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Life as a Cleveland Sports Fan

Archive for the month “March, 2011”

The circus has finally left town

While we were certainly happy – and surprised – the Cavs beat the visiting Heat on Tuesday night, we’re just as happy we’ve made it to the point where now Miami should just be another game on the schedule.

Tuesday’s win doesn’t really change anything – the Heat are still a playoff team and the Cavs are headed for the lottery – but with only a handful of games left in this season its time to turn the page and put all the nonsense behind us.

We don’t want to hear anymore about parking garage issues, about Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert tweeting, about who came out for player introductions, about karma or which players laughed and which ones were serious.

We’re ready and willing for the Heat to be just another game – at least until the Cavs rebuild and can consistently compete with Miami.

The circus has left town. It’s time we turn the page.

But we’ll never get tired of this.

***

While the Cavs are winding down, the Indians are ready – weather permitting – to open another season.

For some reason we really can’t put our finger on, we’re much more optimistic about the team than we were at this time last year. Maybe it’s because the Indians have the youngest 40-man roster in the league, or it could be that, after the season we’ve just been through with the Cavs, we’re looking for something to believe in.

It could be something as simple as, with baseball season starting that means summer in Cleveland isn’t that far behind.

In any event, despite what White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen says, we think Cleveland’s as good a place as any to get the season rolling.

***

Liverpool’s shirt sponsor, Standard Charter, wants the team to start signing more Asian players because it will be good for the bank’s business.

“The real power for what Liverpool could do for us, and I think for the English Premier League, is if there was a way they could nurture foreign players from Asia … a great Asian player — you see what Park Ji-sung does for Manchester United,” Gavin Laws, the bank’s head of corporate affairs, said at the SoccerEx conference.

“The markets in Asia and the Middle East are so nationalistic, they are very proud about their countries. [Matches] become huge events. One appearance from a player, say from Dubai in the Premier League, and you’d have the whole of Dubai watching it.”

Well, as long as it would be good for the bank’s business, why not? Let’s not focus on signing the best players so you can compete for championships and gain exposure that way, let’s just let a corporate suit decide what market is best for business.

Hopefully the Dolans don’t get wind of this, we all know they need every penny they can get.

What If?

What if the Indians had never been a part of Cleveland?

Opening Day is Friday.

Do you have Indian fever yet?

Breaking down the Tribe’s rotation

Now that the Indians have finalized their roster, we know what the starting rotation will look like heading into the 2011 season.

But can the five-man rotation of Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot pitch the Tribe back to a winning season?

Let’s use math and history to try and find an answer.

For arguments sake, lets assume the rotation will make it through the season intact (we know, not likely). Based on their career numbers, this is what we could expect:

  • Carmona has won 46 games in 118 career starts. If he made 33 starts this season, he would end up with 13 wins.
  • Carrasco would win 5.5 games in his 33 starts (based on two wins in 12 career starts)
  • Masterson would finish with 9.5 wins from 32 starts (16 wins in 54 career starts)
  • Tomlin would have a breakout season with 16 wins in 32 starts (six wins in 12 career starts)
  • Talbot would notch 11 wins in 32 starts (10 career wins in 29 starts)

Add that up and the starters would combine for 55 wins on the season.

The Indians have had eight winning seasons since 1995. In those seasons, the starters, on average, have earned 63 percent of the team’s wins in a given season.

So, if this year’s rotation puts up 55 wins and that represents 63 percent of the Tribe’s win total, the Indians will win 87 games this year.

See how simple that was?

OK, we know there are some flaws in all this. It’s highly unlikely the Indians will only use five starters this year; and the sample size for everyone but Carmona is pretty small.

But other than Tomlin winning 16 games, are the win totals for the rest of the staff that far off? Is it too much to think Masterson will win 10 games? Maybe you take a couple of wins off Talbot’s total, but it wouldn’t be unrealistic to add a couple to Carrasco’s win column. Or Carmona’s.

Who knows? Give these guys half a chance and maybe they will surprise us all.

***

Pete Thamel at The New York Times looks at one of the reasons why Jared Sullinger is coming back for his sophomore year at Ohio State:

Satch Sullinger, the father of the Ohio State star Jared Sullinger, is a human fortune cookie. A retired high school and college coach in Ohio, the elder Sullinger speaks in coaching nuggets.

One of his favorite sayings sums up his son’s decision to return to Ohio State for his sophomore year, despite being projected as a top-five pick in the N.B.A. draft.

“Yesterday is history,” Satch likes to say. “Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”

Satch Sullinger said his son had two goals. The first was to win a national title, which Ohio State was favored to do this season, coming into the N.C.A.A. tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

“That’s exactly why he’s coming back,” Satch said. “He’s coming back because his goal is to win a national championship. He’s won A.A.U. and high school championships, and he wants to win a national championship.”

***

We all know how passionate we can be as Cleveland fans, but we’ve never seen anything like this in Cleveland:

Fans of the Colombian soccer team Cucuta Deportivo brought in a coffin to General Santander Stadium for a match Sunday between Deportivo and Envigado.

The story, which comes from Colombia Reports via Dirty Tackle, says 17-year-old hardcore fan Cristofer Alexander Jacome was murdered while playing soccer in his local neighborhood. Jacome was part of the fan group Barra del Indio that’s supposedly known for its crazy antics at soccer matches.

That beats the old keg in the dog house trick they used to pull at the old Stadium. (h/t Larry Brown Sports)

***

Former Great Plains vocalist Ron House, backed by Columbus’ own Moviola, with Fire Tressel, Not Teachers.

Ugh, that’s pretty crappy. (h/t UniWatch)

***

Finally, happy birthday to … us!

It was a year ago today we started this blog. A lot has changed in Cleveland sports over the past year, we can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Kent State loses another good coach

Just last week, we were overdosing on college basketball with the NCAA tournament and Kent State’s run in the NIT and were wondering how long it would be before the Golden Flashes would start worrying about coach Geno Ford leaving town.

We just never thought that day would be today.

In news as shocking as it was quick, the two-time MAC Coach of the Year is leaving to take over Bradley.

“I am ecstatic to work at such a great institution with such a rich basketball history,” Ford said in a statement released by Bradley. “The passionate Bradley fan base, academic excellence and exceptional facilities will give us an opportunity to compete at the highest levels of the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Ford leaves the Golden Flashes after three years with a record of 68-37. Kent won back-to-back regular season conference titles and made two trips to the NIT under Ford, who had four years remaining on his contract at KSU which was paying him $300,000 annually, according to The (Peoria) Journal Star.

The unanswered questions are why now and why Bradley?

It was one thing when Stan Heath left to go to Arkansas, at least the Razorbacks are an SEC school. Or when Jim Christian left for Texas Christian.

But Bradley? A team that was 12-20 last season, 4-14 in the Missouri Valley Conference?

That was a better alternative than coming back to a Kent State team that is only losing one player off this year’s 25-win team?

Now the pressure falls on athletic director Joel Nielsen, who must find a way to continue what has been an incredible run of Kent coaches:

  • Ford was the fourth KSU coach to be named MAC Coach of the Year in the last 13 years.
  • Seven times since 1999, KSU has had the conference’s Coach of the Year.
  • The Golden Flashes have had 11 seasons of at least 20 wins in the past 12 years, with five NCAA tournament bids and six NIT appearances.
  • Through four coaches since 1999, the team’s worst record was 19-15 in Ford’s first season, 2008-09.
  • Gary Waters took KSU to its first NCAA tournament in 1999, his third season. He did it again in 2001 with a 24-10 record and a first-round NCAA tournament victory.
  • Stan Heath took the Flashes to the Elite Eight in his only season as head coach.
  • Jim Christian had a 135-58 record, six seasons of at least 20 victories, three NIT and two NCAA appearances.
  • And now Ford

One thing that stands out about the former Kent coaches is none have had the same success once they left:

  • Waters coached five seasons at Rutgers with three NIT appearances and a 79-75 record. He just finished his fifth year (26-7) at Cleveland State. Has three 20-game winning seasons and an appearance in the 2009 NCAA tournament.
  • Heath coached at Arkansas for five years (82-71) with two NCAA appearances. Spent the last four seasons at South Florida (41-54) with a 2010 NIT appearance and a 9-22 record this season.
  • Christian just finished his third season (11-22) at Texas Christian and has a 38-58 record (11-37 in the Mountain West Conference).

We have to wonder if Ford considered that before making his decision.

So what will Nielsen do? He wasn’t in charge for the previous hirings, which were handled by retired athletic director Laing Kennedy. Does Nielsen have what it takes to make the right call?

Nielsen said he will use Kennedy as sort of a consultant as Nielsen goes through the search. The candidate pool reportedly will include former KSU assistant coaches Rob Murphy, now at Syracuse, and Eric Haut, now at TCU with Christian.

For now, Nielsen has appointed Rob Senderoff as interim coach. Senderoff has been the associate head coach for all three years under Ford, and also had a three-year stint as a Kent State assistant under Christian.

“I’m confident we’ll find a candidate, inside or outside, who will keep this thing going,” Nielsen said.

For Golden Flashes fans everywhere, we hope Nielsen is right.

But how many times can Kent State keep going back to the table before their roll comes up snake eyes?

***

Ford leaving Kent State makes us wonder how long Butler will be able to hold on to Brad Stevens and VCU will be able to keep Shaka Smart.

***

The Big Ten finished the NCAA Tournament with a 6-7 record and no teams advancing beyond the Sweet 16.

The Incredible Shrinking Tribe Payroll

We try hard to stay positive about the Indians as we move closer to Opening Day.

If Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore can stay healthy, if Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley produce, if the pitching holds up … hey, this team could be pretty good.

At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves.

So a little bit of the air went out of our sails when we read that the Tribe’s expected Opening Day payroll is just a little over $48 million. This is the third consecutive year the payroll has declined and it is now the lowest since 2005.

The payroll has gone from $81.6 million in 2009 to $61.5 million in 2010 and now to $48.4 million – a 41 percent drop in just two years.

Not only is the Tribe payroll shrinking, three players – Hafner, Sizemore and Fausto Carmona – eat up 55 percent of the total.

Not a fun thought as we are less than a week away from first pitch at Progressive Field.

***

Florida learned Saturday afternoon what Old Dominion, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin already knew – in the end it’s always the Butler that did it.

The Bulldogs are making a return trip to the Final Four – the only team to return from last year’s group – by beating the Gators in overtime.

Butler is also the first team outside of the over-rated big six conferences since UNLV in 1990-91 to make consecutive Final Four appearances. The Bulldogs are also the first team to reach consecutive Final Fours and not be seeded first or second in either appearance.

Butler’s Shelvin Mack showed that he is truly the dogs bollocks by scoring 27 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:21 left in overtime that gave Butler the lead for good.

The Bulldogs are now 9-1 in their last 10 tournament games, and with a return to the Final Four, how can you not root for them?

Maybe once the tournament is over, they could give Ohio State some tips on how to beat teams from the SEC.

***

Staying in Columbus, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated came up with some very interesting information about NCAA Bylaw 10.1, the rule prohibiting Unethical Conduct and the one that Jim Tressel willing broke.

A study by SI.com of the past 177 NCAA infractions cases involving violations of Bylaw 10.1 revealed that coaches accused of such violations rarely retain their jobs.

Of the 177 cases, 172 involved coaches or athletic administrators accused of committing unethical conduct. Of those, 159 resigned or were terminated. Eighty-one cases involved coaches or athletics administrators accused of providing false or misleading information to NCAA investigators or encouraging others to lie to investigators. Of those, 78 resigned or were terminated.

There are varying degrees of 10.1 violations, but it’s interesting to note that the rule Tressel broke, 10.1_(d), is the same that former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl was charged with violating.

Just something to think about.

***

England moved back to the top of its group in qualifying for Euro 2012, with a 2-0 win over Wales.

Germany extended its lead at the top of qualifying Group A to move closer to the finals in Poland and the Ukraine next year with a comfortable 4-0 win over Kazakhstan.

***

As recently as six or seven years ago someone would have told us that we would willingly choose to watch a friendly soccer match between the USA and Argentina over an NCAA basketball regional final, we would have thought you were nuts.

But that’s exactly what we did Saturday night.

The US gave as good as it got against an Argentina squad that wasn’t just going through the paces in a 1-1 draw.

The times, they truly are a changing.

A lie ain’t a side of the story … it’s just a lie

The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. – Aristotle

We’re sure it wasn’t his intention, but Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is teaching everyone an important lesson about what happens when you start to tell a lie to cover something up.

According to the latest from The Columbus Dispatch, when Tressel learned last spring that some of his current players were in trouble, he shared the information with someone he thought could help star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, even though he said he didn’t tell his bosses.

The e-mails warning that Pryor and at least one other player had sold memorabilia to a local tattoo-parlor owner who was under federal investigation for drug trafficking came to light earlier this month. At that time Tressel claimed he kept the information to himself to protect the confidentiality of the federal investigation and for the safety of his players.

By not telling his bosses – as required by NCAA regulations – Tressel made the mistake of doing what’s easy, rather that what is right.

And that is where his troubles began.

Because he didn’t want to lose some of his best players for the 2010 season, Tressel lied to the NCAA at the start of the season when he claimed everyone was free of any shenanigans.

That lie forced him to lie again at the Sugar Bowl, when word got out that the players were under investigation. Tressel claimed that he had no prior knowledge of the incidents.

This all culminated in the press conference earlier this month when Tressel lied about not passing on the e-mails because of “confidentiality” reasons. Now it’s all come full circle.

And that’s the lesson is all this. Once you start telling a lie – no matter how small and no matter if you believe you are doing it to protect someone – it’s hard to stop. Once that first lie is out, you often have to tell another lie to cover up the first one, and then another and another. And once you start lying it can be hard to remember your last lie and keep your story consistent.

Which is the situation Tressel finds himself in.

Tressel most likely won’t lost his job over this – he has the support of the university – although every time we think the story is written new information comes out.

But while he will keep his job, he’s lost something more important – trust. How can anyone other than the most die-hard homer ever believe anything he says ever again?

It’s ironic, too, that at a time when BYU can be openly mocked for standing behind its beliefs at the expense of winning, there are those who will still defend someone who wraps themselves in the cloak of Christianity just because they can beat Michigan on a regular basis.

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. – Mark Twain

***

We may have some idea now why Browns owner Randy Lerner was not at the NFL owners meetings this week in New Orleans.

At least eight senior players at Lerner’s Aston Villa club are considering their futures with the team after details emerged of manager Gerard Houllier’s attempts to arrest an alarming slump in the club’s fortunes.

In addition to banning mobile phones in the dressing room, Houllier has imposed severe financial penalties for any breach of rules and has introduced a procedure for any player wanting to contact Lerner directly.

Houllier is hoping the crackdown will reverse the drop in morale that has accompanied the team’s decline in the Barclays Premier League. It could backfire, though, with rumblings of discontent coming from almost the entire first-team squad.

Sounds like Randy may want to get on top of this.

The Browns don’t need to take a risk

The Browns may face a big decision on draft day if two of the top-rated defensive linemen – Clemson end Da’Quan Bowers and Auburn tackle Nick Fairley – are still on the board when the team picks at No. 6.

Both players come with red flags, but of different varieties.

Bowers, who some rank as the best pass-rusher coming out of college, is coming off knee surgery in January that caused him to cancel his recent Pro Day.

“There are legitimate concerns about [Bowers'] knee, and that’s going to be addressed at his pro day, which he moved back a couple of times,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock told profootballtalk.com Wednesday. “He told a bunch of teams at the [NFL] combine that he was 100 percent healthy and couldn’t wait for his pro day. And then right before his pro day, he postponed his workout and didn’t even show up.”

But Bowers’ agent, Joe Flanagan, disputed Mayock’s report.

“Recently, inaccurate reports have surfaced regarding our client, Da’Quan Bowers, the health of his knee and the scheduling of his workout,” Flanagan told PFT via e-mail. “Bottom line: Da’Quan’s knee has progressed ahead of schedule, in every regard, since the day he walked out of his procedure. There have been no ‘setbacks’ or new concerns’, and Da’Quan is very much looking forward to his workout on April 1st.”

The questions surrounding Fairley deal with his attitude – he tends to take plays off.

ESPN director of college scouting Todd McShay, who previously described himself as “blown away” by Fairley’s March 8 Pro Day, now believes Fairley has the potential to be a colossal flop at the next level.

“The more you watch Fairley on tape, the more worried you get he’ll be a bust,” said McShay, who also questioned Fairley’s work ethic and consistency. “He has a chance to be a bust.”

Luckily, if the Browns share any of these concerns about Bowers and Fairley, the team is in a position to pass on them. With so many holes to fill on the team, someone – wide receiver A.J. Green or defensive back Patrick Peterson – will most likely still be on the board.

And while the Browns need all the playmakers they can find, sometimes the safe pick is the right one.

***

The NFL put together a six-minute video of the 2010 season. Check it out, but don’t blink or you’ll miss the lone Browns highlight at the 45-second mark.

***

This is a couple of weeks old, but Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl put together an excellent profile of Real Madrid coach José Mourinho.

Mourinho has gone nine years without losing a league match at home – that’s 148 matches with four different teams – Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

What we wouldn’t give to have a coach like that here in Cleveland.

***

Interesting read at Slate on the growing trend companies promoting the propaganda of concern. (h/t UniWatch)

Kickoff change much ado about nothing?

Josh Cribbs was all over the news on Tuesday after the NFL announced it was moving the kickoff spot from the 30-yard-line back to the 35-yard-line.

Cribbs is understandably upset about this as, against some teams, the extra five yards will mean additional touchbacks and fewer opportunities for Cribbs to return the ball, which he does better than anyone else in the NFL – he’s the career leader in kickoff returns for touchdowns with eight.

”I just disagree with the rule changes because it affects me tremendously and other guys tremendously,” Cribbs told The Beacon Journal. ”I count on [Chicago Bears return man] Devin Hester breaking records and everything, so I can chase him. They count on me breaking records, so they can chase me and vice versa. But without the opportunity, it takes us out of the game sometimes.”

But will it really make a difference?

Last year teams kicked away from Cribbs, usually by short kicking, to keep the ball out of his hands. There is little reason to think that strategy was going to change, no matter where they are kicking off from.

In addition, in 2010 the average kickoff went to the 6-yard-line; now with the extra five yards the ball will go to the 1-yard-line, which means returners will still have an opportunity to make a play.

When the NFL last kicked off from the 35-yard-line, in 1993, there were 57 returns of more than 40 yards and four returns for touchdowns.

In 2010, there were 113 returns of more than 40 yards and 23 kicks returned for touchdowns.

But we have to remember that in 1993 teams were not keeping players like Cribbs, Hester and Leon Washington on the roster to specifically return kicks, and that impacts the return numbers as much as the 5-yard difference.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff is cited as reason No. 1 why the rule change is bad. Cundiff had an NFL-record 40 touchbacks last season; it’s not like that number was going to go down anyway. Plus, he’s the exception rather than the rule here.

Teams will adjust to this rule just like they do with everything else.

“It’s going to take a lot of strategy for the coaches to come up with a plan for how to take advantage of the opportunities you do have,” Washington said on NFL.com. “I think, as a returner, you have to really study the game, study the kickers and try to approach the game from that angle. … Special-teams coaches have to really, really prepare themselves and really game-plan around how to take advantage of when you do have opportunities.”

***

While we fully expect the Browns to go defense with their first pick in next month’s NFL Draft, we were still a little bit surprised to hear that Browns GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur didn’t attend the pro day workout of Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.

That is until we heard what went on during the day.

By NFL rule, only an NFL-draft eligible quarterback from the player’s school can throw passes during the receiver’s pro day. Since the Bulldogs don’t have anyone fitting that criteria, they are allowed to bring someone in as long as they played at the college level withing the state or live within a 40-mile radius of the school.

But the only quarterback Georgia could find is Justin Roper, who played in college at Montana but now lives 46 miles away from the Georgia campus.

Got all that so far?

So the rules required the university to send all NFL officials indoors for Green’s individual drill workout. But the representatives from the NFL teams were allowed to watch the workouts on a monitor.

But not in person.

We don’t know, either.

***

From Who Ate All the Pies comes word that the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department at Qatar University is developing an ‘artificial cloud’ that could be used to temper the desert country’s blistering heat during the 2022 World Cup.

According to the report, the cloud is positioned by remote control, made of 100 percent light carbonic materials, filled with helium, fuelled by four solar-powered engines and it’s primary function will be to hover above the various stadiums in order to ‘filter both direct and indirect UV rays, as well as controlling temperatures at pitch level’ – all at a cost of around $500,000.

I think the Indians need to get working one of these for Progressive Field.

Tribe pitching shaping up … sort of

With a little more than a week until Opening Day, the Indians starting rotation appears to be set.

Unfortunately, it looks like the bullpen may now be a bit unsettled.

Hey, it wouldn’t be the Indians if everything was bees and honey now, would it?

Manager Manny Acta is leaning toward naming Josh Tomlin as the fifth starter, joining Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot in a starting rotation that will try and help the Tribe avoid its third consecutive season of 90+ losses.

As for the bullpen …

When spring training opened, Acta said he expected the bullpen to be the strongest part of team. But questions starting to pop up about the relievers.

Joe Smith is still recovering from an abdominal strain and probably won’t be ready when the season starts and Jensen Lewis has been sent to Class AAA Columbus.

Four relievers are definitely on the team: closer Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and Chad Durbin. Smith was originally on this list, but if he has to go on the disabled list, that leaves three open spots.

Acta has to choose from Frank Herrmann and Justin Germano, who pitched decently for the Tribe last season, along with Doug Mathis and Vinnie Pestano, non-roster players who, if they make the team, means the Indians will have to make room for them on the 40-man roster.

Not the type of decisions Acta was expecting to face so close to Opening Day.

***

For all the talk about the Browns have blown draft after draft since 1999, turns out the Tribe is just as bad:

According to Terry Pluto’s latest in The Plain Dealer:

  • Of all the players the Indians drafted from 2004-07, Josh Tomlin is the only one who has a chance to start this season.
  • The Indians had five picks in the top 124 players in 2007: Trevor Crowe (No. 14), John Drennan (33), Stephen Head (62), Nick Weglarz (94) and Jensen Lewis (124). None of them will be on the Opening Day roster.
  • They had five picks in the top 75 in 2006: David Huff (39), Stephen Wright (56), John Rodriguez (57), Wes Hodges (69) and Matt McBride (75). The Tribe is still waiting for a payoff.
  • No one from the 2005 draft will be in the majors.

Who was running the draft during those years, Butch Davis?

There’s hope, though. Lonnie Chisenhall (first) and Cord Phelps (third) from the 2008 draft and Alex White and Jason Kipnis, the top two picks from 2009, may be with the Tribe sooner than later.

Let’s hope so, because with the Indians have zero money to spend on free agents, the draft is the only way they will get fresh talent on the diamond at Progressive Field.

***

Kent State continues its magical mystery tour through the NIT tonight in Boulder against Colorado.

Since being snubbed by the NCAA, the Flashes have totaled more than 7,500 miles by traveling to St. Mary’s in California and then to Connecticut to take on Fairfield in their first two games.

Tuesday night’s game against the Buffalo’s will be the Golden Flashes third straight on the road, all in different time zones. Since mid-February, Kent has played 11 of its 13 games away from home.

Which makes the team’s 25 wins even more impressive.

***

Josh Cribbs is not happy about the NFL changing the rules about kickoffs.

Big Ten & Big East are big in name only

The Big 10 and the Big East certainly didn’t live up to their names in the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament.

After inexplicably seeing seven of its teams make the tournament – four of which were only .500 in conference play – the Big Ten flamed out as only Ohio State and Wisconsin managed to make the Sweet 16.

Michigan State and Penn State were both one and done – not surprising when you consider they each entered the tournament with 14 losses on the season – and Michigan and Illinois quickly followed them over the weekend.

But that was nothing compared to the Big East.

Eleven teams “earned” a spot in the tournament – which is beyond ridiculous – and only two teams are left standing for the Sweet 16. And those two – Connecticut and Marquette – advanced over the weekend only by beating Cincinnati and Syracuse – fellow Big East teams.

If Connecticut and Marquette had to play non-conference teams this weekend, it’s very possible there would be no Big East teams left in the tourney.

Four Big East teams – Notre Dame, Georgetown, St. John’s and Louisville – all lost to teams seeded 10th or higher, and the Irish, Hoyas and Red Storm all lost their games by double-digits.

Oh, and the only No. 1 seed to lose so far? Pitt from the Big East, of course.

So the Big Ten and Big East have two teams each – the same as the Mountain West Conference (San Diego St. and BYU) and as many as the town of Richmond, Va. (Richmond & VCU).

Thanks for playing.

***

Bruce Pearl is reportedly out as coach at Tennessee, according to ESPN.

Pearl was charged with unethical conduct by the NCAA for misleading NCAA investigators, and Tennessee is set to appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in June.

Pearl has admitted to giving investigators false information when asked about a cookout at his home attended by high school juniors.

So Pearl lied to the NCAA about giving some high school kids hot dogs and hamburgers and paid the price with his job.

Ohio State’s Jim Tressel lied to the NCAA to keep some of his best players eligible for the 2011 season. Hmm …

It would be surprising – and a bit ridiculous – if Ohio State were to fire Tressel. But in light of what happened to Pearl, you have to wonder what the NCAA is going to have to say once it completes its investigation.

***

Remember how the UFL’s Hartford Colonials were “interested” in former Browns coach Eric Mangini to replace another former Browns coach, Chris Palmer, as the Colonials’ head coach?

Well, they went with Jerry Glanville instead.

***

The NFL is considering changing the kickoff rules for next season, which would certainly impact the Browns and kick returner Josh Cribbs.

We covered this last week, someone at The Plain Dealer must be paying attention.

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