Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog Leaders

If I used the scenario generator properly, the SNBBC will come down to 2 players. "cadenjosie" and "parisher" (again, if I did this properly), have the best shots at winning the challenge, and one needs UNC (cadenjosie), while the other needs the somewhat home team, Michigan State.

I admit, the scenario generator is a handy little tool, but it's before 9 a.m., and frankly, I don't function at 100% this early. Put it this way, the blog's spell-check feature gets a workout. regardless, we'll keep you posted as to who takes this thing down.

Spraying to all fields:
Tiger Woods win on Sunday was pretty impressive. Knee problems? All gone. He proved (as if he needed to), that the golf course is his world, and we're all just sorta watching him live in it. 5 down to start the final round? No problem. Tough deal for Sean O'Hair, but he's not the first guy to sleep ion a 3 round lead, with Tiger lurking, and watch it slip away. He won't be the last. How O'Hair learns from the experience will be key. He's a nice young man, and obviously talented.

Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville Sunday, and the gripers are out there. "Why didn't he get flagged for ramming Denny Hamlin?" Stop it. Seriously. Neither driver was in the wrong. Hamlin had the lead, left a sliver of light for Johnson to go after, the 48 made the move, the 11 tried to close the door. Contact, 48 in the lead. That's just racing, people. Again, the double standard is funny to see. Fans want drivers to be like they used to be, "back in the day," when they would bang fenders, and trade paint, racing for the win. So when they actually DO that, some complain.

9 games left for the Charlotte Bobcats, 4 tough ones this week, beginning tonight at home with the LA Lakers. It will be Adam Morrison's first visit to TWC Arena as a visitor, having been dealt to the Lakers with Shannon Brown for Vladimir Radmanovic. Bobcats coach Larry Brown was rather open on Monday, saying that Morrison was unhappy in Charlotte, and Brown was glad he could facilitate a trade to give Morrison a fresh start.

I liked Morrison when he was here, but there was no question he had the radar ears. He could hear any comment made about him, even when he was on the floor. He was the 3rd pick in the draft a couple years ago, but never lived up to the demands in Charlotte (he did have flashes). Now, he's not seeing the floor much in LA, but he doesn't really need to. Hopefully, in time, his game will develop into what the Bobcats thought he could be. Too bad it didn't happen with the Cats, as he would have been fun to watch blossom.

More on the blog in the days ahead as we track the Final Four.

Mike Solarte

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bracket Busted

Louisville, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh have left my bracket, in a word, dead.

Dead on arrival.

I am mathematically eliminated from the SNBBC, and will update the winner on Tuesday of next week. Was a good tournament for me early, but the round of 8 is where everything tanked on me. The Cards being shown the door by Tom Izzo and Michigan State, Pitt be ousted by Villanova, and Carolina handling Oklahoma with relative ease.

The Sooners were abysmal from 3 point range (2-19)-if they hit 40% of their 3's, it's a whole new game, but they didn't. Carolina didn't have to play rough and tumble with the Sooners, because Ty Lawson was electric. An amazing performance. Does he have 2 more games like that in him? How is the toe? Time will tell, but he has been beyond impressive so far in the tournament.

More tournament chatter through the week, as we will have crews in Detroit to document all of it.

Mike Solarte

Friday, March 27, 2009

Only the Heels remain

Many fans of the baby blue will tell you, "that's the way it should be," but North Carolina is the last ACC team standing in the big dance. There's no guarantee that statement holds true as they face Gonzaga before sunrise in Memphis.

Duke was shown the door by a very good Villanova team. Very athletic, high energy, and very well coached. Duke shot the ball poorly, but you have to credit the Wildcats for some of that. Duke went 16 of 60 from the floor (27%), certainly a combination of missing open looks and Villanova making it uncomfortable for the Devils to release shots. The Blue Devils finish the season 30-7, with the ACC Tournament title under their belts, and they look to be fairly decent next season as well.

As for Carolina and Gonzaga, the biggest question mark is Ty Lawson and his injured toe. Head Coach Roy Williams seemed a bit concerned during Thursday's media availability in Memphis, and coupled with Lawson's virtual non-participation in the open practice, one has to wonder. Carolina ran a "real" practice off site (at a gym other than the Fed Ex Forum), and then went through the motions for the cameras at the site. There was no word on what Lawson did at the "real" practice, but Williams told reporters that Lawson rated his toe a "6" on Wednesday, when it was an "8" before the LSU game last weekend in Greensboro. He also said that Lawson has not received any kind of injections on the toe since before the Duke game at the end of the regular season.

For the record, I have UNC beating Gonzaga tonight, but Oklahoma eliminating Carolina in the ruond of 8 in my brackets.

Speaking of brackets, Memphis' exit cost me my first Final Four team. I haven't looked at them yet, so I am not sure how that affects my shot at winning the SNBBC. I have to think, though, I am still in the mix.

Enjoy your Friday, and be sure to check out Sports Night at 10, and then live post-game coverage from Memphis of the Heels press conference, roughly 10 minutes after the game ends. WATCH AND SWITCH, PEOPLE!

Mike Solarte

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet 16 (finally) Begins

I'm done prepping for the Sweet 16. This is when the tournament slows down to a crawl, and drags out for me. The opening weekend is great with all the games, but now it's night games (or in the case of UNC and Duke, nearly early morning). I'll watch, don't get me wrong, but man, you wait forever for the Sweet 16 to start. Let's get on with it!

OK, Panthers Head Coach John Fox spoke to reporters in California on Wednesday, offering up his thoughts on Julius Peppers, and Jake Delhomme. According to quotes I've read, Fox wants Peppers back, which is the company line, but knows that is beyond his control. He was quoted as saying "let the system play out." To me, that sounds like a guy that knows something is afoot (sign and trade, whatever), but can not say anything publicly. That's fine, as ya gotta play the game.

On the subject of Jake Delhomme, Fox says the team and QB are talking about a restructuring of his contract for a couple reasons: 1-salary cap relief, and 2-keeping him around longer. Sorry Jake Haters, the team is committed to #17 for at least a few more years--provided a deal can be reached. I won't go into it again (about his performance against Arizona in the playoffs), but his complete body of work outweighs one horrible night. THAT'S why the team wants him. They will certainly be on the lookout for his eventual successor, but the 2009 team is Jake's team.

Carolina Hurricanes have won 5 straight, and 9 in a row on their home ice, and currently sit in the 5th overall spot in the Eastern Conference. Getting hot at the right time is something that many Stanley Cup champions have done in the past--not saying the Hurricanes are Cup contenders, but you just never know once the playoffs begin.

Speaking of playoffs (cue the Jim Mora meltdown), the Charlotte Bobcats are doing what they can to end their season on time. Blowing a 20 point lead on the road against the Washington Wizards (a team that is simply dreadful), is not the stuff playoff pushes are made of. The defeat dropped the Bobcats to 2.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the 8th and final playoff spot. What was especially painful about the loss was how well the Bobcats played in the first half, then how they seemed to disappear in the 2nd. I would hope Head Coach Larry Brown owns stock in an aspirin company--no doubt he's needed to hit that remedy more than once this season.

Make sure you check out News 14 Carolina for live post-game coverage of Duke's press conference after the game tonight (tomorrow morning), and we'll have our preview of Carolina-Gonzaga on Sports Night at 10.

Mike Solarte

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Women's Tourney Not Ready?

Maybe I just don't get it (which is entirely possible), but how is it that we still have teams playing on their home floors in the NCAA Women's Tournament? I was under the impression that those days were over, but in fact, they are alive and well. The home floor thing didn't come into play in UNC's loss to Purdue on Monday, but it was certainly a factor in Duke's Tuesday loss to Michigan State.

Duke and MSU were tied at 47 with under 4 minutes to play. MSU scored back to back hoops, their crowd (their REAL crowd, since they were playing in the home gym) got wild and loud, the Spartans close the game on a 16-2 run, and the top seed Devils are knocked out. It's a double-edged sword, I know. Women's hoops doesn't fill up stadiums like the men's game does. I get it. Still, in the interest of a level playing field, neutral sites for the hoop tourneys is vital. In the lower divisions of college football, home playoff games are earned, based on records and the like. MSU was the lower seed, and playing on their home floor. Still scratching my head over that.

Neat thing I found out about on Tuesday, the Charlotte Bobcats will take a train from Washington DC to Philadelphia, as their mode of transportation on Wednesday night, rather than fly. According to Charlotte Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell, this is the norm for many teams. Makes sense, as there is no airport security, the train is chartered, so only team personnel is on it, costs have to be less (don't know this, but only assuming it), and since it's a short trip by train, it's not too taxing on the players. I haven't been on an AMTRAK train since I was in 4th grade, but I would think there is a bit more room for the players to walk comfortably in a car than a plane cabin.

This is neat, though, because I am a hockey guy, and love the history of the game. In the days of the Original 6 (when the NHL had just 6 teams, based in Montreal, Toronto, New York, Boston, Chicago and Detroit), train travel was the way to go. It was a quaint nuance of the league, and it's kinda cool to see it revived, if only in certain areas, in the NHL, and perhaps other leagues. I haven't heard if any others do this, but it's neat knowing there are some that do.

Busy Wednesday show for you on Sports Night, as we'll check in with Ryan Welch in Boston, the Bobcats travel to Washington to meet the Wizards, Carolina Hurricanes home with the Ottawa Senators, NASCAR chatter....busy, busy, busy. See you at 10!

Mike Solarte

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To the Sweet 16

So far, not so bad (and not so good either), for me in the Sports Night Blog Bracket Challenge (SNBBC). 7th place heading to the Sweet 16, and have a chance at a high finish (but likely not a win), if my brackets hold up. Any lower seed beating a higher seed, from here on out, is not really an upset, as the chalk held firm throughout much of the opening 2 rounds. Only neglected, and unloved Arizona remains in the "Cinderella" classification, their 12 seed in tow.

The ACC flamed out in the opening 2 rounds, with Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida State losing their openers. Maryland won a game (as I thought they would), but then ran into Memphis. Only Duke and UNC continue on, Duke meeting Villanova in Boston, and Carolina taking on Gonzaga in Memphis. I like Carolina's chances against Gonzaga, but I'm not sure about Duke and 'Nova. We'll see as the week goes on.

Davidson's NIT run came to an end this morning-seriously, this morning. St. Mary's (CA) knocked out Davidson 80-68, ending the Wildcats hopes of making it to New York for the NIT semi-finals. Stephen Curry scored 26 in the season finale, and now the watch will begin to see if Curry will return to the Wildcats for one more season. I hope he does--for selfish reasons. I like the kid. He's vibrant, and exciting to watch. If he decides to go the NBA, I wish him loads of luck. He's got the opportunity to be a solid pro. Not a star (and he doesn't have to be), but a guy that can contribute for a very long time.

Brandon Costner is leaving NC State to enter the NBA draft pool. This is a guy that averaged 13 points and 6 rebounds for his career in the ACC. The stuff of legend? No, but the stuff that can be coached into a role player in the league. I don't pretend to know what Costner is capable of in the future, but under Sidney Lowe, Costner showed he can be versatile enough that at the next level, he's an off the bench guy. Problem is, off the bench guys aren't necessarily drafted, especially in the first round. Costner will have a tough road ahead of him as a pro, but he wouldn't be the first undrafted player to land a job with a pro team. I wish him the best.

Busy week ahead with Jim Connors en route to Memphis, and Ryan Welch heading north to Boston. We'll have you covered every step of the way as the Drive to Detroit continues!

Mike Solarte

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wild and weird round 1 finish

If you are like me, then you were wiping the sleep from your eyes a little later this Saturday morning after some great finishes on Friday night. Wisconsin needing OT to beat Florida State, Siena doing the same to Ohio State (in 2 overtimes), and then there was Cleveland State.

Yep, Cleveland State sent Wake Forest home with a dominant 84-69 defeat. The Deacs never led, never got closer than 7 with 11 minutes to play in the 2nd half, and simply had no answers. It's a shame, because this was a good Wake team, but the Vikings were so good, it was a bit scary.

In the Sports Night Blog Brackets, "ipitytheblue" leads the way with 27 winners (out of the first 32 games), followed by "ptsimers" with 26, and then "bstar", "mmcfaddin" and our own Kira Mathis have 25. I am tied for 6th with 24 winners. Had I gone with the chalk, I would be higher up, but then again, the first round is all about finding the upsets, and I was close on several--VCU loses by 2 to UCLA (I had the Rams), Marquette escaped with a 1 point win over Utah State (Had Utah St.), and I had Butler beating LSU (Tigers won that 8-9 match-up). I did have the likes of Siena and Western Kentucky advancing, though.

Saturday and Sunday promise more fun and excitement. The tv will be a good companion today and tomorrow.

Have to get this off my chest, though, about the tournament as a whole. Why in the world are games starting just before 10 p.m. in the first round? In the Eastern time zone? The 10 p.m. start time is something that is reserved for adult league hockey games (trust me, I know, having played late night hockey for many years). It's not the start time for the NCAA's showcase basketball tournament. The latest a game should start is 8:30 local time. That's an hour and a half earlier than Wake-Cle. St. and Wisconsin-FSU got started on Friday. Yeah, I know, TV determines those things, but the NCAA is the one running this show. They need to make the call and allow these players, coaches and fans a chance to start at a time that they are somewhat used to. I don't recall an east coast start time later than 9 p.m. during the season, so a 10 p.m. start is just ridiculous. A 10pm eastern start is fine, if the teams are playing in the Mountain and/or Pacific time zones. East coast fans will stay up and watch those games. I know I would. Let's exercise some commons sense going forward, huh?

Enjoy the games, and root for my brackets!!! Ok, just enjoy the games!

Mike Solarte

Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 1, the record is....



Should have been 14-2, but VCU got the small conference no-call on their last shot against "mighty" UCLA. The Rams got hosed, and should have had a chance at the free throw line, but I digress. All 3 teams that I picked against didn't figure into the big picture of my bracket, so as long as the ink holds on my sheet, I'll be fine.

Looking at Thursday's action:

Duke, as expected had little problem with Binghamton, winning 86-62. Fairly complete on all fronts. Duke shot the ball well (49% from the floor, 45% from 3-point range, 84% from the stripe), and rebounded well (35-18 edge). Duke will be tested by their next opponent, Texas, on Saturday. Texas handled Minnesota 76-62 on Thursday, led by A.J. Abrams' 26 points. The Blue Devils will see a much more physical team than they face in Binghamton, but to Duke's credit they did roll 8 players through their rotation while the game was being decided. Ultimately, Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski played 12 players total, but 8 saw most of the workload.

UNC hardly broke a sweat against Radford, and they did it with Ty Lawson on the bench, still nursing a toe injury. Carolina won it 101-58, and Tyler Hansbrough became the ACC's all-time leading scorer in the process. Think about that for a minute. It's fairly amazing that a guy that doesn't take advantage of the 3-point arc is the leading scorer in ACC history. Hansbrough passed former Duke guard J.J. Reddick for the top spot, and Reddick was a witch from 3-point land. Hansbrough's detractors will say that he scored a ton of his points from the free throw line, due to him drawing calls by "flopping." I say RUBBISH! At the end of the day, he still had to put the ball in the hole, and he has done that better than anyone in conference history. Congrats to Hansbrough. Amazing feat.

As for the UNC game itself, I wasn't kidding about the "breaking a sweat," thing. That was serious. Wayne Ellington's face was dry with about a minute left in the first half, and UNC had crossed the 50 point mark by then. They weren't challenged (forget about the lip service anyone paid Radford afterwards--this was a rout). Carolina could very well get Ty Lawson back on the floor Saturday when they meet LSU, which would be ideal for them. First, they would get the ACC Player of the Year back in their lineup, and it would allow Lawson to knock off some rust. He hasn't played since the regular season finale against Duke, a total of 3 games. Granted, there won't be a lot of rust, but still, if UNC hopes to carry on in the tourney beyond LSU (which will be tough early, but Carolina should finish them off), Lawson needs to be on the floor.

Wake Forest tips off just before sunrise against Cleveland State (ok, I'm kidding, around 9:40pm), in Miami tonight, and I expect Dino Gaudio's team to take care of their business. We'll have coverage for you on News 14 Carolina.

Oh, and for the record, I lead the Davidson Mathletes 13-12 in the brackets. Don't know what I'm talking about? Click here!

Mike Solarte

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's the deal with the blue tape???

Many of you may have noticed during Carolina's opening round game in the NCAA tournament, a number of Carolina players are wearing blue tape on their knees.

So what's with the tape?

I spoke with UNC's strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian, he told me that tape is not your ordinary athletic tape..

Instead it is a special brand imported from Japan which works to stabilize the players joints, while slightly lifting the skin to allow for better blood circulation...

Who knew right, all that from blue tape!

The Field of 64 by 33

Looks like we have 33 players in the Sports Night Blog Brackets! The field of 33 is mostly you, the reader, but some News 14 flavor has been added. Jason Spells is taking his cuts along with Kira Mathis, and former weekend sports anchor Steve White is also in the mix. Should be fun watching this all shake out.

OK, so I have Louisville winning it all. I know I am doomed, because Louisville is the top overall seed, and something is gonna happen to knock them out. I'm not rooting for that, mind you, but it's just my luck.

Sorry ACC fans, but I don't have an ACC school in the Final Four. I have UNC beaten in the South Final by Oklahoma, Duke out in round 2 to Texas (upset special), and Wake going out in the Sweet 16. Just picks, people, so don't get all knotted up.

One other thing about the NCAA Tournament. Is it just really, REALLY sterile? The teams play in neutral sites, everything is very, VERY regimented (like down to the second as to when teams can take the court for practice, etc). This is supposed to be the highlight of the season for a basketball team--making the Big Dance! Yet, sometimes, I wonder if it's just over-commercialized, and the kids just don't get the chance to enjoy it (unless they win the whole thing).

Other news and notes:
** Carolina Panthers need a punt and kick returner, now that Mark Jones agreed to a deal with Tennessee. Hate seeing him go. Wasn't the fastest guy, but he protected the rock--no turnovers in any of his return attempts last season, and was crucial to the Panthers win over Green Bay.

**Carolina Hurricanes topped New Jersey 4-2 on Wednesday night, one day after martin Brodeur became the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender. Canes in a real battle for a playoff spot, and if they stay healthy, they should get there. Right now, they are 3 points out of the 4th seed--crazy, right?

**Speaking of pucks, if you are in Charlotte and looking for something to do, why not take in the Friday night Charlotte Checkers game. Friday marks the "Pucks for Patrick Night," a cause very near and dear to the News 14 family, specifically Shawn Flynn. Find out more by clicking here. Hopefully, it will be a packed house.

**Charlotte Bobcats on a 2 game win streak, thanks to another beatdown to an NBA bottom-feeder. 104-88 over Sacramento on Wednesday night, next up a roadie at Toronto on Friday. Don't look now, but the Bobcats are serious contenders to make the playoffs. Of course, their reward as the 8 seed would likely be LeBron James and Cleveland, but hey, it's the playoffs, right?

Enjoy the tourney, and our coverage on News 14 Carolina. Loads of reaction from UNC-Radford, plus a look ahead to Wake Forest's opener with Cleveland State in Miami. Don't miss it!

Mike Solarte

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My NCAA Brackets

HA! You think I am revealing them here? NOW? No way! Time is running out for you to sign up for the Sports Night Blog Brackets Challenge--a free game we set up on Yahoo. Here's the info:

Group Number: 122617
Password: news14 (type it like you see it)

I will reveal my selections and the like once the first game of the tournament (the real games on Thursday, not the sham of a play-in game that my pal Jason Spells blogged about earlier), tips off Thursday around noon.

I'll have a lot more for you on Thursday, which will also include a look at the Bobcats-Kings game, some hockey talk and more!

For now, GO GET SIGNED UP!!!

Mike Solarte

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NCAA enough is enough!!!

What's the point of the Play-In game (excuse me the NCAA says it isn't a play-in because both teams are officially in the tournament.) B-S!!!!

Honestly, that's how I feel about it. Right now I'm watching Ohio Valley Conference tournament champion Morehead State take on Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament champion Alabama St.

For an opportunity to play(wait-for-it) overall #1 seed Louisville! Congrats champions hope you enjoy your tournament run. Smile for the sponsors on your way back home.

I mean really, the NCAA created a fictional game of smaller schools just to allow the opportunity for one more major conference school to get into the big dance.

I've got a suggestion, how about we let the major conference teams play the play-in game and then they face the lowest number one seed. That would spice things up. A LOT.

Imagine Maryland and Minnesota for a chance at UCONN?

But we'll never see it, will we. Instead get a glimpse at players from Morehead St. and Alabama St. for a fleeting a second. And the major conferences will have their extra team in the tournament.

I'm going to DVR One Shining Moment this year, they better put both teams in for more than a combined 2 seconds!!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who wants to play?

For the loyal readers of this blog, I have set up a Yahoo Pick 'Em group for the big dance. It's free to play, and is only for the readers of this blog. You must have a Yahoo account to play (which you can sign up for one if you don't have one, that, too, is free).

The info you need is this:

Group Number 122617
Password news14 (type it like you see it)

No promises for a News 14 kinda prize, but I may be able to scare something up. I have 3 weeks to figure it out. Just make sure we can get in touch with you when you win it. Oh, and if I end up taking it down (as I anticipate HAHA!), runner-up would get whatever goods I can scrounge. Again, no promises.

Again, it's a contest for the readers of the blog--I thank you guys and gals for checking it out, and hope you'll tell others about it!

Mike Solarte

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Congrats to Duke

Duke claimed the ACC Tourney title with a 79-69 win over Florida State. Quick thoughts before Selection Sunday commences.

  • Duke, UNC, Wake, FSU are locked into the tourney, and I think Maryland, BC, and Clemson should get in as well. Will make for an interesting evaluation of the ACC in the field of 64.
  • UNC going out in the semi-finals is not as bad as people think. The Heels played without Ty Lawson, and his absence is huge. Rest, treatment and the crossing of fingers will be taking place in Chapel Hill as Carolina gets ready for the dance. Carolina can not win the NCAA Title without Lawson.
  • Swing and a miss on Wake Forest from my prediction standpoint. I knew Maryland was playing well, but wow, they had a nice tournament. Props to Gary Williams and his team. In my eyes, they have earned an at-large bid.
  • Don't think Davidson is going to catch the eyes of the selection committee, and that's too bad. Steph Curry belongs on the big stage, and maybe them missing out this year will spur him to come back for his senior season. I'm sure the Davidson faithful would love to see that.

On Monday, the women's field will be announced, and Charlotte will learn their destination. Congrats to Karen Aston and company for winning the A-10 title. What seed with they earn? Guessing a 5 at the high end. Guess it all depends on how much respect the selection committee gives the A-10 as a conference.

Charlotte Bobcats are on a 3 game bender, right on the heels of a 6 game winning streak. Wrong time to go south, but this week, the Cats face Toronto twice, and Sacramento, with two of those games at home. Anything less than 3-0 will be a disappointment, and could seriously cripple their playoff hopes. Losing to Minnesota on Saturday? Yikes. The guys have to turn that boat around in a hurry.

More on Monday!

Mike Solarte

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's begun!!!

I'm already 0-2. That doesn't bode well for my NCAA brackets.

In my last post, I had Clemson beating Georgia Tech, and Miami beating Virginia Tech.


We'll see how the rest of my picks shake out, but if my start is any indication, NC State fans should be jumping for joy (since I picked against the Pack against Maryland).

A reader posted a question in the last post, about UNC being a #1 seed in the NCAA's. I think if they hold serve in the tourney, they lock up the #1 overall seed as well. However, a slip against someone (like my predicted Wake Forest), could move the Deacs into one of the top 4 seeds. It could, but I don't know that it would happen. Remember, the selection committee has never been guilty of sound decision making.
UNC point guard Ty Lawson may not play on Friday (that coming from the school), after he did some work on a stationary bike Thursday. The team will make a decision on Lawson in the morning, and that could play a big role in how the Heels fare against the Hokies.

That's the beauty of the tournaments. It's the one-and-done scenario, and for many teams, this is their season--their shot at finding a way into the big tourney.

Other sports notes:

The Panthers cut CB Ken Lucas on Wednesday, saving themselves about $2.3 million dollars in salary cap space. Lucas had been viewed (fairly or unfairly, you decide) as a weak spot in the Panther secondary. Incidentally, the first pass interference call against a member of the Panther DB's came in the NY Giants game (read week 16), and it was Lucas guilty of the violation. Ponder that for a second--1st PI flag against the secondary came that late in the season.

Anyway, Carolina still sits with the franchise tag on Julius Peppers--that's expensive. Guess there are no takers for a guy with so much potential, and such a resume. Either that, or the asking price (draft picks) is too high. Can't be a fun time around that whole camp right now. Summer is going to be fun, and my guess is, we won't see Julius anywhere near the Panthers (if he remains with the team) until he has to report to training camp in July. Forget OTA's, forget mini-camps.

It'll be known as the "Summer of Discontent."

Or something like that.

The most wonderful time of the year!!

Is it Christmas??? No, sure the gifts,famliy and church services are great.
Is it Thanksgiving??? Not even close; however, I do eat like a horse for two days.

Instead it's the first two weeks during the month of March. It's 3 in the afternoon and I'm watching three basketball games from the Big East, ACC and the Big Ten.

It's during these precious four days I'm able to watch, study and pick sleepers for my NCAA bracket.

As much as I consider myself a sports JUNKIE, I just don't watch nearly enough college basketball during the regular season.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ACC Tourney Breakdown

The long and the short of it: The ACC Tournament champion will be a team from North Carolina. Yeah, I know, a quarter of the field already calls North Carolina home. Gives me a 1 in 4 shot of being right. Sorry, but that's just how this thing is going to go.

NOON-(8) Virginia Tech v. (9) Miami: I like Miami in the mild upset. These 8-9 games are usually toss ups, and I give Miami the slight edge. Loads of athleticism, and Jack McClinton should be enough to get them into quarterfinal action.

2:30 p.m.-(5) Clemson v. (12) Georgia Tech: There's a reason the Yellow Jackets won just twice in conference play. That reason was blind luck. Clemson moves on.

7:00 p.m.-(7) Maryland v. (10) NC State: Maryland has played well of late, and NC State's spurt near the end of the season was nice to introduce some new hope, but if Greivis Vazquez makes the Georgia Dome his personal playground, the Wolfpack will find themselves on I-85 North (or on a plane) in a hurry. Terps move on.

9:30 p.m.-(6) B.C. v. (11) Virginia: Should be a light workout for BC, as the Eagles have enjoyed a nice year, after being a pre-season pick to finish 11th. BC moves on to the quarters.

NOON-(1) UNC v. Miami: Heels too strong, and now too focused to let the Hurricanes stop them. Miami will make a game of it, but look for Carolina to move to the semi's

2:30 p.m.-(4) Florida State v. Clemson: FSU Has had a great season, but this will not be a reward for it. A tough draw for the Seminoles in their tourney opener. They went 10-6 in the regular season league slate, Clemson 9-7. I'll nod to FSU here, but it won't be easy.

7:00 p.m.-(2) Wake Forest v. Maryland: Deacs are playing some tough basketball right now, a nice bounce back from a bit of a lull when they weren't at their best. Dino Gaudio is to be commended, as he has really taken this program from tragedy and turned it into bonafide elite. Deacs win and move on.

9:30 p.m.-(4) Duke v. Boston College: Tough draw for Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils. I expect the Eagles to give Duke some trouble, maybe even lead late. I can't pick against Duke, however, because watching them play UNC on the final day of the season, I saw a team that, if healthy, could have beaten Carolina. I think the Devils will advance, but, as always, it won't be easy.

UNC-FSU. Will likely be the better of the 2 semi-final games, and I give UNC the win here. Carolina just has too many weapons, and they know how to use them.

Wake-Duke. Duke's ACC tourney stops in the 2nd game. Wake just too much of a roll right now, and being this close to the conference title game will be enough of a carrot to get the Deacs into the finals.

UNC v. Wake Forest. I know this won't be popular in Chapel Hill, but I like Wake in this game, and I like them in overtime. Not because they are the better team, but because this team has something special about it. It's one of those things you can't quantify, you just know it's there. I think Wake will have to hit a shot to force the OT, and likely have to take control of the win in the closing minute of the extra frame. I called it earlier, that Wake could be the team to beat, and now I am making them the team to beat.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Mike Solarte

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday things

* Conference basketball tournament play starts this week (and has started in some cases). Will be fun to watch as teams earn their spots in the NCAA tournament. Of course, we'll keep our eyes on everything for you on Sports Night at 10.

The ACC Seeding will get straightened out over the weekend, and then it's on the Atlanta. Looking at the conference right now, there are, in my opinion, any one of 5 teams that could end up winning the tournament. Of course, the favorite is Carolina, but you have to give a nod to these teams (in no particular order): Wake Forest, Duke, Florida State, and......


The Terps are playing some good ball over the past few weeks, and if they get hot, and stay that way...well, you just can't count them out. If I had to make a pick for the ACC Tourney winner, I would lean UNC, but if they meet Wake in the final, all bets are off.

* Props to the folks at the Quail Hollow Championship for taking an aggressive approach at getting the tournament re-branded, and trying to maintain what has been one of the premier events on the PGA Tour. I don't anticipate this year's tournament being any less than what it has been in the previous 6 years, in spite of the name change. The same tournament staff remains in place, and the best players on the planet are lining up to take on Quail Hollow Club. they unveiled the logo on Thursday. Not flashy. Not boring. Simple. Understated. Clean. Gonna look good on shirts and hats, and the tournament trophy as well. I love covering that tournament, and look forward to another great week.

* OK, now something fun. I was flipping through the channels at my desk, looking for a hockey game. Went to Versus, and found they were showing the movie "Wildcats." Goldie Hawn as the high school football coach in the roughest school in Chicago. Comedy. Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes, Nipsey Russell and a very young Mykelti Williamson ("Bubba" from Forrest Gump) make up the signifcant players in the cast. Not the greatest sports related movie ever made, but fun nonetheless.

Made me wonder, what your favorite sports movie ever made is. So, what is it? Go ahead and drop me a comment here at the blog. I'll give you mine in a later installment.

Thanks for dropping by!

Mike Solarte

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday Musings

The Carolina Panthers continue to be quiet, and now they will hit on the dusty (or snowy depending on where you are) trail to check out prospective draft picks prior to the April draft.

Other thoughts on this Snowmageddon Monday:
  • Memo to Fox TV--enough with the groundhog "Digger" during race coverage. If you are appealing to the 5-12 demographic, then cool. Last I checked, the race fan of today is in the 18-35 range. If I want cartoons, I will watch "Family Guy." Just give me the race.
  • Thinking college hoops, I like what Davidson has done, in spite of losing 3 straight home games. They saw life after Steph Curry, and perhaps it scared them into playing harder. I don't know. I expect the Wildcats to take care of business at the Southern Conference tournament this weekend, and earn their NCAA berth. After that, another exciting run in the big dance is possible, but other parts of the roster will need to contribute--it can't be all Curry. Good teams will keep a handle on him, and by that, I mean only let him score 20, and not 30.
  • In the Atlantic 10, the Charlotte 49ers are in a win-and-get-in situation on Tuesday night when they host Richmond. Win that one, earn a spot in the A-10 tourney (which not all conference teams make). Charlotte is a program that should not be in a situation like this, but they were smoked by injuries early in the season, plus the off-season departure of guard Mike Gerrity. Bobby Lutz has done a nice job with this team, as they have lost some tough games all season long. They could be a tough out in the A-10 tourney, should they get in. Still, they will have a hard time in that conference event.
  • OK, ACC time. NC State-needs loads of help. they play hard, but they just aren't up to snuff. Maybe a win in the ACC Tourney, but nothing more. Wake Forest-I like Dino Gaudio's team. So much so that I think they can find their way into the championship game. If the standings remain where they are tonight (Monday, March 2), Wake would get the 3 seed, and face the winner of Boston College-Virginia. Win that game, they would get either Duke/Maryland/NC State in the semi-finals. Win that one, and a likely showdown with UNC for all the marbles. I like Wake's chances (again, assuming things remain unchanged).
  • Keep an eye on the Charlotte Bobcats. They aren't in the playoff picture yet, but they aren't that far away. A March hot streak would get them in--they wouldn't be a serious threat to reach the NBA Finals, but they could make an interesting first round series, anyway.

More in the days to come. Who knows, maybe the Panthers will have something to say, but personally, I'm not holding my breath.

Mike Solarte