This week in sports has been exciting, especially for the world of college basketball. Plenty of teams were playing for a chance to be a part of the NCAA Tournament. And for some of them, it was a very nerve-wracking time. Well, after the dust settled Sunday, one of those teams got to put on their dancing shoes. Middle Tennesee, who sported a record of 28-5 (19-1 in the Sun Belt Conference), lost early in their conference tournament. Being that they were from a small league, some thought their league tournament loss all but doomed their hopes for the Big Dance. But due to their outstanding record in their conference and the strength of their non-confernce schedule (sixth in the nation), the Blue Raiders were invited as an at-large team to the Big Dance. Middle Tennessee will be playing in the NCAA first round-game against the St. Mary’s Gaels. This is definitely a great thing for the city of Murfeesboro, Tennesse and the Blue Raiders team that has been knocking on the door of the Big Dance for the last couple of years.
But just like there are success stories, there are also stories of disappointment. The Kentucky Wildcats needed a deep run in their conference tournament to ensure they would be in the Big Dance. It looked like they were sleep-walking through the game versus the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC tournament, as they were getting throttled by almost twenty points. But just when it looked like they were dead, the Wildcats made a surge, highlighted by a coast-to-coast dunk by freshman guard Archie Goodwin. It seemed like the Wildcats were going to make a run and take over this game, but the moment was short-lived. Vanderbilt reassumed control and ended up beating the Wildcats by double-figures and crushing any hope they had of a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. The defending NCAA champs will not be able to defend their crown as they will be playing in the NIT this postseason. And this should come as no surprise because Kentucky did not earn their way to the NCAA tournament. The team never got on the same page and was devoid of the veteran leadership that it had the previous year. This team never learned what it took to make it to the NCAA tournament.
In the NBA, the New York Knicks are stumbling at the wrong time. They are 0-4 on their current road trip, the Brooolyn Nets are closing in on them and they have lost Carmelo Anthony and center Tyson Chandler to boot. As the team goes forward, the Knicks must find out what they can do to right the wrongs. The first thing that they must do is get healthy. Amar’e Stoudemire is essentially out for the rest of the regular season, but Carmelo and Tyson should be back soon. Once these two are back, the Knicks must change their strategy offensively. The Knicks have scored only 33.6 % of their points in the paint this year (last in the NBA). For New York to become a better team, they must attack the rim more than they have up to this point. And lastly, the Knicks must also pick up their defensive intensity. It seems like as the season has gone on, the Knicks have gotten worse and worse defensively. If the Knicks are able to ratchet it up there, then I can see them being able to make some noise in the playoffs. Until these three things are addressed, we may be looking at another early plaayoff exit for the Knicks.
LeBron and the Miami Heat won their 22nd game in a row on Sunday vs the Toronto Raptors. The Heat are on a roll and it looks as if they cannot be stopped. But that’s until you look at the next game on their schedule. The Miami Heat head into Boston next to take on the Celtics and their streak will definitely be in danger. The Celtics always seem to give the Heat all kinds of problems no matter when they play. In this game, Rajon Rondo is out and big man Kevin Garnett may be out as well with a leg injury. But even without them, expect the Celtics to be pumped up as they host their hated rivals from South Beach. Look for Paul Pierce and crew to come out and try to be physical with the Heat. Another thing that stacks up against the Miami Heat: they have lost 10 straight in Boston. Expect the intensity to be that of a playoff game. This should be a good one.
Finally in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens will look different than the Super Bowl team of this past year. They have lost cornerback Cary Williams (signed with the Philadelphia Eagles), defensive end Paul Kruger (signed with the Cleveland Browns), wide receiver Anquan Boldin (traded to the San Francisco 49ers), inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (signed with the Miami Dolphins) along with linebacker Ray Lewis to retirement. But the losses may not stop there as veteran safety Ed Reed has a decision on his hands. Reed met with the Houston Texans organization this weekend while he is trying to decide where he will play next year. It seemed as if it was a forgone conclusion that he would be gone, but after the organization cut safety Bernard Pollard, the door potentially opened back up for Reed to return. But the question Ed Reed has to answer is does he want to return to this team. The defense will be a shell of itself and the offense will now be on the shoulders of quaterback Joe Flacco. Reed could return to that or he could go to another team that is ready to compete for a title again next year. The choice has not been made by Reed, but all signs point to him leaving Baltimore and going to a competitor. It was always thought that Reed would retire a Raven, but now that is seriously in question.
These are my thoughts and these are my words. Until next time….