One thing that is true about college basketball, despite the fact that I honestly don’t follow it closely at all anymore, is that every time I give that sport a chance, it delivers. Last night’s big effort from Kansas and Memphis was a solid show …
No better way to celebrate the anniversary of your most recent national championship by winning another one in spectacular, can-you-believe-that-comeback fashion,
Twenty years and three days after winning its second national title as a No. 6 seed, Kansas conjured a miraculous comeback to stun Memphis, 75-68, in overtime Monday night in the Alamodome.
Kansas’ victory gives the Big 12 Conference, which is in its 12th season, its first national championship in men’s basketball. Kansas (37-3) trailed 60-51 with 2:12 remaining. Keep in mind that the biggest halftime deficit overcome in a national championship game is 10 points.
“We made so many plays down the stretch,’’ Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I don’t know if we played well or we played bad. But we won.’’
Memphis, which had quieted critics who claimed it couldn’t overcome its shoddy free throw shooting, had made 70 percent of its free throws in the NCAA Tournament. But with a chance to send Kansas back to Lawrence with a a disappointing loss, the Tigers missed four of their last five from the line over the final 1:15.
“It came back and bit us,’’ said Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts, who missed three consecutive free throws. “We missed ‘em at a crucial time. But we still had a three-point lead with 10 seconds to go.’’
Memphis’ Robert Dozier, whose three offensive rebounds over the last five minutes had been huge, made two from the line with 2:12 remaining to give the Tigers a 60-51 lead.
When Kansas was up 40-12 in Saturday’s semifinal, CBS Sports basketball analyst Billy Packer said it was over. It was. But the national championship game was a different story.
“I thought we were national champs,’’ Memphis coach John Calipari said. “They make a play, its OT and it’s on again. We were up five and we’re supposed to win that game.’’
Mario Chalmers capped Kansas’ regulation rally. The Anchorage native served up some
baked Alaska. His 3-pointer over Derrick Rose with 2.1 seconds created the extra period -- the first in the title game since 1997.
Brandon Rush’s layup following a Sherron Collins steal gave Kansas the OT lead. Darrell Arthur (20 points, 10 rebounds) followed with a dunk from a Chalmers’ pass to make it 67-63.
Opening Day in Arlington will commence at 1:05 …
Born in Dallas and raised in Mesquite, Jason Jennings grew up following the Texas Rangers but never stopping to dream about today.
How could he? During five-plus seasons with Colorado and an injury-plagued 2007 season with Houston, his start today in the Rangers' home opener seemed about as likely as winning the lottery.
"I would have never imagined being in this position right now to pitch the home opener for my hometown team," Jennings said. "... The last couple years, everything I've gone through, has brought me here and given me this opportunity."
Each Ranger said he is eager to play at home after spring training and a six-game road trip to open the season.
"I'm just trying to treat it like another game, just one of many starts," Jennings said. "It's obviously a special day for us to be able to get back home. The fans are anxious to see us, and we're anxious to get back home and put those white uniforms on."
More early reviews are in …
Give the Rangers some credit: They went out to the west coast against two divisional opponents and finished 3-3. They'll take it.
Evan Grant gives a good summary of what happened on that trip. Besides the starting pitching, which is clearly the best news of the first six games (five quality starts, 2.30 ERA in six games and a complete game), what are you most encouraged about and most concerned about?
• David Murphy. He's 9-for-22 and looks like that guy that hit so well as soon as he got to Texas last year. So much for "fourth" outfielder. That Eric Gagne trade with Boston keeps getting better, doesn't it?
• Road series win. Texas didn't have one of those until late May last year (eighth road series of the season).
• Ben Broussard and Gerald Laird. I had a feeling Laird would bounce back. But I'm surprised by Broussard. He struggled in spring training and kept assuring everyone that he was ready to go and that he just needs all of spring to get ready. I'll trust him next time he tells me that. He has three homers. Laird, by the way, had two on Sunday.
• Errors. Not good. The club has six in six games. That actually doesn't lead the league. Pittsburgh has nine errors in six games, Seattle has eight errors in six games and Philadelphia has seven errors in six games. Texas has to get better defensively. They won't continue to win games despite problems in the field.
• Hitting. The Rangers are batting .249 as a team, that's 15th in the league. That has to get better, doesn't it?
By tomorrow, I should have my Ducks-Stars essay ready for you and DallasStars.com; until then, let’s see what the world is saying…
NHL.com has the whole field …
The National Hockey League today announced dates, times and national broadcast information for the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoff Conference Quarter-final round, which begins Wednesday, April 9.
That night, an Atlantic Division rivalry continues as the New Jersey Devils host the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Ottawa Senators, the San Jose Sharks host the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche visit the Minnesota Wild.
Three other series open Thursday, when the defending Stanley Cup champions Anaheim Ducks host the Dallas Stars, the Montreal Canadiens host the Boston Bruins and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings host the Nashville Predators.
On Friday, the League’s top point- and goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin makes his NHL postseason debut as the Washington Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers.
National network television coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be provided in the United States by NBC and VERSUS and in Canada by CBC, TSN and RDS.
Stars Claim to be healthy…except Zubov…
Brad Richards missed three games that he probably could have played and snapped his consecutive games-played streak at 354 games, but the Stars center said it was worth it.
"I mean, the plan was to take some down time and get healthy and get energy, and I think that worked," Richards said of sitting out the last three games of the season after missing only two previously in his career. "These games meant something, but not as much as some other games, so this was the time to get it done."
Richards, who was diagnosed with mononucleosis in January and battled through that virus while a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, said the recent bout he had with "overall soreness" was not related. He said he felt much better Sunday.
"I expect to be at practice Tuesday and ready to go," he said.
Stars coach Dave Tippett said he also expected to have Mike Ribeiro (flu) and Jere Lehtinen (flu) back for practice. Steve Ott had the flu Friday and returned to play in Sunday's game.
Canadian Press …
Anaheim (4th, 47-27-8) vs. Dallas (5th, 45-30-7)
This was the price to play for San Jose winning the Pacific Division over Anaheim and Dallas - two great teams like the Ducks and Stars having to mash it out in the first round.
The Stars won five of the eight season-series games but the Ducks took the last two. Dallas may have taken advantage of an Anaheim team that didn't have Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne in the first half of the season. With both veterans in the lineup beginning Feb. 5, the Ducks went 20-5-1 to close out the regular season, their .788 winning percentage the best in the NHL in that stretch.
Dallas, meanwhile, won only four of its final 14 games (4-8-2) although went 3-1-2 in the last six games. This, as Burke said, will be a dog fight and don't be surprised if it goes seven.
Toronto Star …
Just look at Anaheim's season-ending stats. Last season, the Ducks scored 254 goals, nothing thrilling but respectable. This season, they managed to come up with only 205 goals, almost a 20 per cent drop in production.
Ah yes, you say, but that was before Teemu Selanne got bored of the quiet life.
Nope, not true.
The pop-gun Ducks averaged 2.5 goals per game before Selanne returned from his quasi-retirement, and 2.5 goals per game in the 26 games for which he was an active participant.
With the team's top goal scorer, Corey Perry, still out with a lacerated quadriceps tendon, it would be hard to imagine that the Ducks will all of a sudden become the Edmonton Oilers, circa 1985, when they begin their playoff matchup with the similarly gritty Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Now look at the defensive side of the Duck ledger.
They officially allowed 191 goals, but seven were shootout-related debits, so in regulation play and OT sessions this season, the Ducks really allowed only 184 goals, second best to Detroit.
More than a third of those were power-play goals as Anaheim was shorthanded 408 times, 20 more than the next-highest total of any other NHL club.
So unless these Ducks are going to change drastically over the next 2 1/2 months, they're going to have to repeat while scoring less often than last year's squad and while having to kill off more penalties than the other team most nights.
That doesn't leave much room for error.
Two major factors work in the Ducks' favour, however. First, in Jean-Sebastien Giguere, they have a brilliant playoff netminder who owns a 31-13 record all-time in the Stanley Cup tournament, including 12-1 in overtime matches.
Second, they can buckle up the chinstraps and grit their teeth more than any other club. Consider the fact, for example, that in the 10 regular-season and playoff games for which defenceman Chris Pronger has been suspended since last May, the Ducks have won eight.
The ultra-conservative Stars, meanwhile, did win five of eight against Anaheim, but find themselves facing a first-round opponent that is actually more defensive than they are.
Without Sergei Zubov, out since Jan. 19 with a host of injury complaints, and with Brad Richards having contributed just two goals and nine assists (five in one game) in the 12 contests he played for Dallas after joining the club at the trade deadline, you have to wonder if the Stars will be able to create enough offence to beat the low-scoring Ducks.
Still, given Anaheim's 28th-ranked offence and penchant for penalties, there's obviously a formula for a Dallas victory and it revolves around having an effective power play.
NY Times …
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
The Stanley Cup champion Ducks started slowly, found their stride once Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne returned to the fold, and finished strongly. The Stars started unsurely, changed their front office, shot off to a big lead in the tough Pacific Division, got white hot in February, then lost their way entirely in March.
Season series Dallas, 5-3
Last 10 games Anaheim, 8-2-0; Dallas, 3-5-2
Goaltending J.S. Giguere has a Cup with Anaheim. He was third in save percentage at .922. Marty Turco finally had a strong playoff last year, but the Stars lost again in the first round.
Offense Ryan Getzlaf (24 goals, 81 points) leads the Ducks in scoring. Selanne, as deadly a scorer as ever, has played only 25 games and says he feels absurdly fresh. Chris Kunitz has 20 goals to go with a snarly game. Corey Perry, who led the Ducks in goals (29) and teamed with Getzlaf, is trying to return from a deep cut to his quadriceps from a pileup in the crease. The Stars’ Mike Ribeiro has had a career year (27 goals and 83 points) and was rewarded with a five-year, $25 million contract extension. His linemate, Captain Brenden Morrow, also has had a career year with 32 goals and 72 points. Brad Richards came to Dallas at the trade deadline and has struggled to fit in so far, but the Stars liked his Conn Smythe credentials in the playoffs.
Defense The Ducks’ deep defense from their championship season got even stronger this year with the addition of Mathieu Schneider and Marc-Andre Bergeron to Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Francois Beauchemin, Kent Huskins and Sean O’Donnell. The Stars would love to get Sergei Zubov back. They did get Philippe Boucher back from a shoulder injury. The rookies Matt Niskanen, Niklas Grossman and Mark Fistric have played beyond their years.
Injuries Ducks – Corey Perry (lacerated leg), is expected back sometime during the playoffs; Ryan Carter (wrist) is day to day. Stars – Sergei Zubov (foot) is out indefinitely.
GAME 1 Thursday, 10 p.m. Eastern, at Anaheim
James Mirtle looks at the best defensive forwards in the game …
And it is all about Travis Moen, Rob Niedermayer, and Sami Pahlsson…The Ducks have the best shut-down line in hockey…
Meanwhile, I am very concerned about today’s fixture at Anfield, as Liverpool attempt to take Arsenal out of the Champions League …
'I spent 20 years at Real Madrid and second is no good'
Delirium or despair awaits Anfield tonight but Rafael Benítez has insisted that his Liverpool reign cannot be judged on the Champions League quarter-final with Arsenal. In an appeal for reason from the club's owners yesterday, the manager claimed that his long-term plan would reap further reward regardless of the outcome against Arsène Wenger's team.
Liverpool may hold a slender advantage in the second leg, courtesy of Dirk Kuyt's away goal at the Emirates Stadium last Wednesday, but it is Wenger who retains the unswerving faith of his boardroom despite the prospect of a third trophyless season. By contrast Benítez is planning for next season against a backdrop of uncertainty, with Tom Hicks, George Gillett and Dubai International Capital all vying for control of Liverpool and with only Hicks a confirmed supporter of the Spaniard.
Having been roundly criticised for another disappointing league campaign, Benítez wants another Champions League success to help him develop a winning mentality at Anfield, but he does not regard victory tonight as essential to the overall success of his reign.
"It is not easy when you talk about the Champions League and the money involved to be calm and to see the bigger picture, but as a professional you need to know it is not just one game that determines the idea and the future," the Liverpool manager said. "You need to have a long-term idea. That is quite important. To be here [in the quarter-finals] means we are doing something well and it shows we are going in the right direction.
And the Lineups are in …
Great Ramen Noodle recipes …
Is Dirk Clutch? The rankings say yes …
I just called in to talk about Dirk while I was on hold a guy called in to say Dirk is a defenisve liability... How about the play he was injured on blocking Udoka's shot? People forget so quickly, I bet the people who say he's soft don't even remember the 1 game suspension he got for sending AK47 to the hospital for observation.
I actually was just like them 3 years ago I e-mailed you after that ridiculous shot Dirk had at the end of game 6 in the 04-05 Suns series saying the Mavs would never win anything with Dirk as their best player and they needed to trade him for a high 1st round draft pick that year and start this thing over with a guy like Gerald Green (Ooops!) Since then I have done a huge 180 and I just wanted to take you through that on the air.....
Of course there's the famous drive to the bucket for an and1 courteousy Ginobili in the 05-06 Spurs series to get that monkey off the Mavs back. How about the time a guy named Tim Thomas, who probably feels the same way many of the brothers who e-mail you do about Dirk, got up in Dirk's face and started talking trash in game 5 of the 05-06 Western Conference finals, how did that work out for Timmy?
Then last season he goes out and puts up an MVP season there can be no arguing that he was the regular season MVP. You can fault him for Golden State if you want, but he's not the one who sat Diop and gave the Warriors a layup line to the hoop.
What Dirk did yesterday and against Golden State on Wednesday was clutch and there's no two ways about it. And for that matter the 3 he hit in LA (in the first game this season) was clutch. Dirk has been great ever since the 04-05 season in terms of stepping up and becoming a leader. If you want to find fault with the Mavericks I think there are a million and 1 other places to start looking before you turn your attention to Dirk.
Love the Compound keep mining radio gold!
Joshua in Plano
I share your appreciation of Monta Ellis’s game, but what’s even more remarkable to me is that he was a second round pick two years ago. In fact, when I look at the second and very late first rounders that Dallas could have taken over the last two or three years, it boggles the mind that the GM during that span doesn’t take more heat than he does. I mean, tell me if any of these second rounders might have helped Dallas avoid its current fate: Carl Landry, Glen Davis, P.J. Tucker, Craig Smith, Daniel Gibson, Paul Milsap, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Gomes. What about these late first round picks: Jordan Farmar, Jason Maxiell, David Lee, Linas Kleinza? Sure, none of these guys are superstars, or even stars. But they are all solid contributors on good teams. Compare that to Dallas’s draft picks since Josh Howard in 2003; oh wait, you can’t, since Dallas doesn’t have a single player from its last four drafts on the roster. Unbelievable, and the trademark of a franchise with no one knowledgeable at the helm.
Dave in Tulsa
Crank Dat Family Guy
Final 4 Rap