Speed Read: Hey, Does Anyone Want To Be #1?

This year’s NCAA basketball tournament is apparently going to be the first one played without any #1 seeds, because nobody seems to want to claim any of them. This week, Pitt decided to be the latest top-ranked team to tank it, trailing by as many as 20 points in the second half in an 81-73 loss to Providence. The Friars are suddenly looking pretty good for an NCAA bid, with 9 Big East wins and 17 overall. This was their first win over a #1 team in nearly 33 years. Luckily for all involved, Jonathan Xavier was not at the game.

Providence upsets Pittsburgh

Professional golf, which ceased to exist last June when Tiger Woods got hurt, will finally resume today. Nobody’s happier for this development than the other golfers who Tiger will be competing against, whoever they are. Tiger’s first round match at the Accenture World Match Play Championships tees off at 2:02 Eastern time this afternoon. His opponent is someone named Brendan Jones, who just learned how to play golf last week. How confident is NBC that Tiger will make it to Saturday’s semifinals? They’re airing ads promoting Tiger’s appearance on the NBC broadcast this weekend.

Tiger Woods

(He didn’t win anything. This is just the trophy he gets to carry around every day for being Tiger Woods)

Do you have World Baseball Classic fever yet? Does anyone? This WBC seemed like a good idea a couple of years ago, but this year’s rosters are devoid of many of the sport’s biggest stars. Your U.S. roster features such giants of the game like Chris Ianetta, Jeremy Guthrie, and Matt Thornton. The Dominican team is without Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez (who’s from New York City, mind you), but now gets to deal with the distraction that is A-Roid. It’s all moot, of course, since the powerhouse Italians are winning the whole thing. Who can stop Val Pascucci and Nick Punto?

As a reward for winning the title last year, the Celtics get to have 29 players on their roster. Case in point: the C’s have signed the recently waived Mikki Moore, who was playing for the Kings. And now the long-rumored acquisition of Stephon Marbury is about to happen, since Steph was finally bought out by the Knicks. Shockingly, New York was not successful in swinging a trade for a guy whose salary is $21 million and has spent his season hanging out at bus stops and buying tickets to see his own team play.

Stephon Marbury attends Knicks-Lakers game

 • TMZ says that Charles Barkley might have to don a pink prison uniform during his five-day stay in the same jail that houses rapper DMX. Although, it appears as if Chuck has been given “work release” and only has to be in jail from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. So, basically he’s staying in a crappy hotel for five nights and wearing a pink snuggie.

Charles Goldberg of the Auburn blog THE GOLD MINE writes that highly-regarded high school running back David Oku has moved from Oklahoma to Lincoln, Nebraska to be closer to some girl he met while on an official visit to Nebraska. And his parents are OK with their kid taking off to go live on his own and date a college girl. This seems like a great idea.

• Speaking of Stephon Marbury, the poor guy had to accept a buyout of around $2-3 million less than his salary for “playing” this season for the Knicks. But Darren Rovell of CNBC says that Marbury earned enough that he could’ve bought a pair of his Starbury sneakers every nine seconds.

The CFL isn’t recognizing there’s a recession, according to the VANCOUVER SUN. Four CFL cities (all of which are home to teams called the Roughriders) are in the process of securing funds for new stadiums or improvements to their current facilities.

Canada

• Former major league pitcher Rick Helling on steroids: “There is this problem with steroids. It’s happening. It’s real. And it’s so prevalent that guys who aren’t doing it are feeling pressure to do it because they’re falling behind. It’s not a level playing field. We’ve got to figure out a way to address it.” When did he say this? 1998. TIME has the story of a guy who went ignored way too long.

• The SPORTS HERNIA points out that the Mets’ Fernando Tatis missed Monday’s intrasquad game with a rather unusual injury:

Fernando Tatis palm injury

• PRO FOOTBALL TALK says that Eric Mangini and the rest of the new Browns staff is “lukewarm” on Brady Quinn. Which is rather insulting, considering Quinn won all those national championships in college.

• As if there aren’t enough Shulas running around, Dan Shula — son of David and grandson of Don — has been hired as an assistant coach at Illinois State.

• The Supreme Court may be hearing a case that results in a ban on public school coaches participating with members of their teams in prayer or other religious expression, according to the TENNESSEAN. Current precedent doesn’t allow coaches to initiate prayer, but doesn’t necessarily ban them from participating.

• The Oakland A’s have scrapped plans to build a new ballpark in the East Bay suburb of Fremont. San Jose has now apparently emerged as a new contender to rip the team away from the Mausoleum.

• WITH LEATHER says that Jason Giambi has aspirations to be a bouncer at a strip club after he retires from baseball. And Rick’s Cabaret in New York City is first in line with a job offer (link somewhat NSFW).

Every week, the #1 team in college basketball totally craps the bed. What new team should get a shot at #1?

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Speed Read: Ex-Buc Rice Rips “Scumbag” Gruden

I’m making a list of people who still like former Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden. John Daly is one, since he needs all the friends he can get these days. And I’m sure his mother is still very proud of him. After that…it gets pretty dicey. Almost immediately after he was fired by Tampa Bay, his former players lined up to take shots at him. Michael Clayton labeled Gruden “a turncoat while Jeff Garcia said the team needed a change” from Gruden.

The Punchable Faces of Jon Gruden

Now you can add Simeon Rice to the list of players lining up to rip Gruden, and the former Bucs Pro Bowler isn’t pulling any punches. In an interview with Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan on Sirius NFL Radio, Rice went off on Gruden, running down a laundry list of players who hate him, and shredding his character like a rat going through an old stack of magazines in your garage:

Simeon Rice

“How I feel personally? I could tell you that, too. I think he’s a scumbag,” Rice said. “I think he’s a scumbag personally. That’s when he’s telling you one thing and… You know what he told me? ‘Simeon you’ll be here in the next five years.’ I got injured [and] this man’s never said one word to me. I won a Super Bowl for you. I got 13 sacks, 12, 15 every year for you. I balled. I got injured [and] you let me go like it was nothing.”

Now, to be fair, Rice had a grand total of one sack in 2007 after being cut by the Buccaneers and didn’t play last year, so it’s not like Rice showed Gruden what a horrible mistake he made by letting him go. But judging by the stories that keep coming out, releasing an injured player who helped you win a Super Bowl without saying a word to him seems to be right up his alley.

Hmm, let’s see: a “offensive genius” head coach whose teams always have lousy defenses; who is about as likable as genital warts and has the personal skills of Jeff Conaway; and who inspires hatred and disloyalty from former and current players. I’m starting to think that Notre Dame could have stuffed Gruden into a sumo suit and swapped him for Charlie Weis, and no one would have known the difference.

But Jon, if it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t just the fact that your players hate you that got you fired. Apparently the fans all hate you as well. So that’s nice.

Here’s more stories that happened while you were wondering what the South Korean version of “The O’Reilly Factor” must be like (chainsaws optional).

  • Oops, they did it again: the Lakers managed to overlook the Charlotte Bobcats and fall 117-110 in double OT. All this with the Bobcats’ best player - Gerald Wallace - missing the overtimes with an injury. The LOS ANGELES TIMES has the gory details of the Lakers’ fifth loss to the Bobcats in their last six meetings. (Really, and these are the title favorites?)
  • Emeka Okafor battles Andrew Bynum

  • FOOD COURT LUNCH examines “The Hansbrough Effect,” where college basketball analysts laud the hard work and gritty determination of big, white stiffs who will be sure to flop in the NBA. Which gives me another chance to type Kevin Pittsnogle.
  • The BOSTON GLOBE reports that Tom Brady’s rehab is on schedule, and he is on track to start the Patriots 2009 season opener. Which means: get ready for nine months of the Matt Cassel Trade Watch.
  • Remember when the brother of Providence guard Jeff Xavier rushed the court and confronted a referee? ESPN.COM reports that Jonathan Xavier is being held without bail for violating his probation from a 2005 drug conviction. I’m shocked that he’d make a bad decision. In case you didn’t see it, here’s the video of the bizarre on-court incident:

  • Who loves chicken? New Orleans Hornets fans love chicken, especially when they get it for free if the Hornets score 100 points. NOLA.COM has the exciting blow-by-blow as the team sits on 99 with just seconds to go.
  • TRAVELIN’ LIGHT says that a resort in Aruba is offering vacation packages for fantasy baseball and football drafts. Sure, the resort might have beautiful beaches, world-class food and exciting casinos, but does it have a Bubble Hockey machine and old NES system with RBI Baseball like my garage? I didn’t think so.
  • If you think you’ve had a rough life, think about Arizona Cardinals lineman Darnell Dockett, who found his mother murdered, execution style, when he was 13. And then his father died of cancer four months later. The GANNETT NEWS SERVICE has a moving piece on his relationship with his uncle, who helped him get his life back on track.
  • Meanwhile, Dockett’s fellow Florida State alum Peter Warrick is pretty far removed from the Super Bowl: The BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL PANTAGRAPH reports that he’s signed a contract with the Bloomington Extreme of the minor-league Indoor Football League. Just in case he is curious, the nearest Dillard’s in 100 miles away in Moline.
  • The Braves need a power hitter to provide protection for Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Enter Jeff Francoeur and .239 batting average. MLB.COM says that Jones, for one, is thrilled to have “Frenchy” back. Hey, if your other option is Andruw Jones, anything looks good.
  • Ever nearly kill yourself trying to get that stuck bag of chips dislodged from a vending machine? Me too! Now there’s a video game for you: Adult Swim’s Ultimate Vending Machine Challenge.

Which current NFL coach is most likely to have players lining up to rip him when he leaves?

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NCAA Baller’s Brother Crashes Court Mid-Game

I think we’ve all been there before. You’re watching a family member play basketball and you sometimes get a little too emotional when a call doesn’t go your way. Of course, most of you out there probably don’t casually walk out on the court to discuss the situation with the officials. That’s not how Jonathan Xavier rolls.

Providence player brother Jonathan Xavier

Jonathan’s brother, Jeff, plays for Providence and got whacked upside the head by a Marquette player, though it looks as if the contact was entirely accidental. Jeff was woofing at the Marquette bench while holding an ice pack on his face, so Jonathan decided it would be a good time to see what exactly the refs were thinking when they didn’t give his bro the call.

And this wasn’t even the only odd on-court incident on Saturday. Video after the jump.

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