Thursday, June 20, 2013

Emptying my head before a much needed break

Gotta clear the decks before taking a breather, so here goes.

  • Props to both the UNC and NC State baseball teams for a great ride through the post season. Sad that they were placed in the same side of the bracket in Omaha.  Would have made for some great drama, had they both reached the championship series. Alas, one of them leaves Omaha following Thursday's game.  UNC has had a fairly sick season, having not lost back-to-back games (to this point), while NC State has been on fire for the last 40 games.  Great to see these programs helping keep collegiate baseball very much alive and well in the state.  Not that it was suffering, but runs like these only reinforce just how well the game is played across the state.  Fans of ECU know how good the Pirates have been in the past, UNC-W was among the nation's best, and Charlotte nearly claimed another A-10 crown, and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.  Baseball is quite healthy in NC.  And that's good.
  • The NBA Finals conclude Thursday night in Miami.  First, let me say I chuckled heartily at the fans that left game 6 early, and couldn't get back in once they learned the Heat were on the comeback trail.  Those moments are what make sports great (not the fans leaving, of course).  And it's those moments that should remind every fan across the world that it's not over until the clock hits 0:00.  Even if Miami trails by 20 in the 4th quarter, I suspect fans will still stick around...just in case.  However, I don't think they will be watching their team lose.  Miami will likely win game 7, and in convincing fashion.  I'm not banging on the Spurs, but as I felt ate the start of the series, the younger legs of the Heat would likely be the difference.  Add that to the demoralizing loss the Spurs took in game 6, and it's a recipe for disaster for Gregg Popovich and company.  Heat win game 7 by no fewer than 10.
  • The Stanley Cup Final is all tied up at 2-2, thanks to some shaky goaltending by both Chicago's Corey Crawford and Boston's Tuuka Rask.  Add their unusual performances (both had been remarkable through the first three games), with ice conditions that are frankly atrocious, and you get what we got in game 4.  Overtime, strange bounces, and goals that mostly relied on brawn than beauty.  The ice crew at TD Garden has no excuse for ice conditions to be less than perfect.  You can't tell me outside humidity this, or cooling that.  There is no floor changeover in the building with the Celtics out of the playoffs.  The ice maintenance crew should have that sheet perfect every time.  Period.  Now, the ice was garbage for both teams, which makes it equally frustrating for the players, and a stress test for the fans (as a Chicago fan, I know), so don't view that rant as a complaint.  Just a fact.  Boston's ice is junk.
  • I am too emotionally attached to this series to make a prediction. The fan says Chicago wins, but I wouldn't be giving Boston their proper respect by dismissing them.  The Bruins are ridiculously good.  Getting great play in net from Rask, their defense is aggressive, their forwards love to finish their checks.  They play the right way.  Period.  Tough, hard-nosed hockey.  Almost a lost art, really.  Chicago plays a similar style, but their game is based more on speed than the physical.  Whichever teams wins the Cup will be more than deserving.
  • Charlotte BobNets (making the transition myself) began their pre-draft workouts on Wednesday, getting a look ate Indiana's Cody Zeller, NC State's Scott Wood, Wake's CJ Harris, Davidson's Jake Cohen and others.  Realistically, only Zeller is on Charlotte's radar as a potential pick.  To me, he is on the periphery at that.  BobNets have just one selection for the draft (fourth overall), unless they make a deal to acquire an additional pick or picks.  I am interested to see what they do once the free agency period begins. The potential of having deep double digits of space under the salary cap is intriguing.  The thing that brings you back to earth, is they (once again) have a first-time Head Coach in Steve Clifford, and other than his resume being highlighted by working under both VanGundy's (Jeff and Stan), I'm not sure just how good this guy is, or will be.
That's a wrap for me!  Have a great weekend and week, as I'm gone fishin' (or something like that!)

Mike Solarte
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSolarte & @Sports_Night

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hello written blog...kinda

The NCAA Tournament is technically underway, but if you want to have some fun in our @MikeSolarte Twitter Brackets on Yahoo!, here is what you need.

GROUP ID#156620
Password is : sportsnight14

There is no cost, and a trophy will be sent to the winner.

Been a while since I typed up a video blogs are being placed on if you wish to check those out, but today is a special day at the blog....

Like the pollen that arrives every year around this time, so too, do the thoughts of a singular weatherman in the News 14 Carolina family (not me, you jokesters), believing he is the seer of all seers, when it relates to the NCAA Tournament.

Our guy Joshua McKinney steps away from his Doppler, and slips on his Bracketology Cap for this year'......BRACKET BAROMETER!!!

Bracket Barometer: A Forecast Full of Uncertainty…

Many thanks to Mike Solarte and the News 14 Carolina Sports team for giving me a shot to prove my forecasting prowess on the grand stage! I’ve got the verbiage to navigate this tough tournament and use it often when trying to predict the weather. You may often hear me say, “this is a difficult forecast; it’ll change by the minute, stay tuned!” You’re not here for that, you want substance. I believe at times, weather is easier to predict than people and that also extends to teams and sports psychology. Millions of unforeseen dynamics makes this a fascinating time to watch sports, analyze groups and cheer for the underdog!

Midwest: Wow! What a group of teams in this region! It’s stacked from top to bottom with talented student athletes, coaching and basketball skill. I’ll cut to the chase and get to the teams I see in the Regional Semifinals: Louisville, St. Louis, Michigan State and Duke. All chalk, but I think grit and tough defense earns Michigan State a shot at Louisville in the Regional Finals in Indianapolis.
Midwest Regional Champion: Louisville

West: There’s going to be a lot of red in this region. Upsets may happen frequently in the second and third rounds! When it all gets down to the Regional Semifinals I see four great teams with a diversity of play: Gonzaga, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Ohio State. Defense will prevail, but I don’t see it happening for Ohio State, I’ve got Wisconsin and New Mexico meeting for the right to go to Atlanta.
West Regional Champion: New Mexico

South: Some of my favorite coaches in college basketball are in this region. Tubby Smith, Roy Williams, and Shaka Smart to name a few! The selection committee is making it tough on me! The third round match everyone wants to see is Kansas versus UNC. So many story lines and history of the game shared between these two programs. Regional Semifinals: Kansas, Michigan, Florida, Georgetown.
South Regional Champion: Kansas

East: How can you not love NC State’s chances?! Get past Temple and you earn a potential date with Indiana! Call me overwhelmed by the anniversary of the 1983 team of destiny, but I see so much potential for NC State to match up well against the Hoosiers. Regional Semifinals: NC State, UNLV, Marquette, Miami. In 2013, the team that’s been on my radar all year long is Miami. I have a hard time going against them now.
East Regional Champion: Miami

National Championship Game: Louisville vs. Miami
National Champion: The trophy stays in Kentucky, but up the road in the River City. Louisville is set to cut down the nets in Atlanta.

Joshua McKinney is a meteorologist with News 14 Carolina, and you can follow him on twitter at