Monday, February 15, 2010

Two Messes: Daytona And The NBA All-Star Game

Observations on an off-kilter sports weekend:

1. Is It Over Yet?

The Daytona 500 lasted longer than some marriages and don't you know somebody important was screaming about the pothole that kept tearing apart, treating the 200,000 in attendance and all the others watching on television to road crew work.

Was it a great Daytona 500? It would have been if Dale Jr. had won but the conspiracy theories would have been thicker than the chatter between Joe Biden and Dick Cheney.

It was definitely interesting and if you thought Jamie McMurray was going to win, your nose is growing.

2. Is It Over Yet, Part 2?

There's a word for the NBA All-Star Game: Unwatchable.

3. At Least We Know...

Duke is going to win the ACC regular-season race, unless something really weird happens like potholes at the foul line in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils' emphatic win over Maryland Saturday confirmed the suspicion that Duke is the league's best team.

4. Myrtle Beach Days

Dustin Johnson won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for the second straight year on Sunday, putting the Myrtle Beach resident into position to play his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team later this fall.

In the golf equivalent of "the big one" at Daytona, leader Paul Goydos made a nine on the par-5 14th hole to ruin his weekend. How'd he make the nine? He holed a three-footer.

5. There's Snow At Beech Mountain

Maybe the Olympics can move the men's and women's downhill events there. I know Mother Nature can be capricious but if you're going to host the Winter Olympics, don't you make certain there's going to be snow on the mountain for the skiing?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Weekend -- The Sports Way

Five reasons to be excited about this weekend – besides the fact it’s Valentine’s Day. You remembered that didn’t you?

1. Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

It’s the Great American Race as the TV folks like to call the Daytona 500 and, for one week anyway, everybody is even with four-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

Even Dale Jr.

2. Danica, Part 2

She showed some driving chops in her ARCA debut last weekend. Now she puts herself on the track in the Nationwide Series, a big step in her heavy-footed learning curve.

One thing’s for certain –she’ll make it interesting.

3. “And From The Charlotte Bobcats…”

Those of us who’ve been watching Gerald Wallace play these last few years know how good he is. For those who haven’t noticed, Wallace becomes the first Bobcat to play in the NBA All-Star Game where the whole world can pay attention.

4. Everybody Loves Raymond And Andy Garcia and Tom Brady And…

It’s the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where you get to watch famous people play not so famous looking golf at Pebble Beach and courses in one of Mother Nature’s nicest neighborhoods.

There will be lots of average-looking putts and cashmere sweaters and Bill Murray. It might get old if they did this all the time but for a cold February weekend, it’s not a bad way to spend some time with your television.

5. The Battle For Last Place

Strangely – or not – that’s what’s at stake in the N.C. State-North Carolina game Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Not exactly what Tobacco Road is known for.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Five Questions About The ACC Race

After a busy Wednesday night and in advance of another active weekend, here are five issues awaiting a resolution in the muddled ACC basketball race:

1. Could North Carolina finish last?

Absolutely. That doesn't mean it's going to happen 0r that it's likely to happen but if the Tar Heels lose at home Saturday to N.C. State, they'll be in the cellar with three weeks left in the regular season. And they still have to visit Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Duke.

2. Will North Carolina Play In The NIT?

Unless they win out or run the table in the ACC tournament, it's going to be their only post-season option. Would the Tar Heels take it? Their fans will say no. The administration may say otherwise.

3. If Lance Thomas Is Out, What Happens To Duke?

It doesn't help, that's for sure. Thomas is one of those players whose value can't be measured by the stat sheet. He gives Duke a strong interior defensive presence and if Duke is without him for a while, it won't be as good. Freshman Mason Plumlee will have to play a more prominent role and he's getting better as the season goes on.

The Blue Devils are built around the trio of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith and this will only increase the burden on them.

4. Which Teams Will Get First-Round ACC Tournament Byes?

Barring a total collapse, Duke will have Thursday off in Greensboro. Maryland will probably get one of those byes, as well. From there, it's still wide open. Right now, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the best bets.

5. How Many NCAA Teams Will The ACC Get?

It's getting to that point where the barometer reading changes with every game. With nine teams at 17-7 or better, the records look good enough but some of that is fool's gold. Miami hasn't beaten enough good teams to get in. Florida State is in its usual iffy position, probably outside looking in. Clemson needs to find some consistency and Georgia Tech runs hot and cold.

Right now, it looks like five.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Five Favorites From Duke and North Carolina

With Duke and North Carolina squaring off tonight in Chapel Hill, let's skip the negative and get to the positive. As someone who has been watching the Tar Heels and Blue Devils more longer than he'd care to admit, here are staff writer Ron Green Jr.'s five favorite players from both programs.


1. Bobby Hurley

I loved the way he played. He wasn't always the prettiest but he was the grittiest. And the 3-pointer he hit late in the NCAA tournament win over UNLV was among the biggest shots in school history.

2. Grant Hill

He was so good and so stylish that even North Carolina fans admired him.

3. J.J. Redick

I still haven't figured out why he was so disliked. Maybe because he was that good.

4. Gene Banks

We're going back a few years with this one but Tinkerbell had style. Upon being introduced for his final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, he threw roses to the crowd -- then hit a late jumper to beat the Tar Heels.

5. Kenny Dennard

They don't make them like Dennard any more. He was tough, relentless and great fun.


1. Larry Miller

I know he played more than 40 years ago but he had style, charisma and game. If he played today, he'd be an enormous star and he's still the most important recruit in Dean Smith's career.

2. Michael Jordan

You know why he's on the list.

3. Phil Ford

There's a good argument to be made that there's never been a better point guard in the ACC than Ford. Next to Jordan, he may still be the most beloved Tar Heel.

4. Charlie Scott

I know the game has changed since he played but if he were 20 again, he'd be the best player in the ACC right now and maybe the best in the country.

5. Mike O'Koren

Okay, I've gone entirely old school with the Tar Heels. It's a generational thing, I suppose. It's no slap at the more recent Tar Heels, just one guy's list of his favorite players.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Five Reasons To Feel Hoop-ful

While finishing off the leftovers from the Super Bowl party, let's take a quick look at five college basketball games around the area this week that will have more than a few hearts thumping:

1. Charlotte at Dayton, Wednesday night: The 49ers are atop the Atlantic-10 standings but they're not awarding banners or NCAA tournament bids just yet. Bobby Lutz's team keeps finding ways to win -- that was a nice escape at Fordham last weekend to avoid a potentially nasty loss -- and a victory over the 16-6 Flyers in Dayton would be large.

2. Davidson at Appalachian State Thursday night: It's been a season of adjustment for both programs. The Wildcats are learning about life after Stephen Curry while the Mountaineers are in their first year under new/old coach Buzz Peterson. The Southern Conference tournament is getting closer and this is all about getting position for a good seed.

3. Duke at North Carolina, Wednesday night: This isn't the juiciest match-up of these old rivals but that won't matter once they get on the floor together. For the Tar Heels, it's desperation time.

4 Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, Saturday night: If the Deacons can beat Boston College at home tonight, a win over the Yellow Jackets would keep them near the ACC lead. Georgia Tech is dangerous at home but needs to show it can win on the road.

5. Maryland at Duke, Saturday afternoon: Greivis Vasquez plays his last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. How can that not be fun?

(BONUS GAME): N.C. State at North Carolina, Saturday afternoon: Forget where they are in the ACC standings. It's the Wolfpack against the Tar Heels.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What About Manning's Brett Favre Moment?

Five observations from a sports weekend that was better for most of us than it was for Warren Sapp:

1. Playing To Win Even if you were pulling for the Indianapolis Colts (which put you among about 15 percent of fans, it seems), you had to admire the way the Saints went about winning the Super Bowl. They didn't play the odds. They played to win. Fans will take that every time. Almost.

2. Peyton's Brett Favre Moment

You know what the reaction would be had Brett Favre thrown the Super Bowl-losing pick-six that Peyton Manning threw Sunday night. There would be outrage and cries for his guaranteed spot in the Hall of Fame to be taken away.

But how will Manning be treated?

There was all that pre-game talk about how he would study the Saints' defense, figure it out and be at his best late in the game. It didn't happen that way.

The Saints' on-side kick to start the second half was stunning but not much more than the Peyton pick that essentially ended the game.

3. It's Duke-North Carolina Week One side is very excited about Wednesday night in Chapel Hill. You can probably figure out which one.

4. Maybe They'll Change The Name To DANICAR
Danica Patrick, who has never finished worse than sixth in her stock car racing career, will make her NASCAR debut Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Daytona. You'll probably hear a little more about that this week.

5. The Best Golfer In The World Not Named Tiger Woods
That would be Steve Stricker.

In winning the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles on Sunday, Stricker -- perhaps the nicest man in professional sports -- jumped Phil Mickelson to take over the second spot in the world golf rankings. That means Stricker is now the best active professional golfer in the world.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Super Weekend -- And Football, Too

Since it looks like golf is out here this weekend, here are five things to fill up a sports weekend:

1. The Last Football Game

You may have heard about this -- the Colts versus the Saints Sunday night in South Florida. After the Super Bowl, football goes on hiatus until mid-summer when training camps start. There is the NFL draft to look forward to if you're really into it and your team has a first-round pick.

The Colts are five-point favorites but the Saints are the sentimental choice. It's a safe bet there will be plenty of points scored. Here's hoping you have the right squares in the Super Bowl pool.

2. Welcome Home

After nearly two weeks on the road, the Charlotte Bobcats are back home Saturday night to face the New Orleans Hornets, who used to call Charlotte home.

It would be nice if Chris Paul were playing, since the Hornets only visit once a season, but with him coming off ankle surgery, that's one serious problem the Bobcats won't have to deal with.

3. The ACC Schedule -- Maybe

With heavy snow forecast for Virginia and Washington, D.C., a handful of games could be in jeopardy. The Wake Forest-Virginia game in Charlottesville has been shifted to a 4 p.m. start (from noon) and will be shown on a tape-delayed basis at 6:30 p.m. so if you really care about that one, stay away from the computer tomorrow afternoon.

Clemson is scheduled to play at Virginia Tech Saturday and North Carolina will try to get to Maryland for a Sunday afternoon game that could put a final nail in its NCAA tournament chances.

4. Going North

The Charlotte 49ers are on the road this weekend to play at Fordham, taking their six-game winning streak with them. It may not be the most attractive game on their schedule but every win counts.

5. It's Daytona, Baby

They're racing Saturday night in Daytona, running the annual limited-field Shootout which is like a Cheez-Whiz appetizer before the big meal next week. Danica Patrick is not in the field for the Shootout but she will be still be the most talked-about driver down there.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Five Reasons Not To Expand The NCAA Tournament

With growing discussion about the possibility of the men's NCAA basketball championship tournament being expanded to perhaps more than 90 teams, here are five reasons why it's the worst idea since the abolition of jump balls:

1. There's Nothing Wrong With The Tournament Now

You've probably heard this before -- if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

2. Northwestern Might Get In

The Wildcats have never qualified for the tournament in the 70 years it has been played and, while it probably makes the Chicago winter feel even colder, there's something to be said for putting a value on playing your way in. Don't lower the bar.

3. What About Football?

They can't find a way to create a football playoff but can add another set of games to the men's basketball tournament? What about all the class time that will be missed (wink, wink)? What about the fans (as if that has ever mattered?).

Until there is a real football playoff, the men's basketball tournament should be off limits to tinkering.

4. Forget Cinderella

Proponents of the expanded tournament like to talk about the potential for smaller programs to steal the nation's heart with their run through March. It's not going to happen. Cinderellas in the tournament are two things -- rare and overrated.

5. Office Pools

It's already enough trouble filling out the bracket the way it is. Adding games just adds to the process. Do we really want to look up Fordham or Sam Houston State when we're making our picks? Spare us.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Five Things You Won't Hear On Signing Day

This being national signing day for college football programs, here are five things we're not likely to hear amid all the optimistic talk at programs across the country:

1. "We only signed him because his daddy's given us millions and coach likes to use his private jet for recruiting trips and weekend getaways to Cabo."

2. "I don't know where the experts have rated this class but it's too high. Heck, Prairie View has a better class than we do."

3. "Dartmouth is the new Boise State."

4. "That Nick Saban is a funny guy. If he ever quits coaching, he has a future in comedy."

5. "The ACC is poised to dominate college football."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Five Questions For Super Bowl Media Day

With today being media day at the Super Bowl -- in truth every day is media day at the Super Bowl -- here are five questions that may be asked of either the New Orleans Saints, the Indianapolis Colts or someone in south Florida:

1. Hey, Are You Going To Sign Julius Peppers?

It's clear he's going to land someplace other than with the Carolina Panthers. The Saints are doing fine without him but what if Pep signs with another NFC South team and spends the rest of his career playing like he's worth $20 million a season?

2. Is That David Caruso?

Can't be. He's not wearing sunglasses.

3. Are All The Beautiful People At South Beach This Week?

No, not all. Just most of them.

4. How Many Times Will TV Show Us Kim Kardasian On Sunday?

According to Vegas odds (there will actually be some people who bet on this), the over-under on shots of Reggie Bush's photogenic girlfriend is set at 2.5. And you thought people just watched the game for the commericials.

5. Has It Really Been Six Years Since The Panthers Were In The Super Bowl?

Yes. It just seems longer.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Observations from a good, not great, weekend

Five slightly iced over observations from a sports weekend that was good but not necessarily great:

1. How Good Are The Bobcats?

They’re 3-1 so far on what was seen a potentially season-defining West Coast road trip. One night it’s Stephen Jackson, the next night it’s Gerald Wallace.

With games left at Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Bobcats may not be done winning on this road trip.

2. The Hottest College Team In The State

That has to be the Charlotte 49ers, who are plowing through the Atlantic-10 these days.

They keep finding a way to answer whatever question comes their way. That’s what good teams do.

3. Is North Carolina NIT-Bound?

If you laughed off that notion before, don’t laugh now. As Virginia showed Sunday night, the Tar Heels have serious issues that aren’t going to be solved overnight. And if you haven’t looked, the Tar Heels are just getting into the tough part of their schedule.

4. It’s That Time Again

The Daytona 500 is still nearly two weeks away but the NASCAR season gets going later this week with the Daytona Shootout Saturday night. Does that get your motor running?

5. It’s February

That means Valentine’s Day is two weeks away. It comes right after the Super Bowl, so don't forget.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Five-Part Weekend Sports Planner

A five-part planner for your sports weekend while waiting for winter to say hello:

1. A Dash of Curry

The Charlotte Bobcats are at Golden State tonight where they'll square off against the Warriors and rookie Stephen Curry, who's made himself right at home in the NBA. It won't have the same feeling as when Curry and his teammates visit Charlotte later this season but considering how little the local audience has seen of Curry since he's been in the NBA, tonight's a chance to get a good look at him and the Bobcats.

2. Almost Football

The NFL, which does so many things well, insists on playing the Pro Bowl despite the fact no one cares, especially the players. It happens Sunday night in Miami and while it's a nice honor for players who earn their spots, the game is unnecessary.

The league is hoping that by playing it a week before the Super Bowl it will create more interest. Instead, the Colts and Saints players who qualified can't play and a lot of other big names such as Tom Brady and Brett Favre have politely declined to play, citing various injuries.

For Panthers Julius Peppers, DeAngelo Williams and Ryan Kalil, it's a well-deserved recognition of their good seasons.

3. The Dangerous Part

After taking down No. 15 Temple on Wednesday night and earning a bit of national attention, the Charlotte 49ers play at Massachusetts on Saturday in what can be considered a trap game.

The Niners are on a nice roll and the trip to UMass is one of those games Charlotte is expected to win. But coming off an emotional win and playing on the road against a team looking for a big win is a dangerous combination.

4. A March Preview

In the middle of conference play, Duke steps outside Saturday to play at Georgetown in a game that should give us a taste of things to come in March. It's the kind of game we see often early in the season but happens infrequently once teams get into league play.

On Sunday night, North Carolina hosts Virginia in a game that coudl tell us a lot about both teams. There was reason for optimism around Chapel Hill after the win over N.C. State but no one's getting carried away just yet. As for Virginia, the Cavaliers are still around the top of the ACC standings but that may be a function of their early schedule as much as anything. Sunday night will answer more questions.

5. Enjoy The Weather

Okay, so maybe it's a lousy weekend for golf or tennis but if we get the predicted mess of winter stuff, just let it happen -- as if you can do anything about it anyway.

But enough with the jokes about running to the grocery store for bread and milk. Those are so tired.

You may want to stock up on beer and chips, though.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

NIners take Temple by storm

Five things to consider while wishing you were on the golf course on this 60-degree day:

1. The Niners

Their victory over Temple Wednesday night put them in a tie for first place in the Atlantic-10 standings and, perhaps more importantly, demonstrated they're capable of winning big games. It's always more fun around here during basketball season when the Niners are winning.

But storming the court Wednesday night? Really?

2. The Ish Man

It's an important night for Wake Forest which visits No. 22 Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. in Atlanta. The Deacons are one of a handful of ACC teams that look like they could stay in the regular-season race for a while.

But they need to win games like the one tonight. Atlanta is where the Deacons began to tumble last year. The way point guard Ish Smith has been playing, Wake Forest is dangerous.

3. Tebow Talk

If Tim Tebow is available when the Panthers finally get a draft pick in April, would you take him?

The NFL combine is all about measuring muscles and speed and jumping ability. It has a harder time judging guys who know how to win.

Whichever team takes Tebow will be glad it did.

4. Roger, Down Under

Keeping up with the Australian Open is tricky because of the time difference but the storyline is familiar -- Roger Federer is about to win another big one.

This stat speaks to how great he's been -- this is the 23rd straight Grand Slam event in which Federer has reached the semifinals. That's almost six years worth of Grand Slam events.

5. The Super Bowl Countdown

The big game is still more than a week away so we're in that in between time when it's too early to think about where you're going to watch the game and what you're going to eat.

Two things haven't changed since last Sunday -- the Colts are stil favored over the Saints and Brett Favre still hasn't decided if he's going to play next season or not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It's Not All About John Wall

Five things we learned from a busy Tuesday night of hoops:

1. It's Not All About John Wall

South Carolina guard Devan Downey has operated below the national radar most of this season because the Gamecocks have been the definition of mediocre until their upset of No. 1 Kentucky Tuesday night. Downey isn't below the radar any more.

For all the understandable chatter about how good Kentucky's John Wall is, Downey was the star last night. Suddenly, he's in the mix for SEC player of the year -- Downey that is.

2. Jack It Up

If you didn't see the final few minutes of the Bobcats' overtime win at Phoenix, you missed seeing Stephen Jackson just will a tying 3-pointer in near the end of regulation. It was the kind of almost arrogant play the Bobcats have lacked through the years and a shining example of how Jackson has transformed this team. It was a big time bucket.

3. Feeling Blue ... In A Good Way

Was North Carolina's win at N.C. State a season-saver? It may be too soon to call it that but the Tar Heels' victory stopped the bleeding and eased some very worried minds around Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels are still limited -- they could use a spot-up 3-pointer shooter to take pressure off their inside guys -- but they responded to a big moment by winning in Raleigh.

4. There's More To Come

Tonight, the Charlotte 49ers host 15th-ranked Temple at Halton Arena in a game that could go a long way toward defining the 49ers' season. A win and Charlotte is in position to make a run at the Atlantic-10 regular-season championship and a return to the NCAA tournament. It's been a while since the Niners have had a game like this one.

5. Then There's Duke

The Blue Devils are home tonight against Florida State at 9 p.m. The Seminoles may have picked a bad time to visit Durham.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Who wins the N.C. State-UNC game?

A five-point primer for tonight's North Carolina-N.C. State basketball game:

1. The Red Coat

Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe (above) is almost guaranteed to wear his snappy red sport coat on the sideline tonight. It’s fair to assume his counterpart, Roy Williams (right), doesn’t own a red sports coat. But considering how his Tar Heels have played recently, Williams might consider wearing one if it would help.

2. If N.C. State wins…

There will be justifiable excitement on Hillsborough Street considering the modest expectations for this Wolfpack team and the dearth of victories against the Tar Heels in recent years. Someone might actually mention the prospect of a post-season tournament appearance for the Pack.

3. If North Carolina wins

A late-night breeze will blow across the state as Tar Heel fans let loose a giant sigh of relief. The Tar Heels won the national championship 10 months ago, but it seems a distant memory.

4. Why It Matters So Much

If you don’t think there’s a difference in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina, you haven’t lived in both. It’s the same with N.C. State and North Carolina. They’re neighbors and part of the same educational system but they’re as different as Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olberman.

5. Who Wins?

North Carolina 71, N.C. State 67

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Bowl, super bowling to start your day

A five-point way to start your day while wondering how long it will be before Brett Favre makes his retirement official -- again:

1. Start Your Wagers

The early line has Indianapolis as a four-point favorite over the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl though that's likely to wiggle some, especially early.

That's purely about football. On the emotional side, the Saints will be the overwhelming favorite (and the certain pick of those above) given their history and what happened in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. Get ready to hear a lot -- a whole lot -- about that.

Can't decide? You have time. The game is Feb. 7.

2. Who's League Is it?

After a busy weekend of ACC basketball, the new week begins with Virginia and Maryland (and coach Gary Williams, below) tied for the lead with matching 3-1 records. Not exactly the way most of us saw it shaking it out -- but it's still relatively early.

3. Say Hello To Carmelo

Their six-game winning streak behind them, the Bobcats start a long western swing tonight in Denver dragging a two-game losing streak with them. It doesn't help that the trip starts against one of the NBA's hottest teams, featuring Carmelo Anthony, and in the mile-high atmosphere of Denver. It's on SportsSouth starting at 9 p.m.

4. Bill's Big Day?

Charlotte native Bill Haas (right) starts the final round of the rain-delayed Bob Hope Classic one shot behind co-leaders Alex Prugh and Bubba Watson. Haas, son of Jay, is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory.

Want to watch? It's on the Golf Channel, with coverage starting at 3 p.m.

5. Want To Go Bowling?

On Sunday, Kelli Kulick (left) became the first woman to ever win a PBA event, naturally raising the question of whether it will spark new interest in bowling. Given the weather around here recently, bowling beats most of the outdoor alternatives.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Five questions for the weekend

Five sports-related questions to ponder as the weekend arrives:

1. Who's going to the Super Bowl?

Vegas says it's the Colts and the Saints. Jets coach Rex Ryan says he'll be shocked if his team doesn't go to the Super Bowl. And if the Vikings lose, the will he or won't he return questions will start immediately about Brett Favre.

The prospect of Drew Brees (right) and Favre flinging it Sunday night (6:30 p.m., FOX, WCCB-TV channel 18) with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line is more exciting than free shrimp.

The Colts play the upstart New York Jets in the warmup. (3 p.m., CBS, WBTV channel 3).

2. Can Duke win on the road?

So far, the Blue Devils are 0-3 in true road games this season and they're in Littlejohn Coliseum Saturday night to meet Clemson. It doesn't get the recognition of Cameron Indoor Stadium or some other arenas but there aren't many tougher places to play than Littlejohn when the place is full and the crowd is engaged. It'll be roaring Saturday. There may even be a Danny Ford sighting in the building.

3. Will tonight be lucky No. 7 for the Bobcats?

They're in Atlanta tonight (7 p.m., SportsSouth) where they'll put their six-game winning streak on the line against the Hawks. They come back home Saturday night to host Orlando (click here to buy tickets) before hitting the road for two weeks.

4. Is Virginia for real?

The Cavaliers are the only unbeaten team in ACC play but they'll face a tough test Saturday afternoon at Wake Forest. For the Deacons and coach Dino Gaudio (right), it's the kind of game they need to win if they're serious about being an NCAA tournament team in March.

5. Will the Tar Heels lose another one this weekend?

No chance.

They have the weekend off.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hot: Bobcats, Nicklaus. Not: Heels, Devils

While trying to make sense of the ACC men’s basketball season, here are five things to consider:

1. Get Outta Town

Maybe that’s what it will take to slow down the Charlotte Bobcats.

After blowing through a perfect 6-0 homestand and climbing into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the Bobcats head next to Atlanta for a Friday night game.

But don’t hurry. Enjoy this moment.

2. A New ACC World Order

In case you hadn’t noticed, the ACC world doesn’t revolve around Duke and North Carolina right now.

It wasn’t a shock that North Carolina lost to Wake Forest – the Deacons are dangerous – but seeing the Blue Devils get handled at N.C. State on the same night raised some questions about whether Duke really is the ACC’s best team this season.

If nothing else, it’s made things much more interesting this season.

3. Happy Birthday, Jack

Today is Jack Nicklaus’s 70th birthday. He’s spending it fishing on the far side of the world. Funny how his record looks more impressive than ever these days.

4. It’s Kobe vs. LeBron

The NBA’s two biggest stars go at it tonight in Cleveland. It doesn’t happen but twice during the regular season so you might want to pay attention.

5. It’s Still January But…

The Charlotte 49ers have put themselves in good position in the Atlantic 10 race with their 13-5 start. Next up: A game at LaSalle on Saturday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tobacco Road in all its glory

Here's a quick look at what's coming on a Wednesday sports day in January. All in all, not a bad line-up:

1. Smells Like Tobacco Road
-- Wake Forest at North Carolina, 7 p.m.

-- Duke at N.C. State, 9 p.m.

It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that around here if you’re into college hoops. Which team has the most pressing questions to answer?

That would be the Tar Heels.

2. A Six Pack Night

The Bobcats are going for a sixth straight win tonight when the Miami Heat visit. It’s the final game in a so-far-perfect homestand for the Bobcats.

Gerald Wallace is nursing a tender ankle but it didn’t stop him Monday against Sacramento. Still no word, though, on when Tyson Chandler might be back.

3. The Catamounts Are Coming

Coach Larry Hunter is quietly doing an outstanding job of rebuilding the Western Carolina basketball program. The Catamounts are 14-3 overall and leading the Southern Conference North Division with a 4-1 record entering their game tonight at Davidson. If Hunter’s name sounds familiar, he was a long-time assistant coach to Herb Sendek at N.C. State.

4. On To Richmond

That’s where the Charlotte 49ers play tonight. A Charlotte victory would put the Niners in third place in the Atlantic-10 race at this still-early point in the season.

5. Still Turning Left

The NASCAR media tour continues today with more talk from the various teams about how excited they are about the new season that starts next month at Daytona. There's been talk this week about how to make racing more interesting and competitive.

The answer seems pretty obvious -- figure out how to slow down Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 car.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hot: Bobcats, Clemson, Petty, rivalries site

Five things you need to know while contemplating Gerald Wallace's ankle:

1. Heat Alert

There’s not a hotter team in the NBA right now than the Charlotte Bobcats, who have spent the past week getting fat on Western Conference teams that have rolled through town.

Next up – the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade (right) on Wednesday night. (To buy tickets, click here.)

2. ACC Hoops, southern style

Clemson’s visit to Georgia Tech tonight has become a big game in league play, especially for the Tigers, who need to demonstrate they can win on the road. The Tigers squeaked past N.C. State in Raleigh last Saturday and a win in Atlanta tonight would go a long way toward establishing them as one of the league’s top teams.

3. Racing noise

It’s the second day of the NASCAR media tour meaning there will be more preseason chatter about the 2010 season. Today’s featured team: Richard Petty Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing.

4. Tiger Woods update

He may in a clinic in Hattiesburg, Miss. Then again, he may not. The Hattiesburg story has become the hot one though no one has been found who can say definitively they have seen Tiger in Brett Favre’s neighborhood.

It’s a good bet another half-dozen rumors/stories will pop up today.

Over the weekend, Tiger’s buddy, tennis great Roger Federer was quoted saying he’s spoken to Woods recently (he didn’t say where Tiger was at the time) and expects his friend to return to golf “soon.”

What “soon” means is anyone’s guess.

5. Head to Head

That’s the name of the website devoted to the Duke-North Carolina basketball rivalry that goes live today. There’s a clock counting down to the first regular-season meeting between the college basketball bluebloods, special features each day and places where you can chime in – regardless of which shade of blue you prefer.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Coaching chases dominate weekend

As sports weekends go, this one's busier than the line of football coaches updating their resumes at Kinko's. Here are five things to keep our eyes on:

1. Who's next -- and where?

Now that Skip Holtz has left East Carolina for South Florida, the search is on for the Pirates' next football coach. Athletic director Terry Holland will hold a news conference at 4:30 this afternoon to talk about the process.

Among the names being thrown around between the barbecue and hush puppies in Greenville are Temple's Al Golden, former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, Virginia Tech defensive whiz Bud Foster and former Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski.

For what it's worth, here's a little Tommy Bowden (right) tidbit -- he ranks third on the ACC's all-time list of bowl wins by a coach.

2. And what about Duke?

Well, just when it seemed David Cutcliffe was going to leave Durham to become the the new Tennessee football coach, he announced this morning that he's staying.

Don't you know they're in minor panic mode in Knoxville about now.

3. The Big Fundamental

Tim Duncan, one of the all-time greats, is in town with his San Antonio Spurs teammates tonight to meet the Charlotte Bobcats.

No word on whether Tony Parker's wife, actress Eva Longoria made the trip.

It's the first of back-to-back home games for the Bobcats, who host Phoenix Saturday night.

4. A weekend Dick Vitale must love

The college hoops schedule is packed around these parts. The biggest ACC game may be Wake Forest at Duke Sunday but there are plenty of others. North Carolina hosts Georgia Tech in what feels like a must-win game for the Tar Heels. After thumping the Heels on Wednesday, Clemson tries not to backslide at N.C. State.

Charlotte hosts Saint Louis in an A-10 battle while Davidson hits the road for a game at Wofford.

5. A run on tee times

WIth temperatures expected to approach 60 today, look out for traffic tie-ups around local golf courses. It's one of the first decent golf days in weeks around here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Of Clemson, and ugly orange doings

Taking stock of the sports day while wondering if the party has stopped in Clemson:

1. It wasn't a shock

OK, maybe the margin of Clemson's victory over North Carolina Wednesday night was surprising and the way the Tar Heels had that deer in the headlights look about them at time was surprising but the Tigers' victory was no fluke.

Despite that 12-point first half at Duke a while back, Clemson is expected to be among the ACC's better teams. Given there's a clear void behind Duke, the league's clear No. 1, it could be a spot the Tigers fill.

North Carolina, meanwhile, looked like a mess in Tigertown. What's more concerning to Tar Heel fans is it may not be a quick fix.

2. That's our Tony Bennett

You remember the former Charlotte Hornets' back-up guard, who spent a lot of time watching Muggsy Bogues play. Now he's in his first season as head coach at Virginia and he has the Cavaliers in an unlikely spot -- 2-0 and leading the ACC after wins over N.C. State and Georgia Tech.

Bennett, taking a page from his father's successful coaching career, has taken the Cavaliers back to their old style of tough, grinding defense and working the clock on offense. Next up for the Cavs: A home game Saturday against Miami.

3. Fashion Alert

John Daly -- generously called a "golf icon" in recent Golf Channel promos -- makes his PGA Tour debut today in the Sony Open at Hawaii, the first full-field event of the year. That means even in the land of colorful aloha shirts, Daly (right, in Wednesday's practice round) will be wearing something that will make your eyes water.

Charlotte's Johnson Wagner and Brendon de Jonge also start their 2010 tour seasons today in Hawaii. (Read a Q&A with them here.)

4. Looking forward

Charlotte's 86-74 loss at Xavier Wednesday night left the Niners 11-5 overall, 1-1 in the Atlantic 10 and square in the middle of the conference pack. Most teams lose at Xavier. The key will be beating Saint Louis Sunday at home.

5. "I know the orange is ugly but

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton is scrambling to find a permanent replacement for Lane Kiffin, whose name may be considered offensive in the land of Rocky Top. With national signing day approaching, the race is on to get a coach in a hurry.

Two local names have been mentioned -- Duke's David Cutcliffe (right) and East Carolina's Skip Holtz, who's been rumored for every job opening but the CEO position at Bank of America. Both seem like long shots but funny things happen in the coaching business.
-- Ron Green Jr.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wolfpack a surprise, Clemson should not be

Setting the table on another sports day while listening to the screaming coming from Tennessee football fans:

1. You Say Wolf …

Just when it seemed N.C. State might be down for the count in mid-January, the Wolfpack went to Florida State Tuesday night and beat the Seminoles. Maybe it doesn’t have the panache of beating Duke or North Carolina but winning is Tallahassee is tough for several reasons – the ‘Noles are pretty good and it’s a tough place to play. Nobody is putting the Pack in the NCAA tournament but freshman Scott Wood (left) turned some heads.

2. Orange alert

It won’t be a surprise if Clemson beats North Carolina tonight in Littlejohn Coliseum though many will still see it that way. The Tar Heels can be very inconsistent but have flashes when it all comes together. The same with Clemson, though the Tigers will have the advantage of a juiced up crowd. If you haven’t been to a big game at Clemson, your ears should thank you.

3. The X-factor

The Charlotte 49ers are in the other Queen City tonight and not just for some Cincinnati chili. The Niners face Xavier in an A-10 game that could be huge for them if they win. They had a chance to beat Georgia Tech at home and missed an opportunity at Tennessee (though the undermanned followed up beating Charlotte by bumping off No. 1 Kansas). If they can beat Xavier – no easy thing – it could be big in March.

4. Calling Kyle Singler

Duke hosts Boston College tonight and needs a bounce back game from Singler, who struggled in the Blue Devils’ loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday. Singler was 2-for-13 from the field against the Yellow Jackets. BC, on the other hand, has its own issues, getting off to a surprisingly slow 10-6 start.

5. Bobcats won’t win tonight

That’s because they have the next two days off before San Antonio and Phoenix roll into town for a Friday-Saturday doubleheader. It’s asking a lot but if the Bobcats win both of those games, they’d be back at .500 for the season. Impressive.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Terps, twerps highlight Tuesday in sports

Here's a five-part cheat sheet to help with your sports day while wondering what 'American Idol' life will be like without Paula Abdul:

1. It's the Greivis and Gary Show

The Maryland Terrapins visit Wake Forest at 8 tonight for what could be an interesting ACC basketball game. Just watching Gary Williams work the Maryland bench is entertainment enough but the Terps have an extra bit of sauce with Greivis Vasquez (above), who's not shy. This is a big one for the Deacons, who need to protect their homecourt if they're going to be an upper-division team in the ACC.

2. Hurricane warning

The Miami Hurricanes are 15-1 but how good are they? N.C. State finds out tonight. The way things look right now, the 'Canes are probably better than the Wolfpack, which seems destined for a double-digit finish (10th to 12th) in the ACC this season.

3. The Rockets' red glare

The Houston Rockets are in town to play the surging Bobcats tonight, missing the often-injured Yao Ming. It could have been a chance for a special NBA experience -- to see Houston's Tracy McGrady unhappy despite making $23 million this season -- but he's not with the team while it tries to trade him.

4. Mark McGwire is still sorry

Wait, that may not sound quite right. He admitted Monday to using steroids during his career -- now there's a surprise -- and we can expect to hear a chorus of voices chiming in about his admission today. Barry Bonds is not expected to do any chiming in, himself.

5. Simon Cowell is back

He's reason enough to watch 'American Idol,' which returns tonight. Cowell (left) would make a great umpire.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Five things to consider on this Monday

Five things to consider while wondering whatever happened to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots:

1. ACC lesson: What did we learn?

The first full weekend of conference hoops play didn't clarify much, if anything. We know that North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have something in common -- they're the only ACC teams without a league loss on Jan. 11. But give each of them time.

Maryland faces a tough test at Wake Forest Tuesday night and the hot-and-cold running Tar Heels make a dangerous visit to Clemson on Wednesday night.

2. Get a room

If you're a Bobcats fan, you should ask if there are rooms to rent at Time Warner Cable Arena this week as the team plays three games there in five days. There's a Western Conference theme to the homestand. Houston comes in Tuesday, San Antonio and the great Tim Duncan (right) are here Friday and Phoenix comes in Saturday for a rare weekend home doubleheader for the suddenly surging Bobcats.

3. Moving day

Pete Carroll has resigned as the head ball coach at Southern Cal and the official announcement of his hiring as the Seattle Seahawks' potential saviour should come sometime today. He's 0-for-2 in the NFL so far but seemed a perfect fit for the Trojans. Maybe the third time is the charm.

4. 2013 is getting closer

Chancellor Philip Dubois (left) said he is encouraged by the support from the UNC Board of Trustees for Charlotte's proposed football program, making it even more likely the 49ers will be playing football in 2013. He would probably be more excited if sales of 49er Seat Licenses (FSLs) picked up.

5. For entertainment purposes only

If you're interested, here are the early lines on the four NFL playoff games this weekend:

New Orleans is a 7-point favorite over Arizona (hmmm...);

The Colts are 6 1/2-point favorites over Baltimore (Peyton Manning covers);

Minnesota and Brett Favre (bottom) are 2 1/2-point favorites over Dallas (take the underdog);

And, San Diego is an 8-point favorite over the New York Jets (sounds about right).

Friday, January 8, 2010

To do list for your sports weekend

With the weekend at hand, here’s a five-item to-do list while wondering how the national championship game would have been different if Texas quarterback Colt McCoy hadn’t gotten hurt:

1. It’s finally college hoops season

Now that the clutter of bowl season is behind us, college basketball finally kicks into gear. After too many games that don’t really matter, conference play takes over now.

It’s a full-out assault in the ACC. Just look at Saturday’s schedule: Virginia visits N.C. State; Duke has a potentially monster game at Georgia Tech; Boston College visits Clemson; and, Wake Forest goes to Miami.

And on Sunday, the North Carolina roller-coaster gets back to business hosting Virginia Tech.

2. Hey, that guy looks familiar

That’s because it’s Buzz Peterson, the former Appalachian State basketball coach who is again the Appalachian State basketball coach.

Peterson brings his Appalachian State Mountaineers to Davidson for a 2 p.m. game Saturday. The Buzzer can swing by home while he’s here. Peterson, who spent the previous two years as director of player personnel for the Charlotte Bobcats, still has a home in Charlotte where his wife and children are still living.

3. Memphis has an NBA team?

No one’s saying the Bobcats are at the top of the NBA’s most recognizable teams list but they’re probably ahead of the, uh, Grizzlies, who visit Saturday night. At least one question will be answered, though. Whatever happened to Hasheem Thabeet?

Allen Iverson was briefly with the Grizzlies this season until he realized the franchise was rebuilding – again. That apparently took A.I. by surprise. He’s the only one who was surprised.

4. It’s playoff time

It’s rematch weekend in the NFL as the playoffs start. The good news is we can sit inside and watch games without having to worry about sitting in the cold to see one here.

Best match-up of the four games? Gotta be Philadelphia-Dallas, Part 3. But only if the Eagles and Donovan McNabb are better than they were last Sunday.

5. It just screams A-10 hoops

After a disappointing loss to undermanned Tennessee that almost made coach Bobby Lutz pop a vein earlier this week, the Charlotte 49ers return home Saturday night to host St. Bonaventure. Sounds like a nice way to bounce back from a loss.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Texas-Alabama: Worth the wait?

All rise for tonight's long-awaited (too long?) national championship game between Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns and the supposedly more talented Alabama Crimson Tide.

Five things to start your sports day while waiting to hear ‘The Eyes of Texas’ tonight (8 p.m., WSOC-TV channel 9):

1. It still doesn’t justify the BCS

Roughly five weeks after their last game, Texas and Alabama play for college football’s so-called national championship tonight, though the good people of Boise no doubt will argue the point.

Add these complaints to the BCS format:
  • It takes too long to get to the national championship. Five weeks? That’s longer that pre-season practice.
  • By spreading the major bowls out over several days, they lost their bang. Was that the Orange Bowl Tuesday night?
2. Say it’s Knotts so

The news that Tom Knotts is leaving Independence High for Dutch Fork High near Columbia has the impact of a sledgehammer on high school football in this area. You can’t blame Knotts for going someplace where he can make more money and he sounds like a man thrilled at the prospect of moving.

It’s the end of an era here, no doubt.

The good news is by moving south, Knotts can still wear shorts on the sideline all season. But he and his shorts are outta here.

3. Start spreading the news

The Bobcats are in New York tonight to face the Knicks. OK, so it doesn’t get back-page treatment in the tabloids like a visit from LeBron or Kobe might -- Gerald Wallace (right) is about as close as Charlotte can come -- but the Bobcats have won three in a row and with a six-game homestand looming, they’re on a nice roll. Did someone say playoffs?

4. What cold? It’s golf season

The 2010 PGA Tour season begins today in Kapalua, where there’s no chance of snow flurries and the wind chill factor may make it feel like the temperature is in the upper 70s. Tough life.

Twenty-eight winners from 2009 are in the field this week. Tiger Woods, you may have heard, is not one of them. But hey, Jeff Ogilvy (putting, above) is there.

5. It’s 34 days until the first Duke-North Carolina men’s basketball game this season.

We'll let you write your own caption on this one.

-- Ron Green Jr.

What's important in your sports world today, or this week, or this month? Post your picks in the comments section, and you could see our thoughts on them in a future edition of the revamped O List.