This was a big week! The Miami Dolphins at this point last year were 0-13. With three games to play this year, the Dolphins are guaranteed not to finish with a losing record. The record stands at 8-5 and the Dolphins are in a 3 way tie for first place. Miami plays two surging teams in KC and San Fran, and finish against the Jets in what could very well be a defacto playoff game. Who’da thunk it?
The Hurricanes finished the season 4-4 in the conference and 7-5 overall. They have been extended a bid to play the Cal Bears in San Francisco in the Emerald Bowl.
The Orange Bowl game here in Miami to determine the national championship will host the SEC champion Florida Gators who defeated Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide of Alabama vs the Big 12 champion Sooners who set the NCAA record for points in a season scoring 5 straight games of at least 60 points. This will be a great matchup. I still can’t say which team I expect to win, but I will certainly enjoy watching.
In fantasy football, I am going to lose to Jesse’s Fuserheads for the second time, which will lock up his playoff spot despite not even adjusting his roster all year. Ritz is behind the 8 ball, however. If he loses, he will miss the playoffs since Bachrach has beaten the Dead Skins this week. Ritz has Carolina’s Steve Smith tonight while the Buzzards have Dunn and Tampa’s Defense. The matchup is very even with the Buzzards leading by 1 point going into the game.
This year’s NBA championship was wrapped in irony and the history of yesterday and today. Many people (including Jackson himself) consider coach Phil Jackson of the LA Lakers to be the greatest coach the NBA has seen. I don’t believe that to be the case. I reluctantly acknowledge now that Phil Jackson has to be mentioned in any list of the greatest NBA coaches. Nine NBA championships (tied with Red Auerbach for most titles), the highest winning percentage in playoffs history by far, the most playoff wins, the 9th highest regular season victory total, and on three different occasions he won 3 titles in a row. The strongest criticism against Jackson is one that I have agreed with. Red Auerback said of Jackson that “he picks his spots.” He has totally had his teams built and developed for him. He has never been responsible for building players or building a team. In Chicago, he had Jordan, Grant, and Pippen in place before he arrived. In LA he had Kobe and Shaq in place before he arrived. Another fair remark tempering his greatness is that every season he has won the championship, he has had the best player in the league on his team, and for the three titles in LA he had arguably the best two players on his team. No other coach can say that.
The Celtics won their 17th World Championship in a blow out last night. In doing so, the Celtics protected the legacy of Red Auerbach for at least one more season. Red is tied with Jackson for #1 all time with 9 championships. Red had serious talent with Russell, Cousy, Havlicek, and many other all time greats. But none of those players were the best player in the league by consensus. And each one of those 9 titles were built by Red, the players were developed by Red, and those teams were undoubtedly Red’s teams. Even the other 7 titles were with Red in the front office with players built by Red and the Celtics organization.
Now here is the irony. This Celtics team is built on talented stars who (other than Pierce) were developed elsewhere. And for the first time, Jackson’s run at the title this year was with a Lakers team that he developed and built himself. Other than Kobe, these guys in LA were brought up or pieced together by Jackson. Red Auerbach passed away in 2006, and I wonder what he would have said about this year’s championship series. I know he would have been happy through and through that his Celtics stopped Jackson from taking sole possession of the lead in titles. But don’t you think he may have to finally acknowledge that even in defeat, coach Jackson (whose arrogance could only be matched by Red’s) has to be named among the greats?
The JayHawks of Kansas pulled out a stunning come-from-behind victory thanks partially to a coaching screw up and also a choke job at the freethrow line by Memphis. While Memphis was physically the superior team, Kansas played team ball, demonstrated their outstanding defense, and made just about everything they threw at the hoop in the last 1:30 of regulation. They forced many Memphis mistakes in the first half. Congrats to Kansas for one of the best NCAA finals ever. Unfortunately, I was in bed and was not able to watch past the first half.
Here is the scoop. Kansas plays some great team defense, and really does function as a team. Memphis has superior talent and is one of the most physically athletic teams to play college ball. Calapari is a competent coach, but apparently his strength lies in recruiting thes outstanding individuals. He did the same at UMass. When Memphis is rolling, they are almost unstoppable. I believe that Memphis will jump out to a quick lead and Kansas will have to buckle down and play smart basketball the rest of the night just to stay in the game. Memphis will beat Kansas by double digits. Memphis will finish the season with an NCAA record 39 wins.
My alma mater, the Lee U Flames men’s basketball team of the NAIA (that’s not a typo, we really are the Flames) had their best regular season in school history going 31-1 with a solitary loss to Auburn-Montgomery. Included in those 31 wins was a stunning win against the NCAA Div 1 Pirates of East Carolina, possibly the biggest win in our school’s history. East Carolina beat North Carolina State. On January 19 of this year, NC State beat my favorite team, the Miami Hurricanes.
At 2:00 PM today, the Canes (20-9) square off for a rematch against the NC State Wolfpack. Miami’s loss to NC State was in the regular season and was in OT. With a win, the Canes will pretty much secure a bid in the NCAA Tourney with a good chance at a 9 or 8 seed; a loss puts them in a weaker position and maybe on the bubble.
How would Lee fair against the Miami Hurricanes? My guess is that if the ball bounced right and the Flames were on fire, they might only lose by about 20 points. Some people have speculated that Lee can no longer continue to expand and grow the program without switching to NCAA, perhaps a very low division. In time, some expect Lee to be the next ORU, a Christian university competing with the big boys in college basketball and baseball. While I was a student, Lee was good but certainly not as good as they are this year. The Flames have a real shot at their first NAIA national championship this year, entering the tournament as the #2 seeded team.
Update: The Hurricanes beat NCSU 63-50. This totally locks up the tournament invite for the Hurricanes. I am guessing that Miami is a 9 seed.