Speed Read: Playoffs Ruin The Regular Season?

One of the arguments I’ve heard over and over about keeping the current BCS system in college football is that a playoff would make the regular season irrelevant. Why get fired up about USC losing to Oregon State if they are still going to make it into the playoffs? The traditionalists, conference heads and Beano Cook all agree that college football already has a playoff called the regular season, and a postseason playoff would only tarnish it and make it unimportant.

Michigan State players react to Northwestern loss

Allow me to offer a counter argument based on last night’s college basketball results. Go tell the Northwestern basketball fans (and yes, they do exist) that the regular season doesn’t matter because it’s all about March Madness. In what might be the greatest day in Northwestern basketball history (and possibly the only great day in Northwestern basketball history), the Wildcats beat No. 7 Michigan State 70-63, their first win at East Lansing since 1984.

Or, go ask Virginia Tech fans if they are excited about knocking off No. 1 Wake Forest 78-71, handing the Demon Deacons their first loss of the season (that is if you can get them off the court.) Or Clemson fans how they feel about their team extending their record at North Carolina to 0-54 after getting shellacked 94-70 by the Tar Heels in a match-up of Top Ten teams.

But clearly, nobody cares about college basketball until March, which is why ESPN has about 500 games on a night across their vast network of channels. Seriously, this logic is as flawed as the BCS system itself - college basketball is thriving because of March Madness, not in spite of it, and nights like last night serve as a pretty stark reminder why.

The NBA also has a playoff at the end of the regular season, and people seem to be watching that as well (at least the final three minutes or so of games). And it was a pretty fun night there, too, if not as upset-filled. For example, the Lakers beating the Clippers 108-97? Not a surprise.

Andrew Bynum

But Andrew Bynum going off for 42 points and 15 rebounds? Big surprise. The Lakers are already among the league’s elite teams. If they get anything resembling that kind of production from Bynum on a regular basis, it’s a scary proposition for the rest of the NBA.

Here’s the other sports news you missed last night as you were still stuck in traffic trying to get back from the Presidential Inauguration:

  • With all the great basketball finishes last night, the best one was certainly in the SMU vs. Marshall game, where Markel Humphrey made a 75-foot shot as time expired to give the Thundering Herd a 53-50 victory. WSAZ-TV has the story and video.
  • Marshall player Markel Humphrey

  • You might remember the Greek basketball team Olympiakos when they lured Josh Childress from the Hawks and made a big money offer to Kobe Bryant. Now NEWSDAY is saying that they have contacted the Knicks about getting Stephon Marbury out of his contract and over to their team. I wonder if they buy cheap sneakers in Athens, too.
  • Rod Marinelli isn’t bitter at the Detroit media. No, not at all. MLIVE.COM says the new defensive line coach for the Bears greeted some male Detroit writers who approached him at the Senior Bowl with a curt “Hello, Ladies” before ignoring them. Needless to say, a women’s sports group has already squeezed an apology out of him. Hey, he might not like the Detroit media, but at least he didn’t steal their luggage.
  • Ever see the scores of one of those ridiculous high school basketball blowouts and wonder what it feels like to be unceremoniously thrashed? The DALLAS MORNING NEWS talks to the players on the Dallas Academy’s girls basketball team after their 100-0 loss on Tuesday to find out.
  • OK, I understand that Stanford might be having budget woes, as INSIDE BAY AREA reports. But they have a squash team? What’s next, racquetball? Kickball?
  • I imagine being a ball boy is a rough job - physically demanding, pressure-filled, and having to deal with your friends’ jokes about your job title. So what you probably don’t need is to take a forehand to the head, like STUFF NEW ZEALAND says this poor kid did at the Australian Open:
  • After getting ripped by Troy Aikman, who said that he didn’t “fully grasp what being the Cowboys quarterback is all about,” Tony Romo tells the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that he has vowed to change his leadership style in 2009. The first step: personally delivering a Singapore-style caning to anyone who speaks to Ed Werder.
  • With Charles Barkley having exited the broadcast booth (temporarily or permanently), it’s fallen on Chris Webber and Gary Payton to pick up the slack of slightly insane basketball analysts, and they are doing a fair job of it. NESW SPORTS has video of them slamming Nene for getting married over the All-Star break, which devolves into suggesting that Dwight Howard dunk over him and his bride. Good stuff.
  • In yet another example of the failing economy intruding into the protective bubble we call sports, the CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER reports that the Browns have laid off 18 employees, including their Director of Media Relations. Perhaps Rod Marinelli could handle a second job?
  • A high school basketball coach in Philadelphia tells the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS that he doesn’t blame his player who sucker punched him in the back of the head following a close loss, but feels for him. If only my old boss was so forgiving after I kneed him in the groin after he cost us the Putnam Electronics deal.

What was last night’s most shocking college basketball upset?

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Ana Ivanovic Getting In Shape For Her New Beau

• Nice to see Ana Ivanovic giving herself a good workout Down Under.

Ana Ivanovic Photo Workout Bra

• Just like an Iraqi journalist, Chris Webber takes aim at Charles Barkley by chucking a shoe at Chuck.

• With no chance at an NFL career, a former Iowa State RB sadly decides to jump to his death.

• What pumps you up for gametime? For 49er defensive standout Patrick Willis, it’s cold baths & Phil Collins.

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Speed Read: Eli Manning’s Brother Is OK QB Too

Remember way back in October, when the Indianapolis Colts were 3-4 and their playoff hopes looked completely dead in the water? What a difference a couple of months make. Last night’s 31-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was the team’s eighth straight, clinching a playoff berth and as the INDIANAPOLIS STAR notes, made them the first team ever to win 11 or more games in six straight seasons. And Tony Dungy became the first coach since the merger to make the playoffs in ten straight years.

Peyton Manning vs the Jacksonville Jaguars

All impressive, but the star of the night was Peyton Manning. You might not have noticed, but after struggling a bit during the team’s early slump, Peyton’s stepped out of his little brother Eli’s shadow, putting together a string of great performances despite not having a run game to speak of. And last night might have been his best yet: 364 yards and three touchdowns, including completing his first 17 passes in a row.

If he keeps this up, he might get some endorsements in the future. The game was a bit of a letdown for Jaguars fans, but their highlight had to come before the game, when paralyzed lineman Richard Collier took the field in a wheelchair with his teammates. No jokes there, just a Christmas wish that no other NFL players (or athletes) are the victims of needless crime in 2009.

Meanwhile, the NFL wants you to become a narc. Not about drugs (so please stop following Ricky Williams around, thanks), but about unruly fan behavior. USA TODAY reports that NFL teams are giving fans a way to report obnoxious fans to stadium security by sending a text message.

Text message sign for unruly NFL fans

It’s more discreet than having to find a security guard and point someone out, but it does lend itself to “prank texts” of people wanting to kick people out of the stadium. For example, Buffalo fans shouldn’t text message security and demand that Dick Jauron is kicked out of the stadium for “impersonating an NFL head coach.” Note: the Saints, Rams and Titans don’t offer this service, so feel free to act like complete cretins at these games.

You can choose one QB at their peak to build your dream team around. Who’s your pick?

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Speed Read: Kings Turn Back Clock, Beat Lakers

Suddenly it was 2002 all over again for the Lakers vs. Kings rivalry last night in Sacramento. The Arco Arena crowd was hooting and hollering and the Maloofs were acting like giant cheeseballs, high-fiving, bear-hugging and giving lap dances to anyone within reach. Sacramento temporarily forgot how lousy they are in delivering a 113-101 beatdown of Los Angeles that really wasn’t that close. Wake up the echoes of Vlade and C-Webb, indeed.

John Salmons and Kobe Bryant

What the game came down to was defense, specifically the Lakers’ total lack of it. They were unable to stop the high pick and roll, leaving the Kings with huge lanes to the basket to score or dish for threes. This is not a good sign for the Lakers going into tonight’s game against Steve Nash and the Suns, even if Shaq isn’t playing.

That’s three bad performances in their last four road games against average to awful teams (Indiana, Washington, Sacramento), which should be enough to silence any talk about 70 wins. But before Lakers fans go calling their therapist for a new prescription of Zoloft, they should remember that the team is still 17-3.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams

Meanwhile in Cleveland, a legendary Cavaliers superstar reached a huge career milestone. Congratulations to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had set the franchise record for career rebounds in the team’s 114-94 rout of the Toronto Raptors. And oh yeah, some guy named LeBron James tried to horn in on the Big Z’s big night by setting the team’s career mark for steals and chipping in with 31 points.

Other sports news to read while you consider calling in gay to work today:

    Wayne Rooney and accused killer Anthony Corsi

  • Apparently, about the worst thing you can do in England is tell someone they look like Manchester United star Wayne Rooney. THE SUN reports that drunken slur in a taxi line led to one man’s death while the Rooney lookalike is currently facing manslaughter charges.
  • The DETROIT NEWS has word that big-mouth former Michigan QB and mediocre MLB player Rick Leach thinks that former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr should “support” the guy who replaced him, Rich Rodriguez.
  • An Australian politician rues to the HERALD SUN that having soccer players overstay their visas and apply for asylum is one of the risks of hosting the Homeless World Cup.
  • The WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL notes that Ted Turner and TBS have been found guilty of a breach of contract in the sale of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers and ordered to pay $316 million in damages. Turner immediately protests that this “was nothing like an episode of Law & Order.”
  • Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller is cross that a ref swore at him during Monday’s game against Pittsburgh, says the BUFFALO NEWS. Reg Dunlop does not approve.
  • A good hint for coaches: don’t tell the press that it’s impossible for your team to win a game against your No. 1 rival, and Real Madrid’s Bernd Schuster said ahead of his team’s game against Barcelona. Not surprisingly, the NEW YORK TIMES reports Schuster’s been sacked. Also, don’t believe any rumors that Stephon Marbury is heading there to be the next coach.
  • 20 years later, Billy Ripken talks to CNBC’s Darren Rovell about his infamous baseball card. He still gets recognized “a couple of times a week” because of it - three guesses what people call him. Hint: it rhymes with “duck race.”
  • Stephen Curry: he’s streaky, but he’s also really good, as anyone who saw his second-half performance against West Virginia can attest to. The NEW YORK TIMES has all the details.
  • The latest name to enter the CC Sabathia Sweepstakes? The San Francisco Giants, who apparently weren’t burnt badly enough by Barry Zito to swear off big money pitchers. But Giants’ GM Brian Sabean tells the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS his team is just a “fallback” option if Sabathia doesn’t sign with the Yankees.
  • Remember when Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell said there was a “great chance” that Mike Leach wouldn’t be back coaching the Red Raiders next season. Turns out he’s changed his mind, says the AP (via the SEATTLE TIMES).

Which high-priced free-agent is some team going to most regret signing this off-season?

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Flailing Kings Retiring Jerseys Of Divac & Webber

The NBA has been hit hard in some cities by declining attendance, and perhaps no team has seen such a huge fall than the Sacramento Kings. Even in the ’80s and ’90s when the Kings rarely had a competitive team, the fans packed Arco Arena. But with the Kings returning to futility after several years of relevance, the fans have finally jumped off the bandwagon.

Sacramento Kings dance team drinking

(Drink up, Kings fans, it’s not getting better anytime soon)

So how are the Maloofs going to get butts back in the seats? Jersey retirements! That’s right, after the multiple NBA championships they brought to central California, Vlade Divac and Chris Webber’s numbers are going up to the rafters. I guess Lionel Simmons is busy or something.

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Blog-O-Rama: Mayo Move Could Cost USC Money

• The LOS ANGELES TIMES’ ALL THINGS TROJAN learns that if O.J. Mayo does leave early, it could cost Tim Floyd & USC some scholarships.

Tim Floyd OJ Mayo USC

Jorge Sedano of Miami’s 790 THE TICKET believes the Big Cactus to be a Big Fraud.

• DEADSPIN motor overs news that one lucky Reds fan will win a new truck - if an impossible home run hits it. But then the vehicle would be dented, and who wants a dented truck?

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Blog-A-Rama: Mark Mangino’s Our SHOTY #1 Pick

• Don’t forget to pick Kansas King Kong Mark Mangino for DEADSPIN’s Sports Human Of The Year:

Mark Mangino nose pick

• FOOTBALL GAB breaks the leg news of Joe Theismann netting $4 million not to work for ESPN.

• FREE DARKO goes through the mail, and uncovers this 1993 letter from President Bill Clinton to timeout-taker Chris Webber.

• CORN NATION is happy to report that ex-Husker coach Bill Callahan has found his true calling:

Bill Callahan Plumbing

• THE SPORTS HERNIA prepares for the hilarity sure to ensue at the Mike & Mike Celebrity Roast.

• The SACRAMENTO BEE pays tribute to Warriors fan and basketball mom Ann Barnes.

• Despite injuries and only one tournament win in 2007, DOWN THE LINE cashes in news that Maria Sharapova is still rollin’ in dough:

Maria Sharapova

• Speaking of green, SIGNAL TO NOISE learns that the Worldwide Leader has a big stake in the college football post-season, since they own five bowls.

• LARRY BROWN SPORTS sticks their beak into the Ravens crowing about bad officiating.

• FOOTBALL JESUS LAS VEGAS has some holiday gift ideas for the frugal female football fan:

Football diaper bag

• BLOG OF HILARITY needs some words of encouragement, as former UFC champ Chuck Liddell has been hanging with self-helpster Tony Robbins.

• PINSTRIPE POSTS gets a leg up on why Joe Torre isn’t at the Winter Meetings - the Dodgers manager needs a new knee.