NCAA Tourney sets up to be a memorable one


NCAA Tourney sets up to be a memorable one

From Comcast SportsNet
Were they minor hiccups or something much bigger? Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina will sort that out over the next three weeks. For now, though, they have "No. 1" by their names -- top seeds and beneficiaries of a selection committee that all but ignored their weekend losses and put them in prime position for the NCAA tournament. "The win streak? That's done now," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after his team lost only its second game of the season, a setback to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament Sunday that ended a 24-game winning streak. "The fact that we were invincible? That's done now. We're going to be in a dog fight. That's how you have to approach this. Play each game like it's your last." It's what the NCAA tournament is all about -- a three-week free-for-all that gives little guys such as VCU, a Final Four team last year, and Iona, one of the last teams to squeak into the tournament this year, a chance against Kentucky, Carolina and the rest of the so-called power teams. Michigan State earned the fourth and final No. 1 seed and was the only top-billed team to win its conference tournament. The Spartans defeated Ohio State 68-64 in the Big Ten title game Sunday and earned top seeding for the first time since 2001. Michigan State is seeking its first national title since 2000. "We were playing for a No. 1 seed, which we knew was a possibility," Spartans forward Draymond Green said. "And we were playing to do something that hasn't been done here since 2000. That's all the motivation we needed." While No. 2 seeds Kansas, Duke, Missouri and Ohio State wonder whether they could have been rated higher, teams such as Drexel, Seton Hall, Mississippi State and Pac-12 regular-season champion Washington curse what might have been. Those bubble teams were left out, and all will be wondering how Iona, California, North Carolina State and South Florida made it in. The Big East led all conferences with nine teams, including defending national champion Connecticut, a dangerous No. 9 seed, conference tournament winner Louisville and, of course, Syracuse, which cruised through most of the season with only one loss. "I think it's going to help us a little bit," coach Jim Boeheim said of the second defeat, Friday to Cincinnati in the Big East tournament. "I think players, when they're winning, they kind of excuse their mistakes. I think we finally got their attention. I think they'll be a better team going forward than they were last week." There were 11 at-large teams from the so-called mid-major conferences, four more than last year and the most since 2004 when 12 made it. Though the committee claims not to consider a team's conference when it picks the bracket, this was nonetheless a nod to how unpredictable this tournament can be. Last year, 4,000-student Butler finished as national runner-up for the second straight season, while VCU, of the Colonial Athletic Conference, went from one of the last teams in the draw, all the way to the Final Four. Who might be this year's VCU? It's the question being asked across the country, as those 10- and 20-a-pop brackets start getting filled out in office pools and Internet contests around America. The tournament starts Tuesday with first-round games and gets into full swing Thursday and Friday, with 64 teams in action. "There were 112 teams with more than 20 wins," said Jeff Hathaway, chairman of the NCAA selection committee. "We talked a lot about parity at the high end of the field and about quality throughout the field. Bottom line, it was about who did you play, where'd you play them and how did you do?" Some results, though, were less important than others, and apparently, losing in the conference tournament didn't cost Syracuse, Kentucky or North Carolina. Those losses could have created chaos in the bracket, but the committee had the teams more or less cemented into top spots. "Seeding really doesn't matter too much," Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston said after Carolina's loss to Florida State in the ACC title game Sunday, but before he knew his team would have a 1' by its name. "As long as you get in the dance, it's an equal opportunity to get to the Final Four." The Tar Heels open their run in the Midwest regional against the winner of a first-round game between Lamar and Vermont. Led by freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, either of whom could be one-and-done in Calipari's turnover-heavy program, Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed. Kentucky was placed in the South region and potentially could play six games without having to leave the Southeast. Kentucky will open its 52nd NCAA tournament appearance in Louisville against the winner of a first-round game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky, but it gets tougher from there. A possible second-round opponent is UConn, with No. 4 Indiana and No. 2 Duke possibly waiting beyond that. Indiana handed Kentucky its first loss this year and anyone who knows college hoops knows about Duke-Kentucky: This is the 20th anniversary of Duke forward Christian Laettner's last-second catch-and-shoot game-winner against the Wildcats. In the West, Michigan State will begin its quest for its seventh Final Four since 1999 against No. 16 LIU. The bottom of the West draw features No. 2 Missouri, which won the Big 12 tournament but got penalized for a weak nonconference schedule. "That hasn't changed at all over the years," Hathaway said when asked whether the committee rewards programs that beef up their schedules. In the East region, Syracuse opens against UNC Asheville with a possible third-round matchup against Jared Sullinger and Ohio State. Other games include No. 3 Florida State, which went 4-1 against Duke and North Carolina this year, against No. 14 St. Bonaventure, which was a surprise winner of the A-10 conference tournament and took a bubble spot away. Maybe Drexel's? "There must be a lot of people on the basketball committee that don't know too much about basketball," said Dragons coach Bruiser Flint, whose team went 27-6. Others left out included Miami, Northwestern, Nevada and Oral Roberts. All had flaws, as did Iona, though the Gaels' strength of schedule appeared to carry them through. "We tried to play teams or conferences ranked above ours, and most of those games we really had to play on the road to get those games," Iona coach Tim Cluess said. "We spent seven, eight weeks in a row on the road this year, but those were the teams we had to play to give ourselves a chance."

Patriots 'steel' a win in latest edition of TB Times


Patriots 'steel' a win in latest edition of TB Times

The New England Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-16, and the latest edition of The TB Times was quickly distributed to the Facebook world.

This time, Tom Brady, Chris Long and Malcom Brown are spotted sneaking out of Heinz Field with a steele "W," the headline reads "Pats Steel one in Pitt."

PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 16: Curran's Best and Worst | Troy Brown: Pittsburgh didn't capitalize on Pats' mistakes


Gostkowski: 'I stink right now...That's just the bottom line'


Gostkowski: 'I stink right now...That's just the bottom line'

Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most successful kickers in NFL history, and he's currently the higest-paid kicker in the league. He has set a certain standard for himself, and he told reporters on Sunday that he's not reaching it. 

Gostkowski spoke to members of the media after missing one of the four extra points he attempted in New England's 27-16 win over Pittsburgh. It was the second consecutive game in which Gostkowski missed a point-after try.

"I'm not happy with the way I'm playing," he said. "Mechanically, I need to be better. Just not playing good enough for this team right now. Keep my head down and keep working. I'm putting the work in. I'm trying the best I can. Need to figure out how to switch it up so I can be more consistent."

He added: "I don't really talk about reasons why I make or miss a kick. No one knows, nor cares to understand. I stink right now. That's just the bottom line. It'd be nice to be able to enjoy these wins a little more with the team. But it's not about me. The team's played great. Luckily the team keeps picking me up, I guess."

Gostkowski has now missed five kicks on the year, including field goals against the Miami, Buffalo and Cleveland.

"Obviously there's something going on and I'm gonna work my hardest to fix it," he said. "That's all I do. This is my job, I take it seriously. No one feels worse about screwing up than I do. It stinks to come in when you win and that's all you talk about is the one bad play you had. But that's the nature of the position. You deal with it . . .

"I've always held my head high, and I will always go out there with confidence, no matter if I miss 100 in a row so that's just the way I'm put together. I'm gonna keep working hard to do the best. Talk about a few feet here or there, we're not having the conversation. Just gotta tighten it up and be more consistent."

Gostkowski was asked if he was at a point with his confidence where he still wanted to take crucial kicks late in games.

"I always want to help the team win," he said. "I'm not scared to screw up. I've screwed up plenty of times in my career. Just kind of piling on right now. At my position, you only get so many opportunities. That's part of it mentally is taking advantage of the opportunities you get. I know that's the deal coming in. It's not like a news flash. This is my eleventh year doing it. Right now I just stink, and I need to figure out how to get better. It's just not working out. Kind of piling on, but I'm gonna hold my head high, keep working hard, keep doing the best I can as long as I keep getting the opportunities."

Gostkowski did not get into any of the mechanical issues he might be dealing with, and he did not explain whether or not he sees a kicking coach to help him with his form. Though this would certainly qualify as one of the most difficult stretches of his professional career -- if not the most difficult -- he said he's dealt with bad spurts of play in the past, and he's hoping to come out of this one soon.

"Being a professional athlete is tough," he said. "When you're doing good or you're doing bad. A position like mine, there's no hiding when you screw up. It's just part of it. You gotta learn to roll with the punches. I've seen guys that have been really good have tough stretches, and I've seen guys come out of them. I mean, I've played bad before. You play long enough, you're going to have stuff like this. Just timing-wise it just kind of stinks. If there was one thing to point to to fix it I would've done it by now. But I need to be better."