positions over his 11-year career.Clearly both guys were more fortunate than I was not only in terms of talent, but also in terms of health. Still, the amount of fortitude it takes to start that many games over that many years in the trenches is truly awe-inspiring, at least for a guy like me that aspired to do the same thing. Those starts don’t include everything those guys had to do just to be able to put on that uniform every Sunday. The meetings, the workouts, the offseason practices, the grueling training camps, practice after practice. Or even preseason and postseason games. It’s the grind of all grinds.It might be a stretch for me to say these guys are my idols, but I hold them in the highest regard as individuals and professionals.Hopefully now you do as well.
LEXINGTON, Ky. — As we sit here just 25 hours short of the magical month of March, we are reminded of the coaching cliche that declares freshmen who’ve played this far, this much into their initial college basketball season are no longer truly freshmen. This comes to mind because Kentucky’s Harrison twins appear to be determined to wipe that one off the ledger.They are freshmen, all right. Together they have played 1,795 minutes wearing Kentucky blue, including a combined 77 in Thursday night’s 71-67 overtime loss to Arkansas, but there was rarely a hint in their time on the court they’d learned a whole lot from the 27 college games they’d played previously. It did not go unnoticed, not by those who watched them shoot a combined 7-of-27 from the field, commit seven turnovers and pass for a mere three assists during all that time against the Razorbacks, and not by the gentleman in charge of coaching them to play like sophomores.There were multiple indictments from coach John Calipari, some looping in the equally dismal play of freshman wing James Young, some leaving us to draw the conclusion about which particular players he meant:— “Our guards didn’t play well. I mean, you could say shooting; I could tell you dribbling. We had three guys that had 11 turnovers between them. So our guard play was horrendous today.”—“None of the three want to take the responsibility. That’s what young guys do.”— “You know what? At halftime, I needed to take a couple guys out. A couple guys shouldn’t have been in the game. They should have been backups, and we should have played other people. I knew that. You’re trying to nudge them to get them to go.”— “The thing that disappointed me today is even with the lead, we had two guys that gave up on the game. You know it, because you watched it and you saw. They gave up on the game.”So this is not going as was planned at the start of the year, when Kentucky (21-7, 11-4 SEC) widely was ranked No. 1 on the strength of its recruiting class, a group that has turned out to be substantially misevaluated.Power forward Julius Randle is an exceptional talent, but he’s not as comfortable on the perimeter against a genuine defense as might have been gleaned from his solid ballhandling ability and worthwhile shooting touch. In 2007-08, his one year at Kansas State, Michael Beasley connected on 36 3-pointers. Randle has made three.Young actually is more productive than anticipated, averaging 14.6 points in nearly 33 minutes per game. But he continues to shoot painfully poor percentages because his instincts to force difficult attempts overwhelm his early efforts to play the game properly, as when he abandoned a guarded shot less than two minutes into the game to feed center Willie Cauley-Stein as he cut down the right side for what became a dunk. It was a great moment, but too rare. Young wound up shooting 4-of-12, got a single rebound and turned over the ball four times against the Razorbacks (19-9, 8-7).And then you have the Harrisons. Andrew was supposed to be the prize of the two, a 6-5 point guard whose consensus recruiting ranking in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI) placed him ahead of Duke’s Jabari Parker. How this came to be is mystifying, because Parker arrived at Duke with a complete package of offensive skills —handle, pass, post and shoot, both off the catch and off the bounce —and Andrew is a point guard who is not an accomplished passer. On a team with three other double-figure scorers, he averages but 3.5 assists. Aaron Harrison, a shooting guard, was ranked directly behind Parker. Aaron is shooting only 30.8 percent from 3-point range.Make no mistake, the Harrisons are terrific talents. But the overstatements that appear to have developed primarily from their inordinate size —Andrew is 6-5, Aaron is 6-6 —were a significant factor in so much being expected from this Kentucky team. In that sense, what has developed in the four months since the season began has not been all that wanting.And yet what they showed, and Young alongside them, against the Razorbacks was not nearly enough and not nearly all they had.Down the stretch of regulation, with 33 seconds left and Kentucky ahead by a basket, Andrew penetrated deep against the Arkansas defense and positioned himself for an easy floater. The baseline defenders held back, did not react to his entry, but he tried anyway to force a lob pass over them that Randle could not handle. Arkansas tied it with a couple free throws and forced overtime, wherein Andrew and Young each committed a turnover and, with UK down four, Aaron forced a wild long-range jumper that had little chance of connecting. It did not. The Wildcats had held a 4-point lead with 1:13 remaining in regulation and could not close. For all the free throws they missed in this game, and there were nine in the second half, none occurred as that lead was surrendered.“There’s a lot of things we didn’t do today that we usually have been doing,” Randle said. “I never see a loss coming. I never go into a game thinking we’re going to lose. I never go into a game thinking we’re not going to put the effort out … we just didn’t tonight.“We know it’s there. It’s just something we’ve got to figure out.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s May fight can wait; for now, the light middleweight champion is busy promoting Friday’s fight card.It’s a busy weekend for other promoters as well, with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. among fighters in action. However, lightweight Mickey Bey, one of the featured fighters for the Showtime event, withdrew this week because of illness.Headliner middleweight J’Leon Love of Dearborn Heights, Mich., is 16-0 with nine knockouts. His opponent: Providence’s Vladine Blosse (15-2-2, 7 KOs). Badou “The Ripper” Jack, 16-0-1 with 11 knockouts, meets Derek Edwards (26-3-1, 13 KOs).Mayweather’s next bout is May 3 against Argentina’s Marcos Maidana.Chavez faces Bryan Vera on Saturday in a card staged in San Antonio.Manny Pacquiao’s legion of followers are preparing for his next fight. The Philippines legend takes on Timothy Bradley at the Las Vegas MGM Grand on April 12. At stake: Bradley’s WBO welterweight title.Here is the schedule of major fights over the coming months.Feb. 28At Turning Stone Resort Casino Event Center, Verona, N.Y. (SHO). See above for details.March 1At Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, South Africa, Hekkie Budler vs. Karlius Diaz, 12, for Budler WBA World-IBO minimumweight titles.At Getec Arena, Magdeburg, Germany, Robert Stieglitz vs. Arthur Abraham, 12, for Stieglitz’s WBO super middleweight title.At The SECC, Glasgow, Scotland, Ricky Burns vs. Terence Crawford, 12, for Burns’ WBO lightweight title.At Alamodome, San Antonio (HBO), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Bryan Vera, 10, super middleweights; Orlando Salido vs. Vasyl Lomachenko, 12, for Salido’s WBO featherweight title; Juan Diaz vs. Gerardo Robles, 10, lightweights; Karim Mayfield vs. Francisco Contreras, 10, light welterweights.March 7At Pala Casino Spa and Resort, Pala, Calif. (ESPN), Rustam Nugaev vs. Marvin Quintero, 10, lightweights; Roman Morales vs. Khabir Suleymanov, 10, featherweights.March 8At Max-Schmeling-Halle, Berlin, Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs. Pawel Kolodziej, 12, for Hernandez’s IBF cruiserweight title.At MGM Grand, Las Vegas (SHO), Omar Figueroa vs. Ricardo Alvarez, 12, for Figueroa’s WBC lightweight title; Leo Santa Cruz vs. Cristian Mijares, 12, for Santa Cruz’s WBC super bantamweight title; Carlos Molina vs. Jermall Charlo, 12, for Molina’s IBF junior middleweight title; Jorge Linares vs. Nihito Arakawa, 10, lightweights; Saul Alvarez vs. Alfredo Angulo, 12, junior middleweights.March 14At Villa La Nata Sporting Club, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Juan Carlos Reveco, vs. Manuel Vides, 12, for Reveco’s WBA World flyweight title.March 15At Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico (SHO), Danny Garcia vs. Mauricio Herrera, 12, for Garcia’s WBA Super World and WBC super lightweight titles; Deontay Wilder vs. Malik Scott, 10, heavyweights; Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Daniel Ponce de Leon, 10, for Lopez’s WBO International junior lightweight title.At Sands Casino Resort, Bethlehem, Pa. (NBCSN), Tomasz Adamek vs. Vyacheslav Glazkov, 12, IBF heavyweight eliminator; Ronald Cruz vs. Kermit Cintron, 10, welterweights.March 17At The House of Blues, Boston (FS1), Danny O’Connor vs. Andrew Farmer, 10, welterweights.March 21At Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, Cabazon, Calif. (ESPN2), Vanes Martirosyan vs. Luciano Cuello, 10, super welterweights.March 22At Moscow, Russia, Eduard Troyanovsky vs. Richard Abril, 12, for Troyanovsky’s WBA World lightweight title.At Roberto Duran Arena, Panama City, Panama, Anselmo Moreno vs. Javier Nicolas Chacon, 12, for Moreno’s WBA Super World bantamweight title.March 26At Tokyo, Denkaosen Kaovichit vs. Kohei Kono, 12, for the vacant WBA World super flyweight.March 29At Newcastle, England, Stuart Hall vs. Martin Ward, 12, for Hall’s IBF bantamweight title.April 5At Stadthalle, Rostock, Germany, Juergen Braehmer vs. Enzo Maccarinelli, 12, for Braehmer’s WBA World light heavyweight title.At Grand Stadium Delicias, Ciudad Delicias, Mexico, Marco Antonio Rubio vs. Domenico Spada, 12, for the WBC interim middleweight title. April 12At MGM Grand (PPV), Timothy Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao, 12, for Bradley’s WBO welterweight title; Khabib Allakhverdiev vs. Jessie Vargas, 12, for Allakhverdiev’s WBA World-IBO light welterweight titles; Bryan Vasquez vs. Jose Felix Jr., 12, for the interim WBA World super featherweight title.April 19At Moscow, Russia, Denis Lebedev vs. Guillermo Jones, 12, for Lebedev’s WBA World cruiserweight title.April 26At Oberhausen, Germany, Wladimir Klitschko, vs. Alex Leapai, 12, for Klitschko’s IBF-WBO-IBO-WBA Super World heavyweight titles.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The last time a show with this few stars and this much brilliance hit New York City, the world was introduced to the “Rent” phenomenon. That musical won the Tony and the Pulitzer. The Virginia Cavaliers might earn their school’s first Final Four berth in more than three decades.Quick, name a Cavalier? Just one. And Kyrie Irving does not count for the purpose of this exercise. Virginia is a team with defensive choreography that would thrill Susan Stroman, every move by one Cavs player leading to a connected reaction from a teammate. As a unit, they are far greater than their individual talent would suggest. They won their 30th game of the season Sunday by embarrassing the Memphis Tigers, 78-60, in the 2014 NCAA Tournament round of 32, and that one carried them to the East Region semifinals for a Friday night date with the Michigan State Spartans at Madison Square Garden.Virginia takes care of the basketball, takes high-quality shots and takes the responsibility seriously of getting the ball as often as possible to its best offensive players, wings Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon. Harris had 16 points for UVa (30-6) and Brogdon scored 10, and sweet-shooting center Mike Tobey proved to be a difficult matchup with his 11.It is on defense, though, that this team separates itself from the opposition. Memphis was not comfortable shooting 3-pointers, 2-pointers or free throws, and Virginia fouled rarely enough that the Tigers got few opportunities at the line. This became among the least competitive games in the “third round”.”We just knew we had to come into this game and establish ourselves from the beginning,” Brogdon said. “It was about our pack-line defense tonight … and just letting them know we weren’t going to let them get into the paint that easy.”The Cavaliers thus remained the only ACC alive in the tournament; North Carolina went down earlier in the day, and both Pitt and Syracuse on Saturday. The ACC never has missed out on the Sweet 16 since the bracket expansion in 1985.The Tigers were doomed for a weekend exit, at best, the moment the bracket was revealed last Sunday. For as long as this crew has been together, with seniors Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford at its core, the “hard team to play” has been its poison.They were fortunate in their Conference USA years not to play many opponents that favor the grind-it-out style that often leads to final scores in the 50s or 60s, but when they ventured out of conference to play a Georgetown (twice in 2011-12, both losses) or when they were assigned to play a Saint Louis in the NCAA (that same year, a 61-54 defeat) the results were predictable.The Tigers played the ground-and-pound Cincinnati Bearcats twice this year in American regular-season games and lost both by a combined 29 points.So, seriously, you expected them to beat this Virginia team, which held a dozen opponents under 50 points this season?The Tigers shot 8-of-30 in the first half. That’s 26.7 percent. Even if you granted them half the eight point-blank layups they missed, they’d only have ramped that up to 40 percent. Far more than a lack of accuracy, their problem was surrendering to poor shot selection rather than attempt to compete against an in-the-trenches defense.”It’s positioning,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “When we’re doing it right, we really work on positioning, not being and extended and making them go through our bodies. Play with our feet, not our hands.”The thing we kept saying was just, ‘Wall ball.’ Build a wall wherever the ball is. Build a wall.”Virginia has done this to better offenses than the Tigers’, specifically the Duke attack that ranked No. 2 in the nation even after a mediocre outing in the round of 64 Friday against Mercer. UVa held the Devils to 38 percent shooting and 63 points in the ACC Tournament final one week earlier, and it will hope to inflict similar misery on Michigan State in NYC five days hence.The Tigers actually led at 16-15 with 9 minutes left, but by that point they had already missed five layups that could have given them a bit of a cushion and some sort of a presence in the game. And coach Josh Pastner’s lost struggle to control his senior guards was evident when he twice asked the team to enforce the fullcourt press that clearly had been part of the gameplan and no one bothered to listen. His exasperation was obvious. Over what remained of the first half, the Tigers scored only once in their halfcourt offense. There was that Austin Nichols dunk, as well as a fastbreak jam by Jackson that resulted from a steal by freshman forward Nick King.Virginia rolled off 20 points to the Tigers’ four, and the teams left for the halftime break with little doubt about which had at least 60 more minutes of basketball this season, and which would have to endure another 20 minutes of misery before getting on the plane back to the Mid-South.For the Tigers, there would be no day but today.
Familiarity breeds deals in free agency, and that may help two former Bears defensive linemen go from Chicago to Dallas. Multiple outlets, including ESPNDallas.com , report the Cowboys are interested in both tackle Henry Melton and end Julius Peppers. Melton is already on his way for a visit, and makes more sense for Dallas, given they just lost a good, versatile pass-rushing tackle in Jason Hatcher to the NFC East archrival Washington Redskins. Although he’s only an offseason removed from being tagged as the Bears’ franchise player on the strength of a dominant Pro Bowl season in 2012, Melton is a calculated risk coming off a knee injury (torn ACL) that ended his 2013 season after only three games. The Cowboys’ calling card for both players is defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, a 4-3 line guru who once held the same position in Chicago, helping Melton and Peppers produce some of their best seasons. Peppers offers more durability, but is also older (34) and has a bigger recent price tag. Dallas tried to offset the release of fellow defensive end DeMarcus Ware by adding former Broncos pass rusher Jeremy Mincey.Peppers would be the more luxury buy, and his reunion with Marinelli could ensure he’s more than just a situational, rotational player. It’s smart for them to at least see if he could be a financial fit. Melton, however, even with a medical risk, is more of a necessity for Marinelli’s scheme, now sans Hatcher.
With less than a month until Selection Sunday, Sporting News will take a near-daily look at the teams whose NCAA Tournament credentials have yet to be solidified. Minnesota 95, Iowa 89. This was easily the most important win for any bubble team on Tuesday night. The Golden Gophers (18-11, RPI 46) had looked anemic in their past two games, failing to break the 50-point mark in double-digit losses to Illinois and Ohio State. Then, against an Iowa team ranked 20th in the AP poll, they dropped in 51 points by halftime. Minnesota now has quality wins against Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State, which is a better trio of wins than most bubble teams can boast.Georgia 71, Missouri 56. This was easily the worst loss for any bubble team on Tuesday night. The win for Georgia completed the season sweep of Missouri (19-9, RPI 45); for the Tigers, the loss continued a pattern of inconsistent play (to put it kindly) away from home. Georgia closed the first half on a 10-2 run over the last seven minutes, and the game was never close in the second half. The Bulldogs led by as many as 23 points before closing out a win that might end Mizzou’s chances of earning an at-large bid.Wake Forest 62, Clemson 57. Clemson’s time on the periphery of the bubble conversation essentially ended Tuesday night with this loss to a Wake Forest team that lost by 33 points in its previous game. Clemson’s NCAA resume was anchored by a win against Duke, but other than a win against Florida State, there wasn’t much substance. This is the Tigers’ third loss to a team with an RPI over 110, and that’s pretty much it.Kansas State 60, Texas Tech 56. The Wildcats’ at-large bid is relatively secure, as long as there aren’t unsightly blemishes along the way. This game would have been one of those unsightly blemishes. But, K-State won, and they’re all line drives in the box score.Xavier 65, St. John’s 53. Xavier was a 10 seed and St. John’s an 11 seed in this week’s Field of 68, so this was a pretty important game for both squads. Xavier (19-9) has the fallback of a noncon win against Cincinnati, but the Musketeers only have one win against an at-large caliber team in the past six weeks. St. John’s (18-11), on the other hand, now has been swept by Xavier, a team it will be directly competing with for an at-large bid. That’s not an absolute factor in the process, but it’s not a good thing for the Johnnies, either.Saint Joseph’s 79, Dayton 53. Dayton really needed to win this game, but it was never much of a contest. Saint Joseph’s rambled out to a 19-point halftime lead and pushed that margin to 30 in the second half. The Hawks needed this win, too, but not as much as Dayton did. The Flyers still have resume opportunities left, with games against UMass, Saint Louis and Richmond, but they’ll have to play much, much better than they did Tuesday just to avoid blowout losses to those three squads.Pittsburgh (20-7, RPI 44) at Boston College, 8 p.m., ESPN3Alabama at Ole Miss (16-11, RPI 80), 8 p.m., ESPN3Tennessee (16-11, RPI 60) at Mississippi State, 8 p.m., ESPN3Texas A&M at LSU (16-11, RPI 72), 8 p.m., ESPN3California (18-9, RPI 51) at No. 3 Arizona, 9 p.m., ESPN2Baylor (18-9, RPI 39) at No. 24 Texas, 9 p.m., ESPNUNebraska (16-10, RPI 47) at Illinois, 9 p.m., Big Ten NetworkStanford (18-8, RPI 40) at Arizona State (19-8, RPI 34), 11 p.m., ESPNUTOURNEY TELEVISIONCBS and Turner Sports announced its broadcast teams for each round of the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday.These eight teams will call the action for the second and third rounds of the tournament, with the top four (denoted by asterisks) calling the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games. The final member of each team is the sideline reporter.Jim Nantz / Greg Anthony // Tracy Wolfson*Marv Albert / Steve Kerr // Craig Sager*Verne Lundquist / Bill Raftery // Allie LaForce*Kevin Harlan / Reggie Miller / Len Elmore // Rachel Nichols*Ian Eagle / Jim Spanarkel // Lewis JohnsonBrian Anderson / Dan Bonner // Kristine LeahySpero Dedes / Doug Gottlieb // Jaime MaggioAndrew Catalon / Mike Gminski // Otis LivingstonFor the Final Four and title game, Nantz and Anthony will be joined by Steve Kerr to call the action, with Wolfson again serving as the sideline reporter. Anthony is replacing Clark Kellogg in the broadcast booth and will be calling his first Final Four and title games.Catalon is new to the tournament play-by-play lineup. He has called college football and basketball games for CBS Sports Network since 2013, and also was part of NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage earlier this month. That was Catalon’s voice calling curling matches. Previously, Tim Brando had paired with Mike Gminski.Ernie Johnson will host the Final Four and national title game from AT&T Stadium, and he will be joined by Kellogg, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.The two Final Four games will be played on TBS on Saturday, April 5 and the national title game will air on CBS on April 7.GETTING TOGETHER?JaQuan Lyle and Cliff Alexander have publicly discussed the thought of being teammates at Kansas. Now, that notion may be picking up steam again, with the 6-8 big man from Chicago, who’s already committed to the Jayhawks, trying to woo Lyle to Lawrence.“Rock chalk we gotta get @jmamba5 to commit to the family,” Alexander tweeted.The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Lyle, a 6-5, 215-pound prospect who’s attending Huntington Prep in West Virginia, was in attendance for Kansas’ 83-75 win over Oklahoma, where he snapped this picture. Sporting News ranks Lyle as the No. 17 overall recruit in 2014.Lyle also shared on Instagram some moments of his visit to Oklahoma State this past Friday, and Oregon coach Dana Altman even came to see Lyle play for Huntington on Thursday, The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch reported. Lyle told Sporting News in October that he’d be comfortable playing at either guard position, taking a do-whatever-it-takes mentality to the program he’ll join.Lyle might fit best at the 2 if he were to come to Kansas, because the Jayhawks figure to have Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason back next season and Wayne Selden is expected to go pro. Kansas also has Kelly Oubre Jr. committed for its Class of 2014, but his length likely would put him at the No. 3 spot.Contributors: Ryan Fagan, Roger Kuznia
MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Matt Crafton grabbed the lead for the first time late and held on to win the rain-delayed Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, his fourth career victory and first on the half-mile paper clip.Crafton, the defending series champion, passed local favorite Timothy Peters on the inside of the fourth turn to grab the top spot, then survived two two-lap sprints to the finish in the race postponed Saturday because of rain. Darrell Wallace, who won here last fall, finished second, followed by Ben Kennedy, Johnny Sauter and Ryan Blaney.Crafton became the 23rd driver to win in 31 truck races at Martinsville.The race was just the second of the season in the series, following the opener at Daytona on Feb. 17.The 22-race schedule resumes May 9 in Kansas.Kroger 250 results 1. (10) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 256 laps, 118.8 rating, 47 points.2. (1) Darrell Wallace Jr., Toyota, 256, 126.6, 43.3. (6) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 256, 94.4, 41.4. (14) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 256, 120.1, 41.5. (2) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 256, 106, 40.6. (8) German Quiroga, Toyota, 256, 88.9, 38.7. (3) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 256, 123.8, 38.8. (12) Ben Rhodes, Chevrolet, 256, 84.5, 36.9. (5) Ron Hornaday Jr., Chevrolet, 256, 115.9, 37.10. (7) Brian Ickler, Toyota, 256, 86.1, 34.11. (9) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 256, 90.8, 33.12. (20) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 256, 81.9, 32.13. (15) Chase Pistone, Chevrolet, 256, 69.6, 31.14. (13) Ross Chastain, Ford, 256, 68.5, 30.15. (21) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 256, 75.6, 29.16. (17) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 256, 63.2, 28.17. (18) Joey Coulter, Chevrolet, 256, 70.9, 27.18. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 256, 91.5, 26.19. (11) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 256, 70.9, 25.20. (16) John Wes Townley, Toyota, accident, 255, 88.2, 24.21. (22) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 255, 59.8, 23.22. (26) Caleb Holman, Chevrolet, 253, 55, 22.23. (33) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 252, 50, 0.24. (29) Ray Black Jr., Chevrolet, 250, 45.4, 20.25. (31) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, 249, 38.2, 19.26. (34) Korbin Forrister, Chevrolet, 242, 35.2, 18.27. (36) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Ram, 241, 28.6, 17.28. (35) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 235, 29.9, 16.29. (19) Mason Mingus, Toyota, 216, 56.7, 15.30. (28) Clay Greenfield, Ram, driveshaft, 189, 39.2, 14.31. (23) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, power steering, 157, 39.3, 13.32. (25) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, accident, 122, 49.1, 12.33. (27) Bryan Silas, Chevrolet, accident, 120, 40.1, 11.34. (32) Josh Williams, Ford, brakes, 82, 35.8, 10.35. (30) Raymond Terczak Jr., Chevrolet, brakes, 52, 31, 9.36. (24) Alex Guenette, Chevrolet, fuel pump, 32, 34.1, 8.Race StatisticsAverage Speed of Race Winner: 68.741 mph.Time of Race: 1 hour, 57 minutes, 32 seconds. Margin of Victory: Under Caution.Caution Flags: 10 for 56 laps.Lead Changes: 17 among 6 drivers.
Kansas coach Bill Self was asked in December about his Jayhawks playing Wichita State in the future, and he said no. His stance hasn’t changed two months later, following his comments from Thursday:“I don’t want to say never, but we’re pretty locked in scheduling wise. Not on (the) immediate horizon.”So all those who want the Jayhawks and Shockers to face off in a battle for supremacy in Kansas in the 2014-15 season, you most likely won’t see it. Said Self to the Kansas City Star in December of his reasoning not to play Wichita State: “This isn’t knocking Wichita State,” Self said. “But if it was best for our program, I would reach out to them about scheduling them. But it’s not. I’ve heard a lot of talk about them wanting to play us so bad; Gregg Marshall’s never contacted me about playing.”What Self is trying to say is, if Kansas schedules a game vs. Wichita and wins, it’s a game it should win. And if the Jayhawks lose, it’s looked upon as a bad loss because Wichita plays in a mid-major conference.You can see Self’s point, but considering how great the Shockers are playing, it would be great to see them go head-to-head.Maybe we’ll get our wish in the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers are in line to be a No. 1 seed, and Kansas very well could end up as a No. 2.See you in Indy?DAWSON’S BACKMichigan State will field a full roster on Saturday vs. Illinois with Branden Dawson returning to action for the first time since breaking his right hand while watching game tape.Dawson has not played since Jan. 21, a stretch of nine games where the Spartans have gone 4-5. His work on both ends of the floor is a welcomed addition for Michigan State, which will have the top eight members of its rotation available for the first time since a Jan. 4 win vs. Indiana.”He’s gonna play with a little bit of a brace on that doesn’t seem like it affects a lot of things, but it still is there,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo told reporters of Dawson’s wrist. “How much I play him, I have no clue. I might know a little more today and tomorrow.”Even with Dawson’s return, the Spartans cannot call themselves 100 percent healthy, given senior point guard Keith Appling continues battling a wrist injury that has bothered him much of the season. He’s averaged just 3 points a game in the three games since missing contests against Penn State, Wisconsin and Northwestern earlier this month.Gary Harris is the Spartans’ best player, but it is Appling who may be Izzo’s most important.WILDCATS LOSE COBB FOR SEASONNorthwestern junior guard JerShon Cobb, the team’s second leading scorer at 12.2 points per game, will miss the rest of the season with lingering foot and knee injuries.Cobb, who scored a season-high 23 points in a Feb. 16 loss vs. Minnesota, missed the team’s Feb. 22 game vs. Indiana.“He’s going to have to have a great offseason of strength and conditioning,” Wildcats first-year coach Chris Collins said, according to a report from InsideNU.com. “He had a really good year for us, I’m really proud of what he did, but it’s going to be important going into his senior year that he has a great summer, and that he gets his body to the point where he doesn’t break down.”Cobb has also dealt with injuries in his freshman and sophomore seasons, missing a total of 19 games.Northwestern, which had won five of seven games in one stretch of Big Ten play, has lost its last five league games. Its next game is Saturday at Nebraska.USBWA FINALISTS ANNOUNCEDThe U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced its finalists for their player of the year, coach of the year and freshman of the year honors on Thursday.Fifteen players are up for the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Trophy, 10 are candidates for the Henry Iba National Coach of the Year Award, and six freshmen are candidates for the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award.While each player or coach is designated as a finalist, write-in candidates will still be accepted for each award.G/F Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6-9, 230, So., Fairview, N.J.F Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico, 6-9, 250, Sr., Brisbane, AustraliaF Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, 6-8, 219, Sr., Middletown, N.Y.F Melvin Ejim, Iowa State, 6-6, 220, Sr., Toronto, Ont.G Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6-2, 180, Fr., Brampton, Ont.F C.J. Fair, Syracuse, 6-8, 215, Sr., Baltimore, Md.G Nick Johnson, Arizona, 6-3, 200, Jr., Gilbert, Ariz.G Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati, 6-4, 210, Sr., Yonkers, N.Y.F Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6-8, 225, Sr., Ames, IowaG Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, 6-1, 180, Sr., Roxbury, Mass.F Jabari Parker, Duke, 6-8, 235, Fr., Chicago, Ill.F Casey Prather, Florida, 6-6, 212, Sr., Jackson, Tenn.F Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6-9, 250, Fr., Dallas, TexasG Russ Smith, Louisville, 6-0, 165, Sr., Brooklyn, N.Y.G Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6-8, 200, Fr., Vaughan, Ont.For freshman and coach of the year lists, check out SportingNews.com.UNC’S TROUBLES HIT FRONT PAGEBloomberg Businessweek’s in-depth cover story regarding the academic fraud exposed at the University of North Carolina was worth the read once you saw the strength of its take.”This week’s cover: BAD SPORTS: How UNC failed its athletes,” Businessweek tweeted.Those who have been following the story from the beginning won’t find a bombshell revelation, but Bloomberg did take the time to interview the woman at the heart of the controversy, Mary Willingham, and some other key players involved.Willingham is the whistle-blowing academic adviser for UNC student-athletes that did a study that characterized 183 student-athletes between 2004-2012 as academically at-risk, and 85 percent of those were either football or basketball players.A passage from the story characterizes what she told UNC provost James Dean in an email last July:“ … 60 percent of the athletes she had studied had from fourth- to eighth-grade reading levels. About 10 percent read below a third-grade level. Willingham added: “Of the 183 students, 45 (about 24 percent) had UNC GPAs under 2.0, thus putting them at risk of academic disqualification. Ninety-four of the 183 students, over half, had GPAs under 2.3. Keep in mind that the bogus system of eligibility — UNC’s paper class system — was assisting these players to stay on the court/field.”UNC has been dismissive of Willingham’s study, calling the data flawed.Said Willingham to Bloomberg Businessweek: “Let’s say my data are off a little bit. I don’t think they are, but let’s say they are. Set aside the data. Forget about it. The paper classes were still fake, and they existed to keep athletes eligible.”“I’ve sat with these kids,” Willingham said of these athletes. “Some of them can barely read. We have to meet them where they’re at and teach them to read.”Keep in mind that UNC just launched an independent study that will be led by former U.S. Justice Department veteran Kenneth Wainstein to look into information that could be gleaned from the criminal indictment of former UNC African Studies department chair Julius Nyang’oro, who’s accused of accepting payment for a class he didn’t teach in 2011. A number of the bogus courses found to have been conducted at UNC happened in that department.Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall will share with Wainstein what he learned during his investigation to help Wainstein “address any questions left unanswered by previous reviews commissioned by the University,” the university said in a statement.UCLA PAIR SUSPENDEDUCLA All-American candidate Kyle Anderson and leading scorer Jordan Adams were suspended one game each by coach Steve Alford for violating unspecified team rules.They served the suspensions Thursday evening during the Bruins’ home game against Pacific-12 Conference rival Oregon. Anderson has been a revelation at point guard for the Bruins (21-6, 10-4) after spending most of his first year playing at power forward. Anderson is a 6-9, 230-pound sophomore from Fairview, N.J. He averages 14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists, one of the best across-the-board stat lines of any player in college basketball.Adams, a 6-5 shooting guard from Atlanta, averages 17.2 points and 5.6 rebounds and shoots 46.6 percent from the field. He scored 28 points in the Bruins’ victory over California last weekend.Contributors: Roger Kuznia, Mike DeCourcy
Navy Sophomore slotback Will McKamey had to be airlifted to the University of Maryland hospital after collapsing on the field during the Midshipmen’s spring practice, according to a Facebook update from his mother.”Facebook friends and family, Will has collapsed on the field during a Navy spring football practice, very similar to last time. They are air-lifting him to Baltimore Trauma Center currently. Please, please pray for him and our family. He is currently stable but unconscious. We are leaving now to get to him!” The news was worse than feared.McKamey’s mother followed up the first post with another update that he had to undergo emergency surgery to relieve a blood clot in his brain. “Will is currently on the operating table, they have had to do a cranial surgery to relieve the blood clot in his brain. We are overcome with worry but we are relying on God to bring us through this. We are on the plane now and headed to Baltimore. He is at The University of Maryland, we should be there within 2 hours. Please continue to pray!!”Sadly, this is not McKamey’s first go-around with a brain injury. He collapsed on the sidelines during a high school game in October of 2012 while he was playing for Grace Christian (Tenn.).[via Yahoo]