Sunday, March 25, 2012

NASCAR/NCAA Final Four Wrap Up

By Keith Antigiovanni

The participants for the 2012 NCAA Basketball Final Four in New Orleans will be the Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals and Ohio State Buckeyes.

Kansas last made the Final Four in 2008 when they won the National Title over Memphis and will be in its' 14th Final Four overall. Kentucky clinched its' 15th Final Four appearance and has now made it in back to back years under Coach John Calipari. Kentucky last won the National title in 1998.

The Wildcats in-state rival Louisville Cardinals are in their first Final Four since 2005 and are trying to win their first National Title since 1986. Ohio State is also returning to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 and are looking for their first championship since 1960.

Next saturday the matchups will be Kentucky vs Louisville and Kansas vs Ohio State.

Defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart won his second race of the season at Fontana to help continue his climb in the point standings. Stewart won a rain-shortened race (129 out of 200 laps) and is now fourth overall.

Overall Point Standings Thru 5 Weeks (Top 10)
1. Greg Biffle                 195
2. Kevin Harvick           188
3. Junior                         178
4. Stewart                       177   2 wins
5. Martin Truex Jr.         175
6. Matt Kenseth              173   1 win
7. Denny Hamlin            171   1 win
8. Clint Bowyer              157
9. Jimmie Johnson          156
10. Ryan Newman          155

Jimmie Johnson won his appeal this past week which gave him back the 25 points that was taken away after the opening race in February. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rocky Mountain Sports Opera Ends

By Keith Antigiovanni

This week marks the end of the offseason sports opera known as the Denver Broncos when NFL great and future Hall of Famer quarterback Peyton Manning signed a five-year contract to play for the Broncos after the Indianapolis Colts released him two weeks ago and the end of  "Tebow Time" in Denver with the trade of Tebow to the AFC rival New York Jets for a 4th and 6th round draft picks.

 After pulling out numerous late game comebacks as Broncos' quarterback throughout the 1980's and 1990's current Broncos' Vice President of Football Operations John Elway may have pulled off his best comeback yet for the franchise in 2011 by winning the AFC West championship.

Elway's decision-making since he was hired by owner Pat Bowlen last February was to fix the mess that Bowlen made when he hired Josh McDaniels to be his Head Coach in 2009. McDaniels alienated his starting quarterback Jay Cutler a few months into his tenure and then traded him to Chicago for Kyle Orton. McDaniels began 2009 at 6-0 but only finished at 8-8 then was fired after a 3-10 start in 2010 and allegations of cheating surfaced.

Going into 2010, McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow to be his future quarterback but with Orton's struggles in late 2009, 2010 and early 2011 along with mounting pressure from the fans Elway and first year Head Coach John Fox were forced him to bench him and insert second-year player Tim Tebow.

Tebow's stats were awful in 2011 but he led his team to a 7-5 record, AFC West title and a playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs until it all fell apart the following week in Foxboro against the New England Patriots. It was obvious to Elway and Bronco Nation that in order for the Broncos to become a serious contender in the AFC that Tebow would need to make incredible strides in the offseason or they would need a new signal-caller.

Meanwhile in Indianapolis, the Colts decided to rebuild after the 2-14 season and then decided to release their great quarterback Peyton Manning two weeks ago because of the huge bonus owed to him if he stayed. That coupled with the Colts intention of drafting Andrew Luck as the first pick made it clear that a change would be coming. Elway saw an opportunity and swooped in immediately to get him as half a dozen teams lined up to have a chance to get Manning's services.

Elway's perspective on Manning's situation is clear since both men are NFL legends and Elway was still trying to prove himself at this stage of his career after failing to win a Super Bowl. Although Peyton has won a Super Bowl title he wants to win more and be considered the greatest quarterback ever. His statistics show that but his postseason record has not been impressive at 9-10.

Peyton's regular season success is almost unparalled with a 141-67 record as a starter and never missed a game between 1998 and 2011 but it has become more obvious that Manning's greatness along made Indianapolis into an NFL power in the 2000's. That is something John Elway can identify with as he led his undermanned Broncos to 3 Super Bowls in the 1980's but his greatness alone was not enough until he had a championship team around during the Broncos 1997/1998 Super Bowl title runs. Peyton was the key player in Indy's 2 Super Bowl appearances (2006, 2009) and 1 championship (2006).

When Elway was asked what is his Plan B if Peyton cannot overcome his previous injury he responded with "We dont have Plan B, We're Going with Plan A!" Its Peyton or bust for the Broncos but if he can return to his previous form the Broncos will be a serious Super Bowl contender over the next few years which is a far cry from the McDaniels years of 2009-2010.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Duke's Early Exit/ NASCAR

By Keith Antigiovanni

What happen to Duke in the NCAA Tournament on friday? We all know they lost to Lehigh 75-70 in the second round of the Tournament and for the second time in three years have failed to win a game in the Tournament.

Any other coach would be on the hotseat after an embarassing defeat but not the coach from Durham. Coach K's 32 years as Duke's skipper have produced an NCAA record 79 tournament wins, 25 ACC titles (13 Tournament, 12 regular season), 11 final fours, 8 finals and 4 National titles (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010).

While college basketball in North Carolina is still king, NASCAR is a close second and over the weekend Brad Keselowski won at Bristol, TN, the fourth NASCAR race of the season. The first four races of the years have produced four different winners:

Matt Kenseth               Daytona 500
Denny Hamlin             Phoenix
Tony Stewart               Las Vegas
Brad Keselowski         Bristol

Greg Biffle is the current leaders in points at 157, Kevin Harvick is second with 148, Matt Kenseth in third (145), Martin Truex Jr (139) and Denny Hamlin (137) round out the top five.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Arena Football League: Week 2

By Keith Antigiovanni

After today (3/18) all 17 Arena Football teams will have played after the New Orleans Voodoo/Philadelphia Soul game today.

The friday night game on the NFL Network featured a South matchup as the Tampa Bay Storm beat the Georgia Force 50-47 to even their record at 1-1. The Storm, a charter AFL franchise, earned their 200th regular season win. They entered this season at 199-115 all-time and originated in Pittsburgh before they moved to Florida before the 1991 season and have won the most Arena Bowls (5): 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2003. Three under of championships were under Tim Marcum, the AFL's alltime leader in coaching wins. Georgia also evened their record at 1-1.

Jacksonville,another Florida team, earned their first win of the season over Kansas City in a 52-28 rout to begin the year at 1-0. Jackonsville is the defending AFL champions and are hoping to become the first team to repeat since the 1995-1996 Tampa Bay Storm.

The AFL champions from two years, the Spokane Shock also won this weekend to even their record at 1-1 and are only half game back in the West. Division rival Utah is also 1-1 after they defeated the Iowa Barnstormers 69-49.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Arena Football League Opens 25th Campaign

By Keith Antigiovanni

12 of the 17 AFL teams began their season this past weekend (March 9-12).

The Pittsburgh Power defeated the Orlando Predators 40-26 after both teams fielded replacement players after both teams' dismissed their regular players.

The San Antonio Talons beat the Utah Blaze 54-48. The Talons moved to San Antonio from Tulsa in the offseason.

The defending Central champion Chicago Rush won convincingly 70-48 over the Tampa Bay Storm meanwhile out west the San Jose Sabercats squeaked out a win by one point over the defending National Conference champion Arizona Rattlers 71-70.

The Georgia Force won by two points over the Cleveland Gladiators and the Iowa Barnstormers won in overtime 69-63 over the Spokane Shock, AFL champions from two years ago.

Five teams had bye weeks including Jacksonville, the defending Arena Bowl champion.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2012: Third NASCAR Race

By Keith Antigiovanni

Going into the third race of the 2012 season in Las Vegas the NASCAR Spring Cup standings are:

Denny Hamlin 89 points, Greg Biffle 83 points, Kevin Harvick 81 points, Matt Kenseth 79 points, Jr 72 points, Martin Truex 71 points, Mark Martin 71 points, Joey Logano 70 points, Kyle Busch 66 points, Carl Edwards 63 points.

Hamlin won the second race at Phoenix with two top 10 and two top 5 finishes. Kenseth won the Daytona 500 to open the season with one top 10 and one top 5 finish.The 2011 champion Tony Stewart has 53 points with one top 10 finish while five-time champ Jimmie Johnson is off to a slow start with 18 points despite two top 10 finishes and one top 5 finish. The other 31 drivers trail the top 10 but have a long way to go.

In NASCAR winning races are not always the mark of winning the racing title but it sure helps in terms of point standings. Stewart won only five races last year but had 23 top 10 finishes and 15 top 5's and the highest number of races Johnson won five straight titles between 2006 and 2010 and in 2007 when he won 10 but he was able to consistenly finish in the top 10 or top 5 and only 2 wins in 2010.

Johnson's stats:
             Top 10     Top 5   wins
2006:     24            13         5
2007:     24            20        10
2008:     22            15         7
2009:     24            16         6
2010:     23            17         2

The next race will be March 18 at Bristol, Tennessee.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Almost 30 Years Since the USFL

By Keith Antigiovanni

When I looked at the calendar this morning I noticed it was March 6 and something about that date stuck in my mind but I couldnt figure out what it was until late morning. March 6, 1983 was opening week of the first regular season for the mid-1980's professional United States Football League (USFL).

I still remember watching opening day when Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals traveled to the Los Angeles Coliseum to face the Los Angeles Express on a sunday afternoon televised by ABC. I recall how odd it was for football to played only about 6 weeks after the Super Bowl but was pleased because as a kid I always enjoyed watching the sport as much as possible. The idea of a new football league was also interesting and at that time I had no knowledge of previous professional football leagues other than the NFL.

I remember the Express hanging on to a 20-15 win over the Generals and a New Jersey wide receiver getting knocked out off bounds near LA's goal-line to end the game.

There were 12 teams in the USFL that first year most of which played in cities or markets that already had an NFL team. The teams were :

Arizona Wranglers, Birmingham Stallions, Boston Breakers,  Chicago Blitz, Denver Gold, Los Angeles Express, Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Orlando Renegades, Philadelphia Stars, Tampa Bay Bandits and Washington Generals. There were also many former and future NFL coaches and players including Red Miller, Brian Sipe, George Allen, Jim Mora and Herschel Walker.

The league was broken up into three divisions: Pacific, Central, Eastern and each team played an 18-game regular season schedule which stretched it well into summer. The Michigan Panthers defeated Jim Mora's Stars 24-22 in the championship game played at Denver's Mile High Stadium in the summer. If you've ever been to Denver in the summer then you know it is not only hard to breathe because of the altitude and is also very hot. If you dont believe me then search for "1983 USFL Championship Game" on youtube. It was broadcast on ABC and the announcers were the legendary Keith Jackson and a recently retired Lynn Swann.

The USFL would add 6 teams for the following season and exist the next two seasons before they foolishly tried to compete with the NFL instead of developing their own niche as Spring/Summer football but it was entertaining while it lasted especially for the football fans who experience withdrawals every offseason.

Friday, March 2, 2012


By Keith Antigiovanni

It seems as if every year the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels final regular season game decides the ACC regular season title and If it seems that way to you then the reason is because it is true. Over the years the Duke/UNC rivalry has eclipsed the Mayberry/Mount Pilot rivalry as the biggest in the state of North Carolina.

Since Coach K arrived in Durham, NC way back in 1980 the two programs have combined to win 26 of the past 31 regular season titles (UNC 14, Duke 12) and 22 of the past 31 ACC Tournament titles (Duke 13, UNC 9).

The success of both teams goes back even before Coach K but the rivalry and success of both teams is not only continuing but getting even stronger which is not good news to their fellow ACC rivals. Since the 2000-2001 season alone UNC and Duke have combined for 9 of the 12 regular season titles and all but one ACC Tournament title.

What can the other teams like North Carolina State, Maryland, Florida State, Miami, etc do about this? Obviously they need to win but there is no doubt that playing with these two college basketball behemoths can help their overall RPI ranking every year before the NCAA Tournament begins.

Maybe they can take a lesson from both Duke and UNC and points in their own histories'. Prior to Coach K (pre 1980) Duke was not the great program it is now while at that same time UNC Coach Dean Smith was dominating the ACC in the 1960's and 1970's. Coach K's hiring not only put Duke on par with UNC but became the dominant team in the conference after Smith stepped down in the late 1990's.

In Smith's absence Duke won the regular season titles between 1999 and 2003 and the ACC Tournament five straight years until former Kansas Jayhawks' Coach Roy Williams was lured from the midwest to restore the Tar Heels to their former greatness. Williams noy only brought UNC two NCAA titles but it helped bring back the rivalry with Duke that was missing in the late 1990's and early 2000's.

Today, the rivalry is better than ever as the two teams face each other in their 234rd meeting tomorrow night at Cameron Indoor Arena.