It was a special, special weekend down in Sarasota, Florida. We raised so much money for the V Foundation. Cancer research is so, so important as the late, great Jim Valvano said near the end of his life. The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota became the sports capital of the world with over 80 sports celebrities and over 850 people in attendance overall. We met our goal of raising over $1 million for cancer research. The final totals were still being accumulated, but the weekend was a great success. We raised awareness in this battle to beat the dreaded disease. There were a number of youngsters brought on stage to show that the dollars work in helping save lives. I can not thank the honorees, Jim Calhoun, Bobby Bowden and Bill Self enough for their generosity and time. The sponsors did so much to help the cause. The people behind the scenes, Mary Kenealy, Janet Allen and Elise Kashmiry, were so special, working so hard to make this happen. This is a year-round project, not some chicken dinner and the logistics are incredible. I want to thank my family for their support. My wife, Lorraine, is a rock through this event. It is so emotional, seeing these kids and telling their stories. Thanks to so many great people, we have reached many lofty goals. We went over the $10 million mark for total dollars raised at the various Dickie V Galas. Year after year, people have shown so much heart, they have done so much to help us in our effort. It is so important to win this battle against cancer. Kids should be playing outside and not having to deal with chemotherapy. We have made some great strides over the years. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Rock, chalk, Jayhawk country was jubilant as Kansas was the winner in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. Many times you hear about these superstar scholastic players and they are so hyped. Sure, they are good, but are the expectations too much? That is not the case for Mr. Wiggins. He is the real deal, legit and better than advertised. He is so explosive, with a great first step to the basket. I think fans are in for a real treat. Kansas is now a legit top 10 team. This may be the best recruiting class that Self has put together in Lawrence and that is saying a lot. Wiggins joins an already highly-touted Kansas class with 6-7 forward Brannan Greene (Monroe, GA/Tifton HS), 7-0 center Joel Embiid (Cameron/Gainesville, FL/The Rock School), 6-0 guard Conner Frankamp (Wichita, KS/Wichita North HS), 5-11 guard Frank Mason (Petersburg, VA/Massanutten Military Academy) and 6-5 guard Wayne Selden (Roxbury, MA/Tilton School). Keep an eye on the Jayhawks as Bill Self has to be ecstatic.
Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant were the top two scorers in the NBA this season. They have done so much to carry their respective teams. Now they are both staring at deficits in their series. The Knicks and Thunder have one thing in common; they need a secondary scorer to step up on a consistent basis. Durant really misses injured Russell Westbrook as an offensive threat. New York has seen J.R. Smith really struggle shooting the ball in this series. The Knicks also have to do a better job on the glass, not an easy feat against the size of the Pacers and Roy Hibbert and company. There is time for both teams to respond, but the next game is crucial. They cannot afford to fall behind 3-1.
It has been a great year for Rick Pitno. He won the national championship, he made it to the Hall of Fame and he got Russ Smith back for next season. His son was hired as head coach of Minnesota too. Unfortunately, the dream of being a part owner of a Kentucky Derby champion did not happen as Goldencents finished well up the track Saturday. It has still been a great ride for Pitino. Speaking of a great ride, how about a salute to the Chicago Bulls for winning game seven in Brooklyn. Joakim Noah played hurt and was special in leading his team to a win. As for the conference semifinals, here are my picks:
Miami over Chicago in five; New York over Indiana in seven; San Antonio over Golden State in six; and Memphis to upset Oklahoma City in six. The Thunder will miss Russell Westbrook again.
The playoffs have created excitement and some surprising results. How many people thought Oklahoma City, the Knicks and Clippers would all lose at home this week? The Thunder is not the same team without Russell Westbrook and there is a lot of pressure on Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City now has to go back to Houston for game six. It is not going to be easy to finish off the Rockets. The Knicks saw Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith struggle from the field in a loss to the Celtics. Boston will be rocking for game six. Doc Rivers found something in Terrence Williams in the second half. The Clippers have an ailing Blake Griffin and Memphis has been playing very well. It is competitive out there, baby! The Heat and Spurs are sitting back after sweeps and enjoying the rest.
The NFL draft certainly had a lot of drama and emotion. It was a great first round for offensive linemen, who went 1-2 for the first time since 1968. Alabama had three picks in a row from 9-11. I was thrilled to see Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert go as the Bengals took him at 21. QB was not as popular as usual. EJ Manuel of Florida State was the first one to go, at #16 to Buffalo. Round two has a lot of interesting players available.
I know it is early, and it is subject to change as other player moves, transfers, etc. can happen. For the moment, here is my look at the best that college hoops has to offer for the 2013-14 campaign.
The hottest team in baseball to start the season is the Atlanta Braves. Entering Tuesday’s series opener against the Royals, the Braves sit at 11-1. They are coming off a sweep of the talented NL East rival Washington Nationals. Atlanta has a nine game win streak and there are a number of factors. Justin Upton, who came over from Arizona, is off to a terrific start, teaming up with his brother, BJ. Then there is the pitching. How about a salute to Paul Maholm, who is 3-0 and has yet to give up an earned run this season. It has been a great start for the Braves. I am a big baseball fan and I appreciate great play!
What a great national championship game! I had the thrill of calling the game from courtside for ESPN International. It was so special, the passion and emotion of the players and the fans. Congratulations to Louisville for cutting down the nets. Michigan played their hearts out but there could be only one champion. In the first half, it was Luke Hancock vs. Spike Albrecht, something out of a Hollywood movie. Then Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan took over. The quickness of Siva going to the basket was vital. Behanan was a beast on the boards as he posted a double-double in the second half alone (11 points, 11 rebounds).
It was a great way to end the season!
I cannot wait for tomorrow night’s final between Michigan and Lousiville. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. meet Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. I think they will pretty muchneutralize each other. Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng can give Mitch McGary problerms in the paint. McGary has had three double-doubles in the tourney but he is going against a tough shot-blocker. The Cardinal bench could be a factor again. I picked the Cardinals before the season and I like them to cut down the nets.