In this week in review, I’ll cover Pat Summitt ending her historic coaching reign at Tennessee, NFL possibly taking away the most exciting play in football, a look a the NFL schedule, Kentucky in rebuild mode after losing their starting five to the NBA, chances Oklahoma City will win the championship after their collapse against the Lakers, NHL finally handing down a significant suspension to a repeat offender, and my highlight and lowlight of the week, featuring the return of Ron Artest.
Legendary Coach Pat Summitt Steps Down
Well what can you say about the career of Pat Summitt that hasn’t already been said? She holds nearly every NCAA Basketball record in the book. She has more wins (1098) than any coach in NCAA history, both men and women, with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in second with just 927. She’s won the most women’s championships with 8. She’s never had a losing record and never missed the postseason tournament. She has the record for Final Four appearances with 18, 6 more than men’s record holder John Wooden. But I guess if someone were to ask her what she’s most proud of during her reign as Tennessee Lady Vols head coach, it’s that every player who played under Summitt graduated. I guess the best way I can describe Summitt’s career is bittersweet. Ever since Summitt announced last year that she was diagnosed with early onset dementia, it was a foregone conclusion that this season would be her last. She’s only 59, which is the worst thing, because she could’ve easily coached for another 10 years, maybe more, but her stepping down was the right and only move, as she now can focus her attention on battling this illness. I don’t know if NCAA will do this, but they really should name the NCAA Women’s Championship after Pat Summitt. If anyone has deserved that honor, it’s her.
No More Kickoffs in the NFL: REALLY??
Last year, the NFL decided to move the Kickoff from the 30 to the 35 yard line with the hope that it would cut down on concussions and injuries in general. I didn’t have a huge problem with this because the NFL is right, the kickoff is the most dangerous play in the NFL, but it’s also the most exciting. The decision certainly caused kicking numbers to drastically change. In the 2010 season, 23 kickoffs were returned for touchdowns and 416 were touchbacks. In the 2011 season, only 9 kickoffs were returned for touchdowns, and 1098 were touchbacks. That’s a huge impact for just 5 yards. Now an ugly rumor has started that the NFL wants to do away with kickoffs all together. I know it’s still April, but is it too late to do an April Fools joke, because that’s all this decision would be, a joke. This would completely change the game. Where will teams start their drives: their own 20 or 30 yard line? Will there be no more onside kicks? Will this lead to punt returns going away as well? And what about players like Devin Hester. He could go to the Hall of Fame just based on his Kickoff and Putt returns alone. Would return specialist Gale Sayers be in the Hall of Fame? I appreciate that the NFL is doing whatever they can to prevent players from getting injured, but guess what: Football is a violent sport. Injuries are going to happen. There’s no escaping that. Kickoffs didn’t cause Peyton Manning to go through four neck surgeries. Kickoffs didn’t break Joe Theismann’s leg, ending his career. I hope that this rumor is just that, a rumor, because the NFL would be taking away their most exciting play, and could cause great harm to the game.
Thoughts on the NFL Schedule
Let’s hope that Peyton Manning’s neck is ok, because the NFL wants him on prime time, as he and the Denver Broncos will have 5 of them, 2 in the first 2 weeks. Denver also has one of the toughest schedules, as seven of their ten games outside the division are against playoff teams. Luckily for them, they’re in a pretty weak division, where any team could win, except San Diego, because they’ll probably go through their annual under .500 record by midseason. I would say that the New England Patriots have the easiest schedule, because they’ll be going up against two of the weakest division, the NFC West, where San Francisco will be their only competition, and the AFC South. Combine that and their own division, I could see the Patriots win at least 13 games. Early game of the season has to Denver @ New England, Peyton vs. Brady for what seems like the thousandth time.
Good Luck Calipari. You’ll Need It
I knew after winning the championship that Kentucky would definitely lose two of it’s players, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, to the NBA draft, but losing all 5 starters. That had to hurt John Calipari and his chances of repeating. Not only are Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist leaving, but fellow freshman Marquis Teague and sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb are leaving as well. That’s the whole starting lineup, a lineup that will probably be refilled by freshmen and sophomores, with top recruit Nerlens Noel filling in for Davis as their shot blocker and game changer. Was it a smart move for all of them to leave? For Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, it was a no-brainer to leave, as they will undoubtedly go 1 and 2 in the draft. Right now, I see the other three going late into the first round, so they probably would’ve benefited with another year at Kentucky, but when you just one a championship, I don’t blame them for wanting to move to the next level.
Oklahoma City’s Biggest Enemy: Themselves
Up by 16 going into the fourth quarter, it looked like a lock that the Thunder were going to embarrass the Lakers in their own building, but one quarter and two overtimes later, the Lakers came back to win by eight, and exploited a Thunder weakness that’s been hidden by their explosive offense, but by playoff time, will only be displayed more and more. That weakness is turnovers. The Thunder have the most turnovers in the NBA, with 16.36 a game. Another troubling stat is their lack of assists, where they are dead last in the NBA with 18.5 a game. Fewest assists per game combine with most turnovers per game equals no championship for the Thunder. It should be noted that the Thunder’s third biggest offensive weapon, James Hardin, didn’t play the second half of the game due to Metta World Peace’s cheap shot at the end of the first half, which will appear later on in my column. But the Thunder gained their biggest lead in the third quarter, up by 17 at one point, so losing Hardin didn’t cost them the game. One of the reasons the Thunder are dead last in assists is because they have a point guard who should be a shooting guard, with little on the shooting, because Russel Westbrook could not buy a shot with that new contract of his. I’m not the biggest fan of Westbrook. He’s one of the best athletes in the game, but he seems to want to prove that he’s the best player on his own team, and by doing that, he forgets that he’s a point guard. He’s averaged only 5.4 assists per game this season which is pathetic for a starting point guard. If the Thunder don’t make it to the Finals, they need to seriously look at changing their line up, with the biggest change being Westbrook at shooting guard.
Raffi Torres Suspended 25 Games: Bout Time
After complaining about the NHL not doing enough when it comes to handing down penalties during a fight heavy playoffs, it’s good to see NHL finally step up by suspending repeat offender Raffi Torres, after his clear late hit on Marian Hossa, though no penalty was called which is ludicrous. Hossa had to be carried off on a stretcher. Something needed to be done about Torres, who had been suspended three times in the past 13 months, along with numerous fines. Hopefully other goons like Torres will take notice, though I doubt it.
Highlight of the Week
Lowlight of the Week
So much for World Peace. Metta World Peace went back to being Ron Artest after his blatant cheap shot on James Hardin. The fact that he said it was unintentional after the game was probably the saddest part, because before that incident, World Peace was doing a great job at making people forget that he created one of the darkest moments in NBA history, where he jump into a Detroit Piston crowd and starting throwing punches at fans,which led to his season long suspension. Last year he won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award for raising money towards mental health charities, even auctioning off his championship ring with the Lakers. All it took was just one blatant elbow to the head to erase all the good he’s done since that night in Detroit. Much like Torres, I believe World Peace will receive a stiffer penalty because of his reputation, for being Ron Artest. While I think 3-5 games will be enough, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suspended for the entire playoffs. Welcome back Ron.